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Early Westfield resident sought gold in California

April 14, 2016
By Marybelle Beigh - Westfield Historian , Westfield Republican

Discovered! Another Westfield pioneer who was a Forty-Niner!

While researching Ryan Hardware for a previous BeeLines article, an article headlined, "A Forty-Niner!" on page one of the November 12, 1924 Westfield Republican contained highlighted the search words - "hardware" and "Ryan" in the following sentence. "William Hynes kept a grocery a number of years, where the Gibbs' Hardware store was, now owned by Mr. Ryan."

According to the writer of the article, Lillian Hynes Chapman, daughter of William Hynes, her father was born Aug. 11, 1822 in Fredonia and was the youngest son of another William Hynes of Massachusetts and Clarissa Fox of Connecticut.

Article Photos

Submitted photo
This is a photo of William Hynes, taken from a 1924 newspaper clipping.

The forty-niner's father "kept a tavern at the top of West Hill [in Fredonia], where a grocery is now located" The family came to Westfield in 1839, "and kept a tavern in the old Presbyterian church on Pearl street, called the old Holt house. In '43 they bought the farm that Francis Foster owned so many years, now owned by Ernest Bacon In '48 there was great excitement over finding rich fields of gold in California and he [Wm Hynes Jr] joined a company of which R.G. Wright was captain and started for the Golden West, April 16th 1849."

According to Lillian Hynes Chapman's account, "Theirs was the only company that crossed the plains that did not lose a man or beast." This was attributed to the group's adherence to Pastor Reuben Tinker's advice to not travel on Sundays. However, when they arrived in California, "they did not find the gold so easily as it had been pictured to them. Father worked hard, three months, on his claim but without the success he had hoped for, so left it. Then R.G. Wright took it and worked less than half a day and took out one of the largest nuggets ever found in the gold fields. It was nearly as large as a half bushel."

"In December, '52, there was more attraction for him in Western New York than in all the gold fields of California. He returned by the way of the Isthmus of Panama and New York When Mother heard of his return, she was putting a friend's wedding cake in the oven - she nearly dropped it. Six weeks from that day she was eating her own wedding cake. Father bought the place where George Drake now lives He had the brick to build a house. But Mr. Cowden wishing to sell the place Mrs. H.R. Hopson now owns, he bought it in '55. He lived there ten years, moving to the farm that Mrs. Elmer Peck now owns, April 14th '66, the day Lincoln was shot."

Records on provide a marriage date of Feb. 8, 1853, in Westfield for William True Hines and Evelyn Maria Birch [sic - spelling errors for wife's name]. Examining the 1854 Wall Map of Chautauqua County, the home of W T Hines was located on East Main Road, about where Hardenburg Road junctions Main. The 1855 state Census lists William Hynes Jr, his wife Eveline, and their one-year-old daughter Lillian. The family is also found on the 1860 U.S .Census, the 1865 and 1875 New York State Census records, and the 1880 U.S. Census. In 1880, daughter Lillian is 26 years old.

The 1867 Chautauqua County Atlas map of the Town of Westfield shows W. T. Hines property at the corner of Prospect and Hardenburg roads, as does the 1881 County Atlas map, which lists the property as 33 acres. Lillian's account of her father's residences continues. "My father had owned a farm for some years near Prospect and in '82 we moved there." Indeed, the 1881 Atlas map of the town of Portland has another 96 acres and house on Prospect Road quite near Prospect Station PO and the Pittsburgh Railroad station at Prospect.

Apparently William Hynes was quite active in his community in addition to being a busy farmer. Lillian Hynes Chapman indicates that he was a trustee of the Town of Westfield for many years, and when he moved to Prospect, was elected trustee in Portland. In addition, when the Union School organized in the Westfield Academy in 1867, he was trustee and held the office until he moved to Portland in 1882. "In '88 he bought the place [at] 11 Bank street. They spent the winter of '80 and '90 in California He was [also] chairman of the street committee when Elm and Bourne streets were opened and when the overhead bridge was built in '91." (That would probably mean the bridge on North Portage Street over the Nickel Plate Railroad tracks).

Lillian Hynes Chapman concludes her story: "He was an active member of the M.E. Church many years and at the time the church was built in '72 he gave a great deal of his time and money. He died January 16th, 1892."

A few more records about William True Hynes were located on, including his Civil War draft registration circa 1863, his last Will and Testament in 1886, and probate in 1892.

Lillian's husband was Lewis Chapman, born about 1843, whose parents were Thomas and Rachel Chapman. In 1850 this family lived in the Town of Portland.



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