John Buckner was my second great-grandfather – my father’s paternal grandmother’s father. My daddy would have known three out of four of his grandparents, but his paternal grandmother died about twenty years before he was born and her father had died when she was about 6. What that means is we don’t have any knowledge of him other than the brief paper trail he left.
That brief paper trail to date only includes a marriage record, an 1850 and 1860 census record and a few Civil War muster cards. Not a lot to go on, including no middle name or initial. Although he was apparently John Buckner, Jr., no record for either father or son lists a middle name or initial. I don’t know if that means there was none or just that no surviving paper trail lists it.
The 1850 census page for John Buckner in what is presumably the household of his parents and siblings in Blount County, Alabama; it only lists his name and an approximate time and place of his birth. John is in the center of the family unit. His age of 18 would approximate his birth year as 1832 and, according to the ditto marks from above, in Tennessee. Although relationships are not noted, it is assumed there is a relationship and that his father’s name was also John who was born in Tennessee and his mother was Rachel who was born in North Carolina. It would also appear his family had moved from Tennessee between 1834 when his brother Thomas was born and 1836 when his sister Angeline was born. His mother and three older siblings could not read or write. Since the census instructions only asked for that information about those who were 20 or older, no determination about John’s ability to read or write can be made.
We found a bound index of marriages at the Blount County, Alabama courthouse when we visited there in 2010. Here is a photo clip of the page in the index book that shows the marriage of John Buckner, Jr. to Nancy M. Foster on February 1, 1855: It is unclear whether the bond was signed by John Buckner, Jr. or John Buckner, Sr. Pliney Wilemon who also signed the bond was the husband of Nancy Buckner Wilemon, one of his older sisters.
The family make up is consistent with an 1855 marriage – the first child was born in 1856 and would have been my great-grandmother, Mary Jane Buckner Willis. Again John was listed as born in Tennessee, although this record would place his birth around 1834 rather than 1832. Their real property was valued at $600 and their personal property value was $400. Both John and Nancy could read and write. In their five years of marriage they had three children: Mary, William and Sarah.
I looked for records of Civil War service and a possible death of John during that time frame because I didn’t find John in an 1870 census and because I found Mrs. Nancy Buckner as a head of household in the 1866 Alabama State Census, a marriage record for Nancy Buckner to Joshua Watson in 1868, followed by an 1870 census for Joshua and Nancy Buckner Watson with four Buckner children [M.J., Rufus, Sarah and Nedora – later and combined research for the children would show their names to be Mary Jane, William Rufus, Sarah/Sallie and Medora].
I found a few records at the Alabama Department of Archives and History. Further search found some muster cards that indicated he had enlisted at the age of 30 in the Alabama 41st Infantry, Company I, under Capt. Thomas I. Abernathy on May 3, 1862. Reading about the 41st Alabama indicated a number of soldiers in that regiment died while they were still in their first few days in Tuscaloosa – apparently illnesses such as dysentery and measles took a heavy toll. One of those early deaths was his brother, Jesse Wilson Buckner [evidenced by a claim filed by his father John Buckner].
By September 18, 1862, the muster cards state John had died of disease in Charleston, Tennessee. I have used the record below because is is the clearest of the records (the others are quite faint) even though this date states September 12 for his death; two other records state the date was the 18th of September. We have not found other records in order to provide a definitive source.Because there were other John Buckners, I wanted further substantiation of his death in addition to his absence from the 1866 and 1870 censuses; I found a card at the Alabama Department of Archives and History showing his widow, Nancy M. Buckner [residing in Fayette County], filed a widow’s claim. Although the claim was apparently rejected, her documentation and support for the claim should have contained some valuable pieces of information about their marriage, children’s birth dates, affidavits from others who knew him and of his service. Unfortunately, the copy was mailed to the Fayette County Courthouse, which was burned during the Civil War. If Nancy had a copy of it, I have not yet located a descendant who might have it.
Although the two census records we have for him indicate he was born in Tennessee, we do not know what county or town. A brief obituary for his oldest sister, EmmaLisa, stated she was born in Sevier County, Tennessee. She was born about 1818, or 14 years before John, but that provides a clue for additional searches for information. We have also found no record of his burial, which means we do not know if he was buried in Charleston, Tennessee or if his remains were returned to Fayette County.
We occasionally hear or read about our lives being what happens between the dashes [1832 -1862]. In summary, for my great-great-grandfather, John Buckner, all we know of his “between the dashes” is:
This blog was prepared as a part of Amy Johnson Crow’s No Story Too Small 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge.