Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Rancho Olompali, 8901 Old Redwood Highway, 3.5 miles east of Novato, CA



Rancho Olompali was a 8,877-acre (35.92 km2) Mexican land grant in present day Marin County, California given in 1843 by governor Manuel Micheltorena to Camilo Ynitia, son of a Coast Miwok chief.[1][7]
Camilo Ynitia was the son of Chief Olompali, who led a tribe of Miwoks in Marin. He was born in a mountainous region of Marin, near San Pablo Bay, but he was raised at Mission San Rafael.(16)
He had two daughters with his first wife, Cayetana, who died in 1850 after a fall from her
horse. Before he died, he married Susana Maria and, according to legend,  buried
saddlebags full of gold (from his sale of land to Black) in the hills of his ranch. Upon his
death in 1856, rumor spread that robbers searching for his gold had murdered him. The
details of his death are unknown, however. (17)

The name Olompali comes from the lost Coast Miwok language and likely means southern village or southern people, states the state park's brochure. It has been in existence since 500 A.D. or nearly 2,000 years. It was a major Miwok center in 1,200 A.D. and seems to have been one of the largest in Marin County.(15) 
The land grant is between present-day Novato and Petaluma.[4][5][6] A part of this land now comprises the Olompali State Historic Park.
 Camilo was the only Native American on the northern frontier of Alta California to secure and keep a large land grant for his tribe.[8]

At the time of the Californian revolt known as the Bear Flag Revolt, on 24 June 1846 the Battle of Olompali occurred when a violent skirmish broke out at Camilo's adobe between a troop of American Bear Flaggers from Sonoma and a Mexican force of 50 from Monterey, under the command of Joaquin de la Toree. Several men were wounded and one man was reportedly killed, the only fatality associated with the brief California revolution. (18)
With the cession of California to the United States following the Mexican-American War, the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo provided that the land grants would be honored. As required by the Land Act of 1851, a claim for Rancho Olompali was filed with the Public Land Commission in 1852,[9] and the grant was patented to Camilo Ynitia in 1862.[10]

In 1852 Ynitia sold most of his land to James Black, grantee of Rancho Cañada de Jonive and one of the largest landowners in Marin County. (11)

Camilo Ynitia was the last know Indian Chief Of the Marin County Area. He was the last known Indian to be shot with a bow and arrow, by his own people.(19)

Black's daughter, Mary, married Dr. Galen Burdell. Black's wife, Maria Agustina Sais, died in Dr. Burdell's dental chair in 1864.[11]
Although the dentist was absolved of blame, Mary's father could not forgive him. He said, "I don't want Dr. Burdell's name or Mary's included in my will," according to Mason. However, he had given Mary Olompali Ranch on her wedding day in 1863.
Black then started drinking. Visits to Mary's father were an ordeal. Mary's pregnancy seemed to make him worse.
"Black continued to ride about his property on horseback, often too inebriated to sit in the saddle," wrote Mason.
 In 1866 Black married Maria Loreto Duarte, Ygnacio Pacheco’s widow. By 1866, having amassed a small fortune from his dental practice and sales of a tooth powder he invented, Dr. Burdell and his wife left San Francisco and made their permanent home on the land they called Rancho Olompia.
"Late in 1869 he took a particularly bad spill, suffering a two-inch wound at the base of his skull. Softening of the brain followed, but he was still able to get about." Later, he died in convulsions so terrible an onlooker thought he had been poisoned.
The 1880 History of Marin said of him, "The leaves of the great book of life closed and another of California's oldest pioneers has passed from time to eternity."
Black's death brought family passions to the surface. Dr. Burdell had gone to the reading of the will at the Pacheco House, while Mary stayed outside. "Later that evening, he brought an attorney to read the will in a private suite of a San Rafael hotel. When the attorney left the room, Mary tore her father's signature off with her teeth, apparently swallowing it, since it was never found. She was arrested but quickly released, a story that was given sensational treatment in the San Francisco press," Mason wrote.
Retribution was only possible in a court of law. Mary hired three top attorneys and filed her contest in probate court in 1870. She claimed her father's mind had been influenced by his drinking, and he had been under the influence of his wife, Mrs. Pacheco. Mary asked for a jury trial and got it. Persons known to Mary testified against her father, and she won her case.(15)
James Black died in 1870.[12]

