I will start out by saying that John Bryant is by far one of my favorite ancestors. Why you ask? Well, because I feel like I know so much about him just from paper documents trailed throughout history. He is the ancestor that I have the most information on and I am very excited to have taken this journey and to be able to share what I do know on this blog. Now, I cannot take all the credit for gathering the information that we do have. My sister is a very large part of the investigations into our family’s past. Most of the documents that we have found came from a few sources. We used ancestry.com for a bulk of the documents such as census records, death certificates and even a few of the pictures I will share in this post. Another great source we used was newspapers.com. I love reading the old articles in the newspapers. It really does give you a glimpse into what life was like and what made headlines in that time. So, without further ado I present the years scattered before and after the war for John Bryant Casteen (Castine).
John Bryant Casteen was born on November 25, 1841 in North Carolina. He was a twin to his brother Jacob. His father was William Wright Casteen (Castine), aged 29, and his mother was Nancy “Patsy” Humphrey. I hope to gather more information on his parentage in future posts. It is believed that his father married several times and bore children from at least two of his marriages. John and Jacob were the first-born sons of the Casteen family. So, from what we have gathered from census records John Bryant and Jacob were soon joined by a brother named Kinsey around 1847. John Bryant would have been around six years old.
According to the 1850 census, the family lived in New Hanover County in North Carolina. There is one other relation that puzzles me, that of a person named Hepsey. I believe that was a nickname for Elizabeth. The records we found in relation to the family place her as a sister to John. I cannot confirm this relation just yet via sources on Ancestry.com. She is still a mystery as far as her true connection to the Casteen family. Work shall continue to discover her secrets!
In 1860, when the south seceded, John Bryant and his family were residing in Harrison’s Creek, New Hanover, North Carolina. It is likely that his family would have supported the decision for the south to secede, hence his decision to join the war.
In 1861, John joined the military on May 27th. As we previously know from the article he wrote for the Wilmington Star, it was a choice he took seriously and felt as if it were a duty to his country and the state he lived in. We were able to obtain a U.S. Civil War record that showed us John was 19 years old and worked as a laborer and entered the army as a Private. We can also see he was in Company D, 3rd infantry regiment. He mustered out on August 14, 1861 in Fredericksburg due to illness and then joined the army again with his brother, Jacob, on February 18, 1862. As the article also stated, this time he joined to be with his brother in the same company rather than be drafted somewhere else. John was promoted for Full Sergeant on July 4, 1863. This is what we can tell from his military record. If you would like a more detailed description of his time in the war, please see my previous post “North and South”.
We also know from the Wilmington Star that John’s brother, Jacob, died of illness on June 20, 1862 in Richmond, Virginia. John witnessed his brother being wrapped in a blanket and given a soldiers’ grave, not knowing where he was buried even in 1917.
After the war, John married Minvera Felissa Holt on June 23, 1868 at the age of twenty-seven. We do have the marriage certificate showing proof of their union in Wilmington, North Carolina. It looks like they were married at the house of Jacob Shodruck (Sp). Together, John and Minerva, had five children (Minerva’s parentage is excellent as well, but that’s later).
Their first child, Florence Idella, was born on May 18, 1869. At this time, they lived in Grant, New Hanover, North Carolina per the 1870 census.
In 1872, another daughter was born. Her name was May. I do not have her exact birth date just yet, but I did find a person who believes they have a photograph of May. I, of course, saved this to my tree. I love finding photographs and being able to put a face with the name and the story that the documents weave.
After Della and May came Miranda Catherine on March 25, 1874.
Samuel Edward was born on February 18, 1876 in New Hanover. He is my direct link to John Bryant being my great-grandfather on my mother’s maternal side.
Last, but I am sure not least, was Lizzie Hassell born on March 25, 1882.
The 1880 census still has the family in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Then in 1885, tragedy struck the Castine family.
“Badly Burned” read the headline.
“Explosions of a kerosene lamp with nearly fatal results – a young girl the victim.
