Forty-Niner Profiles: The Watertown Boys

Watertown, Wisconsin – 1908

During the California Gold Rush era, Watertown, Wisconsin was so many other villages, towns or cities across America — It was hit by the fever, the gold fever.

Watertown Chronicle (Watertown, Wisconsin) Jan 31, 1849

“We’re bound for Californy,
Our pockets for to fill!”

Yesterday morning seven of our own citizens and two of neighboring towns, took up their line of march for California. They are to proceed by wagon to Galena, thence by steamboat to St. Louis and Independence, and thence as “circumstances” may dictate to the “diggings.” Their names are —

Stephen Stimpson,  Louis Meyer,
Henry Waldron,   James Stevens,
Martin P. Glines,   Luke Colburn,
Amos Steck,   Ole Hanson.
Nelson Whitney,

Among this list will be recognized some of our oldest and most respectable citizens. They leave in high spirits, hardly realizing, we fear, the hardships and privations before them. While we regret to part with them, we cannot but hope that their most extravagant expectations may be fully realized, and that within two years from this time, we may hail the return of each, with “all their pockets” well filled with the precious metal.

They intend celebrating the 4th of July at the South Pass, making those wild and distant hills and valleys re-echo, for the first time, the songs and the sentiments of liberty.

Watertown has contributed liberally to the mighty stream of emigration that is setting toward California. In addition to those given above, five others have left within a few weeks past, viz:

Francis McCluskey,   Henry Helman,
Philip Johnson,   Bernard Crangle.
Darius Gibbs,

There are others here who have caught the fever, and we should not wonder if they, too, should soon be “carried off.”

Watertown Chronicle (Watertown, Wisconsin) Apr 11, 1849

MORE EMIGRANTS. — Last week Messrs. FRANCIS McCLUSKY, PHILIP JOHNSON and BERNARD CRANGLE, of this village, took their departure for California. The two former started with an ox team, and intend going by way of Independence. We have some other citizens who are in the last stages of the disease and it is feared they will be “carried off” about the first of next month.

Watertown Chronicle – Mar 14, 1849

WISCONSIN CALIFORNIANS — The Watertown Chronicle says that the following company left that village on Tuesday, the 10th inst: Stephen Stimpson, Henry Waldron, Martin P. Glines, Amos Steck, Nelson Whitney, Louis Meyer, James Stevens, Luke Colburn, Ole Hanson. It says “Among this list will be recognized some of our oldest and most respectable citizens.”

Weekly Wisconsin (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) Apr 18, 1849

So, who were the Watertown Boys, and what were they doing before the they hit the trail in search of California Gold?

Nelson Whitney, listed as the vice-president of the Temperance Society, and also listed among the Friends of Ireland was born about 1821, somewhere in Vermont. He wrote several letters from “the road,” and from California, which I will be posting in the future. Perhaps he was a farmer in Wisconsin prior to catching the Gold Fever, as I don’t find any business advertisements for him in the papers.

Temperance Meeting.

An adjoined meeting of the friends of temperance was held on the 14th of March, 1848, in the Methodist Church, in this village.
The committee appointed at the previous meeting, to prepare a Constitution, submitted the following, which was adopted:

Watertown Chronicle (Watertown, Wisconsin) Mar 22, 1848

At a meeting of the Executive Committee of the Watertown Temperance Society on Tuesday morning, June 27th, an invitation was received from the Dodge County Temperance society, inviting this society to be and unite with them in a temperance celebration at Oak Grove on the 4th of July. The committee after deliberation, unanimously agreed to accept the invitation, and hold the anniversary of the society at Oak Grove. A full delegation from this society is earnestly desired. By Order &c.,

A. STECK, ch’n.

Rock River Pilot (Watertown, Wisconsin) Jun 28, 1848

The Age-of-the-Sage website has a page for The European Revolutions of 1848, which includes a map.

Demonstration of Republican Sympathy.
The usual common place busy hum of our business village was very agreeably diversified on Wednesday evening last by a well arranged demonstration made by our German fellow citizens, expressive of their sympathy with the Republicans of Europe.

Rock River Pilot (Watertown, Wisconsin) May 17, 1848

Image from the Irish History Links website.

The Ohio University website  has an Encyclopedia of 1848 Revolutions, which includes: Young Ireland.



The friends of Liberty in every Country are looking with anxious hope for the success of the Irish arms over those of their English oppressors. The patriots of Ireland have lately shown to the world by the defeat of one fourth of the British army — in a single battle killing and wounding 6,000 men — that they are in earnest; and determined to be free, despite the voice of royal proclamations, and roar of royal cannon.

Friends of Liberty! the voice of struggling Ireland calls on you for aid. The battle has commenced, the people of the civilized world recognize the cause as a just and holy one, and none but despots and slaves refuse their aid or their sympathy.

Irishmen! the land of your birth cannot call in vain for aid from her sons.

Your compatriots throughout the Union are active in the cause of their struggling country, and earnestly ask you to co-operate with them.


Rock River Pilot (Watertown, Wisconsin) Aug 30, 1848

Bank of Watertown image from Buchheit – Myers Genealogy blog.

AMOS STECK was born in 1822, Lancaster, Ohio. He supported the German people in their revolution, and like N. Whitney, was a member of the Temperance Society . On the genealogy blog linked above, it states Amos Steck took an active interest in establishing the Watertown Bank. Evidently he was a lawyer, as he  is listed as an “Esq.”  in  the following “Horse Thief” newspaper article:

HORSE THIEF AND COUNTERFEITER. — A young man by the name of Walker, formerly of this village, was apprehended at Fox Lake, on Sunday last, by officer KELLY, of this village, charged with having stolen on the 8th inst., two ponies, the property of JOHN P. BEAN, of Green Lake. He was examined on Monday before A. STECK, Esq., and a default of security for his appearance for further examination, was committed to jail in Jefferson. Officer K. is entitled to much credit for his vigilance in the arrest of the prisoner, aided as the latter was in his attempts to elude justice.

