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 true...as 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....

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