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Elijah Beard

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The parents of Elijah Beard

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NOTE: Many descendants of Elijah came forward to help with this history. Some of them were Frances Roberts; the children of William Lephly Beard, particularly Layne and Connie Beard; James Beard, William Lephly's grandson; Kent Nichols, great great grandson of Josiah Littleton; and Nannette Elizabeth Piggott Perry of Australia, widow of a great grandson of John Marshall Beard. If you contributed and we forgot to thank you, comment below and we will fix it!

Elijah Beard, born between 1798 and 1800 in Green County or Adair County, Kentucky, was one of the "three little boys" who were the last children of Samuel and Rebecca. He spent the early years of his childhood along the Green River in Kentucky, living amid many related families on the rolling hills of south Kentucky. In the 1810 to 1820 time period he moved into middle Tennessee with his parents and siblings and they lived in Maury County first, then in neighboring Bedford County not far from Shelbyville. Elijah then lived his entire adult life in Tennessee. Because he died at an early age in 1845, he is not listed on any census records after 1840. The 1850 census was the first one to provide any details about the listed families, including names of wives, children, and place of birth, and he died before that was recorded. When we examine the census records for Elijah's older children, we find that they list Kentucky as their father's place of birth. The younger children list Tennessee, as they apparently did not know the details of his history as well. In the 1820 census, Elijah was apparently living in his father's home in Bedford County, Tennessee, as Samuel Beard was listed with seven males in his household with him. Elijah would have been a single young man at this time. We do have an early record of him signing a petition for a bridge to be built across the Duck River in Bedford County in 1822, so he was of age by then, and by the 1830 census, he had married and was head of his own household in Bedford County. His elder brother Hugh Beard was nearby. About 1825, Elijah had married Martha Wilson Patton, the last of the nine children of John Patton and Mary Wilson of Bedford County. Martha's father John Patton was a Revolutionary War soldier, just as Elijah's father Samuel was, also. John Patton had come to Tennessee from North Carolina. Martha Patton was born in Wilson County, Tennessee 2 March 1800 and her family brought her to Bedford County, just two counties south, when she was very young. On the 1830 census, Elijah was between thirty and forty, Martha was between twenty and thirty, and they had two little boys and a girl, all under five years old. The girl must have died before the next census, for she is not listed in it or in future censuses. In 1840, the family appeared on the rolls of neighboring Lincoln County with Elijah now forty to fifty, Martha thirty to forty, two boys ten to fifteen, two boys five to ten, and three little girls under five.

Elijah and Martha would eventually have a total of five sons and four daughters at their table. Eight of these children would grow up to be a vigorous tribe of descendants, providing many early settler families of Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. When Elijah died in 1845, he left a large family fatherless but his wife, sons, and daughters managed to stick together and take care of each other through that challenge and then through Civil War and Reconstruction years. Because these many children married and successfully raised many children, Elijah and Martha's descendants would settle in many states of the union, and some are today living as far away as Australia! Several of the descendants have kept careful records of their family stories, and in this article we will include the overview of Elijah's children as well as his life story.

In the mid to late 1830s, Elijah's brothers all left middle Tennessee for other places. Their parents had died and this part of the country suffered a devastating series of disasters--large tornado damage, loss of infrastructure, a cholera epidemic, and economic downturns, to cite a few. His brothers Samuel, David, and William all went back up to Adair County, Kentucky. Elijah's older brother Hugh went south into Panola County, Mississippi along with some of the family of their older brother James, who apparently also died in Tennessee in the 1830s. Elijah stayed put in Tennessee. His wife was from an old and very large family in middle Tennessee and Martha and Elijah must have decided their roots were deep there. They were very involved with their church at Mount Harmon Baptist and Elijah served as the clerk of the church for several years. Descendants have copies of some minutes that Elijah penned himself, so his literacy is assured. One question that descendants have wondered is, why did Elijah not own land? His father and uncles were large landowners in every state in which they lived and owned lands in Bedford County. What happened to it? Tennessee courthouses, including Bedford County, have unfortunately burned several times since the 1830s, but we may be able to see some reasons for the dilution of land and/or wealth. The way many early pioneer families such as our Beards "grew" their wealth was to move further west, to lands newly offered for sale by the state government. The land was cheap in order to encourage settlement, so a sale of land in an established county at the going price would always buy many more acres of land in the new locale, which would then rapidly appreciate again. In middle Tennessee in the 1830s, however, at least three catastrophic events would certainly have affected Elijah's family. A general economic depression and slump in goods and prices took place. Terrible tornadoes decimated the entire area in 1833, wrecking many businesses and homes. Rebuilding after such devastation would have taken a very long time back then. On the heels of all this, waves of sickness came--cholera epidemics swept across the towns and villages, depressing trade, business, and the economy even more. Even if Samuel Beard's land and property was sold and divided after his death in 1834-1835, he had so many children, the portion for each could not have been large. Elijah may have taken his share of the proceeds but then had it wiped out by circumstances beyond his control. This may also be a reason that we see all the other sons leaving middle Tennessee at this time, looking for greener pastures.

