Josephine Sellers: A Wedding, A War, and A Pandemic

Several years ago, as I was sitting with my cousins after having eaten lunch, my grandpa brought a document into the room for me to look at.  It was a Certificate of Death for a Josephine Sellers Wiseheart.  Josephine was not a family name with which I was familiar.  Grandpa said she was Pap’s (his dad) first wife.

In 1918, there was an influenza pandemic that killed an estimated 50 million people.  Josephine Sellers Wiseheart was one of these people.  She was sixteen and a half.  She and Sanford Wesley Wiseheart (Pap) had been married for almost a year and half.  For such a short marriage, it was certainly an eventful one.

I have no idea how they met or exactly when, I just know that Josephine was living with her parents and two brothers in Vincennes, Indiana in 1910, so they couldn’t have been in New Albany for more than seven years.  In any case, Sanford and Josephine were married by the pastor of Wesley Methodist Episcopal Church on July 20, 1917.  Josephine’s birthdate was listed as May 15, 1901, which would have made her sixteen at the time of their marriage.  She was born in Daviess County, Indiana.  Her parents were Charles A. Sellers and Maud Padgett.  Charles Sellers consented to the marriage.

Just four months later, the couple separated and Josephine filed for divorce, rather her mother filed for her because she was a minor.

New Albany Daily Ledger, 10 Nov 1917, p.4, column 2, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Daily Ledger, Saturday, 10 Nov 1917, p.4, column 2, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

Family legend is that Sanford, or Sandy as he was known around town, filed for divorce because he found out that Josephine had lied about her age.  I haven’t found any evidence that he ever filed for divorce.

On April 22, 1918, Sandy was inducted into the Army, having already filled out a draft registration card in June of 1917.  In August of 1918, he left for France.

In December of 1918, Josephine caught the flu.  Dr. Schoen attended her from December 2nd until her death on December 11th.  Her Death Record shows that she was married to a J. Wiseheart at the time of her death.  I’ve found no record of the divorce having gone through and I’ve found no record of Josephine ever having married again.  I believe that it was supposed to have been S. Wiseheart.

Floyd County, Indiana Deaths, Book CH-24, p.104, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

Floyd County, Indiana Deaths, Book CH-24, p.104, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

Her death record also states that she was born on May 24, 1902.  So, either she (and her father) lied about her age when she married or the clerk made an error.  Or, the death record is incorrect.  I’ve tried to find a birth record to verify the date to no avail.  I searched first in Daviess County, since that’s where the marriage record says she and her mother were born.  Then I searched Orange County, where her father was born, and Knox County where they lived before moving to New Albany.  I also searched the surrounding counties of Pike, Martin, Dubois, and Greene in case she had been born while they were moving from one place to another.  Lastly, I searched Floyd County, since that’s where they ended up.  No birth record.

Josephine was buried in Sandy’s plot at Fairview Cemetery on December 14, 1918 as Josephine S. Wiseheart.  Her father had her moved to the Sellers family plot in Holy Trinity Cemetery just two months later.

Fairview Cemetery, Volume VI, 1910-1919, p.127, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

Fairview Cemetery, Volume VI, 1910-1919, p.127, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

Her tombstone reads Josephine Sellers, 1902-1918.  I wonder if he moved her because she was posthumously granted the divorce or if he just really wanted her to be separated from Sandy even in death.  I’m keeping an eye out for any documentation that a divorce was granted, but everything I’m finding says that Sandy was a widower.

Such was the short, dramatic life of Josephine Sellers.  Even though I’m not directly related to her, I sometimes wonder about her.  What did she look like?  What was her personality?  Why did she marry at fifteen or sixteen?  What really happened to cause her to file for divorce?  When I think about her in terms of being my great grandfather’s first wife, it doesn’t seem so long ago, but looking at dates, it was nearly one hundred years ago.  These are questions to which I will probably never know the answer.

