The Journal of San Diego History
Fall 1977, Volume 23, Number 4
James E. Moss, Editor
Thomas L. Scharf, Assistant Editor


Images from the Article

In February 1850 James McCoy of County Antrim, Ireland, stepped ashore at San Diego bay as a member of Brevet-Lieutenant Colonel John Bankhead Magruder’s First United States Artillery.1 That moment marked a turning point in McCoy’s life. Within a few years this versatile, energetic, and sometimes volatile man, who had come to America as an immigrant, would become an important figure in the growth and development of Southern California.

James McCoy was born in Ireland on August 12, 1821.2 His parents farmed land and, as custom dictated, children shared the work load. McCoy helped on the farm until 1842 when faltering potato crops, tyrannical British rule, and religious persecution prompted his immigration to America aboard the ship Alexander destined for Baltimore. Immigrants, who often had sponsors in America, paid the price of $12.50 to $25.00 for the 3,000 mile journey and provided their food for the lengthy voyage.3 The hope of a job in America and a better life became the vision of the millions who immigrated to America during the latter part of the nineteenth century.4

On the 9th of July, 1842, James McCoy realized the first step in his American dream as the boat approached the shores of Baltimore. That city provided McCoy his first job working in a market garden and later as a laborer in a distillery.

The spirit of adventure beckoned as 1846 reports reached McCoy that the United States Army needed recruits to serve in the Mexican War. After seven years in Baltimore, McCoy packed his bags, bound for the Pacific Coast and Captain Magruder’s Battery.

The steamer that sailed from Baltimore on January 24, 1850, with the recruits on board, lay over for a short time in San Francisco and headed for San Diego in February, 1850. There Magruder established his headquarters at Mission San Diego de Alcala. McCoy’s first assignment took him to San Luis Rey Mission as a non-commissioned officer in charge of twelve men. The soldiers protected settlers there against Indian attacks. Other jobs, such as transporting prisoners into San Diego occupied any spare time and McCoy once accompanied Silvester Grooms (a prisoner) into town for a fee of $8.00.5 More than two years later, Magruder ordered McCoy to Jacumba (in San Diego’s back country) with fourteen men to protect the mail lines from Indian raids.

Jacumba had a station that kept horses for mail carriers who traveled the road to Yuma, Arizona. Indians often attacked settlers there, and McCoy built a fort to protect himself and his men. According to several authors of San Diego’s early history, McCoy was at one time attacked by a band of five hundred Indians, but his party were all trained men, particularly in Indian fighting, so they succeeded in beating off their assailants.6 In 1853 McCoy’s enlistment ended and he received an honorable discharge from the United States Army.

Various jobs held McCoy’s interest for the next few years as he surveyed the Colorado desert for townships and carried the United States Mail between San Diego and Yuma. McCoy later recalled in an affidavit for hearings on the ownership of the Cuyamaca lands that: “In the year 1859, for about two months, I carried the U.S. Mail from the city of San Diego to Fort Yuma. . . “7 The various valleys and hills as well as watering holes and dwellings had become familiar to McCoy. The latter job gave rise to his new role of carrying the mail for the San Antonio and San Diego Mail Line commonly referred to as the “Jackass Mail Line”.

The mail line started in 1857 when the United States government awarded James E. Birch the contract to carry mail between San Diego and San Antonio. The nickname attested to the fact that between Yuma and Vallecito, a distance of 90 miles, mules, rather than stagecoaches carried the mail, due to a lack of time to purchase equipment. The entire trip from San Diego to San Antonio took thirty days. Stagecoaches left on the 9th and 24th day of each month from both cities.8

McCoy had charge of the trip from Yuma to Tucson, a distance of 289 miles. Drivers often encountered Indian attacks, and Isaiah Churchill Woods, general superintendent of the entire operation observed in his diary of August 9, 1857 that:

Today we passed a freshly made grave, which marked a spot which had recently been the scene of a battle between a party of soldiers and the Indians… The policy which requires government officers to respect a white flag in the hands of Indians has led to a number of massacres on the road…. They (the Indians] have repeatedly tried the ruse of endeavoring to approach under the protection of apiece of dirty cotton cloth tied to a spear, but we send a ball over their heads so soon as they come within rifle range, after which warning they keep aloof.9

McCoy’s former experience in thwarting Indian attacks at Mission San Luis Rey and at Jacumba qualified him for such a hazardous job. His knowledge of the intruders’ warfare and habits prevented many successful attacks.

