The Mystery of Miss Killian

I have been researching the mysterious Miss Killian who was part of a story included at the end of my previous  Life in the Past Lane post, Major Brown’s Journey: Part One.

Curious as to who the Miss Killian might be that received a young magnolia tree from my second great grandfather, Brown Garrison, I went back to the book The History of Ebenezer Presbyterian Church by Sam Mendenhall (1963). It was a wealth of information on the people who were involved with the church. Unfortunately, I did not discover any information on who Miss Killian might have been, nor did I locate any information on a Killian family.

I next consulted the Directory of Ebenezer Presbyterian Church Cemetery (1995). I had been given  a copy by a church employee when I briefly visited the church in 2003. Oh, if I had known then about research what I know now! I would have spent a lot more time there. The booklet lists all of the individuals interred at the historic cemetery.


There were only four Killians listed, and two were under the age of 20 when they passed. I concentrated on researching Henry and Martha Killian, whom I presumed were likely to be husband and wife. I would like to note how sad I was to see that Robert was only 5 years old at his passing, and William was 17 years old. Perhaps he was killed during a Civil War battle in which he served as a Confederate soldier. Assuming Henry and Martha were their parents, I can only imagine the grief they may have suffered losing two young children, especially one as young as five. Certainly not uncommon for the time.

Next, I went to the Census! It’s always a good place to start when you don’t have a lot of information. I was surprised at what I found. The Killian family are listed just above the Garrison family on the record!

1860 Census Header

1860 US Federal Census
1860 U.S. Federal Census Record, York County, SC- Source:

After finding Henry and Martha Killian, I had a good laugh. I can’t count the times I have looked at this particular record and never noticed that name before! Always look at who is on the pages of the census near your family! I then began looking at their ages. You can see that in the 1860 Census, Brown (MB) Garison is listed as being 16 years old and living with his parents, Peter and Cynthia (CL) Garison. I then looked to see if Henry and Martha had any daughters that would be around the same age as Brown. The two daughters listed were Mary E., 18, and Jane A., 16. Perhaps Jane was the Miss Killian from the story!

Not finding either Jane or Mary listed on the 1870 Census with their parents, I assumed that they most likely got married. I wasn’t able to initially find who they married in any documents, so I did a Google search. I discovered online that both history_buildingMary and Jane appeared to have attended the Yorkville Female College in York County and in 1858, Mary (Elizabeth) was a Junior and Jane (Ann) was a Sophomore. According to the McCelvey Center of the Culture and Heritage Museums of York County, the Yorkville Female College was “founded in 1852 by Bethel Presbytery. Built to accommodate 300 boarding students, the school was considered to be one of South Carolina’s leading schools for women. Other than for a short time when the building was closed during the Civil War, the building served as an educational facility until it closed in 1987.” (Photo right: Yorkville Female College, now the home of the McCelvey Center, York County, South Carolina.) 

I began looking for information about Mary and Jane’s marriages. Another general search found some personal research pages indicating that Mary had married James Temple Hall, a cousin of Brown Garrison on his mother’s Hall side. They married in 1865, presumably at the end of the Civil War. Jane married a J.F. (Frank) Barron. As I was certain that Jane was most likely the Miss Killian described in the magnolia tree story, I was surprised to find an  marriage date of September 1864, for her and Frank. While I have not been able to track down the documentation to verify that date, it was listed in a few locations online. The magnolia tree story from the Mendenhall book says it was around the year 1870 that Brown purchased the tree in Charleston and brought it to Miss Killian. I knew this date was very unlikely as Brown married Mary Jane in 1866 and moved to Arkansas in 1870, but thought it might be off by only a year or two. Now I am curious as to when this may have happened as I am sure Brown was very occupied during the years of the Civil War, and not likely to have been around York County.

It is interesting to note that it wasn’t only Brown and Mary Jane Garrison that moved to Arkansas. In researching both Mary and Jane Killian, I also discovered that they moved with their husbands to Monticello (Drew County), Arkansas around the same time.  Monticello is a neighboring town to Warren, Arkansas where Brown and Mary Jane settled. Jane and Frank Barron appear on the 1880 US Federal Census living in Monticello, as do Mary and James Temple Hall. In fact, they appear on the same page, indicating that they lived relatively close to each other on Hyatt Street. Census records show that Jane and Frank eventually moved to Marion County, Florida, where they were enumerated on the 1885 Florida Census. Mary and James stayed in Monticello, where they are buried in Oakland Cemetery.

Monticello Census

Jane Barron Census

Mary Hall Census
1880 US Federal Census- Source:

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to definitively determine which of the sisters may have been the mysterious Miss Killian, but I am glad to have uncovered their story. I feel it is very likely that Jane was the subject of the story given that she and Brown were closer in age. Certainly, stories get distorted and exaggerated over time. It is possible that parts of the story are entirely about the wrong people. Regardless, I still find the story charming and very likely to be true in spirit even if the timing may be off a few years. I plan to visit the magnolia tree one day and think about two young, hopeful individuals starting out in life and the paths they would eventually follow.


Copyright © 2015-2016 Beth Wylie and Life in the Past Lane. All rights reserved.








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