Thursday, April 5, 2018

Emerette B. Lankford, the maiden aunt

The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “the maiden aunt.” The subject of this blog post never married, lived to be 80 years old, and had at least 15 nieces and nephews. I’d say that qualifies her to be a maiden aunt.

Emerette B. Lankford, daughter of James Meriweather Lankford and Caroline B. Hobbs, was born in Greene County, Georgia (possibly Greshamville) in October 1854. Emerette was the fourth child of seven—Mary T. Lankford, James C. Lankford, Emma S. Lankford, Emerette B. Lankford, Nathan Lankford, Laura J. Lankford, and Marion Lankford. She went by “Nannie” and would be my 2nd great grand aunt.

Since in most records she’s referred to as “Nannie,” from here out, I’ll refer to her as such as well.

For the record: Census records show Nannie was born in Georgia but I have not found a birth record to date so base her birth location on the fact that her family lived in Greene County up until sometime between 1870 and 1880. Also, until writing this post, I previously gave Nannie the middle initial “R.” But after looking at the handwriting of J. Davison, the 1860 census enumerator, and comparing the initial to other initials on that page, I’ve changed it to a “B.” This is the only record that lists a middle initial so I have nothing else to compare it to. Her middle name starting with the letter B makes sense though as that was the middle initial of her mother Caroline. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen Caroline’s middle name spelled out. I also gave Nannie’s sister Mary the middle initial “F” but after reviewing handwriting on the Georgia marriage records, I’ve since determined it should be “T.” I’ve made that correction to my files but wanted to point both of these out here as well.

The 1860s brought a good bit of turmoil to young Nannie’s family. On July 21, 1860, they lived in Woodville, Greene County, Georgia. The census enumerator spelled her name “Emeret.”

1860 Greene County, Georgia census record

Her father was doing well as a stock trader, with real estate valued at $1500 and a personal estate valued at $4000. The book How Curious a Land: Conflict and Change in Greene County, Georgia, 1850–1885 by Jonathan M. Bryant states “… James Lankford made a good living trading livestock and by 1860 had accumulated more than $5,000 worth of property …” so one would assume they had a decent sized home and piece of property, enough that he owned three slaves according to the slave schedule that year. He was recorded as owning three—a 65-year-old male, a 50-year-old male, and a 26-year-old female. Something that caught my eye on the slave schedule was the word “Murder” written beside the female’s name. After doing some research, I found an article dated April 5, 1860 in A Southern Watchman that speaks of a female slave who must have been the 26-year-old female. The article referred to a sad event that took place on the Lankford property:
“Three Children Drowned! We learn from the Washington Independent that a negro woman belonging to Mr. James M. Lankford, of Penfield, threw her three children into his well on Tuesday night of last week, and to make sure of their destruction she descended herself by means of the rope. She was drawn out next morning, and turned over to the authorities.” 
Bryant’s book How Curious a Land devotes two and a half pages to the story of slave Becky, age 26. As the mother of three children, Becky was considered valuable to James Lankford. When Caroline caught Becky stealing dough, she threatened to severely punish her. The next day, Nannie’s oldest sister Mary discovered Becky and her three children in the bottom of their well. Becky was alive but her children were all dead. Local officials ruled their deaths to be murder and Becky was taken to the Greensboro jail. There were rumors of different versions of the event—did Becky murder her children to get back at the Lankford’s for threats made by Caroline? Or was Becky despondent over the threats, attempt suicide, and decide to take her children with her in death? James was known to drink and lie so did he make up the story in a drunken stupor? James hired a Greensboro lawyer who pursued the suicide angle. Becky was only tried for one death and it was never mentioned that it was her child Violet who had died. Becky was eventually found not guilty and returned to the Lankford household. I wonder what treatment she received by the Lankford family after all that had happened.

Not long afterwards, the Civil War began and Nannie’s father enlisted as a private in Company C of the Third Regiment Georgia Infantry, C.S.A., also known as the Dawson Grays. James left home on May 3, 1861, traveling with his unit until he was discharged in Portsmouth, Virginia on July 15, 1862, leaving a substitute. By November 1862, he was serving in Company C of the Georgia Troops so it’s possible he returned home during the summer or early fall for a short visit before moving to the Georgia Troop unit but I can’t confirm that. Sherman and his troops marched to Savannah during the months of November and December 1864. They would have come very close to Greene County so this must have been a frightening time for Nannie and her family. Nannie’s father returned home in May 1865 after the end of the war.

