Black Sheep Isaac Sturgell and His Family – Continued

After I discovered that Mary Sturgell was now Mary Cookman living in Peoria, IL, I started checking IL records. It appears that when Isaac and Mary either separated or divorced (no divorce records have been found, but the Civil War was going on around them), the boys apparently stayed with Isaac in MO, while the girls, Margaret and Mary, born in 1861 in AR, went with their mother. Baby girl M.J., born about 1848, likely died young. Amanda, born 1850, is with the family in 1860, but not found after that time. Depending on when Isaac and Mary separated, Amanda could have been 15 or 16 years old and married by 1866. Isaac didn’t marry Susannah Douthit Alberty until 1867. However, I have never found a trace of Amanda after 1860 in AR, MO or IL.

Why did Mary go to Peoria, IL? She had family there and likely went back to them possibly first to OH or else directly to IL.

Mary married (2) probably William J. Wade, 12 Jan 1869, Tazewell Co., IL (3) Benjamin Cookman, on 28 July 1877 in Peoria Co., IL. Ben died of lupus in the Alms House in 1885. (4) George Jacob Fouts, 7 Mar 1889, Peoria Co., IL.

A William J. Wade married a Mary Sturgeon in 1869; the timing and place are right, as Tazewell County is right next to Peoria County and Mary stated on her marriage certificate to George Fouts that it was her 4th marriage. She and the girls haven’t been found in 1870, nor has William J. Wade. However, a William J. Wade married again in Tazewell County on 8 OCt 1877 to Elizabeth Jones. Perhaps Mary divorced a second time.  George Fouts died 26 Nov 1894 in Fulton Co., IL. His obituary makes no mention of a widow and no further record has been found for Mary Bandy Sturgell Cookman Fouts.

Isaac had quite the life after Mary left him. His sons Andrew Jackson (AJ) and George apparently wandered the Ozarks with him. In fact, my husband’s great grandfather, Abijah, is the only one who stayed put in Barry County and married only one time.

I mentioned that Susannah Douthit Alberty was Isaac’s second wife. The divorce packet contained the details of their acrimonious divorce and I have to say I clearly stand with Susannah. Isaac states that Susannah left him on 17 Feb 1873; the divorce was settled in October 1874. If the copies were a bit darker, I would post some of the pages of allegations. The only allegation that Isaac makes against Susannah is that she left him. She, in turn, gave testimony and had supporting witnesses that declared Isaac squandered the little money she received from her first husband John Alberty’s estate so that Susannah had nothing left. He refused to provide clothing for her or any of the family (including her minor children) and left only cornbread for them to eat. Isaac, according to the testimony, openly declared that he would not work to make a living. Further, he not only became surly and obstinate, he brought home and kept a lewd woman in the house with her and the children!

As a result of this testimony, the judge found in favor of the defendant – Susannah – and awarded her $75 in alimony. Isaac didn’t have the cash to pay her so there is a note written by someone else for Susannah to the clerk of Barry County Court stating that she received the gray mare from Isaac in lieu of the $75. Susannah was granted the right to marry again, which she didn’t do.

Nothing was said in the court papers about Isaac having the right to remarry, but that he did. He, A.J. and George traveled through the Ozarks. Isaac may have actually walked or hitched a ride because I found him on several Arkansas personal property tax lists and he was never taxed for more than a few pigs, never for a horse. Isaac married (3) Nancy R. Fields, 27 Apr 1876, Boone Co., AR. There is a Nancy Fields living alone in Boone Co., born about 1831 in TN who is probably this woman. One year later, on 1 Aug 1877, he married (4) Nancy P.  (maybe Hensley) Treadwell Cooper in Pope Co., AR. That marriage apparently didn’t last long either as Nancy Treadwell is living with a married daughter and son-in-law in Pope County in 1880.

