COLUMBIA COUNTY GEORGIA
Give Feedback. Get Information. The McGee family had joined the planter class late in the antebellum period, and after the American Civil War they continued to be prosperous farmers in the former cotton belt. As such, it relates to scholarship on women in the nineteenth-century American South as well as to the role of women within southern families. It also serves as a case study on the importance of the female legacy in family history and genealogy that should be studied as a model in similar instances.
McGee women became active in agriculture, business, and education. No diaries and only a few family letters were located, but information transmitted through oral history proved important. Other sources included census records, legal documents such as wills and deeds, newspaper articles, and church records. This contrasts with popular images of southern women as weak and delicate, although it corresponds with recent research that has highlighted the accomplishments of nineteenth-century women in the American South.
Of particular significance is that women in the McGee family kept a record of accomplishment and achievement across several generations of changing circumstances. Preface Descendants of the ten children of Sarah Elizabeth Babb Brady — gathered in Georgia in for a family reunion. It was the first time his Canadian descendants had ever visited the place of their origins. Other descendants had come from Arizona, California, Indiana, Arkansas, and New York and included individuals from every walk of life Knight This article explores gender within the McGee family and the way that the McGee women shaped their families and the memory of their heritage Knight Scholars such as Anne Firor Scott, Catherine Clinton, and Elizabeth Fox-Genovese have examined the role of southern women, white and black, in the nineteenth-century United States from many different perspectives.
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While these findings have often been based on broad research concentrated within a particular timeframe, especially regarding the southern plantation mistress, they have not often focused on change and continuity within a single family Scott ; Clinton ; Clinton ; Clinton ; Clinton ; Fox-Genovese ; Rable ; Clinton It serves as a case study on the importance of the female legacy in family history and genealogy that offers a model for similar studies.
Although circumstances changed, the tendency for these women to move beyond the social norms of the times in which they lived remained constant. In this sense, the genealogical perspective enhances our understanding by allowing fresh comparisons and contrasts across generations. Oral recollections from descendants show that the legacy of these women and their activities loomed large in how the family history was preserved and transmitted. Between , when John McGee married Nancy Hood, and the middle of the twentieth-century, McGee women operated plantations, farms, and other business enterprises.
They also became pioneers in education. In many instances, McGee women—rather than their husbands—owned the land and economic resources that supported and sustained their families. Research for this study focused on five generations of women in the McGee family.
The first generation is represented by family matriarch Nancy Hood McGee — The third generation consisted of twenty-eight granddaughters. The fourth and fifth generations consisted of several dozen great-granddaughters and great-great-granddaughters. In , when she was twenty-nine, Nancy married John C. McGee — The tax records of the senior McGee show that he had owned acres of land and no slaves, had recently remarried and fathered a young child; the bulk of his property was left for her support. John McGee seems to have owned no property when he married Nancy Hood and to have been without property for several years after marriage.
Nancy, however, as a single woman over age twenty-one had drawn By , he owned acres in Columbia County and had drawn two additional tracts, one of acres and another of acres, in the state land lotteries. In the s, the McGees relocated from eastern Georgia to the newly settled lands of western Georgia. The area had opened for settlement in following a land cession from the Creek Indians, and by the McGees were living in newly settled Harris County.
By , McGee owned twenty slaves. In a single lifetime, John McGee had risen from being a subsistence farmer to being a member of the southern planter aristocracy. Much of his success, however, had been based on the slave-labor economy that dominated throughout the region.
Even considering the exploitative nature of economic success in the antebellum South, McGee must have been an enterprising investor to manage a portfolio that grew steadily across five decades. As a married woman, Nancy would have had few legal rights, and there is no evidence that she owned any property independent of her husband after their marriage. The legal principle of coverture meant that Nancy did not have a separate legal identity from her husband John once they married Salmon Nancy was, however, literate, and the fact that she did not marry John McGee until she was nearly thirty, by which time, as a single adult woman, she had already become a property-owner herself, suggests that she may have had an independent streak.
Family lore also maintains that Nancy was an equal partner who advised her husband on business activities, but no contemporary documentation exists to support the statements Duke — ; Ramey — ; Evans — ; Howard — The wording may be significant. No photograph of John McGee has survived. The daguerreotype of Nancy Hood McGee, believed to have been made in as her two youngest sons were leaving for war, shows a powerful woman looking forcefully forward the future, both hands grasping a large Bible Knight Nancy Hood and John McGee were the parents of three daughters and six sons.
Lodiskey — , the oldest daughter, married Mercer Babb in and died after giving birth to three daughters. Her sister Concord — then married Babb; they had six daughters and four sons. Nancy Jeanette McGee — married Rev. Jesse Revel, a Baptist minister; they were the parents of three daughters, one son, and two other children of unknown gender who died at birth.
See Figure 1 for details. Little is known of Lodiskey McGee, the oldest daughter. Her husband Mercer Babb was a well-known builder who specialized in courthouses and other public buildings in western Georgia and eastern Alabama.
Babb had a thriving practice and moved frequently during their marriage. He seems to have settled permanently on land adjacent the McGee plantation in Harris County after Lodiskey died. He continued as a builder but operated his business from Harris County. Born about , Babb, who had been married prior to marrying the McGee sisters, was much older than either of them.
He died about , just after the Civil War ended, and his widow Concord lived on for another quarter of a century. When Babb died, Concord was left with ten children ranging in age from twenty-two years to a few months. Concord, who had recently lost both parents, was left to support her large family alone and, although she and Mercer Babb had had four sons, they were the youngest four of their ten children, and all born between and During her years as a widow, Concord continued to operate the business begun by her husband.
Babb had died intestate, and his estate was held together for the support of his minor children. After the youngest child came of age about , however, the estate was still not divided, and Concord continued to manage the property, rent lands and livestock, and operate the lumber-yard that her husband had probably begun for his building activities. In a time of crop liens and tenancy, all ten of her children were able to acquire property from her estate. She lived most of her adult life in Russell and Lee Counties. But there is evidence to suggest that Jeanette may have inherited some of the same financial acumen that seems to have aided her mother and her sister.
Jesse Revel had been an orphan with little property.
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Through hard work, he had acquired both land and cash, but he lost these indirectly as a result of the Panic of Twice more he built up a comfortable estate only to lose it. The land was sold and re-invested in local property on which Jesse and Jeanette lived for the final years of his life. Following his death, Jeanette moved from the country first to Columbus, Georgia, and then to Birmingham, Alabama, to assist a widowed daughter.
She died there in at the age of Nancy Hood and John McGee had twenty-six granddaughters. Several died as children or infants. Two sons had no daughters. Son John fathered seven daughters, but four of the seven died in a fever epidemic as children. James Turner had two daughters, Lodiskey had three, Concord had six, and Alfred had seven.
Because of this, the women, not the men, were sometimes the landowners; in other cases, while the men legally purchased property in their own names, they did so with funds their wives had inherited. Earlier, Eliza had also received a direct inheritance from her McGee grandparents that came to her by virtue of the fact that her mother Lodiskey had died young. Eliza and Caroline pooled resources that helped purchase the family property, and all members of the family worked the lands. Hand family tradition, in fact, holds that it was the money Eliza and Caroline inherited that purchased not only the farm of Edward Solomon Hand but the farms on which his elderly parents and four siblings lived with their families.
It was recognized as McGee and Babb, not Brady, property that had come to the family through the efforts of Concord and her daughter Sarah.
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