|James Hogg Vance|
I'm returning from a writing hiatus to tell the story of someone who isn't my family member. James Hogg Vance is not related to me, but my father spent time researching him for a hobby project, and the results were so interesting that we wanted to share them.
My father collects car license plates. His interest in license plates began in the 1980s. He started his collection around 1987 and joined ALPCA (The Automobile License Plate Collectors Association) in 1989. Thirty years later, his collection is extensive, featuring both domestic and international plates. He owns license plates from every country in the world, expect four: The Vatican, South Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, and East Timor. Some of his plates have been featured in exhibits at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, and he was recently quoted in the New York Times about the revival of the California 1960s Legacy Plate. He currently serves as the Secretary of ALPCA's Gold Rush Region.
In 2013, my father acquired a 1910 "pre-state" California license plate from another collector, Mark Hanna. He has been building an extensive collection of California plates, including one issued in each year from 1910 to the present, and 1910 was a year he didn't yet own. License plates from the years 1905 - 1913 are known as "pre-state," because during those years California did not issue license plates for cars. They issued dash discs, metal disks that were attached to a vehicle's dashboard. The individual vehicle owner was responsible for marking the exterior of the car with the ID number found on the dash disc. In the beginning, a vehicle owner had to display a rear plate and paint the same identification number on one of the headlights. Some people stamped the numbers onto leather and hung them on the car, or painted the numbers directly on their radiator. Many chose to make tin plates and affix them to the car's bumper. These plates could be easily made from kits purchased at a hardware store. This is what James Hogg Vance did in 1910, when he was issued a registration for his car.
|The 1910 tin license plate originally owned by James Vance, now in my father's collection.|
My father was so intrigued by this early license plate, and curious about what kind of car it might have identified, that he, along with license plate enthusiasts John Witt and Jeff Minard, began to research registration records to determine the original owner of the plate. After they learned that James Hogg Vance had been issued the registration number in December of 1909 as a 1910 registration, my father decided to learn more about him by searching online genealogy websites and contacting historical societies. He has shared his findings with ALPCA, and was kind enough to let me relate his discoveries here.
|The display my father made about James Vance's life and his 1910 license plate.|
James Hogg Vance spent much of his adult life in Yreka, California. Yreka is in the northernmost part of California, just 25 miles from the Oregon border, and is best known for its roots as a gold rush town. From Wikipedia:
In March 1851, Abraham Thompson, a mule train packer, discovered gold near Rocky Gulch while traveling along the Siskiyou Trail from southern Oregon. By April 1851, 2,000 miners had arrived in "Thompson's Dry Diggings" to test their luck, and by June 1851, a gold rush "boomtown" of tents, shanties, and a few rough cabins had sprung up. Several name changes occurred until the little city was called Yreka. The name comes from the Shasta language /wáik'a/, for which Mount Shasta is named. The word means "north mountain" or "white mountain".
|Yreka in the early 1900s (courtesy Yreka Chamber)|
My father contacted the Siskiyou County Museum and they sent him the following information about James Vance, a notable businessman in early Yreka:
Born on a farm near Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in 1839 of Scotch parents. Moved to the the United States about 1, then went west and made connections with the old California Stage Company. In Genoa, Nevada, he became a naturalized citizen. He settled in Yreka in 1863 and prepared a home and returned to Genoa where he married Louisa Scott. They, with Mrs. Vance's younger sister, Almedia Scott, reached Yreka by stage coach in June of 1863.
Mr & Mrs Vance reared their four daughters and lived in Yreka until 1898 when Mr. Vance sold his interests in the firm of Vance & Wallbridge to Mr. J.D. Carr and moved with his family to San Francisco.
The firm of Vance & Wallbridge had their main business in Yreka but also had a store and warehouses in Montague and Ager. In connection with Mr. S.P. Terwilliger they built the first flour mill in Little Shasta Valley. They built for their own use the first telephone line from Yreka to Montague and the Mill in Little Shasta Valley.
|Genoa, Nevada in 1859 (US National Archives/NARA)|
Online genealogy research reveals that James Hogg Vance was the son of Robert Vans (which James later spelled "Vance") and Mary Hogg. In about 1861, he entered the United States and traveled by stagecoach to Genoa, Nevada, which was the end of the stage coach line. From there, he made his way to Yreka, where he set up a profitable flour mill and a series of retail stores.
