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Sarah Jane Austin

A Short Biography
by Greg W. Lasley

Lasley family oral history prepared in 1939 gives the following information: Sarah Jane Austin married James Preston Lasley in 1854 and had six children. Children's names included Mamie Lou, Flora Bell, James D., William, Jessie Lee and Jennie Lee; the last two names are reported to have died as infants. This oral history as a whole has proven to have some inaccuracies, but is fairly accurate overall.

Facts known after investigations October 2000 through September 2002 by Greg Lasley & Jack Elliott, Jr.: Marriage Record Book, C-3, p. 518, Posey Co., IN shows that James P. Lastly married Sarah Austin on May 29, 1855. The index of the book shows J. Lustly, but the "u" in Lustly is a typo and should read "a". The 1860 census in Point Township, Posey Co., IN shows Preston Lassly 26 (indicating born in Indiana), living with wife Sarah Lassly 19 (born in Indiana), and daughter Sarah F., one year old. Also in the same household are Margaret Hazelwood 33 and Sarah L. (I think the initial is an "L" but not certain) Hazelwood 15; unknown what relationship these folks may be to Preston or Sarah. According to the 1860 census, both Preston and Sarah were illiterate, so the different name spellings are not entirely unexpected. The 1850 Posey Co., Indiana, census records show quite a number of Austins. Two households are of particular interest. Household 896 in Point Township shows Richard Austin, 48, born in New York with wife Sarah, 42, born in Delaware. Also listed are Issac 22, born Delaware, John, 15, Anna 12, Richard 7, and Cornelia 2, all those born Indiana. In a nearby household are John C. Castelberry 34 born Indiana with his wife Mary Austin (Castelberry) 24, born Delaware, Sarah Austin, 12, born Indiana, and Richard Austin, 19, born Delaware. The 12 year old Sarah Austin is most likely "our" Sarah Jane Austin, but this is not certain. Sarah Jane Austin gives an age of 19 on the 1860 census (indicating a birth year of ca 1841), age of 36 on 1880 census (indicating birth year of ca 1844), and age 58 on 1900 census (showing a birth month and year of February 1842). The 12 year old Sarah on the 1850 census may be the correct person (our great grandmother), but at this time this is uncertain. I suspect she was, in fact, born ca 1838 as inferred by the 1850 census since she was married to JPL in 1855. If she had been born from 1841 to 1844 as indicated by ages she reported in 1860, 1880, and 1900, she would have been married between ages 11-14 which seems unlikely. The birth year of ca 1838, which I suspect is correct, would make her 17 at the time of her marriage which seems more reasonable.

James Preston Lasley died in 1865; see short biography on him for details. I have a pension application in which Sarah makes a claim to the federal government since James Preston Lasley (also known as Leslie and Lesley in government papers) died while a soldier. In this application she states that she had three children as of 1865: Sarah Frances Lasley (Lesley) born July 1, 1858; George Richard Lasley (Lesley) born July 29, 1862, and James Dennis Lasley (Lesley) born March 23, 1865.

Posey Co., Indiana Marriage Record Book 5, p. 577 shows that on March 10, 1868, a marriage license was issued to Andrew Taylor and Sarah J. [her last name was originally written as "Lastley" then the "ast" was crossed out and replaced with "es" making it "Lesley"]. The two were married on March 16, 1868 by Adam H. Burleson from "Ministers of the Gospel".

In the Posey Co., Indiana Appearance Docket of Probate, Andrew Taylor files to become the guardian of the heirs of Jas P. Lesley, deceased. This was granted June 12, 1868 by A.H. Burleson, Security.

We were not able to find Andrew or Sarah Taylor or James Dennis Lasley (or other Lasley/Lesley children) on the 1870 census; they were possibly simply missed by the census takers as we strongly believe they were in fact in Posey Co. in 1870.

I located a Posey Co., Indiana documented directory for 1815-1900 by Carroll and Gloria Cox in the Indiana section of the Texas archives library. On page 171 under the probate section is listed "Andrew Taylor, 1874," with no additional information. In the 1890s Sarah Jane filed a pension claim on her third husband, Commodore Curtis. In this paperwork is an affidavit which declares that Andrew Taylor, her second husband, died "on or about 9 November 1873 in Posey Co., Indiana."

In the Posey Co. Marriage Book 7, p. 148 we find a marriage license issued on May 30, 1874 to Commodore D. Curtis and Sarah J. Taylor. They were married May 31, 1874 by Elder John A. Bailey.

On February 26, 1878, James Dennis Lasley shot and killed his step father, Commodore Curtis who was trying to kill Sarah. Refer to the biography on James Dennis Lasley for complete details of this incident.

On March 21, 1878, Sarah J. Curtis (hereafter SJC) appears in Posey Co. court and files on the estate of Commodore D. Curtis as his heir. Items listed as Commodore's property were said not to exceed $500 and include, in part: 3 head of cattle ($34), 1 span of mules ($120), 1 wagon ($15), 50 pounds of tobacco ($1.50), 1 cow and calf ($20), 9 head of hogs ($23), 200 bushels of corn ($64), 1 grindstone ($1), 1 table (75 cents), 4 bushels of potatoes ($1), "a lot" of bacon ($2.50), one half barrel of pickles ($1), 50 pounds of lard ($6.24), 1 wash board and tub ($1), 1 plow ($4). A reference to this probate also appears in "A Documented History of Posey Co., Indiana, 1815-1900" by Carroll & Gloria Cox, on page 47. Under the probate section it simply reads "Curtis, Commodore, 1878. Widow: Sarah Jane, a $500 estate". Note that this is one of several places we confirm the middle name "Jane" from the family oral history rather than simply an initial "J".

