Search For Fannie Sims Granbury:
by Rebecca Drake, Mississippi Civil War historian; Mary Eddins Johnson,
When it comes to Civil War history and the wives of famous generals, no one has been more elusive than Fannie Sims Granbury, wife of General Hiram B. Granbury, 7th Texas Infantry. In 1861, Fannie accompanied her husband to war, traveling to Hopkinsville, Kentucky. After the fall of Fort Donelson in February of 1862, Granbury was taken prisoner. The odyssey that followed resulted in Fannie's disappearance, something that has puzzled historians for almost a century and a half.
Other than her marriage to H.B. Granberry/Granbury in 1858, little is known of Fannie's earlier life. She was born in Alabama in 1838 and migrated to Waco, Texas, where she met the native Mississippian, Hiram Granberry/Granbury. Hiram had graduated from Oakland College, Rodney, Mississippi, and moved to Texas in the early 1850s. While in Waco, he studied law and was admitted to the Texas bar, and served as chief justice of McLennan County. At the time of their marriage, Hiram was 27 years old and Fannie was 20.1
During the early years of their marriage, nothing was known regarding the personal life of Fannie. After Hiram B. left Waco to join the 7th Texas in Marshall, Fannie went on the move with him. As the troops marched for Tennessee and Kentucky, Fannie took up residence in the home of Stephen E. Trice, Hopkinsville, Kentucky.2 After the capture of many Confederate soldiers at Fort Donelson, Major Granbury petitioned U. S. Grant to give him time (before going to prison) to situate his wife who was staying in Clarksville, Tennessee. The petition was granted. For the first month of prison, Granbury was shuffled from Camp Douglas to Camp Chase. Finally, on March 6, 1862 he was taken to Fort Warren Prison in Boston Harbor, a prison primarily for Confederate officers. While Granbury was at Warren Prison, Fannie lived in Hagerstown, Maryland, at the residence of Mrs. Mary MacGill, wife of Hiram's prison mate, Dr. Charles MacGill. Some historians wrote that she became ill from exposure to the northern climate and died. This was not true. She became ill with cancer, but lived long enough to return south to die.3
The truth of Fannie's illness and Granbury's imprisonment can be found in a document from L. Thomas, Adjutant General, Washington, written to Col. J. Dimick, U. S. Army, Fort Warren, Boston, Massachusetts. The correspondence dated July 29, 1863, read: "The eight or nine prisoners referred to and those who have taken the oath of allegiance will not be sent to Fort Monroe. Parole Major Granbury, of Texas, that he may attend his wife while having a surgical operation performed at Baltimore,…"4 As it turns out, Fannie never had the surgery at Baltimore Hospital, most likely because her condition, ovarian cancer, was too advanced.
Adding to the insight on Fannie's condition are the letters that were written between Dr. Charles MacGill and his wife, Mary MacGill, during the time Fannie was their house guest in Hagerstown These letters reveal personal insight into Fannie's illness and suffering as she waited at the MacGill home for Hiram to be released from prison.
Over the course of the years, perhaps stemming as far back as her marriage in 1858, Fannie had begun to experience health problems. After arriving in Hagerstown, the problems became acute and Dr. Smith, a renowned surgeon at the hospital in Baltimore, examined her for her condition. Hiram had received early parole so he was able to meet with her, the first week of August, 1862, to see Dr. Smith. Even though there are no medical records, it is obvious that Dr. Smith's diagnosis was advanced, inoperable, ovarian cancer. Fannie, age 24, would only have months to live.5
Hiram returned south with the
rest of the 7th Texas where he began recruiting in Texas. Texas remained
in the home of the MacGill family in Hagerstown where she would be loved
and cared for. Finally, in October of 1862, Hiram took a train to
Hagerstown and brought Fannie back to her father's home in Tuscaloosa,
Alabama. Fannie lingered as the war raging around her. Finally, on March
20, 1863, eleven days before her 5th wedding anniversary, she passed away.
