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Project nears completion

Workers with State Parks Direct Construction Unit install rebar for a new concrete foundation at the 160-year-old Stone House in the Marsh Creek State Park. A fundraising campaign has begun to cover the final $27,000 costs associated with the $855,000 project.

Workers with State Parks Direct Construction Unit install rebar for a new concrete foundation at the 160-year-old Stone House in the Marsh Creek State Park. A fundraising campaign has begun to cover the final $27,000 costs associated with the $855,000 project.

An $855,000 project to stabilize the historic John Marsh Stone House is nearing completion as workers from State Parks began installing a web of steel rebar for a new foundation on July 20.
The work is estimated to take about two months, and will include the installation of steel studs behind the increasingly fragile, 160-year-old sandstone walls. The major milestone will clear the way for the final stabilization work required before the home can be restored as an interpretive center and museum.
The John Marsh Historic Trust has launched a fundraising campaign to cover the final $27,000 in costs needed to finish off the current project. The Trust’s donors have already contributed more than $345,000 to the project.
“This is as close as we’ve ever been to ensuring this iconic building will be here for future generations to enjoy and learn from,” said Trust Executive Director Rick Lemyre. “We’re hoping people will make a donation to polish off this project so we can get rolling on the final phase, and then get this remarkable building open to the public.”
Donations can be made using the “Donate” button above, or by sending a check to John Marsh Historic Trust, P.O. Box 1682, Brentwood, CA 94513. The Trust is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

Revisiting family history at the Stone House

Jacob "Jake" Williams, a long-time servant of former Contra Costa County Sheriff Marco B. Ivory, stands beside the John Marsh Stone House in an 1897 photo. Williams lived with Ivory and his wife, Sarah, in Marsh's house for almost 10 years. Photo courtesy of Ingrid Wood.

Jacob “Jake” Williams, a long-time servant of former Contra Costa County Sheriff Marco B. Ivory, stands beside the John Marsh Stone House in an 1897 photo. Williams lived with Ivory and his wife, Sarah, in Marsh’s house from about 1892 until to about 1902. Photo courtesy of Ingrid Wood.


One of the early residents of John Marsh’s Stone House was Marco B. Ivory. A former Sheriff of Contra Costa County (from 1871 to 1875), Ivory was a renowned ranch manager and
Marco B. Ivory served as Contra Costa Sheriff from 1871 to 1875. He managed the Los Meganos Rancho from 1877 to 1899, living with his wife, Sarah, in John Marsh's iconic Stone House.

Marco B. Ivory served as Contra Costa Sheriff from 1871 to 1875. He managed the Los Meganos Rancho from 1877 to 1899, living with his wife, Sarah, in John Marsh’s iconic Stone House.

livestock breeder. He became the manager of the Los Meganos Rancho in 1877, working for The Clay Street Bank of San Francisco, which controlled the property after it went bankrupt in the decades after Marsh’s murder in 1856. Ivory was credited with making it one of the most prolific sources of wheat in California at the time.

The photo above is of Jacob Williams, a long-time servant of Ivory’s, standing alongside the Stone House in in 1897. He was featured prominently in a story written for the Rossmoor News in 2014 by Ingrid Wood, a historian and resident of Rosmoor in Walnut Creek who is related by marriage to Ivory. She visited the Stone House last weekend along with Elizabeth Ivory Tylawsky and her husband, John, of Connecticut. Ivory is their common ancestor, their great-granduncle.

Below is a shortened version of Wood’s article. To read the whole story, click here: http://tinyurl.com/ha6p7w2
By Ingrid Wood
Clara Glass Ivory would frequently ask her younger brother, Rolla Glass, to accompany her and her husband Edgar D. Ivory to visit Marco B. Ivory and his wife in Brentwood. Since 1877, Marco was manager and superintendent of the Los Meganos Rancho (13,316 acres), more commonly known as the Marsh Ranch. They lived in the beautiful stone house Dr. John Marsh had built for his wife Abby, but she died in 1855 before the mansion was finished in 1856. John Marsh was murdered on Sept. 24, 1856. Their 4-year old daughter Alice Marsh became an orphan.

