Marin County Genealogy

Marin County - Our Towns - Ross-Kentfield

Hosted by permission of Cathy Gowdy of the Marin County Genealogical Society.

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Anne T. Kent California Room of the Marin County Library

The Tamalpais Centre, onvce a community clubhouse, is now the site of COM's gym.



Ross Valley villages

Neighboring townsfolk hobnob and browse but resist merging their identities, thank you


Before Ross became the exclusive, tree-lined town it is today, it was simply part of the 8,800-acre San Quentin Rancho. The rancho sprawled across the valley between San Anselmo and the bay. In 1840 Captain Juan Bautista Cooper acquired the land through a land grant and used it to farm and cut timber. He sold the land to San Franciscan Benjamin Buckelew in 1852. Buckelew continued chopping timber until 1857 when he sold the area to James Ross, owner of a lucrative wholesale liquor business in San Francisco.

Ross, his wife Annie and their three children moved to a house on the property in 1859. He built a sawmill and shipping docks at Corte Madera Creek. The area was known as Ross Landing and was in the approximate location of today's College of Marin.

When Ross died in 1862, his unusual will required that his wife pay their two daughters $10,000 each if they chose acceptable husbands. Annie was forced to sell a majority of the real estate in order to pay them off.

But don't cry for Annie. The 297 acres she had left make up the town of Ross today. Courtesy of Ross's will, Ross Valley began to develop. The state bought more acreage to expand the prison. San Rafael snagged some acres into its existing borders. William Murray and Patrick King bought over 1,000 acres where Kentfield and Larkspur stand today. And San Franciscans flocked to Ross Valley to build expansive summer homes. In 1882 Annie Ross gave the North
Pacific Coast 1.4 acres for a train depot with the request that they name it after the family. With the development of the train depot, Ross was on its way to becoming a full-fledged town.

In 1908, the residents of Ross voted to incorporate; the vote was 96-0. They wasted no time choosing trustees and instituting a number of laws. For example, dogs had to be licensed and lights were required on bikes after dusk. The townspeople also set an early standard of environmental advocacy by insisting that trees could not be cut down unless the town granted permission. The town purchased land across from the depot for a park that eventually became Ross Commons. While Ross was busy turning itself into a lovely little town, however, neighboring Kentfield was working toward uniting all of the towns in the valley into one city. Kentfield was "discovered" in 1871 by the wife of the wealthy Chicago packing plant owner, Albert Kent, as she rode her carriage through the countryside.

Kent purchased 13 acres of Annie Ross's land in 1871 for $1,851. A few years later he bought another 395 acres. He never became involved in the resulting community, but wife Adaline and son William did more than their fair share of civic duty through the early 1900s.

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The original Kent family home was surrounded by vineyards and gardens.

The Kent family held the Sunny Hills Grape Festival for 43 years. William donated the land for Muir Woods in 1907. He also helped create the National Park Service through the legislation he wrote as a three-term congressman. In 1909 William built Tamalpais Centre, a community clubhouse, on 23 acres of land that his mother donated. It sported a racetrack, playground and playing fields and hosted festivities for all the surrounding communities. The Tamalpais Centre and much of the land around it was given to the College of Marin in 1927.

Well into the 1920s, the people of Kentfield continued to push for the creation of one main city in the valley but to no avail. Instead, Kentfield remained a separate, and unincorporated, entity in Ross Valley.

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