Tag Archives: California history

Hanging on to the Home Ranch

In 1852 the five Marshall brothers came from Ireland to Marin, where they founded the town that still bears their name. Though the family once owned land from Tomales Bay to Bodega, it was gradually sold off, piece by piece. Today, the thousand-acre “home ranch” is the last of those original properties. Today beef cattle and sheep graze on the rolling hillsides, and chickens cluck around the 150-year-old barn.

In this interview we talk with Gary Thornton and his daughter Marissa, who are the descendents of the Marshalls, about their struggle to keep the ranch in the family. Since Gary’s father passed away in 2001, the family has been dealing with massive inheritance taxes – a common problem that make it hard for ranchers to keep the family property.  When Gary sold the development rights of the land to the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT)  in 2010, things got a bit easier. The family gets to keep their land, while the organization essentially pays them for the drop in property value that comes from limiting development potential and guaranteeing that they will keep the land in agriculture.

Gary and Marissa also talk about the amazing voyages the Marshall brothers took to get here, what life was like back when the San Francisco Bay Area was still a rugged frontier, and how Marissa plans to take the business over some day. Listen to the show by clicking the arrow below, or download the mp3 here.


Native to Tomales Bay

Theresa Harlan and her husband Tiger at Laird’s Landing

Theresa Harlan’s mother grew up on the Point Reyes Peninsula during the 1920s in a mixed race household. Her father was Swiss-Italian and her mother was of both coast Miwok and Filipino descent. The family lived on the edge of Tomales Bay at the place now known as Laird’s Landing, and both her parents worked on nearby ranches. In this show, Theresa talks about their life there with her cousin, Pam Jensen, who grew up across the bay (at the oyster farm that had been in her family for generations).

Today,  neither Theresa nor Pam have any close family left in the area. Theresa says that many Native America families moved away during World War II, including her mother. Her grandmother passed on, and her uncle lost the land to a local rancher after a court battle during the 1950s. In this show, Theresa talks about her mother’s stories of her childhood on the point, and what it meant to her mom as an adult when the tribe finally gained Federal recognition. Listen to the show by clicking the arrow below, or download the mp3 here.:

Photos of Theresa’s family’s homestead are below, taken when her mother was young. And tune in on June 21 for the next episode of Story Shed. In it, we will go with Pam Jensen to visit the place where Jensen’s Oyster Company once stood and hear about her family’s life on the shores of Tomales Bay.

The Campigli family home at Laird's Landing

The Campigli family home at Laird’s Landing

Theresa's mom, Elizabeth Campigli, with Henry Jensen

Theresa’s mom, Elizabeth Campigli, with Henry Jensen

Bertha Felix Campigli with her cow at Laird's Landing

Bertha Felix Campigli with her cow at Laird’s Landing

Last of his line

Rich and Matt Gallagher

In this episode of the Story Shed we hear from 77-year-old Rich Gallagher, in conversation with his nephew, Matt Gallagher. Rich is the last of his immediate family to still be in the ranching business, and it’s likely to stay that way, since his son Tim doesn’t plan to take over. Though he sold his property in 2001, Rich still ranches under a lease on the land where he grew up – right at the intersection of Point Reyes Petaluma road and Nicasio Valley Road. This spot is known to many locals because of the American flag that always waves from the top of a roadside rock formation.

Rich describes the old days in the small town of Nicasio, where he says their life was a model of sustainability before the idea had become popular. Click the arrow below to hear to him talk about the dances and peddlers of his childhood, and how he came to sell the ranch, or download the mp3 here.:

Farming like they used to

A century and a half ago, a young orphaned girl named Ellen Fallon moved to the US from Ireland. Along with her big brother James, she settled in the rolling hills of Marin County. In the years since then, a town bearing their family name arose – and now has vanished. But her great- and great-great grandsons still work the land that has been in their family since 1875, raising sheep, beef and chickens much as their forebears did. Listen to Mike and Kevin Maloney talk about the old days, how farming is coming full circle, and making the difficult choice between “organic” and “local” (or, download the mp3 here).
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14 gates from home

What would it be like to be a kid on on a windswept ranch, separated from the rest of the world by over a dozen closed gates? Wonderful, according to Sharon Doughty and her brother Joey Mendoza. Their family emigrated from Portugal to start a dairy farm in western Marin County at the turn of the century, and has been there ever since. Their family’s original ranch is still operating as one of the historic ranches within the Point Reyes National Seashore. In this episode they talk about a deep love of ranching and of the land they grew up on as they discuss their grandparents, parents, and their own lives spent on (or near) the Point Reyes Penninsula. Listen to their conversation by clicking the arrow below, or download the mp3 here.: