From Wooljersey

The Liberty family had a ranch on Mt. Tamalpais. Their home was on the old alignment of the "county road," now under Alpine Lake.

Read this: Reading the Maps, Number 4: The San Rafael (Fairfax)-Bolinas Road in 1877


Liberty Ranch located where the head of Alpine Lake is now situated. Covered up in 1917 by the lake. Chartered as a dairy ranch by Loomis Curtis and his widow until 1876. It was later run by Vincent Liberty and his widow in part as a ranch and partly as a resort.

Liberty Ranch (near current Alpine Lake), date unknown

The easiest reached and perhaps the most fished county in the vicinity of San Francisco is Marin. It offers two excellent streams that can be reached quickly and at little expense - Lagunitas and Papermill creeks. Go to San Rafael, take the Bolinas stage, get off at Liberty, and you will find yourself at the source of Lagunitas creek. The stream is small where you strike it, but before you lies some ten miles of excellent water, rather brushy in places, but full of inviting pools and riffles. An enthusiastic angler can cover this ten miles from Liberty to the creek's junction with the San Geronimo in a day of easy fishing. You will strike the railroad here and can return to the city the same day, the last train toward the city passing this point about 4:30 P. M. Many anglers go on the cars direct to this junction, and fish on either of these creeks some distance, and returning work down Papermill creek to Camp Taylor. Others leave the cars at San Geronimo station and follow the San Geronimo creek to its junction with Papermill creek. This stream offers fine water. You may also leave the train at Nicasio, walk over the hill to the north and striking the Nicasio creek follow its fine water until it empties into the Papermill. This is an excellent stream early in the season, and can be reached from Tocoloma with ease.

San Francisco Chronicle, 27 Mar 1892


A Race Arranged Between Pedestrians and a Wheelman.

Sunday morning a large party comprising members of the Gentlemen's Cross Country Club went over to Fairfax, from which station they walked to Camp Taylor by way of Larsen's Inn, the Bolinas bridge and Lagunitas Creek. At Lagunitas station the party divided, and one section continued their tramp on to Fairfax. The latter party covered a distance of nearly 30 miles. Larsen's Inn was made in 1 hour and 45 minutes, Lagunitas station was reached at 3 o'clock and Fairfax at 6 o'clock. The trail along the ridge is overgrown with shrubs and in some places is completely lost, and the pedestrians several times lost their bearings and had to fight their way through the jungle. The club last year made a record of 1 hour and 40 minutes from Fairfax, past Liberty Farm to Larsen's Inn, which time has never been beaten. On the occasion mentioned the cross country team of the Olympic Club started from Ross station, having 20 minutes' earlier start, and arrived at the summit several minutes after the Gentlemen's Club.

There exists a friendly rivalry between the members of the G. C. C. Club, and when on their outings impromptu contests of speed and endurance are the natural result. Several members of the club ride bicycles, and one of the wheelmen has issued a challenge to the pedestrians to race him from Sausalito via Mill Valley and the summit of Mount Tamalpais, thence to Larsen's Inn and then to Camp Taylor. The country to be traversed is steep and rocky in many places, while in others the brush and ferns are so dense as to be almost impassable, and it will be necessary to carry the wheel overhead for a considerable distance. The rider in question rides an "ordinary," never has used a "safety,” and proposes the contest to demonstrate that the "ordinary,” backed by pluck and endurance, will "go" places where many men would fail to get through on foot even with the assistance of hill-climbing shoes and alpenstocks.

The San Francisco Call, 27 May 1892


Liberty Ranch and the Pacheco Estate in Flames.

St. Vincent's Orphan Asylum and Mill Valley Endangered - Pasture Lands Destroyed.

San Rafael Water Works in Danger.

Two extensive fires broke out last Friday in Marin County in the forest in the vicinity of San Rafael. They started within two hours of each other, and although now well under control are still slowly burning, asd will, it is believed, continue to do so until effectually quenched by the rains.

At about 2 o'clock Friday afternoon the residents of San Rafael, Sausalito and Mill Valley were surprised by a dense column of smoke some miles distant to the north of San Rafael which every hour grew bigger and blacker. A similar scene was also observed in the north. It was concluded that the smoke was caused by forest fires, which occasionally occur in the summer season, when the trees and the grass are so dry, and spread with frightful rapidity. Soon recovering from their surprise, some of the citizens of San Rafael, taking with them axes and hatchets, set out to visit the burning woods on the north and the west, prepared to render all possible assistance. There was not any fire company at hand, and had there been it would have been of but little service, since the system of fighting a fire in the forest is essentially different from the system adopted in the case of a fire in a city or town. The aim of the metropolitan fireman is to quench the flames in the burning building or buildings. but the woodman is less ambitious. All that he attempts to do, in fact all he can do, is to confine the fire within specified limits. Engines, hose and water are in consequence virtually useless to him. He never thinks of saving the burning timber, but, on the contrary, tries his best to encircle the fire with a trail sufficiently wide to check its course. For this purpose he requires brush brooms and axes to clear a way through the thick growth of brush, also a sound, practical acquaintance with the topography of the country.


