Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Beeks line: Jason Wheeler 1765-1843, some thoughts

Jason Wheeler is one of the brick walls that is driving me crazy.  Most trees out there give a definite date of birth for him, of October 4, 1765, and an approximate death date of 1843, supposedly in Marion County, Indiana.  I have no reason to dispute those dates except that I can't find documentation for them.  My hope is that the birth date came from a family Bible somewhere, and that someone seeing this will contact me with more information. 

So the only real thing I have to go on is his birthdate, and the fact that the 1850 census shows his widow, Patience, or Palina possibly, as having been born in Vermont.  So the 1791 census (called the 1790 census on Ancestry, but it was taken a year later than the rest of the country) shows a Jason Wheeler in Lunenburgh, Orange County, Vermont.  This is the only Jason Wheeler in the entire 1790 census, so I'm going to assume this is our guy.  I have bits and pieces through land records and census records of the rest of his life.  He and Timothy Wheeler (a possible brother, possibly named for Timothy Nash) went to Chenango County, New York and then Jason moved on to Clermont County, Ohio, before the final move to Marion County, Indiana.  The dates and time frame aren't really part of this discussion, because I want to focus on the early years of Jason Wheeler's life-in fact, his earliest years. 

Specifically, I would like to know who his parents were.  Every tree that ventures a guess seems to think his father is Joseph Wheeler, from Smyrna, Cobb County, Georgia.  If someone has proof of this I sure would be pleased to see it, but on the face of it this doesn't seem likely.  Going from Georgia to New York (where Joseph supposedly died) is not a usual migration path, and none of Jason's known children are named Joseph.

Let's leave that name alone for a while and apply some of the thought processes that family historians rely on.  We know that family tended to stay together, so let's look at the other Wheelers in Orange County, Vermont in 1791.   There are quite a few, but the one closest geographically is George, who is in Guildhall, which is basically right over the line from Lunenburgh.  In fact, the two men probably thought they were living in the same town, until a 1786 survey showed that the border was not where the towns thought they were.  George Wheeler's name is on some petitions in 1786 and 1788, and Jason's name joins his in 1788.  George's 1791 census shows that he still has quite a large family, with a total of 10 people in the household.  As a further note, Lunenburgh and Guildhall were each very small communities, with only 16 heads of households listed in each town in that year.  George and Jason are the only two Wheelers here. 

The only record I've found for a child for George is George Junior, who was born in 1773.  That doesn't mean that this was the only child the family had, though.  I've found that George first went to the area that became Guildhall in 1764, as one of a small group of people that also included Timothy Nash and David Page.  These men settled in the area, with George pitching a tent on the south side of Fiske's pond (which I've not yet located on a map; it could be drained by now).  There is a reference to the Wheeler family being there in the early years but it's possible that at least for the first year or two that the family joined George only for the warmer months. 

So who was George Wheeler?  Well, the record for George Junior's birth shows his parents as George and Experience Wheeler.  George Wheeler and Experience Nash (she seems to be the daughter of the Timothy Nash mentioned above, and Experience Kellogg) were married in Shutesbury, Massachusetts on March 17, 1764.  Jason was born about 19 months later.  If we count back nine months from October 4, 1765 we arrive at early January, 1765, a time when it would make sense for the couple to have been together, if George went back to Shutesbury that first winter.  It's an "if", but it may be a reasonable "if".  And if Jason was born in Vermont in early fall, it makes sense that his birth records would either be non-existent due to the pioneer experience, have been lost, or are somewhere in the archives of either New York or New Hampshire, each of which was claiming this land at the time. There are no further records for George Wheeler in Shutesbury, so he must have gone someplace.

George served in the Revolutionary War under a New Hampshire group, in Captain Bedell's company, and again in 1782 in a group credited to Vermont.  I haven't done a lot of digging on the war story because I'm still trying to piece together a timeline and figure out how much sense this idea makes. 

George is in Lunenburgh, now Essex County, in the 1800 census.  He is about the age of 45, so born earlier than 1755, and still has 5 people living with him, plus a woman over 45 who is presumably his wife, Experience.  After that, I can no longer locate a likely suspect to be George.  He may have died between 1800 and 1810, or he may be living in a child's home, but since we don't know the children to check that is hard to determine at this point.  Jason, meanwhile has moved on to Frankfort, Herkimer, New York in 1800 (again, he's the only Jason I can find in the 1800 census).  He is apparently married (best guess for marriage date is 1788 or so) and has six children living in the household.  One of these children is a son named George, born in 1799. 

I have no smoking gun here.  I haven't found a will for George, or estate papers, land records or pension records.  I don't know what happened to him.  I have geographic location, opportunity, and names (some of Jason's children used the name George, also, which may be for George Wheeler, or could be for George Washington)  This is more than I can find for the supposed Joseph.  

What do my genealogy friends think?  Are George and Experience strong possibilities for Jason's parents?  Where else can I look?  I'd sure love to add these names to the Beeks family tree, and start researching George and Experience!  Please email me: happygenealogydancingATgmailDOTcom, or leave a comment!

Here's Jason's line of descent:

Jason Wheeler-Patience
Lucinda Wheeler-John Simpson Aldridge Jr.
Darlington Aldridge-Leah Folsom
Harvey Aldridge-Margaret Catherine Dunham
Cleo Aldridge-Wilbur Beeks
Mary Margaret Beeks-Cleveland Harshbarger
Their descendants