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: Henry Dacus’ remaining estate inventoried after the death of his wife: - January 13, 1848.

Household furnishings:

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.

Eliza’s Store Bill 1846-1847

Charges from J R Dodge, Clinton, KY
Dec 3, 1846
7 bu. salt @ .40 - $2.80
1 hat and 3 hose - $4.13
2 pr shoes - $2.50
2 palm hats @ .25 - $ .50
14 yards domestic @ 8 1/3 - $1.17
8 yds calico @ .13 - $1.04
1/2 oz camphor @.20 - $ .10
1/2 gross buttons - $ .25 - Total $12.99
Feb 27 and March 9, 1847
2 fine combs @ .05 - $ .10
1 lbs coperas - $ .06
1 bonnet & trims - $2.50
1 set tumblers - $ .75
4 1/2 lbs sugar - $ .50
3 yds domestic @ .15 - $ .45
1/2 yd linnen - $ .38
1 bot Calone (guess) - $ .15
7 oz indigo @ .15 - $1.00 - Total $5.89
June 3, June 10, Aug 11, 1847
1 lb rosin - $ .05
1 bot turpentine - $ .20
1/2 lb saleratus* - $ .15
8 yds domestic - $1.00
1 yd linnen - $ .55
1/2 lb pepper - $ .12
1/2 lb spice - $ .13
1 lb saleratus* - $ .15
3 1/2 oz indigo - $ .50 - Total $18.88

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.

  1. For the sake of my genealogical studies I want to know who her parents are. It took clear up to 1843 in the records for me to find out her first name. I may never know her last name although I have some theories.
  2. Are Gibson and Josiah twins? I think so, but I have never found an official birth date for Gibson. Who were the boys in the earlier census? Might they have been twins as well? There is a continuing disagreement as to whether Henry Dacus is Alexander Dacus’ son. If it’s ever proved that he’s not a direct descendant of Alexander, there is one other Dacus family line that has a number of twins. This could be a clue for Henry’s, or perhaps Eliza’s parentage.
  3. How long did it take her to dye and card the wool, spin the cotton and weave a coverlet? I’m particularly interested in this because I spent a lot of years doing weaving and spinning myself.
  4. Did she learn to read? to sign her name?
  5. Did she ever ride her horse down to the mouth of the Bayou Du Chien and watch the steamboats run up and down the Mississippi River
  1. “Born in Georgia” - in the 1880 census her son William was asked where his parents were born. He said that both of them were born in Georgia. He was the oldest child and would be the most likely to know.
  2. Item 1. US 1880 census, Russellville, Pope Co., AR, 18 June 1880. P. 26, SD #2. ED #137. Back to text

  3. 1820 census of Williamson Co, TN. - Henry "Deacus" - one man and one woman 16 - 25 years of age.
  4. Item 2.
    Name:Henry Deacus
    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 Persons2
    Total All Persons - White, Slaves, Colored, Other:2
    Back to text
  5. 1822 first mention of Henry in Lincoln Co. Court records - member of jury
  6. Item 3. Court records of Lincoln Co, TN. Back to text

  7. Alexander "Dacres"(Henry's father) and William "Dacres" (Henry's brother) next door to him in Lincoln Co, TN
  8. Item 4. US census records 1820 - Lincoln Co., TN.Back to text

  9. 1830 census of Tipton Co, TN: Henry Dacus and family.
  10. Item 5.
    Name:Henry Dacus
    Homes in 1830Tipton County, TN
    Free White Persons - Males - Under 5:3
    Free White Persons - Males - 5 thru 91
    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 205
    Total Free White Persons 20 thru 492
    Total Free White Persons7
    Total Slaves1
    Total All Persons - White, Slaves, Colored, Other:8
    Back to text
  11. 1832 Henry purchased property in Tipton Co, TN
  12. Item 6. North Carolina and Tennessee, Early Land Records, 1753-1931 for Henry Dacus West Tennessee Land Grants Roll 169: Book 3A, p. 242, #2070 - Registered 26 Sept. 1832. Back to text

  13. 1836-7 Henry sold all of his Tipton Co. property
  14. Item 7. Sales to Efford Owen, Tabitha Gaither, John Moore and John Wilson 1835-6-7.The property descriptions match the parcel Henry claimed in 1832 (Item 6). Henry left Tennessee in early 1837. Alexander and Lewis Dacus filed the last sale for him at the courthouse 14 Feb. 1837. Back to text

  15. 1837 Henry purchased property in Hickman County, KY
  16. Item 8. Tarpley to Dacus Bk. C, p. 225 - 160 acres 10 Feb 1837. (FHC Film 8142515, Image 157). Back to text

  17. 1840 census of Hickman Co, KY: Henry Dacus and family
  18. Item 9.
    NameHenry Dacus
    Home in 1840Hickman, Kentucky
    Free white persons - Males - under 51
    Free white persons - Males - 5 thru 92
    Free white persons - Males - 10 thru 142
    Free white persons - Males - 15 thru 192
    Free white persons - Males - 40 thru 491
    Free white persons - Males - 70 thru 791
    Free white persons - Females - 5 thru 91
    Free white persons - Females - 10 thru 141
    Free white persons - Females - 40 thru 491
    Persons Employed in Agriculture5
    No. White persons over 20 who cannot read and write2
    Free White persons - Under 209
    Free White persons - 20 thru 492
    Total Free White persons12
    Total All persons - Free, White, Colored, Slaves12
    Back to text
  19. Items in the estates of Henry and Eliza
  20. Item 10. Hickman County Will Book C, pp.299-302 (Henry), pp.306-7(Eliza); FHC film #4818805. images 134 - 138 of 606. Back to text

  21. Henry's will
  22. Item 11. Hickman County Will Book B, p. 453; FHC film #4818804, Image 460 of 500. Back to text

  23. Names of Henry and Eliza's children
  24. Item 12. FHC film #007647010, Order books C & D - Image 10 of 685 is the index for "D" - there are multiple entries dealing with the Dacus children. Back to text

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