Tue 26 Mar 2013
Tomales Regional History Center on Sunday held an opening reception for an engaging exhibition titled “Tomales Neighbors: Informal Portraits by Steve Quirt, Ella Jorgensen, and Others.” The people I spoke with at the opening likewise found the photos fascinating.
Frances Fairbanks and cat, circa 1920. Frances was the granddaughter of pioneer William Fairbanks, who settled in Tomales in 1864. She was also a niece of Ella Jorgensen. Photo by Ella Jorgensen ___________________________________________________
Using a box camera, Ella Frisbee Jorgensen around 1900 began shooting photos of townspeople, including Tomales pioneers who by then were already elderly. “In her pantry-turned darkroom, she developed and printed countless photographs,” the spring issue of the Tomales Regional History Center Bulletin notes.
“Photographer Ella Jorgensen spent nearly 50 years chronicling life in the village; much of what we know of early 20th century Tomales is because of Ella’s work.” Jorgensen died in 1945.
Steve Quirt using his iPhone is now shooting similar photos of current townspeople. “Steve’s portraits inevitably recall — not so much in style as in spirit — the casually shot but thoughtfully posed portraits by Ella Jorgensen,” observes the Bulletin.
At the bootery — Carrie Jensen, Jorgen Jensen, Sille Jensen, and Walter Jensen (left to right). Carrie Jensen was a native of Copenhagen who arrived in Tomales in 1857. Photo by Ella Jorgensen _______________________________________________________________
Bakers — Charles and Vesta Stone. Photo by Ella Jorgensen. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Zilla Ables Dickinson. Photo by Ella Jorgensen
Zilla Ables Dickinson was postmaster in the Tomales Post Office for 35 years. After Zilla and her husband Leon were married in 1886, they bought the general store in Tomales (now Diekmann’s). In 1936, their son Bray took over the business.
A. Bray Dickinson. Photographer unknown
Bray Dickinson took over his mother’s position as postmaster in Tomales after she died. He is now best known for his book on the North Pacific Coast Railway, Narrow Gauge to the Redwoods. _________________________________________________________
Today’s postmaster, Julie Martinoni (right), and Liz Cunninghame of Clark Summit Ranch open a shipment of baby chicks in the Tomales Post Office. Photo by Steve Quirt _______________________________________________________________
Ranchers Loren (left) and Al Poncia. Photo by Steve Quirt _______________________________________________________________
Edith Bonini, former owner-operator of the William Tell bar. Photographer unknown ________________________________________________________
Three girls on Main Street, May 1917. Mercie Wilson at far right with two unidentified girls. Photo by Ella Jorgensen _______________________________________________________________
George Dillon (left) and Thomas Ables. Photo by Ella Jorgensen
Dillon, a native of Ireland, crossed the Great Plains in 1856. In the 1860s, he bought a 644-acre ranch at the mouth of Tomales Bay and “threw his beach open to his friends,” according to the late historian Jack Mason. “In 1888, as near as can be determined, [he] built an 11-bedroom hotel.” The building “is still there,” Mason wrote in Earthquake Bay (published 1976). When Dillon in his later years sold the property in 1903, he stipulated that the area would forever be called Dillon Beach.
Thomas Ables (standing with Dillon) was a bank cashier who went on to become the Marin County Superintendent of Schools. _______________________________________________________________
Norman Meyers (left) and Fred Jorgensen. Photo by Ella Jorgensen _______________________________________________________________
When the History Center’s curator, Ginny MacKenzie Magan, wrote an announcement of last Sunday’s opening for The West Marin Citizen, she noted it would be a 50-photo exhibition of Tomales neighbors over the past 150 years.
“These people, along with many others, have contributed some subtle essence of their character to the town,” she explained. “For over a century and a half, a few hundred at a time, neighbors have participated in this mysterious alchemy, contributing their intellects and their emotions, their talents and their eccentricities, coloring this place and adding to the ever-changing essence that is this small assortment of humanity….
“The exhibit celebrates these neighbors — those among us today, those we remember, and those we never knew.”