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February 9, 2014

The William W. Swains of McNairy, TN

There are three William W. Swains living in McNairy, TN in 1850.

1) William W. Swain (b. 1826) m. Mary M.C. Alexander Swain
2) William W. Swain (b. 1800) m. Rachel Anderson
3) William W. Swain (b. 1781) m. Rebecca Williamson

My family had thought that the first William Swain and the third William Swain were father and son, but those studying my family had found the 2nd William in McNairy and said the three were related, but there were a few things that kept flagging my attention. For instance, the 1st and 3rd Williams were next door neighbors for several censuses and moved into McNairy, TN at the same time. One of the censuses actually indicates a Sr. and a Jr. and grandchildren of the elder William W. Swain and Rebecca Williamson were living with the first William W. Swain which I thought would be odd if there was an extra generation living between them. But, how abnormal would it be for three William W. Swain's to be living in the same county. And timing wise it looked right to have them all be a direct line . . . 20 years between each generation. There's also some names that are similar - for instance, they both have Rueben Patterson Swain. So it was easy to assume the correlation.

Today I believe I found substantial proof that all three are not related. There is a document I found on Fold3, a claim by Mary M.C. Swain petitioning for payment of some livestock that were taken during the civil war. It's a 40+ page document that includes many details about her life with William W. Swain. What this document proves is that William W. Swain (b. 1826, m. Mary M.C. Swain) is the son of William W. Swain (b. 1791 m. Rebecca Williamson) and that William W. Swain (b1800 m Rachel Anderson) is either a different family all together or some other more distant relative.

Here's what this document proves:

1) William's name is William W. Swain (not H. - another rumor from the internet which I helped
2) He joined the army in Illinois in the fall of 1861. (page 27)
3) He was in the fight at Fort Henry and Danalson (page 27)
4) He got sick and returned home October 1862 (page 27)
5) Became a scout for the Union army in McNairy, TN and surrounding areas (page 27)
6) He died 14 February 1864 as a scout for the Union Army in East Port, Mississippi (page 27)

7) William W. Swain had a brother and 5 nephews who fought for the confederate army. (page 32-33)
    They are listed in the document as:
       - Brother Edwon Swain (killed by the federal soldiers in the state of AK)
       - Nephew Leonadas Swain (died at Corrinth, MS in spring of 1862)
       - Nephew Rufus Brown (lived in A.K.) (died between war and 1871)
       - Nephew Ephraham Brown (lived in A.K.)
       - Nephew Franklin Brown (lived in A.K.)
       - Nephew Phayette Melton (lived in A.K.)
8) William W. Swain and Mary M.C. Alexander Swain had 5 children (p 35):
     They are listed in the document as:
       1) Pamilla R.H. (26) wife of Fayette Hair
       2) Sarah P.C. (23) wife of James McBride
       3) Nancy D.L. single in 1871
       4) Milas FL (16)
       5) William Harvey (12)

9) Mary's brother is James Harvey Alexander (p36)
10) James' mother was living with James' family during the war.
11) Mary was a spinster

The information this document gives us about William's brothers and nephews proves the father/son relationship between the first and third William's above. In the will of William W. Swain he bequeaths to his daughters Patsy Melton, Lucinda Brown, Sylvania Page, Vernetta Brown, and Matilda Graves.  By looking at the last names of his nephews the link becomes clear.

One question I do still have is why the will of William W. Swain Sr. would still list WW Swain as administrator when he's already dead. It would make sense that he would indicate that WW Swain would be administrator though since he was living next door to him in McNairy and the other children were in Arkansas.

Also, the 1880 census shows a William Swain living with Lafayette Swain in Rutherford, TN. It lists William Swain as the uncle of Lafayette and 54 years old (~1826). Allen Perry Swain had a son named Lafayette. Could this be the same LaFayette and the William who was living with him is Allen Perry's brother? My William Swain (b. 1826 m. to Mary M.C. Swain) had died in 1864 and would not have been alive in 1880. Honestly, I found this census on Saturday morning and I was ready to put all my doubt to rest and be at peace with the three Williams being grandson/son/father.

Other notes: Who is John Swain (born circa 1775?)? In the 1820 Census of McNairy, Tennessee a John Swain lives four households away from William Swain (b 1800; married to Rachel Anderson). This John Swain is about 20 years older than this William. By 1830 they are next door neighbors, and in 1840 John has moved to what looks like Tishomingo, Mississippi.

This document I think answers a lot of questions and brings new ones to the table. I wouldn't be surprised to find that John Swain (born circa 1775) and William W. Swain (b. 1781) are brothers and William W. Swain b 1800 is actually a son of John and a nephew of William W. Swain b.1781. John and William probably have a common ancestor named Ruben Patterson. So, as much as this might disprove a few things I don't think we are too far off course and hopefully it will bring to light answers to some of the questions we all have had about our lineage after William W. Swain who married Rebecca Williamson.


Rosebud405 said...

You questioned why William Swain Sr would list son WW in his will when he was already dead.
I also find it interesting that he named son's
William W, Edwin C and Reuben P. when
both Edwin and William had already died in 1863 leaving only Reuben still alive.
Could it be that his intent was to make sure that his grandchildren were included and rather than list the wive's names, he instead listed his deceased sons names. Therefore, his sons heirs would be included in the division of his estate.

Renae said...

I didn't even think about Edwin C. already being dead too. Interesting. I think you are right that it must have been an easier way to divvy it all out to his grandchildren.