Archive for the ‘Family History Posts’ Category

14 January

Camp Taylor

Camp Taylor Revisited

Camp Taylor was built in the late 1800s by Muriel’s great grandfather, Samuel Penfield Taylor, and managed by her grandfather, James Irving Taylor.  Thanks to Dewey Livingston and the Marin History Museum, we get a glimpse into what camp life was like in those days from the following article first published in 1889.  


The FAX Sept. 21 – Oct. 5, 1988

Historic Fax

A Century of Crowded Campgrounds

by Dewey Livingston


     If you have tried to get a spot at Samuel P. Taylor State Park any of these recent summers, you may have found out that Taylor Park is a popular and often crowded place. You may have found yourself on a waiting list perhaps behind dozens of people. Let’s go back a hundred years and find how the campgrounds under Samuel Taylor’s redwood forests were as much in demand then as  now, although, as you will see, the style of camping was quite different.  The following article appeared in the Sausalito News on July 19, 1889.

     Marin County has never has so many camping parties within her boundaries as at the present time and Camp Taylor has received the lion’s share of the attention of visitors, who leave San Francisco every year for a vacation in the country and who decided that Marin County was the best place to have a good time this season.  The short distance from San Francisco and the excellent and rapid communication and cheap rates over the North Pacific Coast Railroad, presented unusual facilities and advantages to many, so Camp Taylor became the popular camping ground of the day.

For situation, as a summer resort, the place has no superior.  The situation in a valley protected by surrounding hills, the Paper Mill Creek, a fine large stream of mountain water running through the property, and the densely wooded country with trees of many varieties, among which pines, redwoods, laurel, madrone and several other species indigenous to California, make Camp Taylor all that can be desired as a camping ground.

The Camp Taylor Hotel and grounds are conducted by James I. Taylor, in a manner that not only makes the place popular but is likely to keep it filled up as long as the season lasts. The rush was to great in the beginning of the season that over three hundred applications for accommodations had to be placed on file, as the hotel was filled to overflowing. On the Fourth of July the colony at the Camp had reached over 800 and with the visitors it was estimated over 1000 people were in and about Camp Taylor.

A novel arrangement in the Camp Taylor Hotel camps is that they are wooden frames with shake roofs, and have a wooden floor that sets from ten to twelve inches above the ground level and with heavy canvas sides makes a summer house that is both comfortable and warm.  Their occupants in most cases board at the hotel, but there are many camps and camping parties that live by themselves.  Many of these parties have just pitched their tents on the ground. Although there is a great deal of shrubbery, no reptiles or wild animals are in the vicinity of the camp.

The commissary department is one of the great features of the Camp and supplies from a gallon of milk to a hairpin, which shows a varied and diversified line of goods is kept and everything is of the best quality. The store is presided over by A. Cromwell, a young gentleman who never misses an opportunity to oblige the campers and is highly spoken of by them in return to his courteous treatment which they evidently appreicate. Judge Geo. W. Davis, of San Rafael, is in charge of the mail, express and freight departments and is able assisted in his manifold duties by Al Murbach.


Jumbo! Jumbo! Jumbo!


     “What’s the matter with Jumbo? He’s all right, you bet, every time. Ha! ha! Ha!!!”

The Jumbo Club at Camp Taylor are one of the features of the Camp. All members will be on hand next Saturday night. The other evening the boys got off by themselves and had a stag party, but over 200 ladies who felt they were being slighted, got together and forming themselves into a storming party, invaded the barracks fo the gay Jumbo’s and captured every mortal son of a gun of them – husbands, sweethearts and all. Then the ladies ran the camp to their own satisfaction. A merry time they all had. One thing the ladies can’t get in on and the is the Jumbo tent which won’t hold but one. Following are the members of the Jumbo Club:

Hon. Herbert W. Hatch, Jumbobille, Chief Lush’ Hon. O. Ellinghouse, Chief Slogger, Hon. F. Bates Goeway, Grand Bouncer; Hon Austin O’Maley, Chief Salvationist, Hon. Geo Schad; Chief Robber; Hon. Rowland Ellit (boy baritone); Assistant Chief Luch; Hon. Emmanuel McCormack, Chief Hairy Man…(etc. including Chief Candy Fiend, Chief Bloat, Chief of Sloppy Weather, Chief Chippy Chaser and Chief Growler).


Camp Taylor Camps

 During a quiet walk among the many camps a representative of the News notice the following Camp Taylor camps.

Carmel camp – Manuel M. Toboas and party. This is the star camp. Owl’s Cottage; Dulce far Niente; Laurel Dell; Green House; Doane-Knight-Ames-Maun Camps; Boulevard – Hon. W. H. Jordan, who is wide spoken of as a candidate on the Republican side for Governor at the next state election, and family; Riverside; Pigs-in-Clover – The boys – a stag party; Camp Dickenson – Chas H. Casassa, Big Chief; Louis Stever, Yellow Dog; John Valenga, Geronimo, etc.

