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Home: Surnames: Shipley Family Genealogy Forum

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Benjamin F. Shipley (1881-1938), Grundy & Sullivan Cos., MO, and Davenport, IA
Posted by: Chuck Sexton (ID *****5810) Date: April 04, 2007 at 09:23:04
  of 3016

With a fortuitous combination of information from about 3 or 4 Shipley researchers, we seemed to have solved the mystery of the origin of the Benjamin Franklin Shipley (8 Feb 1881 - 30 Oct 1938) of Grundy and Sullivan Cos., MO, and Davenport, Scott Co., IA. Some details still need to be verified but this line involved a father who apparently died before a son was born, a mother who remarried and then past away in between censuses, nicknames in official records, and the confusion of adopted surnames, misspellings on indexes, and faint images on available online data. Whew!

A number of the direct descendants of this Benjamin F. Shipley have already posted information on this forum on his descendants and I won’t presume to repeat that. Here I’ll recite the ancestry I have pieced together and cite the sources I have consulted. I am indebted to Bill Shipley, Sandi Shipley Ackerman, and Suzzette Shipley Robbins for pieces of the puzzle that they posted here at various times going back to 2001. Many other Shipley researchers have contributed to my understanding of the early generations of this line, most of whom have posted their results on this forum.

I am only a 4th cousin to the current generation of descendants of this Benjamin F. Shipley, but this involved research of my own Shipley ancestors and I am happy to contribute the following.

* * * * * * * * *

Benjamin Franklin Shipley (1881-1938)(“BFS” for short here) is apparently a descendant of the line of Shipley’s that left Kentucky in about the 1820s and settled in the central IL area (De Witt Co.). Some of them relocated to n.w. Missouri (Harrison Co.) in the mid-1850s. My RootsWeb family genealogy website has my details and sources as of Dec 2006. An entry point for BFS’s great grandparents can be found at:

BFS’s great grandparents were Benjamin Shipley (Jr.) and Sarah Martha “Patsey” Cottrell. [The designation of “Jr.” here is only for convenience in this array of Benjamin Shipley’s. Neither “Sr.”, “Jr.”, “3rd”, or other suffix appears in any official records.] Benjamin Shipley Jr. left 11 heirs when he passed away in Wayne Co., KY, in about 1826 (Deed Records of Wayne Co., KY, Book I, p. 26, 25 July 1840):

       Elizabeth (m. Isaac Dunnegan)
       Sarah (m1. William Stinson, m2. Nathan Tubbs)
       Lucinda (m. Rev. Matthew Floyd)
       Anna (m. Reuben W. Floyd)
       Martha “Patsey” (m. John Black)
       Benjamin F. 3rd (m. Sarah Hoblit)
       Rachel (m. Joshua Dale; this is my line)
       Mary “Polly” (m. Elijah Cox)
       James M. (m. Jane Branson) [This is BFS’s line; see below.]
       Lemuel (m. Lutitia Brock/Black, many different spellings)

I have researched BFS’s grandfather James M. Shipley in central IL and n.w. MO. James M. Shipley was b. Oct 1816 in Wayne Co., KY, and died before 1901. He married twice and had a total of about 14 children. BFS descends from his first family with Jane Branson. James M. Shipley m. Jane Branson in McLean Co., IL, on 13 Dec 1838 (McLean Co. Marriages, Bk A, p. 116; Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, online). James and Jane Shipley had eight children before Jane passed away on 18 Mar 1856:

       Unk. girl (a female 0-5 yrs old in 1840 census; not found in subsequent censuses)
       Isaac (b. abt 1840, died in Civil War in GA)
       Sarah H. (b. abt 1843)(middle initial “E” in 1850 census, “A” in 1860)
       William Amos (1846-1916)(m. Nancy Jane Marvel; I have a good descendancy for him)
       Elza H. (1848-1915)(m. Margaret L. Busey)
       ? George T. (b. abt 1850)(relationship uncertain, see my website)
       Francis M. (1852-1881)(m. Mary E. Burnett; BFS’s line; see below)
       Mary L. (b. abt 1855)(prob. m. William Milligan)

