I’m floundering a bit as I try to draw to a close this series of postings about Pat and Delilah Rinehart Ryan and their pension applications for Pat’s Civil War service and injuries. The problem is that the deeper I reach into the treasure trove of information this file contains, the more connections I’m spotting that I had never seen before. I’m discovering some of those as I share information with you here and try to document aspects of Pat Ryan’s story I had not previously sought to document.
A primary case in point: as several of my previous postings in this series have shown, I’m discovering that not only was Pat Ryan himself a Union soldier during the Civil War, but so were multiple other people with whom his family connected in Grant and Jefferson Counties, Arkansas, including John H. Spann, whose widow Rosanna (Hill) Spann Pat married after John’s death during the war, George A. Robinson, a step-brother of Pat’s brother-in-law George R. Batchelor (and George Robinson also married Delilah’s sister Rachel Rinehart), Joseph M. Reynolds, whose nephew Lewis A. Reynolds married Pat’s niece Fannie Batchelor, and Joseph C. Murdock, whose children Thomas and Mary married Fannie’s siblings Alice and Valentine Batchelor. As we’ve seen (here and here), George A. Robinson and Joseph C. Murdock both entered service as Confederate soldiers, then went over to the Union side and served in Union units.
I had not known some of this information until I began writing these postings and looked carefully at the Civil War history of some of these men — something I had not previously done, since they are not “my” family. So I was missing whole pieces of information that now help me reconstruct a picture that becomes obvious: it’s one of a nexus of interconnected families with Union ties, who gathered around the Orion settlement in Grant County, Arkansas, after the Civil War (it was after the war that both the Reynolds family and Joseph C. Murdock moved there) and interacted with the Ryan family and its kinship network.
Though I have no doubt that the deluge of detailed information I’ve been providing in this series will be a big bore to those with no interest in these particular folks and this particular locale, I’d like to emphasize again: military pension files can contain amazing amounts of information that can help you illuminate interconnected familial networks you might otherwise miss, if you limit your genealogical research to, say, bible registers, deeds, court records, vital records, etc.
And here’s something else military pension files can do for you: they can cast light on the economic circumstances of families you’re researching, and families connected to them:
As I noted in my previous posting, after Pat Ryan died on 18 October 1893 and his widow Delilah continued his pension application, filing her widow’s claim on 17 November 1893, the pension bureau requested on 29 April 1895 that Delilah declare under oath the value of her property and income from all sources. One of the interesting — and genealogically useful — streams of documentation in this pension file is documentation of Pat and Delilah Ryan’s economic status, the land and property they owned, their economic ties to relatives and others in their community. Since military pension files can contain such documentation, this is yet another valuable reason for you to consider them as you do research on your family members of the past.
Pat and Delilah Rinehart Ryan’s Economic Status
In my last posting, I discussed affidavits Delilah’s brother-in-law George R. Batchelor and nephew Isom L. Rinehart gave on 6 January 1894 in support of her pension application. I noted that both stated they were present with Pat Ryan as he died and attended his funeral. Both of these affidavits also provided information about Delilah’s economic status. According to both witnesses, Delilah’s only means of support was her farm, where she had to do much of the labor herself, with hired help assisting her. Both affidavits also state that the total amount of Delilah’s real and personal property did not exceed $1,000, and her net income was not more than $25 per annum.
I mentioned in my third posting in this series that a story my grandmother and her brothers told me often about their uncle Pat Ryan was, that when Pat died, people came from as far away as Little Rock to dig around his house and farm, in the belief he had buried money there. This belief may have had something to do with his well-known generosity to people in need and the fact that he and his wife raised several orphans — leading people to imagine the couple had some degree of wealth.
In reality, almost all residents of the Orion community in Grant County, Arkansas, in the latter part of the 19th and early 20th century were small farmers (and, in some cases, people with professions: Harrison Reynolds, whose brother Joseph Marion Reynolds was a doctor in the nearby town of Redfield, is listed on the 1880 census as a doctor in the Orion community, though all other censuses show his occupation as a teacher — his son Lewis A. Reynolds taught in the Orion school, too). Those farming in the Orion community made very little money from their farms.
