I'm researching my ancestor William J. CREE. He travelled to California in 1849 with the expedition led first by Col. Henry Webb, and then by John Woodhouse Audubon. William is known to have made it to CA with Audubon, and he was back home in Elizabeth, NJ by August of 1853, but I haven't found anything to document his time in between.
According to family tradition, he established a hotel in the gold fields known as the Great American Hotel, but lost all of his money in an Indian raid outside of St. Louis on his return to NJ.
Just before William left for California, on January 29, 1849, his mother gave him a bible which he carried with him to California and back. In the bible is written in pencil "Mokelumne Hill, Cal" and the date August 21, 185-, the last figure in the year being too faint to be read. Since William arrived in San Diego in October of 1849 and was back in Elizabeth by 1853, the only Augusts William could have spent in California were in 1850, 1851 and 1852. So William was almost certainly in California when the 1850 Census was taken that year. But I can't find him.
I just discovered last night that Ancestry's 1850 CA census (and presumably the prior AIS book index) skips most of Calaveras County. I spent 5+ hours going through the county for people born in NJ but didn't see William.
I have a few questions:
Does anybody have any ideas how I can follow up on whether he ran a hotel there?
Were there any newspapers that at the time?
Were claims recorded like land records in the county or elsewhere? Were they lost in the fire at the courthouse, or had the records been moved?
Are there any other gold country counties that are known to be missing from the Ancestry index?
And finally, I'd love to compare notes with descendants of the other members of the Webb / Audubon expedition.