The next documented record of SJC is the 1880 Posey Co., IN census when she is listed with Dennis Lasley, 15, her son, and a daughter Mary I. Curtis, 5, and son William Curtis, 2. SJC indicated that her parents were born in Delaware on this census. James Dennis Lasley apparently only used his middle name at this time. We have no information on her other two children, Sarah F. and George R. Lasley (Lesley) and it is thought they did not survive childhood.

The Gallatin Co., Illinois (just west of Posey Co., Indiana) Deed Book 10, p. 576 has an entry on October 18, 1881 indicating "Richard Austin, a widower of the Village of New Haven, Gallatin Co., for $125 has conveyed to Sarah J. Curtis of the Village of New Haven Lot 4 as per the plat of the Village of New Haven". Richard signed his mark as an "X". This may be Sarah's father or brother.

The Gallatin Co. Deed Book 12, p. 208 shows on January 27, 1882, "Sarah J. Curtis of Village of New Haven, Gallatin Co., Ill. conveys to Elisha A. Austin of Herald Prairie, White Co., Ill., for $125 Lot 4 in the Village of New Haven. SJC makes her mark with an "X".

The Gallatin Co. Deed Book 16, p. 127 indicates that on December 17, 1883, Mary M. Wease and her husband James Wease of the village of New Haven convey to Sarah Jane Curtis (note that this is the second documented record where we confirmed the Lasley family oral history account of SJC having a middle name of "Jane" as most other accounts simply give her a middle initial of "J".) of the Village of New Haven for $125 lots 73 & 80 in the Village of New Haven.

We next have an official record of SJC on August 22, 1884 in the Posey County, Ind., Deed Book 22, p. 330 which reads: Sarah J. Curtis and James D. Lasley of Gallatin Co., IL (the next county west of Posey Co.) sold to Isaac J. Bell of Posey Co., Indiana, 40 acres of land for $500 to wit: SE quarter of NE quarter section 22, T8S, R14W. Being the interest of said grantors in said real estate as the heirs of James P. Lasley late of Posey County, deceased. The deed is signed by JDL; SJC placed her mark as an "X". Then on April 7, 1886 we have the following in Deed Book 23, pp. 497-498. James D. Lasley of Gallatin Co., IL to Isaac J. Bell of Posey Co., IN for $250. SE quarter of NE quarter section 22, T8S, R 14 W. This deed being given to ratify the one given by said grantor and Sarah J. Curtis to said grantee Isaac J. Bell under date of August 22, 1884.

The federal census of 1900 for household 2 in New Haven township in Gallatin Co., IL shows the following. Sarah J. Curtis, 58, born Feb. 1842, occupation is listed as "domestic help". In the same household is William A. Curtis, her son, 21, born December 1878 and listed as a farm laborer. On this census it is shown that SJC claims to have born 9 children, but only 3 survived to that date. At this time we only know of 5 children (Sarah F. Lasley born 1858 [apparently did not survive], George Richard Lasley born 1862 [apparently did not survive], James Dennis Lasley, Mary I. Curtis, and William Curtis). So, somewhere are 4 more that we have no knowledge of, all of which died before 1880 apparently since only J. D. Lasley and the two Curtis children are listed then, and she did not remarry. These 4 may have been born to her marriages to Taylor and/or Curtis since her 1865 pension application stats that Sarah F., George R., and James D. Lasley (Lesley) were the only children born of her marriage to James Preston Lasley.

Many of the Gallatin Co., Ill. real estate tax records prior to 1900 were destroyed by a 1937 flood in Shawneetown, IL. However, in the Gallatin Co. Tax Collectors Book of 1900 on p. 56 it shows that SJC owned the west 1/2 of lot 4 with an assessed value of $20. She also owned two very small lots shown as lots 11 & 14 with an assessed value of $2 each. She paid a total real estate tax bill to Gallatin Co. of $1.54 in person on March 2, 1901. In the same book, p. 60 it indicated SJC owned personal taxable property of $5 value for which she paid 26 cents tax the same date.

SJC died in late 1901 or more likely in February 1902. We were not able to find a death certificate in either Gallatin or White Cos., IL, however. Still, we are fairly certain she died in Gallatin Co.

The following accounts are the last mentions of SJC that we were able to find: Gallatin Co. Deed Book 29, p. 363, 12 February 1902, "William A. Curtis of the Village of New Haven, one of the heirs at law of Sarah J. Curtis, deceased, late of the Village of New Haven, Illinois to William P. Aldridge of the Village of New Haven for $100, his undivided share in and to the west 1/2 lot 4 and lots 11 & 14 in Hunter's addition to the Village of New Haven". Gallatin Co. Deed Book 29, p. 364, 17 February 1902, "James D. Lasley and wife Ella Lasley of McCracken Co. Kentucky (Paducah) as one of the heirs of Sarah J. Curtis, deceased, and sell their undivided interest west 1/2 lot 4 and lots 11 & 14 in Hunter's addition to the Village of New Haven, IL to a Jarrett Epley for $100". And finally in Gallatin Co. Deed Book 29, p. 365, 22 February 1902, "Mary I. Oliver (one of the heirs of Sarah J. Curtis, deceased) and formerly Mary I. Curtis and John H. Oliver of Gallatin Co., Ill. to Jarrett Epley of White Co., Ill. for $100 one undivided 1/3 of the west 1/2 lot 4 and lots 11 & 14 in Hunter's addition to the Village of New Haven".