Consanguinity: (kŏn'săng-gwĭn'ĭtē) , relationship by blood, whether linear or collateral.

Primarily concentrating on my Browning family from Harrison County, Ohio (and their subsequent move to Crawford County, Illinois) but I've got Plymell, Crago, Eagleton, Garrard, McConnell, Nichols, Swan, Nevitt, Huls, Markee, Depperman, Papstein/Popstein and Hamilton in there too. And that's just the beginning......

Monday, July 25, 2011

The Browning Series -- Part 9A, the Life and Tragic Death of Charles Otho Browning pt 1

With this post I continue what I call "The Browning Series." Samuel and Margaret Browning had thirteen children between them and after Margaret's death, Samuel chose a widow named Sarah Ann (Bell) Gaddis for his second wife. The two of them had two more children together. My plan has been to feature each one of the fifteen children in a separate post and finally tie the family together with a discussion of their parents.

This post is the first of three about Charles Otho Browning, the second child of Asbury Taylor Browning and Minerva Corderman.

Charles Otho was born on 6 April 1856 in Crawford County, Illinois. His mother was assisted at his birth by his aunt Matilda Corderman, who became a 'double aunt' of sorts to him when she became the wife of Charles' uncle John Wesley Francis Browning five months later. Upon the death of his father, Asbury Taylor Browning, Charles' mother Minerva pursued a minor's pension for Charles and his siblings. Her sister Matilda swore an affidavit stating she'd been present at his birth.

By 1859 the family had moved to Cumberland County, Illinois; by the time Charles lost his dad (1863, to smallpox) he was seven years old. Two years later he and his siblings were living next door to his aunt Matilda and his cousins Sarah Viola and Alice. I'm not sure how the two women were supporting themselves and their children but both were without their men -- Minerva because her husband was dead, and Matilda? Her husband (John) was either dead, had left her, or had went to serve in the war.

The years 1867-1873 were years of change in Charles' life. On 26 December 1867 his mother Minerva remarried and Matthew James Starbuck, a man who'd served alongside his father in the War, became his stepfather. Matthew and Minerva continued to live in Greenup Twn. in Cumberland County for a few years. Charles and his sisters Sarah and Emma were soon joined by at least one half brother, or maybe two. It's for certain Matthew and Minerva had one son, David Clinton Starbuck (born either on 23 September 1870 or 1871) but it's not as certain they had one other, Peter Starbuck, b. c1872-3. It's very possible that they did and the boy died along with his mother. Minerva passed away on 5 May 1873 and within two years Matthew remarried, this time to a much younger woman named Ellen Cook.

I don't know what happened to Charles and his siblings or where they were living in the years between their mother's death and 1877, the year that Charles' sister Sarah married Alfred Newton Criss. The following year, on 8 August 1878, Charles married Laura Belle Tritt, the daughter of Joseph Tritt and Sarah Snider. (You can see a picture of Laura c1900, shown above and to the left.) Charles and Laura were married in Jasper County, Illinois. Matthew Starbuck and his family, including David, moved to Benton County, Arkansas, but Charles and his siblings chose to stay in Illinois.

Charles and Laura traveled back and forth between Illinois, Nebraska and Kansas in the years after their marriage. They first settled in Jasper County and lived there for a few years (their son Frank Tritt Browning was born there on 23 October 1879) but had moved on to Shelton in Buffalo County, Nebraska by the time their daughter Tena May was born on 8 September 1884. They lost a daughter, Elna, there about the same time. By 1887 or thereabouts, when their last child (son Charles Otho Marion) was born, they were living in Marion County, Kansas.

I dont know for sure what Charles did for a living in that time period but I can hazard a decent guess. He was likely working for the railroad system in some way. The St. Louis and San Francisco Railway Company, commonly called the Frisco, had two main lines: St. Louis–Tulsa–Oklahoma City and Kansas City– Memphis–Birmingham. The junction of the two lines was in Springfield, Missouri, home to the company's main shops facility. While the Frisco didn't run in Buffalo County, Nebraska, by 1886 two others did: the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad through Garfield township and the Union-Pacific through Shelton. Both connected to Kansas City.

This is to become important to our story. Charles might've lived by the railroad....but he died by it, too. The conclusion, next time!

