Today, the California Diamond Jubilee Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin remembers the San Rafael and the mission founded 198 years ago.
In their book, San Francisco and North Pacific Sketch Book, A Brief Description of the Health and Pleasure Resorts Along the Line of the San Francisco & North Pacific R.R., published in 1888, Atwell, Creede and Ebbets wrote of the mission.
On the 18th, of December, 1817, a mission was established in the beautiful valley which now bears the name of the saint to whom the Franciscan fathers dedicated their labors. Of the mission nothing remains now, nor did when the United States took possession of California.
Traces of the industry of the old fathers are still visible in the town, in the pear trees which they set out in what was once their orchard, and which still bears heavily, though planted nearly three-fourths of a century ago, and a few overgrown, neglected grape-vines.
But one thing humanity owes to these early fathers, which has not been lost nor forgotten, and that is the discovery of the remarkable equability and salubrity of the climate of this valley.
They gave it, and rightly, the name of the “Sanitarium,” and the name is well earned, and as appropriate today as when Fathers Juan Amoroso and Ventura Fortini, by order of Don Luis Antonio Arguello, Commandante of the Presidio of San Francisco, and Governor ad interim of California, under the unfortunate Iturbide, undertook the conversion and civilization of the Indians of Marin.
Under American rule, and with an American population, San Rafael has become more and more noted for its health preserving and health restoring qualities. With every year the repute of its delightful climate becomes wider spread.
Invalids come here who could not live exposed to the harsh winds and disagreeable fogs of San Francisco.
Sixty years of experience have demonstrated that the climatic advantages are even greater than the early fathers supposed, when they selected it as a sanitarium for the sick of their own order, or their congregations.
Healthful as it is pleasant, it is equaled by no town in the United States for the beauty of its location and the magnificence of its surrounding scenery. Its streets, roads and, suburban drives are, as a rule, in excellent condition, and every month sees improvements.
It has a double railroad and ferry service, giving connection with the city of San Francisco, thirteen or fourteen times a day, each way.
With low fares and cheap commutation tickets, so beautiful a suburb, without its recommendation as a residence for invalids, must become the home of a large number of wealthy capitalists and merchants of the rapidly growing city of San Francisco, as well as the chosen resort of large numbers of well-to-do citizens of other States and countries who desire to find a place, where they can live in health, enjoyment and peace under their own vine and fig tree.
Had we the space, we could have given fifty views, each distinctive in character of scenes within an easy afternoon driving distance of San Rafael.
The streets of the town are laid out at right angles. The chief business is conducted on Fourth street, which runs parallel with the valley, but is rapidly lapping over into the cross streets leading to the North Pacific Coast Railroad.
The business buildings are generally fair, and some of those built within the past five or six years are handsome, substantial and lofty edifices.
One of the attractions of San Rafael is, that fences and gates are unnecessary for the protection even of the best kept and most extensive grounds.
The pound law is strictly enforced, and even the fence around the little park, in which the Court-house stands, is being removed.
At the expense of the Town Improvement Society, seats have been provided here, where pedestrians may rest while enjoying the green lawn at their feet, and the scenery of the distant hills and mountains.
A bold eminence on the north of the town, commanding a view of the whole valley, from the bay to San Anselmo, has been dedicated for a public park.
The streets are illuminated by electric lights. The private dwellings are well supplied by gas from the San Rafael Gas Company.
The Marin County Water Company was incorporated in 1872, with a capital stock of $600,000, with the object of supplying San Rafael, San Anselmo and San Quentin with pure water.
The water is obtained by turning a part of the Lagunitas creek into a reservoir, near the head waters of the stream. This main reservoir, high up in the foot hills of Tamalpais, has a capacity of 300,000,000 gallons.
From this reservoir the water is led for a half a mile by a flume, and thence by iron pipe, making in all a distance of six miles to the distributing reservoir, on a plateau, on the northwest side of the town.
The height of the main reservoir above tide water is 740 feet, and the pressure from the lower reservoir is sufficient to throw water from the hydrants over the highest building in the town, without the aid of engines.
