Wednesday, August 19, 2015

On the Tale of The Tidwell's

If you have read my previous blog... A Tale of the Tidwell's  recall, I discovered that my great grandfather Andrew Tidwell had acquired land.

Not the actual house model-only

By 1880, my great great grandfather Andrew Tidwell, and his wife Evaline had added a new addition to their growing family, six month old Columbus Tidwell. Sarah Tidwell now aged fourteen still lived at home, Franklin isn't accounted for any longer, but now there is a William born 1868, the same year as Franklin had been.

(what do you think maybe Franklin's full name was William Franklin or Franklin William...most likely?) 

Julie Ann, Jackson, Edgar, Marsellar (female), and Millard (my great grandfather). Andrew in this census was tic marked as being both ["insane and disabled"] and so was Sarah his fourteen year old daughter.  I couldn't find any information in the Freedmen's Bureau Hospital reports that confirmed this.

1880 Census Clay Bradley, Arkansas

 When I asked Uncle Oliver Tidwell grandson of Andrew Tidwell, was, Andrew insane and/or disabled he denies this. He says, he remembers his Aunt Sarah and from his recollection she wasn't insane. Sarah would later marry John H Rowell and Sarah and other family members would tell him about her father, his grandfather. None of the stories he recalls, includes that his grandfather was either insane or handicapped.  Several older family members confirm, and say, this allegation was probably just an error made by the census taker. I will continue to dig into this to see what more I learn. I don't know how he would have ever survived slavery without being a little crazy though....would you?

So how did Andrew Tidwell acquire the land during Reconstruction? He was born a slave in 1844. He was illiterate according to the census and could neither read nor write. He was also, allegedly "insane and handicapped". Like a lot of blacks after slavery he continued to live on the land of his former owner, and adopted the owners surname. You can find more about the direct male line of the Tidwell's in my blog  Harvest of the Helix: Our Tidwell Y-DNA.

Many former slaves starved to death after they were granted freedom, but Andrew Tidwell thrived. Insane or not, call him crazy if you want to. He took possession of the rudimentary bungalow that sat on the land and built a porch that wrapped around it for those cool springs days so his wife Evaline could sit outside and shell peas. Peas that he had grown in his own garden.  He applied for, and was granted this land for a nominal hundred dollar fee, by an act signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on 20 May 1862 called the Homestead Act which granted land to,

"Anyone who had never taken up arms against the U.S. government (including freed slaves and women), was 21 years or older, or the head of a family, could file an application to claim a federal land grant."

The Homestead Act required three steps, 1) File an application 2) Improve the land 3) reside on the land for five years, show evidence of improvements then file for deed or title. By 1900, the land was his. Oh! And don't forget that Church!

117 Maul Rd, Camden, AR 71701
Bishop Chester L. Thompson Jr Sr. Pastor, TODAY

The Camden News Camden Arkansas 2 Oct 1948
Rev. J. E. Tidwell, Pastor, BACK THEN


  1. Yes, I think that the son's name was a combination of Franklin and William. Have you followed him in other censuses? And I doubt either Sarah or Andrew were any more insane or disabled than their neighbors if descendants don't remember anything about this and they both went on to have productive lives. Have you noticed that designation on any other census records for them.

    I have a 2 X great grandfather who owned land and I thought it might be homestead, but it doesn't seem to be. Good finding out on your part! Guess I should say good research!

    1. Hi Kristin, thanks they did pay a nominal fee for the land but as low sometimes as .50 cent to a 1.25$ an acre. I think he paid 100$ according to the 1870 Census report. I doubt they were insane as well, and no haven't seen them reported this way any other place