Earlier, we posted a piece about the criminal trial of Benjamin Franklin Thackston / Thaxton of Todd County, Kentucky, whose wife Purity Hooser opined that he should be hung “on general principles.” (See The Strange Case of the State of Tennessee v. Benjamin Franklin Thaxton (Clarksville, Tenn. 1883).) Benjamin was acquitted, but relations with his wife were obviously strained. Family lore had it that Benjamin either disappeared or drowned in 1897. (One source said February, another said July 24.)
We previously thought that this Benjamin’s father was Francis Marion Thaxton, but we believe he has been ruled out. We have both of Francis’s marriages, we have Francis in the 1850 and 1860 censuses (he died in 1862), and we have his widow Rebecca in 1870 and 1880. UPDATE: We now believe that Benjamin’s father was Meredith Thaxton, who died during the Civil War, leaving a widow Susan and daughters Mary and Sarah.
We know from the criminal trial that Benjamin Franklin Thaxton had a sister Mary who married Dillard Sanders and lived nearby in Kentucky in 1883. Francis Marion Thaxton did have a daughter Mary, but she was several years older, married David Thompson Duty, and had already moved to Illinois several years before 1883. Thus, she cannot be the Mary Thaxton who married Sanders.
Benjamin Franklin Thaxton and his sister Mary Thaxton (and another sister, Sarah) were living with their mother Susan Jane in Butler Co., Kentucky, in 1870, father dead or otherwise not listed. We have found no further record of Susan or Sarah, but we note that Sarah is reported as born about 1867, which would further militate against Francis Marion as a potential father. Unfortunately, we have had no luck identifying Susan Jane’s husband or maiden name, but we’re working on it.
Meanwhile, we started looking into a “Frank” Thaxton (“Franklin” in the 1920 census) who is first found in Tarrant County, Texas, on 12 October 1897, when he is said to have married Anna Stephenson there. Frank Thaxton also appears in Fort Worth city directories beginning in 1899.
He died in Fort Worth in 1928. His son Fred Stevenson Thaxton provided what little background information there is on Frank’s death certificate, namely that Frank was born in “Nashville,” Tennessee, 31 Mar 1862, parents unknown. (Frank’s gravestone says 1861.)
Anna Stephenson Thaxton was born in Kentucky in the early 1860s, according to several censuses. Her death record, information again provided by Fred, says she was born in Kentucky to parents William P Stephenson and Sarah Campbell, birthplaces unknown.
We started wondering about the coincidences: This Franklin was born about the same time as our Benjamin Franklin Thaxton, and was thought to be from “Nashville,” which is where Benjamin Franklin Thaxton and Purity Thaxton were living shortly before his disappearance in 1897. He first appears in Texas in late 1897, and Benjamin Franklin Thaxton is said to have disappeared in spring or summer 1897. He was “last seen by Bill Stevens,” one family note stated. Bill Stevens? And Anna Stephenson’s father was William Stevenson?
Looking further, we found that Anna Stephenson was indeed from Benjamin Franklin Thaxton’s old stomping ground, Elkton, Todd County, Kentucky. Her full name is Victoria Anna Stephenson, and her parents were William Pinckney Stephenson and Sarah Campbell. They lived at various times in nearby Logan County, Kentucky, but by 1870 were living in Elkton. According to a 1956 family account, one of Anna’s sisters, Helen, married “a Dickerson” [George T. Dickinson, according to the Todd County marriage record] and moved to Fort Worth, Texas, where Anna Stephenson Thaxton also ended up.
We still don’t know where the family note came from that said Benjamin Franklin Thaxton was last seen by “Bill Stevens,” or if this was a corruption of Bill Stevenson or just a coincidence. William Pinkney Stephenson died 21 Oct 1896, so it could not have referred to him, but Anna also had a brother William Stevenson. Anna’s mother Sarah Campbell Stephenson died 02 Dec 1906, either in Kentucky or perhaps Texas. She and William are buried in Todd County, Kentucky.
We think this solves (at least part of) the mystery of what happened to Benjamin Franklin Thaxton. What an interesting life he led.