Youngest – Isabella Kellam Sears

Yesterday, I wrote about one of my ancestresses who was an oldest sibling, and today, I am writing about an ancestress who was the youngest sibling. Her name was Isabella, which I absolutely adore, and she was the youngest daughter of Joseph Kellam and his wife Lucy Shelton Kellam. Her father Joseph was born in Davidson County, Tennessee, and he was the third generation of Kellams living in the county. Her mother Lucy was the daughter of William and Eleanor (Greer) Shelton, also of Davidson County.

Joseph and Lucy married on 22 May 1839 in Davidson County, and they appeared together for the first time in the census in 1840. Lucy had three children from her previous marriage – Sarah Agnes, Lydia, and Hugh – living with them as well as her oldest child with Joseph, Eleanor. There were also 9 enslaved people living and working for the Kellams on their farm. Lucy gave birth to four more children in the 1840s: William Harris, Susan, Lucy, and my ancestress, Isabella. Isabella was born on 28 May 1849, and she first appeared in the census in 1850 with her parents, older siblings, and half sister Lydia. That year, Joseph’s real estate was only valued at $500, yet he still owned 13 enslaved people. When Isabella was 7 years old, her maternal grandmother, Eleanor Shelton, died, and she her siblings received legacies from her estate.

1860 Census

In the 1860 census, Isabella was 10 years old, living at home with her three unmarried siblings. Her father’s real estate was listed as $4,000, and his personal estate skyrocketed to 21,067, due to his ownership of 24 enslaved people. Isabella’s family was doing very well financially. Joseph owned 247 acres, 6 horses, 5 mules, 4 milk cows, 16 beef cows, 37 sheep, and 85 hogs, valued at $1367. The plantation produced 100 bushels of wheat, 1500 bushels of corn, 75 pounds of wool, 45 bushels of beans, 50 bushels of potatoes, 50 bushels of sweet potatoes, and 50 pounds of butter. Isabella probably had a fairly easy early life as a young girl. However, much of this changed after the Civil War. Isabella’s father, Joseph, died in the fall of 1865 after the end of the war. He might have died suddenly, as he did not leave a will. Isabella was 16 years old when he died, and life was probably quite a bit different.

In 1870, Isabella lived at home for part of the year before her marriage. The agricultural census shows some of the changes that occurred after the war and after her father’s death. Her mother, Lucy, now owned 144 acres, 103 less than in 1860. Of course, all the enslaved people were free, and there is no indication whether or not any of those people remained on the farm. As a widow, Lucy now only owned 1 horse, 3 mules, 2 milk cows, 2 beef cows, 14 sheep, and 8 pigs. 120 bushels of wheat, 36 bushels of rye, 700 bushels of corn, 30 bushels of oats, 100 pounds of potatoes, 30 pounds of wool, and 3 tons of hay.

By 1 June 1870, Isabella was no longer living with her mother, as on 30 May 1870, the 21 year old married Edward Green Sears, a 34 year old Civil War veteran. She moved in with him and his mother, Lucy Ann Sear, on her farm in Cheatham County. Edward’s father had died when he was young, so the newlyweds had that tragedy in common. Over the next 10 years, Isabella gave birth to five children: Nancy, Charles, Willie, Martha (my great great grandmother), and Edwin. They continued to live on the beautiful Sears farm near Pegram, Tennessee. The house, which burned many years ago, was an old one with a big porch and tall windows that could be thrown open in the summer to let the breeze in.

Over the years, some of her children married, and some didn’t, but my ancestress, Martha, and her family, though they lived in Nashville, visited Isabella and Edward often. I imagine that Isabella was close to her daughter Martha. Sadly, Edward died in 1922, and soon after, Isabella applied for a Confederate widow’s pension, which she received until her death in 1928. Isabella believed that it was important to have her affairs settled before her death, so she registered her will with Cheatham County on the 22 May 1923, a year after her husband’s death. In it, she revealed some interesting family information. She left to her four children equally 192 acres in Cheatham County that she called Joe Kellam’s place, of which was 1/3 of her father’s property that she inherited on his death, another 1/3 she inherited from her sister Lucy Kellam, and the other 1/3 land that she owned with Edward. This is one of the few places that names her father as Joseph Kellam. Anytime ancestors make references to their family members in public documents is wonderful!

Sadly, Isabella died on 16 March 1928 at the age of 78 years. She died in Cheatham County, probably at home, of appendicitis. Her daughter, Willie, was the informant on her death certificate. Willie accurately named Joseph Kellam and Lucy Shelton as Isabella’s parents, and provided her birth date and place. Isabella was buried the next day in the Sears family cemetery in Pegram, which my family still owns. The embalming and other funeral arrangements were taken care of by M.S. Combs, and company that my family has used since 1891. I don’t have any photographs of Isabella, nothing that belonged to her, but I feel like I know her just a little bit better after reviewing some records I haven’t looked at in a while!

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