Few of the 19th-century settlers of Grant County were slaveholders from the wealthy planter class of the antebellum South. Almost all were middle-class farmers who lived on self-sufficient, small farms and raised cotton as a money crop — making little money and staying constantly in debt to local merchants. With the exception of some fertile bottom land around waterways, Grant is not an exceptionally fertile farming county. It’s in the Gulf Coastal Plains region of Arkansas, which is characterized by rolling hills of sandy, clay-based soil that can be productive in some locales, but is not nearly so fertile as the land to the east of this region in the Arkansas Delta.
In a letter she sent to her brother Andrew Jackson Braselton (1845-1914) of Berry, Alabama, on 11 October 1911, Samantha Jane Braselton Simpson (1847-1912) of Redfield, Arkansas, four miles from Orion, notes that the price of cotton in her area was very low, while the price of meat and flour was very high. The problem poor farmers in her area faced, she thought, was that many of them the rented rather than owned their, and they relied solely on cotton as a money crop, remaining in debt as a result. Samantha’s letter states,
in this c[o]untry every one of the farmers raise cot[t]on to Buy meat[,] for al[l] of them as a general thing are Poor People and rent Land and thay Put the most of their crops in cot[t]on and that is Just what keeps them Poor[.] if thay would only rais[e] corn and Hogs thay would live better but thay dont do that[.] it is cot[t]on every year one with another so it kepes them in de[b]t al[l] the time.
Samantha Braselton Simpson’s son William Z. Simpson married Hattie Batchelor, daughter of George R. Batchelor and Catherine Ryan Batchelor. W.Z. Simpson was a merchant at Redfield, and also owned businesses in several Delta communities. In 1915, he and several other local merchants provided capital to establish the Redfield Canning Company, a primary employer of the community until the Depression caused the company to close.
Tax records do suggest that Pat and Delilah Ryan were better off economically than some members of their community — including their brother- and sister-in-law George and Catherine Ryan Batchelor, who struggled continually to feed a large household of children on a small farm, and who stayed indebted to local merchants who advanced seed for crops to members of the Orion community. Pat and Delilah may have prospered more than their in-laws and some of their neighbors did because they did not have a large family of children to feed, and because Pat inherited his father Valentine Ryan’s land and the rather productive farm Valentine and his son Pat had carved from that land.
1. Valentine Ryan’s Arkansas Landholdings
As I noted in a previous posting, on 19 September 1859, Valentine Ryan bought 172.96 acres in Jefferson (later Grant) County, Arkansas, from the federal land office in Little Rock. This land was lot 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the north ½ northwest ¼ of section 6, township 3 south, range 11 west in Jefferson County. On 1 October 1860, Val Ryan purchased another 119.66 acres from the Little Rock land office; this land was the west ½ northeast ¼ of the same section, township, and range — lot 5.
There are a number of peculiarities in the documentation of these two land purchases. The most obvious is that the land was patented and sold to one Valentine Verene — not to Valentine Ryan. Valentine Verene signed the two land purchases by mark. As I’ve previously noted, all of Catherine Ryan Batchelor’s children that I’ve been able to locate on the 1920 census, which asked those enumerated to state the native language of their mother and father, indicated that their mother spoke Irish as her first language. I suspect that Valentine Ryan was more proficient in Irish than in English at the time he purchased these two tracts of land. It would have been very easy for someone with these language challenges to end up being identified in the land office documents as Valentine Verene, as he informed an official in the land office at Little Rock (when he could not sign his name in English — that he was one V. Ryan. There’s no doubt that Valentine Verene and Valentine Ryan are one and the same person, since, after Valentine purchased them, the two tracts of land appear as Valentine Ryan’s land in tax books, with the same coordinates found in the land purchase documents, and they passed to Valentine Ryan’s two children Patrick and Catherine as his heirs.
