Catherine and the Doubtful DNA

In a previous post, I said I was pretty sure my 3rd great-grandmother’s parents were John James and Julia Callaghan. DNA matches, weddings of their children occurring in the same frontier county around the time of Catherine’s wedding to Elliot Bellamy, and a discovery of one of John and Julia’s grandchildren, Jacob Butcher, living very near Catherine in Harrison County, Missouri in 1860 led me to that conclusion.


But since discovering the neighbor cousin, I’ve been trying to gather evidence for their connection. And I can’t.


I searched all of my shared matches with descendants of John and Julia and found inconsistencies. First, most of the descendants of John and Julia James I share DNA with don’t share DNA with each other.

Second, some of the John and Julia descendants share DNA with the Bellamys, Catherine’s children from her first marriage, but they also share DNA with descendants of Jacob and Daniel James, Catherine’s second husband and her brother-in-law, both of whom are my third great-grandfathers. (The Jameses were fond of intermarriage.)

Third, I found that while I had many DNA hits with John James’s parents, I had none with Julia Callaghan’s. Looking at the Thrulines tree, it was just a one-way track from her parents down to me with no branches shooting off. That’s never a good sign when you’re talking about a woman who lived 250 years ago and had many siblings. Now, it’s possible that none of the descendants of Julia’s brothers and sisters have taken DNA tests, but it’s unlikely. The further back a couple lived, the higher the number of descendants there are to match, and Julia was born in the mid-1700s.

This one-sided DNA trail means that I’m likely not a descendant of the couple. Since I share DNA with both of John’s parents though, I am likely a descendant of one of his siblings.

The fact that descendants of Catherine, and Jacob and Daniel James all share DNA with descendants of John James makes me think that the three of them were related. (Yet, another case of the Jameses keeping it in the family.)

I also noticed while looking at DNA matches to descendants of the Bellamy children the abundance of matches to an Obediah Basham, whose father was named Bartlett Angel Basham. Could Catherine’s youngest son, Bartlett Bellamy, be Bartlett Angel Basham’s namesake? Looking through the History of Gallia County book online, I noticed that Angels were founding settlers of Gallia County. They, along with the Bashams, came from Bedford County, Virginia, same as Catherine. So I can place the Jameses, Bellamys, Bashams, and Angels there and prove they traveled together to Gallia County at the same time.

History of Gallia County, H. H. Hardesty, Chicago and Toledo, 1882, page XX; Accessed on Hathi Trust 11 Oct 2020. Click image for link.

Kitty and the Suspicious Neighbor

So I have this theory. My third great grandmother, Kitty James, pops up in records in 1817 when she marries a guy named Elliott Bellamy in Gallia County, Ohio. So I look around Gallia County for Jameses in 1820. I find a few old men who fit the bill: a guy named John and a guy named Bartlett. Both are old enough to have a daughter Kitty’s age. My theory is one of these men is Kitty’s father.

I plug both John and Bartlett James into my family tree to get DNA hits from my dad’s and my tests. No hits come up for Bartlett, which is surprising because Kitty named one of her children Bartlett. For John, I get 13 DNA matches from three of his children. My theory tightens to John James is Kitty’s father.

Next I research John’s family top-down, meaning I start with John and his wife and then research his children and grandchildren, recording who they are and where they settled. I’ve been digging into this family for few months now.

Okay, you’re caught up, but if you’re a family member or a curious reader who wants to know more, read this.

I was looking into the family of the sister of John James, one of the two men living in Gallia County in 1820 with the last name James. This sister happens to have the same exact name as my third great grandmother. For the sake of clarity, I’ll call her Catherine, and I’ll stick to calling my third great grandmother Kitty.

Catherine married Adam Butcher and lived for most of her life in Pike County, Ohio. As part of my research process, I plug their names in Google and find this old page from a forum on genealogy.com.

Now this is a long list of Butcher family members. As I scrolled down the page, I saw many listings for Harrison County, Missouri. That piqued my interest because Catherine and her family settled in Harrison County in the 1860s or so.

