Hecox Family Notes

Hazel Ross Richberger's grandfather was James Hecox. In 1849-50 James made his first trip to California, accompanying a wagon train, but leaving his own family back in Michigan. The James Hecox Diary  was written during this trip. James joined his brother Adna Andress Hecox in Santa Cruz in 1850, where he was counted in the 1850 California Census. James' wife Theda Ida Schellhous Hecox is listed in the 1850 Michigan Census as T.I. Heacox, Leonidas Twp. St. Joseph Co., MI along with children Oscar T., Forrest J. and Josephine V.

Adna Andress Hecox had brought his family to California in 1846, three years before the Gold Rush. The A.A. Hecox family is included in the "list of pioneers who 'jumped off at St. Jo' " at the St. Joseph Museum Inc.  [Note that the origin of the family is incorrectly given as Iowa. When accessed 15 Sep this link appears to be no longer maintained at the museum website.]  Along the trail the Hecoxes met the Donner family, but parted ways before the Donners took the fatal "cutoff" that added weeks to their crossing. Years later, one of the Donner daughters lived with the Hecoxes for a time in Santa Cruz. Adna and Margaret Hecox's accounts of their plains crossing and other family history will be added here.

Adna Hecox became the first keeper of the Santa Cruz lighthouse in 1869. After his death in 1883, his daughter Laura took over the painstaking and important lighthouse-keeping duties, which she performed for 33 years. Father and daughter together kept the oil lamp of the Santa Cruz lighthouse burning for over 46 years.

You will find a brief account and a photo of  Laura Hecox at: http://scplweb.santacruzpl.org/history/people/hecox.shtml

History of the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History has the same photo of Laura, uncropped so that it shows the arch under which she was standing. This section of the Santa Cruz cliffs was famous for its arches, most of which have long since eroded. There is also a photograph of the old lighthouse and a brief history of how Laura's shell collection and the Hecox Museum developed into the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History. Laura's scrapbooks, owned by the museum, contain several photographs of family members. The Surfing Museum is housed in the automated lighthouse built to replace the original lighthouse in which the Hecox family lived.

An interesting account of life in early Santa Cruz is My Early Childhood Memories, by Sarah Hinton Gourley. She describes from a child's eye view many of the places that our family knew well in the mid-1800s. In part 3 is a group photo that includes Laura Hecox, taken May 27,  just three months before her death 30 Aug 1919.

Laura was the niece of our James Hecox and the first cousin of Josephine Virginia Hecox Ross, Hazel's mother. 

Family Lines:

Adna Hecox--->James Hecox --->Josephine Virginia Hecox Ross--->Hazel Ross Richberger

Adna Hecox--->Adna Andress Hecox--->Laura J.F. Hecox

Adna Hecox--->Hiram A. Hecox--->Hamden Aubrey Hecox

Adna Hecox Family of Michigan: Three Generations

The Way I Went to California, by James Hecox,1849-1850

Part 1  25 June --  22 July, 1849 [Links on page updated 15 Sep 2008]
Part 2  23 July  --  21 Aug
Part 3  22 Aug  --  18 Oct 
Part 4  19 Oct  -- 16 Jan, 1850
Part 5  17 Jan  --  8 Apr, 1850

Hecox Diary Index of Names


OCTA (Oregon California Trails Association) provides an interactive map of the major overland routes at Virtual Tour on the 19th Century Overland Trails, with links to photos and brief descriptions of prominent landmarks. It's interesting to open the diary in one browser window and the Hecox diary in another to follow the route as the party progressed along the trail. The company in which James Hecox traveled primarily followed the Mormon Trail which began in Winter Quarters, near Omaha, Nebraska and ended in Salt Lake City. It appears to be the route marked in green on the OCTA map. After leaving Salt Lake the remnants of the company that traveled with James followed approximately the southern route traced in aqua on the OCTA map.

Many of the websites that had relevant photos, drawings,  and descriptions have either changed or been removed. These will be updated as time permits.

Letters written by Arthur Tyrrell, a member of the same wagon company provide additional descriptions of the journey. The first letter in the online collection mentions that James Heacock fixed a broken wheel on Mr. Tyrell's wagon. We can speculate that James Hecox may have joined the wagon train in Galena, IL, where his family had lived, and traveled with them on the route described by Mr. Tyrrell. Note that James and several other men left the wagon train the desert to go for help, so he was not with Mr. Rice, Tyrrell, and others when they reached Southern California. The last two letters describe the conditions in California, such that James Hecox would also have experienced.

We don't know where James traveled to in California other than to Santa Cruz. However, as curious and adventurous as he was, he must have gone to the Mother Lode to see the mines. He probably also went to San Francisco. We don't know the route he followed back to California or with whom he might have traveled.. We also don't know whether James' family went up to Leonidas, MI prior to his trek or at some later day. We only know that they were counted in the 1850 census there.

The Hecox Family Miscellany

The Hecox Family Miscellanycontains newspaper clippings and notes about descendants of Adna Hecox of Michigan by sons Adna Andress and James Hecox. As of 27 July, 1999, all items on this page are from the box of family memorabilia collected by Jessie Ross Pedrick, sister of Hazel Ross Richberger (Aunt Jessie to the Richberger family). If you have items to contribute, including items about descendants of other members of the Hecox family, please contact me at sbutler@rocketmail.com

Emigrant Trail and Goldrush Links 

Goldrush! California's Untold Stories: The website for a goldrush exhibition at the Oakland Museum with paintings and photos of the era.

Gold Rush History Alliance: Excellent Photos of miners' gear on this website of a Goldrush-era re-enactment association. Sadly, the Alliance has been disbanded and the website is no longer active.

OCTA: Oregon-California Trails Association:  One of the most extensive and comprehensive websites about the emigrant trail and experiences of the overland pioneers.

Past Patterns:  A source for patterns for historically accurate clothing. See 1850-1860 patterns for clothes representative of what was worn during this era.

Women in the Gold Rush "This page is sponsored by a recognized authority on women in the gold rush, JoAnn Levy, whose book, They Saw the Elephant: Women in the California Gold Rush, was praised by the San Francisco Chronicle as 'one of the best and most comprehensive accounts of gold rush life to date.'"



Posted    2 Mar 1999 by SRB
Updated  24 Sep 2008