Researching Eliza Jane Campbell Simmons Gordon Denton, Ancestor #7/52

52ancestors_2015_07Here is the main post for Eliza Jane Campbell (1836-1904), Ancestor #7/52

Eliza Jane Campbell in the Records

I’m including information about her siblings that might help to explain some of Eliza Jane’s connections and whereabouts–or incidents that might have had an impact on her life.

1836 | 22 Jul. Born, Eliza Jane CAMPBELL seventh child (of 11) to parents Jeremiah CAMPBELL Jr. and Hannah STONE, both of Carter County, Tennessee. Eliza Jane was the first of Jeremiah and Hannah’s children to be born outside of Carter County, Tenn.  Later census records consistently report that Eliza Jane was born in Illinois. Since her parents first went to Sangamon County, Illinois, she was probably born there. Birth records do not exist for that early time in Sangamon County.

1840 | U.S. Census for Sangamon County, Illinois. A total of 11 persons are in the household, all free white. 1 male under 5 (Henry H Campbell); 1 male 5-9 (William Carter Campbell); 1 male 10-14 (Joseph Campbell); 1 male 15-19 (John Campbell); 1 male 40-49 (Jeremiah Campbell Jr.); 2 females under 5 (Louisa Campbell, age 2 and Eliza Jane Campbell, age 4); 2 females 10-14 (Sarah Campbell age 10 and Elizabeth Campbell age 13); 1 female 15-19 (Mary Campbell); 1 female 30-39 (Hannah Stone Campbell).


1840 U.S. Census for Sangamon County, Illinois

1842-1844 | According to land records, the Jeremiah CAMPBELL family moved from Sangamon County to Flat Branch Township, Shelby County, Illinois sometime where Jeremiah bought land in 1842 and 1844.

1844 | 10 Jul. Jeremiah CAMPBELL bought 40 acres in Sec. 8, Twp. 13 (Flat Branch) of Shelby County. He bought another 140 acres on the same date in Sec. 9, Twp. 13.

1847 | 23 Jul. Married, Elizabeth CAMPBELL and Abraham GORDON. Elizabeth was Eliza Jane’s older sister; Abraham was Benjamin Gordon’s brother. This was Abraham’s second wife. Here is another connection of the Campbell/Gordon families.

1848 | 1 Feb. Jeremiah CAMPBELL was assigned 160 acres of Sec. 9, Twp. 13. The land was originally assigned to John S. Hoskins.

1848 | Sep. Died, Elizabeth Traughber DENTON. She was 35 years old and the mother of Jonathan T. DENTON. Since her gravesite has never been found, she is a candidate for “Cemetery Unknown,” or Campbell Cemetery. More about that cemetery in a later post.

1849 | 13 Apr. Margaret Elizabeth Tolly GORDON died near Moweaqua, age 24. She was the first wife of Levi GORDON, brother of Benjamin GORDON.

1850 | The Jeremiah CAMPBELL family is found in the 1850 U.S. census for Flat Branch Twp., Shelby Co., Ill. The 1850 census for Flat Branch is difficult to read and filled with errors. Jeremiah Campbell is indexed at as “Abranniah” Campbell. Head of family: Jeremiah, age 53, occupation Farming, Value of Real Estate, $2,000, b. Tennessee; Hannah, age 50, b. North Carolina (one of the few clues anywhere in the records about this stone wall, Hannah Stone Campbell); Joseph Campbell, age 19, b. Tennessee; William Campbell, age 17, b. Tennessee; Jane Campbell, age 14, b. Illinois; Luiza Campbell, age 12, b. Illinois; Henry Campbell, age 10, b. Illinois; Nathaniel Campbell, age 8, b. Illinois; Nancy Campbell, age 6, b. Illinois.


1850 U.S. Census for Flat Branch Twp., Shelby Co., Ill.

1851 | With his real estate valued at $2,000, Jeremiah CAMPBELL is one of the more prosperous men of the township. Was he also one of the more influential, through church membership or elected county positions? If he was, I haven’t found any indication of it in the records. This family did not belong to any of the area churches, as far as I have been able to tell. The main church in the area that many families belonged to was the Union Predestinarian Baptist Church, located in Flat Branch. Records before 1852–church books and papers–were destroyed by fire, but the subsequent records show no Campbells affiliated with the church (Wooters, 16).

