Week 39: 52 Ancestor 52 Week Blog: Two Sisters Married Two Brothers…

Week 39: September 27, 2014

 Two Sisters Married Two Brothers…

Nancy Bryan and George Winston Bruce – Did Nancy and George bury Gold?

Parthena Bryan and Aquilla Bruce – Did Parthena bury her Husband?

Nancy and George Bruce

George Winston and Nancy (Bryan) Bruce

Two very strong sisters – Nancy Caroline Bryan, my 4th great aunt, daughter of James Bryan, was born on July 23, 1828 in Habersham County, Georgia. Within a few years, James Bryan moved his family to Lumpkin County where most of the family married, died and were buried.

Nancy was well known in the area as a weaver, even dying her own wool from natural herbs, berries, plants and leaves. At that time, you inherited the knowledge of what made the colors you needed – it was as common as knowing what was needed to make a pan of biscuits. There were no stores to buy your dyes – you learned from the older generation – and you passed your knowledge down to the younger generation. It was quite a process from the dying, carding and spinning cotton into thread, then weaving into cloth and finally the making of it into clothing.

Times have changed now, as now you would buy your colors for dying wool, but I’m sure there are many that still enjoy the old-style way of brewing your own colors. It sounds very fascinating and maybe another day I’ll venture a try.

Parthena Bryan Bruce

A blanket woven by Nancy Bryan Bruce – It is in the possession today of a Bryan researcher.

I can picture Nancy in her log cabin, a spinning wheel in the corner with baskets of wool nearby waiting to be dyed. It sounds like such an art – a lost art! Did she learn from her mother Elizabeth Cain Bryan? You often learned from someone else – and as her mother was the closest woman to her in the family, she most likely had experience. Their clothes were all homemade in those times – these women were the first true craftswomen. Maybe I can now claim to have inherited my love of crafts from the early Bryan’s as well as my McKinley line! I always wanted a spinning wheel – it looks so peaceful to sit and spin wool into a finished product that could be knitted; I do knit, so I’d be able to use the wool. At one time I contemplated on having my Samoyed dogs hair turned into wool – and after saving bags of it – finally threw it all away – and moved on – to another project.


A spinning wheel similar to one that Nancy Bryan Bruce may have sat at.

The building of a spinning wheel is a true art, it’s not just a wheel turning to produce wool – the wheel must be precisely made or it will not spin evenly.

Nancy married George Winston Bruce on February 11, 1850 in Lumpkin County, Ga. and both George and Nancy are listed on the 1850 census – living in Yahoola, Lumpkin County. George was born abt. 1826 in Habersham Co.  – both parents were listed as born in S.C. from census; his occupation was miner and Nancy a homekeeper; they lived next door to Nancy’s parents, James and Elizabeth Bryan.

Between 1850 and 1855 George and Nancy Bruce made a westward move to Saltcreek, Lincoln Co., Kansas. They are now living next door to her sister Rausey Melinda (Bryan) and Josiah Askew Woody. Rausey and Josiah previously had left for Missouri before finally settling in Kansas; I believe that is when George and Nancy followed them out West. Mining in Georgia was no longer profitable at that time, so maybe a better life was offered them in Kansas – and as they had no children, it was easy to pack and move.

I did not find them listed in 1860, but at some point George Winston Bruce enlisted in the Army. I did not find a military record for him but early information given to me is a letter written by him to his wife Nancy while serving. The original letter is in possession of Bruce Bryan.

Dear Wife: April 17, 1863 – We may be starting for home in a few days. We have corn bread and rice to eat – we have to bake the bread without sifting. We drawed two quarters of beef the other day but it looked so bad that we could not eat it; we dragged it off and buried it. I think that if that is the best they can do, they had better begin to wind up this war. There is a great many troops about this place. There is six regiments stationed in sight of us. I can inform you that we have just got orders to cook rations and be ready to start to Georgia at a minute’s warning. I suppose we are going to Savannah. I will not have time to write as much as I want to. Clarke and Calaway (her brother was Marion Calaway Bryan – could Clarke would be her father Berrien Clark Bryan) are well. I hope you will make enough to do you if I can’t be permitted to help you. (He wrote from camp near Charleston, S.C.)

Civil War part of letter

Letter and drawing of the execution George Winston Bruce was forced to witness.

Another letter sent: Dear wife, I hope the time will soon come when all men will be permitted to return home to their families where they can feel as free people again. We don’t have the privilege of a Negro, though the time will come when all men will get justice and I thank the Lord for it. If we never meet again on earth, I hope we will meet in Heaven where we will never part again. There was a man shot at Savannah the day before we left there. He was shot for desertion. We was all marched out to see him shot. He wrote and drew a diagram for her. (Quite a horrific event to have witnessed.)

George W. Bruce was one of the lucky ones who returned home from the war. As they were living in Kansas before the Civil War began, I can only conclude, without my own research, that he came home to join and fight for the South alongside her father and brother. His brother-in-law, Josiah Askew Woody, had left Georgia for the very opposite reason – he would not fight for the South! Maybe George left Kansas before the war broke out to keep Nancy safe;  Maybe he had hesitations on which side he would fight for – but it seems the South was where his heart lay.

