Monday, November 4, 2019

Initial Inquiries

Names containing only initials can be vexing for the ardent genealogical researcher. In particular, reading the history of the founding of Lodi, California, we find two mentions of the surname Ayers. One is A. C. Ayers, the other is A. T. Ayers. Close, but not necessarily the same individual.

In our continuing quest to rectify two tales of how the fledgling city of Lodi got its boost with the Central Pacific Railroad agreeing to build its line directly through the downtown area, we've been examining the biographical information on each of four men credited with the land donations influencing that change of plans. Behind that examination is the need to rectify the report in George Tinkham's History of San Joaquin County with that of his biography of another leading man in Lodi: John Hutchins.

So far, not only have we not uncovered any connection between John Hutchins and the first of our subjects—Reuben Langdon Wardrobe—but there was not much mentioned directly about R. L. Wardrobe in the entirety of the book's 1,640 pages.

As we'll see here, much the same can be said about the subject of today's post. There was no biographical sketch included by Tinkham for A. T. Ayers.

Worse, not only was there no specific entry for this man credited by Tinkham as making a donation of property to help clinch the deal which led to establishing downtown Lodi, but in some of the other entries about the surname Ayers, the author mentioned the name Allen Ayers. More troubling, sometimes that middle initial was a "C" instead of a "T."

If this indicates two different people rather than a simple typo in the text, which one was the right man? You know what that means: researching both names to see which one provides more reasonable indicators of representing the right person.

Fortunately, I decided to start with the name listed in the paragraph on the property donation, and looked for A. T. Ayers. First up, I discovered that A. T., like A. C., had a first name of Allen. That wasn't a promising start to this search.

If this is a troubling research problem for us, as far removed as we are from the event itself in the 1860s, consider how troubling it must have been to the man who might have had to constantly clarify which Allen Ayers he was. It wasn't long until I found A. T. Ayers' voter registration from 1866. The date of his registration was August 6 of 1866, showing him to be a thirty six year old farmer from Ohio, then living in the Elkhorn Township of San Joaquin County. Rather than simply relying on initials as at other times, his name was spelled out fully as "Allen Trimble Ayres."

Since we had already reviewed the story of one of the original Lodi settlers selling his land to "Allen Ayers," it was good to have this clarification, for in another section in the Tinkham volume, the name had been given as Allen C. Ayers. At this point, with a full name to research, I could more closely track the decade-by-decade movement of this Allen Trimble Ayers.

And that, I did. Starting with the 1880 census and working my way backwards in time, I found an "Allan T. Ayres" in Elkhorn Township, along with his wife Julia and teenaged daughters Estelle and Coralin. In the same household was an interesting addition: the presence of John U. Magley, immigrant from Switzerland, who just happened to be one of the four men mentioned as having donated land to bring the rail line through Lodi. Magley's residence in the Ayers home made me wonder whether he and Ayers were related by marriage.

Checking the 1870 census, I found Allen Trimble Ayers in much the same location: Elkhorn Township in San Joaquin County. Still in the household with his wife Julia and two daughters—both of whom were born in California, showing us that A. T. Ayers (well, at least his wife) was in the state as early as 1863—he also had a spot in his home for that same John U. Magley. In fact, the home site had enough room for horses, mules, cows, and a few pigs, as A. T. Ayers kept his 150 acres in winter wheat and barley.

Even before that point, Allen Ayers and his wife were in California in time for the 1860 census, although not living in Lodi. Julia and Allen Ayers were then living in El Dorado County, which, though not part of our story today, provides a hint about who his parents might have been, despite a name as common as Allen Ayers. Though A. T. Ayers originated in Ohio, he may not have traveled to California alone. There was a Stephen Ayers from Vermont listed not only in El Dorado County, but also on the Great Register on the same page in Lodi as Allen Trimble Ayers in 1866. Besides this, in census records including location of the father's birth, Allen always gave his father's birthplace as Vermont, same as this Stephen Ayers.

While many links can be found online purporting to have found Allen Trimble Ayers' place of burial outside California, a locally published book by a former member of our own genealogical society provides a clue that A. T. Ayers' wife and also his (likely) father were buried in a location south of Lodi which is now a defunct cemetery.

Known as the Live Oak Cemetery, its demise provides the kind of story that genealogical researchers seldom appreciate encountering. Apparently, some of the bodies of those buried at the Live Oak Cemetery were moved to a new burial place east of downtown Lodi, decades afterwards—but not, possibly, all of those originally buried at Live Oak. The newer burial place, known as Lodi Memorial Park, contains a memorial plaque for those re-interred from the Live Oak Cemetery. Whether Stephen Ayers' remains are at the newer resting place or the original burial grounds is hard to tell, though someone created a Find A Grave memorial for him indicating the answer is the Lodi Memorial Park.

As for the son, Allen Trimble Ayers, who knows what became of him. There is a memorial on Find A Grave speculating he somehow wound up in Nebraska and was buried there, but I do not feel confident of that conclusion—at least, not yet. A. T. Ayers' one daughter married a man from Stockton—Walter Eugene Ladd—whose family name was significant in his hometown then, as it is now. What became of the second Ayers daughter or her father, I can't say, but it is likely that they, like some of the other property owners from the early days of Lodi, moved out of the area long before George Tinkham ever considered omitting their mention from his ponderous history.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...