My 2x great paternal grandfather was Joseph Putnam. The “family story” was told about his son at about five or six years of age walking across the Isthmus of Panama with his family, where they then caught a steam ship up the coast to San Francisco. That should have been between 1857-59. When my sister decided to help with the research she took the paternal (Putnam) line and I kept the maternal (Dougherty) line. As a result most of this research is hers. For about 20 years Joseph became our brick wall. We were at the time unable to spend a lot of time doing our research, we both were busy with our careers. I had trouble finding where Joseph Putnam was originally born, but I had been able to trace him back to where he married Mary Ann Fletcher 28 May 1848 in Cambridge, Mass.
The 1850 census shows Mary Ann Putnam in her parents household (Benjamin Fletcher) with a daughter, Mary E. Putnam (3).
The age of Mary Ann Putnam is mixed up with her mothers age ( her mother Mary Ann Fletcher is shown as 20 and she is shown as 45). Mary E Putnam was actually shown in the Cambridge vital records as born 16 July 1848.
From our research at the California State Archives we know that Joseph Putnam came to California During the Gold rush. Gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma, Eldorado county, California on the American River, 24 January 1948. From a list in the Illustrated History of San Joaquin County published in 1890 there is a list (see below) of arrivals of San Joaquin County citizens to the county.
It shows a Joseph Putnam, native of Vermont, arrived July 1849 by way of the Cape Horn (sailing around the Cape) on the vessel “Pharsalla”. In this list you can see if you are a native of an east coast state you would most likely travel by sea around the Cape or take a ship to Panama, cross the Isthmus and then take another ship up to San Francisco. Mid Westerners most often took the Overland trail. The Railroad had not as yet connected the east coast with the west coast. This was a great migration to the west coast by dangerous means of transportation, your choice.
In another account we found the story of Joseph Putnam landing in San Francisco and then taking a Row boat through the delta and up the Mokelumne River to the gold fields. Since having read that account I’ve thought that would be quite the adventure to reenact his journey today. The Bay at San Francisco would have been filled with sailing ships and steam ships. No Bridges and during the winter a very soggy trip to the mining camps.The best time for traveling would have been in the summer once the spring run off had died down and the ground in the valleys had dried out, remember no dams on the rivers controlling the waters coming off the mountains from the snow thaw.
Joseph and Mary Ann Putnam’s second child Joseph F. Putnam is born on 18 May 1852 in Cambridge. That means that Joseph had returned to his wife and child sometime by Sept 1951. He is not in Massachusetts in the 1850 census nor is he in San Joaquin county with his friend, and later business partner/neighbor Edwin Whipple. From later Biographical Records of the San Joaquin Valley, California we know that Mary Ann and at least Joseph came about 1859 by way of Panama.
From this account Joseph was a miner in Calaveras and Amador counties, then went into the mercantile business in Volcano and later located on the Mokelumne river in San Joaquin county.
In 1851 another account on the History of San Joaquin county has “Edwin Whipple and Joseph Putnam located the New England ranch”. Yet another account state “A farm of 320 acres was located in 1851 by Messrs. Putnam, Howard, and Whipple.”
There was a 1852 California Census after statehood that shows Edwin Whipple in Elliott Township but no Putnam.
From a newspaper clipping 19 November 1859 at the board of Supervisors meeting for San Joaquin County, Joseph Putnam was appointed road overseer for District 8, for one year.
In the 1860 US Census, Elliott Township we find Joseph Putnam (36) farmer, Mary A. (30), Mary E. (11), Joseph F. (7) and Lucy E. (4 mos.)
17 November 1862 a deed in the county of San Joaquin between David Howard and Joseph Putnam for the sum of one dollar and other consideration “being a part of section thirteen, township four North, range eight East and described as follows commencing……… containing 43.74 acres” was recorded by Jos. Putnam. Also the following record was recorded directly below between Edwin Whipple and Jos. Putnam on the 17 November 1862 for the sum of one dollar and other considerations “being part of Section twelve, township four North, range eight East and described as follows commencing ……”
The 1870 US census shows a much larger family. Joseph Putnam (47) is listed as a Farmer with a real estate valve as 5000 and a personal estate valve of 1000. Joseph is shown in this census as being born in New Hampshire. His wife Mary (40) keeping house was born in Mass. The next 6 children are all born in California starting with Lucy (10), Willie (8), Ben (6), Ed (5), Mary (3) and Lena (2). Nellie (Mary E.) born in Massachusetts is now 22 and listed as a Domt. Servant while Joseph (17) is a farm laborer. They have a cook Ah Hoo born in China and two farm laborers both born in Indiana a Jos. Homb (40) and H. Sutton (27).
10 October 1874 Joseph won a Special Premium at the San Joaquin County Fair for his bale of Hops plus special mention of watermelons and squashes, as reported in the San Francisco Bulletin Vol:39, Issue:3, Page 1 from genealogybank.com
On 21 December 1876 Benjamin F. Putnam died at 13 years of Age and then nine days later Laura Putnam dies at 8 years. Both were buried in the Family Plot in Clements, California.
There is a land record for Joseph Booth dated 30 January 1880 Acquired Military Scrip Warrant Patent for Parcel 004N, Range 008E, Section 12. In San Joaquin, California Meridian or Watershed: MD. What are military scrip warrants? Since you can ‘google’ anything, I looked up “Military Scrip Warrant Patent”. This is scrip that had been issued to veterans of the War of 1812 (or to their heirs) for volunteering. They were to be awarded 160 acres of land. But this is so much later, and in nothing I read did they talk about land in California. If anyone has further information on this I would love to hear from you.
Back to Joseph’s Story. I found a newspaper article at genealogybank.com from the San Francisco Bulletin dated Wednesday April 14, 1880, (Volume: 1, Issue:6, Page:2) that reports on a Superior Court Action , “New suits have been instituted in the General Departments of the Superior Court as follows: B. Von Ammon against Joseph Putnam, to recover $3,500. damages on a guarantee by defendant that an invoice of hops were in good condition for shipment to England, which goods proved worthless on reaching their destination.”
In 1891 the Stockton City Directory for Clements lists a Joseph Putnam, farmer.
23 June 1894 Joseph Putnam died in Clements, San Joaquin county, California at 71 years of age.
Madeleine and I took these photo’s when we visited there in 1993. Madeleine, I still have that tee shirt. Thanks for all your hard sleuthing on Joseph.
Well that was not the complete history of Joseph. If you have stuck with me you are probably wondering about his early years. Joseph was the 12th child born to Timothy (3) Putnam and Betsy Hall on 13th April 1823 in Ludlow, Vermont. Joseph’s mother (Betsy) dies 27 August 1833 and then just six months later his father Timothy (3) Putnam died 13 February 1834. Joseph is almost 11 and is sent to live with is grandfather Timothy (2) Putnam in Charlestown New Hampshire who dies the following year in 1835 (date unknown) from there he is sent to an Uncle (may have been another Joseph Putnam) where we presume he stayed until moving to Massachusetts. New Hampshire is where Edwin Whipple was born and raised and where we assumed Joseph met his future partner and neighbor. Life was certainly difficult for young Joseph. I can not imagine what it must have been like to lose so much in just three years. There are still lots of little unanswered questions but that is enough for this blog.
Next weeks blog will be on Phillip Henry Bender from Germany to Russia to America.