Malinda McCauley Johnston: Nurturing Wife, Sister, Grandmother, and Aunt

This entry is part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series.  This week’s prompt is Nuture.  To see other posts in this series, view my 52 Ancestors in 2019 index


It’s difficult to know the character of our ancestors when all that remains of their lives are a few impersonal records. But sometimes these records can reveal clues about an ancestor’s nature. The simple choice of who lived in her home, the circumstances of a husband returning from a Civil War prisoner of war camp, and the situation of a widowed sister suggests my 3x-great-grandmother Malinda McCauley Johnston was a nurturing wife, sister, grandmother, and aunt.

Malinda McCauley was born June 30, 1827,¹ in a portion of Yazoo County, Mississippi, that became Madison County shortly after her birth.² She was the oldest of eight children born to John McCauley, Jr. and Mary Jane Wells.³

Malinda’s family moved to Leake County by 1840,⁴ where she met John Johnston,⁵ a farmer. Malinda and John were married in neighboring Neshoba County, in the town of Philadelphia, on January 30, 1844.⁶

Malinda and John soon welcomed two children: Harriett (from whom I descend) in 1845, and George in 1847.⁷ The family seems to have made their home in Leake County throughout this period, appearing there on the 1850 U.S. census,⁸ the 1853 Mississippi state census,⁹ and 1860 U.S. census.¹⁰

When the Civil War began, John enlisted in the 24th Mississippi Infantry¹¹ leaving Malinda at home with Harriett, age 16, and George, age 14.¹² Even though her children were older and undoubtedly involved in the daily operation of the farm, Malinda probably still felt the pressure of caring for livestock and growing crops in John’s absence. Their neighbors on the 1860 census were their closest relatives, and at least two others of these men enlisted in the Confederate army: Malinda’s brother John Jordan McCauley,¹³ and Malinda’s brother-in-law Harrison Cobb,¹⁴ husband of her sister Martha.¹⁵ Malinda and her female family members probably worked together to keep their households afloat during these challenging war years. Their experience was made even more difficult when both John and Harrison were captured and placed in POW camps. Harrison died in Rock Island Prison,¹⁶ and John spent an entire year at Camp Morton,¹⁷ finally returning home on June 7, 1865.¹⁸ With disease and sickness rampant in POW camps, John likely came home malnourished and in need of care. Malinda would have had the role of nursing him back to health while also helping her newly-widowed sister Martha.

Although her own children were grown and married, the post-war years brought additional caregiver roles for Malinda. Her widowed sister Martha remarried but died in a house fire in June 1876.¹⁹ Malinda and John took in their two young nephews, Charles and Landrum Ryals, since they had also been abandoned by their father.²⁰ By 1880, Malinda and John were also caregivers for their grandson John Thomas Horne,²¹ son of their daughter Harriett. Harriett had divorced her first husband,²² and their only child appears in John and Malinda’s household in the 1880 U.S. census. It is unclear if John was left with his grandparents to be a helper for them as they aged or if the boy was unwanted in his new stepfather’s household.

Sometime in the late 1870s, Malinda and John moved to Winn Parish, Louisiana.²³ John settled on land near the Sikes community,²⁴ and he and Malinda lived there with their grandson and nephews. By 1888, both Malinda’s children had died,²⁵ but she continued nurturing the family they left behind.

John and Malinda moved with their newly-married grandson back to Mississippi in 1892 or shortly after. John Johnston died on August 5, 1898, in Belzoni, Sunflower County, Mississippi.²⁶ The 1900 census shows Malinda in the household of her grandson John Thomas Horne and his family, along with her nephew Charles Ryals.²⁷ Although 73 years old, she was still contributing to the family and reported her occupation as an “edigant canner.”²⁸ But at some point this nurturing grandmother and aunt became the nurtured one herself.

The final record Malinda left behind is a Civil War widow’s pension application, filed in Liddieville, Franklin Parish, Louisiana, on January 20, 1906.²⁹ One of the witnesses was G.E. (George Edgar) Johnston, her grandson by son George, and could indicate she was now living with his family. Her relocation must have been recent, because her pension application was disapproved for the reason “not long enough in State.”

Malinda died in 1909, according to Bible records referenced in Phyllis McCauley Fisher’s One Man’s Family: John McCauley from 1796 until 1978.³⁰ Although I have nothing more than the basic records of her life, I can tell Malinda cared for her family faithfully, nurturing an war-injured husband, a widowed sister, abandoned nephews, and an out-of-place grandson.


