Thus far I’ve written only about my family. Recently, however, I began to research my wife’s family and found such an interesting story I couldn’t help but tell it. Like my own family, my wife’s family is from Georgia for several generations back.
Her second great grandparents on her mom’s side were Hezekiah Stone and Ethel Piety Elliot Stone. They lived in Habersham County and had fourteen children. One of their children was Alice Melinda Stone Haynes, my wife’s great grandmother. But it’s another of their children around which this story turns.
Ella Stone, Alice’s sister and one of my wife’s great aunts, married a man named John Jackson Hayden in 1878. By 1900 they were living in Greenville, South Carolina, and had several children. John, however, got a bit of the wanderlust and decided it was time to seek his fortune. He left the family in South Carolina and went west, ending up in Oregon where he worked as a prospector. During his time there he discovered and staked a claim to a Cinnabar mine (Cinnabar is used to extract Mercury and to produce a decorative lacquer called “China Red”). On March 12, 1916 during a visit to town, John Hayden dropped dead on the street in Grant Pass, Oregon.
The authorities there sent word to his family in South Carolina, who had heard from him only periodically over the last many years and not at all for several months. I’ll let the March 22, 1916 issue of the Greenville News tell you what happened next:
Several days ago his son received a letter from the coroner at Grant Pass, Oregon stating that Hayden had passed away and asking for burial instructions. The young man mortgaged his household furniture for $80 with which to have his father’s remains brought to the Victor mill village for burial. As this amount did not prove sufficient for the purpose, young Hayden wired the coroner to have his father buried in Grant Pass, which instructions were carried out.
A day or so later the young man received a letter from the law firm of Blanchard & Blanchard of Grant Pass, saying that the elder Hayden had left a valuable estate amounting to about $25,000.
It turns out, John Hayden had done quite well as a prospector, having $7,000 in cash and the deed to two valuable mines when he died, all of which totaled $25,000 (approximately $500,000 today).
The article ended by noting that attorney Andrew Miller of Greer, South Carolina had been retained by the family and was on his way to Grant Pass.
How the story ends, I’ve not been able to determine. But it’s nice to know that the “long-lost relative dies and leaves family a fortune” story does sometimes happen in real life.