Monday, October 20, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #39 Mary Jane Smith Pryor

The 1863 Civil War map of the vicinity of Jasper, Tennessee, is both a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing to see where various branches of my family lived in the 1860s. However, the existence of the map means the Union Army was active in the area. It's a curse to wonder what horrors the families endured during the war years.

Mary Jane Smith was just nine years old when the first skirmishes took place in the area in the summer of 1862. No doubt she was terrified. Did she hide? Was she or her mother assaulted? Did soldiers carry off the chickens and livestock from the tiny family farm? The Union and Confederate Armies battled heavily in Tennessee. By the end of the war, did the family have anything left?

Mary Jane was born on January 12, 1853, the eldest living child of George Fraker Smith and Nancy Alley. Her father may have been loyal to the Union and may have even fought for the Union. From being a tenant farmer in 1860, he advanced to being a land owner and court official in 1870.

One effect of the war was a shortage of young men. Did Mary Jane fall in love with the wealthy, older, tall, dark and handsome Benjamin Franklin Pryor? Or was she focused mainly on his wealth? The couple married  on December 1, 1870, when she was 17 and he was 35.

Frank's wealth didn't last. He lost a lawsuit and, in turn, all his property. In 1879, the couple moved to Palo Pinto County, Texas to start over.

ClubScrap components: Natural Resources, Hydrangea; frame Attic Antiquities by Irene V Alexeeva

Mary Jane and Frank had five daughters before they were blessed with a son, who was named Green Hill Pryor after his grandfather. After Frank's death in 1889, Mary Jane carried on farming for a time, as best she could. Eventually she moved to Oklahoma to live with her children.

Mary Jane Smith Pryor died on March 28, 1934, in Oklahoma City. She was buried with her husband in Elmwood Cemetery, Mineral Wells, Palo Pinto County, Texas.

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