Friday, October 15, 2010

James McGregor's Will

Back in August I blogged about my James McGregor brick wall and mentioned that I had sent away to Macon County for his will and probate records.  Well, the packet arrived a couple of days ago and I was very pleased with the wealth of information, and number of surprises, it contained.  As to the big question about James' origins, the documents didn't contain even a hint of an answer.  They did, however, reveal some details about James' life that were previously unknown to us.

The first document in the packet was James' will, handwritten on the 3rd of February, 1914 - the day before he died.  It was obviously written by someone else's hand, for James' scratchy signature is at odds with the rest of the handwriting on the page.  The will revealed the expected - dissolution of his estate, with the proceeds distributed among his children Robert Lee, James, and Opal - but the valuable information began to be revealed immediately.  We learned that James' (the son) middle name was Pleasant, after James' (the father) father-in-law.  We also learned that Giddie Calhoun was actually James' third wife!  Until now, nothing we'd found mentioned previous wives - or children.  The will revealed both.

First mentioned was Mary Jane Jenkins, with whom James had a daughter named Mary Jane McGregor.  Digging through Missouri records online I discovered their marriage in 1882 and Mary Jane's birth in 1884.  Sadly, Mary (Jenkins) passed away on September 14th, 1884, at the age of 21.  While the record of her death attributes the cause to malarial fever, the proximity to her daughter's birth leads me to think that complications from that event at least contributed.  With the loss of the 1890 federal census it's hard to say if James' baby girl lived with him or her maternal grandparents. What is certain is that in 1900, according to the census, Mary was indeed living with her grandparents in Lingo Township, Macon County.  I suspect it wasn't very long before she went to live with them because....

Wife Number 2 came on the scene.  James married Emma Bundren on June 16, 1886, in Macon County.  With Emma he also had a daughter, May.  I could find no birth record for May, but additional contents of the probate packet places her age in 1896 at 8 years.  Those additional papers are the divorce decree issued in Arapahoe County, Colorado on February 25th, 1896.  Did James spend time living in Colorado?  It turns out that he did not, but his wife certainly did.  The same year that her divorce from James was granted, she married a man named William Baer - in direct violation of the divorce terms which stated that neither party was to marry within one year.  James married Giddie Calhoun on Christmas Eve 1897, but Emma's circumstances seem shady.  William Baer was also from Missouri, so there's circumstantial evidence to believe that the two ran off to Colorado.  It would certainly be interesting to know the whole truth of the matter.

There are many more documents and other interesting tidbits of information contained in the probate records, but this post has become quite long so I will share the rest in subsequent installments.

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