Tuesday, January 1, 2019

A skeleton in the closet

One ancestor who has always fascinated me is Oliver Perry Hastings, my great-great-grandfather (my paternal grandmother’s maternal grandfather). My grandmother had a large portrait of him, another of his wife; she also had their marriage certificate. He appeared in the portrait to be a man of rectitude, and this was confirmed by his glowing obituary (a copy of which my grandmother also had). He was active in his community, serving as justice of the peace for Hancock county, Indiana, for several years; his name appears in many records of Hancock county, often as a witness or executor of an estate. He and his wife were also apparently staunch members of the Methodist Church. He and his wife, Elizabeth E. (Whitaker), had four children—two boys who died in infancy, and two girls who lived to adulthood, Mariah (Hastings) Warren Clark and Nettie Belle (Hastings) Likins (my great-grandmother).
            And he had one of those proverbial skeletons in his closet! Several years ago I saw a claim on that a man named Perry C. Apple was a son of Oliver Perry Hastings of Hancock county. I contacted the person who had posted this information; she wasn’t very directly related, but gave me enough information that I was able to put together at least the outlines of the story.
            In the 1850 census of Marion county, Indiana, Oliver, age 18, was living in the household of his parents, John and Mary Ann (Wheeler) Hastings. Four households away I found the family of Solomon Apple, including his daughter Mary Jane, then age 15. In between was the family of Levi Bolander. All these families had come to Indiana from Clermont co., Ohio, in the 1830s and 40s.
            Apparently Oliver and Mary Jane Apple had a relationship and she became pregnant. She was 18, and he was 21. Their child, Perry Commodore Apple, was born 9 Dec. 1854, and he is listed in the household of his Apple grandparents in 1860. Eight months after his birth, Oliver married Elizabeth Whitaker; two years later, Mary Jane married James Badgley.
            One wonders why Oliver and Mary Jane did not marry. Was Oliver already engaged to Elizabeth at the time? Were there issues between the families that prevented the marriage? The previous two years had not been kind to the Hastings family; Oliver’s mother, Mary Ann, had died, leaving a large family of children of whom Oliver was the eldest. Mary Ann’s mother, who was living in the family in 1850, had also died. Oliver’s father John moved to Illinois not long after his wife’s death, and Oliver appears to have gone to Illinois as well (they both appear in the 1855 state census of Shelby county), though he was back in Indiana by 1860.
            Mary Jane had a child by James Badgley, but her young husband died soon thereafter and she married the much older widower next door, Levi Bolander, by whom she had several more children. When Oliver returned to Indiana, he settled in Hancock county—not far from his out-of-wedlock son’s home, though not next door. The young Perry Apple apparently knew that Oliver was his father. When he married a cousin, Jennetta Apple, in 1876, the name on the marriage license was Perry C. Hasting. When Perry Apple died in 1911, the death certificate lists his father as Oliver Hastings. Oliver’s obituary, however, does not mention this son, and I never heard anything in the “family lore” to suggest that my great-grandmother had a half-brother.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The family of my 2nd great-grandmother, Frances Jane (Elliott) Johnson

One of my highest brick walls has been my great-great-grandmother, Frances Jane Elliott. Most of what is known of her family came originally from her son, Columbus Joseph Johnson, as recorded by his daughter Ila in the 1940s, and compiled by his son-in-law Elmer W. Thomas in the 1960s. According to Columbus, “Jane Elliott” (as he calls her; she is also listed in the Crawford co. tax records as “Mrs. Jane Johnson” so apparently was ordinarily known by her middle name) married John Johnson in Franklin co. AR 11 Dec. 1851 (and this is confirmed by Franklin co. marriage records, where she is named as Frances Jane Elliott). She was born 8 Apr. 1833 and died 27 Feb. 1868 in Arkansas, and her children were subsequently brought to California by their paternal uncle, William Johnson. Columbus also made the following remarks:

(1)  The Elliott family was of Welsh ancestry.

(2)  Frances J. Elliott’s mother’s maiden name was Booker; she (the mother) died in 1863 and is buried “on her father’s plantation.”

(3)  Frances J. Elliott’s grandfather Booker was a shoemaker, tanner and cotton farmer.

(4)  Frances J. Elliott’s father’s name is not known, but he apparently died early.

(5)  Frances J. Elliott had at least one brother, William Elliott [known to be William Thomas Cowan Elliott, b. ca 1829, settled in California ca. 1849 and is well known in records there].

