Three houses side by side on E. 25th Street in Oakland, California are important to my family history. These three houses were where it all began. It’s where the cousins from Hawaii first lived. It sparked a long line of relatives moving to this very street for over 60 years.
The First Migration From the Azores to Hawaii
Before I talk about Oakland, I must talk about the first migration. That would be in 1882 when my de Braga and Pacheco ancestors decided to sign sugar plantation contracts to work in Hawaii.
They picked up roots in the Azores Islands to start new lives on the other side of the world. They hoped to have steady jobs, a roof over their heads, food on the table, and a better opportunities for their children.
My relatives lucked out by landing on the Kilauea Sugar Plantation which was known for taking care of it’s employees. They had steady work and decent pay. They were able to save up money and make their lives a little easier. Some would never leave Hawaii, but others would eventually head for California.
The original migration to Oakland was made possible by the fact that the early sugar plantation workers were paid in gold since Hawaii had did not have its own currency. These people were frugal and they saved for their rainy day.
Why Did They Leave For Oakland?
This is a chicken or the egg kind of story. I know that my great uncle, Joao Jacinto da Camara, who I’ll refer to by his alias, John Cosma, was in California before the 1906 earthquake. I believe he was there to explore the job situation, establish himself, and finding housing for the family.
At the same time, my great grandfather, Theodoro Pacheco, contracted leprosy (now known as Hansen’s Disease). With his deportation orders for the Molokai leper colony in hand, the family plotted to smuggle him from Hawaii to California. Theodoro, his wife, and children that voyage sometime in early 1907.
So, did John Cosma go to Oakland because he was tired of the plantation life and his family was ready to move on? Had he made enough money and wanted to live elsewhere perhaps an easier life than out in the fields of a plantation? Or, did my great grandfather’s impeding deportation force the family to make tough choices and John Cosma went to stake out a place where Theodoro could live out his life and not be separated from his family?
I can never really know, but it’s not hard to think that the latter did not influence these decisions.
Those Three Houses Are Where It All Started
These three lots with the blue house in the middle are the ones I’m talking about. 1931, 1935, and 1939 E. 25th Street. 1939 was built in 1900 (white with blue).
The blue house,1935, was built in the 1890s according to the County Assessor’s office, though, Zillow puts it as 1900. It’s clearly an older style the two houses it is sandwiched in between.
Although family lived in 1931 as early as 1908, the house that sits on that lot was built in 1915. I wonder why a new house was built?
While I can’t solve the chicken or the egg mystery above, I do know that John Cosma scouted out the area and made arrangements to live on E. 25th Street. In 1906, there were still many empty lots between houses on this very long street. So, John Cosma may have been looking at the potential.
Soon after John put things in motion, he, his wife, and kids moved into 1935 E. 25th Street. Then, Theodoro and his family arrived newly named the Smith family. Theodoro’s brother, Manoel Pacheco, and his family followed suit sharing the same address.
Manoel Pacheco and his family moved into the original house at 1931 E. 25th Street around 1909. Theodoro and Manoel’s brother, Antonio, joined them by 1916 living at 1922 E. 25th. His stay was short. His bought his own house a few blocks away on Inyo Avenue by 1920.
It seems the families moved between the houses. It may have been to make room for newcomers or to give my great grandmother help as her husband’s health deteriorated. At one point in 1910, there were at least 16 people living in 1939 E. 25th Street. The Cosma and Pacheco Smith families plus my great great grandfather, Jozimas de Braga all lived in the one house.
The Cosmas Were First To Build Their Dream Home
The Cosma’s were first to get their money together and sign their name to a deed. They bought the lot at 1936 E. 25th Street, across the street from the three original homes. Construction began sometime around 1912 and they moved in before 1915.
This blue house is the one that John and Marie built. The Oakland parcel information shows this house as being built in the 1900s. Although Zillow has the construction date as 1930, that refers to when the house was remodeled to convert the basement to living quarters for their granddaughter, Mildred Valentine, and her family. From my research, it was probably built around 1912-1913.
After this house was built, more relatives arrived. Those who had money purchased multiple lots and rented to others coming over from Kilauea.
This is how one by one the houses on this stretch of E. 25th Street were settled by my relatives. When I say this, I’m not kidding.
The blue markers on this map designate the three original houses. Then, every red marker is where a relative lived on this street over several decades.
By 1920, almost every house had a Pacheco or de Braga descendant living in it. The younger generation married and moved in next to their cousins. Newcomers came from Hawaii as well.
Those that didn’t have cousins living in them were filled my in-laws like the Andrew Medeiros, Guido, and other families. There were very few houses that were lived in by someone who wasn’t connected to my ancestors and the island of Kauai in some way. Though a couple folks did come straight from the Azores, sponsored by the older generation.
When they decided to move to adjacent streets or purchases a home in other parts of the city, another couple moved it.
When my grandparents moved back to Oakland in 1937, my mom just a baby, they moved back to E. 25th Street renting the house from my grandfather’s aunt and uncle, Marie Grace (de Braga) and Manoel Mello Bonita. If you look at the map showing the Cosma house, there is a house on the right that is more newly built. That used to be an empty lot and my mom’s house was to the right of it.Just across the street from those first three houses.
Two of the Three Original Houses Are Still There Today
When I started my family tree, I sat down with my mom and we mapped out the houses and who lived there as she remembered it in the 1940s. I used this information along with city directories, the census, and other records to create a Google map of every house, who lived there, and when.
I now have an idea of how important this one street was to my family’s history. It tells me of the closeness these cousins shared and why their bonds were so strong.
This house is also on E. 25th Street. Taken around 1916, it was owned by the man seated in the middle, it shows my great uncle, Antonio Pacheco, to his left, Antonio’s daughter, Sophie, next to him. L is Luiza (Pacheco) Medeiros and possibly her sister, Jorgina (Pacheco) Buttelo is next to her.
It all began with those three houses. Two of the three houses are still there today. They are now over 120 years old and up for historic preservation.
Not all the houses on E. 25th survived. One was destroyed by fire, a couple others were knocked down to build multiple housing units on the same lot.
But, those original houses were the foundation. They are where my great grandparents sought refuge. It is where newcomers found shelter while they sorted themselves out. And, it’s where John and Marie Cosma looked out at the plot across the street and dreamed that some day they’d build a house that would be all their own
My ancestors built the foundation of their new lives in California with three houses on E. 25th Street.
Did you family go to Oakland? This property parcel tool will give you information on any building in the city if it still exists today.
Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for the Week #1 Theme Foundations in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Series.