Thursday, May 12, 2016

Whoa, Nellie -- Who in the World was Mary?

Little Freddie Fawkner was probably the son of Robert G. Fawkner and his 1893 wife, Mary E. Combs. I think. And, Robert was still married to Mary when he wed Nellie (Marion) Brown in 1895.

Whoa, Nellie! Something is rotten in the State of Illinois. Because, it sure looks like Robert was a bigamist.

Let's review the chronology.
  • Robert G. Fawkner married Mary E. Combs in April 1893.
  • Freddie W. Fawkner was born February 1894.
  • Robert abandoned Mary in March 1895 (according to her divorce complaint).
  • Robert G. Fawkner married Nellie B. (Marion) Brown in October 1895.
  • Freddie was buried November 1895 in a plot purchased by Mary E. Fawkner in the cemetery in Robert G. Fawkner's hometown.
  • Mary E. Fawkner filed for divorce from Robert G. Fawkner in 1908 and was granted a divorce in January 1909. He did not respond to a summons to appear in court -- because he was living with Nellie.
Nellie had been divorced from Richard Brown less than a week when she married Robert G. Fawkner in 1893 in Madison County, Illinois. She and Richard had married in June 1888 in Montgomery County, Illinois. Nellie was probably the daughter of the Thomas Marion whose family lived in Crawford County, Illinois, in 1880.

When she married Robert G. Fawkner in 1893, did Nellie have any idea that Robert was still married to Mary? (One point of caution: no record of the 1893 Fawkner-Combs marriage has been found). And, who in the world was Mary?

Mary presents about as much conflicting evidence as I've ever encountered concerning one individual. A few days of internet research produced the following points of evidence.
  • Mary stated in her divorce complaint that Robert G. Fawkner's last known residence was Harrison, Kansas. The court record states that a summons to Robert was printed in the Warrensburg Times.
  • There is not a Harrison anywhere near a Warrensburg in Kansas. In fact, the U.S. Newspaper Directory lists no such newspaper. There is, however, a small town named Harrison a few miles west of Decatur, Illinois. Three or four miles north of Harrison is Warrensburg, where a paper named the Warrensburg Times was published between 1885 and 1931, according the the U.S. Newspaper Directory (
  • It is likely Mary had a child, Freddie (1894-1895) (see the May 9 post), but the 1900 U.S. Census states she had no children living or dead.
  • The 1900 census listed Mary E. Fawkner as a daughter of N. L. Combs. She had a brother, Lester W., 14.
  • The 1910 census listed Lester, 22, as Mary's son; they were living in Decatur. In 1930 and 1940, Lester was living with his mother, Mary Fawkner, in Akron, Ohio.
  • Lester's 1918 marriage license identified his parents as Charles F. Combs and Mary E. Fawkner, and stated that he was born 20 July 1885 in Whitley County, Indiana. His World War II draft registration recorded that he was born in Indiana on the same date.
  • Mary Fawkner's 1941 obituary reported that she died at the home of her son, Lester W. Combs. Her death certificate has not yet been viewed.
  • His daughter, Patricia, was the informant for Lester's 1953 death certificate. She did not know the names of either of his parents. The certificate includes Lester's Social Security number, so his application might answer some questions.
  • Several family trees at* identify Mary E. and Lester W. as siblings, but one (Ted F. Bubert II Family Tree) places Lester as the son of Mary E. Fawkner Combs. It states that Mary married "Charles F."
Lester was born about eight years before Mary Combs married Robert Grant Fawkner. If Lester was Mary's son, she apparently had had either a previous marriage or a dalliance that produced a child (Lester) in Indiana. A marriage record has not been found.

So, was Lester the son of Noah Coleman Combs  or the son of his apparent daughter, Mary? Noah died in 1906 Macon County, Illinois. His will might answer the question. As a matter of fact, his death was apparently the trigger for Mary to file for divorce. In her divorce suit, she stated that she wished to assure that her one-tenth inherited share in a piece of land not fall into the hands of Robert G. Fawkner.

The big question remains: Why did Mary wait more than 13 years after Robert left to file for divorce?
* Family trees, all viewed 9 May 2016, include: Muna, Rushing, Tuttle (; Combs Family Tree (; Davis-Buehler Family Tree (; Ted F Bubert II Family Tree (; Brown Family Tree (

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