Biographies


 

William Price began in
Clay County, Ky.

 


THE PRICE FAMILY OF SONORA, TUOLUMNE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA

WILLIAM LUTHER PRICE, Patriarch

by Sue Rydberg Canavan copyright 2006

 

I imagine my great grandfather, Bill Price, as a teenager in the hills of southeastern Kentucky, hearing the news of California Gold and wishing that it could be his destiny. William Luther Price was nearly 14 years old when that word reached the people of Clay Co. He would follow a long family tradition of pioneering and adventure to make this wish come true.

 

Bill, born 24 April 1835,  was the fifth of ten children of Gabriel Winters Price and Eliza Ann Garrard. They had been married in Clay Co. Kentucky in 1824 and lived in Manchester, Clay Co. most of their lives except for the few years when Gabriel was given the job to help create the town of London. This was the county seat of Laurel Co. which Eliza’s father had a hand in creating.  William Luther Price was born in London but grew up in Manchester which, during this time, was given the title “The Athens of the West”. Gabriel and Eliza Ann would see four of their seven sons head west for the promise and the challenge of the new golden frontier.

 Bill's family home, Clay County, Ky.

This is Bill’s family, when he was 15, as shown in the 1850 census. Other siblings, at this time, include brother, Daniel Garrard Price, who had been murdered in March of that year, a brother, James T., who was already in California, and a sister, Lucinda Jane Price, who was in nearby Owsley Co. KY with her husband, James Slaughter. [His brother, Gabriel W. Jr. was born in 1852.]

1850 US CENSUS KY Clay Co.

                20 Sept. 1850 Microfilm T 6 Roll 110 Bottom of P. 307 aka 154. Dwelling 777976.9145 X28w

                PRICE, G. W.                      age 49              b. KY {abt 1801}                Brick man 

                Eliza A.                                        age 41              b.KY (abt 1809)

                Robert                                          age 16              b. KY (abt 1834)

                William                                         age 15              b. KY (April  1835]      

                Martha                                          age 12              b. KY (March 1838)

                       Edward(sic Edmond)                 age 10              b. KY (abt 1840)

                Ann M.                                         age 7                b. KY (July 1843)

                Theophilus                            age 1                b. KY [Jan 1848]

Bill watched, maybe with envy, as gold fever captured the imagination of many men. His mother’s brothers, Theophilus Toulmin [T. T.] Garrard and William Mountjoy Garrard,  and two of his own brothers, had caught him up in the stories of their Mexican War experiences where they served in T. T.’ s regiment. It is easy to understand these men looking to share another adventure in the gold fields of California.

 

The dangers and trials of travel did not deter any of them when they went for the gold - T. T. in 1849 and William in 1850.  They came by this spirit quite naturally for their parents and grandparents had settled Kentucky when it was still a wilderness. Their father, Daniel Garrard, had ridden horseback from southeastern Kentucky to Mobile, Alabama to marry their mother, Lucinda Jane Toulmin in 1808. The 600 mile trip, each way, was dangerous, through unsettled Indian Territory. It demanded hunting ability, survival skills, good judgment, perseverance and a confidence common to this family.

 

Bill Price grew up knowing Daniel and Lucinda, his amazing grandparents, who lived nearby. And, no doubt, he had heard a great deal about two remarkable men who were his great grandfathers: Governor James Garrard [KY two terms 1796-1804] and his Sect. of State, Hon. Harry Toulmin, truly a Renaissance man. These men set high standards for pioneers: industrious work, intellectual achievements, responsible community service, They showed great courage and were models of ethical and intellectual character which didn’t always survive the generations. Both were descendents of French Huguenots but their families were more recently from England.  James served Virginia in its Militia and its House of Representatives. Harry was a dissident minister with controversial Unitarian leanings.

NOTE: From Della Goodin CC: Eliza is the granddaughter of both Gov. James Garrard and Hon. Harry Toulmim. She is also the mother of William Luther Price.

Gov. James Garrard

Hon. Harry Toulmin

Eliza Ann Garrard Price (1860)

Eliza Ann Garrard Price

Eliza, T.T., and William were well educated, as were all of the Garrards. They were raised in a world that combined hard work and critical thinking as well as ethical, if sometimes contradictory, judgments. They were expected to be involved and responsible citizens. Their father, Daniel, was a state legislator and their brother was Kentucky state Treasurer. Many served in legislatures or in the military, as lawyers and business men. By the time gold was discovered a continent away, T.T. and William Garrard were well established in the life and work of their community. They were involved in the Salt Works which Daniel Garrard and his father began decades earlier. It had made them among the wealthiest men in Clay County.

