Obituaries valuable for research

I recently completed a book project for the Fayette County Genealogical & Historical Society, compiling obituaries of county residents born before 1900. Prior to this year, Fayette County is short on newspapers that would have carried the news of the passing of an old-time resident.
This new 100-page book, “Our Fayette County Ancestors,” is the seventh in the series and has an average of three obituaries, death notices or funeral cards per page, which will result in more than 300 notices of death and include, for the most part, good genealogy information.
Where they died does not matter; in fact, obituaries clipped from newspapers in various cities and states for those born in our county contain some of the more valuable information for the family researcher.    
These obituaries have been sent to us by members, and in the past, the information provided helped several to break through genealogy “brick walls.”
The obituary of Alice Taylor Davis, who died on June 20, 1955, is one of these. Within the five paragraphs of information published in The Vandalia Leader, six generations of her family history was given, tracing the family back to the Revolutionary War.
According to the obituary, her great-great grandfather, Andrew Taylor I, was a soldier of the Revolution, having served with the Virginia forces, and her great-grandfather, Andrew Taylor II, was a spy with the King’s Mountain Men of North Carolina.
Alice’s great-uncle, Gen. Nathaniel Taylor of Tennessee, served with Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812. Her father, Levi Taylor, was a Union soldier during the Civil War, serving three years in Co. F, 111th IL Infantry under the command of Lt. William Carpenter.
From the obituary, we also learn that two of her second cousins served as governors of Tennessee: Robert Taylor, from 1887-99; and his brother, Alfred from 1921-25.
The ending remarks of the obituary tell that her father, Levi Jasper DeCalve Taylor, donated the land for Taylor Cemetery in Seminary Township in the year 1855. The beginning of this family cemetery could have been because Levi’s first child, Elizabeth, died that year.
Alice was the fourth child of Sarah Dugan and Levi Taylor, and was born on Aug. 21, 1866, in Seminary Township. What was not told was that Sarah was the first of Levi’s four wives and died when Alice was 8 years old.
Alice was married on July 16, 1883 to John William Davis, and they were married 62 years before his death in 1945. The couple lived on the same farm in Bear Grove Township their entire married life.
Alice and John were parents of nine children, with seven preceding their parents in death, five in infancy: Lillian F., Jasper Luther, Mary Edith, Mildred and Ollie O. ,who are buried with their parents in a row near the entrance to Taylor Cemetery.
Two children died as adults: Dr. George Carlin Davis and Mrs. Anna Morris. Following the death of her husband, Alice made her home with a daughter, Mrs. Adolph Wehrle in Bear Grove Township. Her other surviving daughter, Mrs. Gordon Bunge, lived in Downers Grove, in the northern part of the state.
It is from a Davis relative that a startling bit of information was shared with a family researcher, Virginia Hopkins. Alice, believing that a draft was unhealthy for infants, kept them in a deep trunk. Rather than protecting them, the situation apparently caused their death.
Some information not included in the obituary was the fact that Alice’s full name was Arminta Alice, she having been named for her aunt. This name appears on her headstone in Taylor Cemetery.
Checking on the Civil War service of her father, I discovered that Levi mustered in at Salem on Sept. 18, 1862, and trained there at Camp Marshall for more than a month before his company was deployed on Oct. 31.
His brother, Andrew, served in the same unit. They were both discharged at Washington D.C. on June 7, 1865.
Obituaries have long been a source of information for those researching family history, and those such as that of Alice Taylor Davis are the exception rather than the rule.
 

Leave a Comment