• Donna Hechler Porter

Nothing Gold Can Stay: The Death of David Madison Chaney's Second Wife


Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf,

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day

Nothing gold can stay.

Robert Frost



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.


In David Madison Chaney's own handwriting, in his Bible, he continued . . .


2. Winifred (Watson Vincent) was born Jan. 24th, 1813, his second wife and her second husband, married August 29th, 1837, died Aug. 23, 1846.

Roxana Marie was born July 9, 1838, departed this life Oct. 14th, 1843

Olivia Jemima was born July 9, 1838, departed this life July 25, 1838

Sarah Reeves Chaney was born Jan 27h, 1840.

David Cooper Chaney was born Nov. 30, 1842, died Sept. 23, 1853

Harvey Chaney was born June 30, 1844?, died October 22, 1845?


Eight months after Margaret's death, on 29 August 1837, David Madison Chaney, married 24 year old widow, Winifred Watson Vinson.


Winifred had been born to William Watson and Abigal Torrence. She had been raised along the Amite River at Watson's Landing, her family's farm. At the age of sixteen, she married James Vinson in St. Helena Parish, Louisiana. They lived on a farm near her family where she gave birth to four children: William, Rachel, Abigail, and James.



Amite River, Mississippi


James, Winifred's husband, passed away about 1835. She probably moved in with family and friends, and on August 29, 1837, two years after her husband's death, she married David Madison Chaney probably in St. Helena Parish, for no marriage license can be found in East Feliciana Parish. Unfortunately, the courthouse in Livingston burned down and all the records were destroyed some time ago.


For some reason, Winifred left her four children behind with relatives when she came to East Feliciana Parish after her marriage to David. Why, it was never known, nor was it discussed between family members. It has been noted that the step-siblings of both sides had little to do with each other, and only an uncle of hers, Lewis Watson, came to visit the Chaneys on occasion. (He was not in any way, I understand, related to Louis Watson, first husband of Emily Chaney, David's only daughter by his first wife, Margaret Nesom.)


A day after David's wedding to Winifred, David's son, John Thomas, by his first wife Margaret, passed away. The circumstances are not known.


Winifred became pregnant fairly quickly after the marriage, and not quite a year later, she gave birth to twins. Roxana Marie and Olivia Jemima were born on 9 July 1838. Unfortunately, Olivia passed away just shy of two weeks later on 25 July 1838.


Sixteen months later (she became pregnant only five months after the birth of the twins) on 27 January 1840, Winifred gave birth to Sarah "Sallie" Reeves Chaney. Despite the close proximity to the birth of the twins, Sallie was a strong, healthy soul and lived to be 70 years old. Not quite two years later, on 30 November 1842, Winifred gave birth to the couple's first son, David Cooper Chaney.


Eleven months later, in October of 1843, daughter Olivia, the surviving twin, passed away. In 1844, son Harvey Chaney was born. He lived only a year, passing away about 1845.


On 23 August 1846, Winifred, aged 33, passed away. The reason is not known. Could it have been in childbirth as Margaret? Did she, as Margaret had, gotten pregnant far too often and too close together, so that her strength strained and weakened with each birth?


We will likely never know. To make the tragic story of her life more poignant, it is not known where she is buried either.


David Madison Chaney now found himself with an active ministry (for he had redoubled his efforts in 1840 to grow his congregation and his church) and four children young children: William, 15 years old; Emily, 8 years old; Sallie, 6 years old, and David, 4 years old.


This time, as other men in his position, he wasted no time in finding a wife. He bothered not with a mourning period. Protocol was not an option.


On 13 October 1846, six weeks after Winifred's death, he married Susan Bankston.


This time, his wife would outlive him.



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