The mail jobs brought McCoy into San Diego frequently and he enjoyed evenings at the local saloons. On March 7, 1857 the San Diego Herald reported one of McCoy’s more lively evenings.

An affray occurred in the “Jolly Boy” on Monday last between Mr. Charles Rathbun and Mr. James McCoy in which the latter was severely wounded in three places – though it is thought not fatally. Judge Kurtz conducted an examination of the case and bound Mr. Rathbun over to appear at the Court of Sessions in the sum of $3,000.10

While McCoy made friends and enemies during his frequent stops in San Diego and became familiar with the town, he had no ties to one place since his total assessment in 1857 consisted of two horses valued at $100.11

By September, 1859, those friends made over the years had elected McCoy assessor of San Diego County. The election results published in the newspaper proclaimed McCoy the victor by 70 votes.12 McCoy intended to stay in San Diego and did engage in sheep raising near Cuyamaca. “Since 1859, and for several years, I have at times kept my sheep…. Over much of the tracts…. I have had personally to herd my sheep, frequently on foot myself.”13 By 1860 the flock numbered 500 at a value of $750. As McCoy became a permanent resident of San Diego his possessions increased. The assessment rolls of July 7, 1860 listed 1 gentle mule $30, 1 gentle horse $20, 500 sheep $750, 125 goats $125, and other personal property of $25 for a $950 total. This document had the signature of McCoy twice: once as assessor and once as a private citizen!14

By 1861 James McCoy decided to broaden his role in local politics and ran for the office of sheriff which had a two year term. He held that job for the next ten years performing many and various duties. McCoy patrolled nearly 15,000 square miles that stretched to the Colorado River, and protected citizens from Indians, cattle rustlers, and disorderly drunks. In addition to criminal matters, McCoy served as realtor, selling public lands and the property of citizens that failed to pay their taxes. As ex officio Marshall and tax collector, the sheriff received a compensation of 5% of all the taxes he collected.15

McCoy had many friends, and one of them, Charles Kelly who lived in Old Town and owned a livery stable there,16 described McCoy as “a big man over six feet tall who weighed 190 lbs. He could speak Spanish fluently. Everybody thought a great deal of him.”17

In his bachelor years, McCoy lived in an old adobe house with his deputy sheriff Tom Fox. They had frequent boxing matches, and the loser paid the penalty of cooking the breakfast steaks.18

Not many records exist that chronicle the accomplishments of McCoy while sheriff since a fire in Old Town on April 20, 1872 destroyed certain records that reflected city and county business during that period.19 Newspapers that reported various events in Old Town ceased printing in 1859, and did not resume coverage until October, 1868, with the San Diego Union Weekly.20

Court records, however, detail two interesting occasions when McCoy’s job as sheriff led him to the Court House as a defendant. Cave J. Couts, who served as County Judge, Judge of the Plains, and Justice of the Peace sued McCoy in the District Court in 1870.21 The grudge started on May 7, 1870 when Colonel Couts shot Waldemar Muller who had been employed as a tutor at the Guajome family’s house. The victim sustained shotgun wounds in the arm and side that left him in critical condition.22 A deputy sheriff arrested Couts and transported him to the jail where the sheriff filed assault charges. In a complaint dated September 12, 1870, Couts attested to the fact that:

” . . the said James McCoy in and upon the said Couts did then and there beat- wound- and ill treat and other wrongs to said Couts.. . and with intent to humiliate, degrade, and injure the said Couts manacled and then did beat.”23

Couts asked for $20,000 damages plus costs, and wanted the trial held in another city. The plaintiff requested a change of venue to Los Angeles on the grounds that McCoy had too many friends in San Diego who could be called as jurors and that it would be impossible to receive a fair trial. The judge refused to change the case, dismissed it, and ordered Couts to pay $28.25 to McCoy for costs.

