The Volvon and John Marsh
Within two years of his arrival in California, John Marsh had purchased Rancho de los Meganos, a Mexican land grant some “four leagues long and three leagues wide” (13,316 acres) at the base of Mt. Diablo. When Marsh came to live on the rancho in the spring of 1838, he found a village of about 30 native Volvon people there. His descriptions of these people were rather derogatory – though not unusual for the times: 
John Marsh about 1852. Courtesy of the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

They are easily domesticated, not averse to labor, have a natural aptitude to learn mechanical trades, and, I believe, universally a fondness for music… They are not nearly so much addicted to intoxication as is common to other Indians. … 

                                                       John Marsh, 1838

Marsh put his Volvon neighbors to work building his four-room adobe near their village. He was still living in the adobe when he met and married Abigail Smith Tuck in 1851.

Abigail (Abby) Marsh was kinder than her husband in her depictions of the Volvon. She wrote to her parents in May of 1852 that

…there are about twenty [native] men, women, and children who live in huts a few yards from our door[.] They are of great service to us and are very harmless sort of people[.] Some of them have been with the Doctor [John Marsh] from his first coming into this country and helped him defend his cattle and house from thieves and robbers – they are faithful servants.

 Less than two years later, she wrote again, this time noting that, "We have no Indians in our family or near us now."

What happened to these people? Did they succumb to European diseases? Did they move to another location for some unknown reason? History records that by the early 1850s Marsh and his neighboring land owners had begun to have serious trouble with squatters, many of whom had come to California with the gold rush. Frontier law and order being what it was, the newcomers brought increased thievery and violence. They may also have driven the native Volvon off of their ancient land yet again.

Whatever the cause, it may be left to archaeologists to write the final chapter in this 7,000-year-long story written on the land.

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