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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sacramento County



On the old Riley homestead, on the American river, John Riley, son of Patrick Riley, was born May 30, 1855. His father crossed the plains in 1849 and arrived at the San Joaquin grant in the spring of 1850. He engaged in farming and followed that occupation and teaming until his retirement from active life in 1870. He died in 1879. His teaming business took him to Forest Hill, Jackson and Placerville, the last named locality then being known as Hangtown. Indians were at times somewhat troublesome in those days, but Patrick Riley had an Indian friend, Patricia, who, unknown to him, followed him to and fro as he made trips through the country, sometimes hunting near him in order to protect him if he should fall into danger. Mary Burke, who married Patrick Riley and became the mother of John Riley, came to California with her two brothers, Patrick and Thomas Burke, crossing the Isthmus of Panama on a mule. In the early days of Sacramento she worked as a servant for Dr. Ball several years, receiving a wage of $100 a month. She bore her husband five children, three of whom are living. In the prosecution of his farming operations the father usually employed about a dozen Indians and during harvest about fifty. He never had any trouble with them, but some of his neighbors had fights with some of them, and on one occasion, when defeated red men were crossing the river in retreat, several were killed.

At the early age of thirteen years, in 1868, John Riley took up the battle of life for himself. In various capacities he was associated with the Southern Pacific Railroad Company for a time, and later was a conductor on the Market and Valencia street horse car line for two years. Then for two years he was in the employ of H. S. Kirk, druggist, after which, in 1881, he purchased the grocery of Jacob Wagner at Tenth and E streets, and in November, 1910, he moved to Nos. 421-423 Tenth street, into a building which he still owns.

Kate Webster, Mr. Riley's first wife, bore him three children, John Francis, Herbert J. and Hazel, anl she died in 1897. In 1899 Mr. Riley married Mamie McBride, and they have children named Alethea and Beatrice. The family are members of the congregation of the Cathedral. Mr. Riley, whose father immigrated to America from Ireland, has demonstrated the success of men of Irish blood in the handling of American affairs. 

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