Monday, June 5, 2017

Madness Monday - "Aunt Nancy"

Madness Monday
"Aunt Nancy"

"Dad, can we still get over into the old Bean cemetery?", I asked him my favorite man in the whole wide world.

"Yes, they can't stop us from going into the cemetery," he answered. "But, they won't let us put up a fence around it to protect it, or even put a sign up at the road so everyone will know where it's at," he added.

I went on to remark that in another 20-30 years, no one will be alive to even know where it is, unless one of the young generation picks up the mantle from me before I die. Dad's turns 80 this year. And I'm sniffing the heels of the big "6-0". So, 30 years from now, there's likely to be no one left to even know the cemetery is a cemetery.

My last visit there was probably about 8 years ago, when some "cousins" (2nd cousins 4 times removed) came to our reunion. Dad and I spent the day taking them around Monroe County to the various places we thought they would enjoy seeing that the family had been involved in. One was where our original Bean family member was buried.

The cemetery is little more than depressions in the ground, with broken slabs and rocks marking the graves. Trees have sprouted through the center of some of the graves. Great huge trees. And in some  places you can literally fall into a grave if you are not careful. (Just ask my Uncle Jack, who stepped onto a mossy area, and found himself hip deep in a rotted wooden coffin. A few leg bones were all that was left of what had been a family member.

The cemetery dates back at least to 1856, and there may have been a grave or two prior to that. No one knows for sure.

The broken slabs and rocks that mark one end of the graves (about 31 can be clearly defined) have only one stone with any carving on it. The carved letter "C" can be found on one. We know that the family was buried inside of what once had been a fenced cemetery. While everyone had told me, prior to my first visit, that you could not know where that was, and no one living knew where the fence had been, I proved them wrong. For I found the rotted, wooden fence posts that marked the cemetery perimeter, and in places, the fence, still stapled with fence staples, to some of the huge trees. I was able to walk the cemetery perimeter. Family legend says that the family members were buried inside that fence perimeter. And that slaves had been buried (all except for two) just on the outside of the fence.

We can easily determine 13 of the interior graves. We just don't know which of the 13 known people buried there, are in the marked graves. Neither do we know which slaves were buried on the exterior surroundings of the cemetery. Again, we know of a finite number.

"Dad, as far as I can tell, the first grave in the cemetery is Aunt Nancy's," I said.

Dad, is the living history of our family. You see, his father, my grandfather, was born in 1866. No, you read that right. My Dad's father, my grandfather, was born in 1866. The year after the Civil War had ended. Quick run down. Grandpa was born in December of 1866. Twenty months after the Civil War had come to a conclusion. He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, where his Mother (my great-grandmother) had fled to with four of her very small children in an oxen covered wagon, to be with her spouse, my great-grandfather. (That's a story for another day, however.) Grandpa didn't marry the first time until toward the end of the 19th century, when he was nearly 30. Unfortunately, and rather sadly, this first wife died with tuberculosis, leave Grandpa with 2 small children, and one very newborn child. A very short time later, Grandpa married again. This time, the two were married nearly 20 years, when this wife gave birth to her 9th child with him. She had toxemia, which is a condition not uncommon today with women who do note receive pre-natal care. This was 1929. And again, Grandpa was left with very young children, and a newborn baby. The children were now 12 in number (that number included 3 children who died due to tuberculosis and whooping cough). Grandpa was now widowed twice. And in 1935, he married for the last time. This time to my Grandmother, who was almost 40 (b.1897). In 1937 she gave birth to a baby boy. My Dad. Two years later to another baby boy, when she was 41, and Grandpa was 73. And 4 years later, to another baby boy (Grandma was 46, and Grandpa was 87 on the birth of the youngest!) All in all, Grandpa fathered 15 children. He outlived 4 of his children, and two of his wives.

So, while my Dad's formative years were spent with an aging father, he was the absorbent sponge, who sat at his father's knee, and listened to the phantasmagorical stories the elderly man had to tell of family history. And for the most part, Dad has been spot on with documentation I have been able to locate on the family!

"No, Nancy's not buried in the Bean cemetery!", he corrected me. "She's buried over at Hollywood, in the old Bruffey Memorial Cemetery. Remember? The cemetery and church are named after her family, the Bruffey's!" he corrected.

"No, Dad, Nancy never got married. She was home with her family when she died." (I was pretty sure I was correct on this one.)

"No, honey, remember, she was the one who died from hemorrhoids? Dad always said he really loved Aunt Nancy. And she suffered horrible before she died!"

"Dad, your Dad couldn't have known Nancy! Nancy died in 1856, ten years before your Dad was even born!"

"No, honey! I know I'm right about this!", he insisted.

Since I was on the phone with him, I just trotted into my little office, and fired up the old computer.

"Hang on Dad," I said, "I'm going to look it up on the computer."

I quickly went to Aunt Nancy's information.

Dad waited patiently while my computer booted up, and I went into my FTM program.

"Here she is, Daddy! She was born either 1815 or 1816 (the year is not specific in the birth register). And she died on October 11th, 1856," I said, rather proudly that for once I was able to prove him wrong. "And she's buried in the Bean cemetery. She died from a 'fever'," I said, "and your great-grandma died on Novembr 7th, just a few weeks after her. Her death is listed as a stroke, but I always wondered if she got whatever 'fever' Nancy had and died from complications of that."

