When I first started my family research I never thought I would be re-learning history. I was a horrible history student. In fact, I still dont think I could name all the states in North America. I needed more clues. After I found all the easy stuff no one was alive to tell me where to look for the hard stuff. So I started with mass migrations. And for one reason or another all my families moved to California.
My families had all moved to California in the early 1850’s and early 1900’s. And I had some clues from where with death certificates and family stories. One jumped ship in San Francisco and stayed. A couple moved from New York by way of the Panama Canal when gold was found. One rode a covered wagon from Oklahoma to Los Angeles and worked as itenerate farmers until landing in Lincoln Ca. Some moved west to Washington and than south to California. But I think the most romantic was a story of romance. Olive Lillian Barber wrapped bandages to send to WWI American forces in France and put her name and address in one. Charles Arthur Hays got the bandage, came back from France after the end of the war and occupation, they were married in new york and moved to Clovis Ca.
The mass migration from the California Gold Rush was easy to understand. There was opportunity. One of my families lost its patriarch comming through Panama. Charles Gurn caught feaver and is burried near some creek on the Pacific Ocean side of the Americas. Others split away from families stayed and never looked back. But, the hardest for me to track was Perry Hays, the father of the WWI hero mentioned above. I needed Perry’s story to connect back to the others in his family. For three years it was a dead end. I would switch back and forth researching families, but every time I touched this one it would stop in Clovis California at about 1900. I started to try to put myself in his shoes. His son was born in Washington in 1895. The family story is that his wife, Laura Jane Foster, was to wed someone else and her father refused, so she ended up marrying him. After two children, he said that he had enough, put all the change in his pocket on the table and left.
So, why? Why go through all that, move so many places, and give up? This story was also a story of opportunity, but not for Perry. The Hays clan owned alot of land in Missouri. Many of our ancestors moved for better conditions. When those stories failed, some moved back, some stayed and persisted. I think Perry just plain gave up.
So what opportunities would take a man from Missouri, to Washington, to California? And one day it occured to me. The Rail Roads! I had to learn the history of rail roads to understand the movement. But most of the large rail lines had already been built. Why was this an opportunity for Perry? Sure enough though, most every stop was at the beginning or end of construction of a rail line. Perry Hays wife’s family ran lumber mills. The mills were necessary to build the rail lines and the buildings a booming America craved. Local trunk lines were still big business. Now it was going to be a race.
Clovis was started in 1890 as a freight stop for the San Joaquin Valley Rail Road. Logical – the Foster’s showed up around 1900 with our very young WWI hero in tow and one of the primary business’ around Clovis in that early time was lumber. Now we know why they went to California. Why did they leave Washington?
Rosalia finally got a rail line. In 1886 the Palouse branch of the Northern Pacific Rail Road reached Rosalia. I knew from Federal Census that the Fosters were in Missouri in 1880, but there was no trace of them in Washington and than I found an online source for Washington deaths. In 1894 Thomas Hays passed in south east Washington. His place of residence is listed as 4 miles north east of Latah. His death certificate is much like Perry Hays death certificate. They knew his name and that was about it. The evidence would indicate that the Hays Clan followed the Foster Clan. The Fosters out of opportunity and the Hays making opportunity when they arrived. Laura Jane Foster Hays followed her father from Missouri, to Washington, to California.
Finding this connection is what started my search for Thomas Hays and almost instantly to my ancestors back to 1804 in South Carolina and East Tennessee.