“Coastland” by Galen Wolf (Part II) 1885


“The horses strike up a trot. You feel the ride will be too soon over, a delusion that will fade as the mountains slow the journey to two hours, or three if the road is badly out. Then the passengers must perforce dismount. And walk. Or push. Or pluck pickets from a nearby fence and pry the suddenly stubborn wheels from one deep hole into another.

“The hills part. A gate in the canyon rises on either side. Men are working, clambering, sometimes rope-supported from above. ‘That’s Herman Schussler’s gang preparing for the new concrete dam. It will make a lake of the whole Spring Valley’.

“There is a short stop at Crystal Springs House. Ax men are setting up camps to clear the trees from the lake bed to be. The road soon mounts. The horses walk.

“The hills are green-grey with varied brush. The yellow flowers, the lupines, the primrose, wormwood and mimulus dust the slopes with gold. The sun draws rich odor from aromatic plants and from the yerba buena.

“Suddenly a breath of air comes cool to your face. The scent of the sea is on it. Refreshing and exciting,. You are nearing the top of the grade.

“Now the whole world slopes westward to the sea. Far down a canyon checkered with cultivation the sun picks up the white of houses and of a tall church.

“Bob Rawles has his foot on the brake, the leather hub shuches and squeaks. The horses break into a trot. The coach rocks and rolls.

“Nearly straight below you see the roofs and the golden pumpkin patches of Albrecht.

“Beyond this the canyon opens. ‘That’s where a bear treed old man Digges. He came ahead of the wagons. They had to ground brake them down the hill. No road then. Digges sat in an alder. The bear sat on the bank. Real patient. Till the wagons come. And someone shot him.’

“The road is proving good. It is summer, the stage rolls past the adobe of the Campbells. There the boy Eddie waves, and waits for his day on the driver’s seat to come.

“The next adobe is Fred Fillmore’s. You are nearing town. Here is the Catholic cemetery. Here is Gilchrist’s creamery. Ahead is the piled bridge that spans the Pilarcitos.

“On the right, the long, low adobe of the Vasquez family. Daturas bloom against its walls, and marguerites, yellow and white, crowd the yard.

“a horseman is quietly riding out on a golden pony. Only his white beard tells you he is not a youth. He is instead a centaur. He is Pablo Vaquez. Legend had many tales of him. Did he ride with Murieta? Who knows….

….To be continued…

Photo-courtesy San Mateo County History Museum. Visit the museum at the historic Redwood City Courthouse–or better, yet, become a member!

“Coastland” by Galen Wolf (Part I)


“It is June and the year is 1885.

“The train you boarded at Third and Townsend Streets, San Francisco, has been running southerly, through meadows and marshes for nearly an hour. Now it is slowing. A few houses pass the window. The brakes grind.

“The conductor flings open the door and his shout runs the length of the car: ‘San Mateo!’ You are on your way to the coastland.

“As you step down, a few surprising vehicles meet the eye. Hitched to a well-chewed pole are dog-carts, jaunting carts, tallyho and tandem. The horses are bobbed roached and the harness silver trimmed. They tell of the playland of the millionaires, D.O. Mills, Flood, Crocker, Parrot and Wm. Ralston.

“Beyond these polished but effete conveyances looms a great Concord coach, utilitarian as a merchantman in a harbor of yachts. It is the ship of the West, tremendously traditional, almost mystic. And it will carry you to the land behind the mountains.

“Its bulging body is Indian red and striped with gold. A landscape is painted on scrolled panels on either door. Leather straps support it in place of springs, and it will rock and roll like a true ship in a sea.

“Today four horses draw it. Often there are six, and it has carried the unbelievable number of twenty eight passengers. They ride in three layers, a top-heavy shortcake of seating. In the coach itself, on the roof with legs dangling, and on a seat like a hatch on top.

“Bob Rawles sits on the high perch of the driver. The passengers gather about.

“Here is Loren Coburn of the Pescadero lands, crackers and cheese in his pockets. R.I. Knapp, short and bearded, back from his plow works in San Jose. A tall man, bearded like a patriarch, swings up. You recognize James Hatch.

“The vigorous form of Chas. Borden, pipe smoking , piles in. You ask about the redwood canyon he has acquired form the Lanes and about the progress of the mill.

“A bareheaded man with pale face and ample moustache collects the fare; Ferdinand Levy. It is one dollar to Half Moon, two dollars and a half to Pescadero.

“Rawles gathers the lines, cracks his whip. The coach rolls out of town, along a single street bordering the railroad tracks. It crosses the meandering red-rock roadway of Camino Real.

“Here stands a sign post. Some joker has shot a piece from it. Truncated, it read, “Moonbay and scadero”. Beyond, the green-grey hills rise.

…to be continued…

Photo: courtesy San Mateo County History Museum. Visit the museum at the historic Redwood City Courthouse in Redwood City.

Galen Wolf & Family

Young Coastside artist Galen Wolf (at far left, cranking up the machine) with his family in front of their home in downtown Half Moon Bay, circa 1912.

Trudi remembers: “Linked onto your site while searching for info on Galen Wolf. He was a dear family
friend. As a child I remember driving over on 92 to visit this kind man. We would
bring him Neopolitan icecream and I loved how his studio smelled of paint and
canvas. We’d play in the creek behind his house while the adults visited. It was

This unsigned watercolor of Devil’s Slide was painted by Galen Wolf or one of his students.

Once Upon A Time

Looking out on El Granada beach, circa 1930s, as painted by the locally famous artist Galen Wolf

The two-story building was an Ocean Shore-era “bathhouse” and, to the south, there’s what looks like a farmer’s barn. For years Galen lived at Frenchman’s Creek and every corner of the beautiful Coastside was his canvas.

Galen Wolf, Coastside artist.