¹Phyllis McCauley Fisher, One Man’s Family: John McCauley from 1796 to 1978 (Self-Published, 1978), 2.

²Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” database, General Land Office Records  (https://glorecords.blm.gov/details/patent/default.aspx?accession=MS1190__.484&docClass=STA&sid=odaygh4g.npr   : accessed 11 May 2019), entry for John McCauley, Madison County, Mississippi, no. 18541. 

³Fisher, One Man’s Family, 1.

⁴1840 U.S. census, Leake County, Mississippi, no township, p. 9 (penned), p. 34 (stamped), line 25, for John McCauley; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8057/4409452_00517 : accessed 11 May 2019), citing NARA microfilm publication M704, roll 216.

⁵John’s father Wiley Johnston was also located in Leake County in 1840:

1840 U.S. census, Leake County, Mississippi, no township, p. 3 (penned), p. 28 (stamped), line 8, for Willey Johnston; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8057/4409452_00505 : accessed 11 May 2019), citing NARA microfilm publication M704, roll 216.

⁶Malinda Johnston, 22 Jan 1906, Widow’s Application for Pension no. 5431; service of John Johnston (Pvt., Co. E, 24th Mississippi Inf., Civil War); “Louisiana Confederate Pensions, 1898-1950,” digital images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939F-VN99-L2?i=350&wc=M61M-TN5%3A165075701&cc=1838535 : accessed 11 May 2019), citing “Louisiana Confederate Pension Applications,” Louisiana State Archives, Baton Rouge; path: Johnson, Mine A-Neville – Jones, Sallie M > image 351-355.

⁷Birthdates for Harriett and George calculated from census:

1850 U.S. census, Leake County, Mississippi, population schedule, Beat 5, p. 63 (penned), p. 32 (stamped), dwelling 409, family 455, John Johnston household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8054/4200047_00067 : accessed 11 May 2019), citing NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 376.

Ibid.

⁹Ancestry.com, “Mississippi, Compiled Census and Census Substitutes Index, 1805-1890,” database, Ancestry.com (https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=3556&h=15786291&ssrc=pt&tid=87982841&pid=312080189391&usePUB=true : accessed 11 May 2019), entry for John Johnson, Leake County, MS, 1853; citing “Mississippi Census, 1805-1890,”
Accelerated Indexing Systems, comp.

¹⁰1860 U.S. census, Leake County, Mississippi, population schedule, no township, p. 99 (penned), dwelling 649, family 649, Jno Johnson household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7667/4233369_00103 : accessed 11 May 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication M643, roll 586.

¹¹”Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Confederate Organizations, compiled 1903 – 1927, documenting the period 1861 – 1865,” entry for John Johnston, Pvt., Co. E, 24th Mississippi Inf., digital images, Fold3.com (https://www.fold3.com/image/81095409 : accessed 11 May 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication M269, roll 315.

¹²Ages for Harriett and George calculated from census:

1850 U.S. census, Leake County, Mississippi, population schedule, Beat 5, p. 63 (penned), p. 32 (stamped), dwelling 409, family 455, John Johnston household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8054/4200047_00067 : accessed 11 May 2019), citing NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 376.

¹³”Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Confederate Organizations, compiled 1903 – 1927, documenting the period 1861 – 1865,” entry for Jordan J McCauley, Pvt., Co. B, 40th Mississippi Inf., digital images, Fold3.com (https://www.fold3.com/image/85393263 : accessed 11 May 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication M269, roll 384.

¹⁴”Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Confederate Organizations, compiled 1903 – 1927, documenting the period 1861 – 1865,” entry for Harrison Cobb, Pvt., Co. E, 24th Mississippi Inf., digital images, Fold3.com (https://www.fold3.com/image/81095409 : accessed 11 May 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication M269, roll 313.

¹⁵Fisher, One Man’s Family, 161.

¹⁶”Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Confederate Organizations, compiled 1903 – 1927, documenting the period 1861 – 1865,” entry for Harrison Cobb, Pvt., Co. E, 24th Mississippi Inf., digital images, Fold3.com (https://www.fold3.com/image/81095409 : accessed 11 May 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication M269, roll 313.

