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DeWitt Clinton Gaskill, California Gold Rush

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DeWitt Clinton Gaskill, California Gold Rush
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Date Added
8/8/2020 3:27:15 PM
Historical People
Gift of
Robert Underhill
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DeWitt Clinton Gaskill (1826 - 1910) was born in Clarendon, the 2nd of 7 children born to Joseph Gaskill (1793 - 1863) and Sabra Weeks (1802 - 1846).  After completing his education in Clarendon DeWitt went to the Castleton Seminary for a term and subsequently taught school for two years 1844 - 1846.  He then went to Boston to work in a wholesale dry-goods store as a salesman before heading back to Clarendon in 1848 to partner with Newman Weeks (1824 - 1910) in a general merchandise store in East Clarendon.  Newman was technically DeWitt's uncle but being only 2 years older than DeWitt he would have been more like a cousin.  The next year he sold his interest in the store to Newman and headed to Boston to begin his journey to California via the Panama Isthmus.  He left Boston March 1st (after applying for a passport to be delivered to him in San Franscisco) and arrived in San Francisco Aug. 14th.  DeWitt spent a year mining before partnering with two other men in a mercantile business in Forbesville, Butte County; a mining town.  In 1852 Dewitt and one of the partners, Bogardus, bought out the other partner, Cowperthwaite and in that same year DeWitt's brother Rollin joined him in Forbesville and went to work in the store as a clerk.

Leaving Cowperthwaite and Rollin to tend the business in June 1853 DeWitt spent several months in San Francisco being treated for a chronic condition without success and then in Sept. headed back to Clarendon via way of Nicaragua.  During the course of that trip back home and subsequent extended travel across the eastern US with his father, a sister, and a cousin, DeWitt's health was restored.  He returned to Forbesville in 1854 and resumed running the business; his brother Rollin having bought out the partner Bogardus in DeWitt's absence. 

Over the next few years he again traveled back and forth to Vermont and in 1859 in Camden, NJ he married the sister of his former partner Cowperthwaite.  This was the widow Anna (Cowperthwaite) Everett (1828 - 1861) of Camden.  Her husband John Everett (1827 - 1857) had died in Oroville, Butte County in 1857.  Anna died in Forbesville in 1861.  She had a child by both husbands.  Both children died young but neither have not been clearly identified.  Upon arrival back in Forbesville in 1860, DeWitt found that his brother Rollin had been elected to the State Senate.  DeWitt bought his brother's interest in the business and ran it himself until 1875.

In 1862 in Forbesville DeWitt married the widow Emeline (Duncan) Norris (1833 - 1925) of Monroe, NH.  Her 1st husband Edward Norris (1827 - 1860) had died in Forbesville in 1860.  Their child Clarence Norris (1857 - 1864) died in 1864 in Forbesville.  DeWitt and Emeline had 3 children that lived to adulthood; Anna (1864 - 1935), Herbert (1868 - 1942), & Percy (1878 - 1971).  DeWitt and Emeline retired in 1875, traveled extensively back East, and settled in Oakland, CA in 1878 after spending $16,000 on a tract of land and another $8,000 constructing a house.  DeWitt had numerous business interests that proved successful as it appears his brother Rollin did as well. 

The cover photo is ca. 1860 of Forbestown, CA courtesy of Western Mining History.  Below is the chapter on DeWitt found in the 1892 publication The Bay of San Francisco, The Metropolis of the Pacific Coast and its Suburban Cities by the Lewis Publishing Company of Chicago.  It provides extensive family and personal background beyond what is included above.  DeWitt is buried in the Mountainview Cemetery in Oakland. 

See the Joseph Warren Crossman, California Gold Rush entry in this collection for the story of another man from Clarendon who sought his fortune in California.

See the Curtis House entry in the Homes collection for information about Wolcott Curtis (1812 - 1854) who also went to California to make his fortune, and as occurred with Joseph Crossman, Wolcott Curtis died in California too. 

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