Thursday, December 31, 2009

Treasure Chest Thursday: A Monkey Doll

This little monkey doll belonged to my Dad, who was born in 1939 and passed away last October. We don't know who gave it to him, but his older brothers distinctly remember that it was his toy. Later, the monkey lived for years in my grandmother’s cedar chest; when she died in 1979 it went to my Dad. I brought it home with me when he went to a nursing home in 2008. It’s a good thing I dragged this little monkey down from his shelf, as I see that the paint is quickly peeling off his little composite head. In fact, there is a pile of it laying around where he was sitting. I didn’t notice that going on when I brought him home last year and I'm sure I would have. This gave me a strange feeling this morning, associating the disintegration of this doll with my dad’s death. So, I wrapped him up and put him in a storage box. We’ll see how he’s doing next year …

© 2009, copyright Stephen Mills

Saturday, September 26, 2009

John Lawhon, Texas Preacher and Family Patriarch

This photograph of my great-great grandparents, John and Susan Lawhon, was taken about 1893 at the J. L. Gray Studio in Van Alstyne, Grayson County, Texas. An undated newspaper clipping about John was found tucked away in a family Bible; it was published between 1930 and 1933, probably in the Morton or Muleshoe, Texas newspaper:

"Rev. J. M. Lawhon of Goodland, in Bailey County, was born in Red River County, Texas, before it became a part of the United States. He has lived to see five generations of native Texans in his family.
He was reared in Bastrop County. He was in Austin during the cholera epidemic and when the first train arrived. He joined the Texas Rangers in 1861 and served four years. He married Susan Young in Williamson County in 1865.
Rev. Mr. Lawhon recalls the killing of Sam Bass at Round Rock. He and his father started in the cattle business but gave it up because of cattle thieves. He did some trailing and was a freighter for a while.
While leading a herd of 3,000 cattle one time the herd stampeded. He left his horse and made a run for a cottonwood tree, leaping as high as he could. He could hear the pounding hoofs and snapping horns on every side but thought he was safely above them. When the herd had passed and he opened his eyes he found that he was sitting flat on the ground with his legs and arms locked around the tree trunk."

John Marion Lawhon (1845-1936), son of Hugh and Ann Lawhon, was a farmer, soldier, cattle trailer, freighter, and ordained Missionary Baptist minister. He married Susan Tabitha Young in 1865 at Georgetown, Texas and they had eleven children. In the interview for the article, he mentioned his familiarity with several well-known events in Texas history. According to the Handbook of Texas Online, a cholera epidemic in Austin and other parts of the state occurred in 1866; the first train arrived in Austin in 1871; and the notorious outlaw Sam Bass died at Round Rock in 1878. The Handbook also tells us that cattle trailing was “the principal method of transporting cattle to market in the late nineteenth century,” especially during the years 1867-1886. Overland freighting, generally by oxcart, was necessary to move goods across Texas and was a primary method of transport until the railroads were firmly established in the 1870s.

The article mentions that John was born in Texas “before it became a part of the United States.” He was born August 7, 1845, south of Clarksville in Red River County, Republic of Texas. Texas was admitted to the Union on December 29, 1845, when he was four months old.

John Marion Lawhon enlisted in the service of the Confederacy May 1, 1862 at San Antonio. He was a private in Company D, 5th Regiment Texas Cavalry, under Capt. Stevens. He re-enlisted in January 1864 in Burnet County in the Frontier Regiment, 3rd Frontier District, Texas State Troops, along with his brother, David W. Lawhon. According to John’s Confederate pension application, he enlisted in the spring of 1862, served in the “mounted home guard to fight Indians back off frontier, and held on frontier for that purpose during all the time of my service,” and “the company was disbanded without formal discharge in Burnet County after Lee’s surrender.”

