Monday, December 31, 2012

Watch Night - Lydia Walters Talkington

Lydia a Mysterious Name in a Family Bible

For many years, I saw Lydia's name in the family bible. I occasionally heard her name mentioned--Lydia Talkington. Sometimes they would call it Tarkington. But who was she?  The old Bible belonged to Sallie Walton, my great grandmother, but it previously was the bible used by her husband, Samuel Walton. But who was Lydia and could anything be learned about her?

In the 1990s when I had gotten rally into the family research, on a whim I decided to see if I could find out more about her. I had already learned about another mystery woman in the same bible, "Aandia" Hunt, I would come to learn was really Amanda Hunt, the mother of Sallie Walton, my beloved gr. grandmother.

Bible page reflecting Amanda Hunt's name.
When I found the Walton family on the Dawes Roll, it was clear that Sallie's mother was Amanda Hunt. So who was Lydia? I did see the name of Lydia on the same Dawes card, but the surname was different. Could I have learned more?

On a whim I decided to see if Lydia was possibly related to a Civil War Union soldier as there were many who enlisted from the same NW Arkansas Community. Then bam!!! There she was---she really was a Civil War widow. Lydia Talkington, widow of John Talkington, aka John Tuckington, of the 83rd US Colored Infantry!  I wasted little time in rushing to obtain the Civil War pension file of Lydia Talkington!

Then the story unfolded---Lydia was born  a slave in North Carolina. It is not known how/when she left, but she was just a young child---a tiny girl, and she was purchased by Hiram Walters in Illinois. The Walters moved and settled in NW Arkansas in the 1830--and Lydia was there, this tiny girl, was taken as a house servant to the Walters family.

In that pension file she told her story---she lived there in the Walter's home, sleeping near the hearth most of her life. She met a young boy nearby and was allowed to "court" him--his name was Patrick a slave of John Drennan, of Van Buren Arkansas. They "courted" for some some time--never allowed to marry. Two children emerged from that relationship. Samuel and Harriet.
Meanwhile Patrick her young love, was the personal man servant to John Drennan, and he was taken to Drennan household and had become ill. He died within a short time, and Lydia never got to marry this young man whom she so loved. What heartbreak this must have been, and now she had two small children to raise alone.

A year or so later another man was interested in Lydia. She was allowed to marry this young man, Sandy Ousley a slave of Mr. Ousley of Crawford County. In this small Arkansas hamlet, Lydia described in that pension file, how she was even given a wedding--with the formal dress, and colored preacher, and a sit down dinner was prepared in the home of her mistress. A white lady, friend of Mrs. Walters, came to dress  her for the event. She became the bride of Sandy Ousley. It is assumed that the slave holder also consented ot the marriage, however, Ousley the slave owner was also a slave trader. Within a few weeks, Sandy, was simply taken away to be sold. Such heartbreak--Lydia's Sandy was gone. Within a few weeks, she heard other people talking among themselves that Sandy the Ousley slave had died. No details emerged for her about how he died, but he too was gone from her life. 

The community in which Lydia lived was Dripping Springs Arkansas---a small rural hamlet, with only a few scattered families. Lydia's heartaches continued, Harriet, the younger of her two children, died. Infants died often in those days and she developed a cold from which she did not recover. She was not even two years old.

Lydia however, was a resilient woman, with a strong desire to live, and to love. A third young man entered her life--John Talkington. He was the slave of Isaac Walton Talkington, the county clerk of Crawford County. He heard of the young lady living with Widow Walters, and that this young lady Lydia was also a widow herself. He went into the hills to meet her. She intrigued him and in a few weeks, he courted her and consent was given again for her to marry. And incredibly--another ceremony was held--dress and all. 

From The Widow's Pension file, Lydia described her marriage to John Talkington

But the times were changing, including NW Arkansas--for the Civil War had begun.When the Civil War emerged there were Union sympathies in NW Arkansas, and when a few male slaves in that area chose to enlist in the Union army there was not much resistance. Nearby Ft. Smith in fact had enlisted a large number of slaves who joined the 11th US Colored Infantry. In another instance some were taken into Kansas, to Ft. Scott and those men joined the 2nd Kansas Colored Infantry. John Talkngton decided that he would enlist.  But before he left, he went to Dripping Springs to secure his bride, and as she put it "he bought me a small cooking stove, and then took me down to the city of Van Buren." He had set his new wife up in a place where she would wait for his return. But that was not to be. The Battle of Jenkins Ferry took the life of John Talkington. He paid the ultimate price for his freedom.

When the soldiers returned, he was not among them, and had been gravely injured. Isaac Talkington, John's former owner was the one who informed her of her husband's loss of life from his injuries.

Lydia---my heart breaks for you!
Born a slave with no mother's love to comfort you, 

Lydia --my heart breaks for you!
You loved three times and lost each time, your love.

Lydia did receive a Civil War widow's pension from her husband John Talkington. I learned later where she was buried with a small field stone to mark her grave at Fairview cemetery. And in that pension file, I finally learned why her name was in the family Bible. She had to prove her marriage to John Talkington, and she mentioned that the record of that marriage was kept with her son Samuel Walton, who was living by that time in the Choctaw Nation. I knew that name all too well---Samuel Walton who married my Sallie, was my gr. grandfather. And that made Lydia as well as Patrick my gr. gr. grandparents!

From the Civil War Widow's Pension
Lydia Talkington Widow of John Talkington (Tuckington)
83rd US Colored Infantry

It was therefore fitting that the memorial markers be placed side by side. Patrick who died in 1858, was buried in the Drennen family plot in Van Buren. His master was the town founder. His grave however, was unmarked. It was documented---but was not marked with a name. And when I learned from that pension file, the story of these two people who loved each other, I had these two markers placed side by side in a family owned plot.

(Headstones placed for Lydia & Patrick)

But--a word about John Talkington. 

A close colleague Tonia Holleman and I had been researching Black soldiers from the Civil War, and we learned that several soldiers were buried in the same cemetery as Lydia and so we were able to obtain military markers for them. John Talkington (Tuckington) was one of them. 

Thanks to Tonia, and also the Reese family another surprise emerged---the face of one so dear and who had endured so much. She still managed to smile---the face of Lydia was discovered.

Lydia Talkington
Born in North Carolina, Died in Arkansas

Lydia was a brave woman and her name for many years was a mystery. But her widow's pension file opened the door. From that file I learned so much more.  From her small corner of the NW Arknasas, she may have been the only one from her early years who lived to see Freedom, but now I can say her name. And from her story I mention all of their names:

Lydia Walters, Sandey Ousley, John Talkington, and little Harriet, I commemorate you on this day.

Oh Sweet Freedom!!


Kristin said...

What a very sad story but full of hope at the same time. Ashe.

Susie said...

I took my son to the barber shop today in Heber Springs and the gentlemen in there were talking about Dipping Springs and a fight that took place there! I wish I had paid more attention, but how odd for me to hear Dipping Springs twice in one day. I loved your story!