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  • Writer's pictureDonna Hechler Porter

Overwhelmed by Sadness: David Madison Chaney and Margaret Nesom

One must not let oneself be overwhelmed by sadness.

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

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.

David Madison Chaney was married thrice married and the family record in his Bible devotes a separate page to each marriage. His words follow:

Margaret Nesom wife of David M. Chaney was born May 6th 1815, married Sept, 10, 1829, died Jan. 25th 1837.

William Franklin Chaney, was born Dec 14, 1831

John Thomas Chaney was born Sept. 28th, 1833, died Aug. 30, 1837

Bailey Eliphalet Chaney was born March 13th, 1835, died Sept. 30, 1835

Emely Margaret Chaney was born March 24th, 1837.

Margaret was the daughter of Abraham Nesom and Louanna Kirby. A family record, shared in Marbut and Thielbar's supplement book and by J. Dougals Nesom of Denham Springs, Louisiana, but which was originally from C. S. Nesom of Dallas, shows that Abraham Nesom II, son of Joseph Nesom, was born 18 June 1774 in Marion County, South Carolina. Louanna was also from Marion County. She was born in 1791. According to the family record, Abraham and Louanna had six children between 1811 and 1830. Margaret was their only daughter.

Margaret was fourteen years old when she married David Madison Chaney. He was six years older than her, being twenty years old at the time of his marriage. It is believed the young couple lived on the homeplace his father, Bailey Eliphalet Chaney, had pioneered near Bluff Creek in East Feliciana Parish, Louisiana.

A year and three months later, on 14 December 1831, Margaret gave birth to the couple's first child, a son they named William Franklin Chaney. William may well have been named after David's grandfather, William Chaney. (William, the son, would later join the army during the Civil War. He never returned, leaving six young children at home.)

Not quite two years later, Margaret gave birth to the couple's second child - another boy whom the couple named John Thomas Chaney.

Again, not quite two years later, on 13 March 1835, the couple welcomed a third child. This child would live only six months, passing away on 30 September 1835. The reason, of course, is not stated in the Bible. Whether it was a failure to thrive, an illness, and an accident is not known.

A year and fourteen months later, on 24 January 1837, David welcomed his first daughter even as Margaret, his wife, passed away. It is believed that David's mother and Emily's grandmother, Elizabeth (Ratfliff) Chaney, helped in her care, although a wet nurse would have to have been found. Elizabeth had a large number of slaves on her plantation, so it may well be that Emily nursed at one or more of their breasts until she able to move to table food.

As for Margaret, she was buried in the Nesom Family Cemetery in East Feliciana Parish, not the Bluff Creek Cemetery. From other records, it appears she may have been at her parent's house when she gave birth to Emily. Margaret was only 22 years old.

It should probably be noted, if not obvious, that Margaret gave birth to four children in about seven years. In a day and age when women routinely breastfed their children, and in which births were quite normally three years apart, eighteen months between births raises eyebrows. The few cases I have seen of women giving birth at such short intervals almost always bodes ill for the woman. While breastfeeding generally does provide protection against a pregnancy, it does not guarantee it. And there are women for whom breastfeeding provides absolutely no protection at all. Whether or not this was Margaret's case is not known. What is known is that babies that close together were rare even at that time period.

After only eight years of marriage, David found himself a widower with three small children: William Franklin, six years old; John Thomas, four years old; and Emily, a newborn. As men in similar positions, he would have been forced to marry to provide a mother for his children and a helpmate for his plantation and his ministry.

Eight months after Margaret's death and Emily's birth, David married twenty-four year old widow Winifred Watson Vinson. The day after the marriage, his son by Margaret, John Thomas, passed away at four years of age. He was less than a month shy of his fifth birthday.

It was a sad start to the next chapter of David Madison Chaney's life.


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