One of those mysteries deals with one of my Stout ancestors and whether or not he went to California with his two older brothers. Joseph and Susannah Stout had seven children: William, Reuben, Peter, Edward, Margaret Ann, Sarah Ann and Alexander (based upon Reuben's biography and the censuses of 1850 and 1860). According to Reuben Stout's biography, Reuben and his brother William went to California in the mid-1850s. All that Reuben Stout's biography says about that trip is that he engaged in mining (which type, I'm not sure) and was successful. In addition, Reuben's biography mentions that his brother, William, was thirty-two when he died in California. Unfortunately, the biography does not give a date or place of death and neither states where Reuben engaged in mining. Although, I don't know exactly when William died, I'm guessing that he died sometime between 1860 and 1863 based upon his age in the 1850 census. In the 1850 census, William's age was given as twenty years old.
When I first read Reuben's biography, I believed that only Reuben and William went since they were not with the rest of the family in the 1860 Census. Peter, of course was listed as living at home with his parents, so I assumed that he had stayed in Michigan, that is until I started to do research in Saint Joseph County, Michigan's deed records. As I was going through the grantor and grantee indexes to the deeds (both grantors and grantees were listed in the same book index for that time period, which made looking for deeds even more difficult), I came across a deed made between a Charles A. Lawrence and Peter Stout. Obviously, it was not surprising to me that the land Peter Stout was buying was in Saint Joseph County; what was surprising to me, was that the deed had been written out in Nevada County, California and sent to the Saint Joseph County's Recorder Office. In addition, Peter Stout was listed as a resident of Orleans Flat, Nevada County, California. Up until that point, I had no idea that Peter might have gone to California or where the Stout brothers might have done mining in California. I forget when exactly the deed was created because I don't have it in front of me, but I do remember it being created somewhere between 1857 and 1859, since I was impressed by how close the time was to the 1860 Census.
Needless to say, this piece of information has left me in a little bit of a quandary, since Peter was back in Michigan by 1860 and the deed, as I mentioned before, was created only within a couple of years before the census. This has left me wondering: did my ancestor, Peter, go to California with his brothers? I did check the 1860 census to see if there were other Peter Stouts living; however, none of the Peter Stouts listed in the 1860 census resided close enough to California to rule out the possibility that my ancestor was the one who bought the land. At the moment, I believe that the Peter Stout on the deed is my ancestor since the deed was dealing with a parcel of land that was in the same area roughly where other family members lived. Other than that deed, I do not have any further proof that my ancestor was in California. His brother's biography does not mention who exactly went to California, other than to state that William died somewhere in California.
So far, what I have written about seems fairly straight-forward; however, there are some problems with a few of my sources that makes this mystery a little bit more complicated.
The first source that I have problems with is Reuben's biography. Many of the dates in his biography, especially the deaths of his parents, are incorrect when checked against sources that are more contemporary to the dates. For example, Joseph Stout's probate packet, his and Susannah's death records and the joint tombstone for Joseph and Susannah all confirm that both Joseph and Susannah died later than published in Reuben's biography. So, the problem for me is that I don't know how much I should believe Reuben's account. There is information in his biography that I have yet not confirmed or unconfirmed , but many of the dates in the biography do not add up. In addition, Reuben's biography incorrectly state when his father bought his land and the location of the land.
The second source I have problems with is the 1860 census. The problem that I have is that I have not been able to find William or Reuben in California or in the 1860 census. If I had been able to find either one of them, I would have a better idea of where to look for records in California. So far, I only have a deed that suggests a possible location and in my eyes, this information is weak at best.
A third source that I have problems is with two deeds that deal with land in Saint Joseph County, Michigan. I have already mentioned about the deed made out in California, but in 1864, Peter Stout sold a parcel of land that was in Saint Joseph County. At first it appears as though the two deeds are related, and they might be, except that the locations for the parcel are do not match with the older deed. It is very possible that the California office wrote down the lot number incorrectly and that this is the same lot of parcel; however, if this deed is for another parcel of land, I have not yet found a deed where Peter Stout bought this land. At the risk of appearing stupid, I definitely need to go back to the Saint Joseph County, Michigan's Recorder of Deeds office and go through the deeds again.
I have not yet done research into California records primarily because I'm not familiar with California records for this time period. I'm familiar with Michigan records for this time period, but in California, I don't know what type of records were made during the Gold Rush Era or around it, since the events in this mystery occur around that time. In addition, I don't know if the Stout brothers travelled overland or by boat to California. If they travelled overland, would any records exist as to whether or not lists were kept of those who came into California from the east?
While I was writing this post, several questions came to my mind. If Reuben was doing so well at mining in California, why did he return to Michigan? Did he leave California as a result of his brother's death. When and how did William die? Did William die in a mining accident? Was William involved in mining, and was he successful as well? I suspect I will find the answers to some of the questions as I do research into California records.
Does anyone have any suggestions as to where I need to look? Any advice or ideas is welcome. Thanks.
(Unfortunately, I don't have my sources with me at the moment, but I'll try to put down as much information as I can remember about my sources. I can't guarantee the complete accuracy because my sources are at home and not up at school with me.)
- Lockport Township, St. Joseph County, Michigan, 1850 U. S. Federal Census
- Florence Township, St. Joseph County, Michigan, 1860 U. S. Federal Census
- "Reuben Stout," Portrait and Biographical Album of Saint Joseph County, Michigan. (Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1889), 347-348.
- Probate Packet of Joseph Stout, Saint Joseph County, Michigan Probate Office
- Deed record of Charles A. Lawrence to Peter Stout, Saint Joseph County, Michigan Recorder of Deeds Office.
- Deed of Peter Stout selling a parcel of land, about 1864, Saint Joseph County, Michigan Recorder of Deeds Office.
- Tombstone of Joseph and Susannah Stout, Calhoun Cemetery, Florence Township, Saint Joseph County, Michigan.
- Death registrations of Joseph and Susannah Stout, Saint Joseph County, Michigan, Book One, page 85.