Note: The following is a verbatim copy of information compiled and written by Gayle Williams on 3/30/1996.
Robert Farmer was the third of eight children born to Lawson and Nancy Wesson Farmer of Spartanburg Co., SC. The Farmers were farmers in the Dutchman Creek area below Glenn Springs near the Union County line. Presently the site is near the Mount Lebanon Baptist Church.
Robert was listed as a boy of 14 in the 1850 census but by the 1860 census he was listed in his own household. The census taken in August, 1860 listed Robert Farmer, age 25, as a tenant and his wife Elizabeth and a one (1) year old daughter. The child's name on the census is hard to read…it looks like Susan but their daughter was named Frances Jane. It is known that Robert's first wife was Mary Elizabeth "Mollie" Harrison the daughter of Jane McCray and Andrew Harrison. Her granddaughter, Quintinn Roberts, said she always thought her name was Mary Louise Harrison. The date of their marriage is not known. Frances Jane, their oldest child, was born 11 December, 1856 according to her California death certificate where the informant was Quintinn Roberts, her Daughter. It is noted that even though the death certificate of Frances Jane gives 1856 as her year of birth, the record of her marriage to her second husband, William Franklin Roberts, dated June 1891, listed her age as 33. This would make her year of birth as 1858. This date of birth would be more in line with the 1860, 1870 and 1880 census.
Two other people I talked to said Robert's wife was called Poll Harrison. However, on the death certificate of her son Warren Franklin Farmer, his wife informs the mortuary and doctor that Warren's mother was Mollie Harrison.
Their last child, Warren Franklin Farmer, was born 29 February, 1861 in Spartanburg or Union County, SC. His sister, Frances Jane's death certificate listed her birthplace as Union Co., SC.
At this point in time the Civil War was on the horizon. The dates of the Civil War were April 12, 1861 to April 26, 1865. All three of the sons of Lawson Farmer served in the Civil War. The first to enlist was Warren Farmer on April 14, 1861 at Cross Anchor, SC as a Private, Co. D, 3rd Regiment, South Carolina Infantry. His age was listed as 21.
The next to enlist was John Farmer on December 25, 1861 at Spartanburg,
SC. John, the youngest child of Lawson and Nancy Farmer, served as
a Private in Co. E, 18th Reg't SC Infantry. On July 30, 1864 in a
battle near Petersburg, Virginia, he received "a gunshot wound of abdomen,
right lumbar region, penetrating abdominal cavity." He died
July 31, 1864. I visited the Petersburg National Battlefield and
Blandford Church on Crater Road. Inside the church hangs a large
plaque listing the men from SC who died in the Battle of the Crater fought
on July 30, 1864. On the plaque was this name, "Farmer, J.R.
Private". The Blandford Church Cemetery is the burial place for 30,000 Confederate Soldiers. I assume John Farmer is buried at this cemetery.
Robert Farmer enlisted May 3, 1862 at Charleston, SC as a Private in
2nd Co. H, 1 Reg't South Carolina Volunteers, under the command of colonel
T. J. Glover for the duration of the war. One other report said he
enlisted April 15, 186_ at Spartanburg by Capt. Winsmith for the period
of the war. On November 14, 1862, he was sent to a hospital at
Culpepper, Virginia, but on the Muster Roll of March and April, 1863, he was listed as present. However, he was absent or hospitalized since May 15, 1863 when the May and June, 1863 Muster Roll was taken. The register for Chimborazo Hospital, No. 5, Richmond, VA showed R. Farmer was admitted on February 16, 1863 with "debility and contin fever." He was returned to duty April 1, 1863. He was present in July and August, 1863 but was absent for the Muster Roll August 31 to December 31, 1863. It was noted that "Robert Farmer straggled on march from Knoxville, Tennessee on December 6, 1863 without leave."
