Unsolved Mystery: Union ancestor Depew poignant last letter

Story

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Just running down Thomas Buchanan - he was reported sick in the January muster roll - which also fits with the letter. Here is a brief list of facts on him -

Born 1825 Tennessee
Married Letitia "Letty" Greene
Lived in Whitley County, Kentucky <- overlap in location?
5 children - Nathan, Judia, Lewis, Henry, Sarah Debby
So I ask myself, "why" would Buchanan's letter wind up in Depew hands? Where's the Venn Diagram overlap?

Googlefingered "Depew" and "Whitley County".

Depews did live in the county, but seem to be mostly post-war.
https://www.findagrave.com/memorial...=&datefilter=&orderby=&includeMaidenName=true
 

Kwms

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Story

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SE PA
Interesting, thank you. Pre-War, Depews were in Tennessee counties of Sullivan, Greene & Washington where Isaac as well as James Depew descendants lived.

Can you place any Depew in your family tree with Civil War service?
 

Story

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For anyone with a newspapers.com account, a useful Venn Diagram type search would be "Buchanan Depew" for KY papers 1850-1890.
 

lupaglupa

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For anyone with a newspapers.com account, a useful Venn Diagram type search would be "Buchanan Depew" for KY papers 1850-1890.
The cross may be lower too, a Buchanan daughter's daughter, for instance, so the name is not there for an obvious connection. We might could find it but we'd have to do all the lines down.
 
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Southwest Mississippi
(As @7th Mississippi Infantry recounted his family’s 35 year efforts because of typos & misunderstandings as to ranks and regiments and @Reconstructed Rebel noted the perils of deciphering the curly-cues in single digits and letters in company names.)
So true.

At times researching ancestors can be more than frustrating.

My Paternal family always settled within a few miles of each other. ( From Virginia down into the Deep South).

Without going into details ... (after the Revolution) ... some of my family were now living
in Spanish West Florida (Louisiana) while others were only one mile away in the new United States Mississippi Territory.

Also ... it seems every man during that era was named " John , William, or David".

:unsure:

During the WBTS, they all joined very different units with the same number. (9th Louisiana, 9th Mississippi ect.).
That's a danm nightmare when some folks are starting to research their relatives.

:stomp:

Given that the letter was transcribed, it's possible, I suppose, that the 7 was actually a 1. Or F was an E or some such mix up. They put a lot of curly-cues on letters and numbers back then....
So true again.

While I'm fortunate my Uncle's 7th Mississippi records are preserved on fold3 and in the state archives,
it took me a few hours to read all the records (those he had written as a company commander ...
along with his superior officer's orders).


Way too many curly-cues on letters and numbers indeed !

Seems a lot of students were taught semi-calligraphy back then.
 
Last edited:

R. Porter

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Just to muddy the waters a little more, there was a Marilda Buchanan, age 2, birth year about 1858, POB Kentucky, living in District 1, Pulaski, Kentucky, Somerset Post Office, listed on the 1860 Federal Census. Rilda, Relda, Esmarelda, and Marilda don’t appear to be particularly common first names on the 1850 or 1860 Federal Census. Based on some family trees, it appears that Mary (nickname Polly) Depew (b. 1798, Sullivan County, TN; d. 1835, Sullivan County, TN) daughter of Isaac Depew and Jane Jones, married George Rhea Cox (b. 1789, d. 1844) in 1814 in Hawkins, TN. Was the family bible the Depew family bible? Not having a copy of the original letter or any real provenance for the letter it becomes very difficult to associate it with certainty to an individual.
 

Kwms

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Just to muddy the waters a little more, there was a Marilda Buchanan, age 2, birth year about 1858, POB Kentucky, living in District 1, Pulaski, Kentucky, Somerset Post Office, listed on the 1860 Federal Census. Rilda, Relda, Esmarelda, and Marilda don’t appear to be particularly common first names on the 1850 or 1860 Federal Census. Based on some family trees, it appears that Mary (nickname Polly) Depew (b. 1798, Sullivan County, TN; d. 1835, Sullivan County, TN) daughter of Isaac Depew and Jane Jones, married George Rhea Cox (b. 1789, d. 1844) in 1814 in Hawkins, TN. Was the family bible the Depew family bible? Not having a copy of the original letter or any real provenance for the letter it becomes very difficult to associate it with certainty to an individual.
Thank you for the Marilda Buchanan census entry. True, not a common first name, and Relda could be her nickname to match the letter. She is tho not a “dear sister” (as mentioned in the letter) to anyone named Thomas Buchanan. But Marilda is a good clue for searching in place of my previous attempts at finding a Relda. Thank you for your suggestion.
While the Mary Depew you cite is my ancestor, and Mary is the grandmother of the woman whose Bible contained the letter (Maria Theresa Cox Williams), it’s true that we only know it was from “her Bible,” yet not whether it was Maria’s originally or whether it came from the Cox family or Depews (her father, Mabry Tucker Cox, the son of Mary Depew). Yet, why would she have this letter, if she were not a relative through the Depews. While Thomas Buchanan ( cited by @lupaglupa ) matches regiment, company, rank, location and death year, I’m still looking for a connection of Buchanan with Depew or Cox.
 

R. Porter

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When I read the line, "Pray for me and recollect a wife and little children that are mourning my absence…Deborah and Relda, dear sisters may God bless you." I took it to mean, essentially, Mother pray for me and my wife and children who miss me. My small children, Debora and Relda, who are sisters. That caused me to search for a Relda who was small at the time of the letter. In the process I tried Relda and Esmarelda, but Marilda showed up quite a bit more.

