My 41st entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks family history blogging challenge.
The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.
I am still playing catch up, from being quite sick much of this year.
My 41st ancestor is my husband Jeff’s 3rd great grandmother, Margaret Gann (1830-1919). Margaret was married to Miles Washington Harless (1826-1891), and was mother to Jeff’s 2nd great grandfather Leonard Jackson Harless (1858-1946). This is the family that emigrated from Missouri to California via the old emigrant road, traveling over Ebbetts Pass in the high Sierras in the summer of 1858 when Leonard was an infant.
Following our stop in French Camp (aka Castoria) to check out the locality where Margaret and Miles lived at the time of the 1860 US Census, Jeff and I headed back up Highway 4 to our next Gann-Harless family history stop, in search of 26 Mile House in Stanislaus County. By 1870 the family had relocated from French Camp, backtracking east to North Township in Stanislaus County, which was served by the 26 Mile House post office.
The family is recorded on pages one and two of the census, taken 27 July 1870.
- Miles: head, 41 years old, born in Kentucky, farmer (real estate value $1,000)
- Margaret: wife, 39 years old, born in Tennessee, keeps house
- Sarah: daughter, 18 years old, born in Missouri
- Martha: daughter, 16 years old, born in Missouri
- Leonard: son, 11 years old, born in Nebraska
- Nancy: daughter, 8 years old, born in California
- Francis: daughter, 6 years old, born in California
- Mary: daughter, 5 years old, born in California
- Harriet: daughter, 1 year old, born in California
When I first came across this census, I couldn’t find a modern day town or community named North Township in that area or good references to a town or city that previously went by that name. The term “26 Mile House” is a bit more distinct though, so I started searching for references to that location. All hits described it as a post office and stage coach stop, located 26 miles east of Stockton along the Stockton to Sonora stage coach route.
Have you ever wondered how or why a road or place got its name? In the case of 26-Mile and 28-Mile roads, located north of Oakdale, some believe it to be a reference to their length. This is somewhat true, but not as you might imagine. They originated as stage stops along Sonora Road, which ran eastward from Stockton to Sonora. Simply stated, 26-Mile House was located 26 miles from Stockton; the first stage stop that lay inside the present Stanislaus County line. It was located on the north bank of Little John’s Creek (also known as Johnny Creek) just west of present day 26-Mile Road and Sonora Road. (Source: Oakdale Museum & History Center)
That 26 Mile House post office referenced on the census had just been established on 2 May 1870 (less than 3 months prior), when the settlement was at its peak. It was relocated to the nearby settlement of 28 Mile House (now Eugene) in 1894, and the to the town of Farmington (which still exists today) in 1930.
The Autumn 2012 issue of the Stanislaus Historical Quarterly explains that this area, known as the Northeast Triangle Annexation Area was annexed by Stanislaus County in 1860 from San Joaquin County. Newly named North Township (our census district) used to be Emory Township prior to the annexation, and was also referred to as North Precinct. This annexed area extended north, including one mile of the Calaveras River.
At 26 Mile House and 28 Mile House, “stage line horses were changed, and travelers rested, ate, and refreshed themselves” (pg. 417). In the mid 1890s, a fire destroyed the roadhouse and tavern at 26 Mile House, causing residents and businesses — especially after losing the post office too — to abandon the settlement and move to 28 Mile House. 28 Mile House, located at the junction of the Stockton-Sonora Road and Milton Road, was founded in 1850 and changed its name to Eugene in 1890 (pg. 418).
This information helps put the 1870 residence of our Harless ancestors in context. While the census record does not record an actual address to pinpoint the exact location of their home, it does tell us that they lived in this newly annexed Northeast Triangle Annexation Area. And a check on Google Maps shows that Sonora Road, 26 Mile Road, 28 Mile Road, Milton Road, and the town of Farmington all still exist.
So, that was enough incentive for us! These spots got added on to our Harless family history San Joaquin Valley road trip itinerary.
The next stops after French Camp.
Again, like French Camp, it was a bit disappointing to not find much in the way of 1870s-era historical structures still standing (well, to be fair, not even contemporary structures). But driving through this area still helped us get a feel for what life may have been like for our Harless ancestors at that time. Unlike French Camp, though, we had no expectations ahead of time (from a big fancy chamber of commerce sign) that there would even be anything here.
Genealogy SnapshotName: Gann, Margaret (1830-1919)
Parents: William Gann and Leah Gann
Spouse: Miles Washington Harless
Surnames: Broyles, Gann
Relationship to CJRoots: 3rd Great Grandmothr
Genealogy SnapshotName: Harless, Miles Washington (1826-1891)
Parents: Joseph Harless and Frances Duncan
Spouse: Margaret Gann
Surnames: Adkins, Duncan, Harless, Hoffman, Lingel, Preiss
Relationship to CJRoots: 3rd Great Grandfather