Research long enough and you are bound to run into an illegitimate child in your family. There may or may not have been stigma attached to such a birth, depending on the time period and the location. In some cases, the child was simply born before the parents’ union was blessed by a minister or justice of the peace. In other cases, a marriage was never intended.
To avoid becoming a charge on the county and if the mother’s family couldn’t or wouldn’t provide the necessities for the child, the man named as father by the mother was summoned to court to answer the charge against him. If the court decided the man was, indeed, the child’s father, he was ordered to pay the mother a certain amount for a particular length of time.
One such case is that of James Hodge of Livingston County. The following is transcribed from the loose county clerk’s papers of 1812:
"Common Wealth of Kentucky Livingston County To any Sworn officer of sd. County Greeting Whereas Polly Craft daughter of Jacob Craft of the County aforesaid and her Corporeal declare before me that on the twenty third day of January 1812 She was delivered of a Bastard male child in the house of her Father Jacob Craft begotten on her Body by James Hodge Deputy Sherrif [sic] under Robert Kirk for sd. County and it is sd. Child may may [sic] become Chargable to the County they are therefore in the name of the Commonwealth to Comanand to take the body of sd. Jame_ Hodge & Bring him Before me or some other Justice of the peace for sd. County to enter into Bond in the sum of ten pounds each to appear before the County Court of Livingston at the Courthouse in Salem on the third Monday in April to answer the Above Charge and to be further dealt with as the Law may direct given under my hand this 25th day of February 1812." [signed] Jos. Reed, JP
On the 10th of March 1812, James Hodge with Enoch Prince and John Mott, his securities, posted bond in the sum of 50 pounds to guarantee that Hodge would appear in court to answer the charges.
According to Livingston County Court Order Book D, page 126, on Tuesday, the 21st of April 1812, Hodge did appear and the county court ordered him to pay Polly Craft $20 annually for five years, commencing from the 23rd of January 1812 for the maintenance of the child, providing the child lived that long.
Whether or not James Hodge paid for the support of his son is unknown. Jacob Craft, father of Polly, was enumerated on the 1810 Livingston County census, but does not appear on the 1820 census and there is no marriage record for Polly/Mary Craft in Livingston County. The child of Polly Craft was born less than a month before James Hodge married Mary Campbell in Livingston County. One has to wonder if this marriage played a part in the Craft family leaving the county.