John Potter 1795 - 1851

John Potter was born in Pendlton District, SC in 1795, first son of Thomas and Ruth Moore Potter.

Four years later, brother Thomas Jr. was born in 1799, then Absalom came in 1803, Lewis in 1804, and Joseph in 1806.

At some point the family may have moved to Indiana, as the name Thomas Potter can be found in Federal censuses in several Indiana counties in 1820.

John Potter, at age 25, married Nancy Anderson, age 19, about 1820. Nancy Anderson was born in Kentucky in 1801.

John and Nancy moved to Saline County, Missouri where their first son, William, was born 6 July 1825. Daughter Elizabeth came two years later on 24 October 1827, followed by daughter Ruth (or Lucy) Ann born 7 Feb 1829 - both in Saline County, Missouri.

John's mother Ruth Moore Potter died 21 September 1829 at age 65 in Gibson County, Indiana.

There is a John Potter found in the 1830 Federal Census for Blackwater Township, Saline County, MO with two female children under five and one male child under 5, and several older males that may be his father and a couple brothers living with them.

In 1831 John and Nancy had another son - Thomas. Daughter Rebecca Evins Potter was born in 1835.

John's father, Thomas Potter Sr., died 1 January 1835 in Gibson County, Indiana at age 80.

Another daughter, Mary Jane, was born in 1840 in Rives County, Missouri. The 1840 Federal Census for Rives County, MO lists a John Potter with one male age 10 to 15 (William), one male age 5 to 10 (Thomas), one female age 10 to 15 (Elizabeth), one female age 5 to 10 (Ruth Ann), and two females under age 5 (Rebecca and Mary Jane).

There are three additional John Potters in the 1840 Federal Census for Missouri, but the family member ages don't match as closely.

In 1845 John and Nancy moved their family from Missouri to California, where their youngest son, James Knox Polk Potter was born in 1846 (possibly born in MO before moving to CA).

A letter from John's brother Lewis to their brother Thomas in May of 1847 states that John had moved to California.

It is believed John Potter may have accompanied Bidwell on his successful gold-seeking expedition to North Fork of Feather River in the summer of 1848. This is supported by the inventory of his estate after his death in 1851: $15,375.81 cash on hand and claim of 14,400 acres of land.

John and Nancy Potter's son William married Mary Evaline Gordon 12 September 1849 in the District of San Rafael, Upper California.

John's wife Nancy died some time before the 1850 Federal Census, enumerated 30 September, where the family is listed in Butte Co., CA:
Dwelling 368:
Jno Potter, age 55, farmer, bp SC; Eliz., age 22, bp MO; Lucy Ann, age 21, bp MO; Rebecca, age 15, bp MO; M. J., age 9, bp MO; James, age 4, bp MO. {Note: It's possible John originally went to CA in 1845 alone, with the family arriving after James was born in 1846.}
Dwelling 369:
Thos. Potter, age 19, miner, bp MO; Job Potter, age 44, miner, bp Ind; Absalom Potter, age 17, miner, bp MO. This family is probably John's son Thomas, age 19, with Job being John's brother Joseph and possibly his son Absalom.

John Potter may have taken ill around the time the census was taken as several of the children show up in the Federal Census for Mendocino County, CA taken six weeks later on 14 Nov 1850:
Family 1: Samuel Chase, age 30, Farmer, bp NH; R A Chase, age 19, bp MO (possibly Ruth (Lucy) Ann Potter known to have married Samuel Chase 1848-1850; Absalom Potter, age 17, Farmer, bp MO, Mary Jane Potter, age 10 , bp MO.
Family 7: William Potter, age 25, Farmer, bp MO; Mary E Potter, age 17, bp MO; Rebecca Potter, age 13, bp MO; - most likely James' oldest brother William and wife, and sister Rebecca.

It's possible that daughter Elizabeth kept her youngest brother James with her and she stayed to take care of their father. John Potter died in January 1851, reportedly with his brother Joseph by his side. Joseph then returned to Missouri.