John Curtin, one of California’s pioneers of 1853, now owning a large stock ranch eight miles from Chinese Station and the same distance from Knight’s Ferry, is a native of the green isle of Erin, his birth having occurred in Mallow, in county Cork, on the 31st days of March, 1835. His parents, Michael and Margaret Curtin, were also natives of that land. His father passed away at the age of fifty-one years, his death resulting from the kick of a horse. He and his wife were the parents of three sons and six daughters.
Mr. Curtin of this review was only thirteen years of age when he bade adieu to home and friends and crossed the Atlantic to “the land of the free.” He took passage on an American clipper ship, the Sarah Perkins, of New York, at a London dock on the 17th of March, 1848, the ship being under the command of Captain Samuel Kilpatrick. They encountered severe head winds and were ten weeks and four days on the voyage. The supply of water became exhausted and a flag of distress brought a steamer to their relief and they were given twenty-five barrels of water. At length they safely reached the harbor of New York and Mr. Curtin proceeded to Boston. Soon afterward he obtained work from John Houlett, at South Reading, Massachusetts, and was given seven dollars per month as a compensation for his services. Not long after he obtained a position as stage driver at twenty-five dollars per month, his route being from the city of Lawrence to Boston. He saved his money and as soon as he had accumulated enough he sent it back to Ireland to pay the passage of his mother, six sisters and two brothers, who then came to the new world. He built a home for them and had them comfortably situated, accomplishing all this before he was eighteen years of age.
Not long afterward, when still in his eighteenth year, John Curtin was united in marriage to Miss Annie Corroan, a native of Kinsale, county Cork, Ireland. She was then sixteen years of age. Deciding to seek his fortune in the Golden state, Mr. Curtin arrived at Volcano, Amador County, in 1853 and thence went to Fiddletown and later to Drytown, Calaveras County. In May, 1854, he crossed the Stanislaus River into Tuolumne County, and struck a rich claim at Gold Springs. He secured gold in large quantities, but sunk all his money in the Stanislaus River Water Company, thus losing fifteen thousand dollars. After becoming established in his California home he sent for his wife, who came by way of the Isthmus of Panama and joined him on the Pacific coast. They settled at Gold Springs and there four sons and three daughters were born unto them, of whom two have passed away. The remaining children are: Mary, now the wife of J. K. Weyburn, a resident of San Francisco; Margaret Ellen, the wife of P. F. Warren, superintendent of the Clio mine, of Jacksonville, Tuolumne County, California; M. J., who is now in the employ of the harbor commission in San Francisco; J. B., a prominent state senator and one of the most distinguished lawyers of Tuolumne County; and Robert Andrew, who graduated at Alameda University Academy and York School, of Stockton, and is now associated with his father in the cattle business.
In 1880 Mr. Curtin removed from Gold Springs to his present farm, where he has fourteen hundred acres of land. He has on his place about five hundred head of cattle at a time, and is now breeding a grade of Durham and Holsteins. This produces excellent stock and of hardy nature, excellent for food and therefore commanding good prices upon the market. In 1881 Mr. Curtin erected a commodious, substantial and attractive farm residence, but five years later it was destroyed by fire. With characteristic energy, however, he replaced it with a pleasant home, in which he now resides. In 1891 he was called upon to mourn the loss of his wife, who died on the 14th of February, of that year. Her many excellencies of character had endeared her not only to her family, but to her many friends. The following obituary appeared in the Sonora Democrat, issued on the 1st of March, 1891:
“O, Remorseless Time!
Fear Spirit of the Glass and Scythe!
What power can stay him in his onward
Or melt his iron heart to pity?”
One after the other crosses the “border line”, one of Tuolumne’s oldest highly respected and best known citizens.
On the 9th day of February, 1891, died Mrs. Annie Curtin, the wife of Mr. John Curtin, who with his much beloved wife, were among the oldest citizens of Tuolumne County. She was born in the town of Kinsale, colunty Cork, Ireland, on the 7th day of July, 1838, and at her death was in her fifty-third year. She came to America in April, 1850, at the age of twelve, and lived with her people at Lynn, Massachusetts, and married Mr. Curtin at the age of seventeen. Both actuated by the spirit of adventure and the gold excitement of the times, they came to California, for “westward the star of empire takes its flight,” and lived at Gold Spring, near Columbia, where all her children were born. In May, 1880, the family moved to Cloudman’s, and in 1882 a post office was established at this place. Mr. Cloudman was appointed postmaster, with Mrs. Curtin as his deputy. Mr. Cloudman served but a short time, when she was appointed in his place and filled the position until her death. She leaves a husband, four sons and two daughters to mourn the loss of a loving and faithful wife and devoted mother.
Life is a mystery! Death is a mystery! None can explain. In the language of Ingersoll: “There is, after all, something tenderly appropriate in the serene death of the old. Nothing is more touching than the death of the young and beautiful. But when the duties of life have been nobly done; when the purple twilight falls upon the present, the past, and the future; when memory with dim eyes can scarcely spell the records of the vanished days, then, surrounded by friends, death comes like a strain of music: it is a welcome relief. The day has been long, the road weary, and we gladly stop at the inn.” Our deceased friend was not among the young or the old. But the duties of her life had been nobly done. Her sun on earth touched the horizon. We cannot explain the reasons why, though the days had not been long, the road weary, or the memory dim, and at the age of fifty-three she stopped at the universal inn from which no traveler ever returns, and there we will bid her a sorrowful and eternal adieu.
In 1898 Mr. Curtin was again married, his second union being with Mrs. Honora Fogarty, of Modesto, with whom he lived happily until May, 1900, when she too departed this life and he was once more left alone. The following mention of her demise occurred in one of the local papers: “This morning at 9 o’clock, after a lingering illness from cancer, Mrs. Honora Delaney Curtin, the wife of John Curtin, died in this city. For a long time the lady had been a patient sufferer from cancer of the stomach. A short time ago she was taken to San Francisco, where an operation for her relief was attempted, but the malady had so weakened her that the operation had to be abandoned. She was a native of New Birmingham, Thurles, county Tipperary, Ireland, coming to this country when but a small girl. She came to Modesto about nineteen years ago, and reared five children here. They are two daughters and three sons: Mrs. Henry Hamilton, Mrs. D. J. McAllen, Dennis A., Thomas D. and Alphonso L. Fogarty. She married John Curtin about two years ago. Her age was fifty-one years, five months and twenty-one days. She was well known and highly respected throughout this community and many will mourn her loss.
Mr. Curtin exercises his right of franchise in support of the men and measure of the Democracy, but has never been a politician in the sense of office seeking, yet he served as postmaster for twenty years, the office being at his home. He has a wide acquaintance among the businessmen in this portion of the state and all esteem him for those reliable qualities that everywhere command respect and confidence. In the early days he was engaged in the freighting business between Stockton, Oakdale and the different mining camps in the mountains. He became well known to the majority of the residents of this section of California and won their respect, friendship and regard.
William L. Curtin, a son of the subject of the foregoing sketch, was born December 17, 1872, and died April 20, 1892. He was a young man of excellent qualities and a promising career was before him.
Robert Andrew Curtin, another son, is a graduate of the York School at Stockton and of the Alameda University Academy, and has just passed the civil-service examination for a position on the police force of San Francisco.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2011 Gerald Iaquinta.