Robert Farmer never returned to his Spartanburg County, SC home and
family. The story Frances Jane Farmer Price Roberts related to her
daughter, Quintinn Roberts, is as follows. After the war ended, her
father and another soldier were trying to get home but her father became
too tired to go on and stopped to rest. The other soldier went on
and sent the message to her mother, that her father was too tired to keep
going. When her father never returned, the family assumed he was
dead. During the time Robert was away apparently Frances Jane and
her mother, Mary Elizabeth "Molly" Harrison Farmer stayed with her maternal
grandmother, Jane McCravey Harrison. Jane Harrison was the widow
of Andrew Harrison who was killed in an accident in 1858. Warren
Franklin Farmer, known as "Little Warren", seems to have lived with his
uncle Warren Farmer and
his wife Sallie Farmer and apparently lived with this family until adulthood. So far I have been unable to locate "Little Warren" in the 1870 census of Spartanburg Co., SC.
Of course we will never know exactly what happened to Robert that caused him not to return to his family. There is another version of what happened that has been passed down through the Farmer family. The following account of what happened was related to me by two Farmer relatives that grew up in the Dutchman Creek area. One other person indirectly related to the family told me the same version many years ago.
The version is: Robert's wife was Poll Harrison and while he was
away in the Civil War, Poll "ran off with that old man". Their daughter
Frances Jane Farmer stayed with her aunt Beckie Farmer Pruitt and "Little
Warren" stayed with his Uncle Warren Farmer. Later Poll came back
to Warren Farmer's home and took "Little Warren" with her. Warren's
wife Sallie went to the field and told her husband what had happened.
Warren took the harness off the mule "Ole Banner" and jumped on the mule,
forded the river, and overcame "Poll" and "Little Warren". He grabbed
"Little Warren" from Poll and brought him back to his home. "Little
Warren" lived with his uncle Warren until he was an adult. When I
asked if "Poll" ever came back to visit her son, the reply was "I guess
she was too scared to come around." Someone wrote Robert Farmer while
he was in the war and told
him what his wife had done and they think that is the reason he never returned. Quintinn Roberts, the daughter of Frances Jane said she had never heard this version! However, she said her mother spoke affectionately of her "Aunt Beckie". This Beckie was probably the Rebecca Farmer Pruitt who was a sister of Robert Farmer.
"Little Warren" was reported to look more like the Harrisons that the Farmers. It seems to me that we have a Harrison family version of what happened and a Farmer family version. My mother never spoke of this. I wonder if her father, Warren Franklin Farmer ever talked about this with his children. Oh how I wish I would have talked about the family history with my Farmer aunts and Uncles!!
On February 12, 1869 Sum Sumner petitioned for letters of administration to settle the estate of Robert Farmer who "departed this life sometime in the years 1863 or 1864, leaving a small personal estate". (Spartanburg County Estate Papers, File 1235, Estate Papers of Robert Farmer, February 12, 1869) The estate was worth about $150.00.
Mary Elizabeth "Mollie" Harrison Farmer married the second time to a
Benjamine E. Walker. They apparently only had one son, Robert Walker
born in 1868 according to the 1870 and 1880 census records. Franky
Farmer age 9 was listed in the household in the 1870 census. Frances
Jane told her daughter that she lived with her mother, stepfather and her
half-brother. According to Frances Jane, she and her brother, Warren,
did not get to see much of each other as children or adults. In the
1880 census, Frances is listed in the household of her grandmother, Jane
Harrison, and apparently lived with her until she
married Perry Valentine Price at a young age. The young couple moved to Helena, Arkansas which was heralded as "Utopia" but proved to be anything but that. She had four (4) children who al died before their second birthday. Her first husband died prior to 1891, the date of her second marriage. Evidently there were many mosquitoes and much malaria in the region.
