Remembering Jacob Sellers

Confederate Mound Memorial, Chicago

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War.  Like so many Americans, I have my Civil War ancestors.  I will be writing about each one of them as research reveals their stories.

Jacob Sellers is not related to me by blood, but I just could not let his story remain untold.  He was born in 1829 in Haywood County, North Carolina, son of   John “Blacksmith” Sellers and his wife Sarah.  Jacob married Rachel Bonham 26 March 1854 and was the father of three children.  His youngest daughter Julia grew up to become to my paternal grandmother’s step mother.

Jacob enlisted as a private with the 62nd North Carolina Infantry, Company I.  The 62nd was formed in Waynesville, North Carolina 11 July 1862.  Between July 1862 and September 1863, the 62nd was involved in engagements at Warm Springs, Cataloochee and Big Creek on the Tennessee and North Carolina border.  They also saw action at Union, Watauga Bridge, Carter’s Station and Carter’s Depot in eastern Tennessee in an area known to be very pro-Union.

Memorial Tablet, Jacob Sellers

During the summer of 1863, the 62nd became part of General Archibald Gracie’s Brigade at Cumberland Gap in Tennessee. General Gracie was ordered away and General John Wesley Frazer took over the command.  On 9 September 1863, General Frazer, believing that the Union army of General Ambrose E. Burnside vastly outnumbered the  Confederates,  surrendered his troops  at Cumberland Gap, Tennessee. Though several hundred Confederates were able to escape capture, over 2000 men were taken prisoner.

Jacob was among those captured at Cumberland Gap, 9 September 1863 and sent to Camp Douglas in Chicago along with at least 442 soldiers from the 62nd. Conditions at Camp Douglas were, by all reports, deplorable. Of the 442 soldiers of the 62nd, 196 of them died at Camp Douglas, including Jacob Sellers. Jacob died from diarrhea on 16 October 1863. He was originally buried at the City Cemetery, Lot 741 in Chicago. After the end of the war, in 1867, all the Confederate dead were relocated to a mass burial known as the Confederate Mound in Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago. The Confederate Mound is the largest mass grave in the Western Hemisphere and is the final resting place of 6000 Confederate soldiers who died at Camp Douglas. It rises over 40 feet high and set into its base are plaques listing the 4200 known dead. Among those names is Jacob Sellers.

Buried in a row in front of the monument are twelve Union soldiers, guards who died at the camp.

Someday I hope to pay Jacob a visit to let him know he is remembered.

Oak Woods cemetery is located at 67th and Cottage Grove inChicago.

Credits and Sources:

Photographs used by permission: Matt Hucke,

For more detailed reading on the 62nd North Carolina Infantry:    (this is a great site for research on the Civil War)   A first hand accounting of the history of the 62nd and the surrender of Cumberland Gap written in 1901 by B. G. McDowell, who served with the 62nd.


For more information on Camp Douglas: (This tribute page to the 62nd has “Danny Boy” playing in the background.)  (this article appears to be well researched and more balanced than some I have seen on the internet)

Other sources: Civil War and genealogy records on



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He Wasn’t an Only Child After All

How many of us in looking at our family trees, go back a couple of generations and have the notation “only known child of…”?   I took one of my Only Children and eventually found that he was the youngest child in a large family. 

Thomas Jefferson Allison was born in 1839 in Obion County, Tennessee.  He married Mary Magdalene Sloan 6 January 1857.  Mary was born April 1839 in Tennessee.  Family lore tells us that TJ’s parents were Thomas Allison and Mary Harris.  There was no mention of siblings for TJ.

 My first stop in locating more information on TJ and his parents was the 1850 census for Obion County, Tennessee. TJ Allison is listed at age 11 with his parents Thomas and Jane, and sisters, Caroline and Harriett.  So our Mary Harris has become Jane.  Also in the household are two young men ages 21 and 18, Edmund and Jackson Harris.  I believe they are brothers to Jane,  supporting that her surname was Harris. 

Now we have Thomas Allison and Jane Harris with three children Caroline, Harriett and Thomas Jefferson Allison.  Living nearby in the same county are William W. Allison, born 1818 and Milton J. Allison born 1820.  Their ages  indicate that they could be much younger brothers of Thomas, born 1796, or much older brothers of  TJ and his sisters.  I decided to follow the brother of TJ route as being more probable. 

The next step was to fill in the age gap between TJ and his sisters and the two older  Allison brothers.  Using the 1830 and 1840 census records for Thomas Allison, I set up a  chart of  genders and ages  for people in his household for those years.

I began with the 1840 census.  TJ filled in the spot for the youngest male child with Caroline and Harriett occupying the appropriate spots based on  their ages given on the 1850 census.  Thomas and Jane fell into place and the two Harris boys also found a niche.  I  needed to find out if  William and Milton were at home or on their own in 1840. Since I was able to locate an 1840 census for  William but not for Milton, Milton filled the spot of second oldest male  in the household. The  remaining spaces were all female members of the Allison household.

