Daly City remembers historic namesake in centennial tribute

Daly City will be ringing in much more than a fresh decade when the ball drops this New Year’s Eve.

The year 2011 marks the city’s centennial, and to honor its namesake, John Daly, Daly City historian Bunny Gillespie is organizing a tribute at Daly’s grave in Woodlawn Memorial Park on the morning of Jan. 8.

“I always felt that there wasn’t much of him in Daly City except for the name,” Gillespie said. “There’s no school … and then they closed the library on the location that he had given them in 1920; it seemed to me that he shouldn’t be forgotten.”

Not only did Daly play an integral role in the transformation of San Mateo County Township One into what is now Daly City, he also provided homes to victims of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire.

Back in 1868, 27-year-old Daly purchased a 250-acre cattle ranch in the area that is still known as Top of the Hill in Daly City, Gillespie said. The cattle rancher shared the success of San Mateo County’s largest ranch with neighboring San Francisco, bringing in milk, butter and eggs by the wagon load.

According to Gillespie, his efforts formed the nucleus of what is now the present-day Borden Dairy ­delivery system.

Daly ran the ranch until 1907, the year after the San Francisco earthquake and fire. To help those who lost their homes, he had the property subdivided into home lots rather than selling it as grazing property.

“The guy was a mover and a shaker as far as getting the whole community started; he subsidized a lot of poor people, gave them free places on his ranch to squat until they could get homes, gave them food and money,” Gillespie said. “He was a special gentleman and I felt it was important to start the year with the man that gave the city his name.”

Daly died at the age of 81 on Jan. 1, 1923, but Gillespie said she would prefer not to be in a graveyard on New Year’s Day, so the tribute will take place on the following Saturday, Jan. 8, at 10:30 a.m.

In his retirement years, the cattle rancher became a home gardener, so Gillespie hopes each person will bring a flower to place on Daly’s grave at the tribute — maybe even a Dahlia, Daly’s specialty.

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