Two Coffins Betsy and Austin – 1859, Estate of Wiley Turner

Betsy was about 26 years old when she was listed with her daughter Caroline in the inventory of the estate of Wiley Turner. It was February 2, 1852. Betsy and Caroline were valued at $800.00. On the list below them were eight year old Phillis ($375) and three year old Peggy ($225). They seem to be a family group.

Further down the page Austin is listed. He was 16 years old and valued at $800.

Two pages from the 4 page list of the enslaved on the Wiley Turner plantation. Joe, age 15 was my 2X great grandfather.

On January 26 and 27 of 1859, Betsy was visited by Doctor Pritchett. The cost of the visits was $2.50. On February 6 and 7, Doctor Pritchett visited Austin.

On January 29, 1859 a coffin was purchased for Betsy.  She was 29. On February 8, 1859  A coffin was purchased for Austin. He was 22. Each coffin cost $5. I do not know what they died of.

I found the two coffins listed in the estate file among a list of payments given out from the estate in early 1859. If I had not gone page by page through the file, I would have missed these, as I did when I looked through it last year and only looked for lists of the enslaved.

I found all of these documents in the Estate file of Wiley Turner, deceased, on  My 2 X great grandfather, Joe Turner came off of this plantation. Click on the documents to enlarge.

8 thoughts on “Two Coffins Betsy and Austin – 1859, Estate of Wiley Turner

  1. When people die this close together, I always check to see if there were any epidemics going on. Between 1857 and 1859, there was a world wide influenza epidemic. That might be the cause. You might also check the newspapers in Chronicling America or Genealogybank for any epidemics in the area where these people lived.

    1. Doesn’t it seem like more people on the plantation would have died during an epidemic? I will look at those newspapers.I didn’t find any information in the papers for that local, but I looked at a site that talked about various epidemics in Alabama and perhaps it was what they called a “mild epidemic” where few died.

  2. It’s amazing how much you were able to learn from an estate inventory – while at the same time identifying a whole new set of questions about how they died. It’s so sad on so many levels.

  3. I think it’s amazing and wonderful that this kind of research can start to give people back their humanity – turn them back from lists of “property” into real people whom you can begin to imagine a little bit about.

    1. I don’t know. Maybe it doesn’t seem weird to me because I spend so much time doing this. It always seems very sad. My second granddaughter graduated from high school this past weekend and I think about then and now and how it would be if then was now. Now that sentence is a bit weird.

      And in between the lists of enslaved and the groupings that will be divided between the five children of Wiley Turner are the expenditures for marbles and lace trim and copy books and school tuition for those five children as they grow up.

      So maybe weird is a good description.

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