Ralph Wood Barcroft  A  Hornitos, CA  Pioneer
By Harriet Sturk

The year was 1849 and Ralph Wood Barcroft was 21.  As the son of John Barcroft, a prominent merchant-tailor and nephew of Elias Barcroft,  Treasurer of Harrison, then Perry County, Ohio, he had a bright future with many opportunities open to him.  Yet, like so many other men of his time, men young and old, rich and poor, he had heard the words “California” and “Gold” being talked about everywhere.

            By 1850 he had traveled overland and arrived in California to settled  in Hornitos, California.  In 1855 he married an earlier resident of Hornitos, Raphaela Orosco De Herrera.  Father Ulrick who was a circuit riding Catholic priest for the area performed the marriage.  He traveled regularly from Sonora   California to Hornitos serving his parishioners needs along the way.

Raphaela, his wife to be, had traveled from Sonora Mexico overland with her   Mother Nicolasa and brother in 1848.   They left Tubac in the Casa Grande area of Sonora, Mexico (now Arizona) because the Apache Indians had again raided and  destroyed Fort Tubac, and their home and killing Raphael’s father Geronimo Orosco.  The Mexican government could no longer defending Fort Tubac and that left all of the inhabitants of the area with a very uncertain future, especially a widow with young children.  Raphaela was convent educated and taught reading and writing in Spanish to the children of Hornitos who had no schooling available and religion to many of the young non English speaking residents of Hornitos.  She taught the young women the art of sewing.  Raphaela was very active in the foundation of St. Catherine’s Catholic church in Hornitos.

            Ralph was a miner and mine owner all his life along with opening a saloon that was a steadier source of income than mining.  He also served as sheriff and was a trained carpenter and tailor .  He was a jack-of-all trades as was necessary when pioneering.  He built many of the original homes in Hornitos.  He grub staked miners and if by this means or on his own prior to 1880 discovered the Enterprise  mine which was a good paying mine.  In his obituary it was said that he was a kind and generous friend to many early residents of Hornitos.

            Ralph and his wife Rafaela had seven children born in Hornitos.  All were educated in the Hornitos-Mariposa schools.

As there was little business opportunity in the Hornitos/Mariposa during the late 1870’s Ralph’s son, Raphel moved to and became mayor of Merced for two terms while running a very successful hardware and furniture business with his two sons.  He also built the Opera house in Merced..  He married Marguerite Tinney of Hornitos, and after her death married Mary Clough widow of Sam Clough of Hornitos.  Raphael’s brother Fredrick joined him in business in Merced, later moving to Madera in 1880 and establishing a hardware and plumbing business of his own until his death in 1934.

Son, Fred first married Carmine Navarine and then after her death Cornelia Reyes, both ladies were from Hornitos.  Son, David went to Baltimore Maryland where he attended John Hopkins University becoming a professor of Mathematics and an Astronomer.  Daughter, Caroline unfortunately died at age seven during one of the epidemics that took many other children at that time.  Her gravestone from the Catholic cemetery in Hornitos is pictured in many publications about Mariposa and Hornitos.  Their youngest daughter Louise died young also and is buried in Hornitos.

Daughter Mary married John Wilkinson of Mariposa and both became school teachers in Bear Valley, eventually moving to Madera after her husband’s death in 1906 in Mexico, where he had gone a as representative of the Columbia Phonograph Company.  She also taught in the Stockton, Merced and Madera county schools.

            At the age of 17, youngest son Joseph moved to Madera.  He worked in brother Fred’s hardware store and then attended college in Santa Cruz, California, later becoming a very successful attorney in Madera.  Joseph married Harriet Collins of Hornitos who’s father Edward Collins, of Cornwall, England, was a supervisor of the Washington mine and later a rancher. and Harriet’s brother John Collins, who married Mary Ann Reeb, daughter of George Reeb.  Brother John Collins was a Mariposa County Supervisor for 28 years.  The Collins are buried in the IOOF Cemetery in Hornitos.

Her sister Bessie married Joseph Thorn, son of Joseph Thorn who founded Quartzburge the original large mine in the area.

            Ralph Barcroft’s picture and that of his saloon appear in the book “Call of Gold”.  The occasion was a photo taken of the reunion of Hornitos old timers  in 1890.  The two pictures also appear in the special commemorative edition  “From Quartz to Gold”, the story of Hornitos Lodge No. 8, F&A.M, by Kenneth Cooper, who is the Hornitos Masonic Lodge Historian and of which Ralph was a pioneer member.  One of his tasks as a trustee of the Lodge was purchasing the lot on which the Lodge that is a California historical landmark now stands.  The half lot cost $20.60 in gold on November 7, 1881.

            Ralph and his wife Raphaela remained in Hornitos until when in 1901 failing
health brought them to Madera to be with his son Joseph and family.  He passed
away in April 14, 1906.  His wife followed him in death February 19, 1909.  Both are
buried in Arbor Vitae cemetery in Madera.

Go to Mariposa County History and Genealogy Research

Go to Mariposa Family Chronicles

June 1, 2015