Tuesday, March 31, 2015

James Suit: Friend AND Foe

     Elizabeth Shown Mills, and other respected genealogists, have long emphasized the importance of studying our ancestor’s FAN club:  friends, associates, and neighbors.  While it’s taken me awhile to expand my tunnel vision, and to accept that my research needs to include a larger pool of subjects, I’m beginning to reap the benefits.
     My ancestor, Asa Oren Ives, will never be an easy subject to study.  Although there are strong clues which suggest his origins are in Vermont, I’m focusing now on digging as deeply as I can in Indiana, where known events of his life took place.  Since his paper trail is pretty meager, I've turned my attention to his associates, hoping to create a picture of his life through their experiences.
     At the time of Asa’s 1827 marriage to Mary “Polly” Largent in Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, the bondsman was James Suit.  I wondered what the connection was between this couple and their bondsman, so I began to collect information that might answer the question. 
     The following sketch appears in an historic county history, which has been digitized at http://www.ingenweb.org/intippecanoe/twp.html:  "The first white man to come to Wabash Township was probably James Suit, a trapper, who came in 1822. He employed a number of men to assist him in trapping beaver and collecting wild honey from the forests of Tippecanoe County. He would take these items down the river by flatboat to Vincennes where he would trade for salt, Mackinaw blankets, dry goods, whiskey and general merchandise."    This may conjure up the image of a loner on the move, with no fixed address.  My research proves otherwise.  While James Suit’s occupations required time away from home, he maintained strong personal ties to Lafayette.

  Examination of land records in Tippecanoe County reveals that James Suit and his wife were involved in a number of transactions, which name many other parties.  The name of James’ wife is variously listed as Amy, Bethama, and Bethamy.  In 1828, a marriage for Sarah Suit is recorded, with James Suit named as her father.  James Suit is also shown on a list of potential grand jurors in 1827.  In strong contrast, he was fined twice for assault and battery upon the body of:  Asa Oren Ives!  The two assaults bookended the wedding:  one taking place before, and one after.  They evidently endured a rather tempestuous relationship, to say the least.  They were hardly alone:  the court records are filled with accounts of neighbors settling their differences by less than peaceful means!
     Reaching back earlier in time, James Suit spent a short period as a sergeant in (Christopher) Wood’s 1st Ohio Company of Spies during the War of 1812.  A John Suit served as a private in the same unit.  This company was formed in Champaign County, Ohio, where James Suit voted in an early Sheriff’s election.  It was also here that he married Amy Davis in 1806.
     The location of Champaign County, Ohio, makes me believe that the basis for James Suit serving as a bondsman, was due to a connection to Mary “Polly” Largent.  Her father and other relatives lived in the same township as James Suit, during the time they were all in Ohio.  Perhaps James Suit took a dim view of Asa Oren Ives as husband material?
Wabash River, Lafayette, Indiana.  Taken by the author.
I've discovered, when information about our own ancestors is lacking, including the FAN club in our research can be enlightening, fascinating, and highly entertaining!