Ancestor Biography – Mercy Eliza Taft  (1822-1884)

Roberts/Barnes/Taft Line
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.When I reviewed my possible connections through “We’re Related” to Walt Disney and to my Scarborough Historical friend, Carl, both were stopped by my research blockage at Mercy Eliza Taft.  After Mercy, both lines went through her father, Joel Cruff Taft. My research on Mercy convinced me that her father was indeed Joel and her grandmother was Sarah Whitney, which brings me two generations closer to proving a relationships with both Walt Disney and Carl.

Minuteman – Lexington

While doing this research I also encountered many new and exciting things. Fifth great-grandfather, Silas Taft is a Revolutionary War veteran and was part of the “Lexington Alarm” which was the first real battle of the Revolution in 1775. More about him in a later post. Also, I learned that William Howard Taft, the 27th President of the United States and the 10th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is my 5th cousin, 4 times removed. Taft is the only person to ever be both POTUS and the Chief Justice.

Roberts-Barnes 2017 Research – Ancestor #21

List of Grandparents

  • Grand Parent: Elsie Pansy Barnes
  • 1st Great-grandfather: Joel Clinton Barnes
  • 2nd Great-grandmother: Mercy Eliza Taft
  • 3rd Great-grandfather: Joel Cruff Taft
  • 4th Great-grandfather: Asa Taft
  • 5th Great-grandfather: Silas Taft
  • 6th Great-grandfather: Stephen Taft
  • 7th Great-grandfather: Benjamin Taft
  • 8th Great-grandfather: Robert Taft

Mercy Eliza (Taft) Barnes (1822-1884)

There is confusion regarding Mercy’s first name. Some researchers believe her name was Mary. I think that it is even possible that her first name might have been Marcy or even Mancy. In reviewing the records, I am yet to find a source that I feel is compelling enough to prove her name. People who have seen her grave marker indicate that her name is Mercy. Certainly, her Christian name if Eliza is used in the majority of records regarding her. I’ve decided to use Mercy until I find a compelling source.

Map of Sullivan County showing Fairbanks Township.
Fairbanks Township in Sullivan County, Indiana

Mercy Eliza Taft was the second of ten children of Joel Cruff and Tamise/Fanny Sutherland/Southerland, born in New York on 27 March 1822.[i] It appears that all of her siblings live to adulthood. It does appear that the family moved several times in New York before part of the family split off and settled in Fairbanks Township, Sullivan County, Indiana.

Eliza married Nelson Barnes in New York on 31 October 1839.[ii] Their first daughter, who has one of the most unusual names I’ve ever encountered, Tryphenia Ann Barnes was born on 11 Oct 1841 in New York. The following year the young family moved west to Indiana (1842) by covered wagon and camped near Fairbanks. They started out renting farmland, then slowly purchased land until they had 80 acres.

Over the ensuing years, Nelson and Eliza would have nine children. They are:

Children of Nelson and Mercy Eliza Taft

Children: Sex Birth Death
Tryphenia Ann Barnes F 11 Oct 1841
New York
03 Nov 1915
Turman, Ind.
Ploutina Mariah Barnes F 09 May 1844
New York*
23 Mar 1918
Indiana
Theodore E Barnes M 29 Mar 1847
Sullivan, Ind.
06 Aug 1919
Danville, Ill.
Susan Barnes F Bet. 1848-1849
Indiana
Bef. 1909
Abraham Barnes M 04 Mar 1852
Indiana
20-Jan-21
Cyrus John Barnes M 04 Apr 1855
Sullivan, Ind.
17 Feb 1879
Sullivan, Ind.
Joel Clinton Barnes M 23 Jun 1857
Graysville, Ind.
30 Jun 1921
Sullivan, Ind.
Lucy Minerus Barnes F 18 Apr 1860 05 Sep 1890
Martha Ellen Barnes F Sullivan, Ind. 16 Feb 1949

*I believe that Ploutina was born in Indiana and not New York.

  • Mercy on left base, Nelson on Right base

    1850 – Living with husband and four oldest children in Turman, Sullivan County, Indiana.[iii]

  • 1860 – Living with husband and six of the children in Turman, Sullivan County, Indiana.[iv]
  • 1870 – Living with husband and five of the children in Turman, Sullivan County, Indiana.[v]
  • 1880 – Living with husband one of her children and one of her granddaughters in Turman, Sullivan County, Indiana.[vi]
  • 1884 – Her husband Nelson died in either January or February.[vii],[viii]
  • 1884 – Eliza died on 4 October 1884 in Turman, Sullivan County Indiana. She was buried at the Drake Cemetery in nearby Fairbanks, Sullivan County, Indiana.[ix]  I find the image available through Find-a-Grave isn’t clear enough to determine the name used on the marker.

