Saturday, September 11, 2010

"Divorce Wars" In The Early 1800's

Copyright 2010, The Hopelessly Hooked Genealogist (B. Harrison)

There was a Hollywood movie a few years back called "The War Of The Roses", a comedy-tragedy depicting a divorcing couple who continued to live in the same house together while battling it out via their divorce lawyers. Accusations and threats ran rampant. They each wanted sole ownership of the house and property, even the family pets. Neither would budge an inch, each trying to one-up the other and "win".  Their battles continued on the homefront, with mudslinging and trickery, and with ultimately tragic results. Everybody loses. 

Divorces were not so different for our ancestors, it seems. In reviewing some divorce records published in an old issue of my collection of the North Carolina Genealogical Society's Journal, I came across some rather interesting and humorous transcripts of divorce cases in North Carolina in 1805. Though the named parties are not ancestors of mine, I thought I would share one amusing account anyway. It seems that reasons for divorce have not changed a whole lot over the years; though we learn that back in the early 1800's a married woman had few if any legal rights to her own property and money, even if her husband had been missing for many years, unless she was able to secure a legal divorce. The frontier version of community property meant in essence that everything belonged to the husband solely, even property the wife had inherited from her own family, unless she obtained a divorce order giving her rights to her own property and possessions. Some of us may wish that "tar and feathering" by the neighbors was still a common practice in dealing with wayward husbands!

The following transcript appeared in the NCGS Journal in May 1993, on page 101. Original Source: "Divorce & Separations from Petitions to the North Carolina General Assembly from 1779- 1805. "

"Eisenhaur, Mary (Meyers) and Nicholas Eisenhauer. Petition of Mary Eisenhauer of Cabarrus Co., NC, 12 Nov 1805, states that her rude, lazy and misanthropic husband, Nicholas Eisenhauer, drove her from home about 20 years ago without the slightest subsistence. He "made away with all we had" and abandoned your petitioner "for good and all", except once when he returned and tried to convince her to sell 200 acres of land that her father, Michael Meyers, bestowed upon her. 'He left me again under hundreds of bitter and cruel curses, and I truly suffered many since many times, although by the help of my children and God's blessings, I acquired a little again'. The petitioner reflects upon the 'nasty character' of the said Nicholas by including the following about him: "He got an intimate understanding with a licentious widow. Some neighbors, mistrusting him, watched and catched them in fornication; took him out of the house, tarred and feathered him and exposed him in that figure to public execration'. Your petitioner prays for assistance to secure herself all such small acquisitions she has saved since her husband left her and what she may acquire hereafter. Signed fifteen subscribers, most of them signing in German script. Bill to secure to persons named such property as they may acquire hereafter......and is passed 18-19 Dec, 1805. "

Friday, September 10, 2010

"Only The Men Had Babies"

 Copyright 2010, The Hopelessly Hooked Genealogist (B. Harrison)

One of our challenges when searching for our female ancestors, especially in the American frontier days and prior, is that we often find the records appear only under her married name as an adult, and under her father's household name in census records as a child. She was often considered a mere extension of her father and then her husband, with no identity of her own...treated in the records more like property to be enumerated along with household/ farm belongings, than as a unique individual who was a mother and matriarch of a family line. Unless she kept a journal which still survives today and we are lucky enough to find it, we are apt to learn little about her daily life and the events that affected her. One of my focuses in working on updating my own family tree, is to strive to include more biographical information on the women in my tree, especially my direct female ancestors. It is through researching my female ancestors and their family histories, that I have discovered my eligibility to join various descendants' patriotic organizations such as the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), and Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War; as well as a society for descendants of outlaws, pirates, and privateers. These women, and their ancestry, are what makes my family tree as colorful as it is.

I came across this poem recently. It was published in the Phelps County (MO) Genealogical Society's Quarterly magazine dated April 1993.

"by Dr. Dorothy Branson"

"My ancestor William had children.
All named, with birth and places,
But his wife is not even mentioned;
Of her, there are not even traces.

Surely she must have existed,
Was born, was a child, and had dreams,
Grew up and learned how to keep house,
Was a PERSON- but nameless, it seems.

She had parents, and someplace, a home,
Her brothers are listed, no doubt.
But she was only a girl,
So not really worth telling about.

She was half of my ancestor's heritage;
Without her he wouldn't have life.
His genes are half of hers, but I find
She was only his father's wife.

Once a girl was first 'dau', then was 'wife'.
She belonged to her father till married,
And then She belonged to her husband,
And beside him, unnamed, she was buried.

