The 1806 Administrator Bond for the Estate of William Johnson Sr. (1755-1805)

Over the years I’ve received several inquiries for help from women wanting to join the Daughters of the American Revolution. Many want to prove lineal, bloodline descent from my fifth great-grandfather William JOHNSON Sr. (1755-1805), a Revolutionary soldier, who died in Kanawha County, (West) Virginia.

I have few records for William JOHNSON Sr. which were created during his lifetime or immediately following his death. While checking into new records available online at FamilySearch, I found a record which has not been alluded to in compilations or family trees I’ve viewed.

Did William JOHNSON Sr. (1755-1805) leave a will?

I recently found the Administrator’s Bond for the estate of the late William JOHNSTON (sic).1 His son John applied for the bond which is dated 9 April 1806 a little over three months after 22 December 1805, the date of death many researchers show for William in their family tree.

1806 Administrator Bond for the Estate of William JOHNSON

The Administrator’s Bond for the estate of William JOHNSTON, p. 122

Know all men by these Presents that we John Johnston Henry Morris & Charles Woodey King are held and firmly bound unto David Ruffner William Morris Henry Brown & Fleming Cotts Gentlemen Justices now setting for the County Kanawha. In the penal sum of one Thousand dollars to be paid to them or their Successors and for the payment we bind ourselves our heirs Executors or Administrators Jointly & severaly by these presents sealed with our seals and dated this 9th day of April 1806.
The Condition of the above Obligation is such that whereas the Said John Johnston hath Obtained letters of Administration of the Estate of William Johnston Dec out of the County cour (sic) of Kanawha. Now if the said John Johnston Administrator of the goods chattels & credits of the said Deceased do make a True and perfect Inventory of all & singular the Goods Chattels & credits of the Said Deceased which have or shall come into the hands, Possession or Knowledge of him the said John Johnston as in the hands or Possession of any other person or persons for the said John Johnston and the same so made do exhibit unto the County Court of Kanawha when he shall be Thereunto required

The Administrator’s Bond for the estate of William JOHNSTON, p. 123

by the said court and such goods chattels & credits do well and Truly Adminestor according to Law, and further do make a Just and True Account of his actings and doings therein when thereto required by the said Court and all the rest of the said Goods and Chattels & credits which shall be found remaining upon the account of the said Administrator the same being first Examined and allowed by the Justices of the said court for the Time shall Deliver and pay unto such persons respectively az are entitled to the same by Law; and if it shall hereafter appear that any last Will and Testament was made by the Deceased and the same be Proved in Court and the Executor Obtain a Certificate of the Probit thereof and the Said John Johnston do in such case being required render and deliver up his letters of administration then this obligation to be void else to remain in Force and Virtue.
Acknowledged in Open Court……………………..John Johnston Seal
Teste…………………………………………………………….Henry S. Morris (his mark) Seal
A Donnally Ckl…………………………………………….Chs. W. King Seal

The bond was acknowledged in Open Court however no date was given. The entries before and after the bond were entered during Kanawha County April Court 1806. The bond itself was dated 9 April 1806.

William JOHNSON did not leave a will

The wording of the bond indicates William JOHNSON did not leave a will. This is unfortunate as a will might have included the names of his children. A document desperately sought after by descendants who are trying to prove descent from this Revolutionary War veteran.

John JOHNSON’s obtaining letters of administration of the estate of “William JOHNSTON” is suggestive of a relationship but not proof John was his son.

The consensus is William JOHNSON Sr. died on 22 December 1805. An early source with this date is Ross B. Johnston’s articles on West Virginians in the Revolution2 written between 1939-1947. Per the front matter in the republished work, “the sources of this material are notes from the files of the Pension Office at Washington, from the pension applications in West Virginia counties, and from the minute books of the older West Virginia counties, copied by W. P. A. workers on the project sponsored by the West Virginia Commission on Historic and Scenic Markers; from notes of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Sons of the American Revolution, Sons of the Revolution, and other patriotic societies; and from a large miscellaneous group of published and private sources.

I placed a query to the Fayette County West Virginia Genealogy group on Facebook asking for help with a reliable source for the date of death. Lucy Light Slaich who applied and was accepted to the DAR in 2010 through William JOHNSON did not need to prove his date of death. She indicated Mr. Johnston’s article on William JOHNSON in the 1998 reprint, was originally published in the April 1943 issue of the West Virginia History journal. The compilation which was used by prior applicants is no longer accepted by DAR.

Not satisfied, I continued to sift through information which has been collected over the years and found a 1911 publication which gives the dates of death for William JOHNSON and his wife Amy NELSON.3 Laidley in his compilation of representative citizens of the city of Charleston and Kanawha County wrote an article on Julian M. JOHNSON (1847-1932), a great-grandson of William JOHNSON through his son William JOHNSON Jr. This is the earliest source, although not primary, I have for the dates of death of William and Amy.

