Sometimes the things you find in your family story just tear at your heart. My ggg-grandmother is one of those mysteries you sometimes have -- the family today remembered nothing about her, but I later found her as "E.E. Mallory" born around 1824 in Virginia, though she lived most of her life, as far as I can tell, in Missouri. Her name was in fact Elizabeth, I discovered on the marriage record to my ggg-grandfather Jesse Mallory in December 1855. She was listed as "Miss Elizebeth E. Dobbins" but upon further research I found that this was the surname of her first husband, who was a Dr. O.N. Dobbins of Andrew Co., Missouri. Elizabeth had married Dr. Dobbins around 1840, and had four children by the time of the 1850 census -- Ada, Oscar G., Cornelia E., and Delasco Benjamin. Now, with names like these, you'd think I could find them later on, but I have traced only Cornelia with any certainty -- she married a man called George F. Martin and lived to the age of ninety in Kansas City.
Dr. Dobbins' first name is not given anywhere that I can find -- something embarrassing, perhaps, like Ozymandias, or just Oscar, like his son. I can't find him in 1840, either, when a thirty-year-old man of some learning at least should be in the records somewhere. He was said on the 1850 census to have been born in Ohio. He died intestate in 1852, during a smallpox epidemic in Missouri, leaving his wife with four children under ten years old. The image at the top is the second page in his probate file in Andrew Co., which file is almost exclusively a list of outstanding debts -- presumably to him, the writing is very poor -- and a sad little inventory of his belongings --
• six Books & 1 Lot Pamphlets [10.50]
• one Trunk, 2.00, 1 Table 2.50, 1 Clock 5.00
• 7 Chairs 4.00, 1 Horse 75.00, Saddle & Bridle 10.00
• 1 Medicine Chest Bottles & Medicine [15.00]
• 1 Stove, 15.00, 1 Gold watch 75.00
• 2 vol. Woods Practice [3.00]
• 3 forceps [3.00]
The "Woods Practice" I think is a set like this --
A Treatise on the Practice of Medicine by George B. Wood (this image is from Civil War Medical Books, which has an article about Wood and his manual, the 1858 edition having been issued by the US Army Hospital Dept. to army medical personnel).
There is no mention of Dr. Dobbins's clothing in the inventory -- I don't know if this was standard practice in the US and it was just given to the widow, or if in this case everything had been burned because of the smallpox.
Apparently the estate representative managed to collect a number of the outstanding accounts in the year following Dobbins's death, but a second list at the end of the file shows those "not collectible", with notes such as "dead" or "claims paid", or (quite a number of times) "gone to Calaforna". ("William Hale, not known, 5.00 ... Levi Macey, worthless, 17.25") The total outstanding is over $400, which in 1852 was astronomical -- at least $12,000 today, perhaps as much as $86,000. I find myself wanting to think that Dr. Dobbins treated so many of these people on account because he was a generous soul ("Mrs. Tribble, 5.00 ... Mrs. Woodcock, 31.25"), but it is also quite possible that he simply didn't keep very good accounts ("Thomas Clemons, proved paid, 24.00 ... Thomas Roberts, shows receipt, 0.50"), which is almost as sad.
There is nothing -- nothing -- in the file about the children. The unnamed "widow as dower" got $200 cash, and I hope at least the gold watch, as there is no mention of that nor the horse anywhere else in the file, even on the list of who bought the rest of the things. (Seventy-five dollars! that's a fine watch.)
I must admit that it was a bit of a shock to read, as I was trying to decipher the handwriting, a standard we-do-solemnly-swear that the evaluators were not related or connected to anyone concerned with the estate, etc. etc. etc., "and that we will, to the best of our abilities, view and appraise the slaves and other personal estate to us produced". But of course, Missouri was a slave state, and although I was relieved to find that Dr. Dobbins owned no slaves, I can't help but remember that Elizabeth's second husband, although he also owned no slaves, was a Confederate sympathizer, and would be killed with a neighbor in 1864, by a group of US militia men who accused the two, probably correctly, but certainly without due process, of aiding Confederate bushwhackers.