What’s love got to do with it?

Jemima Sherow was the marrying kind, as were most American women in the mid 1800s.

Women in her era had few options. They grew up, married, had children and setup housekeeping.

Many couldn’t buy property in their own right. With few exceptions, careers weren’t for women and there were limited employment opportunities outside the home.

Women had virtually no political voice and little influence in public affairs. [1] Urbanization, better transportation and a growing middle class led to changing roles mid-century that in part gave rise to what some have called the “Cult of domesticity.”[2] The Cult of Domesticity held that women’s roles were confined to the home: Wife, mother, housekeeping and keeper of moral and religious beliefs. Women were to uphold the virtues of piety, purity, submissiveness and domesticity.

Thus it’s hard for us to know today if couples then married for love, money, necessity or simply because it was the nearly universal expectation, particularly for women of that day.

Jemima Sherow was my 2nd great-grandmother and the likely the third child of John Sherow and Susannah Young, who had at least eleven children over a span of nearly 20 years.[3]

Jemima Sharo 1850
John & Susannah Sharo family, 1850 US Federal Census[3]
Jemima was born October 4, 1835, in Ohio, likely in Darke or Miami County, in the western part of the state. [3][4]

As the eldest daughter, she likely would have taken on many of the household chores and helped care for the younger children.

In today’s society we might liken her to a “Xennial”, because she came of age during a period of great change. Jemima knew what life was like on the frontier, but as she grew into a young woman, society enjoyed greater mobility with expansion of railroads and the canal system. Literacy was increased thanks to public education and land-hungry Americans gobbled up property in westward expansion, as they pushed the few remaining Native Americans onto ever shrinking reservations.

In March 1841, Jemima’s parents sold their land in Miami County, Ohio. [5] Sometime between 1843 and 1846, the family migrated to Fulton County, Indiana. [6]

inoh1835 OH to IN edit
1835 Ohio-Indiana map, edited to show Sherow family’s migration path [7]
Since the family owned land in Ohio, it’s hard to guess why they relocated to an area that was just being settled.

Their world was forever changed with the death of Jemima’s father in July 1853,[8] just a few short years after the family’s big move. It must have been difficult for Susan (Young) Sherow to care for her family with him gone, and small children to care for. 

Just two years later, Susan, remarried to William Peck, a mason, and possibly an itinerant preacher.[9]

American society was undergoing changes then, too. Women’s suffrage was a growing concern, labor conflicts were on the rise, photography was a developing craft and tension was rising about slavery in the U.S. Shortly after Jemima’s marriage, the U.S.would erupt into the Civil War.

Yet, like so many other women of her day, Jemima married just shy of her 21st birthday, on Sept 21 ,1856 in Fulton County, Indiana, to William Wallace Pettit.[10]

William Petit - Jemima Shero Marriage
William Petit-Jemima Shero marriage record [10]
Jemima’s first marriage is unique in our family because of the story passed from my great-grandmother, to my grandmother to me.

Short and bittersweet, the story says that Jemima and William Wallace Pettit married against the wishes of their respective families. William was said to have been disowned by his wealthy, Irish-Catholic parents. Worse, he died young after being kicked by a horse, leaving Jemima widowed at the close of the Civil War, with four young daughters to support.[11]

Is it true? That’s hard to say after all these years. But it’s the lore the family clung to and it’s how they made sense of the tragedy Jemima and her girls experienced. This story circulated in several branches of Jemima’s descendants’ families, which gives credence that at least for the family, this was how it was. In retrospect, I’d like to believe Jemima and William were madly in love when they married.

But, all evidence needs to be examined and evaluated against other available evidence for accuracy and relevance. Family “stories” are especially prone to inaccuracy, yet they add color to our ancestors’ lives and can hold clues for family researchers. This is part of an ongoing research project, so I’ll share more about William Pettit in another installment.