She was 25 years old at the time of her death. Her funeral was March 21
from the Providence Infirmary in Mobile but there were few to mourn her
departure. In fact, it's not even clear from Civil War records if Hiram
had attended her funeral. Because of poverty brought about by the war,
there was no money for a headstone, so she was buried in an unmarked grave
in Magnolia Cemetery.6
In June, 2001, after studying documents relating to Fannie Sims Granbury, efforts were made to find her grave. Working with only the fact that she could have died in Columbus (Ohio), Sandusky (Ohio), Baltimore (Maryland), Waco (Texas), or Mobile (Alabama), the search was begun. In January 2002, "Mrs. Fannie Granbury" was found to be listed in the 1863 burial records in Mobile Alabama.8
Having located the city of her burial, a search for Fannie was fully engaged and a professional archivist/genealogist was placed in charge of the research. A death certificate was found in the Sexton Report of Death Records - giving the cause (ovarian cancer) and age (25) at the time of her death. The cemetery lot was found to be one in Magnolia Cemetery, where Fannie had been placed in an unmarked grave 139 years before. The lot had been purchased by someone named Redmond. Presumably, since Fannie was destitute, a friend offered a burial spot.9
Even though it seemed apparent that Mrs. Fannie Granbury was the wife of Gen. H. B. Granbury, further proof was needed to document the finding. Only an obituary or death notice would provide the final and ultimate proof. This was found by researcher, Mary Eddins Johnson, when she began an all-out search for a March 21, 1863, issue of the Mobile Advertiser and Register. Originally, a copy of this newspaper had been in the Mobile Archives but for some reason, the copy was missing. Mary Eddins Johnson proceeded to search in the state of Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia for a copy of the paper. A copy was finally found in the Auburn University Library Archives. The death notice of Mrs. Fannie Granbury was short but exactly enough to identify her as the young wife of Col. H. B. Granbury. "On yesterday, at 11'oclock A. M., Mrs. Fannie Granbury, aged 25 years. Wife of Col. H. B. Granbury, 7th Regiment Texas Infantry. The funeral will take place from the Providence Infirmary, at 3 o'clock P.M. TODAY."10
1 McLennan County, Texas, marriage records, Vol. I (1850-1870) researched by Jane Embrose.
2 Confederate Veteran Magazine, "Mr. Steven E. Trice," Vol. 12, June, 1904. Researched by R. B. Drake.
3 Autograph album of Captain John Tower, 8th Georgia, where H. B. Granbury signed his album in July of 1862.
This was researched by Jane Embrose.
4 Correspondence from Records of the Civil War, Vol. 24, researched by James L. Drake.
5 Diagnosis of ovarian cancer found in Mobile death records, researched by Mary Eddins Johnson,
6 Research of death certificate and burial plot in Mobile, Alabama, Archives by Mary Eddins Johnson.
7 Confederate Veteran Magazine, Vol. 12, April 1904.
8 Researcher Edward J. Lanham found the city where Fannie Sims was buried.
9 March 21, 1863 edition of the Mobile Advertiser and Register, researched by Mary Eddins Johnson.
10 Researched by Mary Eddins Johnson.
Regarding the wife of General Granbury. There is absolutely no trace of the Sims family in Tuscaloosa, either before the war or after the war. The only reference to the fact that Fannie was an Alabaman was in her Mobile death record when she gave Tuscaloosa as home. Since there were no children, there was nothing that belonged to either Fannie or Hiram to be perpetuated through the years. When they died, almost everything was lost.
There has been no success in finding out anything regarding the Redmond family who purchased the cemetery plot in order to bury Fannie. Fannie Granbury remained the only person buried in the plot until 1900. Today, there is no trace of the original owners and no descendants know of the lot owners. For this reason, no headstone can be placed on the grave. This is a rule of historic Magnolia Cemetery. No headstone can be set without permission from the owner of the lot or descendants of the lot owner. Fannie will probably never have a headstone nor will she be moved to Granbury to be joined with her husband, Hiram.
Fannie Sims Granbury: Shrouded By Mystery
Seventh Texas Infantry: Generals John Gregg and Hiram Granbury
General Hiram B. Granbury/Granberry Genealogy
A Misleading Headstone Leads to the Search for General Hiram B. Granbury