(Edited: because of a sudden illness in the family, my posting might be a bit haphazard the next couple days. Bear with me. Thanks.)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Browning V. State of Ohio, Pt. 2 - William Meets His Fate

When we last left poor William Browning he'd went to court and stood alongside Samuel Browning (my ancestor, whom I believe to be his older brother.) Both young men agreed to a security of $200, funds that would be taken from them in the event that William attempted to leave the county and/or refused to report for trial. William didn't abscond but did his duty and reported to the court during its March term in 1821. At that time the court reporter entered the charge against him (larceny, in which he was accused of stealing 16 pounds (two bushels) of cornmeal from one James Tarbet) and ordered that he stand trial. Subpoenas for witnesses were drawn up and given to Sherriff Reazin Arnold to serve. William B. Beebe was the prosecuting attorney in the case for the State; the attorney that William hired for his defense is unknown (although as we shall see, perhaps William did not hire an attorney and instead represented himself. Let's see if you think that's what he did...)

(Oh, before I forget...Disberry Johnson. Recall him, he was a witness in the case? He was the J.P. who married William and Hannah Barr.)

I wish I had more about the trial itself. I wish I had interviews, witness testimony, or William's own testimony. I don't. Unlike my Samuel's daughter Julia's case in 1837 (which you'll find on my sidebar if you're interested), I don't have any documentation featuring the actual content of William's trial. So while I'll have to make do without all the 'juicy bits,' so to speak, I do have a document about this case and its aftermath that didn't exist in Samuel and Julia's trial. This document provides a choice piece of evidence about William and I'll just have to be satisfied with that!

The next document I have about the case is - unfortunately - its conclusion. The court clerk duly noted the proceedings in the Harrison County (OH) Common Pleas Journal (Bk. B, p. 110.) The State of Ohio's (and by proxy, James Tarbet's) lawyer, Walter B. Beebe, came to court and the jury members impanelled for the case were listed as Samuel Beatty, Robert Givin, John Cramlet, Israel R. Kirkpatrick, Henry Carver, John Jamison, Thomas Caldwell, James Patton, William Ross, Peter Thomas, James Evans, and Barak Dickerson. The only juror's name I recognized was the last, Baruch Dickerson. Baruch served as a Captain in the War of 1812. My Samuel Browning served under his command as a private in the war. The transcription of the court clerk's entry is below:

State of Ohio vs William Browning
Indictment for Larceny

This day came Walter B. Beebe Esq Prosecuting Attorney for the state of Ohio in Harrison County and the said William Browning in his own proper person who being ordained and called upon to plead to said Indictment says he is not Guilty of Larceny in manner & form as he stands Charged in Said Indictment and of this he puts himself upon the County for trial and the said Walter Beebe in behalf of the state doth so likewise whereupon a Jury of the County being Called Came, to wit, Samuel Beatty, Robert Givin, John Cramlet, Israel R. Kirkpatrick, Henry Carver, John Jamison (Sr?), Thomas Caldwell, James Patton, William Ross, Peter Thomas, James Evans, and Barak Dickerson all good and lawful men who after being duly empannelled tried Sworn and affirmed to by the aforesaid (??) Between the state of Ohio and the said William Browning the prisoner at the Bar and after hearing the evidence adduced and the arguments of Council as well on part of the State as William Browning, do say upon their respective oaths and affirmations that the said William Browning is Guilty of Larceny in Manner and form as he stands Charged in said Indictment and that they assess the value of the property so stolen at one Dollar and seventy five cents, Whereupon it is considered by the Court that the said William Browning pay a fine of Ten Dollars and Costs of Prosecution and that execution I here therefore (?), and it is further Considered and ordained by the Court that the said William Browning be imprisoned in the Jail of said County Fifteen days.

As you can see, William didn't have an attorney (or at least, one isn't listed.) The court clerk stated that William appeared in 'his own proper person' and pled Not Guilty for himself. None of the witness subpoenas I have state any lawyer's name, either, like they did in Samuel's daughter Julia's case sixteen years later. I may be reading more into the court documentation than is meant, but it seems to me he represented himself during the proceedings. Perhaps he simply didn't have the funds to obtain a lawyer. If so, I think it might indicate why he took the cornmeal to begin with. After all, in September of 1819 William was likely only about 19 years old with a wife and a child (or with one on the way.) Who knows if he was a good farmer or a lazy or inept one. Who knows if he'd had a rash of bad luck and his own harvest was slim. I'm not condoning his actions -- if indeed he did take the cornmeal -- but if he did, he chose to steal food. All I'm saying is that there's probably a reason for that.

William was also called a prisoner at the Bar. Did this mean he had already been in jail pending trial? Sure sounds like it but I don't believe that was the case. If William had been imprisoned he and Samuel would not have needed to place bail. Bouvier's Law Dictionary states the following about prisoners (as of 1856): "Prisoners in civil cases, are persons arrested on original or mesne process, and these may generally be discharged on bail."

