Robert Livermore, Englishman, runaway sailor, Mexican land grantee and early Californian, is buried in old Mission San José.
The grave marker was found when the wooden church that replaced the original adobe building (destroyed in an earthquake in 1868) was torn down in 1981 to make way for the reconstructed Mission San José. It reads:
“Here lies Mr. Robert Livermore, born in England in the year 1799 and died in California March 14, 1858, leaving behind a large family mourning his death.”
My granddaughter and I were surprised and delighted to see his grave, since she lives in Livermore, but had no idea how the city got its name.
What an adventurous life he lived!
Robert Livermore was born in Essex, England in 1799, and at the age of 15 he was apprenticed to a stone mason. He must not have cared for that work, because he ran away to sea the following year. He served in both the U.S. Navy and the British Navy, as well as on a merchant vessel that brought him to California in 1822, where he jumped ship.
He took to life in California with gusto. He worked on various ranchos until he was able to build up a cattle herd and acquire Rancho Las Positas in what is now the Livermore Valley. In 1838 he married Josefa Higuera Molina and built an adobe house on Las Positas creek. During the Gold Rush he prospered by raising and selling beef cattle and accommodating gold seekers on their way to the mines. He seems to have been liked and admired by all who knew him.
Joshua Neal, who worked for Livermore from 1851 until his death in 1858, wrote of him, “Many of the immigrants will remember his kindness of heart and hospitality to all, for he was continually assisting those in need. His orders to his vaqueros were to be on the lookout for coming immigrants, and as soon as discovered, to go up to them and ascertain their needs.”
RIP, Don Roberto.