In my last post, I wrote about the good fortune of becoming acquainted with one of James W. Colvin’ s living descendant who also had images of James and many of his descendants as well as the cabin he built and which he and his second wife, a mulatto named, Alethea Preston, called home. In this post, we turn to James’s first wife, Maria F. Walker, who predeceased James by quite a few years.
Knowing exactly when Maria died has been something of a mystery owing to so little documentation surviving regarding this couple. The census records, for example, tell us James and Maria had been together in 1840 and 1850 and their marriage records tell us they were married in 1836. But the census records are also revealing for what items are conspicuous by their absence — listing of children. During their time together — some sixteen years of marriage, not one heir is listed in the twenty years covered by the two census where they appear together. To confuse matters further, in the 1860 census, James appears in the household of Allen Preston where Alethea is also present as are small children — all surnamed Preston. Ergo, without a fixed date of Maria Colvin’s death, it was only a matter of speculation as to which of these children were Maria’s and which were Alethea’s. There seemed no question but that they were James’s since their names and ages fit too precisely with what was already known. His eldest son, John Robert Colvin, for example, was born in 1853. But that could mean he was Maria’s, even though he is in the Preston household in 1860, as John Preston, age six.
With the recently discovered death notice of Maria F. Colvin, the mystery surrounding who bore James’ heirs is resolved. None of James’ children were born during Maria’s lifetime. And now, with the exception of John Roberts Colvin, the images of every one of the children — four sons and three daughters — are part of The Colvin Study records, thanks to their living descendants who have kept their pictures safe for more than a century and a half. As a result of their sense of familial duty and honor this page of the Colvin family history, seems no longer stained with bigotry and secrecy.