GEOGRAPHY. - Nicasio township is bounded on the north by San Antonio township, on the west by Tomales
township, on the south by Tomales bay, Bolinas and San Rafael townships, and on the east by San Rafael and Novato
townships. There are no streams of importance in this section. That part of Tomales bay which skirts along the
south-western portion of Nicasio is not navigable now for any kind of craft, although years ago the water was deep
enough for sloops and fishing smacks. Nicasio creek is a small stream flowing through the central portion, while
San Geronimo, or Paper mill creek, flows along the southern border.
TOPOGRAPHY. - The general face of this section is hilly rather than mountainous, although there are some
quite high ridges and peaks in the western portion. The country is generally quite open and free from timber or
chaparral. In Nicasio valley the hills become mere undulations, having much the same general appearance as the
southern portion of Sonoma county, especially that section known as Big Valley. It may be said that there is no
level land in the township from the fact that the valleys are all broken up into these undulations.
SOIL. - The soil of Nicasio is fully up to the standard of any other township in the county. It is a rich,
sandy loam in all the valleys, while on the hillsides there is some red clay. On some of the rolling ground in
the northern part of the township the soil is of a lighter nature, still not enough so as to cause any very great
difference in the yield, either of grass or grain. The soil generally is well adapted to growing all kinds of grains,
vegetables and fruits, also grass.
CLIMATE. - The climate is mild and pleasant in the eastern portion of the township, while in the western
it is subjected to heavy winds and fogs. In Nicasio valley proper the climate is not excelled anywhere in the county.
It is well protected from the blasts of the ocean winds by the range of hills known as the Black Mountains, on
the tops of which the fogs seem to cling with wonderful tenacity, and seldom swoop down into the valley.
PRODUCTS. - The products of this section are in keeping with other townships of the county. Butter is here,
as elsewhere, the product, although the business of dairying is not conducted on quite so large a scale, by individuals,
as in some other sections. Some grain is grown, but little of it finds its way to the market. Some cord wood and
railroad ties are cut and marketed. Fruit trees thrive excellently, but little attention is paid to their cultivation.
Potatoes grow luxuriantly, and tons of massive tubers are produced to the acre; but all these things give way before
the all absorbing industry of butter making.
TIMBER. - When the country was settled up by Americans there were large forests of redwood in Nicasio, but
since then saw mills have been busily engaged for many years, and the prime trees have long since fallen victims
to the remorseless ax of the woodsman. There are still large numbers of second and third grade trees remaining
in the forests, and it is quite probable that there will come a time when they will be very valuable. Of the other
timbers, the oak may be mentioned as the principal one. None of this, however, is available for other purposes
than firewood. There is some laurel and some alder, but the latter does not form any considerable portion of the
timber of this section.
EARLY SETTLEMENT. - Nicasio township is composed chiefly of lands granted to Pablo de la Guerra and Juan
B. R. Cooper, and known as the Nicasio Rancho. This grant contained sixteen square leagues, and was made August
1, 1844, by His Excellency, Don Manuel Micheltorena, Brigadier General of the Mexican Army and Adjutant General
of the staff of the same, Governor, General Commandant and Inspector of the Department of the Californias. The
full measurement of sixteen leagues would call for seventy thousand eight hundred and fifty four and four hundred
and thirty two thousandths acres, but it appears that only fifty six thousand six hundred and twenty one and four
hundredths acres were confirmed to the following named parties:- Henry W. Halleck (afterwards General) thirty thousand
eight hundred and forty eight and eighty five hundredths acres; Daniel Frink and William Reynolds, seven thousand
five hundred and ninety eight and ten hundredths acres; James Black, nine thousand four hundred and seventy eight
and eighty two hundredths acres; and Benjamin R. Buckelew, eight thousand six hundred and ninety five and twenty
seven hundredths acres. Very soon after this grant was made the services of Jasper O'Farrell were secured as surveyor,
and the boundary lines fully established. For this service O'Farrell received the tract now known as the Black
estate, which, by the way, was a handsome compensation for his labor. This tract of land was exchanged by O'Farrell
for the Canada de la Jonive Rancho in Sonoma county, in 1847 or 1848. James Black was the owner of the Jonive ranch,
and as soon as the bargain had been consummated he came to Nicasio, and began making improvements. He brought the
lumber for his house from the Bodega saw mill, at that time operated by Captain Stephen Smith. This building was
doubtless the first one erected in the township, except perhaps some small shanties. We will now give a short sketch
of this pioneer:- James Black was born in Inverness, Scotland, in 1807. Shortly after his birth his father moved
