Hays Canyon or sometimes called Jack Hayes Canyon was the area in hills behind Piedmont. It was named for Col. John “Jack” Coffee Hays (1817-1883) who lived in the area from 1856-1883. His estate Fernwood was located approx. where Moraga Avenue, (Hays Canyon Rd.) Hwy 13 and Thornhill Drive (Thorn Road) meet.
Hays (Hayes) Canyon was in the Piedmont District and both the Brooklyn and Oakland Townships.
The main road to the or through the canyon was called the “Hays (Hayes) Canyon Road” which traveled the route of present day Moraga Avenue. According to one article the beginning of Hays Canyon was at Bonita Avenue in Piedmont.
Hays Canyon Road is now known as Moraga Avenue
Hays Canyon is now Montclair.
In 1891, the S.F. Call described Hays Canyon “the romantic valley just beyond the ridge that receives its name from the famous Colonel Jack Hays” and “the beautiful home of W. J. Dingee” and the “fine places of Mrs Kohler, Judge E.M Gibson and Mrs. Fields and others.
Colonel John C. Hays – Fernwood
Hays died at home April 22, 1883, at the age of 66. After his death Fernwood was sold to William J. Dingee.
Wm J. Dingee – Fernwood
Dingee built an opulent 19-room Queen-Anne style mansion, and had additional landscaping done with gardens, terraces and waterfalls. He also added such features as a deer park and an elk paddock.
Sadly, the home and countless artworks were destroyed in a fire in 1899. Oakland Tribune Oct 19, 1899
After the Fernwood burned Mrs. Adeline Percy built a modern log cabin on the property. In the 1920s the property was sold and subdivided.
Judge E. M. Gibson – Cote Brilliant
Judge E.M. Gibson owned the property the just beyond Thornhill School. It was latter owned by E.M Boggs. The house burned down in 1910. Dr. Mark Emerson bought the land in the mid-1920s and built a lovely home and lived there until the late 1950s. St John’s Episcopal Church is now there.
J. B. Fields
Joseph B. Fields was born in England. Prior to moving to Hays Canyon he was an Oakland Police officer for 12 years.
He owned 25 acres of farming land next the the property of Judge Gibson. His land was in the general location of Aspinwall Road is today.
Mrs. C.A. Kohler – Glen Kohler
Glen Kohler the home of Mrs.. Kohler was located about where Thornhill Drive, Pinehaven Road and Woodhaven Way meet.
She died at her home in Hays Canyon on November 27, 1894. Her funeral was largely attended by the old settlers of the county and was held at her home on November 30, 1894. She is buried at Mountain View Cemetery alongside her husband Andrew and her daughter Louisa (1849-1854) who died at the young age of 5.
Glen Kohler was designed by architects the Samuel and Joseph C. Newsom (Newsom Brothers) in 1885. The residence was 18 rooms, in what was know as the “free style”. At a cost of about $10,000.
I don’t know what happened to Glen Kohler after Mrs. Kohler died. It is possible it was used at a Sanatorium (more on that later).