This watch chain was made by James M. Daigh of Perry, Illinois, when he was mining gold in California in 1849. Daigh, a native of Virginia, had settled in Illinois during the 1820s and amassed more than 200 acres of land in Pike County. In his own words, “wanderlust and a consuming desire for luxuries” drove him to head west during the Gold Rush over the intense opposition of his wife and children, who he left behind in Illinois.
Daigh spent three years in California, returned to Illinois in 1852, and then went back to California after the death of his wife in 1853. He died in 1855. In addition to five orphaned children, he left behind this watch chain and a diary recording his journey west and experiences as a miner.