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.”
Artists and nature lovers will have a chance to enjoy the Marsh Creek State Park and John Marsh’s 160-year-old mansion during a pair of special events being sponsored by the John Marsh Historic Trust on May 14.
First, a hike led by Ger Erickson and Barry Margesson will step off at 8 a.m. and explore part of the park’s southern section. Hikers will enjoy panoramic views of the area while watching for raptors and learning about the trees, wildflowers, rock formations and other natural features of the property, which is not yet open to the public.
The route is three to four miles, and will feature moderate terrain and elevation changes. The hike is open to those 7 years or older. Cost is $20 per hiker.
At the same time, people with an artistic bent will be invited to visit the historic Stone House built by pioneer doctor John Marsh in 1856. Painters, sketchers and photographers who wish to get an up-close view of the house and its surroundings will have from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. to capture images. Artists will be invited to offer their work at an auction being planned in conjunction with the Third Annual Heritage Day event, set for Oct. 15. Cost for the Artist Access activity is $10.
All proceeds from the day will go to help the Trust continue its effort to restore Marsh’s sandstone mansion and open parts of the 3,700-acre park to the public.
Space is limited for both events. Call 925-679-5811 to reserve a space.
Award-winning TV host Doug McConnell takes a look at Marsh Creek from its source on Mt. Diablo all the way to the San Joaquin River in Oakley. Along the way the show will feature the natural scenery that surrounds it, as well as a few parks and open spaces. One stop is the Marsh Creek State Park, where Doug will hear from the John Marsh Historic Trust about about the 160-year-old John Marsh stone house, and the 7,000-year-old archaeology discovered in the creek.
The show is on NBC Bay Area, Comcast Channel 3, starting at 6:30 p.m. this Sunday, March 20.
John Marsh was a go-it-alone kind of guy, but he certainly got a lot done. He graduated from Harvard in 1823, opened the first school in the Northwest Territory, and authored the first dictionary of the Sioux language. He became the first to practice Western medicine in California, was the first non-Hispanic white settler in Contra Costa County, and built the first stone manor house in California.
But despite these and numerous other accomplishments, perhaps the most important thing he did was calling for the assistance of others.
When Marsh arrived in Alta California in 1838, it was a wild, untamed territory belonging to Mexico. Shortly after his arrival, it became clear to him that to protect his 50,000-acre Rancho Los Meganos, he needed the law and order associated with becoming part of the United States. He embarked on a letter-writing campaign, extolling the virtues of California’s climate and agricultural potential to encourage migration from the East, correctly assuming that the influx of Americans would help it become a state.
In 1841, his writings enticed the Bartleson-Bidwell party to become the first to undertake the 2,000-mile trek across the Sierra Nevada from Independence, Missouri. Marsh’s home thus became the original terminus of the historic California Trail.
Fast-forward to 1994, when the John Marsh Historic Trust was established to help save and restore 7,000-square-foot mansion Marsh built in 1856 for his beloved wife, Abby, and their daughter, Alice. The house, which is listed with the National Register of Historic Places and National Trust for Historic Preservation, still stands in what became the Marsh Creek State Park in 2012. The impacts of 160 years of weather, earthquakes, gravity and vandals have reduced it to a literal shell of its former self.
Trust President Gene Metz leads a volunteer board that has, over the years, helped raise more than $3 million for emergency repairs and restoration planning for the house, with major funding coming from the California Cultural and Historical Endowment, the City of Brentwood, State Parks and private donations. In 2014, the Trust expanded its mission to benefit not only the house, but the entire 3,700-acre park. The park also contains a 7,000-year-old archaeological site, a 2,300-year-old Indian burial ground, and a rich history of pre-statehood of Mexican California. There are also more than a dozen endangered or threatened species of plants and animals to be protected, and 70 miles of trails and hundreds of campsites to be built as part of the yet-to-open park’s general plan.
