Sunday, April 18, 2010

How Do You Walk Away From 12 Children? (Allen Adamson)

After writing my blog yesterday regarding tracking mental health in families, I kept thinking about another of my great great grandfather’s brothers.  Allen Adamson was born about 1810 in Tennessee.  In 1835, both he and my great great grandfather, Aaron Adamson, married girls in Edwards County Illinois.  Allen married Elizabeth Saunders, daughter of Thomas and Sarah Saunders.

In the 1840 Edwards County Illinois, Allen and his wife and 3 children are listed.  However, by 1845, one of his children was born in Missouri, and by 1850, Allen and his family (now with 8 children) are listed in Crawford County Missouri (under A. Adsun).

Records were located from December of 1858:

Texas County MO Court Records (Volume 2):
"Friday Dec. 10, 1858:
Estate of Elizabeth Adamson Dec.
The Bond of Peter Sanders as Adms of said Estate is approved and Letters to be issued to said Peter Sanders upon said Estate.

It is ordered by the Court that Peter Sanders be appointed Guardian of the person of Josiah, Isaac, Elijah, John Wesley, Catherine, Mary Ann and Edward E. Adamson, miner (sp) heirs of Allen and Elizabeth Adamson, Deceased."

"Tuesday Nov. 8, 1859
It is ordered by the Court that Alen Adamson aged 17 years and John Wesley Adamson aged 15 years and Josiah Adamson aged 11 years they be bound unto Peter Sanders as apprentices and that the said Sanders enter into articles of agreement for the same.

Peter Sanders administrator of Elizabeth Adamson decsd.
Now at this day comes the administrator and files his inventory and Sale bill for  $45.00 and by the Court ordered to be charged.

Texas County MO Court Records (Volume 2):
Thursday Feb. 7, 1861
Annual Settlement of the Admr of Elizabeth Adamson continued.

In 1860, all of the children were living with relatives of Elizabeth's, indicating that she must have died between 1857-1858.  Her husband, Allen, is listed as living in Crittenden County Kentucky with his father in 1860.

Allen’s wife, Elizabeth, had died.  Her brother Peter Saunders was named guardian of the seven youngest children.  Two of the other boys (along with one of the boys under Peter Sander’s guardianship) were made apprentices.  However by 1860, the twelve children were scattered among six different families (all were with Elizabeth’s siblings, except one who was working on a farm).

So where is Allen?  He is listed as living in Crittenden County Kentucky in 1860 with his father.   That is about 300 miles from Texas County, Missouri where the children all are.  Which would take a week to travel by horseback, give or take.  What is he doing so far away from the children????

William Adamson, Allen’s father, was listed as blind in the 1850 census.  His wife, Polly had died by 1860.  Apparently, Allen went to care for his father.  Crittenden County Deeds show that in August of 1863, William deeded two tracts of land to Allen.

Witnessed that the said Wm. Adamson hath this day for and in consideration of the fact that the said Allen Adamson has taken care of and provided for the said Wm. and has agreed to take care of and provide for the said William Adamson Sr. in a Manner Suitable to his situation in life during the Remainder of his lifetime and the further consideration of his peculiar Kindness to One for the last three years or more and one Dollar(?) by himself.

Okay, so that is all well and good and nice of Allen to care for his father.  However, there are three of William’s children living with their families in Kentucky, and two of his children living in Illinois with their families.  Wouldn’t you think that they would have helped take care of their father?  Why would Allen feel compelled to take care of his father, but not his children?

Added to this, of course, is the War of the Rebellion.  By mid-1862, Allen’s five oldest sons had enlisted to serve in the Confederacy.  Did Allen know, or come to see them?  It’s unknown.  What is known is that only one (Isaac) of the five survived and returned to Texas County Missouri after the war.  Again, I wonder if Allen ever saw him upon his return?

I have located only a couple more records regarding Allen.  It appears that he remained in Crittenden County Kentucky for the remainder of his life.  Five of his remaining children married between 1868-1876.  Did he attend any weddings?  See any grandchildren?  Allen is listed in the Crittenden County Kentucky Tax Records from 1861-1866.  He is not found on any 1870 census, so it seems that he may have died between 1866-1870.  A deed was found from 1877 where his property was sold.

from Crittenden County KY Deed Book N. p 263  FHL 558381:
14 March 1877 J.W. Adamson sells his entire interest in the lands belonging to Allen Adamson known as the homestead of William Adamson, on Adamson Branch.

JW Adamson was Allen’s youngest brother.

What became of Allen’s twelve children?  Most of it is pretty tragic.  They were all raised in homes with their aunts and uncles.  As reported above, four never returned from the War.  The son, who did survive the War married, had three children and was killed in a mining accident in 1880.  Allen’s youngest child, Edward, married in 1875, and reportedly killed himself in 1879.  Two other children married and that is the last that I have been able to find them.  Another two of Allen’s children have not been located after the 1860 census.  Two of his daughters married, had children and lived to ages 80 and 83.  Did they ever know what became of their father?

All this leads me to wonder, how did Allen walk away from his children and seemingly, never return?  Nothing has been found to indicate that any of the children ever went to see him.  He could not read or write, so it is doubtful that there was any mail communication.

I have found researching this family fascinating and disturbing.  The events that happened to this family are so tragic, and yet, probably pretty typical for the times.

Does walking away from children indicate a mental illness?  Not necessarily, but it does lead one to wonder.  Of course, it is impossible to know all of the circumstances involved.  


  1. Again, I am inspired by your article to comment. Similar situation in one of my lines on the 1920 census, except that there were only 3 children - two living with different aunts and uncles, a third with a grandfather, the father living with a niece (!), and the mother, I believe, in a mental institution. The father went on to remarry, but I do not know whether or not the children were ever reunited with either parent.

  2. What a sad story. The father probably thought he was not capable of taking care of all of those children and turned them over to his wife's famaily. Thanks for sharing your story.