An American Family History

Eliza Bridges Jones McKellar

San Diego, California was incorporated in 1850, the same year California became a state. The original Old Town was located several miles inland. In the late 1860s, Alonzo Horton promoted a move to New Town on the bay. New Town grew quickly and became the city center. In 1915, San Diego hosted the Panama-California Exposition.
Point Loma Lighthouse

A cup that belonged to Eliza

The inventory of the estate according to San Diego probate records included:
2 horses - $100
1 wagon- $40
1 cart - $10
1 harrow - $1
1 plow - $2
1 set harness - $5
10 goats - $8
carpenter tools - $2
3 dozen chickens - $5
1 hog - $2
1 ton hay - $10
household furniture - $25.

Eliza Bridges Jones McKellar was born in Victorian England. Her death certificate gives her birth date as January 23, 1832, but her grandson's wife, Ettine Johnson, recorded her birth date as January 5, 1832.

According to oral family history, she left England and sailed to Australia as a maid for a British officer’s family. She then came to the United States and went to California by prairie wagon. Her death certificate says she arrived in California in 1861, at the time of the American Civil War.

About 1865, Eliza wrote in her application for a Civil War widow's pension, she married Henry Jones and gave birth to her only surviving child, Matilda Mary Jones Shefeld Treahy, in San Francisco. Her granddaughter, Nellie Long, wrote that shortly after Matilda’s birth, Henry set sail for Australia to prospect for gold. 

He was lost while prospecting gold in Australia. No word when or where he died." Eliza's war widow's application stated "I am unable to furnish positive proof of the death of Henry Jones my first husband for the following reasons: He left San Francisco about May 15th 1865 for Sidney, N.S.W. I received one letter from him after his arrival there that he had a situation there and would soon return for me - but he never came and for five years I waited and made diligent search for him but have never been able to hear one word of or from him since - and I knew he must be dead.  I did not get a formal divorce as I was told it was useless so I married Mr. McKellar May 30, 1871 - believing myself to be a widow.

Eliza and two year old Matilda moved to San Diego about 1867. Nancy Ewing wrote in Del Mar Looking Back, that Eliza was a chambermaid at the Cosmopolitan House in Old Town San Diego. At this time, Ellar worked for A.A. Seeley who operated the mail stage between the hotel and Los Angeles. In December, 1869, Seeley moved his stage coach stop in San Diego from the Franklin House to the Casa de Bandini. He renamed this building the Cosmopolitan Hotel and added a second story.

From November 23, 1867 to May 20, 1871 Eliza was the assistant light house keeper of the Point Loma Lighthouse on San Diego Bay and lived there with the keeper John D. Jenkins. She was enumerated in the 1870 census as Eliza Jenkins.

In 1870, the household at the light consisted of John Jenkins, age 50 from Pennsylvania, Eliza Jenkins, age 34 from England and Matilda Jenkins age 4, born in California. John, as the lighthouse keeper received a salary of $1,000 and Eliza, as the assistant keeper received $600.

Nellie Long wrote to Hester Miller

You spoke of the time of when grandma tended the light-house- Don't think it was a very important job in those days as there were very few ships arriving at S.D. then. She was at the light-house at La Playa-You know the one at the entrance to S.D. Bay. There were very few people living in S.D. then. San Diego was often called "New Town."

There was a lengthy Description of a Visit to the Lighthouse when Eliza and John Jenkins were keepers from The San Diego Union, January 16, 1869

John and Eliza were dismissed from their positions.  According to Nancy Walton, archivist and researcher at Cabrillo National Monument,

it was handed down by word-of-mouth, but have no written source, that Eliza and John were discovered by the Light House Establishment (USLHE) not to be married and John was dismissed immediately and apparently Eliza was kept on for about a month to run the station until a replacement keeper could be brought in that despite the unhappy circumstances in what could have been a begrudging situation, Old Point Loma never went a night without being lit, and stayed properly lighted all night long for mariners. 

Shortly after being dismissed, Eliza married Ellar McKellar on May 30, 1871. The marriage was performed by the Reverend J. Samuel McDonald, Pastor of the Presbyterian Church. The First Presbyterian Church was organized June 7, 1869 and Rev. McDonald was the first pastor. Services were held in Horton's Hall until the building was dedicated June 18, 1871.

She (Eliza MacKellar) was listed on the parish register of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in San Diego. Holy Trinity was at 6th and C Streets and she was on the list of communicants for Lent, 1874.

In 1874 they moved to Cocktail Springs and ran the stage coach station there.At the time of the 1880 census, the McKellars were listed in San Dieguito Township. Eliza was keeping house and was 43 years old.  According to Davidson, Eliza was a colorful character

Whenever anybody passed the place she would manage to be sweeping around the front. While the men were watering horses she would regale them with all the news she had picked up during recent days and before they left she would have extracted all their news from them in spite of themselves.

Matilda married for the first time in 1881. Her wedding was held at McKellar station and is described in detail in the section on Matilda.

With the coming of the railroad in 1882, the McKellar’s business slowed down considerably and Ellar earned additional money making adobe bricks. His bricks went into  the building of one of the Kelly haciendas at Agua Hedionda. He and Eliza also took in boarders.