The Pacheco estate, some five miles north of San Rafael and two miles from St. Vincent's Orphan Asylum, proved to be the locality of the smaller of the two conflagrations. It started on the dairy ranch of Hans Nelson and before it could be stayed ran over a tract of reclaimed land owned by Mr. Ferris and the Novato meadows. The country was thickly wooded, but the main damage was to the grass, the land for use as a pasture for stock being entirely ruined. The fencing also suffered to some extent, and the only reason why the comparatively few farm buildings escaped destruction is that they were luckily situated to the windward. The asylum also had a rather narrow escape, for the fire approached to within a few hundred yards of it. If a high wind had prevailed it could not easily have been saved, but the woodmen labored with a will and the existing conditions insured their success.

The children in the asylum for a time were somewhat frightened, but soon forgot their fears and experienced much pleasure in watching the startled quail and jackrabbits fleeing before the fire, and in admiring the skill of the woodmen, who were struggling so resolutely to arrest its course.

Liberty ranch, located in the hills on the line of the county road, midway between San Rafael and Bolinas Bay, was the scene of the second conflagration, which in duration of time and in area of territory exceeded that of the Pacheco estate.

Taking a team at San Rafael yesterday afternoon, a CALL reporter, after a drive of about 10 miles along a rather mountainous and serpentine road, arrived at a quaint old country house. It is inhabited by Mrs. Liberty, who leases it, together with the land, from Messrs. Shafter & Howard of San Francisco. The ranch, comprising 11,000 acres, is used principally for the pasturage of stock.

The land, although comparatively unimproved, is still valuable and is the home of many valuable cattle. The only house on the estate, besides the one already mentioned, is called the "Kent cottage," rented by Palmer & Rey of this city, but at present unoccupied. The rolling country is covered with redwood, pine, scrub oak and manzanita. Small game is plentiful and occasionally there are seen a few deer.


The story of the fire was thus told by Mrs. Liberty: "Two peddlers called bere last Friday noon and soon after they had gone I noticed a suspicious column of smoke rising skyward from the old saw-mill bridge, a mile and a half from the house, at the foot of Bolinas grade. My son Leland immediately went there to see what was the trouble, and discovered that the fire had caught the bridge at Lagunitas Creek, turned south, ascended the hill and traveled thence along the Sweet George Creek [Swede George] toward Lagunitas Lake, I sent a messenger post-haste to the president of the San Rafael Water Company for assistance. It was not long in coming. Fifteen men were soon on the spot and I tell you they've been busy ever since. With their axes they cut trails through the timber, cleared a circle round the fire and with their coarse brush-brooms swept it clean. In this way they successfully fought the fire. All night Friday and all night Saturday they worked, and, as a result, the Kent cottage was saved from destruction. It is unoccupied now, but is filled with valuable furniture. At noon today (Sunday) the fire was well under control. The wind when the fire started was in the north west. It was not very high and it is lucky that the men were accordingly able to check the spread of the fire so soon as they did, for it was traveling rapidly toward Mill Valley, and had it reached there the loss of property would have been very severe. As it is, my pastures are worthless until another year. For the loss of the timber we don't care so much. The land on the north side of Lagunitas creek is comparatively uninjured. The heaviest damage has been sustained by the San Rafael Water Company through the burning of its water-sheds and bridges. I cannot say what sum, but it must be considerable."

The San Francisco Call, 22 Aug 1892

About a mile from the lake the creek passes Liberty's, a popular wayside resort where anglers are wont to spend the night if intending to make a trip through Lagunitas canyon, which commences a short distance below the hotel. This canyon is between five and six miles in length and is somewhat rough. An angler desiring to make the journey in comfort and in time to intercept the last train which passes Tank station at some thing like 6:30 P. M., should leave Liberty's not later than 5 A. M. On the way down the Lagunitas two streams are passed, the Big and Little Carson. Both these tributaries are small and run dry early in June. The San Geronimo, which joins the Lagunitas at the railroad bridge, is about two miles long. It does not carry any great volume of water, but early in the season contains some very nice fish.

ANGLERS ARE HAPPY. - San Francisco Chronicle, 30 Mar 1895

Miss Liberty, born, reared and still living high among the hills at the head of the Lagunitas, holds peculiar opinions about the dress most suitable for the lady who would take trout. "I think," Miss Liberty says, "that a pair of strong, common boots and an old-cast-off skirt are as good as anything. You must wear thick covering for the feet and then you don't care for a splash of water now and then or if your skirt is draggled or torn. I have a pair of leather boots and wade when I need to and never suffer from it. I think a lady ought to be a better angler because she is patient and quiet and stops so often to look at ferns or the pretty things along the creek that if she has alarmed any trout they forget about it and she catches them when she begins fishing again."

