June 13, 2006


The Fannie Breland Tanner Mystery

What MYSTERY.. you ask?

Well, I’ll tell you.

Like most of us I think, when I heard the name Fannie Breland Tanner, I assumed Fannie’s middle name was indicative of her mother’s family’s surname. Thus, her mother was born a Breland and her father was born a Tanner.

But let’s look back at what Mallie Croft Erickson documented for us more or less 70 years ago. From her notes:

The following information was given to me by Harriette Ann Finn, wife of Ellison James Rudd, and Mary Sadberry, 2nd wife of Elias Trowell Rudd, in 1930 and 1939 respectively; Elias had a sister who married a Kitterer or Kittarer. Each also confirmed that his wife was Fannie Tanner.

I have learned that his wife in one place is referred to as Fannie Breeland. Could it possibly be that he married a widow? If so which of the names is the maiden name? Oh well, such are the problems confronting genealogy research. Who is she, where did she come from, who are her people, etc, etc.
Now for those of you who are not aware of the Elias Trowell Rudd line. Elias Trowell was the son of Elias David and Fannie. He had a son named Ellison James who was the husband of Harriette Ann Finn, Thus, she is Fannie’s granddaughter-in-law. Mary Sadberry was Elias Trowell’s 2nd wife and therefore, Fannie’s daughter-in-law. So in 1930 Harriette and in 1939 Mary both told Mallie that Fannie was a Tanner. I take this to mean that Fannie was a Tanner by birth. Or at least, her father was a Tanner.

Now Mallie also says “that his wife in one place is referred to as Fannie Breeland.” Well, I believe she was referring to Elias David’s response in his War of 1812 Pension Application:

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Elias says his wife’s name is Frances Breland and they were married in Beaufort County, SC in 1810.

This seems to indicate that at the time of their marriage Fannie’s last name was Breland. Not Tanner. I don’t think that Mallie had actually seen Elias David’s War of 1812 Pension Application, but it sounds like someone told her about it because she refers to Fannie instead of Frances and she spells Breeland with a double e.

First, let’s determine Fannie’s birth year by looking at what is reported in the census records:
1820 Beaufort Co., SC census 26/45 ... born: 1775-1794
1830 Jefferson Co., FL census 20/30 .. born: 1800-1810
1840 Dale Co., AL census 40/50 ........ born: 1790-1800
1850 Gadsden Co., SC census 60 ....... born: 1790

Since Elias David says he and Fannie were married in 1810, then she most definitely was born before 1800. We can throw out that 1830 report! If we take all the various ages reported on the other censuses for Fannie, I think we can determine she was born between 1790 and 1794.

Also note that Elias David filed this application on November 1, 1875 and says that he is 87 years old making his birth date sometime between November 2, 1787 and October 31, 1788.

Based on the mystery at hand .. How can Fannie be both a Breland and a Tanner? .. I set out on my mission to try and solve this mystery by investigating the Breland and the Tanner families in the same area of South Carolina as our Rudd families. I discovered that both the Breland and the Tanner families were long time residence of the South Carolina Low Country, with the Brelands more clearly defined and living at Boggy Gut in St. Peter’s Parish, Beaufort Co.

Looking for Tanner in the census is much like looking for Rud in the early days. The transcription of the spelling of the name is very difficult to identify. I was quite surprised, however, when I was searching the South Carolina Archives for land records and I kept turning up Robert Tanner as the surveyor of numerous tracts of land. The Tanners date back to the early 1730’s in the same area that was back then called Granville District, specifically around Purrysburg which is located in St. Peter’s Parish, Beaufort Co.

In addition I found in the South Carolina Archives a 1793 land grant to Captain Robert Tanner for 820 acres located in the District of Beaufort, St. Peter’s Parish, situated on Carter’s Branch, a prong of the Great Swamp, the waters of New River. On the 1825 map of Beaufort this area appears to be slightly northeast of the town of Purysburgh and southeast of Boggy Gut. Boggy Gut is the location of the 1813 land survey showing Absolom Breland and G. Rud land. You can view the general area HERE.

But the Tanners aren’t as clearly defined as a family as the Brelands. I found a wonderful Breland Family website which clearly identifies how the Brelands in Beaufort are related to each other. The patriarch is Abraham Breland. Sr. The Absolom Breland on the 1813 land survey that bears the name G. Rud appears to be Abraham Sr.’s son Absolom Breland, Sr. And this Absolom Sr. appears to be the same Absolom Breland in the 1820 census that also list Elias Rudd (and William and John Tanner).

