Featured Olompali State Park, California, Sir Francis Drake, Elizabeth Sixpence

Discussion in 'US Coins Forum' started by willieboyd2, May 24, 2016.

  1. willieboyd2

    willieboyd2 First Class Poster

    Pirates, Indians, and Hippies!

    Some time ago I read a newspaper article about a new California state park, Olompali State Historical Park, located in Marin County, north of San Francisco. I was finally able to visit the park and walk around the area.

    The area was a large gathering spot for Coast Miwok Indians, later in 1843 the Mexican governor issued a land grant to a Miwok Indian chief, Camillo Ynitia.

    In 1846 Olompali was the site of a small battle in California's "Bear Flag Revolt" which pitted some Americans against Mexicans.

    In 1853 Ynitia sold the land to a James Black who then gave it to his daughter and her husband, Dr. Burdell, a dentist. The Burdells built a dairy farm and a house, and Mrs. Burdell had a large garden constructed.

    Olompali State Park - Burdell House (remains)

    In 1942 the Burdells moved out and the land was sold and leased to various groups, Jesuits for a retreat, then in the late 1960s to a rock group "The Grateful Dead, then to a hippie commune called "The Chosen Family".

    The hippies moved out in 1969 after a fire damaged the Burdell mansion.

    In 1974 an archaelogist, Dr. Charles M. Slaymaker, lived on the land and had been digging there, when he discovered an English Sixpence of Elizabeth I dated 1567. The coin was under a dance house floor near a hearth which was carbon-dated to about AD 1600.

    The coin below is not the sixpence that Dr. Slaymaker found but one that I acquired recently:

    England Silver Sixpence 1561 Elizabeth I

    Obverse: Crowned bust of Elizabeth facing left with a rose behind her head
    ELIZABETH D G ANG FR ET HI REGINA followed by a downward arrow mintmark
    (Elizabeth by the Grace of God, England, France and Ireland, Queen)
    Reverse: Shield with arms (lions and fleurs-de-lis) and long cross behind
    POSVI DEV ADIVTOREM MEV (I have made God my Helper)
    Size: 27mm Weight: 2.75gm
    Tower Mint, Downward Arrow (a "pheon") mintmark, above the Queen's head

    Dr. Slaymaker's sixpence is dated 1567 and has a crown mintmark. It is now residing in the University of California's Bancroft Library in Berkeley.

    The English pirate Sir Francis Drake supposedly landed on the coast of Northern California in 1579, not too far from Olompali, and the Olompali sixpence may have come from Drake via the Indians.

    Drake supposedly left a brass plate with an inscription claiming the land for England and Queen Elizabeth, along with a Elizabeth sixpence.

    In 1937 a hiker named Shinn found a brass plate and brought it to a Professor Bolton of the University of California at Berkeley. Bolton was convinced that the plate was left by Drake and convinced some friends to buy it from Shinn for $3,000, a large amount in 1936. He had the plate authenticated by metal experts and for years it was displayed as supposedly proof of Drake's landing. Copies were given to dignitaries, including England's current Queen Elizabeth.

    The infamous Drake "Plate of Brasse", on display at the Bancroft Library

    Some had doubts about the plate's authenticity from the start, and in the 1970's with better analysis techniques, it was conclusively determined to be a manufactured modern-made hoax.

    A historian published an article in 2002 with the details, the plate was manufactured by three members of a historical club, E Clampus Vitus (ECV), who wanted to play a joke on Professor Bolton.

    The ECV men then became afraid to reveal the truth and kept silent, partly because they might have had to make good on the money spent for the plate.

    My father brought me to the Bancroft Library in the 1950's and I remember seeing the plate then in a display case in the lobby.

    The plate is still there but now with an explanation of the hoax and a copy of an E Clampus Vitus magazine.

    E Clampus Vitus magazine

    I just had to have an Elizabeth sixpence, and now I do.

    Chris B, Sulla80, Paddy54 and 6 others like this.
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  3. Paul M.

    Paul M. Well-Known Member

    Fascinating. I had no idea Sir Francis Drake landed in California!
  4. Treashunt

    Treashunt The Other Frank

    neat story, thanks for posting
  5. Mat

    Mat Ancient Coincoholic

    Interesting story, thanks Willie.
  6. lordmarcovan

    lordmarcovan Eclectic & odd Moderator

    Resurrected and Featured. This interesting story deserves more notice than it got when originally posted, IMHO.
  7. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    Drake was the second man to sail around the world after Magellan. Magellan himself didn’t make it. He died in the Philippines, but some of his crew did.

    Was Drake a hero or villain? It all depends upon what the leader of Spain and England thought. To the Spanish, he was a pirate. It is said the King Philip II of Spain once offered the modern equivalent of $8 million for his death or capture. He sailed around the world to escape them.

    To the British, he was a hero. Queen Elizabeth I knighted him.

    Here is a map of his trip around the world from Wikipedia:

    Drake Around the World.png
    Chris B likes this.
  8. Paddy54

    Paddy54 Variety Collector

    Very cool write up thanks for sharing
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