Or, Subtitled: Losing a Husband and Both Parents within Two Years and Carrying On
Notes About Jane Brooks, Wife of Dennis Lindsey
I have to admit that, in doing family history, I sometimes find myself being partial to one ancestor more than the rest. Jane is one of those ancestors to whom I’m partial. As I think about her life, what stands out is the amazing strength she displayed in trying times. I admire her. As I noted in a previous posting, when her husband Dennis Lindsey died at the age of 41, he left her a young widow of 39 with eleven children, four of them not over 10 years of age. One, the couple’s last son Dennis Edward, was a newborn, in fact.
Dennis died 28 August 1836. The following year, Jane’s mother Sarah Whitlock Brooks died 16 August 1837, and a document in the estate file of Jane’s father Thomas Brooks detailing her account for providing care for her parents (see above) shows that Jane boarded and nursed her mother for the last five months of Sarah’s life. Jane’s father Thomas then died 25 August 1838. The same account bill and receipts in his estate file indicate that Jane nursed and boarded her father for 5 months as he died. The amount of morphine prescribed by Dr. J.W. Hickey for Sarah in the final part of her life suggests to me that Jane’s mother died of some painful illness that may well have been cancer.
The estate file of Thomas Brooks also has a bill of Edward Wise for purchases made by Thomas Brooks in 1837-8, showing that in August 1837 — the month in which Sarah died — Thomas purchased (via Mark Lindsey) two vials of laudanum. I think it must have taken extraordinary strength of character on Jane’s part to provide care for both parents as they died not long after she had been widowed and left with a large family of children to raise.
Jane verified the account detailing her care for her parents in their final illnesses on 13 November 1839 and signed a receipt for payment for $158 for this account on 14 March 1841.
The same account for Jane’s nursing of relatives seems to me also to state that she also provided lodging and nursing care for her youngest brother James R. Brooks (1837 – abt. 1851) in 1837, when she was nursing and lodging their mother Sarah. James was unmarried and evidently living at home in 1837. On 2 April 1840 in Lawrence County, he married Jane Puckett. Sometime after the end of June 1842, when he signed a receipt for his portion of his father’s estate, and 28 November 1850, when the federal census shows him living in a mining camp in El Dorado County, California, James had left Alabama and gone west to pan for gold. The final settlement of his father’s estate on 20 January 1851 also states that James was in California on that date.
Here are some of the pieces of information I know about Jane’s life:
She was born 19 February 1797 in Wythe County, Virginia, and died 9 September 1852 at Oakville in Lawrence County, Alabama. The bible of Jane’s father Thomas Brooks, which passed down to her brother Charles Brooks, and a transcript of the bible register, with photocopies of some entries, was published in the journal Itawamba Settlers in 1988. In this published transcript, the transcriber has read Jane’s date of birth as 17 January 1795.
The date of birth given on Jane’s tombstone — 19 February 1797 — is clearly legible, or it was clearly legible in the past on the two visits I made to the family cemetery in which she and Dennis are buried on their homeplace at Oakville. I’m very grateful to Ray and Marty Lindsey for taking such a good photo (above) of the now-broken tombstone, on which the dates of birth and death can be easily read. On my first visit to the cemetery in May 1985, I transcribed the tombstone, though it was broken, as Ray and Marty’s photo above shows. The transcription I wrote down is as follows:
In memory of Jane Lindsey was born Feb. 19, 1797 Died Sept. 9, 1852
Or perhaps there’s a 2 in front of the 9 and Jane died 29 September? The stone is not easy to read due to the breaks in it. For reasons not clear to me (was it because the stone is broken and may have been in pieces?) Phil Waldrep’s survey of Lawrence County, Alabama, tombstone inscriptions missed Jane’s tombstone, by the way.
I do not know for certain who provided the information recorded on Jane’s tombstone. My guess would be that her oldest daughter Sarah Brooks Lindsey Speake (1818-1889), who lived with husband James B. Speake near her mother, did so. I’m inclined to trust the tombstone date and not the transcribed bible date (I have not seen the bible itself with my own eyes) because the 1850 federal census gives Jane’s age as 52. I think it’s very likely that Jane, who was head of the household with her two youngest children Margaret and Dennis Edward living with her, supplied the information recorded on the census.
