Friday, March 12, 2010

Fearless Female - Harriet C. Wilson Bebout

I received a wonderful gift a couple of weeks ago. One of my Bebout cousins shared a photo of two people, possibly my great- great-great grandmother, Harriet C. Wilson Bebout, and her "afflicted" son, John. I had never seen a photo of either of them. In Harriet's face I could see my mother, especially around the eyes. My daughter thinks she sees me in Harriet. Perhaps there is a family resemblance. This gift is also special because Harriet has always fascinated me. Let me share a bit of her life story with you.

Harriet was born in December 1824 in the part of Livingston County, Kentucky that is today Crittenden County and was the daughter of John E. Wilson (ca 1780 NC - 2 November 1853) and Harriet Brooks. Harriet Wilson's mother died when she was about 6 years of age and she was reared by her step-mother, Nancy Franks.

Harriet grew up in a large family. Her father had at least four children by his first marriage to a daughter of Hugh McVay. These children were Manerva, Claibourne, Martha "Patsy" and Letty Keziah. Five known children blessed the marriage of John E. Wilson and Harriet Brooks, his second wife. They were Mary, Eleanor Brooks, Sarah, Harriet C. and Frances Jane "Franky." Then, by his marriage to Nancy, the third and much younger wife, the family expanded to include three more children - Pernesa, another Sarah, and another Claibourne. I think they ran out of names for the children as they named two daughters Sarah and the only two sons were named Claibourne. I don't know if the two Sarahs were named after someone in the family, but the two Claibournes were most likely named for Claibourne McVay, John E. Wilson's first wife's brother.

Harriet was not quite 21 years old when she married Peter Bebout, the son of Abraham and Elizabeth VanOstrand Bebout. Together they had the following children: Harriet, Elizabeth, Pernecia Rebecca, John, Jesse B., Chester C., Margaret/Ellen. We don't know a lot about their lives, but we do know that Peter was a farmer and they probably attended the Baptist church. One child was born in Iowa so they did spend a short time in that state. They never owned slaves and it is not known if they had strong feelings about slavery. We do know that Peter enlisted in Co. D, 20th KY Voluntary Infantry (U.S.A.) rather than in a C.S.A. regiment. Unfortunately, he did not survive the war and died in Columbia, Tennessee in 1862.

Rearing the children fell solely on Harriet. It must have been difficult providing food and clothing for the family. By the end of the 1870s the children were all married except John, who would never marry. Harriet and John lived the last years of their lives with her youngest son, Chester. In 1908, Harriet passed away and was laid to rest at Pleasant Grove Cemetery on the 17th of June.

Harriet lived to be almost 84 years of age. Many events occurred during her long life. In the 1830s, thousands of Cherokee Indians walked through this area as they headed toward their new homes. On 1 April 1861, the attack on Fort Sumpter signaled the beginning of the Civil War and would result in a life-changing event for Harriet and her family. Was she aware of that wonderful invention, the telephone? Did she know about the machine, the automobile, that would change the mode of transportation of her children and grandchildren? What a treat it would be if I could hear the story of her life in her own words.

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