Holy cow! I just checked on the name Marilda Buchanan in Ancestry.com where I was looking last night and I found a different Marilda Buchanan who was 22 in the 1860 census, living in Pulaski, Kentucky, with her 20 year old sister, Debora Buchanan! So I guess that means that you interpreted the sentence correctly and those were the sisters of the letter writer. And, I suppose that's more weight for the identification of the letter writer as a Buchanan.

Name:Marilda Buchanan
Age:22
Birth Year:abt 1838
Gender:Female
Birth Place:Tennessee
Home in 1860:District 1, Pulaski, Kentucky
Post Office:Somerset
Dwelling Number:1546
Family Number:1491

 

Kwms

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Finding two sisters Deborah & Relda sure looked like it would match, but there is not a listing for the brother Thomas (the logical match suggested by @lupaglupa) in that household either in 1860 Census, 1850 nor 1840. Unless I’ve overlooked something.
 

R. Porter

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In 1860, Thomas Buchanan, born in 1825, was 35 years old and would have been married with a family of his own, as mentioned earlier in this discussion. And if we look, we find:



Name:​
Thos Buchanan
Age:​
34
Birth Year:​
abt 1826
Gender:​
Male
Birth Place:​
Tennessee
Home in 1860:​
Williamsburg, Whitley, Kentucky
Post Office:​
Williamsburg
Dwelling Number:​
327
Family Number:​
314
Occupation:​
F
Real Estate Value:​
400
Personal Estate Value:​
200
Attended School:​
3


Their oldest child, Nathanial Buchanan, is listed as 13 years old. This would suggest the likelihood that if the 1850 census was checked, Thomas would already be head of his own household since Nathanial would have been three years old. By checking the 1850 census we see:



Name:​
Thomas Buchannon
Gender:​
Male
Age:​
24
Birth Year:​
abt 1826
Birthplace:​
Tennessee
Home in 1850:​
District 2, Harlan, Kentucky, USA
Occupation:​
Farmer
Industry:​
Agriculture
Line Number:​
14
Dwelling Number:​
11
Family Number:​
11
Household MembersAge
Thomas Buchannon24
Lutitia Buchannon23
Barnett Green21
Nathan Buchannon2
Since Letitia’s maiden name was Green, we might guess that Barnett was her brother. So far everything seems to agree with the letter writer being Thomas Buchanan. Since the U.S. Census before 1850 only lists the head of household, earlier census listings will not help us attach Thomas Buchanan to the family with Deborah and Relda.



Looking at later census entries, we see that Letitia’s first name takes a beating:



U.S. Census of 1870:



Name:​
Lettice Buchan[Lettice Buchanan]
Age in 1870:​
43
Birth Date:​
abt 1827
Birthplace:​
Kentucky
Dwelling Number:​
32
Home in 1870:​
Martin Springs, Whitley, Kentucky
Race:​
White
Gender:​
Female
Post Office:​
Bark Camp Mills
Occupation:​
Keeping House
Personal Estate Value:​
200
Real Estate Value:​
400
Inferred Children:​
Lewis G BuchanHenry H Buchan
Household MembersAge
Lettice Buchan43
Lewis G Buchan16
Henry H Buchan9
Sarah L Buchan12






U.S. Census of 1880:



Name:​
Lutty Buchhanan
Age:​
52
Birth Date:​
Abt 1828
Birthplace:​
Kentucky
Home in 1880:​
Martins Springs, Whitley, Kentucky, USA
Dwelling Number:​
252
Race:​
White
Gender:​
Female
Relation to Head of House:​
Self (Head)
Marital Status:​
Widowed
Father's Birthplace:​
Kentucky
Mother's Birthplace:​
Kentucky
Occupation:​
Keeping House
Neighbors:​
View others on page
Household MembersAgeRelationship
Lutty Buchhanan52Self (Head)
Debby Buchhanan22Daughter
Henry Buchhanan19Son


U.S. Census of 1900:



Name:​
Lettie Buchanan[Pettie Buchanan]
Age:​
73
Birth Date:​
Nov 1826
Birthplace:​
Kentucky, USA
Home in 1900:​
Rockhold, Whitley, Kentucky
Sheet Number:​
12
Number of Dwelling in Order of Visitation:​
211
Family Number:​
211
Race:​
White
Gender:​
Female
Relation to Head of House:​
Mother in Law (Mother-in-law)
Marital Status:​
Widowed
Father's Birthplace:​
Kentucky, USA
Mother's Birthplace:​
Kentucky, USA
Mother: number of living children:​
6
Mother: How many children:​
6
Attended School:​
1
Neighbors:​
View others on page
Household MembersAgeRelationship
John S Farris46Head
Tillitera J Farris44Wife
Joe Farris22Son
James G Farris13Son
Lettie Buchanan73Mother in Law (Mother-in-law)

You might complain that we still don't have an iron-clad connection between Thomas Buchanan and the family with Deborah and Relda. Thomas Buchanan shows up in many genealogies on the Ancestry website but no one knows who his parents are. That connection will take a little more work, but if the letter's contents are accurate I think we can guess where this will go.

We don’t know the circumstances surrounding the transcription of the letter, so we can’t guess when or why the surname Depew was assigned to the author. The next step might be to see how the Depew family connected to the Buchanan family.
 
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