Friday, August 25, 2017
William Stevenson Dobbins
April 28, 1821 to January 25, 1847
As a genealogist, I often run into people from the past who seem to have left very few footprints to follow. They exist on paper in a minimal way, and except for the genealogist, might very quickly move past the "Immortal Nobody" category.
That is the way I would describe William Stevenson Dobbins, born in Ohio in 1821, who was the youngest child of Robert and Catherine Dobbins, the youngest brother of 7 siblings, and eventually the husband of Sarah Brand.
He did nothing important enough to get written up in a county history book, although if he hadn't died at the young age of 25, he might have distinguished himself in some way. In fact, many researchers have wondered if a William S. Dobbins was even a part of the family. He was not given any property by his father like all the other children received; and he was not mentioned at all in the Session Minutes of the Bennington Presbyterian church, whose membership list included every member of the Dobbins family and whose pastor was his own father.
Some researchers wondered if perhaps he was simple-minded, thus not in a position to be treated like all other family members. He was buried in the Dobbins Cemetery, but the stone was silent.
In my research I found two important issues: In an old Family Reunion paper dating from 1911, this story was handed down. " It was customary then to have wood cut for Sunday use on Saturday by the boys. At one time, when he was away on one of his long trips, the boys failed in this duty. The father returned on Saturday and sent his son Will out to chop the needed wood. He did not hear the axe, and went out to see what was the trouble and overheard the following soliloquy: 'R. B. D. Roaring Big Devil – this is a hell of a work.' To the boy’s astonishment, the father appeared, saying, 'Tut, tut, tut. I’ll teach you to take your father’s name in vain – to the woodshed we’ll go.'"
In all my research done over the last 40 years on the Dobbins family, this is the only time William was ever given a body and a personality, albeit one of a bratty teenager. In a county history book there is a single line that said a William Dobbins married a Sarah Brand, but no documentation of that fact in the county courthouse marriage records turned up.
William remained an immortal nobody for a long time because another researcher and I, both on the trail of this young man, failed to move on a probate file in the county for what appeared to be a person by the name of William L. Dobbins, not Willian S. Dobbins – in spite of the fact that sometimes old handwriting "L"s and "S"s are confused with each other.
When I finally decided to try one last time to either "rule in" or "rule out" this man by taking this final step, I sent for, and received, a William Dobbins' probate records. One paper showed that his widow, Sarah Brand Dobbins, turned over her appointment as executrix for her husband's estate to Robert B. Dobbins. And in this probate material it became obvious that William's middle initial was "S" -- for Stevenson, his grandmother Dobbins's maiden name – Elizabeth Stevenson Dobbins.
William is truly an immortal nobody. He will not be remembered for anything he did – except act like a brat and be so immortalized in an unpublished family reunion paper and sent to me by a Dobbins still living in Illinois. But he did acquire enough worldly goods by farming the land that there was need for probating his estate when he died at age 25.. He left a wife, but no children. His tombstone is in the Dobbins Cemetery (now the Clemens Cemetery) in Fulton County Illinois.