Couts appealed the case, and in 1872, after stalling for time claiming he had to meet the deadline of the “no fence law”, and requesting a trial by judge rather than jury, Couts again lost his case and this time paid McCoy’s cost of $75.45.24

McCoy carried out various court orders as sheriff and was sued once for seizing goods from the Robinson Rose store in Old Town. Julius Barnett and D. Lippman rented space in the store where they sold goods like washboards, lamp wicks, flour, tobacco and wooden buckets.25 It seemed though, that these two gentlemen had failed to pay their two creditors, James Roundtree and George McMullen of San Francisco. Roundtree and McMullen took the pair to court. A writ of attachment dated June 29, 1871 issued by the 15th Judicial Court of San Francisco ordered McCoy to seize the property in the store which had a value of $1229.30.

The sheriff obeyed the orders, but a Mark Asher appeared and sued McCoy because he felt the goods should have been returned to him. The case, filed on July 1, 1871, demanded McCoy return to Asher the value of the goods estimated at $1,000. A jury found in favor of the defendant McCoy on April 17, 1872 and a woeful Asher paid $92.00 in court costs.26

As both a private citizen and sheriff, McCoy became involved with the argument over the location of the court house. While Old Towners wanted records to stay at the Whaley House, a more liberal and progressive faction wanted to build a new court house in New Town. The Supreme Court made the decision that the records had to be moved. McCoy, along with Judge Bush summoned a posse to resist the transfer. On the evening of March 31, 1871 the newly elected County Clerk, Chalmers Scott, removed the records and put them downtown.27

While serving as sheriff, McCoy made his first real estate transaction. In 1866 he purchased from Julian Ames, a sailor from Massachusetts, a lot in Old Town on the north side of Garden Street.28 The lot measured 75′ 6″ by 56′ and had no house, but some adobe ruins in the back corner of the land.29 Perhaps McCoy had the foresight to consider he would soon need a new residence since his life changed considerably in 1869 when he married Miss Winnie Kearney.

On April 27, 1869, Father Antonio Ubach officiated at the wedding of Miss Winnie Kearney of Los Angeles and James McCoy.30 The wedding took place at the home of a friend, Mr. Charles E. May. McCoy took his new bride on an elegant honeymoon aboard the steamship Sierra Nevada that sailed north to San Francisco.31 After a vacation of three weeks and the well wishes of the residents of Old Town, the McCoys returned and occupied the next few months with plans for their new elegant residence on Garden Street.

D.B. Kurtz and Company, builders of several houses in San Diego rushed to complete McCoy’s home.32 By September 8, 1869, the house needed only paint before the sheriff and his wife moved in.33 The two story house proved to be one of the larger and more impressive structures in Old Town.

A white picket fence set off the property from nearby lots, and shrubs and trees gave shade to anyone who rested on the large front porch. A windmill on the east side of the house provided water, while chickens created a commotion whenever McCoy’s two dogs came near them. Shutters on either side of the numerous windows, and stately columns that supported an upstairs veranda all provided the decorum befitting the town sheriff.34 A reporter for the San Diego Union Weekly suggested that the house “looms up over the rest of the houses in the neighborhood in about the same proportion that its owner did over his late competitors in the race for Sheriff.”35

A one story annex in the rear of the house could have been McCoy’s office since Charles Kelly recalled that McCoy had his office in his home. A parlor, sitting room, library, kitchen, dining room, and bedrooms comprised the other rooms in the house.36

The McCoys enjoyed company and often provided food and hospitality to travelers. One of the frequent visitors, Lydia Horton,37 a schoolteacher in Old Town, provided insight into the personality and warm manner of the McCoys.