1854-1855 | This year seems to have been one of the worst years for disease and early death within this community.

1854 | 10 Aug. Died, Elizabeth Campbell GORDON, age 27, wife of Abraham GORDON. This was Eliza Jane’s older sister. Elizabeth was probably a victim of one of the fevers that was so prevalent in the county this year. Her 1-year-old daughter Mary died on 6 Aug. They were both buried at Tolly Cemetery. She had an older daughter named Jane (evidently named after Eliza Jane, her sister), born in 1849.

1854 | 31 Dec. Died, John CAMPBELL, age 31. He was Eliza Jane’s brother. He was married to Mary Polly ARMSTRONG, daughter of John Armstrong and Jane ROACH. The Armstrong’s were a pioneering family of the area. John and Jane were pillars of the community, well-respected and prosperous farmers. John was buried at Tolly Cemetery.

1855 | 28 Jun. Married, Eliza Jane CAMPBELL to Isom SIMMONS. Eliza Jane was 18 years old; Isom was 22. He was the middle son of James Thomas Simmons and Anna Whittington of Hardin, Kentucky. His father died at the age of 50 in Kentucky in 1845, and the widowed mother and her children moved to Indiana where they are found in the 1850 census for Bartholomew County, Indiana.

1855 | 3 Jul. Isom’s widowed mother Anna Simmons is found in the 1855 Illinois state census for Flat Branch Twp., line 13 of Image 4/39; Eliza Jane’s widowed mother Hannah Campbell is found on line 19 of the same image. Therefore, I assume that Eliza Jane and Isom met because their mothers were living in close proximity. Isom’s name isn’t found in the Illinois Public Doman Land Tract Sales database, indicating that he probably didn’t own any land when the couple married in 1855.

Where are Isom and Eliza Jane (or Jane, as she seems to have been sometimes known) in the 1855 Illinois census? I haven’t found them. It’s interesting that they married in Christian County, a neighboring county of Shelby. That probably doesn’t mean too much, as the couple seems to have settled in Shelby County.


The counties of Shelby, Christian, and Montgomery, Illinois.

1856 | 24 May. Born, a child to Isom SIMMONS and Eliza Jane Simmons in Shelby County. The evidence for the birth of this child (name and sex unknown) comes from Denton family researcher, Doris Denton.

1857 | 24 Mar. Married, William Carter CAMPBELL and Phereby Elzina MERRIMAN / MERRYMAN, Decatur, Macon County. William was Eliza Jane’s older brother.

1858 | 3 Apr. Born, twins to Eliza Jane SIMMONS and Isom, a boy and a girl: Alfred C. and Hannah E. Simmons. Their names and date of birth are proven by Mrs. Eliza J. Simmons’ CLAIM FOR WIDOW’S PENSION, dated 13 Dec 1864.

1859 | 12 Feb. Died, Louisa CAMPBELL GOODWIN, age 20. She was another sister of Eliza Jane’s. She was married to Joseph GOODWIN and buried in Tolly Cemetery.

1859 | 5 Nov. Died, the child born in May 1856 to Isom and Eliza Jane. The stone for this child was documented

1860 | 18 Jun. Died, Jonathan Denton’s father, Preston DENTON, my 3x great grandfather. Preston died at the age of 48 owning no land and owing small amounts of money to most of his neighbors. His son Jonathan certainly had no inheritance from his father–he was on his own. Preston is probably another candidate for burial at “Cemetery Unknown” (Campbell Cemetery). More about that cemetery in a future post.

1860 | 10 Jul. Jonathan Denton, future husband of Eliza Jane Campbell, is a farm hand working for James Hawse, a prosperous farmer in the area, and neighbor of Jonathan’s uncle, also named Jonathan Denton. 1860 federal census for “the Northern District – 66” of Shelby County, Post Office Moweaqua. This is image 81 of 127 at


Jonathan Denton, age 26, working as a farm hand for James Hawse.

