NANCY ELIZABETH DUKE (4 Nov 1849 – 15 Sep 1925) was born in Lindale, Floyd County, Georgia the first daughter of Green Reginald Duke and Nancy Emeline Sharp. Nancy shared the same first name as her mother, Nancy Emeline, and her grandmother, Nancy Elliott Duke.
As the oldest daughter in a growing family, Nancy was prevailed upon to assist her mother Nancy Emeline in helping with household chores and tending to her many younger siblings. Nancy’s father, Green, was intent on raising a large posterity, so there was always plenty of work to do around the house. So consuming were her responsibilities at home, that Nancy was unable to attend formal schooling.
Life’s Early Challenges
By 1860, at age 10, Nancy was living in Rome, Floyd County, Georgia with her parents, her grandmother, Nancy Elliott Duke, and four of her six siblings: Joseph, Martin, George, and Alfred. Nancy’s mother was expecting to deliver her sister Julia within 3 months. One other sister, Emaline, was born in 1863 before Nancy’s mother died on 4 Sep 1864. In all, Nancy’s mother delivered eight children before her untimely death at age 39. Grandmother Nancy Duke had passed away the year previous. At age 14, with her mother and grandmother gone, the pressure on Nancy to help care for her younger brothers and sisters grew even more intense.
Less than one year after her mother’s death, Nancy’s father remarried. Nancy’s new step-mother, Harriett, Unettie J. Holland, was a vibrant 21 year-old young women. We assume that Nancy was grateful that there was someone to share in the duties at home, but it would have been difficult for Nancy to cope with the loss of her mother, and share the house with a new step-mother only six years her elder. The situation likely became ever more complicated as new children came to the family. Whatever contention there may have been between Nancy and her step-mother would have needed to be dealt with, as there were plenty of children and household chores to tend to.
On Her Own
Five years later, at age 20, Nancy had left home, and was pursuing a life of her own. The 1870 Census indicates that she was now living with her grandparents, Joseph and Elizabeth Sharp near Rome, Floyd County, Georgia. Armuchee, Lindale, and neighboring Rome Georgia, were flourishing after the Civil War thanks to the cotton industry. Because of its proximity to the convergence of the Etowah and Oostanaula rivers, Rome had become a crossroads for the cotton and lumber industries, and many of the neighboring towns were benefiting.
There must have been many eligible men who caught Nancy’s attention, but one in particular was her grandparent’s new neighbor, Marcus D Lafayette Reid. MDL and his teenage daughter Ellen had recently returned to Floyd County to live with MDL’s mother Hannah and step-father Benjamin Bowles on the Bowles farm not far from the Sharps. MDL was widowed, and at age 40 was twice Nancy’s age, but their interest in one another was mutual and the relationship progressed quickly.
Soon after they became acquainted, Nancy learned that MDL’s first wife had died not long before his return to Floyd County. MDL’s first wife was also named Nancy, and there was likely some contention between Nancy and MDL’s 15 year-old daughter Ellen. Nancy and Ellen’s circumstances were remarkably similar. Both of their mothers died before the age of 40 while Nancy and Ellen were each only 14 years old. Similarly, their fathers had looked to marry significantly younger women close to their age to help carry on in raising and growing their families. Ironically, any resentment Nancy may have had for her father and step-mother’s relationship was about to become her own circumstance. Certainly, Nancy could relate to Ellen’s feelings about her father courting such a young woman.
Perhaps indicative of her purposeful nature, Nancy was undaunted by the potential challenges of a relationship with MDL. Their courtship flourished, and soon resulted in their marriage on 11 Sep 1870. At the young age of 20, Nancy was well-prepared for the life that would follow.
Early in their marriage, children came soon, and often, to Nancy and MDL. Their first child, daughter Ophelia Hannah Emaline Reid named after her grandmothers, was born on 27 May 1871. On 27 Jan 1873, son Green R. Mark Zealous Reid, was born. Green was named after his grandfather Green R. Duke and his father MDL. On 15 Oct 1874, daughter Julia Nettie Camilia Reid came to the family.