After he became blind in 1915, John Marion Lawhon and his wife Susan lived among their children, residing for a year or two with the different families until their deaths. At the time this article was published, John was living with Edgar Lawhon and family at Goodland, located on the Texas South Plains west of Lubbock. Since the article references that he “has lived to see five generations of native Texans in his family,” it was published after his first great-great grandchild was born in 1930. He was living in Gunter, Texas with his daughter, Sarah Lawhon Bledsoe, by August of 1934 and died at her home on January 10, 1936. He was survived by 9 children, 53 grandchildren, 61 great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild.

According to the recollections of his grandchildren, and as might be expected given his preaching career, John Marion Lawhon was an avid storyteller, regularly spinning yarns and weaving exciting tales of his early life serving in the Civil War and living on the Texas frontier. He was a circuit rider and itinerant preacher in the mission fields of Northwest Texas and was ordained a Missionary Baptist minister in 1887. Several articles with information about his life appeared in various small-town Texas newspapers as early as 1904. Beginning in 1890, John M. Lawhon preached his “birthday sermon” every year on August 7 and attracted large crowds in several Texas communities, no matter on which day of the week August 7 happened to fall. He continued the custom for some 45 years; on his 89th birthday in 1934, blind, feeble, and wheelchair-bound, he was carried to the Gunter, Texas church to preach. Newspaper articles record that he baptized more than 1500 persons during his ministry. He was known for his sense of humor, strong religious convictions, encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible, and public speaking ability.

© 2009, copyright Stephen Mills

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Texas Pioneer Buried Three Times

Edward H. Tarrant was an interesting Texas patriot. Below is his biographical sketch from the Handbook of Texas Online (a wonderful resource, if you don’t know – link below and enjoy). Edward Tarrant was closely associated with both of the Watson families in my ancestry. The youngest son of Coleman and Lucy Watson, who was born in Bowie County in 1843, was named Edward H. Tarrant Watson. Edward H. Tarrant also served as the attorney for the administration of the estate of James Watson, who died in Bowie County in 1842. His residence in Henry County, Tennessee is of great interest to me, since Oran Datus Watson, Sr. of Edgefield County, SC moved there shortly before his death about 1822. His relation to James Watson, if any, is uncertain at this time. We also have James Watson’s daughter, Arimenta (Watson) Cross naming a daughter Mary Tarrant Cross, which is indicative of the close relationship with Tarrant. Still a lot more to learn about these folks, and I’m still digging.

TARRANT, EDWARD H. (1799-1858). Edward H. (possibly for Hampton) Tarrant was born in South Carolina in 1799. It appears that during the War of 1812 he was living in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky. By the early 1820s he was in Henry County, Tennessee, where he was elected a colonel of militia in the new frontier environment. In 1825 he helped organize the first Masonic lodge in Paris, Tennessee, and by 1827 he had become sheriff of Henry County. He was a resident of Henderson County, Tennessee, from 1829 to the early 1830s, when he moved to Texas, possibly by way of Mississippi. Tarrant apparently established his household of relatives, hired men, and slaves in Red River County, Texas, by November 23, 1835; on February 2, 1838, he received a league and labor of land from the Republic of Texas as part of a uniform grant made to all heads of families resident in Texas on March 2, 1836. There is no record of his participation in the Texas Revolution. Tarrant was elected in September 1837 to represent Red River County in the House of Representatives of the Second Congress; his last appearance in the House was apparently on November 11, 1837, and he submitted his resignation on December 12, 1837. He had decided that he could better serve the republic by directing ranger activities against the Indians. He served as chief justice of Red River County in 1838 after Robert Hamilton had been nominated to that post in December 1836; there is some question as to which of the two men actually served as first chief justice of the county.

