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.  

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tracking Mental Illness in a Family

With a Masters in Clinical Psychology, I am always fascinated when noting mental illness in old records.  I have found clues in census readings, family stories, pension records, old letters, and sometimes, just by viewing pictures of a person. I have an interest in tracing back when possible, different diagnoses. For instance, there seems to be a fairly strong thread of dementia and/or Alzheimer’s in my Murphy family. I haven't begun to actually trace it back, however.

I have probably done the most genealogical research on my Adamson family. From the beginning, I noticed that an 1850 census for William Adamson in Crittenden County KY included his his twenty year old son, James Adamson, as "Idiotic” and living with him. Years later in my research, I found that William's son, Aaron Adamson was listed in the 1850 Harrison County IN census living with his aunt.  He was listed as "Insane". I found it is quite striking that two of William Adamson's sons are labeled with mental illness in census readings.

Aaron Adamson's son, Moses Thompson Adamson, was my great-grandfather. He was described by my grandfather as lazy, never working a day in his life, etc. Apparently after his service in the War of the Rebellion, he never held a job. He lived to age 79.  One of his obituaries ended with this line: "His experiences in prison affected his health throughout his life.". Another obit read: "On December 31, 1862, he was taken prisoner at Stone River, and months of confinement in prison affected his health from which he suffered throughout his life.".  It seems that the family felt compelled to try to explain him and his behaviors.

When I got his pension papers from the National Archives, I began going through them very carefully. He clearly had times where his mental difficulties were exacerbated. As I kept studying his life, I noticed that whenever a child of his died, his symptoms appeared to worsen.

Looking over the extent of his life, Moses' father died around 1850 when Moses was 12 years old. It appears that shortly around that time, two of Moses' younger sisters also died. I haven't found any trace of Moses from 1850 until he enlisted in the War at age 23 in 1861. In December of 1862, he was taken prisoner and spent time in a POW prison. Upon release from prison, he began to complain of severe head pain, and was diagnosed with disease of the brain. While he was home on furlough in April of 1863, he married Lydia Ann Bullard (see picture), and then returned to his unit. In September of 1863, he was wounded in his hand at the Battle of Chickamauga. One of his cousins, William Adamson, was killed there the same day. One can only imagine what that whole battle scene must have been like. It appears that Moses was hospitalized from Sept. 1863 until he was discharged in October 1864. It seems unlikely that he would have been hospitalized for over a year for a hand wound, so I wonder if his stay was related to his mental health. Just speculation.

After his discharge from the Army, Moses returned home to Olney, Illinois and remained there until his death in 1917. His first child, a son, Robert Aaron Adamson,was born in August 1864, just 2 months before Moses was discharged from the service.

Moses and Lydia Adamson went on to have a total of 12 children. Shortly after Moses and Lydia's youngest child died, they took in a toddler and raised her also.  By this time, Moses and Lydia were close to sixty years old.  Sadly, eight of their twelve children died young.

1865-son Robert Aaron died at 8 months old
1878-son Riley C. died at 4 months old
1881-daughter Lydia Maud died at 12 months old
1884-daughter Bertha L. died at age 14
1884-son John died at about 20 months old
1888-daughter Mary Ann died at age 20
1893-daughter Margaret died at age 18
1896-son Homer died at age 9

It seems that Moses had great difficulty dealing with each death. Certainly the War would have made that struggle worse, but millions of men were able to come through the War experiences and go on to live productive lives. Moses just didn't seem to have it in him. Pension records indicate that the family was never able to leave Moses home alone. After I learned that Moses' father, Aaron Adamson, had been listed as "Insane" it certainly led me to consider a genetic factor playing out in Moses.

Of the four surviving children of Moses and Lydia Adamson, I have not learned of any instances of mental illness, so the gene may have played out, or perhaps was given to some of the eight children who did not survive. Of course, I only really know of my grandfather (son of Moses and Lydia) and his children. I need to try to connect with descendants of my grandfather's siblings to further this research. So far no madness has presented!

Interestingly, from my research in the Adamson family, I have found some other instances closely related to Aaron Adamson's family of origin. As I said earlier, two of William Adamson's sons were listed in census readings with mental illness. Another of his sons, Robert Adamson, had a son (Robert Ellsworth Adamson) who was declared Insane and was committed to the Illinois State Hospital for the Insane in 1894. Robert had another son, Andrew Jackson Adamson, who also appeared to be quite unstable.

It would be so interesting to be able to learn more about the children of William Adamson. He had 11 children (that I know of), but not a lot is known about most of them. Who knows what madness lurked among the family all those years ago?