In 2015, the Trust became a Cooperating Association for State Parks, and accepted an invitation to join the board of CALPA to help make things happen.
“The Trust knows what Marsh himself eventually came to realize, that more can be accomplished with the assistance of others,” said Executive Director Rick Lemyre. “The support, knowledge and like-mindedness of CALPA’s members not only help us pursue our goals, they make it so we don’t feel so alone in what is often the dizzying prospect of accomplishing things in the public sector.”
The Trust’s 11-member volunteer board includes history aficionados, recreation enthusiasts, local business people and educators. Each agrees that one of the most exciting aspects of the park is the chance to provide local students the opportunity to learn about the history, culture and natural resources that lie just outside their doors.
This spring, work will be completed on a $750,000 project to stabilize Marsh’s house so interior restoration can begin. Working with State Parks, the Trust is in the early stages of planning and raising money for an interpretive stop to be built in front of the building. The Third Annual Heritage Day event is set for this October in the park, and a number of hikes and educational events especially aimed at benefitting local students are being planned.
“Like many co-ops, we’re an eclectic group with many backgrounds and interests, but we all see the same thing: a chance to help realize the enormous potential of the Marsh Creek State Park,” Lemyre said. “Partnering with other non-profits and working with groups like CALPA will be a key part of getting that done.”
Building on last year’s successful inaugural event, Heritage Day at Marsh Creek State Park this October will feature more of the Stone House, the park and the sort of entertainment locals enjoyed there in days gone by.
Ground-floor windows in the 159-year-old structure built by John Marsh, Contra County’s first American settler, will be opened, and the public will be able to walk right up to the building and look at some of the 7,000 square feet of space inside.
“It won’t be possible to enter the building because the stabilization work is still going on, but the windows are six feet tall and provide a good view of the rooms inside,” said Trust Executive Director Rick Lemyre. “Visitors will also be able to see the detail of the original clay porch tiles and the hand-tooled sandstone used to build the house.”
Heritage Day 2015 will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17. The event will also include a performance by the Brentwood Concert Band, the East County community band under the direction of Sue Stuart and Carey Hurst. Reminiscent of days when community bands performed in public places — including the Stone House — the band will play period pieces like those performed in the late 19th and early/mid- 20th Centuries.
Another first for this year’s event will be an exploration of parts of the park usually inaccessible to the public. A guided hike will allow visitors to enjoy the landscape, wildlife and views in parts of the park, which is planned to eventually include 70 miles of trails.
Attractions from last year’s event will also return, including performances and presentations on the former Native American inhabitants of the area, the pre-statehood Californio period, and the Westward Movement triggered by Marsh’s letters back east encouraging settlers to come to California years before gold was discovered. Educational kids’activities will include excavating “artifacts” from midden boxes located near the site of 7,000-year-old archaeology discovered near the house.
“There’s so much about the history and the nature of the park we’d like to share, and we’re really only scratching the surface with a six-hour event,” Lemyre said. “We want people to know about the possibilities, and hopefully build the support needed to get the park open year-round.”
Like last year, admission to Heritage Day will be free, although donations to help support the Trust and the park will be welcomed. A $5 suggested donation for the hike will help cover costs, and root beer floats and hot dogs will be available for purchase.
The event is co-hosted by California State Parks, and local sponsors are being sought. People interested in sponsoring or volunteering to work the event should call Lemyre at 925-286-4591, or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Get the latest on the effort to restore the John Marsh Stone House, and get a chance to take home a bit of history.
As work continues on the stabilization of the historic John Marsh stone house, the John Marsh Historic Trust is continuing its effort to spread the word about Marsh, his house, and the 3,700-acre Marsh Creek State Park that surrounds it. The Trust will staff information booths at three upcoming community events. Drop by and sign up for our newsletter, and your name will be entered in a drawing for an authentic piece of brick from the house itself.
