Thursday, March 10, 2016

159 and 160. Susanna (Suky) and Wilmouth Fawn

This month's entry brings us a hard truth about schools in the Early Republic. Even among the most privileged classes, child mortality was a fact of life, and running a school sometimes meant facing a student's death.

There are two students with the surname Fawn in my rolls of the Mordecai school. Suky Fawn (or "Sucky", as I have it transcribed) and Wilmot Fawn. Both were enrolled for only one session (the second half of 1812), and both have a Captain Fawn as the adult name on the account. Suky Fawn died at the school in August 1812.

We'll get to Suky in a minute, but .... Wilmot? I have that student marked as male in my dissertation, because, well, it sounded like a male name. I must not have found any other reason to think that, because (as it turns out) "Wilmot" was Wilmoth L. Fawn (b. 1795 in Franklin NC), daughter of Capt. William Fawn* (1768-1809) (a Revolutionary War veteran) and his wife Elizabeth Harrison (1759-1847) of Franklin, NC. Wilmouth Fawn married Samuel Aaron Devaney (1779-1857) in 1818. Wilmoth Fawn Devaney had at least ten children, all born in North Carolina between 1819 and 1829, except one son, Ellis, who is shown as being born in 1843 (when Wilmoth was 47).  Of her sons, Frank Devaney was a Civil War veteran (CSA), who lived till 1925 in Oregon.  Wilmoth Fawn Devaney died in Roane County, Tennessee in 1854, age 58. (Her name is found, variously, as Wilmouth, Wilmuth, even Wilmarth.)

And Wilmouth's younger sister Susanna Fawn (b. 1799) must have been our unfortunate "Suky". "The death of Miss Fawn must also have been a severe shock," wrote Samuel Mordecai to his sister Rachel in September 1812, "for I can well imagine how it affected you all." (Mordecai Family Papers at the Southern Historical Collection).

*A different (but possibly related) "Capt. Fawn" of Norfolk VA seems to have been the uncle of student Eliza Armistead; but he died in 1818, according to a letter from Rachel Mordecai to her sister Ellen (8 February 1818, Southern Historical Collection.

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