Friday, January 18, 2008

Meet the Ancestors - Samuel Sawyer Thompson and Margaret McKamy Thompson

Samuel Sawyer Thompson and Margaret McKamy Thompson were among the early arrivals in El Monte, October 22, 1852. He was a Los Angeles County Supervisor in 1854 and an El Monte justice of the peace in 1861. They have twenty-three descendants buried in the cemetery and many living descendants, including the new board president, Eric Chase. This is the family story of their trip west, dictated by their daughter, Mary McKamy Thompson Cunningham Wyatt (1839-1915) to her granddaughter Eva May Chase Akers.

“Wishing to go west, Samuel Thompson and his wife built a large flatboat and with all their goods floated down the Tennessee River into the Ohio and into the Mississippi River down to the Red River in Louisiana up which they floated and paddled to Shreveport, Louisiana, where they lived. They journeyed about in Louisiana and up to Fort Smith, Arkansas. They went on to St. Augustine, Texas, where their child Mary was born January 28, 1839. At last they went to Bonham, Texas, where they helped form a train of 27 wagons which left Bonham April 10, 1852, to go to the goldfields of California. They went southwest through El Paso, down into Mexico and west through Arizona and Ft. Yuma. On October 22, 1852, they reached El Monte. Due to typhoid fever in his family, S.S. Thompson bought a house and remained in El Monte and a wagon train went on north to gold.”

Their household in California included two young African-American girls, Amelia and Paulina, born in 1847 and 1851 respectively. This story of their presence comes from Martha Russell, another great-granddaughter of the Thompsons: “I’ve always heard that the S.S. Thompsons had slaves and that he didn’t believe in slavery so when he started west he gave them up. The mother of the 2 girls begged him to take them with him for she said they would only live the life of slaves if they stayed behind. They were with the family when they lived on the ranch in Rivera.” One of the girls reportedly became a leading midwife in Los Angeles.

Submitted by David W. Hassler,
another one of their great-great-great grandchildren
From the March 2007 issue of El Monte Cemetery Association Newsletter

Meet the Ancestors - Benjamin Franklin Maxson

Benjamin Franklin Maxson was born in Friendship, New York, in 1841. In his early twenties he served with the Wisconsin Infantry in the Civil War. On June 7, 1867, the day after his twenty-sixth birthday, he bid adieu to family and friends and began his journey to California to gain for himself “a competence and to aid in establishing a permanent fund for educational purposes.”

His journey began in New York, two years prior to the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad. New York city was “rainy and muddy” upon his arrival on the morning of June 8, 1867, but he visited Barnum’s Museum and in the evening he saw America’s first blockbuster musical, The Black Crook. On June 10th he boarded the San Francisco and sailed out to sea. He wrote about the many sea sick passengers during the first several days, as well as the large schools of porpoises and flying fish, and the pleasant feeling of seeing islands such as Cuba and Santo Domingo.

After ten days the San Francisco dropped anchor in the bay near Greytown (San Juan del Norte),Nicaragua, and passengers boarded river boats without landing and began the trip up the San Juan river. Here the natives approached, offering oranges, bananas, pol cakes, rum, wine, etc. Maxson wrote that the tropical scenery was the most beautiful he had ever beheld. “Such rare plants! . . . The clinging vines decked with beautiful flowers forming natural arbors which far surpass any which I have ever seen constructed by the hand of man.” The exotic fauna, the historic ruins of El Castillo, as well as the geology were equally impressive.

This route across Central America followed the San Juan between Nicaragua and Costs Rica by boats, horses and mules, hikes around rapids and sand bars, to Lake Nicaragua, then by boat to La Virgen and overland by mules, horses or carriages to San Juan Del Sur, where Benjamin arrived on June 23, 1867. From there he boarded the steamship America and headed for San Francisco. With sightings of whales and one false fire alarm, the voyage was “rather pleasant”.

On July 6 he wrote that he was in San Francisco, “thank goodness,” put up at the International Hotel. He explored the city, went to Prospect Hill for a bird’s eye view, and to “the Chinese portion to observe their customs and dress.” On July 8 he went aboard a river steamer and started to Sacramento. The “evening pleasant, country
fine and rolling and middling. Thickly settled. Wheat and oats in the sheath ready for gathering. Large droves of cattle . . . feeding in the valleys and on hillside. Arrived at Sacramento next morning after being stuck for two hours on a sand bar.” He stayed at the What Cheer House, now a landmark in Old Sacramento, then camped at Richmond Grove while “fitting out for the mountains.”

The portion of his journal to which this article refers ends at this point. He later farmed in Colusa, then Tustin and El Monte, being among the first commercial walnut growers in that area. He was an early member of the Lexington Lodge (El Monte Masons) and was a trustee on the Mountain View School Board. El Monte’s Maxson Road and Maxson School were named in his honor. He died in 1899. He and his wife, Olive (Merwin) are interred at Savannah.

Submitted by Reed B. Maxson, great-grandson
From the Journal of Benjamin Franklin Maxson

Meet the Ancestors - The Jesse B. Blue Family

Jesse B. Blue, Sr. was born in 1892 and served as a member of the 330 Unit of the Ohio National Guard in 1916. On June 22, 1918 his unit arrived in France to fight World War I. At the end of the war in 1919 he returned home to Ohio as a Major.
For health reasons his doctor suggested he leave Ohio and come to California. In 1924 Jesse and his wife, Pansy and two children; Burl age six and Barbara age four moved to El Monte. The Blue family bought a lot in the Savannah area between El Monte and Rosemead where they built their family home. The family soon grew with the addition of three more daughters; Katie, Annebel and Alyce.

Jesse (J.B.) Blue became active in the development of the Rosemead area as a realtor; he served on the local school board for many years and helped to organize the local Chamber of Commerce, where he served as President for several terms. Pansy M. Blue passed away in 1932 and Jesse B. Blue, Sr. passed away in 1963. Both are buried near the “Magnificent Camphor Tree” in Savannah Memorial Park.

Submitted by Burl Blue, son of Jesse B. Blue
Source: The City of Rosemead - An Historical Sketchbook
1959 - 1984 Silver Anniversary Edition

From the September 2007 edition of the
Savannah Update, El Monte Cemetery Association