The San Francisco Examiner, 30 Mar 1895

From San Anselmo begins the cycler's road to Camp Taylor, and up the Russian River or its picturesque tributaries. From Ross station you will find it worth while to follow the Lagunitas to Liberty.

Unfrequented Bicycle Roads in the Vicinity of San Francisco - The San Francisco Call, 18 Apr 1897

Leave the train at Lagunitas station, better known as the "Wood Pile," and fish down the Carson to the Lagunitas and then either up stream or down to Camp Taylor; or go to San Rafael, take the Bolinas stage to Liberty, the headwaters of the Lagunitas, and fish down stream to the "Wood Pile," where you can take the return train. This is a ten m mile walk and can be finished in a manner, but it will take two days to fish it properly. It is a small stream at Fairfax and somewhat bushy, but is full of inviting pools and riffles.

The San Francisco Call, 26 Mar 1898


First of the Species Seen There in Several Years.

A grizzly bear, described as a three-quarters grown cub, is prowling about the wilds of Marin county. A number of people have seen the animal of late, and he is reported to have chased one luckless hunter for a quarter of a mile. The animal, which now holds the fort in the peaceful county, is said to be he first that has been seen in that section of the country since 1895. Manager Pezzaglio of the old Liberty ranch, five miles from Ross station, saw the bear last Sunday. The man was on the way to the ranch when he beheld the big form in the road way. He took a roundabout road for home, procured a rifle and returned, but the animal had taken to the woods, leaving a trail filled with immense tracks. On Monday Jack Briones, one of the old-time Mexican settlers, caught sight of the bear on the Summit Grade, and yesterday a party reported having noted bruin in the underbrush near Ross.

The San Francisco Examiner, 08 Sep 1904


Files Condemnation Suit Against Lagunitas Canyon Property.

SAN RAFAEL, March 28. - The recently formed Lagunitas Water Company filed its articles of incorporation and a condemnation suit here this afternoon. The directors are H. H. Taylor, F. P. Howard, J. M. Huke, A. T. Shaw and Charles M. Brier. The capital stock is $2,000,000 and $500 has been subscribed. The condemnation suit is brought against the Liberty ranch property, comprising some 13,000 acres along the Lagunitas canyon below the Marin County Water Company's holdings.

The action seems to be of a friendly character, brought merely for the purpose of determining the extent of the various interests in the property. The defendants are ibe Union Trust Company, Charles W. Howard, Emma L. Howard, Oscar S. Howard, Charles W. Howard Jr., Fred P. and Harold Howard.

The San Francisco Examiner, 24 Mar 1906

The Bolinas-San Rafael Trail first appeared on an 1860 map which was beautifully engraved in the style of early cartographers, and delineated the Mexican land grants in the county. The map's attractive cartouche (titlepiece), hand-lettered with ornate flourishes, proudly proclaimed: "Map of the County of Marin of California Compiled by A. Van Dorn." Its many decorative features included romantic and pastoral scenes, e.g., goat, sheep , cow, horse , bull, whale, Francis Drake's ship the Golden Hind, Columbia with the flag, and other colorful illustrations. (See facing page.)

County surveyor Hiram Austin's 1873 map of the county also showed the Bolinas-San Rafael Trail as it passed Samuel Weeks' Ranch, Liberty Ranch, and crossed over the "Elevated Table Land" to Ross Valley. Even today, eagle-eyed, sure-footed hikers can follow this steep and silent historical route, at least from Bolinas Lagoon to Alpine Lake. The route along Lagunitas Creek was, of course, flooded with the completion of Alpine Dam in 1918.

Austin's relief map used hachures, a picturesque mapping system resembling wooly caterpillars to represent the steepness of the ridges and mountains by the closeness of the shading. His map included the early trail up Rocky Ridge to the summit of the West Peak of Mt. Tamalpais.* A trail up the Mountain had made a map! It was most likely along this route that the William H. Brewer California State Geological Survey party made the first recorded ascent on March 28, 1862.

In 1878 the road to Bolinas from Ross Valley was completed. Now, travellers\ from the county seat could go west "over the hill" to Bolinas by stage. However, the Bolinas-San Rafael Trail continued to appear on hiking maps through World War II.

The Tamalpais Sheet of the United States Geological Survey topographical map, Edition of 1897 and surveyed 1894-95, showed three trails: the Tamalpa from Mill Valley to the summit of East Peak, the Bill Williams from West Peak to Bolinas Ridge, and a trail from the Liberty Ranch to Little Carson Valley and through the Carson saddle to San Geronimo Ridge.

This map also carried the Eldridge Grade, a wagon road, which was completed in 1884 from Phoenix Gulch to the summit of the West Peak.

Mill Valley Historical Review - Mill Valley Historical Society - December 1980

Liberty Gulch is both a drainage that leads to Alpine Lake, on Mount Tamalpais, and a trail that winds up the east side of that drainage, to join Fairfax-Bolinas road just west of Pine Mountain road.

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