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A Timeline of Ross History


Up to 1800 ~ The Coast Miwok Indians occupied Ross Valley and its environs, living off the land gathering berries, seeds and acorns, hunting game and fishing the streams. There were seven mounds in what is now the Town of Ross.


1800-1830 ~ Coast Miwok culture and local population decimated by Spanish incursion and the settlement in 1817 of Mission San Raphael with its vast land holding. Reduced by disease, the survivors were moved away from their land.

1834  ~  After the Mexican Revolution of 1822, the "Land Grant" system of parceling out land comes to what we now know as Marin County.

1840 ~ Captain Juan B. R. Cooper, a sea captain from Boston, was granted "Rancho Punta de Quentin" (an 8,877 acre property) by Mexican Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado. Cooper was licensed to hunt otter, prevalent at the mouth of the Corte Madera Creek.


Corte Madera Creek

1848 ~ Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the war between the United States and Mexico. California was annexed to the United States. Gold was discovered in California. Gold Fever brought thousands to California, some to Marin. This signaled the end of the "Spanish Era."

1849 ~ James Ross, a Scot from Inverness Shire, Scotland, came to California to find gold, leaving his wife, Annie, and three children waiting behind him in Australia.

1852 ~ "Rancho Punta de Quentin" sold to Benjamin Buckelew for $50,000 in gold coin. Buckelew continued timbering and sold 20 acres to the State of California for a prison site, now San Quentin, price $10,000. The land was roughly two square leagues and ran from from Point San Quentin over the hill to San Rafael Creek northwest to Red Hill, crossing San Anselmo and Fairfax today up to the Meadow Club and south across Water District property (Bon Tempe Lake, Lake Lagunitas) on south to the creek flowing by Lark Creek Inn and then north to Kentfield Corners.

~ Annie Ross and children arrived from Australia and joined James in San Francisco.


1857 ~ The James Ross Story ~ compiled by Carla Ehat, 1991:

One day in the early 1850s, James Ross stood on "the Embarcadero" wharf that later was to bear his name, Ross Landing, chatting with Benjamin Buckelew whose Rancho he had decided to purchase. Ross realized the possibilities and saw the beauty around him. There was still much timber to be cut!

The sale included a busily working steam saw mill at Point San Quentin, all the machinery and equipment, two sloops, a yawl, plus horses, cattle, and pigs. There was continuous revenue to be made from lumber, so in 1857, for $50,000 gold coin, James Ross became the landowner of the 8,877 acre "Rancho Punta de San Quentin y Canada de San Anselmo."

He established Ross Landing (now Kentfield Corners) and ran tri-weekly packet schooners to San Francisco. Unlike thousands who came and were unsuccessful, Ross did very well; not as miner, banker, lawyer nor commission merchant, but as a wholesaler of wine and spirits. Within eight years he had become affluent enough to indulge himself, his wife and family of three children in a life connected to a "Country Squire." 

The Ross family moved into the Buckelew home (the site is 30 Redwood Drive today) and planted extensive gardens.


1862 ~ James Ross died, age 50, living only five years on the "Rancho."


1863 ~ Annie Ross, the Ross' eldest daughter, married George Austin Worn.  The young couple chose a rancho site of 21 acres and built their estate, naming it "Sunnyside," site of the current Marin Art and Garden Center.

1864 ~ The first building constructed at Sunnyside was an Octagon House designed as a tank house for the well on the property. The tank was housed on the second floor while the first floor served as the newlywed's temporary dwelling until the main house was completed in 1865. The Worns were interested in horticulture and planted many lovely trees, including the magnificent Magnolia grandiflora that stands in the center of the lawn today. From their extensive travels abroad, the Worns brought back many specimen plants that still beautify the Marin Art and Garden Center grounds.

1865 ~ The Worn family moved into their "Sunnyside" home.


1866 ~ Ross Landing School was built (site of Kentfield Fire House today). William Barber, one of the first purchasers of the Ross estate acquired 71 acres, 61 acres of which comprises "Winship Park" in Ross and the remainder, the "Barber Tract" in San Anselmo.