Tarrant practiced law, engaged in farming, and took a leading role in the militia's activity against the Indians while he was chief justice; when he resigned from the post on May 30, 1839, he was one of the most prosperous men in Red River County. He was elected by popular vote on November 18, 1839, as commander, carrying the rank of brigadier general, of an organization of Northeast Texas defenders known as the Fourth Brigade. His Indian-fighting career culminated in the battle of Village Creek in May 1841. In 1847 Tarrant ran for lieutenant governor, but he was defeated by John Alexander Greer. He served in the House of Representatives in the Third and Fourth Texas legislatures from 1849 to 1853. He was married to Mary Danforth on April 6, 1851. They lived on Chambers Creek near Italy, Ellis County, and participated in the social life of Waxahachie. In 1857 Tarrant moved part of his household to Fort Belknap, and when Indian depredations became frequent in that area, he again turned his attention to raising forces against them. While traveling from his home on Chambers Creek to Belknap, Tarrant became ill and died on August 2, 1858, at the home of William Fondren, about ten miles from Weatherford, where he was buried. He was reburied on his farm on Chambers Creek on January 28, 1859, and was buried a third time on March 3, 1928, in Pioneer Rest Cemetery, Fort Worth. Tarrant County was named for him.

Handbook of Texas Online, (accessed February 17, 2009).

© 2009, copyright Stephen Mills

Thursday, December 25, 2008

James Coleman Watson, 100 years old, buried on Christmas Day 1949

Every Christmas, I find myself thinking of one of the major events in my mother’s family history. My great-great grandfather, James Coleman Watson, died on December 23, 1949 at the age of 100 years and 28 days. He was buried on Christmas Day at Shield Cemetery in Coleman County, Texas. This photo was taken on his 95th birthday on November 25, 1944. He had a remarkable lifespan, from the Civil War to the aftermath of World War II. He died in a nursing home in Brady, Texas but had only lived there five months. Prior to that, he lived with Uncle Booker and Aunt Lottie Watson. Although becoming very frail, he never lost his mental faculties. His death certificate lists the cause of death as “Cerebro-Vascular Accident due to Genealogical Senility”. Here’s his obituary from the Coleman, Texas newspaper, which is liberally embellished with a few old family stories:

100 Year Old County Resident Buried Christmas Day in Shield Cemetery

Mr. James Coleman Watson, 100 years and 28 days old was buried in the Shield Cemetery, Sunday, December 25. Dan Fogarty, minister of the Church of Christ in Coleman, officiated. Funeral services were held from the Shield Church of Christ.

James Coleman Watson was born in Bowie County, Texas November 25, 1849. When he was one year old, his parents moved to Grayson County, where he remained until 1903, when he came to Coleman County. He has been a resident of Coleman County since that time. He was married to Elizabeth Hale in Grayson County in 1869. To this union eleven children, six boys and five girls, were born. Mrs. Watson preceded him in death in 1924. Mr. Watson was laid to rest beside his wife in the Shield Cemetery. Two daughters also preceded him in death.

Mr. Watson’s father was a big plantation owner at the end of the Civil War when all the slaves were freed. He could tell a lot of interesting experiences of the olden days. His father fought in the Texas and Mexican War and was present at the Battle of San Jacinto, when General Santa Anna was captured with an army of 1600 Mexicans. Mr. Watson’s mother was a first cousin of Ben Milam.

Mr. J. C. Watson was believed to be the county’s oldest resident. He observed his 100th birthday anniversary in Brady on November 25, with a large number of his family and their families visiting with him. He was a member of the Church of Christ for 65 years.

Survivors are six sons: William B. (Booker) Watson, Rockwood; A. L. Watson, Portales, New Mexico; Carey Watson, Shield; J. C. Watson, Pittsburg, Texas; E. N. Watson, Sherman; O. D. Watson, Edinburg; three daughters: Mrs. Jennie Carter, Colbert, Oklahoma; Mrs. Mary Lawhon, Sweetwater; and Mrs. Lee Powers, Sweetwater. Sixty-seven grandchildren, 193 great-grandchildren, 105 great-great grandchildren, and a sixth generation child also survive.

Pallbearers, all grandsons, were Wayne L. Watson, Sherman; Darwin Watson, Santa Anna; Nap Watson, Santa Anna; Elmer Watson, Santa Anna; Willie Auten, Odessa; and James Auten, Odessa.

