This case was originally located by a researcher I'd hired years ago.
A transcription of the case (which is at left) follows:
OCTOBER TERM AD 1837At this point in the case, the only reason given for the assessment of $100 against James Beck is "damages" of unknown origin and the details of his guilt are not explained. It appears that this issue was brought up before the 28th, though -- something I intend to look up in the Common Pleas Journal again on my next trip to see if it was!
Saturday, October 28th, AD 1837
SAMUEL BROWNING vs. JAMES BECK:
CASE: This day came the parties by their counsel, and being at issue the following jury was called and came to wit; Zadoc Bliss, James D. Anderson, George Baker, Silvanus Lamb, Elzy Chansy, Peter Barger, Samuel Boland, Alexander Beall, John Layport, Robert Guinea, Ephraim Johnson, William Barrett, who were duly impannelled, tried, sworn and affirmed to try the aforesaid issue between the said Samuel Browning Plaintiff and James Beck Defendant, and after hearing the evidence adduced and arguments of counsel, as well on part of the plaintiff as the defendant do on their respective oaths & affirmations, say that the said James Beck is guilty in manner & form as the said Samuel Browning above in his declarations hath complained against him, and that they assess the damages the plaintiff hath sustained by reason of the promises at the sum of one hundred dollars.
The court adjourned until 8 o'clock on Monday morning.
A page later, on 132, we find the Court re-adjourning. Now the case is entitled "State of Ohio on complaint of Samuel (Samuel is crossed out) Julia Ann Browning vs. James Beck."
Julia? In October of 1837, Samuel's daughter Julia was a single girl, 17 years old. She was Samuel and Margaret's firstborn daughter and was not married until 1843, a full six years after the date of the trial. Why would she be involved? I read the first words of the case and everything suddenly made sense.
OCTOBER TERM AD 1837
Monday morning, 8 o'clock, October 30th, AD 1837
Court met pursuant to adjournment present the same judges as on Saturday the 28th of October instant.
STATE OF OHIO on complaint of (SAMUEL) JULIA ANN BROWNING , vs. JAMES BECK:
BASTARDY: This day came the parties by their attorneys, and the motion for a new trial in this case having been submitted to the court, and the court being duly advised in the premises, do overrule said motion. And the court do thereupon adjudge the said James Beck the Defendant to be the reputed Father of said bastard child and do order that the said James Beck stand charged with the maintenance thereof as follows to wit: that he pay to the clerk of this court for the time being for the use of the mother of said child or other person having the care or maintenance thereof the sum of fifty-four dollars. And also that he pay weekly into the hands of the clerk of this court for the time being for the use aforesaid the sum of seventy-five cents for the period of five years from the expiration of the term of this court, provided the said weekly payments shall cease in case of the death of the said child, and it is further considered and ordered by the court that the said James Beck pay the costs of this prosecution. And that the said James Beck give Bonds to the Clerk of this court with security to be by him approved conditioned for the performance of the aforesaid orders, and that he stand committed to the Jail of the County until such security be given.
The Defendant by his counsel thereupon gave notice of his intention to appeal to the Supreme Court.
A child support case! Ah ha!!!! A tumbler clicked into place and the identity of a mystery grandson named Washington living with Samuel and Margaret in the 1850 census of Harrison County was finally solved. I'd first thought he was another child of Samuel and Margaret's, possibly a twin brother of Ezra C. 'Zera' Browning. Later -- when I found Washington's gravestone with the inscription, "Grandson of S&M Browning" -- I wondered which child of Samuel and Margaret was his parent. At first I assumed (yes, I know, silly me!) that Wash was a son of one of the elder sons of Samuel and Margaret because his last name was Browning! I calculated Wash's age and looked at all the marriage dates of the boys but found nothing that would match or make any sense as to why Wash was with Samuel and Margaret and not his parents. I recall considering Julia briefly but without any seriousness.
I learned my lesson when this case was located.
I have been told that in the 1830's, the state of Ohio encouraged mothers of illegitimate children to come forth and prosecute the fathers of their children. Apparently the state provided some form of support for these children but if -- and only if -- the fathers could not be found and made to support their offspring themselves. I do not know how accurate this information is, but it certainly makes the reason for this prosecution a little bit clearer.
I began to do some research on the defendant in the case, James Beck -- the man accused and found guilty of being Washington's father (though how they determined this back then I have no idea!) James had to pay an upfront fee of $54 plus a sum to the court of $.75 a week for support for either five years or until Washington died. He also had to pay court costs. Added up, this amounts to well over $154 for the trial and for the judgement! That was a lot of money in 1837.
Note the last sentence: "The Defendant by his counsel thereupon gave notice of his intention to appeal to the Supreme Court." It is this sentence which interests me so much and is a focus of my further research during my upcoming trip. I'd like to know if James pursued it.
I located a James Beck living four doors down from Samuel and Margaret in Moorefield Township in Harrison County in 1830. This James had one male under 5, one male 20-29, one male 70-79, one female 15-19 and one female 20-29. I'm not sure if this is the correct James Beck family and of course we can't determine from this list whether or not this is a 20-something James with a wife, son, father and sister or sister-in-law living with him or not. No James Beck is found in 1840.
Washington's mother Julia was an...interesting....woman in her own right. She was obviously sneaking off as a teenager and whatever the circumstances were, she became pregnant while still unmarried. She either gave Washington to her parents or they required her to leave him with them (though to date, no adoption/guardianship papers have been found) for in 1850 when Washington is enumerated with Samuel and Margaret, Julia is in neighboring Tuscarawas County living with her husband John Hoy, their two children Samuel and William, and is pregnant with her fourth child, Josephine. Julia and John were rooming with Julia's sister Margaret and her husband, John's younger brother James Hoy.
By 1855, Julia had moved to Crawford County, Illinois. She was living with her parents and her husband John is nowhere to be found. Her sons Samuel and William Hoy are with her, but her daughter Josephine and husband John were dead. By 1860 Julia had married again in Crawford County to James E. Melton Legg and they are living with Melton's four children, but Julia's two older sons William and Samuel Hoy are once again living with their grandparents.
In 1869, Julia dies. She is buried in the Wesley Chapel Cemetery in Montgomery Township, Crawford County, Illinois. Her tombstone is to the left. She rests next to her parents, siblings, and one other; her illegitimate son, Washington.
The subject of the case -- Washington -- was born in March of 1836. Julia was 16. Washington lived with his grandparents his whole life as far as I have been able to ascertain.
Washington moved to Crawford County, Illinois with Samuel and Margaret and died on 4 June 1854 at the age of 18, less than a month before his aunt Sarah Ann Browning. Sarah died on 1 July 1854. There was an outbreak of yellow fever between the years of 1852-1854 in Crawford County. Perhaps Washington and his aunt Sarah were two of its victims.