Missing links in the Burgoyne/Astley story

There have been many twists and turns in the research path pursuing the man whose pen name was Thomas H. Burgoyne. We have, in Letters to the Sage, correspondence from Burgoyne written in Monterey, California in the late 1880s, but no evidence of his relocation to Humboldt County where he was later rumored to have died. He did, however, live in Mendocino County and advertised a forthcoming book with a Cummings, Mendocino County mailing address in 1891. The only other evidence found that after departing from Monterey, where he and Grimke had written The Light of Egypt, he lived in Mendocino County are two entries in a hotel register in San Francisco dated 1889. Here is the first:

Russ House hotel arrivals June 29, 1889; Burgoyne fifth line on right column

The Russ House, destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire, was on Montgomery Street in the financial district and built in the early 1860s.

Russ House Hotel, 1870, San Francisco Historical Society Collection

When Norman and Genevieve Astley began acquiring property in North Carolina, they were described in a February 1894 Morganton newspaper story which is the only instance I have found that mentions having lived on a California ranch, which he claims to have owned. I went to the Bureau of Land Management records for patents, which are purchases of land directly from the federal government rather than from an individual owner, and learned that in January 1891 160 acres of ranch land in Mendocino County was patented to a John H. Burgoyne.

January 14, 1891 land patent

The patent search feature allows zooming in on the parcel which is highlighted in dark orange. The land is in the northwestern portion of the county, and just twenty miles as the crow flies from Cummings where he was living in 1889 and still receiving mail in 1891; but any driving route takes nearly two hours and sixty miles so the travel time in Burgoyne’s day would have been immense and the route rugged to any post office.

If John H. Burgoyne is another pseudonym, it explains what it meant when as Norman Astley arriving in North Carolina in 1894, he was described as owning California ranch land– for which no evidence exists. He had purchased it not as Astley but as John H. Burgoyne.

February 1894, Morganton NC

Lyman Abbott was a very well-respected mainstream theologian and Congregationalist clergyman, whose friendship with the Astleys is testimony to how well they were regarded in New York intellectual circles. He succeeded Henry Ward Beecher as minister of the Plymouth Congregational Church in Brooklyn. Abbott’s liberal social gospel views were described as almost Unitarian and were widely disseminated through his periodical and book publications.