Thursday, May 28, 2015

Chapter 7: Wait a Minute... Elizabeth Who?

Thanks to Ida Fawkner's 1917 family history, we now know that James C. Fawkner had at least two daughters from his marriage to Elizabeth Stephens before his marriage to Julia Ann Angell in Missouri in 1862. It is tempting to head west immediately to pick up the Fawkner trail along the Mississippi River in Iowa (believe me, I can't wait), but first we have some unfinished business back in Hendricks County, Indiana.

James and Elizabeth Stephens were married 13 July 1854. But looking back to 1850, we saw James C. Faulkner living adjacent to his stepfather (Wesley Sears), mother (Ann), and siblings (Cyrus, John, and George). Also enumerated in James' household was Elizabeth, with no age given.  Who was this Elizabeth?

One possibility is that she was James' sister, Elizabeth, but she had married Eli Morgason 5 April 1849 (Marriage Book 4, p. 67). The 1850 U.S. Census recorded the Morgasons living not far from the Sears and Faulkners in Marion Township. Might the Elizabeth in James' household have been a wife? The 1850 census doesn't report relationships.

An index of Indiana marriages points to the answer. On 15 April 1848, a few miles west in Putnam County, a marriage license was issued to James C. Fawkner and Elizabeth Jane Sears, "her age & residence & the written consent of Wesley B. Sears guardian of said James." The facts are not certain, but James may have married his step-sister (a daughter from Wesley Sears first marriage). It would appear that the Elizabeth living with James C. Faulkner in 1850 was indeed his first wife, Elizabeth Jane Sears.

So, yes, if you are counting, this means James had at least two marriages before marrying Julia Ann Angell in 1862. What  happened to the first Elizabeth? The first clue comes from a transcription of gravestones in an overgrown Sears Cemetery in Marion Township. When the survey was done about 1970, two stones were visible:

  • Elizabeth J., wife of James C. Fawkner, d. 3-24-1854, aged 26y 22d
  • Wesley B. Sears, d. 705-1858, aged 45y, 7m, 20d
Nearly 40 years later in 1892, in an affidavit in support of a widow's pension for Julia (Angell) Fawkner, James's sister, Elizabeth Morgason, stated "the first wife of said Fawkner died on or about the 20th day of March 1855 that her means of knowing is that she was present and attended the funeral." She declared further that James Fawkner "never was married to another except the claimant," Julia Fawkner.

James' sister was off by a year; Elizabeth Sears Fawkner died in March 1854. The marriage record and gravestone suggest that James married Elizabeth Stephens just three months after his first wife died. James' daughter Ida made no mention of either the first or second wife. James' sister affirmed the first, but made no mention of the second. The Fawkner, Sears and Stephens families lived in close proximity, making it unlikely the families did not all know the full story.

The story is about to get, shall we say, a bit juicy. Next stop: Montrose.

LESSONS: Don't believe everything a witness says. (And never assume a Fawkner hasn't been married before!).

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