The final proof of the homestead was made on July 24, 1884 and Nellie Treahy, Matilda’s daughter, was born in 1884 at Cocktail Springs.

Ellar died on September 5, 1885. After her husband’s death, in 1885, Eliza continued to run the stage station for awhile.

It became the social center for the Codero and San Dieguito communities, so much so that it was soon being called “gossip station.

On August 20, 1890, Eliza bought 161.98 acres in the section next to the ranch. It was Section 19, Township 14-S., Range 3 West. In 1890 and 1891 Nellie and May Treahy attended the San Dieguito School and Eliza McKellar is listed as their guardian. (San Dieguito School Records)

In 1887 she was on the list of communicants of St. Pauls on Easter Day.

In her 1892 application for a civil war widow’s pension, her financial status was described. She had

one hundred and sixty acres of land with improvements worth not over $1,000.00. On this she owes a mortgage of $600.00 on which the interest is so long overdue that the total indebtedness is nearly $1,000.00.  Only 12 acres of this land is under cultivation and her only income is what she can raise on this twelve acres. On this she barely manages to live. She has nothing to sell and cannot pay any on the mortgage or interest. She has two horses, one cow and 2 dozen chickens. 

Her claim was denied because she could not prove that her first husband died.

General Affidavit in the matter of the Pension of Ellar McKellar
A. Blackman and T.M. Loop
We have known above described claimant for 11 and 11 years respectively. We know from personal knowledge derived from intimate acquaintance that the following comprises all of her property real and personal, of any appreciable value & that the income mentioned is all she has except what is derived from her own labor.
One hundred and sixty acres of land with improvements worth not over $1,000.00. On this she owes a mortgage of $600.00 on which the interest is so long overdue that the total indebtedness is nearly $1000.00. Only 12 acres of this land is under cultivation and her only income is what she can raise on this twelve acres.On this she barely manages to live.  She has nothing to sell & cannot pay any on the mortgage or interest. She has two horses, one cow & 2 dozen chickens. She has not remarried since solider died. 

In 1893 she appeared on the list of those who attended St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Christmas Day.

After her daughter, Matilda, left in about 1895, Eliza McKellar moved to town and helped raise the Treahy children. In 1895 she was listed at 1234 Thirteenth Street.

In 1897 she was living at 927 Seventh Street. That same year she applied to be the guardian of John A. Meader, "an insane person." He was a witness to Eliza's homestead application.

At the time of the 1900 census, Eliza was 66 years old and living as a roomer at 1730 D Street in San Diego, California. The records indicate that she had given birth to five children, only one of whom was living.  In the 1900 San Diego directory, she was back at 1234 Thirteenth Street. In 1901 she was at 821 18th Street. From 1902 to 1903 she lived in the residence at the rear of 521 Milton Street which was near the Treahy residence of 525 Milton. In 1904 to 1905 she lived at 754 8th Street. From 1906 to 1910 she was back at 521 Milton Avenue. 

In 1910 she again applied for her Civil War Widow’s pension.  Her friend Mrs. Catharine Hill wrote a letter in support of her claim and  ended it by saying

Doesn’t it seem that after 44 years, a man might be supposed to be dead even by the Pension Bureau.

At the time of the 1910 census she was living very close to the Treahy family on National Avenue in the 9th Ward of San Diego.

Eliza died in San Diego on May 1, 1911 when she was 79.  Her grandaughter Nellie Long wrote to Hester V. Miller that

she had a very slight stroke on one side which affected her speech and part of her brain, but she was not paralyzed.  She was up and down.

This happened after she had gotten over a broken hip. She was buried  with Ellar at Mount. Hope Cemetery  in Lot 46, Section 1, Division 1. The station was demolished in 1971 to make way for Del Mar Highlands.

The McKellar Ranch
at Cocktail Springs in 1920s
Tools were an important legacy because they were essential part of daily life.
The Homestead Act was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on May 20, 1862. It gave an applicant 160 acres of undeveloped land outside of the original colonies. Anyone who had never taken up arms against the United States could file an application. They had to live on the land and make improvements to receive title.



In this city May 1, 1911, Mrs. Eliza McKellar, grandmother of Mrs. J. D. Miller, Mrs.Leo Dobler and Wilber, Lillie and Jessie Treahy of San Diego, a native of England, aged 79 years, 3 months, 3 days.Friends are invited to attend the funeral services at Johnson & Connell’s chapel D and Seventh streets, tomorrow Wednesday at 2 o-clock p.m., Rev. A. K. Glover officiating. Interment at Mt. Hope cemetery.


The family on a visit to the old ranch.

Visit to the Old Ranch
Hester Miller, Jessie Treahy and Robert Miller. 

Jessie Treahy at the old ranch
Colonial Maryland
Colonial New England
Colonial Virginia & West Virginia
Quakers & Mennonites
New Jersey Baptists
German Lutherans
Watauga Settlement
Pennsylvania Pioneers
Midwest Pioneers
Jewish Immigrants

©Roberta Tuller 2023
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