Wednesday Sep 07 2011
Irish community key to Rocklin's early growth
By: Gary Day, Special to the Placer Herald
Rocks, Rails and Ranches
By Gary Day Special to the Placer Herald The U.S. Census of 1860 shows Irish immigrants were the largest ethnic group of Rocklin’s first Euro-American settlers. According to the Irish Genealogical Foundation, many Irishmen in California at that time were from families that had survived the Irish Potato Famines and the coffin ships that had brought them to Boston and New York in the 1840s. Many were living in poverty on the East Coast. When news of Marshall’s gold discovery filtered eastward in 1848, hoards of Irishmen headed overland, around the Horn, or over the Isthmus to the gold fields. Most Irishmen in our area washed gravel for gold in Secret Ravine’s creeks, but some owned local businesses. Michael Keating was the innkeeper. Tom Maloney was the shoemaker. James Bolton was the farmer who subdivided his land to form Rocklin’s original town site in 1866. The Central Pacific built Rocklin’s roundhouse in 1867. The 1870 Census shows that as gold fever waned most of the Irish Argonauts had abandoned their sluice boxes to take jobs with the railroad. By 1880, a few of Rocklin’s Irishmen had opened granite quarries, mainly to supply stone for California’s monumental buildings. After William Quinn fell from a quarry hoist to his death in 1874, his wife, Mary, and the Quinn children continued to operate the family quarry until the mid 1890s. The water-filled Quinn Quarry behind Rocklin’s police station is still one of the most picturesque quarries in Rocklin’s downtown landscape. In 1882 James Bolton donated Front Street property for Rocklin’s Saint Mary’s of the Assumption Catholic Church, now restored in Heritage Park as Old Saint Mary’s Chapel. It is Rocklin’s oldest public building and the most prominent reminder of Rocklin’s Irish heritage. Gary Day is a member of the Rocklin Historical Society.