I conducted searches in Ancestry for Butchers living in Harrison County, Missouri, and found a large number of them living in Cypress Township on the southern border of the county. Kitty and my family lived in Clay Township along the northern border.

I looked into Kitty’s census records next. Look who I found on the NEXT PAGE after Kitty’s family’s listing:

Jacob Butcher is the son of Adam Butcher Jr, who is the son—you guessed it—of Catherine James Butcher, John James’s sister! So Jacob Butcher is the son of Kitty’s suspected first cousin.

Looking at the 1876 Plat map of the county, I can see how close the Jameses and the Butchers lived. The red circles are the houses. The yellow is just highlighting their names.

They lived really close to each other. Right?

How much of a coincidence could it be that a member of the family I suspect to be Kitty’s happens to live across the creek from them in 1876 in a different county in a different state that where they originated?

This is an exciting discovery. I think I’m on the right track.

Now I am researching Kitty’s other neighbors.

I know. My last blog post was about how I’m resisting starting a HYOOJ project to distract me from my troubles.

I’m only researching the neighbors listed 2 pages before and 2 pages after Kitty and her family. I’m hoping to find more connections.

Kitty and Her First Husband’s Will

This is another installment in a series of posts about my ancestor Catherine James Bellamy James. You can read from the beginning here: Kitty James & Child Marriage.

Lately, I’ve been working with a John Jacobi James researcher named Mary, who also happens to work in the Gallia County Genealogy office. Woo hoo! She reviewed Elliott Bellamy’s probate records and had some interesting observations.

Transcription:
Elliott Bellomy’s Estate
Gallia County SS Be it Remembered that on the twentieth day of March in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty five the appraisers heretofore appointed to appraise the goods and chattels belonging to the estate of Elliott Bellomy, deceased filed in the Clerks office of our court of Common Pleas Gallia County in the State of Ohio the following inventory to wit “Agreeably to the command of an order of the court of Common Pleas of Gallia County at their march from 1834 the undersigned have [illegible] and appraised certain articles the property of Elliot Bellomy decd late of the County ass[esse]d viz: 1 Bed and Bedding 20.01 1 Pewter Bason 1.06 1/4 $21.071/4
Respectfully submitted 24th March 1834 Wm F Gooldin, Philip Cubbage, Joseph Hazlett, appraisers.

We also certify that there is in the hands of Wm L Bellomy in notes and accounts for which the said William L Bellomy lord the chattel property of said Elliott Bellomy the sum of one hundred and forty nine dollars and thirty two cents $149.32
Wm Golding, Joseph Hazlett, Philip Cubbage

State of Ohio Gallia County SS I do hereby certify that the within named Wm F Gooldin Philip Cubbage and Joseph Hazlett appeared before me one of the acting justices of the peace of the County aforesaid on the 24 March 1834 and was sworn to faithfully & impartially appraise the goods & chattels which are of Elliott Bellomy late of Ohio Township dec[ease]d [illegible] Nehemiah Davis JP seal
End transcription

First off, there’s a date inconsistency there. Based on the other probate records involving Elliott’s estate, I assume this all took place between March 18 and March 24 of 1834 and the mention of “thirty five” is a typo.

Did anything strike you reading that record?

Three dudes appraised Elliott’s belongings and came up with a bed, sheets, a washbowl and $149.32. Why did it take three men to appraise three things?

Where is Elliott’s wife, Catherine? Why wasn’t she or their sons and daughter named at all? If she had refused to be executor it most likely would have been recorded here. Instead, Elliott’s father William is named executor, which isn’t unheard of but how could people assess the belongings of a man without mentioning the family members who use them every day. Why were they all handed to his father?

Curious.

These observations of Mary’s add doubt to my belief that Catherine James was still married to or living with Elliott when he died. But I still don’t think she was married to multiple men as the census records and the birth years of her children might suggest.

