Santa Cruz County History - People

Old Soldiers: Santa Cruz County Civil War Veterans
by Robert L. Nelson

RILEY, HENRY (1837-1906)

Santa Cruz Sentinel (March 18, 1906)

Henry Riley Falls Downstairs to His Death
Goes to His Room in a Drunken Condition and Mistakes Stair Landing for Open Door

Henry Riley, a civil war veteran who has been living in Santa Cruz since last October, feel to his death down a back stairs at his rooming house, 17 Lincoln St., at half past seven on Saturday evening.

Riley, who was an old man and had been sick for some time, had been drinking heavily during the day, and Mrs. Gatliff, who keeps the rooming house, says she heard him stumble up the front stairs and down the passage way to his room, which is right at the top of the landing where he fell. He fell to the bottom and never spoke again, dying a few minutes after he fell. The exact cause of death is not known, but it was either the breaking of his neck, or heart failure.

From letters in his room, where he had a gasoline stove and utensils for light housekeeping, it is learned that he has a wife and two daughters in San Francisco, at 329 Golden Gate Av., and another daughter, Katie, who is stopping with Mrs. Mattie Howes at 325 South First St. San Jose. He was owner of a ranch at Moss Landing and was sending money home for the support of his wife. A son, Henry, is now in Redwood City and another son, he told Mrs. Gatliff, is working at Felton. One of his sons was here to see him about two weeks ago. He was intending to live with the son at Redwood City, in a short time.

A Catholic Bible was found on his bed and the letters from his family all showed that he was a kind and affectionate father. Quite lately he had sent his family in San Francisco a box of eggs and some money, and he had just secured a pension for the Government, which he told Mrs. Gatliff, he should have had about 20 years ago.

He drank liquor more or less and was bothered with kidney trouble. Nick Spoon, the saloon keeper, new Riley very well and says that he was a kindly inoffensive old man. He was born in Ireland and had been a farmer for many years.

Dr. Morgan and Plant examined the body and telegraphed the family in San Francisco, some of whom are expected here today. The body was removed to Wessendorf and Staffler’s mortuary, to await and inquest, which will be held on Monday.

Santa Cruz Sentinel (March 20, 1906)

DIED: RILEY, In Santa Cruz March 16, 1906, Henry Riley, a native of Ireland aged 69 years. The funeral will be held this Wednesday morning at 8 o’clock from Holy Cross Church were a requiem mass will be celebrate for the repose of his soul. The interment will be at Castroville.

Editor's Note: He is listed as being buried in Holy Cross

Riley’s Children Mourn His Death
Declare That Their Father Never Drank to Excess

Dr. Morgan impaneled a coroner’s jury on Monday to inquire into the death of Henry Riley, which occurred at 17 Lincoln St. on Saturday night. They examined the stairs down which Mr. Riley fell and heard a number of witnesses, but have reserved their verdict until this Tuesday.

Four of Riley's children arrived here on Monday, Henry Jr., John F. and Miss Ella Riley of San Francisco, and Daniel Riley, who has been working at Felton. Several others are expected today. Deceased was the father of sixteen children and those who are here speak of him as a most exemplary parent. The resent the contention that he had been drinking on Saturday and claim that he was in such a condition physically that he could drink very little liquor. His fall, they say, was due to his mistaking the open landing for his room door.

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