Flower bearers, all granddaughters and granddaughters-in-law, were Billie Mae Schrader, Lonettia Watson, Edith Guffey, Claudia Davis, Melba Auten, Ruby Auten, and Mary Tom Watson. Thelma Watson and Thelma Stewardson were flower managers.

© 2008, copyright Stephen Mills

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Working at the LDS Family History Center

I’m really fortunate that there’s a Family History Center (FHC) only ten minutes from my home, and just blocks from my office. I never really had the opportunity to tap into the LDS resources until this year, and boy are they great! What an opportunity – records from all over the country (and the world) are at my fingertips for only $5.50 per microfilm roll. So far, I’ve been focusing on deed and probate records from various counties in Texas, Georgia, and South Carolina. Here’s a few tips I’ve learned along the way:

+ Working with microfilm can be a little tedious. I’ve developed forms that I take along to make it easier to record my findings. I have a form for transcribing entries from deed indexes and another form for extracting deeds. I created them in Word with lots of space to write and customized chart headings (for example, grantor, grantee, book and page, number of acres, dates, etc.) so I only have to concentrate on recording the data.

+ The copier at my FHC is time-consuming to work with and most of the large pages have to be copied in sections. Even though it’s only 10 cents per page, I rarely use it. After I know exactly what I want, I order the records from the county clerk. I’ve found that most counties will be happy to work with you if you know your indexing information when you order records.

+ It can take from 2 to 6 weeks to get microfilms in. I usually keep several on order all the time, so I always have work to do. In the beginning, I made the mistake of ordering 15 films, which pressed me to get them all read and when I was done I had nothing else to do until the next order came in.

+ I find it easier to search for films I want to order at home and print the information directly from the site. That way I don’t have to spend time at the FHC going over the catalog and deciding what to order.

+ I recently learned not to depend on the FHC to call when my films arrive. I had four films that arrived and were sent back, and they forgot to call me. The library staff was really nice and re-ordered them for free, but it was still a big inconvenience, as I was anxious to read those films!

When you work full-time, it’s not always possible to take genealogy trips with regularity. I find the FHC is a godsend and working with the records there is almost as exciting as being at the courthouse. One of the main advantages has been that I can re-order the films as many times as I need if new information comes up. It’s always frustrating to come back from a courthouse trip and learn about more records that you could have looked up while you were there, if only you’d known.

© 2008, copyright Stephen Mills

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Aunt Cattie Hopper Davenport

Back in the late 1920’s, my grandma, Clara Hopper, hired a couple of friends to drive her and my great-grandparents up into the Jane, Missouri area to visit the Hopper connections. Clara was interested at an early age in kinfolks and wanted to see all the old homeplaces and visit family. (She passed her interest and information on down to me.) My great-grandfather’s oldest sister, Catherine (Hopper) Davenport (she was known as Cattie) was getting on up in years at that time, and I understand they spent a couple of days at her house. This snapshot was taken during that trip. It shows my great-grandmother, Ora (Evans) Hopper on the left, my great-grandfather, Meredith Hopper, and Aunt Cattie. I have a number of other pictures taken on this trip, including one of Clara with Aunt Cattie’s spinning wheel. My grandma said that Aunt Cattie continued her spinning during most of the time they visited, and she was almost blind. I have another picture my grandma took of her grandson, Bluford Davenport, who lived nearby.

This post is for my newly-found distant cousin, Carol, who was also the first follower on this blog. Thanks, Carol, and I hope you enjoy seeing this picture.

© 2008, copyright Stephen Mills

Monday, September 29, 2008

Small Town Connection: Rising Star, Texas

Below is a brief history of Rising Star from The Handbook of Texas Online. My great-grandparents, Oran Datus and Martha Viola (Lawhon) Watson, farmed a rented place out in the country near Rising Star in 1907-1908. Their second son, Oran Delbert Watson who was born in 1908, had his baby photographs taken in a Rising Star studio. If you haven’t been through Rising Star, you really should go. It’s a beautiful, classic Texas town. This photo is an old real photo postcard from about 1908 showing The Star Trading Company in Rising Star that was in business at the time my great-grandparents lived nearby.

