My great-great-grandfather, David Ernest Fields, Sr., was born October 2, 1842 in Pennsylvania. His parents were John Geary Fields, Sr., and Mary “Polly” West. Geary was a coal miner, born between 1820 and 1825 in either Pennsylvania or Maryland. Polly was born in about 1826. All of this I’ve gleaned from census records and the death records of various of their children. I have no information about either Geary’s or Polly’s parents.
There is one genealogy that notes for Polly, “I’ve seen Tweed as her maiden name.” I’ve yet to find a record with that information. I have found a Mary Fields living with Jane Tweed in 1850, 1860, and 1870 in Wayne Township, Mifflin County, but I think her husband was the George Fields living with them in 1850. The only place I’ve seen the name Pauline associated with Polly is her daughter, Nancy’s, death certificate (click on Nancy Fields in that same genealogy). I think she was confused by the nickname “Polly”. Nancy may have been very young when Polly died.
Geary and Mary Fields were living in Quincy Township, Franklin County, in 1850:
And, in 1860, they lived in Logan Township, Blair County:
There was a George Fields living in Quincy Township, Franklin County, in 1840 with one free white male between 40 and 49 and another between 70 and 79. Neither of these could have been Geary. Also in Franklin County, in Guildford Township, there was a Henry Fields, presumably the gentleman aged 40-49, with 2 other free white males 15-19, one of whom could be Geary. Probably not, but it’s an avenue of investigation.
These are the children I have for John Geary Fields, Sr. and Mary “Polly” West:
- Mary Elizabeth Fields married John Coho in 1862 or 1863
- David Ernest Fields married Sarah Elizabeth Wright July 5, 1865
- John Geary Fields, Jr. married 1) Mary Etta Rider in about 1870, 2) Catherine Augusta Lessaman Myers August 11, 1914
- George W. Fields
- Margaret Fields
- Nancy Ann Fields married Samuel H. Lego in about 1870
- Isaac Fields
- Susan Fields
- Martha Belle Fields married John Jacob Wier March 17, 1884
Both David and John joined the Union Army. David enlisted, 13th Cavalry, 117th Pennsylvania Volunteers, Company C, “The Irish Dragoons,” August 23, 1863, in Harrisburg, and mustered in as as Private September 2, 1863. John’s Find a Grave page says he was in the 205th Regiment, Pennsylvania Infantry, Company F. According to this regimental history, Company F was recruited from Mifflin County. He enlisted August 22, 1864. This unit served a pivotal role in the taking of Petersburg on April 2, 1865 and in the pursuit of General Lee that followed. John mustered out with the rest of his company June 2.
As a curious aside, there was a John Fields, Corporal (Source: Search for Soldiers, John Fields) in the 13th, same Company. This list of soldiers in the unit says John Fields mustered in September 8, 1862, but wasn’t on the muster out role. I wonder, could this Corporal John Fields have been Geary? If so, then he may have died in the war. What I do know is that I’ve had no luck finding Geary and Polly in any census after 1860. She may have died, or remarried. I’ve yet to find a pension application if the latter. There’s a book about the 13th Cavalry, One Good Regiment by Howard Hand, Jr., that I really need to get my hands on. But, in the interim, here’s a history of the regiment.
David saw quite a bit of action during Grant’s Overland Campaign, including the Battle of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor. On February 10, 1865, the 13th was ordered to Wilmington, after the fall of Fort Fisher. They arrived March 6. From there, they advanced to Goldsboro, which was invested. After it was taken, they marched to Fayetteville, meeting up with General Sherman. This was embarrassing for a Southern girl to find lurking in her family tree. There’s some pride, true, that he fought, even if it was for the Union, but then, there’s Sherman. No matter how small an association, or for how short a time, this was a bitter pill.
This takes us to about the 21st of March. He and Sarah Wright probably met shortly after that and embarked on what must have been a whirlwind courtship. And they weren’t the only ones. George Ely, another soldier of the 13th, Company C, married Sarah’s sister, Jane, on June 27. David was their bondsman. George returned the favor a few weeks later when, on July 5, David married Sarah.
However, David did not remain in Fayetteville this entire time. The 13th began to advance on Raleigh on April 10 and occupied it by the 13th. After the surrender of General Johnston at Bennett Place, near what is now Durham, on April 26, thus ending the War, David and his unit were sent back to Fayetteville. He mustered out with the Company, July 14, 1865 in Raleigh. From there, the troops were sent, by train, to Philadelphia where they were discharged July 27.
