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So much we don’t know

She is far more of a mystery than it seems she should be, having lived into the 20th century.

Born in North Carolina, likely Burke County, 183 years ago today, Martha Louisa (Baker) Cottrell was The Legal Genealogist‘s second great grandmother.

Her oldest son Martin Gilbert Cottrell (1855-1946) was my great grandfather; his youngest son, her youngest grandson, was my grandfather Clay Rex Cottrell (1898-1970).

And while I have loads of individual facts about the life of this woman, called Louisa, I know nothing really about her.

About who she was.

About what she liked.

About the kind of person she came to be.

Or even, for certain, what she looked like.

mystery1

We think the photo shown here today may be a photo of Louisa, surrounded towards the end of her life by children and grandchildren — it comes to us from a Cottrell cousin and so could well be a Cottrell family group. But we’re not sure; it may be of someone else altogether.

So… what do we know about Louisa?

Her birth on 9 May 1832 seems pretty well established, from Louisa’s own statement in an 1897 pension application.1 Although she said she was born in Cherokee County, North Carolina,2 her parents were in Burke County in 18303 and her father, Martin Baker, was included on a jury list in Yancey County — created from Burke in 18334 — as late as 1834.5

We can follow her parents as they trekked ever westward, first to Cherokee County in 1840,6 then to Pulaski County, Kentucky, by 1850,7 then to Louisa County, Iowa, by 1852.8

Finally, it was on south to Texas — the last move — and we can place the Bakers in what was then Navarro but became Parker County by early 1854.9

There the Bakers acquired a neighbor — one George W. Cottrell, who served as a chain carrier on Baker land claims10 and for whose own land claim the Bakers carried the chains.11

And they soon acquired a son-in-law, though exactly when and where is in question. George married Louisa perhaps in 1854 in Johnson County, Texas.12 Or maybe 1853 in Parker County.13 Or maybe 1854 in Parker County.14 Or maybe 1855 in Johnson County.15 Sometime around then somewhere around there, anyway.

We can track Louisa forward in the census records too: still in Parker County in 1880, with George and several of their children (they had at least five);16 in Wichita County by 1900, as a widow in the household of daughter Mary (Cottrell) Green;17 and still with the Greens in 1910.18

The story rolls to an end in January 1913. Louisa’s death was reported in the local newspaper:

Mrs. Louisa Cottrell, 82 years old, died last Friday at 2:30 a.m., and was buried Saturday at 3 p.m. Funeral services were conducted by Rev. M.L. Blankenship assisted by Rev. H.B. Johnson. She leaves two sons and two daughters, nine grand children and five great grand children. She had been an invalid thirty years. She was a member of the Baptist church nearly sixty-eight years.19

And that’s it.

Sad, isn’t it?

There is so very much about this woman we don’t know, not even what the condition was that left her invalided those 30 years.

We don’t know if she liked the color red. If she liked or even approved of her sons-in-law. Was she a good cook? Did she like to read — even could she read?

At this point I’d even settle for knowing if her grandchildren called her Granny. Or Grandma. Or Grams. I just hope she was enough of a pushover that they didn’t have to call her Mrs. Cottrell.

I hope they brought her flowers in the spring, even if Mother’s Day wasn’t a holiday in her lifetime.

I hope she knew how to laugh…


SOURCES

  1. Declaration of claimant, 21 Jan 1897, widow’s pension application no. 13773 (Rejected), for service of George W. Cottrell 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. Ibid.
  3. 1830 U.S. census, Burke County, North Carolina, p. 198 (stamped), line 3, Martain Baker household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 Jul 2012); citing National Archive microfilm publication M19, roll 118.
  4. See David Leroy Corbitt, The Formation of the North Carolina Counties 1663-1943 (Raleigh : Division of
    Archives and History, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, 1987), 42-48.
  5. Minute Book, 1834-1844, Yancey County, North Carolina, Court of Common Pleas and Quarter Sessions, Minutes of December Term 1834; call no. C.R.107.301.1; North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh.
  6. 1840 U.S. census, Cherokee County, North Carolina, population schedule, p. 239 (stamped), line 8, Martin Baker household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 Jul 2012); citing National Archive microfilm publication M704, roll 357.
  7. 1850 U.S. census, Pulaski County, Kentucky, population schedule, Division 2, p. 111 (stamped), dwelling/family 528, Martin Baker household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 20 Jul 2012); citing National Archive microfilm publication M432, roll 217.
  8. 1852 Iowa State Census, Louisa County, Columbus City, p. 1, line 24, Martin Baker household; State Historical Society of Iowa, Des Moines; FHL microfilm 1022204.
  9. See And see “Parker County,” Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook: accessed 8 May 2015.)
  10. Texas General Land Office, vol. 33, p. 272, Charles Baker, 8 Dec 1863, 160 acres.
  11. Texas General Land Office, vol. 17, p. 224, G W Cotrell, 10 Dec 1863, 160 acres.
  12. Survivor’s Claim, 23 March 1887, Pension application no. 7890 (Rejected), for service of George W. Cotrell of Texas; Mexican War Pension Files; RG-15; NA-Washington, D.C.
  13. Ibid., Survivor’s Brief, 17 February 1890.
  14. Declaration of claimant, 21 Jan 1897, 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.
  15. See Weldon Hudson, Marriage Records of Johnson County, Tx. (Cleburne : Johnson Co. Historical Soc., 2002).
  16. 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 household; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 May 2015); citing National Archive microfilm publication T9, roll 1232.
  17. 1900 U.S. census, Wichita County, Texas, Justice Precinct 6, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 127, p. 243(A) (stamped), dwelling/family 189, Louisa “Catrell”; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 May 2015); citing National Archive microfilm publication T623, roll 1679.
  18. 1910 U.S. census, Wichita County, Texas, Justice Precinct 2, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 228, p. 10(B) (stamped), dwelling 179, family 182, Louisa Cottrell; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 8 May 2015); citing National Archive microfilm publication T624, roll 1597.
  19. “Iowa Park Notes,” Wichita Falls (Tex.) Daily Times, 24 Jan 1913.
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