History Watch
By Scott Fletcher

History Watch is written by Scott Fletcher, a volunteer at the Marin History Museum.
Images included in History Watch are available for purchase by calling 415.382.1182 or by email at
[email protected] .
Pioneer Paper Mill –
1884
Samuel P. Taylor State Park, nestled along Lagunitas Creek in West Marin is one of the glittering jewels of Marin County. Its namesake, Samuel Penfield Taylor sailed to California in 1849 from New York state in a schooner he had purchased to seek his fortune in the early days of the ‘gold rush.’ Upon arrival, seeing the opportunity to make a living cooking and selling meals in the busy streets of San Francisco, he set up an ‘egg and bacon’ stand on the wharf next to his ship.

This provided him with the finances to enter the lumber business with his partner Isaac Cook. In 1853, Taylor traveled to Tuolumne County to prospect for gold and returned with $5700 that he used to expand the lumber business. While searching for good timberland in West Marin he found the perfect site along Arroyo de San Geronimo for his paper mill, a business his father had operated back in New York.  

He purchased 100 acres for $505 from land grantee, Rafael Garcia. In 1854 Taylor returned to the east to buy the machinery for his mill and married Sarah Washington Irving. They returned to San Francisco and in 1856 built the first paper mill on the west coast providing San Francisco with newsprint for its three daily newspapers. They named it The Pioneer Paper Mill Company; the town that grew around it Taylorville, and the creek “Papermill Creek.”

The original mill was powered by a water wheel that ran the machinery. In 1870 Samuel and Sarah opened the Taylor Hotel and tent camping resort (Camp Taylor) for city dwellers looking to escape the fog and crowds of San Francisco. For the first two decades Taylor had to cart his newsprint with ox-driven carts over the Bolinas Ridge to a schooner in Bolinas and on to San Francisco. However, when the North Pacific Coast Railroad was completed in 1875 his transportation challenges eased and campers and vacationers could travel to Camp Taylor quickly and in comfort. Taylor purchased another 2000 nearby acres and in 1884 the mill was enlarged and converted to steam power and the hotel rebuilt and renamed the Hotel Azalea.

In its heyday Taylorville had a black powder mill, a fur tannery, a tanbark mill, a grocery, laundry, saloon, butcher shop, dance hall, riding stables, post office and train station. Samuel Taylor died in 1886 and was buried on Mt. Barnabe, which he’d named after his favorite mule. Sarah lost the mill in the Panic of 1893 and both mill and hotel passed into other hands. Both eventually burned down and Camp Taylor became a more rustic campsite. The State of California took possession of the land in 1945 for non-payment of taxes and Samuel P. Taylor State Park was established and preserved for future generations

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