Tuesday, October 29, 2013

An Irish Family In The City By The Bay

     I've been reading a book I picked up at a library sale last summer whose subject is the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Naturally this caused my thoughts to turn to my 4th great-uncle Edward O'Hora. Edward was born in County Carlow, Ireland in 1829 and sailed for America during the famine era.  After landing in New York he made his way to Auburn, NY like his siblings. Unlike them Edward paused long enough to start a family and then kept going.  He packed up his wife Sarah Frazier and their three small children and joined a wagon train heading west.

     They settled first in Columbia, by then a declining gold mining town.  They stayed there only a few years then moved the twenty-seven miles to Copperopolis, where in 1860 a large deposit of copper ore had been discovered.  Fueled by the demand for copper for bullets during the civil war, the area grew and prospered.

     The end of the war in 1865 signaled the end of mining in Copperopolis, and the family moved on to Sutter Creek, another gold town, around 1869.  Edward never hit it big in the mines and remained a laborer all his life.  By 1870 he and his growing family were renting a flat at 223 Beale Street in San Francisco, a rundown area sandwiched between Chinatown and Irish Hill.  

      California was not kind to this family, tragedy hung over them like a cloud. Of Edward’s nine children, only five passed their 16th birthday and of those five, only three saw their 30th.  Edward
Edward O'Hora
himself contracted meningitis and died in January of 1872 at the age of 43, perhaps never knowing his wife Sarah was pregnant with a daughter who would be born seven months after her father's death.  Little Agnes would not long survive him, she died at the age of one when in January of 1874 an epidemic of scarlatina (scarlet fever) swept San Francisco.  Sarah passed away twelve years later. In fact, with the exception of the three children mentioned above, the entire family was gone by the middle of January 1889.  From death records it appears the O'Horas became what was known as a "consumptive family", of the six causes I've found, four were from TB.

     The surviving children, Mary Jane, (Humphries), Sarah Jr., (Sheahan) and James W. were on hand for the quake in '06.  Mary Jane was living on Hampshire St and her sister Sarah was a short distance away on Army St., now renamed Caesar Chavez.  It's hard to imagine the terror they must have felt, for themselves and their children as the earth began to move that morning.  Then the fires started-- it must have felt like the world around them was being annihilated.

     In yet another case of, "I wish I had known then, what I know now", I spent a month in San Francisco in 1988,  ten months before the 1989 quake. ( I absolutely loved SF, but I'm glad we missed that.)  This photo of my adorable children was taken at the corner of California and Grant in Chinatown. Had we continued less than a mile down California and hung a right on Davis we would have come to Beale St. sigh...go know.

     Much of the information I've turned up on this branch of my family came from this site http://www.sfgenealogy.com/ cemetery records with cause of death are here along with city directories and much more.


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