It also raised the possibility that the Elliott Bellamy who married Levina Cogshill in Greenup County, Kentucky, in 1827 might be the man who died in Gallia County in 1832. But on further inspection, I notice that “Ellet” Bellamy and Levina Cogshell had a double wedding with Andrew Bellamy and Lenna Cogshell. For both marriages, the women’s father gave consent. I find it hard to believe that a 31-year-old man with four kids would marry a set of (twin?) sisters with a family member. I think this might be the older Elliott’s nephews, sons of his brother Matthew, who lived in this county at the time.

Sources:

1. Ohio Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998, Probate Place: Gallia County, Ohio, Ancestry.com, Image 105, page 179. Accessed 12 Jul 2020.

2. Greenup County Kentucky Marriages, 1804-1850, Index (original record could not be found). FamilySearch.org. Accessed 12 Jul 2020.

Kitty and Her Place of Birth

This is post #5 in my exploration of my 3x great-grandmother, who may or may not be Catherine James Bellamy James. You can start at the beginning of this thread here.

This post discusses the results of my research to answer the question: Where was Kitty born?

All but one of Kitty’s census records indicate that she was native to Virginia, but Virginia happens to be a big place with a long history. How do I narrow her birthplace down to a county or a region of Virginia?

My answer: I have been researching her FAN club, her Friends/Family, Associates, and Neighbors, to narrow things down.

I started with her husbands.

Elliot Bellamy’s researchers agree that he was also born in Virginia. His parents, William Lee and Eleanor Molen Bellamy were married in 1794 in Henry County, Virginia, near Martinsville. That’s along the border with North Carolina, south of Roanoke. Elliot was definitely in Gallia County, Ohio, by 1816 to marry Kitty, so the Bellamys migrated between 1794 and 1816, probably via the Kanawha Trail, a path through the land that would become West Virginia. Probably all of the families I discuss in this post traveled the trail to get to Gallipolis and Portsmouth, Ohio.

Kitty’s second husband, and my forefather, Jacob James’s birthplace is also exclusively listed as Virginia. The people I believe to be his parents, Josiah James and Mary Brock McCann, were probably married in 1800 in Bedford County, Virginia.

These marriage locations are pointing me to a clear region of Virginia in which to research.

To support this hypothesis, the people I believe to be Kitty’s family, John Jacobi and Julia Ann James, also have ties to this area. Please read my previous posts to learn why I think they are Catherine’s people. Their younger children, including all four of the brothers and sisters who married in Gallia County about the same time as Kitty and Elliot, were born in Bedford County between 1784 and 1802, according to their family researchers. One of their daughters (Catherine’s sister if I have the relationships right) Christina, married Lewis Settle there in 1803. John’s sister, Eva, married Samuel Hibbs in Bedford County in 1791.

I realize it’s risky to base my search on people I’m not sure are Jacob and Catherine’s parents, but I have to start somewhere, and I can’t ignore the confluence of so many surnames that the James Family researchers have discovered in our shared DNA matches, such as Basham, Angel, and Brock, in addition to the Bellamy family members living in the county at this time.

Kitty and the Double Life

Honestly, the more I research my third great-grandmother, Catherine James Bellamy James, the more I don’t think she’s my third great-grandmother. You can read why I think that at the beginning of this series of posts.

There are just some details in her records that don’t make any sense. Like, how was she running two households and two families 50 miles apart in the 1820s?

Here’s what I mean. Take a look at these two census records from 1830.

I know that the census records above contain the right men because they were in the exact same place with the same neighbors in other censuses: Elliot in 1820 and Josiah in the 1840 and 1850 censuses.

The top census record is from Scioto County, Ohio. It says Jacob James is in his 20s, is living with a woman the same age, and has 2 boys under the age of 5, one of whom I assume is Josiah.

The bottom census record is from Gallia County, Ohio, from the same year. It says Elliot Bellamy is in his 30s, is living with a woman in her 20s, and has 4 children under the age of 15.