In driving into town if we stopped to pass the time of day with Mrs. McCoy there was always at hand an Indian boy to seize the horse and take him to the stable. If we entered the house to call we were concious [sic] of a commotion in the chicken yard, with the promise of an early lunch if we would stay. There were a great many bedrooms in this new house. There was a tradition that at one time Mr. McCoy had been a sheep herder. He still had an interest in the business. He explained the unusual number of bedrooms, that any of his men coming in town from the range could always have a room…. but he confessed to a disappointment as the men mostly preferred to roll up in their blankets and sleep on the verandas instead of the comfortable beds.38

By 1898 the occasional visitor to the McCoy property recognized the results of a great renovation. The exterior of the house had taken on a new Victorian appearance in the form of scalloped designs that replaced the wooden shutters around the windows.39 The new architecture had an even more imposing effect since many nearby structures had been destroyed by 1900.40

In addition to the Indian boy who worked for the McCoys, they had a housekeeper named Modesta who weighed over 200 lbs. Mich Campbell, one of McCoy’s deputy sheriffs took a liking to the woman and eloped with her, leaving the McCoys searching for a replacement to fill both jobs.41

Although the residents of Old Town had hopes for “prolific results in the way of little McCoys”, James and Winnifred never had children of their own. One resident of Old Town recalled though, that “Manuel Silvas, a grown man who served as his [Father Ubach’s] altar boy had been raised by Mrs. McCoy.”42 Manuel Silvas worked for the McCoys in the 1890’s for $35 a week and continued to take care of the house and yard after McCoy’s death.43

Reports of Mrs. McCoy’s activities never reached newspapers, yet her flair for the poetic existed in a letter dated August 14, 1896 written to “Mary”.

Wherever You dwell,
May content be Your lot,
and friendship like Ivy,
encircle Your cot, May each
rosy Morn dressed in Mantle
of peace Shed health oe’r,
Your dwelling, Your
Blessings Increase.44

In May 1871, McCoy became restless with the job he had held for ten years and authored a letter to the San Diego Union stating he would not be a candidate for sheriff in the fall.45 The sheriff had designs on new employment that would take him into Sacramento and broaden his involvement in San Diego and state affairs. The nomination for Senator of the 1st District came in August, 1871. Alonzo Horton unsuccessfully opposed the choice. McCoy resigned his current post in November, 1871, endorsed S. W. Craigue as his successor, and left by steamer for the Senate.46

For a new member of the legislature, McCoy proved to be quite vociferous. During his four year term he introduced more than twenty bills, one of which dealt with the railroads in San Diego.47

The new senate member introduced his first bill just four days after the session began on September 4, 1871. The bill requested that the legislature “legalize, ratify, and confirm deeds of conveyance and grants of land made by the municipal authorities of the City of San Diego.”48 That bill, passed on March 9, 1872, gave the Board of Trustees permission to sell, grant, and deed city held lands to the railroad.49

While McCoy had a commendable interest in bettering the economic prosperity of his constituents by providing free lands to the railroads, the involvement and interest had side benefits. McCoy realized a financial gain as Director of the San Diego Gila and Southern Pacific and Atlantic Railroad Company.50 and as a stockholder of the same company.51 As proof that his conflict of interests had selfless motives, McCoy deeded the right of way on some of his own property to the railroad.52

The Democrats supported McCoy during his term in the senate, and talk contended that “the sound democracy of McCoy is unquestioned and that the party should consider the Senator for Congress.”53 Apparently McCoy had other plans, for when the 20th Session of the Legislature adjourned on Monday, March 30, 1874, McCoy opted to return to San Diego permanently and retire from the senate.


Just one year later, McCoy ran for his former job as sheriff. Joseph Coyne,54 a former miner, ran on the Republican ticket. McCoy, seasoned in the art of politics by fifteen years service, represented the Democrats. The newspaper predicted that “much bloodshedding will be done.”.55 Though McCoy had local supporters in San Diego, the town of Julian determined the victor.

