Wednesday, November 11, 2015

War of 1812 - Britton Medlin

In honor of Veteran’s Day, I’d like to share the War of 1812 Pension File for Britton Medlin.  Britton Medlin is on our Baldwin/Stewart line.

Several years ago, the Federation of Genealogical Societies started the War of 1812 Pension Digitization Project.  Their goal is to raise money to digitize all of the Pension Records from the War of 1812.  Please consider donating to help preserve this important part of history.  The records will be free to the public and can be found on

The War of 1812 was fought between the United States and Great Britain and lasted from 1812 to 1815. The United States declared war for several reasons, including trade restrictions brought about by the British war with France.  Most of us remember the War of 1812 for the burning of the White House, penning of our nation’s national anthem "The Star Spangled Banner", and the “Battle of New Orleans.”

This past month while doing some research on my Medlin line, I found the War of 1812 Pension file for Britton Medlin.  Britton Medlin is thought to be the father (or perhaps a much older brother) of our Samuel Medlin and grandfather of Bettie Medlin Stewart.   Note that the Medlin name is often listed as Medley in census and other records.

The earliest record found for Britton Medlin shows him as a 16-25 year old male head of household living with a 16-25 year old female in the 1800 Census for Franklin County, North Carolina.  Britton appears to be a young newlywed with no children yet in the home.  The name of this first wife is unknown.  His probable children by this first marriage are Martha (Patsey) Medlin Richardson, Riley Medlin, and Samuel Medlin.  Sometime around 1804 the Britton Medlin family moved from North Carolina to Tennessee.

Britton Medley was listed on the 1811 White County, Tennessee tax list.  Also on the list were Samuel Medley, Richard Medley, John Medley, and John Medley Jr.

From the pension papers, we learn that Britton joined the Volunteers of the Tennessee Militia on 13 Dec 1812 at Sparta, Tennessee.  He served under Captain William J Smith in the 2nd Regiment of the Tennessee Volunteers commanded by Colonel Thomas Benton.   He served until the 20 April 1813.  

In the pension papers, there is a small piece of yellowed paper that is an honorable discharge by Andrew Jackson stating: "I certify that Britton Medlin enroled himself as a volunteer under the acts of Congress...under my command on a tower to the Natchez country from the 10th of December 1812 to the 20 April 1813 and is hereby discharged.  Andrew Jackson, Major Genl". 
Britton Medlin Discharge
Britton's first wife would have died sometime before 1823, when he was married to Margaret McDole(McDowell) on 18 Nov 1823.  The marriage was performed by Wm J Smith in White County, Tennessee. 

The Britton Medlin family is enumerated in the 1840 Census for DeKalb, Tennessee.  Riley Medly is shown as living next to Britton Medlin.

In April 1844, while working in his fields, Britton Medlin died when a tree limb fell on him.  Riley Medlin's son, John H. Medlin, was working in the field with Britton when the accident happened.  A Nashville newspaper carried the following death notice:
Republican Banner; Nashville, TN; Monday, April 14, 1845
In January 1851, Britton’s widow, Margaret Medlin, applied for Bounty Land based on Britton’s service in the War of 1812.  She received 40 acres.  In the 1851 application, Margaret said she was married to Britton Medlin by William J Smith on 18 Nov 1823 in Sparta, White County, Tennessee.  She stated that Britton died on 4th of April 1844.
1851 Bounty Land Application
Again in 1855 when the government passed another bounty land act, Margaret applied for more land.
1855 Application
Then, in 1878 Margaret applied for a Widow's pension.  In this application she gave a different date for her marriage and a different date for her husband’s death.  In the 1878 application, she said she was married in 1814 and that her husband, Britton, died in 1838.  This information differed from the previous 1851 and 1855 applications for bounty land.  

Also in 1878, Britton’s widow, Margaret Medlin, gave the following description of Britton as she thought he looked like when he enlisted.  Make note that she did not marry him until ten years after he had enlisted and served in the war, and did not give the description until 1878, over 30 years after he died.  Supposedly, Britton was 5’10” tall, fair complexion, and had blue or grey eyes.  She thought he was twenty years old at the time he enlisted and that he had been born in North Carolina.  She said he was a farmer.  

