Tuesday, April 15, 2014

52 Ancestors: #15 Alfred Conley (1841 – 1932), Corporal in General Wilder's Lightning Brigade

This is my latest post for the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge initiated by Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small blog. For more information about the challenge and links to the other blogs participating in the challenge, please click on the badge in the right margin.

Climbing My Family Tree: Gravestone of Alfred & Sarah Conley, Louisville ILLinois
Picture from Findagrave.com, Illinois, Memorial #20741880
Click to make bigger
Alfred Conley, my 2nd great grand uncle, was born to Henry Conley (1810-18-78) and Sarah Cosner (1811-?), on April 23 1841. His younger sister, Amelia Ann Conley (1847-1915) was my 2nd great grandmother (she married John Erwin, 1841-1917). His other siblings were Solomon (1833-1875), James R. (1836 - ?), Tharsia C. (1837-1927), William A (1844-1915), Permelia A.  (1847 - ?) and George P. (1849-1869). His father was a farmer and owned 1000 acres when Alfred was nine years old.

Both of Alfred’s parents were born in North Carolina and came to Illinois through Indiana, where they had also lived for some years. Alfred’s two oldest brothers were born in Indiana. Aldred was born in Hoosier Township, Clay County, Illinois.

In 1860, Alfred was still living at home, as were all of his brothers, likely helping to work his father’s farm. The 1860 Census indicated that he had attended school within the year.  It also showed that the family employed a domestic servant, Nancy Jenkins to help with the chores around the house. There was probably a lot of cleaning to do as there three men and 2 boys in the household (I have three brothers, I remember how much mess a boy/young man can make) and this is before any of the modern conveniences that make housework easier.

A biographical sketch in the History of Wayne and Clay Counties, indicates that he was brought up on the old Conley homestead and attended He attended “the common schools and the Mitchell [Indiana] Seminary.”

Alfred fought for the union in the Civil War. He joined the 98th Illinois Infantry as a corporal, on July 26, 1862, when he was 21. He was 5’9”, with light hair and blue eyes. His complexion was dark. He told the recruiter he was single, and a farmer from Clay Co. Illinois. He was signed for a 3 year term by E P Turner in Clay County IL. He mustered in on September 3, 1862 at Camp Centralia in Illinois, and mustered out on June 27, 1865 in Nashville TN by Capt. Hosea. 

During his service Alfred was a member of the Gen. Wilder's Lightning Brigade (a revolutionary concept:  mounted infantry which used horses to get quickly from one point to another but fought dismounted, with the new Spencer repeating rifles - a deadly combination), and participated in the battles of Buzzard Roost, Chickamauga, all of the Atlanta campaign, and on Wilson’s raid through Alabama and Georgia, including the capture of Selma. He was present at Macon, Ga., when Jefferson Davis was brought in to the union headquarters, after another portion of the division captured him. [HERE  and HERE are excellent articles on General John Wilder's creation of the Lightning Brigade and his use of the the new Spencer Repeating Rifle, and on Wilder's life after the war. Interesting reads.]

Climbing My Family Tree: Member of General Wilder's Lightning Brigade
Unknown soldier, Member of General Wilder's Lightning Brigade
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Just over six months after he mustered out on the Army, Alfred married Mary Ann Toliver, who was born and raised in Lawrence County TN on December 28, 1865. He was 24 and she was 21.  The speed of their wedding makes me kind of wonder whether she was his sweetheart before the war? Or did they meet and have a whirlwind courtship after the war? Maybe someday I’ll find out.

The 1870 census shows them in their own household, down the street from his father. Alfred was a farmer and Mary kept house. He owned $1600 worth of real estate and $820 in personal property (he may have taken over his father’s land as Henry is no longer listed as owning real estate).

Alfred and Mary didn’t have any children and she died, at age 33, on November 27, 1875. Two years later, Alfred married Sarah Francis (House) Jones on May 1, 1877. In 1880, according to the census, Alfred was a farmer, and he employed one man as a farm laborer, who lived with them.  He was also a member of the Ancient Order of United Workmen, which was formed to provide life insurance to its members, per The History of the Wayne and Clay Counties. The History also stated that he owned and successfully ran a steam power vibrator thresher , which likely meant that he was a very successful farmer.  The coal-fired, steam-powered thresher was a huge machine used to separate grain from the plant during harvest time, and the new-fangled vibrating sort made it effective to use on smaller grains as well as larger ones. Advertizing material for the leading brand of the time, emphasized not only is it “the best for handling wheat, oats, barley, rye, and buckwheat, but,  it is the only machine that successfully threshes and winnows the more difficult flax, timothy, and millet.” 

Climbing My Family Tree: Nichols, Shepard & Co Catalog - Vibrator Thresher, 1876
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Alfred and Sarah’s only child, a son named Guy, was born in 1881. The 1890 census being lost to fire, the next I pick up Alfred’s trail is in the 1900 Census. Alfred is 54, his wife, now calling herself Frances, is 53, and Guy is 19. Alfred and Sarah have been married 23 years. This time Alfred lists his profession as Postmaster. They own their own home, free and clear. In 1910, it is just Alfred and Sarah at home in Hoosier Township, Clay County, Illinois. Alfred is 68 and Sarah is 62. Alfred reports that he has his own income. By that he may mean the invalid pension he had requested against his Army time, initially in 1890 and again in 1907, or they may have sold the farm and are living off the income of the sale (I have to check that out). The pension index has a certificate number so it probably was granted, at the rate of approximately $8-12 a month. I haven’t yet been able to find them in 1920 Census, and Sarah died on September 10, 1921 in Sailor Springs, Clay County, IL.

In 1930, at the time of the Census, Alfred was living with his son Guy and his family in Myrtle Creek, Oregon. He was listed as “retired” on the Census. Guy is a farmer and his wife sells dry goods; they have one 9 year old daughter, named Yvonne. Alfred died two years later at his son’s home in Oregon, at age 91, and he was buried at home in Clay Co. IL.
I need to remember to check land exchange records.
And decide whether I want to order his pension file.
I also need to find Alfred & Sarah on the1920 Census, and to find his will, if possible.
[Resources: Federal Census for 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900. 1910 A

and 1930.; “History of Wayne and Clay Counties” published by Brookhaven Press in 1884; the Illinois Civil War Detail Report (found here: http://www.ilsos.gov/isaveterans/civilMusterSearch.do?key=50939 );  http://www.americanantiquarian.org/Exhibitions/Food/vibrator.htm. )

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