~ Discovering Your Family's Past To Shape Your Future ~
Doing research in the Virginia Room of the Fairfax County Library, I came across a letter addressed to “E. L. Bates, near Occoquan, Virginia.” But the part of the letter with the signature was missing. My terminal case of curiosity kicked in – who wrote the letter? I must know! (Why do I need to know? Must. Have. Closure.)
Written on 23 November 1843 in Marian County, Missouri, E.L. Bates is addressed as ‘brother.’ The author appears to have been in Missouri for at least a year, and went there from Virginia. Presumed family members are mentioned – Jane (probable wife), Isabella and Sarah (probable daughters), and Jane’s sister whose married name is Dawson. The author talks about the lack of cash money and its impact on inflation, his desire to buy a farm, how his family is growing too large for their home, and a strange (to me, anyway) disease of the eyes that is afflicting many people in the area. He asks for E.L. Bates to come help him with his farm. Did he ever get to buy his farm?
Sources used: 1840 census,1850 census, 1860 census, Will of Thomas Bates, Land Patents from Missouri Digital Heritage, Washington, DC marriages database at Ancestry.com, Bureau of Land Management Land Patent database, and the letter, of course.
The mystery letter author is not a Bates at all, but rather Edward L. Bates’ brother-in-law. Edward’s sister Jane appears to have married John Cadle in Washington, D.C. in 1825, and their relationship is confirmed in Jane’s father’s will. In that 1837 document, Thomas Bates bequeaths Jane a portion of his estate and proceeds from the hire of slaves belonging to it “to her and her Children’s use, and shall so continue during the natural life of her Husband John Cadle…”.
Evidence that this Bates family (there are two in the 1840 census in Fairfax) is the right one comes from a partially missing sentence in the letter which says “Jane says her sister [missing] dawson must come out here for [missing].” Thomas’s will also leaves assets to his daughter Margaret Dawson. The confluence of Edward L. Bates in this Fairfax-based family, along with a sister married into the Dawson family, and Jane’s marriage information shows that John Cadle is the most likely author.
The letter says John has been saving money to purchase a farm and that his family is growing too large for their current accommodations. Indeed, the 1840 census shows John’s household three years prior to the letter included his wife and four daughters, in keeping with his references to “the girls” in his 1843 letter. In 1850, John and Jane’s children are named – and Sarah and Isabella are included here and are the only two presumed children named in the letter. By 1850, two more children were added to the family, including the first son named after his father. Given the age gap between the Georgia A. (12) and Sarah F. (6), there is the possibility another child was born and died, or a miscarriage occurred during those 10 years as well.
In 1850 the family was in Shelby County, the county immediately to the west of Marion rather than Lewis County, the one immediately to the north. There is only one land patent for J. Cadle in Missouri; it might be one for James E. Cadle who has 5 other land patents in Misssouri. In 1857, however, John Cadle registered his purchase of 160 acres with the U.S. General Land Office. It states he is “of Lewis County,” suggesting that John Cadle did purchase his sought-after land in Lewis County after all, but not nearly as soon as his 1843 letter anticipated.
Wphew! Now I can sleep tonight. This curiosity really may be terminal after all!