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  • Writer's pictureDonna Hechler Porter

Coincidences: David Madison Chaney's Third Marriage and Death

Updated: Oct 13, 2022

A continuing series drawn largely from Laura Powers Marbut and Sarah Powers Thielbar's book David M. Chaney, 1809-1859, Allied Families and Descendants. The book has long been out of print, having been published in 1971 by Heritage Papers of Danielsville, Georgia.

The probability of a certain set of circumstances coming together in a meaningful (or tragic) way is so low that it simply cannot be considered mere coincidence.

V.C. King

Pioneer preachers had to assume leadership in many fields as the wilderness became a community, and rearing a large family in spite of disease and hardship was a testimonial to the character and hard work of David Madison Chaney. (Marbut & Thielbar, pg 3)

David, in his own handwriting continued the entries in his Bible . . .

Susan Bankston, third wife of D. M. Chaney, was born Dec. 11th, 1818, married October 13, 1846, died [left blank]

Bailey Peter Chaney was born August 1, 1847

Mary Adeline Chaney was born Oct. 17th, 1849

George Madison Chaney was born April 19th, 1851

Susan Chaney was born Sept.30, 1854

Flora Chaney was born Dec. 16,1858

There are many interesting stories told about this large family, but the tragedy of the times is how few of them survived to adulthood. The later children seemed to have a better chance. Mary, Susan, and Flora moved to Texas, lived to a ripe old age, and were all buried in Austin. (Marbut and Thielbar, pg 3)

On 13 October 1846, six weeks after the death of David Madison Chaney's second wife, Winifred Watson Vinson, he remarried a third time to Susan Bankston.

One has to wonder what went through Susan's mind at the time. The man had lost two wives after only eight years of marriage with each. Both wives had children rapidly one after the other. The man had an active ministry which required a lot of his time, and he had four children at home, three of them still rather young.

Susan Bankston was born on 11 December 1818 to Peter and Elizabeth (Robertson) Bankston. The Bankstons were originally from Georgia. After coming to Louisiana, Peter accumulated several large tracts of land west of the Pearl River where Susan grew up.

Pearl River

Susan, at least, seems to have been cut from a different cloth than David's first two wives. She was twenty-eight years old when she married David, and this marriage was her first. She was what would have been called a "spinster" at the time, for women generally married before or shortly after the age of twenty. It will be recalled that Margaret Nesom, David's first wife, was fourteen at the time of her marriage. His second wife, Winifred Watson, married first to James Vinson at sixteen, and at 22, as a widow, married David.

A month after the marriage, Susan became pregnant, and at some point, before the birth of the first child or shortly thereafter, according to his daughter Sallie (by second wife Winifred Watson), he moved the family from his father's holdings to the Viers Place, still near Bluff Creek and in East Feliciana Parish. At exactly what point the move happened is not known, but Sallie indicated she had grown up there.

On 1 August of 1847, two months shy of the Chaneys first wedding anniversary, Susan gave birth to her first child. The couple named the boy Bailey Peter Chaney. Daughter Mary Adeline Chaney followed two years later on 17 October 1849. Eighteen months later George Madison Chaney was born on 19 April 1851.

And then, tragedy struck again when David's son, David Cooper Chaney, by his second wife Winifred, passed away on 23 Sept 1852 at the age of ten years old. Nothing is stated in the record as to the manner of his death.

It would be one month shy of two full years, and three and a half years after George's birth, before Susan would bear another child. Susan Chaney arrived on 30 September 1854, and four years later, Flora Chaney was born on 16 December 1858.

A year and two months later, David himself passed away on 5 February 1859 at the age of 49.

What took him at such a young age is not known. His children by first wife Margaret (Nesom) - William and Emily, were married and on their own. Sallie, his daughter by second wife Winifred, was nineteen years old and married in 1859, shortly before or after his death. David's five children by his last wife, Susan, ranged in age from twelve to a year old.

David was buried in the Bluff Creek Cemetery in East Feliciana Parish, Louisiana. A large stone marker marks this spot.

It is believed Susan and the children went to live with her parents, the Peter Bankstons, after David's death.

In 1867 Susan Bankston Chaney passed away at the age of 49, the same age as her husband at his death. Her youngest daughter, Flora Chaney, was nine years old. It is not known where Susan was buried.

And, in another interesting turn of events and coincidences among so many in our story thus far, Susan lived eight years beyond her husband's death, the same number of years he was married to both of his first wives before their passing.

One does have to shake one's head at all the coincidences in the man's life and death.

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