family history

Lafayette W Gable

Today’s post is a bit of a mystery to me, so I’m curious if any of you out there might be able to point me in the next direction. I’ve begun the fact-checking process of my WIP, as you can read more about that in my post here. There’s been one detail of the story that’s bothered me since I first learned of it. It began in 1868 when my 3x great-grandmother, Mary Morton, was seven years old. Her mother passed away after a prolonged illness of tuberculosis. The following year, Mary’s father, Nathaniel, remarried a woman named Josephine T (Paiste) Gable. Josephine had been married previously as well, in 1857 to L.R. Gable, who I assume, was killed during the Civil War.

Remarrying so quickly after a spouses death was what was done in those days. I thought nothing of it at the time. Women had little to no means of income or support and men couldn’t be expected to both work and take care of children and household. So why wouldn’t you take that option to have another partner if one was willing?

However, the thing that struck me as odd is the fact that shortly after the marriage, nearly all of Nathaniel’s children were sent to live with strangers. By tracking the family in the census, I can compare names listed in 1860 to names listed in 1870 and, as you’ll see, many are missing.


1860 census
Nathaniel (N.B.) and Eveline Morton are listed with there children: Lorenzo, b. 1853; Lawrence, b. 1855; Luther, b. 1856; Major, b. 1858; and Lewis, b. 1860.

 But following Eveline’s death in 1868, and Nathaniel’s marriage to Josephine in 1869, the 1870 census lists:

1870 census
Nathaniel and Josephine with the following children: Luther, Lewis, and Sarah, b. 1862.

 Nathaniel’s older sons, Lorenzo and Lawrence have disappeared, as well as Major. So far, I’ve managed to locate both Lorenzo and Lawrence working at neighboring farms. But I believe that Major passed away sometime after his mother. I’ve been unable to locate him in any other census. And through ancestry, I met a distant cousin who was kind enough to share with me pages from a family bible that lists a child passing soon after Eveline. The bottom of the page had been damaged, so it’s difficult to distinguish which child. And It was only with those pages from the family bible that I was even able to place my 3x great-grandmother with her family. She was born in 1861 which places her after the 1860 census and by 1870, she too had been placed with a neighboring farm as help.

1870 census mary
1870: Mary lives with Josiah and Jane Dorcas

But why were Nathaniel’s children sent away? I understand a lack of birth control, and the religious sentiment of populating the earth with as many disciples as possible resulted in large families in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. But why would you remarry someone only to send your children away? Was it due to a financial difficulty? Were the children sent to be workers and Nathaniel and Josephine profited from their labors?

Whatever the reason, Nathaniel and Josephine went on to have two children together: Anna, b. 1872; and Charles, b. 1876. And by the 1880 census, Anna and Charles are the only children that yet remain in the household:

1880 census
1880: Nathaniel and Josephine with their children, Anna and Charles. All of Nathaniel’s children have been sent elsewhere.

Which makes me wonder: was it Josephine’s decision to send the children away? Did she not want to be responsible for raising another woman’s children? Did she wish to remove all traces of Nathaniel’s earlier family in order to create a new one of her own?

Somehow, I can justify that thought. That is, until I was researching Nathaniel and Josephine in their later years and stumbled across something that made my jaw drop. The 1900 census lists Nathaniel and Josephine, but with the addition of one Lafayette W Gable. And his relationship to the head of the household: Step-Son. Making him Josephine’s child, born about 1859.

1900 census

So I dug a little deeper. I found the 1860 census for Josephine and newborn Lafayette.

1860 census josephine
1860: Josephine Gable is listed with her son, Lafayette, and who I assume is her mother, Mary Paist

So where was Lafayette throughout all of those years? What would make a mother part with her ten year old son? I’ve tried searching under different spelling variations of Paist, thinking perhaps he had been raised by Josephine’s mother or sister, but so far, I’ve been unable to locate him in any census record between 1860 and when he appears again 1900. Is it possible that Josephine divorced her husband L.R. Gable and that he attained custody of the child? Or is it possible that Lafayette was raised by paternal family members? While I won’t take time from the rest of my research on my WIP, one day the search for Lafayette’s past will continue.

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