Thursday, October 10, 2013

Through the Vault -- An Adventure With Sallie

Sarah A "Sallie" Dillard Smith was my husband's Great Grand Aunt, and she was probably the person after whom his Grandmother Sarah E Dillard was named.  Now, she has turned out to be one more relative we've learned more about as I have been reviewing citations for sources.

The first step was to establish a timeline for Sallie's adult life using census records and a quick trip to  Here is what I was able to find along with a brief reference to a source.

29 Jun 1830         Birth in Tennessee (1900 census,
1850                      Married, living in Murray County, Georgia (1850 census)
1870                      Married, living in Gordon County, Georgia (1870 census)
1880                      Married, living in Coosawattee, Gordon County, Georgia (1880 census)
1900                      Married, living in Coosawattee, Gordon County, Georgia (1900 census)
1910                      Widow, living in Resaca, Gordon County, Georgia (1910 census)
1920                      Widow, living in Seventh, Gordon County, Georgia (1920 census)
29 Apr 1923         Died, Gordon County, Georgia (

I wanted to learn more than just census dates for Sallie as well as to look for verification of the information.  Since the majority of her life had been spent in Gordon County, Georgia, I turned to Georgia's Virtual Vault to see if I could learn more about Sallie.

Application for Widow's Pension, Sallie Smith
source: Georgia's Virtual Vault

 The first source I found there was Sallie's application for a Confederate widow's pension from the state of Georgia.  The five pages of her application included some helpful information.  Here is a quick look at what I learned from her pension application file.

  • Sallie had been a resident of Georgia for 83 years, most of her life, at the time of the pension application (24 Sep 1921).
  • Sallie and her husband, P. L. [Prior] Smith, were married sometime in October, 1846 in Gordon County, Georgia.
  • Sallie never remarried following Prior's death.
  • Sallie's application is signed with her mark rather than with her personal signature.
  • The application witness, G. T. Fite, had known Sallie since she was 14 years old, and he had served in the Confederate forces with Prior Smith.
  • Following Sallie's death on 30 Apr 1923, several bills were submitted to the Pension Office on her behalf.  One bill was to pay Dr. D J Borders for two visits to Sallie in the days just before her death.  The second bill was to a furniture company for the purchase of a casket for Sallie.
  • The application packet includes a sworn statement by Sallie as to her inability to locate any official record of her marriage to Prior Smith.
Death Certificate: Sallie Smith
source: Georgia's Virtual Vault

The second document to help me was Sallie's Death Certificate.  This document provided the following information:
  • Sallie died in Gordon County, Georgia, 30 Apr 1923.
  • Her husband [Prior] Lee Smith had preceded her in death.
  • She was born 29 Jun 1830 in Tennessee.
  • Her father Eliga [Elijah] Dillard was born in Tennessee.
  • Her mother Permelia McSpadden was born in Kentucky.  [Mystery #1 - Other sources list Sallie's mother as Permelia Greenberry of Virginia.]
  • The person providing the information about Sallie was R. L. Smith.  [Mystery #2 - I have no idea who this was for these initials do not match the names of any of her children, the usual informant for a death certificate.]
  • Her cause of death was nephritis.
  • She was buried at Peasant Hill Cemetery [Gordon County, Georgia].
  • Calhoun Furniture Co. was listed as the undertaker, a surprise tidbit of information.
Because Georgia's Virtual Vault has a searchable collection of county marriage licenses, I looked through those for information about the marriage of Sallie Dillard and Prior Lee Smith.  The pension application said they married in 1846 in Gordon County, but Gordon County did not exist until 1850 so I needed to look in the records of other counties.(1)  According to the 1850 census, Sallie and Prior Smith were living in Murray County with their two children, so Murray County's books were a good starting place.  I search the Murray County Marriage Books for 1834-1849, 1843-1852, and 1853-1860, but, like Sallie, I could not find a record of their marriage.  Sallie's father, Elijah Dillard, had been living in Cass County at the time of the 1840 census so I also looked at some of the Cass (now Bartow) County marriage records.  There was no record of a marriage for Prior and Sallie in the 1849-1853 book and, unfortunately, the Bartow County Marriage Book C, 1843-1849, was not in the digitized collection.  Maybe if the elusive Book C ever turns up, we might find a marriage record for Prior and Sallie.

Georgia's Virtual Vault ended up providing me with a variety of information about Sarah A "Sallie" Dillard Smith.  It was no surprise to also be provided with more questions for which to seek answers.

(1) Bryant, Pat Georgia Counties: Their Changing Boundries. Atlanta: State Printing Office, 1983. Digital images accessed through Georgia's Virtual Vault.

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