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"Padre Ygnacio had called Domingo and me his little milagros–miracles. Now I see that it was not a miracle at all that we survived, merely the white man's medicine. I feel as if some thing precious, a part of me, has been taken away. Before, I felt as if I had been chosen by God, that I had survived the terrible plague by His own hand. Now I no longer feel special."
—María Rosalia de Milagros[3]

María Rosalia Medina Johnston (formerly de Milagros; 1832 — 1906) was the older sister of Domingo de Milagros. After the death of their mother, the pair grew up at a mission until they were taken to Rancho Agua Verde. Rosalia became more curious about her parents as she grew up and was determined to learn their identities.


Early life[]

Rosalia was born in 1832[1] to Carolina and Antonio Medina. Her mother was an indigenous woman belonging to a tribe south of Sonoma Valley and her father a captain in the Mexican army who was from a wealthy family. After her brother Domingo was born, the family moved to San Francisco Bay in 1836 for her father's work. While he was away in Mexico, a smallpox outbreak hit the area. Their mother passed away of the disease, but saved Rosalia and Domingo by having them vaccinated.[4]

Rosalia and Domingo were found by Padre Ygnacio Morales, who gave them new names. Rosalia, who was five, remembered little of her life. She and her brother lived for several years at Mission Rafael, where Rosalia learned how to read and write from Padre Ygnacio. At nine years old, Rosalia and Domingo were brought to work at Rancho Agua Verde by Gregorio. The two were adopted by Gregorio and his wife Lupita, but Rosalia always felt something was missing.[5]

Mexican-American War[]

At Rancho Agua Verde, Rosalia worked as a servant for the wealthy Medina family. She obtained a diary in October 1845 after the eldest Medina daughter Miguela threw it away. Henry Johnston, whom had given the diary to Miguela, found out Rosalia was able to read and write and began teaching her some English. Rosalia later accompanied Henry to retrieve his niece and nephew, Nelly and Walter. Nelly, whom lost her parents and siblings during the journey west, quickly became friends with Rosalia while staying with the Medinas. In December, Miguela finally agreed to marry Henry. Rosalia was tasked with helping Ramona sew Miguela's wedding dress, which took up most of the month.

Miguela's wedding was postponed when the Medinas' second daughter Rafaela fell ill. Rosalia accompanied Lupita to obtain indigenous medicine for her, which ultimately helped her recover. Around the same time, Rosalia became curious about her parents when Señor Medina noticed a smallpox vaccination scar on her arm. In February 1846, Miguela's wedding took place and she left to live at Henry's home in Yerba Buena. Sometime later, Rafaela requested for Rosalia to become her personal servant. She began walking and riding horses with Rafaela, which helped the latter become stronger. That May, the Johnston family came for a visit. Rosalia developed a crush on Walter around this time.

In June, while Señor Medina was away, Rosalia went with the rest of the family to stay with Señora Medina's sister. Two weeks later, some Americans declared independence from Mexico. Rosalia and the others were trapped in the city until mid-July. In the meantime, Rosalia had learned of the death of Nelly which saddened her. After returning to the rancho, her curiosity about her parents heightened. Rosalia later came to Yerba Buena to be Miguela's servant. She asked Walter to seek out Padre Ygancio. Through Padre Ygancio's letter, she learned the true identities of her parents. She revealed the revelation to the Medinas who welcomed her and Domingo into their family.

Later life[]

For two years, Rosalia stayed with the Johnstons to teach Miguela how to cook and clean. In 1848, she and Domingo changed their family name to Medina and moved onto the land in Sacramento Valley that they had inherited from their late father. Rosalia and Walter married in 1851. Walter discovered gold on her land. They bought land in the Napa Valley, where Walter cultivated a successful business called Milagros Winery. The couple had five children, two of which were named Carolina and Nelly. All five of their children had good educations.

As she grew older, Rosalia continued keeping a diary. She eventually began writing poetry and fiction. In the 1860s, she met Samuel Clemens who encouraged her to submit her work to newspapers. Rosalia wrote many articles about her life at Rancho Aqua Verde and Yerba Buena. In 1870, she had her father's remains moved to be next to her mother's. Rosalia was killed in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake while she was visiting the Johnstons. She was buried next to her parents.

Personality and traits[]

Rosalia was naturally inquisitive and loved learning. She had a passion for writing and reading, which she learned despite it not being the social norm at the time. Rosalia loved writing in her diary, which lead to her writing fiction and poetry later in life. She was also interested in learning English so she could talk to Señor Johnston and his niece and nephew.

Family tree[]

The Medina Family Tree
Carolina Medina
Antonio Medina
Señor Medina
(b. 1805)
Señora Medina
Mr. and Mrs. Johnston
(d. 1845)
Henry Johnston
(b. 1817)
Miguela Medina
(b. 1828)
Rafaela Medina
(b. 1830)
Gabriela Medina
(b. 1834)
Domingo Medina
(b. 1835)
María Rosalia Medina
Walter Johnston
(b. 1829)
Nelly Johnston
Two others
(d. 1845)
Eleven children
Carolina Johnston
Nelly Johnston
Three others

Behind the scenes[]



See also[]

Dear America characters
Main characters

Remember "Mem" Whipple | Deliverance Trembley | Lozette Moreau | Catharine Logan | Prudence Emerson
Abigail Stewart | Lucinda Lawrence | María Rosalia de Milagros | Hattie Campbell | Mary Driscoll
Florence "Florrie" Mack Ryder | Susanna Fairchild | Clotee Henley | Amelia Martin | Emma Simpson
Sarah Nita | Phillis "Patsy" Frederick | Libby West | Priscilla "Pringle" Rose | Mary "Polly" Rodgers
Nannie Little Rose | Angeline Reddy | Sarah Jane Price | Teresa Viscardi | Anetka Kaminska
Zipporah Feldman | Minette "Minnie" Bonner | Angela Denoto | Margaret Ann Brady | Kathleen Bowen
Simone Spencer | Lydia Pierce | Nell "Nellie Lee" Love | Bess Brennan | Minerva "Minnie" Swift | Grace Edwards
Julie Weiss | Madeline Beck | Amber Billows | Piper Davis | Dawn "Dawnie Rae" Johnson | Molly Flaherty

Supporting characters

Antoinetta Viscardi | Leon Nasevich | Daniel Pierce | Erma Jean Love | Patrick Flaherty

Lists of characters by book

A Journey to the New World | I Walk in Dread | Look to the Hills | Standing in the Light
Love Thy Neighbor | The Winter of Red Snow | Cannons at Dawn | A Line in the Sand
Valley of the Moon | Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie | So Far from Home | All the Stars in the Sky
Seeds of Hope | A Picture of Freedom | A Light in the Storm | When Will This Cruel War Be Over?
The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow | I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly | The Great Railroad Race
Down the Rabbit Hole | Land of the Buffalo Bones | My Heart Is on the Ground | Behind the Masks
My Face to the Wind | West to a Land of Plenty | A Coal Miner's Bride | Dreams in the Golden Country
A City Tossed and Broken | Hear My Sorrow | Voyage on the Great Titanic | A Time for Courage
When Christmas Comes Again | Like the Willow Tree | Color Me Dark | Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
Christmas After All | Survival in the Storm | One Eye Laughing, the Other Weeping
My Secret War | Early Sunday Morning | The Fences Between Us | With the Might of Angels
Where Have All the Flowers Gone?