Saturday, September 21, 2013

John Wiginton in Missouri

Old Courthouse at Tuscumbia

Reporting back from my research trip to Missouri. The trip was primarily made to help break down a brick wall on my 4th great grandfather, John Wiginton. My goal was to find the final resting place of John Wiginton and his second family. John was born in 1784 in Georgia from census records. I had traced him through several counties in Tennessee and he had served in the War of 1812 there. John seemed to be quite a restless man not staying in any one place very long during his time in Tennessee. In 1838 he married a second time to Elizabeth Lawson. Sometime in the 1840s they moved to Miller County, Missouri with Elizabeth’s parents, David and Mary Lawson. Elizabeth previously had one daughter, Polly Lawson, born in 1836. John and Elizabeth had another daughter together named Sarah in 1848. His stay in Miller County seems to have been the longest period of time that John had stayed in any one place. He was getting up in age - he was in his mid 60s when he had his last daughter. Also he had got a land patent, maybe he decided to settle down and make a home for his family. Hopefully this was a good sign to make the trip and find his final resting place.

New Courthouse at Tusbumbia

Sometime in the 1850s his wife, Elizabeth, died, leaving John with his stepdaughter, Polly, and his daughter, Sarah. Polly married two times, first to William Walker with which she had three children, John, Sarah, and Eliza Walker. It seems she must have taken over the role of the matriarch of the family. Her husband died before the 1860 census. She then remarried to Peter T. Coy in 1861. John Wiginton had performed the marriages of several couples during this time and had signed their marriage returns as a Minister including that of his stepdaughter, Polly. The next big event that happened was that Elizabeth Lawson’s father died. Her children were named in his Estate. Shortly after David Lawson's Estate was filed in 1867, John Wiginton sold his land a month later. That signaled a red flag. What was going on at that time that would cause these two events so closely together? Normally you would think when someone sells their land they are getting ready to move again. Did they move on to somewhere else? From reading about the history of Miller County there was a lot of ill-will and bad events going on in the county after the Civil War. After this set of events in 1867 John and his whole second family totally disappeared. I have used every thing I can think of to find them. I looked in Miller County for marriage records for the daughter, Sarah, and for the marriages of Polly’s children. There was nothing! I am back looking at that brick wall again. I will have to step back and see what other avenues I can take to find them.

Miller County Historical Society

Miller County totally awed me. My sister and I had combined our vacation trip with a research trip. We spent some time driving around the county to see the countryside. When we left the Interstate highway to look for the county seat, Tuscumbia, we entered another world. It was like driving through the back country of Tennessee again. I can see why John Wiginton had gone there – it was like his home away from home. We took off to find Tuscumbia and the courthouse and almost missed it. That is the smallest county seat I have ever been in. We saw only one church with a town cemetery, a big new courthouse, and their one and only small museum - no stores, no gas station, nothing else! We drove around to find where downtown was and couldn’t find it. We finally found an old run-down stone building that must have been their old courthouse. Around it sit several old abandoned storefronts. It seemed really sad – it looked like prosperity had hit this small town and moved elsewhere. It must have been a busy thriving town at one time. We drove down another country road and found that all the residents seemed to have moved down by the river, Osage River. It was a beautiful sight. Please, if you ever get to go to the home of your ancestor don’t pass it up, it is totally worth the trip no matter what you find. There is nothing like seeing where your ancestor lived.

Osage River at Tuscumbia

No comments: