Monday, August 8, 2011

Austin S. Moxley - what happened?

The Moxley name is not a common one in our area.  It is fair to say that if you live in NE Mississippi or NW Alabama, and have a Moxley ancestor, you probably are a descendant of Austin Smith Moxley.  Austin appears to have been the only Moxley who settled in this part of the country.  What brought him so far from his native Virginia?  We will probably never know for sure.  Like so many of his contemporaries, Austin was probably drawn by the lure of newly settled lands where opportunities and fresh starts availed.

We know Austin was an educated man.  The 1850 census for Fayette County indicated "schoolteacher" as Austin's occupation.    He left generations of descendants who were educators as well.  Moxley School in eastern Itawamba County received its name from sons and grandchildren who taught school.

Austin apparently was well-liked and well-respected.   Surviving records show that he was elected Justice of the Peace at least twice.  

Unfortunately, Austin's time on earth was not long; he died at the age of 30 of unknown circumstances, leaving a widow, four sons and a daughter.  Did he die of natural causes?  An illness?  Probate records include bills to the estate for medical services that indicate Austin was under a doctor's care for most of 1855, with daily medical visits from October 14 through October 21, when a visit to the "death bed" was referenced.  It appears that Austin died on October 21, 1855 from a chronic disease or illness rather than a sudden death.

A few records survived the disastrous 1866 fire at the Fayette County courthouse as well as other fires that destroyed most of the county's early public records.  In addition to the 1846 and 1847 officers bonds that I posted earlier on this blog, one 1848 deed record and several pages of probate records were found for Austin S. Moxley.

On December 15, 1848, Austin S. Moxley and his wife, Emily C. (Sims) Moxley, for five dollars, conveyed one square acre of land lying in the Southwest corner of the East half of Section 16, Township 15, Range 16 to Arthur Young.   The conveyance deed was witnessed by Isaac Green, Justice of the Peace, and recorded on January 9, 1849 in Record Book E.O. Vol. 6, pages 136 and 137 by John C. Moore, Clerk.

No will has been found for Austin.  Probate records exist at the Fayette County courthouse although they appear to be incomplete.     I doubt a will was prepared even though records seem to show that Austin would had have time to get his finances in order.  The reason I suspect there was no will is that an Administrator of the Estate of Austin S. Moxley was not appointed until September 1856 at which time an inventory of the previously "unadministered" estate revealed notes and accounts due to Moxley totaling $327.34.  Unfortunately, there were claims against the estate of $507.33 filed during the January 1857 term of court, and the administrator of Moxley's estate, Thomas P. McConnell, asked the court to declare the estate insolvent. 

The Letters of Administration appointing Thomas P. McConnell as administrator, and the subsequently filed inventory, schedules and the final settlement are recorded in Probate Court Record Book 1-A, pages 123-126.   The same record book, on pages 445-454, includes details of the receipts and claims of the estate, dated from 1856 through February 1857.

From here, the records appear confusing, and this is why I believe there are missing probate records.  In March 1857, a Final Settlement appears to have been filed by Thomas P. McConnell, administrator, on behalf of the A. S. Moxley Estate.  Yet, in 1861 there is yet another filing for the estate, found in Probate Record Book 11, pages 18-19, of a partial settlement.  In addition, at the same time, R. Allen Smith is appointed Guardian ad Litem to protect the interest of the minors at a hearing to be held August 1861.    This is the last probate record found for the Estate of Austin S. Moxley.    No minors were named in the record, and no record or minutes were found for the subsequent August hearing. 

In the 1860 census, Austin's widow and children were living in the household of John A. "Stuckey" in Franklin County, Alabama.  Apparently, the Moxley family had left Fayette County and moved northward to Franklin.   Mrs. Emily C. Moxley, Austin's widow, and John A. "Sturkie" were married April 10, 1866 in Madison County, Tennessee.  Emily's oldest son Henry T. Moxley, age 22, served as bondsman on the marriage license.  

Emily Moxley Sturkey moved to Arkansas by 1880 where she, her husband John, son Drury and granddaughter "E. C." were listed on the Cross County census in the Brushy Lake township.    By 1890, Emily is once again widowed.  Her name shows up in the 1890 Tax List for Itawamba County:  Mrs. E. C. Sturkey.   She last appears in the records in the 1910 census, living with her son Henry.  She was 83.  No death record has been found for her.

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