David and Sarah moved to Robeson County after the War. In 1870 they lived in Burnt Swamp Township with their two daughters Jane and Minerva. The ages of the girls are wrong by about 10 years. Don’t know what’s up with that. David, you’ll notice, was a cooper (barrel maker). I wonder if he’d learned the trade in Pennsylvania, or if Sarah’s father, Hiram, taught him. Both he and Sarah could read and write. Sarah’s sister, Charity, and her husband, Edward R. Newell, lived in Lumberton with their 2-year-old son, Ashford. Edward was also a cooper. He could read and write, Charity could not. Jane had, apparently, died. The following notice appeared in The Fayetteville Weekly Observer May 10, 1915, page 5:
INFARMATION WANTED BY A SOLDIER’S WIDOW.
J. R. Renshaw of Lykens, Penn., has written here, asking for information as to Jane Wright, daughter of Hiram Wright, who married George Ely about 1865. Ely is now dead, and the second wife wants to get a pension, but must prove the death of the first wife.
If any can give the information it will be very gratefully received by an old widow, and the information sent to Messrs. Cook & Cook, this city, will be transmitted to her.
And this June 10, 1917, page 3:
Mayor McNeill gave us the following letter this morning, and it may be that some of the older residents can furnish the information desired:
Lykens, Pa., May 30, 1914.
Chief of Police, Fayetteville, N. C.
Dear Sir:–Would it be possible for you to furnish me with any information that will lead me to get the records of the death and burial of a certain lady who is supposed to have died and was interred in or near you city in the Fall of 1865 or Spring of 1866.
Her maiden name was Jane Wright, was married to one George Ely, who brought her to this place in the Summer of 1865, she however, did not remain here more than a few weeks and returned home again; shortly after she left here a letter was received by a relative of George Ely, stating that she had died, since which nothing has been heard about her.
The people who knew here here at the time have passed away as also has her husband and no information further than the above is known. It is very necessary that we should have some proofs of her death or whereabouts, if living.
Hoping you can be able to put me on the track of getting the information and that I can reciprocate later on.
W. S. Young.
We’ll talk more about Sarah’s family in future posts. Of David’s siblings, Mary Elizabeth Fields married John Coho in about 1862 and in 1870 they lived in Altoona. Her sister, Nancy, aged 15, lived with them. Shortly after this, Nancy would marry Samuel H. Lego. Their first child, Charles M. Lego, was born June 28, 1871. John and his wife, Mary Etta Rider, lived in Ferguson Township, Centre County. They had a son, as yet unnamed, who was born in May. He would be named John Franklin Fields. I don’t know where Martha is at this point. She doesn’t marry Mr. Wier until 1884, according to his Find a Grave page (linked to above). I have yet to find anything about his other siblings after the 1860 census.
In 1880, Sarah and David were still living in Burnt Swamp Township, Robeson County. My great-grandfather, John Edward Fields, was just 2. He was born Christmas Day, 1877. In 1890, they’d moved, briefly, to Back Swamp, but were back in Burnt Swamp by 1900. I can’t tell you how happy I was to finally find someone on the 1890 Veteran’s Schedule! On July 21, 1900, David applied for a pension, then again August 8, 1908. In 1910, they lived in Pembroke Township, Robeson County.
This is a family page. You have David and Sarah, then my great-grandparents, John and Janie. Next to them are David Ernest, Jr. and wife Lillie then their sister Charity Ida and her husband Ashley Barber. Ashley, by the way, is Janie’s brother. After Ida and Ashley are two other sons of Sarah and David: Hiram Gerry and wife Lizzie then George Randle and wife Edna. On the text page is George and Edna’s small son, David C. Fields.
These are the children I have of David Ernest Fields and Sarah Elizabeth Wright:
- Minerva “Minnie” Leslie Fields b. November 1867, d. March 28, 1936 married Jeff R. Patterson c. 1887
- Mattie Jane Fields (may have actually been Martha) b. November 20, 1869, d. December 8, 1924 married Evander Pait c. 1896
- Elizabeth A. “Lizzie” Fields b. April 1871, d. April 20, 1925 married James Harrison Terry c. 1898
- David Ernest Fields, Jr. b. March 22, 1873, d. January 25, 1937 married Lillie Green Miller c. 1895
- Sarah Margaret Fields b. February 16, 1876, d. August 22, 1941 married 1) Unknown McLean c. 1897, 2) James Richard Snipes c. 1901
- John Edward Fields b. December 25, 1877, d. October 17, 1918 married Ruby Jane Barbour c. 1904
- Mary Bell Fields b. November 20, 1878, d. May 20, 1966 married Walter Beasley c. 1898
- Hiram Geary Fields b. March 27, 1882, d. July 14, 1956 married Elizabeth Joyce c. 1907
- Charity Ida Fields b. April 1885, d. April 10, 1915 married Ashley B. Barbour February 5, 1905
- George Randle Fields b. November 7, 1886, d. July 6, 1933 married Edna Unknown c. 1909
I’d love to hear from any of their descendants.