Monday, April 18, 2011

Matrilineal Monday - Amanda J. Martin Sewell McGuire Clifton


I think every genealogist has one or two “pet” or favorite ancestors.  One of my favorites is my 3x great-grandmother, Amanda Jane Martin.  She has fascinated me for nearly twenty years and my obsession has followed her back and forth through four states and three husbands in an attempt to solve all the mysteries of her life.  When I first started putting this biography on paper several months ago, I wrote how it pained me that I had no pictures of her, but how I could almost picture her in my mind.  Well, in the last month, to my great delight, I have had a distant cousin, Mike Clemmons who writes Clemmons Family History,  come forth with pictures of our shared ancestor and the pictures are very close to what I had imaged.  They are not close ups, but I am so very grateful to have them.  This biography is in no way complete, and continues to be a work in progress.

Amanda J. Martin Sewell McGuire Clifton 
 Amanda was born in December of 1845 in Tennessee, most likely DeKalb County (3) to William Nelson and Nancy (Scott) Martin.   Family history has it that Nancy Scott is related to the Scotts that came to Jefferson County, IL in the 1830’s, Daniel Scott, wife Sarah and children Martha and Joseph McDonald, but I have yet to make the connection.  The 1850 DeKalb County census records show Amanda age four living in Alexandria with parents William N. and Nancy Martin as well as a sister Mary E. age 1.  Her father William was a wagon maker.

On 18 Oct 1860 at the age 14 Amanda married Daniel William Sewell son of Daniel M. and Falby (Capshaw) Sewell.  According to an interview between Carol Smith and Amanda’s grandson Dewey Merritt, Dewey related Amanda discussing the early days of her marriage.  She laughingly told this story about her naiveté and innocence as a bride.  “The first day Will (this is what she called her husband) went into the fields to work I got out my dolls.  At noon, Will came home for lunch and I had seven dolls on the living room floor.  I didn’t know that I was supposed to fix lunch.”

Sadly this youthful marriage was not to have a happy ending.  On 5 Nov, 1861, just a little more than a year after their marriage, their only child, Florence Jane Sewell was born.  Just six months later on 31 May 1862, Daniel was killed at the age twenty-three in the Civil War at 7 Pines – Fair Oaks, Virginia.

I don’t know where Amanda went to live for the next few years, most likely with her parents, but on 25 Dec 1865 in Wilson County, Tennessee she married William Henry McGuire.  By 1870, William Henry and Amanda are living in Piney Fork, Sharp County, Arkansas.  According to the 1870 census for this county, H.W. age 22 and Amanda age 23 are living with daughter Jane McGuire (this is actually Florence Jane Sewell) age 8, daughter Mattie, age 3 and son Daniel age 9 months.

Unfortunately, Amanda’s luck with husbands was to run out again and William Henry McGuire died sometime between 1875 and 1880.  Amanda and her children returned to Wilson County, Tennessee and are found in the 1880 census.  A. J. McGuire, widow, age 34 and daughter M. H. (Mary Henrietta) McGuire, age 4 are found living with the W. N. Steed family and Amanda is working as a cook.  Also in the same census living with her parents W.N. and Nancy Martin are D.W. Guire (Daniel)(grandson) age 10 and N. L. McGuire (Nancy Lucinda) (granddaughter) age 8.  Mattie McGuire born 1867 was not found which leads me to think this child has died.  Daughter Florence, is found also in Wilson County living with the D. W. Baird family working as a cook as well.  This family is neighbors of grandparents William and Nancy Martin, the Steed family, the Merritt family, the Clemmons family and the Clifton family. 

Her oldest daughter Florence married Obidiah Merritt in 1882.  On 28 Apr 1885 also in Wilson County Amanda again remarried to Jesse Clifton.  Daughter Nancy Lucinda married William K. Clemmons in 1886.  This Clemmons family connection is important as this is where the distant cousin comes in who supplied me with the pictures of Amanda.  Around 1900 the Jesse and Amanda Clifton family and Obidiah and Florence Merritt family moved from Wilson County, Tennessee to Jefferson County, Illinois. 
Jesse & Amanda Clifton Family Mt. Vernon, IL ca 1900
The Mt. Vernon, Jefferson County census shows Jesse Clifton age 57 and wife Amanda age 53 with son W. B. age 19, son Samuel age 17 and son Jesse age 14.  Although some family history notes that Amanda had a son named Sam, sons W. B. and Samuel are from Jesse Clifton’s first marriage to Martha J. Shorten.  Son Jesse is actually a daughter Jessie G. born 10 Feb 1886 who later marries Walter Newton Shelton. 

The 1900 census states that Amanda is the mother of six children with five living.  This would make sense if her children were Florence Sewell, Mattie McGuire, Nancy McGuire, Daniel McGuire, Mary McGuire and Jessie Clifton as it appears Mattie McGuire died before 1880.  However, the same census states that Amanda and Jesse have been married for 31 years which is not true as they were married in 1885 which would be 15 years.

Jesse & Amanda Clifton Mt. Vernon, IL ca 1900
In 1910, we again find Jesse and Amanda in the Jefferson County, Il census as Jesse Clifton age 67, Amanda J. Clifton age 64 and with William B. Patterson orphan age 10.  Daughter Florence J. Sewell Merritt died in 1902 leaving husband Obidiah and six children, Novella, Verna, Amanda Louranne, Claude, Alva and George Dewey.

By 1920, Amanda is once again widowed.  Date and place are unknown for husband Jesse’s death although it is suspected to be in Jefferson County, IL.  Amanda is found in the 1920 census living in West, New Madrid, Missouri with daughter Nancy Lucinda “Lula” McGuire Clemmons and husband William.  She is listed as Mandy Clifton age 74.

After much searching, I finally found Amanda’s final resting place in Friendship Cemetery, Annieville, Lawrence County, Arkansas.  The date on her stone is 1927 which I used to order a death certificate from Arkansas, but I was greatly disappointed when no death record was found.  I did have someone take a picture of the stone for me which I was grateful to get. 

Amanda J. Clifton, Friendship Cemetery, Annieville, AK
 I obviously never knew Amanda, but I feel a deep connection to her on many levels.   She was a woman with a lot of resilience and spirit, and I suspect she was quite a character.  According to a conversation Carol Smith had with Amanda’s grandson Dewey Merritt, she did not like living in Arkansas but couldn’t afford to live anywhere else.  In his recollections he also stated that she liked to dance.  He recounted a story about her car, a Dodge with a cloth top and Bob, a relative, racing with a Ford on a rock road in Arkansas.  She enjoyed the race and shouted “Don’t let him pass us!”  She was probably in her late 60’s at the time.  Her life was a hard one, but she never let it get her down and she kept her sense of humor.   I can only hope that I have inherited a tiny bit of this grit.


  1. I can see why she would be a favorite ancestor! What a hard life she led! And I love the idea of her in a car race when she was in her 60s. Resilience, spirit, and a sense of humor are great attributes! Thanks for sharing Amanda with us.

  2. I have been searching unsuccessfully for Joseph Capshaw for years. My great aunt told me the story about his death and she estimated his year of death as between 1927 and 1929. The 1930 census lists his wife as a widow and I too ordered a death certificate but was told they did not have one for him for those years. I visited the Arkansas History Commission and reviewed the list of deaths in Arkansas from 1914-1940 but he isn't listed. I have almost convinced myself that they were so poor they just buried him themselves. Freida Walker Summerville


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...