10 July 2017

California Statutes - A Lesson Learned From Judy Russell


Judy Russell, "The Legal Genealogist", tells us over and over again about state statutes and the gold mine of genealogical information they may hold.  You can read about a few of her finds HERE, HERE and HERE.

Well,  I was hooked immediately and started a new project - abstracting genealogical information from the California Statute Books.

In the 1883 Statutes of California, I found only one item of interest:

Chapter 68, page 294

$25,000 payment to James Saultry, ex-Guard at the State Prison at San Quentin for personal injuries namely the loss of both arms while in the discharge of his duties under the orders of his superior officer.

I had to know more about this man and his horrible accident.  What happened?  Was there a prison riot and he was maimed?

Checking the newspapers I found that in 1883, James Saultry had fired a cannon for the 4th of July festivities at San Quentin Prison, the cannon backfired and he had both of his arms blown off!

Another newspaper article I came across was his obituary from the Saulsalito News, 17 August 1888:

DEATH OF JAMES SAULTRY
Town Trustee James Saultry died at his residence last Monday.  For many years Mr. Saultry has been identified with the interests of this Coast, being an active and energetic man.  In 1883, while employed at San Quentin, he had the misfortune to have both his arms blown off while firing a national salute on July 4th.  In March of the same year, the Legislature passed a relief bill, granting him a pension for the remainder of his lifetime.  Some $25,000 was invested in 6 per cent bonds and he has since drawn the interest on that investment.  He leaves a widow and three children, the eldest being 8 years and the youngest 14 months.  Mr. Saultry was highly respected by all who knew him.  Flags throughout San Rafael were lowered as a mark of respect to his memory.

Again from the Sausalito News, 29 March 1889:

The widow of the late James Saultry has been allowed the interest on $20,000 during  her lifetime.

Not able to let the story go quite yet, I searched California probate records and census records and learned the names of his wife and children.  

Wife:  Margaret Hayes born 1840 in Ireland
Step-daughter: Catherine Maria Tietgen born 1877 in California
daughter: Mary Josephine Saultry born 1881 in California
son:  James Henry George Saultry born 1883 in California
son:  John Joseph Saultry born 1887 in California
son:  Atwell Robert Saultry born 1889 in California

I was able to reconstruct and entire family from just one man's name in an obscure old book that recorded California statutes.  I absolutely love genealogical research.  Thank you Judy!


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