Thursday, March 28, 2013

Betsey Jenkins Dean

Solomon Jenkins, 1796, & Laney Ellis, 1799, North Carolina
Sarah Elizabeth Jenkins, 1824, North Carolina
Married Elisha Dean about 1850

It took me a long time to find Betsey. I’d been searching for Betsey “Judkins,” the name my great grandfather, John Dean, gave on his marriage license for his mother.  When every search led to Betsey Jenkins, I had to give up for a while.  This was just too hard.

 To make it worse, I had knee surgery with the attendant pain drugs and rehab for seven weeks. My body doesn’t handle drugs like it used to, and I really slipped into a depression. The book just sat there for two whole months.

I finally got over the surgery, and when the drugs were out of my system, I returned to work, writing just a little each day, and soon I found the link that pulled Betsey's family together, and I learned she was really Betsey Jenkins Dean.

I feel like I know Betsey well now, having lived with her for nearly a year, tracing her family as far back as I can, and reading many early accounts of life for these 1700-1800s pioneers, especially in this part of the country, Pennsylvania to Virginia to North Carolina to Tennessee to Kentucky. I can’t find adequate words to describe the impact this reading has had on me.

I wanted to know about the journey Betsey’s family took from North Carolina to Tennessee and on to Kentucky, and I found an account that gave me a whole new perspective on my ancestors' lives.

An essay of what it might have been like for a wife and mother 200 years ago, what might have gone on in her mind:

Johnny is decided. I reckon I have but one choice and it ain't an easy one."He says we have no choice, that we have to move on west and that now is the time to do it. There is land waiting in Tennessee he says, land that can be ours. He says any citizen of North Carolina now has a right to what ain't taken. He says there is nothin here for us anymore, and I am reckoning that is right too. But my heart is twisting in the inside of me and that is so as well.
I got three babies buried out back there to leave behind…"And taint no sense dwellin' on it. I know good and well could be none of us gonna make it, and for sure, if we stayed here neither there ain't no guarantee ...whole families I watched wiped out by first one thing and then the other. Caint vouch that the natives won't get us, nor a sickness, nor bad water, nor a piece of bad blood waiting to ambush us on the trail. Cain't vouch that river won't get us, have heard about that river and the places in it. Cain't vouch how long what supplies we have will last, nor for sure we can get more. Caint vouch for nothin much at all, 'cept Johnny is right.
Ain't nothin much for us here, gettin less and less all the time, and what of our babies make it, if any of em do, well they will have a better chance for it. They may can own their own land this way, get by easier in the world once that place is settled in. Maybe they can have things someday me and Johnny never dreamed of. But it shorely is a high price to pay. It shorely is.
And I reckon I'll follow Johnny even if my heart is twisting and bleedin' inside of me to where I don't know how I am gonna keep on keepin on. Johnny is decided and I reckon he is right. ~ Pioneer Migration from North Carolina to Tennessee By Jan Philpot,

These early settlers either walked or went by horse and wagon, likely crossing the Cumberland Gap.

Cumberland Gap

The Jenkins Family in Wilkes County

Betsey’s family history goes back a long, long way, on her mother’s side. Possibly all the way back to Wales, but I haven’t verified that yet. Her parents, Solomon Jenkins and Laney Ellis were both born in North Carolina and lived in Wilkes County, where I presume Betsey was born.

Wilkes County, formed in 1777, sprawls over the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the Appalachian Mountains.

Wilkes County in the upper left corner, #1777, close to the Tennessee State Line

An 18-year-old Solomon Jenkins, Betsey's father,  is described on the Army Register of Enlistments during the War of 1812 as a five-foot, eight-inch tall boy with grey eyes, light colored hair, and a fair complexion.

North Carolina Census, 1790-1890
CollectionName: Solomon Jenkin
State: NC
County: Warren County Regiment
Township: Seventh Company
Year: 1812
Database: NC 1812-1814
Muster Rolls Jenkins Sololmon |3rd Regt. |7th Co. |Detached From The Warren Regt   

Since his birth place is stated on the above document as Richmond County North Carolina, I searched and found the first tax list after the establishment of Richmond County, where a “William Jenkins, 260” is listed.  I can't imagine that is two hundred sixty dollars.  Maybe acres, or the lot number of his land.

Then an Census record shows William Jenkins in 1795, a year before Solomon’s approximated birth, in Richmond County.

Possibly William is the father of Solomon. I can’t verify this, but genealogy is like good wine. The longer it sits and ages, the more answers are revealed, making it a fine vintage.

Continuing my research, I found Solomon in the 1840 Census in Capt. Wellborn’s District in Wilkes County. Evidently, districts were named after their army captains.

The census records before 1850 don’t list all the members of the household by name and birth date, but only the head of household’s name and how many people in separate age groups live in the home, including how many slaves. I was happy that Solomon had no slaves, just nine white children of various ages.

My next find was an interesting one involving Laney. She is mentioned in the will of her father, Willis Ellis, who died after Laney got married and became a Jenkins. She is referred to as “Lany Genkens.” Obviously the spelling is a little off there.

The will is dated January 28, 1851, and recorded in Wilkes County. According to this document, Willis left his sons Thomas and Carter Ellis, and daughter Lany Genkens one dollar each, so they probably received their part of the estate before his death. Nothing is mentioned about his other children. Could be that Thomas, Carter and Laney were the only ones who’d gotten married and left home.

The Jenkins of Morgan County, Kentucky

I didn't know Betsey's family moved to Morgan County when I wrote the first draft of the book.  I only knew they were from North Carolina.  Then I read online where researchers on several Wilkes County forums posted that Solomon and Laney came to Morgan County from Wilkes County between 1846 and 1849 and remained in Morgan County until they died.

The Jenkins family is first mentioned in the 1850 Census for Morgan County, just like the Deans, and of course Betsey is living with Pleasant Martin's family on that census, next door to the Deans, and 10 years later on the 1860 census living with the Deans, as covered in an earlier chapter.  Or as they say, the rest is history.  And in this case it really is.

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