Another oddity of these documents: the National Archives’ land-entry case file (#11765) for these land purchases has a declaration made in Pulaski County, Arkansas, on 23 January 1871 in which Valentine Ryan states that the original certificate for the 1859 land purchase had been destroyed, and a new certificate needed to be issued. The certificate was not reissued until 20 September 1897 — sixteen years after Valentine Ryan died, and after both Patrick and Delilah, who lived on the land following Valentine’s death, had died in 1893 and 1896. The most likely explanation, for the reissuance of the land certificate for this piece of property in 1897 was, it seems to me, to clarify its ownership following Delilah Rinehart Ryan’s death the preceding year.
Township and range maps of Jefferson and Grant Counties indicate that Valentine Ryan’s land was just northeast of Orion Baptist church in Grant County, on the Grant and Pulaski County line, and just to the west of the Jefferson County line in extreme northeastern Grant County. As I’ve previously noted, Patrick Ryan’s obituary says that he lived (on what had been his father’s farm) near the Orion church.
In 1861, Val Ryan appears on the Jefferson County, Arkansas, tax list taxed for both pieces of land, the 172.96 acres and the 119.66 acres The 1861 tax list notes that he had been taxed for the same property in 1860, and that, in addition to the land, which was valued at $996, he owned a horse and 4 mules.
In 1862, he’s taxed again for this property, except that lot two is now no longer listed. His land is valued at $876, and he’s taxed for a horse and three mules. No tax list for Jefferson County in 1863-4 appears to have survived. Pine Bluff, its county seat, was occupied by Federal troops during this period. For some reason, Valentine Ryan does not seem to appear on the tax list in 1865.
In 1866, he’s on the Jefferson County tax list for the same tracts of land, except that the tract of 119.66 acres has been reduced to 66 acres. Pat Ryan married John H. Spann’s widow Rosanna Hill Spann sometime in 1866. Though no deed records this transaction, one can deduce, I think, that his father had given him 53 acres of his land at the time of the marriage, or as he prepared to marry. Pat appears on the tax list in 1868 owning lots 3, 4, and 5 — that is, most of the land his father bought from the federal government in 1859-1860.
The 1867 tax list for Jefferson County is also missing. In 1868, Val Ryan has only 172 acres in the same location. His son Patrick appears on the tax list for the first time this year, with lots 3, 4, and 5 of the same location, along with land in section 7, township 3 south, range 11 west. It appears that Valentine had either sold or given some land to his son, and sold the rest to others, though, as I’ve previously noted, no deeds seem to be extant for any of these transactions.
The tax register of Saline County, Arkansas, for 1879 — the county borders Grant on the north — indicates that Valentine Ryan may also have owned 40 acres in that county, which I have not tracked other than to note this tax entry.
As I’ll note in a moment, both a document in the combined Civil War pension files of Pat and Delilah Rinehart Ryan and deed records in Grant County indicate that, after Valentine Ryan and his wife Bridget Tobin Ryan had died (he in 1881 and she in 1873), Val Ryan’s land passed in equal shares to his children Pat and Catherine, with Pat and wife Delilah living on the home farm, where they had provided care for his parents in the final years of their life.
This fifty-fifty inheritance arrangement is also reflected in deeds Pat Ryan and his sister Catherine, with her husband George R. Batchelor, all made on 30 June 1888, in which all these heirs of Valentine Ryan (the deeds note this) deeded portions of the land they had inherited to William Farrell. As Goodspeed’s Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Pulaski, Jefferson, Lonoke, Faulkner, Grant, Saline, Perry, Garland and Hot Spring Counties, Arkansas indicates, Farrell was a Canadian immigrant who settled at Wrightsville in Pulaski County in 1880, and owned extensive timber land and sawmills.
As George W. Balogh notes, following the Civil War and the construction of the Cotton Belt railroad (1881-1883), the lumber industry boomed in south Arkansas, with many of its movers and shakers arriving in the state from the Northern states following the war. Much of the farm land in Grant County was sold from this period forward to timber merchants, and many families that had previously farmed this less than productive land then relocated to either Little Rock or Pine Bluff and gave up farming. As I was growing up, my grandmother told me on trips to the Orion church and cemetery that the heavily forested land in that area of Grant County had once been a patchwork of family farms, all of them now gone after the timber industry had bought the land.
