Today, I visited the remnants of an old plantation home located in the Town of Stanton in Haywood County, Tennessee. The site used to be the old home place of Joseph and Lucy Stanton, founders of the town. It is not the original home, as that was burnt down and a smaller home built in its place. Time has been rather kind to the home in the regard that it is still standing but it is evident that the home had not been lived in for many years.
Natural has begun to encroach upon the foundation of the home. Critters, various plants and trees have broken through the barrier long ago designated between nature and man. It is evident that the home was once a modest, yet grandeur home of the times, complete with a front porch that must have seen its share of visitors and family members, relaxing and playing on its wide and lengthy deck.
A short walk from the home, across a field which has seen more than a 170 years of planting and harvesting, lays a family cemetery. Hidden in the middle of a grove of trees and covered by decades of overgrowth and neglect, the cemetery is invisible during the summer months. Only two headstones remain above ground, although I believe there are more which have fallen to the effects of time and to the earth which has once again erased the intrusion upon its land.
Both stones mark the final resting place of beloved children. The larger stone, which is approximately 48 x 24 inches, is broken into two pieces and pays tribute to Mary Henry, the infant daughter of Henry Briton Ware and his wife Mary Caroline. Little Mary Henry died at the age of 17 months from malaria. Her commanding stone reads
Interred in this spot
where reposes the body of
infant daughter of Henry Briton
Ware and Mary Caroline his wife
she died after one weeks illness
of congestive fever 22nd day of
Aug. the year of our lord 1830
Died 1 year and 5 months
Jesus said suffer little children
and forbid them not to come
unto me for of such is the kingdom of Heaven
The second headstone is much smaller, approximately 24 x 18 inches and in immaculate condition, probably due to the fact that it was leaning slightly over, which prevented the weather from hitting it directly. The white marble stone is beautifully simple, but shows the love her parents had for their precious toddler.
The first words my eyes were drawn to were Papas Baby.
Papa’s baby was a three-year-old named Pannie Ware who was born on Saturday, January 17, 1880, the youngest child of Joseph Henry and Mary Speed Boyd Ware. She died on Nov. 8, 1883 of unknown causes.
I have been haunted by this stone and its words all day…
What misfortune happened to little Pannie that took her away from her Papa?
I had to find out more about Pannie Ware, so I began my search on Ancestry.com for records of her life. But there are none.
Not a birth record.
Not a death record.
Not even a census record.
Nothing but a headstone.
I came across her family in the 1880 census for Stanton, Haywood County. The census was taken on June 28, 1880 and shows Pannie’s father, Joseph Henry, mother, Mary Boyd and siblings Annie Boyd – 12, William S. – 10, John B. – 8, Grace Arlington – 7, five-year-old James G. “Jimmy” and two-year-old Joseph Henry, Jr. - 7. Also included on the census were 16-year old W.P. Burns, 18-year-old Kate Bryne, a school teacher, field hand 19-year old Lee Nelson and 25-year old widow E. Nelson who served as the family’s cook.
But no Pannie. She would have been six-months old, so why wasn’t she recorded on the census?
This oversight is actually quite grievous. Because of the era of her birth and her age at death, little Pannie Ware has fallen through the crack of life to the obscurity of death and to that abyss that many genealogists dread – the all too common, unaccounted and many times record-less period of time for children that occurs between federal censuses.
No one remembers or even knew she existed.
Research on Ancestry.com reveals many family genealogists working on the various branches of her family tree. They account for her parents and her siblings, but not one family genealogy tree accounted for little Pannie Ware. Not even a listing of “unknown child.”
And that breaks my heart.
Her parents have long gone, as well as her siblings. And unless there is a family Bible handed down through the generations which holds the record of her birth, ensuing generations have probably never even heard of her.
It’s a miracle that her final resting area was found on a back road in a town on the edge of existence, in the middle of a field surrounded by a grove of overgrown trees and debris.
I believe her marker, quite possibly the only record of her short life and the love her parents felt for her, was kept pristine for the past 133 years so that one day, she would be found and once again remembered.
Papa’s Baby… I remember and I promise I’ll never forget.
Disclaimer: 2/5/2013 – The current owners have now posted “No Trespassing” signs on the property and have stated they do not want anyone on the property, to enter the home or to visit the cemetery.