Today I’m going to introduce you to my great-great-grandmother, Sarah Jane Fesler, who was born 175 years ago today! Her life was not an easy one, as her “Find a Grave” article states, her marriage was “troubled”.
According to her death certificate (I know, a secondary source, but it’s the only record I have that states her birthday), Sarah Jane Fesler was born on 17 Nov 1847 to George Fesler and Mary Elizabeth Oakman in Wells Tannery, Pennsylvania, a township in what was then Bedford County (it became a part of Fulton County less than 3 years later). Sarah was the oldest of 10 children born to her parents. Her siblings were John Oliver, Mary Isabelle, James, Rebecca May, Margaret, Frances, George Henry, Jr., William, and Lillie May.
Sarah’s dad, George Fesler, had a variety of vocations over the years. In the 1850 Census he was listed as a laborer, in 1860 a farmer, in 1870 and 1880 a Stone Mason, then back to being a farmer again in 1900 and 1910.
In the 1860 Census, Abraham Childers and George Fesler’s families are listed on the same page, with just 4-families between them, so they lived in the same area of Fulton County. This would be my best knowledgeable guess at how Sarah Jane Fesler met Randall Childers. The word “troubled” seems to be a regular recurring word when it comes to their marriage. They had a total of 9 children over the course of 28 years (with Sarah being just 18 when Mary Etta Childers was born in 1865, possibly 1867).
According to Randall’s Civil War Pension file, Randall and Sarah were married on 22 February 1866. Randall would have just returned from fighting for the Union in the Civil War where he went in as a Private in 1861 and came out a Corporal, mustering out in Victoria, Texas on 25 September 1865. Randall did take a furlough from the Army in 1864 to see his elderly parents according to his Civil War pension file, I can only assume that he and Sarah must have spent some time together if Mary Etta’s date of birth really was 4 February 1865, however Randall’s pension file states Mary was born in 1867.
By 1870 their oldest son, George Harry Childers was born on 30 December 1868 but the 1870 Census can make you scratch your head as Sarah is listed as “Jane”, age 21, the wife of Randall Childers on page 10 of 15 of the Wells Tannery portion of the Fulton County 1870 Census dated 9 June 1870, but on page 12 of 15 of the Wells Tannery portion of the Fulton County 1870 Census, “Sarah J” is listed as a child of George Fesler, age 23.
Sarah is listed as “wife” with Randall in the 1880 Census. By this time, they have had 5 of their 9 children (all their children’s names are Mary, George, Abraham, Jennie, William, Elizabeth, Bertha, Bessie, and Charley). Randall came out of the War with health issues, with repeated references to “disease of the testicles (as a result of mumps), chronic diarrhea, and malarial poisoning, and due to these lingering ailments that he obtained during the war, he began requesting a pension around 1870.
But through the wonders of newspapers you can find out little details about your ancestors lives, and one such article lets me know that Sarah stayed in contact with her dad throughout the years as she apparently stayed the weekend with him in 1902 with her daughter (my guess is that she went with Bessie).
Sarah and Randall stayed together until according to his pension record, he left Pennsylvania in 1904 and first moved to Goldsboro, Maryland, and then in 1906 to moved to Lenoir City, Loudon County, Tennessee, where he lived for the rest of his days.
While Randall moved out of state and on with his life, I imagine life was a whole lot different for Sarah. She was left with all the world to know that she had been abandoned. While Randall was telling the government that she died in 1907 and getting remarried to Nanny Rocky, Sarah continued to live in a world wondering, like her children, where was Randall and was he ever coming home?
In the 1910 Census Sarah is living as the Head of Household in Tod Township, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, with her 3-sons (Harry, William, and Charley) all residing with her. In 1920 she has moved in with her youngest daughter, Bessie, and her family. The 1920 Census was taken on 14 January 1920 and Sarah died just 2 days later.
In her final years, Sarah had gotten ill with a sickness that seemed to linger.
I always feel sad when I read her obituary as she was still referenced as “Mrs. Randall Childers” even though he had left her some 16 years previously.
The cause of death for Sarah was chronic interstitial nephritis, which is when “the spaces between the kidney tubules become inflamed” (per Google). It could be caused by any number of autoimmune diseases that probably hadn’t been identified back before 1920, but explains why she had been ill for a few years.
Though Sarah is buried at the Wells Valley Cemetery across from the Methodist Church I was unable to find her grave specifically when I traveled there in 2019. I can only assume it is near her parents and siblings.
I wish I had more anecdotal stories about my 2nd-great-grandmother, instead of the rather sad tale of woe in relations to her life. She deserved to be loved, and it doesn’t seem like she had a lot of time to be happy due to her sick husband.