Monday, March 03, 2008

Solano employee M. NORONHA

From: "Katharine F. Baker"

... I'm hoping you can help me find employment records (or any other information) re my great-grandfather, MANUEL MARIA NORONHA (a/k/a MICHAEL NORONHA), who, according to his obituary, was a long-time employee on the "Solano" – so, specifically, I'm interested to know what his job responsibilities were on the "Solano" over the years. From my research thus far, I've learned that:

a) According to the 1880 US Census, he, his wife and their toddler daughter settled in Benicia in 1879 (their second daughter was born in California in 1879) ( erroneously transcribed the surname Noronha as Heremla, but if you examine the photstat of the Census enumeration itself, it's clearly Noronha);

b) According to his obituary in the 5 Dec 1929 Benicia [CA] Herald, "Manuel M. Noronha, pioneer resident of Benicia, passed away at his home in this city Sunday at the advanced age of 84 years. The deceased came to Benicia fifty years ago this month in the employ of the Southern Pacific on the Steamer Solano and was retired from the service fifteen years ago. Mr. Noronha was born on the Island of St. George, Azores, December 16, 1844. In 1864 he left his home to follow a seafaring life..."

c) According to parish records in the Regional Archives at Angra do Heroísmo, Terceira, Azores, he was in fact born on 16 Dec 1843 (so was actually a year older than he claimed!). BTW. the Portuguese name of his native island is "São Jorge," and Manuel/Michael hailed specifically from the village of Topo on the easternmost tip of the island.

I look forward to hearing ... any research results you can discover re my great-grandfather's employment on the "Solano."

Katharine F. Baker



Benicia Herald, July 16, 1915


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Thomas Rubarth"

To my surprise, we have found an entry in the Benicia Herald regarding your Grandpa. I've included the whole entry for July 16th, 1915...

July 16, 1915



Contra Costa Running Constantly Night and Day

- Work on Solano

The Southern Pacific has its hands full with exposition traffic.

What railroad officials declare to be the largest special train movement for one group of people in the history of the west will be handled over the Shasta route between yesterday and July 21. Twenty-two specials will bring approximately five thousand Shriners, hailing from every corner of the continent, to the Panama – Pacific exposition at San Francisco.

The first of the Shrine trains left Portland yesterday bearing Islam Temple of San Francisco. This special will arrive tomorrow.

Another heavy train movement will materialize the week of July 20, when the Southern Pacific will bring fifteen special train parties of Elks to the California expositions.

The Contra Costa is making record runs across Carquinez straits, crossing as high as fifty-two times in twenty-four hours.

Work on the Solano is being rushed but it is not thought possible to have the other big train transport back here before October. Good progress is being made on the Solano slips which are being rebuilt.


The S. P. bulletin for July contains the names of twenty-nine employes retired at a meeting of the board of pensions held on May 4. Of these three are from Benicia, They are:

Manuel M. Noronha, night watchman of steamers.

William Roberts, assistant engineer of steamers.

John C. Hoffman, captain of steamers.

The company now has on its veterans corps’ roll between six and seven hundred of the “Old Faithful”, and has paid out in pensions over two million dollars since the system was inaugurated.


If you know what Manual looked like, you may be able to pick him out from this early Solano picture. We believe Captain Morton is the guy in the center of the picture (We have been in touch with his great great grandson) and your grandpa would have known "his boss" quite well! I've included the original pic as we received it, plus a portion of that picture with the crew. The crew picture has had its resolution artificially raised so it has a fair amount of artifacts within the image, but at least the faces are larger. Let us know if you find your grandpa in this picture. We'd like to know as well.

Thomas Rubarth
Omaha, NE

3/03/2008 6:29 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Katharine F. Baker"
Subject: Image of Manuel Noronha.

Regarding the photo you sent: Do you know for a fact that it contains Manuel Maria Noronha?

Having been born in the end of 1843, Manuel would have been 52 during most of 1896, which eliminates the youngest men in the picture. Also, ectomorphism (skinniness) and height (tallness) were not traits in our family, eliminating another couple candidates. Add to this that my late father and aunt both gave the impression that my great-grandfather was a proud man who always dressed with dignity – and as a wild guess I'm going to pick the third man from the left, whose face even reminds me a bit of my dad's (Manuel's youngest grandson) – although I could be wrong, of course.

Attached for your scrutiny are:
a) A photocopy of a family portrait apparently taken in August 1900, showing Manuel and Isabel Noronha in the center, with my then-young grandparents (Joseph and Mary Victoria Noronha Fredericks) and infant eldest uncle to the left (Grandma appears to be quite pregnant, although her abdominal region is artfully concealed behind my uncle's head).

b) A 1968 snapshot of my father (far left) at a few years older than Manuel was in 1896, along with his four surviving older siblings, so you can see what their faces looked like in late middle age (all are now deceased). ...

