Friday, April 5, 2013

Great Grandfather John: The Deans of Orangeburg

Elisha Dean, 1827, Tennessee m. Betsey Jenkins, 1824, North Carolina
John T. Dean, about 1865, Orangeburg Kentucky

In 1865, Elisha and Betsey moved from Appalachian Morgan County to Orangeburg, the birthplace of my Great Grandfather John Dean.

In June 2012, we visited this tiny town in Mason County, Kentucky, on a mission to find gravestones of my Dean ancestors.  Unfortunately, all we found were neglected, ancient spots in a dense woods and a few broken, unreadable stones.

While this sign points the way, there was no cemetery.  Where it had been was a neglected wasteland.

Orangeburg is 62.7 miles from Cincinnati, traveling Highway 52 East.  Looking at the map, there seems to be no other way to get there, after taking exit #71 off I-275-E, going towards New Richmond.  After reaching Maysville, the county seat, it’s only seven miles to Orangeburg, coming in on Highway 10.  

Maysville, the Big City

Maysville and Aberdeen separated by the Ohio River.
Kentucky Digital Library

Maysville is a River town, and on the opposite bank lies Aberdeen, Ohio. Two different bridges now connect the two towns, but there was no bridge until 1931.  Before that Ferries ran across the river between Aberdeen and Maysville.

The move from Morgan County to Orangeburg

This really is a little town

The trip from Morgan County to Maysville is 72 miles, and then to Orangeburg another seven miles, over the Orangeburg Road.  In 1865, those miles stretched more than double they do now.   What we can drive in just a little over an hour, took at least a day by horse and buggy, or stagecoach.  I doubt any of the Deans walked to Orangeburg.

Courtesty of Northern Kentucky Views

The 1870 Census shows John at age five and his brother James age 18 and Mary age 16.  James is farming with his father, and Mary is “at home,” meaning she is not in school and probably sharing the domestic duties with her mother and helping to run the house.  Not many schools existed at this point in history, and Kentucky was one of the slowest states in getting public schools up and running.  Some of this was due to misuse of funds.  The government allocated the money, but it was always spent on what was considered more important at the time.

The earliest schools were actually tuition based, meaning only the privileged children were eligible.  The early free public schools were the one-room type with the wood stove in the middle of the room.  Most kids attended barefoot. Even as late as the 1940s, and some even up until 1960s in Appalachia, the one-room schoolhouses still operated.

The census shows Elisha’s birth date as 1821, which is six years earlier than first stated.  He and Betsey were ages 44 and 41 when John was born.

1870 United States Federal Census about Elisha Dean
Name: Elisha Dean
Age in 1870: 49
Birth Year: abt 1821
Birthplace: Tennessee
Home in 1870: Orangeburg, Mason, Kentucky
Race: White
Gender: Male
Post Office: Orangeburg
Name Age
Elisha Dean 49
Elizabeth Dean 46
James Dean 18
Mary Dean 16
John Dean 5

I wonder if my great grandfather as a little boy enjoyed the river and the boats coming and going, like most boys his age.

On the river near Maysville
Courtesy of North Kentucky Views

 I know hardly anything about my great grandfather, no family stories or facts.  I don’t remember Grandma ever saying anything about her father-in-law.

Was he a heavy drinker like his son, my grandfather Frank?  What kind of man was he?

I think I can answer that question in Chapter 7, at least as far as his character as a husband and father are concerned.

And then I wonder about Elisha, John’s father.  I like to think of Elisha as a decent guy.  I know he was a farmer, meaning he did not work in the coal mines like many Kentucky mountain men. I know a lot of farmers here in my little community in Tennessee, and they're well respected.

 I don’t think Elisha was a sharecropper because the family owned farm land in 1850, in Morgan County.

I guess, like so many farmers in that time period, Elisha was in search of better land.  A better place to make a home for his family.  First the family left Tennessee for Kentucky, and now he moves to another farm quite a distance away for those times.

I wonder if he bought land in Orangeburg and had to build a cabin on it, or if there was a dwelling already on the land.

I sure wish I had an ancestor still living who knew the answers to my questions, who could show me pictures of the people and places I write about.  But I have to simply use my imagination along with the facts I dig up.

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