Further Actions / Follow-up

  • Find the Taft Family in the 1840 Census.
  • Find the Taft Family in the 1830 Census.
  • Visit the Drake Cemetery and see if I can get a better image of her marker to confirm the name she was known by at the time of her death.

Endnotes:

Memories of Martha Barnes Conner

Nelson Barnes and Mercy Eliza Taft

Amanuensis Monday
By Don Taylor

It is always amazing when you can find the voice of an ancestor. Thanks to Timothy Foulkes’ contribution to Family Search of the “History of Martha Barnes Conner,” we can read the words of Martha Barnes Conner, the youngest daughter of my 2nd great-grandparents, Nelson and Mercy Eliza (Taft) Barnes. The document posted appears to be a transcript of the original but seems to be faithful to the original because of the archaic spelling and other features of the transcription, such as Hridge (instead of Bridge) and Heron (instead of Merom).

Covered Wagon from period

I can so visualize the plight of Nelson and Mercy in 1842 — Living in their covered wagon with their young child, out of money and relying on the credit from others. Just a rocking chair, a bushel basket for a stool, and a trunk as both a table and to hold their bedding, it was clearly a bleak life. Yet, over the years they purchased their own property and added to it. A true story of pioneer success. There are side stories: One about the wagon that carried mail (and presumably) supplies the 31 miles from Terra Haute and one about a man who dies and was buried near the old Dodd school house.

Document Image

Nelson Barnes and Mercy Eliza Taft

Transcription of typed image transcription.

Nelson Barnes and Mercy Eliza Taft were married Oct 31, 1839 in New York 
state and came to Indiana with their baby in a covered wagon in 1842 and 
camped near Fairbanks they were out of money  he ask a farmer for work 
and went in debt for a bu of corn and a side of bacon, they had sold 
their household goods a piece at a time untill they had nothing left
but a rocking chair a chest that they kept their bedding and clothes in 
and used it also to eat their meals on and a half bu measur that my 
father sat on and also fed his horses in.  he worked for farmers for 
several year and then bough a little piece of land near Dodds Hridge
he kept adding to the farm untill he had a good sized farm at the time of 
his death  I am the youngest child of nine children and the only one 
living  I hays 80 achers of land that my father gave me that he entered 
from the government he rode on horse back to Vincanzes to make the
deed. at the time they only got mail once a week a hack pulled by 
two horses made the trip from Terre Haute to Herom ever other day 
down one day and back to Terre Haute the next and in winter and the roads 
were bad  they stooped and changed horses at a farm house that was 
owned by Hessie Rigs also travelers got their meals there. there 
was where we went to get our mail. I remember hearing my father 
telling of a sick jentle man that was on this stage coach.  that he 
was put off with a man that was taking care of him  the man had a 
contages diseas but was too sick to travel  he died and was burried on
the bluff north of the Dodd school house  my father and a neighbor by the 
name of Mckee made a rough box and took it in talking distance to burry 
him  I remember when I went to school at the old frame school house how 
we children put flowers on the grave  it is marked with a rough stone. 
The frame school house was replaced with a brick and now is not used 
any more 

written by Martha Barnes Conner

(from handwritten note by Martha Barnes Conner, wife of Frank Conner and mother of Garland Conner)

[Note: Martha Ellen (Barnes) Conner died on 16 Feb 1949.  This transcription of the transcription image is by Don Taylor.]

Discussion

I would love to see the original document if Mr. Foulkes or anyone else has it available. Also, I have been unsuccessful in finding information or photos of the Dodd School House. I would be very interested in learning much more about it as well.

Sources

“History by Martha Barnes Conner”
CONTRIBUTED BY Timothy Foulkes to Family Search
https://familysearch.org/photos/artifacts/28314121

Ancestor Biography – Nelson Barnes (1816-1884)

Roberts/Barnes Line
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.It is usually the birth record, and how comfortable I am with that record, that defines how comfortable I am with my feeling that I know an ancestor.  Nelson Barnes’ birth records, parents, and childhood records do not give me a warm fuzzy feeling.  I have no sense of the cat purring behind my ear.  But, here is what I think I know.