Andrew Jackson Sturgell was busy getting married himself. He married (1) Mary Fowler, 23 Feb 1871, Barry Co., MO (2) Delanie E.R. Ketchum, 1 Jan 1874, also in Barry County (3) Sarah J. Davis, 24 Feb 1875 and (4) Mary Catherine Turney, 2 July 1876, Pope County, AR. Mary was widowed and living in her father’s home in 1880 so A.J. likely died before that time. He hasn’t been found in any record after his 1876 marriage, but with the divorces and remarriages in this family, I guess it is possible that they split up.

George W. Sturgell married (1) Caroline Holmes, 31 Oct 1878, Van Buren Co., AR and (2) Hannah Tinney, 5 Jan 1886, Pope Co., AR. Neither George nor Hannah have been found after their 1886 marriage.

While the Sturgells were busy living and marrying in AR, Isaac Sturgell was still the owner of Homestead Act land in Barry County that he acquired after the Civil War. On 30 Nov 1876, Andrew J. and George W. Sturgell gave oath on the final homestead proof that Isaac Sturgell had, from 7 Jan 1870 to the present day of 30 Nov. 1876, lived continuously and made his exclusive home the farm on the land granted by the Homestead Act. (Remember he married Nancy Fields in Benton Co., AR in April 1876.)

So what became of Isaac Sturgell? A very elderly grandchild remembered back in the 1980’s that he was a mean old man. She remembered the children hiding under a bed to get away from him, but he would poke them with a broom handle to get them out.

Isaac hasn’t been found in 1900, but the local Cassville newspapers had several items published about him:

6 Mar 1902 – The Financial Statement of the Barry County Paupers Fund showed J.A. Barnes receiving money for the care of Isaac Sturgill.

12 Nov 1903 – T.W. Brewer received $12 for poor house support of I. Sturgill

12 May 1904 – county warrant for $10 for Isaac Sturgill, poor

4 Aug 1906 – news clipping that Isaac Sturgill, a very old man at the county farm, was very ill.

26 Feb 1909 – Monett Times – Died. Rev. Isaac Sturgill, age 80-85 at County Farm. Buried Oak Hill Cemetery. All children dead, but has grandchildren.

The Sturgell family still in Barry County have an old newspaper obituary in the family Bible, undated that says: “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 Baptist church and one of the county’s most worthy charges. He was interred at the Oak Hill cemetery Tuesday afternoon.”

I have been to Oak Hill Cemetery and walked every row, but Isaac is apparently in an unmarked grave, which is consistent with living at the county poor farm. His sons were all dead, as noted in the Monett Times notice; his daughters likely hadn’t seen him for almost 40 years and had their own lives in Illinois.

It turns out there was quite a story to be found after the Civil War.

Black Sheep Isaac Sturgell and Wife Mary- The Brick Wall I Didn’t Know I Had

My mother-in-law Ruby’s maiden name was Sturgell. She was born in Oklahoma, but her family had migrated there from southern Missouri in the early 1900’s. She didn’t know much about her paternal grandparents, as her grandfather, Abijah Houston Sturgell had died in 1905 and her grandmother, Martha Susannah Alberty, died in 1916, a year to the day before Ruby was born.

It didn’t take much research to find Abijah (Byge in the census) and family in Barry County, MO in 1900 and it was an easy jump back to 1870 when Abijah “Sturgill” was enumerated in his father Isaac’s household.  In 1870, Isaac’s wife was Susannah Douthit Alberty, mother of Abijah’s future wife, Martha Susannah.

The Alberty family had settled next door in Newton County, MO and by 1880, Susannah was living alone in Newton County, enumerated as Susan Alburty, a widow. Isaac hasn’t been found in 1880.

I didn’t immediately find Isaac in 1860, but did find Isaac and Mary “Sturgion” in Barry Co., MO in 1850 with baby daughter M.J., born in MO about 1848. In 1850, Isaac reported that both he and Mary were born in Virginia.

Finding a marriage record for Isaac and Mary is an entirely different story, but to keep on track here, Isaac Stergeon and Mary Bandy married in Lawrence Co., OH on 26 September 1844.