Some back story: The children of Elliot and Catherine Bellamy were William, Nancy, Joshua and Bartlett. They were all born between 1817 and 1826-ish. My ancestor, Josiah James, is consistently described as being born in 1828 in Kentucky. All of the data of the children in these records checks out.

To give an idea of the geography between these two places, here’s a map of very southeastern Ohio. Kentucky is at the bottom across the river. West Virginia is the far bottom right across the river.

Accounting for all the little turns in the highlighted road and the fact that it takes an hour and a half to drive 58 miles, I’m guessing the land in between these cities is pretty hilly terrain. Granted, in 1830, folks would likely be traveling by boat, so the trip from Gallipolis to Portsmouth would be faster than going back upriver.

Some research of the James/Bellamy family suggests that Catherine was mother to both of these families at the same time, a sort of reverse polygamist situation. I just don’t think it can be true. First off, that’s a ways in 1830 for Catherine to be traveling to raise both families. And it would be very expensive for the wife of two farmers with 6 children to feed. Women did not have the kind of power back then to be able to move freely between households and keep their secret excursions under wraps.

Another reason I don’t think Catherine is the woman in both of these censuses is because I know that Elliot passed away in 1832 or 1833. I found his will on Ancestry on which his son William is executor.

So, in order for Josiah to have been born in Kentucky in 1828 to Catherine, not only would she have been married to another man and raising at least four other children, she would have been on an excursion in Kentucky while pregnant for some reason.

Divorce was uncommon in this place at this time for social and religious reasons. Evidence exists that the James children and the Bellamy children were close when they grew older. Josiah James and Bartlett Bellamy had a double wedding in May 1848. Josiah brought his father and Catherine out to Muscatine County, Iowa, to join William and Bartlett Bellamy in 1854. These facts suggest to me that there was no scandal between them.

So I don’t think Catherine was living with Jacob James in 1830. I do think Jacob had a wife before Catherine. To complicate things, though, I match genetically to descendants of all four of the Bellamy children.

If Catherine wasn’t Josiah’s mother, how could I be genetically linked to her Bellamy children?

Well, I’ve been researching that question.

What if Josiah’s mother was Catherine’s sister?

Like, after Elliot Bellamy and Josiah’s mother passed away, Jacob married his wife’s sister. It wasn’t an uncommon practice. It would explain the genetic ties. It would explain why the James siblings were tight with the Bellamys: they were brother-cousins. And it would make the descendants of Catherine Bellamy my 4th cousins instead of my half 3rd cousins once removed. For you DNA buffs out there, the shared centimorgans between those two relationships is virtually the same.

What do you think?

Sources are located in the links throughout the post. I found all of the censuses mentioned, as well as Elliot and Catherine’s wedding record, on Ancestry. The fact that she married Jacob James as her second husband can be found in censuses and in Joshua Bellamy’s biography on page 518 here.

Kitty and the Two Johns

This is the third entry in an on-going series of pretty much me writing out all of the weird stuff I’m finding about my third great-grandmother, Kitty James Bellamy James. To start this link, click here.

This post continues to discuss the research question: What were the names of Kitty’s parents?

So I narrowed Kitty’s father down to four men in my last post. After researching them further, I only found verifiable facts about two of them: John Jacobi James and his son, John Samuel James. I plugged John Senior and his wife into my Ancestry family tree to see if any DNA matches came up.

After seeing that I matched 13 of John James Senior’s descendants, I took a step further and plugged in John Senior’s parents’ names. I had 7 matches to 5 of John Senior’s siblings.

And I went back another generation and found that I matched to 8 descendants of John Senior’s grandparents. GRANDPARENTS!

We’re talking about people born in a section of the Holy Roman Empire known as Germania in 1714. There is no doubt in my mind that if John Jacobi James isn’t Catherine’s father then he must be her grandfather or uncle.

To read more findings, click here.