Democratic territory, the Republicans wisely nominated one of the town favorites, Joseph Coyne, in the hope that the loyal citizens would vote Republican. The ploy worked. While McCoy campaigned in Julian, all the local saloons but one dispensed free liquor in the name of Coyne. McCoy returned some sixty miles back to San Diego on the eve of the election to vote. A Coyne supporter took over the one saloon that favored McCoy and free spirits mellowed voters who had not decided on their choice for future sheriff.

The McCoy supporters were lined up at the bar and boozed up until they were past navigating, then they were hustled out to Drew Bailey’s barn and a trusty guard put over them. When they woke up the next morning they were “spitting cotton”. They were given a Coyne ballot, marched up to the polls and told to vote it before they got a drink or breakfast.56

Whatever the truth of that story, McCoy lost the election for sheriff by a vote of 915 to 657.57

In January, 1885, McCoy’s health began to fail. He went to San Francisco by train to receive medical treatment.58 After a recuperation period of two months, he returned to San Diego and attempted one last job in local politics. McCoy applied to President Grover Cleveland for the job of Collector of the Port of San Diego.59 The job never materialized and McCoy retired. He kept busy though with real estate transactions.

The newspapers that had reported McCoy’s activities for the past thirty years did not mention his name from 1885-1895. The nearly 200 deeds recorded in McCoy’s name attested though to the fact that he did not lead a passive life. The transactions on over half those deeds occurred during and after 1885.

To describe the real estate holdings of the former sheriff and state senator is to describe nearly all of San Diego County. McCoy’s biggest purchase, some 3,495 acres of former Mission Lands took place on November 20, 1874. His other holdings included Cuyamaca lands, Rancho de la Naci6n, Rancho Santa Maria, and numerous lots in Old Town, New Town, Middletown, La Playa, and Horton’s Addition.60

While McCoy kept the County Recorder busy, his bank account did not receive equally favorable activity. Despite the number of transactions and often successful speculation, the pecuniary rewards often cancelled out since McCoy sold for a mere pittance what he had purchased at great cost. The businessman in McCoy did not equal his ability to serve in public office. McCoy’s estate, valued at less that $60,000 did not account for the considerable sums that had passed hands over the thirty years McCoy bought and sold property.61

At 10 p.m. on November 8, 1895 James McCoy died in the home he had built for himself and his wife. They had occupied the dwelling for nearly 26 years. The former senator had been in poor health for sometime, and an attack of the grip hurried his death. Those who knew him well expected his demise and the newspaper, silenced about McCoy’s activities for the previous ten years, reported that “he had been on the verge of dissolution and his death was not a surprise.”62Dr. R. G. Hulbert who signed the death certificate reported that he had attended to McCoy from October 9, to November 8, 1895 and that death had been caused by lung congestion.63

A will dated June 4, 1894 gave Bennie McCoy the sum of $200 and bequeathed to his wife Winnifred, “all my property of every kind and nature except for $200 for her sole use and benefit.” McCoy left no relatives except his wife.64

Just two days later, on November 10, 1895, McCoy went to rest in Calvary Cemetery in Mission Hills, a few miles north of the city he had developed, policed, represented, and called home. Eighty years later, his tombstone remains, set apart with the memorials of other notables of San Diego in a corner of Pioneer Park adjacent to Grant School in Mission Hills. McCoy’s monument looms far above the others, as did his reputation and house, and gives testimony to a man who gave many years of his life in the service of San Diego. The immigrant from Ireland who rose to the position of State Senator had influenced many in his lifetime and had expended untold energy toward the development of Southern California.

Ah, why should we grieve that
the spirit has flown
To that heaven of rest where
No sorrow is known. Rest In Peace.65



The following cases can be located at the San Diego County Operations Center.