Nannie’s sister Mary married William Oliver Wilson on January 2, 1867. The 1900 Woodville, Greene County, Georgia census record shows that Mary had 11 children, but only 6 were alive at the time. Mary and William stayed in the general area of Greene and Oglethorpe counties so would have been close enough for Nannie to visit with her nieces and nephews as often as she wished.

Nannie’s brother James (my direct ancestor) married Mary Ann Wilson on January 5, 1868. Their marriage brought 10 nieces and nephews into Nannie’s life over the years that followed. On July 6, 1869, Nannie’s mother received a four-acre plot of land in the Village of Penfield, Greene County, Georgia under the Homestead Act. Her sister Emma married James L. Wilson on May 22, 1870 and by 1873 they had two sons, Walter and Julius. Emma and James settled in Penfield, so Nannie was close by to spend time with the boys. The census enumerator counted 18-year-old Nannie, her parents, and siblings Nathan, Laura, and Marion on June 21, 1870. She was enumerated as Emerette that year. Her father was a farmer and her brother Nathan a farm laborer. Mother Caroline was busy keeping house, I’m sure assisted by Nannie. Brother James and his wife Mary were also living in Penfield at the time.

1870 Greene County, Georgia census record

Nannie’s sister Emma died of unknown causes sometime after the birth of her son Julius in June 1873 and before December 1879, which is when marriage records show her husband took a second wife. Emma would have been in her 20s at the time of her death so this would have been traumatic for Nannie. Did Nannie help Emma’s husband James (Wilson) with the boys after her death? I bet she did. Emma was buried at Penfield Cemetery, a lovely cemetery near the old Mercer University.

I believe Nannie’s brother Nathan married Mary Moore on June 2, 1880 but need to confirm that. I’ve been unable to track them any further than their marriage so am not aware as to whether they had any children. On June 10, 1880, Nannie, her parents, and sisters Laura and Marion lived in Falling Creek, Oglethorpe County, Georgia. Interesting that they lived here after her mother received the land grant for property in Penfield. What happened to that? Nannie was enumerated as Ernest that year. Her father was still farming and her mother keeping house. Nannie, Laura, and Marion were all enumerated as “at home.” This census record confirmed that Nannie was still a part of her nephews Walter and Julius’ life as they were actually living in the home with the family. Her brother James, his wife, and four children lived next door.

1880 Oglethorpe County, Georgia census record
Near the end of the decade, sad times fell over the Lankford family—Nannie’s father died in Lithonia, DeKalb County, Georgia on October 29, 1887. I’ll note that Caroline’s Widow’s Indigent Pension records are conflicting and the year may have been 1888. I haven’t found a death record yet to confirm this. I also haven’t found the burial location for James.

By the time the census enumerator made his rounds in 1900, Nannie, her mother, and sister Marion had moved back to Penfield which is where they were recorded on June 16. That year Nannie was enumerated as Maurice. She worked at the knitting mill and could read and write.

1900 Greene County, Georgia census record
Nannie’s mother filed for and was approved an Indigent Widows of Confederate Soldiers pension in Greene County on February 22, 1901, basing her application on her age and poverty. She stated that she had been unable to support herself for more than 15 years and had no real or personal property or income. She further stated that she had not owned a “dollars worth” of property since the death of her husband and was supported by help from her two daughters, Nannie and Marion. Family friends J. O. Boswell and E. S. Powell supported Caroline’s application by swearing that she had lived in Penfield and that they had known her and her husband for 50 years. They confirmed James’ military service and death. They also knew Caroline to be destitute, physically unable to wait on or support herself, and that she had been supported by her two daughters for 1899 and 1900, with Caroline contributing nothing. Caroline was examined by J. M. McGaughey, MD and J. Wilson, MD the next day and they both swore that she was 80 years old, extremely feeble, and infirm on account of age. They felt she was absolutely unable to earn a living and could not leave her house. On Caroline’s January 16, 1905 pension application, she declared that she was feeble due to age and was confined to her bed most of time. Her care during this period of her life would have been 24/7 for Nannie and Marion. That would end on January 8, 1906 when Caroline died in Baldwin County, Georgia. Nannie’s brother James filed an Application for Pension Due to a Deceased Pensioner on February 14, 1906 declaring that Caroline was on the Widow’s indigent Pension Roll of Greene County at the time of her death and that an unpaid pension of $60 was due to her at that time. The application further stated that she left two dependent daughters and had no estate of any value sufficient to pay her funeral expenses which amounted to $65. It’s interesting that James C. declared that Caroline left two dependent daughters as Nannie would have been in her 50s and Marion in her late 40s in 1906 and both had been supporting and caring for their mother before she received her first pension payment in 1901. I haven’t found the burial location for Caroline either. I assume both she and Nannie’s father are buried together somewhere, I just don’t know where that is at this point.