to Liverpool, taking with him his family. In the course of time he attained to the position of Master of the Docks
in that city. Young Black early evinced a roving disposition, and at his request his father secured him a place
on board of one of the many foreign bound ships which sailed from that port. He sailed to India, China and to almost
all other portions of the globe in various ships during the years which intervened from the time of his shipment
until 1831. Some time during that year he shipped on board of an English vessel bound for the California coast
and British Columbia in quest of hides and furs. On January 2, 1832, the ship arrived at Monterey, and Black, being
very sick with typhoid fever, was put on shore to die. The captain of the vessel, however, promised to call in
for him on the return voyage. Juan B. R. Cooper was at that time living in Monterey, and kindly cared for the forsaken
English sailor, and in the course of time he fully recovered from his illness. Neither his restless spirit nor
his purse would allow him to spend the waiting time in idleness. He was given work by Captain Cooper, and remained
with him one year. During this time an acquaintance sprang up between him and a brother Scotchman, named Edward
Manuel McIntosh. This acquaintance ripened soon into a friendship which bound them in ties as close as those of
brothers, and which burned fervently and brightly till the latest days of their lives. At length Black became wearied
of waiting for his vessel, and determined to join McIntosh in a hunting and trapping excursion. The vessel never
came into port, and Black never heard of it again. After three or four years spent together in hunting and trapping,
the most of which time was passed in the employ of the Hudson Bay Company, Black and McIntosh found themselves
in Sonoma. This was in 1835, and from a statement made by General M. G. Vallejo, we learn that upon his (Vallejo's)
assuming the position of commandant of the military of California in the above named year, he was ordered to extend
his settlements as far as possible in the direction of "Fuerte de los Rusos" (now Fort Ross), then the
head quarters of the Russian colony in Califonia, and to thus encroach upon their territory and usurp their possessions.
For it is purpose he chose three hardy pioneers, viz:- James Black, Edward M. McIntosh and James Dawson, and promised
to give them each a large grant of land, provided they would settle in the locality designated by him. This they
readily consented to do, as they were sun that they can live on amicable terms with their Russian neighbors. The
Russians at that time occupied that section of Sonoma county, now known as Bodega, hence the nearest approach to
their settlements must be made near that place. Accordingly, Black settled upon what is now known as the Canada
de la, Jonive rancho, and Dawson and McIntosh occupied the Estero Americano tract. Dawson, however, afterwards
separated from McIntosh, sawing their common house in twain, and placed his half on the tract now known as the
Canada de Pogolome rancho, all of which grants bordered on the Russian colony, and were eventually confirmed to
their respective claimants. When the mines were in their glory Black drove annually large herds of cattle into
that section, where he found a ready market for them, and their sale added much to his store of wealth. He spent
the remainder of his days in quietude in this county, being however always an active business man and a true citizen.
In 1850 he was one of the Associate Justices of the Court of Sessions, and on April 24, 1852, he was appointed
Assessor, which office he filled till 1853. In both these positions he proved himself both capable and faithful.
In 1843 he was united in marriage with Maria Augustine Saiz, daughter of Juan and Domingo Saiz. Two children resulted
from this union, one of whom is now living, and is the wife of Dr. G. Burdell. Mrs. Black died February 23, 1864,
and in 1865 he married Mrs. Pacheco, who still survives him. He died June 12, 1870, at the age of sixty four. And
thus are the leaves of the great book of life closed and another of California's oldest pioneers has passed from
time to eternity, and all that can be gathered of the life he led, the scenes he saw, or experiences passed through
in those olden days, before it were possible to place them upon the living pages of history, is but the stray threads
of warp and woof, and the web can but be at best sadly disconnected, and the links of life's chain widely severed,
with only here and there one which even approaches completeness. In 1853 Jacob and J. O. B. Short leased an extensive
tract of land in Nicasio from Timothy Murphy for grazing purposes, and took a considerable band of cattle upon
it. They built a large log house in Bull's Tail valley, on what is now known as the Crayton place. This house is
still standing, though Father Time has left the imprint of years upon it. This was the second house erected in
the township. Two brothers named Hiram and Noah Corey came into this valley in 1852, and each built a house. The
one erected by Noah Corey was the first house built on the present town site of Nicosia; and was located where
the hotel now stands. This house was twenty two by thirty feet and is still standing, and occupied by Mrs. McMannus.
