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January 6, 2004 > The Blasdel-Mackintosh House

The Blasdel-Mackintosh House

The History of Washington Township refers to "the well-preserved residence of the late O.O. Slayton, on the mountain road between Niles and the Mission San Jose, which was built in 1851 by Gov. Henry Goode Blasdel of Nevada." This statement has been reported for generations and has led to considerable comment and confusion. Survey No. 160, dated February 20, 1857 shows the H. G. Blasdel home located near the "Indian Spring" on 48 acres on the road from Vallejo's Mill to the Mission. Henry G. Blasdel was involved in early business transactions in Washington Township and was elected governor of Nevada in 1864. This is also the farm where Henry Smith and his family lived in 1853.

John Taylor moved to Washington Township in 1859, purchased the property where the house is located and built a house, granary and barn. He married Rachel Cheney in 1860 and they established their home here. The 1860 census showed that their real estate was worth $12,000, and they had six laborers living on the land. Taylor apparently prospered from his grain crops stored in his granary.

The 1864 Dyer map shows the property was owned by J. Taylor. He received a U. S. patent to the land along with his neighbors in December 1867. He subdivided his property and sold part of it about this time.

Osmond Slayton sailed around the Horn to California in 1849. He earned enough money to buy a section of land in Stony Brook Canyon. He rode by horseback to Niles for supplies, and, on one trip, met Clara Clark who was out for a ride. They later married and bought 39 acres from Taylor in 1876. They farmed the land and continued to use Taylor's buildings. The 1878 map shows Slayton owning the property around the house and Taylor the property on the hill above.

Slayton was very successful raising grain, hay, potatoes, and cattle. He leased part of his land to a cement manufacturer. Four large springs flowed freely, and Slayton leased one for $100 per year. The Slayton family consisted of six boys and two girls. The Slaytons supported the little Presbyterian Church in Irvington. Their daughter Clara met Charles Mackintosh here, and they later married and moved to the ranch. The Slaytons left the property to Elizabeth and Charles. They owned less than 100 acres but rented some 1000 additional acres to farm.

Charles Mackintosh died in 1912, and his son Earl bought out the heirs to obtain ownership of the ranch. He moved his family there in 1945. Earl and his wife Edith had four children, Douglas, Donald, Kenneth and Carolyn. Earl started his career as a night operator of the Niles telephone exchange but spent most of his years commuting to San Francisco to work for the telephone company.

A 1954 newspaper article had a photograph of the twins, Kenneth and Carolyn, examining notched redwood timbers in the barn. Another photo showed one of the 30 foot redwood barn timbers that still showed signs of Indian paintings. Earl related that the timbers were brought from the Mission after the 1868 earthquake. Earl was offering the timbers for sale under conditions that guaranteed their preservation.

Earl was a communications consultant when he retired from his 50 year career in 1967. The children grew up and moved away, but Earl and Edith continued to enjoy the house. They shared the wonders of the house with friends and visitors. Earl pointed out to visitors the fireplace mantle that once was part of a beam at Mission San Jose and the banister post that survived one of the fires in the house. Earl and Edith sold the lower part of the ranch for housing development. After they passed away the Mackintosh family rented the house but continued to meet there on special occasions. They eventually approved a development plan that promised to preserve the house.

Recent studies raise questions about the tradition that the Mackintosh house was built by Governor Blasdel in 1851. The amount of redwood in the house indicates that it was built in California rather than New England. Henry Blasdel was involved in early real estate transactions in Washington Township.

Recent studies by researchers and historians have added valuable information about this house and the property it sits on. The house is a rare surviving example of Greek or Classical Revival pre-civil war architecture, and the granary is a very rare surviving example of a grain storage building. Steve Head has done a superb job of researching the property and critiquing a historical marker. We are grateful for his contribution, the generosity of the Mackintosh family and the efforts of all who worked to preserve, document and mark this historic resource. It is truly a Fremont treasure.

 
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