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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sonoma County


John D'Arcy Connolly

The subject of this sketch, John D'Arcy Connolly, a resident of Occidental, Sonoma county, was born in 1854 near the town of Clifden, County Galway, Ireland, his father's name being Daniel Connolly and his mother's maiden name Mary D'Arcy. Daniel Connolly's connection with the Finian movement of 1867 made his further stay in the old country unsafe, and with John he made his way to the United States. The young man found employment at exceedingly hard work in the coal mines of Pennsylvania, steamboating and railroad-building in the middle west, and though only eighteen years old was foreman of construction gangs on several lines of road. Early in 1875 he joined his widowed sister, Mrs. John Maddocks, near San Rafael, Marin county. He was soon employed as construction foreman on the North Pacific Coast road then building from Sausalito to Cazadero. On the completion of the line we find John D., as he is know, conductor on a Market street (San Francisco) car. One night a stranger, paying his fare, advised John to pocket the money as the company would never miss it. The conductor resented the thievish suggestion and in the altercation that resulted the passenger was ejected from the car with a beautiful black eye and several “swift kicks.” Next morning John learned that he had “licked” the chief “spotter” of the road, and for this the superintendent gave the fighting conductor a strong reprimand. This was too much for John's “Irish,” and the official and his corporation were consigned to a place of very high temperature.

In a few days he took charge of the railroad section at Occidental and while in that employment he was married to Miss Georgiana Gilman Blaney, daughter of Mr. And Mrs. Andrew Jackson Blaney, of that town. Three daughters were born to them: Mary Kathelen (afterwards Mrs. T. O. Munday), now deceased, Clara Leonora (now Mrs. J. H. Wilson of Riverside), and Annie Frances (Mrs. I. J. Button) of this county. The girls were graduated at the Santa Rosa high school.

In 1884 Mr. Connolly was appointed by Governor George Stoneman to fill a vacancy on the board of supervisors of this county and in this body he served till January 1889. On the 22d of that month President Cleveland sent his name to the senate for appointment as United States consul to New Zealand. It being near the close of Cleveland's administration, for the usual political reason hundreds of his appointments were held up, but through the personal influence of Senator Leland Stanford and Representative Thomas L. Thompson, Mr. Connolly's appointment was extracted from the mass of holdups and confirmed.

On his arrival at Auckland, New Zealand, his first official act was to cable a report of the terrible storm at Apio, Samoa, when three United States and three German war ships were blown ashore and most of their crews lost. Mr. Connolly's official career in the Antipodes is an honorable and successful one. Starting in on his new duties, he appreciated the responsibility of the position. All his life his days had been passed in a struggle with adversity. He did not have even a fair common school training, and as he says, about all he knew was how to tackle a job of hard work. His knowledge of diplomacy and state-craft was exceedingly vague, and he was not asleep to the fact that the British Colonials are far advanced in the science of practical government—so far advanced that even the United States is adopting their methods of handling state questions. Here was a delicate situation for an untrained man, and a place where an injudicious act might place himself and his government in a false position. But his good, common, every-day sense carried him over the difficulty. He settled down to master the details of his official work and as his country's consular representative was a success. To add to his official difficulties, New Zealand was then in the throes of an appalling industrial depression, the result of mismanagement by successive Conservative governments. Millions of money had been borrowed in England to be spent largely in non-productive works and political railways. The borrowing-power of the colony was exhausted, and the cessation of public work had thrown thousands of laborers out of employment, throwing many of them into starvation, and they were leaving the country like rats leaving a sinking ship. Business was dead and the bankruptcy courts were working overtime trying to clear their crowded dockets. However, a change of administration and the advent of a Liberal government brought an improvement and a period of reconstruction set in. In progressive movement Consul Connolly took an active part, identifying himself with every forward step taken so far as he dared without compromising his position as the representative of another government. He wrote anonymously and lectured academically, and in all was keenly interested in all legislation that was making for the common good. He was high in the councils of the labor government and his advice and assistance were frequently sought. Twice the Liberal and Labor committees visited him at the consulate and wanted him to resign his position and stand for Parliament for the city of Auckland. He was given to understand that in the race he would be unopposed and would be offered a portfolio in the New Zealand Ministry within three months after his election. But the Irish-American citizen, though taking an intense unofficial interest in English-Colonial affairs, preferred Uncle San to Queen Victoria. At the request of the Premier Mr. Connolly named Auckland's member for the Upper House—an unusual request. The selection was William Jannings of the Auckland Star, and this proved to be a sensible choice.

