Biography

James E. Balkcom

 

Relationship of James E. Balkcom to Euel E. Balkcom

Conjecture on the ancestry of James E. Balkcom

Descendants of James E. Balkcom

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    James E. Balkcom was born 1 Jan 1807 in North Carolina.  He married Mary (Polly) Murphy before 1837. 

     The first official record of James Balkcom is found in court records of Sampson County, North Carolina in 1827.  "Willie Balcomb" and "James Balcomb" were ordered to serve as hands on a road crew.  All able-bodied males were obligated to this work, and men on the same road crew would have lived in the same area.  By 1838 James, and Wiley (the Willie above) as well, were in Lowndes County, Georgia.  In the 1840 federal census, "James Balkum" is listed as age 30-39, having in the household two males under 5, and four females - 3 under 5 and 1 age 20-29.  This accounts for James E. and wife Mary, sons John W. and James A., and daughter Colista.  The other two girls are unaccounted for so may have not been daughters or may have died young.  The households of Wiley Balkum and Daniel Murphy were very close by.

     Mary's maiden name has not yet been confirmed, but other researchers, including the Baucom Family book, have claimed that it was Murphy.  Mary definitely had strong connections to the Daniel and Elizabeth Murphy family.  The families lived close together, and migrated together, in the early to mid 1800's.

     In about 1845, James and family (Mary and at least 5 children) moved to Dale County, Alabama.  Records at the Bureau of Land Management show that on 11 Jan 1858, James was issued a land patent in Dale County, Alabama, certifying transfer of federal land to him.  Issue of the land patent followed by a little more than two years his application and payment for purchase, dated October 19, 1855.  Original papers at the National Archives show that his purchase was for 160 acres of public land from the Elba Land Office at $.25 an acre for a total of $40.   Location, referenced to the St Stephens Meridian: SESE Section 4/ Township 5-N Range 26-E; WSW 3/ 5-N 26-E; SWNW 3/ 5-N 26-E.  This land is southeast of Echo, Alabama, in Dale County about a mile from the Henry County line.  Land Patents were issued on the same day for land in Dale County to Wiley Balkcom and Josiah Balkcom (son of Wiley).

     In 1860, James Balkcom was head of household in the census of the Newton Post Office District of Dale County, Alabama.  James is listed as age 53, farming, born in NC, living with wife Mary and twelve other members of the family.  Enumerated with James were Mary (Polly) MURPHY, Colista Jane BALKCOM, Benjamin BALKCOM, Ivey BALKCOM, Joseph D. BALKCOM and wife Lucinda, Brantley BALKCOM, Albert BALKCOM, Delilah BALKCOM, Priscilla BALKCOM, Neissa BALKCOM, Ransom BALKCOM, and James Arnold BALKCOM.  Their assets were listed at $1500 real estate and $700 personal.  Adjacent households were those of son John W. Balkcom and wife Nancy age 19 (newly married) and Daniel Murphy (with wife Elizabeth and a 12 year old male Milton).  Neither showed land holdings so it's likely that they had houses on the land of James and Mary Balkcom.

     The family was devastated by the Civil War, with five sons enlisting and three lost to disease or battle wounds.  Sons Benjamin (age 19) and James Arnold (24) were the first to enlist, on 22 May, 1862, as Privates in Company A of the newly formed 37th Alabama Infantry Regiment.  Shortly after this regiment was formed it was assigned in Mississippi, and in the summer of 1862 was stricken by the ravaging diseases, including measles, dysentery, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and mumps, that hit most of the units assigned in the so-called western theater that included Mississippi.  The Balkcom boys apparently avoided these or at least survived them.  In the Fall and early Winter of 1862 they moved with their regiment to northern Mississippi and then west, assigned to assist in the defense of Vicksburg.  They were engaged in a number of battles and skirmishes, and it was around this time that older brother John William Balkcom, age 24, enlisted in the same company.  Benjamin was captured 4 December, 1862 at Water Valley, Mississippi, and taken to the Confederate POW prison in Alton, Illinois.  He did not live long at Alton, dying in January 1863 of "exposure", ten months after his enlistment and less than two months after his capture.  According to the Alton web site:  "Conditions in the prison were harsh and the mortality rate was above average for a Union prison. Hot, humid summers and cold Midwestern winters took a heavy toll on prisoners already weakened by poor nourishment and inadequate clothing. The prison was overcrowded much of the time and sanitary facilities were inadequate. Pneumonia and dysentery were common killers but contagious diseases such as smallpox and rubella were the most feared. When smallpox infection became alarmingly high in the winter of 1862 and spring of 1863, a quarantine hospital was located on an island across the Mississippi River from the prison."