Sources:

1. Personal records from DNA test.

Kitty James and the Unknown Parents

This is a continuation of my research on my 3rd great-grandmother, Kitty James Bellamy James. For the start of this thread, click here.

In this post, I am writing about my findings to the research question: What were the names of Kitty James’s parents?

If Kitty married in Gallia County when she was a teenager, it stands to reason that her family was living nearby. Right? Running with that theory, I gathered the names of all the Jameses in the county in 1820. My research for 1810 didn’t go very far because early records for Ohio are spotty.

I work in Excel spreadsheets. It’s just who I am.

Five Jameses lived in Gallia County in 1820: Bartlet, John in Gallipolis, John in Green Township, Joseph, and Henry. Let’s look at them one at a time.

Bartlet is 27-45 years old and living with a woman 19-26. I’m thinking because of the age of the woman and the lack of kids in the house that Bartlet is on the lower edge of the age range and newly married.

John of Gallipolis is between 27-45 with two women in the same age range. There are three children under the age of 10 and a young woman who is 19-26 in the house. With an older John nearby, I am thinking this is John Junior.

John of Green Township is over 46 years old living with a man and a woman between 27-45, two men between 19-26, a woman between 17-18, a girl between 11-16, and a boy under 10. According to the Gallia County Cemetery records, John James died June 1, 1845, in Gallia County at 92 years old. His wife Julia Ann died in 1851 at 83 years of age.

Joseph is over 46 years old living with 3 people between 19-26 and 8 kids under 16. This is pretty clearly a 3-generation household.

Henry is 27-45 living with a woman 19-26. No children in the house makes me think Henry is in the lower end of the age range and newly married.

Map of Gallia County Townships. Source: Wikipedia

Next, I researched all of the Jameses who married in Gallia County around the time of Kitty’s marriage in 1816 in the hope of compiling a list of possible siblings. I found four people with the last name James—Rachel, Polly, Henry, and Elizabeth.

  • Rachel married Jesse Allison in 1813
  • Polly married Samuel Boggs in 1815
  • Elizabeth married Samuel Callahan in 1818
  • Henry married Susan Williams in 1819 (my inferences about him above were correct!)

Interesting that the surnames of the non-James grooms match maiden names and middle names of people I found death information for. Interesting that the name Kitty gave her third son was Bartlett. Interesting that Familysearch.org has a family tree for John and Julia James. Very interesting that I found DNA matches to descendants of two of the circled people below.

Entry for John Jacobi James on familysearch.org

For more of my findings, click this.

Sources:
1. Federal Census Year: 1820. Location: Springfield, Green, Gallipolis, and Harrison Twp, Gallia County, Ohio; NARA Roll: M33_88; Image: 81. Accessed on Ancestry.com, 7 Mar 2020.
2. Ohio Marriages 1800-1956, Film 004016313, FamilySearch.org.
3. John Jacobi James profile on FamilySearch.org. GQH1H-H1H.
4. Julia Ann Callaghan profile on FamilySearch.org. L71R-6JB.
5. Personal records from DNA test.

Kitty James and Child Marriage

In the little free time I’ve had lately, I’ve been focusing on my 3rd paternal great-grandmother, Catherine “Kitty” James Bellamy James. No, the second James isn’t a mistake. All evidence points to Kitty’s second husband having the same surname as her maiden name. Whether or not they were cousins has yet to be proven (that I’m aware of).

My first question about Kitty was what year she was born.

Her age jumps around a lot from census to census. From them, though, I gleaned a range from 1796 to 1810. They consistently give Virginia as her birth state.

She first appears in a document by name when she married Elliot Bellamy or Bellomy in Gallia County, Ohio, just across the river from West Virginia.

[Transcription:]

Richard Newman and Polly Rickman.
Elliot Bellamy and Kitty James:
The State of Ohio, Gallia County.