Case Number     Plaintiff Defendant
412 Cave J. Couts James McCoy
398 James McCoy Oliver Ladue
415 James McCoy C. A. Wetmore
410 James McCoy Philip Smith
429 Isaac Hartman James McCoy & Robert Kelly
463 Jane Hornbeck     James McCoy
432 James McCoy Oliver Ladue
488 Mark Asher James McCoy
464 A. Johnson James McCoy



The following bills and resolutions were introduced by McCoy during the Nineteenth Session of the legislature 1871-1872.

p. 105 Bill to legalize, ratify, and confirm deeds of conveyance and grants of land made by the municipal authorities of the City of San Diego, approved March 9, 1872. Statutes, Chapter CCXXXIV, p. 309.

p. 127 Bill to fix the salary of the County Judge of San Diego, not passed.

p. 131 Resolution to make San Diego a port of entry, not passed.

p. 132 Resolution to have the course of the San Diego River changed, not passed.

p. 133 Report on bill passed on p. 105.

p. 162 Bill for the relief of the indigent sick, not passed.

p. 190 Bill to provide for the government of the City of San Diego, approved March 2, 1872, Statutes, Chapter CLXXIII, p. 191.

p. 245 Bill to amend an Act to authorize bonds for County buildings, passed February 28, 1872. Statutes, Chapter CLV, p. 173.

p. 346 Bill concerning San Diego and Gila Southern Pacific Railroad and to extend times of performing certain acts, not passed.

p. 390 Bill to authorize additional notary publics, passed March 4, 1872. Statutes, Chapter CXCVIII, p. 238.

p. 483 Resolution relative to Indian outrages in Arizona, not passed.



The following bills and resolutions were introduced by McCoy during the Twentieth Session of the legislature 1873-1874.

p.39 Nomination of J. Harrington as page of the Senate, not elected.

p. 163 Act to amend an Act to legalize, ratify and confirm deeds, approved February 28, 1874. Statutes, Chapter CLXI, p. 221.

p. 166 McCoy appointed to Committees on: Commerce and Navigation, State Prison, Agriculture, and Internal Improvements.

p. 185 Bill for the relief of Oliver Wozencraft and his associates, not passed.

p. 278 Act to legalize certain bonds of the City of San Diego and to provide interest and payment of them, passed February 24, 1874. Statutes, Chapter CXXIV, p. 155.

p. 321 Act to appeal an Act entitled an Act to make an Act herein named applicable to the County of San Diego, not passed.

p. 321 Act to fix the salary of the County Judge of San Diego and San Bernardino Counties, passed February 17, 1874. Statutes, Chapter XCLL, pp. 101-102.

p. 326 McCoy was permitted to withdraw from further consideration of Senate Assembly Bill #44.

p. 331 Act to cede to the City of San Diego certain tide and submerged lands in the Bay of San Diego, not passed.

p. 410 McCoy granted leave for one day.

p. 418 Act to amend an Act entitled an Act for the government of San Diego County, approved March 2, 1872. Statutes, Chapter CLXI, p. 221.

p. 422 Act to authorize construction of a wagon road from Cushenberg Spring to the Holcomb Valley, passed March 18, 1874. Statutes, Chapter CCCXII, p. 444.

p. 429 Bill to regulate official fees in the County of San Diego, passed February 18, 1874. Statutes, Chapter CX, p. 130.

p. 437 Bill to legalize and make valid the election of certain officers in San Diego County, not passed.

p. 456 Concurrent resolution in relation to mail service between San Diego and Julian Mining District, not passed.

p. 516 Resolution correcting clerical error in Senate Bill #246.

p. 526 Act to fix compensation of the Assessor of San Diego County, passed March 18, 1874. Statutes, Chapter CCCIX, p. 443.

p. 526 Bill to grant right of way to construct wagon road in San Diego County, not passed.

p. 596 Act to reincorporate the City of San Diego, not passed.

p. 596 Act legalizing and confirming boundaries of school district of the City of San Diego, passed March 16, 1874. Statutes, Chapter CCVIII, p. 391.

p. 663 Request to postpone decision on the regulation of fees and salaries.

p. 682 Act relating to officers of the City of San Diego, not passed.


