Wallace Waters was the son of John P Waters and Elisabeth Collum. He was born in Wilkes county, North Carolina around 1809. Wallace’s parents were not legally married due to laws of that time that banned marriages between whites and non-whites. Wilkes county land records show they each owned property along Mulberry creek which is near the town of Wilkesboro.
John P Waters is listed on the 1810 U.S. census as head of a Wilkes county household with one free white male age 26-44, presumably John, and five ‘other’ free persons. The term ‘other’ indicates Elisabeth and the children of John and Elisabeth were not considered white by the census taker. The four ‘others’ besides Elisabeth are most likely Wallace and his two older brothers William P and Wesley Wilkes along with sister Louisa.
Wallace’s mother Elisabeth Collum died sometime in late 1812 or early 1813. Court minutes from Wilkes County during February term of 1813 show it was “Ordered that John Chambers constable bring the children of Elisabeth Collums deceased to next court to be bound out.”
Records indicate only two of the children were brought into the court. Wesley Wilkes and youngest son Wilburn were bound out later that year to Jacob McGrady and Francis Vannoy respectively. William P may have been considered old enough to live on his own and all existing records indicate he remained in Wilkes and surrounding counties for the remainder of his life. Wallace and Louisa were likely taken by their father John to Chester county, South Carolina. The Catawba and Northern trail could have been the route taken by the family on their sojourn. Why John took two of his children and left the other three behind is open to supposition. It may be that he took the two children with him who were most likely to pass for white. That would have been a heart-rending but ultimately pragmatic decision given the racial climate of that era.
John P Waters married a woman named Nancy, whose maiden name is unknown, either before leaving for South Carolina or shortly after arriving there. John is listed as head of household in Chester district on the 1820 U.S. Census. The entire household is listed as white but the Chester district census does not contain the columns for free people of color which are found in other counties for the 1820 census. Perhaps the census takers did not believe there was such a thing as a free person of color in their district since they made no column to account for them. The John P Waters’ family is shown with one male over 45 yo who is John and one female over 45 yo who is Nancy. There is one male 10-15 yo and that is probably Wallace. There is also one male 16-25 yo. Records support this is Wesley Wilkes who traveled to join his father and two siblings in South Carolina by 1820 and who married a young woman from a Chester family by the name of Martha Kees. The two white females between the ages of 16 and 25 are likely Louisa and Wesley Wilkes’ new wife Martha.
1820 is the last census on which Wallace has been definitively located until 1860; so there is a 40 year gap in which limited documentation to account for Wallace Waters’ life events is found. The 1830 Chester census shows he is no longer in the household with his father. Only two individuals, John and Nancy, are present on the census in Chester for this year.
Currently, the only record located which names Wallace in South Carolina comes from a newspaper The Edgefield Advertiser. On August 7th, 1844 the paper published the proceedings of a state temperance convention which was held at the courthouse of Edgefield on 31st of July and 1st of August. Within these preceedings we find Wallace listed as the delegate from Lancaster district, he is part of the Anti-Gambling and T. A. Society. T. A. stands for ‘Total Abstinence’. Wallace appears to have been a supporter of the early temperance movement in the United States as well as an opponent of gambling.
At about this time, Wallace married his wife Nancy Milliser Mackey who was from South Carolina. She was the child of Thomas Crenshaw Mackey, Jr and Jennet Emma Bell. Nancy was some fifteen to eighteen years younger than Wallace; she was born about 1825. Wallace and Nancy’s first son Thomas was born in 1845 in South Carolina. Their second child Jane Louisa, sometimes called ‘Lou’ or ‘Jenny’, was born in 1847 in Tennessee which means the family moved sometime between 1845 and 1847. This would correspond temporally with similar migration by others in the Mackey family including Nancy’s parents. Thomas Crenshaw Mackey and Jennet are found in the 1840 U. S. census in Lancaster county, South Carolina. There are a total of 8 family members and there are 4 slaves listed as part of the household. In 1850 the family is found in Tishomingo, Mississippi in the Northern Division, District 4 portion of the census. There is no Mackey listed as slave owner in this District on the 1850 slave schedules; so it appears Thomas Mackey either sold his slaves or freed them. Tishimingo is in the far northeast corner of Mississippi and it borders Hardin county in Tennessee. Other members of the Mackey family are also found living around this area in 1850. Nancy’s brother James Leonidas with his family is living next door to his parents in Tishomingo. Brother George Mackey is listed on the Marshal county, Mississippi census with his family. Brother Joshua Davage Mackey is found on the census in Lauderdale county, Alabama with his wife. It may be that the entire Mackey family moved en masse to the area in which northern Mississippi, northern Alabama and southwest Tennessee converge during the mid 1840’s. In this region the Tennessee river flows back within the borders of Tennessee, heading northward after it’s dip into Alabama. A journey during that time period could have taken a variety of routes and employed multiple means of travel.
