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  Howe Homestead History
Welcome to "Gopher Gulch Ranch"
 Mia Howe at Gopher Gulch

Mia Howe at Gopher Gulch


Howe Homestead Park was originally called "Gopher Gulch Ranch" because the ground here is riddled with gopher holes. The name was coined by James Pomeroy Howe, an Associated Press war correspondent who bought the property in 1910 and retired here in 1934. When he died on April 14, 1970, Howe had no heirs to inherit his estate, as his wife Mia (here on bicycle) had died in 1966. He willed the estate to John Muir Hospital, which was unable to develop it. The City of Walnut Creek acquired the site with funds raised in the 1974 open space bond election. The City planned the property for a neighborhood special use park. Today, Howe Homestead Park covers six-and-a-half acres next to Walnut Creek's Shell Ridge Open Space preserve. James Howe and Jane Lee with pigeon at microphone

Howe and Jane Lee with pigeon at microphone

Starting here on the Kovar Trail, hikers can walk to the crest of Mt. Diablo ten miles away. A worldly country gentleman, Jim Howe was a journalist, orchardist, winemaker, gourmet, connoisseur, collector, and admitted spy for the young CIA. While growing up in Kansas, Howe yearned to see the world. He became an Associated Press foreign correspondent stationed in the world's Great Cities---London, Paris, Warsaw, Berlin, Brussels, Moscow, Tokyo, Peking, Shanghai, Bombay, Washington, Honolulu, and San Francisco. For three decades he trotted the globe covering World War I, the Russo-Polish war, the Sino-Japanese war, the Chinese Revolution. He saw so many conflicts that his San Francisco Chronicle obituary began: "They used to say you couldn't have a genuine war until Jimmy Howe of the Associated Press got there."

James and Mia Howe in China

James and Mia Howe in China

Jim Howe grew up in a diverse and distinguished family of American writers. His father, E.W. Howe, was a contemporary of Mark Twain and is remembered in journalism history as "the Sage of Potato Hill". His brother, Gene Howe, was known as the "Tactless Texan" for his wry columns in The Amarillo News-Globe. His sister, Mateel Howe Farnham, wrote "Rebellion" a novel which so angered her father that he extracted her from his will. During his long life, Jim developed a most impressive resume. He wrote for The Washington Post, The Washington Herald, The New York Telegraph, The New York Evening Journal, The Philadelphia Bulletin, The San Francisco Chronicle, The New Orleans Times Democrat and his father's famous Atchison (Kansas) Globe. And he roamed history's backstages. He interviewed Gandhi, Lindbergh, George Bernard Shaw, King George, Lloyd George. His were the days of steamer trunks and three-week ocean crossings; communications by telegraph, sealed envelope, carrier pigeon. There were no transworld flights, no computers, no telefax, no World Wide Web.

Howe at age 91 holding bird with flute

Jim at age 91 holding bird with flute

Mia, his wife, was the daughter of an Austrian aristocrat, a university administrator from Vienna. In 1947, The San Francisco Examiner's women's editor related how Mia became a Howe:
"Jim Howe met the charming Mia herself in Luxembourg when he was passing through there as a World War I correspondent. And the way of their meeting was this: Needing some information, and handicapped by not knowing the language, Jim merely stood in the middle of the palace square and yelled--loud and clear, 'Does anybody here speak English?'
"'I do,' said a shy young voice. It was Mia---who not so long thereafter said her 'I do's' in quite another fashion."
James and Mia Howe in China Howe lived for 91 years, fifty of them at Gopher Gulch, where he earned a his reputation as a Renaissance country gentleman. In his retirement years, he grew walnuts and almonds, raised exotic birds and smoked their meats, prepared fine meals and made rare wines. He told true stories and serenaded guests with flights of his rare Chinese pigeon flutes. Jim Howe had the privilege to witness life's grand panorama. Because he'd had the good fortune to travel with a press pass, to savor exotic places, meet movers of world affairs, probe their minds, and experience history as it unfolded before him. (Photos courtesy of Sally and Dick Ingraham; Capt. Joseph and Marge Bronson.) Pigeon Flutes and Whistles from China By James Pomeroy Howe The View from My Window by James Pomeroy Howe.