One interesting detail of the family's early history is the fact that Joseph Patton Beard, the third son of Elijah and Martha, consistently reported on census records that he and his father Elijah were both born in Kentucky. It is certainly possible that his family was up in Kentucky on a visit to relatives--or even that they moved up to Kentucky for a short time--when Joseph was born in November of 1833. It is also interesting that the next child, Eliza Jane, was not born until 1837, and she was born in Tennessee. Possibly the whole family were living in Kentucky in late 1833 and had moved back to Tennessee by 1837. We do note that Samuel Beard himself was present in Adair County, Kentucky in 1833 when he sold some land to his nephew Hugh S. Beard.

In 1922, the State of Tennessee decided to make a record of the lives and thoughts of their living Civil War veterans. The ranks of these men were thinning, and a detailed questionaire full of probing questions was provided for them in order to learn about their lives before, during, and after the War. We are extremely fortunate that one of our own, Elijah's youngest son William David "Lane" Beard, took the time and effort to write thoughtfufl answers and observations to be passed along to future generation and made a part of our history. In his writing, Lane Beard said that his father Elijah was a blacksmith by trade and lived at Mount Harmon in Bedford County and also for a time lived south of Lewisburg in Marshall County. He shod steers, horses, and did general blacksmith work. He also farmed some. Martha Patton Beard wove and spun cotton, in addition to all the general house work. Her son said that in the daytime she would pick cotton for her spinning, which she did at night. As their grandson John Marshall Beard wrote in 1923, "It was then our mothers and sisters made and wore their homespun dresses and sunbonnets, and the fathers and sons donned their homemade jeans suits, brogan shoes and paper collars. Then cotton and wool cards, spinning wheels, warping bars, and looms were used in nearly every home, in order to manufacture the clothing the family wore....It was in those days that mothers were keepers of the home, whose counsel and advice was sought and recognized by their sons and daughters; when parental influence governed and not the frivolities of the world."

Lane Beard continued in his questionaire to give us a picture of life in the time of his childhood before the War. According to him, manual labor was considered "respectable and honorable in my neighborhood". He wrote that a renter did not have a chance to save much of anything. Slave holders were the only ones who could manage to make enough money to get ahead. Anyone could go to Nashville and enter (claim) land, but the trip to Nashville itself and the entry fees charged discouraged them and "for this reason poor people took leases and never did have anything ahead". The children, when not working in the fields, went to a log school building that was furnished with log slabs with legs for benches. It was about three miles to the nearest school, he tells us. In the Beards' neighborhood, there were the Collins school house, the Marshall Academy, and one other academy whose name is difficult to make out. School did not "run" more than three or four months of each year, and some of the children had to work and could not go often. They always had a male teacher. "I never did see a woman teacher when a boy."

Elijah was the son of a veteran of the Revolution, Lane confirms. "Grandfather Beard was a private soldier in Revolutionary War. Ireland is the country come from to this country. He left a gold ring with his wife when he left." We know from our research that the family originated centuries ago in Scotland, probably the Lowlands of Scotland, and were a part of the Scots migration to lands in northern Ireland during the plantation years there. A century later there was another migration from there to America. Lane Beard tells us that his father Elijah was not a landowner; he was a "renter all his life and died so". Elijah did not own any slaves. The living conditions were typical for this part of the country at this time: they lived in a log house with two rooms, with a "stick and dirt" chimney. The boys would work in the fields, with the younger ones pulling weeds. When Lane was nine, he was able to plow and "make a regular hand". They worked "many a day right among slaves and just the same kind of work as slaves."

The gold ring Lane mentions is interesting. We try to pinpoint a marriage date. We know that Samuel and Rebecca's eldest daughter Jane married in Green County, Tennessee in the year 1792. She must have been born in the mid 1770s. Samuel, we know, was born in 1754. By the mid 1770s he was serving long periods on the Virginia western frontiers with the Botetourt County militia, and in the early 1780s he was active with the volunteer militia serving in the Revolutionary War battles. When was this ring given? Was the ring an engagement ring or a wedding ring? Or a fine gift for his young wife? Did Samuel himself wear a gold ring and give it to Rebecca for safekeeping? We can only speculate!

