Untangling the Mystery of “Pleacy A.” in 1850

I am forever being drawn back to small block walls encountered while I pieced together my husband’s Williams family, which originated (at least in my research) in Cumberland County, Virginia.

Charles S. Stephens’ family has always been a puzzle to me, partly because of the time frame in which they lived.

First, the background – Charles S. Stephens was the son of Shadrach Stephens and his wife, Susannah Williams. (Note: Susannah was the daughter of Charles Williams, who died in Morgan County, Tennessee in 1825, was the likely granddaughter of Samuel Williams of Cumberland County, Virginia and great granddaughter of Thomas Williams, also of Cumberland County.)

Charles S. Stephens was born on 29 March 1821 and spent his life in Morgan County, Tennessee. Morgan County is a burned county so there are no surviving marriage records for the 1840s, the era in which he likely married.

Charles makes his one and only appearance in the Morgan County records in the 1850 U.S. census:

Charles S. Stephens, 29, Farmer, $200
Pleacy A. Stephens, 30
Elizabeth Stephens, 12
Isabella Stephens, 11
Harriet Stephens, 2/12

All were born in Tennessee. My first thought was whether or not this was a second marriage for Pleacy and if Elizabeth and Isabella were actually Stephens children. Pleacy is a year older than Charles, who would have been about 17 when Elizabeth was born. The fact that there is a decade in between the births of Isabella and Harriet is another factor. I do believe that Harriet is probably the only Stephens child. No previous marriage has been found for Pleacy.

The next thing I noted was the name Pleacy. I’d never heard of that name before and figured it could be a “sounds like” spelling of some less common name pronounced with a southern accent.

A quick search of PLEAC*Y in Tennessee turned up only a couple of hits, both in Morgan County – Pleacy E. Davis, aged 7 in 1850, the daughter of Pleasant and Charity Davis. Ten years later, she was still at home and enumerated as PERLIISA.

The second hit was for Pleacy A. Roberts who married Samuel Delaney next door in Roane County, Tennessee on 17 April 1885. I haven’t found any trace of this couple aside from their marriage record.

Charles died on 15 December 1858 and was buried in the Stephens family cemetery, where his gravestone still stands.

No trace of Pleacy, Elizabeth, Isabella or Harriet could be found in Morgan County, or even in Tennessee, in 1860. To be fair, the likelihood of finding Elizabeth, who would probably have been married by then, would be slim. Isabella, however, is a much less common name. I had great hopes for finding Isabella, but, again, no success.

This family has sat for a couple of decades now and I came across them while I was checking on another Williams family that was splintered.

This time, I decided to check online family trees. Yes, they are notoriously unreliable, but there are some good clues to be found and I was ecstatic when I found a new lead!

Someone had a Perlissa Scarborough in a tree and it showed her married to one Charles S. Stephens and then to a P.A. Marcum. The Scarboroughs lived in Anderson County, Tennessee, which is a neighbor of Morgan and Roane Counties. There are tons of extended Williams family members in those three counties.

While I found nothing on a P.A. Marcum, one very interesting Marcum hit did appear:

Marcum Family 1860, Barton County, MIssouri
Source: Ancestry

Here we have a Harriett Marcum, aged 10 and born in Tennessee, in a household where all the other children were born in Missouri. The female head, Polica, was also born in Tennessee, while Wilson was born in North Carolina.

The Marcums lived only doors from Rector and York (Tennessee) families, both with known ties to the Williams group in Tennessee.

Polica sure doesn’t look like the typical female name, does it? Yet, if the C has the sound of an S, it begins to sound like Polissa or maybe even Pleacy. When I checked for a marriage record for Harriet Stephens in Barton County, Missouri, I had more success, at least because there was a record.

It is indexed as the marriage of “Miss Harriet Stephen” to “May James Cavis” on 6 July 1869 in Barton County, Missouri. Because of poor legibility and the fact that the marriage was soon after the Civil War, I wonder if MAY is actually MAJ, as in major?

All of this leads me to believe that Polica is Pleacy and Harriet is Charles S. Stephens’ daughter.

I found Wilson Marcum in 1850, living next door in Cedar County, Missouri with first wife Edy and their children. I have not found a marriage record for Wilson between 1850 and 1860. If it’s in the condition of the page noting Harriet’s marriage, I understand why I haven’t found it!

Pleacy has fought being found every step of the way. What does the 1870 census tell us about her, Harriet and/or the Marcum family? Absolutely nothing! I can’t find any of them in Missouri or anywhere else for that matter. I know that the 1870 census takers missed some families in the aftermath of the war, but the 1880 census didn’t yield any family members either.

There is no Wilson Marcum, no Pleacy, no Harriet Cavis, no James Cavis and no easily found Marcum children.

It’s time to set this aside again, but I have made some headway. Preponderance of evidence indicates that Pleacy married someone before Charles S. Stephens and then married Wilson Marcum and settled in Barton County, Missouri, where Harriet Stephens married (?) James Cavis.

Perhaps new leads will pop up the next time I visit this family.




One thought on “Untangling the Mystery of “Pleacy A.” in 1850”

  1. I came across your article by chance. I’m chasing a girl named Elizabeth Jones. In 1860 US census she is shown as daughter of Wm. and Martha Jones, age 14. The next daughter listed is Isabella Stevens, age 18. By chance I found an Isabella Stephens, age 10, birth year about 1840 in Subdivision 19, Morgan, Tennessee, USA in the 1850 US Census. I think there’s something here, but I need to think about it. Anyway, I thought you might be interested.

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