Sunday, July 1, 2018

52 Ancestors: Black Sheep – William Warren McAboy

This week’s prompt, Black Sheep, brought an ancestor immediately to mind, my 2x great grandfather, William Warren McAboy.  I first wrote about him HERE seven years ago (SEVEN YEARS? Where did that time go?) when I learned that he had been described as A Brutal Father in the September 13, 1889 edition of the Clinton (Illinois) Public.  It was painful to read about his assault on his son, Emery James McAboy.  But it was then that I realized we don’t get to write just the good stories of our ancestors and had to be prepared to take the good with the bad.

Earlier this year, I noticed that Twisted Twigs Genealogy was having a special where they would go to the National Archives and pull a pension record and I decided it was time to pull the trigger and get another Civil War Pension Record.  I completed the required information, paid the bill, and within a few weeks it arrived in my in-box.  SCORE!  I do better with real paper so I printed out the 200+ pages, skimmed it, and filed it away.  But this prompt brought it out so I could really look at it to see if I could learn anything new.

William was born 12 Dec 1842 in DeWitt County, Illinois.  While I knew that, it was interesting to read that he stated he didn’t have any record of this date but  his mother “always told him that was the day he was born and that was the day he celebrated as his birthday”. 

A few interesting facts about his address.  I earlier learned from the History of DeWitt County, Illinois with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches (1882, page 154) that his Nursery business was located in block 21, which was four blocks south of the public square.  And when I located the family on Johnson Street in the 1880 census, the light bulb went off and I realized I have a framed poster of the town from about the time frame. 

Now to zoom in and really study it.  I can’t be 100% sure but it seems like the area I’ve outlined in pale orange would be the square and I’ve noted Johnson Street with a green arrow.  I’d say that’s about 4 blocks south of the square.  As my dad would have said, “now I can visualize it”.

William and his family stayed pretty close to home – in 1850 they were in Bloomington, McLean County; 1860 Texas, DeWitt County. 

William enlisted into Co. L, 4th Reg. on 15 Oct 1861 when he was not quite 19 years old.  Then on 24 Nov 1862 he joined Co. F, 2nd Regiment, IL, Volunteer Light Artillery as a Private.  Per the Surgeon General’s report from 10 Sep 1980 in his pension file, I learned that on 27 Feb 1863 he went to the hospital due to typhoid fever and wasn’t released until 23 Mar 1863.  Once back with his unit, he was promoted to Corporal on 28 Feb 1865 and was honorably discharged in Springfield, IL on 27 Jul 1865.

I learned A LOT about his health (chronic diarrhea and disease of the legs and feet) and while so many people gave statements about his health and were considered to have a good reputation, William’s reputation was considered ‘doubtful’.  Was that black sheep reputation following him around?

William and Rebecca Waller were married in Clinton, DeWitt County on 10 Jan 1864.  I will never forget seeing the ORIGINAL Marriage License when we visited DeWitt County and I will forever be proud of myself for not grabbing it and running away.

Waller_McAboy Marriage License

I also found a delayed Certificate of Record of Marriage in his pension file.

Waller McAboy Certificate of Record of Marriage

I found a reference of William in Farmer City, Illinois in 1866 where he ran a restaurant for one year.  That’s the first I’ve heard of that occupation.

By 1870, William and Rebecca were in Clintonia, DeWitt County.  William was now a Gardener and their first three children (William, Lillie, and Emery James) had joined the family.

In 1880 they were still in Clintonia with William, Lillie, Emery James, Clara, and John and William was now a Janitor of the Public School.  Samuel M. Hesch provided a deposition on 14 Oct 1885 that he knew William from 1868-1874 when Mr. Hesch was the principal of the school and William was the janitor and that “part of the time William lived in the basement of the school house”.  What?  This statement is another nugget that tells me that maybe the marriage of William and Rebecca wasn’t necessarily the rosiest.

The physical performed by Dr. John Wright on 23 April 1882 showed that William was 5-10, 137 pounds, with dark complexion.  He was emaciated, his tongue was coated, legs were small, and muscles were soft.  Dr. Wright concluded that his disability was a result of the chronic diarrhea.

In 1896, I found mention that William had traveled from Fresno and was visiting his father in Illinois.

By 1900, William and Rebecca had relocated to Fresno and were living with son John (23) and daughter Mabel (17) MY GREAT GRANDMOTHER!  The census shows that William’s occupation was ‘small fruits’ and he owned his farm.

In 1910 William and Rebecca were living on Hammond Avenue in Fresno.  Other interesting information is that Rebecca had given birth to 6 children, 5 of whom were still alive (young Willie had died at the age of 16 in 1881 of lockjaw) and William was farming on a fruit farm which he owned free and clear.  It also states he served in the Union Army.

The last census William and Rebecca were enumerated in was 1920 when they were living at 2904 Olive Avenue in Fresno.  My grandmother (and Rebecca and William’s granddaughter) spend her later years at 2341 Olive Avenue – I wonder if she had any idea how close she might have been to the home of her grandparents.

The pension file, of course, went into a lot of detail about the claim.  Stephen K. Carter represented William with his claim and William paid him $5.00 for that assistance.  The original claim was rejected on 30 Nov 1885 “on the grounds that line of duty cannot be proved”.  But eventually it was approved as I can find the details of his pension – on 1 Nov 1912 he was granted $18, 12 Dec 1912 $24, and 12 Dec 1917 $30. 

A nice summary of the Widow’s Pension.

McAboy William Warren Widow Pension

I can’t help but share the signatures of William and Rebecca that were included in the pension file.  It’s so great to see these!

William Warren McAboy Signature

Rebecca Waller Signature

And for those who have followed my blog for awhile, you might remember my journey to find the final resting place of Emery Waller (Rebecca’s father).  You can read it HERE and HERE.  It was only because I got his pension file that I found him in Kansas (KANSAS!) which led me to find him in McPherson County, Kansas.  If only I had seen this notation about him in William’s pension file.

McAboy Pension EL Waller reference

William died on 12 Jan 1925 in Santa Cruz, California from valvular disease of the heart.  His pension at the time of his death was $50 per month. 

William Warren McAboy Obit

William is buried alongside Rebecca, who died in 1928, in OddFellows Cemetery in Fresno.

McAboy William Grave

William Warren McAboy was an interesting fellow, even though he had some not-so-memorable moments in his lifetime.  He fought for his country and his health suffered for the rest of his life.  And no matter what he had in his past, he was my 2x great grandfather.


  1. Well done! I’m curious about the old map. Did someone buy the map knowing the nursery was on it or simply because of the family connection to the city? I also like seeing the signatures. Poor Rebecca seemed to struggle to sign her name.

    1. I thought the same thing about Rebecca's signature - looks so frail. As far as the map, I found it somewhere and framed it.

  2. You have to wonder what made him lash out like that when he did---drinking too much, perhaps? Because in so many ways he sounds like a solid citizen.

    1. I wonder the same thing, Amy. Maybe he had a form of PTSD.

  3. This is a wonderful story about your ancestor and about your research!