The Mysterious Widow Bembry

More deeds, more discoveries.

On January 8, 1841, Thomas Bembry sold 200 1/2 acres to Jeremiah B Smith. The land, Lot #123, was like most other Bembry property, in the part of Pulaski County, Georgia that was annexed from Dooly County. All pretty run of the mill, and then this caught my eye,

“…except the dowery of 66 acres of the widow Bembry for her lifetime now the wife of James Farnell.”

widowSay what? Who is this Mary Ann, widow of an unknown Bembry?

It was easy enough to find Mary Ann on the census as the wife of James Farnell. They married in Pulaski County in 1839 (she is listed on one record as “Mrs Mary Bembry” confirming that she was a widow at the time) and moved to Hamilton County, Florida by 1850, along with several other Bembrys and Simpsons

In 1852 she and James sold the 66 acres in Pulaski County. The “dowery” is clearly mentioned in this second deed as well, so it is definitely the same piece of property.

James Farnell and their young son, Augustus P Farnell, later served in the 5th Florida Infantry along with Thomas N Bembry and other relatives. All of this fits.

Mary Ann was a few years older than her husband, listing her birth date as 1805 in 1850 and 1810 in 1860. She states both times that she was born in Georgia. She is therefore in the same generation as the original four Bembry brothers, William Miles, John, Kenneth, and Thomas, all born between 1795 and 1805 in North Carolina.

Two brothers were out of the picture by 1839. However, William Miles’ widow, Marina Mayo, is well accounted for as an unmarried widow from 1840 onward. She definitely didn’t marry James Farnell. And John, who theoretically died before 1839, already had a wife, Maria Wiggins, who is listed as a widow on the 1840 census and as “Maria Bembry” in an 1843 sale notice. She didn’t marry James Farnell either.

That leaves Kenneth, who died in 1852, and Thomas who died some time after 1870. There simply were no other white (or free black) Bembry men of that generation. Kenneth had no sons, and all the other Bembry grandsons were far too young to have married this Mary Ann as far as I can tell. Yet there she is, living on her “dower” in 1841, surrounded by Bembry land.

(Just to complicate matters, Lot #123 is also mentioned in an earlier deed. Thomas sold it to his brother William Miles in 1837. Though the deed does not say so, I think he is probably selling it as administrator to his brother’s estate in 1841.)

Aha, you might say, what about Miles I? Maybe he had a younger second wife that he acquired after Nancy Ann Bryan passed away? It seems very unlikely that,

1.) a Georgia-born woman would have traveled east to marry him in North Carolina, or

2.) Miles would have up and moved to Pulaski County in his late sixties!

However, Miles did sell 730 acres of land, close to, if not all of, his holdings in Edgecombe County in 1834. A later Georgia court case states that he died in 1838, but it does not say where he died. Furthermore, I have never been able to find a will or estate sale for Miles in Edgecombe or neighboring counties in North Carolina, or any mention of him in court records after 1834.

So, however unlikely, I must now consider the possibility that old Miles pulled up stakes around 1834, moved to join his sons William and Thomas in Pulaski County, and married a local woman before passing away in 1838.

Now that would be an interesting twist.




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