1860 | 19 Jul. “Isham Lemons” and his wife “Elisa” [that’s how they’re indexed at–one of the reasons I didn’t find them during years of research] are in the 1860 federal census for “Subdivision 66” of Shelby County, Post Office Shelbyville. It also took me some time to figure out that this Subdivision 66 was Flat Branch Township.
“Isham Lemmons,” age 28, Farm Hand, value of estate, $125, b. Illinois [Isom was 27 or 28 years old in 1860, so the age is correct. He was born in Kentucky, not Illinois]; Elisa, age 24, value of estate $75, b. Indiana [Eliza Jane was 24 years old in 1860, so the age is correct. She was born in Tennessee, not Indiana]; Alfred G, age 2, b. Ill.; “Huphrey,” age 2, male, b. Illinois [Alfred C Simmons and Hannah E Simmons were twins, born in 1858, so their ages are correct.] Where in hell the enumerator got the name “Huphrey” for Hannah is anybody’s guess. This is a great example of why a family sometimes can’t be found in a census record.

1860 | 19 Jul. “Bans Garban” is a 42-year-old farmer in the 1860 census, dwelling no. 959; Isom and Eliza Jane Simmons are in dwelling no. 962 on the same page. “Bans Garban” is more simple criminal idiocy on the part of the enumerator. This is Benjamin Gordon, age 42, a farmer with a personal estate of $4,400, married to Elizabeth Armstrong Gordon, age 29, a young woman who died in 1864. It seems reasonable to assume, considering the proximity of the families on the census page, that Isom Simmons was a farm hand for Benjamin Gordon, the man Eliza Jane would marry after young Isom Simmons died in the Civil War.

1860 | 26 Oct. Born to Eliza Jane and Isom Simmons, John T Simmons. His name and date of birth is proven by Mrs. Eliza J. Simmons’ CLAIM FOR WIDOW’S PENSION, dated 13 Dec 1864.

1862 | 8 Aug. Nathaniel Taylor CAMPBELL, Eliza Jane’s younger brother, mustered in, Co. H, 116 IL. Inf. He survived the war, unlike Isom Simmons, and mustered out 7 Jun 1865. Nathaniel Taylor Campbell is a family name that goes back generations.

1862 | 6 Sep. William Carter CAMPBELL, Eliza Jane’s older brother, mustered in, Co. H, 116th Regiment, Illinois Vols., to serve 3 years. William did not survive the war. He died of disease in Mar 1863. Perhaps Nathaniel and William joined the Illinois Volunteers because the CAMPBELL family had a long history of serving during wartime. Like Isom Simmons, William was also married with several small children.

1862 | 30 Sep. Isom Simmons was mustered in as a Sergeant in the 116th Regiment, Illinois Infantry for a period of 3 years. He was 5′ 8″, brown hair, blue eyes, light complected, married, a farmer. Isom seems to have been one of the few men in this family group who signed up to fight in the war, which begs the question: Why? He was married with 3 small children. These years can’t have been easy on Eliza Jane. Maybe Isom hoped to be granted some land for his war service. Maybe he just liked being gone.

1863 | Civil War Draft Registration. The draft call of 1863 required the registration of eligible men between the ages of 20 and 45, divided into two classes: Class I, those aged 20-25 as well as those 36-45 who were unmarried; Class II, everyone else who is registered.

1863 | May. Isom Simmons was promoted from 4th Sergeant to 2nd Lieutenant, Company H, 116 Regiment, Illinois Infantry.

1863 | 8 Sep to 27 Sep. Isom Simmons had at least one leave during his time of service in the Army. Judging from the daughter born in January, 1864 he also must have had an earlier leave.

1864 | 11 Jan. Born to Eliza Jane and Isom Simmons, daughter. Died 14 Jan 1864, age 3 days. The stone for this child was found “damaged and difficult to read” when the cemetery was enumerated by Ed Boedecker in 1971. This is “Cemetery Name Not Known” in the Boedecker cemetery books, aka Campbell Cemetery, Sec. 9, Flat Branch Twp. More about this cemetery in a later post. The stone was read: “? dau of J. & E.J. / Simmons / died / Jan. 14, 1864 / Aged 3 Ds.” Since the stone was difficult to read, it’s probable that the “J” was a misreading of “I” for Isom.

