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California Genealogy and History Archives

Sacramento County



The genealogical records of the Rooney family lead back to Ireland, where, August 14, 1826, John Rooney was born to the union of John and Ann (Garland) Rooney, lifelong residents of the Emerald isle. In a large family he was the youngest child, and the death of his father leaving the family in discouraging financial condition was the cause of his early inurement to labor. From his childhood days he has been familiar with hard work, and even now, although far beyond the usual period of activity, he has not allowed himself to lead a life of ease and indolence. At the age of twenty-one years he sailed from Liverpool to New York, where he landed without special incident. From there he proceeded to Boston, near which city, at Roxbury, he visited a sister, Mrs. Mary Hoey. Two months later he joined a brother, Peter, in Alabama. November 20, 1849, he sailed from New Orleans for Chagres, Panama. From the Isthmus he proceeded up the Pacific ocean to San Francisco, where he landed January 27, 1850. On the 2d of February he arrived in Sacramento.

It had been the intention of Mr. Rooney to engage in mining, and be lost no time in hastening to the camps indicated by current rumor to be the most flattering in prospects. For nine months he remained at Georgetown, Eldorado county, and tliere lie met with exceptional success. About that time a friend from Alabama, John Hopper by name, obtained from him and his partner, Mr. Smith, the sum of $10,000 without security. The money soon was lost, and the two men thus involved in the loss were forced finally to take as total reimbursement the equity in one hundred and sixty acres in Sacramento county. On the land they sowed a crop of barley that brought them almost $10,000, so that much to their surprise they lost nothing by their unfortunate loan. The Alabama mine in Eldorado county, owned by Mr. Rooney, yielded as much as $800 per day, and by 1853 he had netted $25,000. With that surprising amount to his credit, it was natural that he decided to establish a home of his own. Returning to Alabama in 1853 he married Miss Mary Clark, who was born in Ireland and came to the United States in 1850 with her mother.

The family of John and Mary (Clark) Rooney included four sons and one daughter. The eldest, John, Jr., died February 4, 1885, at the age of twenty-four years. Peter W. married Mary Powers. Stephen J., of this review, is next in order. James married Miss Mary Brown of Sacramento and they have eight children. The only daughter, Mary, is the wife of Thomas O'Neil of Sacramento. The father, who died in this county, was widely known among the early settlers of the county. Prior to the Civil war he supported Stephen A. Douglas, but in 1864 he voted for Abraham Lincoln for president, believing the hojie of the country to rest in that great statesman and patriot. After 1868 he regularly voted the Democratic ticket at all elections.

At the homestead on the Coloma road, five miles from Sacramento, occurred the birth of Stephen Joseph Rooney and there he passed the uneventful years of childhood. After having completed the grammar school studies he entered Sacramento institute and later was a student at St. Mary's college in San Francisco. Interested in agriculture, he gave his mature years to the raising of farm products and the growing of hops. At one time he served as deputy under Sheriff O'Neil of Sacramento county. In common with the other members of his family he cherished a devoted allegiance to the Roman Catholic church. November 23, 1887, he was united in marriage with Miss Mary Tackney, a native of the county and the daughter of John and Maria Tackney, natives respectively of Canada and Ireland. From an early day the family lived in California, where Mr. Tackney followed the occupation of a hotel keeper. There are three living children in the Tackney family, namely: Mrs. Rooney, residing at No. 1114 Twenty-fifth street, Sacramento; Mrs. A. Westlake, also of Sacramento, and Charles. Mrs. Rooney is the mother of three children, viz.: William J., born February 12, 1889; Stephen J., Jr., September 18, 1891, and Margaret, August 3, 1893. The daughter is an accomplished musician and teaches that art in the capital city.

During the excitement caused by the discovery of gold in the north Stephen Joseph Rooney determined to go to Alaska and attempt to regain a fortune his father had recently lost. With that ardent hope he followed his brother and Lee Brown to the gold fields in 1898. When he had landed at Skagway he assumed charge of a pack-train between that harbor and Lake Bennett. However, from the very outset misfortune seems to have marked him for her own. A number of valuable pack animals had been lost with the steamship Corona. A quantity of forage and provisions was lost in another vessel which went down. Finally, when his high hopes had begun to sink beneath the weight of repeated reverses, he fell ill with spinal meningitis and died far from the loved ones at home. The body was brought back to California by his brother and was interred in a local cemetery amid expressions of deep regret on the part of his host of early friends, all of whom united in deploring the demise of this popular citizen and in tendering to his family their most sincere sympathies in their bereavement. Since his death Mrs. Rooney has continued to reside in Sacramento, where she has engaged in raising hops, having met with a fair degree of success. 

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