Monday, September 22, 2008

Bettie Medlin -- Little Orphan Girl

Probably the saddest stories I come across in my family history research is when a mother dies leaving behind young children. Our ancestor, Bettie Medlin was one such child.

Bettie Medlin Stewart

Bettie Medlin was the youngest child born to Samuel and Rebecca (Morgan) Medlin. Rebecca died while Bettie was still a small infant and she was raised by another family. Bettie was probably born about 1854, although no record of her birth exists. Bettie stated in a letter included in Henry's Civil War Pension Records that she did NOT know her birth date or how old she actually was and she usually did not give a birth year or age to the census taker. BUT, in about 1932, Bettie told her great-granddaughter, Ethel Baldwin, that her BIRTHDAY was on Valentine's Day, Febuary 14. I feel that she personally picked that day for her birthday since she did not know her real birthday, so that is the birthdate I have given her.
She said she was born "close to Nashville, TN" in one letter and in "Putnam County" Tennessee in another letter. Her family, the Samuel Medlin family, was in Wilson County in the 1850 Census. Brother, Riley Medlin, stated he was born in Wilson Co., TN in his Civil War Pension Application. Wilson County is just above Nashville (Davidson County), so it is "close to Nashville."

As stated earlier, Rebecca died shortly after Bettie was born. Bettie stated in a letter dated 25 Jan 1917 (included in the widow's pension application of her husband, Henry Stewart's Civil War Pension Records #1244,834) that her mother died when she was an infant and that "the people with whom I was raised their name was Barnett Richardson near Boulding Green, Ky."

There is a Barnett Richardson in the 1860 Putnam Co., TN census. Included in his family is a 7 year old Elizabeth which is most likely our Bettie.

Further research into Barnett Richardson, shows he has a brother Caleb Richardson who was married to Martha (Patsy) Medlin. Also in the 1860 Putnam County census is a Riley Medlin family with a 11 yr old, Isaac P. Medlin in household, who is most likey Bettie's brother, Isaac Pinkney. Conclusion: Barnett Richardson's sister-in-law is Patsy Medlin Richardson. Patsy may be related to Bettie's father, Samuel Medlin and to Riley Medlin. These relationships need to be researched, but they could very well be siblings.

Most of Bettie's siblings were old enough to be married, or else they went to live with other family members after the death of their mother. In 1860, sister Amanda can be found living with married sister, Emily Medlin Rogers. Bettie's father may have remarried to a Peggy Jaco but there is no indication any of the children remained living with him after the death of his first wife, Rebecca.
Bettie also stated that in 1870 she was living with "William Brown his wife Emma Brown and their children names were Clerry Jane Brown, Permela Brown and Smith Brown in Putnam Co., Tenn." Emma (Richardson) Brown is the daughter of Caleb and Patsy (Medlin) Richardson and niece of Barnett Richardson.

In 1870, William and Emma Brown lived next to Harrison Stewart (Henry's father) and Caleb Richardson. Bettie probably lived with the Brown Family and met Henry Stewart. Perhaps she helped to care for Henry's children after his first wife died?  Bettie married Henry Riley Stewart at the home of William and Emma Brown (as recorded in the Stewart Family Bible pages in possession of Lorene Stewart Family of New Mexico):
"H.R. Stewart of Tenn. & Bettie Medlin of Tenn. married Aug 17, 1872 by Rev. Jacob Stewart at Brown’s house. Witnesses: Browns and Stewarts." The Rev. Jacob Stewart was Henry's brother.

Bettie and Henry had eight children: Mary Jane Stewart Baldwin, David Hargon Stewart, Jospeh R. Stewart, George Thomas Stewart, Henry P. Stewart, Evert Walter Stewart, Charles Vester Stewart mand Mattie May Stewart.

In the 1880's, Bettie and Henry moved to Texas.  They were living in Young County, Texas when their oldest daughter, Mary Jane Stewart, married Allen Baldwin. The Stewarts then moved to Oklahoma in the early 1900's. They built a large stone house in Kiowa County.

Bettie's husband, Henry, died in September of 1912. After the death of her husband, Henry, Bettie lived with children and grandchildren. In the early 1930's in Kiowa County, Oklahoma, Bettie lived with her grandson Jess Baldwin and his young family. Great-granddaughter, Ethel would sleep in the same big feather bed with Bettie. Ethel would slip into bed with her socks on.  Bettie would reach down and feel her sock garters holding up the socks and promptly tell Ethel to get her socks off.  Ethel said that Grandma Bettie was a tiny lady, about 5 feet tall and 90 pounds. She was very feisty lady. Bettie had long black hair (no grey hair even in her 70's) that she would braid and roll in a bun. Every night Grandma Bettie would go through the same routine -- she would put on her flannel nightgown, take down her braids, unbraid them and brush out her hair, then she would rub "Golden Peacock" cream on her face, and then drink the glass of milk she had set on her night stand. She used the "Golden Peacock" cream to bleach out her age spots. The milk she set by her bed every night had 3 or 4 drops of a medicine used for colic (paregoric) because it helped her sleep.
Golden Peacock Bleach Cream
Great-granddaughter Esther remembers that Bettie would sit very strait, wore dresses with high-necked collars, and was very particular about how she took care of herself.  Another great-granddaughter remembered Grandma Bettie allowing her to see the contents of her trunk with all of her mementos and treasures in it.  That is probably where she kept the Family Bible.  Wouldn't you love to go through that trunk today?:)

Bettie made up some rather fantastic stories to tell the grandchildren as to why she was an orphan -- Indians attacking their wagon train and killing her parents, being kidnapped by the Indians, etc. One such story had to do with her mother being an Indian and the Indian tribe being upset with her because she had married a white man.  The Indians killed her father and left her mother for dead.

Some descendants of Amanda Medlin Reed, Bettie's sister, also recall stories about an "Indian Grandma."  In the early part of 2002, I had a telephone conversation with Henry Reed Jr. of Madison, TN.   He said that his great-grandmother was Cherokee Indian.  Supposedly, Rebecca was born before the Indian removal. When the Cherokee's were driven out of Tennessee on the "Trail of Tears", Rebecca hid out in the mountains. The mountains were in the southern part of Tennessee -- One was called Lookout Mountain. Henry said he saw a picture of this grandmother when he was a boy and she looked Indian. He said Rebecca was not her real name, it was a name given to her when she was christened. Her real Indian name is lost to anyone's memory.  Are these stories based on facts and was this great-grandma, Rebecca Morgan, a Cherokee Indian??
If anyone has any information concerning Rebecca Morgan, please leave a comment.

Back to Bettie.  Some of the great grandchildren had fond memories of their great-grandma Bettie.  But, some of the grandchildren and great-grandchildren thought Bettie was a "mean old grandma." One great-granddaughter remembers Bettie throwing the dirty dishwater on her. (This was in the days before indoor plumbing.) She said Grandma Bettie would wait until there were children playing outside to throw out the dishwater, and that it would usually land on some of the grandchildren. Another grandchild remembered Bettie swatting them with a fly-swat if they bothered her too much. 

Another picture of Bettie can also be seen in the previous posting of the Stewart Stone House .

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