Cumberland Plateau

Mary (Hull) Beaty Pays Unbearable Price During Civil War

-flagsIn the modern era, starting over in one’s 50s usually mean reinventing or redefining a career — or maybe working through a mid-life crisis  — but for Mary (Hull) Beaty, my grandmother from the Civil War era, it was about rebuilding her life after the death of several family members.

When the War of 1861 — as it is called on government documents from the late 1860s — broke out, Mary Beaty, who went by Polly, had no way of knowing the high price she was about to pay.  By the time it was over, it would cost her two sons Andrew Jackson (AJ) and Thomas as well as her son-in-law Andrew Owens and shortly after the War ended, her husband Alexander and an infant grandchild, would also be dead.

The War, and the death of her family members especially her third oldest son Thomas, left Mary destitute and dependent on the charity of others to subsist.

Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

As Unionists, Mary and her family had the misfortune of living in northern Tennessee when the War began. This created a deadly situation after the State joined the Confederacy. In the borderland region of the Cumberland Plateau, it essentially put a target on the backs of the Beatys and other Unionists. Gangs, vigilantes and former neighbors turned on each other in what would become one of the bloodiest regions of the conflict. The only other portion of the country where a comparable level of violence and brutality existed was the Missouri-Kansas border.

In these two regions the War became very personal and acts of War were often thinly-veiled murderous acts of revenge and retribution. It was, in a very real sense, a return to the Biblical concept of an ‘eye for an eye.’ Due to the unconventional manner in which the War was fought in the borderland, civilians were subject to attack. These civilians were often women, children or the aged, left to fend for themselves after the males entered military service. Loyalists on both sides of the conflict utilized a ‘no-quarter’ approach to the War. Simply put, if you were captured, you were killed. And some of the murders were grisly, from beheadings to tortured deaths, carried out in front of pleading family members.

But before the War intensified to that level, there was an exit from the region and it is possible that Mary, Alexander and the younger children left. My grandfather’s (Rob Beaty) grandfather, James Knox Polk — later known as Big Jim — would have been about 12 or 13 when all of this was unfolding. Whether or not they left Tennessee is difficult to prove. But in a letter written by Mary’s nephew, Morgan Hull about six months before Morgan and Mary’s sons became POWs in 1863, Morgan notes that Jonathan’s family is in Kentucky (pdf). However this could mean Jonathan’s wife and son.

If the Beatys did move north to Kentucky, it was a matter of practicality and not cowardice as Mary’s husband Alexander, 17 years her senior, crippled by arthritis and closing in on 70, would have most likely found it difficult to protect his family. If they left the area, they probably went to Adair County (Kentucky) to join other Unionists from northern Tennessee. If Alexander and Mary stayed on their homestead, they were undoubtedly protected by Unionist Tinker Dave Beaty.

What is known for certain, is three of Mary’s sons and one son-in-law (Julia Ann’s husband Andrew Owens) enlisted in the Union Army and were mustered in at Somerset, Kentucky on Sept. 28, 1861. They became members of Company B 2nd Regiment of the Tennessee Volunteers. This regiment would see action at Mills Spring and pursue CSA John Hunt Morgan into Ohio before nearly 500 members of Company B were captured near Rogersville, TN in 1863. (Click here to see how they were treated. You can also read John Ransom’s Andersonville Diarya first person account of the ordeal.)

No Stranger To Hard Work

Based on pension records, even before the War broke out Mary was no stranger to a hard life. At the time of Alexander’s death in 1867, a doctor’s affidavit stated Alexander had suffered with ‘crippling’ arthritis for at least 25 years. This meant, Mary and the children tended the farm. But as the children aged, most of this work fell on her third-oldest son, Thomas.

In the 1868 Mother’s Pension application Mary filed, we uncover two facts about Thomas. First the application reaffirms that Thomas financially supported his mother (she states he gave her $10 per month). The application also means Thomas was unmarried and had no children. If he were married or had surviving children, his mother could not receive a pension based on his military service.

