Monday, May 5, 2014

Thomas -- The Early Years

Thomas H. Probert, the son of William and Mary (Polly), was born on August 29, 1824. Until I discovered a digital copy of a marriage record for Thomas and his second wife, Kate, I had no idea that he was born in Hartford, Ohio County, Kentucky. In fact, I was surprised to learn that there was an Ohio County in Kentucky. It is about a four-hour drive from Cincinnati, located south of Evansville, Indiana.

The family had moved to Nicholasville, Kentucky just outside of Lexington where they were listed in the 1830 Census. Within four years, the family was listed in Lexington, where William initially made his living as a baker.

By the time William volunteered to be a fife player as part of a Lexington contingent of men who volunteered for the War of Texas Independence in 1836, William was working as a tailor.

Thomas was the first-born of five children, although one daughter, Sarah Elizabeth died at 18 months. He was only 12 years old when his father left for the war, and he had to grow up quickly. We are fortunate to have copies of correspondence from William to his wife in which it becomes obvious that William valued education. In a letter sent to his wife, Mary, dated  December 1836, William stated, "I am happy to know that you are doing so well as what you are and likewise that Thomas is able to help you a little. I hope he will be a good boy. I am very sorry to hear that William got his hand burnt, but I hope it is not injured much.  I am glad likewise that Nancy Jane is improving in her schooling. I would be glad if you could spare Mary Ann so that she could go to school, but these things I shall leave to your own good management."

Letters on file with the Texas Archives

In a second letter dated January 1937, William stated, "I hope you will endeavor to keep the children to school and expect that before my return I shall see a letter of Thomas' own writing."

I wrote about William's participation in the War for Texas Independence in several previous posts. What was unknown to all concerned was that life was about to get much more difficult. On William's return trip to Lexington via New Orleans, he succumbed to illness and died. Thomas was only 13 years old and the oldest of four children of a widowed mother. Things had to be tough.

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