I do hereby certify that Richard Newman and Polly Rickman was lawfully joined together in the holy bonds of matrimony, on the 15th day of August 1816, by me the undersigned; Also Elliot Bellamy and Kitty James, on the first day of September, was lawfully joined together in the holy bonds of wedlock in this present month, by me.

David Robertson J.P.

[End of transcription]

According to later records, Kitty would have been anywhere from 6–21 years old on her wedding day. Gallia County was frontier in 1816, so I can’t imagine marriage laws were very strict, but I doubt they’d let a 6 year old marry.

Unlike his peers, Justice Robertson did not expressly state that the wives whose marriages he officiated were of legal age. But he does use the term legal. I couldn’t find a specific age of consent law for Ohio for 1816, but I did find that the age of consent for women in Ohio in 1851 was 14 (p. 213; Statute 24). Probably Kitty was at least 12, so I’m putting her birth year between 1796 and 1804.

A year and a day after her marriage she had her first son, William, named for Elliot’s father. William’s birthdate was etched into his tombstone, and the 1820 and 1830 censuses corroborate that she had two living children before 1820. Doing the math, it seems she was pregnant three months after the wedding. Her quick pregnancy supports my inference that Kitty was at least 12 years old (probably older).

I know. I only covered Kitty’s birthdate in this post, not her whole life. I’m sorry. I write short things, and Ive been researching Kitty for a long, long time so I have a lot to say. For the next part of my research, click here.

Sources:

1. Elliot Bellamy household. Federal Census Year: 1820. Location: Ohio Twp, Gallia County, Ohio; NARA Roll: M33_88; Image: 81. Accessed on Ancestry.com, 7 Mar 2020.

2. Elliot Bellamy household. Federal Census Year: 1830. Location: Harrison Twp, Gallia County, Ohio; Series: M19; Roll: 131; Page: 126; Family History Library Film: 0337942. Accessed on Ancestry.com, 7 Mar 2020.

3. Jacob James household. Federal Census Year: 1840. Location: Green Twp, Gallia County, Ohio; Roll: 395; Page: 61; Family History Library Film: 0020165. Accessed on Ancestry.com, 7 Mar 2020.

4. Jacob James household. Federal Census Year: 1850; Census Place: Nile Twp, Scioto, Ohio; Roll: M432_727; Page: 74A. Accessed on Ancestry.com, 7 Mar 2020.

5. Jacob James household. Federal Census Year: 1870; Census Place: Clay, Harrison, Missouri; Roll: M593_. Accessed on Ancestry.com, 7 Mar 2020.

6. Frank Young household. Iowa State Census Year: 1885; Location: Ward 2, Council Bluffs, Pottawattamie, Iowa. Accessed on Ancestry.com, 7 Mar 2020.

7. Ohio County Marriage Records, 1774-1993; Film Number: 000317652; Page: 32. Elliot Bellamy and Kitty James, Gallia County, Ohio, 1 Sep 1816. Accessed on Ancestry.com, 7 Mar 2020.

8. Century Publishing of the American Digest, West Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota, 1902. Page 213, Statute 24. Accessed on Google Books, 7 Mar 2020 (https://bit.ly/2VTcFte).

9. “Child Marriage, Common In the Past, Persists Today,” Andrea Dukakis, Colorado Public Radio, 4 Apr 2017. Accessed on CPR.org, 7 Mar 2020 (https://bit.ly/2TBXOSB).

Aunt Eva’s Hands

This is the first photograph that I ever saw of my grandfather, Ralph James.

He is standing next to his older sister, Eva, in her kitchen in Flint, Michigan, sometime in the 1950s. Their youngest brother, Bill, who is visiting from Virginia, stands beside them.

If you knew my father—and to a lesser degree, me—you would instantly recognize the man on the right as our ancestor. That smirk, the way he pulls down his chin and sets his jaw, is exactly how my father smiles when a camera is pointed at him or after he says something he finds particularly witty. The half-moons under his eyes reflect back to me every night when I look in the mirror. His one bony knuckle at the base of his middle finger is my one bony knuckle.

