Warrants to Weddings: Margaret Chandler vs. Elijah Staats

Note: Footnotes will be added once I can remember how to use the footnote add-on 🙂

In the November Term of Fayette County, Pennsylvania’s Civil Court, Margaret Chandler had a capias warrant issued for Elijah Staats. Although the case file for this case no longer exists, the information in the Appearance Docket entries combined with Quaker church records potentially offer an explanation of the case’s origins. The November 1799 docket entry states that the defendant, Elijah, was required to post bail in the amount of $500. Note that $500 did not actually change hands, only that sufficient surety be guaranteed. The Justice of the Peace (or whoever served the warrant) travelled 12 miles, and secured the bail. The entry notes this as “Writ paid C C B B, 12 miles.” What in the world does CCBB mean? CCBB is an abbreviation for the legal term cepi corpus, bail bond. CCBB is one of the potential answers to a Capias Ad Respondendum: “A defendant arrested upon this writ must be committed to prison unless he give a bail bond to the sheriff. In some states, (as until lately, in Pennsylvania) it is the practice when the defendant is liable to this process…” The purpose of this type of bond is to ensure the defendant’s appearance in court. A note indicates that the case was continued to the March Term, 1800.

This case is helpful in that it definitely places Elijah Staats in Fayette County in 1799, but why was the capias issued? Although there is no other reference to any case involving Margaret and Elijah, some facts surrounding what was happening at that time allow for an educated guess. The exact date is unknown, but at some point between this case and 4 Jul 1800, Margaret and Elijah married. Their eldest son, Benoni, was born sometime in 1800. Benoni is an interesting choice for a name, given that it means “son of my sorrows.” That Elijah and Margaret were married before 4 Jul 1800 is evidenced by an entry in the Redstone MM records that sheds additional light on a potential reason for this case:

“The Commitee in Margaret Chandler’s case report the service is performed & have returned the Testimony being as follows:
Whereas Margaret Staats, formerly Chandler hath had a right of membership amongst us the people called Quakers but for want of taking heed to that which would have preserved her in time if Temptation hath so far deviated from the Dictates of Truth as to be guilty of Fornication which was manifest by having an illegitimate child for which reproachfull conduct she has been treated with, But not being in a suitable disposition to condemn the same, we therefore disown her from Membership with us until she be enabled to make satisfaction to this meeting which that she may is our desire. Given forth from Redstone Monthly Meeting held the 4th, of the 7th month 1800 signed order thereof by

Henry Troth
Rachel Cattell “

Society of Friends, Redstone MM, “Minutes of Men’s and Women’s meetings, 1793-1862” . p. 164, FHL film #382817.

The entry for the March case cites the case as “Margaret Chandler vs. Elijah Staats & John Lawrence. John Lawrence adjoined the property of Enoch Chandler, Margaret’s father. In 1802, Elijah would buy property from John Lawrence, so was presumably living as a tenant on Lawrence’s property in 1799 given his connection to both parties in this suit. But why was John Lawrence named in the second suit? Under Pennsylvania law, as a freeholder, John Lawrence likely signed as the surety for Elijah’s bond. A summons was issued for Elijah and it was served, but the entry goes on to state that the plaintiff’s attorney was “charged on this and original suit.” There is no further reference to Margaret or Elijah in any known Fayette County court records.

Given the surrounding facts, timing of the case, and that Margaret had filed suit in her own name, the likely conclusion is that this had to do with her then-unmarried pregnancy with Benoni. Although there is no reference to bastardy, given the timing, it seems like where this was headed, but was settled prior to actual charges being filed for that cause. There is no record of their marriage, so it may never be known whether they were married before the March 1800 case, but given there is no reference to “Margaret Staats, formerly Chandler,” or something similar, it seems unlikely that Margaret would again appear in a legal record with no notation of that fact. The most probably date for their marriage then is sometime between 3 Mar 1800, the summons issue date, and 4 Jul 1800, the date she was disowned as “Margaret Staats, formerly Chandler.” Not a bad haul of information for just a few sparse lines in a docket book, huh? And what a weird way to kick off your life together. Fortunately for me, their descendant, they managed to work things out and lived together as husband and wife until Elijah’s death in 1844.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I accept the Privacy Policy