Monday, September 16, 2013

What Are the Odds?

Two Red Dice by Stephen Silver

Husband and wife have several children, wife dies leaving husband with young children to raise, husband marries sister of first wife and starts a second family.  It is a familiar story found in many family histories.  Except for this time.

Francis Henderson and Jean/Jane Pickens, the 3rd Great Grandparents of my husband, had been married about 13 years when Jane died in 1817.  Her death left Francis as the sole parent of four young children, William age 6, Letitia age 4, Nancy Jane age 2, and John Pickens 11 days old. 

I kept looking for a second marriage for Francis, wondering how he could have farmed his extensive property while rearing the four children.  I thought I found the answer when I came across the marriage of Eleanor Pickens, Jane’s sister, to Francis J. Henderson on 11 March 1823 in Blount County, Tennessee. (1)  This date was just six days before the death of Francis Henderson on 17 March 1823. (2)  This truly seemed like a family touched by misfortune.

Looking further, it turns out the Eleanor Pickens married a second Francis J. Henderson of Blount County, Tennessee, not her deceased sister’s widower.  Eleanor and her Francis had their own family of seven children and eventually moved to Bradley County, Tennessee.  Both Eleanor Pickens Henderson and Francis J. Henderson are buried in Bradley County, Tennessee. (3)  Her sister Jane Pickens Henderson and her Francis Henderson are buried in Blount County, Tennessee. (4)

Apparently Jane’s Francis never remarried and raised the four children himself, although Anderson mentions that Jane’s sister Mary Pickens Minnis also helped raise young John Pickens Henderson.  Following the death of Francis Henderson in 1823, Jane’s brother Samuel Pickens, was named as the legal guardian of the youngest child, John Pickens Henderson. (5)

Now I want to know more about Eleanor’s Francis – who were his parents, were they related to Jane’s Francis.  Nellie Pickens Anderson mentioned that relatives referred to Jane’s Francis as “Frank”, apparently to prevent confusion with Eleanor’s Francis. (6)  After all, the odds of sisters marrying men with the same name, be it Frank or Francis, living in the same county have to rather slim.

(1)   "Tennessee State Marriages, 1780-2002",  database, p. 82, entry for Francis J Henderson, ( : accessed 23 Jul 2013); citing Tennessee State Marriages, 1780-2002. Nashville, TN, USA: Tennessee State Library and Archives. Microfilm.

(2)   Nellie Pickens Anderson, Elizabeth Cowan Snead Shue, and Lloyd C. Shue. The John Pickens Family, combined edition, including a reprint of the 1951 edition by Nellie Pickens Anderson plus a new supplement and index of the combined editions.  Baltimore, MD : Gateway Press, 1981, p. 100.

(3)   Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed 15 Sep 2013), memorial page for Francis Johnston Henderson (1800-1845), Find a Grave memorial no.39703015, citing Fort Hill  Cemetery, Cleveland, Bradley County, Tennessee.

(4)   Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed 23 Jul 2013), memorial page for Francis "Frank" Henderson (1776-1823), Find a Grave memorial no.5753603, citing Big Spring Cemetery, Friendship, Blount County, Tennessee.

(5)   Anderson, John Pickens Family, p. 113, 205.

(6)   Anderson, John Pickens Family, p. 100.

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