Devil’s Slide As Seen By Artist Galen Wolf




When I photographed these two Devil’s Slide watercolors by Coastside artist Galen Wolf, they were hanging on the walls of the historic Mullen farmhouse in Miramar. The Mullen’s accountant, Tom Clyne, had inherited the home and was living there in the 1970s.

Nancy Maule: Notable Coastside Environmentalist




In 1980-81 I interviewed Montara environmentalist Nancy Maule at her Montara home for “The Mystery of Half Moon Bayâ€?. I don’t know what I expected but she looked like a stern schoolteacher. As soon as she began talking it was obvious that she was not only passionate about her beliefs but she knew the history of environmentalism on the Coastside.

A proposed freeway helped fuel Nancy’s activism (she didn’t drive a car when I met her). She recalled hosting a meeting in her living room organized to fight the freeway, with the preservation of open space the objective.

Nancy’s group considered the possibilities of a federal reserve stretching from Milagra Ridge to the north all the way south to Highway 92, encompassing some 40,000 acres.

“When we first arrived in the 1950s,â€? she told me, “there were no development plans. It was quiet until the early ‘60s. Then we heard [Henry] Doelger had huge plans to develop.â€?

[Doelger was eyeing Princeton-by-the-Sea for what he envisioned as a “Polynesian Villageâ€?, with all the “tropicalâ€? trappings you can imagine].

There’s a local legend, Nancy said. “Doelger brought the president of the Bank of America to one of the hilltops, waved his hand, and said: ‘Eureka! We’ve found it! Here’s my new city’. The Bank of America president thought it was a great idea.

“….The only plans effectively carried out can be seen in Half Moon Bay—which delineates the philosophical attitude between Half Moon Bay and the rest of the Coastside,â€? Nancy said, adding that “All growth comes to pass in Half Moon Bay.â€?

Note: Nancy Maule’s group of activists successfully picketed Henry Doelger’s project at Princeton. The big developer’s plans for a “Polynesian Fishing Village” fell through but he did construct a housing subdivision across the way, on the east side of Highway 1.

Montara: Home to Artist’s Colony & The Little Goat Farm (Part III)

cutehouse_2.jpgAt the foot of Montara Mountain, an artist’s colony, the dream of San Francisco publisher Harr Wagner and his poet wife Madge Morris, seemed to be unfolding in the most beautiful way.

A few quaint cottages were built and artists moved in with their musical instruments, pens and watercolors. The nearby streets were named in honor of authors Bret Harte, Elbert Hubbard and Rudyard Kipling. A bakery opened its doors and many in Montara viewed the new community as economically self-sustaining.

Harr constructed a family residence featuring stone pillars and a circular driveway. To establish a sense of tradition at Montara-by-the-Sea, he organized annual barbecues, attended by his artist friends.

Mussels were harvested from the nearby beaches and placed in steaming kettles while steaks sizzled on the open grills. Harr presided over the festivities, always the jovial host attired in chef’s hat and white apron.

Perhaps in anticipation of the flood of tourists attracted to the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, Harr helped construct a lovely resort hotel framed by the warmth of Montara Mountain.


But Harr’s reputation for taking risks that generally failed was not about to change. The artist community at Montara was no exception.

The Ocean Shore Railroad—the artery that carried life to Montara and other Coastside beach towns—filed for bankruptcy and pulled up its rails. A fire swept away the resort hotel and a future conflagration would take the Wagner’s family residence, leaving only the stone pillars.

The Wagner family, which included daughter Morris, weathered the latest financial setback in typical fashion. Harr shrugged his shoulders and humorously labeled himself a “successful failureâ€?.

But despite Montara’s economic reverses, the tiny beach town still retained its identity and lure for artists. Real estate sales may have tumbled but the “Von Suppe Poet and Peasant Cottageâ€?, honoring a 19th century European composer, was still in demand at a rental fee of $85.00 weekly.

Meanwhile, daughter Morris was thriving. She had been named the postmistress of Montara, and with an initial investment of $350.00 , began raising those milk goats with good friend Irmagarde Richards.

