Who Were the Parents of Margaret Carpenter, born about 1840?

A while back, I posted the joyful news that I’d found Margaret (McConnell) Carpenter’s year of death among her late husband’s estate records. Margaret has always been a bit of a mystery. Like many women of her era, her history remains hidden by a society that considered her to be an extension of her husband and not necessarily a person in her own right. Parts of her life can be pieced together from land, court, and census records, but parts remain unknown, and may always remain so.

One aspect of her life that I’ve always been curious about is her appearance in the 1850 U. S. census with, in addition to several of her younger children, a girl named Margaret Carpenter, who was born about 1840 in Macon Co., NC, where the family lived.1 Many researchers believe the younger Margaret was the youngest child of William and Margaret (McConnell) Carpenter, but court records may paint a different story.

William Carpenter wrote his will on 7 January 1836, naming his wife, Peggy, and children David, Bolivar, Humphrey, Henry, Benjamin, Jackson, Caroline, Aveline, Amy [Ann], Sally, and Matilda. He did not name, as some did, any child with which his wife might then be pregnant.2 William died before 15 June 1838 when the executor of his estate, Jacob Palmer, “returned into Court, the settlement between himself as Executor, and Lewis Vandyke, Alexander Palmer & John Howard, the Committe appointed by [the] court on behalf of the Estate.”3 There is a gap in the court records from 16 February 1836 to 11 June 1838, right during the time when William died and court records might help narrow the date of his death.

And the date of his death might be important to resolving the issue of young Margaret Carpenter. In the 23 January 1841 minutes of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions, a small mention was recorded of a case, State and Marg. Carpenter vs. Geo. Wikle for Bastardy, wherein Margaret applied for support, presumably for an illegitimate child, and the court granted the “usual allowance.”4 The microfilm copy of the court minutes was poor, and in several sections the minutes were illegible.

I know of no other Margaret Carpenter living in Macon County at that time other than the widow of William Carpenter, Margaret (McConnell) Carpenter. Was she, in fact, the Margaret Carpenter who sued George Wikle, the putative father, in 1841 for the care of her illegitimate child? Was that child young Margaret of the 1850 U. S. census? Or was she, indeed, a late child of William and Margaret who was in utero at the time of his death, and whose age was reported slightly off in 1850?

Fortunately, there is another records set I can turn to for answers, the Bastardy Bonds for this county held by the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh. I’m hopeful that those will help illuminate the relationship between the individuals involved, and I can at last lay the issue of young Margaret’s parentage to rest.

* * * * *

1. 1850 U. S. census, Macon County, North Carolina, population schedule, Tennessee Valley, page 367 (stamped), dwelling 654, family 699; digital images, Ancestry.com (accessed 18 January 2013); NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 636.

2. Macon Co., NC, Will Book 1: 14 – 16; North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh. I originally copied the will when it was still held by the Superior Court in Franklin. The early estate records have since been moved to Raleigh.

3. Macon Co., NC, County Court Minutes Book 3 (1838 – 1855): 10; NCSA, Raleigh; NCSA microfilm publication C.061 30001.

4. Macon Co., NC, County Court Minutes Book 3: 129.

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