By the fall of 1874, fours years after the date of her marriage, Nancy had three children under the age of 5 to care for. MDL was busy with the farm, so the primary responsibility of tending to the household and the children’s care rested squarely upon her. Thankfully, she was strong, healthy, and determined, and her experience as a young woman helping with her many siblings, was now of great benefit to her. MDL’s daughter Ellen had returned home after a failed marriage, and Mother-in-law Hannah, now widowed, was also living in the home. They too, were able to help with the children and household duties. Life as as a young mother was challenging, but good.
A Stranger’s Touch
Early in of 1877, Nancy and MDL were living north of Rome, Georgia outside the small town of Armuchee. One morning, MDL traveled to town to get supplies. Nancy, being 5 months with child, remained home to tend to things there. MDL was later than normal returning from his trip to town, and when he arrived home he brought with him two men who had been traveling through town. MDL introduced the men to Nancy and explained that, while he was in town that day, he had rescued the travelers from a group of local townsmen who sought to harm them. Nancy learned that the travelers were Mormon missionaries en route to a conference in Rome, Georgia. She was dismayed that MDL had interceded on their behalf, and was particularly angry that he had brought them to their home, fearing that trouble would follow. MDL assured Nancy that everything would be all right, and asked her to prepare a meal for their visitors. Still angered by the situation, Nancy grabbed a pail and left the house to fetch some fresh water from a nearby spring.
As she was drawing water from the spring, Nancy was approached from behind by someone who tapped her on the shoulder. Startled, she turned to see an older man with a white beard and glowing white hair who announced, “Sister Reid, you have in your home the Elders of Israel, servants of the living God. As you care for them your home will be blessed”. Nancy’s attention was turned again to drawing water from the spring, and when she turned back to continue her conversation, the man was gone. Nancy returned to the house and told MDL what had happened. Thereafter she was kind and pleasant to the missionaries and did what she could to make them comfortable.
That evening, after her experience at the well, Nancy’s earlier fears were confirmed. A group of men arrived at the house demanding that the missionaries be turned over to them. MDL took a position at the door with rifle in hand. He announced to those assembled that the missionaries in his home were his guests, and that he had no intention of turning them over to the group. MDL stated firmly that, if the men assembled proceeded to attempt to retrieve the missionaries from his home, he would fire upon them and that one or more would be injured or killed before they could enter the house. The men could see that MDL was intent on defending his guests, so the group dispersed and left without further incident.
Nancy was shaken, but relieved. For the next few days the missionaries stayed in her home to teach her and MDL about their faith. Nancy and MDL accepted their teachings, and were both baptized on 10 February 1877. In the short time of their visit, Nancy and MDL became endeared to those missionaries, and the missionaries to them. MDL had rescued them from harm’s way, and Nancy had provided for their care. Elder John Morgan, and his missionary companion, had given Nancy and MDL an even greater gift, the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The missionaries left the comfort and safety of Nancy’s home after her baptism to attend to their conference in Rome. It was not long after that they returned to assign MDL the responsibility of leading the small congregational branch of members living in Armuchee. Unbeknownst to Nancy and MDL at the time, this would not be the last time they would see Elder Morgan or be affected by his influence and leadership. Elder Morgan was equally unaware at the time, but indeed, he would later return to preside over the Southern States Mission, and his leadership and influence in that capacity would have a similarly profound affect on Nancy and MDL, their family, and their descendents.
Keeping the Faith
Life in Armuchee after Elder Morgan’s visit continued to be challenging and rewarding. It was only four months later on 6 Jun 1877 that Nancy and MDL’s second son, their fourth child, was born. As is LDS tradition, infant children are given a name and a blessing soon after their birth. So great was their love and respect for Elder Morgan, that Nancy and MDL choose to name their new son, Charles Morgan Reid in honor of Elder Morgan, who blessed their new son on 13 Oct 1877. It was not the last time that the Morgan name would be given to a descendent of Nancy and MDL, but Charles was the first, and he bore the name proudly.
