Sunday, June 11, 2017

Birth of Henry Church, aka Old Hundred – Part 2

My last post noted three different birth dates that have been suggested for Henry Church of Hundred, West Virginia, fame: 30 November 1750, 13 December 1750, and 1751. There may be more, but those are the three I have found to date. I said I wanted to do a little more digging before I posted again … so here is my decision: I still don’t know for sure when Henry was born!

Here is a recap of all the U.S. census years in which I have found Henry along with his recorded age:
  • 1810 = age 45 and over 
  • 1820 = age 45 and over 
  • 1830 = age 70 thru 79 
  • 1840 = age 80 thru 89 
  • 1850 = age 99 
  • 1860 = age 110 
The 1850 census was the first one to show an actual age versus an age range - with an official date of 01 June 1850, the age of 99 would work with either the November or December 1750 birth date. Assuming one of those is the correct date, that would make Henry 109 as of the 1860 census and at the time of his death, agreeing with the age on his gravestone.

When no month is used, my date calculator shows Henry's age at death as 110 if he was born in 1750, and 109 if he was born in 1751.  Take a look at the photo of the new gravestone that was in the last post and you will see that it only gives years for birth and death.  I wonder if his birth was shown as 1751 on the new gravestone because subtracting 109 years from 1860 gives you 1751. The flip side is that subtracting 1750 from 1860 equals an age of 110, and that wasn’t the age engraved on the stone.

As near as I can tell, the November date comes from a 1983 history of Wetzel County, whereas the December date may just be a calculated date based on the gravestone info. That said, there just isn’t enough to convince me that one date is better than the other ... and I have not been able to find anything new to support one over the other.  It’s kind of like the old line of, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” In this case, “Which came first, knowledge of the actual birth date, or knowledge of Henry’s age at death? Once you know one, the other can simply be calculated.

So for now, the next update to my website will show Henry’s birth as Nov/Dec 1750 with 1751 as an alternate.  If anyone has additional info to settle the question, please step forward!  I would love to hear from you.

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