This is one of a group of articles tagged “The Massa Theory”. It analyzes two statements from “The End of the Trail: The Saga of the ‘Coon’ Indian Heritage,” by Bill and Jane Wilson, and Mary M. Van Duyn Overton, 3 February 1997.
You will find some articles on the blog Coon Genealogy, with some duplication on this blog.
In this article, I will be analyzing two statements that are presented as fact from page 7 of a stapled, typed, and unpublished manuscript entitled “The End of the Trail: The Saga of the ‘Coon’ Indian Heritage,” by Bill and Jane Wilson, and Mary M. Van Duyn Overton, 3 February 1997.1 I will refer to it as “the manuscript.”
My mother’s brother, James William “Bill” WILSON, Uncle Bill, gave me what appears to be the original of the above-mentioned typed manuscript in the year 2000, as well as a large pile of documents that he, his wife Jane (BROTHERS) WILSON, Aunt Janie, and Mary M. (VAN DUYN) OVERTON (my maternal grandmother’s sister, Aunt Mag) had photocopied and collected. I sorted the papers and placed them in file folders. They filled a cardboard file box.
Uncle Bill had sent one clip-bound folder of photocopies of a handwritten manuscript containing this and other information to many descendants of George COON/KUHN and Sarah JOHNSON, including my mother, in about 1997. The handwriting was Aunt Mag’s.2
The document I am using for this article contains some of the data from the manuscript, but in typed form.
Statements to Analyze
The following two statements will be analyzed in this article. They are underlined in the image below:
- “There seemed to be quite a bit of friction with the Johnsons over this marriage….”
- “…[A]ll the other Johnson children were given acreage, but not Sarah.”
Other statements will be studied in future articles.
“George Coon (1830-1901), born in Virginia, married Sarah Johnson (1/1/1833-7/23/1917), daughter of Thomas and Rachael Johnson, in 1855.”3
“George (Pap) and Sarah (Mum) lived in Brown Township, Hancock County. There seemed to be quite a bit of friction with the Johnsons over this marriage as it was known that George was one-half Indian. His father, John Coon and Massa, daughter of Tecumseh, had this son. As a result of this all the other Johnson children were given acreage, but not Sarah. They moved to Greensboro Township, Henry County. Winfield was four years old and Harvey was two.”4
Evidence Provided for Statements
No citations are provided for Statement Number 1. The sentence in full reads, “There seemed to be quite a bit of friction with the Johnsons over this marriage as it was known that George was one-half Indian.”5
It is not the purpose of this article to attempt to prove or disprove whether George was one-half Indian, or to go into detail of his heritage. The manuscript states that George COON’s parents were “…John Coon and Massa, daughter of Tecumseh….” On George’s death certificate, as George KUHN, Coonrod KUHN and Barbara RIDABOW are given as his parents.6 RIDABOW can be a phonetic spelling of RADABAUGH.7 There is autosomal DNA evidence of RADABAUGH (and various) ancestry for George’s descendants, which I will cover in a future article.8
Citation 18 is provided as the source for Statement Number 2.
18 Plat of Brown Township [Hancock County], 1887.
It is not clear what is meant by “Plat of Brown Township [Hancock County], 1887.” In a database on Ancestry’s website, there is an image of an atlas entitled An Atlas of Hancock County, Indiana, 1887.9 It is certainly possible that a printed copy of this atlas was the reference. I own a copy of this atlas, and so did Uncle Bill. He gave me his copy with the other documents in 2000.
Source Quality — Statement 1:
“There seemed to be quite a bit of friction with the Johnsons over this marriage as it was known that George was one-half Indian.”10
For Statement 1, the phrase, “…as it was known that George was one-half Indian,” is given as a proof statement for what appears as a conclusion. The word “seemed” in the first half of the same sentence should imply to the reader that it is a speculation at worst, and a hypothesis at best.
In order for the second half of the sentence to function as proof for Statement 1, there would have to be sufficient evidence that at the time of the marriage of George and Sarah, the JOHNSONs knew George’s heritage and that George was one-half Indian. What type of proof would we need for this?
We would need to seek and gather any and all historical documents that could refer to George’s heritage. This would include seeking church records, family bibles, letters from that time period, newspapers, cemetery and funeral home records, wills, probates, deeds, mortgages, censuses, and more.11
The existence of any of these documents about George’s heritage would not necessarily mean that the JOHNSONs “knew” the heritage. We would also need anything that could give evidence that Thomas and Rachel JOHNSON either knew or didn’t know of George’s heritage. It is crucial that we try to disprove a hypothesis. Not only is there an absence of proof for Statement 1, there is an absence of an attempt at disproof as well.
