Monday, October 24, 2011

Nancy Patterson McNair

Nancy Patterson McNair
(courtesy of Christy Spooner)
Permelia Ruth McNair Maxwell’s death certificate (see my last post) also notes that her mother was Nancy Patterson.  It’s difficult to discover much about Nancy’s early life.  I haven’t seen any contemporaneous records covering those years and must rely on what others have said, in published or unpublished family histories.  Remember, you can click on any image in this blog to see a larger version.

According to Nancy’s tombstone she was born 18 October 1816 to William and Ruth Patterson, was married to Robert M. McNair, and died 29 January 1905.  Tombstones can be wildly inaccurate, depending on when and by whom they were placed, but it’s as good a place as any to start when there’s not much else to start with.  It certainly agrees with the information I already have on Robert McNair.  There is the marriage license issued in Decatur County to Robert M. McNair and Nancy Patterson showing they were wed on 23 December 1835.  The ages given for the 1840, 1850 and 1860 censuses which cover the years of her marriage to Robert McNair (20-29, 34 and 43 respectively) seem consistent with the tombstone, within a reasonable margin of variation.

It’s difficult to add much to Nancy Patterson’s early life.  Remember, censuses prior to 1850 only showed the name of the head of the household.  I have discovered at the Georgia’s Virtual Vault web site a reference to the marriage of a William Patterson and a Ruth Clements on 1 February 1809 (Jefferson County Marriage Book A, 1803-1880, p.22; Marriage Books, Jefferson County Ordinary Court, Georgia Archives). This book is a typed transcription by the Clerk's Office, so not quite as good as the ones I usually copy, but it’s apparently official.  My guess, not having seen the originals, is that they are too far deteriorated to allow for casual inspection.  Still, it’s better than nothing.  So, if William and Ruth wed in early 1809 it’s possible that Nancy was also born there in Jefferson County.  So far I’ve had no luck finding them on the 1810, 1820 or 1830 censuses.  The first two are hardly surprising since so few portions of the Georgia census for those years survive, but I still have hopes they will be in found eventually in the 1830 census.  They were certainly in Decatur County, Georgia, by 1835 for Nancy married Robert McNair there that year.
Census image courtesy of (subscription required)

After Robert died in 1869, Nancy continued to live in Decatur County, running the family farm and raising her younger children during the hard years of the Reconstruction.  The 1870 census shows the family consisted of Nancy (54), Robert P (25), Joseph W (23), Thomas M (21), Mary C (17), Sarah E (15) and Permelia R (13).  Robert Patterson McNair would remain unwed and living with his mother until she died.  In 1880, the household contained Nancy (63), Robert (35), Catie (27) and 17 year old granddaughter J [or I][something: difficult to read the handwriting], plus two black farm laborers, Henry Williams & John Mills (both 20).  I haven’t figured out yet whose daughter the granddaughter might be, or even if she was really a McNair and not the some other last name.  Add that to my To Do list!  There is no surviving 1890 census, and by 1900 there are only Robt P (55) and his mother Nancy (83) remaining on the farm; there is no mention of farm laborers living with them on this census.
Census image courtesy of (subscription required
Nancy Patterson McNair
(courtesy of Christy Spooner)
Nancy passed away 29 January 1905 and was buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery, near Climax, Decatur County, Georgia.  Thanks to my cousin Christy Spooner I now have pictures of her headstone and grave site.  We’ve not yet found any mention of where her husband, the good doctor Robert Martin McNair might be buried.  In 1910, the census showed the 64-year old Robert P McNair living by himself on the farm, but by 1920 he had help.  He was living with his sister’s son Alonzo Jones and his family.  As near as I can tell, it was the same farm.  To Do Item: check property records for ownership of the McNair/Jones farm. 

Robert Patterson McNair died 3 July 1925 and was buried at Piedmont Cemetery in Calvary, Grady County, Georgia.  (Grady County was created from Decatur and Thomas counties in August 1905.  The McNairs lived for over 40 years in Georgia Militia District 553, which is in the southwest corner of the present-day Grady County, and thus was part of Decatur County through 1905.)  Robert P’s grave is right next to the graves of his sister and brother-in-law, my great-great grandparents Permelia Ruth McNair Maxwell and J.A.O. Maxwell.  His grave site is overgrown with small trees and brush, and it would probably be a major undertaking to clear it away and require permission from the cemetery management, but someone apparently still remembers him each year around Confederate Memorial Day, because there was a clean flag stuck into the ground next to the grave when I was there in April.  If you can understand this, you can begin to understand something of the character of the South, Old and New.
Robert Patterson McNair
That’s about it for now.

Later y’all,


Anonymous said...

Hi Tim, I have quite a bit on this family...Nancy Patterson McNair, M. Robert M. McNair.
Their daugher "Catie", Mary Katherine McNair married Elonzo Patterson Jones who was son of
Silas of my gg-grandfather, Wm. B. Jones, sons of my 3rd great grandfather Mathew Perry Jones. In my little town of Whigham you will find one of the McNair houses and accross the street is one Patterson House.
Look for Obituaries in the Cairo Messenger, Wm. O. Jones, June 7, 1919 and Katie Mc Nair Jones.
Hope all is well with you.

Elon Nicholson Gossett said...

I am Elon Nicholson Gossett in Bainbridge, GA. I am related to you through Sarah McNair wo Joseph Hutto Darsey. Their daughter Julie Ellia
Darsey was my grandmother. The McNair family cemetery is in Calvary. GA. William Green McNair is buried there.