Monday, July 4, 2016

Nathan O. J. Tisdale 1816-1870

 Thursday, August 11, 1870
Mobile Register, page 2
  On August 11, 1870 the Mobile Register carried a death notice for N. O. J. Tisdale, B. F. Tisdale's older brother. It said that he died on August 9, 1870, at 4 o'clock P.M. of consumption at the residence of Mr. Jacob Magee in Kushla, Alabama, now part of Mobile. Jacob's wife, Mary Eliza Tisdale, was the older sister of B. F. and N. O. J. Tisdale.
New Orleans Times Picayune
August 11, 1870, page 4

  The New Orleans Times Picayune also published an obituary:
   On Tuesday, Aug. 9, 1870, at Kushla, Ala., N. O. J. TISDALE, Gen'l Sup't N. O. Gas Light Co. aged 53 years, born in Newbern, N. C., and for twenty-five years a resident of this city.
   The funeral will take place from his late residence, No. 193 Esplanade street, Thursday, August 11, at 4 o'clock, P.M.
The friends of his family are respectfully invited to attend.


Nathan O. J. Tisdale is most often referred to in print as N. O. J. Tisdale. The name is often mis-transcribed as N. O. I. or N. O. L. His first name appears on his marriage license, on the birth and death records of several of his children, and on the 1840 and 1870 censuses. There is no record of what O. J. stood for. He was born in New Bern, North Carolina, on March 4,1816.

He was named for his father Nathan Tisdale (1766-1839) who was a silversmith and watch maker. His father in turn had been named for his uncle, noted Harvard educator Nathan Tisdale (1732-1787) of Lebanon, Connecticut. The name was very popular in the Tisdale family. N. O. J.'s mother was Nathan's second wife, Mary “Polly Wade (c1780-1839).

N. O. J. and B. F.'s grandfather, William Tisdale (1734-1797), had come to North Carolina from Connecticut in the 1850s to join his uncle Antipas Tisdale. William was a well-known lawyer, silversmith, and watch maker who was a delegate to the Provincial Congress of North Carolina in 1775. He engraved and printed the state's Bills of Credit and engraved the state seal of North Carolina. The family was proud of their connection to Benjamin Franklin and Nathan O. J. Tisdale's younger brother was named for his grandfather's famous cousin.

Rosa Tisdale in her book, Meet the Tisdales, says, “The Tisdales of Lebanon were good friends of Governor Trumbull and during the Revolutionary War often met with him in the “war office” to plan ways and means of aiding the patriot forces. Here they met and conversed with General Washington and Lafayette and Franklin and other men of distinction.”

When the family decided to emigrate to Alabama in 1830, Nathan had three living brothers, Joseph Wade, Benjamin Franklin, and John B. Tisdale, and one sister, Mary Eliza. He also had three older half siblings. The house where the family lived in New Bern is still standing and is on the National Register of Historic Places as is the home of his grandfather.

Marion E. Tisdale, Jr. in “Some Memories of the Magee Farmhouse” writes that Nathan and his family bought “a small plantation on the Tombigbee River” and traveled there by wagon train in 1830. Nathan Tisdale and his family are listed on the 1830 Federal Census in New Bern, North Carolina, so they moved to Alabama some time after June 1830. There was an economic decline in the New Bern area at that time, mostly because of the silting in of the approach to the harbor from Okracoke Inlet. Many families joined the exodus to Alabama where cheap, fertile land was available.

On January 25, 1832 a deed was recorded in Marengo County, Alabama, for land in “Range 1 East Township 17 North (Moscow-Saltwell vicinity). Robert Goodwyn Jr. of Marengo Co. [sold] to Charlotte Wade of Craven Co. NC as trustee for her daughter Mary (Mrs. Nathan) Tisdale, for $650, fractional section 9 and West half of Northwest quarter of section 15. [Fractional sections bordered the Tombigbee River.] Witnesses George Cuninghame,clerk of court, and James H. Adams. (Deed Book B-344).”
(Marengo County Genealogical Society Newsletter, Vol. 13, No. 1, Autumn 2001, "First Recorded Deeds of Lands in Range 1 East" found in Deed Books A and B, Marengo County, Alabama.) Marengo County was created by the Alabama Territorial legislature on February 6, 1818, from land acquired from the Choctaw Indians by the Treaty of Fort St. Stephenson, October 24, 1816. (Wikipedia)

Rosa Tisdale in her book “Meet the Tisdales” says that Nathan and Polly moved their family to Mobile, Alabama in 1833. This may have been because of increasing violence in the area that led to the Creek War of 1836. Nathan O. J. was 20 years old when he served in Crawford's Company, Alabama Mounted Volunteers. (U. S. Indian Wars Pension Application number 647, certificate 2352)

On September 29, 1838 Nathan O. J. married Maria Louisa McCrae in Mobile. The household is listed on the 1840 Federal Census of Mobile as Nathan O. J. Tisdale, 1 male under 5, 1 male 20-30, 1 female 15-20, and no slaves.