Galen and Mary now concentrated on Olompali. The 20,000 acres included large portions of Novato and Nicasio. "Here the retired dentist found ample outlets for his inventive mind. On the San Pablo Bay he ran his own soil reclamation project. His orchards were of many kinds of fruit: apple, pear, quince, fig, pomegrante, persimmon, apricot, peach and plum. Fifty acres were planted in 30 varieties of grapes, a kind of experimental vineyard with :a hint of noble wines to come." Dr. Burdel's banana trees did poorly, but his 200 orange trees were the equal of any on Los Angeles, Jack Mason wrote. (15)






Mary's property was hers alone, 950 acres at the head of Tomales Bay, once known as the Stocker Ranch. It soon became Point Reyes Station once the North Pacific Coast Railway came into being. Dr. Burdell managed the ranch.
"Mary Burdell, an energetic as her husband, planted the first ambitious garden in the county," wrote Mason. When she traveled to Japan, Mary brought home the first planting of exotics to the county.
Mary was a perfectionist in social etiquette. The tablecloth had to be of the finest linen, the silverware polished to the nth degree. She and her husband played lady and lord of the manor. Every Christmas they would deliver turkeys to their friends, and Galen would leave a gold watch at every home they visited.
Mary suffered with gallstones. In 1900, an operation could be put off no longer. She made out her will. It was to be divided three ways between her husband Galen, her son James, and daughter Mabel. She died during the operation.(15)


A major significant change occurred in 1911 when James Burdell (Galen and Mary’s son) hired a contractor for the then princely sun of $15,000 to expand and convert the wood frame building into a 26-room mansion. Interior fireplaces and a second story veranda were added. A row of white columns lined the façade toward the garden. The gabled roof was replaced with a flat roof, and stucco was applied to the exterior of the building. With the addition of electric lighting, the Burdell home became the premier residence in Marin County.
The mansion and ranch remained in the Burdell family until 1943, when it was sold to Court Harrington. Several changes of ownership followed during the next 25 years.(14)
The property had ended up in the hands of the University of San Francisco by the 1950s.
In the 1960s, they attempted to sell it various times, but when various buyers defaulted, the property kept reverting back to USF.(13)

"It was sort of a ranch estate that had a nice big house that looked kind of like tara in 'Gone With the Wind'. Then there was a lot of land around it -- hills, a creek in the back, a big lawn and the pool. It was maybe 1000 feet off the highway, so it was fairly secluded. in between the house and the pool the Dead would set up their equipment and play from time to time during the day. Usually there'd be members of other bands there too, like the Airplane and Quicksilver, and there'd be little jams with people who wanted to play. I remember that the Dead would be playing and Neal Cassady would be doing this strange little dance -- it was almost like breakdancing; very fluid. Out on the lawn there was this very far-out configuration of plumbing that was once part of a sprinkler system or something. It stuck out of the ground and stood maybe five feet high. I could'nt. figure out what the hell it was for. It was just a mess of pipes with faucets coming out of it that had been modified over the years. Very strange. So the Dead would be playing, and Neal would be dancing on the lawn with this bizarre metal partner. He'd dance around it, with it really. He had some pretty good moves, too. Neal was always in the thick of things. Those parties -- I'm not sure how many of them there were -- were always on a nice afternoon. Everyone would play all day in the sunshine -- just doing everything -- and then when the sun would start to go down and it got cold, people would pack it in. By the time it was dark most people were gone, but there were always enough people who were either around to begin with or who wanted to stay, so that the party would continue inside. in fact, with the number of people hanging out there all the time, it was pretty much a party all the time anyway. I don't. know if it was 24 hours a day, but every time I was there it was going."(20)

Grateful Dead June 1, 1966 at Olompali, Burdell Mansion

Jerry and Jack, Burdell Mansion pool area, Olompali
Don McCoy leased Olompali in late 1967 and turned it into a hippie commune called The Chosen Family.(15) Donald Crawford McCoy developed the first houseboat neighborhood in Sausalito, and owned the houseboat where Otis Redding wrote "The Dock of the Bay."