Even if we had this evidence, we still could not use it to justify making a statement that there was “friction with the Johnsons” unless we could then find evidence that the JOHNSONs had the knowledge of George’s heritage and that they did not accept it. Or, of course, unless we were there at that time.
We have neither of these things. We have neither the proof that we would need to be able to say that the JOHNSONs knew George’s heritage nor that they did not approve of that.
Statement 1 is a hypothesis in toto, and appears to be speculation at least in part.
“…[A]ll the other Johnson children were given acreage, but not Sarah.”12
An Atlas of Hancock County, Indiana, 1887, which I mentioned above that is likely the source referenced in footnote 18 of the manuscript, does not give a history of ownership. It is a snapshot of ownership in 1887.13
I have good evidence of the following eight children of Thomas and Rachel (JOHNSON) JOHNSON, in birth order: Mary, Anderson H., William W., Edith, Sarah, Tabitha, Rebecca Christine, and Jane.14
In the 1887 atlas I’m referring to, the map for Brown Township shows that Edith JOHNSON and Tabitha JOHNSON each had 40 acres in Section 30 about a mile west of Warrington at the corner of what was then known as the Knightstown Pendleton Pike (now Highway 234) and an unmarked road (now N775E), with Brandywine Ditch running through their adjacent properties.15 Edith’s was the NE 1/4 of the NE 1/4 of Section 30, and Tabitha’s was the SE 1/4 of the NE 1/4 of Section 30.16
The Brown Township map also shows that in 1887, land is owned by Isaac HAMILTON (husband of Mary), A.H. JOHNSON, and Jos. BAERS (husband of Jane).17 From where did these heirs receive their land? The manuscript authors seem to imply that Thomas JOHNSON gave land to all of them but Sarah.18 Evidence would need to be discovered and analyzed to determine the answer to this question.
There was no land on this township map that was marked as being owned by Sarah COON/KUHN or George COON/KUHN, nor by son William W. JOHNSON.19 Wouldn’t the authors of the manuscript have sought an explanation for the lack of land for William W.? Might that have meant that he did not receive any land either? Might they have checked other locations? This article will not elaborate on where George and Sarah were living at the time of Thomas JOHNSON’s death, nor on the location of Thomas and Rachel JOHNSON’s son William W. This also will be covered at another time.
Thomas’ will was made in 1863 and probated in 1874.20 We will look at his will in the next section. Any property transfers during the 13 years between 1874 and 1887 do not appear to have been considered in the manuscript. I say that based on the lack of the citation of any other sources for Statement 2.
Unresolved Questions and Missing Evidence
- Ensures examination of all potentially relevant sources, and
- Minimizes the risk that undiscovered evidence will overturn a too-hasty conclusion.21
Did the authors of the manuscript perform reasonably exhaustive research to form conclusions which would allow them to present Statements 1 and 2 as facts? Did they make a too-hasty conclusion? It appears that much evidence was either not sought or perhaps was tossed out. Either way, it was not referenced in this manuscript.
1) Didn’t Thomas JOHNSON Have a Will?
Thomas JOHNSON‘s will is not mentioned in the manuscript. This is unusual considering that it would be the first place that even a beginning genealogist would look to determine which children of an ancestor received real or personal property upon that ancestor’s death. Thomas made a will which was recorded in Greenfield, Hancock County, Indiana,22 about an hour from where the authors of “The End of the Trail” lived. It could have been easily obtained. However, why wasn’t the will of Thomas JOHNSON used as evidence for the manuscript?
2) Was daughter Sarah in the will of her father, Thomas JOHNSON?
Thomas and Rachel had 8 children, two sons and six daughters, born in order as follows: Mary, Anderson H., William W., Edith, Sarah, Tabitha, Rebecca Christine, and Jane.23 Rebecca Christine died in 1856 at the age of 18.24 The remaining children were still alive at the time Thomas made this will.25 Thomas’ wife Rachel died in 1863, a few days before this will was made.26 A transcript of the will follows.
