Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Case of the Webb Brothers

If you are a fan of the tales surrounding James Ford of Fords Ferry Ohio in early Livingston County, Kentucky (later Crittenden County), you have heard the story of how Charles H. Webb and his brother, John Webb, escaped capture by bandits along the Ohio River in the 1820s. In the book, Satan’s Ferryman, it is stated that John Webb made his way to St. Louis, where he was joined by his brother. The story of John Webb stops at this point. Charles H. Webb met and married Cassandra Ford, daughter of James Ford. My goal is to find out what happened to John Webb and I think I know. In the meantime, let’s look at these brothers.

After his marriage to Cassandra Ford in 1827, Charles H. Webb lived in Caldwell County, where he was a prominent physician in Princeton. He had a number of children, including James, Nancy W., Augusta W., Charles and Cassandra. Charles H. Webb, along with a daughter and his young brother-in-law, James Ford Jr, perished from the results of the explosion of the steamboat Lucy Walker in October 1844.

Now, look at John W. Webb, whom I believe was the brother of Dr. Charles H. Webb and was also a physician. John W. Webb shows up first in Caldwell County in 1834, when he bought a lot in Princeton. He appears on the 1840 census as a white male between the ages of 30 and 40 with 3 young children and a woman age 20 to 30 in his household. By 1841, he had moved to Smithland and began buying land there, including several town lots. The Webb family was enumerated on the 1850 Livingston County with a wife, Augusta E., and children Charles H., age 15; John W., age 12; Mary E., age 5 and George W., age 7.

By the 3rd of December of that same year, Dr. John W. Webb was dead. His widow, Augusta E., was appointed administrator of his estate, which consisted of 10 slaves, a brick house and lot on Main Street in Smithland, a frame house on Level Street in Smithland, a brick house in Princeton, a farm on the Cumberland River plus a carriage and a large number of household furnishings. From the inventory and appraisement of his estate, it appears that Dr. Webb was well off. Included among the household items inventoried were 12 Windsor chairs, 1 settee, a brass clock, 1 secretary, maps and books, window blinds, plus a grass carpet - all items that many residents could only dream of owning. The inventory of his medicines and supplies included quinine, opium, cordials and a lot of empty bottles. Unfortunately, on Christmas night of 1850, Dr. Webb’s medicine and supplies were destroyed by fire.

About a year after the death of Dr. John W. Webb, his widow, Augusta E., married John Snyder, a Smithland Justice of the Peace. Snyder died before 1870 and Augusta died after the 1880 census.

Let’s look at the coincidences. Both Charles H. and John W. Webb were born in Fayette County, Kentucky - Charles H. in 1798 and John W. about a year later. Both lived in Caldwell County - Charles H. was there until his death in 1844, but John W. only from about 1834 until 1841. Both men were physicians. Charles H. named a daughter Augusta, which was the name of John W.’s wife. John W. named a son Charles H. Coincidence? I think not, but I am not certain.

So far, I have checked census records for Caldwell and Livingston counties, as well as tax lists, deeds, marriage records, county court order books and the inventory/appraisement/sale books for Livingston County. Each record has contributed to my knowledge, but nothing has shown up to indicate a relationship between the two men. So, the first thing I need to do is re-read every bit of information that has been gathered just in case I missed a clue, decide what records need to be checked and how to access them. That is my research plan and, if I follow it, perhaps I’ll reach my goal.


Anonymous said...

I think you have solved the mystery of the missing Webb brother.
I responded last week and have not heard from anyone.

Brenda Joyce Jerome, CG said...

I agree. The mystery does seem solved. When you responded to the article on the Webb brothers, apparently you clicked on Comment for the previous article Apprenticeship of Motherless Boy.
That's why nothing shows up here. Maybe someone will see these comments and respond, but unless you leave your email, no one will know who to contact.

Vickie said...

It would sure seem that you have solved the mystery and it makes perfect sense with the names, the occupations, the proxsimity to each other.