Friday, June 18, 2010

The Bakers Chicken

It was only three and a half months ago when I posted an article about a relative of mine who changed his name from Charles Webster Chicken back to his birth name of Charles Webster Baker and then mused that I would probably only learn why he adopted the name of Chicken with the use of some future time machine. Well as it turned out, all I needed was some spare time and dumb luck.

While broadening a newspaper article search on his mother, the wife of Joseph Baker,whom I have spent much print on this blog writing about and summed up recently here and here, and whom remarried after Joseph's untimely death to a man named Thomas Heppenstall, when I came across an article that stated in entirety:

Mrs. Heppenstall who had been visiting her son Rob. Chicken and family at Hawkeye returned home to Cedar Falls Saturday.

What the heck? Another Chicken in the family? I quickly switched tack and found numerous articles on Robert Chicken from West Union, the same town that several more article already state that my 2nd great uncle Robert Baker lived most of his life. I also found several articles of various visits Robert Chicken made to see his mother Mrs. Heppenstall.

I have just one census record for Robert Baker soon after he was born when his father Joseph Baker was still alive in 1880. After that, he just disappeared and numerous attempts to track him down in census records and record inquiries to Fayette county where West Union is located turned up nothing. But a quick search of census records reveals a complete track of Robert Baker/Chicken. Soon after his father died in 1882, Robert and his brother Charles can be found living in the house of Robert Sr. and Prudence Chicken in the same county in 1885. They are listed as also having the last name of Chicken. In 1880, Robert Sr. and Prudence Chicken had just two older daughters but no listing of Robert Jr. or Charles though had they been with the family, both should have been listed. I also found an obit for Robert Sr. that only lists two daughters as survivors, the same two daughters in the 1880 census. Charles would change his name back to Baker soon after he was on his own but Robert Jr. would keep his last name as Chicken until he died in 1938. I have an article announcing his death but no obituary as yet.

So it appears as the two Bakers were adopted by the Chicken family and there wasn't some cockfighting story buried in the family as I had hoped. If I can find an obituary for Robert, I am hoping to find more information about his parents which was my whole reason for spending all this time trying to find him.

But that isn't all as they say. For years, I have known that Robert and Charles Chicken Baker's mother Frances was born in Wisconsin and going by name and date, I theorized that an 1850 census identified her as living with an older sister Salina and widowed mother Mary Bolton in Willow Springs, Wisconsin. Never had any proof but I couldn't find any other matches. In one of the many articles I turned up of Robert Chicken's life including a drunk driving arrest and being a victim of an armed robbery while being a good Samaritan, I also have the obituary of his wife Viola H. Proctor who was born in 1883 in Willow Springs, Wisconsin. Coincidence? My head is spinning with all this information and I am still digesting it.

11 comments:

Frank D. Myers said...

The thing of it is, you just don't expect people to arrive at the surname "Chicken" in the usual way. It would be interested to know what the origins of that name are. I've written elsewhere about an old Chariton family that began life as "Cocks" --- a variant I suppose of Cox --- but changed it to "Coles" when the opportunity presented itself. I believe part of the Prentiss family I'm related to originated as "Hoggs" but gave up on that one, too. Apparently barnyard critters aren't very popular.

Frank

Ed said...

Frank - I can sympathize with all those Cocks, Chickens and Hoggs in the world. I haven't pursued the surname origins of the adopted Chicken parents. Too many questions I'm still trying to answer about this family.

On a plus note, I've made myself such a pest that the Baker family has initiated a wide scale family reunion scheduled for later this year and I got an invitation. I need to see if I can get my scanner to work on my wife's laptop and see how much scanning I can do while trying to eat and maintain a conversation.

sage said...

Okay, I came to your blog thinking I was going to read about your culinary skills and baking chicken... Interesting name, did it carry the same meaning back then, if so, you'd have to be a tough kid on the playground to be named "Chicken"

Beau said...

My goodness... you have a way of finding and understanding the oddities of family history! Cool story...

R. Sherman said...

When I see strange family names, I'm always reminded of German. Unusual names usually mean some foreigners migrated to Germany and to ostracize them, the Germans gave them goofy family names to live with.

Cheers.

TC said...

So it appears as the two Bakers were adopted by the Chicken family and there wasn't some cockfighting story buried in the family as I had hoped.

LOL

Too funny. You're good at this tracing thing.

Ed said...

Sage - I have no doubt that is why Charlie changed his name right away. Robert but have been a much bigger man!

Beau - Dumb luck was a lot to do with this one. I had pretty much given up on Robert and was back to focusing my attentions on his mother Frances.

TC - I really was hoping for a cockfighting story similar to Chicken George in the book Roots.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Sometimes, you just have to buy a big piece of butcher block paper and a felt pen and make a flow chart. I read it twice and I'm still a little hazy. Good stuff there though.

Ed said...

Phil - I have lots of different types of charts to keep things straight but ultimately, I know the relationship due to the amount of time I sink into figuring out who they are. Although I try to minimize the confusion when I blog about them, I mostly hope that readers are entertained by the story and not get lost along the way due to the cast of characters.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Yes, its quite interesting; and considering the permanent nature of these posts it also provides a way for others to take advantage of your work.

Eutychus2 said...

Interesting story! In my family genealogy I've found that one of my ancestors is supposedly married to two different women, at the same time having the same daughter. However both women have different last names and family genealogy; and not even a licensed genealogist can tell for sure what's what. I just love the darker side of family history ... kinda makes the good look dull.