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 • Giles County
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Susanna Rebecca Denty Abernathy
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Birth: Dec. 9, 1833
Big Creek
Giles County
Tennessee, USA
Death: Mar. 22, 1901
Big Creek
Giles County
Tennessee, USA


Susannah Rebecca Denty, born on 9 Dec 1833, the daughter of Thomas Jefferson and Elizabeth Abernathy Denty, was a hardworking, intelligent, devout, caring woman. But perhaps more importantly for our purposes, she saved everything. Her descendants therefore possess the shoes she wore at her 1852 wedding, her essays from school, poems, drawings, her farm journal, recipes for dye, literally hundreds of letters to and from her daughter Lizzie, who also kept everything, and more. It's due to this compulsion for keepsakes that the Denty letters were preserved and made available by her granddaughter, Rebecca Denty Abernathy. And because of the volume of this material so masterfully analyzed and disseminated to her descendants by Rebecca, John Abernathy Smith, and Julia Jackson Abernathy Smith, it would be redundant to examine her life in great detail here. Nevertheless, as Rebecca figures prominently in and was the recipient of so many Denty letters, a brief summary is appropriate.

Rebecca lost her father when she was not yet three years old. As her mother never remarried, she was raised as the only child in the farming and slave-owning household of her mother and grandparents, but with an extended family nearby. We know that she attended school briefly in Athens, Alabama about 1839, staying with her uncle John Ramsey Denty and his wife Matilda. She later attended the Pulaski Female Institute until her eighteenth birthday.

On 4 Oct 1852 she married James Abernathy at her mother's home in Giles County, Tennessee. James, born on 6 Nov 1825 in Brunswick County, Virginia, was the son of William David and Mary Beckwith Abernathy. The groom moved into his mother-in-law's house and, turning his own family farm over to his younger brothers, began to very successfully manage and increase the Denty acreage on Big Creek. By the 1860 Census, James was listed as head of household, with real and personal property valued at $16,500 and $22,000. On the Slave Schedule that year, he was shown as the owner of nineteen slaves.

In December 1861, James enlisted in what would become Company A, 11th Tennessee Cavalry, later consolidated into the 1st Tennessee Cavalry. He returned home after the Battle of Chattanooga in late November 1863 with the rank of Captain.

Despite the war and its aftermath, the farm and the children raised there continued to flourish. The Abernathys built a school and provided land for a church. James bought a mill that would become known as the Arlington Mills, and later the name of Arlington was applied to the farm as well. On 22 Mar 1901, sixty-eight year old Rebecca died of pneumonia "on the same premises where she was born and married". The Pulaski Citizen, The Giles County Record, and the Christian Advocate all carried her obituary, the Christian Advocate aptly describing her: "Whatsoever her hands found to do (and they were always finding), she did with her might . . . A good and faithful wife, an unselfish neighbor, a sincere Methodist." Captain James died only two months later.

The Abernathys had twelve children , eight of whom lived past infancy:

Elizabeth Denty Abernathy, born on 27 Aug 1857, graduated from Tennessee Female College in 1877 and became a schoolteacher, but never married. She died in Giles on 13 Aug 1932. Elizabeth delved into the family history and preserved and expanded the heritage left to her by her mother.

Mary Hardaway Abernathy, born in 1863, married Dr. H. Taylor Campbell on 20 Nov 1888. The couple moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where Dr. Campbell died in 1918 and Mary in 1934. They are buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Nashville.

Liles Edward, born in 1866, became a cattle trader and magistrate. He married Sarah Abernathy Cunningham on 30 Jun 1917 in McKinney, Texas. He died in Giles County in 1936.

Named after her aunt Susan Kent Denty of Huntsville, Alabama, Susan Kent Abernathy was born on 25 Apr 1868. On 20 Nov 1907 she married John Henry Stevenson. Susan died in Pulaski, Tennessee on 11 Oct 1947 and was buried in Elkton, Tennessee.

Adelia Boisseau, born on 2 Mar 1870, married John Henry Rogers, a farmer, on 17 Jan 1893. Widowed in 1922, "Desie" died in Nashville, Tennessee on 5 Apr 1922.

Born on 8 Mar 1872, Margaret Jackson Abernathy never married. She died on 8 Jan 1901 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Florence Irvine was born on 3 Jan 1874. She married farmer and stockman (and cousin) Joseph Cayce Abernathy on 23 Oct 1900. It was their daughter Rebecca Denty Abernathy (1901-2001) who discovered the cache of Denty letters in the possession of her Campbell cousins. Florence died on 24 May 1961 and was buried in Maplewood Cemetery in Giles County.

William DeLacey Abernathy, born on 28 Feb 1880, married Elizabeth Buford in 1919. Engaged in farming, William became a sheep expert. He died in 1965 in Pulaski, Tennessee.
Family links: 
  Thomas Jefferson Denty (1802 - 1836)
  Elizabeth Abernathy Denty (1813 - 1899)
  James Edwards Abernathy (1828 - 1901)
  Our Son Abernathy (1853 - 1853)*
  Alice Abernathy (1855 - 1857)*
  Elizabeth Denty Abernathy (1857 - 1932)*
  Martha Abernathy (1859 - 1860)*
  Annie Abernathy (1865 - 1867)*
  Liles Edward Abernathy (1866 - 1936)*
  Margaret Jackson Abernathy (1872 - 1901)*
  Florence A. Abernathy (1874 - 1941)*
  William Delacey Abernathy (1880 - 1965)*
*Calculated relationship
"DEC. 9, 1833"
"MAR. 22, 1901"
Jesse and James Abernathy Cemetery
Giles County
Tennessee, USA
Maintained by: Mary Bob McClain
Originally Created by: Rick L. Gray
Record added: Jan 13, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 46624237
Susanna Rebecca <i>Denty</i> Abernathy
Added by: Rick L. Gray
Susanna Rebecca <i>Denty</i> Abernathy
Added by: RainbowGal
Photos may be scaled.
Click on image for full size.

- Rick L. Gray
 Added: Jan. 13, 2010

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