Welcome to the Nicasio Historical Society Web Page
JAMES BLACK'S NICASIO RANCHES: STORIES FROM A MAP
OPENed IN October, 2016
The original 1874 survey map by Hiram Austin, the focal point of this exhibit, depicts the tenant ranches on James Black’s 10,000-acre portion of Rancho Nicasio. These parcels encompass all of Point Reyes Station, including Heidrun Meadery; Leroy and Patsy Martinelli (and Charmaine Burdell); the Nobmann/Osbornes (Black Mountain); all the ranchers/landowners around the north and east sides of the Nicasio reservoir; and along the eastern edge of Hicks Valley including part of Hicks Mountain.
The exhibit includes interesting historical information on James Black and his tenant ranchers, their families and ranch operations, as well as tracing ownership to the present day. It will be on view beginning Saturday October 15, in the Nicasio Historical Society Museum on the town square, open only on weekends 1-3 pm.
St. Mary's Church, 150 Years
In Historical Photographs and Documents
Celebrating her Sesquicentennial
Opens in September 2017
St. Mary's Firat Communion Class of 1911
Nicasio Historical Society Presents
An Illustrated Talk & Field Trip to Drake's Cove
Led by Edward Von der Porten
On Sir Francis Drake in California, 1579
Saturday September 16, 11AM-4PM
Francis Drake in California, 1579
by Edward Von der Porten:
Our sixty-eight-year search for evidence of Francis Drake’s Nova Albion identified Drake’s Cove in the Point Reyes National Seashore as the site of his harbor and encampment. That was the place where Drake made the first English claim to land that would become part of the United States of America. Research into ship construction, seamanship, navigation, cartography, botany, zoology, hydrography, meteorology, anthropology, and archaeology by a wide range of scholars contributes to the story. Analysis of Ming porcelain sherds found in Coast Miwok Native-American village sites provides physical clues which complete the evidence for the site and for Drake’s activities there. Drake’s Cove now is part of a sixteenth-century National Historic Landmark district, the highest designation of an historic site by the National Park Service.
An illustrated presentation tells about the research and the story of Drake in California in 1579.
The Nicasio Historical Society welcomes anyone who has an interest in Marin history. Your membership helps support our efforts to preserve, share and celebrate Nicasio's history with our members. Your membership includes two issues annually of the Nicasio Historical Newsletter, which features articles and photographs about Nicasio past and present updates regarding our Society's progress, advance of upcoming events and interesting and informative interview transcripts.
If you share our interest in the history of Nicasio, please become a member of the Nicasio Historical Society.
Complete the Membership Application Form, make you check payable to NHS and send both to
Nicasio Historical Society • P O Box 111 • Nicasio, CA 94946
JOIN THE NICASIO HISTORICAL SOCIETY TODAY!
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About NHS in Words & Images
Due to the persistent urging of centenarian Boyd Stewart, a small group of Nicasio residents, convened by Joe McNeil, founded the Nicasio Historical Society in July of 2003. We are a non-profit, public benefit California Corporation that already has significant archives consisting of photographs, documents and written and recorded material relating to life in Nicasio during the past century and a half. Our entire Board of Directors is a dedicated group of unpaid volunteers who are devoted to pursuing our Mission: Researching, documenting, preserving, sharing, and celebrating the rich history of the Nicasio Valley.
Boyd Stewart in 1997 and the early 1920s Joe McNeil in the early 1940s and 2005
Our initial endeavor was assembling information for a book on the history of the Nicasio Valley, which was Boyd Stewart’s ultimate dream. Local historian Dewey Livingston, who helped guide our efforts both regarding this five-year book project as well as our nascent historical society, continues to guide us as NHS director. He initially trained a core group of our members in interviewing and official records researching techniques. Thanks to the efforts of all involved and to the generosity of our members, Nicasio: The Historic Valley at the Center of Marin, written by Dewey Livingston, was published in 2008 and is available for all to read and enjoy.
