52 Ancestors Week 38: The Portuguese of East 25th Street, Oakland

52 Ancestors Week 38: The Portuguese of East 25th Street, Oakland

This week’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is easy.  The theme is Favorite Place to Research and I know exactly where that would be.

This is a very specific location.  It is where my Portuguese research began:  E. 25th Street in Oakland, Alameda County, California.

What makes this street so special?  Why am I drawn to it?

This map that I created in Google Maps will give you the answer.  Almost all my Portuguese Hawaiian relatives lived there between 1905 and the 1960s.  The red tags represent houses where my relatives lived.

My Portuguese relatives came from the Azores and migrated to the island of Kauai in 1882. There they worked on the Kealia and Kilauea Sugar Plantations.

Learn how to research house histories

Around 1905, family members began to move to Oakland, California.  They all moved to one block, in fact, one section, of E. 25th Street in Oakland.  The first family was Joao and Marie (Pacheco) Jacinto (aka John and Marie Cosma) with Joao’s father, Cosme Jacinto.  Then, my great grandparents, Theodoro and Maria (de Braga) Pacheco (under their new surname Smith), with Maria’s father, Jozimas de Braga.  They all lived in the house at 1935 E. 25th Street, saving their money until they could buy a lot and build their own homes.  The three blue markers mark the three houses that the family crowded into the first couple of years.

The house in the middle in gingerbread style is 1935 E. 25th Street.

 

The Cosma’s were the first to build their own home.  They bought the lot just opposite the 3 first homes.  They moved in around 1911.  The blue home with the red steps is the house that they built.

After this, family began to buy lots and build. Theodoro’s brothers, Manoel, Antonio, and Francisco moved to E. 25th street starting with Manoel around 1908 and the last being Francisco in the early 1920s.

When a family moved out of a home, a younger couple newly married or a family newly arrived from Kauai moved in.  They rented from the first generation on the street.  When they finally saved enough money, they bought their own home on the street or on one of the adjacent streets.

This house with the red garage door was owned by Manoel and Marie Grace (de Braga) Bonita. It is where my Mom grew up. Her parents, John and Anna (Jackson) Pacheco Smith, rented it from the Bonita’s starting in 1937. But, from 1930-1935, my grandfather’s cousin, Marie (Cosma) Avelar and her husband, Antone, lived there.

This section of the block was dominated by families from the Kilauea Sugar Plantation.  The Andrew Medeiros clan and their in-laws the Pereira/Perry’s came around 1907.  Some families like the Bonita, Souza, and Correia families first made their way to Monterey County to work on the sugar beet farms, but by 1920 they all lived on E. 25th Street.

That is why E. 25th Street is so special.  From 1905 until the early 1960s, my relatives and the families their intermarried with found their home on this street.  Those who were established sponsored others keeping a steady flow of Portuguese Hawaiians to their homes.

The street was an insular community unto itself.  Almost everyone within a certain range of houses had a blood or marriage relationship to everyone else on the block.

When I imagine E. 25th street I can picture the people who lived there…

Can you see Marie (Pacheco) Cosma, the family doctor, hurrying off with her medical bag to deliver another Pacheco baby?

Marie Cosma of E. 25th Street, Oakland
Marie (Pacheco) Cosma was the family doctor

If you look across the street, you see the mothers who watched over the children when they went to school and when they played.

Can you hear my great grandparents weeping over the loss of their 13 year old son, Willie?

In the evening you will find the fathers gathered on each others porches after a hard day of work. Antonio Pacheco is making lassoes.  He is on the left with his daughter, Sophie.  His nieces, Louisa and Georgina (by his brother, Manoel) are standing on the steps.  The house was owned by Mr. Dias who sits in the middle.

The families of E. 25th Street, Oakland, gather on the porch
Family and friends gathered at house on E. 25th Street

Look, there is Auntie Bonita carrying her homemade bottle of wine to her relative by marriage, Joana Fernandes.

And, what is that smell?  It’s the men burning old rubber tires so no one rats them out for making alcohol during prohibition.

Do you hear the sounds of the parade with the queen and her court in the yearly Festa celebration that will be held in the Holy Ghost Hall at the end of the street?

Everyone is excited because cousin, Joe Braga, has come all the way from Honolulu arrived in 1931.

Joe Braga with his Pacheco Smith cousins ca 1929 on E. 25th Street
Joe Braga with his Pacheco Smith cousins on E. 25th Street

And, there is my 8 year old mother beating up on Bobbie Silva because he was bugging her.

Her aunts are making her brother, Donald, say his name because his has a speech impediment and says shit instead of Smith.

I hear the Portuguese and Pidgin English being bantered over fences as women hang their laundry.

Do you see everyone in their cowboy outfits dressing up for the block wide parties in honor of the 1939 Expo Days?

Families of E. 25th Street, Oakland, celebrate the 1939 Expo
Sheriff Alfred Souza keeps his uncles in line as the families of E. 25th partied for the 1939 Expo in San Francisco

The Souza family is gathering for their mandatory Sunday family dinner.

My grandfather has run over to Elsie (Santos) Spirou’s house because her baby is crying and keeping him awake.  He’ll entertain her son with his flashlight.