The only additional record I’ve found to date for Jemima and William after their marriage is their 1860 US. Fed Census enumeration.[12] Just two of their four daughters have been born so far.

1860 census Wm Pettit family
William W Pettett family – 1860 US Federal Census [12]
It shows that William worked as a blacksmith and the family did not own land. They were somewhat poor, as compared to their neighbors, many of whom were landowners. William’s occupation supports the family story that he was killed after being kicked by a horse.

Jemima and William had four young daughters:

  • Harriet M. “Hattie”, born about 1857[12]
  • Clarissa Ann “Clarcy”, born August 1858[12]
  • Margaret A “Maggie”, born March 20, 1861[13]
  • Elizabeth Jane “Janie”, born Nov. 13, 1863, my great-grandmother[14]

I haven’t located a death record for William yet. Indiana didn’t begin keeping death records at a statewide level until January 1900. I’ve found no other records of his death, to date.

For Jemima, widowed with four young daughters to care for, remarriage was almost a necessity. Though she was likely a skilled housekeeper, she would have had a hard time putting food on the table.

After William’s death, Jemima went on to marry twice more, first in 1866 to John W. Young,[15] with whom she had several more children. And, after being widowed a second time, to Benjamin Griffith Martindale in 1899.[16] She died before Benjamin on March 4, 1911 at Marshall County, Indiana.[4][17] But these are stories for another time …

Were Jemima and William madly in love? We can’t know today, but if they truly married against their families’ wishes, it’s a strong possibility.

Jemima Sherow Martindale Grave Stone
Jemima Sherow Martindale grave stone – photo credit: Kim White [17]
About this post

I’ve shared this post because I’m participating in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors Challenge!

Genealogy is a work in progress. More research is ALWAYS needed, and some data shared here does not reflect the entire story of the subjects. I’ll be sharing more on some of the folks in this post in future entries.

The first thing I’ve learned in participating in the 52 ancestors challenge is how many holes there are in my research! I’m also finding what a challenge it is to provide source information for content I’ve shared. I hope this will become easier as I move through this challenge.

And, a word on surname spelling: Before spelling was standardized, particularly before widespread literacy, surnames were often seen spelled many different ways in documents created during our ancestors’ lifetimes. In the citations, I’ve spelled the names as they appeared in the document(s) referenced, but in the text, I’ve used the standardized spelling for surnames.

Digging deeper

Check out some of these links to learn more about women’s lives and changes in American society during Jemima’s lifetime at these links:

Sources

[1]  Dr. Graham Warder, Women in nineteenth-century America. 2015, Virginia Commonwealth University, (socialwelfare.library.vcu.edu/woman-suffrage/women-in-nineteenth-century-america-2/: accessed 16 February 2019).

[2] Catherine J. Lavender, Notes on The Cult of Domesticity and True Womanhood, prepared for students in HST 386:Women in the City, Department of History, The College of Staten Island/CUNY. 1998. (csivc.csi.cuny.edu/history/files/lavender/386/truewoman.pdf: accessed 14 February 2019).

Lucinda MacKethan, The Cult of Domesticity, Department of English, North Carolina State University. 2011). National Humanities Center. (americainclass.org/the-cult-of-domesticity/: accessed 14 February 2019).

[3] 1850 U.S. census, Fulton County, Indiana, population schedule, Newcastle Township, p. 459B (stamped), dwelling 57, family 57, John Sharo household; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 20 February 2019); citing National Archives microfilm roll M432_146, image 601.

[4]Indiana State Board of Health, Certificate of Death no. (unreadable), Jemima Martindale, 4 March 1911, Marshall County, Center Township; viewed at “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011” database with digital images, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 14 February 2019); citing Indiana Archives and Records Administration; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Death Certificates; Year: 1911; Roll: 09.

