This article recounts the dramatic, traumatic, and tragic events leading to the first immigrant to California from the Gracia & Marchetti family. It is remarkable that one man’s life can be so thoroughly documented, placing him as, not only an eye witness, but a participant in historical events.
John Mahood was born 1825, son of Adam Mahood, in Magherally Parish near Banbridge, County Down, in Northern Ireland. The town of Banbridge was the centre of the ‘Linen Homelands’ owing its success to flax and the linen industry. Naturally, John became a weaver.
Into this pastoral setting arrived the Potato Famine 1845-1851 and County Down was hit hardest in 1847.
Ireland had witnessed a massive surge in population from 2.6 to 8.5 million by 1845 when blight struck the staple food of the masses – the potato. Two-fifths of the population were totally dependent on the potato and it was the major food-source of the rest. Between 1845 and 1849, the potato crop failed in three seasons out of four. The result was starvation and the spread of the “road disease” – dysentery, typhus and cholera.