Wednesday, July 20, 2011

George Washington Abbott...

...or, as I think of him, "GW," was born about 1838 in Indiana to John and Ellender Abbott. John and Ellender had been married on Christmas Day, 1815, in Alexandria, Kentucky. They had quite a few older children: Susan, Mary, Catharine, Ellen, William, James, and Edward. (A younger sister, Margaret, completed the family when she was born in 1842.) The family had only moved to Indiana about a year before George was born.

The family was still in Ripley County, Indiana, when the 1850 census was taken and George was 12. By then his older sisters had married and moved out of the house.

By 1857, however, the John Abbott family had moved to Tazewell County, Illinois, and on October 30, 1857, John deeded 40 A. of land to son George W., in exchange for $1 and the promise to care for his parents "during the full term of their natural lives." George would have been about 19 or 20 at the time.

On March 17, 1859, George married Martha A. Barr. In January, 1860, their son Edward was born.

On February 11, 1860, George and Martha sold the 40 acre tract he'd been given by his father for $700. This obviously upset his father. In June, 1860, John Abbott sued George and the man who'd bought the land to get the land returned to him. The case dragged on for about a year, but the land was eventually returned to John Abbott.

Also in June of 1860, about the same time that John pressed the suit against his son George, the 1860 census puts Ellender, George's mother, living with George and Martha and their son Edward. (This is the only mention of Edward, so presumably he died as a young child.)

On July 18, 1861, George and Martha's second son was born, John William Abbott.

In August, 1862, Allen Henry Abbott, their third son, was born.

There is reasonable evidence that another child was probably born around June or July of 1864.

However, in September, 1864, George Washington Abbott married Lucinda A. Dancy in Peoria, Illinois, right across the river from Pekin. In January, 1866, Martha sued for divorce from George, stating abandonment of her and their 3 small children. Further testimony in the case stated that George was " in...Peoria in open state of adultery with some woman...." There was an attempt to give Martha legal custody of the children, but the clause was struck out and no further mention of the children was made in the divorce documents.

Four years later, on July 18, 1870, Martha Abbott was living as a domestic servant with two children, Charles (6) and Minnie (2), in the home of Charles Walker and his family in Pekin.

Meanwhile, on August 3, 1870, George Washington Abbott was living in southern Missouri, with his wife Lucinda and his sons, William (7) and Allen (6). He was working at a sawmill. His rights to vote had been denied.

Interestingly, there is a second marriage record for George and Lucinda, witnessed by William Rounsville, Police Magistrate, in Peoria, Illinois - dated May 13, 1873. Presumably the first marriage was determined to be null and void, since George was still married to Martha at that time.

Despite being married twice, things didn't go too well for George and Lucinda's union either. In June 1879, Lucinda petitioned for divorce from George in Jasper County, Missouri.

The last we know of George, there was a daughter born to him and Laura C. C. (nee Dickson) Abbott in Jasper County, Missouri, on October 28, 1884. Laura was listed as 24 years old, born in Arkansas, and with 2 prior children. George's occupation was listed as "engineer."

Where and when did George die? We have no idea. Did his marriage to Laura last longer than his marriages to Martha and Lucinda. We don't know that either. Nor have we been able to chase down Charles or Minnie Abbott, or George and Laura's daughter.

It's a sad story. It's not surprising that major parts of it were omitted when telling youngsters about their ancestors. What was George like? Presumably he must have been charming - his parents gave him their farm, and he convinced 3 women to marry him. Living up to his responsibilities appears to have been a problem for him, though. We'll keep searching - who knows what we'll find to further flesh out this all-too-human ancestor.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Family Myths - The Roving Father

One of the double edged swords in chasing family history is the family myth. None are coming to mind on my family's side, but Greg's family has a couple that we are still chasing down.

The myth that seems central to his father's family is the story of George Washington Abbott. As I understand this family tale....

"George Washington Abbott married Martha around 1860 and had 4 children in Pekin, Illinois. At some point he packed up the two eldest, John William (Greg's ancestor) and Allen Henry, and left his wife and 2 younger children behind in Pekin. He traveled south and west, eventually leaving his two boys with a farm family in southeast Kansas and disappearing.

"He came back a few years later to borrow a team of horses. He let his boys know that he had remarried in Arkansas, then he disappeared again. A couple years later, his widow came by to return the borrowed horses, but John William figured that she needed them more than he did, so he let her keep them."

John William was, understandably, not too fond of talking about his father, so this is all that had been pieced together by the family in the 1970's. John William had passed away many years before, so it wasn't possible to ask him for further details.

This myth took some serious work to penetrate and we don't have all the details yet, but like so many family tales, it turned out to be mostly far as it went. A lot of the messiest details were omitted in constructing the myth, but they add context and reason and understanding, if not pride. There's a bit of bigamy, apparent shiftlessness, and at least 2 divorces involved. I guess every family has at least one black sheep. I'll continue filling in the story in increments, as it's rather long and complicated. Who knows? Maybe someone will read this and help me fill in the details that we don't know yet....