Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mathew Fitzgerald

I recently had an opportunity to search for the homes of some of my ancestors, as well as those of my husband’s, on a recent visit to the Bay Area.  Sadly, the search was unsuccessful and I was a feeling a little dejected as we arrived at the airport to await our flight home.  But as luck would have it, I quickly pulled myself out of it when this beautiful face arrived in an e-mail message from Patti, a cousin I recently connected with.

Matthew Fitzgerald

That, my friends, is my second great grandfather, Mathew William Fitzgerald.  What a handsome man with a mischievous look in his eyes!

Mathew William Fitzgerald, the son of Nicholas and Margaret (Cullen) Fitzgerald, was born 10 September, 1850 in County Kildare, Ireland.  Mathew married Julia Horgan (1849-1885) in Yolo county in 1869 and they had seven children – John (1871-1970), Jeremiah (1873- ), Nicholas (1875-1938), Mary Margaret (1877-1948), my great grandfather Edward (1879-1968), Joseph (1881-1929), and Anna (1883-1950).  Julia was just a young woman when she died in 1885 and left Mathew to care for their children.  Shortly thereafter, Mathew moved his children to Fresno County where he remained for 20 years.

I have a lot more research to do about Mathew’s life, but I know quite a bit about his death on 21 August 1905.  One of the first death certificates I sent away for in 2010 was Mathew’s, which showed the cause of death to be “accidentally falling from wagon”. 

DC Matthew Fitzgerald

That’s an interesting piece of information.  It’s also interesting to note that the place of death was “near Mountain Rest Hotel”.  I wasn’t sure what any of that meant so I put it aside for a few years until I began my subscription to when I found some other related information.

Woodland Daily Democrat, 22 Aug 1905, page 1
Woodland Daily Democrat
Tuesday, August 22, 1905
Page 1

So that doesn’t tell us much other than he was killed on Monday night but the particulars were not known.  But the following day more was known and was reported in the newspaper – Mathew was run over!

Woodland Daily Democrat, 23 Aug 1905, Page 1
Woodland Daily Democrat
Wednesday, August 23, 1905
Page 1

A few items of note in this account:
  • Now the paper says his name was William M. Fitzgerald
  • Why isn’t Jeremiah “Jerry” listed as a surviving child?  I know he was still living at that time – could they have, perhaps, been estranged from each other?
And the next day, even more details were reported.

Woodland Daily Democrat, 24 Aug 1905, Page 4
Woodland Daily Democrat
Thursday, August 24, 1905
Page 4

That’s a pretty detailed account of the final hours of Mathew’s life, hours that must have been excruciating.  In the book “The History of Black’s Station/Zamora – It’s People” by Elaine Hermle, it is noted that he was killed on what was known as Dead Man’s Curve – an appropriate name, it seems.

I’m curious as to who Henry Fitzgerald is – could Jeremiah have been known as Henry?

This is another interesting document.

Removal Permit

How strange to think that this permit had to be posted on the box (casket) to prove what was inside.  Information tells me that Mathew is buried next to his wife, Julia Horgan Fitzgerald, in St. Joseph’s Catholic Cemetery in Woodland, California.  I’ve set up memorials on findagrave for Mathew and Julia and requested photos – I’d like to see the headstones to see what other clues there might be.  I’d also like to learn more about Mathew and Julia’s lives rather than focusing on Mathew’s death.

So that’s what I know about my 2nd great grandfather.  Thanks again to my ‘new’ cousin, Patti, for sharing this beautiful photo of Mathew with me!


  1. What a sad end for your great-great-grandfather, Debi. He looks like someone I would have enjoyed knowing. I hope you are able to learn more and him and his life.

  2. It's interesting what gets recorded on a death certificate. I wonder if there had been no standard or rule. At face value, the cause might be interpreted to be a head injury. Had it not been for the newspaper accounts, you wouldn't know that he had been run over by the wagon and suffered internal injuries. So as stated, the cause of death wasn't exactly the full cause, just a contributing cause.

  3. I'm a little late here since it's already 3/23 (but it's still Saturday for me since I haven't gone to bed yet) -- I just wanted to wish you a happy blog anniversary. I enjoy reading your posts even though I don't always comment on them. Here's to another great year, Debi.

  4. I'm also a descendant of Mathew, through his son Edward (Edward's daughter Viola is my great grandmother). I've been looking to find sources for Mathew's parents, but haven't been able to come across any.

    1. Dallin, I'd very much like to connect with you - Viola was my grandmother's sister. Please contact me at debiausten at yahoo dot com.