Friday, August 27, 2004

Human nature

One of the odd ideas I run into all the time is that 'back then' things were different.

I've actually had a woman argue with me that a man convicted of killing his daughter couldn't have done it because 'fathers didn't kill their daughters back then'.

So when I found this page of notes from the County Court Minutes in McMinn Co., TN in the early 1860s, I had to chuckle.

I found a "cousin" of my husband's recorded there:
p.530, Apr 1861; Jeptha Sivils guilty of being father of illeg. child of Malissa B. Only which was orn 11 Jan 1860.
He wasn't the only one. You should take a glance at the webpage. Here are a few excerpts:

p.482, Nov 1860; James Montgomery denies that he is guilty of bastardy on Mary J. Dixon.

P.454, 2 July 1860; Petition of James Lamar in 1857. He was accused of being father of illegitimate dau. of Hersula Pearce named Sarah Virginia Pearce born 1 Nov 1856; he has been supporting child; mother is loose woman and he wants to legitimatize child and change name to Sarah Virginia Lamar.

p.473, 2 Oct 1860; Thomas Grisham age 15 bound to Wm. W. Porter. Thos. is illegitimate child of Ursula Pearce and John Grisham, dec'd was his reputed father.

and then there were the divorces:
p.76, Dec. 1852; Divorce granted Mary Dunlap. Married John Dunlap in Bradley Co. early 1849. John abandoned Mary.

p.112, Ar 1853; Divorce granted Matilda McCarver from Wm. McCarver who abandoned her.

p.141, 11 Aug 1853; Lewis Erwin granted divorce from Barbara Erwin, married about 29 July 1845. Barbara has deserted Lewis and is guilty of adultery with on Elijah Largent.

p.222, 5 May 1863; The State VS Thomas J. Cate. Bigamy, married on 9 Nov 1830 Mary Cate, married on 8 Aug 1862 in McMinn Co. Tabitha Ledbetter while still married to Mary, who was still alive. Eli Cate the prosecutor. John Neil & E. B. Cate witnessess for State.
And half this was going on during the Civil War:

p.543, 27 May 1861; Called Session of County Court - voting upon the organization of a home guard - postponed for the present - vote to lay a tax to support the indigent families of volunteers in the service in the Southern Army during the continuance .

p.552, July 1861; A man in each district paid for ascertaining no. of guns, rifles, & shotguns.

p.206, Nov 1862; Martial law existing.
Even in war time, life goes on.

Back to Jeptha, who's been a special problem, which this record helped to resolve.

In 1870, he's shown in Bradley County, TN with wife Eliza and four children. His brother and mother are next door.
the Ninth District, Page No. 13/100A
24 June 1870 by R.T. Engledow
P.O. Athens
line 34, 95/95 SIVELS Jepthy 41 M"[W] Farmer 2000/800 " [Tennessee]
Eliza 29 F"[W] Houskeeping " [Tennessee]
Susan 12 F"[W] " [Tennessee] attended school
Sarah 10 F"[W] " [Tennessee] attended school
William 9 M"[W] " [Tennessee] attended school
Albert 5? M"[W] " [Tennessee]
SIDWELL William 16 M"[W] Working on Farm " [Tennessee] attended school
Page No. 14/100B
line 1, PARKER Ella 15 FW Asst Houskeeper Tennessee attended school
line 2, 96/96 SIVELS Jack 35 M"[W] Working on Farm /400 " [Tennessee]
Jane 80 F"[W] Asst Houskeeper NCarolina
Louisa 30 F"[W] Tennessee
PARY John 16 M"[W] " [Tennessee]
Most researchers seem convinced that the 1860 Bradley County census of this family, which shows the husband's name as "Levi" is simply a mistake.

Dist. Thirteenth Dist., pg. 230/278B
31 July 1860 by James
P.O. Cleveland
line 5, 1521/1521 Levi SIVELS 33 M Farmer Painter
1000/100 " [Tenn]
Liza 18 F " [Tenn]
Susan M. 3 F " [Tenn]
Sarah C. 1 F " [Tenn]
Sarah 60 F " [Tenn]
Telitha 19 F " [Tenn]
Timothy 15 M " [Tenn]

The problem is that Jeptha is still in his mother's household in McMinn County in 1860. And McMinn is where Malissa's daughter California was born in January of 1860. It seems clear that Jeptha needed to be in McMinn County for that.

The 9th Civil District, Page No. 32/277B
19 June 1860 by Thos Rogers, P.O. Calhoun
line 18, 228/228 Teeman SIVILS 65 F Farmer 1000/350 Va
Rebecca 29 F Seamstress Tenn
Jeptha 27 M Farm Laborer " [Tenn]
Jane 25 F " [Tenn] cannot r/w
Andrew J 23 M Farm Laborer " [Tenn]
Sirena 20 F " [Tenn]

The whole issue would seem to be resolved by their marriage record:, Marriage records, 1808-1958 Rhea County (Tennessee). County Court Clerk: Jeptha CIVILS married Ruth E. SIVILS 20 Nov 1866 Rhea, Tennessee.

Ruth's maiden name is well known as Gibson. And she started having children named "Sivils" in 1857. Clearly there is a missing marriage record. A marriage to Jeptha's cousin Levi.

The problem is that the only record that exists for Levi (except this 1860 census record) is a note made out by descendants of his brother Timothy's family, but since Timothy is living in Levi's household with his/their mother in 1860, and Jeptha is living with his, I'm confident that the family tradition is correct. Levi is not to be found in 1850, nor are most of his siblings. These Sivils seem to have a special gift for disappearing...

Oh, did I mention that Malissa and her daughter are enumerated just a few pages over from Jeptha in McMinn County:

The 9th Civil District, Page No. 29/276A
18 June 1860 by Thomas Rogers
P.O. Calhoun
line 26, 205/205 Levi ONLY 55 m Farmer 1500/400 N.C.
Mahala Jane 47 F S.C.
Melissa 21 F Tenn
Thomas J. 17 M " [Tenn]
Sarah J. 15 F " [Tenn]
Mary 12 F " [Tenn]
Amanda 4 F " [Tenn]
E. JOHNSON 19 M Farm Laborer N.C.
Texanna 2 F Ten
California 6/12 F " [Ten]

I've found California in 1870 working as a domestic servant in McMinn County. I think she is the "Callie Onley" who married S.A. Hartsell in Bradley County (a neighboring county) in 1884, but I haven't been able to find them.

Malissa herself got married in 1874 in McMinn County, Tennessee to Ezekiel Swafford. I haven't been able to find them either.