Thursday, July 2, 2015

Chapter 12: Another Deaf Child

At this point, it's tempting to go back to Hendricks County, Indiana, and poke into the lives of James C. Fawkner's siblings. That will be fun when the time comes, but those stories will be richer if  we first take up the lives of James' children. Over the next few weeks, we'll spend some time with Fred, Cyrus, Julia, James Henry, and Elizabeth Ann. There will be a dose of tragedy as well as celebration of achievement.

We've already heard the story of how Ida, the first child born in Iowa from James' second marriage, lost her hearing on trip to her Aunt Sears home in the winter of 1857-58. Ida was educated in the Indiana School  for the Deaf and Dumb in Indianapolis (see Chapter 6).  Documents in James' Civil War pension file revealed that James also had a deaf and dumb child from his third marriage to Julie Ann Angell (see Chapter 11). Fred had an exceptional life, so we will start the story of James' children with him.

Fred was born 14 November 1880 -- after the 1880 census was taken. The Civil War pension file tells part of the story. In an affidavit given in 1891, eleven years later, the attending midwife stated that Fred was born on the 15th (does a day difference really matter?). The pension file also includes an April 1895 affidavit from the Superintendent of the Illinois Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb stating the Fred had been in attendance several years. Lest there be any doubt, the 1900 U.S. Census enumerated Fred as a student at the Institution in Jacksonville, Illinois.

In April 1895, the Douglas County court named George Kelink guardian of "Freddie P. Fawkner." He needed a guardian because he was under 21 when his mother died in 1894. Because he was a minor, a probate case file was opened for Fred. Found in that file, a form entitled "Statistics of Applicant for Admission to Illinois Institution for the Education of Deaf and Dumb" dated 1888 opened up entirely new avenues for research. The form was incorrectly filled out, naming the deaf mute applicant as James C. Fawkner; it was rather an application for his son, Fred. It stated that the deaf mute's father was James C. Fawkner, and that he was born at Mt. Sterling, Kentucky. This is the only source naming a specific place in Kentucky for James' birth.

The form also asked for the names and age of the applicant's brothers and sisters. It named Cyrus Fawkner [no age stated], Henry Fawkner, 10, Grant Fawkner, 24, Julia Fawkner, 20, and Elizabeth A. Fawkner, 17. (This, of course, is the Elizabeth Ann whose funeral memorial kicked off the Fawkner research trail back in Chapter 1). This listing again suggests that the twins, Hattie and Attie, listed in the 1880 census, had died.

Now, for the surprise. The form asked whether the deaf mute (Fred) had any deaf relatives.  Yes, he did: "one brother & one half Sister."  The half-sister was Ida. Another document in the probate file revealed that the brother was Cyrus. On 15 September 1884, the Superintendent of the Illinois Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb affirmed to Douglas County Court judge that Cyrus G. Fawkner was a "proper subject" for care at the institution.

So, James C. Fawkner had three deaf children: Ida, Cyrus, and Fred. Ida lost her hearing due to illness (possibly meningitis) at a young age.  The causes and degree of Cyrus' and Fred's deafness might be revealed in admission files if they survive.

More of Fred's story will come next week, followed by a tragic story from Cyrus' life that will also involves his sister, Julia. So important to the Fawkner family history, Ida will have to wait.

LESSONS: Leap for joy if your ancestor applied for a military pension. If deaths of parents left any minor children, follow the guardianship trail. Get the probate files. You may find family information in these records that you will find nowhere else.

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