Bitten by gold rush fever in 1849, Dr. Benjamin F. Edwards, brother to former Illinois governor Ninian Edwards and the Honorable Cyrus Edwards, left Alton and traveled to San Francisco to try to capitalize on the economic opportunity. Days before he began making his way home, 17 shipwrecked Japanese Sailors found floating adrift for 50 days in the Pacific arrived having been rescued and transported to the city. In the food stores of the rescued Japanese were soybean seeds ("Japanese peas"). Dr. Edwards came into possession of several of the peas and he in turn gave six of them to his friend, James Henry Lea, a prominent merchant, upon returning to Alton in April of 1851. Mr. Lea had an interest in agriculture and planted the seeds in his garden on what is now the location of Loretto Towers, thus becoming the first soybeans grown in Illinois. Mr. Lea would go on to share the results of his crop with various horticultural societies, thus playing a significant role in soybean development across the country.