The fire which caused the alarm about 8 o’clock Thursday night came very near resulting most disastrously in more ways than one. The house is located on the corner of Seventh and Castle streets, belongs to Mr. Holden, on Ninth Street, and is occupied by Mr. John Casteen, superintendent of the city lights. Mr. Casteen’s wife had gone to pay a brief visit to her sister, who lives in the country, about nine miles from the city. Mr. Casteen was away from home, attending to his business of seeing the lighting of the street lamps, and the only occupants of the house at the time were his two daughters, Della and Catherine, the former about sixteen years of age and the latter about eleven. The youngest sister was engaged at some work at a table in the kitchen, upon which was sitting a kerosene lamp, and the older sister was not far from her. All of the sudden the lamp exploded and the burning oil was thrown upon the person of the young girl, communicating to her clothing, which was quickly in a light blaze. The older sister rushed to her rescue, but was so overcome with horror and fright that she could render but little assistance. The screams of the girls, however, quickly brought some of the neighbors to their aid, and through their exertions the life of the poor girl was saved. The most active among the rescuers were Henry Berry and David Williams, colored people living in the vicinity, who showed great presence of mind under the circumstances, smothering the fire with appropriate material and even taking measures to prevent the unfortunate girl from inhaling the fire, one of the first acts of Williams being to place his hand over her mouth. Catherine was burned very badly from the waist upwards, especially about the breast, face and arms, and it is feared that she inhaled some of the fire. Surgical assistance was immediately summoned and at last accounts she was resting as easy as could be expected. Miss Della also had her hands and arms burned pretty badly in trying to save her sister. The house caught fire, but, thanks to prompt assistance, the damage was trifling. A messenger was sent for Mrs. Casteen and she reached the bedside of her suffering daughter yesterday morning. “
Miranda passed away from her injuries on May 16, 1885. She was eleven years old. This article was very sad to read. I felt for my relatives, having at the time of this discovery, a daughter of my own. I couldn’t imagine what Minerva was feeling, seeing her daughter so very badly injured or how Della probably felt, helpless and at fault for not doing more to save her sister. These of course are only my interpretations of their feelings. But, this article does provide wonderful information. We know that they lived on Castle and Seventh Street in a house they rented from a Mr. Holden. We also discover that John Bryant was the superintendent of the city lights. He was in charge of making sure the street lamps were lit in the city of Wilmington. We can also find that Minerva has a sister who lives not far in the country. This article will definitely stay tucked somewhere in my heart.
Then, in 1890, we discovered another article on Newspapers.com. I am not sure if this is actually my great-grandfather, because I cannot confirm the source with my family. A small snippet of the Wilmington Messenger from August 9, 1890, page 8, reads “Shot Himself.”
“A young man by the name of Sam Casteen, who lives on Castle Street between Fourth and Fifth streets, accidentally shot himself in the leg yesterday morning while handling a pistol. The wound is not a dangerous one. “
I feel like this could be my great-grandfather. How many other Sam Casteens live on Castle Street in Wilmington at this time? He would have been about 14 years old when this incident occurred. I will be able to go a little more into Samuel Casteen at a later date when I explore more of the Casteen family.
In 1900, the family resided in Ward 5 of Wilmington, North Carolina and on August 26th, Minerva passes away. She will have a funeral held at the Primitive Baptist Church by the Pastor, Rev. Issac Jones, of Maple Hill, Pender County. This was clipped from the Wilmington Star.
John Bryant’s father will pass on July 18, 1903 at the age of 91 in Castle Hayne, North Carolina.
In 1905 we can see in a city directory that John Bryant lived with his daughter, Lizzie at 915 Queen Street in Wilmington, North Carolina. I believe there is a house still standing at the address, but I doubt it is the same house that stood back in 1905. It would be very interesting to see if it was the same structure. In this directory are also several other Casteens. I have not been able to connect the dots with these other possible relations. I still have many questions about Hepsy. According to our family tree we built on Ancestry, she is the sister of John. Listed in this directory, she is the widow of a John, and lives on 1016 Swann. This only adds the unknown facts about her.
The 1910 census shows John still residing in the fifth ward of Wilmington.
In 1911, another sad event occurred. John’s daughter, Lizzie, who he had been residing with, died on September 1, 1911 due to complications during childbirth. Her death certificate, from what I can make out, seems to say something about blood poisoning.
We also know that John was approached in 1917 by the Daughters of the Confederacy to write an article about his experiences during the civil war. I think I cried when I read that article for the first time and it still gives me chills every time I read it after.
After a long life, John passes away in Newport News, Virginia at the age of 78 on April 16th, 1920.
“Friends in Wilmington will learn with regret of the death of J.B. Casteen, of this city, which occurred at the home of his daughter, Mrs. W. T. Southerland, at Newport News, Va, last week. Mr. Casteen was 78 years old and a veteran of the War Between the States, having served throughout with the Third North Carolina regiment. He is survived by one son and two daughters. Sam Casteen of Portsmouth, Va; Mrs. W.T. Southerland of Newport News, Va, and Mrs. W.E. Reece of Wilmington. He was a consistent member of the Primitive Baptist Church of this city.”
There ends this blog posting about John Bryant. There are many more interesting facts about his family weaved in and out of his life while we researched him. Those stories must wait for another day. In the end, he is still a favorite of mine and every time I review his life story I feel closer and closer to this man who I never met.
Thanks for reading!