On that census you’ll see Elias Rudd with Fannie both aged 26/45. Two lines up is William Taner, age 16/26 and at the bottom of the page we see John S. Taner, age 26/45. These two Taner male head of households are perhaps her brothers, maybe cousins. Note Absolom Breland and son Jessy Breland are nearby. This most likely is Absolom Breland, Sr, son of Abraham Breland, Sr.

We have clear evidence that members of the Breland and Tanner families, and Elias Rudd all lived in the same general area of St. Peter’s Parish at the same time. I’ll tell you now that I’ve not been able to solve the mystery, but I have narrowed it down to some possibilities and I’ve also discovered some very interesting connections that I want to share with you.

First the possibilities.

Was Fannie a Breland by birth?

Based on the available information at the Breland Family Website and based on Fannie’s estimated birth year, she could be a child of one of Abraham Breland, Sr’s children, she fits in that generation. There are about a half dozen possibilities of females that haven’t yet been defined by name. But there are no females listed as married to Elias David Rudd.

Was Fannie at one time married to and then divorced from a Breland male?

I’ve not found any record of this but I don’t think it’s likely for the time period.

Was she a Breland widow?

Based on her birth year and based on the information at the website, there is one possibility, Samuel Breland born about 1789 and son of Absolom Breland, Sr. The same Absolom Sr. that appears to be the owner of the land on the 1813 land survey and the same Absolom Sr. that appears on the 1820 census. There is no additional information on this Samuel Breland but I am in contact with the website owner and hope he can shed some more information on Samuel.

Was she an illegitimate child of a female Breland that was fathered by a Tanner?

This of course is possible and we have an example of the confusion that this type of parentage can create with Harriet Finn, wife of Ellison James Rudd. Based the information on the website and her birth year, there appears to be one possibility, Patience Breland born about 1774 in Boggy Gut, daughter of Abraham Breland, Sr. but there is no other information on her.

Like I mentioned before, the Tanner family is not that easy to analyze. I can’t tell how they relate to each other. It’s difficult to even identify all the Tanners in the area using the census. There appear to be several based on the land records but land records only indicate who owned the land not who was living there. So it’s not possible to identify which Tanner could be Fannie’s father. But I don’t think that she became Fannie Breland Tanner because she had married first a man named Tanner. Both Harriette Finn and Mary Sadberry said Fannie was a Tanner.

As I was working with the Breland website, I noticed that most of Abraham Breland, Sr.'s extended family died in Mississippi. Now let me tell you about the interesting connections I discovered.

While I was reading up on the history of Beaufort in a great resource book: “The History of Beaufort County, South Carolina, Volume 1, 1514-1861” by Lawrence S. Rowland, Alexander Moore and George C. Rogers, Jr., I discovered on page 302 and 303:

In 1806, ninety-seven settlers from upper St. Peter’s Parish, led by Robert Tanner and Reverend Moses Hadley of Pipe Creek Church, abandoned their farms, packed their belongings, gathered up their families, and set out in ox-driven wagons for Mississippi. When they reached the Tennessee River they boarded flatboats and floated down the river to the Ohio river, and then down the Mississippi River to Fort Adams. Near Fort Adams they founded the town of Woodyville, Mississippi. Many members of the Grimball and Robert families were part of this first Mississippi Migration.

Two years later, Seth Stafford, the youngest brother of Colonel William Stafford who had moved from North Carolina in 1766, took his family as well as some Cheney, Robert, and Maner relatives on the long trek to Mississippi. Ten years later, in 1818, many of this group moved across the Mississippi River to Louisiana where William Fendon Cheney founded Cheneyville.

In 1811, a third group from St. Peter’s Parish joined the Mississippi Migration. Led by Alexander Scott, John Stafford, and John Audibert, this group included Reverend Howell Wall of the Black Swamp (Robertville) Church, John Tison, David McKenzie, William H. Tuten, Namaan and Seth Smart, Robert Chisolm, Joseph Tanner, Benjamin T. D. Lawton, and Allen and Morris Sweat. Not all of these pioneers, however, found success in Mississippi. Benjamin and Joseph Lawton, Namaan and Seth Smart, and Allen and Morris Sweat all returned with their families to their ancestral homes in upper St. Peter’s Parish.
So according to this information, Robert Tanner, most likely Robert Tanner, Jr., was involved in the 1806 migration to Mississippi and in 1811 Joseph Tanner also left for Mississippi.

I had posted an inquiry on a Tanner message board and received a response from a Tanner researcher who provided me with the forward to a book about a descendant of this Robert Tanner, Jr. line. Here is the relevant part:

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You can read the forward HERE and HERE.

As is stated in the forward at the links I've provided, Robert Tanner came to Cheneyville, Louisiana by way of Woodyville, Mississippi. My contact kindly searched the book for me and determined that of the list of names of the children of Robert Tanner, Jr., none of them are unaccounted for and none of them list Elias David Rudd as a spouse. In addition all the females died in Cheneyville.

