Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Mary Bentley 1881 - 1917

When my cousin Yvonne died at age 14, talk about my aunt Opal having died around the same age and a relative in each generation before dying around the same age came up. The other person I remember being talked about during that time was Poppy's (Otho Bentley) sister, Mary. I thought she died young and was never married and certainly had no children.

Since I have been working on Otho's siblings this week, I thought I would just go ahead and write up something quickly on her. Going into my records I found that those memories of her being a child who died early did not match what I had written down. I had her birth year as after the 1880 census. I had down her husband was named Ben or Jeff. So I decided to start over on her today and go into census records, death records and anything I could find which would tell me who Mary was and why I might have written down Ben or Jeff as husbands.

Mary Bentley was born July 7, 1881 in Pike County, Kentucky to John Martin Bentley and Malinda Addington. She wasn't in the census records with John and Malinda in 1900 which is why I think I first bought into the story about her dying young.

Some researchers say that she died in 1901 in childbirth. Others had her death in 1917. I went looking for her as a married woman in 1900. I didn't find her, but I haven't searched under the alternate spellings.

What I did find was her death certificate. She died on September 1, 1917. The death certificate lists her parents as Martin Bentley and Malinda Edington. I found out a lot of things from that death certificate.

It said she was married when she died. It said her normal residence was in Knott County, Kentucky. I went searching for Jeff, Ben or Mary Bentley in the 1910 Knott County census since I had already struck out in 1900 and Knott would have been her most current address to that date. I found Jeff & Marry Bentley on the first try. They were listed as:

Bentley, Jeff, head, 30 married 11 years

Marry, wife, 26

Polly Ann, daughter, 10

William, son, 7

Ethel, daughter, 4

Bessie, daughter, 1

Cora, daughter, 2 months

All were KY KY KY (birthplace of self, father, mother) except Mary who was KY KY VA. Malinda was born in Virginia.

Here was Mary with five children.

Now who was Jeff? Next door to them was a W. F. Bentley and Eda both 58 (a reasonable age for being the parents of Jeff). Also listed with W. F. and Eda was a boarder named, Bitha Bentley. There was also something familiar about W. F. and Eda. I did a search in my database and came up with William Finley Bentley and Eda/Edy Fleming who lived next door to Chunk and Polly Ann in the 1880 census. They had a son named Jeff. Eda was the sister of my g-g grandmother Elizabeth Betsy Fleming who married Thaney Houston. They were the daughters of Fighting Fred Fleming and Nancy Ann Wright. Nancy Ann was the daughter of Joel and Susannah Wright. And by the way that boarder, Bitha was William Finley's mother Tabitha Baker Bentley.

I next found Jeff's death certificate. He died of a heart attack on June 8, 1949. He died at the Fleming Hospital so at some point he had moved back to Letcher County. The informant for the certificate was "Mrs. Jeff Bentley" so he had remarried at some point. His parents were listed as Finley Bentley and Eda Fleming.

I went searching for Jeff in the 1920 census. I found him in Knott County married to "Patsy". This was Patsy's second marriage, too. Her first husband was a Fugate. This is their census:

Bentley, Jeff, head 40, farmer, general farm.

Patsy, wife 40

William son 17

Bessie, daughter 11

Cora, daughter, 9

Fred, son 1

Fugate, Earnest W. wife's son, 17

Willie, wife's son 14

Louise, wife's daughter 7


In 1930 the couple was in Letcher County. They were listed on Bentley Street in Whitesburg.

Bentley, Jeff 53, married at 40, farmer, farm

Patty, 51, married at 18

Fugate, Louise, 8

Bentley, Fred 10

Claudie, daughter, 7


The question about marriage was what age were you when you first married. I think Jeff was answering as to the age he was when he married Patsy and she was answering it correctly, probably when she married at 18 to possibly Mr. Fugate. The age for Louise is probably an error since she should have been about 18. Usually the children were listed in age order. I think the census taker just made an error. (Imagine that!!)

I followed Mary and Jeff's children down quite a few generations.

Now let me tell you what else I found on Mary's death certificate. She died at Eastern State Hospital in Lexington of cerebral congestion with a contributing factor that I could not quite make out. It looked like "pellagram" to me, but my searches came up empty. Then when I went back to look at the writing again I noticed in the upper left hand corner it said that it was in Fayette county and "asylum" listed by that.

I did a search for Eastern State Hospital and found its history. From 1792 until 1824 the mentally disturbed residents of Kentucky were boarded out with individuals or a few were sent to Eastern State Hospital in Williamsburg, Virginia.

The first Addington to immigrate to America was Malinda's great grandfather William L. Addington. He was from a wealthy family in London and was very well educated. His family outfitted him well when he came to America. He traveled the eastern seaboard. He fought in the Revolutionary war serving under George Washington. He was present at the surrender of Yorktown. After the war he married Margaret Cromwell who was from a prominent English family. They moved from Virginia to North Carolina. Later, he and twelve other families moved to southwest Virginia. By 1785 they were in Russell County (now Wise county) near Margaret's brother, Charles. Possibly this was because she needed help.

William was ill. Margaret sold most of their possessions and moved to Williamsburg where on July 12, 1802 William was admitted to the Lunatic hospital there. He lived there as a patient for 15 years. He was treated for melancholy. Margaret had to be at the hospital daily to feed and help take care of him. She may even have stayed with him. When he died on February 9, 1805 the hospital had two carpenters construct a coffin for him. He was buried on the grounds for the hospital. Margaret left the area and went to Tennessee and then back to Virginia. As far as I know she did not remarry though she lived for 25 years after William's death.

In 1816 the citizens of Fayette County, Kentucky established a hospital which made the second asylum in the United States. It went thru several name changes and was finally the Eastern State Hospital.

Now I searched "pellagram" and added mental illness. What I got was pellagra. I found it was a disease primarily in the south that was caused by eating corn which was bad. It was like having ptomaine poisoning over and over. The overall diet of the person was bad mainly with a niacin deficiency. It would eventually lead to lesions, the inabilty to eat, melancholy and depression.In one hospital they found that many of the patients started to exhibit the symptoms of this disease. One doctor studying it found that none of the nurses ever had the disease. The nurses ate a well balanced diet. The patients were fed a corn based diet. One of the final stages of this disease was cerebral congestion.

Perhaps William had the same illness. I do know that others in the family have suffered from clinical depression.

Mary lived in the asylum for four years, seven months and six days before her death. She was buried at Fullerton, Greenup county, Kentucky.

There was a little more to Mary's story than I thought.

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