Ralph Bass has spent the past two years looking for patience.
Not just Any Patience.
Ralph is a retired history professor from Tift College and president of the Monroe County Historical Society.
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He is interested in Southern and 19th century European history. He is passionate about diving into research and genealogy.
He was more than happy to help when a referral crossed his desk in 2015. A family had contacted the Monroe County Library seeking information about a relative who died in 1864
The request wasn’t unusual.
The name, however, was intriguing.
Only Patience Outlaw Anderson.
It wasn’t as simple as strolling through the historical society’s headquarters at the old train depot and pulling “Anderson” from the “A” drawer.
The file was thin. The only archival evidence of OP (Only Patience) was a letter clipped from a local newspaper by a local historian, Jane Roquemore.
It was from a descendant who noted a family Bible had recorded Only Patience was buried in the Methodist Episcopal church yard in Forsyth. During the Civil War, the church was located in what is now Forsyth City Cemetery. (The Methodist church at the time of her death was being used as a military hospital.)
There is no known plot in the cemetery, and no head stone or grave marker to indicate her final resting place. Members of the Forsyth City Council made a bit of history themselves last summer when they passed a special resolution to allow a marker to be placed in the oldest section of the cemetery to honor Only Patience Outlaw Anderson.
Families place markers at the cemetery all the time, Bass said, but this is distinctive.
“Because of the exigencies of the war, the family did not erect a tombstone at the time,” he said. “But now, 153 years later, her descendants are ensuring her proper burial is marked.”
On Thursday at 7 p.m., members of the Anderson family, some from as far away as Arizona, will give a presentation about their great-great-great grandmother’s life.
The event is free and open to the public. It will be held in the Conley Building at 104 East Adams Street -- the old stone depot where the Anderson family arrived by train during the war.
On Friday, a marker will be placed at the cemetery in a grassy area flanked by cedar trees, not far from the football stadium at Mary Persons High School.
Bass was diligent in his research. Although it remains a mystery why she carried such an inimitable name, he has been able to reconstruct other details of her life.
Here are some of his findings.
She was the daughter of a Revolutionary War soldier. Her father was active in the attempt to establish the ill-fated State of Franklin attempt to free settlers west of the Appalachians from the government of North Carolina.
In 1792, when she was 15 years old, Only Patience Outlaw married 40-year-old Joseph Inslee Anderson, who fought during the American Revolution with the New Jersey Continental Regiments.
Following the war, Anderson was appointed by President George Washington as a U.S. Territorial Judge south of the Ohio River. When this area became the state of Tennessee in 1796, he helped draft its first constitution.
After U.S. Sen. William Blount was expelled from Congress in 1797, Anderson was named his successor. He served in the senate for 16 years. He was appointed the first comptroller of the U.S. Treasury by President James Madison in 1815 and served until 1836. The town of Andersonville, Tennessee, and Anderson County – about 22 miles north of Knoxville – are named in his honor.
Alexander Outlaw Anderson, one of their seven sons, served for a year as a U.S. senator from Tennessee and was instrumental in the organization of the state of California in the early 1850s. He served on the California state supreme court. Another son, William, served in the Tennessee state legislature.
Dr. Thomas Anderson, another son, was entrusted with the “mental peace and general tranquility” of his mother after Joseph Anderson died in 1836. Later in life, she “suffered from dementia with occasional episodes of lucidity.”
Bass said the Anderson family illustrates “how the Civil War divided families.” One of her sons, Pierce Butler Anderson, had one son who was a West Point graduate and died fighting for the Confederate Army at Greenbrier River in Virginia in 1861. But his son, George Washington Anderson, sided with the Union troops and was a Republican in the Missouri U.S. House of Representatives after the war.
Only Patience and other family members became “refugees” during the War Between the States, which is how she ended up in Monroe County. The Andersons were living in Tullahoma, Tennessee, when the Federal troops advanced, forcing the extended family to flee to Chickamauga, then Atlanta.
When living in Atlanta became “untenable,” Bass said, the Andersons boarded a train for Forsyth, which became her final exit. He said other “refugees” who ended up in Monroe County, although there are no records of how many because they returned to their homes after the war.
Only Patience never left. She died in September 1864 as Sherman was preparing his march to the sea.
The placement of a marker is not closure. It is about honoring a matriarch.
“It’s a sense of family pride,” Bass said. “Their great-great-great grandmother won’t be there without a marked grave.”
One can only imagine what kind of person Only Patience Outlaw Anderson might have been, the way she talked and what she looked like.
And was “Patience” a virtue in her life?
Ed Grisamore teaches journalism and creative writing at Stratford Academy in Macon. His column appears on Sundays in The Telegraph.