Family Histories

Family Histories for the Rose and Kirkpatrick Families

Monday, February 24, 2014

A Wicked Stepmother - 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

While researching a line of my husband's family, I came across Elmira (or Almira) Johnson, the second wife of Peter Colwell.  Elmira married Peter in November of 1828 in Morgan, Georgia.   His first wife, Sarah Curry, had died in 1825, shortly after giving birth to their ninth child.  Elmira apparently didn't take to raising Sarah's children and after her marriage to Peter; she began "kindly dropping off" the children with relatives.  The phrase "kindly" was a term for "kind of;" Elmira simply found other homes for the children to live in.  I do have to wonder why Peter allowed her to do this - did he not want to have the responsibility for raising the children either?  He and Elmira had six more children before he died around 1849.

Marriage record of Elmira Johnson and Peter Colwell

In 1830, Peter and Sarah's twin daughters (names unknown) drowned at about the age of seven while living with relatives.  Their brother William Barnes apparently held his stepmother personally responsible for their deaths and is said to have lay in wait for her in a potato field, preparing to murder her.  He had a change of heart (saying "the old b**** isn't worth killing")and he moved to Texas with his family rather than carrying out his plan. 

Elmira moved to Randolph County, Alabama by 1858, along with her son Matthew.  She purchased property 1858 and 1859; in January of 1859 she signed an affidavit saying that she was 48 years old and residing in said (Randolph) county.  She was a widow, the head of her family, and was "so afflicted and physically diseased" that she was unable to attend in person at the land office.  She also stated that she had been residing there since January 1858 and had a dwelling house, corn crib and eight acres of land in cultivation.

The last record for Elmira is the 1866 Alabama state census, where she is a resident of Randolph County.  She died some time after this.

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