Did the estate generate other records?

While the administrator bond was found in the “Record of deeds, 1790-1946” collection, I turned to the “Court record book, 1803-1880” collection in search of entries about William JOHNSON’s estate in Kanawha County.

As William supposedly died on 22 December 1805, I checked entries in 1805 and 1806. The court was held on the 12th and 13th of November 1805; 11th day of February 1806; 11th day of March 1806; 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th day of April 1806; 13th of May; and 10th day of June. Little business was taken care of during the winter months. By April business had picked up and the court was held four days instead of the usual one or two days. It was in April when John JOHNSON made a motion to obtain an administrator bond for the estate of his father.4

Motion granted for administration

County Court record book entry for 9 April 1806
County Court record book entry for 9 April 1806

On the motion of John Johnston who made oath and together with Henry Morris, Charles W. King his securities entered into & acknowledged their bond in the penalty of $1000 conditioned as the law directs certificate of administration of the estate of William Johnston dec’d granted him in due form.

Appraisal of personal property ordered

Immediately after the bond of administration motion was granted another entry was made referencing the estate of William JOHNSON. (see image above)

Ordered that Edward Rion, Edward Hughs, James Sims & John Campbell (or any three of them) being first sworn before a Justice of the Peace for said do appraize the Personal property of the said William Johnston decd and return appraisement to the next court.

From entries during the year in the court orders as well as in the land books (which include personal property tax lists of the period), I was able to determine Edward RION should be Edward RYAN.

Interesting was the mention of James SIMS as one of the four men who were ordered to appraise the personal property of the deceased William JOHNSON. James and William were neighbors. Three of the JOHNSON children married three of the SIMS children:  Susannah JOHNSON  and Martin SIMS in 1800, John JOHNSON and Elizabeth SIMS in 1802, and William JOHNSON Jr. and Nancy Ann SIMS in 1814. I was not expecting to find a record for James SIMS who like William JOHNSON was my 5th great-grandfather.

Further searches in the collections available for viewing online on FamilySearch did not turn up the appraisement of the estate.

Finding the bond documents William JOHNSON died before 9 April 1806 and likely during the winter of 1805. Is it possible there is a family Bible in the home of one of his descendants which would prove the dates given in Laidley’s 1911 article?

I have a few more records for William JOHNSON and Amy NELSON which I’ll be sharing. Recent discoveries which I have not had time to evaluate. It would be nice if other descendants would join in on the fun and share records they’ve uncovered. Together we can do a better job researching these ancestors.

© 2019, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.


  1. Kanawha County (West Virginia) County Clerk, “Record of deeds, 1790-1946” (non-indexed images), FamilySearch (Microfilm of original records at the Kanawha County courthouse, Charleston, West Virginia.), Film # 008152450, Deed books v. C-D 1805-1817, Deed Book C, page 122-123, image 69 of 582. 9 April 1806 Administrator’s Bond for John Johnson for the estate of William Johnson.(https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-CSKV-KSNR-L?i=68&cat=56556 : accessed 26 April 2018). 
  2. Ross B. Johnston, compiler, West Virginians in the American Revolution (Baltimore, MD: Clearfield Publishing Co, 1998 (originally published in the West Virginia Archives and History’s journal West Virginia History from October 1939 to October 1947 as West Virginians in the Revolution)), p. 151. (https://books.google.lu/books/about/West_Virginians_in_the_American_Revoluti.html?id=_mg1bCpc1KAC&redir_esc=y : accessed 8 September 2019) 
  3.  William Sydney Laidley (1839-1917), History of Charleston and Kanawha County, West Virginia and Representative Citizens (Richmond-Arnold Publishing, Chicago, Illinois, 1911), page 979. “William Johnson, Sr. died on Gauley December 22, 1805. His wife lived until December 23, 1837.” Article on Julian M. Johnson, great-grandson of William Johnson and his wife Amy. (https://archive.org/details/historyofcharles00laid/page/978 : accessed 8 Oct 2015). 
  4. Kanawha County (West Virginia) County Clerk, “Court record book, 1803-1880” (non-indexed images), FamilySearch (Microfilm of original records at the Kanawha County courthouse, Charleston, West Virginia.), Film #521643, DGS #8613717, Record book v. 3 1803-1819, image 178+179 of 857. Administrator Bond and Order to Appraise estate of William Johnson, dec’d. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C34Z-SSJ3-N?i=177&cat=295049 : accessed 8 October 2015). 

D-I-V-O-R-C-E : Sarah Jane Foster vs John W. Clonch

It’s a complicated story

John W. CLONCH married Sarah Jane FOSTER on 20 February 1862 in Gallia County, Ohio. A judge of the Probate Court of Gallia County issued the marriage license. They were joined in marriage by Robert WORH, a justice of the peace. The marriage record does not include the names of parents.1

Their first child, a son William Alexander was born on 2 October 1862.2 A year and a half later, about April 1864, a daughter was born. By this time the marriage was already in trouble and divorce was the next step for Sarah.