The 1875 and 1885 census still finds them as residents of Saltcreek, Kansas – and still living alongside her sister Rausey and husband Josiah A. Woody. They are all listed as farmers.

By 1900 George and Nancy are found residing back in Dahlonega, Lumpkin Co., Georgia. George is now farming – they are married forty-four years and still with no children.

BryanBruce Gravestone Cane Creek Cem

Gravestone of Nancy Bryan and George Winston Bruce at Cane Creek Cemetery Church, Dahlonega, Ga.

Nancy died on March 25, 1907 and is buried in Cane Creek Cemetery, Lumpkin Co., Georgia; George soon followed on June 29th. They have the largest and most elaborate headstone in this cemetery. I’m assuming he placed the headstone there when she died.

From the History of Lumpkin County by Andrew W. Cain page 376, newspaper exert; July -12-1907.  Those who know – say that Mr. and Mrs. G.W. Bruce, who passed away recently, had a lot of gold coin before they died, something like $1500, but no one knows now where it is. When they lived in the West, Mrs. Bruce hid this gold under the hearth of the house in which they lived. The house was sold and the money undisturbed until they got ready to come back to Georgia. Then Mrs. Bruce went to the owners of the house and told them she wanted to get a package she had put under the hearth. Permission was granted and she brought it away. After Mrs. Bruce died here in April her husband was asked by relatives where this money was. His reply was “it’s around.” Mr. Bruce died without telling anyone about the gold – it is our opinion, and quite likely buried and may never be found.

It seems that many residents of Lumpkin County thought the Bruce’s were always well off – just maybe there was something to that gold theory. Remember he was once a miner! Maybe he never cashed in all the gold he mined and kept some for a rainy day. And just maybe some unsuspecting person in Lumpkin County found that package she retrieved from the hearth – and if they did – I bet they will never tell…

Second Sister:

Parthena Bryan Rausey B Woody

Left: Parthena Bryan Bruce-Ray, Rausey M. Bryan Woody – Two Sisters

Parthena Ann Elizabeth Bryan, born May 15, 1840 to parents James and Elizabeth (Cain) Bryan married Nancy’s brother-in-law Aquilla Bruce on September 6, 1855 in Lumpkin Co., Georgia. Two sons were born in this marriage before the Civil War and one after it began; Aquilla enlisted in 1861 Co. C. (Calvery Battalion), Cobbs Legion. From viewing the enlistment papers on Ancestry.com I’ve found conflicting information on his death – the Muster rolls list him as dying Aug. 24, 1862 in Hanover County, West Virginia (from what I can decipher). Another document in same file reports “Receiving and Wayside Hospital”or General Hospital No. 9., Richmond Virginia as admitted Dec. 14, 1863 and disposition on Dec. 15, 1863.  What does that mean? Did he die in battle and the body held until it could be returned home?

Aquillla 8

Can I assume he died in battle and not at home by bush-whackers?

But there’s another story.

The family story that was been passed to me from my earlier research was that Parthena’s husband, Aquilla Bruce, was killed while home on leave by bushwhackers. It’s told that she dug her husband’s grave with her bare hands as there was no one to help her. At this point, regardless of what is correct, I do believe her husband died during the war. This left her a widow at age twenty-three with three small children.

Aquilla and Parthena had two sons before the Civil War broke out – but it’s the third son who caught my eye – Gaston D. Bruce born October 13, 1861. Parthena was home alone when this child was born as the Civil War was in full swing and most likely Aquilla had gone to war. I hadn’t planned on adding the children into my story-line until I discovered the D. initial stood for Dahlonega – that quickly peeked my interest into Gaston. Parthena must have had a great love for her hometown in giving her son its name. I have not come across anyone else using the name of Dahlonega – quite interesting. I also have a great love for that name from the very first time I heard it and finally learning how to even pronounce it. Gaston seemed to be known as “Lon Bruce” from many written accounts I’ve found.

Lon Bruce's art gallery

Gaston D. Bruce’s art gallery in Dahlonega, Ga. Circa 1890

Alice Bruce

Alice Anderson Bruce with sister Nancy Anderson – Circa 1890 Was photo taken by Gaston D. Bruce in his Art Studio? Photograph scanned from I Love Dahlonega book by Anne Amerson

To sidetrack here a bit…

Gaston Dahlonega Bruce grew up to become a photographer. He first married Alice G. Anderson in 1883 and by the 1890’s I find record of him owning an art photography studio in Dahlonega; he’s listed as an artist and photographer. Quite impressive for that time period and I plan to search out some of his work.

By 1910 Gaston’s wife dies and for whatever reason, he travels to New Mexico and is found listed on the 1910 census as a widow and  photographer. By 1920 he has moved again and now his sister, Vanie King, is listed with him on the Kentucky census – along with seven boarders in the household. His occupation is photographer; all the boarders are laborers working on the railroad. Why is there a sister living with him now? (I personally can not identify this Vany King as his sister, but its listed on the census as such.) He had two brothers and none of the half siblings match that name – again there could be many reasons and we won’t mention them here… Gaston returned back to Georgia by 1921 ; but what happened to Vany King?

