Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Clues from Collateral Lines


At this point in my search for the origin of my third great-grandmother, Delaney Townsend, the lack of actual documentation has led me to seriously eye any possible sources. Since the presumed parents of Delaney—John and Keziah Townsend of Marlboro County, South Carolina—had at least thirteen children, looking at collateral lines gave me plenty of options for snooping around.

Besides that overarching research question—wondering why I couldn't find any documentation linking John and Delaney—there are two other key questions. The first involves the reasons why so many of John Townsend's children left their home in South Carolina to settle in Florida. And, like a second shoe dropping, my follow up question reversed the direction of that migration pattern: why, after Delaney's passing, did her daughters move from their native Florida to South Carolina—but not stay?

I took some time wandering through all the details I could find on the other Townsend descendants who moved to Madison County, Florida. In a long file including transcriptions from documents concerning John Townsend's oldest son, Jesse, I believe I found one clue to why he left his home state.

From the Burval website on the Townsend family, sure enough, I found at least one reason why Jesse, if not his brothers, chose to leave South Carolina. The reason was embedded in a long-winded interrogation before the Southern Claims Commission in 1876, when one Jesse Townsend of Duval County, Florida, appealed to be reimbursed for property "taken from or furnished by" him during the Civil War. Apparently, when the Union Army was in the vicinity, they somehow acquired sixteen head of cattle from Townsend, for which he was now seeking reimbursement.

Of course, before he could reach a settlement in this case, he and several witnesses had to be interrogated. A Townsend researcher had transcribed the responses to that session, which information was subsequently included in the Burval website under the entry for Jesse Townsend, son of John—in other words, possibly my Delaney's older brother Jesse.

At the end of page fifteen of the transcription, carrying on to the following page, an acquaintance of Jesse Townsend, testifying on his behalf, had been asked about Jesse's loyalty to the Union cause. After all, Jesse was born in South Carolina, site of the rallying cry for secession, and by the time of the war, had long been living even farther south in Florida. 

The interrogators questioned this witness about Jesse's political leanings during the war, and the man's opinion of why Jesse might have seen things that way. In response, the witness explained:

He [Jesse] was from South Carolina and had to leave there on account of his opposition to nullification...he hates South Carolina most heartily.

Nullification? Not keeping up on my South Carolina history, I had to head to Google for that one. Apparently, the 1833 passage of the Ordinance of Nullification was South Carolina's rebuttal to the institution of earlier federal tariffs, and led to a crisis which nearly came to a showdown with federal troops.

Perhaps that was what prompted Jesse to leave his childhood home and community. However, the Burval site introduces a second reason: perhaps Jesse moved first to Georgia to be close to his uncle in Liberty County, where he settled in time for the 1820 census. Eventually, he moved to Lowndes County, Georgia, like his brothers, but instead of then crossing the state line directly into Madison County, he moved eventually to Duval County in Florida.

Besides the information gleaned from the Burval website on Jesse Townsend, there was another brother whose story provided some clues for my search. This brother, unlike the others in his family, did not move to Florida, but stayed on in Marlboro County, South Carolina, where he eventually became rather successful.

In this brother's story—Light Townsend, son of John—we see a few clues regarding his difference from his siblings. There is a note in the Burval website regarding a report from another Townsend researcher, which mentioned that unlike the others in his family, only Light Townsend "left a family Bible with full records." Interestingly, that same researcher noted that Light was "the only one who left a will."

Perhaps that is why my quest to obtain a copy of John Townsend's will still leaves me empty-handed.

Without documentation, all I'm left with is circumstantial evidence and what is essentially the hearsay from close relatives. Recalling that there are some people whose oral family "history" includes such gems as the myth of the Cherokee "princess," I wince to think the only way I can connect this ancestor of mine to her forebears is through reports by her distant relatives. But perhaps I can take courage in the realization that some earlier recollections are corroborated by members of other branches of the family.

Take this observation written in an unpublished manuscript, Townsends of Marlboro, by researcher Marie Townsend Butler, quoted in the Burval website entry for Light Townsend.

When Light lived at what is now the Cousins farm, he had two nephews from Florida living with him. They were sons of his brother, John and his wife, Vicie, who had died. One of the boys was trained as a surveyor and his Uncle Light gave him a horse and $100 when he returned to Florida.

Sound familiar? Light Townsend was the same man who was said, in the D.A.R. application of Annie Florence Kinney, to have brought Delaney's two daughters home with him after they were orphaned upon their father's death. Perhaps, given this description from the Townsend manuscript on the Burval site, Emma and Fannie Charles didn't go to South Carolina before living with their Aunt Drucilla in Florida, but after the point we found them in the 1860 census.

Two of his sister Delaney's daughters came to Blenheim to live with him after their father died. They were Emma and Fannie Charles, and were living with the family when eighteen of Sherman's men came to the plantation house during their march through the Cheraw area.

The passage later notes, "For many year these sisters were the connecting link between the Marlboro family and their Florida relatives."

While I don't have specific government-verified documents to demonstrate the connection between my Delaney Townsend Charles and her parents and siblings, there are these other, personally-written records. In some ways, they help piece together the family saga—such anecdotes as the tale of Sherman's men providing a timeline—and in other ways, they corroborate what other individuals had asserted. With enough independently drawn up sources—family letters, lineage society applications, and other incidental statements—it could be possible to draw up an argument supporting the assertion that Delaney's father might well have been John Townsend of Marlboro County, South Carolina.

Still, I'd like to see more of those snippets of information for myself. Letting the rest of the family tell the story is one way to lead me to those resources.

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