Biography of Irwin Jay Buckley

As justice of the peace of Township No. 1, in Merced County, Irwin Jay Buckley is rendering efficient service to his constituents. He was born in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, November 17, 1845, and represents the eleventh generation from Peter Buckley (spelled by him Bulkeley), who came from England in 1635 and was educated at St. Johns College, Cambridge, England, of which he was a fellow for some time. He was rector of Woodhill for twenty-one years, and having, through his non-conformity, come into conflict with Archbishop Laud, emigrated to Cambridge, Mass. In 1636 he was the principal founder of Concord, where he was pastor until his death in 1659. In direct line of descent Sylvanus Buckley, father of I. J. Buckley, was born in Norwich, Otsego County, N. Y., on a farm owned by his father. He married Phoebe Merriman, also born in that same county of Scotch and Irish ancestors, who were soldiers in the Revolutionary War. She was also closely related to the Winchesters, founders of the Universalist religious denomination. Sylvanus Buckley was energetic and ambitious and in 1844 he located at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, and began manufacturing plows. While so engaged he heard the glowing accounts of the discovery of gold on the Pacific Coast, and accordingly closed his business and started across the plains to California in 1849.

Arriving at his destination Mr. Buckley mined in Placer County and was among the Forty-niners who pioneered mining on the Yuba River. So successful was he that he was enabled to make his family a visit in 1853, removing the family from Iowa to New York. He came back to the mines and in 1856 made his second trip to see his family and bring them to the Coast. They came via Nicaragua and arrived in San Francisco on July 20 of that year. From this time he turned his attention to ranching, but he was unfortunate in investing in what later proved to be a Spanish grant in Alameda County, near Alvarado. In 1861 he located in Merced County, and in the vicinity of Snelling embarked in the sheep business, at the same time that he was interested in some mines in Nevada. In his stock enterprise he met with fair success and became owner of about 16,000 acres of land. He gave of his time and means to promote the welfare of his adopted home and was held in high regard by all who came in contact with him. He died at the age of seventy-nine years, in 1888. He was survived by his widow, who died in 1892, at the age of eighty-four. There were six children: Henry A., who died in 1872; Horace F. ; Irwin Jay, of this review; George W., who died in 1902; S. P., residing at Merced Falls; and C. O. E. Buckley, who died at Hopeton in 1920.

Irwin Jay Buckley attended the public schools in Iowa and was reared under the parental roof, accompanying the family to California in 1856, via Nicaragua. He took passage on the S. S. Orizaba, Captain Blethen, on the Atlantic side and on the S. S. Sierra Nevada, Captain Tinklepaugh, on the Pacific side. He well recalls the encounter with the government troops who were in pursuit of Walker; also the Nicaragua rioters. He and his brother walked across the Isthmus as they found some 1200 people waiting on the Pacific side for transportation to California. After locating in this state our subject was closely associated with his father until the death of the parent. In 1887 he bought his ranch of 315 acres located between Snelling and Merced Falls and improved the place and became a very successful and progressive rancher. Three years of his time were spent in Merced, since which time he has lived in the section of the county he now makes his home. He has now retired from active agricultural pursuits, having leased his property, but he gives his entire time and attention to the duties of justice of the peace, to which post he was elected, and in which he is now serving his twenty-first year — though not in consecutive service, having held forth in the old court house (Merced’s first) at Snelling.

The marriage of Mr. Buckley, in 1878, united him with Mary Montgomery, daughter of the late Hon. J. M. Montgomery, who is represented on another page of this history. Of this happy union there is one daughter, Irma, now the wife of Charles G. Connors; she has a daughter, Jean Jardine, by a former marriage. Judge Buckley is a Republican and has served his party well in various capacities in Merced County. He is unassuming, public-spirited and is very fond of good books, and was at one time the owner of a very large private library, which, unfortunately, was destroyed by fire some years ago. Both he and his good wife are liberal supporters of all progressive and up-building projects. They dispense hospitality of the old Californian type, and being among the very oldest of the living settlers in this section of the county, they have a wide acquaintance and a large circle of loyal friends.

Source: Outcalt, John. A history of Merced County, California : with a biographical review of the leading men and women of the county who have been identified with its growth and development from the early days to the present; Los Angeles, Calif. : Historic Record Company, 1925.

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