Two Irishmen of Note

By Deborah Zamaria

No mention of local Irish families can be made without noting the two Tormey brothers, John and Patrick. John, the elder, was born in Westmeath, Ireland in 1825. In 1865 he came to Contra Costa and with brother Patrick, who had come in 1858 with three sisters and a brother, bought a 2,000-acre section of the Pinole grant, land that stretched along three miles of shoreline from near Pinole to near Crockett and extended into the Bear Creek Road area near Alhambra Valley. Franklin Canyon Road extends through some of the Tormey holdings, as does Carquinez Scenic Drive.

John Tormey married and was elected county supervisor of Township No. 1 in 1866 and re-elected four times. He died suddenly in 1877 at age 52 and was honored with a funeral procession that was the largest seen in the county to that date, with 120 carriages. He was laid to rest on top of the highest hill in the St. Catherine of Siena Cemetery.

With John Tormey’s death, brother Patrick was elected supervisor. He had married and settled into a large home on what is now Union Oil Co. property. The railroad traversed his property when the San Pablo and Tulare Railroad came through in 1877, and Tormey Station was created, a stop for the cattle cars that took Tormey’s steers to market. This was the beginning of a small village. Tormey built a hotel and five cottages, followed by a public school and eventually St. Patrick’s church. In 1890, Tormey established the town of Rodeo.

Patrick Tormey served as county supervisor for 30 years, dying in office in 1907. Like his brother’s, his funeral was legendary and he, too, lies buried in St. Catherine’s cemetery. Both brothers, with their entrepreneurial spirit and hard work, contributed a great deal to the growth of the county.

(Adapted from an article by Charlene Perry in the April 26, 1984 Martinez Historical Society newsletter)

tormey_processionPatrick Tormey’s funeral procession, Martinez, May 10, 1907. Martinez businesses closed for the day and the procession, led by county officials, was five blocks long. In her “Days Gone By” column for the Contra Costa Times, Nilda Rego recounted that “A horse-drawn wagon carrying an empty chair sat in a field of green. The word “Vacant” was draped over the front and “Gone but not forgotten” on the back. It was the floral remembrance from the county. After the wagon came a long line of men, women and children, many of them carrying bouquets to put on Tormey’s grave in St. Catherine’s Cemetery on the hill overlooking the Carquinez Strait.” Photo courtesy of Martinez Historical Society


tormey_graveThe gravestone of Patrick Tormey as it stands today, in St. Catherine of Siena Cemetery. Photo by Tom Zamaria



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