I appreciate your help in my quest. Sincerely, Kathie Baker.
= = = = = = = = = = =

FYI, here's the text of the abstract I submitted to the "Voice of Grandparents" conference in the Azores. Manuel was the issue of a 16-year-old girl from a respected family and a "pai inconhecido" (unknown father), so Manuel would have had no prospects for inheritance, and indeed might well have been consigned to a monastery had he not fled to sea in 1864. I've thus far found no further record of his mother, so wonder if she was essentially imprisoned in a convent after giving birth out of wedlock, since Manuel appears to have been raised by either her parents or and uncle/aunt.
= = = = = = = = = = =

ABSTRACT: "A Tale of Two Grandchildren: A Portuguese-American's quest for her hidden Azorean heritage," by Katharine F. Baker

My cousin (17 years older) and I are the only grandchildren of Azorean immigrants brought to California as youngsters. We were raised as fully-assimilated Americans, but with different ethnic identities: my cousin lived for several years with our grandparents, so learned a little about their ancestry, although no Portuguese (which the adults spoke whenever they didn't want him to understand). In my youth, the family secretly decided I was never to learn of my half-Portugueseness – instead be told that my paternal grandparents were of Flemish ancestry and California-born – while an uncle intimidated my cousin into subsequent silence about our paternal ethnicity. Decades later I discovered the truth from family documents found in my late parents' house. When confronted, my relieved cousin volunteered some childhood recollections: sopas at the Holy Ghost Festival, and Grandpa saying he was born on Flores. I started reading library books and websites about the Azores, then enrolled in introductory Portuguese. An old letter from São Jorge to my great-grandfather helped me locate the website of a Jorgense with the same surname, whom I began emailing. On my first Azores trip I visited them; and on Flores I learned that my family's watercress soup recipe is typical of a parish where cress grows abundantly. On my next Azores trip I found my grandfather's and great-uncle's baptisms listed in that parish's register; at the Angra Archives I discovered that my Jorgense great-grandfather was illegitimate, but also determined my precise genealogical connection with my São Jorge friends.

3/03/2008 6:35 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Thomas Rubarth"

... given your description and the family pictures, I would probably have picked the 3rd guy on the left as well. I got the ferry image from my computer archive, but I seem to remember having a Solano pic that had names on the back or front. I will check my hard copy files soon. Let's see what might come up.

Having been a Benicia "pioneer," you may want to check with the Benicia Camel Barn Museum. They may be able to lead you to some information.

There is also the possibility that Captain Morgan and Michael were close enough (after decades of working together) that they may have corresponded ... and that Morgan's great grandson John Kloske may possibly have something to add to this. I have included John in this email conversation for just that purpose ...


3/03/2008 6:38 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Katharine F. Baker"

I appreciate all that you've found out so quickly. I was wondering if you know whether Manuel Noronha held other positions earlier in his work-life on the "Solano"? I long ago gathered from my father and aunt that toward the end of his employment (ca. age 70) Manuel fell at work, seriously fracturing his leg, and that he thereafter had to use a cane when he walked (I inherited at least one ornate cane of his from my father).

I'm also curious as to whether the "Solano" had many, if any, other Portuguese-American crew members – do you have lists of car-ferry employees over the years? FWIW, evidently Manuel spoke a number of languages from his pre-California seafaring years, and I gather he and his wife Isabel both were proficient in English, at least by the time my dad was old enough to recall (b. 1913).

—Kathie Baker.

= = = = = = = = = =

COMPLETE TEXT OF MANUEL NORONHA'S OBITUARY (Benicia, CA., "Herald," December 5, 1929):

Manuel M. Noronha Passes Away

Manuel M. Noronha, pioneer resident of Benicia, passed away at his home in this city Sunday at the advanced age of 84 years.

The deceased came to Benicia fifty years ago this month in the employ of the Southern Pacific on the Steamer Solano and was retired from the service fifteen years ago.

Mr. Noronha was born on the Island of St. George, Azores, December 16, 1844. In 1864 he left his home to follow a seafaring life and arrived at Bedford, Massachusetts in August, from which place he embarked for a sea voyage of more than four years. Returning to Bedford in 1869 he shipped shortly after for San Francisco and arrived there in 1872 after having been in Australia, New Zealand, and around Cape Horn twice, South Sea Islands, Hawaiian Islands and Guam.

He was married May 7th 1873 and commenced working with the Southern Pacific with which company he stayed until his retirement fifteen years ago.

Besides his wife Isabelle, two daughters are left to mourn his passing, Mrs. J. Fredericks of Oakland and Mrs. E.C. Dana of this city.

Funeral services were held at St. Dominic's church Tuesday morning with a requiem mass, following which his remains were buried in the City Catholic cemetery.

He was a member of A.P.P.B. lodge in San Francisco.

Out of town friends who were in attendance at the funeral were Mrs. Mary Velladao and Mr. and Mrs. J. Edwards, Hollister; Mr. and Mrs. J. Silveria, Berkeley; Mrs. John Furtado and Mrs. J. Tavares, East Oakland; Mrs. M. Bassette, Mrs. B. Hause, Mr. and Mrs. J.F. Silveria, Walnut Creek; Mr. and Mrs. W. Azevedo and family, Elmira; Mr. and Mrs. John Travers, Napa; Mr. and Mrs. J. Rogers, and Mr. and Mrs. F. Rogers, Vallejo; Mrs. Gervais, Mrs. Mariano, Mrs. A. Lewis, Fairfield; Miss A. Azevedo, Martinez; Mrs. D. Phillips, Vallejo.

