Thursday, July 28, 2016


Portion of William's letter announcing John's death
           We know when John died from a letter written by his son William to his wife Sarah on 5 Feb 1854, though the letter has Boston listed on it, this letter was surely posted from Illinois as William was staying with his siblings in Lima and Tioga while he regained his strength following the illness he had contacted in India during his mission there that had caused him to be sent home.  In the letter William (LDS Church History Library – William Furlsbury Carter from Boston (sic), to Sarah Carter, 1854 Feb 5, Manuscript 19589 – this original was donated to the library by the author) it states simply – “Father Died in Illinois Hancock, Co. August 13 AD 1852.”[1]   

            This brings us to probably the most interesting document in existence related to John Carter – his last will and testament.  It was filed in Adams County, IL August 19, 1852, Probate Court, Box 167.  The following is a transcript of this interesting document:

“In the Name of God Amen I, John Carter, of the County of Hancock in the State of Illinois, being of sound mind and Memory (blessed be Almighty God for the same) do make and publish this my last Will and Testament in Manner and form following (To Wit.)

1st.       It is my will that any funeral expenses and all my just debts be fully paid.

2nd.      I give and bequeath to my Daughter Almira Trip, late Almira Carter, five Dollars to her
            and her heirs respectively.

3rd.       I give and bequeath to my son Philip Carter five Dollars to him and his heirs respectively.

4th.       I give and bequeath to my Daughter Mary J. Dooley late Mary J. Carter, All the rest of my
            estate real personal or mixed of whatsoever kind description or quality of which I shall
            die seized and possessed or to which I shall be entitled at the time of my decease.  To
            have and to hold the same during her Natural life.
5th.       I give and bequeath to my Grand son John Dooley the reversion or remainder of my
            Estate Real person or mixed of what soever kind description or quality and all the profit
            in come and Advantage that may result there from.  From and after the Death of my
            said Daughter Mary J. Dooley late Mary J. Carter.
6th.       I do nominate and appoint my Daughter Mary J. Dooley, late Mary J. Carter to be
            Executrix of this my last Will and Testament.

In testimony where of I have here unto set my hand and seal and publish and decree this to be my last Will and Testament in presence of these Witnesses named below the Ninth day of August in the year of Our Lord One Thousand Eight hundred and fifty two.
                                                                                    John Carter (seal)

Signed sealed declared and publish by the said John Carter as and for his last Will and Testament in presence of us who at this request and in his presence and in presence of each other have subscribed Our Names and Witnesses hereto.
                                                                                    Geo. Ensminger
                                                                                    Martha L.  (X)   Wilson
(seal)                                                                                            mark
Filed in Adams County, Illinois                                    Catharine Carter
August 19, 1852
Recorded, page 406.[2]

Will of John Carter
            This will is a classic genealogical record that teaches the genealogist to beware of single sources.  It clearly sets out that John has three living children Mary J. Carter Dooley, Almira Carter Tripp and Philip L Carter.  The interesting signature on the will is Catharine Carter.  For a long time we were not sure who she was.  In correspondence Joe Irvin Conover he mentioned that his great grandfather, Charles, mentioning an Aunt Catherine Carter.  Upon a little more research, I think Catherine Carter is actually the Catherine Carson who married Varanes Carter (son of Richard Carter Jr. our John Carter's brother.) This would make Catherine Carson Carter John's niece by marriage.   There is a Geo. Emsminger who witnessed the will too.  Emsmingers marry into the Varanes Carter line - though after the signing of the will - so they become family members and probably knew John’s family in the 1850's as neighbors, etc.

The will though is remarkable for what it doesn’t say rather than what it does say.  In this will John fails to mention his estranged wife, Hannah, and living children:  Dominicus, Hannah, William, Philip Libby, John “Harrison”, and Eliza Ann. (Son, Richard Harrison had died in 1848 as part of the Mormon Battalion march to California.) Therefore, John wrote out the entire Latter-day Saint part of his family.  This shouldn’t be viewed as unusual or vindictive in nature.  The LDS part of the family had left Nauvoo in 1846 and had probably never returned and may have had only sporadic, if any, communication with John after they left.  For all intents and purposes what John had left was a small acreage and the Utah part of the family wouldn’t be interested in that.