|Transcript of the Last Will and Testament of Thomas JOHNSON
Hancock County Will Book 1: 482-483
Hancock County Clerk, Greenfield, Indiana
Will made on 30 July 1863 and probated 10 April 1874
|Transcribed by Elizabeth Wilson Ballard
(with names in bold)
|Last Will and Testament of Thomas Johnson
In the name of God Amen. I, Thomas Johnson of the County of Hancock and State of Indiana being of sound and disposing mind and memory calling to mind the frailty and uncertainty of human life and being desirous to settle my worldly affairs and directing how the Estates with which it has pleased God to bless me shall be disposed of after my decease while I have strength and capacity so to do, make and publish this my last Will and Testament hereby revoking and making void and null all other Wills and testaments by me heretofore made. And first I command my immortal being to him who gave it and my body to the earth to be buried with little expence but decent in accordance with my manner of living and as to my worldly Estate and all the property Real and Personal of which I shall die siezed and possessed or to which I shall be entitled at the time of my decease. I devise, bequeath and dispose there of in the manner following to wit. My Will is that all my just debts and funeral charges shall be paid out of my estate as soon after my decease as shall be found convenient.
The above instrument consisting of one Sheet was now here subscribed by Thomas Johnson the testator in the presence of each of us and was at the same time declared by him to be his last Will and testament and we at his request sign our names hereto as attesting witnesses.
W. L. Garriott, residing at Warrington, Hancock County, Ind.
The State of Indiana }
Be it remembered, that on the 10th day of April A.D. 1874, William L. Garriott one of the subscribing Witnesses to the within and foregoing last Will and Testament of Thomas Johnson, late of said County, deceased, personally appeared before Henry A. Swope of the Circuit Court of Hancock County, in the State of Indiana, and being duly sworn by the Clerk of said Court, upon his oath declared and testified as follows to wit that is to say, That on the 30th day of July A.D. 1863, he saw the said Thomas Johnson sign his name to said instrument in writing as and for his last Will and Testament; and that this deponent at the same time heard the said Thomas Johnson declare the said instrument in writing to be his last Will and Testament, and that the said instrument in writing was at the same time at the request of the said Thomas Johnson and with his consent attested and subscribed by the said William L. Garriott and J. W. Lawyer in the presence of said testator and in the presence of each other as subscribing witnesses thereto, and that the said Thomas Johnson was, at the time of signing and subscribing of said instrument in writing as aforesaid, of full age, (that is, more than twenty one years of age,) and of sound and disposing mind and memory and not under any coercion or restraint as the said deponent verily believes, and further deponent says not.
William L. Garriott
Sworn to and subscribed by the said William L. Garriott before me Henry A. Swope Clerk of said Court at Greenfield the 10th day of April 1874.
Henry A. Swope, Clerk
|A .png scanned image of this will can be opened in a new tab or window by clicking this link. Once it is open, you can click on it to enlarge.|
Thomas had, first and second, left 40 acres each to his unmarried daughters Edith and Tabitha.27 To his two sons, Anderson H. and William W., Thomas left “…all the money and notes that are on hands [sic] at my death (if any) to be equally divided between them.”28
As for Sarah, if we look at the fourth item in the will, we can see that, except for Edith and Tabitha (who had already been covered), Thomas left, “…to my beloved sons and daughters Mary Hamilton, Anderson H. Johnson, William W. Johnson, Sarah Coon, and Jane Beer all the remainder of my personal property rights credits and effects to be equally divided.”29
Sarah is in the will, treated equally with the rest of his married daughters.30 Sarah was not disinherited in the will.
In the will, Thomas includes Sarah as one of all of his “beloved” children.31 Because of this, I propose that, contrary to what “The End of the Trail” manuscript says, there was not “quite a bit of friction with the Johnsons over this marriage….”32 As discussed in the previous section, no evidence was presented to back up that claim.
Were “…all the other Johnson children…given acreage, but not Sarah”?33 We have to examine the deeds and trace Thomas’ property from when he bought it until after his death. We have to see if he had land in addition to what Edith and Tabitha were given, and examine the ownership of the land to determine if he sold it or gave it to a relative before his death. We have to find mortgages. We also have to see where Sarah and William were living at the time of Thomas’ death.
Answering these questions is beyond the scope of this article, but it would have been required in order for the authors of the manuscript to claim that Sarah was not given acreage, but that all the other children were.
We can see, then, that both statements 1 and 2 are not proven within the manuscript.
1. Bill Wilson [James William Wilson, Sr.], Jane Wilson [Jane Brothers Wilson], and Mary M. Van Duyn Overton, “The End of the Trail: The Saga of the ‘Coon’ Indian Heritage,” (MS, Muncie, Indiana, 1997), 7; privately held by Elizabeth Ballard (firstname.lastname@example.org), [STREET ADDRESS AND CITY FOR PRIVATE USE,] Indiana. Elizabeth Ballard is the niece of authors Bill Wilson and his wife, Jane, and the grand-niece of author Mary Overton. This manuscript was given to Ms. Ballard in about 2000 by her uncle Bill.
