Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Scandal in the Family

John Brubaker, my 3rd great grandfather, was born May 19, 1819 in Perry County, Ohio and is the son of Martin Brubaker and Nancy Neel. He passed away on February 8, 1879 in Huntington County, Indiana.

John was the father of William Brubaker (1843-1912), my 2nd great grandfather, but he was not married to William's mother, Sarah Foster (1818-1904). The family story goes that John had two girls pregnant at the same time but he married the "other" girl who was a cousin to Sarah.

John married Catharine Clum on March 18, 1843 in Perry County, Ohio. Less than four months later, their daughter Annetta was born on July 8, 1843.

It is highly likely that John was not aware that Sarah Foster was pregnant at the time he married Catharine since William was born on November 20, 1843 - eight months after his marriage.

In 1849, John and Catherine Brubaker moved from Perry County, Ohio to Rock Creek Township in Huntington County, Indiana. He purchased land from his father, Martin, who had bought the land in 1838. No evidence has been found to substantiate claims mentioned in biographies of several of his sons that Martin actually ever lived in Huntington County. John's brothers Samuel and James joined him in Huntington County within the next few years.

The Huntington County census records for 1850 through 1870 show that John was a farmer. With each census year his family grew, as did the value of his personal and real estate. John did quite well for himself. In 1870 his real estate was valued at $6765 and his personal worth was $1100, both sizeable amounts for the time.

John's obituary was published on February 13, 1879 in The Huntington Democrat (Huntington, Indiana).
After a long affliction Hon. John Brubaker was called from his labors among men. On last Sabbath his mortal remains were placed in the silent grave by a large concourse of mourning friends and sorrowing neighbors. The history of Rockcreek township is incomplete without the mention of his work. He settled there in 1849, twenty nine years ago. He, with twelve others, built the first school house in the district where he died. John Henderson, Geo. Bear, James Marshall, William Heindle, James Bonawits and Samuel DeHaven are of that number. Mr. Brubaker has been identified with all enterprises tending to improve the material interest of our county. At the October election of 1866, he was elected county commissioner, performed the duties of his office with fidelity and to the very best interest of our county. He was a thrifty, enterprising farmer. He was a man whose integrity no one doubted. He will be greatly missed in the community. One by one the old pioneers are passing away. Their toils and sacrifices will live in history. Peace to their ashes.
Catharine Clum was born on March 4, 1822 and died March 8, 1877 in Huntington County, Indiana. She is buried beside John at the Barnes Chapel Cemetery in Rock Creek Township. Regarding the family story that Catharine was a cousin of Sarah Foster: I have not found evidence of that but I do think that Catharine was related to George Parkison, whom Sarah married on March 28, 1849 in Perry County, Ohio.

John Brubaker had twelve children with his wife, Catharine Clum. (They will be listed in a separate post.) William Brubaker is not mentioned in John's will so it is not known if William had a relationship with his father or not. In both the 1850 and 1860 census records, William was listed in the household of his step-father and mother, George and Sarah Parkison, under the Parkison surname. In the 1870 census he is listed in their household as William Brubaker. When William enlisted, at the age of 17, in Co. E, 17th IVI on April 21, 1861 he did so as William Brubaker. George Parkison, in his will dated June 10, 1902 stated "It is my will that said William Brubaker, although he is my step-son only, shall take his equal share as hereinbefore and hereinafter set out, the same as if he were my son by blood."

My grandmother knew that her grandfather, William Brubaker, was an illegitimate child, or "born out of wedlock" as she stated so often. Grandma started researching her families in the 1960s and continued into the 1970s. Early on, she had no luck in finding out anything about William's father. But in February 1970, grandma received a letter from a great grandson of Nancy Jane Brubaker Kemp, daughter of John and Catharine. We'll call him Don. He had gotten her name from a researcher in Illinois! Mind you, this was back in the days of snail mail, where connections were still made between researchers, but at a much slower pace than is done today.

