James Madison Pope…The Early Years

James Madison Pope, my husband’s great-great-grandfather, was born on August 16, 1824 in Robertson County, Tennessee. His father Dempsey Pope, and his mother Sarah Edwards Pope, left Wake County, North Carolina and settled in Robertson County. Apparently things did not work out because the family was on the move again. The Popes settled in Blue Mound Township on the Mosquito Creek. The land was rolling and fertile. A good portion of the land was in timber. Despite the possibility that Mosquito Creek was named for the critters that bred there, the family thrived in their new home.

James was one of four boys and eight daughters born to Dempsey and Sarah. By 1840, when James was sixteen, five of his older sisters were out of the house leaving the four brothers and three sisters to help with the farm. Dempsey and Sarah were aging and needed all the help that they could get, especially from William who was eighteen and James who was sixteen.

On November 4, 1847 James married Louisa Hanna Taylor. He was twenty-three and she was eighteen. During the first year of marriage, on the October 8, 1848, their first son William David Pope was born. Within three years this young couple had a thriving farm of twenty-five acres of improved land and fifty-five acres of unimproved land. Perhaps the land was from his father; no document of him purchasing this land has been found by me.

Corn field, Library of Congress

From Library of Congress

The land and sweat of their brow provided much of what the family needed to live. Chores on the farm were well-defined. The men took care of the tilling and harvesting of the crops while the women took care of the children, cows, pigs, and the garden. The Popes had a few cows, fifteen sheep, and forty hogs. No doubt the six hundred bushels of Indian corn James tended were to feed the family and livestock. In addition to corn, the farm produced thirty bushels of wheat and thirty bushels of oats. Their orchards provided them with products worth one-hundred and fifty dollars that they could use to barter for items the farm didn’t produce. Louisa oversaw the production of molasses, beeswax, honey, and butter. Their farm was small, but James and Louisa were able to provide a good life for their growing family.

Over the course of the next ten years five sons were born to James and Louisa. Thomas John was born July 28, 1851, Charles Willis was born May 22, 1853, Millard Fillmore was born August 6, 1856, James Franklin was born July 5, 1858, and Zachariah Taylor was born January 17, 1862. James was a very patriotic man. Their only daughter Sarah, the namesake for James’ mother, was born and died in February of 1861.

Illinois Central Flyer_Chronicling America

James would have seen a poster like this telling of the land sale by the Illinois Central Railroad. From Chronicling America

James’ prosperity continued to grow. In November of 1854 he added eighty acres of land that he purchased from the Illinois Central Railroad Company. On the same day his brother Willis purchased eighty acres of land next to his.

In 1860 the sheep were gone from the farm but the number of hogs had increased to one-hundred and twenty. James had increased the number of cows he owned to fifteen. He had increased the production of wheat to three-hundred and fifty bushels, Indian corn to five thousand bushels, oats to one-hundred fifty bushels, and had added fifty bushels of rye to the mix.

It’s clear that James needed help. His five boys ranged in age from two to eleven. During that era children were expected to help out at an early age. So William, Thomas, and Charles would most likely help with the fields, perhaps planting seeds, weeding, and binding wheat in the fall. Milking was considered “women’s work” but, since Louisa had no daughters to help, the boys would have been pressed into milking the cows and helping with the pigs. As the boys grew older they would plow, chop wood, split rails, and build fences.¹ The agriculture census of 1860 was very telling. It appears that the family no longer produced molasses, honey, or beeswax. Perhaps it was an over-site of the census enumerator, or, perhaps Louisa had too much to do to produce these items for barter. At any rate this family worked hard to provide for their living.

James and Louisa lived in a time when the United States was in turmoil. Slavery and states’ rights were issues whose discussions were a crescendo of sound eventually ending in a huge clash of noise that exploded into the Civil War. This couple was caught up in this clash that would not end well for their family or the United States.




¹Jack Larkin, The Reshaping of Every Day Life, 1798-1840 (New York, New York: Harper & Row, 1988)

²Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, LC-USF34-040143-D

³Chronicling America, Printed Ephemera Collection, Portfolio 17, Folder 33


One thought on “James Madison Pope…The Early Years

  1. Pingback: Dying the Good Death … James Madison Pope | Gathering Leaves for My Family Tree

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