An electric fire severely damaged the building at 5:00 A.M. on February 2, 1969.(14)


While many in the commune were working at a rock concert light show in San Francisco, an electrical fire broke out at the mansion and gutted it. The fire was part of a downward spiral Olompali-Barton blames on a decision to open the commune up to more than a closely knit circle of families. "There were the freeloaders who came," she said, "who sat in the 
living room playing music and not helping at all." Police raided the commune twice and busted members for drugs. And after the fire, two toddlers drowned in the ranch's pool when a woman  who was supposed to be watching them failed in her responsibility, Olompali-Barton said. The tragedy led to the commune's final collapse.[23]
The Chosen Family experiment ran from the fall of 1967 until late summer 1969, after an electrical fire had consumed the 26-room mansion that was its headquarters, leaving the commune in social and financial disarray.[28][29]
On June 14, 1974, Archeologist Charles M. Slaymaker found an old English coin dated 1577, and bearing the likeness of Queen Elizabeth I in the diggings at the site. He also excavated a portion of a "dance hall" used by the Miwoks[30]

In 1977, the State of California purchased the property from USF, and turned it into Olompali Historic State Park.(13)(21)
The site is located on the grounds of the Olompali State Historic Park, a short walk from the parking area.(14)

Photo by Syd Whittle 2007

Photo by Syd Whittle 2007
Photo by Syd Whittle 2007

Olompali Barn
Jerry lived and performed here from
5/22/66
Grateful Dead
"[Olompali] was a beautiful property where we could take long walks; hang out in the sun by the pool or on the porches and front steps; and the band could play anytime they wanted to without bothering any neighbors."[22]

Garcia remembered: “It was a great place. It had a swimming pool and barns and that sort of thing… We didn’t have that place very long, only about eight weeks. It was incredibly intense for everybody… Novato was completely comfortable, wide open, high as you wanted to get, run around naked if you wanted to, fall in the pool, completely open scenes. And I think it was the way they went down and the way people responded to that kind of situation. Everything was just super-groovy. It was a model of how things could really be good. If they really wanted to be. All that was a firming up of the whole social world of rock and roll around here…all the musicians in the Bay Area, most of them are from around here, they’ve known each other for a really long time in one scene or another – and that whole thing was shored up…at those parties. The guys in Jefferson Airplane would get together with Quicksilver and different guys, 81 different players, would get together and get high and get loose and have some fun… That was when we started getting tight with Quicksilver… They came and hung out at our place in Novato when we had our parties. And a lot of people like the various filmmakers and writers and dope dealers. All the people who were into doing stuff. People who had seen each other at rock and roll shows…in that first year. Those parties were like a chance to move the whole thing closer, so to speak. It was good times – unselfconscious and totally free. After that we moved back into San Francisco.”[33]