The Clay Street Bank of San Francisco was put in control of the vast property and Stone House in Brentwood. Marco lived in the John Marsh Stone House for 22-½ years. Rolla loved to talk to Marco Ivory and his black employee Jacob Williams. The family called him Jake.

Prior to this job, Marco had been a sheriff of Contra Costa County for four years. Rolla enjoyed hearing the sheriff’s stories and also his earlier travel stories when Marco traveled from his home in Pennsylvania to New York City and embarked for California, making the trip via the Isthmus of Panama, arriving in San Francisco in 1858. Marco came to Contra Costa County and in Green Valley became associated with Urial Huntington in the management of a ranch of 480 acres. They engaged in stock raising. Marco was there for 14 years.

Williams’s story was a little different. He came with the James M. Tice family from New York to San Francisco in 1849. Tice was a butcher and had a business with a partner, John A. White, in San Francisco. In 1855, Tice purchased 358 acres of land, which later became known as Tice Ranch in Tice Valley, now Rossmoor, Walnut Creek. Williams had moved with the Tice family to the new location in Contra Costa County. The 1860 U.S. Census shows 14 people living on the Tice Ranch. Williams was one of the people and listed as a laborer born in New York.

In 1860, Jack Tice lived at the Tice Ranch. Jack Tice and Jacob Williams both were listed as 38 years of age. James Tice died suddenly of a stroke on March 11, 1867 and the family was not able to pay the mortgage and they lost the ranch.

Marco Ivory and Jacob Williams had met before since both worked in the same area in farming and ranching. Both came from the East and Marco understood the race issue. Williams left the Tice Ranch and went to work for Marco at the “Cook Ranch” in Green Valley near Danville. Voters’ registration shows Williams living in Danville in 1871. Years passed and later Williams was hired by Marco to work for him at the Marsh Ranch in Brentwood.

The Civil War destroyed slavery in the United States. Williams, a mulatto, was born in New York about 1830. He was not a slave; he was a free man. Years earlier Marco had to convince Williams that he was a free man and he was paid for his services. Rolla had a camera and took a photo of Williams while visiting the Ivorys at the Stone House in 1897.

Marco’s wife Sarah Ivory died in 1902 and Marco died in 1906. In his will, Marco left Williams, his employee for so many years, $1,000. Williams lived at the end of his life at the Beulah Home for the Aged and Infirm Colored People of California in Oakland. He died a year later in 1907 and was buried at the non-endowed plot number 44, grave 3241, at the Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland.

In his death certificate is noted that Jacob Williams, born in New York, had lived in California 58 years. He was widowed. His birth year remains a puzzle. Williams never learned to write and signed his will with his mark. He left an estate of $975 and 11 people inherited his wealth. Williams bequeathed $50 to the home where he had lived, $25 to seven individuals and to the three children of Marco’s deceased brother Edgar D. Ivory, he gave $250 each.

The big surprise was that Williams gave to Edgar Ivory’s only grandchild, 9-year-old Melvin V. Wood, $25. A copy of a letter is in the family archive where Melvin wrote on Dec. 6, 1907 from Alamo, Calif. a short letter to his Uncle Percy Ivory in Wilmington, Del., and at the end he added: “P.S. Uncle Jake died on the 6th of November.”

 Elizabeth Ivory Tylawsky and her husband John, of Connecticut, stand with Walnut Creek historian Ingrid Wood outside the John Marsh Stone House. The three share a common ancestor, Marco B.  Ivory, a former county sheriff and resident of the house from 1877 to 1899. Photo by Rick Lemyre

Elizabeth Ivory Tylawsky her husband, John, of Connecticut, stand with Walnut Creek historian Ingrid Wood outside the John Marsh Stone House. The three share a common ancestor, Marco B. Ivory, a former county sheriff and resident of the house from 1877 to 1899. Photo by Rick Lemyre