RISING STAR, TEXAS. Rising Star, at the intersection of U.S. Highway 183 and State Highway 36, fifty-six miles southeast of Abilene in southwestern Eastland County, had its beginnings in 1876 when six families moved west from Gregg County and settled on the site. When the post office opened in 1878 with Hendrick H. Osburn as postmaster, the settlement was called Copperas Creek. In 1879 Tom Anderson bought a tract of land from one of the original settlers, and in 1880, after the old post office had been closed, he opened a post office and general store in his home. D. D. McConnell of Eastland suggested a new name for the town when he said that the area must be a "rising star country" because it produced crops when other areas were barren. In 1889 Rising Star had five businesses and three doctors and by 1904 had added a bank, a hotel, a school, five churches, two newspapers, and dry goods and drug stores. The economy of the area was based on agriculture, primarily the cultivation of corn, cotton, oats, and fruit. The town's prospects were enhanced in 1911 when the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad built through from Cross Plains to De Leon. The town's first newspaper was the Rising Star Record, later renamed the Rising Star News and still later the Rising Star X-Ray. The Rising Star Signal was another early newspaper.

Although the first oil found in Eastland County was discovered near Rising Star in 1909, it was not until 1920, close to the end of the Eastland County boom, that a major strike attracted attention to Rising Star. In an attempt to prevent the town from becoming a tent and shanty town, officials issued strict building regulations, but speculators and oilfield workers circumvented them by hastily building a town five miles to the west. In just over a year that town was gone and the boom finished. By the 1960s some oil was still being produced near Rising Star, and pecans and peanuts had replaced cotton as the main crops. The 1980 census found 1,204 people living in Rising Star. The town was incorporated and had a bank, a post office, and twenty-seven businesses. In 1990 the population was 859. The population was 835 in 2000.

© 2008, copyright Stephen Mills

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Oran Datus Watson of Washington and Milam Counties, Texas

Oran Datus Watson (the name Oran was pronounced as “Iron” in the family) was born about 1814 - 1816 in South Carolina and was the son of James and Rhoda Watson. He accompanied his family to Bowie County, Republic of Texas in December 1836 and was awarded a second class land grant. Since he was an unmarried man, he received 640 acres. This land was located near the Bowie-Cass County line, adjoining his father’s 1280-acre grant. In 1853, he sold his land grant to his brother-in-law Azariah Moss, who married Christiana J. Watson.

Oran Watson left Bowie County in the late 1840’s and moved to Washington County, where his sister and brother-in-law, James and Mary (Watson) Holt lived. On March 3, 1850 in Washington County, Texas, he married Mrs. Minerva Margaret (Nunn) Gambill, widow of George W. Gambill, who died in 1849. She was the mother of three children: John T. Gambill, Hannah Eliza Jane Gambill, and Green P. H. Gambill. There were no children were born to Oran and Minerva Watson.

Oran Watson and his wife are recorded on the 1850, 1860, and 1870 censuses of Washington County, Texas and the 1880 census of Milam County, Texas. All of these census records show that Oran was “deaf and dumb.” He was probably born with this disability or perhaps acquired it as the result of childhood illness. Oran could not speak, read, or write, except to write his name. According to documents relating to the lawsuit described below, he communicated with others by “making signs with his hands.”

Land transactions in both Washington and Milam counties show that Oran and Minerva Watson purchased a number of tracts during the years 1854 - 1883, all of which were later sold at a profit. Many of these tracts were rented, bringing in regular income over the years. It appears that Oran and Minerva had a profitable partnership during their thirty-eight year marriage, in spite of the obstacles related to his deafness that they no doubt faced.

After Minerva Watson died intestate in October 1888, her children and minor heirs filed suit against Oran Watson in Milam County District Court. The suit was filed one month after her death and alleged that Oran refused to provide the Gambill heirs with their mother’s estate, both real and personal. Oran died sometime between January and April 1891, while the suit was still pending; his place of burial is not known. Prior to his death, he engaged his brothers, Cary and Rodger Watson, to act on his behalf in defense of the lawsuit and conveyed all his property to them. When the suit was finally settled in November 1891, one-half of Oran’s lands were awarded to his wife’s heirs and one-half to his brothers, Cary and Rodger Watson.