The bricks used in the construction of the house were hand-made and fired on Marsh’s Rancho Los Meganos in about 1854. Used mostly for the house’s interior walls, many of the bricks failed over the years, and were removed during renovation work. Large pieces of the brick, like the one seen here, have been salvaged, labeled and numbered, and are being sold as part of the fundraising effort.
The pieces of history usually go for $40 each, but the Trust will be giving several of them away this month. Just stop by our booth at one of the events below and sign up for our free newsletter, and you’ll be entered in the drawings.
This months events are:
The July 4 Oakley Cityhood Celebration. This free event will feature food, music, and games, and will be topped off by a spectacular fireworks display. The event will be held on the Freedom High School soccer fields, at the corner of O’Hara Avenue and Neroly Road. The fun starts at 6 p.m.
The Brentwood Harvest Time Festival. This celebration of food, fun and family will be held July 11 and 12 in Brentwood’s City Park and Community Center. It includes music, a beer and wine garden, fine arts and crafts, cooking demonstrations and activities and contests for the kids. Hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days, and admission is free.
Trilogy at the Vineyards New Model Gallery Grand Opening. On July 18, more than 80 of Brentwood’s finest local businesses, restaurants, and artists will offer live music, wine and food tasting, prizes, giveaways and raffles. There will even be an air show provided by the Patriot Jet Team, as well as a look at five new Shea3D model homes. The free event runs from 1 to 5 p.m at 1700 Trilogy Parkway in Brentwood.
On Wednesday, the S. H. Cowell Foundation announced that it had approved a $10,000 matching grant for operations. The Trust has begun a fundraising drive to raise the $10,000 needed to match Cowell’s gift.
The news comes on the heels of a Brentwood City Council vote Tuesday to provide a $3,000 Economic Development grant to help pay for the Stone House Heritage Day at Marsh Creek State Park, co-presented by the Trust and California State Parks on Oct. 17.
“This is great news, real momentum-builders,” said Trust Vice President Kathy Leighton. “Our stabilization project is moving along, and we’re getting the backing of some important organizations to keep going. We’re hoping others will jump on board and help keep things rolling.”
Work continues on the $750,000 project to stabilize the fragile sandstone walls of Marsh’s 159-year-old house near Brentwood. The house is part of the Marsh Creek State Park, a 3,700-acre historic park that has yet to open to the public.
“The only way we’ll be able to get that park open is if we get the support of the public,” Leighton said. “We have to let them know about the possibilities, not only in the historic structure, but the trails, campgrounds and cultural history that will be out there to enjoy. Once enough people are behind it, we’re confident we can help bring it on line.”
The new grants add to other recent funding successes the Trust has enjoyed. In April the Mt. Diablo Chapter of The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) funded the creation of interpretive panels for Heritage Day at Marsh Creek State Park on Oct. 17, and other public presentations and events.
In February, California State Parks Foundation provided a grant to help manage and communicate with volunteers, partners and donors.
“Everyone knows it’s better to keep momentum than to start from scratch, and that’s what we’re about now,” said Executive Director Rick Lemyre. “We’ll keep looking for grants, and hope people will continue to donate so we can match them and keep rolling.”
Donations can be made through the PayPal link at the top of this page. The Trust is a 501(c)3 non-profit, so donations are tax-deductible. You do not have to have a PayPal account to donate.
The DAR supports projects in local communities which promote historic preservation, education and patriotism. Interested groups must be sponsored by a local DAR chapter. Contact the Mt. Diablo Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American in Danville, CA, at www.dar-
The effort to save and restore the first stone manor built in California has taken some major steps forward.
Last week a layer of construction foam was applied to help stabilize the walls of the Stone House built by pioneer John Marsh in 1856 in what is now Marsh Creek State Park in East Contra Costa County. The foam, applied to the interior of the walls so as not to affect the building’s unique Gothic Revival style, adds strength and support to the rubblework construction of the 159-year-old building.
