Select Page

Oh George…

One of the joys of doing a blog is that, occasionally, someone will send you something that advances your research in a direction you never would have expected. Then again, one of the disconcerting aspects of doing a blog is that, occasionally, someone will send you something that advances your research in a direction you never would have expected too.

Case in point: my elusive second great grandfather George Washington Cottrell, who said he was born in Madison County, Kentucky, in 1821 (except that there’s no record of his family there), served in the Mexican War from 1846-18481 (except that there’s no record of him doing that2), then lived in Navarro (no record of him there), Tarrant,3 Parker4 and Wichita5 Counties in Texas before ultimately dying in 1891 in Wichita County.6

Our working theory is that our George Washington Cottrell is the same G.W. Cotrell who lived in Colorado County in the early 1840s, married there in 18427 and was promptly indicted for bigamy and adultery there.8 The charges were dismissed after Wharton County was created from Colorado County,9 perhaps because it was no longer Colorado County’s problem and perhaps because the woman he married in 1842 died10 and he was no longer — if he ever had been — a bigamist.

And, it turns out, if that is our G.W., that wasn’t his only brush with the law. Take a gander at this clipping from the New York Daily Tribune from 22 December 1847:

From Texas. … On the 11th ult. G. W. Cotrell of Wharton County, killed Abner Woolsey. They were living together, and Cotrell performed the diabolical deed by poking a musket through the crack of the door and shooting Woolsey while sitting at the fire. Woolsey’s wife is said to be the cause of the murder, and she is now in the custody of the law. Cotrell has fled, but as the spirited citizens of the neighborhood immediately subscribed $500 for his apprehension, it is to be hoped the murderer may yet be brought to justice. (N.O. Delta, Dec. 10.)11

Sigh… turns out Abner Woolsey’s wife was Vergilla (possibly Virgilla) Gilbert. If that last name is familiar, it should be: the woman G.W. married in 1842 was Mary Newman Gilbert, widow of Preston Gilbert — Vergilla’s brother.

Oh my.

Apparently G.W. didn’t get away cleanly. According to the Wharton County Historical Museum website, “In April of 1848 Jess Griffin arrested George Cottrell for murder.”12 That’s confirmed by a transcription of the Criminal File Docket Book I, showing George W. Cottrell charged with murder in April 1848.13

So… is this for sure not just a G.W. Cotrell but my G.W. Cottrell? I’m not yet 100% sure (we’ve long entertained the possibility that we were dealing with a father and son). But unless more research now underway shows that the killer was hung or sent to prison for a long time, it’s sure starting to look that way…

Stay tuned.


 
SOURCES

  1. Survivor’s Claim, 23 March 1887, pension application no. 7890 (Rejected), for service of George W. Cotrell of Texas; Mexican War Pension Files; Records of the Bureau of Pensions and its Predecessors 1805-1935; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  2. Compiled Service Records of Volunteer Soldiers Who Served During the Mexican War in Organizations From the State of Texas, microfilm publication M278, 19 rolls (Washington, D.C. : National Archives & Records Service, 1959).
  3. 1850 U.S. census, Tarrant County, Texas, Navarro District, population schedule, p. 89 (stamped), dwelling/family 3, G W Cotril in the Archie Robinson household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 Jun 2012); citing National Archive microfilm publication M432, roll 910.
  4. 1880 U.S. census, Parker County, Texas, Justice Precinct 6, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 139, p. 458(B) (stamped), dwelling/family 10, George W Cotrell; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 Jun 2012); citing National Archive microfilm publication T9, roll 1232; imaged from FHL microfilm 1255323.
  5. Survivor’s Brief, 17 February 1890, pension application no. 7890 (Rejected), for service of George W. Cotrell of Texas; Mexican War Pension Files; RG-15; NA-Washington, D.C.
  6. Declaration of claimant, widow’s pension application no. 13773 (Rejected), for service of George W. Cottrell of Texas; Mexican War Pension Files; RG-15; NA-Washington, D.C.
  7. Colorado County, Texas, Marriage Book B: 38, Cotrell-Gilbert; County Clerk, Columbus.
  8. Colorado County, Texas, Criminal Court Minutes Book A&B, p. 217, Republic of Texas v. G.W. Cottrell, Criminal Cause File No. 251 (1843); District Court, Columbus.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Wharton County, Texas, Probate Court Minutes A: 2, September Term 1848; County Clerk’s Office, Wharton; FHL microfilm 1,012,393.
  11. “From Texas,” New York Daily Tribune, 22 December 1847, p. 1, col. 4; digital images, “Old New York State Historical Newspaper Pages,” Old Fulton Post Cards (http://www.fultonhistory.com : accessed 8 Jun 2012). My thanks to Quentin McGown of Fort Worth for alerting me to this.
  12. Janet Barrett Hobizal, “Jess Griffin, 1846 – 1848, First Wharton County Sheriff,” Wharton County, Texas Site (http://freepages.history.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~barrettbranches/whartoncountyindex.html : accessed 8 Jun 2012).
  13. Ibid., Janet Barrett and Lauren Gansky, “Wharton County Texas, Criminal File Docket Book I, 1847 to 1960.”
Print Friendly