Records for Wallace Waters do surface in McNairy County, Tennessee between 1855 and 1860. They are found in Circuit Court Execution Dockets which have been compiled by Helen King, Dorothy Smith and Nancy Kennedy. In these records Wallace Waters’ name appears upwards of seventeen times during the five year span as a defendant to the charges of ‘Gaming’. Fielding Hurst is regularly named witness for some of these charges against Wallace. Hurst also has similar charges of ‘Gaming’ brought against him. Wallace’s shift from leadership of an anti-gambling society in South Carolina to defendant on multiple charges of gaming in Tennessee in only ten years time is a turnabout worth pondering. A few examples of the charges appear below.
In 1860, shortly before the start of the Civil War, Wallace appears with his family on the U.S. census in the town of Jackson in Madison county, Tennessee. He is with wife Nancy and two of their children, Lou (Jane Louisa) age 13 and William age 10. They are living in a hotel and boarding house run by Mrs. N. C. Teague. There is no profession, occupation or trade listed for Wallace though all the other working age men on the page have one listed. Also living in the hotel are several painters, a daguerian artist and a brakeman on the railroad; it appears to be a somewhat bohemian group. It is noted that both Lou and William have attended school within the last year. Son Thomas does not appear on this census and actual documentation of him will be gathered and inferred from other papers. Perhaps he was attending school away or employed in some other location or even living with some of his mother’s family in the area? He would have been about 15 years old at the time of this census.
The Civil War began one year later and ended in 1865. Wallace Waters died in 1866; the Saturday, February 24th issue of the Nashville Union includes the following item in the City News section –
Death of Waters of Madison
He Falls Down and Expires in a Moment
We regret to learn that Mr. Waters, Representative from Madison county, died suddenly at his boarding House, on Cedar street, beyond the Capitol, last night, about six o’clock. He has long been troubled with a heart disease, and which his physicians have been expecting would result fatally. He had just eaten a hearty supper and walked to the portico, in front of the house, when he fell down and expired.
Mr. Waters was about 55 or 60 years of age, and had served with honor in the Union army during the late war. He was a man of undoubted patriotism, and honesty of purpose, and was one of those who spoke his mind freely, and without reserve, whenever occassion demanded. He never shrank from any responsibility, nor hesitated to act in behalf of what he deemed the right, regardless of consequences.
Wallace was serving in the Tennessee General Assembly as the representative from Madison county at the time he died in 1866. This is confirmed by the biographical directory of the Tennessee General Assembly. Wallace was part of the William Gannaway Brownlow led Reconstruction government of Tennessee. In April 1865, before the Civil War officially ended, the Tennessee General Assembly unanimously ratified the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
How did Wallace become part of this General Assembly in Nashville? Though the brief death notice in the newspaper reports he served in the Union Army, there is no record of a soldier that fits his name and description in the Union records. There is, however, a letter that survives outlining the role that Wallace played in the war. This letter is written by Peter Edward Bland who was a native of Missouri and served time as a Colonel in the U.S. Army during the Civil War before he was mustered out of service in 1864 after prolonged infirmity with rheumatism. Following his military service, Bland took up the practice of law in Memphis, Tennessee. The letter is addressed to General Alvin Peterson Hovey and reads as follows.
Memphis, Tenn., Nov 14th, 1864
Genl. Alvin P. Hovey,
General, we send to General Kimball under cover to you, an application in behalf of Wallace Waters, for pay as a recruiting agent under orders of appointment. Those orders as you will see require his vouchers to be approved by Genl. Kimball.
Mr. Waters operated a much longer time than that for which he charges and having paid his expenses out of his own funds has become quite exhausted and poor in consequence. I regard his as one of the most meritorious cases which has come under my observation and therefore venture to request your assistance in getting Genl Kimball’s prompt action in endorsing his vouchers in accordance with the requirements of the orders.
I have taken this liberty General in view of the fact of our having been comrades in arms during the campaign under Fremont and Hunter in southwest Missouri. I then commanding as you may remember the 6th MO Inftry.