Two years after the death of her mother, Nannie’s brother James died in Greene County on January 21, 1908. He was buried at Penfield Cemetery.

On April 16, 1910, Nannie and Marion lived alone in a rented house in Penfield. Nannie was the head of household and worked as a packer at the hosiery mill. Her sister Marion was not working at the time. Her brother James’ widow lived less than 10 houses away, along with her children.

1910 Penfield, Greene County, Georgia census record

Then I lose Marion. I’m guessing she died but I don’t find a death record or a cemetery record for her. It bothers me that Nannie and Marion were together their entire life and then she just disappears!

I don’t know what happened to Laura either. At one point, I thought she had married her sister Emma’s husband, James L. Wilson, sometime before 1880 but I’ve disconnected them on my tree so must have changed my mind. I need to go back and figure out what I was thinking about that situation. That won’t happen in time for this post though.

Nannie’s sister Mary died of pneumonia and influenza in Maxeys, Oglethorpe County, Georgia on April 20, 1919. She was 73 years old at the time. Mary was buried at Bairdstown Cemetery in Bairdstown, Oglethorpe County, Georgia.

On January 8, 1920, Nannie lived on a farm on Athens Highway in Falling Creek, Oglethorpe County, Georgia with sibling paternal cousins Sarah T. Bryant, Rebecca M. Bryant, and Jasper Bryant. Their mother was Elizabeth Lankford Bryant, sister of Nannie’s father James. She was enumerated as Nanny Lankford this year. At age 69, she was single and no longer working.

1920 Oglethorpe County, Georgia census record
On April 23, 1930, Nannie lived in Penfield with her niece Jessica Corinne (Lankford) Barnhart, daughter of Nannie’s brother James. Jessica’s husband Bryce and daughter Mary Lou also lived there. She was enumerated ad Nannie Langford. The census enumerator listed her marital status as widowed versus single, but I still feel this is her.

1930 Penfield, Greene County, Georgia census record
Nannie died of clinical pneumonia at the Penfield home of Rev. W. R. Callaway on April 3, 1935. Her obituary, which ran on April 12 in The Herald Journal, referred to her as Miss Nannie Lankford and stated that “Miss Lankford was the daughter of Jim Lankford and Mrs. Caroline Hobbs Lankford. She lived the greater part of her life in Greene County and Miss Lankford has countless friends who are grieved to learn of her passing.” It also stated that “Miss Lankford is survived by several nieces and nephews.” She was buried the next day at Penfield Cemetery. Ernest Moncrief, Albert Cantrell, Bill Whitaker, and Pete Colcough were pall bearers. Her death certificate listed her occupation as “domestic.” Bryce Barnhart, whom Nannie lived with in 1930, along with her niece Jessica, was the informant on her death certificate. Bryce listed her age as 85, with no birth date provided. I’ve visited that cemetery many times and have yet to find her grave. I'll keep looking.

Nannie was surrounded by family all her life, including many nieces and nephews. Her obituary notes that she was loved by many. I obviously never knew Nannie since she died in 1935 but she was there for her mother during her time of need and her cousins and niece took her into their home during her time of need so I feel certain that she was probably a well-loved “maiden aunt.”


Bryant, Jonathan M., How Curious a Land: Conflict and Change in Greene County, Georgia, 1850–1885, UNC Press Books, July 1, 2014.

Familypedia, Penfield Cemetery, Greene County, Georgia.

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