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Levi Bryant and Ellen Sally – Our Great Great Grandparents

Our Bryant family in Washington DC begins with two transplants from the Midwest. After their marriage in Wisconsin on January 6, 1868, Levi and Ellen moved to DC. We find them in the Census for 1870, living in Ward 1 of in the City of Washington DC with Levi’s mother Betsy and his younger brother David. Their first son, Arthur Levi Bryant, born in January 1870, is an infant in the home. They appear together in every census from that one through 1910, though in their later years, they lived with their daughter Grace.

Levi captured my attention years ago because of his service in the United States Army during the American Civil War. He enlisted in the Wisconsin 3rd Infantry, Company C at the beginning of the war and saw a lot of action before he was seriously wounded on May 3, 1863 in the Battle of Chancellorsville. Levi holds the distinction of appearing in the most unusual genealogy source I’ve used to date – “The Medical and Surgical History of the Civil War.” His name appears in a Table on page 638 with details about 85 cases of recovery after amputation at the shoulder.

This source confirms the information in the family bible – that “Levi lost an arm at Chancellorsville” and provides more detail about that injury. He suffered a comminuted shot fracture of the left humerus involving the shoulder joint, which means that the shot damaged the shoulder and left the bones in his arm mere fragments, impossible to mend. Five days later, on May 8, 1863, at a hospital in Washington DC, his left arm was amputated at the shoulder. Levi was discharged on August 8, 1863 and received an invalid pension from the U.S. government for the rest of his life.

I imagine it would have been difficult to return to farming with only one arm, but it was not too hard for Levi to meet and marry a young bride. I don’t think Ellen and Levi knew each other before he left for the war because she would have only been 15 years old when he enlisted in 1861 and they lived in different parts of Wisconsin at the time. But the fact that they married in Janesville in 1868, suggests that Levi returned to Wisconsin with his mother after her time caring for him in DC after his amputation.

Ellen and Levi came from very different backgrounds. Levi was from a large pioneering family – nine brothers and sisters. Ellen only had one younger brother. Levi’s family moved around the Midwest before settling in Wisconsin but Ellen was born there, most likely in Janesville and had never been more than 35 miles from her birth place when she moved to Washington DC with her new husband. Levi’s family were farmers. Ellen’s father was a tailor and her mother was a laundress and seamstress. One thing Ellen and Levi have in common is that their fathers died when they were both in their teens; Ellen was probably younger than 14 when her father died and Levi was 16.

I haven’t taken Ellen’s family back any further than her parents. Her mother Cordelia Davis was born in New York in 1828 and moved to Wisconsin with her family when she was a girl. Ellen’s father was born in Ireland (probably Dublin around 1821) and immigrated to the US in the early 1840s.

I haven’t found a marriage record for Cordelia and Thomas but there’s an index to his naturalization record indicating he became a naturalized citizen in 1845 in Janesville, Wisconsin. The index card doesn’t provide much information but the fact that he is located in Janesville and that the Janesville Gazette has several ads like the one below suggest that this is the record for Ellen’s father. I suspect his name was originally spelled Salley but more often changed to Sally. In later census reports, Ellen lists Ireland as the place of birth of her father.

Several ads like this one place Thomas Sally in Janesville Wisconsin in the mid 1840s. Ellen was born there in 1846.

After a series of ads like the one above that appeared in the Janesville Gazette in the mid to late 1840s, the newspaper records end. The family next appears in the federal census for 1850 in Monroe, Wisconsin. Monroe is 35 miles west of Janesville. The family was still in Monroe in 1855 as shown on the Wisconsin State Census and Thomas was still a tailor. But something happened to Thomas by 1860 when we find Cordelia Salley living in Monroe with her children Ellen and John and no mention of Thomas. Although I haven’t found a death record, Cordelia identifies herself as a widow in later census reports so I suspect Thomas died sometime between 1855 and 1860.

Our Irish 3G grandfather remains a bit of a mystery but his presence in our family tree is one source for our Irish DNA. From the 1860 census report we learn that Cordelia did washing and sewing to support her family. She never remarried and spent the rest of her life living with her son John in Monroe until his death in 1901. I get the impression that Ellen wasn’t leaving much behind when she married and moved to Washington DC. Although from Cordelia’s probate records from 1906, we learn that she owned a house and that Ellen was her only heir.

Next post we’ll learn a bit more about Ellen and Levi’s life in DC, including his jobs, their children and their social activities.

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Family Throwback Photo

A Bryant family photo in DC circa 1942.Back row (l-r) Theodora Preston, Elizabeth Preston Bryant (Lala),Herbert Sydney Bryant, Katherine Bryant Kingsbury (Kitty), Herbert Preston Bryant (served in the Army in WWII).
Front row: Preston Deane Kingsbury and Bryant Kingsbury with an unknown pet
Back row: Theodora Preston (Lala’s youngest sister) never married, Elizabeth Preston Bryant (Lala), Herbert Sydney Bryant (Bert), Katherine Gertrude Bryant Kingsbury (Kitty), & Herbert Preston Bryant (Herb), Kitty’s younger brother by five years (served in the Army in WWII).
Front row: Preston Deane Kingsbury and Bryant Kingsbury with an unknown pet

This house will be one of the stops on our Washington DC road trip this summer. It is either the house on Drummond Avenue in Chevy Chase that Joe, Kitty and the boys lived in for several years or the home of Kitty’s parents, Lala and Bert Bryant in the area now known as Manor Park – 304 Rittenhouse Street. Bert and Lala moved to that house when it was first built in 1919 and lived there until some time after Bert’s death in 1950. Shortly after that, Lala moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey where Herbert, her son was living and working on a newspaper.

For almost all of 1944, Kitty lived alone with the boys because Papa Joe was on assignment in Iran as Assistant to the Personnel Director of the US Financial Mission to Iran. My uncle Deane (younger than Bryant, my father by four years) has a great story about the FBI coming to the house to investigate reports of someone making a bomb. It was related to something my father was working on in the basement (probably not a bomb but knowing my father’s curiosity and scientific bent it might have been a bomb or maybe fireworks – it was definitely something explosive!)

Need Deane to fill in this story and others with more detail this summer.