Another curiosity of the transcribed bible register of Thomas Brooks’s bible cited above is that the register states that Thomas Brooks and Sarah Whitlock married on 14 February 1796, according to the transcriber. But that date of marriage would make Jane born a year prior to her parents’ marriage, if she was born 17 January 1795. Jane was the oldest child of Thomas and Sarah Whitlock Brooks.
I hope at some point in future to post much more about the Brooks family. For now, in discussing Jane Brooks’s life, I’ll note again that she was born in Wythe County, Virginia, where her parents married and lived until 1799, when Thomas Brooks disappears from tax lists in Wythe County as he patented land in that year in what would soon become Wayne County, Kentucky. The 1850 federal census confirms that Virginia was Jane’s birthplace. She’d have been an infant of two years when her parents went to Kentucky.
As I’ve previously noted, Dennis Lindsey and Jane Brooks married in Wayne County on 18 February 1813, with Jane one day short of having turned sixteen. Jane then began having children as a young mother in April 1814, when their oldest child, John Wesley, was born. As I’ve stated in a posting prior to this one, in addition to their eleven children of whom we have a record, the 1830 federal census suggests that Dennis and Jane had a son born between 1816-1820, who appears to have died before 1840.
A number of previous postings (here, here, and here) track Jane’s involvement in the multi-year settlement of Dennis’s estate. As these indicate, at the estate sale held on Christmas day 1836, Jane was the principal buyer, purchasing household items including a book case, 2 tables, chest, bedstead, reel, bedding, 13 Windsor chairs, a clock, a looking glass, a bureau, a cupboard, a trundle bed, a loom, and kitchen ware. She also bought a side saddle and various items of farm equipment, along with livestock including five cows with their calves, a sow and her litter, a lot of hogs, two horses and a gray mare and heifer. Jane also bought four volumes of the Methodist Magazine, a volume of Wesley’s sermons, a life of Wesley with notes, and two other lots of books. These items would perhaps have been things she wanted to hold onto because her father was a Methodist minister, and she had been raised Methodist and had married into another dedicated Methodist family. In addition, Jane bought a number of enslaved people at the estate sale — Lester, Betsy, and Caty and her child.
On 18 March 1839 Jane Lindsey made a deed of trust to James B. Speake and Samuel Irwin as administrators of Dennis Lindsey. The document states that Jane was indebted to the estate administrators in the sum of $2,994.37, to be paid 1 January 1840, as stipulated in her bond bearing the date 7 March 1837, due 25 December thereafter with the legal interest thereon accruing. Jane mortgaged with her brother-in-law Fielding W. Lindsey as trustee enslaved persons Kitty, Luster, Betsy, and Catharine and their future increase. The deed of trust was signed by Fielding W. Lindsey, James B. Speake, and Samuel Irwin. All parties (including Jane) acknowledged the deed the day it was made and it was recorded 28 March. Note that this document seems to tell us that the unnamed child of Dennis’s estate inventory and sale account was another Catherine, named for her mother Caty/Kitty. The 1840 federal census shows Jane owning no enslaved persons. It shows her son Wesley holding three enslaved persons. Were these three of the enslaved persons his mother had purchased in 1836? Note that in 1844, the Methodist church would split over the question of the morality of owning enslaved human beings, a practice Wesley himself vocally abhorred.
The 1850 federal slave schedule for Lawrence County shows Jane holding one enslaved person, a 10-year-old male. Her brother-in-law Fielding Wesley Lindsey holds a female aged 22, a female aged 5 and a male aged 1.
Why was Jane indebted to the estate of her deceased husband Dennis Lindsey? I think the debt dated from the sale of Dennis’s estate, at which Jane was the primary buyer. Her purchases included several of the enslaved persons mentioned in 1839 deed of trust discussed above — Luster/Lester, Betsy, Caty, and Caty’s child (who seems to have been Catherine).