 

Nevertheless, T.T. Garrard left for CA on 19 March 1849, leaving his wife of two weeks with a brother’s
family, and a daughter by his first wife, with his father, Daniel. William Garrard followed in 1850 leaving
his wife and three children. Bill’s older brother, James Price, most likely went with William in 1850. He
may also have left a bride at home. Letters sent home by these early adventurers were sure to encourage
Eliza’s sons to follow.

 

They also left an excitement and promise that would fill other men’s dreams. The young dreamers included
not only Bill Price but two more brothers – Robert F. and Edmund Pendleton “Penn” Price. Rob and Bill
arrived in CA in Oct. 1853 when Sonora population reached 3000 people.Penn” Price married
Maranda Graves in February 1860, and soon afterward they left Kentucky. They are found in the 1860 Sonora census.

 

So Bill and Rob were primed for this trip which was to measure their courage, strength and will. They
joined the Duckwall &  Trahern train in St. Joseph, Missouri in May or April 1853. Uncle William Garrard’s wife, Mary Woodson Garrard, and their three young children, joined the Price brothers on the life-changing trip to CA. There they would join their husband and father. Bill and Rob Price started out
with 300 head of cattle added to the 750 of Trahern’s. They all became part of a larger group called the
Cherokee Train because of large numbers of Cherokees hired to drive their wagons and cattle.

 

Of the six Garrard and Price men to leave for the far west, only Bill and Penn Price and William Garrard
stayed on continuously. Bill’s brother James, came and went several times, ending in Clay Co. where he
lived beyond age 83. Uncle T.T. returned home to wealth and fame, to father eleven more children, and to
stir up some controversy. Bill’s brother, Penn, went to Kentucky with Maranda and their two sons,
probably to save a troubled marriage. Despite the birth of a daughter, the effort failed; he returned, alone,
to spend the rest of his life in California. Rob, the brother who made the cross country trek with Bill, went
home to fight and die in the Civil War - a loss that Bill felt very deeply. Rob was captured before he could
join a regiment and was considered a guerrilla spy. Uncle William Garrard remained in the west to great
success in numerous endeavors including Superintendent of the US Mint in Carson City, NV.

 

Rob and Bill proved their endurance and strengths on the dreadful crossing of the Sierra above Sonora.
Descriptions of that arduous trek defy belief. This trail is the
only immigrant trail west to return to its
pristine state – giving hikers in this area, today, the same awesome views and challenging terrain that Bill
experienced in 1853.Other trails west and their corridors, became roads or railroad paths or at least
became the basis for pipelines and telegraph/telephone lines connecting the East with the West.

 

This, the Walker River Trail, followed by the Duckwall-Trahern Wagon Train, was eventually proved to
be too difficult, too treacherous, too impossible a crossing. Edna Buckbee, in her book
Tales of Privation
and Starvation that Mark the Trails of Early Pioneers in Stanislaus
, describes it, in part:

 

 The chasms were filled with rocks and brush, a job taking long hours or even a whole day to do, until the wagons could cross over. The wagons were taken apart when the descents were too steep and the parts lowered by rope to the bottoms of the granite domes and cliffs.”

 

Many who made that trek did so at the coaxing of Mr. G. Washington Patrick, the Mayor of Sonora. He
met the wagons in Humbolt  Sink in Nevada and convinced many to follow his lead – all for the purpose of bringing miners and settlers to contribute to Sonora’s growth. A letter from Patrick was published in the
San Francisco Alta Oct. 3, 1853, with these editorial comments by John P. Ryan:

 

 “The Sonora road was a nightmare for the immigrants. …four miles of progress a day was very good time for the traveler. Often it was but two miles.” He comments that the trail was in no way the boulevard that Mayor Patrick had described to the unknowing pioneers. The exhausted party rested as they neared Sonora. They were met by many citizens of the town. The people of Sonora welcomed them and brought food and supplies and gave this place its name: Relief Meadows.

Continue to Pg. 2

 

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Last updated 15.10.2006Last updated 29.11.2006!-- WW -->