Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Suits me to a "T"

Trying to reconcile conflicting reports about the start of the city of Lodi, California, has come down to two initials: that of Allen C. Ayers or Allen T. Ayers. Of course, since the names are so similar, it could have been a typo in George Tinkham's 1923 History of San Joaquin County that started the whole pursuit. Considering that the Tinkham volume amounts to 1,640 pages, one could cut the guy some slack on one silly initial. But just in case, I felt obligated to check out the references to the Allen C. Ayers who supposedly was involved in some key real estate transactions that eventually benefited the establishment of downtown Lodi.

We already learned yesterday that the similarly-named Allen T. Ayers had a middle initial representing the name Trimble. Attempting to find further information on his contemporary, the man supposedly named Allen C. Ayers, led nowhere. There are no census records for the county in either 1860 or 1870 showing the existence of a man by that name anywhere near the Elkhorn Township which eventually formed the city of Lodi. More to the point, every Allen Ayers listed in California's Great Register for San Joaquin County spelled out clearly the full name of Allen Trimble Ayers. No Allen C. to be found.

Considering that the four names mentioned in the land issue that persuaded a railroad company to build its line through the downtown area included not only Allen Ayers but that of another man—John U. Magley—who happened to live in A. T. Ayers' own household through two decades of census enumerations, it seems far fetched to assume that the Ayers name represented in the Tinkham volume was anyone other than Allen Trimble Ayers.

But what about any mention of the fourth man to be included in that railroad deal? Could anything be said for Ezekiel Lawrence, the name we've yet to examine, to connect him with John Hutchins, whose own biography prompted me to call this whole history into question?

Of course there can. Though once again, there is no biographical entry bearing the name of Ezekiel Lawrence, there were a few mentioned of the name tucked away in those thousand pages of history that can assist us.

The earliest mention of Ezekiel Lawrence was when, in 1858, he provided some of his land, just south of the Mokelumne River, for a schoolhouse. The 1860 census confirms his location in Elkhorn Township, along with his wife Mary and two year old son William. By 1870, the census confirms the Lawrence family's continued residence there, with the addition of son George and daughter Nettie.

Similar to the story of fellow Lodian John Hutchins, Ezekiel Lawrence was from Canada—the province of Ontario, if we can believe his son George's report in his own passport application, many years later. Like the story of Allen Trimble Ayers, Ezekiel Lawrence must have come through El Dorado County, as well—the well-traveled route to Gold Country leading to "Hangtown," now known as Placerville, where Ezekiel and his wife Mary were married in 1857.

Despite his 1858 provision of land for the Lodi schoolhouse, Ezekiel Lawrence did not show up in the Great Register until 1867. The reason? The minute he officially became a United States citizen, the naturalized Ezekiel Lawrence immediately registered to vote on May 18, 1867 in Stockton, county seat of San Joaquin County.

The only other mention I could find of Ezekiel Lawrence was that of the roster of officers for a fraternal organization's lodge in Lodi. Though finding only a listing of his name as the treasurer for the Lodi lodge of the Odd Fellows may be disappointingly sparse, considering all that surely could have been said about the man, reading the rest of the list can provide some insight.

Now that we already know the name of the foursome whose influence was instrumental in setting the economic growth of their future city—Ayers, Magley, Wardrobe, and Lawrence—this list provides some perspective on relationships. Along with treasurer Lawrence, the I.O.O.F. lodge had, for their financial secretary, Allen T. Ayers. And listed among the lodge's charter members, according to the Tinkham history, was John Hutchins.

This, finally, provides the only context linking the four names together in their bid to persuade the railroad's consideration of a route through Lodi. In the meantime, we've explored the few details we could glean about four early leaders in the expansion of the city now known as Lodi.

Still, we can't simply be satisfied with this exploration into the friends and neighbors whose land tied them together at the start of the downtown Lodi area. We need to stay the course on our original objective. Researching these four men mentioned in the Tinkham history of Lodi is solely for the purpose of examining another claim: that there was a fifth man who, with "four associates," presented that offer of land to the Central Pacific. That other man was John Hutchins.

Above: Excerpt from the Map of the County of San Joaquin, dated 1895, as currently found at the United States Library of Congress, shows the property of Ezekiel "Lawrance" just south of the meandering path of the Mokelumne River; courtesy Library of Congress Geography and Map Division; in the public domain.

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