Some additional information can be gleaned from U. S. census records, federal land patent records, and Franklin co. tax records. The 1840 census of Franklin co. shows an Elizabeth Elliott, age 30 to 40, with four young children in her household: a boy and a girl between 10 and 15, and a boy and a girl between 5 and 10.

In 1850 in Franklin co. AR we find:
Elizabeth Elliott           49        female              b. VA
Francis J. Elliott          16        female              b. TN
Francis Wright            13        female              b. AR
William J. Wright        9         male                 b. AR
Johnana Ragsdale        55        female              b. AR

And in 1860:
Eliz. Ellet                     62        female              b. VA
J. A. Ragsdale             14        female              b. AR
(adjacent household)
            Jn. Johnson                 31        male                 b. MO
            F. J. Johnson               27        female              b. TN
            William                          7        male                 b. AR
            Columbus                      4        male                 b. AR
            Alfred                            1        male                 b. AR

Certainly the F. J. Johnson in the 1860 census is my great-great-grandmother, and it seems clear that she is also the “Francis J. Elliott” in the 1850 census, and therefore quite probable that Elizabeth Elliott is her mother. The 1850 and 1860 censuses indicate that Elizabeth was born in Virginia (confirmed by the 1900 census entry for W. T. C. Elliott, which claims his mother was born in VA, father in SC). The ages differ by a few years, with the 1850 record saying Elizabeth was b. ca. 1800/01, the 1860 indicating ca. 1797/98. The 1800/01 date is more consistent with the range noted in 1840.

The four children listed in the 1840 census would include W. T. C. Elliott (b.  ca. 1829, so could plausibly be either the older boy, or the younger) and Frances Jane Elliott (the younger girl listed).

An Elizabeth Elliott received a federal land patent for land in Franklin co. (or possibly just over the border in Crawford co.) in 1843. This is likely she. An Elizabeth Elliott (variously spelled Eliott, Elliott, Elliot, Eliot) appears on Franklin co. tax records beginning in 1846; she last appears in 1861 (but that is the last extant record until 1866, when she does not appear). Columbus Johnson claimed she died in 1863; no contemporary records have been found to confirm this, but one whimsical record may support it: the Van Buren Press of 3 March 1866, which paper probably served the Franklin co. area (though located in neighboring Crawford co.), listed Elizabeth Elliott as among those for whom a letter was sitting unclaimed as of 28 Feb. at the Van Buren post office. [Evelyn Sue Williams, Abstracts from Crawford county, Ark., Newspapers (Nov. 1994)]

The hypothesis that emerges from all these records is that Elizabeth Booker, born in Virginia, married Mr. Elliott, and that they lived for the early part of their marriage in Tennessee (where the above records for Frances Jane, and consistent records for W. T. C.  Elliott, indicate they both were born, he ca. 1829 and she ca. 1833). This Mr. Elliott apparently died either before Elizabeth came to Arkansas, or shortly after, and in any event was apparently dead by the time of the 1840 census. Elizabeth Elliott does not appear in the census records after 1860, and of course Columbus said that she died in1863.

Who are the females named “Ragsdale” in these census records? The family tradition doesn’t mention this name, but Columbus mentioned several sisters of his father—a list which, while essentially correct, conflates some names and includes one who was not a sister but a cousin. Included in the list is one who cannot be identified in conjunction with the Johnson family, a “Mrs. Raglyn” who, he said, “lived and died in the East” (which presumably just means she didn’t come to California). Is it possible that he had the name and relationship slightly wrong, and that her name was Ragsdale and she was a sister of his mother? Whether that rather speculative idea is true or not, the presence in two different census years of a Ragsdale female in Elizabeth Elliott’s household suggests a close connection. But who were they?

My guess is that the 1850 census listing for “Johnana Ragsdale” is mistaken in the age; it is highly unlikely that she could have been born in Arkansas in 1795. If she was not 55, but 5, she would be the same person enumerated in Elizabeth’s household in 1860, J. A. Ragsdale age 14.

A biographical sketch of one Wesley Hinson [Henson], a resident of Crawford co., in the Goodspeed Publishing Company’s 1889 History of Benton, Washington, Carroll, Madison, Crawford, Franklin, and Sebastian Counties, Arkansas states that he married a Johanna Ragsdale, daughter of George and Hester Ann Ragsdale. It also states that Johanna’s mother died when she was “but a girl.” My current theory is that Hester Ann Ragsdale was a daughter of Elizabeth Elliott, that she died not too long after the birth of her daughter Johanna/John Anna ca. 1846, and that the young girl then lived with Elizabeth. Her father, George Ragsdale, is apparently the man who appears in the 1850 census in the household of Luna and Susan Booth; Susan is apparently Susan Ragsdale, George’s sister. Their mother Matilda Ragsdale is also in the household. It is interesting to note that W. T. C. Elliott named one of his children Hester—perhaps after his deceased sister?

