For Love of His Family

Very little is known about my great-great grandfather. Even his full name is up for debate. I have found his name on legal papers as William M, but on some of his pension receipts, his name is listed as W G Nelson. His son signed for some of them, so I know this is the same man. Maybe one day I will be able to find out what the M and G represent, but for now I meld the two and list him as William M G Nelson.

William was born 12 Feb 1825, Georgia, to Alexander and Cartes Nelson. He had at least three older sisters, and one younger brother. There may have been others. He is listed with his family in 1850 Georgia census. By 1860, his mother has died and the family has moved to Talladega County, Alabama, where he is listed as living with his father and siblings.

When the War Between the States started, William enlisted as a Private in Company G, 46 Ala Regiment of the Confederate States Army in April of 1862, at Opelika, AL. He was a prisoner of war for several months during his service. He was honorably discharged from service on 26 April 1865.

In the 1866 State Census, he is living alone, next door to his brother.

Sometime within the next couple of years, he met and married Nancy Harvell, a young war widow, with five children between the ages of four and fourteen. The exact date of their marriage may never be known, thanks to courthouse fires. The courthouse in Clay County, AL, where they were living in 1870, has burned twice, and very few records remain from that era.

1870 Clay Co

                             1870 Clay Co

William and Nancy had three children together, bringing the total of children to eight. William loved not only Nancy, but her children as well. He raised another man’s children and loved them as his own. My grandmother helped me with my genealogy, and always spoke of her aunt and uncles in a loving way. When I found them on a census with another surname, I was sure I had the wrong family. I asked my grandmother about this, and she said, “Yes, that’s them.” I said, “You mean your grandmother had been married before your grandfather?” She said, “Yes, I think he died in the war.” From the way she talked about them, there was absolutely no difference between the children. The only way a family can survive and be that close, is if everyone loved everyone else.

1880 Talladega Co

                   1880 Talladega Co Living next to his siblings

Although there is no death certificate, there is a receipt for his coffin, dated 9 Aug 1912. His wife was buried on their family land on Germany Mountain, in Talladega Co, AL. It is supposed that William is buried next to her. We know that she had a headstone at one time. Although we have the directions to her grave-site, there have been several unsuccessful attempts to find it. The land has been sold, and is now in the Talladega National Forrest.  There have been pulp-wooders in the area, and it is possible the headstone was destroyed and will never be found.

William spent the last 12 years of his life surrounded by his children and their families. Nothing is better than the love of family.


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