Let's explore the legalese first. What is mesne process? Bouvier says that it is "any process issued between original and final process; that is, between the original writ and the execution," or "a writ or proceedings in an action to summon or bring the defendant into court, or compel him to appear or put in bail, and then to hear and answer the plaintiff's claim." Therefore, mesne process in William's case had begun with the document stating William and Samuel has appeared in court to provide bail and had been completed when the court had stated the accusations against William in his presence. It's unfortunate that I don't have the entire case file or else we might know for sure whether William had spent time in jail prior to his actual trial, but with the evidence I see here -- the securing of bond to prevent him from running -- I would hazard an educated guess that he was not.

Anyway, the jury found him guilty and sentenced him to pay a fine of $10 plus any court costs and to spend a total of fifteen days in jail. Then another writ was drawn up, a writ of Fieri Facias. This writ is a judgement for debt and damages and was served to the sherriff of Jefferson County, Ohio, one county west of Harrison. This small clue gives William's whereabouts in the days following the trial.

This writ is an interesting document. The writ, once served, bound the sherriff to obtain the money due the state from the goods and chattels of the convicted and present them to the judges of the said court on a day named in the writ. According to Bouvier's there were many rules the sherriff had to follow in executing this writ:

1) The sheriff could not break the outer door of a house for the purpose of executing a fieri facias, nor could he break a window. He could enter the defendant's house if it was open, and, being once lawfully entered, he could break open an inner door or chest to seize the goods even without any request to open them.

2) Although the sheriff was authorized to enter the house of the party to search for goods he was not allowed to enter that of a stranger for that purpose, without being guilty of a trespass, unless the defendant's goods were actually in the house.

3) The sheriff was allowed to break the outer door of a barn or of a store disconnected with the dwelling-house, and forming no part of the curtilage. 16 Johns. R. 287. The fi. fa.

4) The writ may be executed at any time before, and on the return day, but not on Sunday, where it is forbidden by statute.

Here is the transcription of the writ in William's trial:

(front cover of Writ of FIERI FACIAS)

Fi da et fev facias Ca Sa. To July Term 1821 STATE of Ohio vs. William Browning Indictment for Larceny
Fine ---------------$10.00

Costs ----------------$16.26

fifa Ca Sa& -------- $ .35


Add the jail fees before sentence.......

C.P. 121 Calculate Interest from March 23, 1821 W.B.Beebe Atty for State

(in different handwriting) Rec'd this writ March 29th, 1821

(upside down) May 26th 1821
Made in full, Rezin Arnold, Sherriff --

(body of the Writ of FIERI FACIAS)

State of Ohio Harrison County The State of Ohio to the Sherriff of Jefferson County in said State

Greeting -------------------- We Command you that of the Goods and Chattels Lands & tenements and body of William Browning within your County you cause to be levied the Sum of Ten Dollars being a fine, and the Sum of Sixteen Dollars & twenty two cents Costs of Prosecution together with Interest thereon the Costs of this writ and all legal accruing costs, which the State of Ohio lately in our Court of Common pleas for said of Harrison County to wit at the March Term thereof A.D. 1821 by the Consideration and Judgments of our said Court recovered against the said William Browning in a certain action of Indictment for Larceny --. Whereof the said Wlliam Browning is convict as appears of Record in our said Court and have you that Money on the body of the said William Browning before our said Court at the next Term to be holden at Cadiz in said Harrison County on the thirtieth day of July next to render unto the said State of Ohio for the fine and Costs aforesaid, and have you then there this writ. Witness the honourable Benjamin Tappan President of our said Court at Cadiz this twenty ninth day of March Anno Domini ---- 1821.

William Tingley Clerk

As you can see, the writ was received on 29 March 1821 (received by whom, I'm not sure, for it doesn't say; my assumption is that it was received by the Jefferson County sherriff.) However the writ was served and executed, there is a upside-down notation on the front cover of the writ by Rezin Arnold, the sherriff of Harrison County, that it was "Made In Full" on 26 May 1821.

What happened to William and Hannah after the trial? I really don't know. There are a few William Browning's enumerated in close counties in 1830 (one in Tuscarawas County living close by James Markee, who was Margaret (Markee) Browning's brother) and another in Coshocton County, Ohio, but I can't be certain that either of these are William and Hannah. If I had to guess which one he'd likely be I would guess the Tuscarawas County one, but that's just a guess. So in conclusion, other than the fact that William was in Jefferson County, Ohio, in March-May 1821, I don't know what became of him and Hannah.

It sure was an interesting trial, though!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Browning v. State of Ohio: Meet William!

