Thursday, July 10, 2014

James P. Bartram, a soldier in the War of 1812 and an interesting character

Family lineage: James Bartram 1, Lewis Bartram 2, Emarine Bartram 3,
Queen Dickerson 4, Edna Franklin 5, Judith Hayward 6

1794 – 1875

For the first part of his life, James Bartram's story was intertwined with that of our nation which had declared its independence just a short time before he was born.

However, even after the Revolutionary War had ended badly for them, some of Great Britain's leaders strongly believed that they could get their old colony and all its rich resources back if they were able to impose enough pain and loss.  Obviously, that assumption wasn't checked out with the Americans who, when pushed, showed that they could and would fight to keep their hard-earned rights and independence.

In June of 1812, President James Madison stood before Congress and reported the many grievances being committed against America by Great Britain, including taking sailors off of our ships to work on theirs and stirring up the Indians. Following a very close vote, the United States declared war on Great Britain.  About the time he was presenting his case to Congress, the President had no way of knowing that the Prime Minister of England had been shot and killed by an assassin. The new Prime Minister was tired of war and hoped for a more practical relationship with the United States. However, without internet or telephone service, the Prime Minister's offer of reconciliation took three weeks to cross the Atlantic - far too late to slow down the wheels of war. It was 2-1/2 years before the war ended and the Americans could declare victory - again.

Within months after war was declared, the British instituted a blockade of the Chesapeake Bay, which gave their ships free rein to blockade ports, raid coastal communities, grab sailors off of the captured ships and expropriate much needed supplies. They were so successful that eventually the British commanders began to believe that they might be able to exploit the obvious weakness of American defenses in the Chesapeake to bring the war to a swift and favorable conclusion - for them.

All of this was just beginning to heat up as a 19 year old Virginian named James P. Bartram married Delilah (aka “Delili”) Wilson in 1813.  According to family legend, Delilah was the oldest daughter of a Cherokee woman, Sarah Mounts, and her husband, James Wilson.  Less than a year later, he was one of the mountain riflemen drafted and mustered into Captain Moses Congleton's Company B under Colonel George Huston of the the Virginia Militia's 4th Regiment.

 He joined 8,000 soldiers assigned the task of  protecting Norfolk, Virginia and other cities on the Chesapeake after they had been reclaimed by the Americans in ferocious battles. These victories and the strong protective force that was left to guard the area convinced the British to set sail for other ports further north, which they hoped would not be as hard to capture.

After four months, James' enlistment ended and he was allowed to return home. He was given $6.94 to cover his travel expenses for the 26 day, 520 mile trip (no expense accounts in those days!). Several years after the war ended, he was awarded a pension and some bounty land.

Everything written about James' life from 1814 to 1850 involved buying or selling property, making money, going broke, moving from state to state, starting a Baptist church in his home, being kicked out of a church, and raising nine children. He seemed to be a man of strong emotions and some unfortunate habits that occasionally got him into trouble. 

Actually James' first recorded problem took place in April of 1849 when a complaint was lodged against him by members of the New Salem Baptist Church (later called Greenbrier) in Echo, VA for intoxication.  It took months of discussion and promises made, but finally the decision was made that he could keep his membership. 

Evidently that wasn't traumatic enough for James because the next year the situation arose again which had to have been even more painful and embarrassing for his family. This time it was his son, Lewis (eventually the pastor of that church), who recorded the finding on June 26, 1850  paraphrased below:
The case of brother James P. Bartram was referred to a committee of three brethren and a decision was that he be expelled from our body".
And so James Bartram was found guilty and "churched" because of what was perceived to be intemperance or some other "moral crime of excess". Since it's highly likely that those men judging his behavior were friends and/or members of his family, it's not surprising that James and Delilah soon moved away from home and ended up in Kentucky.  A few months later, at age 55, Delilah died, leaving behind her husband,  three young children and two orphaned grandchildren.

A year later, in 1852, James married a widow, Rebecca Fannin, who was the mother of several small children and possessed large amounts of land in Kentucky. Shortly after they married they moved to Missouri where he took possession of 80 acres of land which were possibly part of his bounty award.

Perhaps hoping that he had "served his time" and would be welcomed back, he and Rebecca returned to Wayne County five years later.  It seems his hope was well-founded because now his son, Lewis, was pastor of the church that had ousted him, and he was accepted back into membership. However, before long, the "moving bug" hit again and his family packed up and moved back to Missouri. Although land transactions showed his age as 60 years old, he was actually 66 at the time.

Things seem to have settled down for a few years so we aren't sure what was actually going on.  But it couldn't have been good because the next time we run across this couple in 1867, Rebecca was selling land - without James.  What makes this interesting is that - at the time -  a married woman couldn't sell property unless her husband was dead or had legally deeded it to her. We know  James was not dead and there are no records showing that he had transferred the deed to her.  It seems he had either deserted or divorced her and moved on to a new life.

Five years later, he claimed to be 70 years old and a widower  (he was actually 78 and a widower only if you counted Delilah as his spouse), and married another Rebecca who was 34 years his junior.

James' long, interesting journey through life ended on September 27, 1875 at age 81. When his third wife, Rebecca Lunsford Sexton Bartram, was asked to be the executrix of her husband's estate, she refused, probably because by that time he didn't have enough cattle or crops to even tax. She returned to her mother who lived nearby and remarried less than a year later.

Isn't it refreshing to know that our ancestors weren't saints?  

Special thanks to Violet W. Bartram and D. Kent Bartram, the authors of a wonderful resource on the Bartram family entitled “Bartram Branches”, published in 1984 by Gateway Press which was referred to often in writing about the personal life of this very interesting man..