Don Timoteo’s Adobe

Adobe, Spanish for “mud brick,” refers to both the air-dried bricks of earth, water, and straw or dung as well as the buildings constructed from those bricks. For centuries, adobes have served as building materials, especially in arid locations. In 1830s Marin County, California, Timothy Murphy built a two-story adobe home, headquarters for his frequent dinners, fiestas, and most likely, a card game or two.

Born in 1800, Irishman Timothy Murphy arrived in Monterey, California at age twenty-eight. Through hard work, good luck, and more than a modest helping of Irish wit and humor, Murphy achieved wealth and standing. Eventually known as Don Timoteo Murphy, his generosity and exploits are the stuff of legend.

An oft repeated story involves Murphy and his friend, Domingo Sais (brother to the ill-fated wife and mother in Marriage, Murder, and Betrayal). Out for a casual ride in San Anselmo Valley, the duo encounter a cinnamon bear. Thrown from his frightened horse, Murphy fought the bear, winding “his giant arms around the animal, ducking, and beating a tattoo on its stomach with his knees.” Sais, alarmed at his friend’s danger, joined the fight, beating the bear across the face with a leather thong. The bear, wishing to live to fight another day, broke off and ran away.

Murphy stood up, dusted himself off, and turned to his friend, gratitude not on the top of his mind. “Domingo,” he said, “you Spaniards are well-meaning, but never again, as long as you live, get mixed up in an Irishman’s fight!”

Later, Murphy happily displayed the claw-marked leather jacket he had worn in the tussle.

You’ll learn more about Don Timoteo and how his adobe home became a battleground setting in Marriage, Murder, and Betrayal, at the Marin History Museum’s website.

Published by Jo Haraf

Jo’s poetry and fiction have been published in the California Writers Club Literary Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, and Ragnarok. She edited and co-authored "Journal Across the Plains - 1852" (Fonthill 2020). "Marriage, Murder, and Betrayal in Nineteen Century California" will be published in the fall of 2021. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Pacific University. A popular speaker on the craft of writing, Jo is a proud member of the Historical Novel Society, Biographers International, and the California Writers Club. She lives on Florida's Suncoast with her husband and a scruffy terrier whose adoration sustains her through revisions and rejections.

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