A Whodunit: The Curious Case of Benoni Staats And His Disappearing Children

Benoni Staats would lose six children in the ten years between the 1850 and 1860 Washington County, Ohio censuses. How could this happen? Who did this? Poor Benoni, right? Not really. Unlike most whodunits, this one starts off with the answer: the 1850 enumerator did it.

Here is that 1850 entry1:



We see that according to this entry, Benoni and his six children are enumerated in the household of Hezekiah Collins in Adams Twp, Washington, Ohio.

Let’s take a look at Benoni in 18602:

1860 Barlow Twp, Washington, Ohio census





Where did all the kids go? Benoni was married to the Rebecca listed here, Rebecca Addis, in Noble County, Ohio on 9 May 1851.3 You’d think that at least one of the children would still be there wouldn’t you? It would be surprising, especially since most of the children were a little older in 1850, that all of them would have succumbed to some terrible disease, wouldn’t it? Well, it would be surprising, and you’ll all be glad to know that the children were spared.

Let’s find Hezekiah Collins in the 1860 census4. Here he is, in a hard-to-read record that doesn’t list the whole first name – just initials, but look at the sequence and relative ages:

1860 Martinsburg, Pike, Illinois Census





Comparing the 1850 “Staats” children and the ones here, we get a pretty good sense they are the same kids.The ages are a little off, and Mildred is not in the household, but she could have been already married, and it’s hard to argue against the fact that the rest of the sequence appears in order.
Wm=William
J=James
B=Ballard
M=Mary
T=Zachariah (T would turn out to be his middle initial)

Obviously, the 1850 census enumerator in Ohio wasn’t all that concerned with what name went with what people, nor did he seem to care all that much about correct ages. Notice that Benoni was the same age in 1860 as he was in 1850 – a pretty nifty trick. For further confirmation that the children in 1850 are actually children of Hezekiah Collins, not Benoni Staats, we can look at the 1870 Census for Hezekiah, and see that Zachariah is still in the household, and the family has moved on to Oregon5 :

1870 Coast Fork, Lane, Oregon census, showing Zachariah’s middle initial of “T”

While I have not completely followed up on the Collins family, we can find evidence of the other Collins children in Oregon as well. Here’s a 1914 city directory listing showing Ballard and Zachariah6:

Eugene, Oregon 1914 City Directory





While I have not followed up completely with the Collins family, it is clear that nothing terrible ever happened to the children of Benoni between 1850 and 1860 – he didn’t have any to lose.
The next mystery to solve with Benoni is what happened to his children between 1840 and 1850. Again, you ask? Yes. In 1840, there are six children in his household7.
Are they his? Are they someone else’s? That, my friends is a mystery for another day!

1840 Harrison County, Ohio entry for Benoni Staats showing six children in the household (edited to better fit the space).

  1. 1850 U.S. census, Washington, Ohio, population schedule, Adams Twp, p. 264 (handwritten), dwelling 151, family 155, Hezekiah Collins household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://ancestry.com : accessed 21 Oct 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 738. []
  2. 1860 U.S. census, Washington, Ohio, population schedule, Barlow Twp, p. 263 (stamped), dwelling 21, family 17, Benoni Staats household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 Oct 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M653, roll 1049. []
  3. “Ohio, County Marriages 1790-1950,” digital images, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 21 Oct 2012), Staats to Addis (1851); original data: Noble County, Ohio Probate Court, Marriage Records 1:2. []
  4. 1860 U.S. census, Pike, Illinois, population schedule, Martinsburg, p. 542 (handwritten), dwelling 78, family 78, H. Collins household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 Oct 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M653, roll 219. []
  5. 1870 U.S. census, Lane, Oregon, population schedule, Coast Fork, p. 515B (stamped), dwelling 40, family 40, Hez Collins household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www/ancestry.com : accessed 21 Oct 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M593, roll 1286. []
  6. U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 (Beta),” database and images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 21 Oct 2012), 1914 Eugene, Oregon city directory, p. 486, Ballard T. Collins and Zachariah T. Collins. []
  7. 1840 U.S. census, Harrison, OH, Moorefield Twp, p. 91, line 16, Benoni Staats household; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://ancestry.com : accessed 21 Oct 2012); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M704, roll 409. []
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