Louisa Jane Scott was born in Springfield, Illinois in 1843. She was the daughter of Lemuel Scott and Mary Talley. It appears that she was born just before her parents headed westward, likely on the Oregon Trail. The Scott family was established in Yahmill, Oregon by 1845, and Louisa's younger siblings were born there. It's not clear why Louisa and her family would have been in Genoa, Nevada, as the Siskiyou County Museum's records indicate. Yamhill and Genoa are nearly 600 miles apart. However, at some point in 1863, James Vance married Louisa Scott and they established a home in Yreka, where they would raise four daughters:
Mary Agnes b. 1866, d. 1922
Lulu b. 1870, d. 1953, m. August C. Baumgartner
Effie Scott b. 1873, d.1951
Mabel Ella - b.1876, d. 1965, m. Charles William Carter
|Mabel Ella Vance|
Lulu was the first daughter to leave the Vance home. She married August Baumgartner on October 18, 1895 in Alameda County, California. This is 300 miles south of Yreka. It's not certain if the entire Vance family had moved to the Bay Area at this point, or if Lulu was the first to relocate, but around this period all the Vances departed Yreka and made a new home in Oakland, California.
Sometime prior to 1898, Mr. Vance left his home and business in Yreka and moved his wife and three unmarried daughters to Oakland, just across the bay from San Francisco. His business in Yreka was quite prosperous, so we can only speculate why he would leave. Perhaps he wanted to be near Lulu, who was now living in Oakland with her husband. My father wonders if Louisa had taken ill, and James moved the family to San Francisco to be nearer doctors who could help her. If that was the case, the move did not improve her condition. Louisa died in 1899, at the age of 58.
In 1900, according to the U.S Census, the Vance family lived on 32nd Street in Oakland. Mary Agnes, Effie and Mabel were not married and were living at home. Lulu and August Baumgartner had welcomed their first child, and they were also living on 32nd Street with James Vance and the Vance sisters. In 1909, James Vance moved to 305 Euclid Ave in Oakland with Mary Agnes, Effie and Mabel. This area was called Adams Point and it was a new development. The homes were brand new and quite luxurious. Just a year later, James Vance made his kit license plate that would later end up in my father's possession.
|Some of the many California plates in my father's collection|
We don't know what kind of car James Vance owned in 1910 when he made his license plate. What we do know is that he was issued a new 1914 plate for a 1912 Pope Hartford automobile. In 1914, California began issuing license plates along with dash discs, and so James Vance retired his kit plate and put the state-issued plate on his Pope Hartford. Later in 1914, he purchased a Packard. We can't be sure what sort of circuitous path the 1910 plate took before it came to live in my father's collection, but it's still in great shape more than 100 years later.
|An advertisement for a 1912 Pope-Hartford Touring Car, like the one James Vance owned.|
James Vance died on July 8, 1917 in Oakland. He was 77. He was survived by all four of his daughters. Mary Agnes and Effie Vance never married. They are buried alongside their parents at Chapel of Memories in Oakland.
Mabel Ella Vance married Charles William Carter and had two children, Charles Vance Carter (1902-1988) and Florence Agnes Vance (1905-1990). Lulu Vance and August C. Baumgartner had one son, Vance Baumgartner (1899-1937). These families have many living descendants.
My father had a great time researching James Vance and his family. He has also inspired some of his fellow ALPCA members to ask more questions about their historical license plates, and learn about the lives of the people who originally owned them. As my father says, "Remember, behind every piece of tin or porcelain is at least one person worth remembering."
1 The page about James Vance from the Siskiyou County Museum says he arrived in the USA in 1839. This appears to be a typo, since that is the year of James Vance's birth, and he didn't move to the USA until about 1861. ↩