The frames for these two buildings were sawed out with a small circular saw driven by horse power. This was probably
the first saw mill of any character that was ever run in the township, and was owned by the Corey brothers. These
houses were weather boarded and ceiled with shakes, and were very durable and comfortable. The house built by Hiram
was situated just north of the town site of Nicasio. These men brought their families with them, and, with the
exception of James Black's family, were the first who came to the township. During the first or second year of
their residence here a little child belonging to the family of Noah Corey sickened and died, and was buried under
the wide spreading branches of a massive oak tree which grew near the house. Years sped by apace, and the family
moved away, leaving the little grave behind them with nothing to mark it save a redwood slab. After them many came
and many went, and at last the slab was gone and the little sleeper forgotten by those who knew her, and her resting
place unmarked and unknown to the strangers who came to settle in the valley. But fresh in the memory of the parents
remained the little mound, and no lapse of time could destroy their love for, or cause them to forget, the hallowed
spot. At length, after the flowers of a quarter of a century had bloomed, the father returned for the purpose of
removing the body to a more appropriate resting place, beside other members of the family, who, having wearied
with life's burden, had gone to rest on the bosom of mother earth. But when the father returned he found that many,
many changes had occurred. The old house was gone, and the tree that sheltered the grave of his darling had likewise
been swept out of existence, and in their stead the goodly proportions of a fine hotel were reared. Search for
even a trace of the grave proved futile, and with a sad heart the father turned away to await the great day which
shall reveal the resting place of all
William Dampier and William Butterfield were the next settlers in the valley. They constructed a house similar
to those mentioned above, in 1853. It was situated south of the town of Nicasio, and is still standing on the farm
owned by B. F. Porter. These gentlemen were partners and were engaged in the stock and dairy business. After this
the valley filled up quite rapidly with settlers, among whom may be mentioned Peter Irwin. John Nutter, Captain
Tenney, M. McNamara, C. Murray and Richard Magee. The latter came to Nicasio in 1857 and located in the redwoods
east of the town. He had bought the down timber in this forest from John Lucas. He built a log house. The present
locale of those old settlers mentioned above who are still living is as follows:- Short Brothers in San Rafael;
Corey Brothers in Sonoma county, near Santa Rosa; William Dampier, present Treasurer of Marin county; William Butterfield
in Monterey county; Richard Magee, M. McNamara and C Murray still reside at Nicasio; and Captain Henney is in Sacramento,
and the remainder have gone to their long home.
The first blacksmith to work in the town of Nicasio was a man by the name of Thomas Ward. His forge and anvil were
placed under the branches of an oak tree, and here he forged and welded with as good a grace as though he were
housed in a mansion. He continued to work under this tree till the rains began, when an open shed was constructed.
Later in the year he sold out to W. C. Fredenbur, who added the business of a wheelwright to his blacksmithing.
The first store in Nicasio was conducted by Edward Jackson. He occupied the old Noah Corey. House, which is mentioned
above as being the first house erected in the town.
The business interests of the town of Nicasio are represented by one store, one blacksmith shop, one meat market,
one livery stable, one hotel, and one boarding house. H. F. Taft is postmaster and Wells, Fargo & Co.'s agent.
The postoffice was established April 13, 1870, with Mr. Taft as postmaster.
CATHOLIC CHURCH. - The church at this place of the Catholic persuasion was for a number of years included
in the Petaluma parish, and the resident priest of that place served the people here for some time before a church
building was erected. In the Spring of 1867 a subscription was circulated and enough secured to proceed with the
building. The body of the church is twenty four by fifty, with a chancel at the rear which is twenty by twenty
four. It is neat and substantial in its construction, having hard finished walls. The work around the altar is
of curled redwood nicely varnished, giving to it a very handsome appearance. It is stated that the cost of the
building was three thousand dollars. Father Harrington was pastor at the time or the erection of the building.
He was followed by Father Burmingham. The church is now connected with the parish of Sonoma.
