Hay view from Castle

Hay view from Castle
Hay-on-Wye, Powys (formerly Breconshire), Wales. The "Town of Books" (and Vaughans!)

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Why Was John Vaughan (1825) in Abersychan in 1847?

Another serendipitous discovery as I was skimming through Welsh Historical Journals online, the simple answer being that 1846-47 were the years of highest pay for puddlers at the Abersychan Iron Works.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Jane Vaughan (Lewis Johns) Photo Authenticated to Virginia City, Nevada

There is this great guy in Hobart, Tasmania who became my friend through blogging. There ought to be a word for that like "Blogo-Amigo" or something except that he is probably a distant cousin anyway through the Welsh connection. He has photographic talents and helped out with a tricky little problem. 

We have our photo of Jane Vaughan Lewis Johns (1827-1890) through miraculous means. From the context, we believed the photograph to be taken in Virginia City, Nevada in the 1860s. It is a carte-de-visite of the period and the style of her dress fits the time.

All we had was her identity as "Jeanette Vaughan Servis Johns" and it took some work through the history of the Johns Family clinched with the 1860 Census for Jacks Valley, Nevada, that this was indeed Jane Vaughan, born 1827 in Hay, Breconshire, daughter of John and Elinor Vaughan, and handcart pioneer of 1856. The original of this photo has been donated to the LDS Church History Library as should all photos of handcart pioneers.
Then the other day, I was doing my usual googling around on the internet and found a couple of photos identified as "Mrs. Blasdel, wife of the first Governor of Nevada" (Sarah Jane Cox Blasdel (1826-1904)). I looked closer and saw what I thought was the same stand or plinth next to the first First Lady of Nevada that is in Jane's picture. Not having the skills to manipulate photos all that well, I sent it off to my friend in Australia hoping he might take an interest and do some manipulation.

Electronic ties that bind struck the right spark and my friend across the world sent me back this beautiful video analysis matching up the feature in the two photos. He, his wife, and I all agree with 99% certainty that it's a match!


Well, that's great! But what does it mean? As a skeptical historian, all we can only conclude is that the two photos were likely taken in the same studio with the same prop in close proximity of time and place. The photo of Mrs. Blasdel has 1867 written on it, some evidence of its date. Carson City was the capital of Nevada where we might conclude the Governor's wife would have her picture taken but the real boom town was up the hills in Virginia. (It wasn't known as Virginia "City" until later).

I only found one reference to a photo studio in Carson City that opened in 1873. It was the Sutterley Brothers who already had a studio in Virginia City and even one in Great Salt Lake City! The only other studios I could find in the 1860s were also in Virginia City, one by Hedger & Noe, the other by someone named E. Hurd. Some entertainment followed as I searched the web for cartes-de-visite from pioneer Nevada with much hilarity and not much help from Pinterest and some really good files from the University of Nevada-Reno. But I could not match anything up with that furniture in the pics with Jane and Sarah.

There was one that popped up from an auction site of a photo collection from Virginia City, Nevada. And there it was!


Sadly, some private collector won the auction an there is no further information about the specific picture. Why can't people put these in museums and archives where they belong?

So what we have is one more piece of a hint that the pictures are from Virginia City. I think it's pretty clear they were all taken with the same prop and most likely in the same studio.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

"Yearning to breathe free"

Thomas Vaughan, born 1850 in Llanfoist, Wales, son of John and Maranah Vaughan, arrived in New York City, 1 June 1886. He arrived in Salt Lake City by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad on June 8 and settled in Ogden. His wife, Isabella, and seven children, the youngest, my Great Grandfather, George Robert Vaughn, arrived the next Spring, also thought New York and on the same steamship, the S.S. Arizona of the Guion Line.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

A Glimpse of John and Elinor's Surviving Son William in 1871

Publication date was 14 October 1871:


I believe this is William Vaughan christened 1830 in Hay, Breconshire, and who died before 1881 when his wife Elizabeth (Betsy) is listed in the Llanfoist Census as "widow." It appears that he was engaged in dredging the Brecon and Monmouthshire Canal and not in the illegal activity.

John and Elinor's first-born child, that we know of, was named William. He died in 1823. It was a common practice to name a child after a sibling that had already died. In fact, John's uncle William (1768-1851), who we believe may have trained him as a butcher, was the third William in that family after two others died as infants.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Historical Novels VERY Closely Related to Our Vaughan Family History


Roman Amphitheater, Caerleon, Newport, Wales, 16 July 2016 
Distancing myself from current politics into the old country and times past, I am rereading the historical novels of Alexander Cordel now that I have been to more of the places and learned a little better how they connect to my family.

Rape of the Fair Country carries the reader through a passionate narrative of the sorrows and joys of the working and non-working Welsh to the Chartist March on Newport. A foreshadowing is presented when the families of Garndyrus (where my Third-Great-Grandfather, John Vaughan 1825, worked) had a holiday in Newport for a singing competition. It's a fictional account. The later march on Newport was not.

I don't know if my family was involved in the Chartist Rising of 1839. Even if they were, and apparently survived, they would not have mentioned it to anyone as it carried a penalty of death or transportation to Australia or Van Diemen's land [that's for my Tasmanian friends].

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Monday, October 24, 2016

I Don't Believe Elinor Is in the Jacks Valley, Winters Family Cemetery

My wife graciously agreed to take an extra day home from Disneyland and by the long way so that I could visit Jacks Valley, Nevada, again. I tried a number for the Ascuaga Cattle Co. but they said it was the casino that had been sold by Mr. Ascuaga. I started calling US Forest Service offices to see if they had a contact at the Ascuaga Ranch. They passed me to several numbers where I left messages but got nowhere. I called the Curator at the Douglas County Historical Society with whom I had previously corresponded. She suggested that I just try going up to the ranch and explain myself politely to ask for access to the old cemetery.

It worked. The Ranch Manager came out and after I rattled off apologies and numerous names and dates belonging to my family and the history of Jacks Valley, he gave me Mr. Ascuaga's phone number and said that on his authority, we could go up to the old Winters Family cemetery. He said Mr. Ascuaga would be happy to allow us and to talk with me.

We went down the road and parked as directed, then walked up the hill on the wrong side of the fence. Finding a gate, I slipped through then pulled the gate post hard until I could slip the wire loop back over after my wife got through.

It was as beautiful as imagined. In the early evening the light was soft and the view was clear down over Jacks Valley to the larger Carson Valley. Snow was on the highest peaks of the Sierra.

In the Cemetery, by gracious permission of the Ascuaga Ranch
It is a relatively unknown, Mormon pioneer cemetery, or of pioneers who were Mormons as they seem to have left the Church or the Church left them when the call came in 1857 to return to the other side of the Great Basin facing a threat from the U.S. Army. These did not go.