James and Margaret Slavens

James Slavens married Margaret Ann Crane in nearby Montgomery County on 28 Nov. 1844. In October 1846 James and Margaret purchased 53 acres of land about a mile northeast of the former Slavens home-- land now belonging to his children, by the terms of the sale-- but James and Margaret sold the 53 acres six months later. Perhaps it's a coincidence, but James's former father-in-law Enoch Davis died in October 1846, and by 1850 the Slavens family was reunited and living on "the old home place."

James and Margaret's first son, William, was born in 1847, followed by John in the summer of 1850. Two sources indicate that there may have been a third child, Reuben; as there is no mention of another son in the 1850 census or in later guardianship records, it is thought he did not survive infancy.

The census return for 1850, the first to list the specific ages and the names of all members of the household, has been the source of much of the information about the James Slavens family in various gedcoms. However, the enumeration is misleading. James's age is probably overstated; Margaret's may be understated by a year; and Harvey's name is misspelled as Henry.

James Slavens died in 1851, probably in the late summer, as his estate was probated in the district court term starting 2 Sept. According to a later bio, he was 44 when he died, but there are no cemetery or death records to confirm his age or provide a date. James died without a will, but the complete proceedings of probating his estate are available on microfilm. The estate was appraised and the items duly listed in the court papers with their value: one large dining table, $4.50; one set chairs, $5.00; one rocking chair, $1.00... everything including household items, farm equipment, "one blind heifer," right down to a Panama hat and cap at $3.25 and the deceased's wearing apparel at $7.00. A public sale was held, and the buyers and the prices the items fetched were listed. Among the buyers were many neighbors, including several Davises; his widow Margaret bought a cap; oldest son Harvey bought bedding and clothing; daughter Nancy's father-in-law and daughter Mary's future father-in-law purchased items; and Margaret's future husband (then her brother-in-law?), and a William Crane, who is suspected to be her father, also were buyers. Benjamin Slavens, likely James's brother, bought a bed and a saddle.

The money raised at the public sale was not enough to satisfy the estate's bills and it was declared insolvent. So much for any dreams of a large inheritance!

What became of the family in the years immediately following James's death is uncertain. Harvey and Nancy, the two oldest children, were on their own: Nancy had married James T. Dean in December 1850, and Harvey had reached the age of 21. The family probably didn't stay on the home place, as Harvey sold his interest in the property in 1852. County history book bios and obituaries suggest that the older children were pretty much on their own after James's death. It appears Margaret went back to Montgomery County with William and John and left the "Davis" children behind. In the probate records for Enoch Davis's estate, Mary's brother John Davis is listed as guardian for Willis, Jesse, Milton, and Mary; such guardianships often amounted to little more than acting in the child's interest in court and financial proceedings.

By 1856 Willis, Jesse, and Milton were under the guardianship of their uncle C.M. Davis and accompanied the Davis family on their move to Jasper County, Iowa. Willis and Milton later returned to North Salem to be with Harvey, while Jesse remained in Iowa. The 1860 census finds Jesse working as a laborer in Jasper County, and Willis as a farm hand in Hendricks County, but Harvey and Milton haven't turned up in enumerations in either Indiana or Iowa.

Obituaries of Jesse and Willis say that the children of James and Mary (Davis) Slavens had to fend themselves after James's death in 1851, but the two youngest children may not have had it much easier. It appears that after James's death, Margaret and her two sons moved the few miles northwest to the Ladoga area in Montgomery County, where she had family.

Margaret married James Morrison in Montgomery County, Indiana, on 10 July 1856. The Morrison family is believed to have close ties with the Crane family. Both families had lived in Henry County, Indiana, in the 1820's before moving to near Ladoga in the southeastern corner of Montgomery County. James Morrison's first wife was a Mary Crane, and his brother William married a Sarah Crane, both of whom are thought to be Margaret's sisters. Mary Crane Morrison died in November 1855, leaving James with a newborn and a half-dozen other kids to take care of.

Here are some additional ties between the Slavens, Crane, and Morrison families: on the application for James and Margaret's wedding license, William Morrison is the witness. At the public sale following James's death, one of the buyers was William Crane. Also, two claims of $50.00 each were filed against the estate by James Morrison.

Despite the marriage, the Morrison and Slavens families didn't blend completely. Some time after the marriage the Morrison family moved a couple dozen miles north to Tippecanoe County, where the family appears in Wayne Township in the 1860 census. The household contained four of James's children from his first wife, and Margaret's youngest son John Slavens. Her son William Slavens remained behind in Montgomery County in the household of Joseph Crane, believed to be her brother. Joseph was a brick maker by trade, and besides benefitting from the labor of his nephew William, he also hosted another Crane brother or nephew.

So far, death information for Margaret Crane Slavens Morrison has not turned up, but it's possible that she died in 1864 as court proceedings in Montgomery County in April of that year name Joseph Crane the guardian for William and John Slavens. Curiously, it indicates that the boys weren't living in the same household-- one is in Montgomery County and the other in Hendricks County-- but there's no indication which boy is in which county or who they were living with. Later the guardianship passed to Elliott Pearson-- who as you might expect, was also married a Crane (Elizabeth).

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