1870 ~ Probate proceedings started on the James Ross will. Annie Ross was forced to sell large parcels of her land to meet the stipulations of James' will.

Albert Dibblee bought 78 acres named "Fernhill" and the Ross estate. Mr. Dibblee was given permission to continue use of the name. The Branson School occupies some of that land today.

Annie Ross Worn and her four children went abroad for a two year European tour.

Livery stables were built, now the site of the Ross Garage Building.

1872 ~ Annie Ross Worn returned from Europe. George Worn suffered financial reverses in the Comstock Mines. The Worn family temporarily vacated "Sunnyside" and moved to San Francisco.

1873 ~ The North Pacific Coast Railroad acquired "right-of-way" through Ross Valley for a steam railroad.

1875 ~ The Worn family moved back to "Sunnyside." Annie Worn opened her home to boarders. The family remained there until 1879 when they moved to their ranch in San Anselmo (this site is the western part today of the San Francisco Theological Seminary).

1881 ~ San Anselmo Chapel, the first church in Ross, was built at the corner of Lagunitas and Sir Francis Drake. The church later became St. John's Episcopal Church, now located at the corner of Shady Lane and Lagunitas Road.

1882 ~ Annie Ross deeded 1.4 acres of land to the North Pacific Coast Railroad with the stipulation that the Railroad Station be named in memory of her husband and son.


Jonathan G. Kittle purchased "Sunnyside" for $12,000 after financial reverses necessitated sale by the Worns of their beautiful estate. Mr. Kittle remodeled and enlarged the original home and he and his descendants resided there for over 50 years. In the early 1930's the main home was damaged by fire, but the Octagon house was unharmed. After that the property lay idle for 15 years.

1887 ~ The first Ross Post Office was erected (later site of Sam the Butcher). The widow of James Ross built a smaller house at the corner of Lagunitas and Ross Common. This home was later moved to Lagunitas Road at Willow where a second story was added.

1890's ~ Many beautiful estates were established in Ross by prosperous families from San Francisco looking for country property. Some of the names included William Barber, James Moore, Clinton Jones, Robert Davis, Pelham Ames, Henry Allen, William Boole, James Coffin, and further down the valley, Hall McAllister and Albert Kent.

1901 ~ Annie Ross, widow of James Ross, died.

1903 ~ The Lagunitas Club was founded under the direction of Mrs. E. G. Schmiedell and Mr. Seward McNear. The club was built around the old "Pink Saloon." Tennis Courts were built on an old Indian shell mound.

1904 ~ The first automobiles arrived and chauffeurs met the 5:05 commute train in the newest automobile models instead of the former horse and coach.

1906 ~ The Great San Francisco Earthquake brought many families over form San Francisco who decided to reside permanently in Ross.

1907 ~ St. Anselm's Catholic Church was built at the corner of Shady Lane and Bolinas Avenue.

1908 ~ The first Ross Fire House was erected and the Town of Ross was incorporated. There were 750 dwellings including summer residences.

1909 ~ The new Town of Ross contracts to build five reinforce concrete bridges in the Town, hiring now famous bridge designer, John Buck Leonard. This was a farsighted decision by our first trustees. 

1911 ~ "Ross Common" was given to the Town of Ross by Annie Ross Worn. St. John's Episcopal Church was built on its present site. The property was donated by Mrs. James Coffin. Ross Grammar School was erected.

1918 ~ Ross Hospital was founded as a sanitarium, with 18 beds.

1922 ~ Katharine Branson School moved to Ross from San Rafael. It offered grades one to eleven and was co-educational through the fourth grade.

1946 ~ The Marin Art and Garden Fair begins at the Marin Art & Garden Center. Held annually, it would soon become the County Fair as well.

1958 ~ A "new" Ross Post Office was built on the site of the old North Pacific Coast Railroad Station.

1967 ~ Twenty-five acres of Phoenix Lake land was given by the family of Natalie Coffin Greene for a park in her memory.

