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The Callahan Family Ranches

The lands taken up near Copperopolis by members of the Callahan family from the 1870s through the 1890s may have been occupied by others in the 1850s and 1860s, but no deeds were located. By 1870, Thomas Harris and Elvira Callahan and their family of six children were residing on their ranch in the northwesterly portion of the Flowers Ranch (southwestern quarter of Section 10, T1N, R12E). That year, Thomas, a native of Ireland, was listed as a 44-year-old farmer with $200 in real estate and $1,475 in personal estate. In addition to Thomas, the household consisted of his wife, Elvira/Ellen, age 42; his blind brother-in-law “McGowan” (McCuon), age 37; and his children, Robert, Susan, George, Ellen, Austin, and Thomas. Callahan was naturalized in Calaveras County the following year and registered to vote at that same time.

Thomas Callahan’s assessment in 1873 noted a house, a barn, a fence, and a stone corral, with a wagon, a horse, a colt, 26 cattle, two goats, five sheep, and poultry. Thomas patented the land in 1885, and Ella M. Callahan (Elvira/Ellen) had patented the northwestern quarter two years previously. Thomas Harris Callahan was listed as a “cloth furnisher” in the 1880 census but as a farmer in the 1888 Great Register. In 1880, he was 56 and residing on the property with his wife, Elvira, a native of Kentucky, age 52; while all the children were born in California: Robert, 26, a rancher; George W., 21, a laborer; and Austin, 15, and Thomas Jr., 14, sheep herders. Daughters Susan, 24, and Ellen, 18, were keeping house with their mother.

By 1887, Thomas was assessed for the 160 acres with a house, a barn, and a fence, as well as furniture, a sewing machine, farming utensils, a buggy, a harness, two cows, two stock cattle, four dozen poultry, and a dog. After his death in 1895, the property, which had been increased to 640 acres, was conveyed to William Bruskey and then to John Manuel, who sold to N.M. Flower in 1897 (Deed Book 30:120). In 1900, Elvira Callahan and her daughter Ellen and son-in-law Jefferson D. Boxall and their two children were residing in Copperopolis.

Thomas and Elvira’s son George patented the southeastern quarter of Section 10 in 1888, and their son Austin patented the northeastern quarter of Section 15 in 1891 (Land Patent Maps). George sold his land, which had been assessed for only a corral and a fence, to William Bruskey in March 1902 for $30 (Deed Book 11:423), and Austin sold his acreage to Nathan Flower in April 1894 for $550 (Deed Book 24:245). Apparently, no structures were on the land, and it was used for agricultural purposes in conjunction with the main Callahan Ranch.

The eldest son, Robert Harrison Callahan, and his wife, Josephine Kuhn, took up land west of the senior Callahans (western half of Section 9, T1N, R12E) sometime prior to 1881, probably shortly after their marriage in 1877. In 1887, their assessment noted a house, a barn, and a fence on the southern half of the northwest quarter and north half of the southwestern quarter, on land originally patented by William M. Toomey in 1874.

In 1887, Robert was assessed for a house, a barn, and a fence on the property, as well as personal property including a watch, furniture, a guitar, a sewing machine, farming utensils, a buckboard, a harness, three horses, two colts, two cows, two stock cattle, 265 sheep, 110 lambs, poultry, hogs, and a dog. In later years, Charlie Stone described this as the residence of Robert Callahan, as located on the west side of Littlejohns Creek near the mine waste rock dump. In 1889, Robert Callahan sold this parcel of more than 92 acres of his lands to Nathan Flower (Deed Book 17:501).

As well as the lands in the western half of Section 9, Robert had acquired land to the east (southeastern quarter of Section 9, T1N, R12E), patented by Robert McCoun in 1882. McCoun, noted as a 48-year-old blind musician residing at the Tower Ranch in 1880, evidently was the brother of Elvira Callahan and simply patented the land for them. He also patented the northeastern quarter of Section 15, T1N, R12E, in 1890, presumably also for the Callahans.

In 1900, the census enumerator listed Robert Callahan as a farmer owning his mortgaged farm. He was age 45, and his wife, Josephine, was 42 and keeping house; his daughter, Susie, was 21 and a servant; and his son, Charles, was 14 and at school. His brother Austin was boarding at the Gorham Ranch and working as a day laborer.

By 1910, the Callahan family was still residing on its farm, with Robert noted as a farmer and the children with no occupation. Boarding with them were musician Isaac McCafferty, from Wisconsin, and John Olson, a woodchopper from Sweden. Sometime before 1920, Robert’s son, Charles, married Delia Gorham and moved to the Gorham Ranch to the east and was working as a truck driver in a copper mine, while Delia was teaching.

In 1930, Robert Callahan was still listed as a stock raiser, age 77, and residing with his wife and daughter, Susie, on their farm. The Robert Callahan Ranch finally was sold to the Flower family in the 1930s (Stone 1992).


by Judith Marvin