Marriage, Murder, and Betrayal

Praise for Marriage, Murder, and Betrayal

Jo Haraf’s history of Marin County’s pioneer James Black’s family is spot-on! Engaging from the first page, Marriage, Murder, and Betrayal strikes the perfect balance between day-in-the-life details and the breadth of the family’s multi-decade saga. Haraf’s extensive research justified the times she imagines how death and betrayal emotionally shattered the family. Lovers of Northern California history, or those searching for a complex family tale, will find Marriage, Murder, and Betrayal an engaging read.

Heather Powell, Collections Manager
Marin History Museum


Left for dead on Monterey’s beach in 1832, Scotsman James Black survived to build a Marin county cattle and dairy empire. His privileged life ended in addiction after his wife’s death at the hand of their son-in-law.

Black’s daughter fought her stepmother for four years and across two counties for a fair portion of her father’s $15 million dollar estate.

Join the Black family and their contemporaries as California evolves from a sea-otter-hunting Spanish colony to a Mexican territory beset by invading Russians and finally into an American state where wealth and influence come to those who embrace the new west’s opportunities and risks.

Click here for a video of Jo presenting Marriage, Murder, and Betrayal for the Marin History Museum November 17, 2021.


Purchase Marriage, Murder, and Betrayal in Nineteenth-Century California from the Marin History Museum to support the museum’s many projects. Marriage, Murder, and Betrayal is also available at

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