Friday, October 17, 2014

Elisha Workman c1820 - 1864: Fun with probate files

I'm digging around two of my ancestral families on my father's side, namely the Workman and Troutman families. If you look at a map of Western Maryland and find the little town of Frostburg and it's neighboring village of Mt. Savage, then follow the road up 12 miles into Pennsylvania and see Southampton, you'll have traced the path between the Troutmans in Southampton and the Workmans in Mt. Savage.

Nancy Ann Troutman lived in Southampton with her parents and her father Benjimin Franklin Troutman was a famed gunsmith. Somehow she met and married Elisha Workman, from down in Mt. Savage, of the Workman family who were big landowners in that area. The patriarch of this landed group in Maryland was Isaac Workman (1742 - 1827). One of his sons was John (1779 - 1859) and his son was our Elisha (c1820 - 1864). When Isaac came to the area he grabbed up as many of the military lots from the Revolutionary War as he could. In the end he and his sons owned a cool dozen of those 50 acre parcels given to the soldiers who fought. How he managed to get that many contiguous lots together, I can't even guess!

A section of the Frostburg State University military lot maps in Western Maryland.
Notice "Workman's  Desire" just to the left of center.

It was long thought that all of those Workman men had fought in the Revolutionary War and had been awarded lots for service but further examination of the records show no such thing. Isaac did however swear an Oath of Allegiance.

For a while the boys all farmed together but some decided to move to Knox County, Ohio, so when old Isaac decided that farming was probably a younger man's game he sold or gave some of his lots to his sons. Some of those sons later moved to Ohio and rented out the land to Isaac's grandsons. By the time Elisha came along he had to rent two parcels from his uncles in Ohio.

When Elisha died in 1864, he was renting at least two parcels from his uncles Cuthbert and John L. Workman. I wouldn't have been able to piece all of this together without the probate papers. He died intestate and so his property moved through the usual probate system, leaving a dandy trail behind for me to eventually follow. I'm thinking that because this family all left extensive wills designating the ownership of their land, Elisha might have died unexpectedly and suddenly and had no time to make up a will. A farming accident, perhaps?

Elisha must have had quite the big farming operation because a reading of the estate inventory provides a dandy window into their property. I find about two dozen cows, a dozen horses, so many pigs I stopped counting, wagons and other farm equipment. The household items were sold back to the Widow Workman, but the bulk of the heavy farming equipment and most of the livestock were sold to other farmers.

It was interesting to find that while Elisha Workman rented the land he worked from the uncles in Ohio, he purchased a couple of hundred acres in the not too distant area of Accident, Maryland, which he rented out.

I'm willing to bet that Elisha over on The Other Side felt bad about leaving this world without having made a will. But, on the other hand, it sure did give me a dandy picture into his life and family!

His wife was Nancy Ann Troutman and she's interesting in other ways. Guess I'll have to write about her too.

Partial inventory from property sale of Elisha Workman's estate.

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