After Elijah died in 1845, his five Beard sons had even more responsibilites to take on and help raise the children. John, the eldest, was about nineteen years old when his father died and his brother Josiah was seventeen. The other six children were all under thirteen. Every son seems to have taken his turn in helping to support their widowed mother and younger siblings. Every son also appears to have served the South in the War Between the States.

The eldest son, John B. Beard married Lucinda Welch in 1846. They lived next door to his widowed mother's home on the 1850 census in Marshall County, Tennessee. They had two small children. On the other side of them lived the family of H. B. (Harry Birch) Welch and Eliza Rambo Welch, Lucinda's parents. Martha's second son, Josiah Littleton Beard, lived in the home with his mother Martha with his new bride, Emmeline Patterson, whom he had married in February of 1850. Emmeline's parents, James M. Patterson Jr and Mary Reed Patterson lived a few doors away.

By 1860, Martha was living with her fourth son, Joseph and his wife Sarah Gant, who had married in 1855. Sarah was the daughter of another very old Tennessee family. Martha's sons John B. and Samuel both lived in Marshall County. John was listed as an overseer and his home was surrounded by very large plantations; he no doubt worked for one of the owners nearby. Josiah and Emmeline had packed up and moved to Texas in 1859 and were listed there in Lamar County. Her brothers Newton and George Patterson and their large families were there as well. Land was so much cheaper in Texas, rich land could be bought for under $5.00 an acres, and ambitious young and old were flocking there in covered wagons to settle. Martha was listed as a 54 year old widow and a seamstress. Her daughters Eliza, Mariba, and Matilda were also in the home with her and listed as seamstresses. Mariba would marry in just a few months to William Zachariah Gant, the cousin of Sarah Gant who married Joseph Patton Beard. William David "Lane" Beard, the youngest child, was eighteen and still at home with his mother and sisters. Samuel M. Beard, the third son of Elijah and Martha, married in 1854 to Margaret Patterson, daughter of Robert and Hannah Patterson, and he and Margaret were also living in Marshall County. Samuel was 29 and listed his occupation as a miller. They had three young children.

On the eve of Civil War, all Elijah and Martha's children and grandchildren were clustered in Marshall County with the exception of Josiah and Emmeline, who had just moved to Texas. War was coming quickly and the family would soon suffer the same terrible travails that beset most American families at this time. Josiah, Samuel, Joseph, and William David all served in the Confederate forces. They were with the 53rd Tennessee Infantry, Company B. No definite record is yet found for their brother John B. Beard. It is possible that he served as well, for in his questionaire, William David said that when he left for the War, his "mother and two sisters were left all alone without anyone to support them" and that seems to indicate that all the boys were off to the War. Mariba married in October 1860 to William Gant, so the two sisters left with their mother would have been Eliza Jane and Matilda. It is important to remember that when they left home, every soldier, north or south, thought that the War would be over in a matter of a few weeks or months. No one realized it would drag on for four long, bitter years.

Josiah, over in Texas, joined up with Company C of the 29th Texas Cavalry, along with relatives and friends from Lamar County, and spent his war on horseback.

