Hay view from Castle

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

Thursday, July 27, 2017

South Pass

Looking West from South Pass. Pacific Butte on the left.

"Top of the World," some say even if it is not a peak and hardly a pass in the traditional sense of crossing mountains. One does have a sense of a spherical earth dropping down in nearly every direction (Wind River Range on the north excluded).

My grandson and I had a wonderful trip exploring portions of the Overland Trail in Wyoming in commemoration of the day after Pioneer Day and my wife's birthday, as she is out of town. The OT refers to four recognized trails that crossed here although Native Peoples have crossed here for millennia. The trails are: Oregon, California, Mormon Pioneer, and the Pony Express. We could also add in the Astorians in 1812, Mountain Men, the Whitman-Spaulding Missionaries of 1836, some commercial stage lines, the overland telegraph, and many visitors, but only us two last Tuesday.

As one of our purposes was family history, I will illustrate a few sites with reference to the Ellsworth Handcart Company of 1856 with my direct-line ancestor, Elinor Jenkins Vaughan, her daughter Jane Vaughan Lewis, Jane's husband John Lewis, and their son, John Samuel Lewis. They crossed South Pass on September 13, the 96th day out from Iowa City. They camped three miles down this road at Pacific Springs which can't be seen but is at the base of Pacific Butte on the left, just before the small ridge, just left of center. My Grandson and I walked down and back to get a feel for the trail. It was a good walk and a better talk.

At one point, I explained that while pioneer children may have sung as they walked and walked, they were probably not always happy. I told him that he was big enough he would likely have helped with the family handcart, but the younger children above toddler age would get up, have a breakfast of biscuits and tea (long before Pres. Grant started enforcing the Word of Wisdom) and head out on the road in a group led by adults while the others packed up the camp. Eventually, the handcarts would pass the children. Then, the two or three wagons with the company would pass as the oxen were slower than people with handcarts. Hopefully, the new camp would be ready when the children came in. We imagined that mothers might have gone back up the trail to meet their children if they weren't needed for cooking or setting up their camp. I also explained that the children were sometimes guided by the adults with long sticks, like a gaggle of geese. And they were poked or prodded (or worse) if they lagged.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

It's Not a Quest If You Find It


If the only things that happened were that I had a great road trip with two of my boys and a chance to show them Jacks Valley, Nevada while telling them stories of our ancestors and how we found them, then we can't be the least bit disappointed that we found no actual grave site.

We made good time and followed the paved routes closest to the original California Trail, Humboldt Route (I-80) crossing the forty-mile desert (US-95) from the Humboldt Sinks (Lovelock) to the Carson Sinks (Fallon). Then it was US-50 on the Pony Express route right into Carson City and then South, turning up the official route onto Jacks Valley Road

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Jane Vaughan and John Lewis's Marriage Certificate

Now I have to go back and rewrite a couple of chapters!

Every piece of evidence brings more questions.

But this is so cool!

First of all, everything fits. The two fathers of bride and groom are right and (1789) John Vaughan's profession is butcher in 1846! This predates (1825) John Vaughan's 1846 marriage to Maranah Watkins by two months so it's OK for Jane Lewis as a witness at her brother's wedding to be using her married name!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Jane Vaughan and John Lewis's children, Catherine Ellinor and Parley Lorenzo

We now have three sources for Jane and John's daughter who lived only one day. Each spells or orders her name in a different way. I put on FamilySearch.org that we were going with the version for her LDS Infant Blessing in the Tredegar Branch which happened the day after she was born and presumably before she died of seizures. I hope that's OK with the rest of the cousins.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

"Family Burying Ground" on former Johns Ranch, Jacks Valley, Douglas County, Nevada Confirmed!

I've been trying to arrange some time to search archives in Nevada to access the local Genoa newspaper for any indication of Abednego Johns and Jane (Jeanette) Vaughan Lewis Johns. The prize would be a descriptive obituary giving their burial place. For some odd reason, I thought to search for an archived copy of the Genoa paper elsewhere and my search turned up the J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah. "D'oh!"

And I struck gold.

Genoa Courier, Friday, March 21, 1890
Genoa Courier, Friday, May 30, 1890
"Family Burying Ground in Jacks Valley" and "on the west end of Johns ranch." We are closing in.

This confirms my suspicions and possible inspiration from my last visit that there is a family burial plot on the ranch. I was thinking more easterly, but west up against the mountain does make sense and matches my initial thoughts. It would be a mile or so south of the well-documented Winters Family Cemetery on the current Ascagua Ranch that I visited last October.

Now that they are all securely archived and sourced on FamilySearch.org with enough evidentiary explanation and proudly proclaimed provenance that no one should ever try to delete them, I share them here. (Of course sharing them here gives me assurance that more people in the family have them in case someone has to go back in to FamilySearch to fix what someone else changed or deleted!)

This also gives a solid clue that at least as of 1890 (the year of the burned federal census) Jane and John Lewis's son, John Samuel Lewis, resided in Reno.

Still, the question remains, where are the graves? Do markers still exist? Has no one noticed them? The Washoe Tribe has not responded to my emails or letters. I'm going to have to try and call. I have some other potential contacts to try as well.

"Family Burying Ground" indicates a place already established by 1890. The others deaths in the family that we know of are in 1860 or '61. These are Mary Evans Johns (Jones), Abednego's first wife, who died in September 1860, and Jane's mother, my 4th-Great-Grandmother, Elinor Jenkins Vaughan, who died after the September, 1860 Census and before the January, 1862, Nevada Census, also in Jacks Valley.

As my Cousin Judy and I have agreed since we found out just a few years ago that Jane and her first husband, John Lewis, and son and her mother, Elinor Vaughan, came to Utah with handcarts in 1856, if we find Jane, we will find Elinor.

Well, we're pretty close to finding Jane "on the west end of the Johns ranch."

I think we need to talk to some Washoe archaeologists.

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.