Susan C. Haile was born December 20, 1817, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. She was the youngest child of Joseph and Prudence (Bledsoe) Seawell, natives of Sumner County, Tennessee. Upon the death of Joseph in 1819, Prudence Seawell returned to Sumner County to be near relatives who would help care for her seven children. There, near the town of Gallatin, Susan Seawell grew up.
On November 17, 1836, Susan married twenty-year-old Richard C. Haile, a native of Smith County, Tennessee. In 1840 the Hailes and their first two children moved to Lafayette County, Missouri, where Richard was respectively employed in teaching school, bookkeeping, and clerking. In 1849 Haile joined the California gold rush, but returned to Missouri in 1851 for his wife and children. In the spring of 1852 the Haile family began their trip across the plains to California.
By 1852 Susan and Richard were the parents of six children: Joseph Seawell; Martha Antoinette ("Nettie"); Leaman; Sarah Jane; John William; and Susan Henrietta ("Hettie"), the baby of the family who was three years old. Relatives of Susan were also in the company, including her unmarried older sister, Martha, and her brother, John Seawell, with his family. John Seawell, like Richard Haile, was a returning forty-niner. Besides several wagons, they were herding 100 head of cattle.
June 2, 1852, Susan C. Haile died of cholera while the family camped within sight of the Platte River. According to legend, though not confirmed by family papers, Richard returned to the settlements and obtained a marble headstone for his wife's grave. He probably traveled by horseback. This story may well be true and would account for the grave's survival. Indeed, the existence of such a grave marker is confirmed by William Woodhams who arrived here May 10, 1854. He wrote:
....passed many graves. One had a nice marble headstone with a woman's name on it. It stood on the top of a little sandhill, and strange enough was that sad evidence of civilization here in the wilderness, the more so as it bore a woman's name. Bad enough for man to be buried in this wild region, but a woman's place seems peculiarly in the comforts of home and friends.
The wagon train went on without Richard, with Aunt Martha Seawell taking charge of the Haile children. After marking Susan's grave, Richard could well have overtaken the slow-moving wagon train before it reached California.
Richard and the children settled in Napa County where he farmed and engaged in lumbering with Susan's brother, John Seawell. In 1853 he married widowed Susan (Clayton) Sears, a native of Kentucky. They had four children together. Later the family moved to Solano County after Richard bought a 500
acre farm located a few miles north of Fairfield. He served three terms in the California legislature representing in turn Napa and Solano counties. Richard C. Haile died January 13, 1890.
Research and Funding by The Oregon-California Trails Association, 2002. This is a part of your American heritage. Honor it, protect it, preserve it for your children.