National Register of Historic Places in Marin County

National Register #75000437: Tomales Presbyterian Church and Cemetery 1 October 2004
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National Register #75000437
Tomales Presbyterian Church and Cemetery
11 Church Street
Built 1868

The township of Tomales was the first intensively developed agricultural section in northern California. Half the population of Marin County was at one time centered around Tomales. The post office is second in years only to San Rafael.

The name Tomales comes from the Indian tribes living around Tomales Bay.

The story of the Tomales Presbyterian Church and its cemetery is inseparably tied to the history of the Tomales community and surrounding area. Through the years there have been only two churches, one Catholic and the other Protestant.

The early settlers were primarily Swiss-Italian or Scotch-Irish. By 1850 some pioneers who had poor luck in the gold fields of California sought a place to raise agricultural products for which there was great demand. The prime land in Marin and Sonoma Counties was quickly acquired for that purpose.

A profitable and noteworthy shipping business was set up, transporting potatoes and dairy products from the Tomales wharf on Keys Creek to San Francisco. The shipping came to an end when the estuary and creek filled in with top soil from the farmed hills making shipping unsafe.

In 1875 a narrow gauge railroad was completed from Sausalito to Tomales. This railroad hauled the produce and brought vacationers from San Francisco and southern Marin County for about fifty years.

Prior to 1860, religious services had been held in Tomales, but a regular ministry began in 1865 under the leadership of Rev. Alexander Fairbairn. In 1866, the first Protestant Church building was erected in Marin County. That first building burned just prior to dedication and a second was immediately built on the same site, being completed April 1868.

The 1906 earthquake and two different fires did much destruction to homes and buildings in Tomales, but the church still stands and is today the oldest Protestant Church building in Marin County.

The adjoining Protestant cemetery was opened by Mr. Warren Button in 1864 and later deeded to the church.

Excerpted from the NRHP nomination dated 16 June 1975.

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