Tuesday, February 9, 2016

My Civil War Ancestors: Furney Alfred Prevatte

I don't think anyone will be surprised that I'm not thrilled with certain contemporary trends, among them tattoos for everyone and idiosyncratic names for kids.  Don't let stereotypes fool you:  the trend of oddball names is not confined to any one racial group!  But as someone who is interested in genealogy, I am also annoyed by excessively conservative names.  It's not just that a search for a specific "George Richards" in America during the 1700s can be expected to return dozens, maybe hundreds of different individuals who may not be closely related, there is also the problem that the reuse of the same name within a family name can lead to all manner of confusion -- certainly for me, at any rate.  (I have a good example of the confusion extending to family folklore, but that does not pertain much to the branch I am dealing with today.)

This brings me to Furney Alfred Prevatte (30 June 1808 -- 28 May 1895), the father-in-law of James Wallace Conoley and the grandfather of William Furney Conoley.  He was a minister at the Baptist church in Raft Swamp Township; the church had been built on land donated by his brother James J. Prevatte.  So would the Confederacy want a clergyman in his early fifties to serve as a private?  Based on the case of John George Richards, who was 9 years older than Prevatte and a Methodist preacher (among other things), but who nevertheless served as a private, it is not entirely implausible; and indeed, the records show that Furney A. Prevatte was a private in Company D of the 18th North Carolina Infantry.

In this case, though, there is a much simpler explanation.  The Baptist preacher had a son who was born in 1842, and thus who would have been at the prime of his life for soldiering when he enlisted on May 18, 1861 -- and the son's name was also Furney Alfred Prevatte.  For some reason, the "Jr." (and "Sr.") seem not to have been carefully recorded before the 20th century, but surely it was only "Junior" who served in the war; there do not appear to be two different Furney Alfred Prevattes serving simultaneously, and the various biographies all mention "Junior's" military service, but none for "Senior".  

I cannot hope for a better description of the life of "Junior" than this, which comes from his second wife's obituary as it appeared in his local newspaper, The Robesonian
Of him it was written -- more than one time in long-ago issues of The Robesonian -- "He stood with Jackson at Chancellorsville, with Lee at Gettysburg." In a fight at Hanover Courthouse in Virginia, he was seriously wounded in the shoulder, and at the Battle of the Wilderness he was captured and taken to the federal prison at Elmira, N.Y. He was a prisoner there until Lee surrendered and became a trusted nurse in care of ill and dying Confederate soldiers. When the war ended in 1865, the then-young man returned to his home in the Saddletree area. Not only did he take an active part in veterans' affairs, serving in time as commander of the Willis Pope Camp, Confederate Veterans of Robeson County, but also he began to preach. Rev. Prevatte remained an active Baptist pastor throughout his life, following in the footsteps of his father, for whom he was named. It was said that he baptized Over 1,500 converts, married 500 couples and helped organize 16 churches in Robeson and adjoining counties. At the tune of his death on October 17, 1940, he was the oldest Confederate veteran in the county.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about "Junior" was his marriage to this second wife, the former Dora Moody.  The marriage took place in 1917, when he was a widower and nearly 75, and she was approaching 24.  In fact, "Junior" had officiated the marriage between Dora's father (another Baptist preacher) and mother.  That ... actually makes it a lot creepier, in my opinion.  If they had met as adults, it still would have been a startling age difference, but it seems that he, as a man in his fifties, must have known her as a little girl.  It would be interesting to know what she saw in him; Baptist preachers were not wealthy in 1917 North Carolina.  At any rate, she was fully an adult at the time of the marriage, and since her father officiated, apparently it met with family approval.

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