     In April 1863, within just a few months of Benjamin's death, a fourth Balkcom brother, Joseph D. enlisted at Pollard, Alabama as a Private in Company D of the 57th Alabama Infantry, for a period of three years.  In September 1863, brother Ivey also enlisted in this company.  Ivey's enlistment papers show:  "18 years old, hazel eyes, light hair, 5'10", born Dale Co, farmer, received bounty of $50."  Joseph would not return home, a casualty of wounds received in the Battle of Atlanta as General Sherman took the city in July, 1864.  Ivey survived the war, with records showing he was discharged at Charlotte, NC in 1865. 

     In July 1863, John Balkcom and James Arnold Balkcom were surrendered with their 37th Alabama Regiment at the Union siege of Vicksburg, then released under terms of the surrender.  Both entered other units, and John was severely injured twice and died of gangrene in 1864.  James Arnold survived the war and was surrendered at the end in Smithfield, North Carolina, near Duplin County where parents James and Mary grew up.  After the war, James Arnold named two of his sons Joseph and Benjamin. 

     Information from the 1870 census showed that the war affected the family financially as well, with the value of the family's real estate decreasing by 25%, and personal estate, including livestock, valued at half that of 1860.  In this census, "James Balkcum" was head of household in Beat No. 9, Echo, Dale County, Alabama.  James was age 63, occupation listed as farmer and hatter, born in North Carolina, real estate $1100, personal $350.  In his household were wife Polly and 7 other Balkcoms:  Colista Jane, Albert, Delilah, Priscilla, J. A., James Hezakiah, and Middleton.

     In 1880 James E. Balkcom was head of household in the census for Beat No. 9, Enumeration District #64, Echo, Dale County, Alabama.  James is listed as age 73, farmer, born in North Carolina, parents born in "North".  In the household were wife Polly, daughters Colista Jane and Joanna, and Colista's son Middleton. They lived adjacent to their son Ivey.

     On 12 Feb 1881, James bought 40 acres of land in 5N/26E, Section 4, NW 1/4 of SE 1/4 in Dale County.  Purchase price was $1.25 an acre.  Purchase was under the Homestead Act of Congress of 1862, entitled "An act to secure homesteads to actual settlers on the public domain."  The land was adjacent to land James E. already owned in the section.  Wiley Balkcom and son Josiah had land nearby from 1858 purchases.

     James Balkcom applied for this land December 27, 1873 under application No 5790.  In the Homestead Affidavit, he asserted that he was over age 20, head of family, and that application "is made for the purpose of an adjoining farm and cultivation ... my present farm which I reside on being the NE 1/4 of SE 1/4 Sec 4 T5 R26".  He marked out the phrase on the application "that I have a bonafide improvement and reside on the tract applied for".  Note that James corrected the spelling of his last name from "Balcom" to "Balkcom" on the documents.

     James Balkcom died on 24 Nov 1887 in Dale County, Alabama, at age 80 (see tombstone).  Wife Mary had died almost two years earlier, in February 1886, at the age of 72.  They are buried at Old Center United Methodist Church Cemetery in Henry County, Alabama.

     
 

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