Francis M. Shipley was b. abt 4 Jan 1852 in IL, probably in De Witt Co.)(birth date calculated from age at death; Harrison Co. MO Cemetery Records, compiled by Harrison Co. Gen. Society). The 1870 census of Harrison Co., MO, lists him as “Frank” which was probably his nickname, but I use “Francis” for the present discussion. He died 17 Jan 1881, possibly in Harrison Co., MO, at the age of just 29 yrs and 13 days. On 26 Mar 1876, he married Mary E. Burnett in Harrison Co., MO (Marriage Records Vol. 1, Harrison Co., Bethany, Missouri, Books A & B, 1845-1881. Compiled by Les Beeks & Harrison Co. Gen. Society. Publ. 1983 & 1998).

In the 1880 census, Francis M. & Mary E. Shipley are living in the Grant twp of Harrison Co., MO with two children, Herbert (3), and Hattie (1, both b. in MO)(1880 Fed Census: MO, Harrison Co., Grant twp, ED 296, p. 6B/101B, #29/31. Living next to father James and his 2nd wife Elizabeth).

This is where things get really interesting! The “Portrait & Biographical Album of De Witt and Piatt Cos., Ill.” (Chapman Bros., Chicago, 1891) has a biography of William Amos Shipley. It mentions that William’s brother Francis M. Shipley “died in mature years, leaving a widow and three children.” Since there are only two children listed in Francis’s household as of 1 June 1880, this means that Mary gave birth to another child sometime after 1 June 1880. Since Francis died on 17 January 1881, this brackets the date of birth of the third child between June 1880 and about 9 months *after* Francis’s death, i.e., abt October 1881. Notice that we should not presume that the third child was born before Francis died!

I had tried for years to track down Francis’s widow Mary E. (Burnett) Shipley and her three children Herbert, Hattie, and Unknown, without success. I won’t describe all the dead ends and possible leads here, but it has been frustrating. It seemed to be another of those families that just disappeared! Then when I read a couple of posts about the present BFS and went back over my notes and sources, several pieces of the puzzle fell into place. The important jigsaw pieces are as follows:

1. Benjamin Franklin Shipley was b. 8 Feb 1881 in MO (reportedly in Trenton).

2. In the 1900 Fed Census, enumerated on 5 June 1900 to be exact, BFS is living in the household of his future wife and in-laws in Green Castle, Sullivan Co., MO:

1900: MO, Sullivan Co., Penn twp, ED 157, p. 4A/141A, #83/84:
       John & Sarah E. Steele, with six children including daughter Susan M., b. Apr 1881 in MO, and “boarder” Benjamin F. Shipley, b. Feb 1881, 19 yrs old, b. unknown, parents b. unknown.

Note that the census respondent did not know where BFS nor his parents were born, another clue! According to posts on the present forum, BFS and Susan were married five days later, on 10 June 1900. Also, my listing of the surname as “Steele” comes from these same posts on the present forum. The “S” of “Steele” is nearly illegible on the online image of the census schedule. As a result, this whole family is indexed as “Teele” by

3. BFS’s nearest relative listed on his WW I draft registration card in September 1918 is “Gertrude Custard”. In very faint pencil on that card (, online image), it lists her as his “sister”. I found Gertrude (nee Shipley) Custard and her husband in Trenton, Grundy Co., MO, in 1910 and 1920:

1910: MO, Grundy Co., Trenton Ward 1, E.D. 58, p. 7B, on Trenton Ave., household #183/193:
       Frank Custard, head, 42, 1st marriage, 2 yrs, b. MO, parents b. OH OH.
       Gertrude Custard, wife, 31, 1st marriage, 2 yrs, b. IA IA IA.
       (apparently no children in household)

1920: Trenton Ward 1, E. D. 58, p. 3A (handwritten), p. 196A (printed), 601 W. 5th Street, household #50/55:
       Charles F. Custard, head, 52, b. MO MO MO
       Hattie G. Custard, wife, 38, b. MO MO MO

The address for this couple in 1920 is nearly an exact match to what BFS listed on his WW I registration card in 1918 (he had the street number as “605”). Collectively, this suggests a sister of BFS named Hattie Gertrude Shipley (?) who was born either in 1879 or 1882 in IA or MO. This lack of certainty on her own birth as well as those of her parents is a clue!