© 2008, copyright Stephen Mills

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Touching Account of the Death of Anna McKinney Sloan 1834

This is a wonderful old letter addressed from James Sloan to his father and mother-in-law, Collin and Betsy McKinney. Collin McKinney was a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence; the city of McKinney and county of Collin were named for him.

James Sloan’s wife, Anna (McKinney) Sloan was a first cousin to my great-great-great grandmother, Emily (Watson) Watson. At the time this was written, James was 41 years old and had several small children at home, some of them by his first wife who also died young. James and Anna had four children; the youngest was a daughter, Mary Ann, who was born September 13, 1834 and whose birth is described in this letter. James remarried after Anna’s death and had four children by his third wife.

Anna was only 25 when she died.

I found this letter while searching in the Milam-McKinney Family Papers, Special Collections Library, University of Texas at Arlington.

Addressed to Collin McKinney, Lafayette County, Lost Prairie Post Office, A. T. (Arkansas Territory)

Clark County, A. T.
October the 9th 1834

Dear Father and Mother
I take my pen in hand to direct a few lines to you to let you know something of our distressed situation - Anna is no more – she is gone to return to us no more – she was taken with a chill and fever and the most racking pains imaginable on the seventh of September and was in that way daily until the morning of the thirteenth of the same month – she then was delivered of her child and appeared like as if she was a going to do well although very low and weak but in a short time was taken worse again and continued a wasting away until she departed which was the thirtieth day of September. Six days before she departed I was setting by her she appeared to be a dozing but all at once she cried out glory to her god and continued shouting and praising of god for some hours – she told us often that she felt happy - said she I never felt such peace and happiness before that from that time it appeared to me like as if her mind was entirely _____ on her god – she took up the most part of her time in exorting her friends who stood around her to serve god and to try to meet her in glory. Not more than five minutes before she drew her last breath I could hear her distinctly say glory. She is gone and there is no doubt in my mind but what she is gone to glory where we may if we prove faithful meet with her where parting is no more.

We have had a good deal of sickness in the family this season but they all appear to be doing tolerable well at this time. The little baby keeps well. I feel very anxious to see you and I feel in hopes you will come to see us as I cannot leave the children at this time to go to see you. I hope I will have the opportunity of seeing you in a short [time] – so nothing more at present I remain your most affectionate son

James Sloan

© 2008, copyright Stephen Mills

Oran Datus Watson Sr. 1789 Burke County, Georgia

Thanks to Crumpton Plats (see post below), I now have additional proof on Oran Datus Watson, Sr., son of Jacob Watson, and grandson of John Watson, all of Edgefield County, SC. Oran was shown as the chain carrier on three plats in Burke County, Georgia in 1789-1790. His name is shown as Aaron Watson, Oron Watson, and Orrindatus Watson. Assuming he was at least 20 years old at the time, these records would date his birth by at least 1769-1770. In the 1820 Pulaski County GA census, he was in the "age 45 and upwards" column. I still have a lot to learn about this man, including exactly how he was related to my ancestor, James Watson, who died in Bowie County, Republic of Texas, in 1842.

I am currently searching Pulaski County GA deeds and probate records, using microfilm at my local LDS branch library, for this Watson family. Will post an update soon on the results.

© 2008, copyright Stephen Mills

Crumpton Plats Online - Georgia, South Carolina

Here's a great new resource I found, thanks to Cyndi's List. Crumpton Plats is digitizing thousands of old plat records out of Georgia and South Carolina. They are available for a reasonable price (about $7 each); you pay online and immediately download the files to your computer and then print.

Be sure to read up on the abbreviations, as the search database returns all names contained within a plat. If the return shows AL, that means the person is named as an adjoining landowner. If it shows CC or CB, it means the person is named as a chain carrier (chain bearer). If the return shows PLAT, the person named was the landowner.

