Samuel P. Taylor is well-known in the annals of Marin County history, and the county has a state park which bears his name. Members of his family were prominent residents of San Anselmo for many years after his death and during the town’s formative years. Five Taylor homes were built in town in the 1890s, and four still stand today.
Samuel Penfield Taylor was born in Saugerties, New York, on the Hudson River, in 1827. The Gold Rush lured him to California from Boston in 1849, and the search for lumber for his San Francisco lumber yard brought him to Marin in 1853. Samuel was likely familiar with the operation of paper mills along the Hudson River and in Connecticut, and he saw the potential in the area along Daniels Creek, later called Papermill Creek, for the West Coast’s first paper mill. He purchased property and started construction of the mill the following year. The venture was highly successful.
In January 1886, Samuel P. Taylor died at the age of 58 leaving his wife, Sarah Washington Irving Taylor, and seven sons and one daughter. In 1888, the family began to purchase lots in San Anselmo. Sarah borrowed money using the mill business and property in Taylorville as collateral to keep S. P. Taylor & Company going, but in the economic depression of 1893, she was unable to make the mortgage payments. The Taylor family lost the business and property and was forced to move. Sarah, four of her seven sons, and her daughter relocated to San Anselmo.
The four still-standing Taylor homes provide a lovely visual reminder of earlier days in San Anselmo
101 Ross Avenue
In February 1888, Ella I. M. Taylor, the wife of Sarah and Samuel’s fourth son William Penfield Taylor, purchased lots in the Sunnyside subdivision along Ross Avenue. The Taylor’s simplified Stick Style Victorian house at 101 Ross Avenue was constructed about 1893.
While all the Taylor’s sons worked in some capacity for the S.P. Taylor Company, only Will Taylor was educated and trained in the manufacture of paper, eventually becoming the superintendent of the mill in Taylorville. In San Anselmo, Will was one of the three first elected trustees of the San Anselmo School District when it was formed in 1893. He was appointed San Anselmo postmaster in January 1898. When Will was elected Marin County Sheriff the following year, he, Ella, and their two sons moved to San Rafael. Will’s brother George McCullen Taylor took over the duties of postmaster and was officially appointed to that job on April 7, 1905. George Taylor continued to serve as San Anselmo’s postmaster until February 1907.
The house on Ross Avenue was rented until it was sold by the Taylors in 1904 to Laura Daniel. It was later owned by San Francisco Theological Seminary, but was sold in 2012 and has been remodeled.
102 Ross Avenue
Frederick Sproul Taylor, the youngest son of Samuel and Sarah Taylor, and his wife, Kate R. Eagleson, purchased the lot directly across the street on Ross Avenue from James Foss in October 1892. Based on the photographic evidence and the 1928 Marin County Assessor’s records, the house was built about 1896. Today, it sits behind St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church and serves as the parish hall.
In contrast to the house at 101 Ross Avenue, this house projects a spacious and sprawling sense of the Shingle Style even though it deviates from the classic Shingle Style in that the exterior walls are clad in narrow clapboard. Many Shingle Style homes include polygonal towers and dormers of varying shapes, including the low arched eyebrow seen here.
Frederick and his brother Edwin Mastick Taylor were salesmen for the S.P. Taylor Company. Like their father before them, they caught the gold rush fever, and they left in the spring of 1898 for the Klondike gold fields of Alaska. Both men perished when the schooner Jane Grey sank off Cape Flattery, Washington. Frederick’s widow moved east with her two daughters to live with her mother and brothers.
The Frederick Taylor house was then rented prior to being sold in 1902. The house passed through a couple of changes in ownership before it was purchased in 1917 by an unrelated Taylor family, that of Henry William Burslem Taylor. Prior to being purchased by St. Nicholas Church in 1956, the house was owned by Lotte Lewis, who ran a boarding house.
James Foss also sold the four lots just west of the Frederick Taylor’s lot to Samuel and Sarah’s only daughter, Maybelle, and her husband Joseph S. Danner in 1892. Joseph Danner worked as a bookkeeper for his father-in-law before becoming a traveling salesman for an import company. The Danners built a home on their lots at 106 Ross Avenue in the late 1890s. The house was sold in 1904 and was likely demolished sometime after the property was purchased by San Francisco Theological Seminary and a number of small cottages were built in the mid-1920s.
206 Saunders Avenue
In 1891, William Penfield Taylor purchased an 8.76 acre parcel in San Anselmo from Camille Grosjean. The property was transferred to James Irving Taylor, eldest son of Samuel and Sarah, and his wife Jean Wooster in 1899. The James I. Taylor family is enumerated here in the 1900 census. The house was constructed on San Anselmo Creek about 1895 at 206 Saunders at the corner of Taylor. The Bungalow Style house with its roof design and decorative detailing radiates a unique Eastern sensibility.
Jim Taylor worked as a salesman for his father’s business in San Francisco. Later, he took over management of the hotel at Camp Taylor and established the Irving Fur Tannery on the Taylor property. Both enterprises closed when the Taylors lost the property to foreclosure.
Jim Taylor was one of five men elected to the Board of Trustees when San Anselmo was incorporated in 1907. He served one year before being elected to the State Assembly on the Republican ticket, representing Marin County in the 30th Legislative Session. Three of the four sons of Jim and Jean Taylor had careers in the paper industry and a fourth son, a career in journalism. In addition to their own children, the Taylors raised a young orphan, George Anderson Martin (1875-1945). George Martin, one of the best known San Anselmo pioneers, served as the first town marshal and pound master, and ran the local express company.
Jim Taylor died in 1916, Jean in 1921, and the house was sold in 1922.
50 Mariposa Avenue
In June 1895, Maybelle Taylor Danner purchased a lot from James Tunstead in the Sunnyside subdivision on San Anselmo Avenue adjacent to today’s post office. The house, derived from the Eastlake Style with a distinctive jerkinhead roof, was constructed prior to August 1891. The 1900 census taker’s enumeration order indicates that this was the residence of Sarah Taylor and her unmarried son George.
Longtime San Anselmo resident Dick McLaren provided some interesting information about the house. It was moved in 1913 to 50 Mariposa Avenue to accommodate the railroad spur track which entered the E. K. Wood Lumber Yard. Dick’s uncle, Richard McLaren, purchased the property and lived there with his family. In 1924, the house was converted into a convent for the Sisters of Loretto and Sisters of the Holy Names who taught at St. Anselm School. The sisters lived there until a new convent was completed next door in 1949.
Sarah Taylor spent her final years in San Anselmo surrounded by several of her children and a number of her 21 grandchildren. The youngsters attended San Anselmo Grammar School and were welcomed guests at Grandma Taylor’s. Sarah died April 5, 1907 at the age of 76 in San Rafael home of her son, Will Taylor. The Marin Journal said of her: “She was a woman of sterling worth, whose useful life may well teach many a lesson.”
Marin County 1928 Assessor’s Records
Marin County Recorder’s Book of Deeds and Official Records
San Anselmo Historical Museum Archives and Photographic Collection
1890-91 San Francisco Directory
Rothwell, Bertha Stedman. My Tribute to a California Mother: Sarah Washington Irving Taylor. San Francisco: DAR.