Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Harshbarger line: Matthew Farmer, mystery

Oh, what a confusing line this is!  There are at least two Matthew Farmers who are mixed up in several trees on the internet.  John Farmer, who is descended from the Matthew who died in St Charles, Missouri has spent probably years trying to separate his Matthew Farmer from the Matthew Farmer in our line, who died in Miami County, Ohio.  Unfortunately for us, it appears that both of the Matthew Farmers spent time in Franklin County, Virginia, which makes it even more confusing.

I am going to present our Matthew from what we know and will try to go backward from there.  We know that he died about September 9, 1835 and is buried at McKendree Church Cemetery, Bethel Twp, Miami County, Ohio.  We know that there is (or was) a DAR marker there, indicating Revolutionary War service, but there is a possibility that this is not correct, as Revolutionary War Service has been proven for the St Charles County Matthew.  I am not finding proof of service for our Matthew Farmer.

From his Miami County will, we know that his wife, at the time of his death, was Margaret.  His children, as listed in his will, were John Farmer, Nancy Mason, Mary Shurrum, Elizabeth Black, and Jane Farmer, the widow of his son William.  (William had died in 1834).   Witnesses were George Williams, Daniel Prilleman and Isaac Shell, none of whom are known to have been relatives.  It is of course possible that there were other children who had died some time prior to the will, before they became adults.

Prior to that, we can find Matthew in the 1830, 1827 and 1820 censuses in Elizabeth Twp, Miami County, Ohio.  He isn't listed in the 1816 tax records for the county, so he may have arrived sometime during the 1815-1820 time period.  This is only a working hypothesis, for if he had no land earlier, and no personal property, he would not have shown up on the records.  His will of 1835 gives widow Margaret the 60 ares of land "whereon I now live", being described as "being in the State of Ohio, Miami County, Elizabeth township in the north part of section one and in the north west quarter of the said quarter".  He would have been an old man if he had arrived by 1820, because we are told elsewhere that he died in the "92nd year of his age", indicating a birth date of about 1744.  So he wouldn't have needed a good deal of land, and indeed, likely couldn't have farmed a large area.

We believe that he was married about 1768, because his son William was born about 1770.  So far, no records have surfaced to show a location for the marriage.  There seem to be two Matthew Farmers in the Franklin County, Virginia area prior to 1810.  One is believed to be the St Charles Matthew, and one may be our Matthew.  The 1810 census shows a Matthew Farmer over the age of 45, but the children mentioned appear to align more closely with the St Charles Matthew. That our Matthew Farmer was in Franklin County is shown by son William's marriage to Jean or Jane Wyatt there, in 1799, with Matthew Farmer listed as surety.

I'm pretty sure that the Matthew Farmer in the 1783 Shenandoah, Virginia tax list is ours. Again, William is listed as being born in Shenandoah County about 1770.  Matthew would have been almost 40 years of age at this time. His assessment was 18 shillings and six pence, based on one while male over 21, 3 horses, and 10 cattle.

That's really the last "sighting" we have of Matthew.  He is listed on a lot of family trees, including ours, as having been born about 1743 in Chesterfield County, Va. I've not found a source for this. The problem I have with that is that Shenandoah County is a long way from Chesterfield County, and there doesn't seem to be an easy way to get from Chesterfield to Shenandoah.  I wonder if we should be looking in Pennsylvania in addition to Virginia for Matthew's roots. 

There have been a lot of suggestions that Matthew's parents were Frederick Farmer and Martha Hatcher, or Frederick Farmer and Obedience Adkins.  One of those couples (or possibly one Frederick with two successive wives) was the father of the St Charles Matthew.  Did the same Frederick have two sons named Matthew?  It wouldn't be the first time that has happened.  However, the name Frederick is not in our Matthew's family, nor in his son William's family.  Unfortunately, for now the location of his birth and the parents of Matthew are still mysteries.

I would love it if someone reading this could share even a tidbit that could help solve this puzzle.
Who was Matthew Farmer 1744-1835, and what is the rest of his story?

Here's the line of descent:

Matthew Farmer-Margaret
William Farmer-Jean or Jane Wyatt
Margaret Farmer-Solomon Eliot Bennett
Mary Bennett-John Harter
Clara Harter-Emmanuel Harshbarger
Grover Harshbarger-Goldie Withers
Cleveland Harshbarger-Mary Margaret Beeks