Trailblazer Vol

First Wagon Train Going 
East Over the Carson Pass

Thomas Rhoades and Family


Text of a talk given in Sept. 2001 at Galt, Ca. at the Rhoads Cousin's Luncheon by Leroy Hayes


Mary Ann "Polly" Rhoads b. 7 Mar 1817: d 27 Jun 1875; m John Turner Elder (Sr.). Oldest daughter of Thomas and Elizabeth Rhoads. Polly and her family traveled along with Thomas Rhoads when he went back to Salt Lake City in 1849.  They spent the winter in SLC and went on to MO in the Spring.   

Whatever Became of Polly, her husband Turner, and their family after their return to Missouri?

By the Spring of 1849, Turner had had enough of California. He had been exceptionally successful in the gold fields and had what he considered to be enough gold to last a lifetime.  Besides, he still owned property in Missouri to which he could return to.  There was an ever increasing lawless element which was pouring into California along with the 49'ers which he felt was becoming nearly impossible to control.  Fear that he could no longer afford adequate protection for his family and possessions were his primary concern.  Later events which occurred in the family that remained in California proved him to be correct.

About this time, his father-in-law, Thomas Rhoads, decided to return to Missouri to reunite his grandchildren with their father Arthur F. Rhoads.  Arthur, or Foster, as he was know, had remarried and could now make a home for his children.  (Foster's new wife was Nancy Elder Matthews, the widow of David Matthews and older sister of Turner.)   There was a problem though:  Polly was pregnant and would not be able to make the hard journey in her condition.  So it was decided that they would wait until after the baby was born and Polly could travel.  The baby came on July 3, 1849, about two months early.  Despite all efforts to save it, the child lived only four days.   The unnamed male child was laid to rest in the Slough House Cemetery beside the child of  Dan and Amanda Rhoads.

When Polly was able to travel, the party set out for the East, but it was too late in the year.  Arriving in Salt Lake City, they were informed that snow had closed the passes through the Rockies, and it would be too dangerous to proceed.  Family tradition has it that Turner was so anxious to return to Missouri that he was willing to press on anyway.  At this point, Brigham Young, the Mormon leader, stepped in.  He was a personal friend to Thomas Rhoads, and used his influence to convince Turner to remain in Sal Lake.  He told Turner that if he was set on self-destruction, he could proceed, but his family would remain in Sal Lake until it was safe to continue in the spring.  It worked!  Turner and family wintered-over in Salt Lake.

Upon their return to Tinney's Grove in Missouri, Turner set about buying up the surrounding land and eventually amassed over 1800 acres of land and had 28 slaves to work his plantation.  When the Civil War came along, Turner supported the Southern Cause and gave most of his fortune in support of it along with providing three of his sons for the Southern Army.  The War nearly ruined him.  At its end he had no money and only a few hundred acres of land.  Emancipation eliminated his work force without compensation and he was forced to hire men to do the work.  As time progressed, Turner managed to rebuild some of his fortune, but never as large as it once was.  Then tragedy struck:  Polly passed away on June 27, 1875.  Turner's grief was not very long-lasting.  He remarried Nancy Elizabeth Harlow Johnson, widow of William Henry Johnson on March 9, 1876.  The couple had three children together.  Turner lived until either 1907 or 1909, and was blind with cataracts and bed-ridden at the time.


How about their children? 

Martin Van Buren Elder: born July 3, 1838, Tinney's Grove, MO. had a hair-lip like his mother.   Accompanied his parents to California, 1846.   Served in Confederate Army 1861-65 in Company C, 3rd Mo Vol. Inf. Captured t Vicksburg and paroled.  Fought at Kennesaw Mountain and the siege of Atlanta.  Surrounded  in 1865.  returned to California in 1875 and settled at Lemoore.  A very prominent man in the affairs of Fresno County.  Lived in Wildflower, east of Fresno.  Died about 1925, east of Fresno.  Died about 1925.  Married Elizabeth Jane Brown, daughter of John Brown, Sr. (Aug. 1, 1809, Crawford Co., PA) and Matilda Gill (June 20, 1815, Allegheny Co., PA)  on Dec. 27, 1858.  Children: Albert Robert, Thomas John "Lon", Estelle, Joseph Eggleston, Bernice, Samuel, Ellen "Nellie", and Nora.


Sarah Elizabeth Elder: born, March 8, 1840 at Tinney's Grove.  Named for her two grandmothers:  Sarah Savage Elder and Elizabeth Forrester Rhoads.  Married Phineas Wiles Oct. 7, 1858 at Tinney's Grove.  Nothing further known of her.

Thomas " Bud" Elder: born June 16, 1842 at Tinney's Grove.   Accompanied his parents to California in 1846.  Served in Confederate Army 1861-65 in Co. C, 3rd Mo Vol. Inf.  Captured at Vicksburg and paroled.  Wounded at Kennesaw Mountain and hospitalized at Atlanta.  Surrounded in 1865.  Farmed in Tinney's Grove until about 1908 when he moved to Oklahoma.  Devastated by the loss of his only son Martin John in 1890.  Received a pension for military service in Civil War from State of Oklahoma.  Died June 1918 near Canute (Washita Co.), Oklahoma.  Married Mary Jane Rhoads on Sept. 27, 1871 in Carroll Co., Mo.  Known children:  Martin John and Amanda "Mandy".