In 1877, Robert Farmer wrote a letter to his brother, Warren. We have no way of knowing if this was his first contact with Warren. Datie Farmer Clayton, daughter of Warren Franklin Farmer, had two letters from Robert Farmer in her possession given to her by her father. She gave them to me in 1969. Since Robert's father, Lawson Farmer, had died in December, 1866, it makes you wonder if he had heard of the death. You will notice in the letter that he only refers to his mother.
Letter from Robert Farmer to his brother Warren Farmer, September,
(I have copied as is but added periods for easier reading)
"Dear brother take the present opertunity to right you afew lines to let yo no that i am well at this time. tru li hoping when this comes to hand that it may find you well and dooing well. Warren i think that I will com out this fall if i can get of. times is hard and Money is sers. Warren i wont you to send mee as mush as fiftey dollars and i think that that will enable mee to get off. and send it right soon for I wont to get of ason as i can and if i come i shal stay all winter. for wont to put up awork shop and make furniture awhile. i wont you to right all the nuse that i going in that Contrey. tell Mother that i wood like to see her and talk with her awhile Mittey (this ends the front page. Some of the letter may have been lost. Back page begins) tell them all that i hant for got them yet. All so tell them that i wont them to right as often as possible for it loks like that they have for got mee. Warren send mee the money with howt fale and i wil comesoon as i can get of. i send mi best respects to all friends inquien.
Robert B. Farmer to Warren Farmer
The other letter I have seems to indicate that Warren Farmer did not reply to Robert Farmer's letters. Evidently, Warren Farmer kept these letters to himself. It is interesting that Robert does not mention his wife Mary Elizabeth "Mollie". If Warren did not keep the letters to himself, he must have avoided sharing the information with Robert's children, Frances Jane and Warren.
The other letter I have reads as follows. I have added periods
to make it more readable.
"March the 7th, 1880
Robert Farmer to Warren Farmer
Dear borther I seet miself to let you no that I am wel at this time. truly hoping that this may find you all well and dooing well. Warren I thougt strang if your notriting. Before now I have rote 3 or 4 letters and hav got no anser yet. Warren iwont you to right as soon as you get this and let me no how you ar getting a long andhow Warren and Frances is dooing. Tell them that i wont to see them mity Bad and tell mother if she is yet aliv that i wont to see hir Mity Bad. Warren i wont you toright what has become of all the rest of the children and tell them howdy for mee. Warren i wont you to right now mush the land Brought and how much thar is coming to the arsa pas. For I wont to no whether thar is enney thing for mee or not.Warren i wont you to right qurt how the thing is so as i may no what to doo. i wont you to right Just as soon as you get this. rigt all the nuse that is out thar. Warren times is verrey hard out here. Monney is scears out here. aman can get the money for his work at all her. Bacen is worth from eight to ten cents per pound and corn is worth from 30 to 35 cents per Bushel. Laber is worth from 25 to 40 cents per day her. Warren right what Cotton is worth thar corn and so forth. so no mor of importance onley i will say i have bin working at a trad the Best part of the time that i have bin her and cant make enny Monney her. Warren tell all mi old acquantens howdy for mee. tell them that i wont to see them all verrey mush. tell
James Lawson if yet a live that i wont him to right me a letter if he plases so as i may no what hee is doing. and all so tell all mi kin folks to right to me. so I must come to a close by Saing right soon as you get this. I send mibest respects to all inqurren friends if enney thar bee and espesely the ladys. Direct your letters to Knox Co Ky
Barborsville P O.
Robert Farmer to Warren Farmer"
Somehow Robert Farmer must have learned of his father Lawson Farmer's
death in 1866 or he just assumed most probably that his father had died
by 1880. Again I believe thatWarren Farmer kept these letters from
his niece Frances Jane and his nephew Warren. Around 1931 Warren
Franklin Farmer learned that his father might be alive in Knox Co.
