It’s a two-line reference in the family Bible, first owned by my great-grandfather. The family records section in Bibles in the 19th century was generally inserted between the Old and New Testaments, and that’s where our family recordings were. All of the entries were in the same hand, the early ones in the same ink, suggesting they were written down at the same time. A friend in book conservation judged the Bible to have been published in the 1870s.
My great-grandfather Samuel Young was born in in 1845, 1846, or 1848 – the handwriting is not clear. Other records, like those found in online genealogy sites, have 1845 and 1846. The handwriting is clear for the birth date of his wife and my great-grandmother, Octavia Montgomery. That date is 1844. The same handwriting continues after her death in 1887, which tells me it was my great-grandfather making all the entries (and his death in 1920 is not recorded).
The records are filled with Youngs – sisters, brothers, parents, and children. They begin with the birth of Samuel’s father Franklin, in 1802 in Savannah, Georgia. But there is one entry which always mystified my grandmother, my father, and other relatives, that of a Jarvis Seale. The best guess was my father’s – perhaps a distant cousin who was also a good friend? He was the only non-Young noted in the family records. But who was he?
The advent of online genealogy sites has been helpful – but not completely helpful. I tracked down Jarvis Seale and discovered he was the husband of Samuel’s oldest sister Martha. Ancestry.com says they had only one child; Family Search notes six children. Family Search turns out to be more accurate. Their oldest child, Littleton, was close in age to my great-grandfather Samuel, and I suspect they were more friends than uncle and nephew.
Still, it begs the question of why only the one in-law added to the record? Others could have easily been included; Samuel came from a relatively large family.
Jarvis died when he was 36 in 1862, and it’s the date that might be the first clue – April 6, 1862, the first day of the two-day Battle of Shiloh. When we think of the Civil War, we think of the war in the east – Robert E. Lee, Virginia, or perhaps Sherman’s march through Georgia to the sea. Shiloh, in Tennessee near the Mississippi border, was the first major battle of the entire war, engaging thousands of soldiers on both sides. And the numbers of deaths, casualties, and missing staggered people in both the North and the South. To give some idea of the impact, the North ultimately prevailed and won the battle – and newspapers all over the North, horrified at the carnage, called for the removal of the Union generals, who included both Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman.
Jarvis has one additional mystery attached to him. The genealogy sites claim he is buried in Red River County, Texas, on the Oklahoma border. There’s even a picture of a memorial stone. But I suspect that’s exactly what it is – a memorial and not a grave. The Confederate dead at Shiloh were buried by Union forces in nine mass graves, the location of three of which are still unknown. It is much more likely that Jarvis is buried in one of those mass graves, as there would have been no reason to move his body to a cemetery in Texas. Jarvis’s oldest daughter, Margaret, was 11 at the time of her father’s death, and she herself died in 1937. She was buried in Red River County, Texas. I suspect, and it’s only a suspicion, that she was the one who had the memorial stone for her father placed in the Red River Cemetery. The family wouldn’t know where at Shiloh he would have been buried, and she might have wanted to make sure he had a stone to be remembered by.
I think, too, of Martha, Jarvis’s wife. She was living in Pike County, Mississippi, near Brookhaven (the county was later divided and renamed) with six children, the oldest of which was 13 in 1862. She never remarried. She died in 1884 and was buried in Mississippi. I wonder at her devastation at the news of her husband’s death, how it affected the Seale and Young families, and what my great-grandfather himself experienced. Samuel and Octavia had 10 children, eight of whom survived infancy. One of their daughters was named Martha (Martha was also the name of Octavia’s mother).
I wonder, too, about my great-grandfather. One brother had died in 1860; another (and the oldest) in 1863 in Texas. Samuel was the last living son. His father died in 1870, when Samuel was 24 or 25. I think about him becoming the family patriarch at 25 years old, with several sisters and their children and his own small but growing family to care for. And I think about his own service in the Civil War, serving as a messenger boy, and about what he must have thought about his brother-in-law being buried in a mass grave in southern Tennessee.
And I understand why the name of Jarvis Seale was included in the Young family Bible.
Top illustration: Engraving Of Grant’s charge at Shiloh by Felix Octavius Carr Darley (1822-1888).