Long time readers of my blog are familiar with a court case my ancestor Samuel Browning and his daughter Julia were both involved with in 1837. The links to the case (Browning v. Beck) are on my sidebar so I won’t go into the case here. What I intend to explore today is another court case, one involving a man named William Browning that I located at the same time as the one involving Samuel. Both cases were found in the files of the Harrison County (OH) Genealogical Society.

The recent morsel of information I received from another researcher about Hannah Barr’s father (Patrick Barr from Ireland) and the location of a consent slip for her marriage to William stirred up memories about this other court case. I’d intended to further explore this case just after the Browning v. Beck one but you know what they say about intentions! Who knows, perhaps I wasn’t meant to explore it until after I received this tidbit. You’ll see why soon.

Before we begin, let me say I’m certain the case file I have isn’t a complete one. As I’ve said before, many of the cases that the Harrison County Genealogical Society have in their files were rescued from the dumpsters behind the Harrison County courthouse some years ago. There are at least two documents missing from this particular case that I know of – a witness subpoena and interviews with the victim and the accused. Unless these documents are filed under the name of the plaintiff in the case, they’re likely gone. Although I’m sad because an interview with the defendant in this case would have been lovely, I’m thrilled to have what I have.

I’m afraid I don’t know much about William Browning, the major player in this case. If I did, perhaps my Samuel wouldn’t be as much of a mystery!

William first shows up in Harrison County, OH on 28 February 1818, the day he marries Hannah Barr, the daughter of Patrick Barr of Ireland. The permission slip I mentioned in my last post states that William was the son of John Browning. John signed the slip giving his consent for William to marry Hannah on 6 November 1817.

William next shows up in the 1820 census within two households of Samuel and two households of John. His age in this census is in a range between 16-26 and he has a son below the age of 10. Strangely, he has another male between 16-26 living with him and a female aged 26-45. I am given to understand that the age of consent was 21, so even if both William and his bride were 21 at the time of their marriage that still puts them a little younger than the 26 listed here. I’m not sure if the census is in error, or I am. I’m open to either possibility. At any rate, this range would place William’s birth from 1794-1804. I’m inclined to lean more towards a tighter range of 1798-1801.

He appears again in Dohrman Township in neighboring Tuscarawas Co., OH on the 1830 census – at least I “think” it’s him. Here he is age 20-29, as is his wife, and the couple have three children, two boys (one 5-9, one 0-4) and a girl 0-4. This census would place his birth more in the 1800-1801 range, which I find more likely given his consent to marry form in late 1817. This William is 15 houses down from James and Rhoda (Johnston) Markee. James Markee is Samuel Browning’s brother-in-law. James’ wife Rhoda is almost certainly the daughter of Disberry Johnston, a man who lived in Harrison County and will become important as we explore the upcoming case.

I don’t find a William Browning on the 1840 census and on the 1850, the only William I find was William M. Browning, b. 1810 in Montgomery Co., MD and who married Eliza Johnson (b. 1810 Ireland, the daughter of Irish immigrants) in neighboring Jefferson Co., OH in 1832. This family later moved to Henry Co., IA. I can’t say for sure that this William is not the William of the case (after all, in 1819-1821 a young boy of 9-11 can sure steal things and his age is never given) but other clues in the case itself make me rule him out with almost a certainty.

So where did William and Hannah go? I don’t know. I have one small clue that this case provided, but other than that I’ve never been able to find out what happened to them.

Now on to the case itself.

The case began on 12 December 1820. On this day, William Browning and Samuel Browning made an appearance before the Harrison Co., OH Court of Common Pleas. The boys came to answer a charge of larceny levied against William and agreed to a bail of $200 to ensure that William would not skip town and appear before the next term of court to stand trial. You can see the document to the upper left and a transcription below:

State of Ohio

Harrison County

On the 12th day of December A.D. 1820 personally appeared before me the Subscriber one of the Associate Judges of the Court of Common Pleas for said County William Browning and Samuel Browning and Severally Acknowledged themselves indebted to the State of Ohio in the Sum of two hundred Dollars to be levied on their Goods & Chattels lands and Teniments if Default be made in the Condition following,

The Condition of this Recognizance is such that if the above bound William Browning shall appear at the next term of the Court of Common Pleas of said County to be holden at Cadiz on the 19th day of March next on the first day of the Term and then & there answer to what at that time shall be objected against him on a Charge of Larceny and abide the order of the Court thereon and not depart without leave then this Recognizance to be void & of none effect otherwise to remain in full force and virtue in law --

Taken and acknowledged before me at Cadiz the day and year above writen.

