Friday, September 18, 2009

Comstock Family OOPS - Ephraim's Wife, a Goodman Brick Wall

Ephraim Comstock's third wife, Nancy Goodman, is one of my sturdy brick walls. From Comstock-Haggard and Allied Families, compiled by Mary Jane Comstock, Adams Press, Chicago, 1973, is my beginning information about Nancy,
"Nancy Goodman was reared in Graves County, KY. She was, according to family stories, half-Indian. The tribe usually named is Choctaw but so far there is no proof of any kind. Graves County was formed in 1823 but the court house burned in 1887. In 1840, there were four Goodman families in that area, W. E., Hardin, Y. E., and E. L."
A date of death as 24 May 1855 was also given, but no birth date and no date or place for her marriage to Ephraim.

The above quotation is full of errors and faulty research. First the Indian story. Graves County, Kentucky was not a likely location for Choctaw Indians. It was part of the Jackson Purchase of 1818 - from the Chickasaw. I had a DNA test for racial indications and I was 100% white European - seemingly not one drop of Indian blood - and Nancy was my three great grandma. It is true that her son, Elijah Thomas "Tom" Comstock, my gg grandfather, did claim to be "part Indian". He was also known to have embellished stories considerably. The claim of Indian blood does not seem to exist in the family lines of Nancy's other children.

The courthouse did burn in Graves County, KY - in fact has had three major disasters. Tax records have survived and there were Goodmans living there in the 1820's, about the time Ephraim & Nancy married. But it's also true that other Goodmans were in Maury County, TN at the time of the marriage, and that's where this couple married, not in Kentucky. There were in fact a number of Goodmans in Maury County in 1820 - I'll describe them in another post. By the time of their marriage, Ephraim, charged and sentenced for forgery, had been declared "not of the Commonwealth of Kentucky."

There is no proof that Nancy came from Kentucky at all. I do not believe she did, although Ephraim had previously been in Kentucky. In 1850, Nancy stated she was born in South Carolina! I found the marriage of Ephraim Comstock to Nancy Goodman in Maury County, TN, 14 Oct 1823. The article in the Comstock book above did say that Ephraim had once lived in "Murray County" a name which does not exist. Bondsman for the marriage license was Robert Bates, for whom there is a marriage to Mahala Goodman, 25 Apr 1819, also in Maury Co TN. A William Goodman was their bondsman. "Mahaly" Bates was widowed by 1840, living in Williamson Co, TN. In 1850, she was still there and married John Hargrove soon after that; Mahala stated she was born in South Carolina. Both Nancy Comstock and Mahala Bates indicated they could not read or write - they seemed to have had no contact after Nancy's marriage. Certainly they did not live in the same places at the same time. But I strongly suspect Mahala was Nancy's sister.

In 1830, Ephraim and family was living in Carroll County, Tennessee. They were not easy to find as his name is scrunched up and nearly unreadable - the family makeup fits his profile, however. This census record in this location, as well as the marriage record in Maury County, seem to have gone unfound by other Comstock researchers. Enumerated next to Ephraim Comstock in 1830 is an older Nancy Goodman!

The older Nancy Goodman's household looked like this: 1 male under age 5, 1 male 10-15, 1 male 15-20; and 1 female 20-30, 1 female 50-60 [old enough to be mother of Nancy and Mahala and some of the other children listed; the boy under five could even be the child of the 20-30 year old and be a grandson]. I never found this lady again after 1830.

There was also a John Goodman, age 40-50, with his family, living in Carroll County in 1830; I've never been able to find anything else about him.

By 1840, Ephraim Comstock and family were living in Perry County, TN. One hopes his frequent moves were not because of continuing problems with debt and the law. There were Goodmans living in Perry County. None of the Comstocks were in Tennessee other than Ephraim - it's doubtful his siblings knew of his whereabouts since he was "wanted" in Kentucky and had left a wife there as well. I have researched the other Goodmans in Perry County and so far have come up emptied handed as far as any connection to Nancy. I do feel that there is at least a reasonable chance Nancy was kin to some of these Goodmans - in 1860, after the Comstocks were gone to Missouri, Mahala Goodman and her second husband John Hargrove had moved to Perry County.

In the 1850 Perry County TN census, it's apparent that Ephraim has died and Nancy Comstock is head of household, age 44. Within a few years, Nancy, her married daughter Caroline Comstock Randal, and all of Nancy's sons moved to McDonald County, in the southwest corner of Missouri. Caroline had a family Bible - recorded in it were dates for Nancy Comstock, born 2 Jun 1805, died 24 May 1855. No locations are stated but it is most likely Nancy was there in McDonald County with her children at the time of her death.

It isn't likely that the names given to the children of Ephraim and Nancy would furnish hints to Nancy's family. Ephraim was given to rather fanciful names - he had named his son by his second wife, Napoleon Bonaparte Comstock. Nancy's children were:

1. Caroline Zelpha Ann Comstock, b. 14 Apr 1823 [Date is from her Bible and she appears to have been born six months before the marriage of her parents.] Caroline married William Riley Randal in Perry County TN. She died 17 Feb 1909 in Chautaugua County, Kansas

2. Hugh Bonaparte Comstock, b. ca 1827. Hugh married Elizabeth Rebecca Weeks in Perry County TN. Elizabeth died right after they arrived in Missouri, leaving two young sons. Hugh remarried, but died in 1856. The second wife left for Colorado. The boys were raised by their Comstock kin.

3. Leander Brown Comstock, b. ca 1828. Leander married Nancy Forguson, also while they were still in Tennessee. He died in Greene County, MO, 1877, leaving a large family.

4. William Decatur Comstock, b. ca 1832, married Hannah Mahurin in 1854 in McDonald County, Missouri. He was shot and killed in January of 1864, while home on leave from his unit in the Confederacy for the pending birth of his 4th child. The child was born three weeks after his death and named William Josephine, even though she was a girl.

5. Warren Harris Comstock, b. ca 1834, married Manerva Schell in McDonald County. Warren died in Feb of 1864. He was in a Confederate Cavalry unit. I have never been able to discover the cause of his death - whether he died from wounds or disease. He left a young daughter, Mary, or Nancy, her name found both ways.

6. James Irving [Erwin, later in life] Comstock, b. ca 1837, married Mary Elizabeth Stamps in Missouri. They lived in Kansas - were there for the 1870 and 1880 censuses. They had seven known children. Mary Elizabeth died after the 1880 census and before James moved back to Missouri, Cedar County, about 1890. James was murdered, poisoned, in October, 1893. He had married again, in December of 1892 to Margaret E. "Mag" Petty who had been married twice before. Mag's sister, Minerva Petty Wallace also was poisoned and died at the same time. Minerva was apparently an innocent victim who stopped by for dinner that night. Mag's son Sterling Brasher was accused and tried for the murder, but was acquitted.

7. Elijah Thomas "Tom" Comstock, b. 22 Dec 1838, was my great, great grandfather. He married Miranda Brown, 17 May 1859, in McDonald County, MO. After the Civil War they lived in Texas, but moved to Crawford County, Arkansas, prior to the 1870 census. Tom homesteaded there and he and Miranda, along with other members of the family, are buried in the family cemetery on that homestead location. Tom died 29 Apr 1917, outliving all his siblings.

8. Harvey Alexander Comstock, was b. ca 1841, in Tennessee, as were all his siblings. His name is sometimes seen as Harry or even Henry, but I believe that's when his name has been mis-read. Harvey married Eliza Grant. They were living in Cooke County, TX in 1880. He is said to have died in 1882, Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory [Oklahoma]. There were three children, at least one of whom was still living in the Chickasaw Nation in 1900.