Thursday, July 23, 2015

Signs of His Presence

So the story goes, concerning ancestor John Jay Jackson, that
[a]fter the war was over, he in some way drifted to St. Louis, and he emigrated from that place, or vicinity, to Bearfield township, Perry county, Ohio, and his name will be found in the history of that township as one of the first settlers.

If that is so, we should be able to locate some corroboration of that assertion which was shared in the 1883 tome, History of Fairfield and Perry Counties, Ohio: Their Past and Present. And there are some encouraging signs.

Take this copy of the census for Perry County, enumerated in 1820. Not far from the bottom of the first page for Bearfield Township, as promised, there was the entry for John J. Jackson.

In his household was one male between the ages of twenty six and forty four—that would be John, who was born in 1792—plus a woman between the ages of sixteen and twenty five and a girl under the age of ten. Unless there was more than one John J. Jackson in that tiny township in the wide open places of that then-newly-established state of Ohio, the woman was likely his wife, Sarah Howard Ijams. Since the only daughter I am currently aware of—my husband's direct ancestor, Nancy Ann Jackson—was not born until 1823, I have yet to determine who the child might have been.

Although the History book mentioned Jackson's arrival in the county was "in 1815 or 1816," I couldn't manage to find any documentation of his presence in Perry County before 1820. Included in that pursuit was a review of a transcription of the county's 1819 tax record, obtained from the auditor of the State of Ohio, which showed one Jacob Jackson, but no other Jacksons at all.

However, even the history book didn't know the history of the county it was purportedly describing. The county wasn't founded until March 1, 1818. Records dating farther back would have to obtained from whatever county in which the Jackson residence had previously been recorded.

Land records didn't seem to help, either. Though Jackson is not an unusual name—and its combination with a given name as oft-used as John no help in fingering the right individual in our search—there still didn't seem to be any likely prospects among the many John Jacksons brought up in a document search through the General Land Office Records. Not in pre-1820 Perry County, nor in the surrounding counties during that time period, either.

The war referred to in that history's narrative was, of course, the War of 1812, and it may be there that we find the one detail that can be corroborated by actual documentation. Even that, though, presents its own problems. Set aside any hope of finding a widow's pension application with all the usual details of benefit to family history researchers; unlike many veterans, John Jay Jackson not only long outlived Sarah Howard Ijams, but survived well beyond the passing of a second wife, as well.

That John Jackson "in some way drifted to" Saint Louis is an odd way of representing that portion of his life's history. It also does no justice to whatever arrangement allowed a widow and her marriageable-aged daughter to travel west through the frontier to Jackson's post along the Mississippi—and then return home to Ohio through conditions just as rugged and dangerous. Oh, and in the meantime, exchange two sets of vows—one for the mother, one for the daughter.

I had hoped the archived records from the War of 1812 would shed some light on the reasons behind these events, but as some of you had suspected, the contents of the Jackson file turned out to disappoint on that account.

In other ways, the file provoked even more questions.

Above: "View of Bald Face Creek in the Ohio River Valley," 1858 painting by Berlin-born artist, Henri Lovie; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. I would assume that Mr. Jackson went east from Mississippi via the Ohio River and thence the Muskingum River. Not that this helps you find his whereabouts in Ohio before the 1820 US census.

    1. No, but it's useful to know--as is the customary ways of handling much of the military service of the time.

      Then, too, I'm not entirely convinced that John Jackson was actually in Ohio much before 1820, despite these reports. What I really want to find is a contemporary report of just exactly where he was during those years.


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