The big clue that I picked up in the 1883 land deed that I found in Barry County, Missouri was the Mary Bandy Sturgell was now Mrs. Mary Cookman of Peoria County, Illinois.
A search of Illinois records found:
Benjamin Cookman, aged 33, married Mary Sturgell, aged 34 on 21 July 1877. Now if I had found this record before the land deed, I would have thought this was some other Mary Sturgell as an age of 34 puts her birth at 1843. Mary married Isaac in 1844! However, I also found them in the 1880 census of Kingston, Peoria County, Illinois:
This census record doesn’t tell the whole story either. Ben is now 41 years old, born in England and suffering from “cancer.” Mary, his wife, is now 44 years old (born 1836 – also not true) is in the household along with daughter Mary Cookman, who is actually Mary Sturgell, the youngest known child of Isaac and Mary. “Son” George W. Cookman is not the child of Ben and Mary. Mary was past childbearing age – remember, she was actually born about 1828 – in spite of the age she told the census taker. George W. was the son of Isaac’s and Mary’s daughter, Mary. In later censuses, he is identified as the son of George Kingsley, who Mary married later in 1880. However, his true father’s name is unknown to me. Nothing about this family research project was ever simple and straight forward!
Mary Bandy Sturgell’s time with Ben was relatively short, as he died on 16 June 1885 in Peoria County at the Alms House, not from cancer, but from lupus.
His age of death is 52, giving a birth year of 1833. It also says he was born in New York, not England, and that he was single. In spite of all the differences with the other recorded facts about Ben, one thing is certain. He was very ill near the end of his life. Being a boatman, if he was that sick, he wouldn’t have been able to work and the family would have had no money coming in. Ben needed cared and he went to the Alms House to receive it. There he died and was buried.
Like Isaac, Mary appeared to like being married in spite of her past marriage troubles. The next record found brought up still more surprises:
Luckily for me, in the intervening years between Mary’s marriages to Ben Cookman and George J. Fouts, Illinois adopted a new marriage license form that had full life details on it. First, Mary’s age in 1889 was now 56, giving a birth year of 1833, while new husband George’s age was 62. In reality, Mary was about 61. Second, while this was George’s third marriage, Mary reported that it was her FOURTH marriage! Wait a minute, I’m missing a marriage somewhere. Lastly, Mary reported that her parents were Andrew Bandy and, while it is difficult to read the surname, Rebecca Wool(d)ri(d)ge. Here was proof of her parents! Another brick wall broken down. The Wooldridge family researchers were also very grateful to have proof that Rebecca Wooldridge married Andrew Bandy.
Now back to the fourth marriage bit. I have never to this day been able to find Mary Sturgell and daughters Amanda, Margaret and Mary in the 1870 census. I have searched through Arkansas, Ohio, Missouri and Illinois. In fact, I have never found another record for Amanda after the 1860 census and have come to the conclusion that she died after 1860 but did not marry or leave children.
A check of Illinois marriage for Mary Sturgell turned up one record for Mary Sturgeon and William J. Wade on 12 January 1869 in Tazewell County, Illinois. Given that Tazewell County is next door to Peoria County, the 1869 date fits in between when Mary left Isaac and married Ben Cookman and Sturgell is often interchanged with Sturgeon, this could be Mary’s missing marriage. It also was short lived.
Here is apparent widower William Wade in Pekin, Tazewell County, Illinois with children born well before 1869, but no wife in the household:
William J. Wade married again to Elizabeth Jones on 8 October 1877, also in Tazewell County, Illinois.
The marriage record of Mary to George Jacob Fouts is the last record which I have found for her. George died on 26 November 1894 in Banner Twp., Fulton County, Illinois. An obituary and a funeral home record have been located:
Only one daughter is mentioned in George’s obituary. No death record, obituary or burial record has been found for Mary, nor have any further marriage records been located for her. It appears that she died sometime between 7 Mar 1889 and George’s death on 26 November 1894. She likely died in Peoria County, Illinois.
The Sturgell research project has been a wild ride. After initially believing that Isaac and Mary married, Mary died and Isaac remarried to Susannah Alberty and then died, I have uncovered a trail from Barry County, Missouri into multiple Arkansas counties and from Barry County to Peoria, Illinois. Along the way, I discovered daughter Mary born in 1861 and found a total of eight marriages between them. Now, if I could only find a few more records. . . !