Nancy Cheatham was the great-grandmother of my father’s grandfather in whose house he was born and raised. We know from her gravestone that she was born on 15 August 1810 but the location is mysterious. The 1850 census, the first to ask for birthplaces, lists her birthplace as Tennessee but the 1860 and 1870 censuses show it as Kentucky. (The 1880 lists it as Alabama, an obvious error.)
Wherever she was born and raised, she married about the time she turned 20 in or around Robertson County, Tennessee.
First Husband: Unknown Bishop (? – c1831)
Nancy Cheatham and her first husband, about whom we know nothing except that his name was Bishop, had one child named Mary E. Bishop who was born about 1831 in Tennessee according to her later census records. Where and when they married is uncertain, but it seems likely that they were in the vicinity of Robertson County, Tennessee where we find record of Nancy in 1834.
No estate record exists for anyone named Bishop in Robertson or the surrounding Tennessee counties, but Nancy was soon widowed.1 From subsequent records the Bishop estate was a modest one and may not have been recorded at all. The earliest record, in fact, is a guardian’s accounting for Mary E. Bishop dated January 1834 by Joseph Bradley, Nancy’s second husband. 2
Second Husband: Joseph Bradley (? – 1839)
Sometime in 1833 Nancy married an aging widower named Joseph Bradley and had two more children. Though no marriage record survives, it seems clear that they married in early or mid 1833. The January 1834 accounting of the Mary E. Bishop orphan’s estate filed by Joseph Bradley included “amount due the minor” of $270 and a credit for just six months interest, suggesting that he had become her guardian on or about July 1 the previous year. 3 It also indicated a debit for 1833 of fifty cents for his bond as guardian of Mary E. Bishop, which must have been executed after he married Nancy Bishop.
Joseph Bradley subsequently filed annual statements for Mary E. Bishop’s estate from 1835 through 1838. 4 Joseph Bradley died in 1839 leaving a will dated 25 February 1839 and proved in September 1839 that mentioned his wife Nancy and their two children named Virginia Ann Bradley and William Littleberry Bradley as well as nine children “of my first marriage”. 5 The will gave Nancy furniture and a horse outright and the use of several slaves for her life or widowhood with reversion to the the two children. His plantation was left to William Littleberry Bradley subject to Nancy’s use during her lifetime or widowhood. Both children were also given slaves when they reached 21 or married. In the distribution of the cash estate, both of the young Bradley children received nearly $700, a sum that soon grew to more than $1,000 by renting out the slaves. Nancy’s third husband Charles W. Beaumont, who must have been a neighbor, purchased leather goods at the estate sale held in December 1841. 6
Nancy dissented from the will, arguing that it provided her less that the law required. The local court agreed, and one-third of Bradley’s 310-acre plantation was deeded to Nancy, along with a 1/12 share of the personal estate.7
Nancy Bradley was enumerated in the 1840 census of Robertson County heading a household of 12 whites and 5 slaves.8 The identity of the additional persons is unknown.
Third Husband: Charles W. Beaumont (? – c1846)
On 2 September 1841 Nancy married yet again to Charles W. Beaumont in Robertson County according to the minister’s return.9 She had two more children named Richard Cheatham Beaumont and Clarence Washington Beaumont. Charles W. Beaumont assumed the guardianship of Mary E. Bishop while Benjamin W. Bradley, their half-brother, became the guardian of Nancy’s two Bradley children. It is clear from the guardian accounts that Mary Bishop and the two Bradley children continued to live with Nancy.
