Tombstone Tuesday: The “Ocean Sisters” of Johnson County, Tennessee

TombstoneTuesday     Andrew Garfield Shoun and Elizabeth Powell married in 1817 and began raising a family in 1818 with the birth of their first child Andrew.  Then came George Hamilton (1822), Rachel Catherine (1823), Isaac Harvey (1825) and Joseph Nelson (1827).  In 1829 their first “Ocean” daughter, Elizabeth Atlantic Ocean, was born, followed by Mary and another “Ocean” daughter, Barbary Pacific Ocean, in 1834.  They rounded out their family with Elva Olivene (1836) and Frances Eve (1838).

Most of their children had somewhat “normal” names like Andrew, George and Mary, but for some reason they blessed two of their daughters with middle names of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  Elizabeth was obviously named after her mother.  Barbary, according to will records, appears to have been a family name (her grandmother was named either Barbara or Barbary).

Elizabeth Atlantic Ocean Shoun

Elizabeth Atlantic Ocean was born on April 8, 1829 in Johnson County, Tennessee.  In 1850 she was still residing with her parents and siblings at the age of twenty-one.  She married Isaac Rambo later that decade on December 7, 1856; he was twenty-three and she twenty-seven.  Their names appeared on their marriage license, dated December 5, as Isaac Rambow and Atlantic Shown.

Census records indicate that Isaac and Atlantic never had children.  However, her nieces and nephews called Atlantic “Aunt Tackie” – supposing that “Aunt Tackie” was easier to pronounce than “Atlantic”.  They had no children of their own, but their lives later became intertwined with Pacific and her family.

Barbary Pacific Ocean Shoun

Barbary Pacific Ocean was born on May 12, 1834 in Johnson County.  In 1850, she and Atlantic were enumerated with their full names on that year’s census.  At the age of nineteen, Pacific married John Roe Gentry on December 11, 1853.  Her name appeared as “Pecific O. Shown” on their marriage license.  So, apparently the sisters went by their “ocean names”.  To her nieces and nephews she was known as “Aunt Siffie” – again supposing that “Aunt Siffie” was easier to pronounced than “Pacific”.

On March 19, 1854, Isaac Lafayette Gentry was born.  He would go by the nickname “Fate”.   Another son, Robert Phillip, was born on January 2, 1856, followed by Thomas who was born in 1859.  Thomas was enumerated as “Thomas A.R.N. Gentry” on the 1860 census and since no other record of him seems to exist, it is presumed that he died as a young child.  Pacific was enumerated as “Barbara P.O.”

Pacific’s life took an unfortunate turn when John, presumably called to serve in the Civil War, never returned.  According to family history she also suffered a paralyzing stroke, although it is unclear exactly when that occurred.  Her sons Isaac and Robert were then raised by their Aunt Tackie.  Family historians also believe that Atlantic cared for Pacific, and while Isaac and Atlantic went into town on Saturdays their gardener would rape Pacific.  The man was run out of town, but supposedly Pacific became pregnant and had another son, but the gardener was forced to take him to raise.

This may or not be what really happened, but for some reason Pacific wasn’t enumerated in the 1870 census with her children Isaac and Robert who were living with Isaac and Atlantic Rambo.  This record was a little difficult to locate because the person who transcribed the record listed Isaac and Atlantic as “Isaac and Atlantie Rennels” – although the actual record clearly reads “Rambo”.

However, by 1880 Isaac Gentry was married with a young family of two and Pacific was living with them.  It is likely she remained with Isaac and his family for the remainder of her life.  Although I found no official records, family historians believe Pacific died on October 22, 1892 and was buried in the Wilson Cemetery, the same one where Atlantic is buried, although Find-A-Grave lists only Atlantic.

Back to Atlantic.  Following her husband Isaac’s death in 1899 she lived with Robert Gentry and his family and was enumerated with them in 1900.  Apparently Isaac Rambo had been well off because in 1910, Atlantic was enumerated at the age of eighty-two with her “own income” and two servants, N. Hamilton and Dora S. Blackburn.  Nephew Lafayette (Fate) Gentry lived nearby.  Elizabeth Atlantic Ocean Shoun Rambo died on April 6, 1912, just two days before her eighty-third birthday.

AtlanticShounRamboGraveIt would be interesting to know why Andrew and Elizabeth Shoun gave these two daughters such unusual names.  It seems to have forged a bond between the two sisters, perhaps because of their unique names.  Certainly, when circumstances called for it, Atlantic was there for her younger sister Pacific – caring both for her and her sons, who in turn kept an eye on their Aunt Tackie in her old age.  Isn’t that really what families are (or should be) all about?

 Everyone have a great day — someday it will be history!

© Sharon Hall (History Depot), 2014.


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