2. Aunt Mag had nice cursive penmanship. I know it was in her handwriting because I was present during her life and know the history of the said folder.
3. Wilson, Wilson, and Overton, “The End of the Trail: The Saga of the ‘Coon’ Indian Heritage,” 7.
6. “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899–2011,” database with images, Ancestry.com (ancestry.com : accessed 15 August 2016), certificate image, George Kuhn, 18 November 1901, Hancock Co., Indiana, Health Officer’s Record Number 114; imaged from State of Indiana, “Death Certificates 1901,” vol. 34, p.125.
7. See Genealogy.com Surname Forums Radabaugh, Radebaugh, Radenbaugh, Redenbaugh, Reidenbach, Reitenbaugh, Rhodabough, Ridenbaugh, Rodabaugh, Rodenbach, Rodenbaugh, and Rodibaugh in general.
8. Elizabeth Wilson Ballard, as well as first, second, and third maternal side cousins of Elizabeth Wilson Ballard, all descendants of George Kuhn and Sarah (Johnson) Kuhn, autosomally match descendants of Radabaugh (and various) surnamed individuals who were not married to Coon (and various) surnamed individuals.
9. B. N. Griffing, An Atlas of Hancock County, Indiana (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Griffing, Gordon & Co., 1887), 15; consulted through “U.S., Indexed County Land Ownership Maps, 1860-1918,” database with images, Ancestry.com (ancestry.com : accessed 6 January 2018); citing Library of Congress’ Geography and Maps, microfilm shelf no. G&M 2608.
10. Wilson, Wilson, and Overton, “The End of the Trail: The Saga of the ‘Coon’ Indian Heritage,” 7.
11. Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards, 50th Anniversary Edition, Kindle edition, (Nashville, Tennessee: Ancestry Imprint, Turner Publishing Co., 2014), location 381.
12. Wilson, Wilson, and Overton, “The End of the Trail: The Saga of the ‘Coon’ Indian Heritage,” 7.
13. Griffing, An Atlas of Hancock County, Indiana (1887), 15.
14. Elizabeth Wilson Ballard, “Thomas and Rachel (JOHNSON) JOHNSON – 52 Ancestors (Ancestors 62 and 63),” Diggin’ Up Graves (digginupgraves.wordpress.com : accessed 5 January 2018). The article outlines Ms. Ballard’s personal research, but does not give her sources.
15. Griffing, An Atlas of Hancock County, Indiana (1887), 15.
18. Wilson, Wilson, and Overton, “The End of the Trail: The Saga of the ‘Coon’ Indian Heritage,” 7.
19. Griffing, An Atlas of Hancock County, Indiana (1887), 15.
20. Hancock County, Indiana, Will Book 1:482, Thomas Johnson Will, 1874; Circuit Court Clerk, Greenfield, Indiana.
21. Board for Certification of Genealogists, Genealogy Standards, 50th Anniversary Edition, Kindle edition, location 253.
22. Hancock County, Indiana, Will Book 1:482, Thomas Johnson Will, 1874; Circuit Court Clerk, Greenfield, Indiana.
23. Ballard, “Thomas and Rachel (JOHNSON) JOHNSON – 52 Ancestors (Ancestors 62 and 63).”
24. Simmons Cemetery (Hancock County, Indiana; Co. Rd. 500 N between Co. Rd. 700 E and Co. Rd. 800 E, Jackson Township, Lat. 39.86140, Long. -85.66390), Rebecca C. Johnson marker, photographed by Elizabeth Wilson Ballard, transcribed in person 21 August 2017.
25. Hancock County, Indiana, Will Book 1:482, Thomas Johnson Will, 1874; Circuit Court Clerk, Greenfield, Indiana.
26. Simmons Cemetery (Hancock County, Indiana, Jackson Township), Rachel Johnson marker, photographed by Elizabeth Wilson Ballard, transcribed in person 21 August 2017.
27. Hancock County, Indiana, Will Book 1:482, Thomas Johnson Will, 1874; Circuit Court Clerk, Greenfield, Indiana.
32. Wilson, Wilson, and Overton, “The End of the Trail: The Saga of the ‘Coon’ Indian Heritage,” 7.