Seeking Security with Asahel Platt

Asahel Platt circa 1790-1833

Mary Bassett must have felt lost and alone.  When she was 16, her family had made the difficult move from New Hampshire to Ohio. And just three years later, in 1829, her mother, Elizabeth Stone Bassett died in Keene, Ohio.

Mary’s sisters Eliza (Emerson) and Martha (Smith) and Lura (Laura) (Stone) got married soon after, and Mary followed suit.  Only sister Sarah never married.

Two Distinguished Families

Asahel Platt came from a Connecticut family, almost matching the Bassetts in historic importance.  Both Asahel and Mary had grandfathers who fought in the American Revolution. Mary’s ancestor William Bassett was a Pilgrim sailing on the Fortune in 1621. Asahel’s ancestor Richard Platt , an early settler of Milford, had emigrated from Ware in Hertfordshire, England,  a hot-bed of Puritanism about 1638 according to Families of Early Milford, Connecticut by Susan Emma Woodruff Abbott. (Google Books).

Mary conducted a small school for a short time on a farm in Coshocton County, Ohio, and I have not figured out how she met Asahel Platt. Since I am descended from Mary’s second husband, and their daughter Harriett was the informal family historian, family information about Asahel was sparse. Thanks to researching sideways through his siblings, I have pieced together some information.

The Platt Family of Milford

The Platt family came from Milford Connecticut in New Haven County. Asahel and three of his siblings were baptized on October 4, 1790 at the First Congregational Church. In total, he had 5 sisters and three brothers.  His parents were Isaac Platt (son of Isaac Platt) and Amy Eehls Platt.

Although it would be unusual for a man to marry for the first time so late in life, I have not found a record of an earlier marriage before Mary.  When his father, Isaac Platt, wrote his will in 1817, he left property to other sons, but cash to be paid to Asahel (spelled Asel in the will).  That makes me assume that at the age of approximately 27, Asahel had already left Connecticut to seek his fortune further west.

There is a tax list index that includes A. Platt in Washington County, Ohio in 1810 but I have not sought to confirm that is “our” A. Platt and if so, what more information it might give.

At any rate, somehow, Mary Bassett, just 19, met the 39-year-old Asahel Platt in Ohio, and they married and settled in Killbuck, Holmes County, Ohio. Asahel must have signified stability in Mary’s so-far unsettling life. Twenty years age difference meant he was almost as old as her father.

Life Comes Undone

But Mary was not yet to have a settled life. According to my mother, Mary and Asahel had an baby who died in infancy. Then in October 1833, just four years after their marriage, Asahel died.  He must have been ailing for some time, because I have a letter to him from one of his brothers that was written in September 1833 asking about his health and complaining that he has not heard from him since the past June. The letter hints at concerns about his spiritual health as well.(You can see the entire letter in a post below this one.)

In a double blow, Mary’s father also died in 1833. Now she was an orphaned, 23-year-old-widow. Fortunately, Asahel owned land and goods and had some cash, so she was not destitute, but the will specifically sets aside enough to sustain the widow for ONE YEAR.

What I Learned From Asahel Platt’s Probate Papers

When I chanced upon the legal papers regarding the settlement of Asahel’s estate I was in for some surprises.

First, our family records spell his name Ashel, no doubt because that is what is on his tombstone in the Killbuck cemetery, but that is not the official spelling. (Not that anyone in the 19th century cared about spelling.)

Second, he had no will. Only forty-three years old, death caught him unprepared.

Third, I was reminded that women had no legal standing when I noticed that a receipt for funds for Mary Morgan (late widow of Asahel Platt) did not sign her own name. Instead, this intelligent woman who was to become a competent businesswoman, had to sit back and watch her new husband, Jesse Morgan sign for her.

Jesse Morgan

Jesse signs receipt from her first husband’s probate for Mary Morgan, 1846

Fourth, looking at the somewhat puzzling inventory of his belongings–ribbons? merino shawls?a white “vail”, five pairs of men’s gloves 8 pocket knives, 10 razor straps and posts and on and on for several pages, I wondered what he was doing with all that stuff.

Asahel Platt Inventory

One of several pages of inventory of belongings of Asahel Platt.

Then a light bulb went on in my head–he was a merchant. He must have owned a general store in Killbuck. I can’t help wondering if in those early years before he married he was a traveling peddler. His brother’s letter to him in 1833 hints at a restless spirit.

Asahel’s  will leaves Mary quite well fixed, with three pages of furniture and other items set aside for the widow. The settlement of the estate dragged on from Asahel’s death in November 1933 until September 1946 until the will was settled.  I began to think I was re-reading Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. (The dark satire on law and the courts follows a case called Jarndyce vs Jarndyce that drags on into infinity.) By the time probate closed, Mary had been married to her second husband for six years, and faced a new set of problems.

Asahel Platt

This pillar in the Killbuck Cemetery matches the stone of Mary Bassett Platt Morgan.

Ashel Platt Killbuck cemetery by Debe Clark

Note the variant spelling of his first name in this closeup of his tombstone. Photo from Find a grave, by Debe Clark.

How I am Related

  • Vera Marie Kaser Badertscher is the daughter of
  • Harriette Anderson Kaser, who is the daughter of
  • Vera Stout Anderson, the daughter of 
  • Harriett Morgan Stout, the daughter of
  • Mary Bassett Platt Morgan who was married first to Asahel Platt.

Notes on Research

Letters from Alanson Platt to Asahel Platt (1833) and Mary Platt Morgan (1853). Copies of letters our family has kept. In the 1853 letter regarding some legal issues, Alanson lists all of the Platt siblings and where they were living at that time.  He even included the married names of the women in the family. Thank you Alanson. And thank you Mary Morgan and Hattie Stout and Vera Stout for keeping these letters in the family for future researchers.

Connecticut, Church Record Abstracts, 1630-1920, Vol. 071 Town of Milford,  First Congregational  Church, Ancestry.com Several pages refer to Platt family members.

Indiana Genealogy: Articles Appearing in the Indianapolis, Ind. Sunday. Specific listing of William Bassett (Pilgrim) and descendants cites D. A. R. Magazine Vol. 60 No. 6, 1926-12542.

Ohio, Wills and Probate Records, 1786-1998, Holmes County, Asahel Platt Probate Records 1833-1846.

Find a Grave, Ashel Platt.  Photos of tombstone are by Debe Clark, used with permission from Find a Grave.

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