Mid-year in 1872, the Stone House and approximately 1000 acres surrounding it, probably 960, became the home of the John McGreer family. A tantalizing family legend has the property won by him with a $10 lottery ticket.
In many ways the McGreer story is typical of hundreds of pioneer families who streamed into Northern California in the mid-19th century.
John McGreer was a native of Antrim, Ulster Province, Ireland, born on Christmas Day in 1809. He came to America at the age of seven and by young adulthood he had made his way to Louisville, Kentucky, and become trained as a brushmaker. He married Susan Roberts, a native of Baltimore. Their first son Robert was born to them in Louisville in December of 1837. In 1846 the family, now with six children, headed west. Their succeeding three children were born in California.
In 1870, the census shows John and Susan with their youngest four children, the older children having married and moved on, living in the Brooklyn Township of Alameda County, with Hugh Diamond.
Census takers have never been revered for either their handwriting or their spelling. Hugh Diamond was actually Hugh D-i-m-o-n-d, without the “a” (these days it’s pronounced Dimmond), recently widowed husband of Jane, the McGreer’s third child. Dimond had emigrated from Ireland in 1844 at the age of 14, and came to California in 1850. Jane and Hugh moved to San Francisco in 1862, where he acquired considerable wealth in the liquor business. Both of the Dimonds’ two children died in infancy, and Jane died in 1869. Oakland, California’s Dimond Park, Dimond Canyon, Dimond Avenue, and the Dimond District are all named for him. He was sometimes called the "Western Prince" by local residents because of his lavish hospitality and generous donations to charities.
As provocative as the story of the lottery may be, another cryptic note in the Mauldin Archives of Lake County History makes more sense: “A very rich man by the name of Diamond bought the ranch and settled the McGreer family on it. The family always spoke of Mr. Diamond as if he were a relative.”
Nonetheless, in another entry, Henry Mauldin notes that McGreer won the farm on a $10 lottery ticket.
Tom Dye escaped from jail and hid out in a cave on the peak that bears his name for almost two weeks before surrendering. Rumors said that his family supplied food to him. He was sentenced to state prison for 15 years for the murder.
By June of 1880 the U.S. census for “the village of Middletown” saw John McGreer, age 71 and now divorced, living with his daughter Kate, listed as 25 although her birth data elsewhere would make her 32. Susan McGreer was living in Coyote Valley, presumably in the Stone House, with her son Charles, now 34 years old, his wife Ella, 29, and their 1-year-old son Charles Jr., as well as Susan’s older son John, now 35. It shows Nancy McGreer Dye living in Middletown with her children Hugh and Susan Davey, 19 and 12, and Thomas, Nanny and May Dye, 6, 4 and 2. She was listed as a laundry woman.
A friendship developed between John McGreer and the owner of the Lake County House hotel, Charles Marsh Young. In 1885 Young told editors of the 1881 History of Lake and Mendocino Counties that he had traded the hotel for the Stone House property. A much later report, in 1955, said Young bought the property for $2400. Whichever, for the next five decades the Stone House would be known as “the Young place.”
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