Our next grand endeavor was the compilation (another five-year project) and publication in 2012 of a photo history book by Elaine Doss, entitled Nicasio Children Through the Years, which coincided with our Grand Sesquicentennial Celebration (150th anniversary) of both Nicasio Township and Nicasio School District on May 12, 2012. The event activities included a parade (with the Wells Fargo stage coach and four-horse team, vintage farm equipment, horse-drawn conveyances, vintage automobiles and many Nicasio residents and schoolchildren in vintage attire), tours of town square buildings, early California music and dances, snack food and soft drinks, a display of art depicting Nicasio, a model of the town square in 1900 and dramatic presentations of notable pioneers of Nicasio in St. Mary’s Church by students of Nicasio School.
In addition, Elaine Doss and Dewey Livingston have conducted live interviews in a series called Recollections before audiences of 50 – 75 Society members and guests. Joe McNeil spearheaded a series of Ranch Tours, which began at the historic Nicasio Gallagher Ranch in 2004 and which continue into the present. A dramatic and well-attended event was the Historic Town Square Buildings Tour, conceived by Joe McNeil and held in August 2005, October 2006 and May 2012. During this event, Society directors and volunteers dressed in period costumes and conducted tours in and around the buildings that historically graced our town square. The NHS booklet entitled Around the Square, a self-guided tour written by Joe McNeil and edited by Elaine Doss and Dewey Livingston, was published for these events.
Our best-attended event to date was the Grand Opening of the NHS Museum in October 2014, during which guests enjoyed a new museum exhibit on Nicasio’s Coast Miwok village, an illustrated talk by Betty Goerke entitled The Symbolism and Significance of Native Art in Nicasio, an illustrated talk by Dewey Livingston on Nicasio’s early settlers, a display of art depicting Nicasio, a model of the town square in 1900, carriage rides, refreshments including local wine and cheese tasting, Miwok games, live music and more. Many of our past events have had attendance of between 50 and 75 people, the Grand Sesquicentennial Celebration attendance in 2012 was 100-150 people, while the Museum Grand Opening attendance numbered between 150 and 200. As an organization, we have become more apt at promoting our events and planning attractive and engaging activities.
As a historical society we actively seek to contact people who share our interest in Nicasio’s history in order to expand our archives and knowledge. We have scanned historical photos and documents in Nicasio old timers’ homes during interviews, those sent to us by members, and have held events to which people brought their photos and documents for scanning. We use our collection to create displays in our new museum on the town square, in the Nicasio School Library and for events held in Druids’ Hall and elsewhere. If you have photos or documents you would be willing to briefly share with us, please contact Elaine Doss at firstname.lastname@example.org or ur mailing address, PO Box 111, Nicasio, CA 94946.
Nicasio Historical Society Board of Director
President Elaine Doss
Vice President Jan McNeil
Secretary Mary Ellen Hoffman
Interim Treasurer Martha McNeil
Membership Chair Martha McNeil
Technical Director Loren Carpenter
Directors-At-Large: Rachel Carpenter, Kathy Drady, Diana Dougherty, Ann Farley, Grace Farley, Mary Lafranchi, Dewey Livingston, Sue Loar, Mary Jo Maendle, Amy Morse, Marcy Shone, Rocky Shone, Arden Wood, Thomas Wood
To purchase a book, please send a check payable to:
NHS P O Box 111 Nicasio, CA 94946
Don't forget to include your name and mailing address along with the titles and quantities of each book. Books will be shipped first class mail. Prices include sales tax, shipping and handling.
NICASIO: The Historic Valley at the Center of Marin
by Dewey Livingston
NICASIO: The Historic Valley at the Center of Marin tells the story of Nicasio from its Californio days when local Miwok owned it by land grant, through the pioneer settlers who engaged in beef raising, timber cutting and dairying, and onto the post-dam era with the advent of high tech industry and a new demographic. Nicasio’s rich, complex and surprising history comes to life through informative text, entertaining anecdotes, historic newspaper clippings, elders’ recollections and scores of vintage photos.
