Thursday, June 25, 2015

Chapter 11: Was Never Married to Another

In her short family history, Ida K. Fawkner, identified her father's three brothers and sisters: John E., Cyrus W., George S., and Elizabeth A. K. Fawkner. The three brother were living with their mother in Hendricks County, Indiana, in 1850.  Elizabeth was not with them because she had married Eli Morgason 5 April 1849.

The Morgason's lived near the Fawkner-Sears family in Marion Township in 1850 and 1860, but by 1870 they (indexed "Morgison") lived in Bowdre Township of Douglas County, Illinois (where James C. Fawkner's family lived in the 1880s). In just over 20 years of marriage, Eli and Elizabeth had at least 10 children.

Little is known of Eli and Elizabeth after 1880, but Elizabeth was still living in 1892 when she made a statement in support of Julia Fawkner's application for a widow's pension. Identifying herself as a sister of James C. Fawkner, she stated that "the first wife of said Fawkner died on or about the 20th of March 1855 that her means of knowing is that she was present and attended the funeral she further declares that said Fawkner never was married to another except the claimant and surviving widow."

If you've been following the store in earlier posts, you might recognize two problems.  First, Elizabeth said that James' first wife died about March 1855. We know that it was probably March 1854 because James married Elizabeth Stephens in September 1854. In fact, a transcription of gravestones (no longer visible above ground) in the tiny Sears cemetery states James' first wife died in March 1854. It is not surprising that, recalling the event nearly 40 years later, Elizabeth Morgason's memory was off by a year.

More problematic is the statement that James "never was married to another."  Well, or course he was. He married Elizabeth Turner, took her to Iowa, and abandoned her and two daughters. Even though the Fawkner-Stephens marriage ended before James' enlistment in the Civil War, it was obviously thought best not to bring it up in Julia's pension application.

If she could be cross-examined today, Elizabeth Morgason might say she didn't know about the Fawkner-Stephens marriage.  She must have. The Morgason's were living in the same township as the Fawkners when James remarried in 1854 -- only three months after the funeral that Elizabeth Morgason attended. After the 1860 Iowa divorce, James returned to Hendricks County, where Eli and Elizabeth were still living in 1860, to enlist in the Indiana 7th Regiment. Surely, James visited his sister while he was home. Surely, Elizabeth knew something of her brother's life between 1854 and 1861.

Then, there was Ida, one of the children abandoned in Iowa. In her family history, she told of the Fawkner-Stephens marriage, and daughters Ida and Josephine, but made absolutely no mention of her father's family with Julia Angell. Again, she almost certainly knew.

This is the tip of an iceberg. It will take a while for the story to completely unfold, but children from James' second and third marriages will cross again several chapters from now.  In the meantime, to set the scene, the next few chapters will follow the children of James C. Fawkner and Julia Ann Angell.

LESSON: Every piece of information in historical documents depends on facts conveyed by an informant. Some know the facts. Some don't remember the facts clearly. Some have reasons to change the story or leave out important information. Always think about who the informant was and whether she or he had good reason to know the facts, remember them clearly, and relate them honestly.

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