This post includes the chancery records found by Ralph L. Hayes in Mason County’s courthouse over two decades ago.3 He was kind enough to share them with me and gave me permission to use them.

Dramatis personae

These are the persons who played a part in the chancery case Sarah Jane FOSTER vs John W. CLONCH in 1864:

  • Sarah Jane FOSTER , age of 21, married John W. CLONCH also 21 on 20 February 1862. She was the plaintiff (oratrix) in this case.
  • John W. CLONCH , the oldest son of William CLONCH and Mary E. DOSS, and husband of Sarah Jane FOSTER . They married in Gallia County, Ohio. He was the defendant in this cause.
  • John W. FOSTER assumed to be the father (or brother) of Sarah Jane and seen as the next friend in this cause.
  • Sarah DEWITT, a young lady of about 24 years who was questioned as a witness.
  • Peter DEWITT, a man of 36 years who was questioned as a witness.
  • William Alexander CLONCH, the two-year-old son of John W. and Sarah J.
  • Lavinia PATTERSON, also known as Lavinia DOSS (her mother’s surname) and Lavinia CLONCH (her father’s surname). She was a sister of John W. and Alexander and wife of James William PATTERSON. She was a witness.
  • Rebecca LEMASTER, sister of Mary Ellen CLONCH. She was one of the persons implicated in the questioning of the witnesses.
  • Mary Ellen CLONCH née LEMASTER, the wife of Alexander CLONCH. She was no longer living with him and having an affair with John W. CLONCH.
  • Alexander CLONCH, the second son of William CLONCH and Mary E. DOSS. He married Mary Ellen LEMASTER on 10 November 1863. He is not named in the proceedings but referred to as the husband of Mary Ellen.
  • William CLONCH and Mary E. DOSS, parents of John, Alexander, and Lavinia. They were never married and their children were known by both surnames.
  • James DEWITT and Rebecca ATKINSON, parents of Sarah and Peter who were witnesses. It was at their house in the Clendenin township that some incidents took place.

Iudex, advocatus, et notarius publicus 

The judge, lawyer, and public notary who were mentioned in the proceedings.

Daniel Haymond POSLEY (1803-1877) was a judge of the seventh judicial circuit of West Virginia. Before this chancery case, he was the Lieutenant Governor of the Restored Government of Virginia (the Unionist government of Virginia during the Civil War) until two weeks before West Virginia became a state. After this chancery case, he would go on to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1866, serving from 1867 to 1869. Mr. Polsley was the judge for this case.4

Benjamin J. REDMOND was a Notary Public born in 1840. During the war between the States, Mr. REDMOND served the government as provost marshal of Mason County. After this chancery case, from 1868-1870, he served as a justice in the Robinson district followed by four years as president of the Mason County court.5

William H. TOMLINSON, an attorney at law who questioned the witnesses for the plaintiff.6

 

 

Joseph S. MACHIN, a Notary Public for the county and state and a Master Commissioner for Chancery for the County of Mason.

Vinculo matrimonii

The Chancery Records concerning the divorce of Sarah Jane CLONCH from John W CLONCH.

To the Honorable Daniel Polsley Judge of the Circuit Court for Mason County Humbly complaining thereto unto your Honor your oratrix Sarah J. Clonch wife of John W. Clonch, who sues by John W. Foster her next friend that she is now twenty four years old at the age of twenty one she left her fathers house, and was married to the said John W. Clonch and since that time has been to him a constant, faithful and dutiful wife and has borne him two children to wit: William A. now two years old and an infant daughter three month old. Her husband on the other hand has been negligent and insufferable abusive and violent to her within the last two years frequently beating and choking her for no cause whatever on her part. he has left his house and home taking with him her oldest child and living in adultry with another woman, your oratrix further alledges that he has been seen in the bed with his own brothers wife and has failed to furnish support to your oratrix and her child that she is obliged to labor for their entire support, or they would come to starvation. The only property owned by your oratrix and her husband is the household and kitchen furnature and one horse, the most of which your 


oratrix brought from Her Father’s and helped him to same. To the end therefore oratrix prays that the said John W. Clonch may be made a defendant to this bill and acquired to render a full true and perfect answer to the same upon his corporal oath; that he may be enjoined and restrained from interfering with or in any maner (sic) molesting her and her child that is with her; that your Oratrix my (sic) be entirely divorced from him and the marriage be dissolved (two lines marked out) that he may be compelled to deliver up her child to her and to surrender to her and them for the maintenance of herself and her children The property aforesaid mentioned; and for such other and further relief as her case requires, and to equity may seem meet; May it pleas (sic) your honor to grant & @ And your oratrix will ever pray & @

West Virginia Mason County to wit This day Sarah J. Clonch, personally appeared before me B. J. Redmond N.P. and made oath that the allegations in the above bill are true to the best of her remembrance information and belief.

