James Hugh Paul, another Paul Family Tragedy

James Hugh Paul

James Hugh Paul

James Hugh Paul was born May 15, 1821, in Fayette County, Ohio. He was named after his grandfather and was called Hugh, instead of James. He was eighteen years old when his grandfathers household goods were auctioned off in Fayette County. Sometime during the next eight years he left Ohio and migrated to Illinois, along with many other members of the Paul family, including his father.

James Hugh Paul married Nancy Campbell Gillham on December 30, 1847, in Madison County, Illinois. She was 21 years old and he was 28. The Gillhams were a very prominent and well established family in Madison County.

James Hugh Paul and Nancy Campbell Gillham were married on December 30, 1847. Just three weeks later, on January 24, 1848, gold was discovered by James W. Marshall at Sutter’s Mill, in Coloma, California. News of the discovery soon spread, resulting in the ‘gold rush” of 1849 – 1850.

The newspapers of the time talked about gold nuggets lying around on the ground waiting to be picked up. It must have seemed like a wonderful opportunity to a young couple just starting out.

We don’t know how the gold mining went for James Hugh Paul. I haven’t found any letters or records of his time in California. All we have are the bare facts Nancy wrote in her bible as she listed, one by one, the birth and death of her children.

Name Born Died Place
Girl Child Aug 15, 1851 Oct 17, 1851 California
Boy Child Sept 17, 1852 Sept, 1852 California
Salitha Jane Feb 3, 1854 Fair Play, California
James Ryderus Jan 26, 1857 Fair Play, California
John Henry October 23, 1858 Madison County, IL
Madora Ellen April 10, 1860 Madison County, IL
Hughanna April 8, 1862 Madison County, IL

The time in California must have been heart wrenching for Nancy Paul. She  nursed and cared for two babies for a month or two, then had to watch them die. I haven’t been able to find anything to show why these babies didn’t make it. Conditions in the gold camps were harsh, but many other families had children who thrived.

From the birth records we can see that the family returned to Illinois sometime between January 26, 1857 and October 23, 1858.  They settled in Madison County near Nancy’s family.  The 1860 census shows them living on a 65 acre farm near Edwardsville, Ill. They had four horses and two cows and had raised a good crop of corn that year.

James Hugh Paul died June 19, 1862 when he was only forty-one years old. He left Nancy with five young children. Hughanna was only two months old. Two years later, on Christmas Day, 1864, James Ryderus died at the age of seven. Less than a year later, on November 12, 1866, Nancy Paul died. The remaining four children were orphans.

The children were split up and taken in by different family members. Hughanna, the baby, died September 25, 1868 when she was six years old. Salitha and Madora were raised by their uncle Henry Paul and his wife Catherine. They already had three sons, but no daughters.

John Henry Paul, my grandfather, was eleven,  old enough to work. I wrote about him last year: John Henry Paul.

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2 Responses to James Hugh Paul, another Paul Family Tragedy

  1. Jacqui says:

    Families in the past seemed often to struggle with few of the happinesses and rights we think are inalienable. This is an interesting post, to dig into your background.

  2. Thanks. I am torn between family history research and novel writing. I think my next project must be a novel based on family history.

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