Nathan Bryan Whitfield (1799-1868) was born in Lenore County, North Carolina in 1799. He was educated at the University of North Carolina and later served in the state legislature. In 1819, he married his first cousin, Elizabeth (Betsey) Whitfield. After searching the southeast for fertile and inexpensive farm land, he decided to purchase land in Alabama. He moved his family to the area in 1834. Tragedy stuck in 1842 in the form of a yellow fever epidemic that took the lives of three of the Whitfield children. Searching for a healthier environment he purchased property near Demopolis, Alabama, from George Strother Gaines and moved the family into the small dog-trot cabin in 1843.

Elizabeth (Betsey) Whitfield (1801-1846) and Nathan Bryan Whitfield had twelve children. Betsey dedicated herself to raising her family and running the plantation home. She saw the completion of the dining room and parlor before she died in 1846 at the age of 45 of a digestive illness.

In 1857, Whitfield married Elizabeth (Bettie) Whitfield who had come to Gaineswood to help care for the children after Betsey’s death. Nathan and Bettie had one daughter.

Bryan Watkins Whitfield (1828-1908) was the son of Nathan and Betsey. He was a physician and served as a surgeon for the Confederacy during the Civil War. After the war, Bryan practiced medicine in the Demopolis area. He and his wife, Mary Alice Foscue Whitfield, purchased Gaineswood from his father in 1866.

Continue to Contributions of Enslaved Workers

*Photos Courtesy: Alabama Historical Commission Archives

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