A Black Sheep

These pictures have written on the back (left to right) Ira Titchworth, Nancy Mulholland, and William Titchworth. I’m not sure the names are correct.

We have a true scoundrel or black sheep in the family, Ira Titchworth. Ira, the son of William Titchworth and Nancy Mulholland, was born about 1840 most likely in or around Paris, Brant, Ontario, Canada. In 1861 he is working as a clerk in Beverly, Wentworth, Ontario. However, he changes careers and in 1864 he obtains a Second Class Certificate as a Common School Teacher and is able to teach for 1 year. He redoes the certification in 1866 and once again receives a Second Class Certificate.

When his mother dies, 2 of his younger sisters move to Norfolk County to live with relatives. It’s here that Ira meets his wife, Marilla Woodward. Marilla and Ira are married by a Free Baptist minister in Walsingham, Norfolk, Ontario on 27 June 1865. His sister, Pheobe Titchworth is the witness. Ira and Marilla are in the 1871 Canada Census, living in Townsend, North Norfolk with a 5 year old daughter, Mathilda.

Everything appears to be perfectly normal so far. He has a good job, he’s married and has a child. Now let’s get to the juicy bits. The next document I find for Ira he is a marriage to Ida Howard in Mariposa, California. He is 37 and she is 18 years old. It get’s better. Marilla is still alive. Marilla dies in 1922. On her gravestone it says “Marilla, wife of Ira Titchworth”.  They were never divorced. Ira is a bigamist! I know this is the correct Ira Titchworth because his father’s will states, “I will  my oldest son Ira Cyrus Titchworth (100$) one hundred dollars Maraposy California.”

My grandmother always said that her great grandfather married a student but I haven’t found proof of this. The age difference between Reuben Taylor and Leah Jane Titchworth isn’t that great and I searched the superintendent records listing teachers and Reuben didn’t teach where Leah lived. I think that it is Ira who married his student.

Ira marries Ida Howard on November 2, 1878 but by 1881 he is working as a teacher in Port Townsend, Washington State. His his married but is not with his wife. Did he leave his 2nd wife too?

So here’s where things start to get elusive. I’m not able to find any records of Ira after the 1881 census. Family stories say that Ira died in 1930. I have two letters, one written in 1923 from Silas Titchworth (Ira’s brother) to Pheobe Field (his sister). In this letter Silas says he is going to write Ira and hopes he hasn’t moved. This proves Ira was alive in 1923.

The other letter fascinates me because it suggests so much. This letter, from San Francisco is written to Pheobe Field, dated April 2 but no year is given. It’s written in pencil. I believe that the letter is written by Casper Titchworth’s wife. Whoever it is, Ira has obviously has her on his side. She makes excuses for his smoking,

“I think you are rather hard on Ira.  Remember we are not all constituted alike.  Ira did not commence to use tobacco because he liked it…. he studied so hard he could not sleep – and a doctor told him he should have to smoke.  I did talk to him and so did  [Casper] and he only smoked 3 times a day instead of 14 when we went away and he said he felt better for it.”

She also makes excuses for him leaving his wife and child (I assume it is his first wife),

“it seems a sin when one is blessed with such a child to leave them to struggle along as [he did] although he  was without his friends or [anyone ] to help him when he married so young if he had a hard time alone a wife and baby I would not he a half surely that is the way I look at it.”

Then she goes on to complain about how “uncle” (William Titchworth) left Ira so little in his will,

“I cannot see what ever possessed uncle to have cut him off in the manner he did.  I think it was dreadful and the other heirs should make it equal and do it willingly …to uncle knew just how he was situated I would never have tried to study medicine with the means he had or at his time of life.”

There’s more along that vein. Basically, she’s writing Phoebe to ask for money for Ira.
The line that convinces me that Ira has hoodwinked her is “I never met a man so good and pure as he”. I think that Ira had a way with women.

Now I have an unproved theory about where Ira disappears to. In the 1920 Census a man by the name of James C Titchworth appears. He was born about 1841 in Canada the same as Ira. His father was born in New York – Ira’s father was born in New York; his mother was born in Canada – Ira’s mother was born in Canada AND he’s a physician. The letter from the unknown woman to Phoebe states Ira is studying medicine. A directory of deceased physicians gives us the information that James was licensed as a physician in 1898 and that he died in 1926 of lung cancer. As I said this theory is completely without proof but maybe Ira changed his name and became a physician.

I do believe that Ira truly was a black sheep. Black sheep make family history research stimulating and sometimes have our brains running in circles trying to figure them out. I’m sure that Ira’s wives didn’t appreciate it though.

I’m hoping someone out there has more concrete evidence on Ira Titchworth and where he ended up. Please contact me if you do.


Ira Titchworth

1851 Canada Census; William Titchworth Household; Paris, Brant, Canada West; District 2; page 33, line 42; Microfilm C-11714; accessed 20 December 2015; http://www.ancestry.com ; [database online]; citing Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario

1861 Canada Census; William Titchworth Household; Paris, Brant, Canada West; page 25; Microfilm C1109; accessed 20 December 2015; http://www.ancestry.com ; [database online]; citing Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario

1861 Canada Census; Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1861 Census of Canada [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009; Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Census Returns For 1861; Roll: C-1086

Ontario County Marriage Registers, 1857 – 1924; Norfolk County, page 129; Microfilm Reel 1030061; Family History Library; Salt Lake City, Utah; original source; Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Canada

Sessional Papers, second session of the eighth session of Parliament of the Province of Canada, session 1864; from Early Canadiana Online; original source, Library and Archives Canada.

Sessional Papers, second session of the eighth session of Parliament of the Province of Canada, session 1866; from Early Canadiana Online; original source, Library and Archives Canada.

Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 01 July 2018), memorial page for Marilla Titchworth (1848–1922), Find A Grave Memorial no. 129816581, citing Johnson Cemetery, Saint-Williams, Norfolk County, Ontario, Canada ; Maintained by 4ever Nanny (contributor 47345810) .

William Titchworth Will; Kay Corbett Collection, Esquimault, BC.

Ancestry.com. Washington State and Territorial Censuses, 1857-1892 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006.; Original data: Olympia, Washington: Washington State Archives. M1, 20 rolls.

James C Titchworth

United States Census, 1920,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9R6S-LP7?cc=1488411&wc=QZJG-NPD%3A1036469601%2C1038729301%2C1038803701%2C1589334637 : 15 December 2015), California > San Francisco > San Francisco Assembly District 30 > ED 222 > image 13 of 24; citing NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

Directory of Deceased American Physicians, 1804-1929 [database on-line].Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc

1 thought on “A Black Sheep

  1. nancyhvest

    Well, he certainly was a scoundrel, and he probably was a very charming fellow! These characters do keep family history research fun. I love all my farmers and railroad men, but a little excitement is nice once in a while. Thanks for sharing this story.



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