Barn Carvings Near Sunol

 On a turkey hunt last year, I decided to bed down for the night next to an old barn on the half section of ground that has the most turkeys. (A good idea when turkey hunting.)  After hunting the next morning, I returned to my truck to have lunch and rest. While sitting next to the barn, I noticed that the east- facing wall of the barn had many initials and dates carved into it, and I couldn’t help but wonder who had made the initails. Most of the dates were in the 1910 to 1930 range. I was surprised that the barn had been around that long.

I’ve been told by Lucky Gravette, who once lived in the cabin on this 320 acre parcel, (W1/2 Sec 34 R2E, T4S MDB&M) that it was owned by Dick Marciel  until about 1953. The small house on the property was first entered into the tax roles in 1908. I don’t know if Marciel built the cabin (unlikely), but he owned it until he died. One bit of folk lore is that Marciel would ride his horse to Livermore on Fridays and spend a day or two in town. His routine was to stop at Camp Comfort (the local brothel) on Friday nights. It was located where Valicitos Road  crosses Arroyo Del Valle.

According Gravatt, Myron Harris purchased the property – at the site  – in a probate sale in about 1953 or 1954. Harris was an Oakland attorney who spent his weekends on the ranch and loved to hunt. He had many friends who joined him in his pursuits. After purchasing the parcel, Harris allowed a Rowell Ranch cook named Fritz Shield to use the cabin and when Myron Harris died, in about 1976, his will gave Fritz the right to continue to use the cabin and the surrounding one acre parcel until his death, which occured in about 1992.  Fritz was in his 90’s and nearly deaf and blind when he passed. He was famous for keeping pet rattlesnakes in the barn near the house (a different barn) and he had names for them.

None of this information is exact, but it is most likely generally correct and I have no way of validating any of it, nor do I intend to. However, I’m interested in and open to more info regarding the history of the ranch.

Here are photos of some of the barn planks with intitials and dates. barn JS Niles 1921 cropped and resized

Looks like J. S. – Niles 1921

barn Mogee Sunol cropped and resized

Looks like Lil Pete Mogee Sunol

barn 9-24-29 Livermore cropped resized

Maybe D-F 9/24/29 Livermore

barn Jamestown Cal cropped and resized

Looks like  U.P. Jamestown  CAL

The inititals in the barn create message from the past that sparks my curiousity. It  would be interesting to know what was going on up there in those days – just for the heck of it . Most likely they were probably just gathering cows or hunting deer. They weren’t hunting turkeys, because there were none in the area at that time.

6 thoughts on “Barn Carvings Near Sunol

  1. Rich, Myron Harris died in 1972. His ashes were spread at the ranch on section 29 near the 2nd pond (horse pond).

  2. An old (40 years ago) friend of mine sent me a copy of your blog on “Barn Carvings Near Sunol”. He did so because of the time I took him up to see my old friend “Fritz” Schield. My family was related to Manuel Silva, who owned and lived at/on the next ranch up the road. I spent a lot of time there as a young boy/man growing up in the 1950’s.
    As my Uncle Manuel reached into his 90s I was sent up there to live with him for a year or so – I believe the years were 1972-’73. Manuel was born on the ranch in (I think) 1888, and it was there that he wanted to die. The only other permenant resident back in those remote hills, was our neighbor “Fritz” Shield, about 5 miles down the road from us, whom I visited often.
    After Manuel Silva died (at 96 or 97) I continued to visit with Fritz and later lived with him for awhile while he was going through eye surgery. So between the two of them (Fritz Shield & Manuel Silva) I learned quite a bit about the early history of the region – too much to go into here. But if anyone is interested, drop me a line.
    Quick note: Fritz was a native of Switzerland, who immigrated here in 1922. And Fritz’s (Dick Marciel) cabin was originally built across the valley by an early homesteader. When the homesteader was bought out, the cabin was hauled (skids and horses) down the valley to the creek crossing, and then up to the present site.
    Douglas Lloyd Vieira, email:

  3. Along with my grandfather, George Enos, I was one of the regular hunters invited by Myron Harris to visit his ranch during the coastal dear season months of August and September each year. I was in my teens during the 1960s, and I learned the art of hunting from my grandfather and all of the other friends of Mr. Harris during that time–I should add, it was probably one of the most important, exciting, “maturing” periods of my life. The ranch was situated along La Costa Creek, Section 29, Book 99, Alameda County Assessor’s Map 96. I even have a US Geological Survey map of the La Costa Valley Quadrangle framed and hanging in my home! I can remember from time to time the name “Fritz” being used in conversation, and I believe the cabin that was willed to him by Myron Harris was located somewhere along the adjacent San Antonio Creek, although exactly where I couldn’t say. After the Hetch Hetchy Water Company built the dam creating the San Antonio Reservoir, and after Mr. Harris died in August of 1973, the hunting activities by the group ceased. I don’t think I returned to the ranch after 1974.

    I have often thought of trying to write a brief biography of Mr. Harris — he led quite a colorful life as a prominent defense attorney in the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, and his personal life (especially the sensational trial over his divorce from his wife “Buffy” in 1947) was often even more colorful. Few people know that Myron Harris was a contemporary of Earl Warren–each was with the Alameda County District Attorney’s office in their early careers, and Mr. Harris sometimes went head to head against Warren at trial after Harris left for private practice as a defense attorney. Earl Warren much later, of course, became the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court.

    Glenn Gomes email:

  4. When Dick Marciel died (a widower) he left his ranch to his Portugese girl friend who had a ranch on the adjacient western ridge. I forget her name, but it seems to me there were two sisters. Dick Marciel’s long-time friend ‘Fritz’ (Fredrick) Shields had been living with him at his cabin for many years and in Dick’s Will giving the ranch to his girlfriend, was a stipulation that gave Fritz a “Life Estate”, granting him the right to live in the cabin and have control of the surrounding 1 acre of walnut orchard, barn, corral, etc. When she sold the ranch to Myron Harris, shortly after she received it, the right for Fritz to live on the ranch until he died, went with the property. And that is where he lived until he died. He was in his mid-eighties when I last saw him.
    I remember too, the last time I saw Dick Marciel. I was living at Manuel Silva’s ranch (next ranch up the mountain) and Dick came slowly up the road riding his favorite horse – a buckskin, aptly named “Buck”. That was in the late 1950s.
    The last time I saw
    Contributor Doug Vieira has a new email address :

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