From Body to B Street
the making of the Boyd fortune
By Marilyn Wick

Gold was the cornerstone of the fortune Louise Boyd used to finance her seven scientific
expeditions to the Arctic and her elegant style of living in San Rafael. This fortune comprised
gold mined from the Sierra Nevada, gold from Idaho and Nevada and, for the bulk of the
fortune, gold from the Bodie Bonanza of California. One fortune she inherited from her father,
who had mined for gold throughout the West, and the other from her mother, Louise Arner
Boyd, whose inheritance from her great-uncles, Seth and Daniel Cook, came from the same
source, gold. The story of the Cook brothers and John Boyd involves the history of the
California Gold Rush and the exciting years of early California statehood.

The lure of gold brought three very young men to the Mother Lode of the Sierras in the
1850s. Seth Cook, 20, and his brother, Dan, 14, left their father's farm in Byron, Genessee
County, New York, in 1850 at the beginning of the Gold Rush. They journeyed from New
York to San Francisco via the Isthmus of Panama and went to the gold fields of the Yuba.
John Franklin Boyd left his farm home near Chester, Pennyslvania, in 1856 at the age of 14
and traveled the same route. They were young, inexperienced and at first very unsuccessful.
The Cooks were so unlucky they gave up and returned home at the end of the year not to
return until 1857. The fortunes of all three waxed and waned for nearly twenty years.

During those years they worked their way through the various stages of gold mining; first in
the placer mines of the Sierra, then to claims in Idaho, Montana and Nevada; and on to quartz
mining throughout the West. At times the difficulties must have seemed insurmountable. At
one point the Cooks were so broke they lived in an abandoned mine tunnel behind what later
became the famous Ophir mine of the Comstock Lode. Years after these experiences in an
interview John Boyd told of the fear of hostile Indians in Idaho and the discomfort of living
and of traveling in the West in the 50s and 60s.

In the beginning placer and quartz mining could be operated by an individual working his own
claim, but soon the discoveries of ore were well below the surface and required more than
one man's labor. Machinery and hired labor was needed which meant capital was necessary.
Mining at this stage required partnerships, companies and corporations. Another requisite for
success was experience, and during the years the three young men were unsuccessful
working their own claims, they did acquire experience. The Cooks made some money on an
investment in the Comstock and at this time in the 1860s Seth Cook's worth was estimated at
$200,000. He made a bad investment and lost it. Eventually he, his brother and John Boyd
became managers of someone else's mine. Seth superintended the Sierra Nevada in Nevada;
Dan was cashier and secretary of the Chollar Potosi Mining Company in Virginia City; and by
1870 John Boyd was the first manager of the Eureka Mine. At the Eureka his associates were
William Lent (their partner later at Bodie), General Dodge and George Hearst, all three mining
giants of the time. Under his management the Eureka became a bonanza and while there he
developed and supervised the building of the largest ore smelter in the United States where
smelting of ore was in its infancy. By 1876 with his investment in Bodie, John Boyd was a
respected and experienced mining engineer whose knowledge was completely empirical. An
estimate of his standing in the mining world is expressed in an undated and unidentified
newspaper article found in the clipping file of the California Historical Society - to quote:
"Among the galaxy of splendid names crowned by the halo of fortune taken from the mineral
deposits of the Great West and so added to the intrinsic wealth of the Nation and the
beneficient resources of mankind, John F. Boyd, by his individual attainments, has won and
maintained a lustrous, safe and sure position. Though as yet the magnitude of his fortune may
not equal the princes of the past and present, yet it is sufficiently large and the method of its
fair acquirement so eminently practical and worthy of careful imitation, that he is entitled to a
clear rank among the most celebrated creators of wealth from the mines of the world during
this or any other age."

In other words, at a time of charlatans and crooked quick money schemes John Boyd could
be trusted. The article continues to laud his accomplishments and further describes him as
knowledgeable and trustworthy in the rough and tumble world of gold and silver mining.


According to historians of Bodie, it was his trustworthiness and experience that influenced
John Boyd's partners to send him to inspect the claim of a potentially great strike at Bodie, a
small village in the desolate hills of eastern California near the Nevada border. The year was
1876 and the Cooks and Boyd had been searching for their bonanza for twenty years. When
they actually met we do not know, but the partnership of 1876 included the three together
with William Lent and Charles Tozer. George Storey was the agent who brought them the
glowing report of the potential of the underdeveloped mines at Bodie. As some of the partners
(especially Boyd and Lent) had suffered losses four years before in the "Great Diamond Hoax"
they were skeptical and required another opinion. John Boyd went to Bodie and made a
thorough and painstaking examination and confirmed Storey's report. Back in San Francisco
the partners immediately formed The Standard Mining Company and changed the name of the
newly purchased Bunker Hill mine to The Standard. They had found their bonanza!