Pension Application

Reading the application, you get a sense of how much Mary needs the pension to survive. She is now 56 years old, her husband has been dead for about a year and she has no source of income. It appears she has not had any significant source of money for nearly five years. The only money she brings in is from sewing or knitting jobs. Thomas began financially supported her in 1855 and continued until his capture in 1863. Besides money, Thomas was also supplying labor. He had also been planting and harvesting the crops (oats, wheat and corn) on her 28-acre  farm.

The $8 per month pension was approved.

Death of Her Sons

Although it is difficult to know when Mary learned of her sons’ deaths, the first son to die is her oldest, Andrew Jackson. He dies on Feb. 15, 1864, on Belles Island, roughly three months after being captured. He was about 32. Thomas lasts a few months longer, passing away on May 16 around the age of 28, in the Andersonville, Ga. prison. Their brother-in-law Andrew Owens dies less than a month later on June 9th in Andersonville. He was about 28 years old.


Andrew Jackson is survived by his wife, Jane. They had been wed nearly a decade — married on Christmas eve in 1854. Andrew Jackson also left behind two sons, John A., born April 26, 1861 and James, born on Dec. 8, 1863 — a month after his capture. This younger son, though, dies in 1865. One would presume Andrew Jackson never saw this son.

About two year’s after Andrew Jackson’s death,  his widow, Jane, remarries. She is 28 or 29 when she wed William Gunter on July 18, 1866. After’s Andrew’s Owens’ death, July married Creed Garrett.

Life Before The War

In 1860, a year before the War broke out, the Beatys were living in Fentress County. The oldest son, Andrew Jackson, has his own place. According to the Census report, Andrew Jackson, 29, and his wife Jane, 25, have an infant son, John. The report lists Kentucky as Andrew Jackson’s birthplace. Find a Grave lists it as Clinton County, Ky. which should be correct since his father, Alexander, owned land in Clinton County.

1850 Census Records

Just 10 years before the War, Mary and her family are living in Overton County, TN. She is listed as 40 years old (she may be slightly younger since she appears to be born in 1811 or 1812 (North Carolina)). Her husband was 57. The household consisted of the couple’s three teenage children:

  • 17-year-old Jonathan
  • 15-year-old Thomas
  • 13 year-old Rachel

And the younger children:

  • 10-year-old July — or Julie Ann
  • 8-year-old John T.
  • 4-year-old James Knox Polk (my grandfather’s grandfather)
  • 2-year-old Lewis

The only one not listed in her household is her oldest son Andrew Jackson., who, at 19, is one his own.

The Final Decade

According to the 1870 Overton County Census, Mary Beaty’s household consists of Mary, her oldest daughter Rachel, 31, and her youngest son, Lewis C., 19. The son that is in my direct line, James Knox Polk Beaty (Big Jim) and his wife Elizabeth (Garrett) Beaty — both 23, also live in Overton County. Their son John is two months olds.

Both households list farming as their occupation.

In 1881, Mary passes away. According to she is buried in Allardt Cemetery in Fentress County, TN.


Since there are a lot of names and dates in this post, here’s a barebones timeline:

  • 1850s: All of the Alexander and Mary Beaty family, except Andrew Jackson, are living under one roof in Overton County. At 19, Andrew Jackson is on his own.
  • 1860s: Two households still exists, but now everyone is in Fentress County. Alexander and Mary’s with all of the children at home except Andrew Jackson. Andrew Jackson’s household includes his wife Jane (Ragan/Reagan) and infant son John.
  • 1861: War breaks out. Tennessee secedes from the Union. Near the end of September, Mary’s three oldest sons — Andrew Jackson, Jonathan and Thomas, as well as her son-in-law, Andrew Owens (July’s husband), enlist to serve with Company B.
  • 1863: A little more than two  years after enlisting, at least three of the four men are captured by the CSA (uncertain if Jonathan is captured).
  • 1864: Two sons, Andrew Jackson and Thomas, as well as son-in-law, Andrew Owens, die as POWs.
  • 1865: Early in the year, Mary’s grandson — Andrew Jackson’s infant boy (James) — dies.
  • 1866: Andrew Jackson’s widow remarries.
  • 1867: Mary’s husband, Alexander dies.
  • 1868: Near the end of the year, October through December, Mary applies for — and receives — a military pension based on Thomas’ years of service.
  • 1870: Mary Beaty — and my direct forefather, James, are living in Overton County in separate households. Mary’s household consists of her oldest daughter and her youngest son. The household of James Knox Polk and Elizabeth includes a child.
  • 1880: James, now known as Big Jim, and Elizabeth live in Fentress County.
  • 1881: Mary Beaty dies.

