Matilda M. Peavler’s life was turned upside down by the Civil War.
Matilda was born in December about 1835 or 1836 in Knox County, Kentucky, the fourth of nine children born to Lewis Peavler and Catherine Head. The Peavlers were still living in Knox County for the 1850 census, so it wasn’t long after they moved to Linn County, Missouri that Matilda met and married John Stufflebean. They are the 2x great grandparents of my husband, Dave.
John was born 30 June 1821 in Estill County, Kentucky, the son of Michael Stufflebean and Elizabeth Baker. His family moved to Linn County by 1840 and were some of the first settlers in the area.
John married (1) Gulielma Beals on Christmas Day 1845 in Linn County. She was born about 1830 in Morgan County, Indiana and John may have known her from the time in the 1830’s when his own family lived there. By 1850, they were the parents of two children:
1. Elizabeth Jane, born 28 December 1846
2. Daniel Boone, born 11 March 1849
Gulielma died in the early 1850’s, possibly giving birth to another child who also didn’t survive. In any case, John married Matilda M. Peavler on 9 June 1853. The officiating minister was his cousin, Balaam M. Baker, also his 1850 neighbor.
John and Matilda soon settled into their new life together. Besides raising Elizabeth Jane and Daniel Boone, Matilda’s step-children, she gave birth to five children of her own:
1. Mary Docia, born 24 August 1855; died 31 January 1912, Linn Co., MO and married Charles Hannon on 26 January 1874, Linn Co., MO
2. Lewis Michael, born 22 August 1857; died 14 March 1937, Linn Co. , MO and married Elizabeth Cornett on 24 March 1883, Linn Co., MO
3. Thomas James, born 22 December 1858; died 8 May 1942, Noble, Cleveland Co., OK and married Docia (Dolly) Standifer on 5 May 1881 in Linn Co., MO
4. Matilda Sarah Catherine, born 26 October 1860; died 23 March 1937, Linn Co., MO and married Josiah Cordray on 7 April 1876, Linn Co., MO
5. John Henry Peavler, born 5 November 1863; died 3 February 1939, Noble, Cleveland Co., OK and married (1) Mary Elizabeth Hollon on 27 June 1886 in Linn Co., MO and (2) Addie Lucinda Belcher on 21 May 1905, also in Linn Co., MO
The 1860 census is the only census where they were all together as a family:
The census taker seemed to have had trouble with the names of the children. What looks like “Mordecai” is actually Mary Docia and the following child’s name has been written over, but it is Lewis.
The threat of the Civil War was looming and, although the family seemed a bit insulated from battles that would rage throughout the South, many Missouri men enlisted for the cause. John Stufflebean was one of those men who enlisted and never came home.
One month before his 41st birthday, on 2 May 1862, John enlisted in Co. F, 25th MO Infantry. Little is known about his actual service except that the regiment was building fortifications at Corinth, Mississippi until March 1863. It then moved to Iron Mountain, St. Joseph and northwest Missouri fighting guerillas until February 17, 1864. They then merged with Bissell’s Engineers at Nashville, TN and became the 1st Regiment MO Volunteer Engineers. It seems like their greatest foe wasn’t the Confederate Army. Sadly, they lost 16 men killed in action, but one officer and 146 enlisted men to disease.
John Stufflebean died on 10 June 1864 in a Nashville hospital of chronic diarrhea, likely from an outbreak of dysentery. The next few years were difficult for Matilda, as she had seven children aged 17 and under in her care and things didn’t seem to go very well for the family.
Matilda married widower John B. Hall on 22 March 1869 in Linn County and I expect she was hoping for some stability for herself and her family. That wasn’t to be. It appears that perhaps her new husband didn’t want the care of her children because just a month later, George W. Stephens, no relation known to the family, but a wealthy lawyer who lived in Locust Creek in 1870, was appointed guardian of the five minor children of John Stufflebean, deceased – Mary D., Louis M., Thomas J.L., John H. and Matilda S.C. Stufflebean. Elizabeth Jane, daughter of John and Gulielma, had married the year before. Daniel Boone, her brother, was twenty years old and living on his own.
The 1870 census shows a continued strain on the family. This is the only time I have ever seen separate people in the same family enumerated twice in the same censuses, living together and then apart.
First, on 17 June 1870, Matilda Hall is enumerated living alone in Sullivan County, MO next door to her brother Lewis Peavler’s family. Mary Docia is a domestic in her uncle’s household, but there is no sign of the four younger Stufflebean children:
Matilda apparently separated from John Hall not long after their marriage. Could the legal proceedings concerning guardianship of her children have had anything to do with that? I don’t think we’ll ever have an answer to that question.
Next, on 16 August 1870, two months later, we find John and Matilda Hall and his children living in one household back in Linn County and, very oddly, next door in a separate household is Mary Docia, aged 15, head of a household consisting of herself and her four younger siblings!
Note that the census taker was Fielding Lewis and that John Hall’s neighbor was Harrison Bailey. This census list gets even stranger now because one day later, on 17 August 1870, the same Fielding Lewis came by a second time. Harrison Bailey is still John Hall’s neighbor, so John didn’t move. Overnight, John had aged by six years, but this is the same family as his children are there. However, Matilda is gone and in her place is Nona Hall, aged 75 – likely John’s mother.
Nona must have walked in the door soon after the census taker walked out! Perhaps that was the last straw for Matilda. I have no documentation to show that John and Matilda divorced. However, some distant cousins state that they had divorced by 1872.
By 1880, it was evident that John Stufflebean’s children were scattered to the wind. Matilda was living with her now married daughter, Matilda Cordray and her husband, Josiah. Elizabeth Jane had married back in 1868 and had her own family living in Saline County, MO. Daniel was nearby, having married in 1874 and settled in Linn County. Mary Docia had also married in 1874 and lived in Linn County. Lewis Michael went to California to live with his uncle James Peavler, and his family in Colusa County. He was a registered as a California voter as late as 1882 before he returned to Linn County in 1883 to marry and settle down. Thomas was living with his uncle and aunt, Thomas and Mary Standifer, while John Henry was living with Mary Docia and her husband, Charles Hannon. Both families were in Linn County.
For whatever reason, Matilda was unable to care for her children. She is listed in the 1890 veterans’ census schedule with a notation about John Stufflebean’s death:
By 1900, Matilda’s health was failing her. She was still living with Matilda and Josiah Cordray on 6 June, but it was noted that she was an invalid.
There is no death certificate marking Matilda’s death. However, a descendant has a family Bible that notes “Matilda Hall died August 6, 1900” and was buried at North Salem Cemetery in Linn County, Missouri. Her grave is unmarked.
The Civil War and death of John Stufflebean had a tremendous, long lasting effect on his wife and children. Life would never be the same for them again.