The Tragic Life of Mahala Nottingham

Once again I am revisiting Mahala. This investigative trip was triggered by a comment made by Betty Murphy. She stated that there
was a big scandal involving Mahala’s father, William Nottingham. It got me researching and digging some more . . .

Allow me to digress a bit. Two Nottingham Sisters married into the Foster family. Elizabeth Jane Nottingham married John Paul Foster, son of William Foster and Elizabeth Anglin in 1854 in Warsaw, MO. Elizabeth’s sister, Mahala Ellen Nottingham, married into the “other” Foster family in the area. She married William Riley Foster, son of James Foster, Jr. and his first wife whose name we don’t know. (I am descended from James Foster, Jr’s third wife, Amanda Kincade.)

It appears that, by the time Mahala and Wiliam Riley were married she had already had her share of woes. She was born in Comanche Township, Clinton County, Iowa in 1844. She was the fifth of seven children of Dr. William H. Nottingham and Susannah Collins. Her family moved to Vernon County, MO, close to the Cedar County line. Her mother had died in Iowa under “Suspicious” circumstances.

In 1855 the family had moved and the good Doctor had remarried to a widow, Sarah Duncan (nee Jarrell). One day the Doctor returned from his rounds and got into a “good natured” quarrell with his wife. She was milking a cow at the time and squirted the doctor with some warm milk. Doctor Nottingham flew into a raqe and hit his wife. Mrs. Nottingham stated she was leaving the Doctor and started off down the road to her father’s house. The doctor then hit his wife in the head with a rock, those ending his marriage, and her life.

The Doctor then dragged Sarah’s body into the woods (she was discribed as “stout”) and left her overnight. He told his children that she had gone to her fathers. He returned the next day and found he couldn’t move the body so he cut her into two pieces with a pocket knife and buried the pieces in a shallow grave.

Everyone suspected the Doctor, who was known to have a hot temper, but could not prove it until two days later when Sarah’s father, while out searching for his daughter, noticed a brace of buzzards that led him to his daughters body.

A trial ensued and the Doctor was found guilty and hung in Papinsville in 1855.

Little Mahala was 11 years old and I could not find records to document what happened to her in the next several years. I can only suppose she eventually ended up with her sister, Elizabeth, who had married to John Paul Foster a year before the murder and trial. I can make that supposition simply because little Mahala got married in 1861 to William Riley Foster. They had one child right away, Sarah Elizabeth Foster in 1862.

Mahala suffered more anguish when William Riley Foster enlisted in the Union Army. He didn’t serve long. He served for only few weeks before dying of “winter disease” in April 1862.

Mahala didn’t stay a widow very long. She married Benjamin McCord in April, 1863 and had a child, Benjamin Franklin McCord in 1864.

Doom continued to follow Mahala. In January of 1865, Her husband died in Cameron, MO. In February of 1870, at the age of 26, Mahala died.

Such a tragic story. I would like to complete the rest of the story but need some help. If you can, give me some help on where I can find the answers to these questions:

- There is a mention of another son of Benjamin & Mahala, Dane. But no records.
- What happened to Sarah Elizabeth Foster, William Riley Foster & Mahala’s daughter? I have seen other genealogies that say she married twice, once to a James North and again to a man with the last name of Rinard. But again, no records.
- I have the military records of William Riley Foster. I would like to know if anyone filed for his pension.
- I would love to know what William Riley Foster’s mother’s name was.
- What was Benjamin McCorde doing in Cameron, MO in 1865 and how did he die?
- What caused Mahala’s death? Who took custody of the children?

This is such a tragic story in my families history. I feel compelled to find out the whole story. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

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