James Thompson Clayborn
Sixth Child and Youngest Son of Ephraim Claybourn
19 May 1822 - 5 May 1900
James Thompson Clayborn was born on 19 May 1822 in Knoxville, Tennessee [Claybourn, Verner M., and Harriette Pinnell Threlkeld. The Claybourn Family (A-1 Business Service, 1959). Subsequent census data would seem to confirm this date.]. When James was still a young child of about three years old (c. 1825), his family moved to DeKalb County, Tennessee and lived two or three miles from the log cabin village of Liberty, Tennesee. At the age of twenty-one, on 21 December 1843, James married Melinda K. Scott, who was born on 17 August 1827 [Claybourn, Verner M., and Harriette Pinnell Threlkeld. The Claybourn Family (A-1 Business Service, 1959). Subsequent census data would seem to confirm this date. ]. Roughly twenty years later James' parents left Liberty for Kentucky, but James stayed in the area and settled in on the farm his parents had owned.
James, Melinda and four of their children - Mary E. (5 yrs old), Martha M. (4 yrs old), Sarah F. (2 yrs old), and John (0.5 years old) - are all listed in the 1850 census, with James indicating farming as his occupation [1850 U.S. Census. District 11, Dekalb, Tennessee; National Archives and Records Administration, Roll: M432_876; Page: 22; Image: 172. ]. The following census in 1860, taken as hostilities between the North and South escalated, shows that James and Melinda's family continued to grow [1860 U.S. Census. District 11, De Kalb, Tennessee; National Archives and Records Administration, Roll: M653_1247; Page: 167; Image: 337.]. Nine of their oldest children are included with them in this census: Mary E. (16 yrs old) Martha M. (14 yrs old), Sarah F. (12 yrs old), John B. (10 yrs old), Ephraim (9 yrs old), Phebe (7 yrs old), Luticia (6 yrs old), William H. (4 yrs old) and James (2 yrs old). James T. is listed as a farmer with real estate valued at $500 and a personal estate valued at $400.
The American Civil War affected virtually every family in the country, and James was not immune. As a southerner James would be expected to join the Confederate cause, just as the family of his brother John B. Claiborne of Arkansas had done. On the other hand, his other brother William Divine Claybourn of Illinois ardently supported the Union and fought to keep it intact, as did William's children.
James faced a tough choice, and in spite of his southern location, he appears to have sided with the Union. In 1936 researcher Harriette Threlked visited Nancy Johnson, the youngest child of James. Nancy showed Harriette a certificate signed by J. A. Jusan, M.D., certifying that he had examined James and found him unable to perform militia duty because of "hemroids" (sic), signed 16 December 1861 [Claybourn, Verner M., and Harriette Pinnell Threlkeld. The Claybourn Family (A-1 Business Service, 1959).]. William Divine once told Harriette that James was "loyal to the Union," so one could speculate that James might have concocted medical problems to avoid fighting for the Confederacy. Either way, James did not fight in the conflict.
Perhaps the most poignant evidence of James' sympathies is that in 1863, at the height of the War, he chose to name his newborn son Abraham Lincoln Clayborn after the famous president leading the Union. Taken together, the evidence strongly suggests that James supported the Union in the conflict and purposefully avoided fighting for the Confederacy.
After the War James appears to have settled into a relatively normal existence on his Tennessee farm. The family is listed in the 1870 census with nine children still living at home John B. (20 yrs old), Ephraim (18 yrs old), Pheba A. (16 yrs old). Lutitia (14 yrs old), William H. (13 yrs old), Thomas F. (12 yrs old), Malinda C. (10 yrs old), Lincoln (10 yrs old), and Nancy J. (3 yrs old) [1870 U.S. Census. District 2, Dekalb, Tennessee; National Archives and Records Administration, Roll: M593_1524; Page: 122; Image: 245.]. James is once again listed as a farmer and Melinda "keeps house." Their real estate in 1870 is valued at $800 and the personal estate at $1500. Ten years later in the 1880 census just five children were still living in the house with James and Melinda: Lutitia (24 yrs old), William H. (22 yrs old). Thomas B. (19 yrs old), Nancy J. (16 yrs old), Abraham Lincoln (17 yrs old) [1880 U.S. Census. Liberty, De Kalb, Tennessee; Roll: T9_1252; Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Family History Film: 1255252; Page: 124.4000; Enumeration District: 27.].
Life was not entirely idyllic, however, because from 1879 to 1885 James T. and his eldest son, John Branchford, were involved in a legal dispute before the DeKalb County Chancery Court [DeKalb County Chancery Court Rule Docket Page 160, Entry # 1322. Available online at http://listsearches.rootsweb.com/th/read/WILDER-SOUTH/2004-07/1090620060.]. The two were sued by several members of the Wilder family because James and John had apparently fallen behind on payments under a note for land. The Court ruled that title in the land was to vest in the heirs of the Wilder family. However the Wilder heirs could not divide the land among themselves satisfactorily, so it was sold to J. W. Scott and his son E.Y. Scott.
During Harriette's visit to the family farm in Liberty in 1936 it was owned by "Peps" Johnson, the brother-in-law of Nancy Johnson, James' youngest daughter. Nancy was the only one of his children living at the time. Harriette reports: "She was a neat, tiny little lady 69 years of age. We spent the afternoon visiting with her and her son's family on his farm about two miles southwest of Ephraim's farm. We went through Dismal from Liberty to reach this place" [Claybourn, Verner M., and Harriette Pinnell Threlkeld. The Claybourn Family (A-1 Business Service, 1959).]. She goes on:
We examined James T. Clayborn's family Bible and copied the birth dates of his family from it. We saw his large framed photograph, and he bore a striking resemblance to the photo of his brother William Divine Claybourn. "Aunt Nan," as she was called, answered instantly that her grandfather was Ephraim Claybourn, but when asked her great grandfather's name, she couldn't recall it. When asked if it were Joshua, she brightened up, as if remembering, and said, "Yes, that's it." She had learned of a William Hawker, near Liberty, when asked if any Hawkers lived there then.
The letter continued, "Tell Ephraim [this would be Martha's nephew] that he is certain of my prayers though he must put his whole trust in his Maker. He must not depend on a poor speckled worm of the earth like I am. - - He must put his whole trust in God. I am very sorry for you being in such trouble about your children" [Claybourn, Verner M., and Harriette Pinnell Threlkeld. The Claybourn Family (A-1 Business Service, 1959).]. If 1870 is the correct date, the nephew Ephraim was then 28 years old and as shown below, lost his first three children. Harriette goes on:
The other letter was really an undated fragment and so worn along the edges that many words could not be made out, but it was written by Polly Claybourn to her son James. She was visiting somewhere and wanted to know when James could come for her.
James died on 5 May 1900 in Liberty, DeKalb County, Tennessee and is buried in Dismal Cemetery in Liberty. Melinda died on 5 November 1907 and is also buried in Dismal Cemetery.
The following records were taken from the family Bible, from correspondence with James' descendants in 1936, 1970 and 1985, and from cross-referenced data available on Rootsweb.com. James and Melinda's children follow:
References and Notes