This week, State Parks’ Direct Construction Unit is drilling through the foam and into the backs of the stones to install tie-rod bolts. In the coming weeks, the bolts will be fastened to a steel-stud framework set in a concrete foundation to be poured alongside the original, sandstone underpinning.
The work is part of a $750,000 stabilization project that has been steadily making progress since February, and should be completed this summer. More work will be needed before the house can be opened to the public, and the Trust is trying to get as much of it funded as possible while crews are on site. “We’ll get things done a lot more affordably now than if we have to pay to mobilize crews again in the future,” said Trust Executive Director Rick Lemyre.
“We’d like to install more tie-rods now, and there will be more architectural and engineering fees to pay as well,” Lemyre said. “But this step means that small outfalls of rock that have deteriorated the house’s stability will no longer happen. Once the studs and tie-bolts are in place, it will be a big help in resisting damage from wind, rain and earthquakes, too.”
The project reached another milestone when State Parks, which is managing the project, expended the last of a $200,000 grant from the California Cultural and Historical Endowment (CCHE). Construction delays had threatened the grant, the spending deadline for which had twice been extended since it was awarded in 2012. The last of the CCHE money was spent with a week to spare.
Other project funding includes $350,000 from thousands of individual donations to the Trust, and $205,000 from State Parks.
The Trust is looking for new members on its Board of Directors to help expand on recent progress. It’s also seeking donations for operations as activity increases.
“A lot is happening right now, and we want to keep the momentum going,” Lemyre said.
Tax-deductible credit card donations can be made by clicking on the PayPal button on this site. You do not have to be a PayPal member to donate. The Trust is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.
Click to enlarge additional photos below:
Wayne Breece, Cooperating Associations Program Manager for California State Parks, called Trust Executive Director Rick Lemyre with the good news, the culmination of more than a year of effort. “Congratulations!” Breece said. “We look forward to working with you.”
Cooperating associations (CAs) are non-profit charitable organizations dedicated to enhancing educational and interpretive programs in California State Parks. The JMHT brings the total number of CAs to 88, serving most of the 280 state parks (some CAs serve more than one park). The associations’ memberships total more than 27,000, providing docents, volunteers, and educational and interpretive needs that State Parks would otherwise be unable to provide.
The historical preservation role the Trust has played for 20 years will continue, with a major focus on restoring John Marsh’s Stone House. The Trust will also continue in its recent efforts to improve and develop other parts of the Marsh Creek State Park and get them open to the public.
“There is so much in the park that we can help accomplish, it’s amazing, and a little overwhelming,” said Lemyre. “There are 70 miles of trails, hundreds of camping sites, and some ancient archaeology that needs to be protected.”
The improvements to the park’s land and facilities are just a part of the Trust’s expanded goals. Important cultural history is also there to be explored.
“The history of the Bay Miwok Indians that lived on land in within the park is also fascinating, and all but forgotten,” Lemyre said. “So is the history of Hispanics in the area, first as part of Mexican-controlled Alta California, then through Marsh’s work with the vaqueros who helped him run his ranch.”
About a half-dozen threatened or endangered species live within the parks 3,700 acres, and work must be done to protect them and many endangered species of indigenous plants. A 7,000-year-old archaeology site near the house, which has been called “the most significant in the (State Parks) system” by the Sacramento Archaeology Society, also needs protection and further study.
“The possibilities for the park are virtually limitless,” Lemyre said. “We’ll continue our focus on restoring the Stone House, but the chance to help with so many other wonderful projects at the same time is aa rare opportunity. The fact is that until we can get some things done and get parts of the park open, people won’t be able to get into the park to visit Marsh’s historic home. Being a CA will be a huge help in generating the kind of support we need to get things done for the benefit of everyone.”
Lemyre said the Trust board will be meeting soon with State Parks officials to create a list of priorities to address. In the meantime, work will continue on the $750,000 stabilization project now under way and expected to be completed this summer.
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