Remember, I hadn’t found Isaac and his family in Barry County in 1860. Since that county borders Arkansas, I decided to check the Arkansas census index (back in the old days before computers) and I found Isaac Stigall in Benton Co., AR, which is also on the MO-AR border.

With him were wife Mary, this time born in Ohio (which is actually how I picked up the trail to find their marriage record) with children: Amanda, 10, born MO; Andrew, 6, born TX; Abijah, 5, born MO, Margaret, 2, born AR and George, 4/14, born AR. It was looking like Isaac might have had a bit of wanderlust in him.

I now had a rough picture of the family of Isaac Sturgell (with its variant spellings) and first wife, Mary Bandy, and second wife Susannah Douthit Alberty.

Isaac Sturgell and Mary Bandy married in 1844 in Lawrence Co., OH. Both of their birth years vary quite a bit in the records, but Isaac was likely born about 1823, as he was of age when he married. Mary was probably born about 1826.

The young couple migrated to southern Missouri probably by 1847 or 1848 if M.J. was born in MO and not in OH. Daughter Amanda was born about 1849-1850, probably in Barry Co., MO. However, between 1850 and 1854, they apparently migrated somewhere in TX, but were back in MO by 1855 when Abijah was born. Then between 1855 and the 1860 census, they had removed to Benton Co., AR, where Mary had just given birth to baby George in March of that year.

Isaac married Susannah Douthit Alberty in Newton Co., MO on 30 September 1867. By 1880, Isaac was no longer found and Susan Alburty was widowed in Newton County in the 1880 census. Susan died on 19 Oct 1883 in Newton County.

I had assumed from this picture that Mary, still being of child bearing age, had possibly died giving birth to a child after George or had died of some other cause maybe in the mid 1860’s and Isaac remarried to Susan Alberty. Isaac then passed away between 1870 and 1880. Susan Alberty had a lot of family in Newton County so the fact that she was Susan Alburty in 1880 may only have meant that the census taker was told, either by Susan herself or a neighbor if she wasn’t home, that “Susan Alburty” lives there alone.

The moral of today’s story is again to do your own research and I highly recommend county court house visits. My husband’s aunt Freda was as into the family history as I was and we decided to meet up in Barry County to visit the court house. The county clerk was wonderful. Southwest Missouri is a farming area and the court house was not busy on the day we visited. We were led to the vault that contained the old records and started digging through various index books.

There was a large index to land deeds for the county so I looked for any Sturgell (and variations) up to 1900 since Isaac’s family was the only one by that name in the area. I found one very curious listing for Mary Sturgell also known as Mrs. Mary Cookman, dated 1883. Here The document, which is a quit claim deed, was filed in Peoria, IL and copied to Barry County, Missouri.

It stated that Mrs. Mary Sturgell, also known as Mrs. Mary Cookman, of Peoria, IL was quit claiming her rights to land purchased by Calvin A Prentice described as the W 1/2 of the NW 1/4 fractional quarter section of Section 24 and the SE 1/4 of the NE 1/4 and the NE 1/4 of the NE 1/4 and the SW 1/4 of the NE 1/4 of Section 23, Town 21 Range 25 in Barry County, MO.

This is land which Isaac Sturgell received under the Homestead Act of 1862. Isaac filed his final affadavit for that land on 30 Nov 1876, after he married Susannah Alberty.

Now, the only Mary Sturgell found so far in this story is Mary Bandy Sturgell, who I had assumed died between 1860 and 1867.  If this is the same person as Mrs. Mary Cookman, then Mary didn’t die – she left and/or divorced Isaac Sturgell in that time frame.

Another look through indexed records in the court house brought the discovery of divorce proceedings, so I eagerly began looking for the Sturgell surname and found Isaac. However, there was yet another surprise. The divorce records were for Isaac Sturgell, plaintiff, dated October 1874 and SUSANNAH Sturgell! She divorced him, too!

Isaac Sturgell has never been located in the 1880 census, but he may have been wandering through the Ozarks and missed the census taker.

More on this unexpected turn of events in the next post.




