Stephen Rooney was born on this day, December 29, 1864 in Sacramento. His father, John Rooney, had emigrated from Ireland at the age of 21 in 1849. John went from Liverpool to Boston to New Orleans, through the isthmus of Panama to San Francisco and finally to Sacramento. He was following the 49er’s to find gold which he did. The Alabama mine in Eldorado county, owned by Mr. Rooney, yielded as much as $800 per day, and by 1853, he had netted $25,000. John married and had four sons, among them was Stephen born on the homestead on Coloma road, five miles from Sacramento. Stephen entered Sacramento Institute and later was a student at St. Mary’s college in San Francisco (St. Mary’s moved from the city to Oakland in 1889 and now is at Moraga). Interested in agriculture, he raised hops, but at one time he also served as deputy Sheriff of Sacramento county.
So it is no wonder that in 1898, he decided to go to the Klondike to search for gold much as his father had 50 years before. He, his brother and Lee Brown landed at Skagway where they tried to move their load to Lake Bennett. However, from the very outset they had bad luck. A number of valuable pack animals had been lost with the Steamship Corona January 24, 1898 on Lewis Island (480 miles north of Victoria). A quantity of forage and provisions was lost in another vessel which went down. Finally, when his high hopes had begun to sink beneath the weight of his failures he fell ill with spinal meningitis and died in Skagway on March 7, 1898. There is a Skagway record of his body being buried in the Gold Rush cemetery, but it was then disinterred and sent back to California by his brother and was interred in a local cemetery in Sacramento. He left a wife, Mary, and three children ages 9, 7 and 5.
Seen above is the Steamship Corona in 1907 when she foundered again.
Willis, William L., History of Sacramento County, California, Pages 693-696. Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, CA. 1913.