2. Levi Tennison

It’s an important day in our family today: it’s my stepson’s 18th birthday. I decided to use this landmark date as inspiration in finding an ancestor to write about for the 52 Ancestors challenge. So I looked at the calendar in my Family Tree Maker program and discovered that my stepson shares a birthday with his 4th great grandfather, Levi Tennison. I really did not know very much about this ancestor, so I did some digging. As it turned out, I found some very interesting reading.

Levi was born 181 years ago on January 19, 1833 in Illinois, possibly somewhere in Shelby County. His parents were Rutherford and Rhody (nee Whitfield). At some point, Levi, his parents and 6 siblings left Illinois. In 1850 they were found living in Carroll County, Arkansas.

Around 1854-1856, Levi married Elizabeth Jane Seals in Arkansas. Eleven children were born to them over the years.

Levi and his family moved around quite a bit. The family was found living in Bourbon County, Kansas from 1860-1870. Levi’s occupation was listed as “farmer.” Then in 1880, they were found living in Lampasas County, Texas.

Life seemed to have taken a curve once they began living in Texas. His oldest son, Joseph “J.W.” was ambushed and shot to death on April 16, 1886 while walking home outside of Comanche, Texas. Four men were arrested for the murder. Another son, William Edward, was arrested for theft of a horse, and was incarcerated at the Texas Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas on August 10, 1880, at the age of 15. However, he was pardoned by the governor on March 8, 1881, because of his youth.

By 1910, Levi and his wife were living in Wheeler County, Texas, near their daughter, Samantha. Levi’s occupation was listed as “clergyman.”

Levi continued to live in Wheeler until his death on September 3, 1920. He is buried in the Wheeler Cemetery alongside his wife. Their tombstone, although broken from the heat of a wildfire, clearly reads, “Rev. Levi L. Tenison.”

Levi and his family had been just names to me, until I had decided to delve more into his life this weekend. I especially interested in learning more about the tragic end of his son, Joseph and why a group of men would murder someone in a small, rural community. And how and when did Levi decide to become a clergyman? So many questions to find answers to!

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8 comments

  1. This came up on Google and I’m not sure of the date – is it January 2014? Anyway, I was looking at Joseph Tennison’s murder also today – my great grandmother was Levi Tennison’s half-sister Martha Jane. This is a very interesting family – their father Rutherford Tennison was married five times – he was also a minister. Some of the family spelled the name Tennyson, some Tennison. I have much information, and also need information, so if interested, please contact me.

    1. Hi Nancy, I had not done a lot of research on Rutherford Tennison and had no idea he married five times! I only was aware of his marriage to Rhody Whitfield. He sounds like a very interesting person. I would love to hear more about him. He is my husband’s 4th great grandfather.

    2. I’ve been looking for information for a long time about my grandfather’s Tennison line. My grandfather was Jesse Lonzo (Boss) Tennison and his father’s name was Joseph. The death certificate for Boss showed Scott as his mom’s maiden name. Since family lore was that Joseph’s middle name was possibly William or Perry (Boss named a son Perry), and that his wife was named Joanna, this sounds like a probable match. In our family lore, Joseph (or his dad) was ambushed and killed by the KKK for aiding a person of color. It’s likely that our Joseph died young because Jesse was with relatives at an early age. At least at census time. I believe he was once referred to as Elonas Tennison in a census. Jesse died relatively young, as well, when my father was about 12, of cancer. Also in our family stories, Joseph was married to a woman who had four husbands, two of whom were murdered and one who died of pneumonia. It is said that throughout 4 marriages, she only resided with living husbands about ten years of a long life.

      Comanche County marriage records show a J.W. Tennison marrying MJ Hawkins in Feb of 1884. Jesse was born in December of that year and I’ve read others’ comments on MJ Hawkins as being a married name of Mollie Jo Scott.

      If my Joseph is the one you are talking about, then Levi would be my great-great grandfather.

      Jesse and his wife, Wilma Ann Laird, spent several years in a covered wagon throughout Texas and Oklahoma. They had four sons: Victor, Burnes, Frank and Perry. They had a daughter who died very young.

      Jesse apparently had a sister named Ada but I have no information about her. I never heard of other siblings.

      I’m very interested in connecting Joseph to his true family line, whatever it is! I’m probably most interested in this Tennison line because I was born a Tennison but also because it has been so elusive.

    3. My great great grandfather was William Henry “W.H.” Tennison, he had a brother by the name of Joseph Tennison and a sister Annie Tennison, they came to Texas from Chesterfield, England with there father Ruben Tennison around 1849, William was 8, Joseph 6, Annie 4, they lived there youth in Huntsville, Texas. I have a copy of his English birth certificate.

      My Great great grandfather William Henry Tennison, later served in the Civil War Texas Confederate Co. E, 7th Reg, Trinity County. In his later years he moved to Comanche County, Texas in the community of Duster, between Comanche & DeLeon. He married 3 times, has 10 children, William died in Duster Comanche County in 1902 after a tree fell on him, he along with several family members are buried in the Sand Hill Cemetery in Duster on the old Scott Family land that was donated for a cemetery.

    4. I wondered for a long time if the W.H. Tennison family was in my direct line, due to the Comanche connection. My grandfather Jesse (Boss) Tennison married my grandmother in Duster, Comanche, TX in 1906. Reuben, W.H.’s father, was a clockmaker in England, I believe. You can still find his clocks and watches on auction sites. I only just discovered that it is Levi’s family that is my direct line and I’m very interested in knowing more about them. I’d like to know how (if) they are related to W.H. Tennison. Thanks to all who take the time to share.

  2. Patriciarohn … that sounded familiar. I checked my DNA matches on ancestry.com and yes, there you are. Your test on RR links us to levi. Your hubby through Sarah Alice Tennison and me through Parry Green Tennison.. small world.

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