Francis C Speer died 19 July 1927

Fannie C Speer was born about 21 July 1840 in Virginia, the daughter of John Speer and Sidney J Neal. 

In 1850 the federal census listed the family in Washington County, Virginia.  Her father was a farmer and all the children were born in Virginia.  Fannie is listed as age 12, so she might have been born in 1838. 

The Speer family moved to Johnson County, Tennessee, (JCT) and lived in the Pandora/Little Doe postal area.  Fannie’s father’s farm was valued at $2000, and his property at $1280, according to the 1860 census. 

On 29 Jul 1861, in JCT, Fannie married John C Tilly, a recent widower with two small children, Mary and Albert.  John and Fannie had twin sons born 24 March 1864, named John Hilsman and William Crawford Tilly.  (Perhaps the C in John’s name was Crawford?) 

This particular part of Tennessee was more pro Union than Confederacy, but was the southern sympathizers were nearby.  During the Civil War, John was away from home.  I have not found a record that he was a soldier, but he may have been a scout for the federal forces.  He received word that his sons were ill and returned home.  The following story was published in “Thrilling Adventures of Daniel Ellis” published in 1867.      

 A man by the name of John Tilly also fell a victim to Bill Parker’s vengeance, and was savagely murdered in the following manner:  Tilly had been scouting for some time, and one of his twin children was taken violently ill, and was not expected to live; he had come to the house to see his sick child, and was nursing it in his lap when Parker and his gang of murderers road up to the house.  He laid his child down, and went out in the yard and surrendered, when Parker drew out his pistol and shot at him, giving him a severe wound in the head.  He was now convinced that they intended to kill him, and asked them only to allow him a few minutes to pray.  But they returned him no answer and continued to shoot at him.  The poor fellow now turned to run, but he soon fell to the ground, his body having been pierced through with ten balls.  His wife now ran toward her murdered husband, screaming and crying with wild and frantic agony, when one of those incarnate devils seized hold of his gun and knocked her down by the side of her dead husband.  His little children cried and begged for their father all the time, but as well might they have raised their tiny hands and feeble voices to calm the raging storm in its mad career, as to endeavor to stop this gang of rebel demons in their bloody work of murder.  After waiting until their victim had breathed his last, these manslayers went on their way laughing at the terrible misery they had left behind them, and looking forward in search of more human blood. 

Family lore is that Fannie was raped and beaten and left for dead.  She survived but was scared of people for a really long time. She stated that the soldiers killed her husband because they believed that he was a spy.  Since the twins were just infants, we can infer that the children crying for their father were Albert and Mary.  One of the twins, William, did die about that time, but the other, John H, lived until 1929. 

Sometime after this event, Louisa Bradfute was named guardian of John C Tilly’s first two children, Mary and Albert. (Albert apparently stayed in touch with his half-brother John H who had gone to Oregon.  John H maintained contact with Mary who ended up in Yakima, WA.)   

There is a record of a marriage between a Frances F Tilly and William Crosswhite on 25 December 1865 in JCT.  The record doesn’t list the parent or ages or previous marriage status (single, widowed, divorce.)  The middle initial doesn’t match for Frances C or Frances S (for Speer).  If this is the same woman, William Crosswhite was not with Fannie for long, as he was with “Edna” by 1870 (identified in 1880 as his wife).

While this area of Tennessee was pro Union, it was occupied by Confederate troops. Many citizens made claims against the government for damages during the war.  Fanny filed for, and was paid for damages amounting to $265.40, on May 16, 1867.  The index doesn’t explain the type of damages incurred. 

Fannie may have married a man named Ellsworth Speers, but I have not found that record.  However, it might explain why she had more children named Speer – not her maiden name but a subsequent married name. 

In 1870, Fannie lived in the Pandora postal area in JCT.  She was living with her parents. The family farm was valued at $1600, with personal property at $1000. One child was named John Speer, and this is probably John Hilsman Tilly.  Three other children are Robert age 3, Loy age 2, and Philip age 1, all born in Tennessee.  The 1870 census does not name the relationship of the family members to the head of household.  Another member of the family is Fannie’s sister Amenia, and a petition to adopt an illegitimate child filed in 1872, names Robert as the son of Armenia Speer and Isaac A Shoun.    Isaac alleged that John Speer kept lewd women at his home and corrupted the neighborhood morals.  Isaac was awarded custody but the mother and grandfather were given the right to appeal at the next court term.  Interesting that Isaac was willing to associate with “lewd women”, until he decided that he wanted custody of his son.    

In 1880, Fannie was still listed in JCT, as head of household, widowed, occupation keeping house.  In this census, she was using the name Tilly, with children John 13, Troy E 10, Lawra 9 and Virginia 7. 

Fannie’s father died about 1885, and her mother died about 1895. 

Without the 1890 census, there is a large gap in records.  In 1900, Fannie Speer, with birth date July 1834, was still in JCT.   Her marital status was divorced.  She lived with her son Troy and his family.   They were farmers.  This record says she has had six children, four still living. (1910 census says seven born.)  We have accounted for John, William (deceased), and Troy, Laura, and Virginia.  Troy and Laura lived well past this census.  Virginia may have married, or died, and one child has not yet been identified.

In 1910, Fannie was head of her household in JCT, marital status widowed.  Her occupation is farmer.   Her grandson Nathaniel, 14, (Troy’s son) lives with her and is a farm laborer.  Sometime before 1920, Fanny moved to Washington, Indiana, and lived with her son Troy.  He had gone there to work in the coal mines. 

Fannie died 19 July 1927 in Johnson, Indiana, and is buried in an unmarked grave in the old section of Bicknell Memorial Cemetery.  Her son Troy is also there.    




  1. Donna Blaine said,

    September 3, 2011 at 22:04

    I am a great great granddaughter of Frances Speer. She has been quite a mystery to me and a distant cousin. We have both been trying to fill in the blanks in Fannie’s life. I found your story very interesting. Most of it I had information about but the quote from Daniel Ellis filled in a few gaps. Her son, Troy, was my great grandfather. He was listed as Troy Tilly in a census and Loy Speer in another but the age is consistent with Troy. My uncle’s middle name was Ellsworth so I thought it would be logical that there was an Ellsworth somewhere back in the family but could not find any marriage information that you alluded to. Thanks for your story. Would you mind if I copied the information to my site? Donna Blaine

  2. sooze471 said,

    September 3, 2011 at 22:45

    You are welcome to the info. John Tilly and his first wife are my husband’s ancestors, but to know the person”s story I think you have to look at all the spouses. This is such a tragic story but timely as we recognize the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

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