Gray and Johns Pascoe
Pueblo Lands
M. G. Wheeler Map
A. B. Gray
New Town Map by Poole
Poole 1856
New San Diego by Johns and Gray
Jackson’s Map of Middletown
Charles Fox Map
George S. Morrell, Rancho de la Nacion
Pascoe 1870
Cave Couts Map 1849
L. L. Lockling Map, February 1870
Jackson Map 1874
M. G. Wheeler, Map of Park Addition
Poole’s Map of New San Diego

These maps can be located at the County Recorder’s Office, 5th floor, San Diego, California.



1. The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, 1897 ed., s. v. “John Bankhead Magruder.”

2. The background information on McCoy’s early life is taken from a variety of secondary sources, all of which are very similar. See An Illustrated History of Southern California (Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1890), pp. 147-149; Samuel F. Black, San Diego County, 2 vols. (Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1913), 2: 24-25; The City and County of San Diego (San Diego: Leberthon and Taylor, 1888) pp. 103-104) William E. Smythe, History of San Diego 1542-1908, 2 vols. (San Diego: The History Company, 1908) 2: 279.

3. George Potter, To The Golden Door (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1960), pp. 113-129.

4. Arnold Schrier, Ireland and the American Emigration 1850-1900, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1958), p. 157.

5. Receipt dated April 28, 1851, signed by M.E. Salomon, Deputy Sheriff, San Diego Historical Society Library and Manuscripts Collection (hereinafter cited as SDHC).

6. Black, San Diego County, 2:25, The City and County of San Diego, p. 102, An Illustrated History of Southern California. p. 148.

7. Affidavit entitled The Julian Mines Exception to the Survey of The Cuyamaca Grant Before the Surveyor General of the United States of California (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1871), SDHC.

8. Noel L. Loomis, ed., “Journal of Isaiah Churchill Woods On The Establishment of The San Antonio and San Diego Mail Line,” in Brand Book Number One, The San Diego Corral of the Westerners, Ray Brandes, ed., (San Diego: The San Diego Corral of the Westerners, 1968), p. 94. James E. Birch was an Eastern businessman who began in the staging business in Northern California. He drowned September 11, 1857, while traveling to New York on the Central America. p. 127.

9. Ibid., p. 100-101.

10. San Diego Herald, 7 March 1857.

11. Assessment list for 1857, SDHC.

12. San Diego Herald, 10 September 1859.

13. The Julian Mines Exceptions to the Survey of the Cuyamaca Grant, p. 21, SDHC.

14. Assessment list for 1860, SDHC.

15. The Statutes of the Eighteenth Session of The Legislature of the State of California (Sacramento: T.A. Springer, 1870) p. 300.

16. Information taken from the biographical files of the San Diego Historical Society Library and Manuscripts Collection

17. Reminiscences of Charles Kelly on file at SDHC. 18.1 bid.

19. San Diego Union, 19 May 1870.

20. History of San Diego County (San Francisco: Wallace W. Elliott and Company, 1908) 2:122.

21. Information taken from the biographical file at SDHC.

22. San Diego Union, 21 April 1872.

23. Complaint dated September 12, 1870 in Case412, Box #15030 located at the County Operations Center, San Diego, California. The court cases involving McCoy up to 1880 can also be located at the Operations Center. They include documents from the complaint to the judgment. While only two cases are mentioned in the text, Appendix “A” provides a list of others. In undertaking research on the cases after 1880, the author located them on microfilm at the County Court House. They were not microfilmed in order of date but at random. For purposes of this paper it became virtually impossible to determine the nature of the other cases that involved McCoy.

24. Judgment dated April 24, 1872, County Operations Center.

25. Case 488, Box #15032, list of goods seized by McCoy as Sheriff, San Diego County Operations Center.

26. Ibid.,

27. Jane Strudwick, “The Whaley House,” San Diego History Center Quarterly, Vol. VI (April, 1960), pp. 66-68.

28. Deed Book 2, p. 224, located at the County Recorder’s Office, San Diego, California. McCoy had innumerable holdings in addition to those properties mentioned in the text. See Appendix “B” for an inventory of the deeds related to McCoy’s property. The two maps attached give the location of the property.

