Oliver Perry Curbow was my husband’s great-great grandfather. In many ways, Oliver is more of a mystery to me than is his father Tilman P. Curbow. Oliver has been illusive – and the information we have on him has been difficult to locate. As I began researching the life of Oliver, it became quickly apparent to me that he lived a very transient lifestyle – never putting down roots – moving often, probably out of sheer necessity – always scrambling to make a living and more than likely never accumulating many material possessions. I think he must have led a very difficult life suffering the loss of two of his children in childhood – and then watching the remaining children struggle in their own personal lives. Through all of this, I would call Oliver Perry Curbow a survivor – having lived through some of the most turbulent events in American history – the Civil War and the Reconstruction-era of the south.
Oliver was born on October 18th sometime in the early 1840s in Georgia. (His Texas Death Certificate says 1840 – but I believe this is not correct. For my research purposes I use 1845. It should be noted that in every census year where Oliver was enumerated – he supplied a different birth year ranging from as early as 1837 to as late as 1847.) Oliver was the oldest son of Tilman Curbow and Elizabeth Box. During that time period, the Curbow family seemingly had a large presence in Gwinnett, Jackson, Paulding and Hall Counties – all located in north Georgia. None of my research has yielded a clue as to exactly where in Georgia Oliver Perry Curbow was born.
Oliver came west with his family – first to Itawamba, Mississippi then later to Ouachita County, Arkansas – then to Bowie County where the family waited out the Civil War Years.
We do not know what effect the five-year Civil War period had on our Curbow family. We do know that Oliver Perry Curbow, along with his mother and younger siblings, spent the war years in Bowie County, Texas with Oliver’s uncle, Wiseman Curbow and family. (The oral family history indicates that Wiseman Curbow was an overseer on a large Georgia plantation. He arrived in Texas with his young son Tilman David Curbow in about 1850 and was already settled near Simms in Bowie County, Texas.) We also know that Oliver’s father, Tilman P. Curbow, served in the Confederate States Army where he can be found in the muster rolls for both Arkansas and Texas.
I often think about the burden that Oliver’s mother, Elizabeth Box Curbow, must have faced as she saw her husband off to war. During that period the woman was considered the soul of the home (they still are!). Upon her fell the duty of managing the household, bearing and raising the children – and in rural communities the women would very often manage the farms and plantations on top of all that. Keep in mind also, at this time in history, “a lady” was not to leave the house without a gentleman escort; could not sign a contract on her own behalf; could not own property; and could not vote. During the Civil War period, women out of necessity picked up the harnesses that their husbands had laid down. The southern home during the Civil War was a place of severe hardship, constant fear and heartache.
Many years later Oliver Perry Curbow’s wife, Harriet Emeline McGuire, would file a Widow’s Pension Application for benefits in the State of Oklahoma. In this application she stated that Oliver Perry Curbow enlisted into the Confederate Army in 1861 out of Bowie County, Texas. (If the 1840 birth year is correct (which I do not believe it is), Oliver would have been 21 years old in 1861 – more likely he was about 16.) Major General C. H. Bridges by return correspondence to Harriet Curbow dated Sept. 10, 1931 states that Oliver Perry Curbow was not found on the muster rolls for the Confederate States Army during this time period, and it was concluded that he had not served the Confederacy, and her application for pension was therefore denied.
Below is an excerpt of a letter written by K.F. Rudisill (this person is the son-in-law of Harriet’s brother) on Harriet’s behalf in 1931:
“Dear Sir: I knew Oliver Perry Curbow. He visited my home when I was 9 years old, and I’ve had a neighbor that served in the Civil War, and these two old men would sit on our porch and talk about the war for hours at a time. I was too small to think of ever needing to remember their different companies and all that stuff and our neighbor, Mr. Sam Taylor, has been dead for several years. And Mrs. Curbow is so feeble in mind and body you can’t get much information from her. I hope you will do all you can for her, if any one ever needed a pension, Mrs. Curbow does. Thanking you in advance for a favor kindness. Yours respectfully, K. F. Rudisill, Box 256, Caddo, Oklahoma.”
At this point in time, I feel fairly comfortable in saying that Oliver Perry Curbow did not serve in the Civil War. The military has no record of him and no muster records exist to prove his service. It is interesting though that the family – or at least his wife – believed that he had served – maybe Oliver was a bit of a story-teller ?!
Oliver lived out his life with his wife Harriet where they raised six known children in various north Texas counties. (William David Curbow; Charles Franklin Curbow; Edwin Perry Curbow; and Taudia Mae Curbow; two are unidentified and thought to have died in childhood: M. E. born 1872; and B. H. born 1878).
Oliver Perry Curbow was about 76 years old when he died on March 29, 1921 at 4:00 a.m. in the morning in Denison, Grayson County, Texas. His physician states that the cause of death was chronic interstitial nephritis – and that he had been ill with this condition for four years. He was specifically treating Oliver from Jan. 20, 1921 until the day of his death. Nephritis is a kidney disorder.
The missing piece of the puzzle that remains to be found is the burial location of Oliver Perry Curbow – as much confusion exists surrounding the burial location of Oliver. The burial date of March 30, 1921 is provided by his Texas death certificate. The undertaker was George Shields. However, Oliver’s burial location is disputed. The death certificate states that Oliver is buried in Fairview Cemetery. This cemetery is a very large one managed by the City of Denison (who has maintained the burial records from the cemetery’s inception to present and is adamant that the index is complete and accurate). The City states that Oliver Perry Curbow is not listed in their index of burials at Fairview Cemetery.
As I bring Oliver’s life story to a close it is my hope that one day very soon his descendents will be able to stand at Oliver’s grave to honor his memory. I wonder if he could have ever imagined that we would be looking for him so many years later?
The days of long ago with all the hardships
With all the inconveniences
With all the vicissitudes, and with all their loneliness, passed;
We would not return to them if we could, yet they were days of happiness.
Excerpt from the life story of J. E. Gates – Grayson County, Texas – 1872
Read more about Oliver Perry Curbow here.
- Edwin Perry Curbow (curbowfamily.wordpress.com)