John L. Leyburn was born about 1831 in Pittsburg, Allegheny, Pennsylvania. His father was also named John. I have not discovered the surname of his mother, but her given name may have been Ann. John L. Leyburn’s wife was Nancy Jane Ruby, born about 1834 in Indiana. They married in 1852 in Edwardsport, Knox, Indiana and may have had eight children, but only six have been identified – Lucy Ann “Annie”, Franklin “Frank” I., Mary E., Fannie, Willie and Jennie.
John and Nancy’s youngest daughter, Jennie Leyburn Harris, wrote a lovely memoir – The History of my family and events in my own life. Here is an excerpt telling about her parents.
My father, John Leyburn, (an only child), was born in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. He was only two years old when my grandfather Leyburn was stricken with yellow fever, so prevalent in those days, and died. Grandmother would often tell us children how they carried his body out after midnight and buried it, the disease being so contagious. Two years later my grandmother married Benjamin Irving, a native of Scotland, possessing all the characteristics of a true Scotsman. So my father was brought up in a much disciplined household. My grandmother, also very strict, and a perfect housekeeper. – As far as order was concerned – ‘A place for everything, and everything in its place.’ So my father grew up in that cold, stern atmosphere which his mother and stepfather possessed. He grew up a very quiet boy. Grandfather Leyburn was a cabinet maker, making beautiful furniture by hand. This furniture has been handed down through the generations. (His name was John also.)
When my father was about 12 years old, his stepfather and mother moved to Indiana when the state was new. They settled on a small tract of land called a homestead, near the town of Edwardsport. Here my father grew to manhood. He attended school in Vincennes. As he grew older, coming from a long line of architects, contractors, designers, and builders, he soon found it too was running in his veins to do likewise. So at an early age, he took up designing and contracting. Many of the old homes in Edwardsport he designed and built.
About the age of 25, he met my mother, Miss Nancy Jane Ruby, given up to be the belle of Edwardsport. He fell in love with her and they were married in a quaint little church, which a few years ago was still standing. This was in the fifties.
To them were born 8 children – 3 were born in Edwardsport, and 4 in Vincennes – and I, the youngest, was born in Flora, Illinois. My father’s work caused them to go to different places, but before going to Flora, he built a home there, expecting to stay as the town was new and had lots of work. (pp. 1-2)
Using information from the memoir, it looks like John, Nancy and their children lived in Edwardsport until the late 1850s. I have found only one census record for John, the 1860 United States Federal Census. The family was living in Vigo, Knox, Indiana. Those recorded on the census are John L., 29, Nancy J., 26, Lucy A., 5, Franken I., 3, and Mary E., 1. Evidently, four other children were born in the 1860s while in Knox County, Indiana. Two of those children were Fannie and Willie. Jennie Leyburn Harris mentions the town Vincennes.
John moved his family to Flora, Clay, Illinois before 1872. I have not found John on the 1870 census, so it is difficult to know exactly when they made the move. Their youngest daughter, Jennie, was born there about 1872.
In the mid 1870s, Nancy’s health began to fail and her physician advised John to take her south to a warmer climate. He decided Tennessee would be the best place for them to move. The Leyburn family, including John’s stepfather and mother, moved to Loudon, Loudon, Tennessee. Their oldest daughter, Annie, married before the move so did not move with them.
In her memoir, Jennie Leyburn Harris describes events following the move to Tennessee.
The change, however, was not to her what my father had hoped for, and in a few months, she passed away leaving him in a strange land with his little children. He could not rise above the sorrow and loss of one he loved so dearly. She had meant so much to him, smoothing out the rough places in life. The first years of their married life had been very prosperous and happy, but when the years of adversity came, she met them with her same sweet and gentle manner.
Our coming south so soon after the close of the war between the north and south was looked on as a very foolish move by our northern friends and relatives -The south being so hostile toward the north. We were very fortunate to settle in a community where they were very generous to us. And the short time my mother lived, she made many friends with her charming personality. As I have already said, my father could not rise from this great disappointment and sorrow. Life meant nothing to him. He loved us children, and as I remember, he was very affectionate. I can remember sitting on his lap, and how he would run his thin white hands through my curls. And at night, he would have brother Willie and me to come to his bed and say our prayers. He would whisper something to us about our mother. I never remember seeing him smile-just a sad face. He was taken to different health resorts, but to no avail. Grief robbed his body of the health it could have had. We children were soon separated. (pp. 2,3)
Nancy Jane died about 1873 and John in about 1875 or 1876 in Loudon, Tennessee. After his death, his daughter, Fannie, married William Churchill Waller on March 14, 1877. Frank Leyburn left for Knoxville to study architecture. Willie and Jennie were left to live with their grandparents, Benjamin and Ann Irving. The 1880 United States Federal Census shows a J.R. Irving (not Benjamin ?), N.A. Irving, F.I. Leyburn, W.H. Leyburn, and J.M Leyburn in Loudon, Loudon, Tennessee. I think this is definitely the grandparents along with John and Nancy’s children, Frank, Willie, and Jennie. Jennie Leyburn Harris does not mention her sister, Mary, in her memoir or the other two unnamed siblings. It is possible they died in childhood.
Ancestry.com. 1860 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.
Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010. 1880 U.S. Census Index provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints © Copyright 1999 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. All use is subject to the limited use license and other terms and conditions applicable to this site.
Harris, Jennie Leyburn, History of my family and events in my own life.