Black Sheep Isaac Sturgell and Wife Mary- The Brick Wall I Didn’t Know I Had

My mother-in-law Ruby’s maiden name was Sturgell. She was born in Oklahoma, but her family had migrated there from southern Missouri in the early 1900’s. She didn’t know much about her paternal grandparents, as her grandfather, Abijah Houston Sturgell had died in 1905 and her grandmother, Martha Susannah Alberty, died in 1916, a year to the day before Ruby was born.

It didn’t take much research to find Abijah (Byge in the census) and family in Barry County, MO in 1900 and it was an easy jump back to 1870 when Abijah “Sturgill” was enumerated in his father Isaac’s household.  In 1870, Isaac’s wife was Susannah Douthit Alberty, mother of Abijah’s future wife, Martha Susannah.

The Alberty family had settled next door in Newton County, MO and by 1880, Susannah was living alone in Newton County, enumerated as Susan Alburty, a widow. Isaac hasn’t been found in 1880.

I didn’t immediately find Isaac in 1860, but did find Isaac and Mary “Sturgion” in Barry Co., MO in 1850 with baby daughter M.J., born in MO about 1848. In 1850, Isaac reported that both he and Mary were born in Virginia.

Finding a marriage record for Isaac and Mary is an entirely different story, but to keep on track here, Isaac Stergeon and Mary Bandy married in Lawrence Co., OH on 26 September 1844.

Remember, I hadn’t found Isaac and his family in Barry County in 1860. Since that county borders Arkansas, I decided to check the Arkansas census index (back in the old days before computers) and I found Isaac Stigall in Benton Co., AR, which is also on the MO-AR border.

With him were wife Mary, this time born in Ohio (which is actually how I picked up the trail to find their marriage record) with children: Amanda, 10, born MO; Andrew, 6, born TX; Abijah, 5, born MO, Margaret, 2, born AR and George, 4/14, born AR. It was looking like Isaac might have had a bit of wanderlust in him.

I now had a rough picture of the family of Isaac Sturgell (with its variant spellings) and first wife, Mary Bandy, and second wife Susannah Douthit Alberty.

Isaac Sturgell and Mary Bandy married in 1844 in Lawrence Co., OH. Both of their birth years vary quite a bit in the records, but Isaac was likely born about 1823, as he was of age when he married. Mary was probably born about 1826.

The young couple migrated to southern Missouri probably by 1847 or 1848 if M.J. was born in MO and not in OH. Daughter Amanda was born about 1849-1850, probably in Barry Co., MO. However, between 1850 and 1854, they apparently migrated somewhere in TX, but were back in MO by 1855 when Abijah was born. Then between 1855 and the 1860 census, they had removed to Benton Co., AR, where Mary had just given birth to baby George in March of that year.

Isaac married Susannah Douthit Alberty in Newton Co., MO on 30 September 1867. By 1880, Isaac was no longer found and Susan Alburty was widowed in Newton County in the 1880 census. Susan died on 19 Oct 1883 in Newton County.

I had assumed from this picture that Mary, still being of child bearing age, had possibly died giving birth to a child after George or had died of some other cause maybe in the mid 1860’s and Isaac remarried to Susan Alberty. Isaac then passed away between 1870 and 1880. Susan Alberty had a lot of family in Newton County so the fact that she was Susan Alburty in 1880 may only have meant that the census taker was told, either by Susan herself or a neighbor if she wasn’t home, that “Susan Alburty” lives there alone.

The moral of today’s story is again to do your own research and I highly recommend county court house visits. My husband’s aunt Freda was as into the family history as I was and we decided to meet up in Barry County to visit the court house. The county clerk was wonderful. Southwest Missouri is a farming area and the court house was not busy on the day we visited. We were led to the vault that contained the old records and started digging through various index books.

There was a large index to land deeds for the county so I looked for any Sturgell (and variations) up to 1900 since Isaac’s family was the only one by that name in the area. I found one very curious listing for Mary Sturgell also known as Mrs. Mary Cookman, dated 1883. Here The document, which is a quit claim deed, was filed in Peoria, IL and copied to Barry County, Missouri.

It stated that Mrs. Mary Sturgell, also known as Mrs. Mary Cookman, of Peoria, IL was quit claiming her rights to land purchased by Calvin A Prentice described as the W 1/2 of the NW 1/4 fractional quarter section of Section 24 and the SE 1/4 of the NE 1/4 and the NE 1/4 of the NE 1/4 and the SW 1/4 of the NE 1/4 of Section 23, Town 21 Range 25 in Barry County, MO.

This is land which Isaac Sturgell received under the Homestead Act of 1862. Isaac filed his final affadavit for that land on 30 Nov 1876, after he married Susannah Alberty.

Now, the only Mary Sturgell found so far in this story is Mary Bandy Sturgell, who I had assumed died between 1860 and 1867.  If this is the same person as Mrs. Mary Cookman, then Mary didn’t die – she left and/or divorced Isaac Sturgell in that time frame.

Another look through indexed records in the court house brought the discovery of divorce proceedings, so I eagerly began looking for the Sturgell surname and found Isaac. However, there was yet another surprise. The divorce records were for Isaac Sturgell, plaintiff, dated October 1874 and SUSANNAH Sturgell! She divorced him, too!

Isaac Sturgell has never been located in the 1880 census, but he may have been wandering through the Ozarks and missed the census taker.

More on this unexpected turn of events in the next post.




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