The pension board did not like the conflicting information in the different applications.  As an explanation for the mistakes Margaret made in filling out this 1878 application, John H Elrod stated in a separate affidavit that Margaret was "old and forgetful" (in 1878) when she filled out this application.  Of course, since she could not read or write, someone else filled out the application and Margaret just signed her "X".
1878 Application
Because of the discrepancy in the dates Margaret gave for her marriage and death of her husband, she was required to give additional information in the form of affidavits from several witnesses.  John H. Medlin, son of Riley Medlin and most likely grandson of Britton, told of being with Britton Medlin at the time of his death.  And, the clerk of White County, Tennessee submitted an affidavit of the White County marriage record, as shown below:
Marriage Record
Below is John H. Medlin’s January 1880 affidavit and his account of the death of Britton Medlin.  John stated that the "discrepancy of the date of death" by Margaret in the 1878 application was caused by her forgetfulness, and "she being at the time of her application very old and forgetful."  As to Britton's death, John said he was helping to plow the fields when a tree limb fell and killed Britton.  He describes himself as a "good size plowboy" who was 12 years old at the time of Britton's death.  
(Transcription below)
John H Meldin Affidavit - 1
John H Meldin Affidavit - 2

John H Meldin Affidavit - 3
Transcription of above:
State of Tennessee Putnam County, Tennessee On this 12 day of January 1880, before me M J Isbell Clerk County Court of said County, personally appeared Granville C Maxwell, aged 49 years old and John H Medlin aged 48 years old, whose P.O. address is Cookeville, Tenn, are being first sworn depose and say, that they affiants have both been indirectly acquainted with Margaret Medlin, widow of Britton Medlin, who was a soldier in the War of 1812, and have lived near neighbors to her ever since the death of Britton Medlin and they know that she has never remarried that if she had re----marriage, this fact would have become known to affiants. Affiant John H Medlin further states that he was born on the 22 day of May 1831. And was plowing in the field with said Britton Medlin when he was killed by the falling of a tree. That the affiant was at the time of said Britton Medlin’s death 12 year old, was 13 years old on 22 May 1844 after his said Britton Medlin’s death which affiant thinks occurred in April 1844. Affiant thinks that the discrepancy of the date of his death was caused by forgetfulness of Margaret Medlin, she being at the time of her application very old and forgetful. The above is the true state of fact and the true date of his death according to the best recollections of affiant. He knows that he was just a good size plowboy at the time and was 12 years old and the date of his birth as above given. ---that the time is nearly correct and that he Brittan Medlin died about 1844. Affiants both state that they have no interest what so ever in the of said Margaret Medlin’s claim for Pension and that they are not interested in it. G C Maxwell J H Medlin Subscribed and Sworn to before me this 12th day of January 1880 

Margaret Medlin’s Maiden Name
In all of the records, Margaret Medlin gave her maiden name as Margaret McDole. She signed her name with an "X", meaning she did not write and most likely could not read. 

Her name given on the marriage record by the county clerk is Margaret McDowell (see below).  On one paper, McDole was corrected to McDowl. 
"Britton Medlin and Margaret McDowell" written by White County Clerk
After looking at all the records, I believe that although Margaret's maiden name may be McDole, it is most likely McDowell.  There were both McDole and McDowell families in the vicinity where the Medlin's lived and they all seem to use both spellings interchangeably in census records and official records.   One of the main reasons I believe Margaret to be a McDowell, is that I believe she may be the sister or close relative of Elizabeth McDowell who married James Elrod.  Both, K Harrison Elrod and John Elrod, sons of Elizabeth McDowell and James Elrod, were witnesses for Margaret Medlin in the pension papers.  That would make both of them nephews to Margaret and explain why they were both witnesses.

If anyone has additional information on this family, please share.  It would be interesting to see if the descendants of Margaret and Britton Medlin share DNA with the descendants of Elizabeth (McDowell) and James Elrod.

See UPDATE for correct spelling of Margaret Medlin's maiden name and information on her parents.  Click below: 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Medlins are a hard family to do research on, so this new bit of information is greatly appreciated. I'm interested in the Elrod-Medlin-McDowell relationships. My family has done some DNA tests on and we match people with Elrods from Jackson & Putnam counties in their family tree. This was a surprise to me because I never knew of a Elrod connection in my family.