John Taylor was my great-great-great-grandfather but I know nothing about his ancestry, due to the combination of his distressingly common name and the destruction of records in the places he lived. Some thoughts on the subject are in this paper.
He married Sarah Lemacks in Early County, Georgia
John Taylor and Sarah Lemacks married in Early County on 30 August 1838 by license issued on 11 August 1838.1 The bride’s last name is indexed incorrectly in at least one secondary source as “Semacks” but examination of the original marriage register reveals the name to clearly be “Lemacks”. That this was the right couple is proven by the death certificate of their youngest child Georgia Taylor, which lists her parents as John Taylor and “Sarah Ella Lemox”. What little I know of Sarah Lemacks is detailed here.
Their oldest son James F. Taylor, who was born sometime in 1839, wrote that he was born in Early County, Georgia when he enlisted in the Union Army in 1863. On 10 September 1863, when the regiment was formed, James F. Taylor enlisted in Company B of the 1st Regiment of Independent Alabama Vidette Cavalry (also known as the Tennessee-Alabama Vidette Cavalry) stating his age as 24 and his birthplace as “Erly” County, Georgia. (See James Taylor’s enlistment form.) His brother William F. Taylor joined the same company on 1 February 1864, giving his age as 23 and birthplace as Randolph County, Georgia. (See William Taylor’s enlistment form.)
At the time these two men were born, Early County and Randolph County adjoined one another in southwestern Georgia.
Absent from 1840 census
Oddly, though we’d expect to find him enumerated in the 1840 census with a young son in the household, John Taylor does not appear as a head of household in the 1840 census anywhere in southwestern Georgia. (See separate page for a possible explanation.)
Nor did John Taylor own land, as there are no deed records for anyone of that name in either Early or Randolph County.
The family moves to Walker County, Georgia
Sometime in the 1840s John Taylor and his young family moved nearly 300 miles north into Walker County, Georgia in the extreme northwestern corner of the state. Walker and the surrounding counties in Georgia and Alabama had been part of the Cherokee Nation until 1830; over the next twenty years more than 13,000 people settled in Walker County, many of them farmers from Virginia and North Carolina attracted by its fertile land. John Taylor described himself years later as a mechanic and wagon maker, and may have been attracted by business opportunities created by that growth. Unfortunately for researchers, all records of Walker County were destroyed by an arsonist who burned the county courthouse in 1883.
A family Bible entry written about 1915 shows the birthplace my great-great-grandfather William F. Taylor as Walker County, Georgia and the date as 19 February 1841.2 The birthplace is contradicted by William F. Taylor’s own statement, but the Bible entry confirms the family’s move to northwest Georgia.
Both James F. Taylor and William F. Taylor also declared in their Civil War veteran’s pension applications that they had lived in Walker County, Georgia before moving across the state line into Alabama in 1859.
The 1850 federal census for the area of McLemore Cove in southern Walker County enumerated John Taylor, age 36, and his wife Sarah, age 26, along with 11-year old James F. Taylor, 9-year old William F. Taylor and four other children.3 The birthplace of both John and Sarah was listed as South Carolina.
Moves across the state line into Alabama in 1859
According to the pension applications of his sons James and WIlliam, John Taylor moved his family in 1859 50-odd miles southwest from Walker County, Georgia into Marshall County, Alabama near its border with Jackson, and DeKalb counties. The 1860 Marshall County census shows John Taylor and his wife Sarah E. Taylor living in the eastern part of the county not far from Guntersville. 4 The two eldest sons were no longer in the household, and several children had been added to the family during the 1850s. A son born about 1858 was born in Georgia but a daughter born in March 1860 was born in Alabama, confirming that they had only recently moved into the state. Indeed, Georgia Taylor’s death certificate gives her birthplace specifically as Marshall County, Alabama.
