During my research I have come across several conflicting stories about Joe’s early life. Several of these odd-ball tales came out of the woodwork in various obituaries but a handful surfaced while he was still alive. The range of stories are as follows:
• Joe was born in 1848 in Boston
• He was born in Illinois
• His family was attacked by Indians while traveling to California
• Joe grew up in California amid the 1849 Gold Rush
• As a young boy the family moved to Wisconsin where his father was an Indian trader
• While living in Wisconsin his parents allowed him to live with some nearby Indians
Most of these can be seen as a stretch of the truth, a minor error in time, or as with the Illinois reference the family probably traveled through the state on their way to Wisconsin. But the California connections always confused me. There was no evidence that anyone, especially Joe’s parents, ever made it out to California. Where did those links come from?
They came from Joe’s maternal grandfather, Bevier Depuy! Traveling nearly 3000 miles from Sullivan County, New York to northern California in late 1849 or early 1850, this blacksmith tried his hand at mining in the area of Sonora, Tuolumne, California. The 59 year-old saw opportunity and took a chance, just like the tens of thousands of other people from around the world. Like most men who sought easy riches in gold, Bevier probably didn’t have much success and soon returned to blacksmithing. Rather than return to New York, he decided to make a life with his second wife and three children amongst the gold fields. He remained in town of Shaws Flat outside of Sonora until his death in 1865.
While there is still more research to be done to expand on Bevier’s life and adventures, the 1849 Gold Rush connection has been solved!