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Richardson, Reed and Throckmorton

As shown in this excerpt from the new book “Legendary Locals of Mill Valley,” there are striking parallels between William Richardson and John Reed -- Southern Marin’s earliest Anglo settlers – and Samuel Throckmorton, who followed in their footsteps:  
William Richardson sailed into San Francisco Bay in 1822 as the first mate of a whaling ship. Just as with John Reed in 1826, London-born Richardson soon found himself a guest in the home of a Presidio commander, Ignacio Martinez. Richardson—like Reed—married the Presidio commander's daughter. In 1825, Richardson married Maria Martinez, and in 1841, the Mexican government gave Richardson a grant to Rancho Saucelito… This property included nearly half of the remaining land that would one day become Mill Valley. (But not all the land. A relatively small plot of unassigned land is the site of another Mill Valley story.)
Richardson took full advantage of his holdings, planting orchards and raising livestock. He also invested heavily in other business enterprises. He is credited with the development of Yerba Buena (later to become San Francisco) as well as the Marin town of Sausalito. Many public streets and landmarks carry his name, including Richardson Bay, on the edge of Mill Valley. Unlike John T. Reed, William Richardson had been a seafaring man all his life. He returned to his maritime roots after settling in the area. He was appointed Yerba Buena's port captain, and he purchased a number of trading and cargo ships that he used for commerce opportunities as far south as San Diego.
Accounts of William Richardson's life indicate that he was a good man, but his entrepreneurial spirit extended beyond realistic boundaries. After suffering a series of calamities, he mortgaged his vast holdings to meet his debts. By 1855, he owed more on the land than it was worth.
Samuel Throckmorton, nicknamed "Five-dollar Throckmorton" for his talent to snap up land from debt-ridden owners, soon owned nearly all of Richardson's Rancho Saucelito. Throckmorton transformed the grazing land into dairy ranches, and then leased them to workers arriving from the Portuguese Azores Islands. The rest of the land was the San Francisco businessman's private weekend playground. He put up a fence around the entire property, posting guards at strategic spots, and outlawed trespassers who did not carry a coveted permit to be there. But Throckmorton—like Richardson—eventually found himself in debt. After Throckmorton's death, the savings union holding the mortgage on the land took possession of nearly all of Rancho Saucelito and established the Tamalpais Land & Water Company (TL&W) to manage it. The land was subdivided and auctioned off in 1890. Perhaps as penance for taking the land away from Throckmorton's daughter Susanna, the TL&W named Mill Valley's first street Throckmorton. A number of former Portuguese tenant farmers bought land at the auction. In the end, neither Richardson nor Throckmorton could do what the Portuguese farmers accomplished: have multiple generations of their descendants live on the fertile and pastoral land. (Courtesy of Anne T. Kent California Room, Marin County Free Library.)
“Legendary Locals of Mill Valley” by Joyce Kleiner can be purchased at local bookstores shops, and cafes including The Depot and Book Passage, or it can be ordered direct from the publisher (http://www.arcadiapress.net) or through online retailers and national chains.

Samuel Throckmorton, c. 1875
Photo courtesy of Mill Valley Library

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