SCHOOLS. - There are two school districts in the township, viz: Nicasio and San Geronimo. The first school
house erected in the former was built in 1866, and was quite a small building. The demand for a larger building
soon became pressing, and in 1871 a second and much larger structure was erected, being thirty five by forty five.
This is probably the most substantial and handsome district school building in Marin county. It cost three thousand
dollars when completed.
HOTEL. - A large and well furnished hotel was erected at this place in June, 1867, by Wm. J. Miller. The
main building is thirty by sixty six. three stories high, with a wing twenty six by forty. It contains twenty two
rooms, beside bar, dining room, kitchen and parlor. It was completed and furnished at an expense of eleven thousand
SAW MILLS. - The pioneer mill of this township was built by James Dixon and James Ross in 1862. It was located
about one and a half miles easterly from the present site of the town of Nicasio. The capacity of the mill was
about fifteen thousand feet of lumber per day. It was run till 1865, when Dixon bought the interest of Ross, and
moved the mill to Fort Ross, Sonoma county. The next mill was built by Isaac Shaver and Jonathan Mitchner in 1866,
and was located about one and a half miles southeast of Nicasio. It had a capacity of twenty thousand feet per
day, and was run till 1872, when part of the machinery was taken to San Rafael and put into a planing mill. In
1874 Isaac Shaver located a portable saw mill on the White ranch, about a mile south of San Geronimo Station. It
was run six months. In 1875 Isaac Shaver and Edmund and Samuel Kier built a mill on the road between White's Hill
and San Geronimo. Its capacity was twelve thousand feet daily, and was run for six months. In 1876 the same company
built a mill about two miles west of San Geronimo, with a capacity of twenty thousand feet per day. They ran it
about six months. The machinery is still there and in running order. In 1877 Robert Scott, Charles Sims, and Parks
had a shingle mill at the foot of Nicasio Hill, on the road from Nicasio to San Geronimo. It had a capacity of
fifteen thousand shingles daily, and was run about one year.
SAN GERONIMO. - This is the name of the station on the North Pacific Coast Railroad, from which stages connect
with Nicasio. It is a small village containing some half score houses, of which most are dwellings. The only business
conducted at the place is a blacksmith shop.
GOLD MINES - The San Geronimo gold mine is located about one half mile west of the station, and operations
were begun in it in October, 1878. Since that time a shaft two hundred feet deep has been sunk, and a drift has
been run to the northward a distance of two hundred and sixty feet, and a side drift from that a distance of sixty
feet, also a drift to the westward has been run two hundred and seventy feet. It is proposed to run this drift
some distance farther, when a shaft will be sunk connecting with it. The force engaged at present consists of fourteen
men, who work in three shifts of eight hours each, with the exception of two engineers, who work twelve hours each.
Assays of ore average from thirty to forty dollars per ton, although it has yielded as much as ninety dollars gold.
The ore contains gold, silver, iron, manganese, antimony and tracings of nickel. The outcroppings of the lode extend
for a long distance through that section of the country, and should gold in paying quantities be found it will
prove a very extensive mine, and would add very much to the material interests of Marin county.
INDIANS - The Nicasio Indians were at one time a very powerful tribe, numbering many thousands, and filling
the whole valley, but they have vanished before the silent forces of civilization like the dew from off the grass
beneath the ardent rays of a mid summer sun. Dire contagion stalked through the land and claimed many tithings
for. the charnel house of death, and later the accursed "fire water" of the white man overcame and destroyed
their sons, and the souls and bodies of their daughters were sold in prostitution and they ceased to bear children.
And thus have their ranks been decimated until scarcely a score can be mustered, and the once populous village
contains only eight wigwams now. What few remain of the tribe now live upon a tract of about thirty acres, situated
about two miles east of the town of Nicasio in a lovely valley, which was purchased by Jose Calistro, their last
chief, of Wm. J. Miller, several years ago, for a home for the remnant of his people. The county appropriates forty
dollars per month for their support, which, together with the pittance of wages which they earn and the game they
kill, affords them a meager sustenance. There are five who are very aged indeed, in fact so old that nothing can
be obtained which will establish the date of their birth, and they are almost helpless. They are patiently waiting
for death to come and take them to their people who have gone before them long ago to the happy hunting grounds
in the home of Gitchie Manito," the mighty.