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Katherine, the Brick Wall

As I work on learning the details of the life of my great-great grandfather Thomas Sherman, I continue to puzzle over his activities during the 1860’s. The biggest riddle remains the identity of his first wife, and my great-great grandmother. According to family lore, she was German, and her name was Katherine Stillenbaugh or Stanabaugh. Thomas and Katherine were said to have resided in or near Indianapolis where their daughter, Anna Petronellia, was born in 1865. Katherine reportedly died shortly afterwards. No record of her has been found to verify any of the family story.

I know these facts about Thomas and his family during that decade:

  • In 1860, Thomas’ name appears on the U.S. census for Madison County, Kentucky in the household of his father, Daniel “Shearman”. Thomas was a 19-year-old blacksmith.
  • In 1862, a man named Thomas Sherman, presumably my ancestor, filed suit in Madison County over the taking of a horse by Confederate soldiers.
  • In June 1863, Thomas and his brother Anderson registered for the Civil War Draft at Ninevah, Johnson County, Indiana.
  • Thomas and Anderson’s younger sister Gilla married John Cobb in Johnson County in 1864.
  • By 1870, Thomas worked as a blacksmith in another man’s household in Edgar County, Illinois. His four-year-old daughter lived with his mother, Rebecca, in the same county.

It seems that Thomas relocated from Kentucky to Indiana sometime during the Civil War. He joined his older brother Anderson and lived in the county just south of Indianapolis. This much fits the family story. But what about the rest of it?

Anderson had lived first in Brown County and then moved a few miles northeast to Johnson County. Among his neighbors was a German family named Stilgenbauer, a name several of them Anglicized to Stillabower or Stilabower. These names are tantalizingly close to the Stillenbaugh name reported by the grandchildren of my German ancestor. Did she belong to the Stilgenbauer family? If so, I cannot find a likely candidate named Katherine on the 1860 Indiana census. I have been unable to locate a marriage record for Thomas in Indiana, nor have I found burial information for Katherine Sherman. Nothing I have found so far verifies her identity.

I need to locate some more Indiana records! I need to do more research on the Stilgenbauer family. We have had this brick wall ancestor for far too long.

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