2. Pat and Delilah Rinehart Ryan’s Land and Property
Following his first appearance on the tax list in Jefferson County in 1868, I find Pat Ryan on tax lists in Simpson township (that is, the Orion community) after this township fell into Grant County. Pat is listed on tax lists in that township in 1879, 1881, 1884, 1885, and 1887. The snapshot these tax lists provide is one of a middle-class farm family with a certain degree of economic security and possibly even a bit of comfort: in 1879, Pat and Lilah’s farm had 25 hogs, a number that would increase to 60 in 1881 and then fall to 27 in 1884 and to 9 in 1885, and then move up to 16 in 1887.
The Ryan farm also had horses (3 in 1879, 2 in 1881 and 1884), mules (2 in 1881, 1884, 1885, and 4 in 1887), cattle (17 in 1879, 18 in 1881, 22 in 1884, 21 in 1885, and 13 in 1887), and a surprising number of sheep, a farm animal not normally found in central Arkansas: there were 95 sheep in 1879, 70 in 1881, 15 in 1884, 13 in 1885, and 16 in 1887. I think it’s very likely that the penchant for raising sheep was one Valentine Ryan brought to Arkansas from Ireland, and after his death on 22 February 1881, his son Pat gradually phased out that aspect of the farm he inherited from his father.
The 1884 tax list shows Pat being taxed for $300 in the bank, and in 1885, it lists him with $500 in bonds. In 1887, he’s taxed for a gold or silver watch, a bank account of $250, and other unnamed personal property assessed at $250, for a total assessment of his entire farm operation and personal property of $915. What I find on the tax list regarding Pat and Lilah Ryan’s economic lives does seem to bear out family stories I was told by my grandmother and her brothers, which contrasted the economically secure, somewhat prosperous economic lives of their aunt and uncle with the often hardscrabble conditions of the Batchelor family, as George and Catherine Ryan Batchelor sought to feed ten children (Catherine had borne fifteen children, five of whom died in infancy and childhood) with limited resources.
One of the interesting documents I find in the pension file is an indenture George and Catherine Ryan Batchelor entered into on 26 March 1895 with Delilah Rinehart Ryan (see the two graphics at the head of this posting). This indenture is also recorded in a Grant County deed book, and I have long had a copy of it. But until I obtained the pension files and discovered that the purpose of the indenture was to clarify Delilah’s economic situation, I had not grasped the purpose of this document.
When I put the county deed book’s records of this indenture together with the pension file’s copy of the same document, it became apparent to me that this document was generated as a way to satisfy the demand of the pension-claiming process that widows requesting a pension clarify their economic status and provide an account of their property and resources. The indenture states that Catherine Ryan (her name is given as Catherina D. Ryan — the only document I’ve ever found providing a middle initial for Catherine) had inherited half of her parents’ property, with Patrick Ryan inheriting the other half. George and Catherine Ryan Batchelor had relinquished their half-share in her father’s farm to her brother Patrick, with Delilah relinquishing to them her dower interest in all other Ryan property, her interest in a two-horse wagon, and half of her livestock and beehives.
This 1895 indenture is an interesting document, in the detailed way it describes Delilah’s property, down to the names of some of her horses (Fannie and Jim), and what it indicates she and Pat grew on their farm — corn, cotton, potatoes, peas (probably field peas), wheat — and the livestock they held — horses, mules, cows, hogs, sheep, with beehives.
A puzzling question this document raises, as does the 1888 deed Pat Ryan and George and Catherine Ryan Batchelor made selling some of Valentine Ryan’s land to William Farrell: why did Patrick and Catherine Ryan inherit an equal share of their parents’ estate, when there was a third heir also living at this time? This was their niece Mary Margaret Elizabeth Sumrall (1860-1894), daughter of their sister Margaret. After Margaret’s death on 9 August 1862, her husband Robert Allen Sumrall took their infant daughter back to southeast Mississippi, where he placed her with the family of Thomas Patrick Harper and Frances Drennan of Laurel. On 27 July 1881, Margaret Elizabeth married a son of the Harper family, John Thomas Harper, in Jones County.