[5] Ohio, Miami County. “Deeds, 1807-1968. County Recorder’s Office, Troy. Browsable images. Family Search. https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C37R-HXS5?i=118&cat=295807: accessed 19 January 2019); volume 28 1853-1854, p. 166-167, item of interest: Deed. Sherow>Kinsey, 20 March 1841. Recorded 23 May 1853. John and Susana signed with an X, indicating they likely could not read and write. The document shows they lived in Darke County, Ohio, so they were apparently not living on the land they sold to Mr. Kinsey.

[61850 U.S. census, Fulton Co., Indiana, pop. sch., p. 459B (stamped), dwell. 57, fam. 57, John Sharo household. Daughter Elizabeth, 7, was  born in Ohio and son Emanuel P., 4, was born in Indiana. This dates the family’s migration from Ohio to Indiana approximately between 1843 and 1846.

[7Indiana and Ohio 1835. Digital image. USGenWeb Archives Digital Map Library. (http://usgwarchives.net/maps/ohio/ : accessed 18 February 2019).

[8Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/63609878 : accessed 19 February 2019), memorial page for John Sherow (d. 24 July 1853), Find A Grave Memorial no. 63609878; citing Reichter Cemetery, Talma, Fulton County, Indiana, USA. Gravestone photograph by Janneane Veger.

[9] Indiana. Fulton County. Marriage Records, 1850-1859, Vol. A: 211, William Peck-Susannah Sherow, 1 July 1855; “Indiana, Marriages, 1810-2001,” Ancestry. (https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=60282&h=2674371&ssrc=pt&tid=101145078&pid=180183897009&usePUB=true: accessed 20 February 2019). Online images.

[10] Indiana. Fulton County. Marriage Records, 1850-1859, Vol. A: 486, William Petit-Jemima Shero, 21 September 1856; “Indiana, Marriages, 1810-2001,” Ancestry. (https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=60282&h=2674766&ssrc=pt&tid=101145078&pid=180008529018&usePUB=true: accessed 20 February 2019). Online images.

[11Smith, Ruby VanLue. South Bend, Indiana. As told to Melanie J. Rice. Multiple dates – unrecorded. Family story, recalled from memory.

[12]1860 U.S. census, Marshall County, Indiana, population schedule, Tippecanoe Township, p. 142 (written), dwelling 992, family 1031, William Pettett household; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com: accessed 20 February 2019); citing National Archives microfilm roll M653_278, image 14; FHL film 803278.

[13]Indiana State Board of Health, Certificate of Death no. 216 local, Margaret A. Jenkins, 15 October 1951, Kosciusko County, viewed at “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011” database with digital images, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 14 February 2019); citing Indiana Archives and Records Administration; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Death Certificates; Year: 1951; Roll: 10.

[14]Michigan Department of Health, Certificate of Death no. 149, Elizabeth Jane Van Lue, 9 December 1929, Berrien County, Niles; viewed at “Michigan, Death Records 1867-1950” database with digital images, Ancestry (www.ancestry.com : accessed 14 February 2019); citing Certificates, 1921-1942>030: Benton Harbor-Niles; Year: 1921-1936.

[15]Indiana. Fulton County. Marriage Records, 1859-1870, Vol. B: 333, John W Young-Jemima Pettit, 12 April 1866; “Indiana, Marriages, 1810-2001,” Ancestry. (https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=60282&h=2676744&ssrc=pt&tid=1667446&pid=25561651695&usePUB=true: accessed 20 February 2019). Online images.

[16]Indiana. Starke County. Marriage Records, 1897-1902, image228 of 446, Benjamin G Martindale-Jemima Young, 17 December 1899; “Indiana, Marriages, 1810-2001,” Ancestry. (https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=60282&h=4544537&ssrc=pt&tid=101145078&pid=180008529018&usePUB=true: accessed 20 February 2019). Online images.

[17]Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/73101546 : accessed 19 February 2019), memorial page for Jemima Sherow Martindale (1835-1911), Find A Grave Memorial no. 73101546; citing McElrath Cemetery, Marshall County, Indiana, USA. Gravestone photograph by Kim White.

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