1968 ~ Helen Moya del Pino authorized and provided initial funding for the complete restoration of the unusual structure, the Octagon House, in memory of her husband José Moya del Pino, one of the founders of the Marin Art and Garden Center. It was his inspiration to utilize this charming building as an art and garden reference library.

1969 ~ The Octagon House was moved away from the well to its present site, on a new foundation. Layers of old paint were removed from the walls to reveal the original tongue and groove wood. The second floor was replaced by a balcony, providing full view of the original ceiling. Windows were mended and shutters hung.  A Williamsburg chandelier, circular iron staircase, bookcases and custom-made furniture were added. Roger Hooper, A.I.A., was the architect and Carla Flood, A.I.D., the decorator for this project. The Octagon House was renamed the "José Moya del Pino Library."

The serpentine brick wall surrounding the Marin Art & Garden Center was constructed.


1970 ~ The Marin County Fair was held at the Marin Art & Garden Center for the last time. After twenty-five years, it was moved to the Marin County Civic Center grounds.


1971 ~ A sculpture created by Benny Bufano was given to the town as a gift from the Jerome Flax family, and became the town symbol. 

1979 ~ The "Ross Ditch" was built to contain the flood-prone Ross Creek.


1982 ~ The first "100 Years of Ross Celebration" was held at Ross Common to commemorate the establishment of Ross Station in 1882. Dedication took place of the Frederick Allen Park on 20 June 1982. Mr. Allen was Mayor of Ross for seventeen years and proudly carried "ROSS 1" as a personal license plate on his car.

1983 ~ The Ross Historical Society was founded to collect, preserve, exhibit and stimulate interest in the history of the Town of Ross and its environs.

1984 ~ A Town Hall Restoration Fund was established by the Ross Historical Society to raise $25,000 to restore the Town Assembly Hall. Monies and project fulfilled by November 1985. Ross was the only Town in Marin County to celebrate the anniversary of "Admission Day" in California 9 September, 1850 with a program of speeches, a parade of antique cars, a picnic supper, music and tours of the newly restored Town Hall.

1986 ~ Ross Historical Society learned that all five of our concrete bridges were eligible for landmark status and inclusion on the list of the "National Register of Historic Places." This creates great honor and distinction for our Town and the Ross Historical Society moved forward in an effort to preserve the bridges.

1987 ~ The Ross Historical Society received a foundation grant for peer review of the Army Corps of Engineers flood control project in Ross. This was an educational study to determine what flood control measures and levels of protection might coexist with the preservation of existing natural and historical amenities in the Town of Ross. 3 November marked the 100th Anniversary of Postal Service in the Town of Ross. Willis C. Morris, station master was appointed the first Postmaster.

1994 ~ The Moya Library became home to the Ross Historical Society and its collection of maps and historical photographs. Today, ever mindful of our Marin heritage, its collection of rare books and pictures is a living example of historic preservation.

2006 ~ The Marin Art and Garden Center mourns the loss of its 135 year old magnolia tree.

"The Center is mourning the demise of its magnificent 135 year old magnolia. Armillaria (oak root fungus) had destroyed its root system so that one of its double trunks blew over in a December storm. The other trunk was so unstable it had to be taken down. George Worn, who was very interested in horticulture, planted a small magnolia in 1870. It exceeded all height and longevity expectations and became a beloved symbol of the Center. We are left with the small forest of trees that formed when the lower branches of the magnolia bent to the ground and rooted. They will be a living memorial to the Grand Old Tree.


Interest in horticulture runs in the Worn Family. A daughter of Annie and George Worn was one of the designers of the Filoli Gardens down the Peninsula, and other descendants, Tom and Ross Perry, operate Sunnyside Nursery in San Anselmo."

2014 ~ In Resolution number 1867, the Town of Ross commemorates the Sesquicentennial, or 150th anniversary, of the Octagon House at the Marin Art and Garden Center.

2022 ~ The Marin Art and Garden Center was listed on the  National Register of Historic Places and the California Register of Historical Resources. 

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