Matthew P. Dillingham (deceased)

Matthew P. Dillingham (“Matt”) was born September 4, 1916 in San Francisco. He spent his younger childhood in western San Francisco and later moved to Mill Valley in southern Marin County to attend high school. He attended Stanford University from 1934 to 1937, majoring in economics. Following a series of jobs, he attended the Academy of Advertising Art in San Francisco where he met his future wife, Priscilla Reed (“Mickie”). Following Pearl Harbor and the onset of World War II, Matt applied for a commission in the US Navy and was accepted in June. He undertook Navy training in Boston and Norfolk, Virginia. He was next assigned to the Army Air Force School of Applied Tactics in Orlando Florida which involved training in tracking and directing fighter planes to targets. Matt was later shipped out to Hawaii and positioned for further transport to Tarawa, arriving after the assault by American forces in November 1943. He returned to the continental US and was stationed in Florida where he trained fighter pilots in night flying and combat. In 1945, as the war ended, he was once again sent to Hawaii as an assembly point for an invasion of Japan that never occurred. After the war, Matt and Mickie moved back to Mill Valley and remodeled an old family cottage into a home.

Card image cap

It is not clear why and how Matt became interested in Francis Drake and his landing in California. Perhaps it came from discussions with a co-worker, Dick Brace, around the year 1948. But whatever the impetus, the mystery of Drake’s landing was a personal challenge as it has been for so many others. Through initial researches and conversations with others in the Pt. Reyes area, a small but dedicated group formed the Drake Navigators Guild. Perhaps Matt's best contribution to the Guild was his passion and wide interests. As he described himself: “When I was young, I constantly tested, probed and inquired, and I would, today, typify myself as a “scopist” - one attempting to add scope to life through research and depiction by means of art and writing.” As an example, the early studies by the Guild and Matt included the craft and science of archeology and the application of this learning at various sites in and around Drakes Estero. In 1952, on a solo trip to Drake's Bay, Matt came upon the cove on the west side of the mouth of Drake's Estero. Given the close but temporary fit of the sand bars, he recognized the congruence of the cove with the mysterious inset in the corner of the Hondius map of Drake's voyage. After around 1960, much of the field work at Drakes Bay was complete, and efforts focused on consolidating information and presenting it in a coherent fashion. Matt continued his involvement in various ways including marathon phone calls about information and strategy with Ray Aker and others.

Matt and Mickie continued living in Mill Valley until 1974 when they separated, continuing to live separately in the same general area. They reunited again in 1981 and lived at Stinson Beach until Matt’s death in 1986.