Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Story of William and Martha Rebecca Lewis

About 1839 William Lewis and Martha Rebecca Vaughn pledged their love for each other "for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health."  Like many promises, this one was broken. Their marriage likely started out all right, but perhaps too many children and the  hardships of life  wore them down.

They had lived in Bedford County, Tennessee since the time of their marriage about 1839. About 1853 they moved to Crittenden County, Kentucky.  In January of 1854, William and Martha bought 100 acres of land on the waters of Claylick Creek and set about rearing their growing family, which consisted of John, James, Richard, William, Rebecca Jane and Herod, all of whom were born in Tennessee, and Mary E. "Lennie" and Sarah C., who were born in Kentucky.[1]  Lennie was my great-great-grandmother.

Life was no easier for the Lewis family in Crittenden County.  John, the oldest Lewis son, was mustered into Co. E, 48th IL Infantry on the 14th of September 1861 and died at Shiloh in Tennessee on the 5th of April 1862.[2] His brother, James, also enlisted in Co. E., 48th IL Infantry. So, two sons were off fighting in the war. William had already mortgaged his land and crops and a judgment had been placed against him for non-payment.[3]  He was not in good shape financially and add the worry over the loss of his oldest son to that burden. Perhaps it was too much for him. He abandoned his wife and children in 1863[4] and left Kentucky.

The 1870 Posey County, Indiana census shows William Lewis, age 52 and born in Tennessee, as head of household. Other family members were Charlot [sic] B. Lewis, age 29 and also born Tennessee; Charlie Lewis, age 6 and born Indiana; America Lewis, age 2 born Indiana and Florence A. Belt, age 11 and born Kentucky.[5]

Charlot Lewis was born Charlotte Green in Rutherford County, Tennessee and married John Summers Belt 28 July 1854 Crittenden County.[6]  Two children, Florence and Sarah E. were born to this union, but only Florence survived infancy.  The couple divorced in 1859[7] and Charlotte and her daughter Florence were living with the Isaac F. Sisco family in 1860.[8] Charlotte was listed as Charlotte Green.  The next time we find William Lewis and Charlotte is when they were living as a family in Posey County in 1870.

While William was living in Posey County, his wife, Martha Rebecca, was dealing with her own hardships in Crittenden County. The second oldest son, James Lewis, was home on leave from the army in 1864 and while on the street in Marion, he was shot and killed by a bushwhacker or ex-confederate soldier simply because he was a "yanky soldier." [9] Martha Rebecca had depended on James for support of the family after William Lewis abandoned the family. In 1873, she listed her only property as one horse and 10 acres of land, which was later sold. [10] She applied for a mother's pension based the military service and financial support of her son, James.

According to Martha Rebecca, her husband provided no support to their family after he abandoned them. She stated he died "about August 1872" at the age of 57.[11]  William's place of death and burial are unknown.  He was enumerated on the 1870  Posey County, Indiana census, but is found in no other records in that county or adjoining counties. One researcher suggested he died in Hardin County, Illinois, directly across the Ohio River from Crittenden County. A courthouse fire in 1884 destroyed almost all records, including death records, prior to that year. A search of newspaper items in the pertinent time period revealed no death information for William Lewis.  A search of census records for 1880 and later was made for Charlotte, Charlie/Charles and America Lewis or Belt or Green but nothing was found. Charlotte's daughter, Florence, later lived and died in Crittenden County. Her obituary and death record both state she was born in Indiana.  Her death record gives her parents' names as John Belt and Charlotte Green.[12] No siblings are listed among survivors on her obituary.[13] If not for the 1870 Posey County census, I would never have known Charlotte, Charlie and America ever existed.

Martha Rebecca Lewis died 14 March 1897 and is buried at Chapel Hill Cemetery in Crittenden County.

 The story of this family is not finished as there are many unanswered questions. Writing what I do know helps me see what I must find out. I would like to hear from anyone who descends from William and Martha Rebecca Lewis or William and Charlotte Green Belt. Please contact me through this blog.

[1] 1860 Crittenden County, Kentucky census, Marion, Roll M653_363, p. 301, dwelling 1, family 1, household of William Lewis,
[2] Illinois Adjutant General's Report,
[3] Crittenden County, Kentucky Deed Book D:405, 9 July 1856, William Lewis to James H. Maxwell; also Deed Book F:519, 26 July 1862, William Lewis to D. & R.H. Woods.
[4] Declaration for an Original Pension of a Mother, No. 299.777, Declaration of Martha Lewis, 11 December 1882.
[5] 1870 Posey County, Indiana census, Mt. Vernon, Black Twp., Roll M593_352, p. 197A,  household of William Lewis, dwelling 19, family 19,
[6] Brenda Joyce Jerome. Crittenden County, Kentucky Marriage Record, Vol. 1 1842-1865 and Abstracts of Wills  Book 1 1842-1924, (Evansville, IN: Evansville Bindery, 1990) 50.
[7] John Belt vs Charlotte Belt, Divorce, Filed 28 April 1859, Crittenden County Case File #192, Kentucky Dept for Libraries and Archives.
[8] 1860 Crittenden County, Kentucky census, W. half of county, Roll M653_363, p. 353, family of Isaac F. Sisco, dwelling 371, family 371,
[9] Declaration for an Original Pension of a Mother, No. 299.777 of Martha Lewis, mother of James Lewis, testimony of H.C. Hill, 11 December 1886.
[10] Declaration for an Original Pension of a Mother, No. 299.777, Schedule of Property 1866 - 1873, by D. Woods, Clerk of Crittenden County Court.
[11] Declaration for an Original Pension of a Mother, No. 299.777, Declaration of Martha Lewis, 11 December 1882.
[12] Kentucky Death Certificate #9494, Florence Bell Asher, died 8 March 1941 Crittenden County,
[13] "Mrs. F.B. Asher Buried at Dunn Springs," obituary of Mrs. Florence Belle Asher, Crittenden Press 14 March 1941.

Published 26 July 2018, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

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