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Martha Jane (Ashcraft) Mann

Martha Jane (Ashcraft) Mann

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Born January 29, 1839, Martha Jane was the youngest of Joel and Patsey Ashcraft's ten children who grew to adulthood. The family farm near Fishing Creek in York County, South Carolina was the place of Martha's birth and her home until about 1857.

It was then at about the age of 17, Martha Jane became the bride of David Patten Mann. He, too, was a South Carolina native and was born in 1834 or 1835. The couple made their home in York County on a small farm near Gaylor's Creek. David and Martha Jane were the parents of six daughters - Susan Jane, Mary G., Ida Emily, Nancy Gazerine, Josephine and Ida Estella.

In 1861, the Civil War began. It was during the war years David and Martha Jane's four youngest daughters were born. About a year after the hostilities ended in 1865, the family decided to leave South Carolina and move to Arkansas where most of Martha's siblings had already established their homes. They loaded their wagon and, taking Martha's aging mother and the children of her deceased brothers Morten and Joel, made the arduous journey westward.

After reaching their destination Martha and David lived near Herbine in Cleveland County and set up housekeeping near Martha's siblings. Martha's mother was now blind, and lived next door with several of her deceased son Joel's children.

Martha lived a hard life and tragedy ensued in the following years. Sometime in the 1870s, Martha lost her husband and her mother. By 1880, Martha's oldest daughters, Susan and Mary, had married Davis brothers and were all making their home together in Miller Township, a few miles north of Herbine. Martha and her daughters, Nancy and Stella, lived with them.

Martha Jane's youngest daughter, Ida Estella had married William Jordan Robertson. They and their three oldest children also had made their home near Jersey where John purchased an eighty-acre tract of land from William and Estella in November of 1895. Just nineteen days after this transaction a sorrowful event disrupted the lives of Martha Jane's family. Nancy's husband, John, was murdered and Stella's husband, William was involved.

Ill feelings had been brewing between Nancy's husband, John, her brother-in-law William Robertson and a neighbor, James L. Byrd. The trouble was rumored to have been a domestic dispute over a piece of land. For whatever the reason for the hostility, an encounter ensued on Saturday, December 7 with all three men carrying loaded, double-barreled shotguns. Following a heated verbal exchange, Byrd emptied both barrels into Dalton. Dalton returned fire as he fell, but his shot missed its target. Byrd then reached for Robertson's gun and shot Dalton a second time.

Both Byrd and Robertson were arrested, the latter as an accomplice. A month after the incident, the grand jury returned indictments for murder against the two men. Their bail was set at $5,000 each which neither could readily make. Both were remanded to jail to await trial. A third man, William McNabb, was implicated; his bail was set at $500 and he, too, was jailed for a time.

After almost a year and two trials later, the three men were found innocent in John Dalton?s murder. The family story is that Nancy kept the vest John was wearing the fateful day of his murder, the garment bearing many, many tiny holes?. Byrd's daughter, Dora Lee, went on to marry Henry Davis who was Martha Jane's grandson, son of Susan. Robertson and Stella later moved their family to Hempstead County and settled near Hope.

Martha Jane's days were filled with helping Nancy raise her five fatherless children and trying to smooth over the understandably strained relationships that developed amongst her family members after John's death. Nancy later married George Fred Senn and had a daughter, Zevia, in October of 1899 during the couple's short relationship. By 1900 all of Martha Jane's daughters had died but Nancy and Stella. In 1902, Nancy and Byrd Penion Robertson were wed and had three children together. However, Martha Jane, having lived with them and sharing the horror of their father's death, remained devoted to and protective of her Dalton grandchildren.

Martha Jane died in Bradley County August 10, 1912. She was interred in Faustina Baptist Church Cemetery in Calhoun County where Nancy and Byrd made their home.


Reference:  Federal Census Records; Bradley County Marriage Records; Family Descendants.

Contributed by Paula Schenebeck of North Little Rock, Arkansas.  Submitted by Sharon Ashcraft.