Nathan O. J.'s father died in September 1839 and his mother died in October 1839. Nathan and Maria and their two sons, Eugene and Victor moved to New Orleans sometime in the late 1840s. His older brother, Joseph Wade Tisdale had been living in the city since 1842. On November 3, 1849 Maria McCrae Tisdale died. No cause of death is known but there was a cholera epidemic in New Orleans that year. There were also 739 Yellow Fever deaths.

In the1850 census in Lafayette Ward 2, Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, just west of New Orleans, we find N. O. J. Tisdale, age 35, clerk, and sons Eugene, age 8, and Victor, age 6, listed in the household of Jerome Tuitchel, OSP Minister, along with 14 other people. Tuitchel may have been running a boarding house. The house is next door to the State Prison. In City Directories of that period he is listed as a clerk at 120 Common Street, which was the New Orleans Gas Light Company. The company furnished gas to the street lights that still line the curbs in the French Quarter.

On July 31, 1851 Nathan O. J. Tisdale married Rosa Roux of New Orleans. Rosa evidently had been married before. Her surname is listed as Pailhes on the birth registrations of children Catherina, William, and Clarence. In the 1870 Federal Census at Mobile her mother is listed in the Tisdale household as Veuve [widow] Pailhes. Her daughter Marie Roux Tisdale's death record says she was born in 1847, before Rosa's marriage to Nathan, so it is likely Rosa was a widow with a young child when they married.

I could not find the family on the 1860 census, but N. O. J. is in the New Orleans City Directories of the period and by 1861 he is listed as Treasurer of the New Orleans Gas Light Company at 120 Common. His domicile is on Jackson near Prytania. His oldest son, Eugene, is also working for the Gas Light Company as a clerk.

N. O. J. Tisdale's name appears in New Orleans newspapers throughout the 1860s. In an article published January 5, 1861 in the Daily Crescent, besides announcements that the U. S. Arsenal at Mobile had been seized and that Fort Morgan had been taken by Mobile troops, there was an article titled Local Intelligence:

THE SOUTHERN RIGHTS MASS MEETING AT ODD FELLOWS' HALL -- The Southern Rights mass meeting last night crowded Odd Fellows' Hall, with a fair representation of the better sex in the gallery. It was in all aspects an enthusiastic and fiery Secession meeting – just such a meeting as the times call for.
The following gentlemen were announced as officers, who were received with acclamation:
President GEO. W. HELME

There follows a list of 186 names, among them N. O. J. Tisdale.

The Southern Rights party had broken off from the Democratic party and supported nominee John Breckinridge who won the 1860 Presidential election in Louisiana, but ultimately lost to Abraham Lincoln. On January 7, 1861, N. O. J. and B. F. Tisdale joined other males in New Orleans in going to the polls again to select delegates for a convention to decide the secession question. It was no surprise that secession won out.

The State Convention convened at Baton Rouge on January 23, 1861, and three days later an Ordinance of Secession was adopted. A chaotic and difficult time in New Orleans had begun.

As I wrote in my blog posts of December 2014, New Orleans business was brought to a standstill by news of native son Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard's bombardment and capture of Fort Sumter, South Carolina, on April 14, 1861. The Civil War had officially begun.

A new militia act was passed on January 23, 1862 ordering all free white males between 18 and 45 years of age capable of bearing arms to enroll in the State Militia.
Nathan's oldest son Eugene King Tisdale was 20 years old when he enlisted on March 6, 1862. He was a private in the 5th Company, Washington Artillery Battalion.

On April 24, 1862 the bells of all the churches in New Orleans began ringing. It was the signal for all military organizations to hasten to their armories. (Charles Dufour, The Night the War Was Lost, p. 289) While Eugene left for Baton Rouge by train with his company, younger brother Victor evidently went to Mobile where he later enlisted in the 3rd Company, Washington Artillery Battalion on June 3, 1863.

Business had been slow because of the Union blockade of the river, but as news spread that Farragut's ships had passed the forts and were heading up river, the city dissolved into panic. Nathan may have stood on the levee with the crowds of people and looked across the crescent bend of the Mississippi River for a glimpse of the Union fleet. Like writer George Washington Cable, he may have watched the masts of Farragut's vessels, engaged in silencing the Confederate batteries at Chalmette.

Our next peek into N. O. J. Tisdale's life comes on March 19, 1863 when he petitions the Union Provost Marshal in Occupied New Orleans for a new trial. His three and a half page deposition gives a good picture of the conditions in the city.


