Tolles, James S.


James S. Tolles was born on 2 August 1826 in eastern Tennessee. His parents, Abraham and Harriet Tolles, moved seven years later to Rushville, Illinois where they raised eight children. In 1849, at the age of twenty-two, James set out for California with his father and younger brother, John. With the exception of a married daughter, Mabel, the entire Tolles family eventually left Illinois and settled in the West.

James tried mining in California but found more success delivering mail. He operated “the James Tolles Express from the Feather River to San Francisco” until 1852 (Holliday, 371). He also ran a general store. Five years later, in 1857, James married Martha J. Herring. They had three children: Luella, Stewart, and Linda.

James moved his family to Reno, Nevada in 1862. He pursued fruit farming, but as he wrote to his sister Mabel on 12 July 1874, “my wife is not well [in Nevada] . . . and I know I would feel much better in California than here, the altitude is too great” (Mss 1576, folder 2). However, the 1880 Census finds the family still living in Nevada.

By 1900, James was a widower and had moved to Butte County, California to live with his daughter, Linda, and son-in-law, William Beard. James passed away on 24 July 1908 at Placer County, California.


1880 Nevada Census (James S. Tolles, Truckee Meadows, WashoeCounty, 287B).

1900 California Census (William A. Beard, ButteCounty).

California Death Index. Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Holliday, J.S. The World Rushed In: The California Gold Rush Experience. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1981.

Tollis Family Correspondence, 1849–1875. Mss 1576. BrighamYoungUniversity Special Collections.