In testimony in 1871 John Taylor stated that in 1861 and during the war he lived 10 miles north of Guntersville on “government land”. 5 Alabama conducted a state census in 1866 after the war and John Taylor was again enumerated in Marshall County adjacent to his son William Taylor. 6 His household consisted of one male aged 10-20 (Henry), two females under 10 (Georgia and who?), one female 10-20 (Martha), and two females 20-30 (Mary and Elizabeth). There was no male of an age to have been the son Zachariah, who apparently had died as a youth. The son William Taylor was enumerated consecutively with his father and a household that included three males under 10.
The move to DeKalb County and the “lost” 1870 census
John Taylor evidently moved into DeKalb County in 1867. After the Civil War the Reconstruction Act called for the registration of voters who had taken the oath of allegiance. DeKalb County registered its voters in July 1867 but about a dozen men were added later in the year after registration was completed. In late September a “John N. Taylor” was registered in District No. 7, which seems to be the same as Beat 7 of the 1880 census where the households of Sarah Taylor, Martha Hefner and Henry S. Taylor were enumerated.
The entire family was skipped by the 1870 census. Neither John Taylor nor his sons William and James were enumerated anywhere in Alabama or Georgia. Nor was their daughter Martha Hefner, who had married in early 1870. Yet both William Taylor and James Taylor, in their pension applications, stated that they lived in DeKalb County, Alabama at this time. And John Taylor stated in his 1871 deposition that he lived in Portersville, near Lebanon, in DeKalb County.
The explanation for this anomaly is that roughly one-third of DeKalb County’s residents were not counted in the 1870 census. Whether a portion of the county was skipped by the census marshals or whether its census pages were later lost is unknown. The 1860 census had counted more than 10,700 residents and the 1880 census counted more than 12,600 but only 7,126 were enumerated in 1870. The Taylors were evidently among the missing households. 7
John Taylor’s Civil War service and his $100 horse
In 1871 Congress appointed commissioners in the southern states to consider claims against the United States Army by residents who had remained loyal to the Union. John Taylor promptly filed a claim for a horse that he had sold to the Captain of his sons’ company for $100 but never received payment for. In support of his claim he stated that his Union loyalties resulted in his being harassed and briefly imprisoned by Confederate troops, and that rebels had stolen away his horses, wagon making tools, and so much food that his family was left with nothing. He also stated that he had actually served for several months as a scout for the Union army. No official record of that service survives but his Lieutenant, one Joseph Carr, swore a deposition confirming his service. His son William F. Taylor and his brother Henry Taylor also appeared in court to testify to his loyalty to the government and the sale of the horse.
Interestingly, the file contains several signatures by John Taylor, indicating that he was literate. His brother Henry Taylor, however, signed his papers with an “x” mark.
The full file, including the statements of the three witnesses, can be read here.
John Taylor dies in 1879 (or 1880?)
John Taylor was still alive on 21 April 1879 and living in DeKalb County when he and his wife Sarah E. Taylor both signed an affidavit in support of their son James Taylor’s Civil War pension application.8 He was dead by the first of June 1880 when the census of DeKalb County, Alabama enumerated Sarah Taylor as a widow heading a household consisting of two daughters who had been in her 1860 household and a grandson named John Taylor.9
From context, she was located somewhere between the the villages of Portersville and Lebanon in southeastern DeKalb County (in Township 8 Range 8.) The 19 year old grandson John Taylor in Sarah Taylor’s 1880 household was apparently John Jefferson Taylor, the son of William F. Taylor, who was born in 1861 and counted in both his grandmother’s household and his father’s.
Their daughter Martha Hefner and son Henry S. Taylor were located just a few households away, while the households of William F. Taylor and James F. Taylor were located about four or five miles nearer to Fort Payne.
John Taylor probably died shortly after signing the affidavit in 1879. The 1880 census was supposed to reflect household composition “as of” June 1, 1880 regardless of the actual enumeration date. But there was also a supplemental Mortality Census taken in 1880 of all persons who had died during the 12 months preceding June 1st — and John Taylor was not enumerated in the 1880 Mortality Census.
No probate records for John Taylor exist in DeKalb County. This suggests that he owned little or no property at his death. There are no deeds in DeKalb County to or from any of the Taylors in this family.
