Mystery of the Week: Clark and Blair Woodcock (or the case of the two Rebeccas)
This installment of the Mystery of the Week series [they are infrequent enough, perhaps "of the week" is a bad label...] looks into two brothers, Clark and Blair Woodcock, who lived in and around Bedford, Blair and Huntingdon counties in the mid-nineteenth century, and who both died as a result of action in the American Civil War. Blair died in May 1864, near the Po River in Spotsylvania County, Virginia. Clark died at Saylor's Creek, Virginia in April 1865. This was one of the last battles leading up to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House, only a matter of days later.
Let's start with some basics. Relied upon as a source showing them as brothers is the 1912 work of William Lee Woodcock, History of the Woodcock family from 1692 to Sept. 1, 1912 as published by the Altoona Mirror. I have a Higginson reprint in my library, but the book is also available in full view on Google books. William L. Woodcock was a prominent attorney in Altoona in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Pages 49-50 tie together Anne, Clark, Blair, Lynch, and Mary as children of Amos Woodcock and Catherine Shell. Clark and Blair show up together in the same household in the 1850 census, with a George Shell, age 59. Blair shows up again in 1860 with a John Shell, age 70, and shows as married within the year to a Rebecca. Clark shows up seperately in 1860 with a wife Rebecca, and a daughter Mary C. Both 1860 entries are in Woodbury Township, Blair County, Pennsylvania.
The difficulty is that they don't show up with their parents in 1850. Amos Woodcock was born in 1805, so is either already dead or resided elsewhere. Given the Woodcock book's account, it appears the Shells they are with are relatives. The question is to whether they are uncles, cousins or grandparents on their mother's side.
There had been a prior confusion with the two Rebecca Woodcocks, wives of Clark and Blair. Contact with another researcher a number of years back partially solved some of the mystery - i.e. that the Rebecca that later married a Mathew Flaig was the widow of Blair, while the Rebecca that did not remarry was the widow of Clark.
Futher shedding light is the obit of Clark's daughter Anna May (Woodcock) Courter, which appeared in the Altoona Mirror in 1906:
ALTOONA MIRROR - FRIDAY, MARCH 30, 1906, p12
MRS ANN MAY COURTER Whose death at the Altoona hospital was briefly referred to in yesterday's Mirror, was the wife of Amos Courter of 1904 First Avenue. She had been in failing health for over a year and was admitted to the hospital for treatment on Nov 17, 1905. Deceased was a daughter of Clark (deceased) and Rebecca Woodcock and was born at Frankstown on Sept 11, 1860. She had resided in this city for a number of years and was a member of the First United Brethren Church. She is survived by her husband and four children -- Esther, Ruth, Mildred and Mattie. She is also survived by her mother, Mrs. Rebecca Woodcock of Frankstown, and two sisters, Mrs. J.W. Wentzel of Altoona and Mrs. Jennie Rhodes of Frankstown. The funeral will take place on Saturday afternoon, services to be conducted in the First United Brethren Church, Eighth Avenue and Twelfth Street, at 2:30 o'clock. Interment will be made in Fairview Cemetary. [Section L, Plot 5]
This obit served to prove that Clark's widow had not remarried. The death certificate on file for Anna May showed her parents as Clark Woodcock (dec'd) and Rebecca Grace. Given that Rebecca was alive at the time, that seems to put a high degree of probability that the maiden name given is correct. Notes in my files suggest that Rebecca might have died in 1908, but I don't have confirmation of such. (An obit appears in the Altoona Mirror on May 16, 1908 for a Rebecca Woodcock, but whether this is the same person is unknown, as I have not seen the obit itself)
The obit does bring some additional mystery into things, as to the birth date of Anna May Woodcock. The Obit gives September 11, 1860. The death certificate gives August 14, 1862. Throw in the 1900 census, which gives the birth month and year as Sept 1861, but age 39, married 20 years, with 6 total children, three living. Though the more I look at the image from 1900, it could very well be a 0 for 1860 and not a 1 for 1861. [1900 was the one census year that gave month and year of birth, in addition to age, when all others since household itemization began in 1850 have only age] Still, the difference between the death cert and the census/obit is troubling, since in theory the obit ought to have been from the same source as the death record.
Back to Clark's Rebecca for a second. We have her in 1860 with Clark. We have her in 1880 widowed, with daughters Mary 21 and Jennie 18 with her. Same again in 1900, this time in Frankstown. From the obit, we have found the daughter Mary who married Joseph W. Wentzel. Her own 1900 entry has her birth as January 1860, which would put things awful close to the earlier Sept 1860 date for Anna May. Not impossible, but very close. Jennie appears to have been born in 1864 by her item in Rebecca's 1900 entry. 1900 also shows Rebecca as having had 4 children, only three of which were living in 1900. 1880 does not show any other children, and I have not located Rebecca in 1870 as yet.
1900 Census transcription, at the same address as the 1890 Veterans census:
1900: Ward 4, Altoona, Blair Co, PA, T623 Roll 1380; ED: 49. Page: 5A; 1319 Sixth Ave, V107/F111, lines 39-40 Rebecca Woodcock Head W F June 1833 66 Wd 4 3 PA PA PA Jennie Dau W F Apr 1864 36 S PA PA PA 1319 Sixth Ave, renting.
This further suggests that Jennie married ____ Rhodes in between January 1, 1900 and March 1906. It also casts some doubt on a prior supposition that Jennie had been born in 1857, and married a Wilson Rhodes. A quick search of the surname Rhodes in 1910 census in Blair County shows one Frankstown entry - a Samuel, age 64, that has a Jennie, age 48, with them having been married 7 years, and her having no children. This fits better than the prior supposition of Wilson.
One tough thing to explain, from the database, is where does the J. A. Woodcock I have as one of the children (2nd in order of four) tie in? If it's pre-1860, it's a child that died young. If it's in between Anna May and Jennie, then it is possible for J. A. to be old enough in 1880 to be away from Rebecca, Mary and Jennie. But we also know the 4th child is deceased before 1900. The 1870 census entry would go a long way to answering this question. Indexes only exist for heads of households, which have not borne fruit, so we are left to the old fashioned way.