Before the Pioneers: the Coast Miwoks

Tomales Regional History Center Before the pioneers, before the European explorers and the Spanish missionaries, there were the Coast Miwok people. Their ancestral home is today Marin and southern Sonoma Counties. It was this land—its colors and fragrances, its temperate summers and winter storms, its plant and animal life—that shaped their lives and their culture.

The exhibit includes many Miwok artifacts, photographs of familiar native plants the first people used in their everyday lives, and the story of the Smiths, the Miwok family that established the Bodega Bay fishing industry in the early 20th century.

The Pioneers

Tomales Regional History CenterMany of the earliest settlers came to this region as single men, often after trying their luck in the gold fields. The occasional married couple or family also made the journey. Most came seeking opportunity or adventure, and they probably almost always found both.

The pioneers left their marks in countless ways—the familiar institutions they established, the now-landmark buildings they built, and through their descendants, many of whom contribute to our local communities today.

The Story of Tomales

Tomales Regional History CenterTomales began with a port—the community’s center for almost twenty years. The village was further shaped by, among other things, a disagreement between its two founders, the changing methods of transportation, an infamous earthquake, and a disastrous fire. The exhibit follows the town from its beginning in 1850 to the present, and includes an overview of the town’s simple, well-preserved architecture.


Tomales Regional History CenterThe region’s agriculture industry is traced to the earliest pioneers who raised dairy cattle, produced butter and cheese, and grew potatoes and grain here. The early farmers and ranchers were often innovative and progressive. Their successes and failures are woven into the dynamic and diverse local industry of today. The focal point of this exhibit is a circa 1920 Iron Age potato planter that seeded many local harvests.

the Narrow Gauge Railroad

Tomales Regional History CenterRailroad fever was sweeping the country when the North Pacific Coast line was incorporated in 1871. The line linked San Francisco (by ferry to Sausalito) to Cazadero in the Russian River redwoods, by way of Tomales Bay, Bodega, and Occidental. Built primarily to haul redwood lumber, the largely experimental narrow gauge railroad seeded towns and villages, transported agriculture products, launched a tourism industry, and captured the imaginations and changed the lives of all who lived along its way.

Tomales High School History

For fifty years after the establishment of the local grammar schools in the region, students had to travel to distant towns and board away from home to attend high school. An alternative was clearly needed. Local residents took matters into their own hands and Tomales High School—two rooms and twenty-three students—opened on August 5th 1912.