How Amelia Calkins became Amelia Wright


Amelia Calkins was the daughter of Abel Calkins & Esther Mixter.  She was born in Monson, Massachusetts on the 21st of March in 1820.  In 1843 she married Benjamin Franklin Goff in Palmer, Massachusetts.  Benjamin and Amelia were the parents of Ellen Maria Goff, the subject of previous articles I have written.  All this I am sure and have documented.

In the family copy of “An Illustrated History of San Joaquin County, California”  is a biography of Benjamin Watrous, Ellen Goff’s husband.  In the biography it only says of Ellen’s mother:  “...the mother, born in March, 1820, came to Stockton in July, 1872...”  But go out to the Rural Cemetery and in the Watrous family plot is a tombstone for “Amelia Wright”.  It is inscribed with “Mother” on the top. and “Amelia Wright, Mar. 21, 1820, May 26, 1899, Native of Mass.”  How did she get the name, Wright?

The legend in the family is that Amelia had married again after her first husband had died in 1859.  That marriage was said to be a bad marriage, but I have found no evidence - no letters - to confirm or deny this.  

For years I searched for a marriage in California where Amelia Goff would have married a person named Wright.  I also searched Massachusetts for the same thing and never found any evidence.

With the advent of the modern Internet it has been possible to find more databases accessible to search.  The New England Historic and Genealogical Society has made available to members Massachusetts town records.  Finally I found the marriage record for Amelia’s second marriage... but to an Ephraim Fenton.  Not to a Wright.  

On May 9th, 1869 Amelia married Ephraim in Brimfield, Massachusetts.  Ephraim was born in 1804.  He was a farmer and in 1826 he married Lovina Nichols in Brimfield.  Lovina passed away in 1865.  I have not yet documented children to that marriage, but there may be some.

But Amelia came to California in 1872, three years after marrying Ephraim - and never went back.  A further search if the NEHGS town records databases find Ephraim’s death record where it says he died a widower, but he died in 1880 - the 5th of February to be precise.  Amelia was his wife (I have found no divorce record), and she was alive and kicking.  I guess technically the death record is correct, as Ephraim was the widower of Lovina.  However, the mystery of Amelia becoming Wright is not solved.  A search of Massachusetts town records shows no further marriages for Amelia.  

One weekend day I made it to the Stockton library’s main branch - a rare opportunity for me.  The library has a nice little genealogy section now.  I have not been there in many years.  This is thanks to the San Joaquin Genealogical Society.  Many of their publications are there.  I sat down with their publications and finally hit gold in their “Marriage Records of San Joaquin County, California, Volume II January 1866 - December 1884.”  In that volume is the marriage record of Amelia Fenton to one Thomas Wright on the 5th of September 1880.  Seven months to the day after Ephraim Fenton passed away.

I do not know much about Thomas Wright yet.  There was one Thomas Wright in Stockton in 1880.  He was born about 1828 in Tennessee and was a shoemaker.  The census was taken in early June when he was a lodger.  This Thomas Wright in 1870, according to the census, was living in Mariposa with his wife, Julia, and  two teenaged children, Mary and Joseph.  Julia was listed as Italian.  The children had been born in Virginia.  By 1880 julia is living in San Francisco with her now married daughter and their family.  I do note that here Julia is listed as French.

By the time the 1900 census comes out, Thomas has disappeared.  Perhaps he has died as well as Amelia.  In the family records I have there is no mention of either Ephraim  Fenton or Thomas Wright that I have found.  But I need to go back through piles of letters from the times and re-examine them in light of this new information.  I also need to do a more thorough search on Thomas Wright and his background to fill out his life.

When Amelia Wright passed away the estate went through probate in San Joaquin County and the executor was her grandson, Fred Watrous.  the only heirs were her surviving children and the children of Ellen.  No Thomas Wright.  I still wonder how they met and what happened to him.

© Ken Piper 2016