Saturday Night Genealogy Fun – “Bad Behavior” Ancestor

Randy Seaver’s Weekly Challenge

Randy Seaver’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun challenge really is a fun one, as the black sheep are the most interesting characters!

I have to say I didn’t have to think much about the ancestor who bests fits the bill this week – my husband’s 2X great grandfather, Isaac Sturgell.

Isaac was born c1823, most likely in Grayson County, Virginia. He died, quite ironically I think, exactly 108 years ago today on 26 February 1909! Although he lived a long life, I think it was a life filled with much turbulence.

His mother died before his tenth birthday and he married wife #1, Mary Bandy, when he was about 21. She was about 16. They had six children together before she upped and left him in Barry County, Missouri, with or without the benefit of divorce, sometime between the 1860 census and 30 September 1867 when he married wife #2, Susannah Douthit Alberty.

Susannah did have the benefit of divorce papers and she left him in 1874, accusing him of squandering the small estate left to her by her first husband. She also accused him of “bringing lewd women into the home” and not providing the necessities of life for her and her children. The sum total of her divorce settlement was an old gray mare!

Isaac must have liked being married because wife #3, Nancy R.
Fields, a widow, tied the knot with him on 27 April 1876, over the state line in Boone County, Arkansas. Marriage #3 wasn’t the lucky charm for Isaac, as that one was way shorter than Marriages #1 and 2, but I don’t know whether they actually divorced or went their separate ways. Whatever they did happened before 1 August 1877 when he took on wife #4, Nancy P. Cooper, another widow, in Pope County, Arkansas!

The fourth time around wasn’t a lucky charm either as Isaac and the second Nancy were no longer together by the time of the 1880 census.

For a while, I thought maybe Isaac was killing them all off and burying them in the backyard. However, an 1882 land deed proved that Mary Bandy was still alive and well in Peoria, Illinois. Second wife, Susannah Alberty, was his son Abijah’s mother-in-law – she died on 19 October 1883 in Newton County, Missouri, where she lived before she married Isaac.

Both Nancy Fields and Nancy Cooper turned up in the 1880 census living with adult children by their earlier marriages.

If that wasn’t enough for Isaac, he was also a proven liar! Isaac applied for and received 80 acres of land in Barry County, Missouri under the Homestead Act. On 30 November 1876 (note the date and the timing of his third and fourth marriages), He swore an oath that he had made improvements to the land and had NOT abandoned it, but lived on it for the required time period.


Isaac’s Oath

How do I know that Isaac lied and that he hadn’t been living on his land for quite some time? Because I found him on several Arkansas tax rolls as he wandered the hills there getting married!

Isaac seemed to have garnered some sympathy in his final years. One short notice appeared in the Cassville newspaper:

I’ve never been able to discover why J.A. Barnes was caring for Isaac  in 1902 – the court approved a reimbursement of $10 to him – but Isaac eventually moved into the County Farm – the local poor house.

In 1906, there was another one sentence notice about Isaac being an old man and very ill out at the County Farm.

In spite of that mention, he managed to hang on three more years before passing away. Someone decided he merited not one, but two obituaries:

Isaac Sturgle died at the county
farm Monday night, aged about 80
years. For a number of years Mr.
Sturgle had been a consumptive
and this dreadful disease together
with old age made death a welcome
visitor to the lonely sufferer. He
was a faithful member of the Bap-
tist church and one of the county’s
most worthy charges. He was in-
terred at the Oak Hill cemetery
Tuesday afternoon.

The second obituary is my favorite. Isaac, who consistently signed his name with an X, has been elevated even more in this remembrance:

Rev. Isaac Sturgill aged between
80 and 85, died at the County Farm
Monday afternoon and was buried
Tuesday afternoon in the Oak Hill
Cemetery by the members of the
Baptist Church, in their lot. He
had been at the farm off and on for
twelve or fourteen years. He left a
number of grandchildren in this
county. All his own children are
dead.

Isaac was titled as Reverend in this one! Not as far as I’ve ever been able to discover. The saddest part about his obituary is that, while Isaac had three sons and did outlive them, wife #1, Mary Bandy, took their daughters with her when she left. Margaret and Mary both survived their father, but I don’t think they ever saw their father after the day they left for Peoria.

I can almost feel sorry for Isaac. However, I met his last surviving grandchild about 25 years ago. She is now gone, but when I asked her about her grandfather, even she said he was a mean old man.

There are no surviving photos of Isaac Sturgell, if he ever even had his picture taken. I would love to know what he looked like, but he definitely was the black sheep of the family!

Isaac Sturgell, RIP, on this, the 108th anniversary of your death.

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