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   e-NEWSLETTER                                                                                                                                              FEBRUARY 2018

Museum News

Proud New Owners of Historic Fire Truck

Members of the Marin History Museum were all smiles Wednesday as they took possession of an 83-year-old fire truck believed to be one of the first used by the Marin County Fire Department.

The 1935 International pickup truck was donated to the museum by Sonoma County resident Sue Smith and her family. It will be on long-term loan to the county fire department, which will restore the vehicle that still runs and has many of its original parts."  Marin IJ

Feature Article

Brrr! It’s Cold Outside

January’s newsletter on snow and the recent winter storms left us chilled. What we need is a cozy, warm quilt. Fortunately, the Museum’s collection includes a wealth of quilts.  

At her website Womenfolk: The Art of Quilting, quilt historian Jane Hall describes the log cabin motif as a quintessential American design where red centers represent a cabin’s hearth and light and dark values mimic the sunny and shady sides of a prairie home. 

Our log cabin quilt, an engagement gift, was lovingly (and frugally) assembled in the 1930s from scraps of old dresses. Generally constructed of unmatched fabric, most bulky log cabin quilts are tied rather than hand-stitched. The silk-like fabric of our quilt permitted its creators to delicately hand stitch the layers together. 

Photo Source: MHM 

One eye-catching quilt is from the Sais (or Saez) family. Wealthy women of leisure created brightly colored and heavily embroidered crazy quilts using fabric from newfangled textile mills. Less affluent quilters used wool scraps from the practical clothing they made at home. Piecing and embroidering a crazy quilt could take months. An 1844 issue of Harper’s Bazaar suggested that a full-sized crazy quilt could take as many as 1,500 hours to complete.  

Our Sais quilt celebrates the year 1796 through embroidery and a ribbon boasting a string of thirteen star American flags, the correct number of states in 1796.In these flags, the six-pointed stars are arranged in stripes rather than the circle of five-pointed stars we expect from the familiar “Betsy Ross” flag.                                          Photo Source: MHM 

(Historians disagree about who fashioned the first flag with both Betsy Ross and Francis Hopkins contenders for the honor.)


The quilt maker’s decision to highlight 1796 is a mystery. One possible explanation is that the family patriarch, Justo Nazario Sais, died that year in Santa Clara. 

Photo Source: MHM

Photo Source: MHM 

The Pooley sisters of Mill Valley donated generously to the Museum including their mother’s bridal dress and accessories (c.1874), linen hand towels (c. 1852), and several quilts including a crazy quilt pieced by their mother (c. 1884). 

The quilt is alleged to include a fragment of Mary Todd Lincoln’s white silk funeral shroud sewn onto red velvet. While it’s not possible for us to verify the claim, the Pooley family had connections in Illinois where Mrs. Lincoln died and was buried. In addition, Mrs. Lincoln passed a mere two years before Mrs. Pooley completed her quilt.  So pending a CSI Marin forensic analysis, we’re willing to accept the family’s assertion. 

It certainly makes for a grand story.

Photo Source: MHM 

Photo Source: MHM 

If you have quilts from early Marin, the Museum would gratefully add them to our collection. But, before donation, you might want to inspect them closely. The September 23, 1927, San Anselmo Herald featured this remarkable tidbit, “Mrs. H. G. Thorston of Davenport [near Santa Cruz] found $5,000 in currency [today’s $63,000] in an old quilt which she had used for several years.” It must have been a thick quilt. 

Faces of Marin



Domingo Saissource


The eldest of sixteen children, Domingo Sais served as a soldier at the Presidio of San Francisco and in the San Francisco militia. In 1839, in thanks for his military service, Sais was granted the one-and-a-half-square-league Rancho CaƱada de Herrera (Valley of the Blacksmiths.) The Rancho’s 6,658 acres included today’s Fairfax, Sleepy Hollow, and most of San Anselmo. In 1840, Domingo built San Anselmo’s first structure, an adobe home on the hill above today’s Sais Avenue not far from San Anselmo Memorial Park.

Some historians suggest that Domingo claimed for himself land that was intended for his father and family. Regardless, the Mexican Government registered the property in his name. In 1852, after Mexico ceded California to the United States, Sais submitted a claim for the Rancho with the United States Public Land Commission created to validate California’s Spanish and Mexican land grants. A year after his claim submission, Sais fell from his horse and died. His claim was confirmed in 1876, twenty-three years after his death.

Maria Augustina Sais

                                                                                                     Photo Source: FindaGrave.com

Baptized: February 17, 1828 - 1864

Maria Augustina Sais, a sister to Domingo Sais, married James Black  in May 1844 at the Mission San Raphael Archangel. A year later, they welcomed a beloved daughter named after her mother. In 1849, their son James Black III died within a year of his birth. The Blacks were a wealthy and, by all accounts, happy family. James made his money in cattle and by leasing out his extensive land holdings. Young Maria, who preferred the Anglicized name Mary, studied in San Francisco while her mother tended their adobe home.

In October 1863, Mary wed the “scientific” dentist, Galen Burdell. To celebrate, James Black gave his daughter Rancho Olompali (now Olompali State Park) along with nine hundred head of cattle.

A few short months after the wedding, Maria Augustina visited her son-in-law’s San Francisco office for treatment, dying in his dental chair from what is presumed to have been chloroform poisoning His wife’s death emotionally devastated James Black, launching events including a hasty remarriage, betrayal, and four court trials which enthralled and appalled Marinites for over a decade.

Photo Source: MHM

Edith Makepeace Pooley

June 7 1875 – August 8 1971

Eliza Pooley (Searight)

March 23 1877 – April 19 1969

In December 1897, the Pooley sisters along with their parents, Arthur and Anna, moved into a custom-built house on Miller Avenue in Mill Valley. Edith later described their home as an “exhibition house.”

An accomplished pianist and piano teacher, Edith instructed hundreds of young women and men in the Leschetizky method  from her home, Home Croft.           

Her student musicians gave performances proudly wearing small silver pins consisting of a lyre surrounded by laurel leaves and the initials H.C.M.C: Home Croft Musical Club.

Photo Source:  Mill Valley Record 1922

Eliza married Beath P. Searight in 1907 only to lose her husband a short fourteen years later. The 1930 census shows the sisters living together once again in the family home on Miller Avenue with their widowed mother.

In the mid-1950s, the sisters moved, together still, into the San Francisco Ladies Protection and Relief Society’s retirement home: The Heritage. 

Photo Source: SF Ladies Protection and Relief Society

Edith and Eliza passed within a few years of each other aged 96 and 92 respectively and were buried in a common grave at the Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma. 


Photo Source: FindaGrave.com


Craemer Family Collections & Research Facility

Mailing Address: 

P.O. Box 150727 

San Rafael, CA 94915

Physical Address

45 Leveroni Court

Novato CA, 94949

Public Hours: 

Tuesday: 10:00 am - Noon

Wednesday and Thursday: 10:00 am -2:00 pm 

Other times by appointment






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