The mysteries of Nancy Fore

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…


  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, ( : 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, ( : 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, ( : 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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22 Responses to The mysteries of Nancy Fore

  1. Barbara Schenck says:

    Interesting story, Judy. I’m wondering, if there was such a serious split that Jesse and Nancy each went their own way — and he married again — why was she specifically described on the tombstone as “wife of Jesse Four.” You’d think it wouldn’t be worth mentioning if there was a serious falling out or divorce.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      It’s an enormous puzzle, Barbara, and those words are sure part of it. Maybe it was penance in part by daughters who induced her to leave Jesse and come with them?

      • Barbara Schenck says:

        I have a vaguely similar couple in the mid-19th century. They likely married in Kentucky or Tennessee in the early 1820s, had several children in Tennessee, then moved to Missouri where more children were born between 1832 and 1843. About 1849 the husband, two or three of the oldest daughters and their husbands, as well as, apparently, the two youngest sons (both under 10) went to California apparently on the Gold Rush.

        The middle children, mostly sons, moved to Arkansas and Texas. The mother went with them or she followed them.

        The husband in California lived until the 1870s. His wife, I have heard (but have not researched) died in Texas in 1880. There were no divorces as far as I know — and neither married again.

        I am still trying to work out a family scenario that would have the family dividing up the way it did, especially the littlest boys going with dad and the older sisters and their husbands.

        And, of course, none of them provided a diary or letters, either!

  2. I had that same situation, about that same timeframe, involving TN (the state left) and TX. In my case, it was the man that left. She stayed and listed herself as divorced, then widowed after he died. Probably had less stigma attached. Also, the court records are existant and there is NO record of legal divorce. Perhaps they got divorced “Indian style” or perhaps a divorce was when you separated and didn’t have to be legalized through the courts. In any event, theirs wasn’t. There didn’t seem to be a huge rift. Lots of that family went to Texas. The kids stayed with her until she died, then all of them, except 1, my ancestor, went to Texas too. They lived on Choctaw land there. Like you, what I wouldn’t give for a journal from any of them.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Court records do exist, I discovered today, for Pulaski County KY at that time, and there’s no record of a divorce for Jesse. But wife #2 says they were married in Union County GA in 1855 — and I can’t find a record of that either.

      Sigh… Sure is frustrating, Roberta!

  3. Jeff says:

    Often when the front door is closed, the back door is wide open. You mentioned Jesse’s second wife, Sarah Nicks just once. Twice if you count her citation. But you “failed” to mention anything about the second marriage and life thereafter. Was there any children from that marriage? Was there any children from Sarah’s previous marriage that Jesse “adopted”? All your questions were concerning the life with Jesse and Nancy. Perhaps part of your answers lie with the descendants of Sarah (and Jesse)? Maybe one of them knows why Sarah married Jesse? If they know the “why”, that may tell you why Nancy went west and did everything else she did.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Good thought, Jeff, though both Jesse and Sarah were in their 60s when they married.

      • Jeff says:

        Ok, that most likely rules out any natural children. But what about any children from Sarah’s first marriage? You did say that she was a widow. Chances are that she might have had at least one child from the previous marriage. What have you done in regards to Sarah?

        • Judy G. Russell says:

          Only one known child and he was out of his mother’s household before she married Jesse. There aren’t any records to link this up that I’ve found… yet

      • Jeff says:

        One of my great great grandmothers was in her mid 40′s when she had her last child and that was in 1870.

  4. Ida Skarson McCormick says:

    Nancy was a nickname for Ann, Hannah, and Agnes (with a silent G and could be spelled Annis). Have you considered that she was given one of those names and as an adult preferred to go by her nickname?

    After the American Revolution various nicknames transitioned to becoming names in their own right.

    What was Nancy’s religious background? What impact did the rules of that particular denomination have on the name given to an infant at baptism in 1779, 1786, or 1788?

    When Jesse was being interviewed for his War of 1812 pension application, perhaps he was asked 2 separate questions. “What is your wife’s name?” Verbal answer: “Sallie” (nickname for Sarah, his current and 2nd wife). “When were you married?” Verbal answer: “1815″ (the first time and perhaps only time).

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Good thoughts all, but the best and most likely is your thought of the way the pension questions might have been answered. I’ll have to look again at the structure of that application when I get home from SLIG. Thank you!!

  5. JoF says:

    As for the divorce….. I have a case of divorce or at least a petition for one which may or may not be relevant. This is in VA and about 40 years earlier but still may offer some ideas to think about. “My” man petitioned the governor for a divorce which is what one had to do there and then. I’ve read what remains of the file. The man had a witness who overheard the wife say her child was not her husband’s and that she was running off with ______ (I forget his name). The divorce was DENIED! Anyway, you may consider that there were no grounds that fit this couple’s desire for a divorce. Or that they didn’t have the money for one. They may have just considered themselves divorced. People weren’t always so concerned about legal niceties back then. In your case, the children seem to have been grown, so that may have been a factor. Also, I’d look at the surrounding counties for that GA marriage, or even look for it in KY. Then again, I’m used to ancestors who made a habit of revisionist history!

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Kentucky courts did grant divorces around that time, and abandonment was a common reason. So if Jesse stayed there (rather than heading back to Georgia or wherever), he certainly could have gotten a divorce. Virginia, as you saw, was VERY different.

  6. Judy,

    Wow, how interesting! Maybe running the tax lists for Pulaski County would allow you to see if Jesse left Nancy first and when.

    In doing a little digging I found that a Jesse Fore is listed in Union County, Georgia in 1840….what? This Jesse has a male in the 40-50 age bracket and a female in the same 40-50 age bracket.

    I found the above record by searching and just “seeing” what came up.

    I love mysteries like this…you MUST keep us up to date on what you find.

    Good luck and enjoy SLIG.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Thanks!! I haven’t find any smoking guns in the tax lists, since of course women weren’t taxed. And it looks like most of the family left Pulaski County around the same time from a land-ownership standpoint. And yep, the 1840 Union County Fores are mine — along with the 1830 Buncombe County NC Fores. Jesse and his second wife Sarah were in Bledsoe County TN in 1860 and Warren County KY in 1870. Jesse died in 1872. And so far I haven’t found a darned thing — and with classes all week may not have time to look for more!!!

  7. Anne Willson says:

    Just keep your digital camera handy! You never know when you might have a moment to run in there and take a quick look…and forget all about SLIG! :)

  8. Rob Knowles says:

    I just happened to fumble across Baker Cemetary on Sunday May 26th and toook these pictures. I am very interested in this story.


    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Great shots, Rob! It’s a lovely little cemetery, isn’t it? Nancy is my 3rd great grandmother on my grandfather’s maternal line — and the two Baker shots you have (Martin and Elizabeth) are my 3rd great grandparents on my grandfather’s paternal line.

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