Michael Sheehan, Sheriff San Mateo County, California


Michael Sheehan was born February 2nd 1861 at Garravane, County Limerick. He arrived in USA in 1880. He was 16 years in the Police – 12 of these years being a Constable in Second Township becoming the Sheriff for San Mateo County in 1914.

Census of 1900 gave his occupation as ‘labourer’, in 1905 and 1910 his occupation given as ‘Constable’, and in 1920 occupation given as ‘Sheriff’.His wife was Elizabeth. In 1920 he had two children Mary aged 20 years and Jane aged 19 years.


His passport no. 438491 was issued on June 10th 1924 giving his home address as Redwood City, San Mateo County and his age as 63 years and retired.  Address visiting Ataye P/O County Limerick (Athea?), purpose of visit ‘visit relations’.

Bartholomew Sheehan (dob 20th August 1856), brother of Michael, passport no. 438489 issued 10th June 1924 giving his home address as 128 C Street, San Mateo and his age as 67 years and retired. Address visiting Ataye (?)  P/O County Limerick.





Both men applied for US passports on 10th June 1924 and travelled together from New York to Cobh (Queenstown) Ireland aboard the SS Celtic of the White Star line. Bartholomew’s Christian name was recorded on ship’s records as ‘Berth’. 

They remained in Ireland for one week and then returned on 29th June 1924 boarding the SS Cedric from Cobh to New York which arrived at destination on 6th July 1924. By 1924, the Irish War of Independence was over in 1921 and the Civil War was over in 1923. By the time of the visit, the IRA had ‘dumped arms’ and was dormant. The 26 counties of Ireland had become the Irish Free State.



Sheriff Michael Sheehan’s nephews were  David and Bart Sheehan (born 1900 and 1899), who both saw active service with Tournafulla Company,  West Limerick Brigade IRA. David was pro-Treaty for a while before switching sides, then became anti- Treaty and fought in the Civil war. He was captured near Mountcollins by Free State forces and imprisoned. He managed to escape by tunnel from Limerick Prison with 30 other irregulars on 30th March 1923, recaptured May 1923 and eventually made his way to Canada in 1924 with his brother Bart.




Two Thompson sub-machine guns were ordered on 25th March 1921 and purchased by M. Sheehan Sheriff of San Mateo, California  on 3rd May 1921 – serial numbers recorded as 142 and 143. The order included two 20 round stick magazines plus six 100 round drum magazines. By May, the gun had just come off the production line at Colts with first serial number being number 41 on 30th March 1921.The Thompson was recognised as an amazing revolutionary weapon. It’s first customers included the Irish Republican Army who paid for hundreds to use in their war against the British.