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The Seals Family

Lucenia Mullins


Lucenia Mullins
Lucenia Mullins

Lucenia Mullens was born on Feb. 7, 1833 according to her headstone at Howard Quarter Cemetery in Claiborne Co., Tenn. The 1900 census, however, indicated she was born in February 1832. Other census records could back up either date and a few others. We're not completely sure of Lucenia's last name at birth nor of the last name she chose to use at various times in her life. The 1850 census indicated that her last name was Mullins and that she was born in Tennessee. Despite having several children beginning in the late 1850s, her last name remained Mullins in the 1860 census and Mullens in the 1870 census. After her marriage to Allen Butler in 1878, Lucenia was still listed with the last name Mullins in the 1880 census. However, she used the last name Butler in the 1900 and 1910 censuses (see below). Upon her death in 1910, the last name placed on her headstone was Lawson. Her daughter Martha Jane's 1877 marriage record indicated that her name was Martha J. Lawson. Martha Jane's 1925 death certificate indicated that her mother's maiden name was Lucinda Lawson and her father was Jim Robertson. Her two youngest daughters' 1957 and 1958 death certificates indicated their mother's maiden name was unknown to the informants; one indicated that her father's last name was Mullins. These last two records are not particularly unusual since the informants were being asked to recall names that were likely not discussed in decades. Because her last name remained Mullins in census records, many researchers speculate that she had common law marriages and chose to keep her last name Mullins or that the enumerators simply made mistakes and assumed she was a Mullins since she was living with her presumed parents, William and Tabitha Mullins. We'll have more to say about William and Tabitha Mullins and their relationship to Lucenia below.

What's in a Name?

This brings us to the question as to why Lucenia's children were not in agreement about her last name. Lucenia's first daughter, Delaney (Laney) Jane's last name on her 1874 marriage record was Shultz, thus adding one more name to the mix. Many researchers say Lucenia Mullins married Jake (Jacob) Shultz and Delaney Jane was the product of that marriage. The only marriage record we've found for Lucenia was recorded in Claiborne Co., Tenn. on June 26, 1878 when she married Allen Butler. While her name on that record was Celea or Cena Mullens, we are confident this is Lucenia Mullins since she appeared in the 1900 and 1910 censuses as Lucenia Butler, widow. Curiously, the 1880 census taken two years after her marriage indicated she was still using the last name Mullins and she was divorced. Since this is the first census in which she was listed as the head of household, we assume Mullins was the last name she provided to the enumerator. As for being divorced, that field required a forward slash for Widowed and a D for Divorced. Given the strange way this enumerator wrote his capital D's, it's possible he initially marked it as Divorced and then corrected it to Widowed. We do not know at this time when Allen Butler died.

Based on the records found so far for Lucenia Mullins, the following timeline can be constructed regarding names other than Mullins/Mullens that she used or were recalled by others:

The death certificates for Lucenia's grandchildren by way of James Washington and Laney Jane (Mullins) Seal also showed a split on the maiden name of their mother. The informants for Maude and George W. believed it was Mullins; the informant for Orvil believed it was Lawson.

Who Were the Parents of Lucenia Mullins?

The 1850 census contains a few clues regarding the parentage of Lucenia Mullins. It lists 18 year old Luceny Mullens and five siblings living with William and Tabitha Mullens in Claiborne Co., Tenn. William Mullens, age 42, had been born in Tennessee and Tabitha, age 36, had been born in Virginia. The two oldest children, Hannibal and Luceny, were born in Tennessee; the four youngest in Virginia. In a search for earlier records for William Mullins, we found only three William Mullens/Mullins living in Tennessee according to the 1840 census and only one of them, William Mullins of Greene County was living in east Tennessee. Marriage records for Greene County showed that William Mullins had married Peggy Bailey on Nov. 12, 1827. A comparison of the 1830 census and 1840 census for William Mullins of Greene County to the 1850 census for William Mullens of Claiborne County, suggested a possible match; however, in checking later census records, we're confident we found William Mullins of Greene County living in Washington Co., Tenn. in the 1860 census. He was the right age, his wife was named Margaret (the formal named for Peggy) and one of the children had a middle initial "B." Researchers believe this child's full name was Martin Bailey Mullins which would mean that Peggy's maiden name was given to that child. Since our William Mullins was clearly living in Claiborne County in 1860, this took the Greene County William Mullins out of the running as the father of Lucenia Mullins. There were several Mullins families living in nearby Hawkins Co., Tenn. according to the 1830 and 1840 censuses. It may be that William Mullins was either living with one of those families or was simply missed by the enumerator in 1840 when he would have likely been living on his own with at least two children.

What does this mean for determining the parents of Lucenia Mullins? When we look at several primary records of this period and later (most of which are discussed above), we can likely draw several conclusions. Since Lucenia was born in Tennessee (per the 1850 census) and Tabitha was born in Virginia and had children who were born in Virginia up until 1848 (per the 1850 census), it's not likely that Tabitha was Lucenia's mother. If Hannibal Mullins's mother was Bettie Sulfridge as his 1923 death certificate) indicated, it may be that Bettie Sulfridge was also the mother of Lucenia Mullins. One caveat regarding Hannibal's death certificate is that the informant, the head of the household in which Hannibal was living, does not appear to have been related to him; however, Hannibal's wife was living in the same household, so the mother's maiden name may have been her recollection. Since both a child (Martha Jane) and a grandchild (Orvil Seals) of Lucenia Mullins believed their mothers' maiden name was Lawson (see death certificates above) and Lucenia's headstone indicated her last name was Lawson, it is also possible that William Mullins and an unknown Lawson were the parents of Lucenia. Many researchers have speculated that Tabitha's maiden name or previous married name was Lawson. We've seen no primary records that support this claim. However, if the 1850 census was wrong and Lucenia was actually born in Virginia, then it's possible that she was the daughter of Tabitha Lawson and was brought into her marriage with William Mullins. In either case, Lucenia would have gone by the name Lucenia Lawson for the first fifteen years of her life and could have made that fact known to her children. One other possibility is that Lucenia had a lengthy relationship with a Lawson at some point in her life, but so far, no records of such a relationship have been found.

The Children of Lucenia Mullins

Lucenia Mullins
Lucenia Mullins and her Children

According to the 1900 and 1910 censuses, Lucenia Butler had given birth to five children and four were still living. Her surviving children were:

We cannot be sure of the name of Lucenia's child who died before 1900. That child may never have appeared in a census or any other record. For children who did appear in census records, the most likely candidate is Brownlow Mullins who was born in 1856 and appeared in only the 1860 census. At the time of his birth, Tabitha would have been 41 or 42 and Lucenia would have been 23 or 24. Unfortunately, relationship to head of household was not provided in the 1860 census. Given the fact that the Seals were staunch Unionists, Brownlow was likely named for William Gannaway "Parson" Brownlow who was a newspaper publisher, Methodist minister and fierce opponent of secession long before the Civil War began. He became Governor of Tennessee at the end of the war and helped Tennessee become the first Confederate state to be readmitted to the Union in 1866.

Lucenia's Second Chapter - Life with Children and Grandchildren

By the 1870 census, Lucenia's family was complete as far as surviving children were concerned. Lucenia (Lawson) Butler continued to live near most of her children in Claiborne County until her death in 1910. According to her headstone at Howard Quarter Cemetery in Claiborne Co., Tenn., Lucenea Lawson died on May 16, 1910. We have not seen a death certificate to confirm her date of death.

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