Digging our Roots
The Glen Ellen Historical Society
This little remembrance by David Bouverie was printed in the News of the Glen Ellen Association newsletter, spring 1992.
In the late 1930s, Glen Ellen was quiet and recovering from the great influx of weekend visitors who used to pile off the steam trains that stopped regularly at the Warfield Station, the end of the line.
I was told there were six saloons on Dunbar Road then, but when I came in 1937, there were none. The trains no longer ran, and car traffic on narrow winding roads had not multiplied.
I got to know a fine old fellow who flailed his arms as he told the old tales of Glen Ellen. He sold lugs of peaches and the ones on top were excellent. He knew well the Bokker brothers who owned the land I bought and, in the twenties, they served, roughly where I now live, a “two-bit” ravioli dinner with wine on the table. Upstairs, there were women who were available but only on weekends when the steam trains unloaded their large, noisy crowds at Warfield Station (where Arnold Drive now joins Route 12). The industrious Bokker brother chided his lazy brother for not scything the tall, dry grass in front of the house. The lazy brother soon got tired of scything and, resting on the scythe, he slipped and the scythe went through him and killed him.
Before I came, my land was grievously harmed by coarse fertilizer and over-grazing, and I had to remove mountains of junked cars and empty bottles, and acres of oak and madrone had been cut and sold. By 1945, acres and acres of beautiful wildflowers had returned, like a miracle, to the land which was now cared for and appreciated.
For a few years in the 1950s, I owned the stone building that housed a store and post office, now Shone’s Country Store. My wife gave it to me for my birthday. We put five big tubs of white geraniums on the sidewalk in front of the store, but people mistook them for garbage cans and dogs mistook them for toilets, so we had to remove them.
The rent for the post office was $30 per month. I wrote the Postmaster General that if he didn’t send me $100 a month, he could move the post office. He wrote back and said if I installed a basin and a cold-water faucet, he would agree to $100 per month. But perhaps this old information seems no longer relevant to the lucky people who now live in Glen Ellen.… Anyway, I salute those of you who try to keep Glen Ellen unspoiled. This is often difficult to achieve when a community is developing. For the esthetic enjoyment of all, one hopes for ordinances controlling, for instance, what is or is not allowed within 20 feet of the public highway, whether it be an unsightly building, unsightly fence, or unsightly parked cars, and, of course, there are those who will object to any infringement of property rights.
The truth is that no developing community remains attractive and orderly unless there is some degree of control for the benefit of all.
David Pleydell-Bouverie, born in 1911 at Godalming, Surrey, England, first came to the US from London as a 21-year-old architect in 1933. “Then in 1938, I found the Sonoma Valley … bought this ‘grievously harmed and over-grazed’ property … and knew it was part of my destiny to save and nurture this land.” Upon his death in 1994, Bouverie gifted the land to the Audubon Canyon Ranch, which now manages the 500 acres of nearly pristine property as the Bouverie Preserve. It is dedicated to teaching children and others about the natural world by leading nature hikes into the hills.
In spite of severe damage during the 2017 fires, the Bouverie Preserve, its bell tower, and several other structures on the property remain. The bell tower was built from surface rocks from the property and hung with “the finest bell in all of California, bought from the estate of William Randolph Hearst.”