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A Little Downton Abbey Right Here at Home

Posted by Cohen Bray House on September 13, 2016 at 1:25 AM

The first servant listed as part of Emma’s childhood household in Brooklyn (a neighborhood in what is now Oakland) in 1870 was a young Irish maid by the name of Kate Kavanagh (in the 1870 census it was spelled Cavenaugh, but all other years spelled it with a K). The earliest I can find a record of Kate is in the 1860 census, when she was 12 years old and living in Somersworth, New Hampshire with her mother and sister in the household of Betsy Joyce and her six children. Somersworth was a mill town about equal distance between Boston and Portland, ME, with a population of approximately 4,700 in 1860. I can only imagine how difficult it was for two immigrant women to try to raise 8 children between them.


(Source: Wikipedia)

In 1870 we find Kate at 22 years of age as a servant in the Bray Household. It is possible that she may have taken the transcontinental railroad across the country, which was finished in 1869. The trip would have take approximately 7 days and cost on the order of $100, which is about $2,700 in today’s dollars.



(Source: Sacramento History Online)

By 1880, Kate, now aged 32, had moved on to the Gilchrist household in San Francisco. J and Mary Gilchrest were both born in Scotland and had 6 children aged 1 to 18. Kate was one of two servants in that household, along with another Irish woman by the name of Margaret Mulcahy. J G Gilchrest is listed as a liquor merchant, which was likely a very lucrative business in San Francisco in the 1880s.

 

Meanwhile, in another part of San Francisco, a man by the name of Mathew Kavanagh (presumably of no close relation), was working as a coachman for the Emeric household. Joseph Emeric was born in France and is listed as working in Real Estate. His wife Mary was originally from NYC. Besides the two of them, their household consisted of five Irish servants - three maids, a cook, and Mathew the coachman - so real estate must have been doing well also.


The earliest record of Mathew has him in California at 23 in 1870 in a sort of bizare household with 8 men of varying nationalities and a 3 year old boy. There is also an 1870 boat arrival record for a 21 year old Mathew Kavanagh from Ireland to New York, which may be the year he arrived in the states.


The census is quiet on both Kate and Mathew until 1900, when they show up married for 19 years (i.e. the year after the 1880 census) and living in San Raphael. A voter registration for Mathew from 1904 puts them on Nye St. in Marin. There is still a Nye St. in San Raphael, however the address listed for him is not viable today. They did not have children, so this is the end of the line for this particular story, but let’s hope that they found true love in each other in their golden years, just like Carson and Mrs. Hughes (if you didn’t watch Dowton Abbey, please ignore this reference).

 

(Source: David Rumsey Map Collection)


 

Categories: Individual Histories, Irish Immigrants

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