Margaret Sumrall Harper had died by the time this 1895 indenture was effected: she died 6 May 1894 in Jones County, where she’s buried at Laurel in Lebanon cemetery. She was living, however, when her grandfather Valentine Ryan died in 1881, and by law, should have been an heir of his estate. Unless her aunt and uncle in Arkansas had no contact with her: after leaving his daughter with the Harper family in Mississippi, Margaret Elizabeth’s father Robert Allen Sumrall went to Texas by 1874 and remained there to the end of his life . . . .
The Ryan family in Arkansas does appear, in fact, to have lost contact with Margaret Ryan Sumrall’s daughter Margaret Elizabeth after her father brought her to Mississippi following her mother’s death. In the summer of 1938, my grandmother Hattie Batchelor Simpson was surprised to receive a visit in Redfield, Arkansas, from Margaret Elizabeth Harper’s widower John Thomas Harper (1863-1950) and his son Robert Edwin Harper (1889-1940) of Laurel, Mississippi, both total strangers to my grandmother. In a letter Robert Harper sent my grandmother after that visit on 25 June 1938, he tells her that he had known that his grandmother was a Ryan and that her daughter Margaret Elizabeth, his mother, had been placed with the Harper family when she was seven years old. Other than this, he had not known of his cousins in Arkansas. In the letter, Robert Harper enclosed a photo of himself and his wife Mildred Estes Harper with their young son Edwin Ryan Harper.
A footnote to that March 1895 indenture dividing the Ryan property in Grant County between Patrick and Catherine: when Delilah Rinehart Ryan died on 7 June 1896, her brother-in-law George Batchelor filed a claim against her estate on 21 July stating that Delilah had died indebted to him for a mule and wagon appraised at $104.25, property that he wanted to reclaim from the estate. This was evidently the two-horse wagon that Delilah had relinquished to her brother- and sister-in-law in the 1895 indenture. The fact that Delilah still had it in her possession when she died suggests that George Batchelor was farming in collaboration with Pat and Delilah Ryan, that the two families shared the use of property — which further explains the March 1895 deed as a way of formalizing who owned what. At Delilah’s estate sale on 5 September 1896, George purchased two tubs, three kegs, a shotgun, a featherbed, two pillows, 4 quilts, and a lantern.
And a footnote to the entire pension file: nothing in it indicates that Delilah ever drew her widow’s pension. The files have notations made by the attorney filing this and other pension claims in Washington, D.C., C.D. Pennybaker, indicating that he had filed an order on 9 September 1895 for Delilah to receive her pension, because her application was complete. On 27 June 1896, Pennybaker noted that the pension department appeared to have lost evidence included in the file, and that he had not heard anything conclusive about the pension since May 1895.
On 25 August 1896, Pennybaker re-submitted the claim, asking that the department act on it. On 26 September 1898, a form Pennybaker filed which was directed to the Bureau of Pensions states that he had heard nothing from the Bureau about this file since June 1895.
As I’ve noted, Delilah died 7 June 1896. In researching military pension claims and widows’ claims made for husbands’ military service, I’ve found a longstanding pattern in which the federal government sometimes treats military veterans and their families with great disdain, throwing up every obstacle possible to allowing veterans and their widows to obtain a pension, so that many potential pensioners and their widows die before ever receiving a pension due to them.
Or perhaps I notice these details because my mother worked many years as a finance officer for the Veterans’ Administration, and concluded due to years of experience in trying to assure that military veterans received money owing to them as recompense for their service or support when they were injured, that government officials often created many unnecessary barriers for veterans. In Delilah’s case, a pension would surely have been very helpful, since Arkansas (along with much of the rest of the nation) was strongly affected by an economic downturn in the 1890s, especially in 1893, when Delilah’s husband Pat Ryan died.
This is the eighth posting in a nine-part series about this topic. The previous posting in this series is here, and the next posting in the series is here. That posting will end with a link taking you to the next in the series, if you’re interested in following this series to the end.
Steven Teske, “Redfield (Jefferson County),” Encylopedia of Arkansas. Texas Trade Review (1 July 1915), p. 10, states that a charter had been filed for the Redfield Canning & Pickling Company, capital stock, $5000, with W.Z. Simpson, M.L. Holliman, and P.W. Pratt incorporators. Marcus Lafeyette Holliman was another Redfield merchant.