Alexr. Henderson, Assoc. Judge

The next documentation we find on the case is at the March 1821 term of court. William appeared before the court as he was requested to do. I have not included a picture of the list of witnesses (I've covered that here in the transcription) but the document itself is here. Following is a transcription of the proceedings:

State of Ohio vs. Wm. Browning

Indictment for Larceny


James Tarbot

Patrick Barr

Disberry Johnston

A True Bill

(?) McMillan

Plea Not Guilty


State of Ohio

Harrison County

At A Court of Common Pleas begun & held at Cadiz in & for said Harrison County on the nineteenth day of March in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred & twenty one The grand Jurors of the State of Ohio summoned to enquire for the body of law Harrison County upon their respective oaths & affirmations do precent & find that William Browning late of the township of Cadiz in said Harrison County on the twenty day of September in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred & nineteen at the township aforesaid in the county aforesaid with force & arms one bag made of cloth with two Bushels of corn meal therein contained of the value of two dollars of the goods & chattles of one James Tarbott then & there being found claimant did steal take & carry away contrary to the statute in such case made & provided & against the peace & dignity of the state of Ohio.

Walter B Beebe atty for State in Harrison County

So it’s pretty black and white. William was accused of larceny by James Tarbott/Tarbet. A very cursory search on Ancestry says that James was born c1784 in York Co., PA, and married Margaret ‘Peggy’ McCullough in 1807 in Belmont Co., OH. James was living as late as 1850.

According to the accusation above, on 20 September 1819 William had filled a cloth bag with two bushels (about 16 pounds) of James Tarbet’s cornmeal. While it might seem like a silly thing to get all bent out of shape about nowadays – after all, we can head to the local supermarket and pick up a few pounds of cornmeal for a few dollars – it wasn’t at all funny or silly back then. Think for a minute about how many hours of labor went into that cornmeal. Planting it, tending it, harvesting it, and taking it to the mill to be ground? Months and months of labor in total. It’s not a wonder these things weren’t taken lightly.

It also makes me wonder about the circumstances of the theft. Did William even do it? He said he didn't, but if he did, why? Was he lazy, was he drunk, was it on a dare, did he dislike the man he stole from? Or was he simply hungry? It's not something that ever gets explained from the documents I have. If I had William's testimony, perhaps I'd have some idea.

But aren’t the witnesses interesting? Patrick Barr! Disberry Johnston! So let’s get to the witnesses, shall we?

I don’t have all the witnesses that were subpoenaed for this case. I don’t have the subpoena for Patrick Barr or for James Tarbet, but I do have Disberry’s. I’m sure even more witnesses were called but unless there is a file for James Tarbet in the Harrison County Genealogical Society and the files happen to be filed there instead, we’ll likely never find them. I know that more witnesses were called even without the other case files because I have another one, one that wasn’t listed on this witness bill. Elizabeth Barr!

Now it’s been recently proven that Patrick Barr is Hannah (Barr) Browning’s father. The man who sent us the consent slip had been looking for Patrick Barr for 14 years and was equally desirious of learning the name of Hannah’s mother. Well…..I believe I’ve just found it for him. I believe that this Elizabeth Barr is Patrick’s wife and Hannah’s mother. Seeing them both listed as witnesses in this trial -- and at least in Elizabeth's case, "on part of William Browning" helps further cement my belief that they are Hannah’s parents and that this William Browning, is, indeed, the William that married Hannah Barr.

(Update (3/30/2012): I have learned that Elizabeth Barr was likely Hannah's sister, not her mother. See more here. Ah well...the search continues.)

Disberry Johnston, if you'll recall, was mentioned before as the almost certain father of Rhoda (Johnston) Nevitt Markee. Rhoda was not only the wife of James Markee (the brother of Margaret, wife of Samuel Browning) but she was also the mother of Jane Nevitt, the wife of Margaret and Samuel's son, James Browning. That Disberry was a witness in the trial is yet another connection between the families of my Samuel Browning and the William in this case.

One other thing, though. I hope you all noticed that the man who stepped up with William to provide bail was Samuel Browning? Tell me true, now, genealogist to genealogist….would you all be inclined to a presumption that if Samuel Browning stood up for William, and William is John Browning’s son, that these two boys, close in age (Samuel would've been about 24, William likely 20-22) and having no other male Browning in the immediate area that could be their father, would you also come to a hesitant conclusion that Samuel could also be John’s son?

My gut says yes, and I see it as another small bit of circumstantial evidence. Believe me, I’ve been doing the happy dance around here lately.

More about the trial to come!