My Great Grandfather Stephen Sabo and the Family Name Change

I’ve mentioned before that both of my grandmothers were still alive when I started working on the family history. My dad’s side of the family is all Slovak. His parents were first generation Americans, born in PA and NJ.   I never knew my paternal grandfather, George Sabo, as he died of tuberculosis when my father, also George and an only child, was ten years old.

I grew up in Passaic, NJ, which was a city that blossomed with the start of the Industrial Revolution.   The Passaic River generated power needed by the factories, which were filled through the years with waves of immigrant groups. The Slovaks began arriving in the 1880’s.  My paternal grandmother was Julia Scerbak. Julia knew a lot about her family history, even maiden names of her grandmothers and about the time when her grandparents died in Slovakia (then the Austrian-Hungarian Empire).

However, she knew little about my grandfather’s family, with the exception of the names of his parents and siblings, who they married and that they came to NJ from Delano, PA and that they were definitely Slovak, not Czech or Russian. She said she didn’t care for most of her in-laws, but did say her mother-in-law, my great grandmother, Mary Kacsenyak, was a very kind woman. Stephen, her father-in-law was, according to her,  mean. Looking at the two photos, her descriptions would seem to fit the looks on their faces.

These are two of the three only surviving photos of Stephen Sabo and his wife, Mary Kacsenyak. In the 1920 census of Passaic, NJ, Stephen, Mary and their youngest child, Stephen Jr., were living at 77 Hope Avenue.

Mary died in Passaic on 5 March 1926 so it is likely that the two photos I have were taken in the 1920’s possibly at 77 Hope Avenue.

Now, the question here would seem to be “Why is this a brick wall?” The answer is that without having the benefit of my grandmother’s knowledge I probably would never have found them, at least not until the state of New Jersey has a computer searchable database of brides and grooms available.

One of the first documents I sent for back in 1979 when I started down this path was my grandparents’ marriage certificate. My grandmother Julia was born in Passaic in 1893. She was baptized at St. Michael Greek Catholic Church, today St. Michael’s Cathedral. Her parents were married in the same church and she and my grandfather were also married there. So, I mailed away for two documents – the church record and the state record of their marriage, which took place on 6 September 1910.

I was quite shocked to receive a reply from the state of New Jersey saying that no marriage record had been found. My grandmother was a very religious woman and I could easily see my grandparents not bothering with a silly little thing like a state license as long as they married in the church. However, my grandmother said that George did, indeed, go to Passaic City Hall and file the paperwork.

I was even more shocked to get a letter from the pastor of St. Michael’s Church the following week, also saying that no marriage record was found. My grandmother was very mentally acute, even in her 80’s, so I had a hard time believing that she was wrong about the date.

In my next conversation with her, I told her that neither the state of NJ nor St. Michael’s had a marriage record for George Sabo and Julia Scerbak on 6 September 1915. Here was the next shocker: She said that is because the family name was Kucharik! I was 27 years old and had never, ever heard that the family name was anything other than Sabo.

When I sent off second requests for the marriage record of George Kucharik and Julia Scerbak on 6 September 1915, I received back envelopes containing the two documents.

My great grandfather did what many immigrants of that era did – he changed the family surname. However, instead of Americanizing the name – Kucharik means “Cook” – he went from a Slovak name to a Hungarian name. Sabo means “Taylor.” My grandmother had no idea why he changed his name.

In 1900, the family was enumerated as Kuharik:

However, in 1910, the name was misspelled as Kukarik:

Next, my grandparents married in 1915 as Kucharik:

But by 1920, I found the family as Sabo.

I have no way of knowing if World War I influenced Stephen’s decision to change the name, as the family was not enumerated as Sabo until 1920 and I have found no other documents before 1920 that contain the surname “Sabo.”

When Mary died in 1926, she died as Mary Sabo, with no mention of the Kucharik surname.

This brick wall would have been left standing for many years if my grandmother hadn’t told me “That’s because the family name was Kucharik.”

Genealogy Tips & Family History