N. O. J. Tisdale being duly Sworn deposes & Says that the fair which took place at his house on Coliseum Street, on the 11 Instant, was given for the exclusive benefit of the Infant Asylum on the Corner of Magazine & Pace Streets, to the aid of which his wife has been in the habit of Contributing, more particularly by means of a Sewing Society of young girls who have met weekly for Sometime past at his house. That as the Condition of the children at the asylum was one of almost destitution, the idea of raising a fund for their wants by means of a fair Suggested itself to Mrs. Tisdale & other ladies & everything was contributed as is usual on such occasions & the fair was given & it was conducted by the young girls of the Sewing Society, assisted by their relatives & friends & those young girls were distinguished by a badge of deep blue ribands with “St. Vincents Sewing Society” in gilt letters upon it.
He further deposes and Says that the parlor, in which the tables were placed, was simply decorated with wreaths of evergreen flowers & that no flage or mottoes of any kind were placed amongst them nor in any other part of the house nor was their any flag dis-
-played or placed upon any of his galleries, either in the front or rear of his house.
He further deposes and Says that he did not apply to the Authorities for a permit to hold the fair, because he was informed that a Similar fair had been held by ladies at the residence of Mr. Sumner in St Charles Street & that upon enquiry then made the answer had been given that for such an occasion at a private house, no permit was necessary; and this deponent particularly declares that he had no idea that any City ordinance or regulation had reference to Such Cases & that in not applying to the Mayor for permission he meant no disrespect to that Officer.
This deponent further deposes & Says that in giving his Consent that the fair should be held in his house, he expressly requested that nothing having any political Significance should be permitted, that the fair was an open appeal to the charity of all & that he should be pleased to See all parties, officers of the United States, Union men or others present at & contributing to its objects, and that accordingly when it was found that amongst the many articles received there was an iced pound cake decorated with the Confederate flag Mrs Tisdale had it Scraped off; and this deponent further
declares that he saw nothing and heard nothing offensive to the keenest susceptabilities himself; and he expressly denies that there was any cheering for Jeff. Davis, or for any other person.
And he further avers that Since the trial of this Case, on enquiry he has learnt that a piece of verse called the Battle of the fair and a Small Composition in prose were offerred for Sale in the fair, during its progress, but this was done without his knowledge or consent & he has never even to this moment Seen or read either the piece of poetry or prose and knows nothing of their Contents; and this deponent further Says that being unconscious of having done any thing wrong, and not knowing the precise nature of the chaarge preferred Against him, he was taken altogether by Surprize by the testimony of the Witnesses introduced against him; that the most imprtant part of said testimony is founded in error as above set forth; That in learning the Court room has informed his Counsel that he Could prove by the most respectable witnesses, who were present at the fair, that the testimony of the witnesses against him is erroneous and that the State-
-ment herein made by this deponent is Correct; That this application for further evidence is made Solely for the purpose of having Substantial Justice done, and of enabling this Honorable Court to form a correct Judgement of the real facts as they occurred.
N. O. J. Tisdale
Sworn to and subscribed before me,
at New Orleans, on the 19th March 1863.
[W.? M?------ Illegible signature]
3rd. J. D. [Judicial District?]

The Union Provost Marshals' Papers, 1861-1867 (database on-line, Provo, UT, USA; Operations, Inc.,2012) do not tell us the outcome of Nathan O. J.'s request. Many citizens were tried and fined or sent to prison at Ship Island for equally petty offenses. Having two sons and two brothers in the Confederate Army would have been reason enough for official harassment.

Son Eugene was discharged from service after several hospital stays and after battling variola, an archaic term for smallpox. Victor served until the end of the war and was paroled at Lynchburg, Virginia on April 13, 1865.

There were no City Directories published during the war so we have no record of where the family lived during that time. In the 1866 and 1867 New Orleans City Directories N. O. J Tisdale is listed as General Superintendent Gas Company,120 Common, domicile 233 Jackson. In 1868 N. O. J. is still General Superintendent at the Gas Light Co. and living at 193 Esplanade. Son E. K. Tisdale is collector City Gas Works and son Victor is a clerk at J. K. Ashbridge & Decan.

Nathan's final mention in the New Orleans Times-Picayune was on August 11, 1870:

The entire community will be shocked to learn of the death of one of our most estimable citizens, N. O. J. Tisdale, late General Superintendent of the New Orleans Gas Light Company. Mr. Tisdale was 53 years of age, had been for many years a resident of New Orleans, and a wide circle of warmly attached friends will deeply sympathize with his bereaved family. The funeral will take place from his late residence, No. 193 Esplanade street, Thursday, August 11, at 4 o'clock, P.M.