Saturday, November 20, 2010

Surname Saturday - Wolfenbarger

Stephen Wolfenbarger and Eliza Hopkins

Let me start by saying I have absolutely no proof that Stephen Wolfenbarger was the father of Eliza Hopkins' children but that's the family story. I do know for sure is that the story doesn't exactly match what can be proven.

The story passed down through the family is that Stephen and Eliza were married in Hancock County, Tennessee, had two sons and then Stephen was killed during the Civil War. Eliza and the boys lived with her parents until she re-married in 1866 and moved to Indiana, leaving her young sons with her parents. Since the boys were raised by their Hopkins grandparents, that's the surname they used.

Records tell a different story.

Stephen Wolfenbarger was born about 1838 in Virginia. He was probably the son of Wilkerson and Milly Wolfenbarger - at least, there was a 12 yr old Stevin Wolfenbarger listed in their household in the 1850 census in Hancock County. In 1860, Stephen Wolfenbarger and an apparent wife named Margaret were listed in Hancock County in the community of Mulberry Gap. He was 22 so is probably the "Stevin" living with Wilkerson ten years earlier.

Stephen was indeed killed during the Civil War. He enlisted in Company K of the 19th Regiment, Tennessee Infantry on 22 May 861. The exact date and place of his death is unclear but his Muster Roll dated May 14, 1863 lists him as "killed in battle."

Eliza Hopkins was born on 22 Feb 1837 in Claiborne County, Tennessee in an area of the county that later became Hancock County. She was the 6th of 11 children born to Stephen Hopkins, Jr. and Rachel McFardan. Eliza had two sons born in 1860 and 1861 in Mulberry Gap. Stephen and Rachel along with most of their children moved to Harlan County, Kentucky sometime between 1861 and 1865. Eliza married Ephram Simpson there on 11 Oct 1866 and moved to Indiana. Eliza left her sons with her parents and probably never returned to Harlan County. She died on 16 Jan 1912 in Epps, Butler County, Missouri and was buried there in Sparkman Cemetery.

Now some researchers have taken the name Margaret from that 1860 census and created a person named Margaret Eliza Hopkins as Stephen's wife (you will find her in some online trees) but there was no such person. The truth is that Stephen married someone named Margaret and was almost certainly never married to Eliza although marriage records from this period have not survived in Hancock County so that can't be absolutely proven. Since Stephen did die during the Civil War it's entirely possible that he was just a good candidate to be named the father when the boys started asking questions. After all, he wasn't around to deny it and the family had moved away from Hancock County by the time the boys would have been old enough to ask questions so there was no one around to refute the story. It's entirely possible that the boys didn't even have the same father. Another telling piece of this puzzle to me is that Eliza Hopkins (not Wolfenbarger) married Ephram Simpson in 1866. Why would a widow with two small children have reverted to her maiden name?

Eliza's (and maybe Stephen's) children:
William Columbus "Lum" Hopkins was born 13 Jan 1860 in Mulberry Gap. He was married three times and had 19 children. Lum died on 11 Jul 1947 in Gratis, Preble County, Ohio and was buried in Germantown Cemetery in Montgomery County, Ohio.

James Arton "Jim" Hopkins was born 1 Dec 1861 in Mulberry Gap. He married Lucinda Howard on 25 Deb 1885 in Harlan County, Kentucky and they had 10 children. Jim died on 5 Jan 1933 in Harlan Township, Warren County, Ohio and was buried in Morrow Cemetery in Warren County.

Eliza was my 2nd great-grandmother through her son, James Arton. Click on the links above for sources and additional information. If you have a connection to this family, leave a comment or e-mail me.

Related Surname Saturday post:
James Arton Hopkins and Lucinda Howard


1 comment:

  1. You've done a lot of research to put this biography together, LInda! Whether the family story is true or not, it's great to have somewhere to start, and then be able to prove or disprove it. Great job!

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