Mary Hull Beaty’s Family Tree

Based on the research conducted by Jack Masters and presented in his book Smith, Bowers, Hull & Beaty Family History, Mary’s lineage looks like this (just the males are included in the chart I am referencing — found on page 12 of the book):

  • Joseph Hull born in England, 1596
    • Samuel Hull, born in New Jersey, 1649
      • Samuel Hull, born in New Jersey, 1678
        • Samuel Hull born in New Jersey, 1703
          • Moses Hull, born in New Jersey, 1729
            • Moses Hull, born in New Jersey, about 1751
              • Josephus Hull, born in North Carolina about 1772
                • Mary (Polly) Hull

The Rest of The Story (I feel like someone else used that phrase)

This is the year of death for Mary’s children:

  • AJ (Virginia) and Thomas (Georgia) die in 1864.
  • Jonathan dies in 1907 in Fentress County.
  • July died in 1912.
  • My grandfather of the era, Big Jim, passed away in 1920.
  • Louis, the youngest, dies in 1916.
  • Uncertain when Rachel and John died.

Cordell Hull Connection?

Mary (Polly) is the daughter of Moses Hull and Elizabeth Crockett and is possibly a relative of Cordell Hull since he was born in Olympus, TN. Cordell was instrumental in the creation of the United Nations and is the longest serving Secretary of State in U.S. history. On her Civil War Widow Pension application, Mary lists Olympus, TN as her mailing address. Since Cordell was one of five sons, Mary can’t be a sibling, but it is possible they were cousins. At some point I intend to research the connection, if there is one.

Categories: American History, Appalachia, Civil War History, Cumberland Plateau, Family History, Genealogy | Tags: , , ,

Backcountry Folks And The Colony’s Views On Sex, Money And Recreation

albions-seedNote: This is the last of the four entries about Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America by David Hackett Fischer. If you have not read his book, and are interested in the American Colonial Era, I highly recommend it. Click here to access all the posts in this series.

In this post, I’ll examine the same three folkways I did with the other colonies: Sex, Recreation and Money. In the book, Fischer examines about 20-25 folkways for each colony.

The last group highlighted in Albion’s Seed are also the late arrivers — coming to North America from 1717 to 1774. This group of immigrants, generally referred to as Scott-Irish, actually originated in the border region of northwest England.

They landed mostly in the Quaker Colony of present-day Pennsylvania, but in a rare twist of events, the Quakers, who had created the most religious and ethnically diverse settlement in North America at that time, did not want them and encouraged the settlers to head to the backcountry.

So, they ended up in present-day Appalachia.

Let’s look at how their beliefs on the Big 3: Sex, Money and Fun compared to the other three colonies.

Money. One persistent image of settlers in the Backcountry Colony is that of the rugged individualist living off their own piece of land. The reality, though, then — and now — is much starker.

In the 18th century as many as one-third to one-half of the taxable white males in the region owned no land. It was not any better a century later. According to Census reports from 1850 and 1860, in a sample of eight Tennessee counties, the wealthiest 20 percent of the region owned 82 percent of the improved land and 99 percent of the slaves. In 1983, the top 1 percent of land owners possessed nearly half of the land in Appalachia. The top 5 percent owned nearly two-thirds.

Fischer notes,

This pattern of wealth distribution in the southern highlands in the twentieth century was much like that which existed two hundred years earlier.

However, Fischer does note, one of the counties in Kentucky that had a more equal distribution of land was Cumberland County. Both the Beatys (my maternal line), and the Claywells lived in Cumberland County. The Claywells originated in the Virginia Colony. The Beatys were members of the Backcountry Colony. (They also fought in a decisive Revolutionary War Battle).

