Friday, December 12, 2014

The Mystery of Harriet

Ever since I started looking into the Henry Chester family, I've been puzzled as to why there was no gravestone for his first wife, née Harriet Perry, in the Chester Cemetery. Obviously their marriage had ended — he did take a second wife — and the usual way of ending marriages in those days was death.

It took some detective work by one of Henry's descendants, Linda Pearson, to establish that Henry's first marriage had likely ended in the unusual way: divorce.

We knew that Henry had married Harriet, daughter of Ezekiel Perry of Porter County, in 1859. But Linda has tracked down a biography of Sylvester Casbon (whose fine brick house we have already seen), which states that after his first wife died in 1868, Sylvester married again, to "Miss Harriet Perry, daughter of E. Perry." Per the Indiana Marriage Collection, Sylvester married Emmeline H. Perry on October 21, 1869; I guess we know what the "H." stood for.

Back in 1913, when Henry's will was being contested, I was mystified by the mention of "Mrs. Etta Wood" as a daughter of Henry, since I had never seen, in census or newspaper article, any daughter named Etta. However, Linda points out that there is a Henrietta Chester in the 1870 census, in the household of Sylvester Casbon:

2014-12-12. 1870 census Casbon
(Click on image to enlarge)
Image from

Unlike later ones, this census does not help us by listing each person's relationship to the head of the household. But now we can deduce that Henrietta was Sylvester Casbon's stepdaughter. Her age means that she was born circa 1862, too late to appear in the 1860 census, where we find Henry and Harriet and their two small daughters, Mary (who went on to become Mrs. Marchant), and Olive (who died in infancy and now rests in Chester Cemetery). "Etta," then, is likely short for Henrietta (but at present I can't explain any Wood connection).

The marriage of Sylvester and Harriet ended in the usual way, and a lovely stone marks Harriet's grave in Mosier Cemetery.

2014-12-12. Harriet Perry Casbon
(Click on image to enlarge)
Image courtesy of Linda Pearson.

Henrietta Chester went on to marry a Charles Stroman, according to the 1918 marriage certificate of her son, Martin:

2014-12-12. Stroman marriage certificate
(Click on image to enlarge)
Image courtesy of Linda Pearson.

Martin Stroman was Linda's grandfather; he was also described by the Hobart News in 1913 as the son of Mrs. Etta Wood, who was the daughter of Henry Chester.

I'd like to know how the surname Wood got in here, but otherwise I'm convinced we've solved the mystery of Harriet. Many thanks to Linda Pearson, History Detective!

1 comment:

Linda Pearson said...

Thanks Rosalie. Loved the story you blogged today. If by some chance you hear from anyone who knows the connection to the Wood name, please keep me posted.

Linda Pearson