This article appears courtesy of the Marin History Museum.

It has been retyped from the original article for ease of reading.


Dewey Livingston who first featured the article in a 1988 publication is associated with the Jack Mason Museum of West Marin History in Inverness, California.


7 January

Precious Cargo

Precious Cargo

Since finding gold, Muriel’s great-grandfather, Samuel Penfield Taylor, had used a portion of his proceeds to build a highly successful lumberyard in San Francisco, but now he had a vision of something much grander and much more difficult.  It was a vision of more than just business and fortune, although they certainly played a part.  The key to his dream waited where his journey had started several years earlier, 3,000 miles to the east. So in 1854, Samuel once again made the dangerous voyage to New York.

To make his vision a reality, Samuel needed more money and very specialized equipment, so upon arriving in New York he met with investors and manufacturers. Securing what he needed, he then went to visit a schoolteacher he had befriended years earlier and who shared his dream.  There he made his most important proposal – one of marriage.

Sarah Washington Irving must have also come from a family of adventurers as she quickly agreed to his proposal and, leaving all she knew behind, headed into the unknown with her new husband. Samuel carefully packed the large, heavy equipment he had purchased onto a ship and, with his new bride, set sail. Wanting to protect his precious cargo from the dangers of Cape Horn, Samuel chose a different route.  They sailed to the Isthmus of Panama, and traveled overland to the Pacific Ocean, where they boarded a ship that would take them to San Francisco.

Hauling all the heavy equipment across land must have provided quite a challenge.  Also, riding a mule through the sweltering jungle for a couple of weeks must have caused Sarah to wonder what she had gotten herself into.

About 70 years later their great-granddaughter, Muriel, and her new husband would also cross Panama heading the other way, using the recently constructed canal.  Their dreams lay to the east in France.

When Samuel and Sarah arrived in San Francisco, they went to work to make their fortune – not from gold, but paper.  Understanding the value of the giant redwood forest and foreseeing the need of the exploding population, they built the first paper mill west of the Mississippi.  This was not an easy task with seeming insurmountable obstacles.

The first challenge was to get the heavy equipment from the ocean to the creek he had chosen a year earlier.  He had to build a road from Bolinas, just north of San Francisco, and use giant ox teams to drag the heavy machinery over miles of heavily forested hills and valleys. If that wasn’t challenge enough, he had to build the paper mill and install all the equipment in the middle of nowhere.  Finally, the creek that would be used to power the paper mill didn’t have the necessary flow in the summer months, so Samuel built a dam. Overcoming all obstacles and doing what many said couldn’t be done, in November of 1856, Samuel Penfield Taylor opened his paper mill.

While Samuel was busy with all this, Sarah was busy working on the other part of their shared dream by giving birth to their first child the same year the paper mill opened, James Irving Taylor, Muriel’s grandfather.  They built a house near the paper mill and together built a proud legacy for their children and generations to come.

31 December

A Dangerous Occupation

 A Dangerous Occupation

In 1850 California, rumors of new gold finds and “easy pickins” were rampant and rarely had any truth to them.  On the rare occasion a rumor was legitimate, big companies or large groups of like-minded men quickly moved in buying claims for very little (or just running off whomever was there) and were not shy about using deadly force to keep other prospectors far away.  Claim jumping or just outright stealing a miner’s gold dust was not unusual – even if it meant ending his life.  As there was no law within a hundred miles, the one with the most men, guns and knives usually won.  So, in addition to all the inherent dangers and uncertainties facing a single prospector and his mule, finding gold was only the beginning of his worries.

Undaunted by these facts, Muriel’s great grandfather, Samuel Penfield Taylor, used his grub stake to buy mining tools and walked some 150 miles east of San Francisco, into the remote hills surrounding the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. At some point during his trek, Samuel panned for gold around streams at Hawkins Bar, near Tuolumne, California. What he found there were several rival ethnic groups and companies literally at war.

The Spanish American war had just ended. Although California wouldn’t officially become a territory of the United States until late 1850, this bad blood was carried up the mountain as newly arrived American miners forced the native Mexican miners at gunpoint out of their camps and even hung a few to make their point.  The “Sonoranians,” as the Mexican miners were called, relocated at the other end of town not far away and tensions continued with frequent gunfights.

Even among the same ethnic groups there were clashes.  Two Chinese companies, the Tuolumne County Sam Yap Company and the Calaveras County Yan Wo Company, were both claiming the same mining areas and the resulting was violence frequent and deadly. This escalated into the Tong War of 1856 when over 2,500 Chinese men took to the streets.  The Sam Yap clan brought long pikes, butcher’s knives and tridents to the fight.  Yan Wo had purchased 150 muskets with bayonets in San Francisco, so the battle didn’t last long.

We can only assume that Samuel Taylor stayed clear of all of this and went about his business panning for gold.  When he returned to San Francisco in 1851, Samuel exchanged his 6,173 pennyweight of gold nuggets and dust and received $5,691.99 – not the fortune he was hoping for, but a handsome sum in those days.