1864 | 1 Feb. Died, Elizabeth ARMSTRONG GORDON, age 34. Wife of Benjamin GORDON.

1864 | 5 Jul. Isom Simmons was promoted from 2nd Lieutenant to 1st Lieutenant, Co. H 116th Regiment, Ill. Vol.

1864 | 13 Dec. Died, Isom Simmons. Isom was killed in action at Fort McAllister, Georgia. He participated in Sherman’s march to the sea. Shortly after, he was killed in action in the charge on Fort McAllister.

The next day, December 13, General W. B. Hazen, commanding Division, selected nine regiments, including the One Hundred and Sixteenth, to carry the fort, and within five minutes after the sound of the bugle “Forward” the Regimental colors were on the works and the garrison captured. Lieutenant Isom Simmons, of Company H, was killed in this charge (Regimental Histories).

Eliza Jane Simmons received a widow’s pension of $17/month until her death in July 1904. [See the Widow’s Pension Case File at fold3.] Isom’s burial place is unknown.

1865 | 27 Sep. Married, Eliza Jane Campbell Simmons [she was probably married under some version of some variation of Eliza Simmons or Jane Simmons] m. Benjamin Gordon in Shelby County, Ill. Benjamin Gordon and Jeremiah Campbell lived in the same community of Flat Branch Township. When they held the estate sale for Jeremiah in January of 1852 after Jeremiah died, Benjamin bought 1 white sow, first choice, 10 first choice shoats, 2 bee hives, and 5 empty gums. Benjamin was a well-established farmer in the community when Eliza married him in 1865. He was a widow, married the first time to Elizabeth Armstrong who died at the age of 34 in 1864. The 1865 state census shows that he owned $2,000 worth of real estate. Eliza was 29 years old when she married him, and she brought three small children from her first Simmons marriage to the Gordon marriage. Benjamin Gordon was 45 years old, and he had three teenage children from his first marriage, according to the 1865 census.

1865 | Sep. Illinois state census for Flat Branch Twp., Shelby Co., Ill. The family of Benjamin Gordon: 1 male 40-50 (Benjamin Gordon); 1 female 20-30 (Eliza Campbell Simmons Gordon); 2 males 10-20; 1 female 10-20; 2 males under 10; 1 female under 10 (the two males under 10 and 1 female under 10 must be the three younger Simmons children of Eliza Jane).

1866 | A cholera epidemic in the county. This wasn’t unusual. Early Illinois was known for being a “graveyard,” since fevers and early death was so prevalent there.

1866 | 7 Apr. Died, Benjamin Gordon, age 46. Probate records indicate he died intestate. Did Benjamin die in the cholera epidemic? The widow, Eliza J. Gordon, filed a renunciation of the right to administer the estate; Allen Snyder was appointed administrator. This is from the Administrator’s Record, 1865-1869, Vol. B., page 46. Shelby County Court Probate, June Term, 1866. Monday, 18 Jun 1866. So what did Eliza Jane inherit from Benjamin’s estate? Benjamin’s gravesite is unknown. He’s another candidate for Campbell Cemetery (see later post).

1867 | Jan. From Eliza Jane’s 1904 obituary: “She united with the M.E. [Methodist Episcopal] Church in January 1867, later transferring her membership to the Baptist church.” So she would have joined the M.E. church as Eliza Jane (or Jane) Gordon.

1867 | 7 Feb. Married, Nathaniel Taylor CAMPBELL and Sarah GORDON. Sarah is the daughter of Levi GORDON, older brother of Benjamin GORDON. So Eliza’s younger brother married the daughter of her husband’s brother.

1867 | 25 Feb. Eliza Jane Gordon was granted guardianship of her three minor children: Alfred C. Simmons, age 9; Hannah E. Simmons, age 9; and John T. Simmons, age 6. The document is found in her Civil War Widow’s Pension Case File. [see fold3]

From my notes to Doris Denton about a research trip to Flat Branch, Shelby Co., Oct 2001:

I spent time in both the court house and the historical/genealogical center at Shelbyville. At the court house, the room with the probate books is open to anyone, and I was able to look at anything I wanted. Unfortunately, the copy machine was out of order. I think that’s probably a permanent condition, because the Tolly researcher I contacted said that he was there in April and it was broken then as well.