The estate sale was returned to court in June 1837 with no indication of when it was held. I think it has to have been held on 7 March, the date mentioned in the deed of trust on which Jane appears to have signed notes obliging her to pay the estate for her many purchases — and this is why she was in debt to the estate in 1839. I haven’t tried tallying up the total amount of Jane’s purchases at the estate sale, but I would think it probably comes close to the $2,994.37 figure of her debt in 1839. For Luster, she paid $1,080, for Betsy, $500, and for Caty and her child, $800. And she made quite a few more purchases of household items and farm tools and equipment.
Dennis Lindsey died intestate, and his death seems to have been sudden. At the very least, it was untimely, since he was 42 years old at the time, and he and Jane had children as young as 6 (their son Dennis Edward) when he died. So Jane was left in the position of having to buy property at the estate sale that might otherwise have been willed to her, after she had claimed her widow’s portion from the estate.
And the estate was eaten up by debts. It seemed substantial when all the items and figures were placed on paper, but Dennis died just as the economy was crashing and debts were being called in everywhere, and by the time the estate was finally settled — a process that took years — there was very little left to distribute among Jane and her children.
A number of good historians, notably Edward E. Baptist in his fine book The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, point out the extent to which the economy of the growing edge of the cotton kingdom in the early 1800s was a “paper” economy. Cotton planters looked as if they were rolling in money when figures were put down on paper, but this was not “real” money. It was money on paper, speculative money, gambling on crops and depending on the extension of the system of slavery to more and more places to keep the cotton-growing economy robust.
As new areas were opening up like the northern part of Alabama where the Lindseys lived, farmers and planters also signed bonds freely for family members and friends, extending credit freely, and when the economy crashed and banks began calling in loans, all those folks were left holding notes for which they were now expected to produce payment — or they were expected to pay on behalf of those whose notes they had signed as securities.
This produced economic crisis in places like north Alabama in the 1830s, and spurred the removal of a lot of people west, especially to Texas, as they got out from under their debts and started anew. The estate of Dennis Lindsey, which looks sizable on paper when it was first inventoried and sold, took years to settle because of the many debts owed to the estate, many of them never paid. I think James B. Speake and Samuel Irwin, as estate administrators, called in Jane’s debt to the estate in 1839 to try to cover some of the many debts Dennis owed, as the economy of the region crashed in the latter part of the 1830s.
Jane is named as a daughter in the 2 October 1838 will her father Thomas Brooks made in Morgan County, Alabama. The will notes that Thomas had advanced Jane $100 legacy money. As I have noted previously, Thomas’s estate file contains a receipt dated 4 February 1837, showing Dennis Lindsey’s estate administrators John W. Lindsey and James B. Speake signing a receipt for this legacy money on behalf of Jane Lindsey.
At the sale of the estate of her father Thomas Brooks in Morgan County on 20 April 1839, Jane was a buyer. Among the items she purchased were three books, a half bushel, and a shovel and tongs. An inventory of notes Milton McClanahan compiled as Thomas’s executor on 10 March 1840, filed in the estate file, shows Jane among those owing notes to the estate for these purchases.
As I noted previously, Jane Lindsey appears on the 1840 federal census in Lawrence County as head of her household, with the following household members: a male under 5 (Dennis Edward), a male 10-15 (Samuel Asbury), 2 females 5-10 (Frances Rebecca, Margaret Tranquilla), 1 female 10-15 (Martha Ann), and a female 40-50 (Jane). Next door is her son Mark Jefferson Lindsey (1820-1878), who had married Mary Ann Harrison in Lawrence County on 22 October 1839.
On 6 June 1843, Jane Lindsey appears in an account of the estate of Robert J. Price filed in Lawrence County on that date by John M. Jackson and Elizabeth D. Price. The account shows that Jane paid the estate $18.00 on 28 Feb 1842 (Lawrence County, Alabama, Orphans Court Minute Bk. G, p. 429).
In addition to the 14 March 1841 receipt for Jane’s payment for lodging and nursing her parents in the last months of their lives (this is mentioned above), the estate file of Thomas Brooks contains receipts for estate payments to Jane dated 13 May 1842 ($72.20), 24 June 1842 ($55), and 22 August 1842 ($22.79). A 27 October 1846 account of Thomas Brooks’s estate by Milton McClanahan in the estate file indicates that Jane had been paid $150 in three payments.
