THE RETURN OF THE WIDOW MANSELL
A Biographical Sketch
by Paul Kornmeyer

While the legendary courage and stamina of the women of early Hamilton County, Illinois, are generally known and accepted, as time "ticks on", the number and frequency of confirmation thereof reflect a diminution.

The account of the journey of Martha Mansell, steeped in tradition, is that of a season some 103 years ago. Time and vanishing memories have eroded to the barest of unembellished particulars the tradition of the widow Mansells trek from Fannin County, Texas to Hamilton County, Illinois, by way of Iron County, Missouri. Certainly, the drama of her feat now is reduced to a sort of charade in which those who know the legend must supply vicariously the unrecorded minutiae.

Martha Elizabeth Carr, daughter of William Harrison and Lucretia Catharine Conway Carr, was born October 18, 1847 in Putnam County, TN, area which was, then, a part of Jackson County, TN. Her infancy was spent partly in Jackson Co. and partly in Hamilton Co. With her parents and three brothers, she arrived in Hamilton Co. about 1850. The "new" Carr home was in Knights Prairie precinct. 

On August 25, 1866, Miss Martha Elizabeth Carr and Mr. Samuel T. Mansell were married and, very shortly, removed to Fannin County, Texas, where Samuel died of tuberculosis in 1868 and where, six months later, their eighteen-month-old daughter, Lucretia T. Mansell, succumbed, possibly to the same malady.

At some unknown time thereafter, about 1869 or 1870 as nearly as can be ascertained, Martha Mansell set forth alone, on horseback, for Hamilton Co., Illinois via Iron County, Missouri--according to tradition. Why Iron County? Here in referring to the U. S. Censuses of 1860 and 1870, Mr. Max B. Alcorn of Pasadena, California, very kindly supplies a clue. Martha's Aunt Elizabeth Carr had married John Alcorn, and about 1850, they had removed from the Putnam Co., TN area. By 1860, it is said, the name Alcorn was widely represented in Missouri, particularly in Ozark and Iron counties. So, possibly, Widow Mansell, in traveling through Missouri, was carrying intelligence to her kinfolks.

Her journey was completed, but, soon after, she returned to Iron County, Missouri to marry James Samuel Thompson, and they emigrated to Hamilton Co. to make a permanent residence.

To them was born a son, James Lewis Thompson, and, presumably, life was, for Martha, more or less routine until the passing of James Samuel Thompson. On April 14, 1880, Martha Thompson and Thomas Jasper "ole Straight-Edge" Darnell were wed, Thomas Jasper, a part-time clergyman, son of Thomas C. and Martha A. (Banes) Darnell.

Five children (four surviving) were born to the Thomas J. Darnell's, and, at this writing, the many descendants of Martha Elizabeth Carr and her spouses are scattered throughout the land from Rolling Meadows to Florida and from Indianapolis to California, including of course, Hamilton Co.

Her earthly tour ended, June 3, 1931, as Mrs. George Fowler.

From the Goshen Trails, Hamilton County, ILL, Vol. 1, April No. 1, pg. 5
Reprinted by permission

Copyright 1999.  All rights Reserved


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