I found Benjamin Gordon’s probate record. I didn’t have my laptop with me, and the typewriter in the room was also broken. But if you can get it [Doris had mentioned that she was sending for Benjamin Gordon’s probate record], it’s pretty interesting. Do you have a birth date for Benjamin? Was he considerably older than Eliza Jane? I ask because he seemed to be pretty well set up. He left a lot of household goods compared to Preston [Denton, Jonathan Denton’s father], but probably everyone in the county left a lot compared to Preston.

Of course, if I were on such a research trip today in 2015, I would not only have my laptop, but even more useful I would have my cell phone so that I could take photos of the documents. Ach. Doris was going to send me a copy of Benjamin Gordon’s probate record, but I guess she never did. I need to get that record.

1867 | 23 Apr. Eliza Jane Gordon made a CLAIM OF MINOR CHILDREN FOR ARMY PENSION. She signed the claim as the children’s guardian. The claim was witnessed by Nathaniel T. Campbell (her uncle) and Jonathan T. Denton (her future husband).

1867 | 1 May. Eliza Jane Gordon needed to prove that she was the mother of the three minor dependents of Isom Simmons for her widow’s pension application. One of the witnesses for the document was Hannah Campbell, mother of Eliza Jane, proof that Hannah was still living in 1867. She is found in the 1860 census for Flat Branch; she is not found in the 1870 census–for anywhere. She is another person who was likely buried in the “Cemetery Not Known” in Sec. 9, Flat Branch Twp. More about that in another post.

The following is my transcription of the handwritten document.

Personally came before me E.J. Rice and Hannah Campbell residents of Shelby County Illinois [boilerplate language] that they are well and personally acquainted with Alfred C: Hannah E: and John T. Simmons who are the minor children of Isom Simmons Late 1st Lieut. in Co. “H” 116 Illinois and who are the wards of Eliza Jane Gordon. The[y] further declare that they know the said children to be the legitimate children of said deceased soldier, and that they were personally present at their births and have accurate knowledge of the dates thereof which are as follows: Alfred C. and Hannah E. are twins and were born on the 3rd day of April 1858 and John T. Simmons was born Oct. 26 1860.

They further declare that the above named soldier left surviving no minor children who were under 16 years of age at the time except those named herein. That Eliza Jane Simmons the mother of said children and widow of said Soldier remarried on Sept. 27 1865 to Benj. Gordon and they further say that their knowledge of the above facts is obtained from the following source, viz personal acquaintance with said family during the past 12– years and as stated above and that they have no interest nor concern in the prosecution of the claim of Eliza Jane Gordon for Pension for said children.

[Signed] E. J. Rice, M.D.
Hannah Campbell [her mark]   [Eliza’s mother]
Witness: John P. Lamb, N.T. Campbell    [Eliza’s uncle]

1867 | 24 Jun. Married, “Jane Gordon” married Jonathan T Denton in Shelby County, Ill. This is Eliza Jane’s 3rd marriage at age 30; this is Jonathan’s 1st marriage at age 26. Jonathan Denton was 20 years old in 1860. I haven’t yet found him in any census for that date. He was probably working as a farm hand on one of the larger farms. I haven’t found him in the U.S. Civil War Draft Registrations Records, 1863-1865. Where was he during the Civil War?

1868 | 28 Mar. Residing in Shelby County. On her INCREASE OF WIDOW’S PENSION application, Eliza J Denton resides in Shelby County; the nearest post office she indicates is Nokomis, Montgomery County, Illinois.

1868 | 1 May. Born, first child born to Eliza Jane and Jonathan DENTON, Martha Jane. One family tree has her born in Oconee, Shelby County, Illinois; however, this is without documentation. It’s a clue, but that’s it.

1870 | 20 Mar. Born, to Eliza Jane and Jonathan DENTON, George Harvey. Doris Denton records him as being born in Nokomis, Montgomery County. I don’t have documentation for that.

1870 | Federal Census. Where is this family? It almost seems as though Jonathan was deliberate about keeping his name off the record books. Several families from the Flat Branch, Illinois area moved to Henry Twp., Vernon County, Illinois, including Benjamin Gordon’s brother, Abraham. It’s possible that Eliza Jane and Jonathan T. DENTON went with some of these families to Vernon County, but I haven’t found them in the 1870 census. Abraham later moved back to the Flat Branch area as did several other of the families who tried Vernon.