How awful to think MY descendants
Might search for a name for me,
Be unable to find my identity,
And wonder just who I might be."

"Note: Recorded in PCGS Quarterly April 2003 by Barbara Smith Pugh, previously appeared in publications of the Champaign County Genealogical Society (Fall 1991), and the Henry County Genealogical Society, as well as the Dawson County (Mont.) Historical and Genealogical Society. "

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The FRISCO : St Louis-San Francisco Railway, A Look Back In Time

 Copyright 2010, The Hopelessly Hooked Genealogist (B. Harrison)

The following is a great source for photos and information on the FRISCO Railway, from which my grandfather John P Harrison retired in 1935 at age 70, after 45 years of service, as a lineman and engineer based out of St. Louis.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Alexander Clarke- Immigrant Ancestor: Highlanders in North Carolina

Copyright 2010, The Hopelessly Hooked Genealogist (B. Harrison)

The following article is about the early Clarke families of North Carolina, and my maternal 5th-great-grandfather Alexander Clarke.

Source: Excerpts from "The Settlement of the Scotch on The River Cape Fear; Sketches of North Carolina, Historical and Biographical Illustrative of a Portion of Her Early Settlers", Foote, William Henry, originally published 1846, New York, R. Carter. Information Source:

"The time of the settlement of the first Scotch families upon the River Cape Fear is not known with exactness. There were some at the time of the separation of the provence into North and South Carolina, in the year 1729. In consequence of disabilities in their native land (Scotland), the enterprising Scotch followed the example of their relations in Ireland, and sough refuge and abundance in America. From records in the possession of descendants of Alexander Clarke, it appears that he came over and took his residence upon the River Cape Fear in 1736, and that a ship load of emigrants came with him. It also appears that he found a good many Scotch settled in Cumberland at the time of his arrival. "

" Alexander Clark(e) came from Jura (Scotland), one of the Hebrides. His ancestors, particulary his grandfather, had suffered much in the wars that had desolated Scotland, and fell heaviest on the Presbyterians. Being constrained to flee for his life, his grandfather took two of his sons and went to Ireland, and saw many trials and suffering, which were brought to a close by the Battle of Boyne, that decided the fate of the British Dominions. Returning to Scotland after the peace, he sought his family; leaving the vessel, he ascended a hill that overlooked his residence, and gazed in sadness over the desolation that met his eye; to use his own words, "but three smokes in all of Jura could be seen". Not a member of his family could be found to tell the fate of the rest. They had all perished in the persecutions. He returned to Ireland to find his cup of bitterness , overflowing as it was, made still bitter by the death of one of his two sons. After some time he returned, and spent the remainder of his days in Jura, having for his second wife one whose sufferings had been equal to his own. Her infant had been taken from her arms, its' head severed from its' body in her presence, and used by a ruffian twisting his hand in its' hair, to beat the mother on the breast till she was left for dead. Gilbert, the only surviving child of his first wife, returned with his father to Jura, and there lived and reared a family. One of his (Gilbert's) sons, Alexander, married Flora McLean, and reared four sons and four daughters. When his eldest son was sixteen years of age, he (Alexander) removed to America, and settled in Cumberland County, (North Carolina), on the Cape Fear. Some of the descendants of Kenneth Clarke, half brother to Gilbert (also) came to America. From this stock arose numerous families in the south and west".

"When Alexander Clarke emigrated to America, he paid the passage of many poor emigrants, and gave them employment until till the price was repaid. Many companies of Scotsmen came to America in a similar way, some person of property paying their passage, and giving them employ upon their lands until they were able to set up for themselves. "

"North Carolina was long a favorite field for Highlander emigration, most of them exiles from Scotland consequant on the troubles that that followed the downfall of the Stuarts, some of them MacDonalds who had been fugitives from the massacre of Glencoe. The persecution to which the Highlanders were subjected after the scattering of the clans made them eager to escape from Scotland. They were followed by many of their kilth and kin to the plantations of America, till the vast plains and forest lands in the heart of North CArolina were sprinkled with a Gaelic speaking population. "

Alexander Clarke appears to have arrived on Cape Fear, Chatham County, North Carolina circa 1736-1739 according to various published sources; his name is listed on Passenger & Immigration lists for arrival in 1739. He appears in North Carolina census records as early as 1755, and in the Register of Deeds of Chatham County 1780-1783. His will appears in North Carolina Abstract of Wills for Cumberland County in 1794.