AUTHOR:  Teresa Leake (edited and vetted by Cheri Todd Molter)

The Civil War was a tragic time in our history, no matter what side you were on: Families were uprooted, children were orphaned, and stability—both family stability and economic stability—was lost.

My great-grandmother, Mary Susan McCubbins, was born in August 1862. As an avid genealogist, I have searched for years for Mary Susan’s birth parents to no avail. She appeared on the 1870 US Federal Census as a nine-year-old female in the home of Caswell County resident James Gunn. According to Caswell County North Carolina Land Grants, Tax Lists, State Census, Apprentice Bonds, and Estate Records, compiled by Katherine Kerr Kendall (1977), Mary Susan was bound to James Gunn as his apprentice on Oct. 19, 1869. Mary Susan next appeared on the 1880 census as a seventeen-year-old still in the Gunn household and attending school. The last census to verify Mary Susan’s whereabouts was the 1900 U.S. Federal Census: She had married (June 1894) a nearby farmer, Thomas G. Bennett. Mary Susan’s first child, Fannie, was born in 1895 but died suddenly in 1898. Mary Susan’s daughter Mary was born in 1898 and appears on the 1900 Census as “Carry.” My grandmother, Lucy Bennett, was the last of the three girls born to this couple. Unfortunately, Mary Susan McCubbins Bennett died of diphtheria on October 19, 1906.

My grandmother (Lucy, born 1901) & her sister, Mary, grew up without their mother. Shortly after Mary Susan’s death in 1906, Thomas relinquished his parental responsibility and sent his daughters to live with Mary Susan’s brothers, Julius Madison McCubbins & Samuel David McCubbins. My Great-Aunt Mary used to tell me her mother’s brothers raised her & Lucy, and the 1910 census documents include them in their households; however, I have not found undeniable proof that Julius & Samuel were actually related to Mary Susan.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to not to have a father or mother to care for you or to not live to see your own daughters grown – I long to sit down and talk with Mary Susan. I have many questions. There was so much sadness surrounding the Civil War. I hope that Mary Susan adapted as a child, adjusted as a wife, and found peace before the illness took her life.

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