Thursday, April 21, 2011

Civil War Ancestors - Rebekah Brown

Look at the picture in the Title Banner.  The elderly lady seated on the right is my three-great grandma - Rebekah Poindexter (Jones) Brown.  The picture was made in the spring of 1909.  It is five generations - the baby is my mother's eldest brother.  No, Rebeckah didn't don a uniform and fight in combat, but she was certainly a survivor of the War's horrors.

Born in 1816 in Kentucky, the child of two families ever adventuring west, Rebekah married Murphy Brown, 29 Jun 1836, in St. Francois County, Missouri.  [I use that spelling of her name, Rebekah, because she did.]  The young couple first moved south into Searcy County, Arkansas, then by 1845 they had moved to the southwest corner of Missouri - Newton and McDonald Counties.  They had fifteen children, but buried six of them as infants.

Murphy prospered and acquired land in McDonald County - a few hundred acres.  The family plan was to gift each child 40 acres upon his or her marriage.  The War came early to southwest Missouri, and a young son, William Clayborn Brown was shot off his horse in July of 1860, days before his 21st birthday.  William was one of the early victims of the pre-war sentiment on the Kansas-Oklahoma-Missouri border.  William had married that January and a daughter who would never know her father, was born in December that same year.

On a fateful day, 19 Jun 1863, Murphy and his son Ezekiel were in the wagon on the way to the blacksmith shop.  A neighbor, Robert Christian, who was serving in the Union Army, shot them both in the back.  He went to Rebekah, confessed his deed, and told her to go bury her dead, but he'd be back to burn her home.  He did offer her documents of passage and give her the opportunity to leave Missouri.  Her in-laws inluding the family of her brother-in-law who had recently had two fingers shot off in the War, were either planning to leave for Texas, or perhaps had already gone, so Rebekah chose "Texas" for her destination.

Rebekah and her older children, by themselves as sympathetic neighbors were terrified of reprisals, buried Murphy and Ezekiel in a common grave in Rocky Comfort Cemetery, in the same row with the infants Murphy and Rebekah had lost.  I have visited the graves, but the stone can no longer be read.  A distant cousin photographed it in 1979 and here is a picture:

One of the stories handed down is that Rebekah had helped to take care of some of these neighbors - delivering whatever food the Browns could spare to the less fortunate as she rode her mule around the contryside.

Rebekah did indeed leave Missouri along with six children, one of whom was an infant in arms.  Undoubtedly she traveled in the wagon that her husband and son were in when they were killed.  In the midst of the chaos, she had the presence of mind to take her deeds.  I know this because the McDonald County courthouse was burned during the War and the deed books destroyed.  When Rebekah returned home, she re-registered every single one, and proceeded with the original plan to give each marrying child a 40-acre plot.

During the few years the family lived in Grayson County, Texas, Rebekah buried two teen-age daughters.  Their deaths were recorded in her Bible, but their resting places are unknown.  Typhoid was rampant in Texas at the time. 

One of the few Missourians to do so, Rebekah returned to McDonald County after the War and rebuilt her house on the burned-out foundation of the original.  She stated she would not remarry and she didn't.  She took those deed copies to the courthouse to preserve her property.  She successfully ran her farm - here is the evidence from a state census:
In the 1876 Missouri State Census, Rebecca had two children, Lemuel & Belle, still at home as well as her granddaughter Isabell Brown, daughter of son William, and a 4 year old boy named Robert Lee Wilson. [I have no idea who he might be - she likely saw a need and took him in - the boy still lived with her in 1880.] Rebecca had 3 horses, 8 cows, 5 sheep, and 28 hogs; she produced 66 bushels of wheat and 700 bushels of corn.

Most of Rebekah's children pre-deceased her. Miranda, her daughter and my great, great grandmother, died 5 days before Rebecca died on 10 February 1912.  [Miranda is the second oldest lady in the banner photo at the top of the page.] Only three of the youngest outlived their mother. Rebecca is said to have moved around in her later years, living with each child for awhile. She lived with Miranda and Tom Comstock for a time in Arkansas, but died at the home of her youngest child Belle in Missouri, age 89. 

Rebekah is buried in the row of Brown graves, Rocky Comfort.  I am sure she rests in peace ...and comfort.