© 2008, copyright Stephen Mills

Monday, September 15, 2008

Did Cary Watson fight the Battle of San Jacinto?

Most of Cary Watson's descendants are raised from birth to know that Cary Watson served at the Battle of San Jacinto and I am certainly no exception. My grandpa Cully Watson taught all of his grandchildren this at an early age. However, Texas records do not bear out this tradition. There are several important considerations when studying this family story.

Most important, Cary Watson was not in Texas in April 1836 (when San Jacinto was fought). At that time Cary was only 15 years old. He came to Texas with his parents and family in December 1836. This is well-established, as his father, James Watson received a second class land grant from the Republic of Texas. Had James arrived in the Republic of Texas earlier, he would have been eligible to receive a significantly larger amount of land through a first class grant. A later affidavit of Susan (Watson) Wright also confirms a post-April 1836 arrival date.

There is no record of Cary’s service in the Texas State Archives or at the San Jacinto Battleground and Monument. Texas soldiers of the Revolution are well-documented, as they later received pensions and additional land (known as bounty grants) for service at San Jacinto. Cary Watson never applied for these benefits, even though San Jacinto soldiers were awarded upwards of 4,400 acres of land for their service, and I firmly believe that if he was eligible for this amount of land, he would have claimed it.

Cary did however, serve in the Mexican War of 1848, and he claimed and received a pension from the US government for that service. His wife Emily continued receiving the pension after his death. Cary also received a small bounty grant of land for serving in 1848.

It appears that, over time, the family story “grew” … from the Mexican War of 1848 to the Battle of San Jacinto. While the 1848 war is not as indelibly impressed in the minds of Texans as the Battle of San Jacinto, it was an important war in terms of establishing the boundaries of Texas and several western states, and it ended hostilities with Mexico over the Texas colonies. Cary was recognized by his country for this service and his descendants should be justly proud.

© 2008, copyright Stephen Mills

Our Haile Family of Jackson County, Tennessee

My great-great grandmother, Missouri Elizabeth Haile (she was known as Lizzie) was born in Jackson County, Tennessee in 1843. She came to Grayson County, Texas in 1867 and married James Coleman Watson (son of Cary and Emily Watson) in 1869. She was the third of twelve children born into a close-knit family of Southern Confederates. The Haile family (some branches spell it Hale, and many of the old records show that spelling) were settled in the community of Flynn’s Lick in Jackson County, Tennessee by the 1830s. Lizzie Watson’s father was Thomas Haile, who married Nancy Elizabeth Gibson of Kentucky.

Grandpa Haile, who was born in 1816, was a little old to serve in the army, but he was a leading Confederate sympathizer and organizer in his area. He did go on the military rolls, but I understand he played more of an administrative role. Several of his sons were also in the Confederate army, including Joshua, Elvis, and Thomas. He and his son Thomas were taken prisoners of war and ended up at Camp Chase, Ohio, an infamous Northern POW camp for Confederate soldiers. His son, Thomas, survived the ordeal and later migrated to Eastland County, Texas where he was a prominent citizen. Grandpa Haile died at Camp Chase and is buried there. According to family legend, Thomas was with him when he died and carved the inscription on his coffin. His grave is marked. Here’s an interesting link with lots of information about Camp Chase:

© 2008, copyright Stephen Mills

Sunday, August 31, 2008

W.J.M. and Hester Smith of Barren County, Kentucky

I wish I had these pictures years ago and were able to show them to my grandmother Mamie and her sisters. This is their grandparents, Billy and Hester (Young) Smith. They had eleven children, one of whom was Ella Elnora (Smith) Pitcock, who married Franklin Pedigo Pitcock.