Not long after, on 15 Nov 1878, another son, George Washington Bailey Reid was born. Then on 22 Nov 1881 their youngest child, Walter Laurel Reid was born. The family was growing steadily, as were the demands on Nancy’s time. Ellen had recently remarried and moved on, but gratefully, MDL’s mother Hannah was well enough to continue to help with the children and household duties. MDL continued to labor with the farm while he also tended to his new responsibilities of leadership of the Branch. So complete was her conversion and committment to the Mormon faith, that Nancy and MDL maintained a home for the Mormon missionaries serving in the area. Doing so subjected Nancy and her family to the constant threat of persecution and disregard by their neighbors, yet she was unwavering in her faith and commitment.
Nancy and MDL remained in Armuchee for several more years. Likely influenced by persecution and Church leader’s encouragement to move west, in November of 1885 Nancy and MDL made the necessary arrangements to leave Armuchee and gathered their family and mother Hannah and headed by train to Utah. Some advanced preparation may have been made for them to be received, but they arrived in Kaysville, Davis County, Utah without any connection to family or friends other than what their association with local Church members would provide. We’re not certain where they lived in Kaysville after their arrival. We do know that mother-in-law Hannah died 1 Dec 1887, and was buried in the Kaysville City Cemetery.
The Final Years
Just as they had done in Georgia, once settled, Nancy and MDL prospered in Utah. They found strength and comfort being among so many people of their LDS faith, and remained dedicated to that cause.
In 1892, MDL moved the family to land on the “Sandridge” to be homesteaded. By 1900, the census record indicates that they were well settled, living in the small town of Clinton, Davis County, Utah. MDL was doing what he had always done to sustain the family by farming, although the Utah climate would not have allowed him to raise cotton. Nancy was busy with the children and grandchildren and in tending to her many household duties. She wove carpets and made quilts to help provide for the family. Nancy was also active in church affairs, being one of the first Relief Society visiting teachers and a member of the first Clinton organization. According to family members, Nancy was noted for her gift of speaking in tongues and did so many times. She had a strong testimony until her death.
As their years together in Clinton progressed, MDL grew weaker. On 18 May 1907 at age 77, MLD died, leaving Nancy to carry on. After MDL’s death, Nancy moved to the home of her son Charles who added room to his home to accommodate her. Nancy also lived for a time with her son Mark in Alhambra, California. She did her best to contribute to the welfare of her family for another 18 years until she finally died on 25 Sep 1825 at age 75.
Both Nancy and MDL are buried in the Clinton City Cemetery in Davis County, Utah. A stately marker stands at their grave, reminding their descendents of the legacy of two very special ancestors who both lived life with courage and perseverance, and who were devoted to their family and to their God.
Historic Facts for Nancy Elizabeth Duke:
4 Nov 1849: Lindale, Floyd County, Georgia, born the daughter of Green Reginald Duke, and Nancy Emeline Sharp
7 July 1860: Rome, Floyd County, Georgia, Census Record, living in home with parents and siblings
Sep 1864: Rome, Floyd County, Georgia, Death of mother, Nancy Emaline Sharp
18 Aug 1870: Subdivison 49, Floyd County, Georgia, Census Record, living in home with grandparents Joseph R. Sharp and Elizabeth Shirley
11 Sep 1870: Subdivision 49, Floyd County, Georgia, marriage to Marcus D Lafayette Reid
10 Feb 1877: Armuchee, Floyd County, Georgia, conversion and baptism in LDS Church
21 Jun 1880: Armuchee, Floyd County, Georgia, Census Record, living with MDL, children and mother-in-law Hannah Washington Williams
Nov 1885: Kaysville, Davis County, Utah, arrived by train after leaving residence in Armuchee, Floyd County, Georgia
1892: Clinton, Davis County, Utah, moved to the “Sandridge” to homestead property
19 Jun 1900: Clinton, Davis County, Utah, Census Record, living with MDL and children on family farm
18 May 1907: Clinton, Davis County, Utah, death of husband Marcus D Lafayette Reid
15 Sep 1925: Clinton, Davis County, Utah, death at age 75
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