Nine known children
At least four of their children, as well as a widowed spouse, settled on either side of the Titus County – Morris County border in east Texas in the late 1880s.
The children of John Taylor and Sarah E. Lemacks were the following:
James Franklin Taylor (1839 – 10 May 1882) He was occasionally known as “Frank”, though it isn’t clear whether his middle name was Francis or Franklin. He was in his parents’ 1850 household, age 11, but does not appear in the family’s 1860 household. Nor is there a James Taylor either in the vicinity of his parents or back in Walker County. However, James F. Taylor and William F. Taylor both served in the same Company B of the 1st Alabama & Tennessee Vidette Cavalry during the Civil War and both applied for invalid pensions for that service. James F. Taylor’s pension application, and his widow’s later application for a survivor’s pension, comprise a voluminous file with much useful genealogical information.10 According to those files James F. Taylor, who was occasionally referred to as “Frank”, was first married on 6 June 1860 in Marshall County to Francis M. Reeves.11 After having two children named Francis Taylor (born 1861) and Albert H. Taylor (born c1862) they were apparently divorced by a decree of the DeKalb County court in April 1867 and Frances and the children moved to Winston County to marry her second husband. (See the page on Frances M. Reeves.) On 30 September 1866 — before the divorce was final — James Taylor married the young widow of Tandy Callahan, the former Almarine Southerland. (She had married Tandy W. Callahan on 14 October 1851 in adjacent Marshall County and been widowed five years when her husband died on 13 April 1856.) Many years later, Almarine was denied a widow’s pension on the grounds that her marriage was not legal because her husband was still married to Frances Reeves at the time he married her.
James F. Taylor applied for a invalid pension in 1879, claiming that a severe case of measles contracted while in the army had resulted in permanent lung damage that limited his ability to work. Among those that testified in support of his application were his parents John and Sarah E. Taylor, his brother William F. Taylor, and three doctors who treated him following the war. Unfortunately, no military records could be found for the period in 1865 in which he was hospitalized, thus preventing him from proving that the disease was contracted while in service, and the pension was rejected. See a summary of the complete file here.
He was enumerated as “Frank” Taylor in the DeKalb County, Alabama census of 1880 heading a household consisting of Almarine, age 41, and three children named John H. Taylor (c1869-?), Jesse Harmon Taylor (1870-1939), and Sarah Ellen Taylor (1871-1948) who later married William Sulser in DeKalb County. (Their names and birth dates are in the pension files as well as testimony from the doctors and midwives who were present at their births.) His birthplace was listed as Georgia with both parents born in South Carolina.
His widow remained in DeKalb County for a time following his death and applied for a widow’s pension based on his army service. She moved to Texas a few years after her Taylor in-laws, settling near them in Cookville, Titus County. The 1900 and 1910 censuses of Titus County show the widow Alma M. Taylor, born in 1835, living in the household of her son Jesse H. Taylor and his wife Mary. (Almarine Taylor’s 1900 and 1910 census record tells us that she had only the three children listed.) She was not enumerated in 1920, but no death record was located. The daughter Sarah Ellen Taylor (wife of William Sulser) also moved to Titus County, though she died in Wichita Falls. Sarah’s death certificate identifies her parents as Frank Taylor and Almarine [blank]. Jesse Harmon Taylor’s death certificate identifies them as W. (sic) F. Taylor and “Almaren Southerland”. (His census records also list his father’s birthplace incorrectly as Alabama.)
- William Franklin Taylor (19 February 1841 – 28 April 1914) He also moved to Titus County, Texas about 1885. See separate page.
- Mary J. Taylor (c1844 – aft1880) She is in her parents household in 1850, 1860, and (still unmarried) in 1880. I have no further record of her. There is no marriage record in DeKalb County for her.
- Elizabeth L. Taylor (c1846 – ?) She is in the 1850 and 1860 household of her parents but was no longer there in 1880. She may have been the same Elizabeth L. Taylor who married W. D. Jones on 23 June 1870 in DeKalb County. They were not located thereafter.12
- Zachariah C. Taylor (c1848 – 1860s) He is in the 1850 and 1860 households. I could find no trace of him in 1870 or 1880 in any state. I note that John Taylor’s 1866 state census household had only a single male under 20, presumably Henry, thus Zachariah had apparently died in the early 1860s as a youth.
