Wednesday, November 6, 2019
Sometimes, it feels like a research project takes the researcher along a winding path which, eventually, leads right back to the place where it started. Take my discovery of a connection between my research subject and a man whose surname was significant to his adopted hometown of Lodi, California. I discovered that his biography, included in a History of San Joaquin County two decades after his death, mentioned his role in the establishment of Lodi in much more glowing terms than I was able to find anywhere else. At the same time, I discovered four other men were credited with the very same role—with no mention of the original focus of my attention. Which story was right?
I hoped that, in exploring what could be found about the history of each of those other four men, I would discover any connection between the two versions. Other than realizing that several of the men were connected to one particular fraternal order, I wasn't able to discern the root of the variations in the story.
So, what can be discovered about John Hutchins, the man from Canada who crossed the plains to arrive in San Joaquin County in the earliest days after the formation of the county? George Tinkham reported that Hutchins made his cross-country immigration in 1853. Yet, whether the Hutchins household in the 1860 census in Elkhorn Township includes our John Hutchins, I can't yet be sure. However, John's name did appear in the Great Register, where in at least two editions, he reported being naturalized at the county seat on August 27, 1866.
Almost a year later, John Hutchins married Ann Nevin, an Iowa girl whose family had moved to Stockton, and by the time of the 1870 census, the couple was living in Elkhorn Township, along with their daughter Nellie and son John. Although the senior John died in 1899, we can still find the names of his five children in his widow's household in the 1900 census.
But what of the street through the town of Lodi which now bears the Hutchins name? Was it named for John Hutchins, the one who supposedly donated land to jump-start the downtown area before it even became designated as a city? Or was that honor given to someone else with the same surname?
The ubiquitousness of street signs may dull our inquisitiveness about their origin, but I just can't help myself. I want to know how that street came to receive that name.