06 October 2012

Brickwall: The Case of Oscar F. Brown, Part Four

Please refer to this previous post for the summary on this multi-part series. Thank you! 

Within this series, I have decided to reevaluate my evidence on Oscar Fitzallen Brown, and the theories surrounding who his father may have been. The ultimate goal is to determine the following: 
  1. Has a reasonably exhaustive search been conducted? 
  2. What other resources need to be examined? 
  3. Who is the most reasonable candidate to be Oscar's father? 

Theory Four: Unknown Brown

In Part One, I mentioned briefly that Oscar was living with his sister, Harriet, in Missouri in the 1860 Census. Her family is at the heart of Theory Four: Unknown Brown.

1860 Census, Salt River Township, Shelby County, Missouri.
Household of W.W.W. Weatherby, including Brown, Oscar F. 

In 1860, Oscar would have been about 28 years of age. Certainly old enough to be out on his own, even with his own family, and carving out a life for himself. Considering the time frame, I have to ask myself what made him move to Missouri from Michigan to live with his sister, versus staying with his parents and/or the rest of his family?  Assuming that previous mentions of his father's death occurring in the late 1850's hold true, it might be one explanation.

Let's examine Harriet Brown for just a moment. First, how do I know that Harriet is Oscar's sibling? 
  • She is not listed as a part of the household in the 1850 Census. 
  • She is not named in his obituary or any other "story" printed about Oscar and his life.
  • She is not listed as witness to his marriage, nor is she in any other vital record currently known to exist for Oscar. 
Way back in 2003, I ordered Oscar's military pension file and any other corresponding documents. Although his military records were minimal, his wife, Frances (Lawrence) Brown had a lengthy widow's pension. Two years ago, I took some time to re-examine the documents included in that file, and found the piece that changed everything for me in this search. 

Letter from Jennie Yoe, from the Widow's Pension file
of Frances (Lawrence) Brown.
Personal holdings of author.
On 7 Oct 1907, one year after Oscar's death, the U.S. Pension Office stamped two letters written on behalf of Frances, or Frankie as the family know's her, written by Jennie E. Yoe and W.T. Yoe. The "testimony" was given in front of the Notary Public of Montgomery County, Kansas, E.S. Mears (or Means). In the letter Jennie Yoe states that she is Oscar's niece, that she had known him since "before the war, and he was guest at my father & mother's house in Shelbina, Mo, after the war, when not employed elsewhere." She also mentions that visits had been made back and forth between the Brown's and the Yoe's since the marriage of Oscar and Frances. (The objective of the letter is to ensure to the Pension Board that Frances was Oscar's widow, his only wife, and the marriage was of one in good standing, giving her rights to a widow's pension.)  The letter from W.T. Yoe, Jennie's husband, was similarly written.

This discovery, of course, stopped me dead in my tracks. Who was Jennie? How was she connected to Oscar? Who's child was she, to be his niece? It did not take me long to find the answers, as the Yoe family is actually quite well documented. 

Located on the KSGenWeb Project is a transcription of Volume 4 of A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. (Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, 1918. Pages 1739-1740. Originally transcribed 1998, modified 2003 by Carolyn Ward. http://skyways.lib.ks.us/genweb/archives/1918ks/bioi/indetrib.html.)  This text includes a biography of W.T. Yoe and his brother, Charles, who were Editor and President of The Tribune Printing Company, running The Independence Tribune newspaper, one of the "oldest papers in Kansas." From this text: 
"W.T. Yoe is a republican of the old school, a member of the Methodist Church, and is affiliated with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Woodmen of the World, the Modern Woodmen of America, the Knights and Ladies of Security and the Sons and Daughters of Justice. A number of years ago he was appointed postmaster at Independence by President Chester A. Arthur, and served three years, resiging before the expiration of his term. Governor Humphrey also appointed him a member of the state board of charities and for a time hew as one of the board of regents of the State Agricultural College at Manhattan. He married Jennie E. Weatherby, a daughter of Warren W. and Harriet Weatherby, both of whom are now deceased. Her father was at one time postmaster at Shelbina, Missouri. Their children are seven: Harriet, living at home with her parents; Roy, on a farm in Southern Montgomery County; Edna May, wife of A.L. Bryan, who lives near Los Angeles, California, and is in the automobile supply business; Earl, foreman in the Tribune printing office at Independence; Ruth, wife of Guy Are of Independence, Mr. Arey being in the oil business; Warren W., with the Petroleum Products Company; and George, in the engineering department for the Kansas Natural Gas Company, employed in the Oklahoma fields."