Martha Ann Taylor (21 April 1854 -1894) She was in the 1860 household as Martha A. Taylor, age 6. There are two marriages in DeKalb County for women named Martha Taylor. One of them married W. D. Graves in DeKalb County on 15 December 1868 and was enumerated near Lebanon in the 1870 census, Martha as age 20. However, we can prove that our Martha was the same Martha A. Taylor who married John Denman Hefner (1848-1917) in DeKalb County, Alabama on 17 April 1870. 13 They are shown living near Lebanon in the 1880 census with Martha A. Hefner listed as age 25 and born in Georgia. This couple also settled in Titus (later Morris) County, Texas withing a short walk of several of her siblings. Her gravestone in Omaha’s Concord Cemetery gives her birth and death dates as simply “1854-1894.” That she was our Martha is proven by a 1938 newspaper article reporting that Georgia (Taylor) Forbus was visited by “her nephew W. J. Hefner” who was Martha Taylor Hefner’s oldest son. 14
Her children, from censuses and other records, were: William J. Hefner (1871-1954), Sarah Emmaline Hefner (1874-1968), Ella Pinkney Hefner (1876-1948), Martha Jane Hefner (1879-1939), Jessie Lee Hefner (1892-1972), Albert Neal Hefner (1882-1932), and Oscar M. Hefner (1885-?). After Martha’s death, her husband moved into adjacent Camp County where he married a woman named Addie just prior to the 1900 census. 15 By the 1910 census he was back in Titus County.
Henry Stanley Taylor (19 July 1855 – 25 June 1933) He was in John Taylor’s 1860 household as a four-year old son who was “not named”. The informant for his death certificate, his son Luther, identified Henry Taylor’s father as John Taylor, born in South Carolina, and his mother as “don’t know”. He married Sarah Elizabeth Nicholson (1856-1912) on 25 November 1878 in DeKalb County — her death certificate identifies her parents as Thomas J. Nicholson and Mary Lucy Robinson.18 The 1880 census lists him as Henry S. Taylor, age 24, located just seven households away from his mother Sarah Taylor, with wife Sarah and a 7 month old son named Thomas B. Taylor (c1873-bef1900). He and his wife both listed their birthplaces as Alabama and the birthplace of both his parents was given as Georgia in this census. His birthplace was Georgia in both 1860 and in 1900 and later censuses. On 11 December 1885 he was made a constable in DeKalb County, but resigned sometime prior to 1888.
Henry S. Taylor evidently accompanied his siblings in the late 1880s to Titus County, Texas where he appears in the 1888 tax list and the 1900 through 1930 censuses. From censuses, cemetery, and death records his six children who lived to maturity were William Luther Taylor (1883-1945), Walter J. Taylor (1885-1941), Minnie Taylor (1885-1941) who married Jud Strother, Bertha L. “Birdie” Taylor (1889-1970) who married Elmer Cook, Maude Taylor (1895-1927) who married Patrick Thomas King, and Orren Clyde Taylor (1897-1966) The 1900 and 1910 censuses chow that Sarah was the mother of 10 children, only 6 of whom were living at the time of the census. Henry S. Taylor petitioned the Titus County probate court in 1913 for a property division, stating that his wife had died on 7 May 1912 leaving the six named children.19
- Francis Taylor (c1857 – ?) Listed as a male, age 2, in 1860 but there was no child in the age group in John Taylor’s household in 1866, thus Francis must have died young.
