1866 Tintype of Thomas Irvine

Aug 20, 2022 by

1866 Tintype of Thomas Irvine

This ca. 1866 tintype of nine-year-old Thomas Hannah Irvine (1857-1910) was recently donated to the Mokelumne Hill History Society by his grandson James Irvine (via Joyce Peek). Thomas is locally famous as the father of our intrepid Moke Hill photographer Edith Irvine whose 1906 San Francisco Earthquake photos (and others) adorn our library. Thomas and his two siblings—Catherine and Henry—were born in San Andreas where their parents William (b. Ireland) and Jane Callahan (b. New York) were married in 1855. William appears to have been a successful lumber merchant.

The 1880 Census found Thomas (age 23) and his younger brother Henry (age 21) living with their parents at Carson Hill,  They and their father were all unemployed miners. Thomas’ life, however, was about to change. In Nov. 1880, he married Mary Irene Hill of San Andreas. The couple settled in Sheep Ranch where son Robert was born in 1882 and daughter Edith in 1884. A third child, Thomas Clinton, died at age two in 1888 and is buried in the Peoples Cemetery in San Andreas.

In 1900, Census Records show the Irvines renting a home on the Amador side of Big Bar (Highway 49 crossing of the Mokelumne River). Thomas is now a gold miner while Robert (18) and Edith (16) are attending school. During this time, the Blue Springs Powerhouse was built along Electra Road, giving the family a front row seat to this installation and likely inspiring Edith’s later photographs. Ten years later, the 1910 Census documents the Irvines established in Mokelumne Hill in their own home (the 1852 stone Kesserman House at the southeast corner of Main Street and Highway 49). Thomas served as Deputy Post Master, Mary Irene ran the house, Robert worked at a local gold mine, and Edith identified as a self-employed photographer. For Thomas, however, this time of stable village life was short. He died in December of 1910 at the age of 53 and was buried in the Mokelumne Hill Protestant Cemetery. Daughter Edith was laid next to him in 1949, wife Mary Irene in 1952, and son Robert in 1971.


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