 I had already located the marriage record for Thomas Jefferson Allison and Mary Magdalene Sloan in Obion County. I turned to for my search to locate marriage records for his siblings.  Using the surname Allison and focusing on marriage records of Obion County, Tennessee, I was able to find Allison marriages from 1838 through 1901. This gave me more than enough Allisons  to fill in the 1840 census. I then backtracked to the 1830 census to reinforce the picture of the family of Thomas Allison and Jane Harris.

 My next goal was to find the birth years of the Allison daughters. Using the marriage records, I searched for their spouses on  census records using Ancestry. This  helped to place them in the proper age ranges  shown on the  1830 and 1840  census records. The oldest daughter, Frances, did not factor into the Allison 1840 household.  She had  married in 1838 and her husband is listed on the 1840 census.

While I was working on this, my cousin  was working with a professional researcher. Because there were so many years between the two older Allison brothers and the three younger children, he wanted to rule out the possibility that Thomas  had  two marriages. There was also the question of the name of Thomas’s wife, Mary or Jane.

The  arrival of the professional report  verified much of my research. It also supplied a definite birth date for one the Allison daughters and even supplied her death date and place of burial. The researcher also located the marriage record for William as it was not available online. No other marriage was found for Thomas and we decided to go with the name Jane since it was supported by census records.

Here is the end result of this research:

THE FAMILY OF THOMAS ALLISON AND JANE HARRIS (information compiled from census and marriage records and supported by a professional researcher)

Thomas Allison, born 1796 SC/NC and wife Jane Harris, born 1802 Virginia.

Children…all probably born in Tennessee…all marriages in Obion County, Tennessee.

William Wilson Allison, born 1818.  Married Martha Matilda Edmonds 18 May 1837.

Milton J. Allison, born 1820.   Married  Synthey D. Davis 24 September 1840.

Frances J. Allison, born 1822.  Married Ambrose Bramlett 8 June 1838.

Martha A. Allison, born 1824.  Married Samuel H. Davis 24 September 1840.

Elizabeth A. Allison, born  1826.  Married Green W. Parker 5 May 1845.

Elvira Allison, born 1828.  Married Thomas H. Maxey 26 May 1845.

Mary E. Allison, born 15 April 1829.  Married Benjamin Landrum 23 July 1846.

Unknown female Allison , born about 1831 (This is the only slot on the 1840 census that I could not fill  with a name.)

Harriett Allison, born 1832.  Married John Wilborn 28 October 1851.

Caroline Allison born 1835. (no further records found).

Thomas Jefferson Allison, born 26 March 1839.  Married Mary Magdalene Sloan 6 January 1837.

Edmund Harris born 1829.

Jackson Harris born 1832.

 After the death of his wife Synthey, Milton married Rebecca Birdwell Cole, widow of James Madison Cole, on 22 March 1862.   He married a third time to Sarah Jane Autin on 7 April 1870. After the death of her husband Ambrose, Frances Allison Bramlett married H.A. Pally 18 November 1870.

Since Martha and her brother Milton married on the same day and their spouses  had the same last name, it isn’t a stretch to  assume that Synthey and Samuel  were siblings.

The Harris brothers do not fit the age ranges for male children  in the 1830 census for the household of Thomas Allison, so it can be assumed that they were living with their parents.  They most likely  joined the  household of their sister upon the death of their parents.  It is also easy to believe that with two older sons and a string of  eight daughters, that Thomas would have  needed help working   his farm.

With one family group reunited, the search is on for the parents of Thomas Allison, Jane Harris and her brothers.

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Please Take Care of This Book

Pleas take care of this book

“Facts as near as I know.  Don’t hurt anyone to have records, as may come in handy to know in future.  I’m writting five of these books from my copy.  I wrote it from memory, + what others have told me, and from other records I have.

“I’m writting each of you five children one book. All are alike, or near, so if one child happens to get their book destroyed or lost, he or she can get a recopy from one of the other four children.

“Pleas take care of this book.

   ” By Mama”


These are my grandmother’s words, exactly as she wrote them on the pages of a 10 cent Nifty notebook, blue ink flowing from a Parker fountain pen.

The year was 1959. Grandma had it in mind to set down in writing the family history as best she knew it. “Don’t hurt anyone to have records,” she wrote.

She wrote out five copies of her little book, one for each of her children. I first saw my mother’s copy not long after my grandmother’s passing in 1965. I was 12 years old and I was fascinated.

Using my grandmother’s record as a beginning, I have gone on research binges over the years always with the goal of adding to my grandmother’s legacy.

Grandma wrote from memory, things she knew and things she had been told. There are a few errors here and there as would be expected with any oral tradition.  Still and all, it is amazingly accurate.

As I sift through the records on and other online resources, all I can say is….Grandma would have loved the internet

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