Bummer huh!!

What grabbed my attention was the statement that Robert Tanner, Jr. had a father named Robert Tanner, Sr. Also in “The History of Beaufort” above, we note that there was a third migration led by a Joseph Tanner. Those migrations by the way are probably how members of the Breland family show up in Mississippi. Maybe Fannie’s father was Joseph Tanner. Perhaps Robert Tanner, Sr. had other sons and one of them was her father.

Here’s another interesting piece of this mystery related to Gadsden/Jackson County, Florida area.

In the booklet “From Mount Vernon to Chattahoochee, A history of Mt. Vernon, River Junction, Chattahoochee and vicinity” by Grady Turnage, on page 1 it says:

The First Whites

It must have looked a lot like the view from Washington’s home on the Potomac River in Virginia as John Tanner stood on the heights in 1821, and gazed at the point where the Flint and Chattahoochee Rivers merged to form the Apalachicola River on the Georgia/Spanish Florida boundary. So they called it Mount Vernon when Tanner and his family, the first whites to settle that corner of the new United States Territory, homesteaded in Section 33 of the remote frontier lands of West Florida. Another attraction of the area could have been the rich soil or the forest of rare, sharp-needled, evergreen gopher wood trees that covered the slopes above the river.

John Tanner might have been one of “Old Hickory” Jackson’s Tennesseans or Georgians who stormed into Spanish Florida from Fort Scott on the Flint River in 1818, wiping out Seminole villages all the way to the Suwannee river and Saint Marks. Maybe he liked what he saw in the swamps here. Although Tanner was the first white man to settle in what is now Chattahoochee, William Stuart Pope, kin of the Tanners, William Ellis, and John Collins settled on the land along the Apalachicola River prior to July 27, 1821.
When I read this passage years ago after this booklet was given to me as a gift from James Owen Rudd in Chattahoochee, he and I talked about the possibility that Fannie was related to this John Tanner but I had no information to work with as to where this John Tanner had migrated from. So I went back to read the section and noticed the name William Stuart Pope. Since I had read the passage the first time, I had pursued a great deal of research in both the Barnwell and Beaufort records, so when I read the passage again the name Pope and the statement “kin of the Tanners” raised a flag for me.

I did a search to see if I could find any William Stuart Pope researchers and the following is an example of what I turned up:

POPE:
My 2X gt-gdfather WILLIAM STUART POPE 1789-1837 settled in Jackson County, FL about 1823. He likely went to FL from a home in Beaufort Co. SC (I note with great interest that there is a Pope Cemetery in Beaufort) and is likely also to have had at least 3 siblings: a Col. John Pope, a sister ? Elizabeth Pope Tanner (both settled in FL?) and a brother named Green Pope who went to TX in the 1820s. My lineal ancestors from William Stuart Pope 1789-1837 to present all are buried in Sneads, FL (or have graves reserved there!) but William Stuart, thought to have gone from Beaufort to Jackson Co. FL is my "brick wall" tracing backward.
Hummm .. it does appear that William Stuart Pope was from Beaufort and he had a sister who evidently married a Tanner. My guess is that Tanner was from Beaufort also and the John Tanner in Chattahoochee “being kin” to this William Stuart Pope is also from the Tanner clan in Beaufort.

Unfortunately, the Fannie Breland Tanner mystery is not solved, and perhaps it never will be. I leave the evidence that I discovered in my mission to learn more about Fannie for the readers to decide. One thing I do think is clearer now is that we can’t assume that Fannie Breland Tanner was her actual name. It very well could have been Frances Tanner Breland Rudd. But either way, the three families are tied together.

My records show that Fannie died on August 14, 1855, somewhere between the age of 61-65 years old. I’m sure that date was passed to me by another researcher and perhaps comes by way of the family information compiled by Mallie Croft Erickson. We truly are indebted to her for all the work she did gathering information for us that surely would have been lost forever.

Over the course of about 27 years, Fannie and Elias David had 13 children. Elias went on to live for about 21 more years. He was somewhere around 90 years old when he died. He had filed for a War of 1812 Pension only three years earlier.

Before I close this posting I want to share just one more curious discovery for those of the Elias Trowell Rudd line. Some of us have always wondered where the name Trowell came from as it does not appear in the family previous to Elias Trowell, who was the son of Elias David and Fannie. Take a look HERE on this 1810 Beaufort census. You’ll see among the Breland names, who appear to be the sons of Abraham Breland, Sr. … Joseph Trowell. It’s hard to say but it’s probably the case that this Joseph Trowell is Elias Trowell Rudd's namesake. If we only knew why.

Sounds like a new mission!

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