Swans Market





JAMES ALEXANDER JOYCE, importer of dry-goods at Oakland, was born in Headford, county Galway, Ireland, December 28, 1856, a son of Patrick and Catherine (Kyne) Joyce, both of whom are still living, the father aged seventy and the mother sixty-four. Of their eleven children, nine are living, five being residents of the United States; and of these Charles and John are in the employ of the subject of this sketch. The father has been for many years clerk of petty sessions in Headford, and a farmer, and is a man of good education.

James A. Joyce received a fairly good education in his youth under the tutorship of Mr. O’Reilly, of Headford, and at the age of fourteen entered a dry-goods store in the city of Galway, serving an apprenticeship of four years. At sixteen he came to America, by way of Liverpool and New York; and after serving three years as a dry-goods clerk in the East, paid a visit of five months to his native land. Returning to New York in 1877, he came to Marysville, California, where a maternal aunt, the wife of M. C. Ellis (a rancher and miller), resided, and there remained over two years as clerk in a dry-goods store. In 1880 he came to Oakland and served a few years as clerk in the store of J. T. O’Toole & Co. In December, 1884, at the age of twenty-eight, after twice seven years’ service in the dry-goods trade he became an owner, by the purchase, with one of his fellow clerks, of the business of their deceased employer, Mr. O’Toole. The new firm, Joyce & McDonald, carried on the business two years; but since 1886 James A. Joyce has been sole proprietor, and his success as a dry-goods merchant has been phenomenal. His store has been repeatedly enlarged and remodeled to meet the ever increasing demand of his business. It comprises a first floor and basement, 50 x 110 feet, well provided with all conveniences for the display of goods and transaction of business. Mr. Joyce carries as large a stock as possible, and keeps incessantly replenishing it, as the best available substitute for still larger accommodations. Buying direct from the manufacturers, he can sell at the lowest price possible, according to the quality of the goods offered. Dealing on the same basis, and with precisely the same advantages as merchants of San Francisco, he can and does undersell them for the simple reason that his expenses are not so great. Hence, it has come to pass that great numbers of Oakland ladies have learned to buy their goods of Mr. Joyce, being fully satisfied from their own experience and observation that goods of equal quality can not be bought so cheaply across the bay. They have ascertained that bargains can be obtained in his store that could not be had elsewhere without nullifying the cheapness by the inferiority of the goods. These bargains in good wares have proved the most effective advertising, being based on the bed-rock of undeniable merit. It has thus been clearly established in this community that a piece of goods from his store can not be duplicated at his prices; and ladies have learned to save themselves the labor of searching further. So it has become mainly a question of meeting the varied tastes of his numerous patrons and in catering to these Mr. Joyce is an expert. The remarkable development of his business can perhaps be best illustrated by the increase in clerical force, which in seven years has grown from one clerk to fifty; and all this success has been won on Washington street, which was regarded at the time when Mr. Joyce began business there as laboring under insurmountable objections as a location of a dry-goods store. It was said that it could not be made a business thoroughfare in the lines recognized by ladies; it was not improved; it was not a through street; it could not draw trade from popular Broadway. Mr. Joyce has proved that all these drawbacks could be overcome by the simple process of making it worth while to visit him on Washington street. He had unquestionably much to contend with, and it is equally undeniable that the combination of personal energy, business enterprise, good judgment and great industry, that has enabled him to overcome all these obstacles, and many more that might be enumerated, is as rare in the mercantile as in any other line of human endeavor. Merchants of this class contribute largely to the welfare of the community.

Mr. Joyce is a member of the Y. M. I., and of Pacific Lodge, No. 7, A. O. U. W., of Oakland. He was married in this city, October 1, 1882, to Miss Ella G. Skaill, born in Headford, Ireland, August 23, 1863, a daughter of Derby and Margaret Skaill, both now deceased–the father in Headford, in 1867, aged forty-five, and the mother in Oakland, in 1884, aged sixty.

He has had three children, of whom two are living, namely: Margaret Catherine, born July 17, 1883, and deceased in infancy; Charles Christopher, born January 13, 1885, and Lillian Frances, born March 16, 1887.

Joyce Country   ~   Connemara
To the west of the Lough Mask, beyond the isthmus, extends Joyce’s Country, a hilly region traversed by green valleys and lonely roads which takes its name from a Welsh family who settled here in the 13th C.

It is an area of great scenic beauty with rivers, mountains and valleys lying between Lough Corrib and Lough Mask, adjoining Connemara and Iar Chonnaught.

a scene from Joyce Country in Connemara County Galway
The Joyce Country Mountain and Lake District incorporates the communities of Maam, Corr na Mona, Clonbur, Cloghbrack, Finney, Tourmakeady, Cong, Cross and The Neale.The area is called “Joyce Country” after the colony of Joyce who came to live in the barony of Ross. Thomas Joyce emigrated to Ireland from Wales at the beginning of the 14th century and settled here. His son married an O’Flaherty and thus the Joyce clan took control of the whole barony of Ross.

Excellence appears to be the great challenge to the Joyces. The Joyce motto exhibits this life long desire: “Mors aut honorabilis vita”-“Death before dishonour”.

The family name Joyce has both ancient Irish and Norman antecedents. It comes from a Brehon penal name. The Brehon name Iodoc is a diminutive of iudh, which means lord. It was adopted by the Normans in the form Josse. The first Norman bearer of the name in Ireland was Thomas de Joise, a Welsh Norman who settled in Connacht on the borders of counties Galway and Mayo toward the end of the 12th century. The name may also have been derived from the Norman personal name Joie, which means joy.The continuation of the Joyce name in the west of Ireland can be seen to this day in the area of Connemara known as Joyce’s Country. Many people with the name still live there, and Renvyle House, now a luxury hotel, was once a Joyce stronghold. The most famous Joyce is, of course, James Joyce, born in Dublin in 1882, who died in Zurich in 1941. He is widely acclaimed as the leading writer in the English language in the 20th century.

The Joyce name has been deeply embedded in Connacht since they arrived there by sea in the wake of the Norman invaders. Joyce comes from the French personal name Joy. They quickly intermarried with strong local families like the O’Briens, Princes of Thomond.

A huge clan, they owned vast territory in the Barony of Ross (County Galway), known today as Joyce’s Country, and were admitted into the ’14 Tribes of Galway’. There were Joyce bishops and crusaders to the Holy Land. One who was captured en route was shown buried treasure by an eagle. When he escaped with this wealth he used it to build the walls of Galway city.

Joyce’s, James A. Joyce, 955,957, 959 Washington Street and 512 and 514 9th Street, Oakland, California



Transcribed by 10-5-06 Marilyn R. Pankey.

Source: “The Bay of San Francisco,” Vol. 2, Pages 160-161, Lewis Publishing Co, 1892.

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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