One of driving forces for this website is the amount of false information about the circumstances and timeline of the McNab Family. John Liddle McNab and Gavin McNab were big personalities. Because of this, there is much documented about them both. They were big fish in a small pond in Ukiah and also in the San Francisco Bay Area. Both their stars ascended once they relocated to San Francisco from Ukiah. Gavin represented Fatty Arbuckle when he was famously on trial for murdering a young woman at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. They were both great orators, which is an advantage being a lawyer. They went on to become politicians. Gavin was a U.S. District Attorney.
Myths of Alexander McNab
Here is the story of Alexander McNab perpetuated for the last twenty years that we have all read. I encourage you to compare, contrast, and critically think about what you learn on this website to what you have previously read and make up your own mind.
Alexander was a farmer. Alexander had a sheep ranch in Scotland. Alexander lived in the Grampian Hills of Scotland. Because of ill health, he emigrated to the U.S. and moved to Mendocino County. His previous neighbor in Scotland, also a sheep man, was Bruce McInsey. Bruce was instrumental in providing dogs for breeding and Alexander, as well as other family members, returned to Scotland, namely the Grampian Hills, to obtain more dogs from Bruce. There were also Basque sheepherders in Mendocino County whose dogs were used by Alexander to breed with his Scotch Collies. Alexander is the man in the pen and ink drawing in Lulu McNab’s story, The Collie in Mendocino. Lulu McNab was a small girl, the daughter of Alexander McNab. There were no other dog breeds, like Kelpies, used in the McNab breeding program.
Happily, I can share with you for the first time a photo of Alexander and Susan McNab on the McNab Ranch or Lima Ranch in the Sanel Valley.
It is a first for McNab devotees to see photos of Alexander and Susan as well as the other McNab family members that I have shared on my website. At last we get a visual of the man that started this beloved dog breed.
Census documents list Alexander's father as "farmer." Alexander became a pattern cutter in Glasgow. As he would so many times in his life, his efforts were successful. He eventually became proprietor of his own pattern cutting house.
Alexander McNab in Scotland
Alexander McNab was born in Rothesay, Bute, Scotland about 1820. I use “about” because throughout census documents, several date ranges are documented: 1819, 1820, 1821. As well, his name was sometimes spelled “MacNab.” He is documented working as a “pattern cutter” in his early youth and eventually having his own business in that field. When Alexander was approximately 20 years old, the world of photography changed with the invention of the daguerreotype. In 1839, the daguerreotype was the first commercially successful photographic process (1839-1860) in the history of photography. Named after the inventor, Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, each daguerreotype is a unique image on a silvered copper plate.
In the 1850s, McNab opens his first photography studio in Glasgow. His work can be see in the links below. McNab is not featured in any of the photos.
McNab became and remains, one of the best and well-known photographers using the daguerreotype process in the world. He also became a pioneer famous for photographic enlargement. The dates of McNab’s reign as one of the premier photographers can be deceiving. From research, it seems he had his photography business at 08 West Nile Street from the 1850s but sold it in 1867. In 1867, he was already residing in Mendocino County, California. 08 Nile Street continued to operate under the same name under various owners. In 1872 the address of the premises was changed to No. 96 and that was the address until at least 1877. By 1881 the address was 92 West Nile Street. In 1898, “Alexander MacNab” (residing in Mendocino, California) was operating at 92 West Nile Street, at Victoria Studio Bridgeton both in Glasgow, and also at Uddingston. One can surmise from the studios retaining his name, that it was done so because of his fame and to lend advantage to the business. McNab used a variety of the Scottish ethnic renditions of his last name going back and forth between McNab and MacNab. As previously stated, Alexander had three photography studios in Glasgow. One is documented as a printing business in Ravelston Cottage, Uddingston, one a photography studio, Nile Street. McNab was founding Vice President of the Glasgow Photographic Association. His photography is documented in special collections in the University of Glasgow. He became famous and was widely known as a “Photographic Enlarger.” The fact that he employed 30 people in these three businesses is a testament to his success as both a business man and an artist. At that time in California, most were seeking their fortunes mining gold; while McNab’s success afforded him the ability to emigrate and buy land in Largo, Sanel Valley, Mendocino County, California.
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Isabella Strathern McNab 1823 - 1849
The McNab Family Bible records Alexander’s first marriage and his first wife’s birth and death dates: “Isabella Strathern 8-6-44 Born 7-14-23, died 2-18-49.” His children with Isabella were Sarah and Alexander.
It is unknown what caused Isabella Strathern’s death in 1849. Isabella’s demise may be related to the 1848-1849 Cholera Epidemic in Glasgow. Here is a resource for further reading.
Susan Park McNab
Alexander McNab marries Susan Park in Glasgow. McNab and Susan, with his two children Sarah and Alexander, live in Glasgow as McNab establishes his career and fortune as a world-renowned photographer. McNab had five of his six children with Susan in Glasgow.
Emigration to California
McNab was still Vice-President of the Glasgow Photographic Association in 1863.
