On the Farm – George Christian

Today’s post is going to be fairly quick and simple, partly because I am trying to catch up and partly because life has been a bit crazy this week. So, this is a transcription of the 1850 Agricultural Census taken of the farm of George Christian of Overton County, Tennessee.

George Christian (1802-1892)

George Christian (1802-1892) was the oldest son of George and Elizabeth (McCormick) Christian. I wrote about George, Sr. in an earlier post. George Jr. was born in Knox County, Tennessee, and early in his life, migrated to Overton County. George married Celina Fisk, the daughter of Moses Fisk, a graduate of Dartmouth and a true Renaissance man. Moses gifted Celina land before her marriage, which was added to George’s upon their marriage. Here is a snapshot of life on George and Celina’s farm in 1850:

1850 Agricultural Census

Acreage and Values: 80 Improved Acres and 1400 Unimproved Acres. Cash Value of Farm: $1500 and Value of Farm Implements: $60.

Farm Animals: 4 Horses, 1 Ass, 5 Milch Cows, 4 Working Oxen, 8 Other Cattle, 7 Sheep, and 100 Swine. Value of Livestock: $400. Value of Animals Slaughtered: $40.

Produce: 50 Bushels of Wheat, 1000, Bushels of Indian Corn, 100 Bushels of Oats, 15 Pounds of Wool, 20 Bushels of Irish Potatoes, and 10 Bushels of Sweet Potatoes. 300 Pounds of Butter and 30 pounds of Beeswax and Honey. Value of Orchard Produce: $30 and Housemade Manufacturing Value: $40

People Living and Working on the Farm: George Christian (48 years), wife Celina (37), children Moses Elian (18 years), Moffit Alonzo (15 years), Perilla (11 years), Viola (8 years), Zeda Ann (6 years), Arkley Fisk (4 years), and George (1 year). George and Celina also owned two slaves, both boys, one 14 years old and the other 5 years old. This particular piece of information is hard to reconcile with what I know of the family. Celina’s father, who was from Massachusetts, was a staunch abolitionist, and he wrote very eloquently and passionately on the subject. But perhaps George did not agree with his father-in-law’s views.

George and Celina lived out their days on their farm. Celina died at the age of 70 in 1884, and George followed in 1892 when he was 90. Both were buried in a cemetery on their farmland. Their lives were literally tied to their land: their livelihood, their family, and their deaths



Family Legend – Rumors of Native American Ancestry

It seems that every family has a family legend about Native American ancestry, that some several times great grandmother was Cherokee. Well, my family is no exception. One side of my family has such a legend about my 5th great grandmother, Nancy Schultz Fisk (abt. 1790-1854). Very little reliable information is known about Nancy. According to the 1850 census, she was born about 1790 in Virginia, and her tombstone gives her surname as Schultz. She died in 1854 and was buried in the Fisk Cemetery. It is probably because her descendants know so little about her that there are so many stories about her origins.

Story 1: Nancy was the daughter of a Cherokee woman and a German trapper (hence the last name Schultz), and her future husband, Moses Fisk, saw her with her Cherokee grandmother one day. He fell in love with her, sent her back east to be educated, and when she returned, he married her.

Story 2: Nancy was the daughter of a Cherokee woman and a German trapper, and she was traveling with her brother when she met Moses Fisk. They asked for a drink of water, which he gave them, and he fell in love with her and married her.

Story 3: She was the daughter of German immigrants. Moses Fisk met her and sent her and her two sisters back east to be educated. When she returned, he married Nancy.

Sadly, none of these rumors have been substantiated. There is a possibility that she was part Cherokee, even more likely that she was of German extraction because of her last name. She and Moses lived in Overton County, Tennessee, whose courthouse burned during the Civil War, along with many of the records. So any information that could have shed some light on her background was likely destroyed.

There are a few things I do know about Nancy. She and Moses married around 1813, as their oldest daughter was born in 1814. She was also quite a bit younger than Moses, 30 years younger to be exact. He was 53 and she was 23, and he had a very strong personality, so it is not surprising that after their last child was born, they separated. They did not divorce, but she moved out of their house and into a smaller house next door. They lived that way until Moses died in 1840.

Moses Fisk house at the entrance of Standing Stone State Park

There is another indication that the Cherokee story might possibly be true. Moses was very interested in Native American artifacts and history, especially in Tennessee. He advocated for Native American rights and documented archeology sites in the Upper Cumberland. Moses was interested in history, but it makes me wonder if his interest in Native Americans stemmed from being married to a lady who might be part Cherokee, or if his interest in Native Americans influenced his choice of wife. Or maybe it is all unrelated, but I’d like to think there was some connection.

If a portrait was ever done of Nancy, it no longer exists. No description of her personality exists, and very few public records mention her name. As far as I know, our DNA does not substantiate that she was Native American, unless of course, that did not get passed down to us so it doesn’t appear in the test. I think she will always be somewhat of a mystery, and who knows, maybe some source will appear and it will give me all the answers I need!