John Thomas Reed was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1805 and died in Marin County in 1843. He shipped to South America in 1820 and lived in Acapulco, Mexico, for six years where he learned the language and customs. He arrived in the Bay Area in 1826.

His first attempt at a ranch was Cotati Rancho but failed due to hostile Indians. He tried his luck in Marin where he started with a shack and began running the first regular ferry on the San Francisco Bay.After becoming a Mexican citizen he was granted a lands in the Mill Valley/Corte Madera/Tiburon area by Governor Figueroa, as long as he built a sawmill and provided wood for the presidios in San Francisco. He then named his land Rancho Corte Madera del Presidio.

He married Hilaria Sanchez on October 12, 1836 in Mission Dolores. They had four children: John Joseph, Hilarita, Inez, and Ricardo.

He is said to be the first white man to climb Mount Tamalpais.