In 1883 and 1884, George R. Batchelor mortgaged property to a local merchant, J.K. Brodie, to whom he was indebted. The 1883 mortgage states that Batchelor was indebted to Brodie for a 5 April 1883 note for $75, which was due (with 10% interest) on 1 November 1883. To satisfy the debt, George R. Batchelor mortgaged his cotton, corn, and produce for 1883, with a six-year old brown mare called Fly, a seven-year old bay horse named Bill, and two milk cows. The 1884 mortgage involves debts Batchelor and a farming partner Martin Groves had incurred to Brodie. Batchelor and Groves mortgaged their crops, with a sorrel mare named Jo, a pied black and white cow with smooth-cropped ears, the horse named Bill, and three other cows marked with crops on the right ears and swallow forks on the left (see Grant Co., Arkansas, DB D, p. 503, and E, p. 322).
An article by Clarence Taylor entitled “A Town’s History: Redfield — Made by a Railroad,” in Redfield Update (18 October 1998), p. 12, identifies Brodie as James Kirkwood Brodie, an Englishman who bought considerable acreage around Redfield in the early 1870s. He built the first house in Redfield and sold lots in and around the town from 1881 forward. In December 1880, Brodie was postmaster of Redfield. According to John E. Walters, “A Brief History of Redfield United Methodist Church,” ibid., p. 3, Brodie was a founding member of that church.
As Clarence Taylor notes (see “A Town’s History, Redfield–Made by a Railroad,” Jefferson County [Arkansas] Historical Quarterly, 27,3 , p. 31), the town of Redfield dates from about 1881, when James Kirkwood Brodie began selling plots in the town, having named it for John Redfield, an administrator of the Iron Mountain Railroad Co. (later Missouri Pacific), which ran lines between Little Rock and Pine Bluff in 1879. Prior to Redfield’s establishment, a port town, Red Bluff, had existed about 4.5 miles east of Redfield on the Arkansas River. The National Register of Historic Places’ registration form for Lone Star Baptist church in Redfield, online at the website of Arkansas Historic Preservation, contains a history of the community which states that James E. Redfield was a Boston entrepreneur, and that Brodie purchased the land on which Redfield sits as Redfield began construction of the railroad, then built the first house in town and opened its first business, a sawmill. As Steven Teske notes (see supra, n. 1), almost the entire business distruct of Redfield, with all of the town’s original commercial buildings, burned in a suspicious fire on 24 February 1903, in which arson was suspected, because a fire struck the cotton gin of Mayor Angus F. McNeill the same evening.
Jefferson Co., Arkansas, Tax Register 1861, p. 110.
Ibid., 1862, p. 98.
Ibid., 1866, p. 98.
Ibid., 1868, p. 89.
Saline Co., Arkansas, Tax Register, 1879, p. 10. The 40 acres were in S2 T32 R11W.
Grant Co., Arkansas, DB J, p. 127.
Goodspeed’s Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Pulaski, Jefferson, Lonoke, Faulkner, Grant, Saline, Perry, Garland and Hot Spring Counties, Arkansas(Chicago: Goodspeed, 1889), p. 449.
See Grant Co., Arkansas, Grant Co. Personal Property Tax Books 1879, 1881, 1884, 1885, and 1887 (Simpson township).
Grant Co., Arkansas, DB M, pp. 392-3.
Grant Co., Arkansas, Probate Bk. B, p., 117.
Grant Co., Arkansas, Inventories and Appraisements, Bk. A, pp. 275-7.
See Guy Lancaster, “Introduction,” in Bullets and Fire: Lynching and Authority in Arkansas, 1840-1950, ed. Guy Lancaster (Fayetteville: Univ. of AR Press, 2018), pp. 11-12; Nancy Snell Griffith, “‘At the Hands of a Person or Persons Unknown’: The Nature of Lynch Mobs in Arkansas,” ibid., p. 56; and Randy Finley, “A Lynching State: Arkansas in the 1890s),” ibid., pp. 61-63.