Sarah Seaver Randall

Half length portrait of a man and woman, a young married couple
UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library

William E. Randall and Sarah Seaver Randall. Taken prior to Nov. 1849 sailing to California.

Quick Facts
Dairy Farmer, Businesswoman
Place of Birth:
Date of Birth:
Place of Death:
Olema Valley, CA
Date of Death:
January 24, 1907

"60 this season. I sold only butter for 42 1/2 cents pr. Ibs. last year but fresh butter is now selling for .55 and 60 cts. and I am making about 75 Ibs. pr. week Times are very good here and money is plenty. Geo. Urie is at work for me still but I shall require another man soon. Willie is old enough to do considerably he brings in the cows night and morning besides looking after my cattle which takes considerable riding..."
-- Sarah S. Randall, 1864 [1]

William and Sarah Randall sailed from Boston, MA in a ship named Hannibal on November 22, 1849. A honeymoon voyage for the Randalls who had only been married shortly before ther departure. William began a journal, but it was Sarah who made most of the entries because he was wracked by seasickness during most of the arduous journey around the southern tip of South America. In the entry dated January 10, 1850, William remarks that, "Sarah has got a lot of pieces to make a needle book." The needle book made by Sarah while on this six month voyage, consisted of the dress scraps of fellow passangers. They finaly arrived in San Francisco in 1850. 

cloth book with thimble and needle Sarah Seaver Randall, Needle Book. 1850. UC Berkley, Bancroft Library.

As a part of the famous ’49er wave of migration, the young couple lived in several places in Oregon and California, eventually having five children. The first, Elizabeth, was born on October 25, 1850; a son, William, was born in the gold country at Murphy's Camp on April 1, 1852. The Randalls eventually purchased 1,400 acres near Bolinas in Marin County, and they were among the earliest American settlers in Olema Valley.

In June 1860, a long-simmering land dispute boiled over, and Sarah's husband, William was shot and killed by an irate neighbor. While raising five young children, Sarah took over the management of the Randall Ranch dairy operation and successfully defended the property boundaries in court. The 1870 census records show Sarah Seaver Randall as head of household. The Randall dairy was producing 5,000 pounds of butter a year—establishing the family as a key player in the area’s rise as an epicenter of California dairy production and innovation.

White victorian two story house in the middle of grassy field by Jeff Boyd
The Sarah Randall house: a white victorian two story home in the middle of Olema Valley by Jeff Boyd, October 2010

In 1880–1, Sarah built the lovely Randall House, just east of the county road, across from the dairy buildings. The two-story Victorian, with elegant trim and ample space, became a showplace in Olema Valley and still stands today. According to the county newspaper, Sarah Randall planned to have a new barn built in 1884, but it was never completed. A fire in 1890 destroyed most of the pasture and fences on the ranch; the local paper called Sarah's 10-year-old granddaughter, Lottie Randall "the little heroine" of the disaster. Shortly thereafter Mrs. Randall returned to the ranch and lived alone for a few years; she was eventually persuaded by her children to live with them in town.

Sarah Seaver Randall died on January 24, 1907, leaving the ranch to her children Elizabeth Tripp, William, Fanny Tullar, Raymond and Mary Clifford. 

The federal government purchased the Randall Ranch on May 6, 1974 for $1,118,300. Today it is a part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area and managed by Point Reyes National Seashore. In the late 1990's a rare breed of bat was discovered in the attic. The house is now maintained by park scientists as a maternity roost for Townsend's Big-Eared bats.

Additional Resources
The California Farmer. April 8, 1862, p. 1.; letter to "Brother William [Seaver]" dated January 25, 1864, collection of Bancroft Library. George Urie (or Eurie) lived in the northwestern corner of the ranch as of 1867

Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Point Reyes National Seashore

Last updated: September 28, 2020