Given under my hand this 18 day of July 1864
B. J. Redmond N.P.


Sarah J. Clonch
vs In Chancery
John W. Clonch

This cause came on this day to be heard upon the bill, the exhibits filed and examination of witnesses and was argued by council for the plaintiff. On consideration whereof the Court being of opinion that the plaintiff is ? ? ? ? ? ? ? (marked out: all the allegations in the bill mentioned against the defendant and fully ?) doth adjudge order and decreed that the marriage heretofor solemnized between Sarah J. Clonch and John W. Clonch be and the same is hereby dissolved and the said Sarah J. Clonch is forever divorced from her husband. The said John W. Clonch X (in the right margin: X and it is further a? ? that the complainant is entitled to the care and custody infant children in the bill mentioned and that) (text marked out: and all the right title and interest of the said John W. Clonch in or to the household and  kitchen furniture shall belong to the said Sarah J. Clonch and the two children in the bill mentioned shall remain in the care and custody of the said Sarah J. Clonch) the said John W. Clonch do surrender up the said William A. Clonch (marked out: infant son) to the care and custody of the  said Sarah J. Clonch and that the plaintiff recover from the defendant her costs by her expended in the prosecution of this Suit


Cover sheet for the depositions in the chancery record

Sarah J. Clonch
vs …….De?ed
John W. Clonch
Sept Term 1864

 

 

 

 

 



The depositions of Sarah Dewit and others taken before me Joseph S. Machin, a Master Commissioner for Chancery for the County of Mason and State of West Virginia pursuant to notice hereto annexed at the office of Wm. H. Tomlinson in the town of Point Pleasant on the 15th day of August (fold in document may have a missing line) and 6 o’clock p.m. to be read as evidence on behalf of Sarah J. Claunch in a certain suit in equity depending in the circuit court for the County of Mason wherein Sarah J. Claunch is plaintiff and John W. Claunch is defendant.
Present Wm. H. Tomlinson attorney for plaintiff, Sarah Dewit, being duly sworn on the Holy Evangelist of Almighty God, deposeth and saith as follows:
1st Question by Wm. H. Tomlinson for defendant. What is your age?
Answer – I do not knew exactly, but think I am about twenty four years of age.
2nd Question – By same. Do you know the parties to this suit?
Answer – Yes Sir, I do.
3rd Question – By same – Did you ever see the defendant, at your mother’s house in company with Rebecca Lemaster on or about the first day of July 1864, and if so, state how long they were together at that place and under what circumstances?
Answer – I saw them there together, they set up all night together.
4th Question – By same – While they were setting up together state whether he was laying


in her lap or her in his, and whether he was hugging her or what they even doing?
Answer – She was laying in his arms.
5th Question – By same – Was there a light in the house or was there note?
Answer – Sometimes there was a light and sometimes none.
6th Question – By same – Was it a light given by the fire or candle?
Answer – It was given by fire.
7th Question – By same – Who put out the light?
Answer – I do not know.
8th Question – By same – How often have they been there together at your mother’s house?
Answer – They were there together occasionally but do not remember how often.
9th Question – By same – Did you ever see them hugging and playing together at other times than the one answered?
Answer – Yes, I have seen them playing and romping together.
10th Question – by same – Was Mrs. Claunch his wife present at either of these times?
Answer – No Sir, she was not.
11th Question – By same – Did you ever see John W. Claunch and Mary Ellen Claunch, his sister-in-law passing by your mother’s house with his arms around her, and hers around him?
Answer – They were going along after dark, as well as I could see hugged up together, and this I think occurred during the Spring of 1864.
And further this deponent saith not.
………..her
Sarah + Dewit
……….mark


Peter Dewit, being duly sworn, on the Holy Evangelist of Almighty God, deposeth and saith as follows:
1st Question – By Wm. H. Tomlinson attorney for the Plaintiff. What is your age?
Answer – I am about thirty six years of age.
2nd Question – By same – Are you acquainted with the parties to this suit?
Answer – Yes Sir, I know them.
3rd Question – By same : Were you at your mother’s house at anytime when John W. Claunch and his brother’s wife were there together, and if so, state under what circumstances you saw them?
Answer – I think I never saw them there together.
4th Question – By same – Did you ever see John W. Claunch the defendant to this suit within the last year hugging and kissing any other other (sic) woman other than his wife?
Answer – I saw Rebecca Lemaster setting on his lap mighty close together and he was hugging her, and this happened after night.
And further this deponent saith not.
……..his
Peter x Dewit
…….mark

Lavinia Patterson, being duly sworn, deposeth and saith as follows:
1st Question – By Plaintiff’s Counsel. What is your age?

