Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Parmenas W. Beckes: His Life and Loves Part 2

In yesterday's post I told you about the researchers quest to discover the name of Parmenas Beckes' wife. Today I provide you with the results.   

The first marriage record we found for P.W. was to Elizabeth Jane Overby in Knox County, Ind. on May 12, 1843. The 1850 census (Knox County) showed Parmenas as head of household with a ‘wife’ named Elizabeth and children - America age 12, Richard age 6, Margaret age 4, and Caleb age 1. Because of America’s age and the date of the marriage to Elizabeth, it appears that Parmenas had been married before. (You can do the math.)  The last three children would be his from the marriage to Elizabeth.

The 1860 census (Knox County) is often confused by the internet genealogists, because on the line under P. W. Beckes’ entry is America’s name with a given age of 41, according to transcribers. Thus, she is often mistakenly listed as his wife. In reality, no wife is listed.   America, with her correct age of 21, Richard 16, Margaret 14, Butler 10,  as well as Wm. S. who was born in 1858 were listed in the household, leading us to conclude that  Elizabeth Jane must have died shortly after Wm S. was born. No tombstone for her has been found but we didn’t research Knox County burials. (Note though that the ten year old boy is now known as Butler, instead of Caleb just to confuse us, no doubt. However, this would become very helpful later in our research.)

By 1870 P.W. was living in Russellville, Lawrence County, Ill.  He is listed as Webb Beckes on the census; no wife is listed but his children were:  William 17, Lustro 10, Everettis 7, and ‘Clarance’  5.  Clearly P.W. had married again because Lustro, Everettis and Clarance were born in the decade after the 1860 census. So we began to search for another marriage license. P.W. was apparently married to M. Richards on July 8, 1861 in Knox County, making her the mother of these three children.  (This would be his third marriage?)

Returning now to the two tombstones for his children found in Tewalt, the one for the an infant daughter who died March 14, 1870, age 9 months, with her parents listed as P.W. and E.M. Beckes.  We think M. Richards might have been E. M. Richards.  (Too bad history has failed to give this woman a real name.)

The second stone was for Caleb B. (or Butler) son of P.W. and E.J. Beckes who died 4-10-1870 at age 21 years. His mother, E.J. was probably Elizabeth Jane, P. W.’s second (?) wife.  (Are you lost yet?)

A small article in the Vincennes Weekly Sun Saturday, June 11, 1870, was found on- line in the newspaper database offered by the Brockman House library:

Sad Bereavement—We are pained to learn that Mr. Parmenus W. Beckes living in Russellville, Ill has lost his wife and three children, within the last few weeks, from winter fever.  Mr. B. has the heartfelt sympathies of his many friends in his sad bereavement.

History once again fails to provide this wife of Parmenas with a name. The researchers believe though, based on the above information, that she was E.M. Beckes. Their 9 month baby girl died; Caleb (Parmenas’ son with Elizabeth Jane) died; and another child (not named) also died of winter fever.  No tombstone for the unnamed wife, or the third child have been found in Tewalt but they are surely buried there.  

We were having so much fun by this time that we decided to determine who Lavina H. Beckes was. Black’s Cemetery book listed her as the wife of P.J. Beckes, which we now know is an error.  It should read P.W. Beckes.  He did indeed marry Mrs. Lavina Winkles on May 17, 1871 according to the Lawrence County marriage records.   This fourth wife then dies on January 9, 1874 just three years later and is buried at Tewalt Cemetery.  Lavina was probably the mother of Orville born in 1873. 

Thinking that we might be done with our research we re-read the obituary for Parmenas again, and realized that he was STILL survived by a wife so it wasn’t Lavina.  We returned to the marriage records and found that P.W. once again heard wedding bells and married Elizabeth Buning on May 12, 1874 in Knox County, Ind. (this would be his fifth wife and… within 4 months of the last one’s death.   The man did love his women!)

The 1880 census shows him, age 60 living with Elizabeth age 43, Everett age 17, Clarance age 15, Orville age 7 and Cora Funk, age 9 (listed as his daughter) in Russell Township. This confirmed that he did marry Elizabeth; this may have been his third wife with the name of Elizabeth.    We hoped we were done with Parmenas and his wives until we found another marriage record for him to L. Hodges in Knox County, Ind.  November 20, 1884. (We are not sure if this is our ‘Parmenas’.  Because if it is, Elizabeth died after the 1880 census and he remarried for the sixth time.)

Parmenus died December 10, 1890 of winter fever, 71 years old, 10 months and 26 days.  At the time of his death he was a justice of the peace and had once been a miller.   His obit mentions that he was survived by a wife, but doesn’t provide her name.  Could it be because no one could keep track of his wives? We believe it was either Elizabeth (wife #5) or L. Hodges (wife #6).


(Disclaimer:  We have pieced together what we consider to be primary sources to arrive at our conclusion of the ‘life and loves’ of P.W. Beckes. (In the process we have spent 6 hours or more of our lives that we will never get back.)  We did not determine who Cora Funk, age 9, was, listed as his daughter in the 1880 census.  And just to add to the confusion, the death certificate for Clarence who died March 18, 1929 listed his mother as an Overby, who we believed died 13 ?  years before he was born. So if another researcher arrives at a different conclusion, we will be happy to print it. Also an apology if needed to the descendants of Parmenas. We meant no disrespect to his memory.