The Story of Cuffey's Cove
The current village of Elk lies a mile south of the first local settlement, known as Coffey’s Cove. Elk was settled in 1850 by two schooner shipmates, Frank Farnier, known as “Portuguese Frank” and Nathaniel Smith, called “Nat.” Frank and Nat were farmers, and are credited with producing the famous Cuffey’s Cove red potatoes. During the late 1800’s the town of Cuffey’s Cove was home to roughly 500 people with an economy based largely on logging. The historic “Kenney House” was the center of town and is a landmark still visible from Highway 1.
In 1855, James Kenney, an Irish immigrant, came to the area and purchased land from Frank Farnier. Kenney is credited with the growth and prosperity of the town. He had a vision of establishing a distribution point for railroad ties, shingles and produce to San Francisco. Under the direction of John Kimball, a successful tie broker, railroad tie mills began to sprout up in Cuffey’s Cove. Shipping by land was arduous, so in 1868 Kenney constructed a wharf and chute system, to transfer goods down the cliffs to the rocks below, where they were floated out to schooners waiting offshore.
By 1870, business was booming and a post office was established and there were hotels, stores, a butcher shop, slaughterhouse, livery stable, several saloons, a church, two schools and homes. But the boom was short-lived when fires struck in 1886 and 1892, destroying a large portion of the town that same year, the effect was devastating. The post office was closed, and the town never recovered.
The ranch returned to agriculture under the Nonella family and was kept up to an immaculate standard.
William and Joan Roth purchased the property in the 1960’s. 30 years later they donated a conservation easement over the entire 1,068 acres to The Sonoma Land Trust, protecting wildlife, prohibiting logging and restricting future development. The ranch remains in the stewardship of the Roth family to this day.