An 1877 headline in the Bodie Standard said: "OUR STANDARD, MONO COUNTY, HAS
THE RICHEST GOLD MINE IN THE WORLD". Perhaps a little exaggerated but "them hills"
were full of gold. The partners paid $67,500 cash for the mine and they took out $6,396,270.
Stock in The Standard went from $.50 per share to $54.00 in a few months. In the same
paper quoted above was a letter dated in November 1877, from a San Francisco stockbroker
who reported on his visit to Bodie thus:

"I felt no hesitation in saying, I'm glad I went. For sometime I've been hearing people talk
about it. I noticed that William M. Lent's countenance was illuminated by a genial glow
whenever the name of Bodie was mentioned in his hearing; and that Johnny Boyd's cheery
voice had a happy ring, whenever he answered your inquiries about The Standard Mine; and
that the Bodie and Bechtel stockbrokers stand on the steps of the Nevada Block and chewed
their toothpicks with the air of men who had $200,000 in the bank and no Chinese
laundryman or Montgomery Street tailor to molest and make them afraid "  

(Note: The Cook brothers and John Boyd had their offices in the Nevada Block at Pine and
Montgomery Streets in San Francisco.)

The Bodie Bonanza became famous throughout the nation, and as the word spread miners,
prospectors, businessmen, saloon-keepers, madams and gamblers poured into Bodie. Within a
few months the small village miles from the nearest railroad grew into a town of more than
5000 residents. Main Street grew to a mile in length. The Standard Mining Company built a
twenty-stamp mill to process the ore from the Standard and other mines they acquired in the
area. Two brick yards opened to supply building materials for the growing town, but lumber
had to be brought by mule teams over the hills from the forests south of Mono Lake seeing
that no forests grew around Bodie. Eventually, the Cook brothers and others invested in a
narrow-gauge railroad to replace the mule teams, but the nearest passenger train remained at
Hawthorne, Nevada.

Bodie grew so fast lawlessness was prevalent and the phrase "bad man from Bodie" became
famous throughout the West and spread to the rest of the country. Anywhere in the country,
if someone said he was from Bodie, California he would immediately be asked if he was the
bad man. A favored fable in the histories of Bodie is about a little girl in Truckee who upon  
being told her family was moving to Bodie began her prayers: "Goodbye God, I'm going to
Bodie!" (Today Bodie is a ghost town and a state park and well worth a visit.)

Although they must have made inspection trips to Bodie, San Francisco was the center of the
business operations of Boyd and the Cook brothers. By 1882, they had sold the mines in
Bodie to an eastern syndicate and invested their profits from the bonanza elsewhere. None of
the three was ever actively in the mining business again. They had found their bonanza, at
last, and were now wealthy gentlemen.


At the time of the Bodie Bonanza neither of the Cook brothers nor John Boyd was married.
The brothers were in their forties and Boyd was thirty-five. Within those few years of the
bonanza Dan Cook married Caroline (Carrie) Colton, the younger daughter of the famous, or
infamous, David Colton of the Central Pacific Railroad and one of the wealthiest men in San
Francisco. David Colton died as the result of a fall from his horse the year before the
marriage, but his widow and daughter remained in the family mansion on Nob Hill. All three
of the partners now entered into that very social world of San Francisco in the 1880s with the
nabobs of Nob Hill, but they made their homes elsewhere.

In 1874, before the bonanza, Ira Cook, father of Seth and Dan, left his home in Rochester,
New York, and came west with his daughter, Theodocia Cook Arner, and her daughter,
thirteen-year old Louise Arner. Mr. Cook was seventy-five and Mrs. Arner, whose husband,
Doctor Thomas Arner, had died after service in the Civil War, was ill with tuberculosis.
Obviously mother and grandfather worried about leaving young Louise an orphan in New
York with her only relatives, her uncles, across the nation in the wild West. Perhaps her
uncles also entreated the father and sister to join them to build a home for them after the years
spent in hotels and boarding houses. Mr. Cook, Mrs. Arner and Louise made the journey
across the country in the five-year-old transcontinental railroad. What an adventure for young

They arrived in San Rafael that summer, bypassed San Francisco and came directly to Marin;
perhaps for the same reason so many have before and after, the climate. Surely, Mrs. Arner's
illness required the warmer weather of San Rafael. The town had been incorporated that year,
the court house was two years old and two systems of rail and ferry connected San Rafael to
San Francisco.

