Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Will of Rebecca Akins - Part 1, the Back Story

Thanks to the fabulous SAMPUBCO website, I have a copy of probate/will information for my great-great-great grandmother Rebecca AKINS.

Before I provide the transcription, let me fill you in on some details.

Rebecca was born in October of 1819 in Orange County, NY and married a George AKINS either right before or right after moving to Chemung County, NY. They had 2 kids as far as I know, John Francis and Mary.

The son, John Francis AKINS, married a lady named Gertrude BOWMAN. They had 6 children, and then sadly, Gertrude died in December of 1884, at the age of only 38. Her children ranged in age from 17 years to only 16 months.

So that left John in a bind, he was a farmer and there was no way he could care for these children by himself. Although his eldest daughter, Julia, was 17 years old, she had been living (as far as I can tell from multiple census records) with her grandparents George and Rebecca since she was 8 years old.

That left John will only 5 children to care for, but the oldest was just a 15 year old girl, Mary Jane. Running a farm household for her father, along with caring for 4 younger siblings, the youngest a toddler, would have been a bit much for her.

Enter stage left, his 2nd wife, my great-great grandmother, Hattie KIRBY. In April of 1885, the 44-yr-old John married the (barely) 19-yr-old Hattie.

Family lore states that Hattie was sold as a bride to John by her grandmother Lucinda KIRBY in exchange for a new stove. (Don't let anyone tell you how life was simpler and better in the old days!!!)

Why would she be sold for a stove? Well, my guess is it was because poor Hattie was supposedly the product of an affair between her mother, Laura KIRBY, and Laura's sister Sarah's husband, Alonzo CHESLEY.

Laura was only 17 when she had Hattie, and then when Hattie was only 7 months old, Laura died. Family lore states she died of a broken heart. So that left Hattie's grandparents to raise her. Interestingly, Sarah stayed with Alonzo, and continued to have children with him. So either he was a smooth talker like no other smooth talker, or she stayed just so she could bring it up during every argument for the rest of their lives (which is my guess). I picture this:

Alonzo: "Geez Sarah, how could you not notice the milk was curdled before you put it in my coffee?"

Sarah: "Well Alonzo, maybe you should have noticed it was my sister before you put your---"

Alonzo, interrupting: "OK, OK, I'LL POUR MYSELF ANOTHER CUP!!!"

Anyway, so that's why I don't completely dismiss the sold for a stove story. It was probably tough having Hattie around as a constant reminder. People are only human, I can't judge because I wasn't there to see for myself.

Meanwhile, so there was the teenage Hattie, suddenly step-mother to 5 children, the oldest of which was only 4 years younger than her. I doubt they welcomed her with open arms, since it was only a few months since their mom passed. Although I could be wrong, they may have liked her (and needed the help around the house).

John and Hattie had 2 children: Cornelia, born in 1887 and Charles, born only a year later in 1888.

John then promptly died when Charles wasn't even 2 years old yet.

So the boys and the girls who weren't already out of the house married went to live with their grandma, Rebecca. I have them in the 1892 census with her (thank heavens for New York's 1892 census! It almost, almost makes up for no 1890 federal census).

Hattie, now only 24 yrs old, with a 2 yr old and 3 yr old was in a difficult position. I doubt her grandma Lucinda was going to welcome her back into her home when she had just gotten rid of her - OR - maybe Hattie had no intention of going back, because who knows what she would have been sold for next! Fortunately, she found a widower with 4 not-too-young children, Joseph QUICK, and they married in 1891.

There are some family stories that indicate that maybe Hattie wasn't the best at caring for children. Again, I can't judge since I wasn't there. Apparently Joe QUICK came home from the fields one day and found Charley bound (the way you bind babies, but he would have been a toddler) and hanging from a post in the kitchen. From that point on, Joe took Charley and Cornelia with him into the fields during the day. Now who knows, maybe Charley was a TERROR! Maybe he was on Hattie's last nerve, she was young, and she hadn't probably had the best examples in parenting from her family, so who knows.

Now, with all that as background, some of what's in Rebecca AKINS' will about little Charley and Cornelia might make more sense.

Tune in tomorrow for the actual will transcript and probate records!

This all feels pretty soap-opera-ry, so here's a timeline to help keep it sorted in the meantime:

1841 - John Francis AKINS born to George and Rebecca

1846 - Gertrude BOWMAN born Absalom and Catherine

1866 - Hattie KIRBY born to Laura (and allegedly Alonzo CHESLEY)

1866 - Laura KIRBY dies

1884 - Gertrude BOWMAN dies

1885 - John F. AKINS and Hattie KIRBY wed

1887 - Cornelia AKINS born to John F. and Hattie

1888 - Charles AKINS born to John F. and Hattie

1890 - John F. AKINS dies

1891 - Joseph QUICK and Hattie (KIRBY) AKINS wed

1900 - Rebecca AKINS dies

1 comment:

  1. In the days before any kind of Welfare State, it was common for a widower to have to find someone to take care of the kids while he worked and brought in the income. Nowadays we would think badly of someone who married so soon after the death of his wife, however it was a necessity for the survival of whole family. I do feel a little sorry for the second wife who was often young and taking on a lot :-(