"It was sort of a ranch estate that had a nice big house that looked kind of like tara in 'Gone With the Wind'. Then there was a lot of land around it -- hills, a creek in the back, a big lawn and the pool. It was maybe 1000 feet off the highway, so it was fairly secluded. in between the house and the pool the Dead would set up their equipment and play from time to time during the day. Usually there'd be members of other bands there too, like the Airplane and Quicksilver, and there'd be little jams with people who wanted to play. I remember that the Dead would be playing and Neal Cassady would be doing this strange little dance -- it was almost like breakdancing; very fluid. Out on the lawn there was this very far-out configuration of plumbing that was once part of a sprinkler system or something. It stuck out of the ground and stood maybe five feet high. I couldn't figure out what the hell it was for. It was just a mess of pipes with faucets coming out of it that had been modified over the years. Very strange. So the Dead would be playing, and Neal would be dancing on the lawn with this bizarre metal partner. He'd dance around it, with it really. He had some pretty good moves, too. Neal was always in the thick of things. Those parties -- I'm not sure how many of them there were -- were always on a nice afternoon. Everyone would play all day in the sunshine -- just doing everything -- and then when the sun would start to go down and it got cold, people would pack it in. By the time it was dark most people were gone, but there were always enough people who were either around to begin with or who wanted to stay, so that the party would continue inside. in fact, with the number of people hanging out there all the time, it was pretty much a party all the time anyway. I don't. know if it was 24 hours a day, but every time I was there it was going."[20]
6/1/66 Grateful Dead
Jerry has no beard.
Weekend free-form celebrations of whatever anyone wished to celebrate, beginning in party clothes at the main house, ending naked in the sunshine by the pool. In addition to the Harley-scaled acreage, a huge outdoor oven cranked non-stop. It was the Diggers baking their daily bread to give away later in the park. As each participant got coated with flour, ghostly apparitions would leap from the oven to the pool, long hair flying in the wind. It was an easy scene for music and lovers, bands interwove and produced moments that were as high as they get.[26]

Don McCoy said, “The Dead played because they loved the sound. They'd get into these long, long riffs. They'd improvise. It would echo throughout the hills. You could go up in the hills anywhere and hear the music. It sounded like it was coming from above.”[35]

9/5/66 Grateful Dead
"The band was evicted from Olompali and refuged at Camp Lagunitas in ca. August 1966."[25]

"We moved to Rancho Olompali, that was the first place we had up here. And then we moved from there - we were only there for about a month or so - we moved from there over to 710.
Lydon: Who owned that? Did McCoy own that?
Garcia: No, no, it was owned by just somebody, I don’t know who it was, whoever owned it then. And they were thinking of putting up a historical monument, and stuff like that, and we managed to get it - we got together enough rent for six weeks there. And that was our first place, because we needed a place to practice and all that."[14]

10/66 Grateful Dead
"The Dead assaulted the senses with noise. A film played on a wall behind them. On the film, green and scarlet shapes, bounding, exploding, were refracted from lights high in the hall, the shapes created by oil and ketchup. A strobe flickered over all violently. Girls' breasts were painted in patterns like those on the wall by a man whose face was painted half-white and half-black."[27]

4/67
In the first Olompali Sunday Times under Personalities and Band Secrets, it states that Jerry owns a pedal steel guitar.[37]

 7/28/68 Jack Casady Mickey Hart
"Jerry's last transcendental acid trip was in the sixties, at Olompali  Ranch, in Novato. He developed three hundred-and-sixty-degree vision, died a  few thousand times, and saw the word  "All" float into the sky before he turned  into a field of wheat and heard "Bringing In the Sheaves" as a coda. "I think
I unravelled every strand of DNA in my  body," he says. "I felt both full and empty. I hardly spoke a word for two months, but it was worth it."[24]

Dennis McNally writes, “They still had a connection to Olompali, which had been taken over the previous December by their Ashbury Street neighbor, Don McCoy, who had inherited money and set up a commune at Olompali that taught children in the manner of the British experimental school Summerhill. Nicknamed by the students the Not School, it served eleven kids and included twenty-five people. Spiritual but not formally religious, it was a good place that summer, with the Dead visiting at times to play music by the pool. Mickey boarded a horse there…so it felt like an extension of the band’s scene.”[

