Harrison L. Lay

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Harrison L. Lay

Birthplace: Somerset, Pulaski County, Kentucky, United States
Death: January 24, 1909 (85)
at the home of his daughter, Mary Frances Lay Grisham, at Whitehead, Lauderdale County, Alabama, United States (la grippe (now called influenza))
Place of Burial: Rogersville, Lauderdale County, Alabama, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Harrison Lay and Peggy Lay
Husband of Susan Lay; Nancy Mack Donaldson Lay and Elizabeth Lay
Father of Jefferson Perry Lay; Mary Frances "Frank" Grisham; Leenora A. Smith and Sarah Bell Scoggin

Military Service: Col. (CSA)
Managed by: Glen W. Balzer
Last Updated:

About Harrison L. Lay

Harrison L. Lay was born in 1823 in Somerset, Pulaski County, Kentucky, to Harrison and Peggy Lay who were probably both born in North Carolina. In 1839 at a very young age, Harrison married Susan Woolsey, daughter of George Woolsey and Jane Hall. The surety for the marriage was Burrell Lay who was probably Harrison's grandfather. The couple, along with their children and some other family members, migrated to Troy, Lincoln County, Missouri about 1854, where Harrison worked as a mail carrier. They had quite a few children by 1860. Children listed living with them in the 1850 and 1860 census records were:

  • Anna J. Lay
  • Jefferson Perry Lay
  • Elizabeth "Sibby" Lay
  • Richard/Richmond H. Lay
  • Jane, Andrew J. Lay
  • Mary Lay
  • Elizabeth L. Lay
  • Erasmus Lay It's not known for certain whether all of these were their children since the 1850 list of children doesn't match the 1860 list very well.

Harrison joined the Confederate States Army (Co C 2nd Missouri Regt) in 1861 and was in several battles. He was wounded severely in the leg and ankle in an accident involving a run-away team of horses.

It is unclear what happened to Harrison's wife, Susan, and their children during and after the war but (almost) no records have been found for them. They might have been killed during the war. Missouri was very divided in their loyalties during the war and in northeast Missouri where the Lays lived, there were a lot of hostilities toward southern sympathizers. Many civilians were killed in the area.

The only child of Harrison and Susan that has been traced is one of their sons, Jefferson Perry Lay, who joined the US Army although his father was serving in the Confederate States army. Some citizens in northeast Missouri, even though southern sympathizers, were "trapped" as it were, in the north part of the state due to the federal troops' presence along the Missouri River. They were unable to get across the river to join with the southern army. Some of the young men in the area were forced to join the US army. This might not have been the case with Jefferson Perry Lay, but it might explain why he joined the US army while his father was serving in the Confederate army. Unfortunately, Jefferson died from typhoid fever just a few weeks after he mustered in for service, and is buried in Jefferson City National Cemetery.

At the close of the war in 1865, Harrison and Nancy Mack Weathers Donaldson were married by J.D. Stockton, a Methodist Episcopal Church minister, in Lewisburg, Conway Co AR. Nancy Mack was from Lauderdale County, Alabama, the daughter of William P. "Big Bill" Weathers and Mary Ann Burney, and had been married previously to Napoleon Bonaparte "Boney" Donaldson but that marriage ended in divorce. Harrison and Nancy lived for a while in Arkansas where their daughter Lenoria A. "Nora" Lay was born and then moved to Lauderdale County, Alabama where two more daughters Mary Frances "Frank" Lay and Sarah Elizabeth "Bettie" Lay were born. Nancy died in about 1881 and it is believed that the three daughters were then raised by their mother's spinster sister, Becky Weathers.

After Nancy Mack's death, Harrison married Elizabeth McCartney in Lauderdale County in 1882. At the age of about 43, it was the first marriage for her. Harrison was already almost 60 years old at the time but the marriage lasted almost 27 years until the time of Harrison's death in 1909.

Harrison died at the home of his daughter, Mary Frances (Lay) Grisham. The cause of death was repeated bouts of la grippe, known today as "the flu". The old log cabin where he died is still standing near the Toonerville/Whitehead communities of Lauderdale County, Alabama. His grave is unmarked but his death certificate states he was buried at Hurricane Cemetery. Harrison's death announcement in the newspaper calls him "Col. Harrison L. Lay" and members of the family say the community called him "The Colonel" although as far as it can be told he was only a private during the war. It's suspected that "Colonel" was actually a given name because other members of the Lay family have used "Colonel" as a given name.

Harrison and Nancy's daughter, Nora, married John/Joneous Simpson Smith and went to live in Texas and raised a large family there. They are buried in Brown County, Texas in Pleasant Valley Cemetery.

Harrison and Nancy's daughter, Mary Frances "Frank", married Andrew Elvis Grisham and remained in Lauderdale County, Alabama where they raised a large family. They are buried at Harvey Cemetery.

Harrison and Nancy's daughter, Bettie, married Robert E. Lee Scoggins and moved to Jackson County, Arkansas where they raised a large family. They are buried at Sand Hill Cemetery in that county.

From the 1880 federal census, Harrison Lay lived with his wife and daughters in Lauderdale County, Alabama. The family at the time consisted of:

  • Head Harrison Lay 55
  • Wife Nancy M. Lay 50
  • Daughter Lenoria A. Lay 14
  • Daughter Mary F. Lay 12
  • Daughter Sarah B. Lay 7



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Harrison L. Lay's Timeline

March 4, 1823
Somerset, Pulaski County, Kentucky, United States
Pulaski County, Kentucky, United States
January 28, 1866
Lauderdale County, Alabama, United States
March 20, 1866
Conway County, Arkansas, United States
August 26, 1871
Decatur, Lauderdale County, Alabama, United States
January 24, 1909
Age 85
at the home of his daughter, Mary Frances Lay Grisham, at Whitehead, Lauderdale County, Alabama, United States
Hurricane Cemetery, Rogersville, Lauderdale County, Alabama, United States