Roberts-Brown 2017 – Ancestor #20

List of Grandparents

  • Grand Parent: Essie Pansy Barnes
  • 1st Great: Joel Clinton Barnes
  • 2nd Great: Nelson Barnes
  • 3rd Great: (Possibly Joel Barnes)

Nelson Barnes (1816-1884)

Birth

Thomas Wolfe, in A History of Sullivan County, Indiana,[i] indicates that Nelson Barnes was born in New York on 24 March 1816. It is very clear; however, Nelson Barnes’ Find a Grave Memorial [ii] indicates he was born on 6 December 1816. The photo on the memorial is too pixelated to be able to determine what it might say. So, I have submitted a Find-a-Grave photo request to try to get a higher quality image to look at.

Source ages and places of birth for Nelson Barnes

Document Age Supports Birth in
1850 Census 35 – Pennsylvania December 1816
1860 Census 44 – New York March 1816
1870 Census 54 – New York March 1816
1880 Census 64 – New York March 1816
1884 Find-a-Grave If age 68 in January 1884, then December 1816
1884 Find-a-Grave New York 6 December 1816
1909 (Wolf book) New York 24 March 1816
Photo of marker for Mercy Eliza Taft Barnes and Nelson Barns.
Marker for Mercy Eliza Taft Barnes and Nelson Barns. Photo by Wabash Valley Genealogy Society Cemetery Committee via Find a Grave

Normally, I like to use the document closest to the event. However, in this case, three of the four census records and the Wolf book indicate a different birth date makes me uncomfortable accepting the December 1816 birthdate. I’ve decided to ignore the Pennsylvania birthplace states in the 1850 Census as just wrong. His marker might indicate his age at death as 68 years and 29 days. If so, that would put his birth in December 1816 also.  So, I’ve requested an updated find-a-grave image of his marker. Hopefully, the bottom line will be more readable. An improved image might clear his birth month up for me.

Childhood

I have not found any documents, so far, that clearly identify Nelson Barnes’ parents. That said, there are 11 family trees on Ancestry that share Nelson Barnes as an ancestor.  All 11 of those trees indicate that Nelson Barnes’ parents were Joel and Lucy Wilson (Taft) Barnes. None of these researchers appear to have identified any siblings for Nelson nor have are any siblings identified on the Family Search family tree (ID: M1PY-5V8). Finally, the idea that Nelson married a Taft and that his father also married a Taft makes me uncomfortable.  Are the identities confused by the researchers or did it really happen this way? Having Nelson’s father named Joel would explain one of his sons being named Joel. In the future, I will research Joel Barnes (the elder) and see if I can connect him to Nelson, but in the meantime, the relationship of Nelson to Joel and Lucy is very tentative.

Marriage

Nelson Barnes and Mercy Eliza Taft were united in marriage in New York on October 21, 1839.[iii]

Adult

Their first child, a daughter, has one of the most unusual names I’ve encountered – Tryphenia.  Tryphenia (or Tryphena) was born in in 1841 in New York.  Records seem to conflict about if she was born in Broome County (Binghamton area) or King’s County (Manhattan).

Likewise, their second child, also a daughter – was born in 1844, also in New York.

The family then located to Sullivan County, Indiana where Nelson and Mercy had seven more children, all in Sullivan County.  They were:

  • Theodore              1847
  • Susan                    1849
  • Abraham              1852
  • Cyrus                     1855
  • Joel                        1857
  • Lucy                       1860
  • Martha                  1863

Nelson was a farmer and attended Methodist Episcopal church. The 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880 census records all clearly show him living in Sullivan County.  Although some researchers indicate that Nelson served in the Civil War, I do not agree and believe the 45-year-old father of 8 remained out of the war. See “Nelson Barnes – Civil War Veteran?” for details.

Stories

In February 1879, Nelson and Mercy’s son Cyrus died at the age of 24.

Death & Burial

Nelson died on 21 January 1884 and is buried in Drake Cemetery, Fairbanks, Sullivan County, Indiana.[iv]

Further Actions / Follow-up

  • Research potential ancestors, Joel and Lucy Wilson (Taft) Barnes, and see if there is a descendant path to Nelson Barnes.

Endnotes and Sources

[i] Citation:  Wolfe, Thomas J. 1909. A history of Sullivan County, Indiana, closing of the first century’s history of the county, and showing the growth of its people, institutions, industries and wealth. New York: The Lewis Pub. Co. Page 235.

[ii] Find A Grave Memorial# 37229135 – Nelson Barnes (1816 – 1884). Accessed 27 Mar 2017. https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=37229135

[iii] Wolfe, Thomas J., History of Sullivan County, Indiana, A, Files (Personal),  See Item i above.

[iv] Find a Grave, Find a Grave, Nelson Barnes (1816 – 1884). See Above. See item ii above.