Person:Joel Flanegan (3)

Joel Sansing FLANEGAN
d.14 Mar 1933 Anniston, AL
  1. Joel Sansing FLANEGAN1845 - 1933
  • HJoel Sansing FLANEGAN1845 - 1933
  • WLucy MELTON1860 - 1926
  1. Dorcus FLANEGAN1882 -
  2. Leah FLANEGAN1888 -
  3. Rachel FLANEGAN1889 -
  4. Alexander S. FLANEGAN1891 -
Facts and Events
Name Joel Sansing FLANEGAN
Gender Male
Birth? 20 Sep 1845 Paulding County, Georgia
Marriage to Lucy MELTON
Marriage to Harriet "Hattie" WRIGHT
Death? 14 Mar 1933 Anniston, AL
Burial? Edgemont Cemetery, Anniston, Alabama

"Like father, like son" -- an old saying, but so often true.Joel Sansing Flanegan's father, Dr. Joel L. Flanegan, hadconceived his namesake out of wedlock by his wife's teenagesister, and the boy unquestionably grew up with the stigma thatillegitimacy in that time and place always carried. Whatrelationship, if any, he had with his father is unknown, but itis known that his mother Dorcas Sansing died before he turnedfourteen. Only a few years after this, family tradition tellsand records confirm that he ran away to join the ConfederateArmy, perhaps to make something of his life, prove his worth, ormaybe just kill somebody. He became a courier and scout in the1st Georgia Cavalry, ultimately under the command of Gen.Wheeler, and he certainly saw much action in the battles forChattanooga and as Sherman marched to the sea.

The story goes that when the war ended and the wearyConfederates went back to their homes, Joel -- now but 20 yearsold -- also headed back to Polk Co. to build a new life, both ofhis parents now dead. It is said that as he walked by aplantation home near his own birthplace, he saw the world's mostbeautiful girl and fell in love at first sight. Her name wasHattie Wright, and while no known record exists of theirmarriage, they must have married within but a few years, for inMarch 1870, their oldest child Dora Elizabeth was born. It islikely that they lived on the Wright plantation. Two morechildren would follow in 1872 and 1875, and then tragedy struck.Due to complications with her third pregnancy, Hattie became aninvalid, bed-ridden for life. The harshness of real life settleddown on the young Flanegan household.

What happened next, or more to the point, why it happened, isnot fully known. Perhaps young Joel felt trapped -- tied down toa wife who could never live a normal life again and to threeyoung children who looked to him to care and provide for them.One day in 1877, while most on the Wright plantation were abouttheir work, one of Hattie's relatives opened the wrong door andfound Joel in the midst of love-making with a seventeen year oldwhite servant girl named Lucy Melton. In no time, there was agun being pointed at the young lover and his mistress ... "Getthe hell out of Georgia, and if you ever come back, we'll killyou!"

It was an "offer" that could not be refused! Joel and Lucy left,fleeing to the Renfroe community of Talladega Co., Alabama,where they lived together for the next few years, having threechildren out of wedlock by September 1882. No divorceproceedings ever came to court, though it seems that some legalaction was taken against Joel by early 1882, when the Polk Co.[Georgia] Superior Court Minutes (1881-1883, p. 341) record thata state charge of "adultery and fornication" was brought againsthim, presumably at the instigation of the Wrights, but wasdismissed in February 1882 due to insufficient evidence toconvict. Perhaps the two illegitimate children (one surviving)that Joel and Lucy had had already were inadmissible asevidence! Libel charges and counter-charges between Joel andspokesmen for his estranged wife Hattie surfaced a few monthslater, but were dismissed as well in August of the same year(p.402).

There is no telling how long this could have gone on, but forHattie's death only a month later, on September 18, 1882. Thecause of her death is, at present, unknown, but the effect wasalmost immediate: Joel and Lucy married three weeks later inPolk Co. on October 9th. All together -- before and after theirmarriage -- they had 12 (per JGallagher, 1900 census says shehad only 10 children) children together, only four of whomsurvived early childhood. Relations were strained, to say theleast, with Joel's first children, due no doubt in part to thepowerful influence of the Wrights, and particularly of Hattie'sbrother Benjamin, the prominent physician and state legislator.It was a tragic life for Joel and Lucy in many ways, filled withbitter poverty, but nevertheless their marriage lasted 43 yearsto Lucy's death in Anniston, Alabama in 1926. Joel joined her in1933. Even today, their tombstone can be found at EdgemontCemetery in Anniston and a small picture plate, set into thestone, serves as a durable reminder of younger days and anunlikely lasting love.