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A new, old view of the Stone House

Barry Margesson, co-chair of the John Marsh Historic Trust, celebrates the newly cleared front yard of Marsh's Stone House. Trust volunteers this week helped State Parks move a 40-foot storage container that had blocked the view for more than a decade.

Barry Margesson, co-chair of the John Marsh Historic Trust, celebrates the newly cleared front yard of Marsh’s 162-year-old Stone House. Trust volunteers this week helped State Parks move a 40-foot storage container that had blocked the view for more than a decade.

A storage container that had stood in front of John Marsh’s iconic Stone House has been relocated to the rear of the building, once again providing a straight-on view of the house that’s been blocked for more than a decade.

The 40-foot container was put in place to keep floorboards, sections of stairs and other large architectural pieces that were removed from the house during stabilization work. It was relocated to the rear of the building by State Parks and volunteeers from the John Marsh Historic Trust as part of the Trust’s effort to build an Interpretive Center (IC) in front of the building.

The 40-foot container had blocked the view of the front of the Stone House since stabilization work on the house began in 2004.

The 40-foot container had blocked the view of the front of the Stone House since a major stabilization project on the house began in 2004.

Room for visitors

The move not only allows a better look at the 162-year-old building, but provides more room for hosting events in the Marsh Creek State Historic Park. Last year, the Trust began hosting fourth-grade educational field trips in the park, and in recent years has conducted public events such as hikes, artist access days, and an annual Heritage Day celebration in October.

“Our IC will allow us to open part of the park on a regular basis for the first time ever,” said Bob Jones, co-chair of the Trust board of directors. The IC will include picnic tables, a shade structure, parking, bathroom facilities and educational panels, and will be open for drop-in visits by the public at least one weekend a month to start.

Fundraising moves ahead

The IC was originally estimated to cost $75,000 to build. So far, the Trust has raised just over $12,500, and by teaming up with State Parks to relocate the container, about $5,000 more has been saved.

If you’d like to contribute to the effort, please use the PayPal link at the top of this page, or mail a check to JMHT, P.O. Box 1682, Brentwood, CA, 94513.

Grant Applicants Say the Darndest Things

Part of the 4th grade history curriculum for field trips to the Marsh Creek State Park includes having students fill out a petition for a land grant like the one purchased by John Marsh in 1837. See more photos from students' recent visits below the article.

Part of the 4th grade history curriculum for field trips to the Marsh Creek State Park includes having students fill out a petition for a land grant like the one purchased by John Marsh in 1837. See more photos from students’ recent visits below the article.


by Rick Lemyre
JMHT Executive Director

It all started with Art Linkletter. His radio show, House Party, ran for 25 years, and had a regular segment called “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” Children between ages 3 and 8 would be asked to answer mundane questions, and proceed to delight the audience with cute, surprising and unexpected answers.

For Example: Q-Who was George Washington’s wife? A-Miss America.

It turns out you don’t have to be a master at interviewing kids to get them to say cute, surprising and entertaining things. You just have to give them a chance.

I was recently fortunate enough to help run some fourth-grade field trips in the Marsh Creek State Historic Park. The kids were from Ironhouse School in Oakley, and they were studying California history. Part of the lesson was for them to apply for a land grant like that John Marsh purchased in 1837 in what would one day become Brentwood.

As part of the application process, the kids were asked what plans they had for the land. Suffice it to say that things would be a lot different today if the land had ended up in their hands instead of Marsh’s.

Some drew from what they had learned about life on a mid-19th Century rancho, enhanced by their own tastes.

“I will have cows for milk and chicken for eggs and pigs for bacon because bacon is so good.” Another said she planned to raise “…sheep for wool, cows for food, also chickens for omelets.”

Others focused their ideas on nature, although they might make some changes in that regard, too.

“I will have horses, pigs, sheep, snow, rocks, rivers and a mountain,” promised one. Said another, “I will make waterfalls.”

One thought it would be good to combine ranching with a steady income stream. “There will be 200 cows, a watermelon field, 50 pigs, and an apple field,” he said. “And I plan to put in oil rigs.”

Another budding businessperson clearly had an eye for tourism, writing “I will build hotels and motels and there will be a plaza.”

Outdoor recreation was popular, too: “I will build 5 parks. 2 water parks, 1 maze park, and 2 regular parks,” said one. Another said “I will have a whole horse ranch with a circle area to teach kids and no gates to teach people to stay on trails.”

Ranching and animals of all kinds were on the mind of one youngster, who wanted “6 horses, 65 cows, 5 female chickens and 5 male chickens, 42 monkeys, 12 hippos, and a lot of flowers and butterflies and bees.”

Farming was also popular, although some of the crops were unusual. “I will plant a small house,” said one. Another had her eye on the bottom line, with a bit of fun on the side. “I will plant gold and have a huge water slide,” she said.

A couple of kids showed an understanding for the way things were in the wild, wild West. “I am going to build a shed for weapons,” he said, while a classmate noted that on his rancho, “There will be no Internet.”

Lastly, from the hope-for-the-future department, came a plan for people to live together in peace.
“I will make a town,” said the community leader-to-be. “It will have a town hall so we can discuss stuff.”

The field trip program is being created by the John Marsh Historic Trust, along with the East Contra Costa Historical Society and State Parks. The hope is that we’ll be able to offer these local, hands-on historical lessons to a steadily increasing number of students beginning next year.

The Trust is currently raising money to build an Interpretive Center in the park. The center will allow us to expand the field trip program, as well as accommodate regularly scheduled drop-in hours in the park for the first time. Please consider supporting our efforts by making a donation of any size through the PayPal link above.

Students dance during a "fiesta" at the end of their field trip to Marsh Creek State Historic Park. The trips are being put together by the John Marsh Historic Trust.

Students dance during a “fiesta” at the end of their field trip to Marsh Creek State Historic Park. The trips are being put together by the John Marsh Historic Trust.

Youngsters learn how to lasso a "steer" during their visit to the Marsh Creek State Historic Park.

Youngsters learn how to lasso a “steer” during their visit to the Marsh Creek State Historic Park.

Learning how ropes were made in the 19th Century.

Learning how ropes were made in the 19th Century.

Medicine in the 19th Century is part of the history curriculum the developed by the Trust for the Marsh Creek State Historic Park.

Medicine in the 19th Century is part of the history curriculum developed by the Trust for the Marsh Creek State Historic Park.