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August 3, 2004 > A Few of the Irvington Pioneer Women

A Few of the Irvington Pioneer Women

Many prominent pioneer women lived in Irvington. Mrs. J.A. Brewer was one of the first to achieve historical attention because she operated a dairy when her husband went to the gold mines. She made and sold $2,500 worth of butter in 1855.

Miss Anne Shorts grew up in New York and married a merchant named William H. Mack in 1836. He came to the California mines in 1849 and returned east for his wife and daughter in 1851. The Macks moved to Mowry's Landing in 1855 and then settled in Washington Corners (now Irvington) where they operated a mercantile business. Thirteen children were born to the couple, but only three were still alive when the couple celebrated their Golden Wedding in 1886.

Margaret Williams married Timothy Rix, an enterprising operator of clipper ships, in 1823. They lived in San Francisco a short time before they moved to the Irvington Area where Timothy farmed, operated a blacksmith shop and served as the first postmaster of Washington Corners. Their children included Sarah, Helen, Timothy Jr., Alfred, Edward, Harriet, and Henry. Granddaughter Maggie Rix Chadbourne married Joshua Chadbourne. She was an honored guest when Chadbourne School was dedicated to her late husband.

Elizabeth Threlfall was born in England in 1808 and came to the United States in 1812. She married William Threlfall in Illinois in 1827 where they also founded their home and reared a family of ten children. Their son John brought his bride across the plains in a prairie schooner in 1854. Mr. and Mrs. A.O. Rix rode in this same party. Their son Richard also came to California and married Helen Rix. Elizabeth and William followed the emigrant trail across the plains with ox teams and settled on a farm near Washington Corners.

There were so many famous men and women in the Hirsch family that it is difficult to write about only a few of the pioneer Irvington women. Caroline Ettinger came from Germany to join her fiancé, Joseph Hirsch. They were married in San Francisco and lived in Centerville a year before they settled in Irvington where they established a mercantile business and raised their six children. Joseph died in 1887 leaving Caroline to operate the business and raise the children. All became very successful citizens.

Estelle Riley married Caroline's son Edwin in 1913. Together they operated the general store founded by Joseph and Caroline. She spent her long life serving her community. She loved children and opened her home for classes in religion. She helped establish the Irvington P.T.A., served the Country Club of Washington Township, and was a founding member of the Washington Township Historical Society. She went to New York to accept the national award for the Country Club from Eleanor Roosevelt and was named Citizen of the Year by the Irvington Business Association. She was the honorary grand marshal of 1981 Fremont Pathfinder Days Parade at age 97.

Mary Liston grew up in Alvarado where her father, Jonathon Liston was station master. She married Randolph Griffin in 1922 and moved to Irvington. She was a founding member of the Washington Township Historical Society and was secretary for 24 years. She ran the released-time religious education program at the Irvington Presbyterian Church during World War II. She was a P.T.A. president, a worthy matron of the local Eastern Star and the bookkeeper for her husband's business.

Thomas Leal came to California from the Azores Islands on a whaling ship in the 1850's and established his home on a ranch near Irvington. His daughter, Mary Leal Perry, grew up on the ranch and lived her entire life nearby. She was the mother of Wilhelmine Perry Berge and Manuel and Tom Perry. Three of her grandchildren became teachers.

Wilhelmine Perry lived on the John Horner ranch on Driscoll Road before her father, Manuel Perry, bought land and built a home on Olive Avenue. She attended the College of Notre Dame, taught piano, and married Thomas Berge. She and her daughter, Carmelita Freitas, wrote "Personal Sketches of the Five Areas of Fremont." Wilhelmina's great-aunt, Mother Pia Maria Backes, established the Dominican Sisters novitiate at Mission San Jose and granted family members a burial plot behind the wooden church. The replica of the adobe church covered the Berge family plot when it was built.

Many famous women served at Washington College and Curtner Seminary including Mrs. Ingram, "Lady Principal," Mrs. Harmon, associate principal, and teachers Ingor Stevenson, Josephine Curtner, Mary Durham and Ethel Anderson at the Anderson Academy. Gladys (Giles) Cronkhite was a radio home economics commentator. Mrs. Elda Cutler lived on Osgood Avenue. She taught oil painting, water coloring and china painting in her home in 1900.

Mrs. Rufus Denmark tried to bring mustard seed with her when she came to settle in Irvington. She rode from Oakland to Irvington through fields of tall mustard and never heard the last of her plan to sow mustard around Irvington. She and Mrs. George Walters were among the first women to settle at Irvington.

Margaret Overacker Chadbourne was described as "a wonderful, energetic lady of great compassion." She spent much of her time beautifying her ranch and the little Presbyterian Chruch in Irvington.

Mariana Horner was one of the first female teachers in Irvington. She was hired as a primary teacher in 1875 and was the first of a long line of prominent women teachers. Annie Lyons, who married Frank Copeland and was the mother of Father Raymond Copeland, was another famous teacher. There were many more through the years.

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