Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Happy 219th Birthday, John Cottam (1792-1878)!

Anna Cottam Hatch Cramer's great-grandfather

    John, an English pioneer, was a man without guile.  He was noted for building excellent chairs.  He shares a birthday with descendant David Cramer!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Happy 163rd Birthday, Gold Rush!

     The California Gold Rush drew many Americans west in the same era as our pioneers, and the Mormon Battalion members were even there at Sutter’s Fort when gold was first discovered.  This event involved our ancestors in various ways.  Several actually participated in the Gold Rush; our two Mormon Battalion members (Orin Hatch and William Muir) were there at the initial rush, and William brought some gold dust back for his wife Jane.  In Missouri, John Welch earned money making Bowie knives for Gold Rush settlers headed out West.  

   Our non-Mormon Hiram Cramer walked from Pennsylvania to California as a teenager in 1850, and stayed for three years prospecting.  Then the story says that he walked east until he reached the end of the railroad line and rode a train back to Pittsburg.  He brought home enough gold for his fiancee's wedding ring.  (Another account given by Hiram's neighbor Neil McNeil's relative says that Neil and his boyhood friend Hiram Cramer left New York City to sail around Cape Horn to San Francisco and became part of the Great Gold Rush in California and Nevada.)

Thomas Grover went to California in 1848 to settle matters with the Brooklyn ship Saints and some cattle business for the Church, and worked in the gold mines for a year.  Thomas collected thousands of dollars in gold dust from the California Church members and turned it into the Church tithing fund along with his own generous contribution; Brigham Young put his hands on Brother Grover’s shoulders and said, “Brother Grover, if every Latter-day Saint would do as you have done, there would be no need of a tithing among this people.”

     William West Woodland drove a herd of cattle for the Church to California, and then went with a company to buy cattle in Mexico. He returned to California and panned for gold with his brother John for a time (one day collecting enough to fill a baking powder can, and panning fifty thousand dollars’ worth total) until his equipment was washed away in a storm.  About this time all Latter-day Saints were called back to Utah due to Johnston’s Army, and William obeyed the call; his brother John stayed in California and William never saw him again.   In his late twenties, William returned to California and heard of a feverish gold rush in Australia.  He sailed there, a two months’ journey, but when he arrived, he wasn’t impressed so he returned to San Francisco on the same ship.

Not all of our ancestors in Utah thought this so great either.  One of Ira Hatch’s plural wives left him for some acquaintances going to California with the Gold Rush. And Asa Calkin wasn’t impressed with the hype; he wrote in his journal in 1852, “Gold and the Devil reign supreme in California.”

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Happy 158th Birthday, William Hunter (1853-1926)!

Gayle Wells' great-grandfather

     As a child, William sailed from Scotland through icebergs, crossed the plains, and then as a teenager helped build the St. George Temple.  These early adventures transformed into a life of staid respectability, leaving a paucity of records and photos of William and his family.