Nancy Bean….Gibbs???

This week I stumbled across an interesting bit of information in my never ending quest to identify the parents of my third great-grandfather Jesse J. Bean. I knew a Nancy Bean married in Chambers County on April 15, 1838 – the same date that has been referred to as Jesse’s birth date. I often suspected that this Nancy Bean was some how related to the John Bean family that lived in Chambers County during this time, but I had no proof…until this week.

During my endless searching on the internet to find some sign of the Bean family living in Chambers County around 1835, I came across two interesting bits of information. The first being that a John Bean was elected coroner of Chambers County in 1833 – this was even earlier than I suspected my Beans would have been in Chambers County. This area of Alabama was only opened to settlement around 1832, after the second Creek War. Also, either there were very few settlers, or John Bean was a bit prominent, or at least, more so than I thought. I found this information in a book on the history of Alabama, which included a basic overview of the formation of Chambers County. Unfortunately this is the only place I’ve found this mentioned so far.

Courthouse Front
Chambers County Courthouse today (photo by author)

The second bit of information came by pure chance. Throughout this process, I have sent countless emails to various people I’d stumble across on the web, asking for information on the Bean family. Sometimes I get responses, sometimes I don’t. This week I emailed yet another faceless person regarding the marriage of Nancy Bean. The lady in question was listed as the contact for information on early Alabama marriages, especially Chambers County. Guess what? I got a response the next day! She was not only able to confirm Nancy’s marriage date, but she also was able to provide the groom’s full name – Thomas W. Gibbs. Prior to this, I had only seen the groom listed as ??bbs – not much to go on.

I also got a tantalizing new bit of information that I had never seen before. My basic theory up until this point is that the Nancy Bean in question was a daughter of John Bean. There were a few problems with this theory: first being that I could find no definitive proof she existed – only glimpses; second, if Nancy was a daughter of John Bean, she might have been far too old to be Jesse’s mother. This was especially true if family oral history was to be believed.

Enhanced Nancy and Thomas Gibbs.jpg
Nancy Bean’s marriage entry (photo by author)

Basically I have always heard stories that Jesse was the illegitimate offspring of a Bean daughter and an unknown Cherokee. I believe the exact words my great uncle Jack used were that “she got tangled up with an Indian.” Although I never heard what her age might have been, I would surmise that being in her late thirties at the time of Jesse’s birth would be off for several reasons, especially since most females in the early nineteenth century would have married young and started families way before their late thirties. If Nancy was the daughter of John Bean, she would have been born around 1800 based on the birth dates of his other children – a bit “long in the tooth” to be having a child, especially a first child, in her late thirties.

For all these reasons, when I received a response to my query about Nancy’s marriage, I was excited to learn that her marriage to Thomas W. Gibbs was signed for my her grandfather John Bean. This meant she was most likely a minor and now I had a new mystery to get to the bottom of. Which of John’s children was Nancy’s parent? Since her last name was Bean, I figured she had to be a daughter of one of John’s sons – Walter, Wiley Jackson, or William. Wiley Jackson did have a daughter named Nancy, but she would have been ten at the time of Jesse’s birth and it is well documented who she married and it wasn’t Thomas W. Gibbs. Neither Walter or William have a daughter named Nancy as far as I’ve been able to determine – so now what?

I decided to research Thomas W. Gibbs to see if I could find another clue. The only thing I’ve come up with so far is a Thomas W. Gibbs with a wife named Nancy on the 1860 DeKalb County census. This Thomas would have been born about 1814, making him around twenty four at the time of his marriage to Nancy. This Nancy was born around 1818 based on the census, making her nineteen or twenty at the time of her marriage and Jesse’s birth. Tantalizing huh? Even more so since I can’t find either of them on any other census before or after. I can find absolutely no trace of this family anywhere else either. What happened to them? Are they they same couple who married in Chambers County on April 15, 1838? Not sure, but I’ll keep you posted.

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On a different note, the pictures above are of Fort Cusseta in Chambers County. I thought this was neat since it was built by the first settlers in the area as protection against Indian attacks. I wonder if John Bean was familiar with it? If so, it is definitely a neat link to the past and what life must have been like.

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