Nancy was widowed again by 1847 when Benjamin W. Bradley’s 1 January 1848 accounting of the orphans estates for her Bradley children showed payments in 1847 for their “victuals and clothing” to “Widow Beaumont”. (At least one descendant thinks they were divorced in 1846 before she became a widow, but the reference to “Widow Beaumont” seems conclusive and the records of the circuit court, which had jurisdiction over the dissolution of marriages at that time, has bo record of a divorce.) Charles Beaumont was alive to file an annual accounting of Mary E. Bishop’s orphan’s estate in January 1842 and February 1843, but not thereafter. He died in or prior to 1846, as the statements for the two Bradley children’s orphans estates shows that Charles Beaumont was paid for boarding them in 1844 but Nancy Beaumont was paid for 1846 and thereafter. There is, however, no probate record for Charles Beaumont in Robertson County. (There was a much younger Charles W. Beaumont, son of Henry F. Beaumont, located in adjacent Montgomery County. He was a different person.)
A later Chancery suit refers obliquely to Charles W. Beaumont in a deposition by Benjamin W. Bradley, who explained that Nancy had lost her considerable inheritance from Joseph Bradley due to “a subsequent marriage to a very imprudent and indiscreet man”.10
Nancy Moves to Alabama
In late 1848 she moved, along with her four Bradley and Beaumont children and her daughter Mary’s new husband, to Tuscumbia, Franklin County, Alabama to be near her father Littleberry Cheatham.
In an amazing coincidence, she was transported on that journey by George W. Baird, whose grandson would later marry a great-granddaughter of Nancy’s in Texas. Mary Bishop and Burrell Hooper had a daughter Emma the following year who later married Nicholas Anthony; they had a son Edward Young Anthony whose daughter Allie married Harry Baird.
The 1850 census of Franklin County, Alabama, which was not taken until December, enumerated her next door to her brother-in-law Joseph Albert Guy. Her household included her two Bradley children and her two Beaumont children. Her daughter Mary E. Bishop, now aged 21, was enumerated not far away as the wife of Burrell Hooper.
A dispute over the Bradley children’s inheritances was occasioned by her move away from Tennessee. When Nancy moved to Alabama, Benjamin W. Bradley retained both his guardianship of the children and possession of the children’s slaves. Indeed, he continued to file annual accountings and to forward modest cash payments to Nancy for their board. Nancy naturally wanted the slaves and cash estates transferred to Alabama. Her brother-in-law Joseph A. Guy successfully petitioned the Robertson County court to be named guardian of the children and demanded that Bradley turn over their estates. Benjamin Bradley countered that this was a thinly veiled attempt by Nancy to gain control of the slaves. Depositions in the case were taken in 1849 from three residents of Franklin County, Alabama: Mrs. Nancy Beaumont (giving her age as 39), B. Y. Hooper (aged about 35), and Mrs. Mary E. Hooper (formerly Bishop, age 20). Burrell Hooper’s deposition states that he had recently moved from Robertson County, Tennessee to Franklin County, Alabama.11
Another case (not read) involved the appointment of a C. Love as guardian of Richard Beaumont and Clarence Beaumont, Nancy’s children by her third husband. Similar depositions were taken in Franklin County, Alabama from Nancy Beaumont, her daughter Mrs. Mary E Hooper, and her son-in-law Burrell Y. Hooper.12 In both cases, Nancy Beaumont was said to have moved to Tuscumbia to be near her father Littleberry Cheatham.
Life in Tuscumbia
Unfortunately, Franklin County, Alabama is a burned county for which virtually no records survive. We are left to make do with census records. In the 1860 census of Tuscumbia, Nancy Beaumont, a “seamstress” age 50, was enumerated in Tuscumbia with her two Beaumont children still in the household.13 Her birthplace was this time given as Kentucky. She was credited with $1,500 in real estate and $5,300 in personal property, some of which must have been inherited from her father who had died five years earlier. She was listed with five slaves in the 1860 slave census.
The 1870 census of Tuscumbia (which was by then located in Colbert County) enumerated Nancy Beaumont, age 60, heading a household that included her Beaumont sons, her newly widowed daughter Mary Hooper, and Mary Hooper’s two children Emma Anthony and Edward Hooper, as well as three black and mulatto boarders or servants.14 Her real estate was now worth $1,000 and her personal property $500.