Can you smell the Portuguese and Hawaiian dishes that my grandmother is cooking?  She was an Irish/English California, 16 1/2 and pregnant when she married Joao “John” Pacheco Smith.  She she learned how to cook for her in-laws!

Do you see Marie Gloria (Bonita) Medeiros reading palms telling someone their future?

There are the young guarding their newly born babies because the older woman have terrified them of the evils that may happen before their babies are baptized by a Catholic Priest.

 

I will delve into property research some day to learn the history of these homes

 

Yes, I can see, smell, and hear E. 25th Street.

I have fallen in love with E. 25th street because it is the place where my ancestors come to life.  It is the place where I have learned about my Portuguese relatives and the world that they created.  It is where my genealogy started.  If they all hadn’t live on this one street in Oakland, I might not have learned so many stories and filled in so many leaves on my tree.  Without E. 25th street, my tree would be pretty bland.

How did I find out all this information about East 25th Street? 

My mom helped me map out the block as she remembered as well. Then, cousins added their remembrances. But, memory is one thing, proof is another.

I went through city directories and the census and noted who was living where.  Then, any birth, death, or marriage records that listed addresses were noted.  Even old obituaries were helpful as they list the person’s address.

I have yet to get access to the property records.  I hope they will be digitized in the near future.  Then, I can see who really owned the property.

For now, this database has been invaluable.  It is the City of Oakland Interactive Planning and Zoning database.  If the building still exists, one can learn when it was built, whether it was remodeled, and other details.  I encourage anyone researching in Oakland, Alameda County, California to use this database!

 

 

 

15 thoughts on “52 Ancestors Week 38: The Portuguese of East 25th Street, Oakland

  1. Melody, I really enjoyed reading your story on East 25th Street. I was lucky enough to be one of those families that lived there. I have pictures of our family with some of those houses in the background. I have happy memories of East 25th Street. Again, Thank you for your work on our family history.

  2. Hi Melody,
    I have lived on E. 25th st since 2000. I find the history fascinating – I would love to see any more historical pics of the street you have. The family who lived at my house “the Guidos” Joseph and Maria built the house in 1912 for around 2400. He worked for Hugh Hogan Lumber (I believe) and was also connected to a grocery store on E. 14th st (now International Blvd). Maria worked at the cotton mill (now loft apartments). they had two sons and lived in the house until the early 40’s. I love the history of the Portuguese people and E. 25th street!

  3. Todd, Thank you for stopping by! I have often wondered about the new residents of E. 25th Street. There is a long history in those old houses. I do know of Joseph and Maria Guido. They were the parents of Manuel Joseph Guido who married my grandfather’s cousin, Sophia Bonita.

    E. 25th Street was the first street that my ancestors moved to in Oakland when they came over from Hawaii. Several relatives, including my mom, lived on one half of the street from about 1905 to the 1960s.

    Thank you for sharing this history with me!

  4. Thank you Melody since I only lived on E25th Street until I was about 6 I don’t have many memories other than going to Manzanita for kindergarten & St. Anthony’s for 1st grade, barbecues in our backyard that had a lot of steps, apricot & maybe guava trees…. so I love reading so much more! Thank you I am so proud of our family!

  5. Melody I was talking to Todd Smith last night. We were talking about the families on east 25th street in Oakland. I live in my grandmothers house 2011 east 25th street. Barbara Souza and i would play in her basement for hours, My mother was the baby of Rosa and Joaquin S. Mesquita. They were both from the Azora Islands. They were married in St, Joseph’s Church January 16 , 1900.

  6. I lived in the house my great grandfather built on east 25th until I moved out 16 years ago. My mother and aunt still live there. Our family’s last name was Mesquita, also from the Azores but I’m not sure exactly where or how they came to America. My great grandfather was Joaquin Mesquita and he built the house at 2011 east 25th sometime around 1905. His wife’s name was Rosa.

  7. Francesca, Sorry for the late reply! I remember seeing the Mesquita’s in the census records. They were the one family never never married into the Pacheco family tree, but there were their neighbors for decades. I remember an elderly cousin mentioning them. I think they might have been friendly with the Cosma family.

    Thanks for your comment!

  8. Betty, thank you for your comments! Small world! Barbara Souza is my cousin. My mom used to babysit her and her siblings. E. 25th Street was a small little world unto itself, wasn’t it?

  9. Terri, I’m glad that I had the opportunity to learn some of the stories from the older cousins and then find records that helped fill in the stories. I can just imagine how close the families were on the street, all of them immigrants, all trying to find their way in their new world. There must have been comfort having relatives so close by. And, I am sure they had their share of fights too!

    Thanks for stopping by! It was my pleasure to pass these stories on.

  10. On 23rd Ave. between 26th and 27th Streets lived Mr, Rodriguez who raised canaries. Visiting was pure joy with the many birds singing away. We got a white canary from him, the most wonderful in the world, of course. I’ve only had one singer like that since–the rest were duds.

  11. What a wonderful story to share, Judith! My paternal grandparents lived on 14th Avenue and my grandmother kept canaries, too. She had several in cages in the yard. I can remember their chirping in the sunshine.

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