Recreation. Because of the conflict that existed in the Border regions of England (where these immigrants originally lived) many of the games and sporting activities transported here were contests of ‘courage, strength and violence.’ Some of the games have fallen out of vogue, but some, like wrestling lives on. Two types of wrestling existed. One was a regulated bout — similar to tournaments held today in high schools. The other type was a no holds barred free-style where everything was legal. These bouts only ended when the opponent ‘gave up.’

Other popular recreational activities imported from England included running, jumping, leaping, and axe or spear throwing contests. Of course, many of these activities laid the foundation for modern Track and Field events. One of the Backcountry Colony’s most famous sons, President Andrew Jackson, was known in his youth for his exceptional running and leaping skills.

But, not all the recreation in the Backcountry was imported from the Mother Land. A case in point is sharpshooting. Since bullets tended to be a valuable commodity, back settlers become highly skilled at hitting distant marks, often using a tree or other support to steady their gun. In the 20th century, one of the region’s most famous sharpshooters was WWI hero Alvin C. York.

Sex. Although the Puritans were very comfortable discussing sex, these conversations did not come close to the familiarity that the backcountry colony had with the subject. Sex was discussed openly and one’s beauty was often, contrary to customs in other parts of North America, put on display. In the late 1700s, Anglican Church missionary Charles Woodmason commented,

The young women have the most uncommon practice, which I cannot break them of. They draw their shift as tight as possible round their breasts, and slender waists and draw their Petticoat close to their hips to show the fineness of their limbs… indeed nakedness is not censurable or indecent here.

The sexual mores of the newly inhabited region were also different from the other three colonies in another area.

In 1767, Woodmason determined that 94 percent of the brides, whose weddings he had officiated, were pregnant. He attributed this number to two factors: the lack of clergy in the region and love feasts. Love feasts, celebrated at night, included significant amounts of alcohol, and often ended with unwed couples in bed, according to Woodmason. But these prenuptial pregnancy were handled differently than in the other three colonies. In the other colonies, formal prosecutions for fornication were usually launched — and one or both of the guilty parties punished.

In the backcountry, prenuptial pregnancy was not viewed as a legal issue.

220px-Andrew_JacksonAs highlighted in Killings — Folk Justice in the Upper South, one of values of the region centers on a unique approach to justice. Carried from the border land regions of England, justice was meted out under a simple rule of retaliation. The principle could be boiled down to this:

A good man must seek to do right in the world, but when wrong is done to him he must punish the wrongdoer himself by an act of retribution that restores order and justice to the world.

According to Fischer, a young Andrew Jackson was told by his mother to “never tell a lie, nor take what is not your own, nor sue anyone for slander, assault and battery. Always settle them cases yourself.”

Apparently Jackson took her advise to heart because he is the only United State’s President to have killed a man in a duel. The duel was fought over an insult levied at Jackson’s wife, Rachel.

Categories: American History, Appalachia, Colonial Era, Colonial Period, Cumberland Plateau, Family History | Tags:

Jesse Claywell Serves In War With Future Presidents

Jesse Claywell War of 1812

Click on image to enlarge and read notes on Jesse’s War of 1812 service record.

One of the neatest aspects of tracing a family tree back into the 1800s or earlier, is the odds of being associated with a famous American increases. Shadrach Claywell’s oldest son, Jesse, is a classic example of this phenomenon because of his Black Hawk War service.

Shadrach landed in Kentucky in 1806 and, like many other soldiers, Shadrach came to claim the land given to him in exchange for his Revolutionary War service. Shadrach definitely seems to fit the frontiersman stereotype since he lived out the last part of his life on the edge of civilization.

It is a trait carried on by several children, including Jesse.

Physical Attributes and Marriages

Although photography was invented in 1839, it did not take off until the Civil War era, so most images in Jesse’s lifetime were commissioned paintings — which, of course, were limited to the wealthier elements of society. But in the case of Jesse, we do get a glimpse of what he looked like since his second wife, Percy (Reed) Claywell, was asked to described how Jesse looked when he enter the military during the War of 1812.

