Friday, September 16, 2016

On the Sly

William Sly came from England to the United States in the 1850s. He was naturalized in 1866 at Bowling Green, Wood county, Ohio. According to the Callin Family History, he married Harriet Callin (1838-1907) in 1859.

We don't know for sure who William's parents were or where in England he came from; there are a couple of candidates in the UK Census records. Other researchers have noted an 1841 England Census which documents a Sly family in a Wiltshire parish called Horningsham: father James (b. 1786), mother Susanna (b. 1796), son William (b. 1826) and his two brothers, James (b. 1829) and Thomas (b. 1832). All of them list Ireland as their place of birth, except for the father, James; William is listed as a shepherd, and James as a pensioner. There is a death record for James in April 1849, which may have prompted a 23-year-old William to seek his fortune in the New World.

William's birthplace in all of his more recent, American records is "England," and not "Ireland," but that isn't enough to rule out this Census record, in my opinion, since the family did live in England, and probably considered themselves as being distinct from the other Irish immigrants arriving in the United States during the 1840s and 1850s.

There was also a James Sly of about the right age to be William's brother from that UK Census record. This James lived in Wood county, dying in 1893. The men would have certainly been aware of each other, living in the same place for decades, but neither of them mentioned the other in their wills, we don't have any newspaper notices from the time, and nothing else solidly connects them to that 1841 record. It could be that they weren't related, or they might have had a falling out, or James might possibly be a more distant cousin. It's hard to rule out any possibilities or draw any definite conclusions in the absence of records linking them. And since even William reportedly wasn't sure of his own birth date when he died in Wood county, Ohio, in 1894, we don't even have that name/birthday combination to narrow down our searches.

Hattie grew up on the Callin family farm in Richland county, which her father had purchased after her grandfather died in 1835. She was probably too little to remember most of the relatives who had lived there; her great-uncle Alex would have taken his family to Iowa when Hattie was still a baby. She would have been about six when her father, William, made his journey to Iowa to bring back her aunt Margret and cousins William and Warren. She might have known her great grandmother, Elizabeth (Simon) Callin, before Elizabeth moved to Auburn, Indiana, to live with the Ferguson branch of the family.

When she was about eleven, her father bought and cleared the new farm in Peru township, Huron county. They would have still been living there when she married William Sly; according to the 1860 Census, she and William lived in Oxford, Erie county, Ohio after they were married. By 1862, however, they had moved to Plain township, Wood county, where her father had purchased and cleared another 160 acre farm.

The petroleum industry in Ohio began in 1859, with an oil well drilled in Trumbull county; but major oil and gas reserves were also discovered in Wood county in the 1880s. According to my grandfather, the Callin farm in Wood county had been sold before William Callin's death in 1881, and it was family legend that "we could have been millionaires" had the oil not been discovered after that. But the Sly family evidently benefited from the oil boom of the 1880s and 1890s.

According to William Sly's will:

"I desire first that all my just debts be paid out of my property, and after the payment of my said debts, I give and bequeath to my beloved wife Harriet E. Sly, the rents and profits of all my real estate, exclusive of the income thereof derived from Royalty from petroleum oil or gas, to have and to enjoy the same for and during the remainder of her natural life time, or as long as she remains my widow, including in the above all the lands and tenements which I may own at my death, both farm and town property."

I don't like to project too much of my own ideas about what people thought and felt based on a few old papers, but the William Sly will has a few comments that hint at the relationships between his children. First, he named his son in law, Cyrus Young, as his executor, and while he divided the shares of his wealth between his three youngest surviving children equally, he only gave his oldest son, William, $50. Later, he added a codicil which essentially swapped William's share for his youngest sister's - leaving the $50 to Hattie May, and giving William a full third of the rest of the estate.

We may discover some clues to explain some of this in coming weeks. For now, it seems enough to say that William Sly's widow lived comfortably in her home in Bowling Green with her daughter until her death in 1907.

Until next week, I'll leave you with Hattie's record in the CFH:

Record of Harriet Callin Sly, only daughter of William Callin, who was the 3rd son of John Callin, who was the 2nd son of James 1st.

Born in 1838 in Ashland, O., died in 1907, in Bowling Green.
Married in 1859 to Wm. Sly who died in 1894.
To this union were born five children:
William in 1859.
Elmer in 1861, died in 1893.
Alice, born in 1864, died in 1896.
Eugene, born in 1866.
May, born in 1881.

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