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Bret Harte Memorial Park, Danville


Danville has a memorial park which honors Bret Harte, a famous western writer during the first decades of California’s statehood. As a young man Harte came to the Tassajara Valley in 1856 where he tutored the four sons of rancher Abner Bryant. The Bryant ranch was next to Alamo Creek in the Tassajara Valley east of Danville. Harte wrote “A Legend of Mt. Diablo,”  “The First Family of Tassajara” and a short story about religious camp meetings called “An Apostle of the Tules” probably based on his stay in the valley.

Because one of his letters listed “Alamo” as his address, there has been some confusion about his location on “Alamo Creek.”  In addition, he probably received mail at the Alamo village post office although the Bryant Ranch was quite a distance away. Hence the confusion in several articles over the years.

In 1931 members of the Farm Bureau successfully located the Bryant Ranch location in Tassajara Valley where Harte had lived. They also decided to organize a memorial park to honor Harte. On March 20, 1931, a women’s committee of the Farm Bureau made their report at a tea hosted by Mrs. Charles Pangburn. The women who worked on the original location were “Mrs. Alda Stoddard, chairman of the Bret Harte memorial park committee; Mrs. Frank Mariana and Mrs. William Barnes, garden project leaders of the farm bureau.”

“The Bret Harte memorial committee is planting trees in a newly created park at the junction of the Diablo, Danville and Sycamore roads. The plot has been named Bret Harte Memorial Park.”    (Quotations from Contra Costa Gazette , March 7, 1931, with the location listed “Danville.”)

Another Gazette article (May 21, 1935) stated   “SERA  work relief clients of CCC in vicinity of Danville will create a stone and masonry monument to the memory of BH.  14’ high with a square base of 11’, seats in the low wall at each side of the column. Stone tablet will be placed.  Stone will come from Mt Diablo State Park.  Give 21 men at an SERA expenditure of $1,207.”     (This stone is not to be found in 2007.)

Today the park is still there, with a plaque from Danville’s Heritage Commission on the site. It is a quiet triangular piece of land between Diablo Road and Camino Tassajara with several paths, park benches and a Checkers table with seats, not far from Vista Grande Elementary School.