- Georgia E. Taylor (10 March 1860 – 3 March 1943) She was aged two months in 1860 (supposedly calculated as of June 1st), and was age 20 in her mother’s 1880 household. Though I didn’t trace her in detail, she remained single until her sixties. On 18 August 1921 Georgia Taylor married a widower named William Matthew Forbus (1851-1930) and was living in Sweetwater, Nolan County, Texas in 1930 and 1940. She died at a hospital in Rusk (in Cherokee County) and was buried in the Sweetwater Cemetery. Her death certificate lists her birthplace as Marshall County, Alabama and her parents as John Taylor and “Sarah Ella Lemax.” 20 Her father’s birthplace is listed as Raleigh, North Carolina (sic!) and her mother’s as Charleston, South Carolina. The Sweetwater Reporter mentioned in 1938 that she was entertaining the family of her nephew William J. Hefner, the eldest child of her sister Martha Taylor Hefner, thus clarifying the relationship of both women to this family.21
- Early County Marriage Book 2, page 29 has both the license and the return. They were married by William Tilly, JP. [↩]
- Information from the Bible, including photocopies, were provided by Jim Taylor of Henderson, Nevada in 2001. The Bible was purchased in 1915 and used by Wallace Thad Taylor, a Nazarene minister. He entered the names, birth dates and places, and death dates and places of his grandparents, one of whom was William F. Taylor. [↩]
- Walker County, Georgia 1850 census, page 457: John Taylor 36 SC, Sarah 26 SC, James F. 11 GA, Wm. F. 9 GA, Mary J. 7 GA, Elizabeth L. 4 GA, Zachary C. 2 GA. [↩]
- Marshall County, Alabama 1860 census, page 878: John Taylor 46 SC, Sarah E. Taylor 37 SC, Mary J. 16 GA, Elizabeth L. 13 GA, Zacharia C. 11 GA, Martha A. 6 GA, “not named” (male) 4 GA, Francis (male) 2 GA, Georgia 2/12 AL. [↩]
- see John Taylor’s Southern Claim. [↩]
- There were three John Taylors in Marshall County but only one had a household composition close to that of our John Taylor. [↩]
- I did check the township and range in which they were found in 1880, but they were not there in 1870. [↩]
- See James Taylor’s Pension File. [↩]
- DeKalb County, Alabama 1880 census, page 596: Sarah Taylor 58 SC SC SC (widow), Mary J. 35 GA SC SC (daughter), Georgia Taylor 20 AL SC SC (daughter), John Taylor 19 AL GA GA (grandson. Note that John Taylor’s age matches that of the son of William F. Taylor. It is possible he was double-counted. [↩]
- Invalid Pension File #292927 and Widow’s Pension file # 473617. [↩]
- The marriage record is incorrectly indexed under “John” F. Taylor in at least one online index. [↩]
- A couple — perhaps different people — were enumerated as William T. (or F.) and Sarah E. Jones (age 22) in the 1870 census of Jackson County with “June” written into the “married within the year” column. The same couple was still in Jackson County in 1880. [↩]
- Neither a Martha Taylor or Martha Hefner was enumerated in the 1870 census of DeKalb County. That suggests they were living in the same smallish area of DeKalb that was skipped by the census marshals as was the reset of this Taylor family. [↩]
- Sweetwater Reporter (Sweetwater, Texas), Vol. 41, No. 74, issue of June 29, 1938. [↩]
- The census notes that it was a second marriage for both and that they had been married 0 years. [↩]
- The most fanciful suggests that she was born 21 April 1854 “near Atlanta Georgia” to parents William Taylor and Caroline Diana Hoagland, neither of whom ever lived anywhere near DeKalb County. [↩]
- I note that she was barely 16 when she married and therefore would have required parental consent — a check of the original marriage record would surely uncover a parent’s name. [↩]
- The 1870 census suggests that her mother’s name was Mary but the death certificate calls her mother Lucy Robinson. [↩]
- Titus County Probate Record Book 1910-1917, pages 575-8. [↩]
- Texas Death Certificate #11106. The certificate lists her name as “Forbeus” although her husband’s name is rendered as “Forbus.” [↩]
- Sweetwater Reporter (Sweetwater, Texas), Vol. 41, No. 74, issue of June 29, 1938. The article says she was also entertaining Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Keys of Electra and their children, as well as “two friends” named Mrs. Coffman of Electra and Mrs. Pritchard of Port Arthur. [↩]