John Cox, deceased 1838, Fulton Co., IL

March 15, 2012

“A bill of Services for going to Lewiston to enter Into bonds for gardean [sic] also for binding Said Children or Six of them …” [transcript of an undated note found among the probate papers for a John Cox, deceased before 07MAY1838 in Fulton County, Illinois.]

I found the probate papers while searching for one of my ancestors, Joseph Cox, born about 1836 in Indiana, according to the 1850 US Census for Fulton County, Illinois. He was listed in the Henry S. Marvial [sic, Marvel] household. A census search yielded no suitable Cox family living nearby, so I searched the probate records for deceased possibilities.

A Joseph Cox was listed among the minors in the John Cox probate records. According to the undated guardianship bond, the seven minors were: Joseph, Kaziah, Hetty, Betsy, Mary, Rebecca, and Nathaniel. Nathan H. Turner and Peter Cox signed the bond as co-guardians. Both men were also listed on the 07MAY1838 Administrative Bond along with the administrator, Abel Chase. A receipt dated 03JUN1839 shows that Nathan H. Turner, as guardian, received $19.87 in part payment of the children’s share of the estate. Here the children are listed as Joseph, Kaziah, Rebecca, Elizabeth, Mary, Mehetable, and Nathaniel.

From my experience with similar documents, I knew that children’s names were likely listed in order of descending age. Joseph as the oldest of seven children would be too old to be my Joseph Cox born about 1836. The ‘about’ comes from the uncertainty of US Census records; for example, my Joseph was listed as aged 14, but had he already had his birthday for that year or would it occur later in the year, after the census enumeration? The genealogical convention is to say ‘about 14′, rather than ’14-15’.

I’ve found errors in probate records before. It was possible that the heirs were listed in reverse order, youngest first, or in a random order. Since this was the only possible Joseph Cox I’d found in years of searching, I decided to study the family further and make sure it was not mine.

Other information gleaned from the probate papers was the name of John’s wife, Rachel, and a James Cox, relationship unknown. James Cox possessed land. Receipts show that he rented John 8 acres on credit, apparently unbroken grassland because other receipts in the probate show that John owed Aaron Jenneny for breaking prairie sod, June, 1837 and William Ogden for hauling and stacking hay, August, 1837.

John M. Parkinson ran a school that had several of John and Rachel Cox’s children enrolled in it, 1837 and 1838. The earliest full date in the packet was 14JUN1837 and the latest one was 03JUN1839.

John or someone in his family apparently liked drinking whiskey. By my reckoning, his store receipt showed the purchase of 19 3/4 gallons of whiskey during the period between 09NOV1837 and 26MAR1838. John was also billed by the schoolmaster for another half gallon of whiskey, That’s well over a pint of whiskey consumed each day. Other items listed as purchased from the store include: 2 yards of calico, tobacco, slates and paper, coffee, sugar, shears, dishes, gun powder, and lead.

In summary, by June, 1837, John and Rachael Cox were living in northwestern Fulton County, Illinois with at least seven children: Joseph, Kaziah, Rebecca, Elizabeth (Betsy), Mary, Mehetable (Hetty), and Nathaniel, minors at the start of probate 07MAY1838. Two other Cox men also lived in the area. Peter, likely an adult son or more likely, John’s brother. James, possibly a relative. Because Nathan H. Turner assumed the primary guardianship of the children, he was either a close friend, a close relative or, more likely, he planned to marry the widow Rachael.

There is an open question on whether the binding of six children was to Nathan Turner as their legal guardian or to others outside the family. At the time, ‘Binding out’ children was a legal way of dealing with orphans. Children were considered orphans at the death of their father, even if their mother survived. A ‘bound out’ child would be an indentured servant or an apprentice until the age of 21 for males or the age of 18 for females.

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