Jane Lindsey appears in a settlement account of the estate of Russell Smith filed in Lawrence County on 2 August 1847. The account shows Jane owing the estate @21.00 at an unspecified date (Lawrence County, Alabama, Orphans Court Minute Bk. I, p. 338).
The 1849 tax assessment for Lawrence County shows Jane taxed for 240 acres of land valued at $960 (Lawrence County, Alabama, Tax Assessment Bk. 1848, p. 480). Jane is taxed on the preceding page from her son Mark Jefferson Lindsey, who was evidently farming with his mother from the time of his marriage in 1839 up to the point that he moved to Louisiana in late 1849.
As noted previously, Jane appears on the 1850 federal census in district 8 of Lawrence County as the head of a household that also includes her daughter Margaret, 16, and son Dennis Edward, 14. The census indicates that Jane was 52 years old and had been born in Virginia. Her real worth is given as $1200.
The 1850 federal agricultural census shows Jane in the same location, with her son-in-law James B. Speake as enumerator. She is listed as owning 120 acres of improved land and 123 acres of unimproved land. She has tools and machines valued at $8, and owns 4 horses, 5 milk cows, 4 other cows, 13 sheep, and 26 swine, all valued at $185. Her farm had produced 300 bushels of corn, 30 bushels of oats, a bale of cotton, 20 bushels of sweet potatoes, and 150 pounds of butter in the year leading up to the census.
I have no information about Jane’s death other than the date recorded on her tombstone, showing that she died 9 (or 29?) September 1852. All records I’ve found about her indicate she was living at her family farm in Oakville to the end of her life, so I think it’s likely she died there, or possibly at the house of her daughter Sarah, who perhaps provided care for Jane at the end of Jane’s life. By the time Jane died, all of her children had married except for her son Charles Washington, who died sometime before 24 October 1847 in Mexico during the Mexican War, her daughter Martha Ann, who married James Madison Williams in Itawamba County, Mississippi, on 1 February 1856, and her last son Dennis Edward, who married Sarah Jane Barnes in Itawamba County, Mississippi, on 13 July 1860. Martha and Dennis had gone to Mississippi to live with their oldest brother John Wesley Lindsey.
As I stated in a previous posting, in a 1 May 1877 letter she wrote to her sister Margaret Lindsey Hunter of Coushatta in Red River Parish, Louisiana, Sarah Lindsey Speake tells Margaret,
I often think of what I used to hear our dear mother say[,] she wanted to live to see her children grown and after they were grown[,] she wanted to live to see her grandchildren grown. That is the way with me. I think now I want to live to see my grandchildren grown and see what they will make. I love life and this beautiful world. I am like father was. I would like to live always if I could be young and able to help myself, but I never want to be helpless and dependent on any one.
Note that the receipts Jane wrote and signed, which are gathered in her father’s estate file, Jane demonstrates that she was literate. In this respect, she would have stood out among Southern women during the first half of the 19thcentury, a majority of whom could not read or write.
The Children of Dennis Lindsey and Jane Brooks
The children of Dennis Lindsey and Jane Brooks, about whom I will soon post more, were as follows:
- John Wesley Lindsey (born April 1814, Wayne County, Kentucky – died 1903 at Marthaville, Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana), married 1) Margaret S., daughter of Sylvanus Gibson and Mary Orr, 18 March 1836, Lawrence County, Alabama; 2) Mary Louisa, widow of Robert Overton Maupin, 7 August 1866, Itawamba County, Mississippi; 3) Mary Ann Nobles, widow of Daniel Campbell Wester, 15 December 1876, Red River Parish, Louisiana.
- Sarah Brooks Lindsey (born 1 August 1818, Lawrence County, Alabama – died 10 January 1889, Oakville, Lawrence County, Alabama), married James B., son of Basil and Elizabeth Kennett Speake, 1 June 1833, Lawrence County, Alabama.
- Mark Jefferson Lindsey (born 9 October 1820, Lawrence County, Alabama – died 1878, Coushatta, Red River Parish, Louisiana), married Mary Ann, daughter of Benjamin and Nancy Stewart Harrison, 22 October 1839, Lawrence County, Alabama.
