Friday, June 22, 2012

Delilah Porter's Parentage: Good Luck With That

Mom and I have been looking for Delilah Porter's parents for a long time now. All we had was was a handful of interesting clues and the knowledge that we were looking in a small geographic area about 5 miles square. It was getting on our nerves!

Delilah Porter (1812 - 1881) was was the wife of Jacob Eckhart (1801 - 1836), son of John Eckhart (1776 - 1835), and grandson son of the Eckhart family line progenitor, George Adam Eckhart (1729 - 1806). George Adam was the guy who came from Germany and moved west to what's now Allegany County, Maryland and the place eventually known as Eckhart Mines.

The Porters of the area are well known too. And there's a fine book documenting their lines by Samuel Doak Porter, entitled, "A genealogy of the Porter family of Maryland, West Virginia, Michigan." I ordered the microfilm of this book through The Family History Library to be delivered to our local multi-stake center here in San Diego. When it arrived I went to the Center and scanned the front 100 pages, came home and printed out a copy for Mom and another copy for me. We've both been over it with a sharp eye and don't see Delilah mentioned anywhere. Nuts!

What we do know is that the will of Jacob Eckhart, her husband, names Josiah Porter as guardian of the couple's children. Mom said that it was usually the brother of the wife who was charged in the will with the task of keeping an eye on the wife and kids as guardian. So Mom and I penciled in Josiah as Delilah's brother. Was Josiah in the Porter book? And if so, who was Delilah and Josiah's father?

Mom and I devoured the Porter book looking for every clue, however meager. Our plan was to keep our thoughts to ourselves and try to work it out, each on her own, then compare conclusions. If we both got that same answer and it pointed to the same person as the father of Josiah and Delilah, then we had something. But if not, we agreed before hand, we had to give it up until some better information came along.

Now I have to share with you here that Mom had done her due diligence researching Delilah's parents! Over the years she's been hot on Delilah's record trail: down to the courthouse, checked every church record possible, looked at every stone in the Old Porter Cemetery, as well as the Eckhart Cemetery. She came up empty handed. This Porter book was kind of our last chance.

Above is a chart from the Porter book with all the Josiahs highlighted. Yes, there are four! But never mind. I put the chart aside and read the text sleuthing out which Josiah might be the brother of Delilah, and thereby learn who their father might be.

I concluded that the best candidate for the father is Gabriel McKenzie Porter, 17 September 1776 - 20 August 1842. His son and the presumed brother of Delilah (if this theory works out) is Josiah Porter, or "Grandpap Si", 1799 - 1882. There's a wealth of stories about all of these people but I'll save them for later.

When I got to Frostburg Maryland to see Mom recently, we sat down and had a little visit and then I asked her: who's Josaih and Delilah' s father? "Gabriel McKenzie Porter", she said. Ladies and gents, we have a winner! We both agreed that Gabriel was probably the baby-daddy!

Interestingly, Grandpa Si married Mary Margaret Coombs (1803 - 1837) who is sister to Amelia.  Amelia Coombs is my 4th GGM on my paternal grandmother's side. Delilah Porter is my 3rd GGM on my paternal grandfather's side... so does that make my Dad's parents cousins?!!

Back to the case at hand. The leading piece of evidence is the will naming Josiah guardian of Delilah and Jacob Eckhart's children, and the presumption that Josiah was her brother, thus following local custom.

The the second piece of evidence, from the Porter book, and the "hook" that snagged the attention of Mom and I, is that Gabriel McKenzie Porter was married a second time to Sarah ANDERSON after his first wife, Rebecca Frost died.  (Rebecca Frost is the daughter of Josiah Frost for whom the town of Frostburg is named. Frostburg is where Mom lives.) It is also fascinating that Delilah Porter married a second time after Jacob Eckhart died. She cut a few years off her age and married James ANDERSON, a younger man.

OK, so there you have it. It's the best case Mom and I can make for the connection between Delilah, Josiah, and their possible father, Gabriel.

I can hear you thinking: flimsy case and no proof. It is isn't it? But it's all we have at present... that and Mom's gut feel that Gabriel is the father of Delilah and Josiah. I trust Mom's gut:)

Photo of the day:

"Independance (Squire Jack Porter)"
a painting by Frank Blackwell Mayer,
Now in the Smithsonian.
Squire Jack was Gabriel's brother.

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