Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Of a Feather

One discovery, in researching the five men credited by local history as having a hand in the formation of the city of Lodi, California, was how many of them had Canadian roots. This could merely be a curious coincidence, or it might be a detail worth pursuing. Since the pursuit of family history is not simply the study of individuals—as if they were independent, individual actors throughout their lifetime—but an observation of the collective actions taken by people who were closely associated with each other, it makes sense to handle this study of Lodi's founders in the same way.

Cluster genealogy—that study of the micro-history of families in relationship to their social and other connections—may serve our purposes at this juncture in my research project. Sometimes called the "FAN Club," this cluster, people taken in the aggregate, may provide hints generated by the whole group, whereas studying each person as an individual might fail to reveal broader connections.

One of the principles of the "FAN Club" is that people, moving from their home to settle in new territory, seldom make such long journeys alone. While I've been wandering in research circles, trying to determine just how the California city of Lodi actually was established, I've run across enough clues to tell me that not just one of the original settlers in this new state came from Canada. There apparently were several more.

Now, considering that Canada is a large country—and that even saying something like, "They both came from Ontario" seldom tells us much—it might seem like a fool's errand to determine just where in that immense dominion the exact town might have been, if even one location. But I'm game to trace these Canadian immigrants to see whether their paths coincided on their way from Canada to California.

For one thing, migration patterns seemed similar. Wherever these settlers started in Canada, their goal was to arrive in California as soon as possible after the news flash about the discovery of gold in the northern foothills. Young men being young men, the pattern included a marriage to another Canadian, usually in El Dorado County, likely at the county seat of Placerville—or, as it was known in that era, Hangtown. The finale to this pattern was obtaining a large tract of government land somewhere in the new state of California—for some coincidental reason, specifically in a place called San Joaquin County.

I've been focusing, in the past week, on the men named in an old history of the county as being key in establishing the downtown area which eventually became the city of Lodi. My original focus was on a man whose surname has somehow—through recognition of this man, himself, or others—become the name of a major street and cultural center in the city. However, as I branched out to the other four men listed as city fathers, I began realizing some of them, too, claimed to have come to this isolated valley in California from an undisclosed place in Canada.

The question is: which place in Canada? Or should we say, places?

To start this exploration, let's take a deeper look at the paths taken by the families of John Hutchins and Ezekiel Lawrence, tomorrow.

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