The village of Whitneyville lies on the Machias River three and a half miles west of Machias. Founded in 1836 by Colonel Joseph Whitney and a group of Boston merchants, the village was planned as a site for sawmilling and as terminus of a railroad to carry lumber to waiting ships in Machiasport, a distance of seven miles. These investors anticipated profits from milling, leases of land, water rights and mill space as well as revenue from the rail line. A standard gauge railroad with wooden rails was constructed between 1839 and 1841.
Daniel E. Hurley, an Irish immigrant in his mid-twenties, came to Whitneyville around 1840. About two years later he was married to 17-year-old Catherine Hennessey, also born in Ireland. The couple had at least six children: Mary, born about 1843; John, 1845; Jeremiah, 1846; Joannah, about 1850; James, 1853; and David, 1856.
Daniel acquired a homestead in 1853 on the canal adjacent to the Machias River not far from the sawmill and railroad terminus. He also worked as a fireman on the Whitneyville & Machiasport Railroad and helped in the mill. Catherine Hennessey Hurley died in 1858 at age 33 leaving her husband alone to manage his farm and family.
Fortunately, Daniel met a young widow also in need of a spouse. She was Catherine McFaul, daughter of Donald and Mary McFaul. Catherine had to Maine about 1848 from Rathlin Island, situated in the channel between Ireland and Scotland. Catherine's sister Elizabeth, half-brother Neil Black, and several other siblings also had settled in Washington County. Catherine first married Richard Quinn, a native of Canada. The Quinns had a daughter Jane, born in 1853.
The widowed Catherine was married to Daniel on April 19, 1863 and came with Jane to live with her new husband and his children on their Whitneyville homestead. The years spent on her own family's farm on Rathlin Island had prepared Catherine to be a farmer's wife.
Daniel was one of about 23 men employed at this time by the Whitneyville & Machiasport Railroad. Local sawmilling was producing more than 10 million board feet per year, keeping the railroad extremely busy in the summer. However, timber resources were being depleted, the wooden rails were deteriorating and maintenance costs were high. The railroad paid no dividends to investors after 1864. The long range economic outlook for Whitneyville and those who lived there was not promising.
Catherine and Daniel expanded their family to include three more children. Elizabeth Ann was born in 1864 but died in infancy. Joseph arrived about 1866. A second Elizabeth was born in 1867. Her baptism on January 8, 1868 was entered in the records of Holy Name Church, Machias, by Father Durnin, with Thomas Hilgrove and Elizabeth McFaul listed as godparents.
On March 14, 1874 Daniel conveyed title to his 70-acre farm to Catherine. Perhaps this was to insure that in case of Daniel's death the farm would remain with his wife and their young children and could not be claimed by the children of his first marriage. However, Joseph died about 1880 and was laid to rest in the village's hilltop cemetery.
After years of hard work on the railroad and farm, Daniel's health was becoming a concern. On February 20, 1886 an article on page 2 of "The Machias Republican" newspaper said, "Daniel Hurley of late keeps rather close on account of rheumatism."
Thus local residents were not surprised to learn that the Hurleys were setting out for a warmer climate, as described in the same newspaper on May 1, 1886: "Daniel Hurley has disposed of his entire estate and intends moving to California the present week. The purchaser is John K. Ames of Machias. Mr. and Mrs. Hurley have resided in this place over 40 years, and more than 25 years of that time his services have been rendered to the mill and land company." Records in the Washington County court house indicate they received $200 for their farm.
Catherine's daughter Jane and her husband Joseph J. Beatty also were California-bound with their young daughter Berniece. The Hurleys and Beattys were among thousands of Americans from the East and Midwest who crowded into San Diego County, California during the 1880s, creating an unprecedented boom there in housing, agriculture and industry.
(This biography excerpted from the book "Destined for California" by Lee Nichols. Copyright (C) 1996. All rights reserved.)