Friday, June 20, 2014

Temperance Burns: Suspicions Confirmed!

Since my last post about my third great grandmother, Temperance Mathis Burns, I've had an email from a cousin, Teri, with more information about this family.  Thank you for getting in touch with me, Teri!  Teri has done considerable research on this family, and the information she's amassed seems to confirm my suspicions that Temperance's maiden name was Burns, not Mathis.

It looks very likely that Temperance Burns' parents were Absalom Burns and Nancy Matthews of Williamson County, Illinois.  The misattributed surname "Mathis" for Temperance seems to stem from the fact that her mother, Nancy Matthews, is listed on various legal documents with the surname Mthis, Mathews, Mathes, Mathias, and Matthews.  Somehow, this became Mathis and was incorrectly attached to her daughter, Temperance.  The rumors of Temperance being called "Tennessee" might have to do with the fact that her parents were married there and her father, Absalom Burns, fought in the Tennessee Militia during the War of 1812.  We have no evidence that she was ever called Tennessee.  More likely, she was called Tempy.

Absalom Burns was born in South Carolina about 1791.  He was in Tennessee by 1812, when he fought with the Tennessee Militia. In 1826, he married Nancy Matthews in Tennessee.  Nancy was born about 1800 in North Carolina.  Their first two children were born in Tennessee, and then the Burns family moved to Williamson County, Illinois, where their second two children were born.

The children of Absalom Burns and Nancy Matthews were as follows:

Dizana (nickname "Zena" or "Zany") Burns (born about 1827); married William Miller in 1847 and James Taylor in 1858
Margaret Burns (born about 1828); married Joseph Garrett in 1847
Nancy Jane Burns (born about 1832); married Alexander Williams in 1852
Temperance Burns (born about 1833); married Samuel Burns in 1859 and Michael O'Hare in 1870

Absalom Burns died in Williamson County on March 30, 1836, when Temperance was just three years old.  In 1850, his widow, Nancy, applied for Bounty Lands, which were granted to veterans of American military service.

From "Affidavits, Warrants, and Assignment In Military Bounty Land Warrant File For Nancy Burns, Widow of Absolom Burns"

On this 4th day of November AD 1850 personally appeared before me, Justice of the Peace in and for the county and the state aforesaid, William Burns and John S. Roberts, residents of the County of Williamson and State of Illinois, who being duly sworn according to law declare Nancy Burns is the widow of Absolem Burns, deceased, who was a private in the Company commanded by Captain George Kincade in the Regiment of Tennessee Militia commanded by Col. Hammons in the War of the United States with Great Britain declared on the 18th day of June AD 1812, that the said Nancy Burns was married to the said Absolem Burns, deceased, on the 17th day of April 1826 by one John McColly, a Justice of the Peace in the County of Montgomery, State of Tennessee, and they recollect that the name of the said Nancy Burns before her marriage was Nancy Mathews, that her husband, the said Absolem Burns, died in Williamson County, Illinois on the 30th day of March AD 1836 and that she is still a widow, that they knew the said Absolem Burns during his life and was intimately acquainted with his family, that he lived with the said Nancy Burns and that they were represented as husband and wife and lived together as such from the time of their marriage until the date of his death and that they are disinterested.

On September 1, 1852, Nancy Burns and her children deeded 80 acres of land to John Burns.  John is believed to have been a first cousin of the four Burns daughters, and likely a brother to Samuel Burns, future husband of Temperance Burns.  The marks of Nancy Matthews Burns and her daughters, Nancy Jane Burns, Margaret Garrett, D. Burns Williams and Temperance Burns are all found on the deed, confirming their relationship. 

I'm very glad to have this new information about Temperance Burns. Thank you, Teri, for providing me with some helpful documentation that may well take my tree back another generation!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your well written blog posts about Temperance Burns. Temperance's father, Absolom, was probably one of six or seven brothers who migrated from northwest South Carolina to Tennessee and then to what later became Williamson County in southern Illinois (originally Franklin County). Most of the clan arrived in 1818, but Absolom apparently did not follow until after he married Nancy in 1826. Sometime before 1830, most of the clan moved to Arkansas and later to Missouri and Kansas, but William Burns and Absolom Burns remained in southern Illinois. This interesting family may have been associated with the "Lumbee Indians" of southwest North Carolina (just across Pee Dee River from where the Burns were living in SC), who most scholars believe was actually a colony of free blacks. From 1790 to 1860, the Burns clan was associated in SC, TN, IL, MO, and KS with families who were variously described as black, mulatto, and free persons of color. The member of the Burns clan I am most interested in, Clarissa Burns, is mentioned in a book by Prof. Billy Higgins - A Stranger and A Sojourner - about a community of free blacks in the mountains of northwest Arkansas from prior to 1820 until sometime after 1850. If you have a full resolution jpeg or similar file of the photo of Temperance Burns, I would appreciate your emailing me a copy at I am collecting portrait photos of the early descendants of the clan as part of my research. Thank you. Paul M. Brown