The Disobedient Daughter

When Great-great-great-great-grandpa Thomas Chilcoat passed on, the will1 he left behind was relatively standard. First, pay all his expenses and his funeral. Second, provide for his wife. Then he starts divvying up his assets among his children: 2/5 to Robert, his eldest son [my 3rd great grandfather], 2/5 to Thomas, his youngest son, 1/5 to Elizabeth, his youngest daughter. And…

I give and devise to Sarah my eldest daughter only five dollars for the caus [sic] of her being a disobedient child

Thomas Chilcoat, Last Will & Testament, written 04 Jul 1840

One just cannot read a statement like that without wondering What in the heck did poor Sarah do to make Papa so angry?

Of course, there is no record of her transgression. In fact, there is little known about her at all. But, here’s what I’ve been able to piece together…

  • Sarah was born in 1824. Her mother, Delilah Hellyer, died in childbirth when Sarah was just 7-years-old. In addition to Sarah, there was 5-year-old Robert, 3-year-old Elizabeth, and the newborn Thomas.
    • That sort of family dynamic might make a girl disobedient, but would Dad hold it against her all those many years later?
  • In 1837, when Sarah was 12-years-old, her father married Anna Graf.
    • Ahhh, twelve… the tween years… hormones… Add that to Step-Mother Syndrome and perhaps that could be the source of Sarah’s disobedience.
  • When Sarah was 15-years-old, two things happened: 1) her father made his will in July and then passed away sometime before 05 October when the will was probated; 2) she married Thomas Coleman (b. 1814), ten years her senior, on 31 December. These two events could mean…
    • Thomas Chilcoat wanted Sarah to marry Thomas Coleman but Sarah refused. After her father died, she relented and married Coleman… OR
    • Thomas Chilcoat did not want Sarah to marry Thomas Coleman (Perhaps he had someone else chosen for her that she refused? Or he felt she was too young for marriage?2) but she said she was going to anyway… and did that December.
  • By the time the 1850 Census rolled around, Sarah (age 24) and her husband Thomas Coleman (35) had listed as part of their household both of Sarah’s younger siblings: Elizabeth (21) and Thomas (19). Sarah & Thomas had been married for ten years by this time. No children are listed.

That is the sad sum of Sarah’s life. No other records exist (or, at least, can be found by this researcher). And none of what’s been uncovered adds up to unequivocal disobedience.

If I were betting, I’d go for the Marriage Angle. After all, arranged marriages were still very much the thing in the mid-19th Century.

Or maybe she was just a willful child. And Thomas had had his fill.

At any rate, I hope Sarah spent her $5 wisely.


  1. Full text of Thomas Chilcoat’s will: I Thomas Chilcoat of the County of Morgan and State of Ohio do make and publish this my last will and Testament in manner and form following that is to day. First it is my will that my funeral expenses and all my just Debts be fully paid. Second I give and devise and bequeath to my beloved wife Ann Chilcoat in lieu of dower, the one third of all that I possess, after my Debts is paid and funeral expenses is paid During her natural life if there should not be any then not expended, at her Death then to be Divided amongst my children fourth my will is that there should be provisions accepted enough to do the family one year after my death. Fifth I give and devise to Sarah my eldest daughter only five dollars for the caus of her being a disobedient child Sixth I give and devise to my eldest son Robert Chilcoat two-fifths of the balance left after my wifes dowery and five dollars to Sarah is paid also two fifths to Thomas Chilcoat my youngest son also to my youngest Daughter Elizabeth one fifth as afore mentioned my will is that Thomas and Robert should be put to trades and Bound according to Law and lastly I do hereby constitute and appoint James Noble & Elijah Hellyer to be the executor for this my last will and testament Revoking and Emulating all former wills by me made and Ratifying and confirming this and no other to be my last will and Testament. In Testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this 6th day of July in the year A.D. 1840. [sic]
  2. It’s unlikely that Thomas believed Sarah to be too young to wed as fifteen was a very average age for marriage in 1840.

7 thoughts on “The Disobedient Daughter

    • That’s my theory too. Although I think it had less to do with age difference and more to do with the man himself. Ten year age difference was practically nothing back then.

      And thanks! I’m glad you enjoy my musings.


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