Answer – I am eighteen years of age.
2nd Question – Was you at home one night


within the last year while your brother John W. Claunch defendant to this suit was complaining of being unwell, and if so did you see Mary Ellen Claunch his sister-in-law go to bed to him?
Answer – I seen her lay down on the same bed with him, and they were then together about one hour.
And further this deponent saith not.
…………her
Lavinia x Patterson
………..mark

State of West Virginia
Mason County, to wit:
I, Joseph S. Machin, a Notary Public for the county and state aforesaid, so hereby certify that the foregoing depositions were duly taken, sown to and subscribed before me at the times and place mentioned therein.
Given under my hand, this 15th day of August 1864
Joseph S. Machin Master Commission
in Chancery

Costs:
Sarah Dewit witness 1 day 0.50
Peter Dewit witness 1 day 0.50
Lavinia Patterson witness 1 day 0.50
Ferriages each 10 cents 0.30
Jos. S. Machin Comm. charges 2.25
Total $4.05

This is a true statement of costs
Jos. S. Machin, Master Comm.
August 15/64


The Chancery case was recorded in the orders book of Mason County for the September Term of 1864.7

In Chancery
Sarah J. Clonch
vs
JohnW.Clonch

This cause came on this day to be heard upon the bill, the exhibits filed and examination of Witnesses and was argued by counsel for the Plaintiff on consideration whereof the court being of opinion that the plaintiff is entitled to the relief prayed for: doth adjudge order and decree that the marriage heretofore Solemnized between Sarah J. Clonch and John W. Clonch be and the same is hereby dissolved and the said Sarah J. Clonch is forever divorced from her husband the said John W. Clonch: and it is further ordered and decreed that the complainant is entitled to the care and custody of the infant children in the bill mentioned and that the said John W. Clonch do Surrender up the said William A. Clonch to the care and custody of the said Sarah J. Clonch, and that the plaintiff recover from the defendant her costs by her expended in the prosecution of the suit.


At the March term of 1865, Sarah J. CLONCH returned to court to have her son William A. CLONCH surrendered to her by his father John W. CLONCH.8

On Motion of Sarah J. Clonch and for reasons appearing to the Court it is ordered that John W. Clonch be summoned to appear here on the first day of the next term to shew cause if any he can [illegible] he shall not be find (sic, fined) and attached for refusing to surrender William A. Clonch his infant child to the custody of its mother in pursuance of a decree of this court rendered at the September term then of 1864.


Sarah J. FOSTER and her son William A. CLONCH

Following the divorce from John W. CLONCH, Sarah disappeared without a trace – at least in the census and records available. Her daughter remains unnamed. Her son William Alexander CLONCH was missing in the 1870 and 1880 census. He did not live with his father. Was he living with his mother who may have remarried?

In any event, the son William A. CLONCH married twice. First to Ellen FOWLER9 and second to his first cousin Emma Sidosa LEMASTER (also known as CLONCH).10 The marriage records do not include the names of parents. Emma was the daughter of Rebecca LEMASTER and Alexander CLONCH. He died in 1925 and left a will naming his wife Emma as his only heir.11 On the death record, his parents were listed as John Wm CLONCH and Sarah FORRESTER (sic).12

John William CLONCH

Following the divorce of Sarah and John, Alexander CLONCH and Mary Ellen LEMASTER separated. They had been married less than a year and did not have children. They were not divorced until March 1880.13

Mary Ellen (still married to Alex) went to live with the newly divorced John W. CLONCH. They had thirteen children between 1865 and 1892. Finally on 7 May 1895 John, 54, and Mary Ellen, 47, married in Gallia County, Ohio.14

In the name of all CLONCH descendants, I would like to thank Ralph L. Hayes for ferreting out the records to back up this CLONCH family story. It sounded fantastic and a bit unbelievable but the records he found in the old dusty unindexed boxes in the courthouse backed it up. How many more stories are hidden away, waiting for someone to tell them?

© 2019, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.


