History

Point Reyes Field Station is proud to be a part of the colorful history of beautiful Olema Valley in West Marin. Located within the boundaries of the Olema Valley Historic Ranching District and Point Reyes National Seashore, the field station is headquartered in the historic two-story ranch home built around 1915 by the Healion family.

Hagmaier Ranch, ca. 1931-1941. (Source: Daniel Hagmaier. Credit: Point Reyes National Seashore Museum, HPRC 58080.) Hagmaier Ranch: Landscape view looking NE with ranch buildings and house. Wide and long view. Rolling grass covered hills in distance.
Hagmaier Ranch, looking northeast, taken between 1931 and 1941. The home built by the Healion family that currently houses the Point Reyes Field Station is just right of center. (Source: Daniel Hagmaier. Credit: Point Reyes National Seashore Museum, HPRC 58080.)

The 200-plus acres of ranch land surrounding the house was originally occupied by Coast Miwok and subsequently settled in 1856 by Benjamin Miller, who eventually purchased the property from the Shafter law firm in March 1861 for a total price of $3,264.05, or about $15.00 an acre.

Bondietti Ranch (now Hagmaier Ranch) in Olema Valley looking N in 1906. Randall ranch in far distance. HWY 1 on right. Wide sweeping view of valley with hills in background. Ranch complex in center field with trees clumped around it.
Bondietti Ranch, now Hagmaier Ranch, in Olema Valley looking north in 1906. Randall ranch in far distance. (Source: U.S.G.S Library / Menlo Park. Credit: Point Reyes National Seashore Museum. HPRC 53840.)

By 1860, Miller’s ranch, which included about 100 cows as well as horses, sheep, oxen, pigs, crops, and an orchard, produced over 3,000 pounds of butter, 2,000 bushels of Irish potatoes, as well as peas, beans, wheat, and oats. The ranch was one of many in the Olema Valley Historic Ranching District that produced and delivered butter to the ever-growing city of San Francisco.

Hagmaier Ranch: Creamery pick-up truck loaded with milk cans. Two unidentified men sitting on top of large milk cans in back of truck. Truck marked with signage: Point Reyes Co-operative Creamery. Barn with milk cans and fencing. Dog sitting by front tire. Randall's in the distance looking north.
Picking up cream at the Healion (Hagmaier) Ranch for the Point Reyes Cooperative Creamery in the 1930s. (Source: Lucchesi Family. Credit: Point Reyes National Seashore Museum. HPRC 56040. Photo information: Livingston 1995.)

Benjamin Miller was infamous for the 1861 murder of his neighbor, William Randall, whose ranch is east and north of the field station along Highway 1. Apparently the two ranchers had a long-standing dispute about property boundaries. The Randall homestead is easily identified by the boarded up white clapboard and shingle house a little ways north of the field station on State Highway 1 and is now home to a number of bat species. Mr. Miller remained at his ranch during his murder trial and was never jailed for the crime, eventually moving  to Watsonville in 1869 where he died in 1879.

Hagmaier Ranch wide view from State Highway 1 showing landscape with fencing, vegetation, house, and ranch buildings in background. Tree covered hills in distance.
Hagmaier Ranch as viewed from State Highway 1. Image taken between 1939 and 1941. (Source: Daniel Hagmaier. Credit: Point Reyes National Seashore Museum HPRC 58110.)

 

Hagmaier Ranch. Building in the foreground and corrals and fencing. More ranch buildings in background including house. Long view looking over valley towards tree covered hills in background.
View of Biesler Ranch in distance from Hagmaier Ranch, 1941. George Hagmaier, Fred Biesler’s second cousin, purchased the Biesler ranch in 1937 and the Healion home and ranch in 1938, to create what is now known as Hagmaier Ranch. The Biesler ranch house and dairy barn burned in 1966 and the National Park Service removed the remaining deteriorated buildings in the 1970s. (Source: Daniel Hagmaier. Credit: Point Reyes National Seashore Museum. HPRC 58090.)

The ranch proceeded to change hands several times during the late 1880s until it was purchased by Thomas Healion. After Thomas Healion’s death in 1909, his son Arthur Healion and his wife Caroline built their home about 1915 while they raised their family and operated the dairy. Their home now houses Point Reyes Field Station.

Hagmaier Ranch. Looking up from bottom of small hill to equipment barns and bunk house.
Hagmaier Ranch, undated photo. Looking up from bottom of small hill to equipment barns and ranch hands house. (Credit: Point Reyes National Seashore Museum. HPRC 38870.)

In 1938, after her husband’s death, Caroline Healion sold the ranch to George Hagmaier, who owned almost 300 acres directly to the north (the old Biesler Ranch). Mr. Hagmaier continued to operate the ranch remotely while he resided and worked in Alameda. Shortly after purchasing the Healion ranch, Mr. Hagmaier built the two-story ranch hands house just north of the main house. The ranch hands house currently houses a satellite office of Point Blue Conservation Science.

In 1938 Mr. Hagmaier built the two red sheds just north of the main house and in 1941 he built the large corrugated metal hay barn to replace the original barn that had burned in a spectacular fire in the late 1930s. The driveway to the Hagmaier ranch complex from Highway 1 follows the same route in a U.S. Geological Survey map from 1898.

Hagmaier Ranch. Main barn with corrals and fencing with 50-gallon drum next to work bench on side of barn. Dirt vehicle road next to barn. Tree covered hillside behind barn.
Hagmaier Ranch barn built by George Hagmaier in 1941 to replace one that burned down in the late 1930s, undated photo. View is looking to northwest. (Source: National Park Service. Credit: Point Reyes National Seashore Museum. HPRC 38880.)

 

Hagmaier Ranch. Main barn with house in the background. Color image.
Hagmaier Ranch barn with house in background, 1995. Non-native eucalyptus trees were removed around 2002-2004. View is looking to southeast. (Credit: Point Reyes National Seashore Museum. HPRC 58240.)

If you would like additional details about the Hagmaier ranch site, Olema Valley, and ranching and land use in the area, there is an excellent book written by local historian D.S. (Dewey) Livingston and published by the National Park Service called A Good Life: Dairy Farming in the Olema Valley: A History of the Dairy and Beef Ranches of the Olema Valley and Lagunitas Canyon (downloadable 20MB pdf). Point Reyes National Seashore also has a terrific history of ranching and cultural history within the Seashore.