The McNab Ranch diary, kept by Arthur V. McNab, has an entry in the very back as follows “Alexander McNab purchased ranch October 31, 1866, $5750. Died April 7, 1901, 82 years, on the Lima Ranch. Here is a sample from the Ranch Diary for January 1, 1882 by Arthur V. McNab.
McNab emigrated first to California.
His wife, Susan, followed about a year later, by way of New York and Panama, bringing their seven children. His first two children, with Isabelle Strathern McNab, and their five children together. His son and namesake, Alexander Jr., was around 18 years old and lived with the Long family in Largo. One of Alexander’s daughters, Sara, would marry a Long. They are both buried on the Ranch.
Below is the Manifest for the sailing ship the Columbia that Mrs. McNab sailed with the children as well as a typed transcription:
Largo, Sanel Valley, Hopland Location of the McNab Ranch
Sanel and Largo were part of Mexican land grants. The man in charge, Fernando Feliz (or Felix), is documented as making generous but self-defeating financial deals on the lands he sold. In 1866, Lemuel F. Long bought the ranch at Largo, the place being named for him, largo being the Spanish word for long, consisting of about 300 acres and engaged in sheep raising. Having spent a year in Sacramento Valley growing hops, he disposed of his sheep and in 1868 commenced devoting his attention exclusively to hop raising. He was a pioneer hop grower of this county and built the second hop kiln, also having the largest acreage of hops of any one man while in the business. Hop Kilns are now landmarks in Mendocino County after the hops were killed off by a mildew. They are distinctive for their large chimneys. On Jan 17, 1868 he married Miss Sarah McNab. They had eight children.
Largo is an unincorporated community in Mendocino County, California. It is located on the Northwestern Pacific Railroad 10 miles (16 km) south-southeast of Ukiah, at an elevation of 522 feet (159 m). A post office operated at Largo from 1889 to 1905, having moved in 1897. The name honors Lemuel F. Long, a settler of 1858; "Largo" is Spanish for "Long."
Rancho Sanel was a 17,754-acre Mexican land grant in present-day Mendocino County, California, given in 1844 by Governor Manuel Micheltorena to Fernando Feliz (or Felix). The grant extended along the Russian River and encompassed present-day Hopland. It is named after a village of the Pomo people near Hopland; the name means sweat-house in the Pomo language. Neither Spanish nor Mexican influence extended into Mendocino County beyond establishing two ranchos in southern Mendocino County: Rancho Sanel at Hopland in 1844 and Rancho Yokaya in the Ukiah Valley in 1845.
Life at the Lima Ranch or McNab Ranch
The McNab family did not refer to their Ranch as the McNab Ranch. They referred to it as the Lima Ranch. This is evident from Arthur McNab’s diary entries as well as Alexander McNab’s obituary. It seems the “McNab” portion of McNab Ranch and McNab Shepherd did not catch on until John Liddle McNab took the helm. Dr. Paul Poulos, MCHS, supports this based on John McNab’s propensity and flare for production. Arthur McNab's entries in his Ranch diary are brief and mundane. The entries tell a story of many people either living at or visiting the Ranch. There is work, travel, visits, and of sickness. The most consistent entry was “Gavin on the range all day.” There were some cryptic entries about whether an unnamed person had made a decision about “the situation.” Mostly it is the typical documentation about a working ranch as far as what work was done or needed to be done, inventory of sheep, and a guy named “Indian John” (the Pomo Indians are indigenous to Mendocino County) being brought to the Ranch to work. Photos of family and relatives reflect very happy people enjoying their time together.
Deaths at Lima Ranch
Alexander McNab is listed in the Ukiah Republican Press in 1901 as at home seriously ill.
Alexander lost his son, Alexander, Jr. in 1878. Also preceding Alexander in death was Henry the same year 1901. John McNab lost his wife Vivian also the same year. The only epidemic listed for the area at that time was diphtheria. In cases that progress beyond a throat infection, diphtheria toxin spreads through the bloodstream and can lead to potentially life-threatening complications that affect other organs, such as the heart and kidneys. Treatment requires antibiotics and they did not exist in the 1900s.
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The McNab Ranch Before and After Alexander McNab
The Ranch came under John Liddle McNab after his father’s death. John was the only child born on the Ranch and born in the United States. The McNab Ranch always had a foreman or manager under John Liddle. Two sons of the Bonnifield family, a pioneer family in Mendocino County, both held that position at different times. Through the pages on this website, you will see the influencers of the McNab Shepherd breeding, Bruce Walker as well as Trumman and Alvin Bonnifield.
The ranch was leased in 1899 by Henry Hopper. This was one year before Alexander McNab died.
And in 1922 by a familiar figure, Trumman Bonnifield.
Wayne Foster leased it from 1962 to 1965 when it was sold by Mr. O.E. Chambers to Tjisseling Development.
Wayne Foster was the lessor of the McNab Ranch from 1962 to 1965. It makes me happy that Wayne Foster was the last sheep man on the Ranch and was there to say farewell.
1965 MCNAB RANCH SOLD FOR DEVELOPMENT OF PROPERTY