It’s easy to understand why this photo was special to me when I received it. But I’d like to tell you why it’s still special to me a decade later.

As I mentioned, I had never seen my grandfather before receiving this photo. At the time it was taken, Ralph James was father to 4 children, none of whom he had custody over. His eldest daughter lived with her mother, Ralph’s first wife, in Iowa. Ralph’s younger children—my father and his siblings—were taken by the courts when they were small.

As an adult, Dad didn’t know much about Ralph. He knew Ralph was from Council Bluffs, Iowa, because Aunt Eva, the woman in the photo, had maintained a distant relationship with him as he grew up. Its with that information that I started researching the rest of the family.

Over the years, I’ve found out Ralph’s father, Noah, had also been an alcoholic. Noah spent his meager income as a cabinet maker getting blitzed, forcing his wife to scramble in order to feed their eight children. The kids went hungry often. Newspaper articles informed me that Ralph’s first wife had divorced him twice for domestic abuse. When I told Dad that, he said he did remember Ralph getting rough with his mother. A cousin recently told me that Ralph’s eldest daughter traveled to Flint about the time that this photo was taken. When she returned from that trip, she decided to never talk to Ralph again. In 1972, Ralph died penniless, forcing my dad, who had remained estranged from him, to pay for the burial.

The more research I did, the worse Ralph looked. Arrests, abandonment, blame. There were so many reasons to believe he was a broken, miserable soul. I convinced myself he was a loser, and he very well might have been.

But take a look at the photo again.

Find Eva’s hands.

See how tightly she’s clutching Ralph’s waist? See how my grandfather’s hand rests on his brother’s shoulder? There was love there.

As I mentioned, I know that look on my grandfather’s face. I’ve seen it on my dad’s face; I’ve probably made it myself.

Actually, I know I have. It’s the face I make when I’m proud. And that’s why this photo has remained special to me over the years. In that moment . . . with his family . . . Ralph James, my derelict grandfather, was proud. He was wanted. With this image, there is a possibility in my mind that he was more than the papers I’ve dug up on him and the stories I’ve heard. Oh, he made unforgivable mistakes, absolutely. His decisions or his lack of making decisions very much shaped my father’s life. And my own. Thankfully, it turned out positively for me and my brothers. Because of Ralph, my father set a goal to be present and reliable, to swear off drinking. A goal Ralph could never manage in his 66 years on this planet. Though, I should mention, toward the end he tried to fix things with my dad. He did try.

But back to the photo and that smirk on Ralph’s face. Back to the fierceness with which his sister clutches him. The camera captured them in dual acts of defiance. Their eyes speak volumes: “Yeah. Go ahead and take my picture. Let people judge me. Who are they to me, anyhow? My family still stands beside me, and the world can’t possibly know what we’ve been through.”

A Case of Bigamy

Screen Shot 2018-03-09 at 11.33.33 AM
An article from page 4 of the Council Bluffs (Iowa) Daily Nonpareil, May 4, 1890.

MRS. LOUIS CLAYTON JAMES

She Has a Grievance Which She Has Brought All the Way From Lincoln County, Nebraska And now She Airs It for the Readers of “The Nonpareil.”

There is a woman in Council Bluffs who has a story. Her name is Mrs. Louis Clayton James, and besides her story she has four small children. She came here Sunday from Lincoln county, Neb., and is living with her divorced husband’s mother at the corner of Tenth street and Avenue H. Mrs. James, the mother, has a number of children, and the two families are living in a two room hovel. Mrs. Louis Clayton James is very bitter against her husband-who-was. She declares that she will have him arrested to-day for securing a divorce from her by false testimony. She consulted an attorney yesterday and if the story she told a Nonpareil man last night is true, Mr. Louis Clayton James had better elope at once. Her story is rather difficult to follow, because Mother James was present during the interview and chimed in so often in defense of her “darling boy” that at times the air was a bedlam of confused prattle. Here’s what the reporter heard:

“Mrs. James is my name an’ my husband’s name’s Lou James.”

