Nickajack

The prompt for week 26 of 52 ancestors is Black Sheep.

By the early 1800, most of my ancestors had settled in South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. My maternal ancestors were farmers living in the hills of Northern Alabama. When the American Civil War started, there was a meeting in Winston County, Alabama, to determine if the northern part of Alabama would secede from Alabama. Some people in the county did not want to participate in the war on either side and believed they could avoid conflict by seceding from Alabama. It was proposed that the counties that seceded along with eastern parts of Tennessee would form a new state called Nickajack. There was lots of people on all sides of the issue and Winston County did not secede.

This division wasn’t just between neighbors, it was also within families, as it was for my maternal 3rd great-grandfather, Thomas Milton Wakefield, and his brothers, Benjamin and James.

Thomas was born 26 February 1835 to George and Nancy Mahala (Smith) Wakefield. He was the second child and the first son. Brothers Benjamin and James were born in 1838 and 1846. In 1858, Thomas married Elizabeth Lindsey Brannan. They would have 10 children. According to the 1860 census, he was working as a farmer in Fayette, Alabama.

Thomas Milton Wakefield

Thomas would first join the Confederate Army and within a year he enlisted in the Union Army. His brothers enlisted in the Confederate Army. It was literally a war between brothers and Thomas was seen as the black sheep.

This black sheep status may not have been designated by his family, but it certainly was by Confederacy. Family lore tells of Confederate cavalrymen harassing Thomas’ wife, Elizabeth, while he was away. Upon hearing of Thomas’ Union sympathy, the cavalrymen tried to take away the small amount a provisions the family had. She aimed a riffle at them, but they surrounded her and forced her to surrender. They then bent the barrel of the riffle. The rest of the group threatened to hang her father unless he told them where the Union sympathizers were in the area. After taking all their provisions, the cavalrymen left, leaving Elizabeth in tears, unsure how she would provide for her family. She soon recovered and was able to provide for her 2 young children.

Another family story tells of how Elizabeth and Thomas arranged to meet secretly at Looney’s Tavern during the war. That meeting led to a 3rd child, James Benjamin Wakefield, my 2nd great-grandfather. Because no one was aware of Thomas’ visit, people thought that Elizabeth was stepping out on her husband while he was away.

After the war, he continued to support his large family by farming. He died in 1880 of Typhoid Fever, just a month after his 10th child was born.

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