The consul made a report to this government on the “Land, Labor and Taxation Laws of New Zealand,” which attracted world-wide attention. As only eleven thousand copies of any consular report can be printed, this entire issue was exhausted in three weeks after issued. Requests for the report came into the State Department from all over the world and in sheer desperation Secretary James G. Blaine requested Mr. Connolly to rewrite the report, embodying within it any and all new features of the topic that might be of interest, and to amplify as the writer elected.

A second report was accordingly prepared and published. It was about this time that Tom L. Johnson, of Ohio, sought his removal that a pronounced Single Taxer might take his place. In a letter of apology which Mr. Johnson afterwards sent him frankly confessing that he regretted the incident, he quotes Mr. Blane as follows: “Mr. Johnson, Mr. Connolly's frank disavowal of any allegiance to the principles of the Single Tax and yet states the case fully and fairly has more influence with the world than if the article were written by an avowed Single Taxer. Besides, Mr. Connolly ranks amongst the three best consular officers in the service of the United States for accuracy, efficiency and diligence in the performance of their duties and indeed if there be a choice at all it is his. So far as I am concerned as long as I am Secretary of State M5r. Connolly shall not be displaced.” Mr. Johnson with characteristic manliness wrote him with earnest apologies, quoting the above conversation he had with Mr. Blane.

Being an enthusiastic Irishman, and a lover of his native land, and being thoroughly familiar with her sad history, he espoused the cause of Home Rule for Ireland with all the ardor and impulsiveness of his nature. He identified himself almost immediately upon arrival at his post with those who were promoting the Home Rule cause in New Zealand. He was ever in their councils rendering what assistance he could regardless of consequences. He frequently transcended the duties of his office and imperilled his position. At different times he spoke from the same platform with John Dillon, Sir Thomas Esmond, Mr. Deasey, Michael Davitt and others, and was finally reported to Washington and no doubt would have been recalled for his reckless advocacy of Irish liberty were it not for the kindly offices of Mr. Dillon, who called on Mr. Blaine at Washington with a newspaper copy of Connolly's address, which was, fortunately for him, comparatively inoffensive, it being mostly academic in character. But even then Mr. Blaine could scarcely condone this violation of the consular regulations and administered a severe rebuke to the intrepid Home Ruler, which he was careful not to forget in the future.

Being familiar with the curse of Irish absentee landlordism, and New Zealand being afflicted with the same curse, he submitted a report to his government on the subject, suggesting that if the New Zealand government were to impose an absentee tax it would cure the evil. The moment the consular report was published the New Zealand government took the matter up and imposed the absentee tax at the next session of the legislature. To show more fully Mr. Connolly's part in Colonial affairs, one day he overheard an absentee-landlord member of Parliament, who did not recognize the American consul, express himself thus: “This man Connolly is a blawsted hanerchist, and 'as though 'is writings and damned-fool speeches raised more 'ell in New Zealand than all the others put together. 'E 'as the ear of this fool government and can get anything 'e wants. The fellow 'ad ought to be recalled and deported. 'E is a menace and a disturbing element.”

Mr. Connolly was an active participant in another forward movement, viz., granting the franchise to women in the Colonies. Then as now the same arguments were used against the proposition. They held that if women were enfranchised, political contact would surely destroy the sanctity of the home, etc. “But these frivolous platitudes,” says Mr. Connolly, “did not avail, but common sense and fair play did. It is true that by granting the franchise to the women it multiplied the electorate, but it is not true that it did have a detrimental effect on the family life of the people. But it is positively true that it did clarify and purify the political atmosphere. There the libertine, the immoral, the grafter, or the pledge-breaker has no place in the public life of New Zealand. If ever the women of tis country secure the same privileges they will surely do what the women of New Zealand have done for that land. They will cleanse it and give it a moral tone such as it has never known as yet.”

