Clampers in the NEWS.
Plaque honors Gilroy's namesake.
By Marty Cheek - Special to The Dispatch
Friday, October 22, 2004
Larry Helling, with the Mountain Charlie Chapter 1850 of E. Clampus Vitus,
puts the finishing touches on a landmark plaque at the former San Ysidro School
site and former Rancho San Ysidro once owned by John Gilroy, for whom the city was named.
The plaque sits on property now owned by Anchorpoint School on Pacheco Pass Highway,
two miles east of Gilroy.
Photo by: James M. Mohs/Chief Photographer.
Gilroy - Residents won't soon forgot the man for whom the city was named.
John Gilroy, the California pioneer who settled here, will be fondly remembered
at a plaque-dedication ceremony set for noon Saturday at Anchorpoint School
(formerly San Ysidro School) along the Pacheco Pass Highway two miles east of
downtown Gilroy. This is near the location John Gilroy lived and died in his
Rancho San Ysidro adobe home during the golden days of California.
"It really is important for our community to know where our beginnings were
physically and why that area happened to be chosen and how we became what we are today,"
said Connie Rogers, a member of the Gilroy Historical Society.
"It was the beginning of our community. It's the place that, unfortunately, hardly exists any more."
Anchorpoint School, the Gilroy Historical Society, the Mountain Charley Chapter of the E Clampus Vitus
history-preservation group and the Native Sons of the Golden West sponsored the monument.
The plaque relates the history of John Gilroy and the village of San Ysidro.
Bill Clark, a member of the E Clampus Vitus who helped create the monument,
passionately described John Gilroy and his dynamic frontier spirit.
"It was a very romantic time," Clark said. "That was a very exciting time."
The Scottish-born Gilroy arrived in California in 1814 and, as a young man, became the first
English-speaking settler in the entire region - then controlled by the Spanish crown.
Gilroy made his way to the settlement of Ignacio Ortega, the son of a scout of the Spanish
explorer Portola who discovered Santa Clara Valley and the San Francisco Bay in the 1760s.
Gilroy lived through the high points of early California history, Clark said. He knew settlers
such as the Martin Murphy family as well as survivors of the ill-fated Donner Party. He saw
first hand the struggle between Mexico and America for control of California.
And he saw the effects of how the Gold Rush lured settlers from all around the world to this Promised Land.
"Gee! It was a sterling time," Clark said.
"Everyone was trying to get as much land as possible after the gold was discovered."
Three descendants of local pioneering families are scheduled to speak
at Saturday's ceremony, he said. Robert Gilroy, a local veterinary
assistant, will describe his great-great-great-great-great grandfather.
Edward Allegretti, a direct descendent of Ignacio Ortega, will talk
about the Spanish family John Gilroy married into. And retired
ranchers and historian Jack Sturla will describe the San Ysidro
School where his father was a trustee for 38 years.
"I'm proud the town was named Gilroy," Robert said.
He noted his father, Benjamin Gilroy Jr., and grandfather often
felt elated by their blood connection to the esteemed pioneer.
"There's a little bit of an ego thing," Robert said with a laugh.
"And I tell you, it goes through the family. I'm just getting to that stage now."
He named his oldest son "Cameron" after John's original last name.
(John took his mother's maiden name of 'Gilroy' soon after arriving in California.)
One reason he made his home in the South Valley area and works a
ranch here is his pride in John Gilroy's impact on the area, he said.
He sees his ancestor playing a major role in the settlement of the South Valley.
"He had his finger in everything," he said. "He helped out with the
tobacco and the mills. But basically, he was working making barrels."
John Gilroy also served for three months as an interpreter between the Mexican
and American armies during the Mexican-American War of the mid-1840s, he said.
His diplomatic skills helped ease the tension between the people who lived in
California, known as Californios, and the Americans.
"He was well respected and well liked," Robert said.
"He knew everybody and helped out everybody."
The California where John Gilroy made his home was a three-mile-an-hour world where people
enjoyed the pleasantries of leisurely social visits and fiestas with mariachi music.
And Saturday's plaque-dedication ceremony will attempt to recreate the spirit
of that long-gone time. Mariachi music will be played by Las Cubancheros.
And, in honor of John Gilroy's Scottish roots, bag piper
Rob Boyd will play traditional Highlander tunes.
As for the monument itself, visitors will be able to read about
the vibrant story of John Gilroy and the village of San Ysidro.
Marty Cheek is the author of 'The Silicon Valley Handbook.'
His column appears every second and fifth Friday of the month.
You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org