- Thomas Madison Lindsey (born 9 October 1821, Lawrence County, Alabama – died 1 November 1898, Moody, McClennan County, Texas), married 1) Margaret Jane, daughter of Adam and Grizelle Caroline Matthews Torrence, 26 December 1843, Morgan County, Alabama; 2) Alice, about 1865, McLennan County, Texas; 3) Mary Elizabeth Cull, widow of J. Isley and daughter of David Watson and Sarah Cannady Brown Cull, 9 May 1875, McLennan County, Texas; 4) Mary Elizabeth, daughter of Presley and Alice Alvis Boley.
- Charles Washington Lindsey (born 1822-4, Lawrence County, Alabama – died before 24 October 1847, Mexico).
- Samuel Asbury Lindsey (born 1826, Lawrence County, Alabama – died 4 April 1865, Old Spanish Fort, Alabama), married 1) Mary Jane, daughter of John T. and Louvisa Bentley Hunter, 12 October 1848, Lawrence County, Alabama; 2) Leonora Elizabeth, daughter of William Carey and Elizabeth Jane Moffett Carey, 15 July 1860, Claiborne Parish, Louisiana.
- Mary Jane Lindsey (born 10 November 1826, Lawrence County, Alabama – died 31 January 1850, Oakville, Lawrence County, Alabama), married James Irwin Brooks, son of E. James and Nancy Isbell Brooks.
- Martha Ann Lindsey (born 11 August 1829, Lawrence County, Alabama – died 21 November 1914, Tupelo, Lee County, Mississippi), married James Madison, son of Owen and Keaton Williams), 1 February 1856, Van Buren, Itawamba County, Mississippi.
- Frances Rebecca Lindsey (born 23 September 1831, Lawrence County, Alabama – died 6 April 1916, Coushatta, Red River Parish, Louisiana), married Samuel Hiram, son of Hiram and Sarah Kellogg, 8 November 1848, Lawrence County, Alabama.
- Margaret Tranquilla Lindsey (born 14 January 1834, Lawrence County, Alabama – died 26 August 1921, Coushatta, Red River Parish, Louisiana), married J. William, son of John T. and Louvisa Bentley Hunter, 12 November 1851, Oakville, Lawrence County, Alabama.
- Dennis Edward Lindsey (born 1836, Lawrence County, Alabama – died 14 April 1863, Itawamba County, Mississippi), married Sarah Jane, daughter of Richard and Elizabeth Ann Robinson Barnes, 13 July 1860, Itawamba County, Mississippi.
As noted above, Dennis and Jane also appear to have had a son born between 1816 and 1820, who was living in 1830 but had died by 1840.
 Loose-papers estate file of Thomas Brooks, Morgan County, Alabama.
 See Dr. J.W. Hickey’s account bill in ibid., dated 5 November 1839.
 “Brooks Bible,” Itawamba Settlers 8,3 (September 1988), pp. 151-2.
 Phil Waldrep, Cemeteries of Lawrence County, Alabama, vol. 1 (privately published, Trinity, Alabama, 1993), p. 270.
 1850 federal census, Lawrence County, Alabama, district 8, p. 383 (dwelling and family 265, 6 November).
 Lawrence County, Alabama, Deed Bk. H, pp. 391-3.
 1840 federal census, Lawrence County, Alabama, p. 209. As I have noted in discussing the 1840 federal census for Lawrence County previously, the census taker lists free people of color in almost every white household — and I think this is an error. No other records I have seen indicate that there was a large number of free people of color living in the county in this period.
 Ibid., p. 207.
 1850 federal slave schedule, Lawrence County, Alabama. This document is not paginated; both Jane and Fielding Wesley Lindsey are found in district 8.
 The version of this account in Morgan County Orphans Court Bk. 5, pp. 391-2, appears to indicate that Jane had bought some of these items jointly with her son Mark Jefferson Lindsey and brother her James R. Brooks.
 See supra, n. 6.
 See supra, n. 5.
 1850 federal agricultural schedule, Lawrence County, Alabama, district 8, p. 11, line 6; 6 November.
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