- Middle initial seems to be "H." in family bible, but is "C." on his gravestone.
In 1850 "Jas. Strain," a "land dealer," appears living alone in Memphis, b. in abt 1818; this seems likely to be him. Preserved at Essex there is a deed for land in Tippah Co., Mississippi that he sold to a James and Martha Fort in in 1852; it lists him as "James Strain of Memphis, Tennessee." On the outside JL Sr has written, for some reason, "Sold to Gov. Joseph/James W. Matthews."
This is also likely to be him because he seems to have traveled away from his family; his mother lived across the state in Blount Co. He married in 1851 in DeSoto Co., Mississippi (just over the border from Tennessee), and in 1860 he is definitely in Sebastian Co., Arkansas, making a good living as a farmer, with just his daughter at this point--his wife having died from complications following childbirth seven years before. He is in Sulphur Township, on the northern edge of the county, where it borders the Arkansas River; the county was only formed in 1851. Because 1850 was the first census to list entire households, his wife barely registers on it; she appears only as "E Wimberly" in her father's household in 1850. [The census gives his location as "Sulphur Twp., Milar Post Office," though I don't see this location on this 1887 Sebastian Co. map.]
According to his grandson John Lansdale Sr.'s family memory, he "was a somewhat prominent man; was at one time Land Commissioner of Tennessee and at another time Land Commissioner of Arkansas. He had some connection with the Confederate Army and was addressed as Lieutenant Colonel though I am not certain what he did. My mother told me he was a rather important slave-owner. He settled in Memphis, married Miss Wimberly and my mother was born in 1852; her mother died at birth." He also notes in a 1920 letter that he was a Whig.
His daughter's gravestone calls him "Colonel," from his (presumably proud) connection with the Confederate Army from Tennessee--probably honorific, though possibly not. I can find no concrete record of his involvement in the war; a "J.H. Strain" fought for Arkansas during the war (in Griffith's "11th/17th Consolidated Regiment"), and a "James B. Strain" served for Tennessee.
He is included on the Civil War page, and on the Tennessee Mysteries page because his Civil War involvement is unknown.
His family was apparently divided during the Civil War. According to his mother's obituary, she left Tennessee after losing her land, because she did not sympathize with the southern cause, and traveled with her oldest son John Higgins Strain to live in Washington, D.C. That's where J.H.Strain's wife's family the Houstons lived, and she was buried with them there. James, however, stayed south. This also means that the family had lived in Blount County for approximately 48 years, from about 1812 until the start of the Civil War.
The family rift seems to have been healed after the war. In 1870 he is living in Montgomery County, Maryland, with his daughter, in his brother's household. It is a pretty good guess that the Civil War ruined him; no property is listed. This was where his daughter Eliza met Thomas Lansdale, and where, I would guess, he died and was buried, though I haven't found a record of this. Their son was named after her uncle John.
Letters also exist from him to his sisters Mary and Nancy from 1871 (from Brookeville, MD) and 1872 (from Memphis, TN).
John Lansdale Sr. says he had a daguerrotype of him--could it be the one which was the mantle in the library? He was "a fine looking man."