Having had enough of gold prospecting, Samuel saw the city’s rapid growth and, with some partners, built a sawmill and opened a lumberyard on the corner of Drumm and California Streets in San Francisco.  It was so successful, he had a hard time keeping up with the demand.  In order to find a sustainable source of trees to mill, he hopped on his horse one day and rode north.  It wasn’t long before he found a vast, virgin forest of the tallest and widest trees he had ever seen. What intrigued him even more was the large creek that flowed through the forest. Seeing such a great source of power surrounded by a seemingly unlimited supply of wood made Samuel rethink his plans for the trees.

To make his vision come true, he needed additional capital and equipment not available in the west. There was also something else in the east that still piqued his interest of a more personal nature. Returning to San Francisco, Samuel booked passage on the next ship headed for New York.

24 December

The Grub Stake

The Grub Stake

The last time we checked, Samuel Penfield Taylor was sitting on the dock of the bay contemplating his future. His trip from New York had taken a lot longer than expected and he didn’t have enough money to go prospecting.  He also found that life in 1850 San Francisco was as dangerous and chaotic as it was exciting. In just over a year it had gone from being a sleepy port town to the largest town west of the Mississippi River and the 5th largest in the United States. The harbor was so full of vessels there was no place for arriving ships, as upon entering the bay most of the crews immediately jumped overboard, swam to shore and went looking for gold. This left the ships marooned and unable to leave since they didn’t have a crew. The captains took to kidnapping (shanghaiing) able bodied men and forcing them into their service.

Along with tens of thousands of prospectors, came the gamblers, outlaws, murderers and politicians who took full advantage of the situation.  Crime and corruption were rampant.  As there was no meaningful law enforcement, Committees of Vigilance were formed to deal with the situation. This private militia lynched at least a dozen people, kidnapped hundreds of Irishmen and members of the government militia and forced numerous elected officials to resign.  The Committee of Vigilance was popular with the public, especially when they turned their attention to the Chinese immigrants which sparked several race riots.  Contempt for the Chinese increased even more when one of the ships from China arrived carrying cholera.  With no proper health care facilities, the epidemic was devastating to the growing San Francisco population.

As most everything had to come by ship and much of the world’s available fleet (over 500 ships) was stranded in the bay with no crew, prices for everything from shovels to mules skyrocketed.  Compared to the eastern part of the United States, food sold for as much as two thousand times more in San Francisco.  A slice of bread sold for a dollar – if it had butter, two dollars.  If someone was lucky enough to have an egg they could demand almost any price, which brings us back to Samuel seeing something bobbing up and down in the Pacific Ocean.

Samuel retrieved the hogshead (a crate equaling about 1-1/2 barrels) and found it was full of eggs. Most likely it had fallen off one of the ships in the harbor.  With the last of his money, he purchased a side of bacon and opened an outdoor restaurant that consisted of a couple of planks laid on some discarded wooden boxes. Over an open campfire, Samuel cooked the eggs and bacon for a crowd of hungry prospectors that had been attracted to the smell. By the time the last meal was served, Samuel had his grub stake and headed for the hills – his dream of fortune still alive.

17 December

Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay

Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay

It took a certain kind of person to leave family and the security of everything they knew and head without much money to an unknown distant shore full of danger. Maybe they were fearless adventurers or maybe a little crazy, but this was a gamble that both Muriel and her great-grandfather, Samuel Penfield Taylor, took during their lifetimes.

Be that he was the grandson and son of a ship’s Captain or that he wanted to get to the gold fields in a hurry or for some other reason, Samuel chose to take on the treacherous voyage around Cape Horn instead of making the trek overland.  Not having money to buy a ticket, Samuel agreed to work on a schooner in exchange for passage and the sum of $20.

Imagine the excitement of the young 21 year old as he and some of his friends set sail on August 21, 1849. Most likely, his ship stopped at Rio de Janeiro and several other exotic South American cities for supplies and fresh water along the way.  For a young man who had never been more than a hundred miles from New York, these foreign sights and sounds had to have been quite exciting; and possibly a bit frightening.

Something bad must have happened during the voyage as what should have been a three month trip, took nearly eight months.  Most likely, the ship was severely damaged and forced to put in for major repairs.    Samuel and his fellow voyagers were probably upset by the delay figuring the easy gold pickings were vanishing as they were stranded on some South American beach.  Samuel finally arrived in San Francisco on April 10, 1850. 

All his friends headed straight for the hills that seemed to promise a future paved in gold, but for some reason Samuel chose to remain in San Francisco for a while.  Possibly, he didn’t have the funds to purchase pick-axes, shovels, supplies, a mule and the other equipment necessary to pan for gold…or it may have been some other reason. All we know for sure, is that one day he was literally sitting on the dock of the bay when he noticed something floating in the water.  Whether it was just his lucky day or fate was giving him a jump start, what Samuel Penfield Taylor found floating in the water turned out to be almost as valuable as gold and would launch his extraordinary career in business.