Within a few years, Morris and Irmagarde’s work won acclaim as observers praised them for “controlling the goat industry in this part of the worldâ€?.

Their goats were not what Irmagarde labeled the “back alleyâ€? sort. She and Morris aimed much higher, raising gold medal winning, blue-blooded Toggenberg goats, the breed that were used in experimental gland transplantation in the elderly.

According to Irmagarde, their goats were attractive and highly efficient milk producers. A steady stream of physicians had made the trek to Montara for goat glands but the women were not interested in that phase of the business.

Their goats provided sweet milk only—no parts.

In 1922 goat milk was a valuable commodity because it wasn’t produced in large quantities by commercial dairies. This situation enabled Morris and Irmagarde to sign a contract with a tuberculosis hospital in San Mateo to provide 60 quarts of goat’s milk per day. The milk from their herd of 200 goats was earmarked for children with TB who were unable to digest other foods.

Tuberculosis, which most commonly affects the respiratory system, is usually acquired from contact with an infected person, an infected cow, or through drinking contaminated milk.

“Today, after nine years of hard work and fun,â€? Irmagarde Ricahrds said in 1922, “we have one of the best-equipped milk goat establishments in the world.â€?

But there years later, in 1925, the world of “the goat girlsâ€? was turned upside down. After a long illness, Morris’s mother died at Montara—and technology introduced new baby food formulas into the marketplace.

The demand for goat’s milk dwindled and the Las Cabritas (Little Goats) Farm at Montara quietly ceased production and closed its doors.

Note: I actually met Morris Wagner. She was elderly and lived in a very nice senior home in Los Gatos but what impressed me most was her face, filled with light and warmth and great love, her father’s daughter, I felt certain.

Photos: Quaint house in Montara & Montara landscape with Montara Inn perched on the hillside.

Montara: Home to Artist’s Colony & The Little Goat Farm (Part II)

scenic.jpg (Photo: Scenic Montara, with Devil’s Slide in the background).

Montara was the first in a string of charming beach towns encountered by Ocean Shore Railroad passengers as they left behind the breathtaking vistas of the spectacular ride across Devil’s Slide, the vastness of the Pacific Ocean and the striking patterns of the fragile cliffs.

From the quaint Montara train station, fields stretched in all directions, with footpaths leading to a graceful 19th century lighthouse, a church with a small spire and virgin beaches thick with white sand.

The visual effect made some visitors imagine they stood on the stern of a ship far out in a foggy sea—but the gracious dominance of Montara Mountain in the background, hosting sprays of brilliant wildflowers, reminded everyone they remained on land.

Montara was the home of Vic Guerrero, heir to an original Spanish/Mexican land grant. In Guerrero’s less complicated Montara, the most famous resident was William Haavind, “Billy the Kid,â€? a colorful foot racer known for his daily sprint up to Devil’s Slide and back.

This, then, was Montara in the early part of the 20th century, the place Morris Wagner came to know and love.

Anyone acquainted with Morris soon learned that her father, Harr, had purchased one square mile of beautiful Montara, believing the property would rise in value along with the fortunes of the Ocean Shore Railroad.

He may have originally hoped to sell small lots to all comers but he quickly refined his plan, announcing that Montara would become the center of an artists’ community with a college as its beating heart.

The arts and crafts community made sense to all who knew Harr and Madge. They had countless artist friends including the famous, long-haired bohemian poet, Joaquin Miller. To assist Harr in promoting Montara, Miller rode the Ocean Shore Railroad to the Coastside town where he planted a special redwood tree to the delight of spectators—including the press.

While Morris’s mother penned books of poetry, her father named the streets of Montara in honor of the authors Bret Harte, Elbert Hubbard and Rudyard Kipling. A few tidy cottages were built and artists moved in with their musical instruments, pens and watercolors.

A bakery was opened and many began to view the community of Montara as economically self-sustaining.


(Photo: Montara artist & his dog outside their Montara cottage.)

