Mary Williams Ritchey had a difficult life, to say the least.
Her parents were John Ritchey and Cassie Ann Williams, who married in Pittsylvania County, Virginia on 1 November 1825. Cassie Ann’s parents were both Williamses. Her father, Charles, was the son of Revolutionary War soldier Charles Williams of Pittsylvania County and her grandfather was Thomas Williams of Cumberland County, Virginia. Her mother, Susannah, was a daughter of and grandchild of two Roger Williamses of Bedford County, Virginia. The elder Roger and Thomas were likely first cousins.
Mary’s birth date is estimated to be about 1829, based on the age given in 1860 and her birthplace was reported as Virginia. The Ritchey family migrated to Marshall County, Tennessee somewhere around the 1830 time period and it isn’t likely that Mary, or Polly as she was called, remembered Virginia.
Her father hasn’t been found in the 1830 census and that might have been exactly when they were heading west to Tennessee.
Polly was an only child, based on the will of her grandfather, Charles Williams, and the Marshall County, Tennessee court records. Polly’s mother, Cassie Ann, died sometime before 18 November 1835 when her father, John, married Elizabeth Lipscomb in Maury County, Tennessee, next door to Marshall County.
Less than five years later, the estate of John Richie was entered for administration on 3 March 1840, again in Marshall County. One Jeremiah Hendrix was named as guardian for Polly Williams Richie, a minor orphan under the age of 14.
At the age of eleven years, little Polly had lost both her mother and her father.
It took a while for technology to catch up with this brick wall, but eventually a marriage was found for Mary Williams Ritchey. She may well be the Mary Ritchie who married (1) Thomas A. Gardner, 17 Nov 1846, Marshall County, Tennessee. Her age fits this Mary very well and Thomas was likely her second cousin, a child of Isaac and Nancy Gardner.
Thomas was born about 1824, probably Pittsylvania County, Virginia and is likely a son of Isaac W. Gardner and Nancy W. Williams, daughter of Charles Williams.
Thomas Gardner isn’t exactly an uncommon name and it took a while for me to figure out that this family removed to Carter County, Missouri by 1860.
However, even knowing where they settled after they left Tennessee hasn’t helped much. Thomas died between 1860-1870, as he is enumerated in 1860 and Polly married Hardin Davis on 20 December 1869, also in Carter County.
It seemed likely that Thomas could have died during the Civil War, as he was the right age. I found a surprise, though, as I started to dig deeper.
There are several snippets of Carter County, Missouri early history online. Each mentioned the fact that Carter County wasn’t set off from parts of Ripley, Shannon and Wayne Counties and that it was formed in 1859, only two years before the start of the Civil War. Most of its inhabitants were Southern sympathizers.
During the war, Carter County suffered more from local native inhabitants marauding than it did from war scars. These short histories also mentioned that the first elected sheriff of Carter County was killed by one of these local gangs. His name? Thomas Gardner!
Thomas A. Gardner is the only Thomas Gardner found in Carter County in 1860 and, being 36 years old, he was of the right age to serve as sheriff. Furthermore, Thomas’s and Polly’s last child, James B. Gardner, was born about 1861, according to the 1870 census.
This isn’t the easiest census to read, but we have Thomas A. Gardner, 36, Mary, 31, John H., 11, Elvira C., 9, George D., 5, and William T., 2. Thomas and Mary were born in Virginia, the first three children were born in Tennessee and the baby, William, was born in Missouri. Thomas filed for his first land patent in Carter County in 1857, so the family migrated soon after little George was born.
Thomas’s exact date of death is not recorded, but he died after 1 July 1861 when he is mentioned in a land patent for acreage in Carter County that he reassigned to Wiley Myatt.
Snip of 1861 Land Patent
As James was their last child and Thomas is last found in July 1861, it seems likely that he died in 1861 or 1862.
As mentioned, Polly married (2) Hardin Davis on 20 December 1869 so, of course, I went looking for them in 1870. Hardin is nowhere to be found in Carter County in 1870 or, for that matter, in 1860. He either died very soon after marriage – although he is not found in the 1870 census mortality index – or else Polly and Hardin went their separate ways very quickly.
Polly Davis is found in Carter County as head of household with several children:
Polly is enumerated with the same children as in 1860, with two exceptions. Daughter Elvira was already married and living elsewhere. She hasn’t been found yet, but in 1875, she married Charles Joplin, who is living next door to Polly in 1870. The second exception to 1860 is that James B., born about 1861, is now in the household.
I was hoping that the 1880 and 1900 censuses might answer some questions, but, of course, they do not.
Carter County is in the southeastern corner of Missouri. By 1880, Polly, George and James are living in Gentry County, which is in the northwestern corner of Missouri. There were other Williams kin in that area so perhaps that is why they left Carter County.
I am not going to bother with posting a snip of the 1880 census. It is so faded that I’m not sure how anyone could read it to index. However, Mary Gardner (not Davis), widow, born 1830 in Virginia is head of household with sons George, born 1856 in Tennessee and James, born 1861 in Missouri.
That is the last record found for anyone in this family except for daughter Elvira who remained in Carter County and died there on 12 December 1918. She is buried in the Joplin Cemetery, but no death certificate has been found.
Where did the other members of this family go??? We have Polly, who may have died without a trace between 1880 and 1900 and sons John H., George D., William T. and James B., along with MIA stepfather Hardin Davis. It’s a mystery.