After Thomas signed his oath and left Confederate service, he and Sarah Ann settled in Bellville, a small town located due south of Valdosta, Georgia and just over the Florida state line. Their oldest son, James, lived just next door with his new wife, Elizabeth Brown, probably the daughter of the William Brown who lived two houses away. They also had a new daughter, born in 1869, named Minnie Cornelia. Charles, their last child, would follow shortly.
On the 1870 census, Thomas’ real estate is valued at $600, so he owned a small farm. The farm was presumably unsuccessful because by 1880, the family had moved to neighboring Suwannee County.
By 1885, they had moved once again to District 2 of Hamilton County—just a few doors from Timothy Goodman, my 3rd great-grandfather on the Smith side.
In 1899, Thomas rustled up $15 to buy 30 acres in Madison County near the community of Moseley Hall.
This Deed made and entered into this Twelfth day of July Eighteen Hundred and Ninety-Nine by and Between A. DeLaughter and his wife A.E. DeLaughter of Madison County and the State of Florida parties of the first part and Thomas N. Bembry of same County and State party of the second part. Witneseth that the parties of the first part for and in consideration of the Sum of Fifteen Dollars to them paid by the party of the second part do these presents Grant, Bargain and Sell unto the party of the second part, a tract or parcel of land Situated in Madison County. State of Florida to Wit: All of the land South of the St. Augustine or Public road in the South West (1/4) Quarter of the North East (1/4) Quarter-Section of Thirty Four (34) Township over ? South and East; containing by estimation thirty (30) acres more or less, said land being and lying South of Said Road.
That same year, he applied for a Confederate pension. He detailed the injuries mentioned in Part II and his claim was supported by two doctors who signed an affidavit confirming his disability.
We the undersigned physicians…do solemnly swear that we have carefully examined Thomas N. Bembry, 72 years old, who is personally known to us to be the person applying for a pension under the laws of Florida, and find that he has suffered from an injury of the spine while in the line of duty as a Soldier. The injury is the result of a fall in the trenches over Fredericksburg, VA, the injury of the Spine is so great as to render him unable to follow any of the avocations of life. He also has trouble with his kidney owing to the spinal injury. It is likely that he will never recover from his present condition.
In 1900, Thomas and Sarah are found in Moseley Hall, living alone, next door to their daughter, Minnie Cornelia Lee and her husband Jack. Thomas is listed as a day laborer. Perhaps he performed limited duties for Jack Lee, who is listed as a farmer.
Thomas and Sarah’s house in Moseley Hall might well have looked like this Suwannee River log cabin from 1895.
In 1902, Thomas paid $75 to his son, James Bembry, for 120 acres in Madison County. It is in the same section as the land above, so probably adjoined his first property.
THIS INDENTURE made in this thirteenth day of February in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and two between James H. Bembry and his Elizabeth Bembry of the county of Suwannee and State of Florida of the first part, and Thomas N. Bembry of Madison County, Florida of the second part WITNESSETH that the said parties of the first part for and in consideration of the sum of seventy-five DOLLARS lawful money of the United States of America to them hand paid by the said party of the second part at or before the ensealing and delivery of these presents the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged Granted, Bargained, Sold, Aliened, Remised, Released, Conveyed and Confirmed and by these presents that tract or parcels of land situate, lying and being in the County of Madison and State of Florida described as follows: ? South West 1/4 of the South West 1/4 of Section Twenty-Seven (2-) and then North 1/2 of the North West 1/4 of Section Thirty-Four (34) all in township Area (41?) South of Range Seven (7) east containing in all One Hundred and Twenty Acres more or less.
Did Thomas, even at the advanced age of 74, and with his disability, have plans to expand his farm, perhaps with hired labor? If so, they didn’t get very far. He died just two years later, on 21 September 1904. He is buried at McAlpin Cemetery in Suwannee County.
Sarah was left in poverty and died some time between 1912 and 1920. More about her in a future post.