Nancy Tyree Dickson Graham – 2 of 2, A Vintage Vignette

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Nancy Tyree Dickson Graham – 2 of 2
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
January 14, 2011

I first encountered Nancy Tyree Dickson Graham in her family cemetery, shown on Army maps as the Rankin or Dixon Cemetery, 87-2, on Redstone Arsenal. It is located behind Igloo 8741 off Buckeye Road. Actually, it was her tombstone that met my eye, not her person. However, through research I have come to feel that I know her, even though she passed away almost 120 years ago.

Some insights into Nancy's planning ability can be seen in her actions after the death of her husband, Colonel James B. Graham. James died in 1849, while the family lived in Somerville on the south side of the Tennessee River. James is buried in the old Somerville City Cemetery, along with some of his children by both of his wives. However, Nancy was buried in 1891 with some of her children on today's Redstone Arsenal lands. She had even added to the family holdings of land on the north side of the river, where in 1847 her husband had bought lands of the estate of her deceased father, James Dickson.

Nancy and her children continued to be involved in numerous land transactions for several years, purchasing parcels around the original Dickson acreage and some in Huntsville. However, Nancy's planning abilities are further shown in the details of her 1890 last will and testament, where she stipulated how her assets should be controlled after her own passing. After the usual opening language and a first “item” to stipulate payment of her debts, Nancy wrote in Item 2 that “I give and bequeath to my son Joseph David Graham a note that I hold against him dated April 5, 1876 (15 years earlier) for $954; also 160 acres of land, a part of Section 16 (Test Area 1) of the lands lying north of the Huntsville (to Triana) road. Said lands are his to have and hold his lifetime. If he has any lawful heirs of his body at his death, then these lands are to go to them. Otherwise, they are to go to my four grandchildren, Julia Mahan Smith, Florence Mahan, Graham Mahan, and Ethel Mahan.”

For Item 3, Nancy wrote “I give and bequeath to my daughter Juriah James Fowler 159 acres of land which is the farm that I live on. These lands are hers to have and to hold her lifetime. At her death these lands are to go to her sister Julia A. Rankin's children, the heirs of her body, not to be sold or divided until the youngest child comes of age, and to be managed by their father (Dr. James Cofield Mitchell Rankin) as he may think proper.” Item 4 specified “I give and bequeath to my daughter Virginia Zeulika Mahan the house and lot situated in Hartselle, Morgan County, Alabama. This house and lot is to belong to her, her lifetime. At her death it must go to her children, the heirs of her body, not to be divided until her youngest child is of age. Her children have no claim on the property while she lives. I also give her 160 acres of land in Morgan County lying on the road leading from Somerville to Fletcher's Ferry (at Triana). She may sell this property if she can do so to advantage and invest the money in real estate for the benefit of herself and children.”

Item 5 gave the inheritance of Nancy's daughter Julia Rankin, adding 240 acres to the 80 acres that Julia had already inherited directly from her father. Item 6 detailed that “I wish all of my household and kitchen furniture, beds, and bedcloths (to be) equally divided between my four children except one dozen silver spoons which I give to my son Joseph D. Graham and my daughter Juriah J. Fowler. All my cattle, mules, and horses that I may have, also money, notes, or cotton or corn, after my debts are paid, I give to my three daughters, Juriah J. Fowler, Virginia Z. Mahan, and Julia A. Rankin. This is to bring them on equal footing with their brother Joseph D. Graham for the $954 as I possibly can.”

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