3/04/2008 8:49 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Bill Rubarth"

Attached is picture of the newspaper article for a keep sake. ...


3/04/2008 8:55 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Katharine F. Baker"

... I notice the article mentions that the Southern Pacific Bulletin for July (1915) lists all its retirees. Do you know whether there was additional info re Manuel Noronha in that bulletin? Are there records indicating how much his SP pension was? I can believe that a long-time, trusted employee like my grreat-grandfather worked as a night watchman in his later years (when he was perhaps no longer so energetic) – but I wonder if he was always a watchman, or whether he had different jobs on the car-ferry when he was younger and stronger, since according to his obituary he began working for SP in 1879, at around age 35.


3/04/2008 10:18 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Bill Rubarth"

... The Southern Pacific Historical Society should have a copy of the SP Bulletin ...


3/04/2008 10:22 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

For the Southern Pacific Bulletin, also check the Stanford University Library.

3/04/2008 10:24 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Bill Rubarth"

Attached is an abbreviated Solano facts listing and a few updated model pictures ...


3/04/2008 5:23 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Katharine F. Baker"

Such wonderful, clear detail on the models! Thanks for the fact-sheet, some of which will doubtless be useful ... I still wonder what jobs my great-grandfather held on the "Solano," since I'm guessing he wasn't solely night watchman for 35 years.


3/04/2008 5:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you have the March, 1905 Scientific American article?

3/06/2008 8:26 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Bill Rubarth"

Yes, I do have [the March 4, 1905 Scientific American article]. ... It was printed on 11 x 17 format. ... Only one half of one page is dedicated to the Solano. The article is written by [H.E.] Wright who was first mate at the time and later the Captain of the Solano. It is the only other document that we have that is 1st hand along with the 1890 Transactions article.

3/06/2008 8:36 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Thomas Rubarth"

Wow. I don't think I ever saw the "real" article till now, Bill. The lower left picture is a rare one, showing the Solano from the Benicia dock.


3/06/2008 8:39 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Katharine F. Baker"
Subject: Felicitous by-product of research on 1880 US Census of Benicia!

While searching the 1880 US Census enumeration of Benicia, CA, on for my presentation – ISO Portuguese – I coincidentally noticed 19 men listed as railroad employees (including my great-grandfather, Manuel Noronha, whose name was badly mangled by the latter-day indexer). I don't know how many of these names you already have, but figured I'd share them with you just in case. Let me know if any of these help, or whether they're all familiar to you.

—Kathie Baker

= = = = = = = = = =

ALLEN, Theodore - RR Clerk
b. 1849 in CT / Father b. in CT Mother b. in CT

ANDERSON, Adophe - Works on RR
b. 1850 in Sweden / Father b. in Sweden Mother b. in Sweden

CRILLY, Sidney - Works on RR
b. 1864 in CA / Father b. in England Mother b. in England

CUSHING, John M - RR Worker
b. 1826 in MA / Father b. in MA Mother b. in MA

DAVIS, Llewellin - Works on Rail Road
b. 1856 in Wales / Father b. in Wales Mother b. in Wales

DEVINE, James - Works on RR
b. 1842 in Ireland / Father b. in Ireland Mother b. in Ireland

DOWNER, John A - Agent RR
b. 1839 in NJ / Father b. in NY Mother b. in PA

GRIFFIN, Michael - Works on Rail Road
b. 1855 in NY / Father b. in Ireland Mother b. in Ireland

KENEFICK [sic], Bartholmew - Works on RR
b. 1840 in Ireland / Father b. in Ireland Mother b. in Ireland

KERNS, Martin - Works on RR
b. 1847 in Ireland / Father b. in Ireland Mother b. in Ireland

LEWIS, Josep [Joseph?] - Works on RR
b. 1849 in England / Father b. in England Mother b. in England

McKAY, John W - Works on RR
b. 1830 in Nova Scotia / Father b. in England Mother b. in England

MOONEY, James - Works on RR
b. 1858 in CA / Father b. in Ireland Mother b. in Ireland

MOTT, Sanford - RR Clerk
b.1850 in OH / CT NY Father b. in England Mother b. in England

HEREMLA [NORONHA], Manual [Manuel] - Works on RR
b. 1843 in Portugal / Father b. in Portugal Mother b. in Portugal

PNIGH [PUGH?], Winfield W - RR Clerk
b. 1847 in OH / Father b. in OH Mother b. in OH

TOOHY, John - Rail Road
b. 1845 in MA / Parents' birthplaces not listed

WASTBERG, Andrew - Works on RR
b. 1847 in Sweden / Father b. in Sweden Mother b. in Sweden

WRIGHT, Homer M - Works on RR
b. 1820 in NY / Parents' birthplaces not listed

3/25/2008 4:26 PM  

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