California of the Past and Present

John Francis Maguire

California of the Past and Present—Early Irish Settlers—Death amid the Mountains—Pat Clark—But One Mormon—The Irish wisely settle on the Land—How they Succeeded in the Cities—Successful Thrift—Irish Girls—The Church in San Francisco—What a poor Irishman can do

THERE is not a State in the Union in which the Irish have taken deeper and stronger root, or thriven more successfully, than California, in whose amazing progress—material, social, and intellectual—they have had a conspicuous share. For nearly twenty years past this region has been associated in the popular mind with visions of boundless wealth and marvellous fortunes; and it may be interesting to learn under what circumstances the Irish became connected with a country of such universal repute, and of whose population they form a most important and valuable portion.

Long before the discovery of the precious metal attracted the adventurous from every quarter of the globe to the golden shores of the Pacific, Irishmen had made their home in California, where they had been hospitably received by the kindly Spanish race, with whom they freely intermixed, and amongst whom they were in the enjoyment of abundant means, won by honest industry, or the result of no less honourable public service. And how different the California of a quarter of a century since from the California of the present day! It retains but a faint resemblance to what it was when the sole occupants and lords of the soil were the good missionary priests, the rancheros, and the Indians. Then the peaceful dweller amidst the beautiful solitude beheld nature in its most lovely and attractive form; a wide expanse of undulating plain and charming valley, rich and well watered, unfenced and untilled; groves and noble forests of oak, pine, cedar, and other trees of majestic size, some growing singly or in groups, as if planted by the hand of taste; large and numerous herds of horses and cattle roaming over the luxuriant pastures, the only living objects giving evidence of the presence or proximity of man. But a few years have passed since then, and what a change! The landscape chequered with smiling farms, homesteads, and villas—dotted over with towns and villages—life and movement everywhere—evidences of the energy and industry of man in all directions. Where there stood a few huts on the sea-shore, there is now a great city, with bustling wharves and crowded thoroughfares and busy population—a majestic cathedral, and the rival churches of almost every diversity of religious belief. The rancheros and the Indians have passed away, never to return; but the Cross is still there, thanks, in a great measure, to those islanders who have been so wonderfully selected by Providence as the most successful missionaries of the Faith in this century, as in others now remote.

The Irish in America, first published in 1868, provides an invaluable account of the extreme difficulties that 19th Century Irish immigrants faced in their new homeland and the progress which they had nonetheless made in the years since arriving on a foreign shore. A new edition, including additional notes and an index, has been published by Books Ulster/LibraryIreland:

Paperback: 700+ pages The Irish in America

ebook: The Irish in America