"Well, I don't know where you got that information, Sissy, (my Dad uses the term Sissy for myself and my younger sister, interchangeably), but she's buried over at Hollywood. That much I know for a fact. I've seen her grave there myself."

"Dad, are we talking about the same Nancy?" I queried, suddenly the distinction hitting me.

"Well, now, you know, you might have something there. I think I'm talking about my Grandma's sister, aren't I? And you're talking about my Grandpa's sister! Well, ya know, I reckon we were both right!" he exclaimed. Both of us relieved we didn't have to say, "I told you so!" to the other. Or even more relieved the dreaded, "I guess you were right and I was wrong!" didn't have to be said!

"I was talking about Nancy Perkins, wasn't I?" Dad remarked. "And I was talking about Nancy Bean," I said.

"Well, yeah, I reckon Nancy Bean is the earliest known grave we know of in the Bean Cemetery," he concluded. "And my Grandma would've been the next one to be buried in the cemetery."

"Say, you remember that 2 of the slaves were buried in the front yard of the old house, don't you?" he asked.

"Yes, I do, Dad," I said. "But neither you, nor I, are gonna tell the owners where that is, are we?" I asked. (Well, they know now, as I've written about it in the family newsletter several times. Their graves, or rather, grave, was in the south-eastern corner of the front yard, beneath what had become a HUGE Rose of Sharon shrub.  My gr-gr-grandmother had planted the shrub so that no one would ever disturb their remains. The two slaves were elderly, and married to one another. One cold winter, in 1855, the two got pneumonia, and died within hours of one another. The ground being frozen, the only place soft enough to dig up was in the south-eastern corner of the front yard. A single grave, and the couple wrapped in a couple of quilts, together.) So gr-gr-grandma had allowed the men to bury the couple there, with the understanding that come spring they would be moved over to the cemetery, which is on a knoll across what had once been a farmed field, and overlooking the house gr-gr-grandpa had built for his wife. Well, spring came. The ground thawed. And planting time came upon the farm. And everyone was busy with crops and newborn farm animals. And before you knew it, summer was upon them. Gr-gr-grandma was a shrewd woman. She knew the menfolk wouldn't get the grave moved. So, to prevent anyone in the future from accidentally digging up the grave, she planted a new Rose-of-Sharon shrub on the top of the grave. And about ten years or so ago, the owners of the place cut down the shrub, and made a wide, modern drive into the property. And it passes directly over the place where the slave couple were buried. Their bones long ago turning to dust, there wasn't anything to find from the last 160 years, I am sure. So they didn't know that they placed a drive over a double grave. And although I've seen the owners a few times, I've never had the heart to say anything to them.

And so, I answered Dad, "Yes, I remember Dad!"

And so, Nancy Bean, born in either 1815 or 1816, died 11 October 1856, and was, what we believe, the first person buried in the cemetery. Her mother followed just 3 weeks later.

On September 18, 2000, 208 years after the birth of my gr-gr-grandfather, on his birthdate, a group of men in our family gathered together at the cemetery and placed a modern tombstone commemorating my gr-gr-grandparents.

The front of the stone, with my gr-gr-grandparents names, and birth and death dates.

The back of the stone, commemorating our tie to the Clan MacBean.
We are proud to be included in the Clan's registry, although there has never been any proof that we are connected.
Unfortunately, we are what is called an "orphan line", meaning, that no one knows how we got the surname BEAN. And even DNA has not tied to us any other Bean line (or its many variants of spelling!). But the Clan MacBean has generously "adopted" us And for that we are grateful. It gives us a sense of belonging. However, this Scot clan, may not be even a far reaching ancestral line, as we once thought. It seems the Irish genes are way more definitive than the Scot genes. And before the Scot genes, a close second to the Irish genes are the English ones!

Nancy Morgan Bruffey - nee Perkins (1815-1892), my gr-grandmother's sister, (Margaret Smith Bean - nee Perkins), is buried at what is now called the Hollywood Cemetery in Hollywood, Monroe County, WV. She was married to George Washington Bruffey (b. 1815 in Virginia). And she did, indeed die from a severe infection of hemorrhoids. (I can only imagine the pain that must have been!) The cemetery was, indeed, once called the Bruffey Cemetery. The Bruffey Memorial Church continues to operate there. While I haven't been there to document stones, I am unable to tell whether she has a marked grave or not. Dad says he was there once with his Dad, when he was a young boy, and used to know just which grave was hers. He thinks it is toward the top of the hill. Perhaps I will get over there soon, and document the cemetery.

Don't give up when you and someone else are certain you are correct about a bit of family legend. As seen from this, you could BOTH actually be correct!  Make sure you can argue your stance before you wade into that pool, as some people can get very defensive regarding the family tree! ("I know what I know! So stop being a blamed fool and listen to me!") Be able to back up your argument! And be willing to listen to what the other person has to say. Again, as seen from our little tete a tete, you could actually both be correct! Just talking about two different individuals!

Have you ever knocked noggins with someone because you knew your recollections were correct, and the other persons weren't? If so, tell us how you settled it! We'd love to hear from you!

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