1870 | 7 Jul. The 1870 federal census for Moweaqua is dated 7 July. There are 23 images for Moweaqua at The writing is not easily, but reasonably, legible. The family isn’t there. There are 26 images for Flat Branch. The family isn’t there. There are 11 images for Penn at The family isn’t there. There are 40 images for Oconee at The family isn’t there. There are 70 images for Nokomis, Montgomery County at The family isn’t there. There are 32 images for Audubon, Montgomery County at The family isn’t there. None of these census records are particularly difficult to read.

Eliza Jane was 33 years old; Jonathan was 30. Eliza Jane’s children by Isom Simmons: Alfred C Simmons and Hannah E Simmons would have been 12 years old; John T Simmons would have been 10 years old. Eliza Jane was the children’s guardian, so it only makes sense that they would have lived with her and her new husband. According to the 1880 census, Alfred kept the last name, Simmons, so presumably the other children did as well. Also in the family would have been Martha Jane “Mattie” Denton, age 2; and George Harvey Denton, age (several) months. So in the census record, the family would probably consist of two adults, both in their 30’s and both born in Illinois and 5 children, ages 12 through infant. Three of the older children would have had the last name “Simmons.”

A note to me from Doris Denton, July 2000, family genealogist who researched the Denton and related families for 30 years:

I never have found Jonathan and Eliza in the 1870 census–in fact, I just looked at it again because someone had ordered it sent from SLC to the local FHC by chance.

1870 | 7 Jul. Residing, Taylor CAMPBELL and Sarah GORDON CAMPBELL, in Flat Branch Twp, Shelby Co., Ill. Nathan Taylor Campbell is Eliza Jane’s younger (by 6 years) brother. He fought alongside Eliza’s first husband, Isom Simmons. He survived the war and married Sarah GORDON, a niece of Benjamin Gordon’s. U.S. Census, 1870, Flat Branch Twp, Shelby Co., Ill., Image 4/26 in He’s a farmer apparently with no land of his own, so if his mother, Hannah CAMPBELL, died before 1870, then he didn’t get any land from her, at least by 7 July 1870. Nathaniel Taylor Campbell is a good clue for tracking down the mother and my 3x great grandmother and genealogical brick wall, Hannah STONE CAMPBELL. He was living with his widowed mother in the 1860 census as “Nathaniel,” age 18. What happened to Hannah and her land? Sarah died before the 1880 census and her gravestone has not been found, making her another candidate for “Cemetery Unknown,” Campbell Cemetery.

1872 | Feb. Born, to Eliza Jane and Jonathan DENTON, Hattie M. Doris Denton only says that Hattie was born in Montgomery Co., Ill.–nothing more specific.

1874 | Residing, Audubon Twp., Montgomery Co., Ill. At some point before 1874, Jonathan DENTON bought 40 acres of land in Audubon Twp. He is found on an 1874 plat map, listed as owning 40 acres in Sec. 34, the NW1/4 of the SE1/4. I haven’t yet found the land transaction records for this purchase.



This 1874 plat map of Audubon Twp, Montgomery Co., Ill. was sent to me by Robert Brummet, a life-long resident, farmer, and the caretaker of Zion Cemetery. The handwritten notations are his handwriting.

Eliza Jane’s 1904 obituary says that in 1867 she joined the Methodist Episcopal church and then “later” joined the Baptist church. Robert Brummet, a life-long resident of Audubon Twp, a farmer, and also caretaker of the Zion Cemetery, told me that Jonathan and Eliza Jane Denton may have attended church at the Shiloh Baptist Church, “only approximately one-half mile through the field from the Denton residence.” The Shiloh Church is the farthest red mark on the map, above.

Mr. Brummet says he remembers the Denton house–“torn down in the 1940s.” In a 1981 letter sent to Doris Denton from Alfred C. SIMMONS’s daughter, Maude Shanks, who was 91 years old at the time, she describes the house:

My father bought their little farm & 2 room house, we lived down there a while, my father built a room on & fixed the cave up. It had like a summer kitchen over it.

