I look around my house at the photographs and see many of my children and ancestors, even myself. The one of me when I am a baby, hair as usual in my eyes. It’s a professional photograph, black and white. I look like the gerber baby. There are graduation shots, me with the kids with Santa, the Easter Bunny. Me holding babies, me with Dad as he is dying of cancer. Me and Hubby and the kids taken each Easter.
Then I think of the only snapshot if you will of Susan Markham. The 1880 census taker came to her home, not even her home, since she lived with my great greatgrandfather, her new son-in-law. He was not an easy man to live with, in fact, many have called him the meanest man in Rutherford County, so it couldn’t have been easy to have humbled herself to have lived with him and his wife, but she did.
But what does the snapshot show? A single mother, of two girls. One is 14, the other 4. She apparently has never married, as the eldest married under the same name she carried.
Who was this woman? Born circa 1842, was she raised as a southern belle? Did she have a black slave as a mammy growing up to care for her, or was her family poor share croppers? Why did she leave home when her first daughter was born instead of staying with family who would have loved and cared for her instead of taking to the road.
It is said that both girls had the same father, though I doubt that this was true, since they were nearly ten years apart in age. Though it could have been true. Jenny was born around 1863 (some records even say as late as 1866). Was her father a young beau who then left to fight the Civil War? Lockie was born in 1876. Had he finally returned and found Susan, realized she’d had his daughter and wanted to make amends? But why did he never marry her?
If family legend is to be believed, in 1880, he’s enumerated living alone just a few pages over on the census page. If my research is to be believed, it was his wife and kids that kept him from returning. I do believe Lockie was his daughter, but I don’t believe Jennie’s father will ever be found. I think Susan Markham took the parentage of that child with her to the grave. Sure there may have been women who gossiped about it during the 1870s who knew, but they ain’t talking now.
Nope, had Susan Markham not chosen to lived with her son-in-law on one faithful day in 1880, when a census taker was coming by to visit, we wouldn’t even know her name. In 1870, when Jennie should have been around 7 years old, I have never been able to find Susan and Jennie enumerated anywhere. And believe me I’ve looked. I believe they were living in a boarding house somewhere and were miss enumerated under the name of that family. But first I had to find them, then I’d have to prove it.
So all I have of Susan is one snapshot, taking on one early Spring day in 1880. She’s young, with her two young daughters. They have just started their new life with her new son-in-law and life probably looked hopeful. Unfortunately, for them, it wasn’t meant to be.