My 3rd great-grandfather, Thomas N. Bembry, was born on 26 January 1828 in Edgecombe County, North Carolina. His parents were Thomas Bembry and Martha “Patsy” Dicken. The “N” for his middle name may have been for Needham Bryan, his great-grandfather. Or, it could have been Nathan, for another great-grandfather, Nathan Harris.
Thomas N. is found on the 1830 census in his father’s household in Edgecombe County. His parents moved to Pulaski County Georgia, in 1831-1832. He is found again in their household in 1840 in the sixth district of Pulaski County.
Patsy died some time between 1843-1850. Around the same time, Thomas began to sell off various properties in neighboring Dooly County to pay debts. By 1850, he had remarried and moved most of his family down to Gadsden County, Florida.
Thomas N. stayed in Georgia, however, and on 10 February 1848, when he was 19 years old, he married Sarah Ann Simpson, who was no more than 15 at the time. The occasion was noted in a Dooly county newspaper:
Tuesday, March 8 1848
Married: on the 10th ultimo, by Lemuel Gresham, Esq., Mr. Thomas Bembry, of Dooly County, Ga., to Miss Sarah Ann Simpson, daughter of the widow Simpson, of Sumter County.
In 1850, Thomas is found living in his mother-in-law’s household in district 17 of Sumter County with Sarah Ann, their first son James, and six of Sarah Ann’s seven brothers. They may have moved out for a time shortly after this, because Thomas N. is listed as a property tax payer in default in district 17 in 1852.
By 1860, Thomas and Sarah were again living with Dolly Simpson in militia district 552 of Lowndes County, Georgia, near Clyattville. This is very close to the state line, which probably explains why Sarah Ann later stated that they had moved to Hamilton County, Florida, due south of Clyattville, in 1858.
Twelve people are found in the undoubtedly crowded household: Thomas, Sarah Ann, their first few children, James Henry, Laura J., John Thomas, and Julia Emma, Dolly Simpson and four of her sons, and an apparently unrelated seamstress named Polly Ragans. Thomas is listed as simply a “Laborer.”
We don’t know what Thomas and Sarah looked like, other than a brief description in Thomas’ military file in which he is described as 6’3″, with dark hair, blue eyes, and fair skin. But they may have looked like this Georgia sharecropper family from the 1930s.
Shortly afterwards, the Civil War began and everything changed.