Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Brosius Family: South Shenango, 1862-1863

The petition of John McGranahan Administrator of the Estate of Adam Brocas late of said County deceased, respectfully represents… That the personal Estate of said decedent is insufficient to pay his debts and that it is requisite to sell a portion of his real Estate for the payment thereof…
—Petition of Administrator to sell land, 10 Apr 1862

The Civil War had been raging for a year, already a much longer and deadlier war then either side had expected, but in Crawford County, Pennsylvania, life went on much as usual. Perhaps the newspapers were read more assiduously, and perhaps some of the neighbors had enlisted and were off fighting the war or had already been killed, but still all the ordinary chores must be attended to and debts must be paid.

The widow Margrette Brosius was presumably living with her three children on the family farm in South Shenango Township. The two older children, Mary and John—ages 13-14 and 10-11 respectively—were old enough to help out around the house and on the farm, but the youngest, Rebecca, was now only about a year old. Upon the death of her husband, Adam, Margrette had been left not only the three children, but also debts amounting to over $950. It need hardly be said that this was an enormous sum for the year 1862. Adam’s “personal assetts” were able to cover a part of the debt, but the family was still left with a balance of $585.27. There seemed to be but one solution: sell some of the real estate.

The administrator for Adam’s estate, a man by the name of John McGranahan, petitioned the Orphan Court of Crawford County for permission to do just that. The request was granted, and the following month he sold forty acres of the Brosius land to a David K. Wier for $700, more than enough to pay off the debts Adam had left behind. It appears that for now Margrette and her children were more or less comfortably situated; they were able to settle their debts and still had over sixty acres, including “thirty-five acres improved” on which stood a house, barn, and orchard.

However, the nation was still in the midst of the Civil War, and no one could feel completely at ease. The famous Confederate general Robert E. Lee was achieving victory after victory, pushing his troops ever northward. By June of 1863, they had reached the state of Pennsylvania. Although their particular position was about two hundred miles away, it surely felt to close for comfort to the people of South Shenango. If the Confederate forces were to continue their advance, fighting could soon be on their very doorsteps.

Kitchen, Cyrus, recorder. Deed. 19 May 1862. Deed from Adam Brocius’s Administrator to David K. Wier. Office of the Recorder of Deeds, Meadville, Pennsylvania. Xerox copy sent to the author by Gloria Brosius.

McGranahan, John. Adam Brocus Dec. Petition of Administrator to Sell Land. 10 Apr 1862. Petition to the Orphan Court of Crawford County. Office of Clerk of Courts, Meadville, Pennsylvania. Xerox copy sent to the author by Gloria Brosius.

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