Percy describes Jesse as “farming, England, 6′ 3″, light hair, blue eyes, fair complexion.”

Heading Home, Then West

After his discharge from the War of 1812, Jesse moved back to Cumberland County living “near Bear Creek” for about two years, before moving west near present-day Springfield, Ill. While in Cumberland County, Jesse married Hannah Humprey, but little is known about her except that she died in Alabama. After her death, Jesse married Percy Reed, also of Cumberland County, on August 12, 1822 in Cumberland County.

Within seven years, Jesse moved to Illinois and stayed there until he died in 1852, about five miles from Springfield, at the age of 62 (Census documents put his age at 69). At the time of Jesse’s death, Percy, was 45.

When Jesse moved to Illinois it was the current frontier of the United States and Native Americans villages were interspersed among the white settlements.

Military Service

Jesse served in three wars during his life: The War of 1812, The 1827 Winnebago Indian War and the 1832 Black Hawk War. The years he served, though, are sketchy at times, because some of his records were lost. What is known is Jesse enlisted at Burkeville, Ky. during the War of 1812 at the age of 17/18 and he was discharged in New Orleans on September 12, 1813. During this enlistment period he joined as a private and was honorably discharged in New Orleans with the rank of corporal. He served in both the light artillery unit (under Lieutenant Samuel Price) and in the heavy artillery unit.

In the two Indians Wars he served between 30 and 90 days.

The term war seems a bit of a stretch for the first conflict, The Winnebago War, since it basically centered around the murder of two families of white settlers. After the first family was murdered six members of the Winnebago tribe were accused, but four were later released. When the U.S. Army decided to transport the remaining two men, rumor spread among the Winnebago tribe that the men were tortured and murdered. The Winnebago went on the offensive and killed another family of white settlers.

In the Black Hawk War, Jesse served as Captain (under Col. James Collins) while a much more well-known American — Abraham Lincoln — served as a private in another company. Other famous Americans to fight in this war were future president Zachary Taylor, future CSA president Jefferson Davis and renown minister Peter Cartwright. Jesse and those that served under him appear to be from present day Logan County — northeast of Springfield.

The Black Hawk War ended in a brutal massacre on the banks of the Mississippi after U.S. soldiers and militia rejected the white flag of surrender from the Native Americans. Soldiers proceeded to shoot the aged, women, children and starving warriors as the Indians attempted to swim or boat across the river. The U.S. also shot cannons from a river boat in the massacre. The Native Americans were reduced from about 1,000 strong to less than 150.

Land Purchases

In a 1878 document filed by Percy Reed to obtain 160 acres of land granted to Jesse a couple years before his death (for his Black Hawk War service), it appears Jesse had never taken possession of his land. In 1878 Percy also applied for a widow’s pension based on Jesse military service stating, among other things, that she was destitute, blind and had no one to care for her. She received the $8 monthly pension until she died in 1880.

During the pension application process, neighbors testified that Percy had lived in the Springfield area — some said 20 years, others said 40 — but based on land purchases 40 years is the most accurate. In 1829, Jesse purchased 160 acres (for $1.25 an acre) in Sangamon County, Ill. He purchased an additional 40 acres in 1833 and 53 more acres in 1836.

The Great Mystery: Warren Claywell

In an earlier post I wrote about Warren Claywell, lynched in 1856 for horse stealing, while his mother and brothers helplessly stood by and watched. Warren is Jesse’s third oldest son. The mob forced a confession out of Warren’s older brother, Frank (by hanging him until he talked), who admitted they had stolen five horses from Free-Soilers (anti-slavery individuals) and pressed into service 22 horses. This — and the fact when the family leaves the Kansas Territory they head to Missouri (a slave state) — suggests that the family supported slavery since “pressing” is the act of confiscating a horse for an army or militia. Some of the Claywells did support slavery — Warren’s uncle John was a slave holder in Cumberland County as was his great-uncle Peter, a Methodist minister, in North Carolina (and several generations before them owned slaves).

