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The Irish in Marin...
The Birth of St. Vincent’s School for Boys
On January 10, 1853, Don Timoteo Murphy’s friends gathered at his San Rafael adobe to witness his last will and testament. Rich in land, cattle, sheep and horses, Murphy split his estate between his brother Matthew and nephew John Lucas. Perhaps to ensure a warm welcome at the Pearly Gates, he deeded 317 acres to Archbishop Joseph Alemany to “aid in the establishment of a Seminary or Institution of learning.” To protect against ecclesiastical dithering, Murphy added a caveat: if the school was not built within two years, the grant would be voided. The Irish Giant signed his name at 2 a.m. January 11th, lapsed into unconsciousness and died two days later.
Murphy Adobe Source: MHM
Archbishop Alemany let a year pass before taking action on the Irishman’s grant. The inconvenient property was twenty-five miles from San Francisco, reachable only by boat followed by, depending on the season, a dusty or muddy horseback ride. Eager to build a cathedral on California Street, Alemany had neither money nor attention to devote to the project. But, he reasoned, the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent ran an orphanage and school for girls. Perhaps they could be persuaded to take on the challenge.
Sister Francis McEnnis (1812-1879) soon journeyed north selecting a knoll on which to build the school, funded by a near miraculous $5,000 ($138,000 in 2017). On January 7, 1855, four days before the land would have reverted to Murphy’s heirs, St. Vincent’s Seminary opened. By July, the Seminary hosted ten girls. Unfortunately, the isolation and lack of a local priest forced the sisters and their charges to retreat to San Francisco.
Source: One Hundred Years an Orphan, John T. Dwyer
Archbishop Almaney next sent 14 boys from the Market Street Orphanage along with Father A. R. Maurice to the newly renamed St. Vincent’s School for Boys. By the end of 1855, 28 orphans and 40 day students studied at St. Vincent’s.
In June 1859, Father Louis Lootens became director. During his tenure, the orphanage and school thrived. Lootens built gardens, a chapel dedicated to the Most Holy Rosary and a 140-bed dormitory-classroom building. The good father’s achievements left many convinced that Lootens, not Sister Francis or Father Maurice, had founded the school. By 1890, the City of San Rafael had dedicated Lootens Place, between 3rd and 5th, in honor of Father Lootens and his service as pastor to Marin and father to St. Vincent’s orphaned boys.
Source: One Hundred Years an Orphan, John T. Dwyer
Source: MHM By Jo Haraf
Source: Tomales History Museum
Clams brought George Dillon of County Killdare, Ireland from Missouri and across the plains to the Marin coast. In 1859, he and his wife Matilda, and eventually nine children, settled on 906 acres of ranch land on Tamales Bay, producing milk and butter for the San Francisco market and cultivating the once-famous Bodega red skin potatoes.
In the 1880s, with the North Pacific Railroad coming to Tomales, four miles to the east, George thought tourists would want to see the mile-long sandy beach at the mouth of Tomales Bay. He built a hotel and dining room at Dillon Beach and ran a stage coach to the station. One wonders if Irish seafood chowder was on the menu – made with cream, potatoes and clams from his own beach.
In 1906, after his son Joseph tragically shot himself, Dillon sold the hotel to the Keegan family with the understanding that the property would always be called Dillon Beach. He died shortly after in Petaluma.
By Susan Cluff
Source: Tiburon Landmarks Society
Peter Donahue was a machinist on a gun boat in Peru when he jumped ship to join the Gold Rush. Arriving in San Francisco in 1849, he started a machine shop with his brothers that later became Union Iron Works. He then founded the first gasworks company for street lights (forerunner of PG&E) and in 1860, the first crosstown street car line (now Muni).
About 1869, Peter began buying and building railways in Sonoma and Marin, then served only by stagecoaches and schooners. After a rival railroad bypassed San Rafael, Donahue built a railroad branch from Petaluma to San Rafael in 1878 and in 1884 completed a freight and passenger railand ferry terminus at Point Tiburon.
An investor in the San Rafael Hotel with his son Mervyn, Peter built a palatial mansion on Lincoln Avenue with murals of all the places his railroads went. He didn’t get to enjoy it long, he died after inspecting his rail yards on a rainy November night.
