Millions of times the miracle of birth has been repeated. The birth that occurred on December 17, 1862, was very special. On a Wednesday, eight days before Christmas, little Margaret Malinda Beaty was born. She was named after her mother, Margaret, and her grandmother, Malinda, back in South Carolina. Malinda’s mother, Margaret, was overjoyed. Malinda may have been her sixth child and her third daughter, but she was a very special little girl. Malinda was their first daughter born since they left their families so far behind some three years earlier and made the long journey to their new home in Mississippi. They must have known when leaving they would probably never see their loved ones again. The birth of Malinda was also special because it had been just one year and six days earlier that Margaret had given birth to a son who had lived only thirty-six short days. Perhaps Malinda would fill a void left by the loss of that child.
Baby Malinda was surely the center of attention that first Christmas. Her oldest sister, Martha, who was nicknamed Sis, was almost eleven years old. Her other sister, Cary Penelope was five. Her brothers David, Samuel and Frank were nine, seven and three. In addition to her immediate family, Malinda’s Aunt Martha, her father’s younger sister had made the journey with them to Mississippi and was living with the family at the time of her birth.
The happiness that the birth of Malinda brought that Christmas was shared with a deep feeling of sadness. Malinda's father, Thomas Newton Beaty, was not there to share in the joy of his daughter’s birth. He would not be spending this Christmas season with his family. The country was at war and Thomas Beaty had enlisted in the army shortly before Malinda was born. Leaving his family behind was one of the most difficult things he had ever had to do.
Thomas Beaty missed his wife and children very much. He especially missed his little girl, his little girl that he had never seen, the little girl that he so lovingly referred to as Little Sissie. Although Thomas Beaty had been gone from home only a few months when Malinda was born, it seemed like an eternity. In a letter written five months after Malinda’s birth, he wrote the following to his sister, Martha: “I trust your prayers is continually going up to God for peace. Oh but God would grant that the time is short when we will have peace and all be permitted to return home to our families.”
On that same Wednesday in May, he wrote another letter to his wife Margaret. In that letter he asked his oldest daughter, Martha Ann, whom he called Sis, to help care for Little Sissie. “Well Sis, how is Little Sissie coming on? Is she pretty? You must take care of her. David and Samuel, how do you come on? Are you good boys? I want you to help your Ma to work and be good boys until I come home. Cary and Frank, are you good children? You must be good children until your Pa come home.”
Days turned into weeks and weeks into months as the war dragged on. It had been almost a year since Little Sissie was born. On a wintry December Sunday, four days before little Malinda’s first birthday, her father wrote the following to his wife. “I want to know how them sweet little children is getting on. Bless their sweet little hearts. Our little babe will be one year old on next Thursday. Is she walking yet? I want to see her so bad.”
Thomas Beaty would miss Malinda’s second birthday also. He would spend almost two more years longing to return home, waiting for the day that he would finally get to see his wife and children, especially his darling little girl.
The war had taken its toll on Thomas Beaty. His health was deteriorating fast. He was spending more and more of his time in hospitals. His father, David Beaty, had died, and the war had claimed the lives of two of his younger brothers, Joseph and William. A third brother, Robert Rufus, was missing in action and presumed dead. Unknown to his family at the time, Ruff Beaty had been captured for a second time by Union troops and shipped off to some distant location to a prisoner of war camp.
Almost three years would pass before Thomas Beaty would see his family again. That long awaited day he so often dreamed of finally came. Thomas Newton Beaty returned home to his family and to the little girl he so desperately wanted to see.
His joy was short lived, however. He would never see his darling little girl celebrate a birthday. Margaret Malinda, Little Sissie, died on November 4, 1865, a few months after his return home. She died in her father’s arms one Saturday morning, six weeks before her third birthday. She was laid to rest beside her brother in a small grave in the sandy, red clay soil on a hillside behind the little church that she and her family attended so faithfully each Sunday.
On October 17, 1867, death would reunite Little Sissie and her father for a final time. On that date, Thomas Newton Beaty died and was buried in the shade of Friendship Presbyterian Church, next to his infant son and daughter and his beloved Little Sissie.
In loving memory of Little Sissie
Margaret Malinda Beaty
December 17, 1862 - November 4, 1865
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