Turner Elder, Jr.:  born Jan. 12, 1845 at Tinney's Grove.  Accompanied his parents to California, 1846.  Enlisted in Confederate Army 1862, Ruffner's Company of Light Artillery, Gordon Reg't, Shelby  Brigade.  Last Confederate unit to surrender west of Mississippi in 1865.  Returned to California in 1875 and settled near Stockton.  Wife died in 1879, and he moved to Lemoore.  Thereafter, he bought a large ranch near Selma.  Sold his ranch and retire in 1927 to live with his daughter  in Long Beach, where he spent the remainder of his days, passing away in 1938.  Married Amanda "Minnie" Brown, sister of Elizabeth Jane Brown, on Feb. 19, 1869 in Carroll Co., Mo.   Children: Edith, Della and Jessica " Jessie".

John Elder: born Nov. 5, 1847 on the Consumnes River in California.  John and his twin sister Nancy were said to have been the first twins born in California to American parents.  Moved to Lemoore in 1875.  After farming a short time, went into business as a butcher and returned about 1930.  Died in Lemoore in 1932.  Married Cynthia Ellen Fielder of Lamar Co., TX daughter of James Fielder (Sept. 24, 1817, Tazwell Co., VA) and Monica Bartly ( Mary 1818, Tennessee), on Dec. 17, 1868 at Tinney's Grove.  Children: Alonzo Reese, James Claude, Daniel Robert and Harry Bartley.

Nancy Elder: born Nov. 5, 1847 Consumnes River in California.  Twin sister to John Elder.  Married Alonzo Reese Feb. 4, 1866 at Tinney's Grove. Moved to Lemoore around 1875.

Unnamed Elder: born July 3, 1849 on the Consumnes River in California.   Born at lest two months premature and lived only four days.  Buried next to child of Dan and Amanda Rhoads at Slough House Cemetery.

Polly Elder: born Sept. 12, 1850 at Tinney's Grove.  Lived about six months.  Buried on land donated to community by her father for a cemetery. 

Mary  Ann "Polly" Elder: born April 10, 1852 at Tinney's Grove.  Married Isaac Hays son of Warren Hays ( July 27, 1824, Richland Co., OH) and Virginia Harlow (May 1, 1815 Amherst Co., VA) on Feb. 11, 1869 at Tinney's Grove.  Isaac was a blacksmith by trade and part-time constable of Tinney's Grove.  They lived in a small clapboard house on Turner's plantation.  All their children were born there.  After Isaac accidentally one of his cousins in performance of his duties as constable, the family moved to Moniteau County, MO for their daughter's health (Tuberculosis).  After their daughter's death in 1902, they moved to Selma, California.  Isaac and his son Moses opened a blacksmith shop on old Highway 99, on the north side of town(razed about 1970).   Polly died Dec. 21, 1927 at her home on Sylvia Street in Selma.  Children:  Octavia, Moses, Della, Polly Roy, Isaac Napoleon Bonaparte "Dick", Opha Ida Frances, Katy and Leland Stanford.

Hannah Elder: born May 8, 1854 at Tinney's Grove.  Killed in 1859 by a falling tree while watching her father's slaves cut it down for the honey inside it.

Paulina G. "Pliney" Elder: born June 8, 1856 at Tinney's Grove.  Married to Perry Graham Dec. 25, 1877 at Tinney's Grove.  Moved to California around 1900 and settled near Selma.  Husband owned a large ranch north-east of Selma.  Sold ranch after husbands death.  Remarried and moved to Los Angeles around 1927.  Died Aug. 27, 1942 in Los Angeles, California.

Rebecca Elder: born Aug. 14, 1858 at Tinney's Grove.  Moved to California before 1900.  Owned and operated a millinery shop in San Francisco where she met and married Johnny Purvis, a San Francisco Police Officer.  Later owned and operated a similar millinery shop in Fresno.  Sold shop and bought a ranch outside Selma for her husband.  Johnny was not much of a rancher and made only a marginal living even with his relatives generous assistance.  Rebecca passed away of breast cancer in 1922.  Her husband sold the ranch soon after.  Had no children.


Information drawn from the following sources:

Interviews with Turner Elder, Jr., 1928&1935, Long Beach Times

Martin Elder, biography, History of Fresno County, 1902.

John Elder, biography, History of Kings County, 1904.

Arthur F. Rhoads, biography, Atlas of Carroll County, (MO), 1876.

Della Hays Till, reminiscences, 1953.

Katy Hays Lund, interview, 1980.

John "Chick" Evans, letters, 1978-1984.

Leland S. Hays, reminiscences, 1963.

Leroy Hays, Sr., reminiscences, 1978-1990.

Fred E. Hays, reminiscences, 1980-1991.

Family Bible information in possession of Leroy L. Hays, Jr. San Jose, CA.