Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Odds Are

I tell you: Sometimes Life Its Own Self will sneak up and spank your ass with a coincidence that's just way weirder than you can possibly handle.

I was preparing to kill John Mobberly -- the 140th anniversary of his death was last week; he died a few days before Appomattox -- squirreling away at an action-packed blog-post full of historical facts-n-figures from Northern Loudoun's Favorite Boy Psycho. Part of sharpening my sword involved another quick run-through of Richard Crouch's Rough-Riding Scout: The Story of John Mobberly, which has been a huge help to me in feeding this strange little mania of mine.

As I read a chapter on Mobberly's relatives in the Lovettsville area, my eye lit on a sentence that had escaped my notice before, and as the full import of it made itself clear, I confess I came to understand exactly what they mean when they talk about knocking you over with a feather.

Here's the sentence:
It is John J. Mobberly [of Lovettsville] and Maria Mobberly who are shown marrying off their daughter Emily H., age 22, to George S. Waters, farmer, age 23, on January 12 of 1871, and their daughter Mary A. Mobberly, age 26, married Joseph L. Bagent, laborer, age 26, on January 30, 1868.

Yes. Joe Bage[a]nt. This guy.

The guy who wrote this. And this. And this.

Well, no, not exactly that guy -- he'd have to be 160 years old -- but his ancestor. Married into the Mobberly family. In 1868. Just down the road from my house.

Now, one of the extremely cool things about running this blog has been the people it's put me into contact with. Right about the same day that James Wolcott blogrolled me, I received a nice little howdy-let's-have-a-drink-sometime from Mr. Bageant, who lives in Winchester, up Route 7 from me. A friend of his had alerted him to Neddie's existence and his strange little obsession with a Northern Virginia historical character, and Joe was nice enough to pop in and say hi. I haven't mentioned it up till now because, well, because it wouldn't be polite, I suppose.

But now I find this literally breathtaking mention of a Joseph Bagent marrying into the Mobberly family.

Time for a phone call.

Turns out 21st-century Joe has, framed on the wall of his office, the petition of Joseph L. Bagent to the US Government for his pension after being mustered out of the US Army after the Civil War. Turns out many of the documents he has on Joseph L. Bagent were written by his wife, Mary A. Mobberly Bagent. Turns out Joseph L. Bagent was a Loudoun Ranger who spent the war chasing John Mosby. And John Mobberly. Turns out that after the war, he married John Mobberly's cousin.

Turns out Joseph L. Bagent's pension application was complicated because he was wounded in battle in Waterford. Oh, you know. This one.

I was jabbering about the incredible coincidence of it all into the phone, waving my arms wildly and stringing together half-sentences, when 21st-century Joe Bageant pointed out something in his elegant Virginia drawl: "You know, there just weren't all that many people around back then."

Yeah, I guess. I suppose. Probably.



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