  1. “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013” (index and images), FamilySearch (Digital images of originals housed at the county courthouses in Ohio.), Gallia > Marriage records 1862-1874 vol 3 > image 14 of 276. John W. Clonch and Jane Foster, 20 Feb 1862. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRMD-SKRT?cc=1614804&wc=Q6SP-7R2%3A121350101%2C121498701 : accessed 18 Dec 2013). 
  2. West Virginia Vital Research Records Project (database and images), West Virginia Division of Culture and History (A collaborative venture between the West Virginia State Archives and the Genealogical Society of Utah to place vital records online via the West Virginia Archives and History Web site accessible at http://www.wvculture.org/vrr), Mason County, West Virginia, Birth Register, page 69, line 27. William Alexander Clonch birth record. (http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_view.aspx?Id=2955142&Type=Birth : accessed 15 March 2019). 
  3. Sarah J. Clonch vs John W. Clonch, September Term 1864, Chancery Records of Mason County, West Virginia. Digital images of photocopies of the original records found in the court house by Ralph L. Hayes. Received per email 22 February 2019 from Ralph L. Hayes with permission to share on Opening Doors in Brick Walls blog. 
  4. Daily intelligencer. (Wheeling, Va. [W. Va.]), 15 June 1863. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026845/1863-06-15/ed-1/seq-1/
  5. The weekly register. (Point Pleasant, Va. [W. Va.]), 26 May 1864. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026817/1864-05-26/ed-1/seq-6/
  6. The weekly register. (Point Pleasant, Va. [W. Va.]), 20 Aug. 1863. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn84026817/1863-08-20/ed-1/seq-1/
  7. “Mason County, West Virginia, Circuit Court, Chancery orders, 1831-1929” (database with images), FamilySearch (Microfilm of originals at the county courthouse, Point Pleasant, West Virginia.), Film 1861961, DGS 7615568, Chancery orders, Vols. 1-2 1843-1877 (1 from 469 & 4 to 401 – Back of v. 1 has separate pages of land records), Image 286 of 949, Folio 386, September Term 1864. 1864 Divorce of John Clonch from Sarah Ann Foster.(https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-89VP-7KDF?i=285&cat=660659 : accessed 6 January 2019). 
  8. Ibid., Image 303 of 949, Folio 421, March Term 1865. 1864 Divorce of John Clonch from Sarah Ann Foster.(https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-89VP-7KDF?i=285&cat=660659 : accessed 6 January 2019). 
  9. “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRMD-SV7T?cc=1614804&wc=Q6SP-6T5%3A121350101%2C121651001 : accessed 23 March 2019), Gallia > Marriage records 1884-1890 vol 6 > image 132 of 338; county courthouses, Ohio. 
  10. Ibid., (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9RMD-3J1F?cc=1614804&wc=Q6SP-6BY%3A121350101%2C121580101 : 15 July 2014), Gallia > Marriage records 1890-1895 vol 7 > image 159 of 339; county courthouses, Ohio. 
  11. “West Virginia Will Books, 1756-1971,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:9392-C99Q-BS?cc=1909099&wc=Q816-MLC%3A179687901%2C179798901 : accessed 23 February 2019), Mason > Will book, v. 005 1916-1930 > image 153 of 240; citing Mason County, County Clerk, West Virginia. 
  12. WVCulture.org, William A. Clonch death record details (http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_dcdetail.aspx?Id=2126490 : accessed 29 March 2019) and Death Certificate No. 8914 for William A. Clonch (http://www.wvculture.org/vrr/va_view.aspx?Id=2126490&Type=Death : accessed 29 March 2019) 
  13. “Mason County, West Virginia, Circuit Court, Chancery orders, 1831-1929” (database with images), FamilySearch (Microfilm of originals at the county courthouse, Point Pleasant, West Virginia.), Film 1861962 Item 1, DGS 7615569, Chancery orders, Vols. 4 1877-1880, image 321 of 899, Folio 274 and 275, March Term 1880. 1880 Divorce of Alexander Clonch from Mary Ellen Lemaster. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-99VP-2SNQ?i=320&cat=659762 : accessed 6 January 2019). 
  14. “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013” (index and images), FamilySearch (Digital images of originals housed at the county courthouses in Ohio.), Gallia > Marriage records and index 1895-1899 vol 8. (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-22447-41148-85?cc=1614804&wc=M94Q-VH7:315901437 : accessed 13 Nov 2013). 

Gathering Records to Tell the Story

The stories passed down by descendants who have researched the CLONCH family history are fantastic and a bit unbelievable. Ralph L. Hayes heard of the scandals which went on in the family and shared the stories in mailing lists and genealogy forums on the internet nearly two decades ago. Being a good researcher, Ralph went to the courthouse in Point Pleasant in Mason County, West Virginia, to ferret out the records to back up the family history. He found the divorce of his 3rd great-grandfather “only by going through some OLD dusty unindexed boxes in the courthouse.”

Seeking Documentation

I’ve wanted to find the documents Ralph discovered as the story of the CLONCH brothers is so difficult to believe. Since FamilySearch has added more collections from Mason County to their online records, I’ve been looking for this and that record to better tell the story.

Ralph L. Hayes is my fourth cousin. He descends from John William CLONCH (1840-1919) and Mary Ellen LEMASTER (1847-1921) while I descend from Alexander CLONCH (1842-1910) and Tabitha Ann COOLEY (1861-1913). John and Alex were the sons of our 3rd great-grandparents William CLONCH (1807-1863) and Mary E. “Polly” DOSS (c. 1816-c. 1892).

