Friday, February 5, 2016

Always More Questions - and the Death of Sarah Jane Rowe Sandefur

According to her tombstone, Maxie Mozelle Bryant died on 22 May 1910 in Crawford County, Georgia.  As a woman in a poor rural family, she did not leave many records.  There was no newspaper obituary, no estate records, or even, as far as we know, a Bible record.   According to family members, the tombstone was added later so it is possible that that date is incorrect.  However, her last known child was born in 1909, when she was 29.  It is possible but not particularly likely that she lived past that point without having any further children.   More conclusive is the fact that her husband remarried in October 1910. 

So if she died in 1910, why does her husband James Bryant suddenly become the guardian of his children in 1916 as the orphans of Mrs. Mozelle Bryant nee Sandefur?  I had found one return from James Bryant in the Georgia Archives and decided to look on to see if further records were available.  Those records specified that he was appointed the guardian of Roy Bryant, Earl Bryant, Ola Bryant, Jamie Bryant, Kittie Bryant, and Henry Bryant.   The oldest daughter, Sarah Willie, was already of age and married.   The original appointment seems to have been made on 6 November 1916.

Adding to the story is that Mozelle's sister-in-law was on the same day appointed guardian for the estates of her children  Cleo Davison, Wilson Sandefur, Homer Sandefur, and Maud Sandefur, the orphan minors of James B. Sandefur, who had died in 1911.

From these two records together, it would appear that someone in the Sandefur family had died and that this reflected part of the distribution of the estate.  Looking at the family, all the children were still alive except Mozelle, James and John Perry.  Mozelle and James were married with children, so their estates would not have been distributed over the family.  Perry does not appear to have owned property and is listed in the 1900 census as a farm laborer on his brother-in-law's farm.   William R. Sandefur, their father, died in 1880.  However, we've never found a death date for his wife Sarah Jane Rowe Sandefur.  She is presumed to have died between 1910, when she is on the census, and 1920, when she is not.  She may be buried with her husband but she does not have a tombstone.  Based on the county tax records, she did own land in her own right since she regularly paid taxes on 260 acres in Crawford county.   This would have been enough to require a distribution of the estate if she died intestate - and no will has been found.

For now, I am tentatively assuming that Sarah died in 1915 or 1916 and that these guardian bonds reflect the distribution of her estate.  There is one document at the Georgia Archives that may reflect more information and of course the courthouse may have documents that are not available on line.  All these need to be checked as well.

As a postscript, James Bryant does not seem to have personally pocketed any of the money his children inherited.  His returns show no expenses claimed towards their upkeep.