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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sacramento County



It is indicative of the industrious and energetic disposition possessed by Mr. McMahon that since he came to California he has provided for a large family, has given to each fair educational advantages and at the same time has accumulated a neat competency, thus providing for his declining days the comforts of existence. The fair degree of success which has rewarded his laborious efforts is peculiarly worthy of praise because he had no education to aid him, no capital to furnish the desired "nest-egg" of his early enterprises and no friends to lend him the encouragement of their good wishes and practical counsel. All that he is and all that he has may be attributed to his fixedness of purpose and sagacity of judgment. Of recent years, since his withdrawal from business cares and connections, he has spent his days quietly at his comfortable home. No. 2314 Z street, Sacramento, where he welcomes with genuine hospitality the friends of pioneer experiences who still survive.

The childhood memories of John McMahon cluster around a little cabin in Ireland, where he was born and where he learned the first difficult lessons of self-reliance and self-support. He can scarcely recall the time when he did not desire to emigrate to America. The opportunities offered by the new world were a favorite theme of conversation among the struggling inhabitants of the country where he lived, and as soon as old enough to work independently he crossed the ocean to Massachusetts. For seven years he remained in the old Bay state and followed the trade of a blacksmith, in which he soon became an expert. During 1861 he came via the Isthmus to California and settled in Sacramento, where he witnessed the disastrous flood of 1861-62, as well as many other catastrophes incident to the early history of the city. At the time of his arrival there was a small town with few stores that were substantial in construction. The surrounding country presented an unattractive and unpromising aspect, but with the optimism characteristic of his entire life he decided that without question Sacramento and indeed the entire valley had a great future before them.

It was the happy fate of Mr. McMahon to have for his wife a woman his equal in courage and optimistic spirit, his counselor in times of discouragement, his companion in the early hardships and privations of their younger years and his loving helpmate from their union in 1857 until her death in 1890. Born in Canada, she bore the maiden name of Mary Morgan and was a member of an old family who came from Ireland. Nine children were born of their marriage, and six of these are still living, all natives of Sacramento and all now residents of this city. The eldest daughter, Rosa, is the wife of I. H. Pierson. The others are John B., Mary E., Agnes, Lawrence T. and Catherine, the last-named being the wife of Theodore DeWitt. For a long time after his settlement in Sacramento Mr. McMahon engaged in the blacksmith's business and carried on a shop of his own, but eventually he relinquished active labors and since then has lived somewhat in retirement. From youth he has been identified with the Roman Catholic church, and when the Catholic Knights of America founded an organization of their own in Sacramento, he became an active member and interested worker. As a citizen he is truly progressive. The honorable record which he made in business and the generosity which he displayed toward those in need as well as the deep interest in civic affairs maintained up to the present time have combined to give him the confidence of his entire community. 

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