In 1880 census Nancy Beaumont, now aged 65, was living next door to her widowed daughter-in-law Kate Beaumont (widow of Richard Cheatham Beaumont) and Kate’s father Richard Halsey.15 Her daughter Mary Hooper and grandson Edward Hooper were still in the household. Both Nancy and Mary were designated as widows.
The 3 April 1890 issue of The Tennessean newspaper carried a report from Tuscumbia dated a day earlier that “Mrs. Nancy Beaumont, one of our oldest citizens, has sustained serious injuries from a fall at her residence. Her recovery is exceedingly doubtful.”16 Nancy died a few days later. She was buried in Tuscumbia’s Oakwood Cemetery where a stone bears her birth and death dates.
Her child by her first husband:
- Mary E. Bishop (c1830 – aft1880) She married Burrell Young Hooper.
Her children by her second husband:
- Virginia Ann Bradley (28 June 1834 – 5 October 1851) She is buried in the Guy Cemetery in Colbert County, Alabama where her stone gives her birth and death dates. She testified in the Chancery case in March 1851, declaring herself to be 16 years old.
- William Littleberry Bradley (c1836 – ?) He apparently returned to Tennessee long enough to meet and marry Josephine Hudgins in Cheatham County on 8 July 1858 (by license issued 5 July 1858.)17 He and Josephine were enumerated back in Franklin County in 1860 with two children named Virginia and Richard L. The 1860 slave schedule for Franklin County listed William L. Bradley with 21 slaves, evidently all of those inherited by him and his deceased sister from the Joseph Bradley estate. I did not locate him in 1870 or thereafter.
Her children by her third husband:
- Richard Cheatham Beaumont (2 September 1842 – 3 August 1877) He was in Nancy’s household in 1850, 1860, and 1870. He married Kate Halsey but died in 1877. His gravestone lists his CSA service in the 35th Alabama Infantry. He is also buried in the Oakwood Cemetery.
- Clarence Washington Beaumont (April 1844 – aft1910) He also served in the CSA and remained in Tuscumbia, appearing in censuses in 1900 and 1910. He married Alice A. Kahl in 1875 but was widowed and childless by 1900.
- There is one estate record book for the period 1832-1835 that is missing a portion of its index, but I read it page by page and saw no inventories, sales , widow’s provisions, or land divisions for any one named Bishop. [↩]
- Robertson County Inventories & Wills Book 8, page 298. [↩]
- Robertson County Inventories & Wills Book 8, page 298. [↩]
- Robertson County Inventories & Wills Book 8, page 431 and Book 9, page 88 and page 230. [↩]
- Robertson County Inventories & Wills Book 10, pages 301-304. [↩]
- Robertson County Inventories & Wills Book 11, page 132. [↩]
- Nancy’s petition of a distributive share of the estate and subsequent court actions are included among the papers in Chancery Case #19. [↩]
- Robertson County 1840 census, page 159: Nancy Bradley 100100001 – 0111010011 – 5 slaves. [↩]
- Robertson County Marriage Book (Ministers Returns), page 41. [↩]
- Robertson County Chancery Court Case #19. [↩]
- Jean M. Durrett and Yolanda G. Reid, Robertson County, Tennessee, Abstracts of Chancery Court Loose Papers, 1844-1872 (J. M. Durrett, 1986), Case #19. Also summarized in Hooper Compass, No. 1. [↩]
- Durrett and Reid. [↩]
- Franklin County 1860 census, page 646. [↩]
- Colbert County 1870 census, page 155. [↩]
- Colbert County 1880 census, page 462. [↩]
- 3 April 1890 issue of The Tennessean (Nashville, Tennessee), page 4. [↩]
- The marriage record reads that it was solemnized on 8 Jan 1858, but “Jan” is clearly a transcription error, as the license was issued on 5 July and the entry is surrounded by June-July-August marriages. [↩]