Schuyler County ILGenWeb 

Gold Rush Vest


The Schuyler Jail Museum has recently been given three quilts that belonged to Colista Black Corbridge. Also, an ebony manicure set in a black box given to Colista from her husband, Clay Corbridge , and a silver comb and brush set from the same family.

Jean Nelson Stockham of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma gave the museum an 1849 Gold Rush Vest that once belonged to John Nelson. Along with the vest is a documention of Mr. Nelson’s journey to California. The vest was given to the Jail Museum in the names of the descendants of John and Cyrena Nelson so that the generations coming up may view it and learn about the life of their ancestor. With these were also given the Diary of Simon Doyle, documenting his two trips, 1849 and 1854, to find gold and his return by the Isthmus.

A woman in California made John Nelson’s deerskin vest for him before he returned to Illinois after several years in the gold fields. Mr. Nelson’s experience in hunting gold was not spectacularly successful but he saw how starved the people were for beef .He returned to Schuyler County and in 1854 drove cattle overland in the company of Simon Doyle. It is from this venture that he was able to save enough money to return to Illinois and buy a farm.

The deerskin vest, which is trimmed in silk ribbon, contained what has been determined to be $3000 in 20-dollar gold pieces. He wore it under his clothing, which must have been very uncomfortable from both weight and heat. He carried a 31-caliber Colt revolver in his belt and told his son, Ralph Nelson, that he slept very little on the entire trip home, which was by ship down the west coast of the United States to Panama, by mule across the Isthmus, then by ship to New York and down through the Great Lakes, and the Illinois River. The outlines of the gold pieces can still be clearly seen on the vest.

Although Mr. Nelson grew up in Schuyler County and had many relatives there, he bought a farm in Eldorado Township, McDonough County, which was near the farm of his uncle, Isaiah Dennis. He and his wife, Cyrena (Fowler) Nelson, reared their family of 9 girls and 2 boys there.

The families in Schuyler County who were a large part of his and Mrs. Nelson’s lives were: Beghtol, Bruner, Chipman, Chockley, Dennis, DeWeese, Fowler, Swink, et al.

It is people like these donors, who give so generously of their ancestor’s possessions, which make The Schuyler Jail Museum what it is today. Please visit us. We are open seven days a week from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.


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Gold Rush Vest article - copyright 2007 The Rushville Times - Written by Edie Fishel
Used by permission Schuyler County Historical Jail Museum
and Genealogical Center.

Copyright 2007 The Rushville Times; all rights reserved. For personal use only. Commercial use of the information contained in these pages is strictly prohibited without prior permission. If copied, this copyright must appear with the information.