4. Seemingly unrelated was a marriage listing in adjacent Harrison Co., MO, of a Samuel GIBBS to “Mollie” Shipley on 6 Dec 1882 in Ridgeway, Harrison Co., MO (Harrison Co. Marriages, Bk 1, p. 135)(Marriage Records, Harrison Co., Bethany, Missouri, Vol. 2. Bks 1, 2, 3, & 4, 1881 - 1899. Compiled by Les Beeks, undated).

5. In 1900, there are 149 Samuel Gibbs in the U.S., including 8 living in MO. Five of these are heads of households, one of whom has a wife named Mary (in Dent Co., MO) and another with a wife Mollie (in Scott Co., MO). Yet none of the Missouri Gibbs families is consistent with the possibility of Samuel and Mollie Gibbs who married in 1882 in Harrison Co., MO. However, there is also a Samuel Gibbs who is a 54-yr-old widower in Trenton, Grundy Co., MO! Moreover, he indicates that he had been married 10 years. That census does not list his wife nor when she died but this is compatible with the Samuel Gibbs who m. Mollie Shipley in adjacent Harrison Co. in 1882 (who presumably then died in abt 1892). Research is needed to check cemetery and probate records in Grundy Co., MO, to verify this relationship.

6. I hypothesized that Francis M. Shipley’s widow Mary E. Shipley was the “Mollie” Shipley who married Samuel Gibbs in Dec 1882. Mollie is not an uncommon nickname for “Mary”. That would make Samuel the step-father of Mary's three children.

"Connecting the dots", I now had the possibility of three children, Herbert, Hattie Gertrude, and Benjamin Franklin Shipley, whose father Francis died just before BFS’s birth, whose mother remarried in Dec 1882, and whose mother died in about 1892, and whose step-father Samuel Gibbs was living in Trenton, Grundy Co., MO, in 1900.

7. The smallest piece of the puzzle that made it all fall into place was a posting here by Sandi Shipley Ackerman on 29 June 2001 (post #1233) which listed BFS as having a “guardian Samuel Gibbs”. The source of that tidbit will be important to document--I don’t have that documentation.

8. I subsequently found a “Gertrude Gibbs” in the 1900 census not far from step-father Samuel Gibbs. She is a single, 22-yr-old lodger (b. Sept 1877, IA IA IA) in the household of physician J. A. & Sallie M. Asher (1900 Fed Census: MO, Grundy Co., Trenton, Ward 4, ED 61, p. 1A/151A, household #9/9). This suggests that Samuel Gibbs may have adopted Mary Shipley’s children--another avenue of possible research--or that Hattie Gertrude Shipley was simply using her step-father’s surname. Gertrude’s future husband Charles F. Custard is living with his parents Charles & Hannah Custard in Trenton Ward 1, ED 59, p. 6B, household #148/153.

To recap this reconstructed family: We have Francis M. & Mary E. (Burnett) Shipley with three children, Herbert, Hattie Gertrude, and Benjamin Franklin Shipley. Francis M. Shipley died 17 Jan 1881, apparently when his wife Mary was pregnant with their third child, BFS, who was born in early February of the same year. [Note that unless pregnant Mary Shipley traveled elsewhere to give birth, BFS may have been born in Harrison Co, MO, rather than in “Trenton, Grundy Co., MO” as has been stated. However, Ridgeway and Trenton, MO, are less than 30 miles apart and perhaps Mary Shipley had family (e.g., Burnett family) in Trenton.] Widow Mary “Mollie” (Burnett) Shipley remarried to Samuel Gibbs in Harrison Co. in December 1882. Mary (Burnett)(Shipley) Gibbs apparently died about 1892. Samuel Gibbs may have formally adopted Mary’s children, either before or after her death. By 1900, this family had moved apart. Samuel is a boarder in Trenton, as is Gertrude Gibbs in another household. BFS is living with his soon-to-be in-laws in Trenton.

Thereafter, the modern history of this family begins, as has been listed in this forum. I’d still like to see some of these facts checked and documentation provided for some of these hypotheticals, but it all seems fairly plausible to me at this point in time. I’ve been known to make some erroneous logical leaps in the past in my Shipley research and I need someone to double-check me on all of this!

Chuck Sexton

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