She Haunts Me….

Susan Markham was born circa 1848 in Tennessee according to the 1880 census. It is the only record we have of her. According to that document she is living with her son-in-law, Jeff Davis Lannom and his wife, her fourteen year old daughter. She has one other daughter who is four.

Family legend is that the girls were both Markhams and Blaylocks. The father was Irish and they had a cousin named Jenny.  That is all we have to go on.

My mother interviewed Susan’s grand daughters in the 1960s since doctor’s thought my brother’s cerebral palsy could have been related to intermarriage of my father’s family and my mothers.  She was told stories of child sexual abuse and how Jennie Markham Lannom apparently told her daughters that “was just the way men were.”  We have already discussed the fact that Jennie’s husband was considered the meanest man in Rutherford County.  Was it marrying him at age 13, that gave her the view that men could take whatever they wanted from women and it was okay, or did she learn this from her mother?

As far as we know, Susan Markham was never married. The father of the girls or at least the youngest was Bill Blaylock. Little is known about him, except that he was supposedly Irish. If he was the father of both girls and he and Susan never married, they had an on going affair for over ten years.  In 1880, W. B. Blaylock was enumerated on the next page from Susan as married, age 44 and a farm laborer.  How or if he is related to William Blaylock, son of Charles and Rebecca Blaylock isn’t known.  It is possible that he is the same man.

By 1900, both of Susan’s daughters have married and have families in Wilson County, TN.  I have read the entire county numerous times and Susan simply is not there. My guess is that she passed away and is buried in an unmarked grave. Most likely that grave is in the Mullins Cemetery in Smyrna where her daughter, Jennie and son-in-law Jeff are buried in unmarked graves.  But that is purely speculation. She has no death certificate.  She could have married by 1900 and have a whole new name and family.

Since Susan was born circa 1848, she should show up on the 1850, 1860 and 1870 U. S. Population censuses.  Since Jenny (Virginia Caledonia) was born circa 1866, she should have been around four on the 1870 census. I have tracked every variation of Susan and Jenny I could find and every lead has proven to be someone else.  Susan did not own land as far as I know and family legend has it she never married. Nor has a marriage record been found for her.  I have spent many, many hours reading census pages by pages, to see if maybe she was misindexed. 

So why does this woman haunt me.  Because I want to know more about her and why her family’s views were created. I guess I’d like to exonerate her.  The things I had been told about her grand daughter Ola over the years turned out to not really be the case, and I’d like to find out the same about Susan.  Or maybe as a genealogist, she’s a frustrating brick wall, because there should be more records on her.  I’d also like to know what happened in the ten years between her two daughter’s births. Did she have more children that died?  Was she and Jenny struggling alone?  Did she have family around?

So then I let my creative mind go wild.  In my mind, Susan is a sweet 13 year old girl when the Civil War starts. Where others see death, and starvation and horror, Susan finds love.  But he is swept off to battle and she has to wait for him to come home.  She pines for him until the end of the war, when he doesn’t come home.  She then gets pregnant with her daughter Jenny and leaves home.  For a few years, the two travel from place to place looking for work. The reason we can’t find them in 1870, is they are mistakenly enumerated under her employer’s name.  Then she meets Bill Blaylock and is once again swept off her feet, but  he is married and so they have an affair.  The fact that a William Blaylock was arrested for lewdness in 1870 in Wilson County, makes me wonder how close this part is to the truth.  But when he finds out she is pregnant, as is usually the case, he refuses to marry her.  She allows her 13 year old daughter to marry Jeff Lannom because it will put a roof over their heads.  There, of course, reality sneaks in and the romance ends as we know that Jeff Lannom was not your romantic hero.  However, Jennie and he did live together until her death in 1928, so he must have not been too bad. What happens to Susan after that one snapshot of the 1880 census we will never know.  That is why she haunts me.

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3 thoughts on “She Haunts Me….

  1. What a sad story – I’ve got someone a bit like that in my family I really feel for – it was lovely to remember her in a post this way, after all she didn’t have much else…

  2. Yes, I wish I could find more. My guess is she lived a rough life. I would love to find more on her family. Hopefully prove myself wrong, but it was a hard time period for women to live in.

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