When a single line in a story sends a reader flying more than halfway across the country, just to check it out, you have to admit — that's dedication.
Last Dec. 18, Cris Peterson of Phoenix was reading our story about James Clugage and the discovery of gold in Jackson County ("There's gold in them-thar stories"). Her eyes froze on a sentence that literally hit her right where she used to live.
James Clugage always had problems with the way people spelled his name.
The 1850 census enumerator added an extra "g," and so did Henry Denlinger, owner of Jacksonville's Oregon Sentinel newspaper, who for a few weeks in the early 1860s advertised that his office was "over Cluggage and Drum's Stables." Frank or James Clugage must have complained. The name was suddenly corrected.
James Clugage wasn't the only one with a name problem. His partner James Poole is not only spelled Pool on the Jacksonville Rich Gulch gold marker, his first name, James, has been changed to John.
One last correction. In the Dec.18, 2012 story, we told you that James Poole died in California in 1867. Not so. That was a different Poole, and it's a mistake many genealogists have made. That Poole's birth date and age don't match government land claim information for our Poole. The last good match we find is a miner living in Yamhill County in 1860. So far, we don't know for sure when and where he died.
— Bill Miller
"Hey, wait a minute," she said. "I just happened to pick up on the date and location of James Clugage's death — Marysville, Ohio. I was born and raised there."
Who could have guessed that Peterson would soon decide to return home and turn an impromptu family reunion into a history expedition?
Just a few weeks ago, as the temperature here was about to hit 100 degrees for the first time in the year, Peterson was back with a report.
"To make a long story short," she said, "I visited my 91-year-old sister there, and we had our picture taken in front of the James Clugage monument."
While the sisters were visiting their parents' graves in Marysville's Oakdale Cemetery, they couldn't miss what was "the tallest monument there."
It stands at the center of the cemetery, with a number of Clugage family members buried around him.
Peterson tried, but was unable to find out much about James Clugage's life in Marysville.
"We heard that for a while he was placed in the Columbus State Hospital," she said. "It was a mental institution at the time."
That matches early stories, seldom told today, that say Clugage, whose land claim was where Jacksonville now stands, left the town in the late 1860s because of mental problems.
"He was a long sufferer of neuralgia," said one contemporary news report. "His mind became affected prior to his departure. "… He became peculiarly vindictive, an almost insane admirer of (President) Lincoln, and his friends think that the wild and bitter political excitement of that period had much to do with his mental decay."
As early as 1863, Clugage's land holdings in Jacksonville were being managed by his brother, Frank Clugage, who advertised himself as the "Guardian of James Clugage."
After returning from a trip back to Ohio in 1865, James Clugage disappears from the Jacksonville newspapers.
The 1870 census shows him as a "retired land speculator" living in Ohio with his older sister. In 1880, he's moved in with his younger sister and her husband. Apparently, Clugage, the man who had made a fortune in gold and real estate, was no longer able to handle his own affairs. He isn't even mentioned in Clugage family histories published as late as 1883.
After his death on May 8, 1886, the family made amends. With the wealth he had brought back to them, they commissioned that large monument to mark his grave, moved his mother and father from the old cemetery to be with him in Oakdale Cemetery, and honored the boy they'd grown up with.
With her visit, Peterson confirmed that the family name should be spelled with a single letter "g," Clugage, not Cluggage, as is seen in many places, including the Jacksonville marker that commemorates his Rich Gulch gold discovery.
"Everyone buried in Marysville is a Clugage," Peterson said. "I would have assumed that it would have been correct on the Jacksonville monument, but it isn't."
Peterson's curiosity sent her on a round-trip journey of nearly 4,000 miles. Her return has added a new page in the life story of the man who gave Jacksonville its start.
Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.