At first Mrs. Arner rented the Sidney V. Smith house at Fifth and F Streets near the
Tamalpais Hotel, but within a few months, in January, 1875, she purchased five and one-half
acres on the side of San Rafael Hill from Richard Hellman. A house about twenty-five years
old was already on the property and this house still exists somewhere in Maple Lawn. It is
likely that original house was in the bracketed Italianate style of the later house on Maple
Lawn but no record of it has been found. According to contemporary newspaper reports it
was the first purchase of improved property on San Rafael Hill for sometime and the plans of
the new owners were very welcome to the other citizens of San Rafael. Seth joined his father
and sister in improving the property; enlarging the house, adding stables with very advanced
facilities for the horses and attractive quarters for the coachman. Three years later Seth Cook
added a large portion to the estate--six acres purchased from Joseph Angelotti that are now
Boyd Park. He and his father made other small additions of land in subsequent years. In 1879,
the lodge or gate-house was built by San Rafael builder Adam Murray, in the then very
popular style of Victorian Gothic.

Ira Cook hired John Frederick Jordan from Boston to design and plant the formal gardens that
became the show place of San Rafael for many years. Mr. Jordan was responsible for the
exotic plants and for the profusion of Japanese maples originally on the grounds that gave the
estate its name Maple Lawn. The newspapers stated that Mr. Cook in the few years he had
resided in San Rafael had reduced unemployment considerably with the building of his
gardens and the water system to sustain them. It described the hill covered with Chinese
workmen laying the pipes for the intricate system Mr. Cook and Mr. Jordan designed to bring
water from the springs near the top to the gardens below. Some of this system is still in use.
(Note: Mr. and Mrs. Jordan remained in San Rafael where he continued to care for the
gardens at Maple Lawn. They later became the grandparents of another well-known citizen of
San Rafael, Judge Jordan Martinelli.)

Unfortunately, Mrs. Arner did not live to see all these improvements to her home. She died in
June of 1876 leaving the property and the care of her fifteen-year-old daughter to her father
and brothers. Within the flowery Victorian language of her obituary is the description of a
well-educated and cultured lady. She attended and later taught at the Rochester Female
Academy. Before her illness became acute, she was active in church and social affairs and
edited a small magazine in Rochester. The obituary ends with a touching poem she wrote
describing her sadness at not seeing her daughter grow to womanhood.

Her grandfather and uncles cared for Louise very well. A few months after her mother's
death they took her to New York and on a grand tour of Europe. She later went to finishing
school in New York. Mr. Cook died in 1880 after he was injured in a fall at one of the
reservoirs he built on San Rafael Hill. As Dan was married, Louise, now an orphan was left
with her loving Uncle Seth.


When Dan Cook married Carrie Colton in 1879 she and her mother had just inherited from her
father, David Colton, the ranch in Contra Costa County. Situated on the south side of Mount
Diablo in the San Ramon Valley it originally was called the Railroad Ranch, as it was owned
by the Big Four of the Central Pacific Railroad; Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, Charles
Crocker and Collis Huntington. After difficulties with the resident manager, the four asked
Colton to take over management. To make it more enticing they gave him a portion of the
property. David Colton loved the ranch so much he bought out the others and began
improving  and adding to the property. He had just begun when that fall from one of his
thoroughbreds ended his life.

With his death, Dan Cook bought out the share owned by Colton's widow, Ellen, and he and
Carrie moved in and began their improvements. Dan had tuberculosis and believed the climate
away from the Bay and the work on the ranch would slow his disease. Three years later in
1882 he died leaving the ranch to Carrie and their infant daughter, Theodocia. Soon after his
brother's tragic early death, Seth bought the ranch from Carrie and set about improving it as
he and his father had done to Maple Lawn. He divided his time until his death in 1889 between
the ranch and sailing his yacht, Tidal Wave, at the New York Yacht Club. He had become the
country gentleman and the wealthy New York yachtsman.


