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  • Writer's pictureDonna Hechler Porter

You Cannot Weep for Everyone: David Madison Chaney, 1850-1859

When you live next to the cemetery, you cannot weep for everyone.

Unknown author

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.

An interesting record is the census report of East Feliciana in 1850 in which David M. Chaney gives the value of his land in that parish as $13,200. Comparably, his neighbors listed their land as $500 and sometimes as high as $1,000. Whether this was the honesty of a Baptist preacher or the accumulation of a good businessman, I don't know. We do know that our grandmother Chaney had lived well - clothes, jewelry, education, so he was probably an astute land dealer as well as preacher and carpenter. (Marbut and Thielbar, pg 3)

The 1850 East Feliciana Parish census does indeed show David with an estate valued at $13,200. This was, at that time, a combination of land and personal assets. It would not be until 1860 that the census would subdivide a person's assets between land and personal values. His occupation is given as Baptist Clergyman. He was 41 years old and had been born in Mississippi.

His third wife, Susan (Bankston) is given as being 32 years old and born in Louisiana. His son William, 19 years old, from his first marriage to Margaret Nesom, was living with him as well and was a farmer. The other children were daughter Emily, 13, Sarah, 10, David, 8, Bailey 3, and Mary 1. Emily was the daughter of his first wife, Margaret Nesom. Sarah and David were the children of his second wife, Winifred Watson Vinson.

Emily, we might note, is a peculiar case. She is enumerated in her father's household on 11 November 1850, but seven days previous, she is noted as living with her grandmother, Elizabeth (Ratliff) Chaney in her home also in East Feliciana Parish. Elizabeth (Ratliff) Chaney, at 70, had an estate valued at $23,060. Her value far exceeded even her son's.

Emily may have, like children are want to do, whiffled between her father's house and her grandmother's, but it was from her grandmother's house in November of 1854 that she ran away to elope with Louis Watson. She would not see her grandmother again, for Elizabeth (Ratliff) Chaney passed away eight months later in July of 1855.

The picture below is not dated, but it may have been drawn about this time. The picture is found in Marbut and Thielbar's book, but with no qualifying information. (The picture is also on Ancestry.) I have no idea if it is a tintype or a hand drawn and painted likeness. He does appear to be in his late 30s or early 40s to me. It is not a stretch, either, by the gauntness of his jaws and the rather large eyes, to assume he could already have been ill by the time the picture was taken or drawn.

David Madison Chaney

Marbut and Thielbar were correct. The man must have been a gifted preacher, but he was also an acute businessman, and at his death in 1849 he left a more than sizeable estate, as we shall see.

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