image colorized from tintype by Margaret Harkness
Elijah M. McCurdy was born in 1793. According to his enlistment in the Army in 1813 he was born in Abbeville, SC. On his pension he states it was in Chester, SC. We have been unable to find a family in South Carolina in which he fits. I have a theory that his father had died by 1800 and his mother had remarried.
Elijah enlisted in the Army November 22, 1813 at Chester, South Carolina. He was discharged from Fort Marks, Florida on December 5, 1818. He was 5 foot 10 with dark hair and blue eyes. His occupation was listed as a farmer.
Elijah married Martha "Mattie" Bowen the daughter of American Revolutionary War vet Joel Bowen in March 1819. He is found on the Spanish Census of Pensacola in 1820 and is listed in the American State Papers as a resident there in 1821. Along with Elijah there is a William H. McCurdy, who was born in 1786. We think that William is his brother.
Elijah and Martha Bowen had two children, Joseph C. McCurdy and Mary Anna McCurdy (on her marriage record only she's listed as Mary). The family lived near the state line between Santa Rosa County, Florida and Conecuh County, Alabama (which would become Escambia many years later.).
We think that Nancy who married Joshua Bowen, Mattie's brother may be a sibling of Elijah and William H. McCurdy because in 1870 she is living with Thomas Sunday and his wife Anna McCurdy.
In 1830 we do not find Elijah as a head of household. It does appear that he could be in the household of Joshua Bowen. William H. McCurdy is listed as living in Conecuh county with a female child 5-10 who is most likely Abasheba McCurdy who married Reuben Ard. For years everyone thought she was Elijah's daughter and that Anna was William's. Death records for Abasheba name her father as William though, and DNA seems to support that Anna was Elijah's daughter.
By September 18, 1831, Martha had died and Elijah married Barsheba or Barbara Sunday whose name is listed as Sundike on her marriage. She was the daughter of John Sunday and Barsheba Collins. Though Elijah had received a bounty land warrant, he doesn't ever appear to be prosperous. His father in law on the other hand owned several slaves. About 1830 he began a relationship with one of them, a slave woman named Ginny whom he later freed along with her children.
John Sunday was murdered by his slave Adam in 1839 under questionable circumstances (a Sunday descendant suggests that he was put up to it by Elijah or W. "Pink" Owens.) Both Elijah and Pink Owens were the administrators for his estate, which I have still not seen. From the census of 1840 it appears that Elijah has some of the younger Sunday children in his home, he is found in Conecuh County, Alabama, living next door to Cleopatra Brewer Jones and her husband Willis Jones.
I had always thought he had lived nearer to Coon Hill, but now I am not so sure. I think he actually resided very near the state line either north of Jay or northwest of Jay, since aside from his son Joseph all the family resides near Century, Florida. The 1850 census shows Elijah in Santa Rosa County, Florida with his wife Barbara, sons George W., John, Elijah, Francis and Thomas, and daughters Charlotte, Barbara, Cornelia, Julie Ann and Elizabeth.
In 1860 John McCurdy died, as he is found in the mortality schedule for the 1860 census, and son Elijah died sometime before the 1860 census. In 1860 Elijah is again living in Santa Rosa County, Florida. He is found with the following family wife Barbara, and children Marion F (Francis), Thomas J., Cornelia, Julia Ann, Elizabeth, William and Reuben. For some reason, though we have DNA to prove it, his daughter Mary Evaline is not found in his home. Elijah's sons Joseph, Francis, George, and Thomas all enlisted in the civil war. Son William claimed, and received a pension for service in the local home guard. Sadly his sons Joseph and Thomas perished in the war and son George was wounded severely.
The 1867 state census of Santa Rosa County, Florida gives us the following information one male over 21, 2 males under 21 (William M. and Reuben), and two females under 18. Note there is no female over 18 indicating Barbara had died. Elijah isn't found in the 1870 census, but we know that portions of Santa Rosa county aren't enumerated that year (and some also in 1880). The next record we find for him is his pension for service in the war of 1812. It is from this record we get his death date of Feb 22, 1876. His son Francis was his executor. If he has an estate, I haven't been able to locate it.
There are several rumors that have been floating around for decades. One is that he was the guardian of the 13 year old Barbara and sneaked off to marry her and left his first wife in Alabama. At this point, I think this is entirely untrue. He was much older than Barbara, but there was no reason her father wouldn't have custody of her, she was older than stated, and it really does appear that Mattie had died. Another is that he lost his eye in the Indian Wars. Except he's not listed on any roster in the Indian wars. I am not sure if he was wounded during the war of 1812, but I think losing an eye even then would have gotten you discharged.
One researcher had a list of names for siblings, and stated they all lived nearby. Well, not only have we never found them in any records by those names (like Bruce) but only one sibling seems apparent. William H Mccurdy is in Sumter County, Alabama in 1840 and then he dies. It is about that time that his daughter marries Reuben Ard.