One newspaper, though, goes so far as to say the only reason Warren was lynched was because he stole five horses from the Free-Soilers. (If you have never read anything about the Kansas Territory and the bloody battles and massacres that transpired, War to the Knife: Bleeding Kansas, 1854-1861, is a great place to start).

But, contradicting the theory that Warren and his family supported slavery is a 1878 document in which Percy notes she had five sons in the Union Army — which, of course, suggests the family was anti-slavery. They were:

  1. James L. Claywell, private, Missouri Volunteers
  2. Francis M. Claywell, private, Illinois Volunteers
  3. Benjamin F. Claywell, private, Illinois Volunteers
  4. Joseph Simon Claywell, private, Illinois Volunteers
  5. Thomas A. Claywell, private, Illinois Volunteers

So was the family pro-slave, anti-slave — or neither? Well, one other possibility is survival.

Horses were worth about four months wages and stolen ones sold on the black market for about half that much — so the family may have been simply trying to survive in a lawless territory. According to several sources, many of the settlers in the Kansas Territory were extremely poor. Since they are in Kansas and not Illinois, it’s possible the family lost their Sangamon County land and hoped for a new start by squatting on some land in the Kansas Territory. For me, these questions remain unanswered, but whatever the family’s political leanings were, they eventually move back to the Springfield area.

Date of Death And Birth

Although, I cannot find a gravestone or death announcement, most sources record Jesse’s death as March 27, 1852.  In a 1850 document (Jesse’s first attempt to obtain the 160 acres Black Hawk War land), it states Jesse turned 60 on Nov. 18, 1849. This would make his birth year 1789 which basically coincides (off by a year or two) with his sworn statement that he enlisted in the military in 1808 at the age of 18 (Percy said Jesse was 17).

1850 Census

In the Census taken before Jesse’s death we can glean the ages of his children:
(Notations: Left to right the columns are: name, age, gender, occupation, property value, place of birth and X for illiterate)

  • Claywell, Jesse 67 M Farmer 800 VA X
  • Claywell, Pencey 44 F NC X
  • Claywell, James 21 M Farmer IL X
  • Claywell, Frances 17 F IL X
  • Claywell, Warren 15 M IL X
  • Claywell, Benj. 14 M IL X
  • Claywell, Simeon 9 M IL X
  • Claywell, Thos. 6 M IL

Connection to Me

Jesse Claywell is the son of Shadrach Claywell and the brother of Shadrach Claywell Jr. Shadrach Jr. is my great-great-great-great-grandfather. If you use the cousin calculator, that would make Jesse my 4th Great Grand Uncle.

Jesse’s Lineage My Lineage
Shadrach Claywell Shadrach Claywell
Jesse Claywell Shadrach Claywell Jr.
John Anderson Claywell
Ed Claywell
Joe Lee Claywell
Charlie L. Claywell
Billy D. Claywell

Sources & References

Black Hawk War: There is just no way to concisely explain the Black Hawk War because it involves treachery on both sides, but the conflict can be traced back to a contested 1804 treaty. To understand the Native American side, the Autobiography of Black Hawk is a great place to start (it’s free) and the American side is explained in several works including, The Black Hawk War of 1832 (Campaigns and Commanders Series).

Jesse’s Military Service: The pension application filed by Percy and the 160-acre land grant filed by Jesse contain about 30-40 pages of documentation that paint a fairly well-rounded look at Jesse’s military service. But, it also offers clues into his family members, marriages and gives insight into where he lived. Fold3 has copies of the records and many libraries offer free access to the content with a valid library card. There are also several rosters listed online and in county history books written in the late 1800s (about Sangamon County Illinois) that discuss the various regiments and companies utilized in the Black Hawk War. However, most of these written histories only contain a paragraph or two about Jesse.

Land Purchases: All of Jesse’s land purchases can be viewed online at Illinois Public Domain Land Tract Sales Database by searching for Claywell Jesse (no comma between names), Claywell J or Claywell.

This is the first in a series of posts about Shadrach Claywell’s children. Jesse is his oldest.

Categories: American History, Cumberland Plateau, Family History, Genealogy | Tags: , , , , , , , ,