Friday, February 25, 2011

You Can't Kill a Bradford: Paternal G3 Grandpa Alford Middletown Bradford (1830-1908)

 A 6th generation American, Alford Middleton Bradford was born September 30th, 1830 to John Bradford (1801-1875) and Matilda Wray (1798-1888) in Henderson County, Tennessee. He was my great-great-great-grandfather.

Alford married Nancy J. Anderson, daughter of Jordan Anderson (1800-1850) and Rebecca D. Hamlett (1810-1883).  Alford and Nancy lived not far from Alford's parents, John and Matilda. According to census records, neither Nancy or Alford could read or write. They began having children in 1850, with the birth of their oldest child, Mary Emiline, who would become my great-great-grandmother. Then they had Martha J four years later, then Jordan a year after that. In the 1860 census, there was a boy named B.B. who was 3, but there's no record of him in the 1870 census. The 1870 census is too light and cannot be read. (I will have to try to find the original when I make a research trip to the Archives in Nashville.) According to an 1862 tax record, Alford own 80 acres, valued at 204 dollars. Daughter Laura Elizabeth would be born in 1863. It looks like she was the last child Nancy and Alford would have, and perhaps the Civil War had something to do with that.

Alford's War Record: 

Alford joined the Confederate Army at the age of 31. He was a part of the 6th Infantry regiment, which was heavily engaged at the Battle of Shiloh in Corinth, Mississippi April 6-7, 1862. After that, the regiment moved to Tupelo, Mississippi and eventually to Chattanooga to participate in the invasion of Kentucky that fall. 

The 6th Infantry then fought in the Battle of Chickamuanga. They went into the battle with 335 men, and lost half their men in that fight. The 6th Infantry participated in numerous skirmishes throughout Tennessee and Georgia, including the "Dead Angle" at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain, for the remainder of the war. 

They zig-zagged across the south the entire war, one time marching 60 hours from Lookout Mountain in Tennessee to their winter quarters in Dalton, Georgia and were only given 5 hours rest. At war's end, the infantry was paroled in Greensboro, North Carolina on May 1, 1865. The 6th Infantry only had 100 men left in it at that time, the rest having defected or died.

A family legend:
After the war, Alford returned to Henderson County to plant corn and he had one horse to work with.   His nephews came to see him and asked if they could have his horse.  He told them that was the only horse he had and he needed it to get his crop in.  Then he asked them what they needed it for and they said for the war, they had lost their horse fighting.  Well Bradford said the war is over, you need to get over and help your folks with their crop and let the war be.  They said we want to help keep it going and proceeded to shoot  Alford Bradford several times, broke his leg, and took off with his horse.  (It's unknown which nephews these were.)

He was taken to the doctor who treated his wounds and gave him a bottle of laudanum (an opiate-based pain killer). He did not set the leg. Apparently, the doctor did not believe Alford would last the night and thought there was no need to go through the work of setting the leg of a dying man.  Alford's wife was allowed to take him home.

At home, he ran a high fever but she nursed him through it. A week later, she sent for another bottle of laudanum.   He recovered but his leg was badly crippled.  When he got well, he went to see that old doctor and said, "I ought to shoot you! Why didn't you set my leg?" The doctor is reported to have replied, "Well, I didn't think you would make it through the night with those injuries..."  Alford retorted, "You should know that you can't kill a Bradford!"

Daughter Mary Emiline:

Alfred M. Bradford surrounded by his wife Nancy (left) daughter Mary Emiline (Right) and Mary's sons

Mary Emiline married Thomas E. Sellers. They farmed land nearby in Henderson County and had 11 children, though not all would live.

Daughter Martha J.:

Martha J. married Robert Martin. They also farmed land nearby. They had at least 3 daughters.

Son Jordan:

According to census records, his son, Jordan, was an inmate in the Western Hospital for the Insane in 1900, but in 1880 when he was 21 he was still living at home helping his parents with the farm. It's unknown at this time when Jordan was committed to the hospital, but it might have been some time after it opened, which was 1889. It's not known where he lived between the time his mother died in 1882 and 1900. I would imagine that he lived at home with Alford, but needed to be hospitalized once Alford became elderly.

Here's a link to photos of the asylum taken in 2004:

Link to photo of asylum

Local Bolivar legend has it that Western is haunted by the souls of the tortured. Murders and suicides were committed there. Some say patients would wander into the maze of tunnels below the building and die of starvation. In its early days, the days in which Jordan would have been a patient there, the hospital was most definitely a place where early "medical" experiments would have been performed.  Most of the early patients of the hospital did not need to be there. The patients were often mentally disabled, promiscuous, or homeless. It's unknown at this time why Jordan was committed there. According to the 1880 census, he could read and write by the age of 21, so it might have been a psychological illness. Most of the patients lived there until they died.

Daughter Laura Elizabeth:

Alford and Nancy's daughter, Laura Elizabeth, was married to James Monroe Wilson in 1887. They lived nearby in Henderson County, and had five children.   

Nancy's grave

His wife Nancy died in 1882. She was only 52. The cause of death isn't known at this time.

In 1900, Alford was still head of his own household at the age of 69. His grandchildren, a young married couple: John and Mollie Jordan (19 and 17 years old, respectively) were living with him. This took some time to puzzle out, but I have found that Alford's daughter Martha J. and her husband Robert Martin had at least three daughters: Ida, Virginia, and Mollie B. Mollie B, at the ripe old age of 15, married Needham Carroll Jordan's (father of my great-grandmother Ollie Jordan) son John Taylor Jordan. This is the John and Mollie who lived with Alford in 1900. It's unknown when John and Mollie moved to Madison county, but I imagine it was some time after Alford died in 1908. At the next census, 1910, they are living in Madison County, Tennessee. Whew! That was difficult to figure out because Mollie was born after the 1880 census was taken, and the 1890 census isn't available on, and Mollie was married and gone from her parents house by the time the 1900 census rolled around. I learned Mollie's maiden name by finding her marriage certificate.

This Jordan/Bradford connection is particularly interesting because it proves that the Sellers/Jordan/Bradford clan were joined in more ways than one. Remember, Ollie Jordan, my great-grandmother, would marry John Lee Sellers (son of Mary Emiline and Thomas E. Sellers) in 1905. 

The 1900 census proves that Alford did learn to read at some point in his life, but he could not write. His children and grandchildren were educated.

Alford's grave

Alford died at the age of 78 at his own home in Henderson County in 1908, from what I imagine was old age. I can't help but think about his earlier statement, "You can't kill a Bradford." I like to think this bearded, leathery farmer only succumbed to death when he felt he was ready.

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