Jonathan and Eliza DENTON were in Audubon Twp. at least by 1874. From the Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois, Vol. 2 (1918):

These boundaries were given Audubon Township upon the adoption of township organization in 1872, and it took its name from the now extinct town of Audubon which was laid out years ago with great expectations, by a colony of emigrants who came and settled there from Massachusetts (838).

This splendid farming township is so far from the county seat that it looks to Pana rather than Hillsboro as a market and source of supply, when in need of what cannot be obtained in Ohlman.

1874 | Oct. Born, to Eliza Jane and Jonathan DENTON, Alice B. [She should not be confused with Alice NIHISER DENTON, wife of George Harvey Denton.] Nothing more specific than born in Illinois.

1876 | Oct. Born, to Eliza Jane and Jonathan DENTON, James Edward [known as Edward]. Nothing more specific than born in Illinois. He was the last child born to Eliza Jane and Jonathan.

1880 | 11 Jun. Residing, Audubon Twp., Montgomery Co., Ill. the family of Jonathan DENTON. Image 17 of 38 for Audubon Twp. All the family is “DENTON”. DENTON, Jonathan, age 39, Farmer; Eliza J, age 42, wife; Martha J., age 12, daughter; Geo. H., age 10, son; Hattie M., age 8, daughter; Alice B., age 4, daughter; James E., age 2, son.


1880 federal census for Audubon Twp., Montgomery Co., Ill. The Jonathan Denton family.

So if what Maude Simmons SHANKS, Eliza Jane’s granddaughter,  wrote at the age of 91 is true, Jonathan and Eliza raised their 5 children in a 2-room house–a 2-room house that in 20-25 years of living in the house, was never enlarged by Jonathan Denton. Nor did he enlarge the 30-acre plot of ground that he farmed. The question I’m tempted to ask is, What was wrong with him?

1885 | The latest Illinois state census is dated 1865–so no help with a state census, although it’s probable that Jonathan and Eliza Jane were still living on their small farm in Audubon Twp., Montgomery Co., Ill.

1895 | Jan 11. The double photograph of Jonathan and Eliza Jane DENTON is dated very specifically, Jan 11 – 1895. It was taken at Nokomis, Ill. I wonder if this means that they were still living at their 30-acre farm in Audubon Twp.? Was there some significance to the date January 11? Jonathan was 55 years old; Eliza was 58. I wonder if that year was just a guess. Jonathan, especially, looks significantly older.


Jonathan and Eliza Jane Denton, 1895

1897 | 21 Feb. Married. “Married at the home of J. Simmons on Sunday evening, 21 February 1897, in Prairie Home, Mr. Ed McKeefer and Miss Hattie Denton. We extend to them our hearty congratulations. They will begin housekeeping and farm one of G. Goodwin’s farms. [From the Wednesday, 3 March 1897 issue, Moweaqua Call-Mail.] “J. Simmons” was John Simmons, son of Eliza Jane and Isom Simmons; Hattie Denton was the daughter of Jonathan Denton and Eliza Jane.

1899 | 14 Dec. Residing, Dalton City, Jonathan DENTON and Eliza Jane. From the Decatur Review: Mr. and Mrs. J. T. Denton of Dalton City have received a letter from their son, Corporal J. E. Denton, who is with the United States troops in the Philippines.

1900 | 1 Jun. Residing, Milam Twp., Macon County, Illinois. Jonathan and Eliza Jane DENTON appear in the 1900 federal census, image 9/11 for Milam Twp., District 0062. DENTON, J. G. [sometimes Jonathan’s initial is “G” rather than “T”], DOB Oct. 1840, 59 years old, married 33 years, b. Illinois, father b. Kentucky, mother b. Pennsylvania, Farmer, can read & write; Eliza J., wife, b. July 1836, age 63, married 33 years, 10 children, 7 living, b. Illinois, father b. Tennessee, mother b. Tennessee, can read & write. They’re living near David NIHISER, age 52, widow. David was the father of Alice NIHISER, wife of Jonathan & Eliza’s son, George Harvey. There’s no indication whose farm Jonathan & Eliza Jane were living on.

