Monday, March 29, 2021

Stops Along the Way


It's time to check out what life was like in 1840s territorial Florida. More specifically, this is my chance to see just who my third great-grandmother, Delaney Townsend, might have been living with in Florida before her March 8, 1841, marriage to Andrew Jackson Charles. After all, a single woman didn't typically travel alone from her home—in Delaney's case, well over four hundred miles away in Marlboro County, South Carolina. Surely by the time of her marriage, she was already resident in the early years of what was then the United States territory of Florida.

As it turned out, by 1840, there were several other Townsends living in Madison County, the same place in territorial Florida where Delaney ended up marrying Andrew Charles. Whether they were her brothers, I can't yet tell. Remember, I'm still holding out for actual documentation to support the oft-repeated assertion that Delaney was daughter of John and Keziah Townsend of Marlboro County, South Carolina. However, keep in mind that some of these Madison County Townsends had descendants who have shown up in my DNA match list.

Others have reported that several sons of John and Keziah Townsend did migrate to Florida during its territorial years—Allen Townsend, for one. With that possibility, I looked page by page through the 1840 territorial census to see if somehow, I could tease out the numbers to spot Delaney hidden away in any of the Madison County Townsend households.

Remember that, unlike the more recent census records in which every resident would be listed by name, the 1840 census, as well as those of earlier decades, listed only the head of household by name. The rest of the home's residents were delineated by marks under brackets divided by gender and age groupings.

Relying on Delaney's sole entry in the 1850 census, I extrapolated an estimate for her year of birth—circa 1816. I also banked on Delaney's arrival in Florida by the time of the 1840 census, since her marriage in 1841 was early in the year. With that thought, I began paging through the territorial census for 1840, looking at each Townsend household to see if I could find any eligible females entered under the age of thirty, but at least twenty years old.

There were several Townsend men listed in that 1840 census. Page six included Allen, David, and James. Page twelve displayed John. Page sixteen was Benjamin's entry, and page eighteen featured "Capt. J." Townsend—surely Jesse.

Despite the several choices, keeping in mind that some of those Townsend men were already married to women who fit Delaney's same age category, I could not find any household which included room for a visiting, soon-to-be married Delaney. Where was she?

That is when I took a closer look at the history of the Florida territory during those years prior to statehood, and the narratives written up on the family histories of some of the sons of John and Keziah Townsend who migrated to Florida.

Turns out, there were stops along the way before these brothers settled in Madison County, Florida. Allen Townsend, for instance, moved in the mid 1820s with his young family plus three of his brothers to a place then called Irwin County, Georgia. Not long after that point, a new county was carved out of Irwin County and dubbed Lowndes County. The Townsend brothers and their families, after leaving their home in South Carolina, first settled in that south Georgia county.

It so happened that, as the Florida territory began opening up to settlers, it was a matter of a little more than forty miles to travel from the county seat of Lowndes County, Georgia, to the county seat of Madison County, Florida—closer even than that, if one were simply crossing the state line from the one county to the other.

While tracing those Townsend migrations, I still couldn't find any sign of Delaney in their households, but I did discover some other helpful information. Among other details, by reading through several documents on the Townsend collateral lines, I gleaned some hints as to just why so many of the Townsend men—including John Townsend's oldest son—chose to leave their home state to settle near the uncertainties of territorial Florida.   


  1. Jacqi - I'll be darned. You show up as neighbor to my ancestors again. In the 1850 census, see the family just above your Andrew Charles family? That's Sheriff Thomas Melville Anderson, my 2nd great-granduncle. He was maternal uncle to my three letter-writing Jeffers. I have a couple of wonderful letters written by "Uncle Tommie" himself.

    1. I did notice that, Lisa--but had no idea the sheriff was your relative! Perhaps this provides some indication of just how many people from South Carolina emigrated to Florida. Fascinating! (And how wonderful that you have all those letters, too.)


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