Oliver Twist Paine Daugherty

First published February 6, 2024

One of Tustin’s most recognizable figures in the late 1870’s to early 1900’s was Oliver Twist Paine Daugherty, although many knew him simply as “Oliver”. Oliver was the son of a white Irish born landowner and one of his slaves in Mississippi, on a plantation owned by Mr. Shaw. His exact date of birth is unknown. The family shared that he wasn’t even sure of his birthname, but he took his name after hearing the Dickens story of Oliver Twist being read aloud to his master’s family.

The family story said that Oliver was given to Mr. Shaw’s daughter, Mary Eliza Shaw as part of her wedding dowry to Dr. James Robert Paine in 1845. He was the family cook, servant, and children’s nursemaid. Oliver was particularly fond of Dr. and Mrs. Paine’s daughter, Mary Ella, and was devoted to her, even making certain to escort her to school and keep her safe during the Civil War. They were almost contemporary’s and Oliver took Mary Ella’s date of birth, 30 July 1851 as his own.

At the end of the Civil War, the Paine slaves were given their freedom, but many, including Oliver chose to remain. Mary Ella had married a Confederate war hero, Orlando Crozier, and Oliver stayed with Dr. and Mrs. Paine and their son Robert.

Dr. and Mrs. Paine came to California in 1875 and farmed muscat grapes for raisins on their 10 acres. When Mary Ella’s husband died, leaving her with a two-year old son and infant daughter, she also decided to move to California to be with her parents. Oliver was once again helping Mary Ella and caring for her children. Mary Ella remarried to William H. Phillips and had three more children.

Once in Tustin, Oliver worked for many of Tustin’s prominent families, Sam Preble, P.T. Adams, James Rice, H.K. Snow and Dr. Medlock, head of the Orange County Medical Association and famed actress Madame Helena Modjeska. He was still devoted to Mary Ella and her husband Will Phillips and called them “the Landlady and the Boss”, appearing whenever they needed him. He was present at the birth of Mary Ella’s granddaughter, Ethel Thompson, and in fact was present at the birth of four generations of Shaw decedents.

The granddaughter of Mary Ella Paine described Oliver as a small man, with rounded cheeks, and a twinkle in his eye. He was jovial, loved children and had only kindness in his soul. Oliver passed away on February 2, 1926.