I was able to locate the Yoe family pretty quickly in U.S. Census records, including 1880, 1900, 1910 and 1920.  The article above led me back to a source I already had: the 1860 Census. I'd had it all along, and knew that Oscar was living with another family in Shelby County, Missouri. From this article and other sources found after the fact, I was able to confirm that he was indeed living with his sister, Harriet (Brown) Weatherby.

Harriet, born around 1819, presumably in New York, married Warren W. Weatherby (1815-1871) in 1842 in Washtenaw County, and had two children: Jennifer Elizabeth (1848 -  ) and Willard (1843 -  ).

Action Item: Order copy of the marriage record between Warren Weatherby and Harriet Brown. Source currently on record is an index only.

Now. Backtrack Harriet Brown to find her parents, and the riddle is solved, right?

Um, right.

I can't seem to find anything on Harriet prior to her marriage. I did find an index for a probate record listing Harriet and Jennie, for Warren Weatherby when he died in 1871. I am hoping to make contact with the appropriate person holding that document soon, though phone calls to date to the historical society listed have proven to be ineffective. Just for the record, though:

Action Item: Continue to try to track the probate record for Warren Weatherby and obtain a copy. 

The 1880 Census lists her as living with her son, Williard, and his wife in Appleton, St. Clair County, Missouri. It indicates that she, and both her parents, were born in New York. I know that she died in Independence  Kansas, indicating that she lived in Jennie's household, or nearby, at the time of her death. I cannot seem to locate her death certificate, however. Such a shame about the 1890 Census... *sigh*.  At this point, I have not been able to locate the cemetery she is buried in, either.

Tracking Harriet has proven to be just as challenging as everything else with the family! (At least, things don't really change much... their descendants can be just as stubborn!)  The period between her birth in 1819 in New York and her marriage in 1842 in Michigan is a large black hole. I have not found a single record indicating a relationship between Harriet and her father, mentioned by name.

Back to the beginning:

  1. Has a reasonably exhaustive search been conducted? I have a couple of items to collect, but I really would like to be able to find her burial site, obituary, burial records, etc. It's also possible that Warren Weatherby had a pension file, and therefore Harriet may too, as a widow, so that is an avenue I need to explore. 
  2. What other resources need to be examined? Although she died in Kansas, I feel I need to focus on her life in Michigan and Missouri more. So, any further resources would be found there. 
  3. Who is the most reasonable candidate to be Oscar's father?  Since this man is not truly "named", it's entirely possible that he is the same as Tolman, William, or Abraham. So, I will hold with the previously made stance that Tolman has the most evidence, direct or indirect, and is still the most likely candidate. 

What's next? One more possible father, and a follow up to all these great comments I've been getting. Keep 'em coming! 

Oscar F. Brown
Personal holdings of author.

1 comment:

  1. Jen,

    This might be a good place to apply Elizabeth Shown Mill's FAN principle (Friends, Associates, Neighbors).

    If Harriet and Warren were married in MI did Warren's family live there? Working the Weatherby line in MI might lead to a closer association with the Brown family than just this one marriage. Particularly when you consider that Warren Weatherby was also born in NY according to the census image in this post.

    While Warren's probate record will be interesting in its own right it is rather unlikely to provide you much insight into Harriet's ancestors. Are there any tax rolls in MO or MI that might help you narrow down when Warren and Harriet moved? This might lead to a newspaper item or land sales that could include Brown mentions.

    What was Warren an merchant of? Was this his trade in MI? A family business maybe. Something either distinct or something common enough to leave records.

    Following the Weatherby family may prove just as problematic but I have had some success with this approach. I'd at least run it through your most common research protocols for any low hanging fruit. You never know what you might find.

    Good Luck


Please comment! I would love to hear your thoughts!