The Jack Mason Museum of West Marin History in Inverness on Sunday held a grand opening for a new exhibition, “Hometown: Growing Up in Point Reyes Station.” The exhibition consists of fascinating photographs from the Codoni family, whose patriarch Quinto Codoni immigrated to West Marin from Switzerland’s Italian-speaking Canton of Ticino 140 years ago.

Clara and Quinto Codoni on D Ranch. The driftwood porpoise (in background at left) had Coca Cola caps for eyes and bailing rope for whiskers.

Quinto Codoni (1855-1940), part of a wave of immigration to West Marin from Ticino, was 18 years old when he joined his brother Joe in Tocaloma.

“This was 1873,” the late Jack Mason wrote in the Winter, 1980, issue of The Point Reyes Historian. “There was no train. The little schooners then in use were equipped to carry butter, not hogs.

“It was young Quinto’s job, on behalf of Charles Howard’s tenant ranchers [on Point Reyes], to get their pigs to the nearest scow for San Francisco [which landed in Drakes Estero]. On foot this took up to three days.

“Once at the Ferry Building, the hogs were put aboard wagons and taken to a slaughterhouse on Sansome Street. A commission merchant paid them later in gold.

“Thus Quinto got his Big Chance in America.”

Lucy Codoni (at right) was a daughter of Quinto and Clara.


Lucy Codoni’s granddaughter Sharen Hicks Schrock of Petaluma (center) loaned albums of family photos to the Jack Mason Museum, so they could be copied and exhibited. Enjoying the grand opening with museum curator Dewey Livingston (left) and their mother are Marley, 11, and Jaden, 14, two great-great granddaughters of Quinto Codoni.

“The Codonis’ cabin at Drakes Beach was the site of relaxation and entertainments for two or three generations,” according to the exhibit. “Quinto and his friends built the cabin, located at the entrance to Drakes Estero, and hosted family and friends alike. At least once, waves damaged or destroyed the place, but it was faithfully repaired. It was eventually reestablished farther inland, the site today marked by a cypress tree and ranch road near the Drake Monument at Drakes Estero.”

At right: Quinto, which means fifth-born in Italian.

“When a railroad, the North Pacific Coast, began serving the Point Reyes-Tomales Bay community in 1875, Quinto availed himself of it, [and] had a hogpen at trackside to which he now brought hogs as well as calves by wagon….

“By the age of 55, he was the chief hog and cattle buyer on the Point,” wrote Mason.

“Moustachioed and personable, Quinto was a force to contend with in town as well as country.”

The Codoni home on B Street in Point Reyes Station, Mason added, “was one of the town’s nicest. [It] had a marble fireplace and electricity. Quinto’s Delco plant furnished lights not only for his own house, but for Lucy Silverfoot’s around the corner, Dr. Cavanaugh’s on B Street, and two other houses Codoni owned.”

Quinto Codoni on a wagon at Schooner Bay, an arm of Drakes Estero from which he shipped hogs to San Francisco.

“In 1910, Quinto sold the Tomales Bank and Trust Company a lot on A Street for its branch office, which opened in 1913,” Mason wrote. “Not surprisingly, Quinto became a director and vice-president. Bank patrons came to respect Mr. Codoni as a conservative in money matters; he had made his when it wasn’t easy to come by.”

“Around 1910,” according to Mason, Codoni  “went in with some Point Reyes ranchers to buy the schooner Point Reyes,” which “could accommodate a deckload of 200 hogs.”

Unloading hogs at Schooner Bay for shipment to San Francisco.

Mason noted that Codoni “and Tom Marshall owned a slaughterhouse on Paper Mill Creek which supplied Point Reyes Station with steaks and chops. Tom’s butchershop was on B Street.”

A caretaker’s cabin at the landing in Schooner Bay. High waves eventually destroyed it.

“Quinto Codoni acquired the old Shafter-Howard D Ranch dairy through foreclosure in 1927,” according to the exhibition. “This ranch is seen on the road down to Drakes Beach. He took to the ranch life (although he leased out the dairy operation) and decorated the ranch house yard with an outdoor kitchen, interesting sculpture, and a massive flagstaff, seen here during installation.

“Codoni’s daughter Alice married Petaluma dairyman Bill Hall, and they ran the dairy from 1936 until turning it over in the 1960s to their daughter, Vivian Horick.”

From the depot in Point Reyes Station, Clara and Quinto Codoni (at right) took the narrow-gauge railway north to the end of the line in Cazadero.

Ernie Grandi (1907-87) relaxes beside a rail car. A lifelong resident of Point Reyes Station, Ernest Grandi served in the Army during World War II and for 22 years worked as a carpenter here. He was also chief of the former Point Reyes Volunteer Fire Department and a member of several civic groups. Like Codoni, Grandi’s parents Agostino and Olympia were immigrants from Ticino. They spoke only Italian until he went to grammar school.

“Thrift and hard work got [West Marin’s Ticinese] a large slice of the American pie,” Mason wrote, and in the case of Quinto Codoni earned him the historian’s sobriquet “Mr. Point Reyes Station.”