Sunday, September 9, 2012

All for Naught

So here was the plan -- go to Texas for a year and be a "fife major" in the War for Texas Independence from Mexico, be rewarded with a lot of bounty land, and then return home to a loving wife and family with a feeling of financial security. As discussed in previous posts, William was returning home with almost 5000 acres of Texas land for he and his family to identify, register and manage.  To quote William,

I believe that by coming to Texas is the best thing I ever did in my life for it will be a fortune to us and our children if it’s well-managed as long as we live.
Unfortunately, that was not the way it was going to work out. On William's return home to Lexington via New Orleans in the summer of 1837, he died.  I've yet to find out what took his life, but in that particular year, 412 people died from yellow fever in New Orleans. Fifteen years after his death, and one year before the death of his wife, Mary, a Commissioner from the State of Texas was helping the family claim the land that William had been awarded for his service.  Because of widespread fraud, Texas set up a special court to review the claims.  To this end, the family had to submit anything they had to support not only William's service, but also his death in New Orleans. Thankfully for his descendants, Mary had four letters that she had received from her husband and the Commissioner was able to secure testimony from volunteers who had served with William. Here is a transcription of the testimony provided by acquaintances of William.


State of Kentucky
County of Fayette

On this the twenty-eighth day of December A.D. 1852 before me G. R. Freeman a Commissioner for the State of Texas personally appeared Charles Gibson and John Fisher who being duly sworn according to law declared that they were personally and well-acquainted with Wm. E. Probert deceased and late a soldier in the Texan army during the Texas Revolution, that the said Probert left the city of Lexington in the spring or Summer of the year 1836 as a volunteer in the military service of the late Republic of Texas.  That his family afterward received information by letter and otherwise from him that he had joined the Texan army.  That he never returned to his family from Texas notwithstanding his avowed purpose of so doing. That his family received information that he had died on his return to Kentucky in the city of New Orleans and that this information was confirmed by the report of the returning  volunteers who went to Texas in company with him.  That it is the conviction and general belief of his friends and all who knew him that he did die in the city of New Orleans as aforesaid while returning from the Texan Army, and that nothing has ever been known or heard of him since the summer of the year 1837 except that he had died about that time while on his way home from Texas to Kentucky in the City of New Orleans.  That they are well-acquainted with the family of the said Wm. E. Probert and his intimate friends and acquaintances and have had the best opportunity for obtaining all of the knowledge of the said Probert which could be obtained.
                                                                                                                Charles Gibson
                                                                                                                J. Fischer
Sworn to and subscribed before me this 28th day of December A.D. 1852 and thereby certify that Charles Gibson and John Fisher are men of respectability and truth in whose testimony the fullest confidence may be placed and that their signatures above written are genuine in testimony whereof I hereunto subscribe my name and affix my Commissioner’s Seal.
                                                                                                                G. R. Freeman

With the research I've been able to accomplish thus far, it appears as if Mary and William's plan to provide their family with lifetime security did not come to fruition. I've yet to see if any of their adult children were able to get any proceeds from the bounty land. I can only imagine the loss caused by William's death -- just when he was anticipating a joyous reunion with the wife and children he so obviously cherished.


  1. Fascinating story and very thorough research. What struck me was that this was 15 years after his death and still unresolved. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. Time delays of this sort for settling affairs, sale of land, transfers of property are more common than thought. Had a girl looking for a deed, she was looking around the time of the death of her ancestor. Not found. I told her to keep looking, just keep working towards 1900. She found it, finally. Was recorded at least 15 years after the death.

    Great research Kathy! Lots of twists and turns in William's story.

  3. What a challenge for that family! And their children must have been grown by the time the court made their decision, I'm assuming. How on earth did they all manage -? Finding the documents with many of the puzzle pieces - wonderful results. Thanks for posting your research, Kathy.


Join the conversation. Comments are appreciated and keep me motivated.