John Richard Dooley
(by Gregory Park at
            It might be noted that in the deed Philip and Almira are given $5 each.  It can be presumed that Mary Jane Carter Dooley was being rewarded for caring for her father in his old age.  John and the Dooleys were closely associated for the last twelve years of John’s life as he had lived around them when Mary Jane married Jacob and again when they were in Hancock County.  John had already sold a part of his land to Jacob some years earlier.  It is most interesting that John would single out his then four years old grandson, John Richard Dooley, to inherit all his property once his mother, Mary Jane, died.  This seems to show that John may have had a favored grandson (John Richard) and one can only imagine that he had grandpa twisted around his little finger.  This is a rare opportunity to see John as a living, breathing, feeling person.

Fletcher Cemetery (many stones missing)
            With the death of John recorded and his will noted, there is only one last topic to cover, the question of where he was buried.  John has been variously mentioned as buried at Fletcher Cemetery in Lima, Adams County, Illinois.  Lima is the nearest modern community but there is no evidence that John is in fact buried there.  Family members have been sent to the cemetery and to the county historical society, but no record of a burial was found for John in the Fletcher Cemetery.  At least one researcher stated that the cemetery had been hit twice by tornadoes and possibly the stone was lost to a twister.  That seems a little far-fetched.  In discussing this with Joe Irvin Conover he stated:  “As for the Fletcher cemetery, I know only what Charles’ daughter Dora (my grandmother) always said: that she understood from Daddy (Charles) that John was buried there.  Perhaps I mentioned once that a son and I searched the cemetery for a stone and found none, even those we were told had been discarded at the cemetery’s edge.  I was told (perhaps by a local historian in Tioga) that the cemetery records were lost in a house fire many years ago. I think I once looked for cemetery records in the Hancock County Courthouse without luck.  So, no, no actual evidence of John being buried in the Fletcher cemetery.”

Carter Hill Cemetery
Without discounting entirely the contention that John was buried in the Fletcher Cemetery, this writer would like to propose an alternative location. In the previously cited biography of Charles Carter is found the following in referencing his father and mother’s burial, he recorded, “…he (Philip) engaged in general agriculture pursuits and stock raising up to the time of his death, which occurred July 27, 1876.  His wife survived him for two decades, and died at the home of her son Charles in January, 1897, when her remains were interred in the family graveyard on the farm by the side of her husband.”[3]  This cemetery has been located in Walker Township in section 31 a little south and west of Tioga (Yelrome).  This same property was owned by Philip Libby Carter as can be seen on the 1874 Map of Walker Township.[4]   This is only an alternative, John’s last resting place is unknown to the modern generation, so with this last mystery we formally close his life story.


            With this the story of John Carter comes to an end. It is also time to consider a passage previously quoted from the Barton L. Carter biography of his son Dominicus: “Let us be kind in our judgment of those who stayed in Illinois.  John Carter was at the time nearly sixty-four years old.  Though he was not of the faith, his love for his wife and family had steeled him to endure the same hardships as they.”[5]  Hopefully after reading this, you have a better understanding of our ancestor John Carter.    Though he did not personally join the LDS church his posterity today number in the tens of thousands and a majority of them are members of the Church.  So LDS or not, many people owe their life to the complex man who traveled the path of the early Mormon pioneers all the way from Maine to Illinois.  John Carter, our honored ancestor, we salute you.

[1] William Furlsbury Carter from Boston (sic), to Sarah Carter, 1854 Feb 5, LDS Church History Library, Manuscript 19589 – this original was donated to the library by the author)
[2] Adams County, Illinois, Probate Court, Box 167, August 19, 1852
[3] Biographical review of Hancock County, Illinois, op, cit.
[4] Historical Atlas of Hancock County, 1874, p. 95 (Family History Library Film # 954296, Item 2.)
[5] Barton L Carter, op. cit.

1 comment:

  1. Yes wills can be very interesting. I found a will of a distant ancestor (not direct line) and it is true wills are important for what they don't say as for what they do. I hope to find time next year to write about this distant relation and what I found out about him. His name was Jabez Sherwood. I eventually found his ten children.

    So what is your next project?