Source: Susan Cluff
Donahue’s son erected the Mechanics Statue in San Francisco in his father’s memory. The bronze depicts five men struggling to punch a hole through a metal plate. At the base are symbols of Donahue's professions: an anvil for the foundries, a propeller for shipping, and the driving wheel and connecting rod for his railroads.
By Susan Cluff
Reed's adobe house c. 1890 after being destroyed by fire.
Source: Mill Valley Public Library, Lucretia Little History Room
Born in Dublin, Ireland, John Reed came to the Presidio of Yerba Buena (San Francisco) at the age of 21. After a failed attempt to settle land near present-day Cotati, he built a home in Sausalito in 1832 and began a ferry service across the bay. He named the boat Hilaria after the Presidio Commandant’s daughter, whom he would marry in 1836. John became a Mexican citizen and received the first land grant in Marin, Rancho Corte Madera del Presidio, where he built a sawmill (Old Mill) to supply lumber to the Presidio.The Reeds, raising four children, built an adobe home in what is now Corte Madera and by 1843 their ranch had 2,000 cattle and 200 horses. John Reed died at the age of 38 when his friends severed an artery in a failed attempt to cure him of pneumonia with a phlebotomy.The Rancho was eventually divided between his three surviving children.
By Scott Fletcher
For more about all things Irish in Marin, click here to read about the 1878 Saint Patrick’s Day Parade in San Rafael.
Friday, March 22 5-7 pm
Marin Art and Garden Center
Kitchen Memories, 1945-1965: Selections from The Kathleen Thompson Hill Culinary Collection
This exhibition presents some of the collection’s highlights, from cheese graters to cracker tins to egg beaters. More than just examples of domestic activities, the collection mirrors the cultural and technological history of the country through the years.
Saturday, March 23 6-7 pm
Friends of China Camp
Please join local Historian Marcie Miller for a talk on the first Don of San Rafael, “Don Timoteo” Murphy. His was the largest and most prized catch among the twenty-odd 1834-45 land grants. Standing 6’4” and 350 pounds, Murphy spoke Native Miwok with an Irish Brogue while leading as the strongest advocate for the Marin Natives. Come learn of this larger than life character who helped form early San Rafael through his dedication…and maybe a little scandal.
IN THIS ISSUE:
Museum News, Events, Feature Article, Faces of Marin, 100 Years Ago, Community Events, and From the Collection
SAVE THE DATE!
May 4th, 10 am - 2 pm
Marin Center Exhibit Hall
MHM & Michaan's Auctions invite you to gather your decorative arts, books, antiques, heirlooms, vintage collectibles, treasured fine art and small furniture and bring them to be appraised.
Commemorative plaque in original brown leather case “Presented to Marin County California by the Panama Pacific International Exposition in Recognition of Marin County’s Co-operation". Yellow satin lines the inside top of the case where “P. P. I. E.” is pressed in shiny gold script. The plaque itself, heavy bronze with a delicate border, rests snugly in yellow velvet. Dated March 11, 1915.
Marin County was featured prominently as one of 58 counties in the fair’s “Old Mission Style” California Building. The Marin County pavilion featured an arch of Sausalito stone, columns formed by redwood trees, a large cut-out in the gallery’s north wall that provided an unobstructed view of the natural landscape, and several oil paintings and murals.
One such painting from the exhibit, “Baptism of Chief Marin” by Ettore Serbaroli, now hangs in the gift shop at Mission San Rafael. First displayed at the Cliff House following the fair, it was purchased by a church patron for $400 and moved to the mission in 1976.
Sources: Marin History Museum, Marin Independent Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, calisphere.org
From the Marin Journal
St. Raphael's Church to celebrate St. Patrick's day with Good Entertainment
The St. Patrick's Day celebration which takes place Saturday evening March 16th, in Hall Rafael, will introduce a big program of Irish songs and dances by several of the cleverest members of the Gaelic League of San Francisco. The feature of the evening will be the first presentation in Marin county of the "Price of Orchids," a sentimental comedy in one act, first produced with great success at the Cap and Bells club, under the direction of Miss. Mae Francis O'Keefe. It compares favorably with the finest acts in local theaters.
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