So, I have been searching and searching for what possibly could have happened to (John) Spencer DeMumbrie and his second wife Effee Jane Gilchrist. And as usual I am coming up empty handed. The thought is that Spencer may be buried in Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee somewhere. Or maybe he is buried in Cheatham County, Tennessee on the land that his father Jean Baptiste Demonbreun and grandmother Elizabeth Bennett Durrat (or whatever her actual married surname was) is buried (and possibly his grandfather Timothy Demonbreun, but no one actually knows where that guy is buried, either).
This isn’t a life post for Spencer, but there is some background information.
Facts about (John) Spencer DeMumbrie:
- He was born in 1821 in Nashville, Tennessee
- He lived in Nashville, Tennessee in 1850 with his brother and grandmother (who, by the way, was listed as being 105 years of age….just wait until I do a post on her!)
- Spencer married Cornelia Ann McMillan sometime between 1850 and 1858
- They had daughter Minnie in 1858
- 1860 living in Tunica, Tunica County, Mississippi
- 1870 Cornelia had died
- 1870 Jane Gilchrist shows up on the census with Spencer and Minnie
- 1872 Spencer marries Effee Jane Gilchrist (I still have not figured out where this woman came from)
- Spencer and Effee Jane are never heard from again
- Minnie marries Jerome E Richards, Sr in 1878 in Memphis, Shelby County, Tennessee
Ok, so those are some facts. Some other facts that I have that my aunt had written down that I have not been able to find the records for are:
- Apparently in 1872 Spencer put some land into a trust fund for Minnie. The records were supposedly done in Shelby County, Tennessee. I am still searching for these records. My aunt wrote that Spencer’s handwriting was so shaky it is presumed that he was either very sick or dying.
- My aunt also wrote that Minnie and Jerome sold the land in the trust fund to M.S. Leatherman in 1902. As of the time she wrote this down (I’m guessing about 10-12 years ago) the Leatherman family still owned the land. It was in Commerce Landing, Mississippi. (which, just for S&G I looked up Commerce Landing, Mississippi and it’s Tunica alright, just as I suspected. What made it amusing to me is that Google Maps has the marker sitting in the Mississippi River, rather than at least on shore…you know, like a landing).
So those are the facts as I know them, short and sweet.
Now for some speculations concerning Minnie:
- Minnie went to a private girls school in Memphis
- Minnie went to finishing school in Memphis
- Minnie lived with relatives of some sort in Memphis
Now, are you ready for my theory about what happened to Spencer? Get your tissues and chocolate ice cream ready, because this is going to be a love story to end all love stories (not really).
disclaimer: so what you are about to read below…really, I just came up with this, so I have no verification that it is true, and it probably isn’t. a complete figment of my imagination. just sit back and enjoy the story
I think that after Cornelia died (which according to my aunt happened in 1868, but I can’t find that information either…I think it’s written in a family bible somewhere?) Spencer was so heartbroken and just didn’t know what to do with himself. He began selling off his land (again, my aunt wrote that down, but I haven’t tried to find those records yet), perhaps the section containing her roses and her garden gnomes, all because the sight of them was a painful reminder of the great love that he had lost. After a few years of mourning he sent Minnie to boarding school so that she could learn to be a proper young lady. But Spencer was so lonely, and he had a young (and I do mean young) woman living in his home (I’m still not sure why Effee Jane lived with him…there is nothing listed in “Occupation” and I haven’t figured out yet how, if at all, she might be related to Cornelia-which I’m thinking she might be…like a niece or something). He figured the logical thing to do would be to marry her. So in December of 1871 he married Effee Jane Gilchrist. Minnie was upset, refused to return for the wedding, deciding to stay in Memphis over Winter break with mysterious relatives.
And life went on. Minnie saw her father only when he traveled to Memphis to see her (because, you know, she didn’t want to see Effee Jane). On one trip to visit Minnie in 1872, not even a year after marrying his young wife, Spencer decided that since he had sold off most of his land it might be in his best interest to put the most valuable of the land he had left in Minnie’s name. By now he had discovered that Effee Jane was nothing more than gold-digger after his land and money. He suspected that she may have been poisoning him since their wedding night, spiking his cognac with…well, he didn’t know what with, but was pretty sure it was happening (this accounts for his shaky handwriting, by the way…maybe).
Through the years that he was married to Effee Jane (um…almost 6 years at this point) he kept her at arms length, pouring his own cognac, preparing his own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, until he could figure out what to do to get out of the marriage (if he followed in the Demonbruen religious views then he was Catholic and wouldn’t have divorced her…I think it was the religion that caused Spencer’s grandfather to have two children three months apart by two different women-not the affair, but because his wife couldn’t divorce him even though…you know what? that’s another story for another post).
The Yellow Fever Epidemic hit. And it hit hard. Spencer went first. Effee was quite pleased that she was suddenly (she thought) the owner of all of the DeMumbrie riches (in Tunica, at least). Refusing to spend any money on Spencer after his death, she dug a hole out on what was left of the plantation and buried him there. What she didn’t know was that the fever clung to his skin, seeped out of every pore of his poor, lifeless body. Within days, however, she realized…realized that death was coming for her. Realized that her greediness, her attempts at murder…had brought bad juju. The fever killed her.
By the time Minnie’s grandmother Minerva returned from a trip to Maury County, Tennessee (where I think her family settled) both Spencer and Effee Jane had been dead for months. The county officials, believing that the entire family had succumbed to the Yellow Fever sold off the DeMumbrie plantation to the highest bidder (like, they did this really quick). Minerva, distraught (and wringing her hands), collapsed attempting walk to the Richards’ plantation. Jerome Richards (Minnie’s future husband) was returning from the burial of his own family members (I have not yet found where his father and brothers died, or when) and came upon Minerva’s body. He hurriedly made attempts to revive her, breathing a sigh of relief as she opened her eyes.
And Jerome knew that meant Minnie had not yet learned the fate of her father (which I don’t know how Minerva knew Minnie had not yet learned about it since Minerva herself had just found out).
That very night Jerome and Minerva hopped a riverboat to Memphis. Once there Minerva was unable to get the words out. Minnie stood, probably with her hand on her hip, looking back and forth between them. Jerome clasped her hand (the one not on her hip) in both of his…and whispered the fate of her father. Minnie turned white. Her eyes rolled to the back of her head and she fainted (I think she had a fainting couch behind her at the time). Minerva sat across the room crying.
After a few tense moments Minnie came to. She lay on the fainting couch, clutching the hanky Jerome handed her, crying, sobbing. Jerome felt the emptiness Minnie was feeling. He felt the need to do something, anything. And as he kneeled on the floor, his hand aching from Minnie’s fingernails digging into his palm’s flesh, he proposed.
Minnie was furious! How dare he propose to her on a day of such sorrow! How dare he even think that this was appropriate! But Minerva, who had been sitting in the corner sniffling softly to herself, so softly that Jerome and Minnie had forgotten she was there, concluded that the marriage was the best idea for such a mournful time. That without marrying Jerome there would be nowhere for Minnie to go. Yes, yes…they must be married. And right away.
Jerome scraped up the $1250 it cost for the marriage bond (I think he just happened to have it in his wallet). And the two were married on January 21, 1878.
The couple, and Minerva, returned to Tunica, but after several years the pain of seeing her father’s plantation, now owned by another family, was too much for her broken heart. The small family moved to Memphis.
And it was there that they lived out the rest of their lives.
And Spencer is now under a casino.
last disclaimer: remember, none of that is true…nor will it win any literary awards.