California Genealogy and History Archives
A native of Ireland, William Bourke was born in County Kildare in 1830, the son of William and Bridget (Coyne) Bourke, farmers, and there this son was reared and received his education in the common schools. In 1849, when but nineteen years of age, he decided to try his fortunes in the New World and accordingly came to New York, thence to Chicago, Ill., and later to New Orleans. Having heard of the vast wealth uncovered by the miner's pick in California he resolved to seek the new Eldorado and cast in his lot with the pioneers of the Golden West. In 1852 he came by way of Panama and arrived in San Francisco, embarking from the steamer Northerner in June of that year. There being plenty of work for a vigorous young man. Mr. Bourke remained for a time in that city, then worked in the mines on the American river, in the Coloma district and later in Sierra county, meeting with considerable success.
In the summer of 1858 Mr. Bourke came to the vicinity of Petaluma and purchased a squatter's title to some land on San Antonio creek; settling down to what became his vocation in life, the dairy business. Being an ambitious youth and always looking for a chance to better his condition, he remained but four years when he sold out to good advantage and invested in a dairy in Nicasio, Marin county, remaining there four years, when he again sold at a profit and with his accumulated capital was enabled to purchase nine hundred and fifty acres in Hicks valley, which he still owns. The ranch is well watered by a creek and numerous springs and is well adapted for dairy purposes. This he has improved with modern and up-to-date buildings and it is now considered one of the finest dairies in the locality. For many years he ran a dairy of one hundred cows with great success and the quality of his butter won such a reputation that he received as high as seventy-five cents per pound for it. In 1871 he leased the ranch and settled on a tract of three hundred and thirty acres on San Antonio creek, that he purchased as a speculation and sold one year later at a good profit. Having acquired a competency he retired from active work and located in Petaluma. In 1903 he built a very comfortable residence on Howard and Bassett streets, where he is content to spend his declining years in peace and comfort.
In San Francisco Mr. Bourke was united in
marriage with Miss Amelia Fitzgibbon, who was also born in Ireland, and
who passed away in 1898. He is a Democrat in politics and is a member of
St. Vincent's church. Although a semi-invalid and eighty-one years of
age, he takes a keen interest in the affairs of the day and keeps
abreast of the times. He enjoys recounting incidents of the early days,
of his companions in toil. He is a self-made man, highly respected and
endeared to the entire community, and a hearty sympathizer in every good
Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011