Introduction (excerpted from the above book):
Of all Marin towns, one could say that Nicasio has changed the least. For sure, the changes are less visible, and its preservation is a miracle that can’t be taken for granted. For many, Nicasio is a place to happily pass through on the way to or from the coastal areas of Point Reyes and Tomales Bay; “happily” because it is always beautiful, in any weather, and it hasn’t been transformed into the congested suburbia found only five miles east. It gives travelers an
extended ride through nice scenery at a genteel pace.
But there is much more to Nicasio than its scenery and quaintness: there are people living in those houses; men and women working in the barns; families worshiping at the church on Sunday. There is a history that is rich, complex and surprising, from Native Americans to dairy farmers to the highest of high tech. Its preservation was no accident: almost a quarter of the valley was drowned by a reservoir and plans surfaced for intensive development fed by a freeway. It took action by locals, concerned county residents and the board of supervisors to create a plan that would keep the hills and valley free from the irrevocable suburban intrusions that changed so many similar valleys in the San Francisco Bay Area. This book celebrates the past of this unique little corner of America, in hopes of preserving not only its history, but also its sense of community. It is intended first for Nicasio residents past, present and future, as a means recall good times and old friends or to further appreciate their fine home. For those unfortunate not to live in Nicasio, we hope to enlight-en and entertain them with the multi-faceted and interesting history of this place they pass through, whether often or rarely. This book is the work of many people, who love Nicasio to the extent they wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world.
Nicasio Children Through the Years, 125 years of photographs from Unknown to Art Rogers
by Elaine Doss
Nicasio Children Through the Years is a photo history of Nicasio's children from 1887 to 2012. This is what Nicasio resident Dave Goelz had to say about our book:
Your book is fantastic! ... so many perfect design choices. Using a period photo in delicious fifties color on the cover is an irresistible enticement to open the book. Putting the title in the ID frame in the original picture is inspired. Once inside, the use of black and white all through the book is another brilliant choice, as it compresses time and puts all students on an equal footing. We really see that we're part of the history rather than just reading about it.
The essence of the school is conveyed in a lively fashion by simply using short quotes in large italic type which perfectly compliments the black and white photos. There's no chance anyone will see this as dry. The combination of the two is visually arresting and keeps the reader turning pages.
The photographs themselves are powerful, as we trace our senior citizens on the early part of their journey. Seeing Wil Lafranchi and others as a school children dramatizes the whoosh of life through this focal point of our town.
Our whole family finds the book fascinating. Amy pored over it, and Ben sat down and read it for an hour. I've read it for two long sessions so far, and I plan to keep it out on the coffee table for visitors to enjoy.
Around the Square, A Walking Tour of Historic Nicasio Town Square
by Joe McNeil
Edited and with additional text by Elaine Doss and Dewey Livingston
Around the Square is an illustrated self-guided tour of 14 historic buildings, many of which are still standing around our town square and along the roadway heading north to Nicasio School. It explains the history of each building, whether home, school, ranch house or business, including many colorful and surprising anecdotes.
NICASIO, 1847 - 1887
Nicasio, 1847 - 1887 contains selections pertinent to the history of Nicasio from two historic publications, The History of Marin County California, Illustrated, 1880 by J. P. Munro-Fraser and The Marin County Journal, Illustrated Edition, October 1887. Read what historians and journalists had to say about Nicasio back in the day.
NICASIO, Images of America, California
by Anne Papina
Anne Papina, whose family dates back to 1905 in Nicasio, tells its story. Her grandparents managed the Nicasio Hotel, bought a house on the square to which they added a bar calling it the Nicasio Exchange, started a trucking business, bought the General Store business in 1927 and ran it along with the Post Office, telephone switchboard and later a restaurant and bar until 1951. Using her family's photo collection and collective memories in addition to outside sources, Anne tells the rich and colorful story of our town.