Phebe Sheets Clodfelter v Thomas Clodfelter
A Bryan Brickmaker Who Left Town for the Wild Hills of South Dakota – Divorce in Williams County, OH, 1885
By Pamela Pattison Lash (updated 2010)
A common question that people ask is why would their ancestor who had a well-established niche in a community such as Bryan suddenly sell property and move out west? Many answers might fit the bill but often descendents never think of divorce or separation as a factor in such a decision to relocate. This genealogical detailing takes an honorably discharged Civil War officer down such a path.
Thomas S. Clodfelter, a native of Green Twp, Washington Co, PA, was born 14 June 1827. Although his parents’ names are unknown, his obituary (Bryan Democrat, 18 June 1891, p5) tells that when he was seven, his family moved to Rowsburg, Wayne Co, OH in 1834 where his father, a native of Switzerland, eventually died on 27 Apr 1847 leaving Thomas, his mother (pos Martha of New Jersey), and his three sisters to continue life on the old homestead.
On 13 Jan 1852, Samuel Moody, VDM, performed the marriage ceremony uniting Thomas with Pheobe Sheets in Ashland Co, OH. Pheobe or Phebe was the daughter of Samuel and Elizabeth (Woolf) Sheets who were natives of Frederick, Maryland and Columbiana Co, OH, respectively. Prior to this ceremony, Samuel Sheets signed a parental consent form on 10 Jan 1852 allowing this union to move forward as his daughter was “of age” (Lee & Kopp, Ashland Co, OH Marriages, V2 #1228). Phebe’s parents were married in Columbiana Co, OH on 23 May 1820. The 1860 Perry Twp, Ashland Co, OH federal census, p226 enumerated the young Clodfelter family as residents there.
Thomas joined the Co H 168th Ohio Regiment and was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. At the close of the war Thomas moved his family to Bryan, Pulaski Twp, Williams Co, OH; he first purchased the Kimmel farm and shortly after that bought the JQ Beattie farm. The 1870 Pulaski Twp census p18 (print) listed the Clodfelters as Thomas 42 PA, Phebe 36 OH, William 17 OH, Martin 15 OH, John 11 OH, Laura 10 OH, Miletus 8 OH, Mary 6 OH, and Samuel 5 OH. The 1874 Wms Co Atlas listed Thomas as the owner of land in Sections 9 & 10 of Pulaski Twp plus as Thomas Clodfelter and Son, manufacturers of building brick, 2 miles NE of Bryan. As time progressed the Clodfelter home developed into a spacious ten room brick home with a nearby brickyard.
Thomas and Phebe Clodfelter were the parents of the following eight children: (1) William T, a hog and cattle merchant, b. Dec 1852, OH; d. June 1923, Bryan with burial at Shiffler Cem; m 25 Dec 1873, Clarissa Wyland, V4 p314; (2) Henry Martin, a traveling salesman, b. Nov 1854, OH; d. Aug 1922, Bryan with burial at Shiffler Cem; m 10 Nov 1885, Hannah May Heacock, V5 #742; (3) John C, a brick mason, b. 1858, OH; d. Aug 1920, pos Miller, SD; (4) Laura Ellen Ann, b 10 May 1860, Ashland Co, OH; d. 26 Mar 1936, pos Letcher, Sanborn Co, SD; m. 8 Apr 1877, Jacob C. Eitel, V4 p515; (5) Hulbert Miletus “Lee”, a shipping clerk, b. May 1862, OH; d. 1943, pos Bryan; m. 13 July 1883, Ada Elizabeth Severence, V5 #365; (6) Mary V. b. 18 Nov 1863, OH; d. 24 Jul 1953, pos Montpelier or Blakeslee with burial in Shiffler Cem; m 11 Jan 1891, Charles Binckley, V6 #372; (7) Phillip Samuel, b Feb 1865, OH; d. Sept 1930, pos Bryan with burial at Fountain Grove Cem; m1 Orpha K. Teeple; m2 Minnie C; (8) young male infant. All marriage data was taken from records in Williams Co, OH.
One again finds Thomas, Phebe, and 5 of their children in the 1880 Pulaski Twp census p620 A. According to the Williams County Civil and Criminal Court Records Roll 37 (#972) of 17 Jan 1882 and Journal 11 p20 of 20 March 1882, Phebe asked the court for a temporary injunction against her husband’s “wasting his income” and both his earnings and those she had received as an allowance from her father in his lifetime and an outright $2,000 inheritance from her father’s estate when he died 2 Sept 1872 in Montgomery Twp, Ashland Co, OH, and her mother’s estate upon her death in Perry Twp, Ashland Co, OH on 9 Nov 1878.
Phebe charged that in June 1877 and again in April 1881 Thomas was extremely cruel and threatened her with physical harm with an axe. For the last seven years he “was in the habit of getting intoxicated” and recently she had contracted a social disease from him that prompted her to take this action. She requested a divorce and reasonable alimony. The court decided to dismiss these charges and no divorce was granted then.
In March of 1883 Thomas sold his property to Franklin Elder and moved to South Dakota, purchasing a farm near Letcher, Sanborn Co. His mother died in Ashland Co on 26 Aug 1889. Whether he traveled back for the funeral is unknown. Thomas remained in Letcher where on 2 June 1891 he died of dropsy at the age of 64 years (Bryan Democrat, 18 June 1891, p5 obituary). He was described in his obit as a generous-hearted and kind neighbor. The death notice stated that a wife and seven children survived him. Note that daughter Laura Eitel and her family moved to Letcher after 1883 and before 1887. Journal 13 of Civil and Criminal Court Records states that on 26 Mar 1885 Phebe again applied for a divorce and this time was granted one. She cited Thomas with extreme cruelty. Since she was granted a divorce in 1885, either Thomas had married again or the information in the newspaper was incorrect.
The “widow” Phebe lived in Bryan according to the 1900 Bryan, Pulaski Twp federal census p185 B at her son Samuel’s home at 348 Center St. She was born in Congress, Wayne Co, OH on 16 May 1834 and she died at son Samuel’s home on North Walnut St in Bryan on 17 May 1911, a day after celebrating her birthday, marking her age as 77Y 1D. According to her obit (Bryan Democrat, 23 May 1911, p4) 2 daughters, 5 sons, 21 grandchildren, and 6 gr-grandchildren plus a host of friends survived her. She was buried at Shiffler Cemetery after a funeral conducted by Rev. Alvin E. Bell. There is no mention in her obit as whether she had traveled to SD with her husband bet. 1883 and 1885, nor whether Thomas was brought back here for burial. Information from Sanborn Co, SD may shed light on these matters. Phebe’s estate was probated here on 25 Mar 1911 (#5510) and her letters of administration listed the names and geographical locations of the children.