Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Mystery of Mary Creef's Child

Genealogy is like the world's biggest and hardest brain teaser puzzle.  You have some puzzle pieces but nothing fits until you get that one piece that makes them fall into place.  Sometimes you think you are working on a part of the sky but no, the puzzle is upside down and you are really working on a lagoon or a pot with 300 marbles in it.  Or is it Lincoln's nose on Mt. Rushmore?  You are always doubling back and re-evaluating what you know. You need to jump back and forth and work on this part of the puzzle here or that one over there.  Eventually you have enough filled in to make some educated guesses and figure out the big picture.

So I was talking about my sister in-laws ancestors, Manliff Twiford & his son, Fowler, in my last genealogy post HERE.
Fowler was the gentleman who was tried for "seduction under promise of marriage" to one Miss Mary Creef.
Given the testimony, lack of financial resources by Miss Creef to afford an adequate team of attorneys and that DNA testing wouldn't be available for about 80 years past the time of the trial, Master Twiford was acquitted.  His getting off caused quite the uproar in their small community.

I got curious about Mary and her soon-to-be blessed event.  What happened to them?  So I went looking to uncover the rest of the story. 
I searched on her maiden name and her name came up on 3 censuses--1900, 1910 and 1920.

In 1900, Mary is found living with her cousin's family in East Lake, NC at 2+ yrs. old.
In 1910, Mary is found living with her father and 3 brothers in East Lake, NC.  Mary is listed as 13 yrs. old.  This would put her birth date sometime in 1897. The father, James Washington Creef is listed as married, though there is no wife listed living at that address.
Further investigation turned up that James was widowed at that time, as his wife, Civility had died in Dec. of 1898(from her headstone dates).  The married designation was just clerical error.

In the 1920 census, Mary is living with one of her cousins whom she had lived with as a toddler(from the 1900 census records).  Mary, now 23, is living with her grown cousin, her husband and their children up in the big city of Norfolk, VA.

My theory is that given Mary was under a year old when her mother died, and the only daughter, and the only child of the family under 6 years old, she was sent off to be cared for by relatives nearby.
In the same 1900 census, James and 7 of 8 of his male children are living with him in East Lake, NC, only Mary is not.(From what I can gather James and Civility had 9 children together.  Further information indicated that the second oldest son had died in 1900 at age 23.)

From this point I uncovered a death certificate for a Mary Elliot Creef Muse.  Everything points to this being our Mary.  She passed away in 1972, in her home in Elizabeth City, MD.
Someone named Wally Creef, living at the same address is listed as the informant on the death certificate.
Now having her married surname, Muse, I was able to find the man she eventually did marry-Charles Mac Chestnut Muse.  Their marriage record lists his name as Charley Mack Muse (FindAGrave gives his dates as Sept. 1881-June 1963), and they were wed  in 1930.
However in the 1910 census, Charlie is found living in Beaufort, NC, married to a woman named Elizabeth. They state they have been married for 12 years in that census, so they would have married around 1898.  I found them again as a family unit living in Beaufort, NC in the 1920 census.
Charles and Elizabeth had 7 living children in 1910.  Their children would have been grown by 1930, except for the 2 youngest, who would have been 17 and 18 in that's year's census.  But I don't find these children living with either their father as a widower or their father and his new bride, Mary in 1930.

In the 1940 census we find the Mary(Creef)& Charlie Muse family living in Elizabeth City, NC.
After 10 years of marriage, there are 3 children listed--Wiley L. Muse at 16 years, Margaret Muse at 11 years and Harold D Muse at 8 years.
Hmmmm.....this would put Wiley's birth at around 1923/1924.....the same time frame of Mary's "delicate condition".  The newspaper article about the trial was dated June 1923 and noted that Mary was going to be a mother in a short time.

Further research uncovered Wiley's obituary from June of 2004, which listed his birth date as 3 Nov. 1923.  Counting backwards, that would have put Mary at 4 months pregnant when the trial ended.
Given that there is no indication that Mary knew Charles Muse before Wiley's birth, it's pretty clear that Wiley Muse was a Muse in name only.  In fact, indications are that Charles never adopted Wiley, nor did any of the Twiford men claim him, as his obituary gives his name as Wiley Lee Creef and lists his mother, Mary as his only parent.
I suspect Wiley was the person living with Mary Creef when she expired and the informant was listed incorrectly as Wally, not Wiley.
Wiley Lee Creef, worked for 31 years for the Elizabeth City fire dept. served in the Army during WWII and retired to SC after his mother died.  He never married and had no children.

So we know that Wiley was born in 1923 and his mother married in 1930,
but where was Wiley during the 1930 Census?  He would have been about 6-7 years old then. 
Searching under the name Wiley Creef I found him listed in the 1930 census living in the Pasquotank County Children's Home(an orphanage) in NC.
But by 1940's census Wiley was living with his mother and stepfather and 2 new siblings.
In this census Wiley's state of birth is given as Virginia, not North Carolina.

My theory is that Mary had been living at age 23 with her cousin's family in Norfolk, VA.(This is less than 2 hours away from Elizabeth City, NC.)  When she wound up pregnant she was probably told or sent to stay with her cousin or other relatives out of state in VA, where she eventually had the child.
This explains Wiley as listed as being born in VA, while the Creef family were all from NC.