Dan's death in the fall of 1882 not only saddened his family, it canceled the elaborate plans for
the large society wedding of his niece, Louise Cook Arner, to his partner, John Franklin Boyd.
He was forty and she twenty-one. The wedding was postponed until April 25, 1883, and with
the family still in mourning was very small. Thirty guests attended the ceremony in the Colton
mansion on Nob Hill. Seth brought the Reverend William H. Platt, rector of St. Paul's Church,
Rochester, to San Francisco to perform the marriage, as Mr. Platt had married, baptized and
buried members of the family. Newspaper accounts told of the magnificent floral
arrangements, the bride's ivory gown and even described the gowns of all the ladies present.
Ellen Colton and Carrie Cook gave her a lovely wedding, her husband gave her diamonds and
her Uncle Seth and Aunt Carrie gave her Maple Lawn. The deed was transferred two days
before the wedding. Louise Arner was a wealthy young woman marrying a respected
millionaire financier in the center of San Francisco and San Rafael society.

John Boyd no longer took an active part in mining; he, like the Cooks, retired from mining
after Bodie. At the time of his marriage he was listed as a San Francisco capitalist--an
admirable term at the time. He formed The Boyd Investment Company to handle his various
holdings including real estate. Among his various real estate holdings were stock ranges in
Montana and Idaho. The farm boy came out in all three men; once they made their fortunes
they returned to the farm--a very elaborate and expensive farm. They also shared an interest
in prize animals, and John must have enjoyed with Seth the improvements Seth now made at
what was known as the Cook Ranch. Then Seth died.

Seth had a heart attack on the ranch in January 1889 and moved to the Palace Hotel in San
Francisco where he was treated by some of the City's best physicians. He died in February at
the age of fifty-nine and still a bachelor. His will was signed the day of his brother's death
seven years before, and although he mentioned his niece, Theodocia Cook, and his cousin,
Emeline (Mrs. Monroe) Thomson, he left his entire estate to his beloved niece, Louise Arner
Boyd of San Rafael. His entire estate included forty-seven hundred acres in Diablo, real estate
in San Francisco on Dupont Street (now Grant Avenue) and Polk Street plus mining interests
in Mariposa and other property throughout the West. It also included an extremely long list of
blue-blooded cattle and thoroughbred trotting horses, all very valuable.

When Louise Boyd became the heiress of all the Cook property she was twenty-eight years
old, a wife and mother of three; Seth Cook Boyd born in 1884, John Franklin, Jr. in 1886 and
Louise Arner in 1887. For the next eleven or twelve years she and her family lived an idyllic
life in both their beautiful homes, Maple Lawn in the winter months and Oakwood Park Stock
Farm (as they renamed the Diablo property) for seven months of the year. Her daughter,
Louise, in an interview many years later told of the happy childhood she and her brothers had
in both homes. She told of riding with the boys through the hills of Marin or of the San
Ramon Valley for the whole day and of musicals in the evenings with her mother and the
children playing piano and guitar. She said their staff of servants included a Scottish
governess, an Irish cook, a Chinese laundryman as well as maids, gardeners and stable boys.

In addition to his investment business, Mr. Boyd managed the stock farm in Diablo. He added
to the property until it totaled six thousand acres partly in the valley and partly up the south
side of Mount Diablo. In an article in Sunset Magazine of May, 1902, Joseph Cairn Simpson,
an authority on trotting horses and stock farms, described Oakwood as an ideal location for
raising prize colts and lauded the management ability of Mr. Boyd. He inferred that the Cooks
just threw money into the venture, but that John Boyd had the expertise to manage well. He
also rated Oakwood Park as the best stock farm in California and possibly in the country:
"From 1879-1902 the intention of the founder to make Oakwood an ideal country residence
for a gentleman of ample means and with a fondness for horses has been the governing

The Boyds built a new home on the farm, a large Italianate house. It is still standing at 1925
Alameda Diablo in an expensive development around the Diablo Country Club. Up the hill
from the house he added a separate gaming house to entertain his friends with billiards and
pool on the main floor and a two-lane bowling alley in the basement. The nearest railroad was
fifteen miles away in Pleasanton, so friends came to stay for some time to enjoy the country
life. The game house included many spare bedrooms for the overflow. That game house,
much altered, is now the Diablo Country Club. Besides excellent stables and barns, Mr. Boyd
built a mile-long race track to show the trotters, they totaled four hundred.

In San Rafael in the winters the Boyds entered into community and church life. Ira Cook and
Mrs. Arner had been members of the First Presbyterian Church, and the Boyds donated a
stained-glass window to that church in memory of Mrs. Boyd's grandfather. Mr. Boyd was a
Town Trustee (Councilman) for four terms. At one time in the 1890s he was considered a
likely candidate for governor. Mrs. Boyd spearheaded the first chapter in Marin of the
American Red Cross. She was one of the charter members of the San Rafael Improvement
Club. The family was active at St. Paul's Episcopal Church. They seemed to have everything
for a Victorian storybook existence, a lovely family, more than enough financial security and
an excellent standing in the community. And then tragedy struck. In less than a year the two
Boyd sons died.

