“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Gilroy in Santa Clara County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)


John Cameron Gilroy

— “Legacy of Gilroy” Commemorating the Historic Hospitality District —

“Alcalde” Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, September 15, 2013
1. “Alcalde” Marker
John Cameron Gilroy
circa 1854

John Cameron Gilroy, native of Scotland, arrived in Spanish California in 1814, and became the first permanent English speaking settler. He married Maria Clara de la Ascencion Ortega, daughter of the family that owned Rancho San Ysidro, and together they had seventeen children. Inheriting a third of the rancho through his wife, Gilroy became a prominent landholder who served many years as the local alcalde (mayor) and later as a Justice of the Peace.

John Gilroy exemplified the early California tradition of hospitality that sheltered travelers, welcomed guests and celebrated life.

A Community Partnership

City of Gilroy
Gilroy Public Art Committee
Rotary Clubs of Gilroy

Marlene Amerian, Sculptor

Erected 2008 by City of Gilroy, Gilroy Public Art Committee & Rotary Clubs of Gilroy.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: AgricultureGovernment & Politics
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Hispanic AmericansSettlements & Settlers. In addition, it is included in the Rotary International series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1854.
Location. 37° 0.422′ N, 121° 34.118′ W. Marker is in Gilroy, California, in Santa Clara County. Marker is at the intersection of Monterey Street and East 6th Street, on the right when traveling north on Monterey Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 7400 Monterey Street, San Martin CA 95046, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Old City Hall (a few steps from this marker); Chesbro Building (within shouting distance of this marker); City of Gilroy (within shouting distance of this marker); Gilroy Means Business (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Stinking Rose (about 300 feet away); Early Settlers (about 300 feet away); Gilroy’s Cowboy Era (about 300 feet away); Gilroy (about 300 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Gilroy.
Regarding “Alcalde”. John Gilroy was born in 1794 in Scotland, under the name of John Cameron. John, at the age of 19, not wanting to enter the family woolen business, took his mother’s maiden name and
“Alcalde” Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, September 15, 2013
2. “Alcalde” Marker
boarded the Issac Todd, a merchant ship owned by the Northwest Company. The ship was bound for the Company’s outpost on the Columbia River.

Suffering from scurvy, Johh Cameron Gilroy and two others were put off the ship at Monterey, California, in 1814. Even with the language barrier and the cultural differences it wasn’t long before he learned the Spanish language and became an active member of the community. In order to remain in Alta California, he had to become a citizen by swearing allegiance to Spain and to join the Roman Catholic Church. He was baptized at the mission at Carmel in 1817, taking the name Juan Bautista Gilroy. He became the first non-Spanish, English speaking settler in California.

John Gilroy then made his way north to Rancho San Ysidro, where he worked for Don Ygnacio Ortega, to make barrels for tallow, on of the products of the rancho. He was the first to use redwood lumber from the western mountains and recognize the benefits of its high tannic acid content in preventing the growth of molds and mildew in tallow. He later used the redwood barrels for soap storage and transport.
It was there at Rancho San Ysidro he first met Maria Clara de la Ascencion Ortega, the third youngest daughter of Ygnacio Ortega and Maria Gertrudis Arce. They were married at Mission San Juan Bautista on March 2, 1821, when Clara was just fourteen years
Gilroy City Hall image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, September 15, 2013
3. Gilroy City Hall
old. The Gilroy’s had seventeen children, nine of whom survived infancy.

– Taken from a photograph on;
Credits. This page was last revised on November 8, 2019. It was originally submitted on September 30, 2013, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California. This page has been viewed 1,181 times since then and 495 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on September 30, 2013, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California. • Andrew Ruppenstein was the editor who published this page.

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Dec. 7, 2023