If you’ve been following recent posts about William CLONCH’s estate, you’ll have learned William and Mary were not married but had eight children, seven grew to adulthood and married, six had children. William kept the family together beyond the grave by leaving a will in which he stipulated the land the family lived on was to remain in the family. Did he know at the time of his death in 1863 that his two oldest sons would become part of an incredible story equal to a primetime soap opera?

I wrote A Little “Peyton Place” (Part I) and A Little “Peyton Place” (Part II) in December 2013 but the posts only recount what Ralph learned while researching and don’t include documentation.

Living overseas and nowhere near the American courthouses of the counties my ancestors lived in, I must rely on record collections found online. FamilySearch’s catalog is my go-to place whenever researching and gathering records to tell their stories.

Two Marriages

1862 marriage entry courtesy of FamilySearch

John W. CLONCH married Sarah Jane FOSTER on 20 February 1862 in Gallia County, Ohio, across the Ohio River from Mason County.1

1863 marriage entry courtesy of FamilySearch

Alexander CLONCH married Mary Ellen LEMASTER on 10 November 1863, also in Gallia County.2

Two Divorces

Neither of the marriages lasted. In the September Court of 1864 John and Sarah were divorced.3 The records of the circuit court in which Ralph found more details are not yet online but I found another mention a few pages further in the Chancery orders4 and in a fee book.5 [Click on over to the links in the citations below to learn why this divorce produced more records.]

Alexander and Mary Ellen never had children even though by 1880 they were legally married a little over seventeen years. To be more precise, they never had children with each other. Alex’s brother John and Mary Ellen had eight children between 1865-1880 and Alex had 3 children with Mary Ellen’s sister Rebecca from 1868-1876. Many online trees list Rebecca LEMASTER as Alex’s second wife. A marriage record was not found in West Virginia or Ohio. Is it possible they were married and the record has yet to be found?

I think not. Alexander was still married to Mary Ellen LEMASTER when her sister Rebecca gave him three children. Alex and Mary Ellen’s marriage was not dissolved until the March term on 1880, when the divorce was mentioned in the Chancery orders.6

1880 chancery order courtesy of FamilySearch

March term 1880

Alexander Clonch
     vs                                          In Chancery
Mary E. Clonch

This cause come on this day to be heard upon the bill, exhibits and depositions filed therewith and the process having been duly served upon the defendant and she still failing to appear answer or demur to plaintiffs bill and the cause set-for hearing and was argued by counsel on consideration of all which the court is of the opinion that the

1880 chancery order courtesy of FamilySearch

plaintiff is entitled to the relief prayed for in his said bill, it is therefore ordered, adjudged and decreed that the marriage heretofore solemnized between the plaintiff and defendant be dissolved and annulled and the plaintiff forever divorced from his said wife from the bonds of matrimony and that she be forever barred of dower in any lands the plaintiff had or now has or hereafter has and the plaintiff recover from the defendant his costs including a fee of ten dollars as prescribed by law in and about his suit in this behalf expended and that execution issue therefor & c.

Importance of the Records

Why was finding this record so important to me? Five months after the above divorce, on 19 August 1880, Alexander CLONCH married Tabitha Ann COOLEY, my great-great-grandmother. They were the parents of nine children, six of whom married and had children, including my great-grandmother Rebecca Jane CLONCH (1888-1950). Also with the above record I have proof for the part of the story which goes:

The marriage was dissolved, Mary did not appear and she does not get her dower and must pay costs.

One document at a time, the complete story may one day be told.

Genealogy Sketch

Name: Alexander CLONCH
Parents: William CLONCH and Mary E. “Polly” DOSS
Spouse: Tabitha Ann “Tobitha” COOLEY
Parents of Spouse: John COOLEY and Sarah Ann TREADWAY
Whereabouts: Mason and Fayette, West Virginia
Relationship to Cathy Meder-Dempsey: 2nd great-grandfather

1. Alexander CLONCH
2. Rebecca Jane CLONCH
3. Myrtle Hazel ROOP
4. Fred Roosevelt DEMPSEY
5. Cathy Meder-Dempsey

© 2019, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.


