Mount Tamalpais Military Academy
San Rafael, California
Ancestry.com has the last Adjutant yearbook published by Mount Tamalpais Military Academy. This has a history of the school. “How Marin Academy Came To Be” by Scott Fletcher has a history of M.T.M.A. and the campus. San Francisco Area newspapers such as the Call, the Chronicle and the Examiner covered school events. The seal is from the yearbook.
Mount Tamalpais Military Academy was founded by Reverend Doctor Arthur Crosby, a Presbyterian minister from Brooklyn, who had come to the area. Because of his love of outdoor pursuits, he had developed a following of boys who formed the basis of his plans for a school based on a “Christian plan of education.” In 1890 the academy opened for 21 students. The initial plan was to begin with a freshman class and add an academic grade each year, until the academy would become a college. However the expansion of the neighboring San Francisco Theological Seminary in 1892 ended plans for a college. So Mount Tamalpais Military Academy became a preparatory school “of the highest class” with a military component. Graduates were admitted to the University of California without examination.
Ads show that the school offered “thorough instruction in all English branches, Classics, Science.” There was also a commercial program for those who wished to pursue a business career. The military department was headed by an officer appointed by the U.S. War Department. It featured cavalry, mounted artillery, and infantry units. In addition to the basic faculty, eight adjunct faculty taught courses in physical education, vocal and instrumental music, elocution, and art. There was also a junior school for younger boys, having its own faculty.
Mount Tamalpais Military Academy remained a relatively small school. Graduation figures show classes of ten to twelve—or fewer. The 1925 Adjutant shows only 56 in the high school, with five graduates. The Junior School had an additional 36 students.
Extra- curricular activities included a cadet band with 21 members and a rifle team. The Adjutant shows four school dances and attendance at the class play at San Raphael High School. Cadets did hikes up Mount Tamalpais and marched in area parades and festivals. There was a week-long encampment on Mount Tamalpais each summer.
Dr. Crosby died in 1915. Financial difficulties led to a closure of M.T.M.A. in 1925. According to the Adujant, Dr. Crosby’s goals of providing a first class Christian education were to be realized in two new schools in San Raphael: a non-military Tamalpais School, and a military school called San Rafael Military Academy.
Bricks and Mortar
In its second year, the school was able to purchase the O’Connor Property, consisting of the luxury 56-room Tamalpais Hotel with its group of small surrounding cottages. The hotel was a large four-story frame building, which housed the classrooms with dormitory space for the junior students. The fifth and sixth form boys were housed in the cottages. The campus had a large open air gymnasium, an open-air swimming pool, tennis and handball courts, and football and baseball grounds.
The Overland Monthly notes, “No more beautiful spot on earth could have been chosen for a boys’ school.”
In 1925 the campus and buildings passed on to the new San Rafael Military Academy. The old hotel was deemed a fire hazard and was razed before 1936.
Tamalpais Hotel. Image from the Carleton E. Watkins Collection, courtesy of the California State Library.
Team name: Cadets
In 1892 the Chronicle lists Mount Tamalpais Military Academy as one of 24 members of the Academic Athletic League, composed of both public and private preparatory schools in Central California. That year M.T.M.A. scored one point in the league’s track and field meet at the University of California. In 1894 the Chronicle reported a football game against the University of California freshman team.
M.T.M.A. fielded teams in football, baseball and basketball. Despite low numbers, Cadet teams competed successfully against very large schools—including the San Francisco School of Commerce, Cogswell Polytechnic College, California School of Mechanical Arts (Lick), and Lowell High School. The natural opponents for all sports was San Rafael High School.
Undated baseball image. https://www.flickr.com/photos/chs_commons/14498563214