January or February 1969
Grateful Dead
"the Dead and some of their family & friends went out to Olompali to take a group shot for their upcoming album Earthquake Country. They’d taken photos of just the band, but that wasn’t quite what they had in mind; they wanted more of a “family” portrait – women, children, animals, a communal feel. Some girls from the Olompali commune were invited to join them, and they arranged themselves in front of a picturesque tree on a hillside above the main house. Pigpen, then the most well-known face in the group, sat in front, while the rest of the band mingled with the crowd.
The photo was taken by Tom Weir (no relation to Bob), a San Francisco photographer. The Dead had also used him to take the back-cover photo for Anthem of the Sun
The people in the photo are surprisingly random – perhaps whoever was available that day.
A half-dozen girls from the commune sat in the photo. The McCoy sisters, Noelle Barton, and Siobhan McKendrick were the daughters of the commune’s founders (Don McCoy, Sandy Barton, and Sheila & Bob McKendrick, not pictured). Maura McCoy and Sheri Jensen sat by Garcia; Sheri’s sister Rhonda held Mickey's horse Snorty for him. She had been teaching the other girls at Olompali how to ride horses:
https://www.facebook.com/OlompaliMovie/posts/557752874337971
Jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi showed up; he had been hanging out with the Dead since their days at 710 Ashbury, and was even known to sit in at some shows.
Prankster Ken Babbs appeared, along with his partner Gretchen Fetchin and two of their children. He had known the Dead at least since the Acid Tests.
Band manager Jon McIntire appeared, but none of the Dead’s other managers like Rifkin or Scully (among others). McIntire was a recent addition to the Dead management team, having joined them during the Carousel days in early ’68.
Bill Kreutzmann brought his daughter Stacey and his new partner Susila Zeigler. She was then pregnant with their son Justin, who would be born in June. One lady is thought to be Cookie Eisenberg, then Mickey Hart’s girlfriend. (She was a New York travel-agency owner who’d met the Dead in spring ’68.) Oddly, some of the Dead's other friends like Mountain Girl or Rosie McGee weren't present, though photographer Tom Weir’s wife sat in.
The one person who hasn’t been identified is the woman standing behind Mickey Hart in the back. If anyone recognizes her, speak up!
It would also be nice to know who the dog was…"[32]

Maura McCoy recalls, "I was there the day the Dead came to the ranch to have their photo taken by Tom Weir for the back cover of Aoxomoxoa, and appear in the photo next to Jerry along with my sister and friends, some of whom went to live with Mickey at his ranch when the mansion at Olompali burned down [in February 1969]."[36]




