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The Diary of Isabella Cass of Sherwood Hall, Menlo Park, Calif.

Thurlow Lodge, later renamed Sherwood Hall, Menlo Park, California (Picture credit: Stanford University, Department of Special Collections and University Archives)

From an article I wrote for Genealogybank blog as part of a series on railroad magnate Mark Hopkins and his family.

Mary Sherwood Hopkins, “America’s Richest Widow,” purchased the estate (then called “Thurlow") from Milton Slocum Latham in 1883. She renamed it "Sherwood Hall."

Isabella Cass (Picture Credit: Stanford University, Department of Special Collections and University Archives)

Isabella was visiting because her family had connections with Mary’s family in Great Barrington, Mass. She had attended Miss Kellogg’s School (the Rose Cottage Seminary), run by Mary’s aunts.

Mrs. Timothy Hopkins, born Mary “May” Kellogg Crittenden (Photo Credit: Stanford University, Department of Special Collections and University Archives)

Visiting Sherwood Hall along with Isabella was Mary “May” Kellogg Crittenden, niece of Mary Hopkins. May was the future wife of Timothy Nolan Hopkins, Mary’s adopted son (whom she later disinherited in her will). There is a passage in Isabella’s diary (13 January 1885) where she catches Timothy stealing a kiss from May in the billiard room.

The grand lifestyle at Sherwood Hall was quite an experience for Isabella. It was one of the most elaborate estates in California, and she was awestruck by the lush gardens and landscape, which she was sure was “Eden.’

She wrote about her “frolics” about the grounds, and how she enjoyed the Moorish temple. She fed Mexican deer and watched the exotic birds. Her daily carriage rides and time in the studio are described in detail. She learned to play billiards and tennis. She spent leisure hours reading, with breaks for luncheons.

An entry from the diary of Isabella Cass (Credit: Stanford University, Department of Special Collections and University Archives)

She truly was living the life of the rich and famous. The “very elaborate dinners” were spent “at the table for hours” with top-drawer society. Jane and Leland Stanford, Mr. and Mrs. Edward C. Burrage, and James C. Flood were among the distinguished guests. The Palace Hotel and other posh places were part of her social calendar.

Isabella must have made a good impression on Mary, because a news clip in the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Isabella received $25,000 from Mary Hopkins’ trust after she died in 1891, administered by her second husband, Edward Francis Searles.

San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco, CA), 28 March 1892, p. 1.

When the estate was sold, most of the furniture and draperies went to auction, a few pieces went to museums, and even the Hollywood movie studios scored a few items. In 1942 the estate buildings were demolished except for the gatehouse, which is now occupied by the Junior League of Palo Alto-Mid Peninsula, Inc.


  • Isabella Cass (1857-1932), daughter of Dr. Jonathan Cass (1825-1886) and Mary Peet (1824-1899). Dr. Cass was an army surgeon, 1861-1867, Fortieth Massachusetts Regiment, and some time chief of staff at Alexandria hospital.

  • Isabella’s sister - (1859-1951) married lawyer Daniel Brewer Childs (1843-1925), son of Noadiah Moody Childs (1806-1896) and Martha Brewer (1821-1863), Mayflower descendant of John Howland.

  • Isabella boarded with her sister in 1910 in Manhattan, New York, and in 1930 they were living together in California. (Stanford University. Libraries. Department of Special Collections and University Archives)

  • Mary Frances Sherwood (1818-1891), daughter of William Sherwood (1786-1871) and Lydia Ann Kellogg (1793-1865), married Mark Hopkins (1813-1878), son of Mark Hopkins (1779-1828) and Anastasia Lukins Kellogg (1783-1834).

  • Timothy Nolan (1859-1936) was born to Irish immigrants Patrick Nolan (1829-1862) and Catherine Fallon (1834-1903) in Augusta, Maine. (Harold Clarke Durrell, “Memoirs of Deceased Members of the New England Historic Genealogical Society,” NEHG Register, April 1936)

  • He married Mary Kellogg Crittenden (1862-1941), daughter of Hiram Crittenden (1814-1883) and Lydia Sherwood (1829-1877). They had one daughter, Lydia Kellogg Hopkins (1887-1965).

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