Abraham Sorrell(3)—What the 1850 US Census for Ferrisburgh Doesn’t Tell

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Abraham Sorrell, who lost his life from injuries sustained in the Civil War’s Wilderness Battle in May 1864, had married three times. His Civil War pension file offers an incredible portrait of people living in Ferrisburgh in 1850 and beyond.

After having read the testimony left by his first wife, Eliza Sears, and by his second wife, Eliza Carpenter, let’s take a look at what Eliza Carpenter’s sister, Catherine Palmer, had to say about the two lovebirds.

I will publish a short biography of each person concerned in the last post of this series. Enjoy!

On this thirtieth day of September, 1881, at Vergennes, County of Addison, State of Vermont, before me, Wm Hutchinson a Special Agent of the Pension Office, personally appeared Catharine J. Palmer, who, being by me duly sworn according to law, declares that her age is 41 years, that [s]he resides at Vergennes, County of Addison, State of Vermont, and that she is the sister of Eliza Ayers who formerly married Abram Sorrell a Private in Co. B 5 Vt vols. and their maiden name was Carpenter. Affiant well remembers the marriage of Eliza — she was working for Dr. Cole in this city at the time. She immediately went with said Sorrell to live in Ferrisburg among his relatives at what was called Ferrisburg hollow. The first winter they lived with the father and mother of said Sorrell — then the next summer they kept house at same place. In the fall and winter following they moved up this way about a mile from Vergennes — and in the spring they broke up housekeeping and moved into Vergennes. They here lived with his brother Michael Sorrell — on a street back of Hiram Adams block — and boarded. They so lived as much as two years, but affiant cannot fix the dates of any of these events — only she remembers that he did not live in Vergennes long before the rebellion broke out. He was so living with his brother Mike — when he went and enlisted once his wife Eliza continued to live there alone after said Sorrell went away to the army. He came home on a furlough some nine months after he enlisted and then remained with her while here on furlough, at his brother Mike’s. That was the last time his wife or affiant ever saw him.

Affiant cannot tell anything as to Sorrell’s former history — as she never saw him until after the marriage, and she cannot say how much her family knew of his previous life. She was herself too young then to know much about such things, yet she remembers very well what she did know, and what she here testifies to.

Affiant’s mother knows nothing either, of the said Sorrell before his marriage into their family, affiant has often heard her say so. None of her family knew that Sorrell had another wife living when he married Eliza Carpenter. Eliza herself did not know it till about the next summer, although she was living with his parents — they said nothing about the first wife — Sears, and she — Eliza Sears was living near by them too, at the same time. Affiant is sure there was no divorce asked for or granted to any of the parties. They all talked it over that way. Affiant has heard Sorrell say that he only married Eliza Sears because he was obliged to — that they took advantage of him when he was underage — that he was only about fifteen when he married, so he was not legally married and that he wouldn’t live with her any way. Affiant has heard both Sorrell and his wife talk this way.

Affiant is sure there was no hardness between Sorrell and her sister Eliza at any time; they were friendly to the time he saw her last on furlough, and fully intended to live together again, and she had no thought then of his having a subsequent wife.

He would go away sometimes a month or so, pretending to go for work — and he might have gone in that way just before he enlisted. He was in the habit of drinking sometimes and at such times it wouldn’t make much difference what he did. That was then may[be] they got him to marry Eliza Sears. Affiant once heard him say that himself. The Sears woman never came near any of affiant[’s] folks, and never made any talk about Sorrell till he was dead, and then she thought she could get a pension.

and she further declares that [s]he has no interest, direct or indirect, in the claim of minors of Abram Sorrell for a pension; and further saith not.

Miss is Catherine Palmer, Affiant

Sworn to and subscribed before me this 30 day of Sept. 1881, and I certify that the contents were fully made known to affiant before signing.

Wm Hutchinson, Special Agent Exa

♥ A special thanks to Danielle Tourville for the transcription and translation to French of the documents.

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3 thoughts on “Abraham Sorrell(3)—What the 1850 US Census for Ferrisburgh Doesn’t Tell

  1. Fascinating story. I wonder why this people filed the affidavits if they weren’t interested in contesting the claim to the pension by the third wife.

  2. Hi Amy, from what I understand the Pension Office found out that the third (illegitimate) wife was receiving a pension while his first wife was still alive and there was no divorce. The examiner was interviewing people who knew the first wife to establish if the two children were really Abraham’s as they were the one entitled to the pension.

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