Family Histories

Family Histories for the Rose and Kirkpatrick Families

Monday, February 8, 2016

52 Ancestors: Nancy Florence "Nannie" Stanfill 1861 - 1956

Nannie Stanfill was the eldest child of Lewis Stanfill and Ellen Faulkner, born in Campbell County, Tennessee in December of 1861.  Nannie began grammar school, but shortly after, her mother died, leaving her to care for her three younger siblings and ending her formal education.  Her two younger brothers and younger sister were able to attend school, while Nannie stayed home and cared for the house.  And while Nannie had virtually no formal education, she was bright and curious and she continued to read and learn and teach herself the things she wanted to know.  As an adult, she was described as "a woman of culture, fine tastes and high ideals."

At 16, Nannie married Thomas Evan Breckenridge Siler in Whitley, Kentucky.  He was only 20, but Thomas was ambitious; he bought some land from his father and began farming, as well as working in real estate and lumber in southern Kentucky.  He helped form the Birds Eye Coal Company in the 1880's and advocated for railroad expansion in the area.  The financial panic in 1893 resulted in the collapse of the company, putting Thomas some $30,000 in debt (close to $800,000 today).  He and Nannie vowed to repay his debts, and in 1900 he sold his farm and moved the family to LaFollette, Tennessee, where he worked in real estate and insurance.  Nannie seems to have played an active role in her husband's business affairs and was often consulted about decisions he made in business.  They repaid their debts and Thomas became successful in his businesses, eventually moving the family to Charleston, West Virginia, where he formed several coal companies and became very financially successful. 

The Silers had 11 children in the 22 years after their marriage; two died shortly after birth and another at age 2.  A son named Sampson Lafayette died at the age of 19.  The other children were educated at least through high school, and some, including the girls, attended college.  While Nannie had virtually no formal education and Thomas only through about the 8th grade, they must have made their own children's educations a priority. 

Thomas and Nannie were devoutly religious members of the Congregational Church and were passionate about the cause of prohibition.  Thomas helped make Tennessee a dry state while presiding over the Campbell County Civil Association, and Nannie was a member of the Women's Christian Temperance Union.  Before his death, their son Sampson had been the Secretary of the Prohibition League at the American University at Harriman, an institution that allowed no alcoholic beverages.

Several of the Siler children and sons-in-law worked for Thomas in his various businesses.  Thomas died in January 1930.  Nannie died in July 1956 at the age of 94.  They are both buried at Spring Hill Cemetery in Charleston, West Virginia.

Thomas Siler and Nancy Stanfill Siler with children:  (back, l-r): John, Josephine, Sampson, Ella & her husband George Smith, Edward (on his father's lap), Thomas, Mary and Arvid.  Taken between 1901 - 1905

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