29. Picture of Old Town including McCoy’s property dated 1867, California State Library, Sacramento.

30. Book I Vital Statistics-Marriages, p. 115, County Recorder’s Office. The secondary sources listed in footnote 2 indicate that McCoy was married on May 17, 1868. A check of the official records proved this date inaccurate. 31. San Diego Union, 19 May 1869.

32. San Diego Union, 28 July 1869.

33. San Diego Union, 8 September 1869.

34. Picture of McCoy house dated 1874 from the collection of Judge Benjamin Hayes, reprint located at the University of San Diego, San Diego, California.

35. San Diego Union Weekly, 8 September 1869.

36. Petition of Winniefred [sic] McCoy dated May 23, 1896 claiming certain personal property which listed furniture in the various rooms in the McCoy house, Old Probate Records, Box #015645, County Operations Center.

37. Biographical file, SDHC.

38. Letter of Lydia Horton, SDHC.

39. Picture of the McCoy house dated 1898, Title Insurance and Trust Company, San Diego, California. 40. Picture of the McCoy house dated 1905, Title Insurance and Trust Company.

41. Reminiscences of Charles Kelly, SDHC.

42. Interview with Lottie Parsons Mustain, September 25, 1957 conducted by Edgar F. Hastings on file at SDHC. 43. Receipt for the wages of Manuel Silvas located in the McCoy estate at the San Diego County Operations Center. 44. Letter from Mrs. McCoy dated August 14, 1896 to “Mary”, located at SDHC.

45. San Diego Union, 4 May, 1871.

46. San Diego Union, 23 November 1871.

47. The Journals of the Senate During the Nineteenth Session of The Legislature of the State of California (Sacramento: T.A. Springer, 1872). The Journals of the Senate During the Twentieth Session of The Legislature of the State of California (Sacramento: T.A. Springer, 1874). See Appendix “C” for a list of bills introduced by McCoy during his terms.

48. Journals of the Senate During the Nineteenth Session of the Legislature of the State of California, p. 105.

49. The Statutes of the Nineteenth Session of the Legislature of the State of California, p. 309.

50. San Diego Union, 6 October 1870.

51. Document signed by James McCoy giving Francis Hinton the permission to vote his 60 shares of the San Diego Gila Railroad, located at SDHC.

52. Deed Book 36, pp. 155, 358, 360.

53. San Diego Union, 2 February 1874.

54. Biography file, SDHC.

55. San Diego Union, 4 June 1875.

56. James A. Jasper, “History of the Julian Area”, Vol. I, SDHC.

57. Joe Stone, “Lady Luck Finally Jilted Joseph Coyne”, San Diego Union, 24 November 1974, sec. B, p. 8.

58. San Diego Union, 17 January 1885.

59. San Diego Union, 21 February 1885.

60. Wadleigh’s Map of the City of San Diego, 1888, San Diego Public Library Downtown, San Diego, California. See Appendix “D” for a list of the numerous maps consulted for this paper. These maps were listed in the deeds and can be found at the County Recorder’s Office. For purposes of this paper Wadleigh’s map proved to be a composite of the maps consulted and is attached to indicate the various parcels of land owned by McCoy.

61. Sworn affidavit signed by Mrs. McCoy indicating the value of the estate. This can be found at the County Operations Center Box #015645. The San Diego Union disputed this fact claiming the estate’s value to be in excess of $100,000, on November 9, 1895.

62. San Diego Union, 9 November 1895.

63. Death Certificate, Book H, p. 185, San Diego County Recorder’s Office.

64. Will of James McCoy dated June 4, 1895 located in the estate of James McCoy, Box #015645, County Operations Center.

65. Inscription on the tombstone of James McCoy in Pioneer Park adjacent to Grant School in Mission Hills.


Susan Sullivan is a graduate student in history at the University of San Diego. A native of Wisconsin, she is presently serving as President of the University of San Diego Graduate Students Association. The paper published here was an award winning entry in the 1976 San Diego History Center Institute of History.