The fire department equipment, therefore, consists only of hose, and hook and ladder trucks.
The Court-house stands on the north side of the eastern end of Fourth street, on land originally a part of the Mission.
In 1872, the old adobe, occupied in 1884 by Timoteo Murphy as a ranch house, was pulled down, and the work of building the present noble edifice was commenced.
The cost of construction and furnishing was paid by the proceeds of $60.000 of bonds, of which about $43,000 are still outstanding.
In March, 1872, the inhabitants of San Rafael voted in favor of municipal incorporation, and in December, 1874, organized the Fire Department.
The office of Town Councilors, has generally been held by gentlemen of property and influence, who have had the welfare of San Rafael at heart.
The present council, as their predecessors, have made the best use of the funds at their disposal, hence for the amount expended, the street and sewers of San Rafael are in remarkably good order.
The Council, supported by the leading citizens, members of the Town Improvement Society, are ordering further street improvements, as rapidly as the property owners can conveniently bear the expense.
If the liberal and progressive spirit which has within the past few years sprung up in the breasts of the inhabitants of San Rafael is maintained, in regard to well kept streets and good sewers, San Rafael will soon exceed any town in the State in these respects.
For quiet and order, night and day, it has now no equal in any town in California of its size.
Serious crime is becoming very rare in the county, and is almost unknown in the town.
Even criminal misdemeanor is so infrequent that it often happens that neither the county jail or the town lock-up have an inmate.
A high license of $50 per month has been ordered by the Board of Supervisors, and the saloons in the town, of which there are less than the average proportion for California, are closed by law at eleven, and often voluntarily an hour earlier.
There are several hotels in the town, the principal being the Tamalpais in the west end, and the Central of Fourth street.
When the Hotel Rafael, now building, is completed, San Rafael will have a hotel equal in beauty and nearly in spaciousness to the far-famed El Monte of Monterey before it was destroyed by fire.
San Rafael township is situated in the southeastern portion of Marin county and is bounded on the south by Sausalito township, on the east by San Pablo bay, on the west by Bolinas and Nicasio townships, and on the north by Novato township.
In the township, besides the valley of San Rafael there are several other valleys, San Anselmo being the largest.
In an easterly and westerly direction, the San Rafael valley extends nearly four miles, being on an average one mile in width.
It is separated from the foot hills of Tamalpais by the range of timber-clothed hills, which divide it from San Anselmo valley, running almost parallel with the former, until near San Anselmo Junction, where the two valleys meet.
The great feature of San Rafael, however, when looking south, is the majestic and graceful outline of Mount Tamalpais.
The valleys of Corte Madera, of San Anselmo, of Fairfax and their smaller tributary valleys, and Point San Quentin, are included in the township of San Rafael.
The township contains four school districts, namely San Rafael, Ross Landing, San Quentin and Fairfax. San Rafael school district has a new, fine eight-class schoolhouse in the town of San Rafael, which with another lot not at present built on, cost for land, building, furnishing, etc., about $25,000, a sum which was raised by the issue of bonds, for interest on which a tax of six cents on the $100 valuation is raised.
The first frame building erected in 1849, in San Rafael, was also the first school house, and was the property of James Miller.
The number of children between five and seventeen years, as reported by the School Census Marshal for this year in the district, was 718, of whom 507 attended the public schools, and seventy-two private schools. The number of children in the district under five years of age was 321.
The Ross Landing district had ninety- three children between five and seventeen years, of whom fifty-three attended the public schools and twenty-two private schools. There were in this district twenty-six children under five years of age.
In San Quentin District, there were reported ninety-nine chil dren, between five and seventeen years of age, of whom seventy -nine attended the public school, and twenty -one children under five years of age.
In the Fairfax District there were twenty-nine children between the ages of five and seventeen, of whom twenty-two attended the public school, and sixteen children under five years of age.
San Rafael township contains the only town in the county at present incorporated, but there is, in consequence of its rapid growth, some talk of taking a vote of the inhabitants of Sausalito, on the question of incorporating at an early date.
The California Diamond Jubilee Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows beside an image of the early San Rafael Mission.