Two Marriages & A Murder

Three days ago, I posted about Serilda Gilliland marrying John Bridges twice and that John went to prison for murder.  I was able to unravel a little bit more today.  First, I looked up the Daniel G. Stewart who was a minister from 1835 to 1837 again, and he was actually Daniel S. Stewart and is not the same D.G. Stewart who married them.  I looked in a different city directory today (1848) and David G. Stewart was listed as a homeopathic doctor.  Having the correct first name, I looked him up in the newspaper index and found a listing for an obituary.  According to his obituary in the New Albany Daily Ledger Standard (9 Apr 1878, p.4, c.2-3), David G. Stewart was a doctor who moved to New Albany in 1832.  He joined the First Christian Church and regularly preached when the the pastor was absent.  He was not ordained.  Therefore, Serilda and John’s first marriage was not valid.  Now I know the mechanics of why they were married twice, but I’m still left wondering how he got out of prison for it.

Now, on to the murder trial…

The State of Indiana v. John Bridges:  Coroner’s Inquest

New Albany Daily Tribune, 17 Jan 1859, p.3, c.1, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

New Albany Daily Tribune, 17 Jan 1859, p.3, c.1, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

A Marriage Mystery

Last night, while doing research for a collection that I’m processing at work, I saw my great great great great grandmother’s name on a marriage record index page… twice… to the same man… fourteen years apart.  I quickly made a note to look them up later.  I knew that she had been married once to Leason Gillilland, from whom I am descended, and who died young.  I knew that she married John Bridges after Leason died.  Today, on my lunch break, I did look up the records.  The first one was John T.M. Bridges and Sirelda Gilland on October 15, 1857.  The second was John T.M. Bridges and Serrelda Gilliland on February 3, 1871.

Floyd County, Indiana Marriages, Vol. 4, p.485

Floyd County, Indiana Marriages, Vol. 4, p.485, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

Floyd County, Indiana Marriages, Vol. 6, p.644

Floyd County, Indiana Marriages, Vol. 6, p.644, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

This is weird.  I consulted a co-worker who has been doing genealogy far longer than I have and has taught me most of what I know about researching.  She agreed that it is weird.  At first we thought that maybe the first marriage was invalid.  The name of the minister is smudged out and we thought that possibly he wasn’t really a minister.  A cleaner copy of that marriage record is available on and the minister’s name can be read.  He is D. G. Stewart.  Daniel G. Stewart is listed in the back of the index as being a minister from 1835-1837.  In the 1857 New Albany city directory, he’s listed as a homeopathic physician.  While I was looking up the minister, my co-worker searched the newspaper index for me.  She found that John Bridges wasn’t such a great guy.

My grandfather had always told me that John was a drunk and that he was constantly in trouble.  He had heard stories about John from his great grandmother, Serilda’s daughter, who had helped raise him.  Today, I discovered that John murdered a man, was convicted, and went to the Indiana State Prison in Jeffersonville, Indiana.  I didn’t have a lot of time on my lunch, so I only read the brief descriptions of the over a dozen articles on the trial and his other run-ins with the law.  I’ll copy those as soon as I can.  The result of the trial is that he was convicted in 1859.  The 1860 Census lists him with the family, but in the last column, where it asks for a person’s condition, it says “convict.”  In the 1870 Census, he’s listed among other convicts as being in Indiana State Prison.  Yet, somehow, he married or re-married Serilda in 1871.  Maybe the marriage was annulled or they got a divorce when he went to jail?  Maybe the first marriage really wasn’t legal?  I’m not sure.  What I really want to know is did they get married in the jail, or was he released from prison after only twelve years when he was sentenced for murder?  I’m hoping the articles about the trial will shed some light on that.

Not My Elizabeth

Today, while on my break at work, I followed the Marion Elizabeth Flora lead.  William Flora married Marian E. Heinmarch on October 9, 1872 in Floyd County, Indiana.

Flora, William - Floyd, Indiana Marriages, Vol. 7, p.118

Floyd County, Indiana Marriages, Vol. 7, p.118, Stuart Barth Wrege Indiana History Room

She isn’t the Elizabeth Rakestraw I’ve been searching for, so I’m guessing that her relation to the Rakestraws is through William Flora.  The search continues for Elizabeth Rakestraw, and a search for the connection between William Flora and my other Floras begins.