Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Mysterious Disappearance of Edward A. Marks

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Edward A. Marks took a lesson from his father, William ‘Buck’ Marks, and pulled a mysterious disappearing act right after the 1860 Census. It would seem that he just up and left the planet, without a trace. What happened to him? Why is there no record to be found of him? Did aliens snatch him? Did he die and no one report his death? Or, did he just not want to be found? Did he really even exist at all? This blog will explore what might have happened to Edward after 1860; but first let us establish what we do know about him.

Edward A. makes his first and only appearance on the 1860 Census in Fork (Eldorado), Montgomery County, North Carolina. He is the fourth child born to William and Leah Fesperman Marks and the first-born son; born about 1855, he is 5 years old. Edward is not yet old enough to attend school with his sisters, Jane, Cyrona and Julia and he is three years older than his brother, Thomas, the baby of the family, and my direct ancestor.

1860 Census
So, where is Fork, Montgomery County, NC anyway? Today, Fork is known as Eldorado and is located in the Northwestern corner of Montgomery County, NC. It is bordered by Ophir and Uwharrie and Badin Lake is located within its boundaries. Montgomery County was formed in 1779 from Anson County. In 1961 the Uwharrie National Forest was formed and Montgomery County is situated right in the midst of the national forest. Troy is the county seat. In 1841 the land was divided west of the Pee Dee River to form Stanly County. In 1895 Eldorado had a population of 41 people with a Post Office and no railroad. I can only imagine there is a lesser population in 1860. There is only one Marks’ family listed, my ancestors.

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By 1870 Fork had changed its name to Eldorado. The Marks’ family is still listed on the Census but Edward (and Thomas) completely disappear from the 1870 Census and in their place are listed Mary (18) and Martha (15). The age of Martha would certainly fit for Edward, as he would be 15 in 1870. Mary, listed as 18 years of age would not fit for Thomas, as he would only be 12 years old in 1870. It is certainly true that the boys could have been in school on the day the Census was taken and just not counted. Or perhaps they were at the creek fishing. Or just out in the woods hunting or playing. I suppose it is also possible that the Census taker just messed up and wrote down the wrong information.

Perhaps the Marks family deliberately told a falsehood to keep the boys from being discovered. The Civil War had just ended in 1865 and at least Edward would have been old enough in a year or two to be drafted into another war. Maybe William and Leah did not want the government to know they had male children and were just trying to protect the boys. Leah’s sister, Hettie, had lost her husband, Green Carter, in the Civil War in 1863, and I am sure William and Leah had neighbors and friends who had also lost their children. Then again, perhaps the boys were just playing a prank and thought it was funny to trick the Census taker.

1870 Census

If Edward and Thomas were at school or fishing in the creek and not counted in the 1870 Census, then who are Mary and Martha? Since both of the girls are listed with the surname Marks, I know they cannot be related to Leah, her maiden name is Fesperman, so the girls do not belong to her brothers and her sisters would have taken their husbands names. I know that none of Leah's sisters married a Marks. The girls would have to be related to William Marks somehow. Perhaps they are his nieces and are just visiting. 

So, what could have happened to Edward A. Marks? The first thing that comes to mind is that he must have passed away sometime between 1860 and 1870. That is the logical conclusion here; especially since he is not to be found on any future records. However, for many years I believed that Edward’s sister, Jane R, had died too because I could not find her on any records. As more and more records became available to the public I was finally able to locate her. I hope this will be the case with Edward too. So far, I have not been able to find a death record or a grave so there is a good chance he did grow up and I will find him just as I found Jane.

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