Sunday, June 17, 2012

Why Would He Do It?

I've had a great time over the past couple of weeks researching my ggg-grandfather, William E. Probert.  The best information I have so far, is that he immigrated from Wales.  There is a debate as to whether or not he has "Irish" roots. In the process, I found out that the name "Probert" in the Welsh tradition frequently means "son of Robert."  Reminds me of my Jones maiden name, which often meant "son of John."

William and his wife Mary had five children.  The first, Thomas, was born in 1824 and the last, William, was born in 1835.  Three girls, Nancy, Mary Ann, and Sarah Elizabeth, were born in the middle, with Sarah only living for 18 months.

Picture of a Civil War Fife Major
Photo Credit:
My 2012 sensibilities do not allow me to comprehend why William E. Probert, the head of the family, would leave his family in the spring of 1836, to be a "Fife Major" in the War for Texas Independence. His wife, Mary, would somehow have to manage with a newborn and three other children on her own. So here are some facts:

  • At the time of William's departure from Lexington, he was 46 years old.
  • He was working as a tailor. 
  • I don't know how dangerous it was to be a "fife major".
  • I can only speculate about his motives, but maybe he wanted adventure and the hope for land should they succeed.

Thankfully, the State of Texas appears to have wonderful archives.  I was able to go to their site and search items saved from the "Republic of Texas."  Imagine my excitement when a search on "Probert" turned up several documents that discussed William's service in the War for Texas Independence.

For William, just getting to Texas proved to be a challenge. According to this document:
Said Probert came with us to New Orleans and was left there in consequence of sickness. Came on to the Army in Captain Sovereign's company and then joined our company which was his (original?).
He made a commitment for six months of service and received an Honorable Discharge. What was most interesting to me was that the record included a personal description of W. E. Probert.

Transcription: To all whom it may concern, know ye that W.E. Probert, Fife Major of Captain Love's Company of Volunteers 1st Regiment 1st Brigade was enrolled on the 4th day of June one thousand eight hundred and thirty-six to serve six months and is hereby discharged from the Army of Texas. Said Probert is five foot six and a half inches high, forty-six years of age, complexion fair, gray eyes, occupation when enrolled Jailor. Given this day of December 1836.

So now I know he only committed to six months of service. I guess his wife, Mary, could survive that commitment if the rewards for service were enticing enough.  That is, if he returned home.  But the evidence doesn't suggest that . . .

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