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Graham, et. al. v. Graham, et. al.


My most intractable genealog­i­cal brick­wall is the parent­age of Rebecca Martha Graham (1831–1880).

Rebecca’s mother Jane Graham (1811–1854) is dis­missed by her brother David Graham (1821–1914) in his “History of Graham Family” (1899) with the fol­low­ing sen­tence: “Jane, the sec­ond daugh­ter of Joseph Graham, died unmar­ried” (80).

On Google Books, how­ever, I have found doc­u­men­ta­tion for a case that might lead to the miss­ing father of Rebecca Martha Graham. The case is “Graham, et. al. v. Graham, et. al., Decided May 1, 1880, The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals.”

As I men­tioned, Rebecca was the daugh­ter of Jane Graham and some unknown para­mour. On 1 Nov 1853, Rebecca mar­ried Henry Lake Miller (1817–1900). Around the time of this mar­riage, Rebecca inher­ited $3,000 from her father (I pre­sume this was mainly land) who died in Missouri.

in 1854, Jane died a vio­lent death, for which her brother James Graham (1813–1889) was put on trial and acquitted.

Litigation on the Graham v. Graham chancery case began in 1859, and the case did not make its way com­pletely through to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals until 1879, being decided in 1880. Unfortunately, Rebecca died one month and 11 days after win­ning her judg­ment. She died of dysentery.

But what was the case about? Rebecca Martha Graham’s grand­mother, Rebecca Graham (1786–1876) had received “prop­erty” (land and a slave named Dinah) in the will of her father, James Graham (1741–1813). The rel­e­vant por­tion of the will reads:

I give unto my Daughter Rebeckah Graham and her chil­dren, that plan­ta­tion where she now lives known by the name of Stephensons Cabbin [sic] also I give unto her and her chil­dren my Negro girl named Dinah, the Land and Negro never to be dis­posed of out of the Family nor the increase of the Negro if any she has.

Because the elder Rebecca Graham was mar­ried, her hus­band Joseph Graham had “own­er­ship” of this prop­erty. After he died, his widow sold the two chil­dren of Dinah (Ira and Stuart), and the bulk of the remain­ing chil­dren sued for a por­tion of the proceeds.

Whether or not this case yields the name and any par­tic­u­lars about Rebecca Martha Graham’s father, I’m sure it will be a case that reveals a great deal about rural ante­bel­lum West Virginia.

The main reminder here, how­ever, is not to for­get key sources, such as court cases. While not as often used as some other sources, such as vital records or cen­sus records, the records of court cases can be quite revealing.

 
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