July 22, 2011
This is a letter from Lynn Theuriet:
“Thomas McGee, Butte
One of the thousands of gold seekers settling
in Butte Count was an Irish immigrant Thomas McGee, who had arrived
in Butte County by 1857. In April of that year, he paid $125.00
for a one-third share in an Oregon Township mining claim.
Evidently he had sufficient luck as a miner, spending the next 23
years working additional claims in Pulga and Cherokee, until he
was able to purchase lots of land along Montgomery Street in Oroville
By 1880 he had built a two-story Victorian home at the top of the
north side of Montgomery Street, along the Feather River, as a place
to raise his family, right where the new Veterans’ Memorial is currently
Expanding his entrepreneurial skills, Thomas
bought “Flouring Mills” in 1893, located just down the street from
his home (near where the old Veterans’ Building now stands).
He was the proprietor for ten years, aided by his youngest son Joseph
W. McGee, who had studied business management. Joseph also
served in Company F of the National Guard, under Capt. Warren Sexton,
and won a second place medal in the state’s sharp-shooting contest
held in July 1895. He later answered the call for the Spanish-American
War by serving in Company A of the 8th Infantry Regiment
at Camp Barrett in Oakland until the Company was mustered out in
1899. At the age of 71, Thomas sold his flour mill business
in 1903, which unfortunately burnt down a year later in June 1904
and was never rebuilt (despite much discussion and determination
to rebuild it in the newspapers).Soon afterward, in October 1905, having accomplished
success through his industrious life, Thomas McGee passed away and
was buried in the Pioneer Cemetery in Oroville. His Irish
wife, Mary Ann lived in their home with her daughters and their
families until she died in 1931.at the ripe age of 96!
The couple’s grandson, Thomas Gambrel (my grandfather) who had been
born in 1899 in this same house, finally sold it in the late 1950’s
after his own children were grown and gone, and later died while
visiting Oroville in 1961. On our annual treks from the Bay
Area, stopping to see the old house again was always on our agenda.
We were saddened to see in 1987 that the100+ year old house had
suffered a fire inside, and later discovered it had been torn down,
leaving nothing behind but a cement block bearing Thomas McGee’s
initials “T.M.”, embedded in the sidewalk along Montgomery Street.
(Stu- I saved it.)
I’m sure the McGee’s would have considered it
an honor to have the new Veteran’s Memorial occupy the land where
their home once stood so proudly for so many years, and those of
us who are their descendants are excited about it al well!
Lynn Theuriet, July 7, 2011.
Stu’s Notes: Let me tell you a story
that is one of the many times I seem to be in the right place at
the right time, in the last ten years. For years we wanted to buy
the property that Thomas McGee built that first house on so long
ago. But it was tied up in back taxes and other problems.
One Saturday I was going into one of my favorite places in Oroville,
The Butte County Historical Society Museum on Spencer. As
I entered the door I heard a lady talking to someone inside about
how she was in town doing research and was going to buy the property
that was her families homestead next to the Boss Burger and now
next to our famous roundabout. When I heard this I knew I
had to talk to this lady. I introduced myself as the President
of the Oroville Veterans Memorial Park Committee. I told her
we needed that land for our memorial and please don’t buy it.
I ran to my car and brought in our plans to show her. She
looked and immediately said, “My plans in Oroville have just changed.
What your group is doing is way better than what I would do with
the property.” That young lady was Lynn Theuriet. And now
you know some of the rest of the story about our 6 year quest to
acquire the memorial property. I’ve only met Lynn that one
time but have talked to her occasionally on the phone.(My way of
communicating, now getting to be obsolete.) Its people like
Lynn Theuriet who have appeared out of the blue that is putting
this Memorial together piece by piece. She also had an Uncle
Richard Gambrel that grew up in that house who served in the U.S.
From my column 12/9/2005:
Oroville Mercury Register
Richard Gambrel, seaman 2/c of the U. S. Navy will have the
pleasure next Monday night of hearing a song of his own composition
played and sung over a national network. Gambrel, who graduated
from Oroville High School in 1942, entered the service
April 14 of this year. He received his boot camp training
in San Diego and was then assigned to Texas A and M College.
While in high school, Gambrel was pianist for the Rotary Club.
He has appeared on programs for many other local clubs and is widely
known here as an outstanding musician. Word of his achievement
in the song field was received recently by his parents, Mr. and
Mrs. T. A. Gambrel of Montgomery Street. Gambrel
was awarded a $25 war bond for his position, which will also be
entered in competition for a larger prize.