Tuesday, March 15, 2022

What Became of the Orphans?


In Charles McClellan's 1839 will, recorded in territorial Florida's Jefferson County, we can see his deep concern for the two youngest of his children about to be left behind at his passing. From this, we can assume Charles' wife had already died, thus after Charles' inevitable passing, leaving Samuel and Adeline McClellan orphans.

Since my goal with this month's research is to see whether I can trace Charles backwards in time from this point in his life—about to die in Jefferson County, Florida—I'm curious to learn whether the story of what became of these two children can help me find anything on Charles' own roots.

We already know that it would be unlikely that those two named children, Samuel and Adeline, would be named in the upcoming census. In 1840 as it was in 1830, only the head of household was identified by name; all the rest in the family were itemized by age-bracketed tick marks. Of course, two other McClellan men had been mentioned by name in 1830, but despite their young age, each man had recently married, thus forming their own household. Still, it was unlikely that Samuel McClellan would have been of an age to do so, just one year after his father's passing.

The next option was to explore the 1850 census. That was the point at which the enumeration broke loose of its name restrictions to include mention of each individual in a household by name. That became my first chance to look for orphans Samuel and Adeline McClellan.

While it could have been possible that either child would, by then, have been married, and possibly also moved away from Jefferson County, it did turn out that there was a household containing both McClellan names. Samuel McClellan in the 1850 census was listed as being twenty eight years of age, and "Adaline" showed as a twenty five year old.

The two McClellans showed up in a Jefferson County household headed by a forty five year old woman named Margaret E. Stephens. The question then becomes, who was Margaret Stephens? Was she a relative? Why were both Samuel and Adeline living in her household?

Checking ahead to the next census, the 1860 report showed "A. E. McClelon" living in Margaret Stephens' Jefferson County home, along with a presumed son of Margaret who had shown in the previous census as well. The thirty five year old woman with the initials could likely have been Adeline, as we can see her father had shown her name as Adeline H. E. McClellan.

To see whether there was any connection with Margaret Stephens—after all, she could just have been an enterprising widow running a boarding house—we need to explore what can be found on her first, before drawing any conclusions that it was a relative who took in the bereft orphans after the loss of their father. 

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