Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Rachel Griffith and Josephus Miller 1888

Our civil war researchers have found the following information about Thomas Griffin who fought with the 130th Illinois Infantry, Company I as a Private:
Thomas Griffith was born about 1836 in Kentucky.  He married Rachel Stivers on July 3, 1856 in Fayette County, KY.  A daughter Mary was born the next year in Kentucky.  Thomas, Rachel, and several of their neighbors moved to Lawrence County, IL around 1857.   A son Joseph was born in Lawrence County in 1858 and another son William was born in 1861.
On September 9, 1862 Thomas enlisted in Company I of the 130th Illinois Infantry as a Private for three years, giving his residence as Sumner, IL.  He was mustered in on October 25, 1862 at Camp Butler near Springfield, IL.  While in the service he contracted Measles, then Pneumonia, and was sent to Overton Hospital in Memphis, TN where he died on April 7, 1863.

Rachel applied for a widow’s pension on June 18, 1863.  She was granted a pension of $8.00/month commencing on April 8, 1863.  She was granted an additional $2.00/month for each child on March 19, 1868.

But there is more to this story, as learned from the Lawrence County Court Records:
Next door to Thomas and Rachel lived Josephus Miller and his wife Elsa. Josephus was 49 in the 1860 census and Rachel was 25. About the same time that Rachel received word that her husband had died, Josephus’ wife also died. ( At least she wasn't shown in the 1870 census.) Rachel had a hard life, left with three little children under 7 years old to raise, even though  she did receive a widow’s pension from the government.   Josephus was one of the wealthiest men in the neighborhood and may have been her landlord.  Well, one thing led to another and……….

Lawrence County Circuit Court February 1889
Mrs. Rachel Griffith of Bridgeport filed a complaint against the estate of Josephus Miller and William C Miller in the Lawrence County Chancery Court and stated that in the year 1863 she became a widow by reason of the death of her husband Thomas Griffith who died at Memphis Tennessee while engaged in the service of the United States in the year 1863.  Soon after the death of her husband Josephus Miller who at that time was a near neighbor to her began paying his addresses to her and continued to do so during the following years until about the month of November 1868 he made proposals of marriage to her.
Because she thought he would marry her, she was induced by his repeated requests to have illicit connections with the said Josephus Miller, and as the fruit of said illicit cohabitation there was born to her on the 12th day of August 1869 a son known as James Robert Griffith. 

As soon as she had arisen from her bed of sickness,( i.e.childbirth)  she went to see the said Josephus Miller and demanded that he fulfill the promises made to her and  consummate their marriage.  He asked her to wait a while, but she threatened to Institute proceedings for bastardy against him. He told her if she would not prosecute him,  he would make provisions for the child which had been begat by him and repay her for its support during its minority and that at the time of his death he would make provisions for the child and her out of his estate.

She accepted said agreement and believing Josephus’ promises she labored hard and bore the care of raising and providing for this child. Although a poor woman and barely able to support herself as she alleged in her court documents, she, by her own industry and economy cared for and protected the child. She made frequent demands  on Josephus Miller for payment and  contributions to help her but he invariably deferred the same to some time later. He allowed her to build a house on his land and gather her fuel from his woodlot but other than this, told her that when he died, she would find that he had made ample provision out of his estate for her and the child, to repay her for all her care and labor.

Sometime in November 1888, a short time before his death, she went to his house and again asked him if he intended to carry out his contract that he had made years before and he again ratified and affirmed that he would make ample provisions to take effect at his death out of his estate. At the time the child was born Josephus Miller was a man of considerable means and from then until  his death had acquired and accumulated a great amount of property including land and  different sorts of personalty. On the seventh day of August 1888 he transferred to William C Miller his real estate in section 20 Township three Range 12 which deed Rachel contended was made to defraud her.

In November 1888 Josephus Miller departed this life, intestate leaving no Last Will and having made no provision for Rachel or the child as agreed upon between them.  William C Miller took possession of what remained at the death of Josephus Miller and converted it to his own use, according to Rachel.  The court agreed that this wasn’t right, and awarded her $2000.