Thursday, October 2, 2014

Benjamin Franklin Tisdale

B. F. Tisdale c1850,

Benjamin Franklin Tisdale (1823 - 1876)

The 1850s
Belle Tisdale's parents, Benjamin Franklin Tisdale and Eliza Helen Pratt, were married on the 29th of July 1851 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Eliza had just turned 14 on March 11. Benjamin was 28 years old. This photo of B. F. Tisdale (as he always signed his name) was probably taken about that time. It appears to be a photographic copy of a Daguerreotype or Ambrotype printed on canvas. Location of the original is unknown.

B. F. had probably known the family for some time as he and Eliza's sister's husband, William McCaughey, were members of the same Masonic Lodge. Benjamin may have met Eliza when he came to the Pratt house for William McCaughey's funeral in March of 1850. B. F. Tisdale had married Maria Pike in 1846 and she died of “fever” in September of 1849. (U. S. Census Mortality Schedule.) It may have been Yellow Fever, which struck Louisiana hard that year and killed 769 people in New Orleans alone. (Yellow Fever Deaths in New Orleans, 1817-1905, Louisiana Division, New Orleans Public Library.)

We find B. F. Tisdale on the 1850 U. S. Census in Baton Rouge which at that time had a population of 3,905. He is age 27, a clerk, living in a boarding house.
It is a fairly up-scale boarding house as some of the other residents listed are a school master, a carriage maker, a dentist, and a physician. He says that he was born in Alabama, but we know that he was born on 19 March 1823 in New Bern, North Carolina, son of Nathan Tisdale, a silversmith, and his second wife, Mary "Polly" Wade. B. F. Tisdale was named for his famous relative Benjamin Franklin. The family was quite proud of being related to Ben Franklin and it took a lot of research to figure out the connection. Our common ancestors were Benjamin Franklin's grandparents, Peter Folger and Mary Morell. Ben Franklin was B. F. Tisdale's first cousin four times removed and my first cousin eight times removed.

An article titled “Some Memories of the Magee Farmhouse” by Belle Tisdale's nephew, Marion E. Tisdale, Jr., says that Nathan Tisdale bought “a small plantation on the Tombigbee River and traveled here by wagon train with his family in 1830." Daughter Mary Tisdale "and her older brother, Joseph Wade Tisdale, probably helped care for their younger siblings, N. O. J., Benjamin Franklin and John on the trip to Alabama.” Nathan Tisdale and his family are listed on the 1830 U. S. Census in New Bern, North Carolina, so they moved to Alabama some time after June 1830. Nathan and Polly Tisdale both died in 1839.

B. F. Tisdale was an accountant for William S. Pike at Pike Brothers and Co. in Baton Rouge for several years after he and Eliza married. The couple may have lived with Eliza's parents for a while.

Belle's cousin, Kate Craig Couturie, wrote to her cousin, Will Itti, in 1904:
In 1853 they [Grandfather and Grandmother Pratt] moved out onto the Plantation five miles east of Baton Rouge on account of the yellow fever which was very bad that year.” [7,849 deaths in New Orleans, the worst yellow fever epidemic in the history of Louisiana]  The family often spent time at Oakland, their Grandparents' plantation in East Baton Rouge Parish, and it was there that most of Belle's letters are written. 

Eliza's first two children, Mary Bernice (1853) and Arabella Mariah “Belle” (1855), were born in Baton Rouge. A third daughter, Florence Helen, was probably born there also as she does not appear in the New Orleans Index to Births. She died in December 1858 at the age of 18 months old and is buried in Magnolia Cemetery in Baton Rouge. The next seven children were born in New Orleans from 1860 to 1874. I cannot find B. F. and Eliza Tisdale in the 1860 U. S. Census, but B. F. is listed in the 1861 New Orleans City Directory. He is working for John B. Murison & Co. on Calliope Street. 
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