 Back then, being pregnant was socially unacceptable and something families hid from their community.  Girls would often go away "to school" or go "help out a family member who needed a "mother's helper"in the home if they turned up pregnant.  They would then come home after giving birth.  If the baby wasn't placed for adoption  or given to extended family to raise, it was eventually brought home.
Sometimes the grandmother/grandfather would adopt the baby and pretend that they were the parents and the real mother was an older sibling(like Jack Nicholson's grandmother did), or the mother would go on an extended trip with the secretly pregnant daughter and come home with a baby that she claimed to have given birth to sparing the daughter the social disgrace of being an unmarried mother.

Having an out of wedlock child was a stigma on a single woman.  How did you earn a living to support you and your child when there was no one to support or take care of your child so you could work?  How did you find a good upstanding man to marry you with that scarlet A on your back?
The best that Mary could do was probably to place him in that orphanage at some point, unless the authorities were involved and she had no choice in the matter but to relinquish him.  To be 6 or 7 years old and living alone without family in a state orphanage.  The poor little guy!

It is safe to say that eventually, Wiley's situation improved and he had a fulfilling life as an adult and what seems like a close relationship with his mother.

And that is how this story ends.

Except for my ironic twist on know I have to have some kind of "life is funny" conclusion.

Remember that this whole thing started with a trial against the alleged father of Mary Creef's baby, Fowler Twiford. 
Even if paternity was denied by Mr. Twiford, Wiley Creef was related to the Twiford line via his mother Mary Creef. 
Wiley's 2 x Great Grandmother on his mother's side is Clarissa Twiford, born in 1800.
Clarissa is also the Great Aunt of Fowler Twiford(She is the sister of Manliff's father, Cornwallis Twiford.   Manliff is Fowler's father).

Aren't small towns and close-knit communities great for tangled up ancestral roots?




  1. Sluggy:

    I think I was about 2 when my father's father died so I don't remember him but the story goes something like this: My grandfather was married and had children. That wife died. He remarried and had another family of children. That wife was my grandmother. Sometime after the birth of their last child they divorced. He married for a third time and had children with that wife.

    Now things get interesting because when he divorced my grandmother - the woman he married was recently divorced from her husband. My father's mother married again - she married the ex-husband of my father's now step mother.

    My real grandmother and step-grandfather stayed married until she died and he did not remarry. My step-grandmother and real grandfather had two children and later divorced. Family history says that grandpa had a mistress who had a child - but no one wants to explore that part of the family history.

    Growing up I had relatives that were full, half and step and had a hard time keeping track of who's who in the zoo. Life can be such fun.

    1. Wow, that really is a twisted tangle of roots! lol

      We have a shameful family secret on my father's side of the family. I didn't find out about it until after the birth of my youngest child 17 years ago. Seems no one wants to find the "lost relatives" out there but me and no one will give me information to help me find them, IF the information isn't already lost to time. sigh

  2. I think small towns are a bit scary! People tend to be petty, and as you said, holding grudges and stigmas against one another, or what their ancestors or family members did. I am liking this digging around family trees. It's like reading a mystery novel, but starting from the ending and moving back.

    1. Very much a living mystery novel in reverse!
      Nice analogy.

      I don't understand why families hide this stuff...ok, maybe if it happened in the past 20 years or so, but really!, continuing to hide facts hundred's of years past the events when it really wouldn't affect anyone's life?
      I just don't get it.
      I guess I am wired differently.

  3. I have five half brothers and sisters from my father's first marriage. Through no fault of their mother, all the children ended up in an orphanage. One child was being sold in the infamous orphanage scandal in Memphis. The mother had to go to court to prove that child, a baby, was not abandoned as the orphanage and the judge in Memphis claimed. I often wonder how these twists in life can happen.

    When I was young, I had one cousin whose mother always announced her daughter's marriage "last year" and how the husband just died. A week later, the cousin's impending birth was announced. Six months later she would give birth to an 8 lb premature baby. Since these children have a father's names on the birth certificates, I wonder how genealogists will handle their research in years to come. The immediate family has hidden the fact that her uncle is the father of all her children. It seems I am the only person outside the immediate family who knew. So, I have spilled a great big bag of beans that can never be recovered. sigh

    1. With the advent of DNA testing, even this lie about parentage on the birth certificates can be overcome if you find willing relatives who will consent to be tested and matched.

      I would think that if your father divorced/abandoned his first wife, she may have been forced to surrender the children at least temporarily to the state home. In that time, woman without means or support didn't keep children. No food stamps, SSI payments and WIC and Section 8 payments. It was more efficient to house/clothe/feed impoverished children in an orphanage along with other unfortunate kids.

  4. Yes, digging about in family history can be fun. In doing such research I found both my mother and father were conceived out of wedlock. They were also cousins making a brother and sister each both my great grandparent and aunt/uncle. At least kept everything in the family.

    1. Very common for out of wedlock births both now and then. I suspect that a large number of oldest children in a family are thus.
      My oldest brother was "premature" by 3 months....a big healthy 7.7 lb preemie. lol

      My mother's side also has a lot of family intermarriage. Par for the course in previous centuries when people didn't move around much or leave their small towns.

      Thanks for commenting!


Hey there! Thanks for leaving a comment.
All Anonymous commentors will be deleted.
Please include your name in your comment, or choose the 'Name' option and put your name or whatever you call yourself, in the box. Thank you.

Though I moderate it's partly to keep trolls at bay but also partly so that I read every comment. I don't often respond to comments so if you need me to answer you please write me at my email addy posted on my "About Me" page, linked on the side bar.