Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Beeks Line: Jackson Wise

Jackson seems to be a sore spot in the Beeks family.  I've been told by more than one person that the Beeks line came from horse thieves and that's why "they never amounted to anything."  First, I beg to differ: Many people in the Beeks line have amounted to something. They've been good people, hard workers, and have provided for their families. If their names won't be found in any history book 100 years from now, so what?  That is the case for most of us; we're just ordinary folks doing our best to make it through life. 

So on to Jackson Wise.  First, the bad news:  He was indeed convicted of burglary in Hancock County, Indiana back in 1847, along with his brother in law, McLain Bodkin.  Jackson was sentenced to 12 years and McLain to 6 years.  I don't know whether Jackson was considered to be the leader in the crime, or whether the judge had compassion for McLean. He lived only a few months in prison, so perhaps he was already ill when he was sentenced.  This was a very short trial and under today's court rules, perhaps the defense attorney could be called incompetent.  However, this was 1847 and if someone thought they could identify the perpetrators of the crime, that may have been the deciding point. At any rate, there are no records of the trial, and the end result was that both men went to Jeffersonville State Prison.

There are two good things that resulted from this conviction. First, Jackson was pardoned in 1854 as is reported in the "Governor's Message Delivered to the General Assembly of the State of Indiana on January 4, 1855."  The language is that he was "Pardoned on the application of the individual upon whom the crime was committed and who were the witnesses for the State, eleven of the jury who tried the cause, the present prosecuting attorney, the clerk treasurer, sheriff, recorder, the Associate judge at the time of the conviction, the Attorney who prosecuted the case for the State, one hundred citizens of Wabash County, where the defendant's family reside, and the principal citizens of the county of Hancock, who were familiar with the transaction, and reside in the area where it occurred-with the statement of the officers of the prison that he has been a faithful and obedient man for the seven years and (f)our months that he has been imprisoned, and that his health is declining."

This seems to me to be a well-orchestrated project. One wonders what had happened that so many people could be found to ask for his release, when no one appears to have step forward at the time of the trial.  Was is a simple case of "let bygones be bygones", or had new evidence come to light that perhaps made the jurors and others involved in the trial have second thoughts?  This is apparently something that we can never know, as further records seem to have been destroyed.

The second good thing that happened, for those of us who care, is that we have a physical description of Jackson Wise, based on his physical when he entered Jeffersonville.  He was a laborer, 30 years old, 5' 10 1/4" tall, dark complexion, blue eyes, and dark hair.  In addition, the back of his head was covered with scars, and the finger next to the little finger on right hand was scared, with the first joint stiff. He also had a "scar in the right groin, just below---".  It is also noted that he was born in Ohio.  There is no entry for the column "former character", so apparently there had been no earlier charges against him. 

There is still a lot I don't understand about Jackson. He married Charity Botkins on March 18, 1836, in Shelby County, Ohio.  Prior to that, it's a mystery. Census records show that both of his parents (unknown at this time) were born in Virginia, but that he was born in Ohio.  According to Find A Grave, his birth date was December 27, 1817 and he died March 4 1893.  His monument at Center Grove Cemetery near Lincolnville in Wabash County, Indiana is fairly substantial, so either he or someone in his family must have had a little bit of money.   Jackson was a laborer when he was convicted, and a retired farmer by the 1880 census, so the comment in 1854 that he was in declining health was probably correct.  He would have been only 62 at the time of the census, which was very young to be "retired". 

Jackson and Charity had three children listed in the 1860 census: Mary, born about 1846, Abel, born about 1851, and Rachel, born about 1857.  I am not sure how Abel came to be, since Jackson was in prison in 1851, but perhaps conjugal visits were allowed.   Sarah had been born earlier and apparently had already left home.  There were probably other children, too, as the 1840 census in Shelby County lists two females under the age of two, but I don't know who they are.  It's possible other children were born in the 1840-1846 time period also.

Besides filling in the gaps in his life, I'd also like to know who his parents were.  My only clue is that he named his (possibly) only son Abel.  There is an Abel Wise in Virginia who married Ann Fitchett in 1776, and it is possible that he is some relation to Jackson.  I need to do more research there. 

If anyone has additional information that could help, I'd love to hear it.

Here's the line of descent:

Jackson Wise-Charity Botkin
Mary Wise-William Beeks
John Beeks-Elizabeth Wise  (a different line, as far as I know now)
Wilbur Beeks-Cleo Aldridge
children-grandchildren etc of Wilbur and Cleo