With high regard
I remain Obediently Yours,
P. E. Bland
The full letter can be viewed at the following links – Page 1 and Page 2
Tennessee seceded from the United States on June 8, 1861 and was the last of eleven states to join the confederacy. Wallace Waters lived in southwest Tennessee and can be placed by census and court records in both Madison county (City of Jackson) and McNairy county in the years prior to the Civil War. Though this part of Tennessee largely carried Confederate sympathies there was a significant minority of support for the Union which was most strongly centered in the northern part of McNairy county where a lawyer named Fielding Hurst lived.
Hurst was a slave owner. He and his family owned large tracts of land in McNairy. Despite societal standing and trappings that appear most consistent with those who favored secession, he was opposed to secession and spoke out against it publicly. His vocal opposition lead to his arrest and imprisonment in Nashville at the start of the Civil War. He was sentenced to death. Though pardoned and released, he remained an outlaw to the confederacy. When the Union won early victories in Tennessee, he was able to return to southwest Tennessee where he began to recruit Union loyalists. Initially Hurst and his men served as scouts for the Union Army but eventually he pushed for and was granted a commission as a colonel by Andrew Johnson. The men Hurst commanded were originally called the 1st West Tennessee Cavalry but they were later renamed the 6th Tennessee Cavalry. The regiment spent most of the war skirmishing and harassing confederate troops on their own turf in southern Tennessee between the Tennessee and Mississippi rivers. This sometimes led to brutal and personal confrontations between the opposing sides who were all too often neighbors. They were ‘enemies in their own homeland’ as described in the history Hurst’s Wurst: Colonel Fielding Hurst and the Sixth Tennessee Cavalry U.S.A. by Kevin D. McCann. This book is highly recommended as a fair minded and well researched account of a somewhat obscure and overlooked subject matter.
Wallace Waters and Fielding Hurst would have certainly known one another from legal matters that involved gaming in McNairy county during the late 1850’s. Their exact relationship can only be inferred but records exist that suggest they were more than mere acquaintances. For this one must return to one of the most infamous incidents involving Hurst during the Civil War.
In February 1864, Fielding Hurst was accused of extorting funds from the city of Jackson. The story starts in July 1863 when the 6th Tennessee (then the 1st Western Tennessee) was part of operations in and around Jackson that also involved other Union regiments, namely the 3rd Michigan Cavalry and the 2nd Iowa Cavalry. While in the town of Jackson a group of men were accused of destruction and theft and getting drunk on the town people’s whiskey, in no particular order. A millinery store belonging to Mrs. A. A. Newman was broken into and vandalized, resulting in signficant damage and loss of property. She filed a formal complaint to the Union administration in Memphis which was investigated. Hurst pled the innocence of his men in the matter. In his official response, he blamed the 3rd Michigan Cavalry and 2nd Iowa Cavalry for the vandalism. Despite Hurst’s denial of wrong doing, the incident was blamed on Hurst’s men and Mrs. Newman was awarded $5,139.25 which was deducted from Hurst’s regiment’s payroll. Hurst did not forget. Eight months later, in February of 1864 he returned to Jackson and demanded that the town pay him the sum of $5,139.25 in restitution. If they failed to pay, he threatened he would burn the town. Over several days the city raised the money amongst the citizens and they paid him. A local farmer by the name of Robert H. Cartmell (1849-1915) kept a lifelong diary and recorded his observations and thoughts about this incident and some of the ensuing events. Part of his diary has been transcribed as historical documentation of these events by the State of Tennessee. Below is an excerpt of what Cartmell wrote in February 1864 –
I understand a part of Lexington and Brownsville were burned by this same crowd [Hurst’s regiment]. They destroyed a large quantity of fencing over the river & set the woods on fire besides burning it when camped, pillaged houses & robed citizens. Frequently citizens are killed by them when they resist these outrages. Hearst’s command was made up principally in McNairy & Henderson counties, some from Hardeman & Carrol counties in the Western District. I saw a man & his son with them who formerly lived here in Jackson, a gambler named Waters, his son named Tom, also saw a man once Sherriff of McNairy Co. named Alridge.
Cartmell is surely referring to Wallace Waters when he describes a gambler with a son named Tom who lived in Jackson. He suggests that Wallace Waters is part of Hurst’s regiment in some capacity. This points towards Wallace Waters recruiting for the 6th Tennessee. These activities are also suggested by son Thomas Waters’ military paperwork.