Mr. Connolly's consular term in Auckland was an exceedingly busy period. His official duties een as a foreign representative brought him constantly into close contact with colonial politics and colonial statesmen. As an American, his natural interest in labor, land and tax questions, and as an Irishman his native interest in anything touching Irish Home Rule questions, kept him fully employed. The British Colonial is intense in everything he attempts, and is about the most independent “critter” in the English-speaking world. Even the Americans with their boasted inventiveness and so-called native enterprise must go to Australia and her sister colonies for new and necessary features in governmental management. Among these earnest folk the man from California found a field for his political activities. New Zealand was progressing, and into the current of that movement was swept every intelligent and patriotic citizen or person in the country. When in 1893, after a severe illness, Mr. Connolly got leave of absence, and he made preparations for a visit to California, the people, believing he would not return, presented him with public addresses expressive of their appreciation of his public and private services which had been ever at their disposal. The following address was a feature of the reception given him by the citizens of Auckland, headed by the mayor and city council:

                                            "Auckland, March 24, 1893.

"J. D. Connolly, Esq., United States Consul:

     "Dear Sir: We, the undersigned citizens of Auckland, on the eve of your departure from amongst us, desire to express our sense of the ability and invariable courtesy which have characterized the performance of your duties as United States Consul during the four years you have occupied that important position in this colony.  Whilst earning universal approbation in your official capacity, you have also secured the respect and affectionate esteem of all who have enjoyed your personal acquaintance.  You have ever evinced 
a generous interest in the welfare of this country, and your genial kindness and gentlemanly demeanor in private life have endeared yourself to a large circle of friends who now, parting with you sincere regret, heartily wish you long life, health and a prosperous future."

With the above was a draft for one hundred pounds sterling.

This address was presented by the Irish Federation Association, which had for its purposes the advancement of Irish Home Rule:
“To J. D. Connolly, Esq., United States Consul at Auckland, New Zealand:

“The members of the Auckland Branch of the Irish Federation Association desire on the occasion of your departure from Auckland to express to you their warm appreciation of your character during your sojourn amongst them. In your official station as representative of the greatest Republic in the world, and also in your capacity as a private citizen and co-worker in social and philanthropic movements, you have won the esteem and respect of your fellow citizens, while the sympathetic interest you have displayed in questions relating to Ireland entitle you to the most cordial thanks and gratitude of Irishmen in these seas.

“This branch of the Irish National Federation regrets that your health now necessitates the severance of your connection with New Zealand, and in wishing you godspeed trusts, that your health will soon be completely established, and that you will at no distant day occupy in the service of your country such a position as your talents and character most certainly merit.

“Signed on behalf of the Irish Federation Association of Auckland, New Zealand.”

Here follow a long list of names.

The following is from the United Friendly Societies of Auckland:

“To J. D. Connolly, Esq., United States Consul.

“Dear Sir and Brother: The Friendly Societies conference of Auckland, New Zealand, consisting of the following orders, viz: Independent Order of Odd Fellows, M. N., Ancient Order of Forresters, Independent Order of Odd Fellows (American), National Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Ancient Order of Druids, Independent Order of Rechabites, S. U. Hibernian, Australasian Catholic Benefit Society, Protestant Alliance Benefit Society of Australasia, desire, on behalf of the 5,000 members they represent to express to you, on this eve of your departure for the United States, their sincere admiration and appreciation of your many sterling qualities, whether it be in regard to your consular duties as representing one of the greatest nations of the earth, as a resident among us during the last four years, or as a member of a Friendly Society, ever taking an active part in whatever would be likely to conduce to the welfare of Friendly Societies, either as a body or individually, you have endeared yourself to all with whom you have been brought into contact by your admirable business qualities, cultured mind and urbanity of manner, and these qualities have ever been devoted to the advancement and well-being of your fellowmen. Wishing you every happiness and prosperity in your future

                                     “Yours sincerely and fraternally.”

