Week 34: #52 Ancestors – Non-Population
By Eilene Lyon
The agricultural schedules for the 1850 U. S. Federal Census are of particular interest in researching my eastern Indiana families and their gold rush stories. They’ve also left me with a couple of mysteries. Perhaps you’ll have some insights that might help me solve them.
For Richer or Poorer
It’s interesting to compare the economic situations between the James Ransom family and Henry Jenkins family, because they were closely allied and there were three marriages among their children. Two occurred in 1850, in fact.
In the population schedule, James Ransom, who bought and sold a lot of land in Blackford County, has real property worth $2000. Henry Jenkins claims real property to the tune of $600, and is living in Knox Township, Jay County (just a few miles from the Ransoms). That land is one of the mysteries I’ll get to in a bit.
From the agricultural schedules, we see some interesting disparities between the two families. James Ransom has 76 improved acres and 106 unimproved acres, a total of 182 acres. His farm equipment is worth $60.1 Henry Jenkins has 14 improved and 66 unimproved acres for a total of 80, and farm equipment worth $10.2
Then there is livestock. Ransom has 4 horses, 3 milk cows, 5 other cattle, and 22 swine for a total livestock value of $160. He has no sheep, though he does have 65 pounds of wool.3 Jenkins, on the other hand, has NO horses and only one milk cow. He has 3 sheep and 8 swine. Total livestock value is just $30.4 Given the importance of horses for transportation and working the land, this is a huge difference. In virtually every other agricultural product, the Ransoms far surpass the Jenkinses.
Note, the Jenkinses raise some sheep and have 7 pounds of wool. The family couldn’t afford to buy ready-made clothing. They relied on wool from sheep and linen from flax for their apparel needs. Emma Jenkins reported that she grew up wearing “linsey-woolsey,” a combination of the two fibers. She was also the weaver in the family.5
It’s difficult to imagine Henry Jenkins and his companions traveling through Panama on their way to California wearing wool clothing, but they did. He complained about their discomfort as they approached New Orleans and worried about how much worse it would be in the tropics.6 Surely it must have been dreadful!
Henry’s Mystery Farm
So just where was the 80 acres worth $600 that Henry Jenkins reported to the census taker?
Shortly after moving to Jay County, Henry purchased 80 acres in Penn Township, shown below. The northern boundary of the property is the Salamonie River. In 1840, Henry was being sued for a substantial sum of money, so he mortgaged the property to the State Sinking Fund for $300.7
In 1844, the rivers flooded and incessant rain prevented the farmers in the area from planting any crops. They left their farms in droves and settled in the surrounding towns. They couldn’t give their land away.8 The Jenkins family was no exception, considering their proximity to the river. They moved to Portland, the county seat, and defaulted on their mortgage.
The state tried selling the land every year, but there were no buyers. The land finally sold in 1852, for the mortgage balance of $495.9 Because this Penn Township land had been in foreclosure for years and wasn’t worth the debt on it, I don’t think this could be the land Henry reported in 1850.
In 1850, the Jenkins family was living on the school section (Section 16) in Knox Township, south of Penn Township. The state permitted counties to lease school land to individuals. The leases were good for seven years and required the tenants to make certain improvements, such as planting orchards. They probably leased the land beginning in 1845.10
My efforts to locate the lease has been fruitless so far, so I don’t know how much land the Jenkinses had, but it was probably a small piece. However, it’s clear that they did not own it, therefore it couldn’t be counted as theirs in the census.
In 1852, while Henry was still in California, his family moved a short distance to Section 14 in Knox Township, onto land owned by Robert Hatten. They likely didn’t move until their lease on the school section expired. They settled on an 80-acre parcel that Henry received a deed to when he returned home in 1853.11
Real estate transactions on the frontier were nothing like what we see today, particularly since there were no banks involved. I think it’s possible that Henry purchased the land from Hatten in 1850 or earlier, but because he still owed Hatten money on the transaction, he didn’t receive the deed until he paid off the balance due in 1853.
Therefore, I suspect that this is probably the land Henry reported to the census taker. What do you think?
The Jones Brothers Mystery
I believe that sometime in 1849 James Ransom convinced his two nephews, Benjamin and Samuel Jones, to move from Belmont County, Ohio, to Blackford County. In December 1849 James Ransom purchased the northwest quarter of Section 24 in Jackson Township, 160 acres, for $600.12
On February 17, 1850, James sold the south 80 acres to Samuel Jones for $600.13 The following week, he sold the north 80 acres to Augustus Logan for $300.14 James recorded his purchase deed the same day Samuel Jones recorded his purchase from James. Again, I don’t think that cash actually changed hands in the manner suggested by the wording in the indentures.
The mystery appears in the census record later that year. At the top of this page we see Augustus Logan followed by Dr. Benjamin H. Jones, and then Samuel Jones. All of them report owning real estate.15 But, there isn’t any land between the north and south halves of the quarter section that Augustus and Samuel purchased from James. How could Benjamin say he owned land between the other two?
Sometime prior to December 1853, Dr. Benjamin Jones moved to Camden (now Pennville), in Jay County. He never recorded any real estate transactions in either Blackford or Jay County. In 1860, he reported no real estate holdings.16 In fact, I think he was a typical poor country doctor who accepted most of his fees in agricultural goods. So where was this mysterious land he reported in 1850?
In looking at the ag schedule, we see the same listing order for the three men: Augustus, Benjamin, then Samuel. All three report owning 80 acres. Notice the similar descriptions for the improved and unimproved acreages shown for Augustus and Benjamin.17
Aside from improvements, including buildings and cleared land, I’m not certain why the south 80 acres would be worth double the value of the north 80 acres. Is it possible that Benjamin was an undocumented partner with Augustus in the north 80 acres? And the two men are reporting the same acreage? What do you think?
- Spencer, Jane Ann. 2010. When Grandpa Farmed: A History of Agriculture in Jay County. Jay County Historical Society, Portland, Indiana. pp. 36 – 38. ↩
- Jackson Township, Blackford County, Indiana. 1850 Agricultural Schedule U. S. Federal Census. Microfilm at the Indiana State Archives, Indianapolis. ↩
- Spencer. ↩
- Jackson Township – see note 2. ↩
- Family history records in possession of the author. ↩
- Letter from Henry Jenkins to Abigail Jenkins, March 21, 1851. Collection of the Henry Huntington Library, San Marino, California. ↩
- Jay County Court Order Book A, p. 166 and Jay County Deed Book B, pp. 195 – 197. ↩
- Montgomery, M. W. 1864. History of Jay County, Indiana. Church, Goodman, and Cushing, Chicago. pp. 207 – 208. ↩
- Jay County Deed Book 10 pp. 83 – 85. FamilySearch.org. Downloaded Oct. 17, 2017. ↩
- Henry Jenkins resigned a position as agent for the county in March 1845 (Jay County Commissioners Book A, p. 403), and given that the family likely had a 7-year lease, 1845 is the most probable year for their move to the school section, since they left the property in 1852 (based on family letters). ↩
- Jay County Deed Book J, p. 761. ↩
- Blackford County Deed Book C, p. 263. ↩
- Blackford County Deed Book C, p. 264. ↩
- Blackford County Deed Book C, p. 269. ↩
- Ancestry.com. 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Census Place: Jackson, Blackford, Indiana; Roll: M432_136; Page: 39A; Image: 411. ↩
- Ancestry.com. 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Census Place: Penn, Jay, Indiana; Roll: M653_269; Page: 293; Family History Library Film: 803269. ↩
- Jackson Township – see note 2. ↩