Thursday, June 11, 2015

Chapter 9: Abandoned in Montrose

Let's review what we know so far about James C. Fawkner?

  • He looked to the top of the stairs and told the young southern woman that he'd be back to marry her.  And, he did return.  He married Julia Ann Angell in Missouri in 1862.
  • Julia Ann was not his first wife.  James married Elizabeth Turner Stephens in 1854 in Indiana, and soon settled in Montrose, Iowa, across the Mississippi from Nauvoo.
  • Not surprisingly, Elizabeth Turner was not his first wife. In 1848, he had married Elizabeth Jane Sears -- probably his stepfather's daughter.
James's life had not been easy.  He was the first of five children, and James was only 10 when his father died.  His first wife died only five or six years into the marriage (no known children). On the trip west after his second marriage, a baby boy died.

James and Elizabeth were in Montrose before the 1856 Iowa Census, which enumerated them next door to the William Owen family -- a name that will come up in future posts.  Montrose was an opportunity for a fresh start. By 1860 James and Elizabeth (indexed "Fowker") had two daughters, Ida, 4, and Josephine, 2. James was not at home; Elizabeth was a seamstress.

Nearly sixty years later (see Chapter 6), Ida told part of the story. "In winter of 1857 parents took Ida to see Aunt Mary Sears, Lucas Co., Iowa. Returning home in Feb. 1858, all suffered from severe, snowy weather. As a result, Ida, a mere baby, lost her hearing, not to be restored." Ida said nothing more about her father. In fact, she made no mention of either his first or third marriage.

Something obviously happened to the Fawkner-Stephens marriage between about 1858 and 1862, when James married Julia Ann Angell. Iowa marriage and court records tell what happened. First, the marriage record, because it is easy to find -- sort of. A wildcard search for an Elizabeth "F*k*r" marriage in Lee County turns up one hit in's All Iowa, Select Marriages, 1809-1992: Elizabeth Farokner and Oliver Dresser, 24 June 1861. The marriage can also be found in FamilySearch's Iowa, County Marriages, 1838-1934 index.

If this was, in fact, Elizabeth Fawkner, was she free to marry Oliver Dresser?  Lee County court records say yes. The Fawkner-Dresser marriage was a month after a decree granting Elizabeth a divorce from James C. Fawkner. The court papers include allegations that James deserted Elizabeth in 1858; he returned to Montrose briefly, but never lived with her or provided financial support after the desertion. When Elizabeth petitioned for divorce, James' whereabouts were unknown.

James did, however, come back from wherever he had been. In an affidavit to the court, George W. Oman (possibly George Omen) said about James: "... I saw him on his return home he had the appearance of being diseased in some way. He told me that he had the pox at that time, and that he was going home to give it [to] his wife and then leave and never live with her again."

James had not had an easy life, but as we might say today, he had issues.

We will pick up the trail of Elizabeth, Ida, and Josephine in due time, but Chapter 10 will first close out the book on James.

LESSON: When it appears a marriage has been disrupted, find the court records and look for a remarriage.

Legal notice from Lee County case file no. 289 (1861), E. T. Faulkner v. James C. Faulkner; legal notice published in Fort Madison Plain Dealer 12 April 1861.

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