A story of true love

Published 12:44 pm Wednesday, January 31, 2024

The month of February brings with it thoughts of love and romance as we celebrate Saint Valentine’s Day on the fourteenth, which reminds me of the timeless tale of a man named Wilson Barton, the woman whose memory he held dear and the memorial to that love he left behind.

Colonel Wilson Barton was a resident of the Tigerville community in Northern Greenville County back in the early years of the nineteenth century. He was also a leader in the antebellum State Militia of those days and a prominent farmer and landowner. About 1819 he married Mildah McKinney, the daughter of Alexander McKinney, another highly respected citizen of northern Greenville County. 

Wilson and Mildah were deeply in love and happily married. They raised a family of seven sons and three daughters. Life was good for the devoted young couple. But then a crisis shook the land.

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Beginning in 1828, and again in 1832, northern politicians, at the urging of northern industrialists, imposed crippling tariffs on imported goods from Europe that especially benefitted northern manufacturing, but hurt the South which depended so much on manufactured goods from England. The state of South Carolina reacted immediately and threatened to nullify the tariff, and if necessary, even take military action against the U.S. government. But many South Carolinians in the Upstate were strong Unionists and refused to support such radical measures. Wilson Barton was in that camp, and he suffered politically from the fallout of his strong Unionist sentiments. He was soon forced to resign his commission in the State Militia. It was at this point he began to seriously consider a move out of South Carolina. He had family who had moved to Texas, and they had sent back glowing reports about the land of the Lone Star.

Around the end of 1847, Barton began making plans for his move, but then on September 25, 1848, tragedy struck when his beloved wife and companion died. The death of his wife delayed any plans to leave South Carolina for a time. Mildah was laid to rest in the Tyger Baptist Church cemetery. And then finally a few years later in the fall of 1854, a wagon train of ten or fifteen families formed in Tygerville to make the long, arduous journey west. Williamson County, Texas would be their destination.

Not long before he left, Wilson Barton visited the grave of his wife, realizing he would never visit this sacred spot again. When he buried her, he went to the expense of building a brick crypt and placing a beautiful marble slab atop it, lovingly inscribed. And yet, he thought he needed to do more for this wonderful companion and mother of his children. 

And so today if you wander to the middle ground of the Tyger Baptist cemetery you will still find the impressive brick crypt and marble slab yet in place, but what will really catch your eye is a shelter that was erected over the grave of Mildah Barton. Constructed of sturdy black locust posts and covered over by a shingled roof, it stands out among the other ancient monuments in the old graveyard. 

Over the decades Barton family members have returned to Tyger to patch the roof or make other necessary repairs to the structure, but it still stands today after 170 years as a monument of a husband’s undying love for the woman he had to leave behind, reminding us true love never fails nor does it ever forget.