Louise Diver, a family genealogist, has agreed to share an article she wrote about her quest to discover more information about one of her Lawrence County ancestor’s.
Louise continues her story from yesterday about searching for Sandy Sumner
Nancy was with him (her husband, Sandy Sumner) in the vicinity of Placerville (CA) as they added three daughters to the household: Jane (December 2, 1852); Martha L (February 26, 1854); and Cynthia May (April 22, 1855).
By the following year, 1856, Sandy and Nancy and their brood had moved to Goldfields near Sacramento, only 35 or 40 miles from Placerville. Here, three more children arrived: Rebecca Maude in 1856 (July 29); George Gilbert in 1858 (January 22); and Louis Sylvester in 1859 (May 29).
Within a couple more years they were settled in Atascadero, in San Luis Obispo County, where they broke the routine of three children to a place. Here they added FOUR! Julie Ann (March 31, 1861; Venetia Ann (November 22, 1863); Sandy Burus (August 12, 1864) and Mary E Sumner (April 23, 1866).
It must have been mind boggling for them, if they had time to think about it at all, that the Union and Confederate forces were killing each other in the eastern parts of the hardly “United” States. Lincoln had been assassinated and a new president was in office, Andrew Johnson, a Tennessean. Since their marriage in 1847, there had been seven presidents!
And those golden, grassy California hills where they lived, how unlike the dark and rich farm ground, woods and streams of the Wabash Valley the Sumners had left in Illinois. My hostess, Wendi lived in these California hills outside Santa Margarita, less than 10 miles from Atascadero.
As we riffled through charts and maps, Wendi talked about her great, great, grandfather. Sandy was killed in a buggy accident when he came down the hill, not far away, near San Luis Obispo. He had a farm there and Wendi knew where the millstone was that he used. She gave me directions to his grave in the International Order of Odd Fellows Cemetery in San Luis Obispo. Sandy’s wife, their son and his wife were buried there too, she said.
Wendi had that enthusiasm which made me think that if I went to the cemetery, I would see one or two of my ancestors and could ask them questions. I wrote down her directions to the graves.
A few years later I was driving up the California coast with my late brother Joe and his wife. We stayed in San Luis Obispo so they could see the Madonna Inn. At least that’s what I told them. But, early in the morning, while they were still sleeping, I dressed, took Wendi’s directions and drove to the IOOF burying grounds.
No one was there when I started racing from grave to grave through the dewey grass, searching and searching. Soon, a lone jogger came along and asked if I had lost something, could he help. I explained for whom I was looking. He joined me in the futile search. We found no Sumner headstones.
What I did find, about a day and a half and 400 miles later, was that I had acquired an army of six- legged mites called chiggers, worse than those from Illinois blackberry patches. It would be hard to forget that cemetery.
And I didn’t. In 1985, I lunched again with Wendi. I told her of my disappointment. We hurried through our sandwiches and drove to the cemetery. There they were, the graves of Sandy, Nancy, their son, Sandy Burus and Emma his wife. In the earlier directions, Wendi designated as a “road” what I considered a path. That must have been my last visit with Wendi.
Ever after when I drove across country I wondered silently about those 49ers – and other pioneers.
There are so many questions I would like to ask Uncle Sandy. Who traveled with you from Lawrence County? How did you travel, what route? Did Indian stalk your caravan any time? Did you know about those other folks from Illinois the Donner party? How did you tolerate the extremes of weather? What happened to your young brother after you reached Placerville? And, Nancy, how did you bear and care for all those children under such primitive conditions?
(Ed Note: Thanks to Louise for sharing this with us.)