Part II, An example of a Chancery Court Suit.

These chaps could have been researching in Chancery Court records if they weren’t busy doing other things.


So, yesterday we talked about what a Chancery Court is – a court of Equality.   And we know that many courthouse employees may not know what a Chancery Court is because they have other things to worry about.

The example that I pulled up is a partition of sale brought in Marion County, Ohio’s Chancery Court by one Ruel Skinner, of Wood County, Ohio, who is married to Mariah (Sometimes Maria, Mary) Skinner, nee Fickle, in 1846.

Why is this case so important?  It shows us both how a Chancery Court was used at the time, and how it provides clear evidence of Isaac Fickle’s children from two marriages.

In 1838, one Isaac Fickle of Marion County, Ohio died intestate, meaning no will was filed, meaning in those days nothing was really entered into the courts.  At the time he died, he left behind a wife and young children.  This was Isaac’s second wife, the first having died after the birth of their second child.  So we have children from two different mothers, and there is an age gap.  The eldest child, Mariah was born in 1817, her brother Stewart was born in 1818 in Fairfield County, Ohio.

In 1821, Marion County, Ohio, was erected from Delaware County, Ohio.  Isaac received a land grant and moved from east central Ohio to north central Ohio – a distance today of about 2 hours by car.   The land grant gave him the land, free and clear, with no encumbrances.

Following the death of the first wife, Isaac Fickle married again, in 1825 to Eliza Tipton, and had six more children.  The eldest was Mary, born in 1825, and the youngest was either a daughter named Cordelia, or a son named Elliot.  We know that Cordelia was born in 1837, because we have her death record.  But with Elliot, all we have is his tombstone stating his death date.

Because Eliza was a widow with minor children, she was allowed to live on the land, which was free an clear, and benefit from its farming income until such time as her youngest child reach majority, or she died.  If she died leaving minor children, then the proceeds from the sale of the land would go in equal shares to all of Isaac Fickle’s children.

Seems fair enough.

But Eliza died, and we have no record or burial location for her.  There is a dressed stone next to Isaac’s grave marker, but no stone for Eliza.  And because she didn’t leave an estate when she died, and there is no will, there is no probate record on file.

Dead end, right?


We have the suit in the Chancery Court records!

And in the suit brought by Ruel Skinner, on behalf of his wife, he was suing his wife’s half siblings for the land.  Why?  Because evidently, no one thought to tell the half siblings about Eliza’s death.  Stewart Fickle had pushed onto Indiana, and Mariah married Ruel Skinner and they were living in Wood County to the north.  Given that this was Ohio, in 1836, news didn’t travel fast, and neither did people.

By 1838, Mary Fickle, the eldest, had married one William Franklin Harvey, and William was farming not only his land next to the Fickle land, but he was also providing his wife’s sisters and brother with shelter.

So to get his wife’s fair share for her, under Ohio law, the land needs to be partitioned and placed for sale.

So from this Chancery Court case, what we found proof of was:

  1. Isaac Fickle died intestate.
  2. That Eliza Fickle died “in or about 1846”
  3. That children of Isaac Fickle were Mariah, Stewart, Mary, Margaret Ann, Louisa, Sarah, Elliot and Cordelia.
  4. That each child was entitled to one eighth of proceeds.
  5. That Mariah had to sue all of her siblings for partition, including the “infant” (under the age majority) siblings of Elliot and Cordelia.
  6. The proceeds of the sale of 87 acres of land (more or less) netted each heir $133.87, a princely sum in 1838, considering you could actually buy something of value for a couple pennies.

The extra nugget that we get is that Mariah was married to Ruel Skinner, that Mary was married to William Harvey, that Margaret was unmarried and that Louisa was married to Hezekiah Johnson.  And because we cannot find Louisa’s death date we know that she was alive when the partition was filed.

Now the outcome of all of this is that William Harvey, Mary’s husband, bought the land outright in partnership with his brother David Henderson Harvey.

So what this partition action, in the Chancery Court tells us is who is related to whom, what the relationships were, and it ties these children to their birth mothers, and gives a date of death for Eliza Fickle.  At the same time, it tells us that Louisa Johnson, nee Fickle was alive at partition.

Chancery records – worth looking into .