Tag Archives: Tiburon

“Founder’s” Rock: An Onomastic

The Tiburon Open Space Committee -um-… it was founded for the sole purpose of preventing the 110-acre Martha Property from being developed. They wan’ it to be open space. When they actually founded the committee, what they did was the organizers trespassed on to the property and went to this large rock on the ridge. You said you’ve been there, you know how incredible that lot is.

So -um- they went up there and gave a toast and drank a bottle of champagne to y’know symbolically found the organization. The rock became known as Founder’s Rock and now people use that story to argue that the property can’t be developed in any way that would interfere with Founder’s Rock – an important Tiburon landmark (said sarcastically).

The history section on the website for the Tiburon Open Space Committee neither confirms nor denies the onomastic founding story. The photos on their website, however, are all taken from the Martha Property in a blatant admittance to trespassing. There’s no clear, irrefutable evidence of the truthfulness of the committee formation story told above, but the acknowledgement of trespassing on the property on their website certainly gives the story some weight.


This is just one instance of a misnaming being used to try to persuade public opinion. It reminds me of the beginning of the high fructose corn syrup downfall in public opinion. In a commercial paid for by the high fructose corn syrup producers union, they had people from all walks of life saying, “It’s just sugar,” repeatedly for a full minute advertisement. They wanted the American people to associate high fructose corn syrup, a chemical sweetener, with natural sugar. This is seemingly the same marketing tactic being employed by the Tiburon Open Space Committee.


Now, the large stone laying on the top of the Peninsula is adorned with a metal post, driven deep within it. It holds a large ‘No Trespassing’ sign. The symbolic breaking of Founder’s Rock may have an effect on the onomastic, but this is a folk location. There is no yelp page; it’s not listed on any tourist map. It is discovered via word of mouth, as does the name. Even with the literal symbol for the location name broken, it could prove more difficult to break the name.


I had never even heard this story until I was back at home a few weeks ago. It had always just been Founder’s Rock. I never questioned the name; that’s just what everyone called it – mainly because many people trespassed and went up there. It’s one of the greatest views on Tiburon Peninsula. On the Fourth of July, you can see 8 different fireworks shows if the weather permits. So, I’m not entirely surprised the name revolves around trespassing. I could nearly feel the Informant’s eyes rolling over the phone when he was talking about “Founder’s” Rock.

A Train to Alcatraz: A Contemporary Legend

So they’d convicted Al Capone for tax evasion in Chicago and sent him to prison in the Midwest, uhh Atlanta, I think. When they transferred him to Alcatraz, y’know maximum security – no one gets outta there, and they say his gang was planning to break him out during transit when he was coming through Tiburon on the uhh traintracks– you know the bike train used to be traintracks.

 So the exact route for ‘is move to Alcatraz was… top secret. What they did was made it sound like he was going by either armored truck, maybe by train to San Francisco… But they, uhh, they secretly put him on this train car and chained him to the floor – I mean, they chained him to the floor.

And so the train come into the train depot downtown, where Café Acri is now, and they used cranes to lift the entire car onto a ferry, a uhh uh uh, barge with Al Capone chained to it and then barged him to Alcatraz and completely avoided San Francisco.

This is story I’ve heard numerous times. My dad (aka Paul) has a knack for saying the same thing over and over, paraphrasing himself, retelling stories. My dad mainly tells this story whenever he’s showing someone from out of the area around Tiburon. I may have heard it before, but I still love this story. I remember one day we were walking along the bike trail, the former train tracks, and we worked out that my Great Grandfather almost certainly watched from the porch as the heavily guarded train car passed by his, now our, house.

Interestingly enough, the legend turns out to be true. Around 40 inmates were being moved from an Atlanta prison to “The Rock,” also known as Alcatraz. The warden discovered a plot to free Al Capone in route because an escape from Alcatraz was reportedly impossible. Capone was transported with extra security and, seeing the biggest weakness in security would be the trek through San Francisco, opted to go through Tiburon instead. Al Capone’s train car was placed on a barge and towed via tugboat directly to Alcatraz. There were apparently guards at the Tiburon ferry terminal and in small boats to make sure no other boats came close to the barge.

For more information on this legend, see the following articles from local newspapers like Mercury News and the MarinIJ.