Lagunitas’ Claim to Fame? Hint: It’s Not Just About the Beer

Famous names figure in the history of West Marin’s San Geronimo Valley.
Lagunitas has a colorful history full of famous figures.

IN 1846, WHEN Joseph Revere purchased 8,701 acres in today’s San Geronimo Valley, he became one of the first U.S. citizens to own land in what would soon be Marin County. Revere? Sound familiar? Joseph was the grandson of Revolutionary War hero Paul Revere.

However, according to Barry Spitz, author of Marin: A History, Revere quickly sold his land and it became the property of Boston’s Ward family; Julia Ward wrote the lyrics to “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”

Also in 1846, writes Spitz, “Julia’s sister Annie married Adolph Mailliard, who, claims a family legend, was the grandson of Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother, King Joseph Bonaparte. There’s even a tale,” Spitz continues, “that Alexander Graham Bell, a houseguest of the Mailliards’, hooked up California’s first telephone line between the couple’s main house and their barn.” Over the next 50 years, the Mailliards played a key role in the development of the San Geronimo Valley.

All of which leads to the above photo of Lagunitas. By 1873, Adolph had established four dairies in the valley, scattered from Woodacre west to Lagunitas. Fourteen months later, according to Spitz, the North Pacific Coast Railroad began passing through Lagunitas while hauling lumber south from Cazadero and tourists north from Sausalito. And as the photo shows, by the early 1900s Lagunitas had the trappings of a community.

Does the white building at left in the photo look familiar? It should, because nearly 120 years later it is still there, now as Lagunitas Groceries and Deli. And that rutted dirt road in front of it? That’s today’s Sir Francis Drake Boulevard.

 

Photos courtesy of Marin History Museum.

This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition with the headline: “All Aboard for Lagunitas”.

Categories: Looking Back, Marin History, Marin Matters