Kentucky. Rosa Lee Farmer Turner said her father Warren wanted to go see his Aunt Sallie Farmer when she was dying in 1931. He thought that she might tell him about his father's whereabouts. Aunt Sallie and Uncle Warren had raised "Little Warren". William Ray Kennedy, my father, said he took Warren Farmer over to where Aunt Sallie lived.Warren knew that Aunt Sallie was very sick and might be dying and told his son-in-law that he needed to talk to her. My speculation is that Aunt Sallie gave the letters to Warren that day or after she died they were found among her possessions and the family gave them to him.
So around 1931 Warren and his daughters Datie Farmer Clayton and Virginia Farmer McElmurray made some contacts with persons in Barbourville, Kentucky and located the family of Robert Farmer. Apparently Robert Farmer was deceased but his children were still in the Barbourville area. Warren and his daughters, Datie and Virginia made a visit to Barbourville in 1931 or 1932 and visited in the home of the children of Robert and Louisa Farmer. The children told them that Robert was buried on top of a mountain near their home. Datie Clayton showed me the pictures they made during the visit. The Farmer family appeared not to be very prosperous. Later, some of the children came to Spartanburg and visited with their half-brother, Warren. After an extended visit they returned to Barbourville, KY. As far as I know, this was the last contact between the two parties.
Evidently when Robert Farmer "straggled on a march from Knoxville, Tennessee on December 6, 1863", he headed north and soon found himself in Knox Co, KY around Barbourville. The Federal Census taken 1 June, 1880 in Knox Co, KY listed Robert Farmer. He evidently had married a Louisa ______ who was his age and had been born in Kentucky. I have no information as to whether or not I searched for him in the 1870 Knox Co, KY census.
Robert and Louisa had five (5) Children:
William Farmer born around 1866
James Farmer born around 1873
King Farmer born around 1873
Frances Farmer born around 1876
Florence Farmer born around 1880
The exact date of Robert's death is not known but it must have been
between 1900 and 1910. He was listed in the 1900 census taken June
1 at Barbourville:
Farmer, Robert head 61 years old born Dec. 1838 South Carolina
Farmer, Louisa wife
Farmer, Florence daughter
Thomas, John grandson
Robert Farmer was not found in the April 15, 1910 census of Barbourville and adjacent area, Knox Co., Kentucky.
I have not been able to locate a grave, estate settlement, etc. for Mary Elizabeth "Mollie" Harrison Farmer Walker. She was the daughter of Jane McCravy and Andrew Harrison and had 4 brothers and 5 sisters. Jane McCravy was the youngest child of Archibald Everett McCravy and his second wife, Jane "Jennie" Cathcart. Andrew Harrison was the oldest child of Tyree Harrison and his wife, Elizabeth O'Shields. Tyree Harrison's parents were Robert Harrison and Grace "Gracey" Agee.
Mary Elizabeth Harrison and her second husband, Benjamine E. Walker are found in the Spartanburg Co., SC census in 1870 and 1880. Of course the 1890 is unknown since they were all burned in Washington D.C. I can find no listing in 1900 for all of SC. Evidently they had only the one son Robert Walker who was born around 1868. Either they both died before 1900 or possibly they moved out of state. I need to look in the probate records in Union Co., SC for Mary Elizabeth and Benjamine Walker.
In 1968 I corresponded with Quintinn Roberts of Long Beach, California. She was the only surviving child of Frances Jane Farmer Price Roberts. Sometime after Frances Jane's second husband died in 1943 at the age of 89. In the letters that Quintinn wrote she related to me what she remembered her mother said about her early life in Spartanburg Co., SC.
1. Frances Jane said she lived with her mother and step-father, Robert
Walker until she was married. (I believe Quintinn may have gotten
the names of the step-father and the half-brother mixed up…the census says
Benjamine E. Walker.) She had one half-brother, Robert Walker.
They were reared together and she seemed fond of him.Frances Jane did not
like her step-father and never mentioned him except to say he was mean
to her little half-brother and very strict with him. Quintinn asked
her if he
was ever mean to her and she replied, "I was careful not to displease him."
