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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sacramento County



The quiet round of daily duties does not form necessarily a narrow, eventless existence. The life of John Donahue, while it contained no thrilling events and no exciting experiences, yet held much that was heroic and sincere and successful. So different were the conditions of his early life from those of the twentieth century that the young people who embarked on the slow sailers for the new world had little hope of ever again seeing their native land or the friends of their youth. It required, therefore, not a little courage for Mr. Donahue to break all the tender ties of kinship and affection when in 1859 he followed the example set by many thousands of Irish lads in days gone by and sought a livelihood in America. At the time of his departure from his native county of Tyrone he was about twenty-five years of age (having been born in 1834). Little he had to assist him in the stern battle of life except a brave heart and a pair of willing hands. Of education he had little and of money he had even less, but in spite of his handicap he never lacked employment nor did he ever undergo the painful trial of an appeal to others for aid. Always he remained the same self-reliant, industrious, quiet and persevering man, and the Southern Pacific Railroad Company, his employers practically from the time of his arrival in Sacramento in 1859 up to the date of his death, October 1, 1894, profited by his conscientious labors and sincere devotion to duty. After landing in Philadelphia he had come direct to California and here he spent the remainder of his life, being so pleased with the country that he had no desire to seek a home or a livelihood elsewhere.

For many years Eliza (McIlhatton) Donahue has occupied the family residence at No. 2319 K street, Sacramento, and this property she still owns, caring for the place personally and making of it an attractive and comfortable home. Of Irish birth and ancestry, she was born in County Antrim and was a farmer's daughter. Her father never left the home of his birth, but continued to till the soil of a small farm in County Antrim and by diligent industry earned a livelihood for those dependent upon him; he also was the road surveyor of county highways. His death occurred at the old home in 1874. Mrs. Donahue was born October 26, 1838, and came to the United States in 1860, landing in New York City. Thence she journeyed on to St. Louis, where she lived until 1867. From St. Louis she came to California and settled in Sacramento county, where February 15, 1870, she became the wife of John Donahue. Five children blessed their union, namely: Henry, Ruth, John, Eveline and Hugh. Henry and John are painters by trade, while Hugh follows the occupation of mining. It has been the privilege of Mrs. Donahue to wit- ness much of the growth and development of Sacramento. Since she first saw the capital city forty-five years ago there have been many changes in its appearance. The business streets have been improved with substantial structures and in the residence district there is abundant evidence of the thrift of the permanent residents. Into her own pleasant home she has welcomed many of the pioneers of the community and always she has had a hospitable welcome for all, whether old or young, who seek her cheerful society or depend upon her practical sympathy. 

History of Sacramento 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: William L. Willis
Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California (1913)

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011