G Dahlonega Bruce

Gaston D. Bruce

Cain Bruce photographer

Amanda Cain Bruce – her photo was found hanging in the Gold Museum in Dahlonega, Ga.

Gaston soon met Amanda Cain and married her in 1921; now living in Davis, Lumpkin County, Georgia on the 1930 census. I believe he returned home shortly after 1920 and met her in Lumpkin County, as she is also from the area. Her photo was found on display in the Gold Museum in Dahlonega – can we assume Gaston took the photograph? He seemed be a prominent citizen in the area as it’s listed on his headstone that he “represented Lumpkin Co., in the general assembly of the Georgia Legislature for five consecutive years” – no years are given anywhere. Gaston died Nov. 28, 1932 in Dahlonega and is buried in the Bethlehem Baptist Church Cemetery.

As I looked more closely into Gaston’s first wife Alice, I noticed speculations which caused me to second guess if he really was a widow – which he so stated on the 1910 census in New Mexico.  Did he leave Alice to pursue his work – did they divorce – was Vany King his real sister? The 1910 Lumpkin County census shows an Alice Bruce, married, and residing with daughter Pearl in Lumpkin Co; by 1920 and 1930 Alice Bruce is still listed as residing with a now married daughter Pearl in Atlanta, Fulton Co., Ga. I’m closing the door on this, but I have found it very interesting –  I love playing Nancy Drew!  It does make you wonder? Notice – she listed married – and he listed widow? You can draw your own conclusions on this one….

Back on track with the Bryan sister Parthena…

Parthena married again in 1865 to John D. Ray and seven more children were added to the family – a total of ten children to raise. John had also served in the Civil War as a volunteer in the 5th. Reg. Tenn. Inf. Co. H. I first wondered if he had fought for the Union, as Tennessee was very split, but after discovering he signed “the oath” after the war – that told me he fought for the Confederacy.

Parthena took care of her parents, James and Elizabeth Bryan, in their aging years. After the death of her mother in 1882, her father came to live with Parthena’s family in Hall County until his death on March 12, 1885; I, along with many researchers, have never found their grave-sites. There are still many unmarked graves in Cane Creek cemetery in Lumpkin County where his son Berrian Clark Bryan is buried; they lived most of their life near that area, so we might assume them to be buried in one of those unmarked stone graves. I have not found them listed in any church records of the surrounding area; we are still searching for them….


James Bryan, Parthena Bryan Bruce-Ray, Elizabeth Cain Bryan

Soon after Parthena’s father died, she and John moved their family to Coldwater, Comanche Co., Oklahoma, where he farmed until his death in 1888-89. Parthena later moved again at some point, possibly with her children, as she died on April 25, 1934 in Chickasha, Grady County, Oklahoma.

Parthena Ray Bruce

Parthena A. Bryan Bruce Ray

From research of a Mrs. Wesley Ferguson of Lakeland, Georgia who has done much Bruce research – she believes that George Winston Bruce and Aquilla Bruce, who married the two Bryan sisters – were sons of Acquilla and Betsy Eaton Bruce in Habersham County, Georgia; they were one of the earliest Bruce arrivals in Habersham. As the Bruce line is not my direct line, I’m not furthering my research other than the Bryan sisters.

Many of our Bryan lines from the Ray and Bruce marriages are now scattered throughout the West from these two Bryan sisters. Through Ancestry I’ve made contact with several of them researching their Georgia ancestors and I shared the lines back to Georgia that they were missing.

About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

My blog is at: https://everyonehasafamilystorytotell.wordpress.com/
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10 Responses to Week 39: 52 Ancestor 52 Week Blog: Two Sisters Married Two Brothers…

  1. Mulberrygrrl says:

    Excellent storytelling! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thanks for stopping by – glad to hear you enjoyed it.

  3. Hi There, Just a couple of notes: Josiah Askew Woody was a Confederate soldier. He served first a Sergeant in Co. B, 1st Regiment Georgia Regulars, enlisting for three years in 1861. He ended the war as an officer in the home guard in Georgia. I believe Josiah and Rausey went to Kansas at the close of the Civil War. I think they wanted a place friendly to those who had been Confederates and also there were already relatives living in the Lincoln, Kansas area. Great post with loads of Bryan information. Good to know! Have a wonderful Memorial Day on Monday!

  4. Charity says:

    Hi there. I pretty sure these are some of my ancestors.
    My grandparents are Joseph Milton Bryan and Imogene Bryan.
    This is So Cool.

  5. Pam says:

    My grandmother was Lucinda Elizabeth Bryan who was a descendent if James Bryan.
    My question is my grandmother always said that a great grandfather was Cherokee.
    I see in all the research that many of her earlier relatives lived in Cherokee nation.
    I had my DNA done a few years ago and nothing showed up for Native American. Elizabeth Cain seemed to be the link for the Indian connection. I knew that Parthena moved to Oklahoma and is buried, I believe, next to a son.
    Please share your thoughts.

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