The Coastal Post - March, 1997

Lucas, A Son Of Ireland


Lucas Valley isn't named after George Lucas, although his Skywalker Ranch is there. It is named after John Lucas, who owned Santa Margarita Ranch. Lucas was the nephew of Timothy Murphy, a pioneer resident of San Raphael, called Don Timeteo by the Mexicans. Murphy, a large man, 300 lbs., and tall, a six-footer, was, as Charles Lauff wrote, "The king of the whole county."

Timothy was born in Coolaneck, County Wesford, Ireland, in 1800. How Don Timeteo came to Marin County is not known, but within a few years he made a fortune trapping coastal otter. He made friends at the Presidio, which was the center of activity in those days, and soon the governor of the Mexican colony gave him a position of authority, administrator of San Raphael, and agent for the Indians still living in the Marin area. At one time, in 1850, Timothy Murphy's two-story adobe was the only house in San Raphael.

There had been two administrators before Murphy, but he did the most for the Indians. They respected both his physique and his sense of humor. Mason in Early Marin writes that "he addressed them in their own tongue laced with an Irish brogue." Murphy was convinced the Indians might have achieved a fair standard of living by American standards, but the corruption of the Mexican authorities and the impact of the Gold Rush destroyed that hope.

Murphy and Vallejo enjoyed a lasting friendship. Murphy made several trips to England for Vallejo, where he bought pure-blooded sheep and bulls to improve Vallejo's herds, and he bought a small kennel of dogs for his own enjoyment. He became renowned for these dogs, and people who visited him often spoke of them.

Governor Michael Torena rewarded Murphy for his work with the Indians by giving him three ranchos, Las Gallinas, Punta de San Pedro and Santa Margarita, 22,000 acres in all. He never married, and the rumor is that he was turned down by Vallejo's sister, but he preferred to lavish his affection on his friends. "He spent a week at the Presidio," Charles Lauff wrote. "He, in turn, would invite the officers and their wives to his mansion (he had built one since the adobe) in San Raphael where open house would be held for days."

On Sunday mornings, Murphy wore a broad-brimmed hat with his pants tucked into an expensive pair of boots. He greeted his friends at the door of the mission, and they included all of early Marin's great: James Black, James Poindexter, Hilaria Reed, the William Richardsons, Pablo Briones and Sam Baechtel. Sometimes afterwards he would go with his friends to a rodeo and pow-wow. He always had an immense dinner at six o'clock, when antelope, bear and elk were served, with whole duck and quail cooked over a barbeque, and served by the Indian women. "As the Indians drifted in from other areas, garbed in feathers and paint, Don Timeveo towering above all, 'his great voice booming up from a cavernous interior,' to use Stephen Richardson's analogy," Don Timeteo led a discussion of John C. Fremont (whom he didn't like) and the Mexican War, just ended," wrote Mason in Early Marin.

In 1849, he brought his nephew to share in his estate. His Indian friends had been wiped out by the early Californians, so he resigned as their agent. After that he had nothing but misfortune. He lost money and finally lost his life, due, many people think, to a ruptured appendix.

He left his nephew, John Lucas, the present-day Lucas Valley and Terra Linda. His nephew was in Ireland fetching his bride-to-be when his Uncle Timothy died. He inherited his uncle's weight, for he was "a 350-pound mountain of a man," people said. He returned from Ireland with his bride in 1855. And in 1867, he built an imposing two-story home on their acres. They had a Bolinas home, too (Bolinas was one of the first seaports on the Pacific Coast), and they both died there, John in 1897, and his wife Maria in 1910. They are both buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery on land they had previously given to the Catholic church.

The home ranch was bought by the M.T. Freitas family and eventually it was torn down.

So Lucas Valley is named after John Lucas, nephew of Timothy Murphy and one of the first residents of Lucas Valley, not after George Lucas of Star Wars fame.