California gold lured Gilmore Hays west in 1849. Born in 1810 in Kentucky, he moved to Marshall, Missouri where he became a District Court judge. Restless by nature, he welcomed the challenge in California. Hays did not find the amounts of gold he sought, but he did find the beauties of the west. In his daughter's words, he " ... knew that the land was full of richness and opportunities for amassing wealth such as would never be found in the more settled country."
He returned to Missouri for his family, his wife Naomi, their 6 sons and 1 daughter, and headed up a large wagon train bound for Oregon in 1852. Also in that train were future Tumwater resident, Dr. Nathaniel Ostrander, and the Benjamin Franklin Yantis family.
The first part of the journey was pleasurable. Outside Fort Laramie, however, they caught up to another wagon train. Naomi Hays went to the aid of a family with a sick boy. What she did not know was that he suffered from a particularly virulent strain of measles. She, too, became sick and the disease spread to all the young people in her wagon train. 3 of Gilmore Hays' sons died of the disease and were buried one by one along the road. Naomi Hays died and was buried near Salmon Falls, Idaho. Despite the tragedy, Gilmore Hays continued on the journey with his 4 remaining children.
The family arrived in Portland, described as " ... a mere village with a two plank sidewalk extending along the few blocks which were built up, and mud, mud everywhere." The severe winter that followed their arrival killed Hays' cattle and depleted his resources. The next spring the family followed the Cowlitz River to the Puget Sound and Gilmore Hays took out a Donation Land Claim just east of where the Masonic Cemetery is now. His daughter described Olympia. "[It] then was merely a collection of shacks, with only two or three places of business of any kind."
After a brief trip to the east, Hays returned to this area in time for the Indian War of 1855-1856. He organized the first volunteer troops and earned the rank of major by the end of the war. In 1861 he again sought gold, this time in Idaho where he remained. He served as the Owyhee County Auditor for several years. He returned to Olympia just a few weeks before his death in 1880.
Hay's daughter, Jerusha Jane Logan Hays, married Captain John G. Parker, the steamboat captain. Her colorful pioneer reminiscences have provided much of this story of Gilmore Hays. She and her husband are buried in this cemetery not far from her father..