“On behalf of members of the Irish race resident in Auckland, we desire to address you on this occasion of your leaving our city. During the yea5s you have spent among us in the discharge of your duties as representing the great Republic, you have, by your capacity and gentlemanly deportment, won the highest opinions from our citizens generally. This they have already publicly testified to you.

“But it is because of your attitude as an Irishman towards the Irish of New Zealand, and the help you have on all occasions afforded us in the furtherance of the Irish cause, more particularly in relation to colonial efforts put forth to assist our countrymen in the Old Land struggling for the right of self-government that we principally desire to express our appreciation.

“Some Irishmen occupying your official position might have made its representative character a reason for hesitating before associating themselves with the national work their fellow countrymen in Auckland are engaged in. But in your mind patriotism banished all meaner incentives and expediency never found a place in your thoughts. With an independent spirit, marked consistency and most distinguished ability you have served the Irish cause in Auckland. In Ireland's name and from our hearts we thank you.

“Should we not have the felicity to welcome you back to our Colony we trust that the great country which you serve with such fidelity and which is famed for the recognition of zeal and capacity exhibited by her servants, will, by promoting you to a wider sphere of usefulness than our city affords, give to you an opportunity of still further distinguishing yourself by the exercise of that knowledge, ability and large sympathy which has characterized your public and private life in New Zealand.

“May God speed and prosper you.

“Signed on behalf of the Irish residents.”

Here follows a long list of names. Accompanying the above address was a beatiful parlor table inlaid with New Zealand woods, the gift of the Irish women of Auckland to Mrs. Connolly.

There were one or two other addresses, one from the Tailoresses Union, whom he and the Rev. Joseph Berry, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, succeeded in organizing into a union, which secured them shorter hours, better pay and prevented their employers from “sweating” them.

During his stay in the South Seas he formed the acquaintance and friendship of many noted men, both from European countries, as well as from the United States, among them being Robert Louis Stevenson, “Mark Twain” (Samuel L. Clemens) and many others whose memory and friendship he enjoyed and still cherishes to this day. He says with becoming modesty that there was no man left the shores of New Zealand in many years who received such a spontaneous and generous public “send-off” as he did. The citizens of Auckland on that occasion turned out in thousands to bid “good bye.” The Auckland brass band played Yankee airs on the wharf for over an hour. He received letters and telegrams from all parts of the colony wishing him bon voyage and good luck. And when finally the good ship began to move slowly away amid the cheers of the multitude he stood upon the deck with tears in his eyes, and with a heart too full of emotion he tried to offer a few words of thanks and gratitude for the many acts of kindness he had received at their hands. But his tongue refused to respond; he could only say good bye and wave his hat.

After ten years' service in Auckland Mr. Connolly was relieved during the McKinley administration by Frank Dillingham, a cousin of United States Senator Dillingham. When the experts of the Treasury Department had cast up his accounts for ten years it was found that eight cents were due him. This he received in a treasury draft, and his bondsmen, Henry Lawrence, of Petaluma, and Patrick Carroll of Bloomfield, were discharged. That eight cents can be said to be Mr. Connolly's net earnings from his official employment in the diplomatic service of the United States, but while he returned poorer, he returned wiser than when he went away; and he also returned with the love and friendship of thousands of people he met in the far Antipodes. He was afterwards candidate for the California assembly on the Democratic ticket, but was defeated and lost under the Republican landslide that re-elected President McKinley. John D. Connolly is now the genial “mine host” of the Altamont Hotel in Occidental, Sonoma county, Cal. Though he is out of public life he is yet alive to all matters affecting the public weal. Being Irish he is necessarily a statesman.

History of Sonoma County, California
Biographical Sketches of The Leading Men and Women of the County Who Have Been Identified With Its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present
History By: Tom Gregory
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1911)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011