A Black Sheep

We have a true scoundrel in the family. Ira Titchworth was a bigamist who had a way with women. Ira is the son of William Titchworth and Nancy Mulholland. He was born about 1840 in or around Paris, Brant County, Ontario, Canada. In 1861 he is working as a clerk in Beverly, Wentworth County, Ontario. In 1864 he changes careers and becomes a teacher.

Ira met his wife, Marilla Woodward, while visiting his younger sisters who were living with relatives after their mother died. Marilla and Ira are married by a Free Baptist minister in Walsingham, Norfolk County, Ontario on 27 June 1865. In 1871, Ira is living and working in Norfolk County with his wife and daughter.

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 is a marriage to Ida Howard in Mariposa, California in 1878 but his first wife, Marilla, is still alive. She doesn’t die until 1922. Her gravestone says she is the ” wife of Ira Titchworth”. Ira and Marilla never divorced. Ira is a bigamist!

I had some doubts that this was my Ira who married Ida Howard. The marriage document calls him I. Cyrus and the 1881 census index calls him J. C. Titchworth. Further proof comes with his father’s will. In it his father, William Titchworth says “I will  my oldest son Ira Cyrus Titchworth (100$) one hundred dollars Maraposy California.” Ira and his 2nd wife Ida live in Mariposa, California. It has to be my Ira Titchworth who married Ida Howard.

My grandmother always said that her great grandfather married a student but I think it is Ira who married his student. Ira was 37 and his new wife was 18 when he married the second time. By 1881 Ira is working as a teacher in Port Townsend, Washington State. Did he move there because he has cousins in nearby? The census states he is married but Ida is not living with him. Did he run away from 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 he 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 and suggests he moves a lot.

The other letter fascinates me because it suggests so much. This undated letter from San Francisco is written in pencil to Pheobe Field. I believe that the letter is written by Casper Titchworth’s wife or daughter-in-law. Whoever it is, Ira has worked his charms and she is on his side. She 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.”

Ira was 24 or 25 when he married his first wife. It’s not that young. 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 to help him pay for his studies in medicine. The line that convinces me that Ira has hoodwinked her is “I never met a man so good and pure as he”. Seriously, this is the man who ran away and left his first wife and child to fend for themselves, probably never saw them again. Then he became a bigamist. He may have had good traits but to say he is good and pure seems like overkill.

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.

Please contact me if you have has more concrete evidence on Ira Titchworth and where he ended up.


Sources

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.

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.

    Like

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s