As you can tell, these old photos are fragile, crumbling, stained, water-damaged, and broken. They are oil renderings made about 1894 in Glasgow, Kentucky. These photographs belonged to Aunt Quallie (Smith) Jobe and were given to me by her great-granddaughter, Jo Ann Steinhauser of Lubbock, Texas, in 2003. I knew from another distant cousin that Jo Ann owned them, and asked her years ago if I could borrow them to make copies. She couldn’t find them, and thought she had given them away or misplaced them. I finally gave up on having copies made. One day out of the blue, Jo Ann e-mailed me and said she found the pictures tucked in an envelope with her children’s baby photos. I called her immediately - she laughed and said she knew she’d be hearing from me!

I asked Jo Ann if she’d let me have them if I had copies made for her. She agreed, knowing how much I cared about these old photos. I’m honored to own these, even in their current condition, as not many people have original photographs of their great-great-grandparents that were made more than 110 years ago.

Grandpa Smith’s name was William James Madison Smith (he was known as Bill or Billy) and he was born in 1834 in Fentress County, Tennessee. He married Hester Jane Young in 1853; she was born in 1839 in Clinton County, Kentucky and died in 1903 in Glasgow, Kentucky. Grandpa Smith died in April 1920 in the New Lynn Community, which is out in the country near Tahoka, Texas. He’s buried at the Tahoka Cemetery. After Grandma Smith died, he lived with his children and spent a couple of years (about 1908-1910) living with the Pitcocks before they moved to Wheeler County. Grandpa and Grandma Smith were both wonderful people and I will do another post soon with some stories about their lives.

© 2008, copyright Stephen Mills

UPDATE on Mrs. Jane Pitcock Coming to Life at her Funeral

Sandi Goren, a well-known South Central Kentucky historian wrote that “This story was a joke started by the editor of a Monroe Co newspaper. Mrs. Pitcock was deceased the first time. She was reported to have been extremely arthritic and it was difficult placing the remains in the coffin. The coffin lid was tacked shut but no one told the pastor. When he had the lid opened, the body sprang upward. This information from current day citizens whose parents were at the funeral.”

I found another account of the event from the Glasgow Times: "One of the oldest ladies of the Gamaliel section died Jan. 24th 1911. Monroe County. After funeral sermon, the undertaker removed lid from coffin to allow her many friends to take a last look before placing her in tomb. The old lady raised both hands above her head and sat up in the coffin. In just two minutes the house was empty. She was taken home and again reported dead on Friday. At last reports she has not been buried." I’ve also learned that this story was picked up by the Associated Press and appeared in newspapers across the country. I now have copies of the article from 10 different newspapers. Two accounts are pictured above, from the Portsmouth NH Herald and the Washington Post. (I also love the cut-off headline "Girl Loses Her Scalp" - Good Lord - and people think depressing articles in the media are something new?) The story seems to have been embellished a little along the way, as one account has her "murmuring of wonderful visions". Also, there seems to be confusion as to whether her funeral was being held at home or in a church.

I suppose we have to accept Ms. Goren’s explanation, as newspaper editors frequently did not check facts and it was common for them to “play jokes” on their readers back in this era. It does seem strange, though, that the pastor was not informed of the situation, especially with the casket being “tacked shut” but then opened, presumably by him or under his direction. And if it was tacked shut, wouldn't it be a little difficult to open? It does occur to me that the explanation could be a way to account for an event that appeared inexplicable - especially an event that spooked a lot of good, solid, no-nonsense Kentucky folks.

I also understand that there are documented cases of people being taken for dead and “coming to life” days later, sometimes above ground and (shudder) sometimes below. In fact, the fear of being buried alive was widespread in the 1800s and various “tests” for death were performed to prevent it, such as pricking the toe deeply with a needle or holding a mirror to the nose as a means to detect respiration. It just so happens that I have a church cookbook - and it’s not all that old either, it's from about 1950 - that has a page called Tests of Death with a lot of these old methods in it, right next to the part that gives tips on polishing silver and whitening linens. Can you believe that? I’ll look that up and post it, now that I think of it.

Anyway, I’m still not sure how Mrs. Jane Pitcock fits into the family tree – I’m awaiting a response from a fellow Pitcock researcher in Indiana who will surely know.

© 2008, copyright Stephen Mills