Sunday, July 5, 2020

Soldier Profile: Foster Sellers, Part 1, Civilian Life

When I read the book The Battle Rages Higher about the 15th Kentucky Infantry, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that several of the regiment's soldiers were from  my home of Campbell County, Kentucky, but then an intriguing part section at the end of the book surprised me even more - a collection of mini-biographies of the regiment's soldiers. Except for a few about the commanding officers and staff, these generally short paragraphs with some basic facts of the  men's lives and/or military careers. This was not something I had seen in many books and it quickly intrigued me, as reading through it helped  me find the names of several of the men from Campbell County, including those born  here and others who lived here, died here or are buried here.

Since the purpose of the blog includes finding and studying information and sources from  my home region (northern Kentucky is not exactly Gettysburg or Virginia when it comes to Civil War culture), I decided to search for more information on these me and maybe turn this information into some posts for this blog. I can always use new material and this struck me as a good idea.

I soon found  out  there were a lot more Civil War soldiers here (pre- and post-war) than I had realized and that some of these men had stories worth sharing.  This has also given me an idea for a bigger and more long-term project to attempt, though perhaps that may be a pie-in-the-sky dream. Time will tell.

I began my research with Foster Sellers, whose story in that book.indicated he may have lived near some of my ancestors, and I found more than I expected.  This post will examine his non-military years before and after the Civil War and a follow-up post will detail  his military service before a third post discusses his twin brother Israel. Israel was not in the 15th Kentucky, but did serve in the war and this was the first pair of  twins I had uncovered, so I figured that posting about both would be appropriate.

Foster and Israel Sellers were born in early January 1837 in Bracken County, Kentucky, another county in the northern part of the state, perhaps best known as the location of the town of Augusta, where George Clooney attended high school, and which Basil Duke and his men attacked in September of 1862.

Foster's death certificate lists his birth date as January 3, 1837, but Israel's headstone indicates that January 8 was their birth date. (Census records, family trees and genealogy reports confirm that they were twins.) Foster's headstone, meanwhile, lists his death date as April 3, 1920 at age "83 years, 2 months and 25 days." An online date calculator processes his date of birth to be January 9, 1837, 1 day different than what his brother's monument shows. Given how similarly “3" and "8" can appear on written records at time and the likelihood of a mathematical error on the calculation on Foster's headstone, January 8 seems like the probable date, but "early January" is an easy way to put it.

According to the Campbell County Genweb site, Foster and Israel were the sons of Phillip and Kaziah (Green) Sellers. Phillip was a native of Pennsylvania while Kaziah had been born in Ohio. Foster and Israel had two older sisters, a younger brother and a younger sister.

By 1850, the family lived in Covington, in Kenton County, another county in northern Kentucky, on the border of Campbell County.

In 1860, most of the family had moved to Campbell County, but Foster had returned to Bracken County, near the Augusta Post Office, where he worked as a farm laborer with the Richard Gregston family.

In April of the next year, Confederate forces fired on the American troops at Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor, and the Civil War began. Six months later, in October, Foster enlisted in Company H of the 15th Kentucky Infantry, beginning his three-year adventure in the army, as a future post will describe.

Once Foster had survived the war, though with a wound suffered in combat, and was out of the army in early 1865, he returned to civilian life. He married 16-year-old Sarah E.DeMoss, a native of Pendleton County, on February 2, 1865, while the war was still ongoing. (Sarah was apparently a sister of Nancy DeMoss and Mary Carter DeMoss, the first two of his brother Israel's wives.)

The region was largely rural at the time (much of it still is) and Foster took up farming as his occupation.

By 1870 he lived in the Grant's Lick precinct of Campbell County, along with his wife and their two sons,Walter and Franklin.

Ten years later, the census appears to show him as "Joster Sellers," but a public family tree on helped me greatly in finding him.  He still farmed, now in the Gubser's Mill precinct and lived with Sarah, their sons and a niece.

Per the Campbell County Genweb site, an 1883 book of pensioners lists him in Flagg Springs, an area next to Gubser's Mill, while reporting that he had suffered a "wound in back,"which helped him receive a pension of $8 per month.

An 1888 road tax assessment list recorded that he owned 21 acres of land, valued at $400, and $150 worth of stock.

One year later, the same amount of land was worth $300 and his stock $100, but in 1890 his name appeared on a list of tx delinquents, still in the Gubser's Mill area.

In 1890, his name was included on a Schedule of War Veterans, the closest thing to an 1890 existing for most areas. It gave his rank and unit and noted that he had been discharged due to a "wound in back & leg," beginning some confusion over the exact nature of his wartime injury or injuries.

The road assessment book of 1891 indicated he still owned 21 acres, worth $350, plus $65 of stock.This is the last tax information available on the Genweb site.

1891 became a sad year for the Sellers family as son Franklin passed away on  December 6, at just 25 years of age. He was buried in Persimmon Grove Cemetery.

By the time of the 1900 census, Foster still farmed in the Gubser's Mill area, living with with Sarah, while the 1910 census list shows him in the same area, living on Persimmon Grove road. (All of these small communities are very familiar to me, especially from my childhood.)  His occupation now was "own income," which  may mean that he had now retired, being 73 years old, with a war wound.

Foster's final appearance on census records came in 1920, when the enumeration showed him living in the Carthage precinct, on Carthage Road. On the same census page also appears Oscar McCormick, my great-great grandfather, and his family, including my then 7-year old grandfather, all just a few houses away from the Sellers family. This makes it conceivable that my ancestors knew this old Civil War veteran, which I admit intrigues me greatly.

Foster Sellers passed away on April 3, 1920, 83 years old, and was buried in Persimmon Grove Cemetery, the same place his son  was buried (and where my grandfather would be buried in 1993.)  Unfortunately, his last name was somehow misspelled as "Sellars" on his headstone (but one form on and some records for his  parents and brother on the genweb site used that same spelling.)

author’s photo

Sarah DeMoss Sellers died on January 29, 1929 and was also laid to rest in Persimmon Grove Cemetery, though apparently without a headstone. 

Please watch for the next post, which will examine Foster Seller's Civil War career, and another which will examine his twin brother's life and Civil War service.

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