Stories From The Grave
Dennis and Delia Shine
Final Resting Place Row 2, Plot 116
The large elaborate monument on the Shine plot is quite captivating. It rests on the hillside, towards the back of the cemetery with a picturesque view of Sonora. Ivy, which symbolizes Friendship, is etched into the headstone.
Dennis Shine, who also went by Dennie, was a genial big hearted man. He had countless acquaintances throughout Tuolumne and the adjoining counties, gained on his route as a stage driver. Dennis was the last child born to Elizabeth Liston Shine and Dennis Shine Sr. Elizabeth had 4 sons and 4 daughters from 1841-1859. Her first three children were born in Ireland, Johanna was born 1841; Michael in 1844, and Catherine in 1858. The rest of the children were born in Pleasant Prairie, Kenosha Wisconsin, John Henry born in 1849, Elizabeth in 1852, William in 1854, Mary in 1856, and Dennis in January 1859.
Dennis suffered loss at a young age. In 1865, at the age of 6 years old, his sister Johanna died leaving behind a husband and a child. Five years later Dennis’s mother passed away. He was only 11. According to the 1870 census Dennis was the only child living with his father after the death of his mother. His father farmed the land while Dennis attended school. I can imagine Dennis working the fields with his father when he was not in school.
At the age of 19 Dennis was single and working as a stage driver. He rented a room from hotel keeper Benris Oliver in Sonora, along with 8 other boarders. Dennis was described as 5’ 9”, light hair, fair skinned, and blue eyed.
Dennis Shine and 10 other people in Yosemite Valley
On the morning of February 4, 1882 Dennis was driving the Milton stage from Sonora to Chinese Camp, and to Copperopolis. There were no passengers on board at the time. It was a little after daylight and about five miles out of Chinese Camp when he was commanded to halt by two men who were armed with shot-guns. The men wore masks, and had their feet were wrapped up to disguise their tracks. They had a sledge hammer covered with leather, so that the blows to the safe would not make as much noise, an ax, a hatchet, or a cold chisel. They knocked the outside lock off the Wells. Fargo Co.’s iron box and pried up the battered cover so that they could get their hands on the $286 dollars inside the box. The robbery took under five minutes and the robbers were gone. The same stage was robbed about two years earlier near the same place
Original Photo of the Great Sierra Stage Co.
Dennis met Delia Carter on his stage coach route from Stockton to Yosemite. She worked as a maid at the Garrett House, a popular stage stop in Chinese Camp. Delia Carter was a native of Chinese Camp, the daughter of Irish immigrants George and Mary Carter. The two were married in 1895. They established their first home on Linoberg Street in downtown Sonora near the livery stable Dennis owned with his brother John Henry Shine. If you are familiar with Sonora, Linoberg Street is off Green Street behind the lower Save Mart.
Dennis and Delia Shine had two children, Eileen (Mary) Shine born in 1896 and Francis Shine born 1898. Although the arrival of the Sierra Railroad in 1897 diminished the need for the stagecoaches, there was still plenty of business taking passengers, mail, and merchandise to the areas not served by the iron horse.
In early February 1902 Dennis Shine became quite ill. John Henry Shine, Dennis’s older brother, and his sister, Elizabeth Toman, were summoned to Sonora on account of his illness. Dennis Shine’s condition was considered alarming at the time and his brother didn’t return to the city until his Dennis’s condition had slightly improved. John H. Shine was a United States Marshall and would later become a State Senator.
On Friday, March 27, 1902, Dennis was having a conversation with friends on the street in downtown Sonora and he seemed to be in excellent spirits. Suddenly he was overcome by a fit of coughing. He stepped into the business of Garratt and Garratt and walked to the back where he found himself a chair. A few minutes later Dennis was found dead from a lung hemorrhage. His sudden death was a severe shock to his devoted wife, other relatives, and numerous friends. The regard felt for Dennis was fittingly expressed in the large number of people who attended his funeral at the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Sonora and the countless number of floral arrangements contributed that completely hid the mound above the grave. The funeral was conducted by the Sonora IOOF Lodge #10 to which he was a member. Dennis left behind a wife and two young children, two brothers, John H. Shine and Mike Shine, and a sister Mrs. James Toman. Dennis Shine was in his early forties when he passed.
Delia Shine was a wealthy widow. In 1903 she purchased the Keil home on Bradford Street and moved in with her two daughters. After purchasing the house she remodeled it extensively. In April 22, 1906 Delia Shine married Alva Alonzo Neale in her parlor. Alva Neale was the owner of a grocery store on S. Washington Street. He was considered among the most prominent merchants in the city. Later in his life Alva Neale would become a Judge and a Justice of the Peace.
Alva Neale passed away on July 22, 1946 of a heart attack. Delia Shine Neale passed away exactly one month after her husband on August 22, 1946. Eileen Shine Bergson inherited the house on Bradford Street and continued to live there until her death in the 1970s.
Written By Denine Urquhart
Alva A. Neale and Delia Shine Neale
Buried in the Shine Plot:
• Dennis Shine 1859 - 03/28/1902
• Delia Shine Neale 1863 - 08/22/1946 (Wife)
• Alva A. Neale July 5, 1866 – 7/22/1946
• Eileen Shine Burgson 1896 – 09/16/1981 (Daughter)
• Edward Vernon Burgson 06/16/1896 – 03/28/1978 (Son-in-law)
• Francis Shine 1898 - 1968 (Daughter)
Ron & Pat Federly adopted the Shine/Neale plot when our program began in May 2014. Alva Alonzo Neale is Ron Federly’s Great Uncle.
Tuolumne County Historic Society
Tuolumne County Genealogical Society
CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection
Encyclopedia of American Biography
Note: Today the Shine/Neale house is a Bed & Breakfast known as Bradford Place Inn & Gardens. Historic houses are typically named after their first residents, hence this would be the Keil house, but due to Eileen Shine Bergson’s diligent care and successful win in her fight to save the house from destruction, the house was named "The Keil Bergson House". When the county built their headquarters behind the house they wanted to annex the property and condemn the house hoping to make this a parking structure. Eileen Shine Bergson, together with the historical society, successfully saved the historic house and it from the destruction.