Thomas served in the 6th Tennessee Cavalry, Company A. The age of 18 is correct and the birth location of Chester District, South Carolina is also correct. He is described as 5 foot 6 inches with a dark complexion and black hair with blue eyes. The occupation of ‘Hunter’ listed for Thomas brings to mind his uncle Wilburn Waters, Wallace’s youngest brother who was left behind in North Carolina by their father John. Notably Thomas was enlisted by his father ‘Waters’ for a term of 3 years.
Thomas Waters’ assignments during his service suggests someone who was granted a certain amount of privilege. This may have been due to his father’s influence or Thomas’ own character, perhaps some of both. He served as a colonel’s orderly throughout his service. The colonels he served in this capacity included Lt. Col. William K. M. Breckinridge who was Hurst’s second in command, Col. Hurst himself and Col. Smith who replaced Hurst as leader of the 6th Tennessee Cavalry at the end of the war. Kautz’s Customs of Service for NCOs and Soldiers describes the position thusly –
114. Orderlies are soldiers selected on account of their intelligence, experience and soldierly bearing, to attend on generals, commanding officers, officers of the day, and staff officers, to carry orders, mess &c. They may be taken from the guard or put on permanently while the duty last: in the latter case they are reported on daily duty and are excused from all other duty that would interfere with their duty as orderlies.
As for Robert Cartmell of Jackson, it is clear he bore no love for Wallace Waters. Another quote from his diary which mentions Wallace Waters appears in Emma Inman Williams’ book Historic Madison: The Story of Jackson and Madison County Tennessee. On pg. 192-3 she quotes Cartmell’s diary –
Heard courthouse bell ring this morning at 8 o’clock, election for members to Congress and in this senatorial district for state senator. I believe Governor Brownlow and his legislature resolve themselves the government for the next two years. This country is represented by a man named Waters, a black leg—I think the meanest looking man I ever saw about Jackson a good deal 4 or 5 years ago traveled around with Hurst’s regiment. The whole thing is a burlesque on Republican Government. I did not go to town would not have been allowed if so disposed. Any person engaged in a rebellion is disenfranchised.
Fielding Hurst was elected to the Tennessee General Assembly at the conclusion of the war as the state senator representing the Twenty-First district. This district comprised the counties of Hardeman, McNairy and Hardin. Fielding Hurst, a wealthy attorney and former slave owner, and Wallace Waters, a reputed gambler and son of a free woman of color, were reunited in Nashville during April of 1865 to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment of the U. S. Constitution. Official adoption of this amendment in December of 1865 would abolish slavery in the United States forever.
Following Wallace Walters death in February of 1866 the General Assembly apportioned funds for transportation of his remains and for funeral expenses to W. R. Cornelius.
Where Wallace Waters is buried remains unknown.
Wallace did have one nephew who was his namesake. Wallace Waters Mackey was the son of Joshua Davage Mackey, the brother of Wallace’s wife Nancy. Wallace Waters Mackey was born in McNairy, Tennessee in 1856 and died in Oklahoma in 1946.
Wallace’s widow Nancy Mackey Wallace remarried Francis D. Ferguson, also a widower. He was a farmer prior to the war from Hardeman County, Tennessee. They left post-War southwest Tennessee, which was a hostile environment for those who had been loyal to the Union, and moved to Union County, Illinois where they are found on the 1870 U.S. census.
Nancy is keeping house while Frank is employed as a wagon maker. Son William Waters is engaged as a teamster. Son Thomas, whose name is spelled with two T’s on this census, is living close by his mother with his wife Mary Blick (they were married January 1866 in Illinois) and their two young daughters Minnie and Olive. Thomas is also employed as a teamster.
Thomas Waters outlived his first wife Mary and shortly before his death in November of 1910 he married a young widow named Hannah North Lilley. She made application for a pension based on Thomas’ service in the 6th Tennessee Cavalry. Interestingly she had also applied for prior pension under her first husband, a Mr. Lilley.
Thomas F. Waters is buried in Rose Hill cemetery in Williamson County, Illinois.
It is believed that William Waters never married and died in Randolph County, Illinois in May of 1916.
Jane Louisa Waters married Cuthbert Ashby Jones in Jackson County, Illinois on 9 December 1864 before the end of the Civil War. She and her husband spent their early married lives in Chester, Illinois where they raised several children. They later moved to St. Louis, Missouri where Jane Louisa died in May of 1927.