On a summer morning in August of 1901 seventeen-year-old Seth did not come to breakfast.
He had died in the night and a gas jet kept in his room to heat milk for him in the night was
leaking. An autopsy proved he had not died from inhaling the gas but from advanced heart
disease. His family had not recovered from the shock of his death when eight months later
they received a telegram from Thacher  School in Ventura County informing them Jack
(John, Jr.) had died. He would have been sixteen the next month. Doctors Howitt and
Wickham of San Rafael reported that both boys had rheumatic fever and incurable heart
disease was the result. Their parents and Louise were devastated. Once again a very young
Louise was an only child in the large mansion on the side of San Rafael Hill.

Elsie Mazzini in her story of the park and Gate House described the grief stricken family: "The
Boyd family, John and Louise, mother and daughter, emerged from grief resolved to find a
memorial for Seth and John. They wanted something that would perpetuate their memory in a
way that for all time there would remain something of their love of life and joyousness. . ."

They decided on a living memorial - a park. They donated the eastern portion of their estate -
the gardens and gate house where the children had played on rainy days, to the city of San
Rafael for a park in memory of their sons. To enlarge the park grounds John Boyd purchased
additional property and removed homes and other structures to clear an area that stretches
from the gates at the top of B Street to the summit of San Rafael Hill. A gently graded path led
to the summit with concrete benches placed at resting places along the way with names of
Overlook, Oakwood, Bide-a-Wee, Sunshine, Shady Nook, Bonnie Brae, Happy Hills,
Brightspur, Far Away, Sunset and Hillcrest. From Hillcrest was and is a marvelous view over
San Rafael and the San Francisco Bay. Soon all was ready for the grand opening on April 29,

The whole town spontaneously shut down for the grand parade and the dedication ceremony.
Major Newell Vanderbilt was the Grand Marshall and State Senator Ennio B. Martinelli
represented the Boyd family and welcomed all who came. Led by school bands the children
from all the schools in San Rafael, public and private, elementary and high school, marched
from Fourth and E along Fourth Street and up B Street. The main speaker of the day was
Luther Burbank introduced by ex-Mayor S.P. Moorehead. Following the ceremony
refreshments of sandwiches and lemonade were served to the four thousand citizens
attending. Mrs. Jordan, who made thousands of sandwiches, received a lovely sunburst
broach from Mrs. Boyd in appreciation. It was a generous gift to the city and remains a fitting
memorial to the two young men.

In 1906 the Boyd's sold Oakwood Park perhaps because the boys were gone and Mr. Boyd
was past middle age and the fun was gone. They donated one more   memorial to the boys, a
beautiful Tiffany-like stained-glass window in St. Paul's Church; a window scene with Mount
Tamalpais in the background and the San Rafael rose in the foreground. Early the same year
they took Louise on what was to be a grand tour of Europe. They had just arrived in France
when word of the San Francisco quake and fire reached them forcing them to return

In the following years they, parents and daughter, led quiet lives. The parents were ill much
of the time and made their home in San Francisco as well as Maple Lawn. They traveled
abroad and in this country. Among the family souvenirs in the files of the California Historical
Society in San Francisco is an invitation to the White House from President and Mrs.
Theodore Roosevelt sent to the Boyd's at the Willard Hotel in Washington.

Louise Boyd died in a private nursing home in San Francisco in 1919 with her daughter,
Louise, in constant attendance. John Boyd lived only a few months more and died in the same

Ten years before his death her father turned over the presidency and  management of the
Boyd Investment Company to Louise.

Now in 1920 at the age of thirty-two Louise Arner Boyd, like her mother many years before,
inherited all the fortunes of the Cooks plus that  of her father but was completely alone. She
had no near  relatives. She was an heiress of considerable wealth with a beautiful home and
ready to make a life for herself.

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Daniel Cook
Seth Cook
Ira Cook
John Boyd
Louise Arner Boyd, Louise Cook
Arner Boyd, Seth Cook Boyd,
and John Franklin Boyd, Jr.
Contra Costa County Ranch
(near Mount Diablo)
Maple Lawn
San Rafael, California
Boyd Gate House
San Rafael, California
Louise Arner Boyd
Lousie Arner Boyd

Call of the Arctic

Boyd Park History
Text and images are the property of the
Marin History Museum
(formerly Marin County Historical Society)