It is not uncommon to find very large families in past generations. We also know that infant mortality was much higher in the past than it is today. And most of us have discovered that some families are hit harder by life than others. But I recently found an extreme example within the lives of a single family that seems to me to be both unbearable and very unfair. I think you'll agree. The tragic reality of their circumstances really brought home to me the magnitude of life's hardships the some had to bear not that many generations ago.
My great-great-aunt Nancy C ORRICK (1843-1904) and her husband George W WELLS (1842-1913) were both born in Arkansas, and married there in Crawford County on New Years Day 1860. Hopes would have been high for a bright new year and a bright new future together. George was a farmer, willing to work to support his family. By the end of that year their first daughter Malissa was born, followed by a son George in July 1862. By that time the Civil War was well underway, and their fortune was about to turn.
On 10 Mar 1863, George enlisted as a Private in Company H of the 1st Arkansas Infantry Regiment, Mounted Rifles. Less than two weeks later on Mar 22, their daughter Malissa died, quickly followed by the death of George Jr on April 3, 1863. Nancy was left on her own to mourn the loss of her two children and worry about her husband who had gone off to war.
- 1863: Malisa A (age 2) and George A (infant)
- 1866: Andrews J (infant)
- 1868: Sarah E (infant)
- 1871: William D (age 1)
- 1882: John Wesley (age 14), Robert R (age 10), Mahala Rena (age 6), Fairy May (age 1)
- 1885: Dement (infant)
Only three of their children survived to adulthood. In the 1900 census only 2 teenage children were living at home: Benjamin WELLS (age 17) and James F WELLS (age 14). An older son Frank Marion WELLS (age 23, he went by his middle name Marion) was living next door, already married to his wife Violet (SMITH) with two young daughters of his own. In years to follow, they had at least three more children. Benjamin married Annie PRATER in Oct 1900 and they had at least twelve children. He lived to be age 82. I haven't yet found additional information about James. So descendants of George and Nancy WELLS do exist, although not nearly as many as you would expect from so large a family. [See below for further information on Marion and James.]
George had been terribly injured in the Civil War. When [his] descendant ... discovered he had no tombstone, she and her sister obtained one through the VA since he was a Civil War veteran. The caretaker and others helped them place it in Vaught Cemetery; this was about 1972.
Update 6 July 2016:
George and Nancy's son Francis Marion WELLS (aka Frank or Marion) moved his family to Missouri sometime between 1910 and 1918 when he was drafted into WWI. They lived for many years in Kansas City MO where he worked as an express driver and a real estate salesman. In 1942 he was drafted once again. Marion died in 1945 at the age of 67, 10 years after his wife Violet, and they are both buried in the Mount Washington Cemetery in Independence Missouri. Of their five known children, one died as a child.
George and Nancy's youngest known son James F "Jim" WELLS may have died in Arkansas in 1907 when he was 21. His grave is apparently listed on page 442 in the 2nd Edition of "History in Headstones" for Crawford County, Arkansas, although the contents of this book are not available online. If true, then Jim was the 12th child of George and Nancy WELLS to die much too young.