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As It Was: Peter Fitzpatrick Family Settles in Burney Valley

Irish immigrant Peter Fitzpatrick did not stay in the East for long before he caught gold fever and headed West with a friend named Henderson. 
The two men took ocean passage out of New York for Panama.  Family lore says they ran out of money after walking the 40 miles across the Isthmus to the Pacific shore and passed a hat around the harbor to pay for passage to San Francisco.

In 1853, Henderson and Fitzpatrick were mining at Mokelumne Hill, but there’s no record of how they fared.  Later, they hiked north to the Burney Valley in Shasta County, where Fitzpatrick decided to settle down someday as a carpenter, having once been apprenticed to a cabinetmaker.

By 1860, Fitzpatrick had married a childhood sweetheart, Mary Brandon Heffrin, and was living with her and their 4-year-old son, William, on Johnson’s farm in Churn Creek Bottom.  A second son was born that year and a daughter in 1863, and four more children after they moved to the Burney Valley.

Fitzpatrick became a naturalized citizen and registered to vote the same day in October 1869.


Source: Kern, Jean Fitzpatrick. “Peter Fitzpatrick of Burney.” The Covered Wagon, 1994, Shasta Historical Society, pp. 56-62.

Gail Fiorini-Jenner is a writer and teacher. Her first novel "Across the Sweet Grass Hills", won the 2002 WILLA Literary Award. She co-authored four histories with Arcadia Publishing: Western Siskiyou County: Gold & Dreams, Images of the State of Jefferson, The State of Jefferson: Then & Now, which placed in the 2008 Next Generation Awards for Nonfiction and Postcards from the State of Jefferson.