ON this the 29th day of March…

This is my 7th year participating in the A to Z Challenge. In the 2015 challenge, I wrote about the Cleages formerly enslaved on the plantations of Samuel and his sons Alexander and David Cleage of Athens, McMinn County, Tennessee. Most of the people in these posts are not related to me by blood or DNA, however my ancestors were enslaved on the same plantations with them.

Late last year, I ordered the Civil War Pension files of the Cleage men who served in 1st Regiment, United States Colored Heavy Artillery (USCHA), during that war. Through these files I learned that their lives were much richer and more complex than census, death and other records can show. I am using the information from pension files and records that I found through the pension files for this years challenge.

Witnesses to the Marriage of Nelson Reagan/Ragan/Regan and Susan Rice.

State of Tennessee
McMinn County

On this the 29th day of March A.D. 1867 personally came before me, a Justice of the Peace in and for the County and State above written, Alfred Isabell and Lewis Isabell, persons whom I certify to the credible and who being by me duly sworn declare that they were personally present at the marriage of Nelson Reagan deceased with Susan who is now applying for an army pension on account of the services and death of the said Nelson Reagan deceased, late a private Co. “A” as they have been formerly informed but are now informed was a pic Co “C” 1st Reg U.S. Colored Artillery Heavy and who died whilst in said service that said marriage took place in the county of McMinn and state of Tennessee on or about the 10th day of December 1855 and that one Isaac Cleig, a colored preacher, performed the marriage ceremony and the same was according to the usual custom for the marriage of slaves at the time and place.

They further declare that said marriage was followed by a constant cohabitation as husband and wife up to the date said Nelson Reagan enlisted in the army that they have never had a question raised or doubt expressed as to said marriage or cohabitation. They further declare that it was not customary to make marriage records for colored people in state of Tennessee at the time this marriage took place. That they make the foregoing statement from personal knowledge of the facts having no interest in any claims in which the same may be used as evidence.

Alfred (his X mark) Isbell
Lewis (his X mark) Isbell

T.A. Boy
W. T. Hielman


I regret that when I got to my ancestors file, it did not have the transcribed testimony of the later cases.

6 thoughts on “ON this the 29th day of March…

    1. It wasn’t customary to make them for enslaved people. Unless the slave holder kept them. Sometimes in a will or probate record, the enslaved will be listed by families or a couple will be mentioned. But they weren’t looked on as binding in the white community and husbands and wives and families were broken up at the will of the slave holder. It does make research more complicated, but not impossible, especially if you can find said wills and probate records or pension files.

  1. Wow, this is so similar to the Union Civil War pension affidavit used to verify the marriage of my great-great grandparents Arthur T. and Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull — which was submitted by her sister Rhoda Ann (Blakeslee) Whitney and husband William Whitney. I wonder if there was a set format for such affidavits back then as the language is very much the same.

    1. I was struck by that when I read your post too. I think there must have been. The most interesting testimonies are when people were able to talk in their own words to say what happened. It seems that if there was no real question about the marriage, the form was used and for more contentious cases, people were able to wax eloquent with their memories or stories as the case may be.

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