Monday, August 6, 2018
The Players in this Drama
Reading page by page through the probate file of my third great grandfather, George E. McClellan, I can see there was tension between the family members he left behind. There was, first of all, the suspicion held by the children of George's first marriage that the will's executrix—who happened to be George's second wife and mother of his youngest children—would not do right by them, despite a clearly delineated set of instructions concerning the McClellan property.
There is also the question of what became of George's oldest son, John. After the 1850 census, where John was a young teenager in his father's household, he seemed to have vanished—all except for the record of his 1857 acquisition of a sizeable parcel of land in Suwannee County, Florida, near his father's home. The codicil in his father's will almost makes it sound as if John had predeceased his father, but since he was by then married with three children, this owner of land couldn't have just vanished without a trace. The search is on for any record of what became of his property—not to mention, his wife and children.
In the meantime, the heirs named in George's 1866 will didn't just stand still, waiting for their step-mother to hand over what was rightfully theirs. Life moved on, as it always does, and those three McClellan daughters still living at home—along with their kid brother William—soon married and set up households of their own.
It would be helpful at this point to draw up a list of the name changes resulting from such events during the years their father's estate was in probate. The McClellan children—those of his first wife, Sidnah Tison—were listed in George's will as Julia, Ellen, Clifford, Bell, Virginia and William (older son John being excluded in the codicil).
When George drew up his will in 1866, his eldest daughter Julia was already widowed in the loss of her first husband, Henry Walker, and had just recently married Joseph Densler in March of that same year.
While second daughter Ellen was an unmarried woman living at home when her father died in October, by November of the next year, she had exchanged vows with Hyder D. Riggsbee (upon which discovery I wrestled with an incessant ear worm which threatened to play a continuous loop in my mind of the Beatles' hit by a similar name).
She, however, was not the first of the McClellan daughters to marry after her father's death. Ellen's next-youngest sister Melinda (called by the family by her middle name, Clifford) was married in September of that same year, 1867, in Thomas County, Georgia. Though her husband, John Augustus McCardle, was a Georgia native, from the point of the marriage in Georgia until Melinda's untimely death in 1877, the McCardles lived in Suwannee County, Florida.
One would think, with their younger brother William becoming the one in charge of the household after his father's passing—at least, per the will's stipulation that he allow his unmarried sisters to live with him as long as necessary—that he had a strong incentive to marry them off as quickly as possible. He, in fact, joined his sisters by taking a wife—Emma, descendant of the Charles family I discussed last month—in October of 1867, barely two weeks before his sister Ellen's wedding.
That might have seemed the case with the marriages, in rapid succession, of Melinda, William, and Ellen, but for the next daughter, Isabel—or Bell for short—it was a few more years before her marriage to Benjamin Jesse Worrell in 1874.
There was one other daughter who had already married before George McClellan's passing. That was Bell's younger sister Virginia. "Jennie" had married Phillip Lowe in enough time to give birth to their first child, Fernando Braxton Lowe, just one month before her father passed away.
That was not the last of the McClellan marriages, though, for Julia—once Walker, then Densler—lost her second husband in 1867, about the time of her daughter Josie's birth. By the fall of 1870, Julia had married again, this time to Adam Souder Goodbread.
By the last of the McClellan marriages in 1874, that list of players mentioned in George's 1866 will—Julia, Ellen, Clifford, Bell, Virginia and William—now became Julia Walker Densler Goodbread and her sisters Ellen Riggsbee (cue up that music once again), Clifford McCardle, Bell Worrell, and Jennie Lowe. And, of course, there was their baby brother William McClellan.
It is good to keep such a list of the players near at hand in this lengthy journey through George McClellan's probate case for, as we'll see, between the time of George McClellan's death in 1866 and the beginning of that next decade, those names would be mentioned frequently in the ever-growing probate file of their father.