There are several of my ancestors that I would love to be able to talk to. Eliza’s one of of them. She's my 3rd great grandmother and one of my “brick walls”. It’s notoriously hard to gather information about married women in the 1800’s because they had no legal presence. Only single or widowed women were allowed to buy and sell property, make contracts, etc. Here's the information I've managed to accumulate about her.
I've footnoted a lot of the following statements. At the end of the article you can see the sources that all this information came from.
She was born in Georgia1 about 1800. She and Henry were married and living in Williamson County, Tennessee in 1820. 2 Her husband Henry was what some genealogists call an “outlier” - he was someone who kept moving, always seeking new opportunities and new places so by 18223 they had moved to Lincoln Co, TN where Henry’s father and brother were living.4 Eliza's first two sons were born in Lincoln County. She had two more sons before 1830 who were probably born in Lincoln County, but I have no information about them other than a notation of "2 boys under 5" in the 1830 census.
By 1830 they had moved on to Tipton County, TN.5 While they were living in Tipton County she had a daughter, who was born in 1830, 2 boys born between 1830 and 1835, and a second daughter born between 1835 and 1840. In 18326 Henry purchased 191 acres of land in Tipton County, but by 1836 he was on the move again. He sold all his property7 in Tipton County and moved to Hickman County, Kentucky, where he bought 160 acres on the Bayou du Chien from Harbard Tarpley on February 10, 1837.8 Eliza’s last child, a boy, was born in Hickman County, KY. Here's the family as recorded in the 1840 census.9
They settled into life in Hickman County. They farmed, but their main source of income appeared to be pigs and cured hams. Eliza had a loom and other weaving equipment. It’s likely she wove coverlets, perhaps for sale. They had a reasonably comfortable home.10 In late 1843 Henry died.11 Eliza lived on for another 4 years and died in 1847.
When Henry died in 1843 he left a will and an estate.11 This means that there were court records. His will gave me the name of his wife - for the first time in all the records I looked at. As a widow she had legal status. Hello, Eliza! (Of course I don't know her maiden name and may never know it.) The will also gave me the name of Henry's oldest son, William, who was appointed the guardian of the rest of the children, and the court records dealing with that guardianship gave me the names of the rest of the children: the youngest son, Lewis, who was born in Hickman County; the twins?, Gibson and Josiah(sometimes called Joseph), born in 1833; the two older sons, William b. 1821 and Henry Jackson b. @1825 and the two daughters, Eliza Jane and Cassanna.12
Henry died in the winter of 1843. His will was written in the fall of 1843 and presented in court early in 1844, and in this will is the first public record of Eliza’s name. He left everything “to Eliza during her lifetime” and requested that after her death all his property be sold to clear his debts and care for his children. His will and a listing of his property is available in the Hickman County probate court books. Close behind his name in the probate index is Eliza’s. She died just a few years later in December 1847. The names and ages of all their children are mentioned frequently in the probate records that followed her death.
I love probate inventories. It’s possible to tell a lot about how people lived from the items listed in them. Here are Henry and Eliza’s inventories from those records.Eliza’s personal estate on the date of the inventory - January 13, 1848:
Notice the amount of pork!
All those pigs!
This isn’t much equipment. I’d say they fed themselves, but didn’t raise crops to sell.
These are Eliza’s though the rules of that day say they’re Henry’s.
This was a well equipped household for the time and place.
There are no cast iron stoves yet. This is equipment for open hearth cooking.
The information listed above is all I’d expect to find, but something wonderful happened. I found the Hickman County Case Packets in the microfilm collection at Salt Lake City(Hickman Case Records and Documents - 182 reels not yet on line). These packets contained all the odds and ends of paper collected during the settlement of estates, lawsuits, etc.
Among the items in Eliza's packet I found her store bills for 1847. As a widow, these were items were billed to her, not to Henry. I’ve transcribed the bills, keeping some of the spellings which are choice.
I felt so honored to have had a peek into Eliza’s life. Here’s what I read into the store bill.
They raised pigs and made hams. It was their big “cash crop”. The saleratus and salt were purchased for that purpose. Saleratus was a chalk-like powder used as a leavener to produce carbon dioxide gas in dough as baking soda is now used. In addition to being used as a leavening agent saleratus is used as a substitute for Saltpetre in the curing of hams.
Indigo and coperas are both dyes for cotton and wool. I’m assuming she wove and perhaps sold coverlets.
The cups and saucers and the tumblers that appear in the store bill were bought by her son Henry Dacus at the estate sale (Hickman Co Probate book C, page 303)
The last two entries let me know that she died between Dec. 13 and 30 of 1847.
One other thing, the September 10 charge on the store bill for the First Reader-
This is another of the bills from the probate packet:
“This day E.R.Ray personally appeared before the undersigned and acting justice of the peace for the county of Hickman and being duly sworn saith that Eliza Dacus Deceased is justly indebted to Dr. Ray the the sum of Two Dollars for two months schooling in the year 1847 the amount of the within debt and that the debt has not been paid further he saith not given under my hand this 15th day of January 1848 - H. Hays JP”
I like to think that Eliza had decided to learn how to read and write (notice that there are 2 illiterate adults listed in the 1840 census) and was working on that project at the time of her death.
I know so much more about her now than when I started looking at the records, but one of the problems with genealogical research is that you can’t make up stories to account for things you don't understand. There is so much more I'd like to know about her.
|Enumeration Date:||August 7, 1820|
|Free White Persons - Males - 16 thru 18:||(same person as below - a count for the militia) 1|
|Free White Persons -Males - 16 thru 25:||1|
|Free White Persons - Females - 16 thru 25:||1|
|Total Free White Persons||2|
|Total All Persons - White, Slaves, Colored, Other:||2|
|Homes in 1830||Tipton County, TN|
|Free White Persons - Males - Under 5:||3|
|Free White Persons - Males - 5 thru 9||1|
|Free White Persons - Males - 20 thru 29:||1|
|Free White Persons - Females - under 5:||1|
|Free White Persons - Females - 30 thru 39:||1|
|Slaves - Females - 36 thru 54:||1|
|Total Free White Persons under 20||5|
|Total Free White Persons 20 thru 49||2|
|Total Free White Persons||7|
|Total All Persons - White, Slaves, Colored, Other:||8|
|Home in 1840||Hickman, Kentucky|
|Free white persons - Males - under 5||1|
|Free white persons - Males - 5 thru 9||2|
|Free white persons - Males - 10 thru 14||2|
|Free white persons - Males - 15 thru 19||2|
|Free white persons - Males - 40 thru 49||1|
|Free white persons - Males - 70 thru 79||1|
|Free white persons - Females - 5 thru 9||1|
|Free white persons - Females - 10 thru 14||1|
|Free white persons - Females - 40 thru 49||1|
|Persons Employed in Agriculture||5|
|No. White persons over 20 who cannot read and write||2|
|Free White persons - Under 20||9|
|Free White persons - 20 thru 49||2|
|Total Free White persons||12|
|Total All persons - Free, White, Colored, Slaves||12|