Having just spent a very long time and a great deal of research on a post, only to lose the whole thing following the very last sentence, I just had to step away. Step away from the subject, the road I was going down and that lane of research and topic altogether. Breathe. All due to one missed keystroke on my phone. That happens. It has happened before and in those two cases I've not yet returned, but held some of my steps in my mind. Who knows how long it will take for me to want to take those same steps again?
Instead, I will return to a series I have been back and forth on a few times. I call it the "Bad Girls of Stanly County." It's good to be back home. The 'bad girls' were the rare females who showed up as defendants in the early courtrooms of Stanly County, North Carolina. Some appeared over and over, others only once. Occasionally, women appeared in Civil proceedings, challenging inheritances, dower rights, tenant contracts and the such. These were not the bad girls. The bad girls were those who stepped outside the boundaries of proper behavior for ladies of the 19th century. Sometimes they were drunk and disorderly, sometimes they even went to brawling. Most of the time, the offenses had to do with the control, or lack of it, of their sexuality, adultery, fornication, or giving birth to a child out of wedlock. A few even ran 'bawdy houses', or dens of iniquity, a place where immoral or illegal things happened.
The genealogical importance of these events come in the form of brickwalls in family trees. Children born out of wedlock, most of the time, took the surname of their single mother. Occasionally, the individual would go by different surnames at different times in their life, making it difficult for those trying to build their family tree. Some ill-begotten folks would even invent an imaginary father, usually "John", to disguise their shame of not having a father and use it on their legal documentation, their spouse and future children never knowing the difference. And then comes DNA testing and all those old secrets coming spilling out.
For this post, I have returned to an old list, made over a year ago, and a few individuals in my own family tree.
The simplest way to explain Bastardy Bonds to a novice to old court records is that they are the antiquated form of child support. The scrofulous word used to describe them, simply meant, in its day, a child born out of legal wedlock, which was considered a shameful thing to be. The thing colors the word, the word doesn't color the thing, a fact modern society seems to have forgotten. They keep printing up new terminolgy to refer to something, to make it more, um, palatable, 'a rose by any other name.' In time, the new terminology becomes unusable because it is offensive, as it describes 'the thing', and they have to create new, unoffensive terminology again, and that new term will also become offensive in time. The cycle repeats itself.
John T. Honeycutt, (1803 - 1878) was my 4th Great Grandfather. I don't know for certain who his parents were, despite the several guesses of other researchers. There were more than a few Honeycutts in early Stanly County and how they were related to one another has not been nailed down to my knowledge. That's a mountain I haven't climbed. I have been able to find mention of John, himself, in a number of places and had always thought of him as a good and decent man.
It was John who owned the land where Liberty Hill Baptist Church near Red Cross in western Stanly County was originally built, a church co-founded by another of my ancestors, the Rev. John Lambert. The current building is directly across the road from where the original building stood, so that gives me a general idea of where John Honeycutt lived.
|Liberty Hill Baptist Church in Stanly County, NC|
You can imagine my surprise, when, while perusing the bastardy bonds of Stanly County, NC from the 1850's, looking for something else, for someone else, I came across the following entry.
The ancient script is a little difficult to read, and was written in 19th century legalese, so, I will translate a few of them. Above, the mostly printed document stated that John and George Huneycutt were held and firmly bound to a bond of 500 hundred dollars, a significant amount of money in those days. The bond was for an Obligation that John Huneycutt was the reputed father of a Baseborn child begat upon the body of Elizabeth Robbins, a single woman of Stanly County, a fact he did not deny. John Huneycutt and Elizabeth Robbins had concieved a child out of wedlock. The year was 1853.
Following are several excepts from the same group of documents.
Basically, in November of 1853, John Huneycutt had been taken to court to answer to the charge of Bastardy.
He had given bond, along with George Huneycutt, in order to support the illegitimate child for at least the first 5 to 7 years of its life.
|Estimated Birth Year:||abt 1853|
|Birth Place:||North Carolina, USA|
|Death Date:||Feb 1870|
|Cause of Death:||Pneumonia|
|Census Place:||Big Lick, Stanly, North Carolina, USA|