Tuesday, August 26, 2008

John Hempstead and His Wives

The initial puzzle about John Hempstead concerned his first and second wives. The first wife's name is unknown. In the 1865 census at Riverhead, Long Island, John was enumerated with Mary Walton as his "second wife", along with their children. The Suffolk County Historical Society advised me that John Hempstead was living in Brooklyn in 1860...the inference being, in 1860 he was married to his first wife. [Mary's father Lysander Walton was a farmer in Riverhead for many years.]

John's first 2 children were Charles, born May 1855, and Phebe, born 1857. I assumed that they belonged to John and his first wife.

However...I cannot locate John with the 2 children in the 1860 census! There are a couple of faint possibilities...one being a family with very similar names living in a resort town ["Mexico"?], upstate New York.

Then I came across the statement in the "Brooklyn Daily Eagle", that John Hempstead, nephew of the notorious Emma Augusta [Hempstead] Cunningham, in 1857 languished in the Suffolk County jail on charges of bigamy!

John's son Charles turned 2 years old in 1857; his daughter Phebe was just born that year. Did he marry Mary Walton in 1857, while still married to the first wife?

It appears that John's first 2 children considered Mary Walton their mother; I believe her name appears on the death certificate of son Charles Hempstead, and appears so in other people's genealogies. I am not certain that is correct; just have to prove it, one way or the other!

  • check Bklyn church records for John's first marriage
  • try to obtain court records of bigamy charge
    [unavailable per correspondence with Riverhead]
  • try to find marriage record, John to Mary Walton
UPDATE:  marriage record found in pension app of
  Mary for husband John's military service: marriage
  date was 5 July 1856.  Son Charles was born 1 May
  1855, so probably son of John's first wife - who was
  still married to John when he married Mary, if his 1857
  arrest for bigamy was 
Note: re-check ambiguous 1850-1860 censuses, Riverhead area, for Mary Walton

UPDATE:  at 1850 Mary was a child living at home with her parents.  At 1860, her name and the name of the 2 children enumerated with her should have been Hempstead.  As to Charles' age [24], it should have been 4 or 5; his birthdate was 1 May 1855 - depending on the effective census date, he could have been either age.  The age written in the census was probably an error.

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