Rebecca lost her father when she was not yet three years old. As her
mother never remarried, she was raised as the only child in the farming
and slave-owning household of her mother and grandparents, but with an
extended family nearby. We know that she attended school briefly in
Athens, Alabama about 1839, staying with her uncle John Ramsey Denty and
his wife Matilda. She later attended the Pulaski Female Institute until
her eighteenth birthday.
On 4 Oct 1852 she married James Abernathy at her mother's home in Giles
County, Tennessee. James, born on 6 Nov 1825 in Brunswick County,
Virginia, was the son of William David and Mary Beckwith Abernathy. The
groom moved into his mother-in-law's house and, turning his own family
farm over to his younger brothers, began to very successfully manage and
increase the Denty acreage on Big Creek. By the 1860 Census, James was
listed as head of household, with real and personal property valued at
$16,500 and $22,000. On the Slave Schedule that year, he was shown as
the owner of nineteen slaves.
In December 1861, James enlisted in what would become Company A, 11th
Tennessee Cavalry, later consolidated into the 1st Tennessee Cavalry. He
returned home after the Battle of Chattanooga in late November 1863 with
the rank of Captain.
Despite the war and its aftermath, the farm and the children raised
there continued to flourish. The Abernathys' built a school and provided
land for a church. James bought a mill that would become known as the
Arlington Mills, and later the name of Arlington was applied to the farm
as well. On 22 Mar 1901, sixty-eight year old Rebecca died of pneumonia
"on the same premises where she was born and married". The Pulaski
Citizen, The Giles County Record, and the Christian Advocate all carried
her obituary, the Christian Advocate aptly describing her: "Whatsoever
her hands found to do (and they were always finding), she did with her
might . . . A good and faithful wife, an unselfish neighbor, a sincere
Methodist." Captain James died only two months later.
The Abernathys had twelve children , eight of whom lived past infancy:
Elizabeth Denty Abernathy, born on 27 Aug 1857, graduated from Tennessee
Female College in 1877 and became a schoolteacher, but never married.
She died in Giles on 13 Aug 1932. Elizabeth delved into the family
history and preserved and expanded the heritage left to her by her
Mary Hardaway Abernathy, born in 1863, married Dr. H. Taylor Campbell on
20 Nov 1888. The couple moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where Dr.
Campbell died in 1918 and Mary in 1934. They are buried in Mt. Olivet
Cemetery in Nashville.
Liles Edward, born in 1866, became a cattle trader and magistrate. He
married Sarah Abernathy Cunningham on 30 Jun 1917 in McKinney, Texas. He
died in Giles County in 1936.
Named after her aunt Susan Kent Denty of Huntsville, Alabama, Susan Kent
Abernathy was born on 25 Apr 1868. On 20 Nov 1907 she married John Henry
Stevenson. Susan died in Pulaski, Tennessee on 11 Oct 1947 and was
buried in Elkton, Tennessee.
Adelia Boisseau, born on 2 Mar 1870, married John Henry Rogers, a
farmer, on 17 Jan 1893. Widowed in 1922, "Desie" died in Nashville,
Tennessee on 5 Apr 1922.
Born on 8 Mar 1872, Margaret Jackson Abernathy never married. She died
on 8 Jan 1901 in Nashville, Tennessee.
Florence Irvine was born on 3 Jan 1874. She married farmer and stockman
(and cousin) Joseph Cayce Abernathy on 23 Oct 1900. It was their
daughter Rebecca Denty Abernathy (1901-2001) who discovered the cache of
Denty letters in the possession of her Campbell cousins. Florence died
on 24 May 1961 and was buried in Maplewood Cemetery in Giles County.
William DeLacey Abernathy, born on 28 Feb 1880, married Elizabeth Buford
in 1919. Engaged in farming, William became a sheep expert. He died in
1965 in Pulaski, Tennessee.
Information compiled by
Rick Gray. Sent to Mary Bob Richardson to recompile and forwarded on to
this site. 19 Nov 2012.