These are the facts:
- Sarah Jane Daugherty/Dougherty married Cornelius W./C.W. Feather(s) in Ritchie County, Virginia on 12 December 1861. She was nineteen.
- On 25 November the following year, she bore a son, Aldine.
- C.W. fought and died in the Civil War, leaving Sarah a widow with a child before she hit thirty. From the record below, you can see Cornelius/C.W. registered for the draft in 1863. His gravestone conflicts with this, saying he died in 1861, but the date on the original stone is illegible. C.W. lived and registered for the draft in Ritchie County, and both the grave markers and place of the skirmish where he is supposed to have died are in Calhoun County, which borders Ritchie, so the idiosyncrasies don’t bother me. Also, the stone with the 1861 date is clearly modern, which makes its date suspect.
- Sarah Jane’s brothers also fought in the war — George and John Wesley for the Union side, and Jacob for the Confederacy.* All three returned safely.
- Tragedy struck again in 1866 when Sarah Jane’s younger brother, John Wesley, was killed by an accidental gunshot to the head.
- Also in 1866, her older brother, George, married Matilda Scott, the sister of the man who would become Sarah’s second husband. (The wedding registers for both marriages confirm this, listing parents’ names.)
- In 1869, Sarah Jane married her second husband, Amos M. Scott. The 1880 census shows them living with Aldine and four more children in Murphy, Ritchie County, West Virginia. If we believe findagrave.com, they had three more children who didn’t live past their second birthday. The 1900 census backs this up. Actually, it says Sarah Jane was the mother of eight children, with only four living.
- Sarah Jane died of cancer in 1901. She was 59.
Hers was a short life filled with much tragedy, and I share it for several reasons.
The first is to show that it takes very little imagination to see how seemingly dry historical records — the census, birth and death records, grave markers — can document both joy or — as was more often the case for Sarah Jane — sorrow.
That census record alone is enough sadness for a single life. Eight children, four living — add in the rest, and well, there are no words for such sadness.
The second reason I chose to write about this particular story to illustrate how tangled a family tree can become as you climb its branches.
I caught Sarah Jane’s branch while searching for information on one of my 2x great grandmothers — her sister Elizabeth. I’d run out of clues on Elizabeth and so turned my attention to her siblings, hoping their records might garner additional information on their shared parents.
When I found the registry of Sarah Jane’s first marriage, I also recognized her groom’s name. Cornelius/C.W. is the brother of one of my other 2x great grandmothers, Ida Francis Feather(s). This would make Sarah Jane something like my double 2x grand aunt.
You can practically hear those tree branches tapping against each other.
But the main reason I’m telling you about Sarah Jane is because to me, these records say she didn’t give up.
After being left a young widow with a small child, she lived through the strife of having brothers on opposite sides in a terrible war, then lost one to a horrible accident.
Still, she forged forward, marrying again and beginning a new family.
She birthed eight more children, burying four before they reached the age of two. A husband, a brother, and four children — for many people, these losses would cause a self-protective hardening of the heart. And yet, fifteen years later — just a year before she died — Sarah Jane and Amos had taken in his younger brother and two sisters to raise (documented in 1900 census).
So, maybe Sarah Jane Daugherty/Dougherty Feather(s) Scott wasn’t famous. My guess is even she probably would have said she was just a girl from rural West Virginia.
And that, my friends, is why I wrote this post.
Some documentation for Sarah Jane’s story
*History of Ritchie County: With Biographical Sketches of its Pioneers and Their Ancestors, and with Interesting Reminiscences of Revolutionary and Indian Times, c. 1911, Lowther, Minnie Kendall, p. 268