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Marin Independent Journal

History Watch

 July 23, 2018

Marin history: The story behind San Rafael’s Boyd Park

John and Louise Boyd donated a large portion of their San Rafael property to the City of San Rafael as a lasting memorial to their sons, John, left, and Seth. (Courtesy of Marin History Museum)

John and Louise Boyd donated a large portion of their San Rafael property to the City of San Rafael as a lasting memorial to their sons, John, left, and Seth. (Courtesy of Marin History Museum)

Posted: 07/23/18

Boyd Park in San Rafael, nestled in the hills above the mission, owes its existence to the generosity of John and Louise Boyd who donated the land to the city in memory of their sons, John and Seth. The Boyds were two of Marin’s leading citizens at the turn of the 20th century and had raised Seth, John and Louise — yes, that Louise of Arctic exploration fame) — in San Rafael and at their large ranch near Mount Diablo.

Heirs to the Bodie gold mine bonanza, the children had every luxury and advantage their parents could provide, and the boys were being groomed to take over their father’s substantial commercial interests. However, within an eight-month period both boys would be taken from their loving family. Seth was living at his parent’s Maple Lawn home in San Rafael and attending Mt. Tamalpais Military Academy, the site of present-day Marin Academy. One August morning in 1901 he did not come down for breakfast, his mother and brother forced open the upstairs bedroom door and found him dead. A small coal-gas stove in the room was leaking gas, and it was originally thought he had suffocated from the fumes. An autopsy later revealed that he had died from heart disease brought on by a childhood bout with rheumatic fever.

The death of their eldest son devastated the Boyds but another tragedy would soon take their younger son. John was attending the Thacher Boarding School in Ventura County the following April when he was caught in a sudden rainstorm while horseback riding with his fellow students. Upon his return to school he became ill and died soon after.

Inconsolable in their grief, the Boyds never fully recovered from this double tragedy. Three years later they donated a large portion of their San Rafael property to the City of San Rafael as a lasting memorial to their sons. The entire town closed down for the parade and dedication ceremony. School bands played music and sang, there were ceremonial tree plantings by local school children, and picnic lunch was served to thousands. Seth and John rest alongside their parents in the Mt. Tamalpais Cemetery, and San Rafael families and their children have had a park to rest, reflect and play in for more than 113 years.


P. O. Box 150727, San Rafael, CA 94915        415-382-1182              info@marinhistory.org


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