Thursday, May. 23, 2019

A Successful Dairy Partnership

By Richard Nielsen · August 04, 2016

 <span>&copy; Richard Nielsen </span>

At the close of the nineteenth century, John Foster entered into a partnership with his brother-in-law, Manuel de Borba.  Both were Portuguese immigrants from the Azores.  To avoid being slapped by the hand of prejudice, John had Anglicized his name from João Faustino to the name he was known by in Bolinas - John Foster.

 John and Manuel met while working on the Lucas Ranch near Terra Linda. Together, they moved to Bolinas, where they would later build up a successful dairy. They leased the land and dairies formerly known as the Mary Ann Strain and Samuel Ingermann Ranches.  Their dairy yielded cheese, butter, and cream and was sold mostly to clients in San Francisco.  Initially, they leased their dairy cows from Ingermann, but soon realized that owning their own herd would improve their financial status.

 A bonus for John arrived in the person of Manuel’s sister, Ernestina, who had come to visit her brother.  Marriage soon followed that 1889 visit. The dairy ranch partnership expanded to include John and Ernestina and Manuel and his wife Maria.

The picture reproduced here was taken from the milking yard of the Ingermann Ranch, John is front-center and Manuel is to his left, holding the hand of his young child, also called Manuel.  Unfortunately, young Manuel died at age 3. His death followed that of a baby brother, also named Manuel. Both are buried at the Bolinas cemetery. The man to John's right was close friend, Colfax Clark, a member of a pioneer family in Bolinas.  The man to John's far right is the cheesemaker.  The men are getting ready to milk in the milking yard.  Electricity to light barn interiors had to await the advent of the Marconi radio station.  Hence, the photographer shot this 1903 milking scene outside the barn.

 In 1912, Marconi purchased the Ingermann Ranch from absentee landlord Samuel Ingermann for the purpose of building a powerful Trans-Pacific radio station. The ranch land occupied by the 300-foot radio towers and concrete tower anchors still allowed for nearly unrestricted cattle grazing below.

 Sadly, John Foster’s partner Manuel de Borba died in 1913 shortly after they had secured a continuing lease with Marconi. Just five years later, in 1919, John was gored by a bull.  A compromised lung meant he was less able to resist the onslaught of the world-wide flu.  He and several other Bolinas citizens sadly succumbed to that flu pandemic.

 Subsequently, John's widow, Ernestina, moved to a ranch in Gustine in the San Joaquin Valley. She stayed for a year working the ranch with her sons, but after just a year, returned to Bolinas where she lived in Paradise Valley until 1924, when she remarried. Unfortunately, that marriage did not work out due to a failed blending of two families. 

 Ernestina eventually built a house and settled in San Rafael. Her youngest son, Manuel George, graduated from San Rafael High School.  Two daughters found romance in Bolinas.  Rose Foster met Norvell Canfield, a technician at the RCA transmitting station (which had been purchased in 1920 from Marconi), and the two eloped to Carson City, Nevada in 1926.  The couple lived long lives and are buried side-by-side in the Bolinas cemetery.  Mary met John McCormick, who delivered gasoline and heating oil for Standard Oil to the ranches of West Marin as well as the Marconi stations. They, too, are buried side-by-side in the Bolinas cemetery behind St. Mary Magdalene Church. Foster descendants continue to live in Bolinas to this day in a home at Big Mesa, the site of annual Foster family reunions.

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