Rancho Olompali (old bakery oven platform), Novato, CA

1.)^Ogden Hoffman, 1862, Reports of Land Cases Determined in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Numa Hubert, San Francisco
2.)^ "Miwok Indian Tribe". Access Genealogy.
3.)^ Olómpali State Historical Park brochure
4.)^ Original Mexican Land Grants in Marin County
5.)^ Marin County Ranchos
6.)^U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Rancho Olompali
7.)^ Camillo Ynitia, Coast Miwok (1803-1856) - Catholic, Rancho Grant Owner
8.)^Mildred Brooke Hoover, Hero Eugene Rensch and Ethel Grace Rensch, 1966, Historic Spots in California Stanford University Press, Stanford California.
9.)^United States. District Court (California : Northern District) Land Case 10 ND
10.)^ Report of the Surveyor General 1844 - 1886
11.)^ Olompali Park Filled With History, Reutinger, Joan. The Coastal Post, Sept. 1997
12.)^ The Settlement of Nicasio: James Black
13.)^Hippie Archeology, 2014-06-09, http://forum.prisonplanet.com/index.php?topic=259097.0
14.)^Lydon, Michael, Summer 1969:Jerry Garcia Interview, 2014-06-04, http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2014/06/summer-1969-jerry-garcia-interview.html
15.)^Reutinger, Joan, Olompali Park Filled With History, The Coastal Post - September, 1997, http://www.coastalpost.com/97/9/13.htm
16.)^ Olompali Ranch, http://www.co.marin.ca.us/depts/lb/main/crm/maps/olompali.html
17.)^ Davis, William Heath. Seventy-Five Years in California. San Francisco: John Howell
Books, 1967.
18.)^Seif, Dena (2006). University of California Irvine Camillo Ynitia, Coast Miwok (1803-1856) - Catholic, Rancho Grant Owner
19.)^Mason, Jack. Early Marin. Petaluma, CA: House of Printing, 1971.
20.)^Hunter, George, Grateful Dead Family Album, pg. 33., http://www.deadlists.com/default.asp
21.)^Arnold, Corry, Winterland, San Francisco "Monster Jam" for Olompali, March 17, 1969, 2010-04-26, http://rockarchaeology101.blogspot.com/2010_04_01_archive.html
22.)^McGee, Rosie, Dancing with the Dead – A Photographic Memoir, Chapter 3.
23.)^Ferris, Susan, Former Commune is site of archeological dig, 2009-09-08, http://sixties-l.blogspot.com/2009/10/former-commune-is-site-of.html
24.)^Garcia, Jerry, Baritch, Bill, Still Truckin', 1993-10-11, New Yorker, http://cdn.preterhuman.net/texts/computing/gopher-archive/nemesis.cs.berkeley.edu/interviews/New-Yorker-article
25.)^Dister, Alain. 2007. Grateful Dead: Une légende californienne. Paris: Le Castor Astral. ISBN 9782859207298, pg. 103, Elves, Gnomes, Leprechauns and Little People’s Chowder and Marching Society Volunteer Fire Brigade and Ladies Auxiliary String Band, 2014-01-26, http://jgmf.blogspot.com/2014/01/elves-gnomes-leprechauns-and-little.html
showComment=1390780343187#c5662768251077898198
26.)^Brandelius, Jerilynn Lee, Grateful Dead Family Album, pg. 33.
27.)^Morgan, John, The Rock is Acid at Party Given by Grateful Dead, 1966-10-19, Redding, CA Record-Searchlight, October 1966:Acid Rock Party, 2012-02-15, http://deadsources.blogspot.com/2012/02/october-1966-acid-rock-party.html
28.)^Pastino, Blake, Vinyl Records Excavated at Famous '60's Commune, http://westerndigs.org/vinyl-records-excavated-at-famous-60s-commune-challenge-hippie-stereotype-study-says/
29.)Parkman, E. (2014). A hippie discography: vinyl records from a Sixties commune World Archaeology, 1-17
30.)^Newell, Theron, Olompali-Where History Was Made, 1975-06-07, Marin Independent Journal.
31.)^
32.)^Who's Who In The Aoxomoxoa Photo, 2015-01-30, Grateful Dead Guide, http://deadessays.blogspot.com/2015/01/whos-who-in-aoxomoxoa-photo.html
33.)^Reich, Charles, Wenner, Jann, Garcia, Signpost to New Space, pg. 32-33.
34.)^McNally, Dennis, Long Strange Trip,  pg. 262.
35.)^Who's Who In The Aoxomoxoa Photo, 2015-01-30, Grateful Dead Guide, http://deadessays.blogspot.com/2015/01/whos-who-in-aoxomoxoa-photo.html
36.)^Light Into Ashes, comments, 2015-01-01, It Wasn't Courtney, 2015-01-01, Grateful Dead Guide, http://deadessays.blogspot.com/2015/01/it-wasnt-courtney.html
37.)^Olompali Sunday Times #1, 1967-04.

2 comments:

  1. What a great post about Olompali! Brokedown Palace indeed!

    I thought you might want to know about a documentary we're producing called "Olompali: A California Story." It's about the history of Olompali and will also focus on my late father, Don McCoy, who started the commune there in 1967, as you mention in your post. I was there the day the Dead came to the ranch to have their photo taken by Tom Weir for the back cover of Aoxomoxoa, and appear in the photo next to Jerry along with my sister and friends, some of whom went to live with Mickey at his ranch when the mansion at Olompali burned down.

    You can check out a trailer for the film and get more information by going to our KickStarter page, which we're using to raise funds to finish the film:

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2089875458/olompali-a-california-story

    We would really appreciate your help in spreading the word by blogging about the film! Any help we can get to increase awareness of the project would be fantastic.

    Thanks,
    Maura McCoy

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Maura,
    Thank you for the information about the documentary.
    I'm very interested to know if you may have any photos of the Burdell Mansion.

    ReplyDelete