  1. “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013” (index and images), FamilySearch (digital images of originals housed at the county courthouses in Ohio), Gallia > Marriage records 1862-1874 vol 3 > image 14 of 276. John W. Clonch and Jane Foster, 20 Feb 1862. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRMD-SKRT?cc=1614804&wc=Q6SP-7R2%3A121350101%2C121498701 : accessed 18 Dec 2013). 
  2. Ibid., Gallia > Marriage records 1862-1874 vol 3 > image 19 of 276. Alexander Clonch and Mary Ellen Lemaster, 10 November 1863. (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9RMD-SVR3?cc=1614804&wc=Q6SP-7R2%3A121350101%2C121498701 : accessed 19 February 2019). 
  3. “Mason County, West Virginia, Circuit Court, Chancery orders, 1831-1929” (database with images), <i>FamilySearch</i> (Microfilm of originals at the county courthouse, Point Pleasant, West Virginia.), Film 1861961, DGS 7615568, Chancery orders, Vols. 1-2 1843-1877 (1 from 469 & 4 to 401 – Back of v. 1 has separate pages of land records), image 286 of 949, Folio 386, September Term 1864. 1864 Divorce of John Clonch from Sarah Jane Foster.(https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-89VP-7KDF?i=285&cat=660659 : accessed 6 January 2019). 
  4. Ibid., image 303 of 949, folio 421, March Term 1865. 1865 John W. Clonch ordered to surrender his child William A. Clonch to the mother Sarah A. Clonch.(https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-89VP-7K6Z?i=302&cat=660659 : accessed 6 January 2019). 
  5. “Fee books, 1804-1881” (database with images), FamilySearch (Microfilm of originals at the West Virginia University Library, Morgantown.), Film 174649, DGS 7616441, Fee Book 1859-1867, 1859-1869 1860-1866 1862-1868, image 76 of 425, page 62, bottom of page. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L9VR-Z4TY?i=75&cat=248082 : accessed 6 January 2019). 
  6. “Mason County, West Virginia, Circuit Court, Chancery orders, 1831-1929”, Film 1861962 Item 1, DGS 7615569, Chancery orders, Vols. 4 1877-1880, image 321 of 899, Folio 274 and 275, March Term 1880. 1880 Divorce of Alexander Clonch from Mary Ellen Lemaster. (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-99VP-2SNQ?i=320&cat=659762 : accessed 6 January 2019). 

Rewriting the Biography: The James SIMS Tract of Land – SOLD!

On Monday, I finally found the land deed for the sale of the James SIMS property in Nicholas County, West Virginia. The land he bought from John JONES in 1800 on Little Elk Creek in what was then Kanawha County.

If another researcher has found it before me then it has been a well-kept secret.

The transcription of the partition suit filed in 1848 seeking to have the court provide for the sale of the 125-acre farm was helpful in naming the children of James SIMS.1 It was found among Virginia Bondurant Johnson’s application papers for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR).

It is not a transcription of the entire proceedings of the chancery case. It has errors. For example:

…James Sims, the father of your orators and oratresses departed this life on the ___day of ___1836 intestate and leaving no widow…

James did not die in 1836. I have since found records proving he died after 12 August 1845 and before 10 March 1846. See my post: Rewriting the Biography: When Did James Sims Die?

The Keys to Open the Door in this Brick Wall

FamilySearch is adding new collections at a faster rate. I’m always checking the catalog to find new material to search through. Nicholas County Order Books for Chancery and Law are online. Unfortunately, Law orders volumes 1-5 (pre-1871) are missing at the courthouse and not in the FamilySearch collection.

There is a general index to law and chancery records for plaintiffs and for defendants for the years 1818-1944. An index can be found in the front or back of each order book. It must be noted that some entries in the order books were indexed under the name of the instrument (Admr., Bill of Sale, Inventory, Bond, etc.) instead of the surname making it difficult to use the index. So as to not miss anything I skimmed through the entries in the order books searching for familiar names during specific time periods.

I found entries which appear to concern the proceedings in the partition suit from 1851 to 1855. If the suit was filed in 1848 why am I not finding entries for 1848-1850? I was not expecting to find records from 1853 to 1855 as, at the end of the transcript of the partition suit, this line was included:

The matter was finally settled in the spring term of court 1853. It sold for $183 and the costs approximated $160, thus leaving about $22.50 to be distributed.

I saved the entries, noting the page number and the FamilySearch link to the image, and will be adding the source citations to my database. I compared the page numbers of the entries I found to the page numbers in the index of the book and of the general index – they match. I did not find any entries which were not in the index.

From the entries, I discovered who the grantor and the grantee were as well as the year the sale of the land owned by the deceased James SIMS was finally recorded.

On the first read-through the entries, I became aware that there must have been a bit of wheeling and dealing going on. Interesting! Now I would love to get my hands on the entire chancery case.

With the names of the grantor and grantee, I was able to locate the deed transferring the land to the new owner on the Nicholas County, West Virginia County Clerk’s website.

I couldn’t keep this wonderful find to myself but I won’t be sharing the records today. I believe I’ve left enough clues. It’s up to you to try and solve this if you want to see the records before I get around to writing about them in depth.

© 2018, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

WOW!! James SIMS Land Tract SOLD!!

  1. Eve Hughes, e-mail dated 13 June 2001. This information was passed to her by another researcher. I am still trying to find the original record from which this transcription was taken.