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GrGrandmother Susan goes to court

Monday, August 26, 2019

I first found this story as my husband and I were debating adopting a sibling group of 5 ...coming from 4 different foster homes. Making the effort to allow them to grow up together.

In June of 1866 Susan Keller was the head of a household consisting of herself age 42, daughter Sallie aged 21, daughter Matilda age 14, son Lewis age 12, and son Meleghia age 10. Thus there were two young ladies plus two boys who were not yet old enough to do a man’s work. Her husband, Alford Keller had died 10 years earlier. Susan’s mother-in-law, Eva Keller age 69, with her caretaking daughter Susannah age 34, lived either in the same house or another building on the property.
They were attempting to maintain a farm on Cedar Creek, in Missouri. I am sure there were chickens, cows, and a garden for vegetables, probably pigs. Perhaps there were some field crops of some kind. I do not know what they did for cash to pay taxes and purchase things they could not make themselves.
The War Between the States had officially been 1861-65. However, Missouri was a rough place with “Bush Whackers” and irregular troops marauding the countryside for years before and after the official Civil War years.
Alford’s younger brother, Elijah Keller was a tanner by trade. Elijah had married Martha Horn in 1856 and they had two sons, William Keller born in 1857 and John Keller born in 1858.
There is evidence Elijah had joined the Union Army in the spring of 1863.

Elijah died of a bullet wound in June 1863. Family history says his father in law, William Horn, was a bush whacker and that he shot Elijah.
I know that families were divided in allegiances during this time period. Certainly it is possible a North vs. South rift occurred here between the Horn and Keller families.

I located a Probate Court record in which Susan Keller, Plaintiff, brings her sister-in-law, Martha Horn, to court in an attempt to take custody of William age 9 and John age 8. Susan claims that Martha is an unfit mother.
There is a Jury of 12 men to hear the case. These are listed.
There is a list of 9 Witnesses (unknown how many speak on behalf of Susan and how many on behalf of Martha)

J.N.Guissier, foreman of the Jury, reports the finding that the children shall not be removed from their mother.
Furthermore, Plaintiff, Susan Keller shall bear the full costs of the trial:
Judge $ 2.60
Jury $18.00
9 witnesses are listed @ $1.00 each for a total of $ 9.00
Costs total $29.60
I have no idea how she managed to pay the court costs. That was a huge sum of money, for that day, and required to be in cash. It would compare to $1,000 in 2019 money.

On finding this document, 160 years later, I am in awe of the caring and concern Susan Keller showed in attempting to provide safety for her nephews.

So what came down through the family story tellers was the ‘memory’ that Elijah Keller had been shot by his father-in-law, William Horn. And that his wife Martha Horn Keller was “A hot tempered woman and the family had nothing more to do with her”.

I have followed the nephew William Keller’s descendants through four generations in Oklahoma and Texas. I have, however, failed to find a grave or marriage or children for John Keller. I can only hope that he did not die young due to the negligence of his mother, Martha.

Yes, we adopted and raised the sibling group. I guess it is "in my blood" to be a meddling woman!
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