Saturday, September 27, 2014

Running From the Rebels

My search continues for information about the death and burial of Burr Zelah Dornon, my 4th great-grandfather. Recently, I found the grave for his wife, Sophronia (Rogers) Dornon, but, as you may recall, he was not resting beside her eternally.

Public trees on Ancestry and FamilySearch taunt me with a death date of October 15, 1867. Unfortunately, this date is unsourced. Without a citation, I have no idea where the information came from and cannot determine its accuracy.

Burr's last known appearance in a public record, is the 1860 US Federal Census where he and his family are living in Jackson County, Virginia (soon to be Wild & Wonderful West Virginia). To stir up new information, I decided to return to the National Archives and trawl through his sons' Civil War pension records. Perhaps their files would shed more light on their father.

Burr had four sons: Albert, Joseph, Lorenzo, and Andrew. Each was old enough to enlist. I was able to locate pension applications for two of them: Lorenzo and Andrew. I'm unclear on the fate of the eldest sons Albert and Joseph.

Lorenzo Dornon served in Company K of the 2nd Regiment of the Ohio Cavalry.
  • Lorenzo suffered a gunshot wound in the fall of 1864 at the Battle of Summit Point. The bullet entered his left chest and came to rest in his lower abdomen. His June 1910 death certificate was included in his file, and provided mention of his father. The informant gave his father's name as Bursley Dornon, but didn't know the mother's name. 

Andrew, the youngest, enlisted in Company A of the 188th Regiment of the Ohio Infantry. Shortly after he joined the service, he fell ill with the measles and was sent to a hospital in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. While in hospital, he contracted Typhoid Fever and nearly died. The remainder of his military service was spent recuperating from illness.

When he applied for a pension, the Government requested that Andrew submit evidence of his birth, which they suggested could include the family bible. Andrew's handwritten response in May 1913 provides new details about the Dornon family during the Civil War.

This remarkable letter - written some fifty years after the event - suggests that the Confederate Army was the impetus for Burr Zelah moving his family out of Jackson County. 

According to the Jackson County Historical Society, the area remained under Union authority, however, "The only exception was in September 1862 when Confederate forces, under the command of General Albert Gallatin Jenkins, briefly gained control of the county."

It seems historically plausible that the Rebels really could have prompted the Dornons to uproot their lives.  

Elsewhere in Andrew's pension application is a document outlining his cities of residence since his discharge from the military. Andrew writes that he, "lived in Lawrence Co. Ohio until 1868 - moved to Edwardsville, KS. until 1911 - moved to Lincoln Co. Colo." 

Did the Dornons live in Lawrence County after leaving West Virginia? Lawrence is less than 70 miles to the west. Did they stay there until the death of Burr Zelah in about 1867 or 1868? 

Burr's wife Sophronia is buried in the Edwardsville Cemetery in Kansas. Perhaps the Dornon sons brought their mother - recently widowed - along as they pursued new opportunities in the west.

The search continues. I'm on the hunt for a probate record or cemetery transcription for Burr Zelah that could bring the question to resolution.

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