Some ramblings of a writer/genealogist/former snowbird who's in love with the American West (past and present). Exploring the past via my own families is my pastime and passion.
By Myra Vanderpool Gormley℠
Certified Genealogist by the Board for Certification of Genealogists, 1987-2012, retired 2012.
24 March 2014
#12--52 Ancestors: Nancy Pruitt Hensley
#12 52 Ancestors
Nancy Catherine Pruitt Hensley (ca 1850-1871)
Cats are not the only creatures consumed by
curiosity. We genealogists often find our inquisitiveness leading us down
strange winding paths in the endless quest to learn more about an ancestor. How
else can I explain why I spent more hours than I care to confess trying to
determine how and why one of my Georgia-born ancestors wound up in a dugout near
a river on the Kansas prairie?
The latest search didn’t begin that way. I began looking
again for the burial place of my grandmother’s favorite brother. He died in
Indian Territory — of snake bite — if memory of the story grandmother told me
is accurate. I narrowed the time frame to 1894-1900 and the locality to the
Muscogee (Creek) Nation. I checked old notes and files and re-examined the
cemetery records where the rest of the family was buried. Nothing.
Perhaps he went back to Alabama or Georgia (where
his parents and grandparents had lived prior to family’s removal to Indian
Territory) and died back there. And, so began the backward tracking that took
me to a dugout in Kansas and then to Alabama and finally back to where I had
Lee R. Hensley (also rendered as R. Lee) was the
older half-brother of my grandmother and she adored him — even named her first-born
for him. They had the same father, but Lee’s mother died between 1869 (birth of
her second son, William) and 1872 — the date of his father’s second marriage.
Because Lee’s father’s name [Marion] was misread in
the 1870 census, it took dogged determination to find them. Francis Marion
Hensley [called Marion] and Nancy Catherine Pruitt were from Cherokee County,
Georgia. They had married there soon after the Civil War. She was only about 16
years old. I had no reason to look for them in Kansas in 1870, but that’s where
they show up. I found them near her Pruitt family, and his sister, Minerva
Hensley, and her husband, William John Evans. What were those Georgians doing
in Lincoln County, Kansas?
Thank goodness for other family historians who
are willing to share. An online tree led me to some oral histories of this
Pruitt family, which say that Samuel Pruitt and his wife Elizabeth (Merk) left
Cherokee County, Georgia, in the spring of 1870 with other fellow Georgians and
travelled by train to Kansas. That must have been some trip —
from Georgia to
Tennessee and then to Missouri and finally to Kansas.
“Sam Pruitt, like many other Southerners of the post-Civil War
period, probably found life uncertain and hard. Thus, when promoters came to
northern Georgia singing the praises of new farm lands in Kansas, many people
including the Samuel J. Pruitt family decided to migrate. Enough people were
involved so that an emigrant train was formed . . . After traveling by train
from Georgia to Kansas, a trip of many days, they probably disembarked at the
town of Solomon, Kansas, then called Solomon City. The railroad continued on
west to Colorado, but there were no branch lines northwest to Lindsey or
Minneapolis in Ottawa County, Kansas. There was a stage that ran from Solomon
to Beloit and made an overnight stop at Lindsey. This could have been the
family’s mode of transportation, but more likely Sam purchased a wagon and
team, loaded their possessions and made their way along the Solomon River to
Lindsey with other emigrants,” according to one Pruitt family story.
“When the Samuel J. Pruitt family moved to Kansas in 1870, Nancy Hensley, their
married daughter, her husband [Francis Marion Hensley], and their two children
accompanied them. The Pruitts lived in a dugout on the banks of the Solomon
River. In 1870 this must have been near the town of Lindsey in Concord
Township. Since most settlers lived in dugouts it is probable that the Hensleys
did, too. Sometime after the families settled in Ottawa County, Nancy and one of
her children [William, born in 1869] died of a fever. After Nancy's death her
husband, Francis Marion Hensley, and the other son [Lee] disappeared.”
of the story says that “Nancy and Francis Hensley had two boys, R. Lee and William. Nancy
and the younger boy died of typhoid shortly after settling in Kansas. Francis
took the remaining boy and left without ever saying ‘Goodbye’ to anyone.
Where the Pruitt’s oral family history
ends, mine takes up — thanks to my grandmother, the half-sister of Lee Hensley.
Francis Marion Hensley and his sister, Minerva Hensley Evans, and her family left
Kansas and went to Etowah County, Alabama where their parents and some of their
brothers had moved to from their Cherokee County, Georgia home. If Francis Marion
Hensley left Kansas without saying “goodbye” to his in-laws, it was not
mentioned in our family tales.
In Alabama Francis Marion Hensley met
the dark and feisty Araminta Awtrey. They married, over her parents’ objections
(because he had been married previously and already had a son). Why this was an
obstacle was never clear to me, but regardless, they married on 31 March 1872
in Saint Clair County, Alabama and spent 51 years together. In 1894 they and
several of Francis Marion Hensley’s brothers made another long trip. This time
to Indian Territory, bringing my grandmother and her beloved half-brother, Lee.
I still haven’t found Lee Hensley’s
final resting place. However, now I know when, why and how his parents went to
Kansas. If I follow enough of these cookie crumb trails maybe I’ll find it