Following the trail of N.M. Petty

Posted 1/26/10

There were lots of questions to be answered and as a genealogist I know you start with what you know about a person and work your way back. The 1920 U.S. Federal Census for Port Townsend listed …

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Following the trail of N.M. Petty


There were lots of questions to be answered and as a genealogist I know you start with what you know about a person and work your way back. The 1920 U.S. Federal Census for Port Townsend listed Nannie in the third ward of Port Townsend. She was thirty-two years old, single, able to read and write but no occupation listed. The area she lived in is known as "Happy Valley," In the 1920s and 30s it was considered a rural area of Port Townsend, most of the residents were farmers, laborers, carpenters; working people. Nannie wasn't listed in the 1910 census for Jefferson County, so I did a search in all states and found her living in Cochise County AZ, 1-WD in the town of Bisbee. She was twenty-three, divorced, and a manicurist with her own shop. The next big question was how did she come to own land in Port Townsend? But first I wanted to see how far I could take her back using the census. The 1900 census took me to the 13th district in Obion County TN. Nannie was 16, born November 1882, single, working as a cook and living with her sister Mary and brother Walter. Now I had a family to connect her to. Mary Petty gave her birth date as September 1877, marital state, divorced and her occupation as a cook. Walter was born February 1880 was single and worked as a butcher. They rented a home. Unfortunately there is no 1890 census, so I went to the 1880 to see if I could find her sister Mary and brother Walter. I found a Walter Petty living with a family in Union City, Obion TN age one. He was living with his father Alex Petty, but I wasn't sure this was the right family.

How did a Negro girl from a small town in Tennessee get to Arizona and then Port Townsend? Not only on her own, but able to buy property? And how did she end up being committed to Sedro Wooley? I contacted DSHS the government agency that keeps the records of commitments but of course as I am not a family member they would not release information to me. Not unexpected. Well, back to the land. At the Jefferson County Auditor's office I found a warranty deed for N.M. Petty, unmarried of Port Townsend, giving to John F. Dore for the sum of $1.00 the deed to her property, which was the property in Happy Valley. Now I had even more questions. Why would she sell her property for such a small sum and who was John F. Dore? While at the county court house I visited Superior Court to see about adoption records and of course because I was not family they couldn't do anything for me, Floyd Petty would have to wait.

Going back to the end of the story I checked the Washington State Death Index and found that Nan Petty died 15 Nov 1931 in Skagit County WA (that is where Northern State Hospital is). She was 51 years old, estimated birth 1880, single. That was it. I then contacted the Northwest Regional Archives in Bellingham. What they had was the admission records. She was admitted September 29, 1931, patient no. 6447, residence, Jefferson County, female, age 51, occupation, farmer, single, born in TN and died November 15, 1931 of Paresis acute cardiac dilation, condition when received, general paralysis of the insane. No name of parents or next of kin. Time to look in the Leader for any thing about N.M. Petty.

Harlean found a Sheriff's sale in the April 21, 1932 Leader, case of Rose Cohen, plaintiff, vs Clarence R. Anderson, Administrator of the estate of N.M. Petty deceased.

The property was being sold at auction to pay a mortgage that Nannie had taken on her property. So, was she sent off so people could get her land?

To be continued


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