Tuesday, September 22, 2015

My Civil War Ancestors: Mason Covington Miller

Mason Covington Miller is simultaneously one of the most well-documented and one of the most mysterious of my ancestors.  He was born 12 March 1824 in Kershaw County, South Carolina.  He served as a private during the Mexican-American War, and his enlistment records give a physical description of him:  5' 8", with blue eyes, sandy hair, and a fair complexion.  He was a blacksmith, so he must have been strong, too.

During the Civil War he was in Company E of the 10th Georgia Infantry.  On 23 June 1864 he lost his right foot near Petersburg, VA.  After the war he received a pension from the state of Georgia for his sacrifice.  He died on 12 April 1903 and is buried in the Malachi Collins Cemetery

The controversy over Mason Covington Miller has nothing to do with his military service, though; instead it concerns his relationship with his first wife, Susan Ann Strickland (1828-1865), whom he married on 12 Jun 1853, as confirmed by Georgia marriage records.

The first question is, did Susan Ann Strickland have any children before her marriage to Mason Covington Miller?  The 1860 Census shows their household containing Bennet Miller (5), William Miller (3), Joseph Miller (2), Thomas Strickland (15), and John Strickland (11).  If the ages and dates are to be believed, Bennet Miller was born after the marriage.  However, the "consensus" of the family trees shows that James Bennett Miller was their son in October, 1849, though it is not at all clear how this date might be documented.  There is a James B. Miller who appears in the 1870 Census as a 23-year-old living alone in Gordon, GA -- the other end of the state, and a member submitted a photo of "James Bennett Miller (1849-1929)"; but there is also a Bennet Miller, age 56, living in Cairo, GA in the 1910 Census.  It seems likely that James Bennett Miller was confused with Bennet Miller, who was the legitimate son of Mason C. and Susan Miller. 

What about the two Strickland boys?  A rather salacious post suggests that 
Grandmother Susan Ann Strickling was the mother of three children when Mason Covington Miller married her in June of 1853. Their names were Lusenda, born 1840, Thomas born 1845, and John 1859.
Note that (1) there is no one with a name like "Lusenda" in the 1860 Census and (2) 1859 is later than 1853.  The salacious post continues, 
It looks like Susan was taken advantage of as you can see her first child was born when she was only twelve years old. Her second one five years later and the third four years later. Susan was a Strickling, the 1850 Ga. Census shows Susan living with Neal Strickland note the differance the was these names are spelled, Susan Ann was not related to Neal Strickland, her father was Rubin Strickling.
That depends, of course, on Lucinda Strickland being the daughter of Susan, as Thomas and John are taken to be her sons.  The 1850 Georgia Census shows that Neal Strickling was 45, compared to the 22 year old Susan Strickling, with a string of other young people continuing down, apparently (the list continues on another page, but no adults are listed with the next group), to John Strickling (2) and Thomas Strickling (6).  We have already seen a John Strickland and a Thomas Strickland of about that age, and remember that in Georgia both "Strickland" and "Strickling" are likely to be pronounced "Strickluhn", so these are almost certainly the same name.  The only reasonable conclusion is that Neal Strickland / Strickling was the father of both Susan Strickland / Strickling and that Thomas and John were her younger brothers.  It is actually not that unusual for younger siblings to live in the household of their older sister if their mother has already died; in fact, my own mother and father took in my uncle for exactly this reason when they got married.

What about the claim that Susan Strickland is the daughter of Reuben Strickland?  Note the following passage:
REFERENCE: [JEFFERSON] REUBEN STRICKLAND FAMILY BIBLE EXTRACTS furnished by Mrs. Long with the above mentioned Family Group Records. First bible contains c1812 entries (i.e., from 2 pages) that list REUBEN STRICKLAND's children: a. NEILL, FLORAH, SUSANNA, SAVAGE, DAVID, LEUCREASY, and MARY. Also in this c1828 bible was a loose page that records the birth of a BULINDA STRICKLAND (b. Nov 18, 1820) [parents not identified], the birth of a grandson JOHN CONNER (b. April 7, 1828), son of WILLIS CONNER and his DAUGHTER SUSANNA; and a second SUSANNA STRICKLAND (b. July 2, 1822)[parents not identified]. 
Both of these two women named "Susanna Strickland" are older than "Susan Ann Strickland", but it is easy to see how they could be confused.  This is almost certainly what happened.  Also, note that although the will of Reuben Strickland makes reference to his married daughter Lucretia, it makes no reference to either a Susan or Susanna.  Susan was certainly still living at the time of Reuben Strickland's death in 1859, but perhaps his daughter Susanna was not.  The tone of the will does not incline me to believe he was merely getting in one last snub at a disappointing daughter.
In the name of God, Amen. I, REUBEN STRICKLAND, of the said State and County, being of advanced age and knowing that I must shortly depart from this world, deem it right and proper, both as respects myself and family, that I shall make disposition of the property which a kind providence has blessed me. I, therefore, make this my LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT, hereby revoking and annulling all others heretofore made by me. 
Item, First, I desire and will that my body be buried in a decent and Christianlike manner, suitable to my circumstances and condition. My soul, I trust shall return to rest with God who gave it as I hope for eternal salvation through the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 
Item, Second, I desire and direct that all my just debts be paid without delay by my executors hereinafter named.
Item, Third, I give and devise to my beloved wife, Clara Strickland, all the effects of my Estate, both real and personal, during her widowhood, or natural life, and at the termination of her widowhood, or natural life, the property, whatever it may be, both real and personal, I desire and bequeath that it may be equally divided between my four children, viz: Matthew M. Strickland, Thomas J. Strickland, Greenberry Strickland and Lucretia Strickland (Mrs. Josiah Lewis Perritt). 
Item, Fourth, I constitute my two sons, viz: Thomas J. Strickland and Greenberry Strickland [should be Matthew Strickland] my executors to this, my LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT this February 17, 1859. His Reuben (X) Strickland (Signed) Mark Signed, sealed and published by Reuben Strickland as his Last Will and Testament in the presence of us the subscribers who subscribed our names hereto in the presence of said Testator and of each other, February 17, 1859.
Sorry if you were hoping for a shocking scandal.  Mason Covington Miller had three more wives after Susan Ann Miller died in 1865, which may or may not be shocking, but there seems to be nothing amiss with Susan's part of the story.

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