Who Was Margaret E. Carpenter, First Wife of Henry Harrison Dills?

I have many, many recent ancestors from Macon County, North Carolina, and because those ancestors tended to live near one another, there’s a lot of overlap between families. Henry Harrison Dills and his wife, Henrietta Rosette Nichols, are cases in point. H. H. was an elder brother of my ancestor Samuel Marion Dills; both were sons of Henry and Susan (Stratton) (Furr) Dills. Henrietta was the daughter of Wesley and Susan (Nichols) Nichols, and the niece of my ancestress, Amy (Nichols) Ledford.

I’ve been working on H. H. and Henrietta’s family, and while doing so, I retrieved the records of H. H.’s first marriage. Fortunately, there are three different records for this marriage: the marriage bond, the marriage license, and the minister’s return, all part of Macon County’s loose marriage records as held by the North Carolina State Archives in Raleigh.

I say fortunate because each record gives different information. “H. H.” Dills, with J. F. “Nicholds” for surety, applied for a marriage bond on 18 March 1865, to guarantee that there were no lawful obstructions to a marriage between H. H. and “M. E.” Carpenter. The marriage license, which officially authorized the marriage, was issued on the same day, and gave the parties’ names as “Henry H” Dills and Margaret E. Carpenter. The minister’s return gave the actual date of marriage, 20 March 1865, and the name of the officiant, W. H. Conner, M. G. (minister of the gospel).1 The richness of these records emphasizes the need to locate original records, or good copies thereof, rather than relying solely on indexes.

Who was this Margaret Carpenter? Not knowing her age, which was not reported in the marriage records (nor required to be), I searched the 1860 U.S. census for Macon County and found a Margaret E. Carpenter, age 20, living with Margaret Carpenter, age 66. The elder Margaret was the widow of William Carpenter. William and Margaret were also ancestors, and I’ve discussed their family before, in a post about finding Margaret’s date of death and in a post titled Who Were the Parents of Margaret Carpenter, born about 1840?.

The latter post has particular bearing on the identity of Henry Harrison Dills’ first wife, as I believe that Margaret E. Carpenter was, in fact, the Margaret Carpenter born about 1840 who appeared in the household of William Carpenter’s widow, Margaret, in the 1850 and 1860 U.S. censuses. The Margaret who was born circa 1840 was of the right age to have married in 1865, and she lived in a section of Macon County that was very near to H. H. Dills’ home in Cartoogechaye.

There’s just one problem: there was another Margaret Carpenter who lived in Macon County at that time, and who was about the same age as Margaret E. Carpenter. The “other” Margaret Carpenter was Margaret M. Carpenter, born about 1841, the presumed daughter of David and Sarah Matilda (Ballew) Carpenter, and the likely granddaughter of William and Margaret (McConnell) Carpenter, which would make Margaret M. Carpenter the niece of Margaret E. Carpenter. (As they were of a similar age and lived near one another, the two Margarets were likely childhood playmates.) Margaret M. Carpenter is believed to have been the Margaret “H.” Carpenter who married Thomas Rhodes in 1864.2

Are you confused yet?

Both Margaret E. and Margaret M. appear to have died not long after their respective marriages. Thomas Rhodes remarried in 1865 to Margaret M.’s younger sister, Martha A. T. Carpenter.3 Henry Harrison Dills married Henrietta Rosette Nichols in 1871;4 I have not yet been able to find him in the 1870 U.S. census. Margaret M. Carpenter was not named in her father’s estate records; Margaret E. Carpenter, if she was, indeed, the illegitimate child of Margaret (McConnell) Carpenter by George Wikle, would probably not have been named in any estate records of her parents. (I would have to check the exact laws in force at the time to be certain, but it was usual for illegitimate children to be legally ineligible to inherit, although the laws did evolve and relax over time.) In other words, it’s going to be difficult to sort out the two Margarets. But, with further research, it might just happen, and I can add these marriage records to the growing list of documents that could help determine the identity of Margaret, the possible illegitimate daughter of Margaret (McConnell) Carpenter.

* * * * *

1. Macon County, North Carolina, Original Marriage Bonds, Henry H. Dills to Margaret E. Carpenter, 1865; NCSA, Raleigh; NCSA microfilm publication C.061 60002.

2. James E. Wooley, Macon County, North Carolina, Marriages, 1829 – 1939 (Easley, S.C.: Southern Historical Press, Inc., 1984), 112.

3. Ibid.

4. Macon Co., N.C., General Index and Revised Marriage Register, Man, From 1828 to 1942: 97, Henry H. Dills to Henrietta Nichols, 1871; Register of Deeds, Franklin. The original marriage records appear not to be extant.

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