1904 | 22 Apr. Died, Jonathan T. DENTON, age 63. In a General Affidavit that she filled out and signed shortly after Jonathan’s death, as part of her Civil War widow’s pension claim, Jonathan’s worldly goods at the time of his death were described:

the only land owned by Jonathan Denton at his death was about thirty acres described in another affidavit of the affiant: that claimant owned no real estate at all except her interest in said real estate as his widow; that the following is all of the personal property owned by either said Denton or the claimant at his death or since: one horse worth sixty dollars, one cow worth twenty-five dollars, household goods actually used by the claimant and said Denton worth not to exceed fifty dollars, that neither the claimant nor said Denton had or have any other property nor income; that said Denton left no life insurance; that no one is bound to keep her;

The second affidavit mentioned further describes the land:

fifteen acres more or less . . . . [and another tract of] fifteen acres more or less. . . . the first tract above described is encumbered with a mortgage of one hundred and fifteen dollars and that his title to the remainder was perfect only as to one-half interest; that said land is worth twenty-five dollars per acre; that as rent they have been deriving not more than forty and fifty dollars per year.

Perhaps since these were affidavits are meant either to continue or to start again her Civil War widow’s pension, the economic picture that was painted was deliberately grim. However, even allowing for that, it would seem that unless someone (her children? the church?) was helping her, Eliza Jane would have been a candidate for the county poor farm.

1904 | 2 Jul. Died, Eliza Jane Campbell Simmons Gordon Denton. Her certificate of death indicates she died of an organic heart lesion that was complicated by rheumatism (the rheumatism complicated  by her living in a 2-room shack for 20-25 years of her adult life). Her obituary states that she had taken the train from Pana, Ill. to stay with her daughters for the summer in Moweaqua, Ill. when she was taken ill. At the time of her death, two of her children were living in Pana (Alfred Simmons and Alice Denton Johnson) and two were living in Moweaqua (Mattie Denton Smull and Hattie Denton McKeefer). The “odd men out” were my great grandfather, George Harvey Denton, who had left to try his hand at rice farming in Louisiana, and Ed Denton, serving in the Army in the Philippines.

Jonathan and Eliza Jane were buried at Zion Cemetery, the cemetery that was close to their land in Audubon Township. The story in the family is that Ed Denton sent money for their gravestone, the largest and most ostentatious gravestone in Zion Cemetery.

scan0027 - Copy

The large stone can be seen from the road down the hill from the cemetery. Photo taken in 2000, author’s private collection.

The end of the story

Eliza Jane had eight children who lived to adulthood.

Hannah (aka “Gert”) Simmons Hanson. She wasn’t mentioned in Eliza Jane’s obituary. It’s likely, therefore, that Hannah died before 1904–before her mother’s death. However, knowing the Denton sensibilities the way I do, it’s also possible that Hannah had made someone in the family mad enough to leave her name out of her mother’s obituary. She married Joab Hanson. They married in 1875 in Montgomery Co., Ill. and are found in the 1880 census for Audubon Twp. They have 2 children, Thos. E. , age 3 and Louisa A, age 2. By 1900, the couple had four (and maybe more) children. One of them, Claude, age 10, is found as a “boarder” in the 1900 census, suggesting the parents had died.

to be continued. . .


Regimental and Unit Histories, Illinois Adjutant General’s Report, Containing Reports for the Years 1861-1866. PDF document, no page numbers.

Wooters, Marion Simcox. Union Predestinarian Baptist Church and Tolly Cemetery, Flat Branch Twp., Shelby Co., Illinois: Compiled from church records March 1967. I found this source in the St. Louis County Library genealogy section.

U.S. Civil War Draft Registration Records, 1863-1865 found at

Year: 1850; Census Place: Flat Branch, Shelby, Illinois; Roll: M432_128; Page: 140B; Image: 557. At this is image 6/9 for Flat Branch Twp., Shelby Co., Ill.

Research Questions

1. I need to find Benjamin Gordon’s probate record.

2. Find Jeremiah Denton’s Homestead record for Shelby County, Illinois.

3. Check for records of Shiloh Baptist Church in Audubon Twp. Jonathan and Eliza Jane DENTON were very likely members of that church.

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