¹⁷”Carded Records Showing Military Service of Soldiers Who Fought in Confederate Organizations, compiled 1903 – 1927, documenting the period 1861 – 1865,” entry for John Johnston, Pvt., Co. E, 24th Mississippi Inf., digital images, Fold3.com (https://www.fold3.com/image/81095409 : accessed 11 May 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication M269, roll 315.

¹⁸Malinda Johnston, 22 Jan 1906, Widow’s Application for Pension no. 5431; service of John Johnston (Pvt., Co. E, 24th Mississippi Inf., Civil War); “Louisiana Confederate Pensions, 1898-1950,” digital images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939F-VN99-L2?i=350&wc=M61M-TN5%3A165075701&cc=1838535 : accessed 11 May 2019), citing “Louisiana Confederate Pension Applications,” Louisiana State Archives, Baton Rouge; path: Johnson, Mine A-Neville – Jones, Sallie M > image 351-355.

¹⁹Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/86465694/ry  : accessed 11 May 2019), memorial 86465694, Martha Ann McCauley Cobb Ryals (1839-1876), Woodlawn Cemetery, Summit, Pike County, Mississippi.
 
²⁰1880 U.S. Census, Winn Parish, Louisiana, population schedule, 3rd Ward, (1st enumeration), enumeration district (ED) 54, p. 53A (penned), p. 612 (stamped), dwelling 1, family 1, John Johnston household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/6742/4241440-00731 : accessed 11 May 2019), citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 474.

²¹Ibid.

²²Leake County, Mississippi, Chancery Court Records (1857-1870): Harriett H. Horne v. Joshua L. Horne, February 1868; digital images, “Leake County Court Records, 1842-1938,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 15 Apr 2019), path: Court records, 1842-1938 > Court cases no 143 (cont.) – 190 1856-1870, images 1110-1123.

²³1880 U.S. Census, Winn Parish, Louisiana, population schedule, 3rd Ward, (1st enumeration), enumeration district (ED) 54, p. 53A (penned), p. 612 (stamped), dwelling 1, family 1, John Johnston household; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/6742/4241440-00731 : accessed 11 May 2019), citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 474.

²⁴Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” database, General Land Office Records  (https://glorecords.blm.gov/details/patent/default.aspx?accession=LA0380__.403&docClass=STA&sid=amb5ijoa.mpr  : accessed 11 May 2019), entry for John Johnston, Winn Parish, Louisiana, no. 3703. 

²⁵Harriett died in 1888:
Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/70530876/harriett-h-johnston : accessed 11 May 2019), memorial 70430876, Harriett H. Johnston (1845-1888), County Line Cemetery, Winn Parish, Louisiana.

George died in 1880:
Ancestry, Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/67129872/george-a_-johnston : accessed 11 May 2019), memorial 67129872, George A. Johnston (1847-1880), Sharon Cemetery, Sikes, Winn Parish, Louisiana.

²⁶Malinda Johnston, 22 Jan 1906, Widow’s Application for Pension no. 5431; service of John Johnston (Pvt., Co. E, 24th Mississippi Inf., Civil War); “Louisiana Confederate Pensions, 1898-1950,” digital images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939F-VN99-L2?i=350&wc=M61M-TN5%3A165075701&cc=1838535 : accessed 11 May 2019), citing “Louisiana Confederate Pension Applications,” Louisiana State Archives, Baton Rouge; path: Johnson, Mine A-Neville – Jones, Sallie M > image 351-355.

²⁷1900 U.S. Census, Sunflower County, MS, population schedule, Beat 1, enumeration district (ED) 48, p. 997 (penned), dwelling 239, family 244; John T Horn household; digital image,  Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7602/4120349_00098/36072954 : accessed 17 Aug 2018); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 31077_4120349.

²⁸Ibid.

²⁹Malinda Johnston, 22 Jan 1906, Widow’s Application for Pension no. 5431; service of John Johnston (Pvt., Co. E, 24th Mississippi Inf., Civil War); “Louisiana Confederate Pensions, 1898-1950,” digital images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939F-VN99-L2?i=350&wc=M61M-TN5%3A165075701&cc=1838535 : accessed 11 May 2019), citing “Louisiana Confederate Pension Applications,” Louisiana State Archives, Baton Rouge; path: Johnson, Mine A-Neville – Jones, Sallie M > image 351-355.

³⁰Fisher, One Man’s Family, 2.

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