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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

California, Here I Come - Part 1

When I was about 4 1/2 years old, we made the trek back to California from Ohio where we'd been living for about 4 years while my father completed his MBA at the University of Dayton.  We had moved out to Ohio when I was six months old.  I recall my mother singing the song repeatedly, "California, here I come, right back where I started from, open up your Golden Gates, California, here I come!", during our trip back to the golden state.  She was so ready to be back home away from the snow and cold winters, and also away from the hot, humid summers in tornado alley.  For a California girl from Napa, Ohio weather just was not so appealing, inviting or anything that she was accustomed to.

Witnessing my mother's experience with the weather in the Midwest, has made me wonder if that is what drew many of my ancestors West, specifically ending up in Napa, California.  Was the weather just a fringe benefit?  How much do I know about why my ancestors came to the West?

When it comes to Thomas McLaughlin and Ellen Maxwell (two of my great great grandparents), I can only assume that they moved west in search of land.  There could have been another draw and that was gold. The California Gold Rush spanned 1848 to 1855.  That, of course, did not mean people stopped looking for gold by 1855.  Let's just say that people were still hopeful and looking in other places like nearby Nevada. 

Based on what I can discern, the McLaughlin's left Newport, New York, in 1869-70, to make their own way in the world.  They likely ended up in Austin, Nevada because they wanted land to farm.  Based on my research, it would appear that was not the only reason why they stopped there.  Others from the Irish Settlement in Newport, New York, appear to have made their way to Austin.  Were my great great grandparents some of the first of their community back in Newport, New York, to take up stakes in this area of Lander County, Nevada?  Other McLaughlin's and those from the Irish Settlement in Newport definitely followed.  It is high desert there with some hilly and mountainous terrain so mining was definitely an endeavor of some in that location too.

I do have the exact coordinates on a map of the land that Thomas and Ellen McLaughlin owned near Austin, Lander County, Nevada.  My grandfather, Richard Flanagan, held onto these coordinates and a photocopied map for years.  I still have the documents today.  By at least the end of 1885, Thomas had sold his land in Lander County and his house in Austin, Nevada.  It was time to move on.

As you can imagine, the weather in Newport, New York, located upstate in Herkimer County, is very cold and snowy in the winter.  I can imagine that may be why people left the Irish Settlement and moved West.....well, maybe.  There was probably no land left to claim ownership of by 1870 which is a more likely reason.  Now, why did Thomas and Ellen (Maxwell) McLaughlin leave Austin, Nevada?  It would appear that by 1886, they had enough of the high desert.  The wind alone in this part of the state can really get old.  The high desert presents very dry conditions all year long whether it is hot or cold.  It can make farming extremely difficult, if almost impossible.  I can only assume that the weather and farming conditions played a huge role in my great great grandparents deciding to move on....And move on they did.

How the McLaughlin's moved on into California is no real secret.  They certainly traversed the Sierra Nevada mountain pass possibly over Donner Summit traveling through Sacramento and onto Napa, California.  I am still left wondering how Napa landed on their radar.  Thank goodness it did because that is why I am here today.

To be continued.........

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