The long-lost tombstone of an Irish immigrant was discovered in a shocking fashion this week
The tragic story of an Irish immigrant mother who died during childbirth was revealed this week when electricians working underground at a home in San Francisco came across her tombstone.
Catherine Ryan was a 27-year-old Irish immigrant to the US who died 155 years ago while giving birth to her son William Henry, who died 13 days later. Their tombstone, which they shared with Ryan’s husband, German immigrant Charles Cooper, had hidden buried under the ground for decades before the electricians made the shocking discovery this week, unearthing the tragic story.
"[It was] more of a shock than anything," electrician Frank Graziano told the San Francisco Gate.
"All the guys were shocked and amazed at the same time. Never have seen or heard anything like it."
"Those people lost their child so early," he continued.
"It tugs at my heart because I have four kids of my own. I couldn't imagine it."
When the electricians investigated the stone further, they were amazed to discover it was 155 years old, although the coffins of Ryan, Cooper, and their baby boy had long since been moved to a different cemetery.
Co. Cork immigrant Catherine Ryan was married to German immigrant Charles Cooper
While originally buried in Laurel Hill Cemetery, they were relocated sometime after 1900 when San Francisco banned burials within the overcrowded city limits.
It was first believed it would be extremely difficult to trace the life story of the immigrant couple due to the massive amount of Ryans and Coopers who emigrated to the city. As it happened, there was only one Charles Cooper, however, and so their immigrant story was revealed.
According to the Gate, Charles Cooper was listed in the 1862 city directory as working the “ice cart”, meaning he brought ice round to the homes of wealthier San Francisco residents. By the next year, this had changed to “teamster” meaning he drove a team of horses or oxen.
Mother and child died within two weeks of each other in 1862
Living at 324 Vallejo Street, 29-year-old Cooper, and his 27-year-old wife would have discovered they were pregnant at the beginning of 1862 but their happiness was to end abruptly in the death of both Catherine and William Henry.
Although Cooper remarried, he died at the age of 69 and was buried alongside his first wife and son.
The electrician’s work resumed as usual once it discovered that no human remains were at the site and the homeowners have decided to leave the tombstone as it stands.
H/T: San Francisco Gate