Reuben Ayers never came home. As I shared in my previous post here, Reuben enlisted in August of 1861 in Haralson County, Georgia, for what many thought would be a relatively short lived battle. He fought alongside his neighbors and friends with the Georgia 35th Infantry while Frances waited for him to return home to her and their daughter, Molly. But he never came home.
Instead, Frances, Reuben’s wife of six years, learned in July of 1862 that he was among the many who had lost their life in Richmond, VA. Frances was suddenly a twenty-six year old widow with a daughter to support.
In March of 1863, eight months after Reuben’s death, Frances applied for the $73.83 due to Reuben which included bounty, pay and clothing. Among his service records was the following application:
Widow in mourning exhibit
Museum of the Confederacy
State of Georgia
To wit on this Nineteenth day of February 1863.
Personally appeared before the subscribing Justice of the Peace in and for said county Frances Ayers who after being duly sworn according to law deposeth and saith that she is the widow of Reuben Ayers deceased who was a Private in Capt. Heads Company 35th Regiment of Georgia Volunteers commanded by Capt Thomas in the service of the Confederate States. . . the said Reuben Ayers entered the service at Buchanan Harralson County, Ga on or about the 12th of August 1861 and died at Richmond Va on or about the 5th of July 1862, leaving a widow that makes this deposition for the purpose of obtaining from the government of the Confederate States whatever may have been due the said Reuben Ayers at the time of his death for pay bounty or other allowances for his services as a private as afforesaid. Sworn to and subscribed to before me.
J.G Newman JP Frances Ayers (1)
For three years following Reuben’s death, Frances and daughter, Molly, remained in Haralson County, Georgia and did the best they could during a difficult time. Several years later, Frances met Robert A. Bailey who was nearly ten years younger than she and in 1866 they married. Once again Frances settled into the role of a farmer’s wife.
Molly, the only child from Frances and Reuben’s marriage, was eleven years old by the time her mother and Robert had their first child. At the tender age of eleven, Molly had seen the ugliness of war, felt the pain of loosing her father and undoubtedly experienced the hardship shared by most Georgians in the post Civil War period. Hopefully her mother’s marriage to Robert Bailey and the addition of siblings added a measure of normalcy and happiness to her life.
By the 1870 census, Frances’ sister, Olivia, and her husband John Ganus had returned to Georgia and lived just down the road from the Baileys. As I shared in an earlier story, the two sisters and their families enjoyed each other’s company for the next 17 years.
By 1870, Frances’ mother, Polly, had died. In addition, her father, Joshua Rainwater, and her brothers Abner and John, along with their families, had joined many others in the migration to Texas. Frances’ older sister, Mariah, and her husband, William Barnwell, were living in Alabama.
Then in 1887, Frances’ sister, Olivia, and her husband, John Ganus, and their sons packed up and moved across the country to Colorado. By that time, only Frances’ oldest sister, Matilda, who was sixteen years older and was the widow of Josiah Goggans, also lived in Georgia.
Although in ways it may have been hard for Frances to stay in Georgia when so many of her siblings had gone, she and Robert had a growing, thriving family of their own and with that, many reasons to remain.
(1) Compiled Service Records of Confederate Soldiers Who Served in Organizations from the State of Georgia, digital images, database, Fold3.com (www.Fold3.com: accessed 26 October 2014), entry for Reuben Ayres, 35th Infantry, Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Confederate Organizations, compiled 1903-1927, documenting the period 1861-1861. NARA M266, Record Group 109, Roll 0414.
Copyright © Michelle G. Taggart 2014, All rights reserved