Who Was B.L. Higdon (1835-1888)?

Benedict Leonard Higdon direct descent line.3.GOOD

We have so far 9 original sources directly connected to him:

4 sets of U.S. Census records:

1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880. 

2 sets of tax records: 1864 and 1866

1 draft registration record: 1863

1 local newspaper article 1889

1 tombstone: installed 1889 - 91, date of death - 1888

From these records we know that B.L. Higdon’s family was living in 1830 in Bryantown, Charles County, Maryland. B.L. Higdon was born in 1835. His father, Benedict Leonard Higdon, died a year after his birth. His mother, Elizabeth Sophia Dent then married Henry Mattingly. B.L. Higdon grew up with two Mattingly half-sisters and a Mattingly half-brother.

In 1864, and again in 1866, B.L. Higdon paid taxes on what appears to be items such as horses and carriages, as well on cash savings (similar to but not the same as today’s personal property). At the time he was 29 years old and 31 years old respectively.

B.L. Higdon married Sarah C. Miles on 22 Apr 1869. At the time of their marriage, B.L. Higdon was about 34 years old and “Sallie” Miles was about 18 years old. Their marriage occurred four years after the U.S. Civil War ended.

They raised 4 children: Alice Grady, Harry Kelly, Helena Helbourne, and Edward Higdon. Their last child, Mary Ellen Higdon, died in infancy. The birth dates, the place of birth of both the child and the child’s parent, and the family names of these four children do not match up properly. The easiest way to explain this disparate, atypical information is to infer that all four children were adopted. Adoption would explain all the discrepancies found in the 1870 and 1880 Census records.

More importantly, a local news article concerning the death of B.L. Higdon notes that he was Chief Judge of the Charles County Orphan’s Court at the time of his death (see below). This court was charged with administrating the care of orphans, appointment of their legal guardians, distribution of any inheritance that may have existed, regular welfare reports, and so on. So B.L. Higdon had ready information available about all the orphans under the supervision of the Charles County Orphans Court, and he could easily kept track of orphans still needing placement. It is possible that he and Sallie took in two such orphans just prior to their marriage, and then two more after they were married. 

At this point, the historical record for the initial four children comes to an abrupt end. The last record for any of the initial four children is the 1880 Census listing the four children by full name. There are no records of marriage, there are no records of death and burial. Apparently, there are simply no more public records at this time. 

Finally, Mary Ellen Higdon was born, and died, in the same year, 12 years after Edward was born. So far we do not have enough source material, or inferences from them, to develop a plausible explanation whether this child was a natural birth or an adoption, and her early death.

If resources had been available, B.L. Higdon’s tombstone was most likely ordered within several months of his death. Even in the 1880’s, the tombstone would have been a standard cut & chiseled blank. The incised lettering would have been cut into the stone by hand, and the reversed lettering - B.L.Higdon. on a rectangular background - would have been cut away by hand, leaving the embossed letters. This whole procedure then, and now, would have taken about 6 -18 months, depending on the start of the lettering and when the weather would have next allowed the erection of the tombstone at his grave site. So B.L. Higdon’s tombstone was erected over his burial site probably between late 1889 and late 1891. (Please note: The tombstone of B.L. Higdon is original and was placed into its current location about 35 years after the U.S. Civil War.)

B. L. higdon-resolution-of-respect.crop.GOOD

Resolutions of Respect

At the meeting of the Orphan’s Court on Tuesday the following resolutions in respect to the memory of the late Chief Judge, were offered and adopted, after which the court adjourned:

Whereas It has pleased the Almighty to take from our midst Judge B. L. Higdon –

Resolved – That it is with profound sorrow we heard the announcement of his demise and in common with the entire community fee how great our loss.

Resolved – That by his death, this Court loses a discerning and conscientious member, who, not only as such, but in every relation of life faithfully discharged his duty, and that the County loses a most worthy, valued and much respected citizen and truly an upright man.

Resolved – That we recognize as traits of his character, sterling integrity, frankness and sincerity, hated of hypocrisy and deceit, and fidelity to duty.

Resolved – That we extend to his family in their sad bereavement, our heartfelt sympathy.

Resolved – That these resolutions be entered upon the minutes of this Court, that they be published in the County papers, and a copy of them be transmitted to the family of the deceased, and further in respect to his memory, this Court now adjourn.

Original Article in lower right as Published in the:

Port Tobacco Times and Charles County Advertiser

Volume XLV, Number 30. January 4, 1889

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