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The John Marsh Stone House on Feb. 28, 2014.

The John Marsh Stone House on Feb. 28, 2014.

March 4 Update: Ready to roll

A decades-long battle to save a California pioneer’s home is teetering on the brink of success.

For more than 20 years, President Gene Metz has led the John Marsh Historic Trust’s struggle to save the house built in 1856 by Dr. John Marsh, an important yet little-known force in America’s great westward migration.

“After all these years, I’ll finally be able to say ‘the Stone House will not fall down,’” Metz said on the eve of a $855,000 project that will finally fix the problem. “I have great joy, but also great concerns about the costs.”

Marsh’s 7,000-square-foot house stands tenuously along Marsh Creek south of Brentwood, its sandstone walls hammered by weather, vandals and gravity for 157 years, and just one big storm or small earthquake from collapsing.

North wall damage John Marsh Stone House

The upcoming work will repair the current collapse on the north wall, and prevent further collapse of all exterior sandstone walls.

More than $1 million in emergency repairs have been made over the years to keep the house standing, major help coming from the California Cultural Historic Endowment (CCHE), the City of Brentwood and the California Department of Parks and Recreation. The house is slated to become the centerpiece of the newly designated 3,700-acre Marsh Creek State Historic Park that surrounds it. The site is also an archeological treasure, harboring artifacts from human activity 7,000 years ago.

The fix uses a unique method of running steel studs behind the sandstone walls and into a new foundation. A thick layer of construction foam similar to that used in roofing will be applied to provide structural strength and serve as an epoxy to bind the stones together, permanently preventing collapse. The next step, Metz said, will tie the stabilized rock/foam/steel structure to the house’s interior support system. Read More →

Love, Life and Death on the California Frontier

From the Letters of John and Abby Marsh.

By William Mero

John, Abby and Alice Marsh, about 1856.

John, Abby and Alice Marsh, about 1856.

The archives of Bancroft Library hold many documents and letters of the Marsh family. In a joint project with the John Marsh Historic Trust, the Bancroft Library microfilmed several boxes of Marsh primary source material. The following excerpts are part of is important collection.

Doctor John Marsh was the first American born pioneer to settle permanently in Contra Costa County. He carved out a huge cattle empire on the wildest part of the raw northern frontier of Mexican California. John Marsh was also one of the few college-educated adventurers in the far West and secretly worked to bring California peacefully into the Union. Read More →