My Family’s Civil War Romance

jesse&nancymarriage
Marriage Record of Jesse Archer & Nancy Jane Wickham as applied for by Jacob Wickham.

In my family, there is a dreamy, fairytale story about how my 3rd great-grandfather, Jesse Archer, returned from the Civil War to Noble County, Ohio where he met the sister of a fellow soldier (also from Noble County, Ohio) and subsequently married her in 1870.  The sister was named Nancy Jane Wickham.  Indeed, on several pension papers, both Jesse Archer and the brother Jacob Wickham appear together, being discharged within a month of each other in 1865 so this would lead credibility to that romance story somewhat.

For the longest time while I prepared my Daughters of the American Revolution paperwork, Jesse and Nancy Jane Archer’s marriage record totally eluded me …that is, until a few days ago where it had been mislabeled as “Nickham” and not Wickham/Wickersham/Wickhum and all the other variations for Wickham I’m used to! One of my “white whales” was found!  However, as genealogy stuff goes, it opened up another weird mystery!  

jacobwickhamsignature
His handwriting is so lovely.

On their marriage application dated 16 Aug 1870, the applicant signature was that of Jacob Wickham, the brother of Nancy Jane.  Not, as you would expect, her father – who was still alive and well at the time.  I thought perhaps they had ran away and Jacob supported them as he and Jesse were friends, therefore signing for them. But upon digging some more, I discovered that Jeremiah, her father, had a sister named Mary (or Martha) and she died one day following Nancy Jane & Jesse’s marriage on 20 Aug 1870.

It would seem that what I initially thought could have been semi-scandalous and involved star-crossed lovers running away together, was probably more likely that her father was at his sister’s deathbed and sent the brother Jacob in his stead to sign her marriage application.  Another possibility, as put forth by my friend/relative/fellow genealogy hound, Suzanne of JohnWickham.net, is that Jeremiah Wickham was perhaps embarrassed to make his “X” on her marriage record.  And that’s definitely plausible as well since it’s documented on his will and several censuses that he couldn’t read or write.

There is a 4 day gap between the date on their marriage application and their actual wedding day.   I wonder, as I’m still digging into the sister, if she died of a long illness that perhaps would have brought family to her side and delayed the wedding from the 16th to the 20th.  I cannot even verify she died on that particular day following the wedding.  Despite digging and digging, I haven’t found a singular record of a grave site, probate death record or anything to support her actual death date or give a clue as to what she died of.  The date I have of her death is from sketchy, non-supported family records on Ancestry.  She hardly has any paper trail of existence at all.

However, I’m still investigating though… but I was certainly happy to find another piece to my family puzzle by finding the marriage record.  If the aunt’s death date is true, it would be unfortunate that their wedding took place on the precipice of her death as that seemed to have set the sad tone for their majority of their lives together.  Their first born, Ann, died at age 15 of fever and brain inflammation in 1887.  Following that tragedy, Jesse & Nancy’s daughter Esther (the subject of several of my posts) died at the hand of her husband William Stewart in a murder/suicide in 1914.

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