This week’s prompt for 52 Ancestors is Non-Population.
While considering the topic for this week, I realized I wasn’t very familiar with non-population census record. Trying to think of a different angle for the prompt, I thought about animals and all the dogs my grandmothers had. They both LOVED dogs. Some I knew, most I didn’t. But in bouncing this idea off my husband, he suggested instead that I look to see if I could find out more about Silas Lanier’s horses. That seemed more interesting to me, so I dove into the agricultural census and found some great facts about Silas’ work life.
Silas was my 4th great-grandfather. He was born in Edgefield, South Carolina on 22 August 1797 to Darling and Susannah (Curry) Lanier. He was the third of seven children. Darling Lanier died when Silas was 9 years old. Susannah remarried by 1817 and had at least two children with her second husband. Silas had schooling or training around 1810 for a few years, which is known because of an old notebook I will post about next week. However, later censuses would indicate that he did not attend school.
On 3 March 1818, Silas married Jane Day. They would have 11 children, including my 3rd great-grandmother, Talitha Elizabeth Lanier. He was an active member of the Edgefield Village Baptist Church (now called Edgefield First Baptist Church) and served as senior deacon.
Jane passed away 16 October 1867. Silas would live the rest of his life with his two single daughters. He passed away 2 December 1884 at the age of 87. He and Jane are buried in the Lanier-Delaughter-Medlock Cemetery in Edgefield, South Carolina.
Agricultural censuses were conducted in 1850, 1860, 1870, and 1880. As far as I have been able to find, Silas was included only on the 1860 census. He may not have met the criteria to be included in the other agricultural censuses and information from a later population census show a dramatic decrease in property value ($45,000 in 1860 down to $1,088 in 1870). The agricultural census for 1860 was taken in September of that year, but accounts for the year ending 1 June 1860.
In the 1860 population census, Silas was living with his wife, Jane, and four of his daughters: Francis Jane, Martha Hasseltine, Sarah America, and Melvina. His occupation is listed as farmer with real estate valued at $3,360 and his personal estate valued at $45,000. His daughter Talitha lived next door with her husband, Stephen Martin Medlock, and their son, George Washington Medlock (my 2nd great-grandfather).
In the 1860 agricultural census, Silas had quite a large working farm. He owned 800 acres of land, 535 of which was unimproved. The farm’s cash value was $13,350 and the value of the farm equipment was $350. Silas owned 3 horses, 12 donkeys and mules, 11 milch cows, 2 working oxen, 20 other cattle, 26 sheep, and 110 swine. The value of the livestock was listed as $2,450. The farm produced a variety of crops that year: 50 bushels of wheat, 1,300 bushels of Indian Corn, 300 bushels of oats, 46 bales of ginned cotton each weighing 400 pounds, 500 bushels of peas and beans, 10 bushels of Irish potatoes, 300 bushels of sweet potatoes, 9 bushels of barley, and 2 tons of hay. The farm animals produced 50 pounds of wool, 200 pounds of butter, and $50 worth of slaughtered animals.
It seems impossible to know which of Silas’ horses are the three included in the agricultural census. Today, the average life span of a domestic horse is 25-33 years. I’m not sure if this estimate is longer than an estimate for a horse in 1860.
In Silas’ book, there are 2 horses listed that are probable candidates for the 1860 agricultural census, assuming both lived: Robert, born 1859, and Rachel, born 11 September 1859. Accounting for the third is more difficult since about 10 of the horses have birth dates that fall into that 25-33 year range.
On the same page of the agricultural census are entries for Silas’ son, John Jabez Lanier, and Silas’ son-in-law, Stephen Martin Medlock (who went by his middle name). Each have one horse. It’s possible they are also some of the horses listed in Silas’ book. Without more information about the horses, like death dates, it is unlikely to know which horses are accounted for in this census.
Despite not knowing which horses are accounted for, the agricultural census has proven to be a good snapshot of Silas’ life at that moment. However, it does lead to more questions, such as
- What happened to the farm between 1860 and 1870? Was 1870 a bad year or was the decline in value due to Silas’ age or other circumstances?
- What happened to the farm when Silas died and where did his single daughters go?
- If the horses in Silas’ book did live average lifespans, what did he do with them? Did he sell them or give them to family members?