I’ve written many times about how my great grandfather fled Hawaii when he was diagnosed with leprosy. They had a fresh start in Oakland, California, but what kind of a fresh start was it really? I found many details about the home they lived in when they first arrived. At the end of the article, I’ll show you how to find ancestral homes in Oakland online.
Three Families Living in One House
The Pacheco’s and de Braga’s began leaving Hawaii around 1905. The majority settled in Oakland. The first families to arrive were all clustered in three houses on E. 25th Street.
Family lore says that Theodoro and Maria left Hawaii in March of 1907. Their son, Joao, was born somewhere near the port of San Francisco.
I have no proof of that. But, I do know that in 1908, Theodoro, Maria, and their 5 children were sharing a house with relatives. The address in 1908 was 975 E. 25th Street. Today the house is known as 1935 E. 25th Street.
The house in the middle with the orange tones is the house they lived in.
At the same address, were there in-laws, the Cosma’s. Joao and Marie (Pacheco) Jacinto da Camara, aka John and Marie Cosma, and 4 of their children lived in that house. Marie was pregnant in 1908. A baby joined the household in 1909.
Also, living in the same house was Maria (de Braga) Pacheco Smith’s father, Jozimas de Braga, and Cosma cousins, Jose and Maria Teves.
According to Zillow.com the house was built in 1900. The county Planning and Zoning Department puts the age at 1890s. Parcel Information 1935 E. 25th Street. Today it’s listed as 3 bedroom, 3 bath. I’m unsure what the layout was in 1905 when they first moved in.
What Kind of Work Did They Do Once in Oakland?
They work experience was on sugar plantations of Hawaii. Did this help or hinder them in finding work in Oakland? John Cosma had no trouble finding work. He was hired as a pipe fitter for a pipe making company.
Marie (Pacheco) Cosma was a midwife, doctor, and seamstress. I do not know if she earned an income, though I suspect that she was paid in one way or another.
Theodoro was slowly dying of leprosy. Most likely, he took whatever work he could get. There is no evidence that my great grandmother worked, but, I suspect that she did the usual things that women do to keep their families afloat like take in laundry and sewing.
Were They Poor?
I’ve wondered about this myself. You may not know this, but Hawaii had no currency in the first years of the sugar plantation era. Workers were paid in gold.
I don’t believe that the Cosma’s were poor. Marie Cosma arrived in California with a belt made of gold that she had hidden under her clothing. 5 or 6 years after they arrived, they bought the plot across the street and built the house at 1936 E. 25th Street. Parcel Information for 1936 E. 25th Street states that it was built in the 1900s. Zillow shows that it was updated in 1930. This was to accommodate their granddaughter, Mildred (Cosma) Valentine and her family.
The blue house with the red steps was built by John and Marie Cosma.
Theodoro and Maria had to pay off the ship captain to smuggle Theodoro on board. I cannot say how much money they had left over. It appears they shared that house on E. 25th Street until Theodoro’s death in 1014. If they had money, it was spent on survival when Theodoro could no longer work.
Was It The Fresh Start They Expect?
It’s hard to say if Theodoro and Maria were happy with their situation in Oakland. If they stayed in Hawaii, Theodoro would have been deported to Molokai. He’d have to go it alone–no family, not even his wife, was allowed to join him.
For all intents and purposes, Maria would have been a widow raising 5 children. Giving the stories of other widows, Maria most likely would have had to give children away so she could feed the children she kept.
In Oakland, they were together. Though they no longer had the security that plantation life brings, they no longer had to fear deportation and separation.
Maria lost her son, Willie, in 1913, and became a widow the next year. By this time, her oldest son, Jose, was 22 and pitched in before he went off to fight in World War I. Her daughter, Maria, was 16 and already 6 months into her marriage. That left her youngest sons Theodore, 13, and Joao, 7, who still need care.
It Probably Was the Better of the Situations
Theodoro and Maria expected to work in the sugar cane fields and grow old on the Kilauea Sugar Plantation. They’d raise their children who would also work on the plantation. Maybe their sons would move up in the chain and become management.
Leprosy changed all that.
Rather than split their family apart, they headed for Oakland. Maria was able to tend to Theodoro as his condition worsened. They had Theodoro’s sister and brother as well as Maria’s father right there on E. 25th Street.
Instead of Theodoro dying without family on Molokai, she was able to be there with him to the end. As he lay dying at the San Leandro Infirmary, her devotion would carry him his grave.
Perhaps that was enough to make their fresh start worthwhile.
How to Find Information on Houses in Oakland Online
The first place you should start is the Oakland Interactive Planning and Zoning Map.
- Enter an address. (Sometimes you have to play with the street names especially when there is and east, west, etc. involved.)
- Once you find the house you are looking for, click on the house number on the map.
- A box will pop up with parcel information. Click on “Complete Parcel Information” to learn more about the house.
- Click on “Street View” to see a visual of the home. You will have to re-enter the address on the street view screen.
Once you find that your ancestral house still exists, you can use Google Maps to get a better view.
You can use websites like Zillow to find further information.
Have you found any ancestral homes? Do you know the story of your great grandparents first home?
This article was written for Amy Johnson Crows 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Series: Week 1: Start.
Margaret Vieira Couto is participating in the 52 Weeks challenge too. Here is her post, Margarida, Jose, and the Queen.
Genealogist and writer. Creator of the Portuguese Hawaiian Genealogy and Heritage website, yourislandroutes.com