….To be continued…

Montara: Artist’s Colony Home To The Little Goat Farm (Part I)

While many Coastsiders were involved in the business of illicit alcohol during prohibition, Miss Morris Wagner pursued a more temperate activity.She raised milk goats at “Las Cabritasâ€?, (little goats), her ranch in Montara.

goats.jpg (Photo: Morris Wagner & Irmagarde Richards with their goats at Montara).

Cases of childhood tuberculosis were on the rise—and goat’s milk was prescribed as a safe alternative to cow’s milk, which purportedly carried the germs of the contagious respiratory disease.

Combining the promise of monetary reward with a noble mission, Morris Wagner set out to provide the nourishing goat’s milk needed by the sick kids in San Mateo County where herds of grazing cows were still a common sight on the rolling green hillsides.

To outsiders unfamiliar with Morris Wagner’s background, raising goats might have seemed an unusual career choice for the athletic young woman.

Her father, Harr Wagner, a prominent educator and literary publisher, had risked his savings in real estate misadventures in California and rubber tree plantations in Mexico that failed miserably. Only the literary magazines he published paid the bills.

Morris’s mother, Madge, was a frustrated poet who fervently supported women’s suffrage and did not take her husband’s name upon their marriage in the 1880s.

Friends might have predicted a safe teaching career for Morris Wagner but she exhibited the rare qualities of both parents. While her milk goat business was not too secure financially, there were intangible rewards, the good feelings one gets from doing humanitarian work.

If Morris was puzzled by something about farm animals, she could draw on her father’s deep well of knowledge. He had grown up around barns and stables in Pennsylvania.

Whatever deficiencies Morris had in the field of animal husbandry, she solved by pooling talents with Irmagarde Richards, a close friend who also happened to be a goat expert.

Surely Irmagarde Richards was the inspiration if not the guiding spirit at “Las Cabritasâ€?. In the 1920s, Irmagarde became the president of the California Goat Breeders Association—and she had authored a well-received book about modern milk goats. She was a Stanford grad who had taught Greek and archaeology at the prestigious Mills College in Oakland, the first women’s college established west of the Rockies.

It was in the classrooms and on the grounds of historic Mills College that the student Morris Wagner struck up a lifetime friendship with teacher Irmagarde Richards.

At the time the two women met, Morris had lived in different parts of California but her most recent address was a post office box in Montara.


photo San Mateo County History Museum. Visit the museum located in the historic courthouse, Redwood City.

…To be continued…

Thank You Local Radio

Thank you local San Francisco-Bay Area radio–especially the “traffic & weather” together station…for reporting on accidents and other Half Moon Bay-Coastside road problems.

You seem to be more aware of our daily agony with Devil’s Slide closed.

Yesterday I was traveling home from Marin County when I learned that the traffic light was out on Highway 1 near where I live. Sure enough, there was a Caltrans repair crew on site fixing the problem.

Today during the evening commute, I was advised of an accident ahead of me on Highway 92.

Keeping us posted makes it a bit more bearable.

Devil’s Slide “Mad As Hell, Not Gonna Take It Anymore” Email- From Far Away


Dear HMBM:

Now that I am away, I miss the wonderful Coastside, but not the politicians’ disaster called Devil’s Slide. What this traffic stoppage has done to the people and small businesses of Coastside communities is outrageous.

Are the pols being paid to make trouble, or is it just their typical incompetence? And who believes their promises to have the Slide open in September? Make that September 2007 or later. There are even rumors that nothing will be done until the tunnel is allegedly open in 2011 (which probably means 2016).

Maybe the pols should just ethnically cleanse the Coastside? That seems to be their intention–to wreck the lives and hopes of tens of thousands of people.

Tell us the truth, and get on the stick.Who are the pols and bureaucrats responsible? We need to picket their homes and offices, and demand redress of our grievances.

Lew From Far Away

Hey Bechtel! Come On & Fix Devil’s Slide

From Montara Bob:

June, I finally have the solution for the Devil’s Slide fiasco.

We’re lucky to have Bechtel, the world’s mega-engineering firm based in San Francisco.

Bechtel has built total cities from scratch, railroads in Trinidad, power plants all over the world…..

Hey, Bechtel! How about giving us about a week-and-a-half, pro bono?

And clean up that little mess on Highway 1.