George Ragsdale then apparently married again, to a woman whose name is not known. In the 1860 census he appears again in Crawford county as an apparent widower, with two young sons, Peter and Enos (5 and 3 respectively). Some descendants of this family have assumed that these two were also the sons of Hester Ann, but that seems quite unlikely, since George appears unmarried in the 1850 census (and Hester Ann doesn’t appear at all). It is much more likely that she had died, leaving the one daughter, and that George subsequently married the mother of Peter and Enos. This wife apparently also died prior to 1860. In the 1870 census, George appears with a wife “N. C.,’ aged 19 (and he was then 48!), along with Enos (“E. B.”) and a young girl, “M. A.” In Peter’s household in 1880, the “N. C.” is named as “Nancy,” the “M. A.” is named as Martha, and there are two more children, George (age 9) and Maggie (age 2).

George Ragsdale apparently then moved to Cherokee co. KS, where he appears in the 1895 Kansas state census in the household of his son Peter. Apparently the third wife, Nancy, was dead by that time.

Wesley Henson died in Crawford co. AR in 1893, leaving a will in which he mentions “my wife John Anna Caroline Henson,” as his heir. He states that, following the death of his wife, his estate is to be divided between his brothers and sister “and my nephew James Wesley Ragsdale.” One would assume that this “nephew” was in fact his wife’s nephew (and apparently the son of her brother, Enos B. Ragsdale).

To summarize: It appears to me that the Hester Ann who was married to George Ragsdale was a daughter of Elizabeth (Booker) Elliott, one of the two young women in her household in 1840 (the other being my great-great-grandmother, Frances Jane). George and Hester had one daughter, Johanna/John Anna, who, after her mother’s death, went to live with her grandmother Elizabeth until her marriage to Wesley Henson. Her father, George Ragsdale, subsequently married an unknown woman, by whom he had two sons, Peter and Enos; and after their mother’s death, he married a third time a woman named Nancy, by whom he had three more children, Martha, George, and Maggie.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

An interesting discovery

One of the mysteries I've been working on for a while has to do with Thomas Likins--I'm pretty sure the brother of my great-great-grandfather, Peter Likins. He appears in the 1850 census a household or two away from William and Catherine (Basore) Bannon--Catherine being the mother of Peter (and Thomas) Likins (she had remarried Bannon after the death of her first husband, Richard Likins). I had learned that Thomas had married twice, first to Elizabeth Shortridge, and then second to Elizabeth Short. Apparently the first Elizabeth died, and I knew they had one son, William R. Likins, but didn't know anything about him after the 1870 census, when he appeared in the census in the household of Calder and Mary Ann (Bannon) Hiday--Mary Ann being his father's half-sister.

Anyway, today I discovered a fascinating note in the Petaluma (CA) Courier, 17 Feb. 1886:

“If William R. Likins, formerly of Hancock county, Indiana, but now somewhere in California, will send his address to Mrs Catharine J. Emerson, formerly Miss Catherine J. Likins, now of Petaluma, Cal., he will find a sister he has not seen for thirty years. Will all the county paper of Sonoma and the papers of the State please copy this notice and greatly oblige a sister seeking a long absent brother.” 

So I worked on following up on this, and have concluded that this Catherine is a second child of Thomas and his first wife. She appears in the 1860 census with her maternal grandparents, William and Jane Shortridge, living in Kansas. I was able to trace her and her descendants fairly easily. But the story that emerges is that these two kids' mother died, and they were essentially separated--one going to the maternal grandparents, the other going somewhere else (haven't found him in 1860), and apparently didn't see each other again. The newspaper article is really heartbreaking: they hadn't seen each other in THIRTY YEARS--i.e., since 1856, when they were just very young children. William may have gone to California, but about the time of the newspaper notice, he seems to have been in Kansas (he was married there in 1882, and had a daughter born there in 1889). That means it is unlikely he ever learned that his sister was looking for him. And who knows if either of them ever saw their father again; he and his second wife moved to Iowa, and then to Idaho, so they may have completely lost touch. I have not yet found him after 1889. Such a sad story.