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Unanswered questions

She is one of the family’s mystery ladies, this Nancy, born — we think — 227 years ago today. Her first name is one of the few facts we’re pretty sure of; almost everything about her is a mystery.

We have evidence of her birth and death dates — 12 January 1786 and 11 October 1882 — only from her tombstone, in the Baker Cemetery, at the old Baker Community near Long Creek in southern Parker County, Texas.1 There isn’t any other evidence to support either the birth or death dates.

If the 1850 census of Pulaski County, Kentucky, is right, she was born in North Carolina, but her birth year would be 1788, not 1786.2 If the 1880 census of Parker County, Texas, is right, she was born in South Carolina, but she’d have been born in 1779.3

We don’t have a single solid clue as to who Nancy’s parents were. I’ve seen numerous references to a possible maiden name of Davis and not one of those references has a single fact cited to explain why that name was selected.

We know she married Jesse Fore — her tombstone tells us that much4 — and that seems to be pretty well corroborated by evidence linking her to her children, and particularly her daughter Nancy Catherine “Kate” (Fore) Baker.5 Nancy was living with Kate and her husband Josiah Baker at the time of the 1880 census and was enumerated as the mother-in-law of the head of household, Josiah.6

The only direct evidence as to when and where Nancy and Jesse married appears in a pension application Jesse filed for service in the War of 1812, where he said he married in Buncombe County, North Carolina, in 1815. The hitch is that he named his wife from that marriage as Sallie, not Nancy.7 So it’s hard to put much faith in that information, recorded so many years after the fact when Jesse was in his 80s.

Indirect evidence supporting a marriage around 1815 comes from the birth years of Nancy’s and Jesse’s children. The oldest, Joseph, was born around 1816;8 their second child, my 2nd great grandmother Mary “Polly” Fore, was born around 1818.9

And we can add to the mix that Nancy clearly ended up in Parker County, Texas, along with a number of her children — Kate (Fore) Baker, Polly (Fore) Johnson and George Washington Fore, for certain.

And that is where the biggest mystery of Nancy’s life comes into play: why and when and with whom did Nancy come to Texas?

You see, though Nancy’s tombstone identifies her as the widow of Jesse “Four,” and though Jesse was indeed dead by the time Nancy died,10 Nancy and Jesse hadn’t lived together since sometime in the early 1850s. Sometime between 1850, when Jesse and Nancy were enumerated in Pulaski County, and 1855, some irrevocable split occurred, with Jesse staying in the east and Nancy heading west.

And we know that because we know that Jesse took a second wife, a widow by the name of Sarah Nicks, in June of 1855 in Union County, Georgia.11

Now we know that the Bakers had pulled up stakes in Pulaski County in the early 1850s,12 heading first to Louisa County, Iowa, where Josiah and Kate’s son James was born in 1853,13 and then to Parker County, Texas, where the family begins to appear in the records by the mid-to-late 1850s.

Was there ever a divorce recorded for Jesse and Nancy and, if so, where and on what grounds? Or did Jesse simply conclude that he was free to remarry because Nancy had abandoned him? Was he ever even asked if he’d been married before?

These are questions for which there may be answers, and they’re high on my research list if I can find time for my own family research this coming week while I’m attending the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy.

But there are so many questions for which I fear there can be no answers.

What happened back in Pulaski County that made a woman in her 60s leave her husband of more than 30 years to head west the way Nancy did? Did she face a terrible choice between her husband and her children… or was it a relief to be free of Jesse?

Did she accompany Josiah and Kate? Did she go out later with Polly Johnson and her family? Or with her son George?

And what about Nancy’s life after she left Jesse? Was she happy there in Parker County — a frontier area still plagued by Indian attacks well into the 1870s? Did she ever regret the choice that she made?

Did she ever think of the man she left behind?

What I’d give for a time machine… or a diary…


 
SOURCES

  1. Baker Cemetery (Baker Community, Parker County, Texas; on Baker Road approximately four miles south of the intersection with Doyle Road, Latitude 323503N, Longitude 0974338W), Nancy C. “Four” marker; photograph by J.G. Russell, 3 May 2003.
  2. 1850 U.S. census, Pulaski County, Kentucky, population schedule, Division 1, p. 7 (back) (stamped), dwelling 106, family 106, Nancy Fore; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 March 2007); citing National Archive microfilm publication M432, roll 217.
  3. 1880 U.S. census, Parker County, TX, population schedule, Justice Precinct 6 , enumeration district (ED) 139, p. 458(B) (stamped), dwelling 12, family 12, Nancy Fore, mother-in-law, in Josiaha Baker household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 12 Oct 2011); citing National Archive microfilm publication T9, roll 1232; imaged from FHL microfilm 1255323.
  4. Baker Cemetery, Nancy “Four” marker.
  5. A history written by Josiah and Kate’s grandson Elma Baker documents this branch of the family. Elma W. Baker, The Rugged Trail, Vol. II (Dallas, Texas : p.p., 1973), 81 (citing Family Bible of Lela Fay Jones, Lubbock Texas).
  6. 1880 U.S. census, Parker Co., Tex., pop. sched., Justice Precinct 6, ED 139, p. 458(B) (stamped), dwell./fam. 12, Nancy Fore, mother-in-law, in Josiaha Baker household.
  7. Declaration of Soldier, 27 March 1871, Jesse Fore (Fifer, Capt. Gaffney’s South Carolina Militia, War of 1812), soldier’s pension application no. 4553, certificate no. 7041; Case Files of Pension and Bounty Land Applications Based on Service Between 1812 and 1855; Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1960; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  8. A male child age 10-14 was in the Fore household in 1830. 1830 U.S. census, Buncombe County, North Carolina, p. 254 (stamped), line 6, Jesse Fore household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 12 May 2004); citing National Archive microfilm publication M19, roll 118. That this oldest son was Joseph was reported by his niece, Martha A. “Mattie” Fore Gough.
  9. Polly was shown as age 32 in 1850. 1850 U.S. census, Pulaski Co., Ky., Somerset, pop. sch., p. 2 (back) (stamped), dwell./fam. 27, Mary Johnson.
  10. Affidavit of Claimant, 3 May 1879, Sarah Fore, widow’s pension application no. 36249, certificate no. 25298, service of Jesse Fore (Fifer, Capt. Gaffney’s South Carolina Militia, War of 1812); Case Files of Pension and Bounty Land Applications Based on Service Between 1812 and 1855; Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1960; Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
  11. Ibid.
  12. Josiah and Kate were still in Pulaski County in 1850. 1850 U.S. census, Pulaski Co., Ky., Division 2, p. 82 (stamped), dwell./fam. 107, Josiah A. Baker household.
  13. Obituary, James R. Baker, Lovington (N.M.) Leader, 12 Feb 1937.
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