“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Tomales in Marin County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)


Tomales Plaque image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Loren Wilson
1. Tomales Plaque
Inscription.  Once the land of the Miwok, Tomales was founded in 1850 by John Keys who shipped potatoes to San Francisco and Warren Dutton who opened the Post Office in 1854. Shipping ended with the siltation of the estuary. From 1875 to 1930 the narrow gauge railroad served this growing community providing transportation for agricultural products. In the late 1800’s Tomales was the second largest town in Marin County and was in contention for county seat. Tomales has survived the 1906 earthquake and five major fires and continues to serve the social commercial and agricultural needs of its residents.
Erected 1998 by Sam Brannan Chapter #1004 E Clampus Vitus.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & CommerceSettlements & Settlers. In addition, it is included in the E Clampus Vitus series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1850.
Location. 38° 14.759′ N, 122° 54.291′ W. Marker is in Tomales, California, in Marin County. Marker is on Shoreline Highway (State Highway 1), in the median. Plaque is located
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on a stone pedestal in a traffic island in front of the William Tell House. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 26995 Highway 1, Tomales CA 94971, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 8 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Warren Dutton House - Tomales Community Park (within shouting distance of this marker); Tomales Town Hall (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Tomales Presbyterian Church (about 700 feet away); Christo’s Running Fence (approx. 5.1 miles away); Stormy's (approx. 5˝ miles away); "Dos Piedras" (approx. 6.1 miles away); Beryl and Leonard Buck Hall (approx. 7.2 miles away); Getting to Marconi (approx. 7.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Tomales.
Additional commentary.
1. Additional Information Regarding the Marker Dedication
Tom Crawford was Noble Grand Humbug when this plaque was dedicaated. Plaque wording by Loren A. Wilson.
Monument constructed by Mark Lawson and Loren Wilson. The stones comprising the monument are stones salvaged from the Catholic Church that was destroyed in the 1906 Earthquake.
    — Submitted April 22, 2012, by Loren Wilson of Sebastopol, California.

2. The Town of Tomales
The remote little town of Tomales
Tomales Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Loren Wilson
2. Tomales Marker
in western Marin County along the famed Pacific Coast Highway is in many ways a town little touched by the modern world. It is a classic American town unburdened with strip malls, fast-food restaurants, or crime. What it is burdened with is a history involving sailing ships, railroads, wagon roads, pasture lands and survival from everything from earthquakes to progress. Before Europeans stumbled onto what would become Tomales, the area was inhabited by Miwok Indians who lead quiet lives fishing, hunting and gathering nuts, fruits, and vegetables.

It was in 1603 that Sebastian Vizcaino sailed into what is now Bodega Bay, on the way mistaking Tomales Bay for the mouth of a great river. In 1775, Juan Francisco de Bodega y Caudra also mistook Tomales Bay for the mouth of a river; he named Tomales Point Punta del Cordon. A map made by George Vancouver in 1794 mistakenly refers to Tomales Bay as Port de la Bodega, while Bodega Bay is not shown at all.
By the mid-1800’s, settlers from the eastern U.S. and northern Europe wandering into the Tomales area, assuming that it was open land. In the early 1860’s, the U.S. Supreme Court would decide that in spite of the land being part of the Bolsa de Tomales Spanish/Mexican grant, it was open to settlement, effectively—and officially—bringing to an end the Spanish/Mexican era. More than a decade before (in 1850, the
Dedication Day image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Loren Wilson
3. Dedication Day
The plaque dedication followed the Founders Day Parade and was an important part of the celebration of the history of the Town of Tomales
year California gained statehood), John Keys sailed up the Arroyo de San Antonio, now known as Keys Creek, to the site of the present community of Tomales and built the town’s first house. Many of the early settlers were Irish farmers who grew potatoes and grain and raised dairy herds. Both John Keys and Warren Dutton ran shipping businesses to carry Tomales’ output to San Francisco.
In 1875 the North Pacific Coast Railroad completed a line between Sausalito and Cazadero through Tomales. The railroad line was an attempt to guarantee transportation of agricultural to San Francisco as Keys Creek began to silt in, thereby preventing schooners from functioning. The railroad also transported redwood lumber from the Russian River area to supply the building boom in San Francisco.
By the end of the 1800’s there were nearly 500 people living in the town of Tomales, but because it served a broad rural area, the services it provided were far beyond those expected of such a small population base. There were five hotels (including the still standing William Tell), retail stores, service establishments, and public facilities, such as the town hall (built in 1875). There were also two churches: Our Lady of the Assumption (1860) and the Presbyterian Church (1868).
Tomales had its share of disasters: a major fire in 1877, and another in the 1890’s and a huge fire in 1920 that wiped
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out two full blocks of the town. Being situated close to the San Andreas Fault, Tomales also suffered during the 1906 Earthquake, which destroyed the new stone Catholic Church. In modern times, much of the farming moved to the Central Valley, the water ways silted up, and the rail line was abandoned in 1930. Today dairying and livestock grazing are the major agricultural businesses. Tomales still faces several environmental and planning issues, the solutions to which will see Tomales into the new millennium.
Rich Benyo, XNGH #28—September 1998
    — Submitted April 22, 2012, by Loren Wilson of Sebastopol, California.
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. It was originally submitted on April 22, 2012, by Loren Wilson of Sebastopol, California. This page has been viewed 721 times since then and 28 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on April 22, 2012, by Loren Wilson of Sebastopol, California. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page.

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Apr. 18, 2024