The 53rd Tennessee Infantry was at the Battle at Fort Donelson in February of 1862 and were surrounded. They surrendered after days of siege by U. S. Grant. The men of this unit and 10,000 other Confederates were shipped off to prison camps--Camp Butler in Illinois, Camp Douglas in Chicago, Camp Chase in Ohio, and Camp Morton in Indianapolis. We know that Joseph Patton and William David Beard were in these prisons. It is almost a certainty that their brother Samuel was with them, as he served with them and all were surrendered. A prisoner exchange took place in the fall of 1862. They were taken on boats en masse down the Mississippi River to Vicksburg and released. Our Beard boys had been prisoners for seven months, according to Lane's accounts in 1923. We know from the family stories of Joseph Patton's descendants that he went home to take care of the family after the exchange. Samuel and William David rejoined their units and were soon active soldiers once again. Lane tells us that they went to Point Hudson, Louisiana (he called it Point Handson) and this would be about May of 1863. They were helping build breastworks for defense of the river. Their unit was called to rush to help defend Vicksburg and they marched, but that great city had already fallen when they arrived in July. They then joined the march to Jackson, Mississippi, pulling back from Vicksburg. By September they were at Mobile and Pensacola with General Zollicoffer of Tennessee, serving as a garrison to guard railroads to keep the Federals from cutting supply lines. Soon they were called to hurry back to Tennessee to join the Army of Tennessee near Chattanooga, at Missionary Ridge. This battle was also lost before they could get there, and they then joined the army in its march south to Dalton and Ringgold, Georgia. Lane describes wading the Chickamauga River and fighting battles from Missionary Ridge to Atlanta, where he says they "held good for two days" before they were overcome. In July 1864, Samuel M. Beard was killed in the Battle of Peachtree Creek in Atlanta. Lane said that he buried his brother there in Atlanta; most of the killed in this battle were buried where they fell by their fellows and marked with wooden crosses that soon disappeared. Today along Peachtree Creek there are a string of memorial parks dedicated to the fallen of this battle. Lane, obviously bereft at the loss of his brother, was also saddened at the loss of his colonel, James White of Giles County, Tennessee, whom he mentions in his account. With Atlanta in flames, a sad retreat was made south to Jonesboro, where the Battle of Jonesboro was fought, the last fight of the long Atlanta campaign. What remained of the 53rd then crossed Alabama and marched up toward Nashville with General John Bell Hood. By October 26 they were fighting in Decatur, Alabama, then in November in the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee, and into Nashville by December. Lane's unit moved into nearby Columbia, Tennessee for a skirmish there on December 20. He describes that on this "whole march, [we] waded through mud and water and had no rations". It was here in Columbia that he received a sick pass for home from Captain Jim Maury. Very ill with dysentery, Lane had a little over twenty miles to go to get home. He rode eight miles on a wagon, then he says he rode behind a cavalry man for four miles, and then walked the rest of the way home to Marshall County. It is no surprise that once home, he burned his uniform.

His war was over, but things were not going well at home, either. As he said, "All at home were on starvation". Things had not been easy before the War, but after it conditions were horrible. He wrote that he tried to begin farming right away, but he was still sick and had chills. The owner of the farm they rented, Tom Collins, had the eternal gratitude of Lane, for he said that Tom Collins "furnished the necessities of life" for the Beards. Even in 1923, over fifty five years after the fact, Lane remembered and made note of the kindness. Thomas Collins was born in Georgia in 1818 and raised there and in Giles County, Tennessee. He owned substantial amounts of land in Marshall County. His son William H. Collins was, like the Beard brothers, captured at Fort Donelson and sent to a northern prison camp--Camp Morton, Indiana, where he died in March 1862. The Collins family no doubt had great sympathy for what these young men had been through and helped where they could help. Ten years after the war ended, in 1875, Tom and Sarah Collins' other son Willis Paul Collins married Hannah Geneva Beard, the daughter of Samuel M. Beard, who also never came home from war.

Back in Texas, after he got home from the war, Josiah Littleton and Emmaline Beard decided to move again. They left Lamar County, Texas for Benton County, Arkansas in 1866.

By 1868, Lane Beard had recovered and was well enough to be farming and also to court Mary Ann McAdams. Mary Ann was the daughter of William McAdams and Lavinia McClain, old Marshall County families. She was the young widow of Robert H. Bagley, who may have also perished in the War. She had two small Bagley children when she married Lane Beard.

On the 1870 census, Martha Patton Beard lived with her youngest son Lane and his family in Marshall County. Her daughter Matilda was also listed in this household. Daughter Eliza Jane was not present on this census, and a marriage record is not found yet, but either death or marriage took her out of the Beard home. Daughter Mariba Adeline and husband William Gant lived in Marshall County with three children. Joseph Patton Beard and wife Sarah also lived in the county, as did Martha's eldest son John B. Beard. Soon after the census, however, both John and his wife Lucinda would die with pneumonia and leave their nine living sons and daughters without parents. Once again this Beard family would pitch in and take care of these children, and in a reprise of their history, the older children would take responsibility for the younger ones.

By 1880, several of John and Lucinda Beard's children had gone to settle in Benton County, Arkansas, close to their uncle, Josiah Littleton Beard and his wife Emmeline, who had moved there in 1866. Back in Marshall County, Tennessee, Martha Patton Beard was 73 years old and lived in son Lane's home. Her son Joseph Patton Beard and his family still lived close by.

Martha Wilson Patton Beard died 12 January 1888 in Marshall County, after a full life that saw much grief and despair, but doubtless much joy as well in such a large and active family. She was buried at Head Springs Cemetery in Lewisburg, Marshall County, Tennessee where her stone reads "M. W. Beard" with the dates. View her grave at this LINK.

The children and descendants of Elijah and Martha Wilson Patton Beard:

John B. Beard

Josiah Littleton Beard

Samuel M. Beard

Joseph Patton Beard

Eliza Jane Beard

Mariba Adeline Beard

Matilda E. Beard

William David Isaac Lane Beard

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