Not only was the artisit Sybil Easterday’s home at Tunitas Creek, the end of the Ocean Shore Railroad’s line– but her husband Louis ran the rustic saloon there. Louis, whose drinking was anything but recreational, often barricaded himself in his office at the back of the saloon. During these serious drinking bouts, he surrounded himself with “firearms from a complete arsenal,” making it clear he wanted to be left alone.
Until her marriage, Sybil’s life seemed to have been orderly. The house, landscaped with pretty flowers and shrubs, had been built with money from her commissions. It stood in a secluded spot beneath a bridge. Valuable antiques, handcarved furniture, as well as statuettes and paintings, examples of her work, filled the rooms.
But suddenly her life took a dark turn.
Just before Valentine’s Day in 1916, Sybil, now 40, faced a horrible domestic crisis. She later recounted that the 33-year-old Louis had been drinking heavily as usual and had shut himself up in his office–but this time he did not respond to her pleas to open the door.
Some locals thought it unusual that instead of calling the police, she summoned Dr. Clarence V. Thompson. A county supervisor, Dr. Thompson resided with his wife in a big two-story house in Pescadero. He had set up a “hospital” in his home but few if any patients were admitted there.
When Dr. Thompson arrived at Tunitas Creek, he found the doors of the saloon broken in and rushed to the back office.
Before him, Sybil’s husband Louis was slumped over, a gaping wound in his chest. A double-barreled shotgun lay on the floor.
The official inquest called it a suicide.
After Louis’s death, Sybil and Flora, her invalid mother, pursued a reclusive life. Sybil, who died in 1961, was seldom seen but there were those who remember the vision of a lonely figure wandering around her property at Tunitas Creek, a rifle in her hands.
[Examples of Sybil Easterday’s sculpture can be viewed at the San Mateo County History Museum in Redwood City–but the artist’s eccentricity has provided her most enduring legacy.]
Photo: Sybil Easterday, courtesy San Mateo County History Museum