The ponies were sold to a man by the name of Sabin, of Racine county. As rather a “remarkable coincidence,” we may mention, that during the examination of Walker, Deputy Sheriff PHELPS, of Dodge county, passed through our village, having Sabin in tow as a prisoner, he having been apprehended on the charge of passing off counterfeit Land Warrants to an Illinois drover, in exchange for horses. He has dealt more or less extensively in horse flesh for some time past, and is supposed to be connected with the same gang to which Walker belongs. Quarters have been provided for him in the Milwaukee jail.

Watertown Chronicle – Jun 21, 1848

Amos Steck also wrote several letters to the Watertown Chronicle, which I will be posting in the future.

I believe this is the same Amos Steck, who went to California in search of gold:

According to the Buck Fifty website, Amos Steck – standing, second from the right and was the Denver, Colorado sheriff at the time this 1864  photo was taken. Follow the link for context of this photo.

In  the Denver & Rio Grande website’s article,  Taming a Wilderness, it mentions Amos Steck,was also at one time,  the Mayor of Denver:

The first telegraph wire to reach Denver was ready for business October 10, 1863. Mayor Amos Steck received the first message over it, which was a congratulatory wire from the mayor of Omaha.

The next Watertown Boy,  Henry Waldron, was born about 1819,  in Vermont. He and his partner,  Hazen Mooers operated a Tin Shop. They seemed to form and dissolve their partnership every so often, according to these newspaper announcements:

Watertown Chronicle – May 17, 1848

Watertown Chronicle – Jun 14, 1848

Watertown Chronicle – Jul 26, 1848.

Watertown Chronicle – Mar 29, 1849

Watertown Chronicle – Apr 4, 1849

It appears Henry Waldron, wife and daughters were in California in 1860, so he must have gone home to get them. On the 1860 San Fransisco  census, he was listed as a merchant, and his wife as an oil painter AND then they are listed again in Rose Bar, Yuba Co. where he is listed as a clerk, and several years younger.


Francis McClusky appears to have been a tailor:

Rock River Pilot (Watertown, Wisconsin) Jan 5, 1848


Stephen Stimpson was born about 1818 in New York. His wife’s name was Catherine, and in 1850 their son, George, was five years-old. He was an auctioneer by trade, as well as a public notary for a time, and also ran for sheriff. On the 1860, Stephen Stimpson was listed as a Saloon Keeper and by then had a daughter, Adie, who was 7 years-old. By 1870, his son, George was living in Cheyenne, Wyoming, running a billiard hall. Stephen Stimpson may have died, as it appears his wife and daughter are living at West Washington Place, in New York City!

Daily Sentinel and Gazette (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) Jun 18, 1847

Watertown Chronicle – Jul 7, 1847


Wisconsin Argus (Madison, Wisconsin)  Oct 26, 1847

Watertown Chronicle – Oct 25, 1848


It has proven difficult to find information on some of these “Watertown Boys.” Bernard Crangle, born about 1810 in Ireland, and that is about all I have on him, but  I did find the picture of a house he and his brother built for their parents in Watertown, Wisconsin:

Here is the information that accompanies the photo:

This was the home of Bernard & Rose Crangle,Sr. built in Watertown, Wi in 1840 by Bernard, Jr. and Henry Crangle for their parents before they emigrated from Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada. It was in this house that the first Catholic services were held and the organization of St. Bernard’s Parish, Watertown. Thanks to Mary Beggan Mueller for the photo.

Posted by Craig Gavin – Nov. 2010. Here is the LINK if you have an membership.

UPDATE- CORRECTION: I just re-read one of the letters from Nelson Whitney and he states Bernard and P.C. were traveling together. In a later letter, he mentions and I. and P.C.,  but the I. may have been a newspaper typo, or possibly Bernard’s middle name initial, as the P.C was written as C.P as well.

I think Bernard Crangle went to California, and then sometime after two of his brothers followed, P.C. (Charles P) and probably Henry, who according to the family tree where the picture was found, died in California in 1862. These brothers are mentioned in one of the letters published in the newspaper, which I will post in the future.

This cooperage factory image from the DeForest Area Youth Council is from a library event, Barrel-Making in Wisconsin: The Story of the Frank J. Hess Cooperage.

Another of the Watertown Boys was Darius Gibbs, who was born about 1816, also in Vermont. In 1850, he was listed as a basket maker, and in 1860, as a cooper, which was someone who made casks, kegs, etc. In 1850, he was living in Emmit, WI, and in 1860, in Watertown, WI. Sometime in between, he went to Missouri for awhile, as his two children listed on the 1860 census, ages two and three, were both born there. Darius and his family moved to Iowa, sometime between 1870 and 1880, where he continued to work as a cooper.

According to Find -A-Grave, Darius Gibbs was also a Spanish and Civil War veteran. He died in 1890, and was buried in Iowa. It appears his descendants added a more modern gravestone, which you will find at the link.

In regards to the other names listed as “Watertown Boys,” they remain a mystery, as I can’t find any information or census records for them.

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One Response to “Forty-Niner Profiles: The Watertown Boys”

  1. Another Watertown Boy Writes Home « YesterYear Once More Says:

    […] Forty-Niner Profiles:The Watertown Boys […]

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