Don's letter gave some family information and stated that he thought Nancy's father, John, was a son of Martin Brubaker of Perry County, Ohio. This was exciting information for my grandmother, as it gave her some clues to pursue. I found it interesting, that in her response to Don's letter, grandma states that she remembers "Aunt Jane Kemp" as well as Nancy Jane's brothers, Thornton and Samuel. She goes on to state that she attended several Brubaker family reunions in Huntington when she was a young woman. She mentions that her grandfather is William Brubaker and that he was a brother to Nancy, Thornton and Sam.

Having gone through all of grandma's papers, several times, I have not found another letter from Don. But in May 1970 grandma writes to him again, replying to his letter (the one I don’t have). In her letter she tells Don the story she was told by her parents and Uncle Thornton's family. The story about John getting two girls pregnant, etc. saying "I wish that I knew more about the way this was handled, but my grandfather took the Brubaker name and was always friendly with the half brothers." Apparently the information in Don's letter (the one I don’t have) convinced her that her grandpa William was the son of John Brubaker. She says "I was not sure of the name, as I am sure now from your records, this has helped me very much." Why didn't she keep those letters and records he sent?

About this same time, grandma made contact with another Brubaker researcher, Kenny Fawley. I don't know the details of how they hooked up (possibly through the sign-in sheets at the Allen County Public Library) but Kenny is married to my first cousin, Caroline. Weird, huh! Her mother and my father are siblings. Kenny is my 5th cousin once removed and our common ancestors are Hans Jacob Brubaker (the 3rd) and his wife Elizabeth Steinweg/Stoneroad. She may be the subject of a future post as Kenny has an interesting story about her surname. Kenny was able to provide my grandmother with information on the parents and other ancestors of John Brubaker. He made her very happy! (Thanks, Cuz.)

As you might think, there can be a stigma (for lack of a better word) attached to being a descendant of an illegitimate child. Not so much from my point of view. That's life, those things happen. If he hadn't been born I wouldn't be here. I am delighted that he was born! And it doesn't bother me in the least that my 2nd great grandfather was born out of wedlock. But apparently it bothers descendants of the children of John and Catharine. I've been in contact with several of them over the years. Each time it starts out fine, until they begin to think that I'm not part of "their" John's family. One lady was putting together a history of the Brubaker families in the area. We exchanged information. The book was printed. But William and his family were not included. I never received a response from her regarding my inquiries as to why.

So, what evidence, or clues, lead us to the "fact" that William's father was John Brubaker?
  • The missing letter from "cousin" Don that satisfied my grandmother.
  • After her parents, Charles Romain Brubaker and Maud Catherine Wise, were married in February 1897 (against the wishes of Maud's parents) they went to live near relatives in Huntington for a year or so.
  • In the photograph of grandma's family at the Goose Lake Farm, Uncle Thornton Brubaker is sitting on a tree stump off to the left side of the family.
  • The obituary of Martin Brubaker published in the Columbia City Post of November 13, 1908 states: "William Brubaker of near Etna was called to Rock Creek township Huntington county Saturday by the death of his brother Martin Brubaker."
  • William's obituary published on January 27, 1912 in the Columbia City stated that he "is survived by two brothers, Samuel, of Fort Wayne, and Thornton, of Huntington, and one sister, Mrs. Wm. Kent [sic], of Huntington"
But the one thing that my grandmother didn't do (and I don't know why she didn't) would have provided sufficient evidence of the name of William's father. She didn't check the Whitley County death records. Why not? I'll never know. . .


His death records found at the Whitley County, Indiana Department of Health (Bk 2A pg 55 #19-12 AND City Book 1 pg 14 #4-12) clearly show the name of his father as John Brubaker. His mother is given as Sarah Fosler (the clerk had a habit of not crossing his t's). The images above are from Bk 2A, click on them to view a larger image.

1 comment:

  1. Becky,
    What an interesting history! I can't wait to read the next post on this family. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete

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