2. Frances Jane talked a lot about her mother and maternal grand-mother,
Jane McCravey Harrison who was a widow. She was listed in the 1880
census as the only person living with Jane Harrison. She related
that her grandfather, Andrew Harrison,
fell from a house he was building and was killed. (I have a notice of this printed in the newspaper SPARTAN issue of February 25, 1858. "On Thursday last, the 5th inst, near the residence of Sum Sumner, in this district while engaged in placing a rafter in
a smoke house, one of them fell upon Andrew Harrison, killing his instantly. Mr. Harrison leaves a wife and children to mourn the fatality." (Date of death would be 5 Feb 1858)
3. Frances Jane said her mother remarried after her husband, Robert Farmer never returned from the Civil War and assumed he was dead.
4. Frances Jane mentioned her brother Warren Farmer saying he had gone to live with his uncle and she did not get to see him when he was little. Frances Jane said she could have gone some where to live but wanted to stay with her mother.
5. Quintinn related an incident that happened when she was about 8 years old which would have been around 1902. "A lady living in Arkansas but some distance from us sent a message or letter saying she had seen in a newspaper that my mother's where abouts was wanted because she had inherited some money from an estate of someone who had died. It must have been her mother. I remember the money amounted to $100.00. I do remember one of the letters my mother received regarding the estate had the greeting, "Dear Frances". I asked her about this and she said, "he remembers we are related, distant cousins." It was signed by an attorney whose last name was McCravy. I had heard her mention being related to the McCravys. She had said she was part Irish. I always thought that was probably the reason she had a good bit of wit, and she had Irish coloring…dark blue eyes and black hair" Remember? Frances Jane's maternal grandmother was Jane McCravy before her marriage to Andrew Harrison. I plan to do more research on this estate settlement…in the past I never found anything on Mary Elizabeth Walker or Jane Harrison.
6. Quintinn reported that her mother Frances Jane returned alone to South Carolina soon after she married her second husband William Franklin Roberts in 1891. I have a copy of a picture made during this visit with Warren and Fannie Farmer, Francis Jane Farmer Roberts, and Virginia Farmer (about 2 years old)
7. Quintinn related that around 1931 or 1932 Datie Clayton wrote her
that they had discovered their grandfather, Robert Farmer, had not died
in the Civil War. She stated that they had found some relatives in
Barbourville, Knox Co., Kentucky.
When Quintinn told her mother, Frances Jane, she said, "I'm not interested because he had deserted them."
8. Quintinn said her mother seemed real fond of her Aunt Beckie and
Uncle Bob. However, she said nothing was ever said to make her think
that her mother had lived with Aunt Beckie. (Aunt Beckie could have
been Rebecca Ann Farmer Pruitt, an
older sister of Robert Farmer. However, her husband was John and he was deceased by the 1870 Census. I don't know who Uncle Bob could be.)
When Mary Elizabeth Harrison Farmer's father, Andrew Harrison, died in 1858, he owned a 220 acre tract of land in Spartanburg and Union, SC counties. The land was bounded by land owned by Lawson Farmer, A W. Thomson, George Cathcart, Elipus Linder, nancy Smith, Cecil O'Shields and Alex Pruitt. Since Lawson Farmer's land joined Andrew Harrison's land we can assume that Robert and Mary Elizabeth grew up as adjoining land neighbors.
In regard to #5 on the previous page. When Nancy Farmer, widow
of Lawson Farmer died Frances Jane and Warren Farmer were to each receive
$50.00 in accordance with Lawson Farmer's will. Nancy was still
alive in the 1880 census but I have found no trace of her since.
She was not listed in the household of Warren and Sallie Farmer in the
1900 census as she had been in 1880. It is possible that the inheritance
Quintinn described was from Frances Jane's paternal grandparents.
Since she lived in Arkansas it may have taken some time for the attorney
to locate her.