Mary Jane Adams

Dave’s 2x great grandparents, particularly his 2x great grandmother, Mary Jane Adams, are somewhat of a mysterious challenge, although more is known about her husband, Abraham Dulworth, because he left more of a paper trail.

Here are the facts, just the supported, proven facts, about Abraham Dulworth and Mary Jane Adams:

1. Abraham Dulworth was born in Kentucky.
2. Mary Jane Adams was born. Yes, she actually existed.
3. Abraham and Mary Jane married on 1 February 1883 in Clay County, Tennessee.

Although both are found in census records, their ages, places of birth and even marital status varies.

It is necessary to look at this couple’s individual records, as well as their joint records to try to unravel this mystery. Although my focus will be Mary Jane, usually called Jane in the records, I will begin with Abraham, or Abe, as his daughter Matilda, Dave’s great grandmother, first appears in his household in 1880.

Clay County, TN 1880

Abraham Dulworth is clearly household 118, although he appears between #112 and #114. He was enumerated as a 39 year old widowed farmer who had been unemployed for four months of the previous year. With him were Matilda, 13, James, 8 and John, 7. Mr. Chowning, the census taker, didn’t do a very good job. Aside from not being able to count, he didn’t bother to list the relationships to head of household for the three families listed on this page so an assumption needs to be made that these are Abraham’s children.

For many years, I assumed that Abraham had married and that his wife died at a young age, possibly giving birth to John. I was quite surprised, though, when I looked for Abe in the 1870 census and found him in Cumberland County, Kentucky.

Cumberland Co., KY 1870

There, in the next to last household is James Dulworth, 62, born in TN, Elizabeth, 57, born KY, Abraham, 26, born KY and James, 9, born KY. From previous research, I know that James and Elizabeth were Abraham’s parents and 9 year old James was the son of Abe’s brother, Mathias, or Tice, as he was called. Where is Matilda, who should be perhaps 3 years old? Abraham’s age is off by three years when compared to the 1880 census.

Next, I checked the 1900 census.

Here is where the mystery deepens. Abraham, aged 53 and born July 1846 in KY, is head of a household consisting of wife Mary J.  She is 43, born May 1857 in TN. She reported being the mother of 8 children, 7 of whom were still living. Abe and Jane reported that they had been married for 30 years! Children at home included James, born August 1876, John F., born May 1879, Sid W., born Jan 1885, Benjamin, born June 1887, Jacob, born Sept 1898 (sic – should be 1888) , Martella, born Jan 1892 and Belle, born Jan 1896. Matilda was out of the house by now and there are no other known children of Abe and Jane. It is certainly possible that a child died young. However, I have come across instances before where a mother interpreted the census question as how many children does she have now and, of those, how many are living at home? I don’t know if Jane also did this, but I will explain why I think this might be the case in a bit.

Abe and family were also found in 1910, still in Cumberland County. By 1920, Jane was listed as divorced and living with her unmarried son, John, in Greer Co., OK. Son Sid, married with his own family, was living nearby. Abraham has not been found in 1920 – perhaps he died after he and Jane went their separate ways, but before the 1920 census and Jane was unaware of his death. Jane appeared for the last time in the 1930 census, still living with son John, but they had moved to Elk, Washita County, OK. Jane Dulworth has a headstone in Granite City Cemetery, Greer County, OK that looks to be in pristine condition, but while her name is engraved, there are no dates of birth or death on it.

A marriage record was finally found for Abraham and Jane in Clay County, Tennessee. The reported date of marriage was 1 February 1883! That is only 17 years before the 1900 census, when they reported that they had been married for 30 years. Another piece of the mystery puzzle.

It took me a while, but I finally went looking for Mary J./Jane Adams in 1870. Another surprise:

There in household 87 is Jennie Adams, 70, born SC, keeping house, with Francis (female), 45, born TN (no occupation), Elizabeth, 40, born TN (no occupation), Jane, 18, born TN (no occupation), Race (male), 14, born TN, farm hand, Brilina, 10, born TN, Sarah, 4, born TN and Matilda, 1, born TN, all with the surname Adams!

In 1880, like Abe Dulworth, Jane was also living in Clay County, Tennessee:

Household 17 includes “Rashis” Adams, head of household, age 20, wife Nancy, age 18, son William, age 5 months (born December) and Jane, his sister, age 25. Rashis reported that he works on a farm. Nancy was keeping house and Jane was “at home.” It is noted that Rashis, Nancy and Jane could not read or write. There are several other surnames I recognize from Cumberland County, such as the Willises who were Clay County neighbors. It appears that migrating back and forth between Cumberland County and Clay County was a common occurrence.

Finally, there is the 1860 census, in which Mary J./Jane makes her first appearance:

Household #177 has the following occupants: James Adams, 58, born SC, M.J. Adams, 47, born VA, Elizabeth Adams, 14, born KY, M.J. Adams, 9, born KY, George F. Haly, 9, born TN, M.K. Adams, 8, born KY and Jas. Adams Jr., 22, born TN. James Jr. was a laborer. James, M.J. and James Jr. are all noted to be unable to read or write.

Cumberland County, Kentucky was and is a very poor area of Appalachia. The variations in ages from one census to the next are likely because no one knew exactly how old they were. Abe’s son, John, reported on his WWI draft registration that his date of birth was December “don’t know” 1872 and above was added “As near as can get at now.” He did sign his name, but spelled his surname “Dulwerth.”

So, what to make of Abe and Jane, their marriage record versus their 1900 census report and who the heck were the mothers of the children in Abe’s household from 1880 through 1910?

Lacking any other documents, I am inclined to believe that Jane misunderstood the 1900 census question and that she had given birth to eight children, all of whom were still living, although only seven were at home. That means that Matilda, James, John F., Sid W., Benjamin, Jacob, Martella and Belle were all her children.

Next, what to make of one year old Matilda Adams living with Jane and her family in 1870? First, I would assume that Jane gave birth to Matilda out of wedlock. I might also assume that Matilda’s father was some other unknown person, EXCEPT for the fact that Matilda, James and John were all living with Abraham in 1880 at the same time that Jane was living with brother Race/Rashis’ family, although all were residents of Clay County, TN at that time. It would have been quite helpful if census taker Mr. Chowning had properly done his job and listed relationship to head of household. However, why would these children be living with Abe if they were not his children and no other persons were in that household at that time? Additionally, by 1900, James and John are identified as Abe’s sons, not stepsons.

My current working theory is that Jane and Abraham had an on-going off-and-on relationship from a short time after the close of the Civil War until  1 February 1883, when they finally married. (As an aside, exactly how were the Adamses supporting themselves in 1870? It’s not likely that 14 year old farm hand Race/Rashis was making enough money to support a family of eight.) I also currently believe that all eight children shared the same two parents – Abraham and Mary Jane.

James’ 1945 death certificate filed in Cumberland Co., KY names Abraham and Jane Adams as his parents. No death record has been found for any of the other children, including Matilda, who died in Greer County, Oklahoma.

So far, no divorce record for Abraham and Jane has been found, either. It might possibly name their children.

What do you think? Suggestions? Please leave a comment.

One thought on “Mary Jane Adams”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.