Wednesday, November 10, 2021

California Calling


What brought our ancestors to a new hometown? More to the point, just how did individuals come to the decision to uproot from their home and head elsewhere to seek their fortune? Did they make the move one by one, en masse with family and neighbors, or one after another in a serial migration?

Family stories may illustrate one of the three styles of migration—or, in some cases, more than one variety of migration before the family's story was completely told. In the case of Maude Woodworth Bean's ancestors, what at first glance might have seemed a lump sum proposal—all her grandparents' families moving at once to the same location—turned out to be more of a serial installation. It was interesting to track who in the family arrived in California first, and who trailed long afterwards.

According to his obituary, Maude's father William Woodworth arrived from the midwest when his parents made the move to California in 1886. The Woodworths had originally lived in Kenosha County, Wisconsin, but three years prior to their westward migration had settled in Sioux City, Iowa.

At the time of the move to California, William Woodworth was about nineteen years of age. As he was not the oldest, the question becomes: who else in the family accompanied their parents, Lafayette and Eliza Smith Woodworth, to California.

The only child besides William to make the move directly with his parents was the baby of the family and his father's namesake, then fourteen year old Lafayette Woodworth. In California, the junior Lafayette Woodworth married a fellow immigrant from the midwest, Olive Hostettler, and raised their four children in the vicinity of the southern California property where his parents settled.

As one might guess, oldest daughter Frances was already married to Charles Larabee and mother of three children long before her parents decided to leave for California. The web tightens when you realize that Frances' younger sister Emma was also married to a Larabee—Gilbert, whose father Eleazar was possibly older brother to Frances' husband Charles. With an "interwoven thicket" like that for a family tree, it wasn't likely that either Woodworth daughter would follow her parents to California.

Other than those two exceptions in the family, the rest of the surviving children of Lafayette and Eliza Woodworth did, indeed, follow in their parents' footsteps—but not all at once, and certainly not right away.

Second-born Woodworth daughter Mary married a man by the surname Vincent, taunting me with the possibility that his was the namesake of the street running by the property where the Woodworths settled in what eventually became the town of Covina. That, however, was not the case. In digging into this line further, it became clear that Mary and Lewis Vincent were married back in Wisconsin where their four children were born. It was not until the 1900 census that we find the couple in California, living next to one of their now-married sons.

Even later than his siblings was the arrival in California of Woodworth son Joel. According to his obituary, Joel's move from Sioux City, Iowa, preceded his death by barely six months. And the first sign I can find of remaining son Harvey Woodworth was not until well after the 1920 census, when he and his wife—by then, both well into their sixties—showed up in a Pomona city directory in 1928.

Tracing the Woodworth family from Wisconsin to Iowa and then, eventually for some, to southern California helped me see that some time frames do not quite follow the assumptions we might have about how families remove from one location to another. Digging into the history of the region helped reveal the story behind why so many people from the midwest during the 1880s might have made the decision to choose southern California as their life's destination.

We'll take a look at some of the resources I unearthed in the process of trying to answer the question of what made the Woodworths decide to move. The first stop, however, will be to explore what can be found online for the maps of that time period showing the names of local landowners. Spoiler: not finding the Woodworth name launched me into a search for a timeline regarding how—and when—people settled in the region which eventually became Covina, California.   

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...