“Taint so,” remarked Mother James, “my son’s name aint ‘Lou’ James; It’s Louis Clayton James an’ I want it put in th’ paper that away.”

“Mother, I wish you–”

“I aint your mother,” said Mother James in frigid tones, “an’ I don’t want t’ hear no more of your motherin’ me.”

. . . Miss Louis Clayton James continued:
“Me an’ my husband we went to Nebraska three years ago an’ we took up a claim in Lincoln county. Not quite a year gone he told me he was tired o’ me an’ he left me, so he did, an’ him [come] back t’ Council Bluffs. I didn’t hear no more from him an’ only twiced he sent me money. He sent me $1.50 onced an’ $2 ‘nother time, an’–”

“No look ahere,” protested Mother James, “that’s a lie. He sent you $2 th’ first time an’–”

“He didn’t nuther, he–”

“He did, I say–”

The reporter called time and Mrs. Louis Clayton James proceeded:

“Last month I sent my little darter t’ Council Bluffs t’ visit an’ she [sent] him back t’ me in Nebraska all beat on an’ bruised an’ my husband, he–”

“No he didn’t nuther,” screamed Mother James, “he didn’t do nothin’ o’ th’ sort. He never beat the child, an’ I can swear he didn’t.”

“Well that’s nuther here nor there,” said Mrs. Louis Clayton James, “so I’ll drop it.”

“Your’d better drop it,” chimed in the aggrieved Mother James, and the woman went on with her story.

“I didn’t know just how I was fixed wi’ my husband so I pulled up an’ [come] back t’ Council Bluffs an’ now I find he’s got a divorce from me an’ is married again t’ a Kissell woman, who is janitor o’ the’ Hall school. He got th’ divorce on th’ grounds that I ‘aint a good woman an’ I am told by neighbors that he married th’ Kissell woman afore he got th’ divorce from me, an’ if that’s so I–”

“I know better’n that,” said Mother James. “He didn’t marry Miss Kissell afore he got his divorce from you. I know this because we went down t’th’ court house one evenin’ an’ paid $10 for the divorce an’ then he went an’ got married;”

“I don’t care nothin’ ’bout what you say. That’s what th’ neighbors tell me,” continued Mrs. James. “An’ then I’m told that he paid a man t’ swear I was a bad woman, an’ when I find out th’ name o’ th’ man I’ll make him dance. I went down t’ th’ court house an’ looked at th’ records, and they only show that he was given a divorce; they don’t say what for. I’ve seen Lawyer Boulton, I have, an’ I’m go’n’t make it hot for that man. I’ve seen th’ chief o’ police too, an’ I’m goin’ t’ have James arrested too. He just wanted t’ get rid o’ me an’ I’m goin’ t’ get even with him an’ that huzzy he married.”

Mrs. Louis Clayton James and Mother James commenced another round and the reporter sneaked off, leaving them to fight it out.

Olivia James
Olivia James outside her “hovel” around 1910

Despite the journalists’ sensationalism and his attempts to make my ancestors sound like bumpkins, I was pretty excited to find this article and even more excited to prove that these two are my ancestors. The shady Louis is my great-granduncle, and “Mother James” is my 2nd great grandmother, Olivia. I feel like this gives me an idea of who she was: fiercely loyal to her children and able to speak her mind. She was the kind of woman who told the journalist exactly how her son’s name should appear in the newspaper and the journalist listened. As for how this situation resolved, here’s one more document:

41913_0007-00095

Transcript:
Line 5267
Name: L C James
Sex: Male
Birth year: 1849
Age: 42
Occupation: Carpenter
Birth state: Ohio
County of Residence: Pottawattamie
Date of incarceration: 26 Mar 1891
Term of sentence: 2 yrs
Charge: Bigamy

(Click for genealogical sources)

Writing for Amy Johnson Crow’s #52Ancestors. The prompt was Strong Women.