Twelve – Dame Anne Gostwick, 12th Great Grandmother

This week, I took some inspiration from the “10” prompt from 2018, which featured my 10th great grandfather, Nicholas Spencer. So here is “12,” a post about my 12th great grandmother, Dame Anne Gostwick.

Connection to Nicholas Spencer

Going back 12 generations is a very difficult task, especially early in the colonial period when records in certain places are now somewhat scarce. I have managed to go back this far for a few family lines, and the Spencer line is undoubtedly one of my favorites, not least because it is full of fascinating characters. This line is special to me because not only did I research stateside, but I also had the opportunity to research it in England. That experience was unforgettable!

I have written several posts about the Spencer/Ariss/Moss/Swift family for this challenge, but the one with the most relevance to Dame Anne is the post about Nicholas Spencer. At the beginning of that post, I gave some information pertaining to Nicholas’s family background. His most distinguished line came through his mother, Lady Mary Armiger, whose parents were Sir Edward Gostwick, baronet, and Dame Anne Gostwick, nee Wentworth. Dame Anne Gostwick, therefore, is Nicholas’s maternal grandmother.

Family Background

Dame Anne Gostwick was born Anne Wentworth to John Wentworth, Esquire and Cecily Unton. [1] Anne’s mother, Cecily Unton, had a quite impressive pedigree. She was the daughter of Sir Edward Unton and Lady Anne Seymour, Countess of Warwick. [2] Last year, I wrote a post about Lady Anne Seymour, which can be found here. She was the daughter of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset, and his wife, Anne (Stanhope) Seymour, Duchess of Somerset. Both were descended from Edward III. Queen Jane Seymour was Edward’s sister, and Queen Catherine Parr was his sister-in-law. This made Edward and Anne Seymour’s children, including daughter Anne, first cousins of King Edward VII. Lady Anne’s first husband was John Dudley, Earl of Warwick, turning Lady Anne into a countess. [3] Dudley died young, and her second husband was Sir Edward Unton, a gentleman from a well-established family in Oxfordshire and Berkshire, though the marriage was a lowly connection in comparison to the Seymours and Dudleys. [4] Lady Anne and Sir Edward Unton’s oldest daughter, Cecily, married John Wentworth, Esquire of Gosfield Hall in Essex in 1580. [5]

The Wentworth family was situated in Gosfield, Essex. John Wentworth was his father’s heir, and on his death in 1588, he inherited Gosfield Hall. John was a descendant of the De Spenser family, as well as the Boleyns. His great grandfather was Queen Anne Boleyn’s second cousin. [6]

John Wentworth and his wife, Cecily, were the parents of Dame Anne, the subject of this post.

Early Life and Clandestine Marriage

John and Cecily Wentworth’s oldest daughter, Anne, was born at her father’s estate, Gosfield Hall, Essex, and was baptized on 3 March 1589/90. [7] Anne had two older brothers, John and William, one older sister Mary, and four younger sisters, Diana, Cecily, Elizabeth, and Catherine. [8] Anne and her siblings grew up at Gosfield Hall, a beautiful house built in 1545 which had hosted Elizabeth I on several occasions. The Hall is still standing, has been added onto over the years, and is now a wedding venue.

Where and how Anne met her husband, Sir Edward Gostwick, is a mystery. Sir Edward was the son of Sir John Gostwick and his wife Dame Jane Owen, herself a descendant of Edward III, Owen Tudor, the Woodville family, and the Dukes of Stafford. [9] Sir Edward attended Christ’s College, Cambridge in 1606, though he only remained at the college for a year. Likely, he attended to make connections. He was subsequently knighted at Whitehall Palace in 1607. [10] As Willington, Sir Edward’s home, and Gosfield, where Anne was born, are rather far apart, it is quite likely that the two met in London. In fact, Anne’s sister Diana married in London in May 1608 and Cecily married there in 1609.

The marriage of Anne Wentworth and Sir Edward Gostwick was laballed a “clandestine” marriage, according to the entry in the Gosfield Parish records. Here it is in Latin:

D[omi]nus Edwardus Gosticke, Miles, duxit [in] uxorem Annam Wentworth, filiam Joh[ann]is Wentworth, arm[ige]ri, 11 die Aprilis, clandestine in aedibus dicti Joh[ann]is Wentworth, Thomas Banbridge, p[res]bitero, dictum matrimon[ium] celebranti, 1608. [11]

Translated:

Master Edward Gosticke, Knight, took to wife Anna Wentworth, daughter of John Wentworth, armsbearer, 11 of April, surreptitiously in the said house of John Wentworth, Thomas Bandridge, priest celebrating the marriage.

At first, this sounds quite scandalous, but what did “clandestine” mean in the 17th century? A clandestine marriage was one that was missing several elements of a typical marriage: banns were not read, a marriage license was not obtained, the marriage did not take place in one of the parishes from which the bride or groom was from, and/or the marriage did not take place in a church. The only requirement that could not be neglected was that the couple was married by an Anglican priest.

In Edward and Anne’s case, it seems it was deemed “clandestine” because they were married at Gosfield Hall rather than at the parish church. I wonder why they chose to do this? Gosfield Hall was of course Anne’s home and it is absolutely beautiful, but why would they choose a clandestine marriage over a traditional one in the local church?

One of the main reasons for clandestine marriages was to avoid parental consent issues. As Edward and Anne were married at Gosfield Hall, does that mean that it was possible Edward’s parents, Sir William Gostwick, Baronet, and Dame Jane Gostwick, did not approve of his marriage to Anne, whose father was not titled though he bore his family’s arms? I suppose this is quite possible. Even though his parents were titled, Anne’s family was impressive.

Another reason for clandestine marriages was to hide a pregnancy. Again, this is another possibility for Edward and Anne. However, I have not seen any evidence that this was an issue.

I may never know why they chose a clandestine marriage, but it adds something very unique to their story!

Baronetcy and Children

Sir Edward had been knighted by James I before his marriage to Anne, but he did not succeed to the Baronetcy until 19 September 1615 when his father died. By then, his three oldest children had been born. [12]

Anne gave birth to at least 8 children who grew to adulthood: Elizabeth, Mary, Edward, William, Thomas, Anne, Jane, and Frances. The children were named in her will, and her monument in Willington Church recorded that she had 3 sons and 5 daughters.

Elizabeth: Baptized 17 March 1611 in Willington, Bedfordshire [13]

Mary: Baptized 26 December 1612 in Norton, Hertfordshire (son of Edward Ghostwicke and wife Anne) [14]

Frances: Baptized 19 February 1615 in Bisham, Berkshire [15]

William: Baptized 12 September 1616 in Norton, Hertfordshire (son of Edward Ghostwicke and wife Anne) [16]

Jane: Baptized 20 October 1618 in Norton, Hertfordshire (son of Edward Ghostwicke and wife Anne) [17]

Edward: Baptized 30 March 1620 in Gravely, Hertfordshire [18]

Thomas: Baptized 3 July 1621 in Gravely, Hertfordshire [19]

Hannah: Baptized 9 December 1622 in Gravely, Hertfordshire [20]

Anne: Baptized 12 August 1624 in Gravely, Hertfordshire [21]

William: Baptized 17 October 1630 in Willington, Bedfordshire [22]

As a second William was born in 1630, the older William must have died young. Hannah was not mentioned in her mother’s will, which means she is not one of the 5 daughters referenced on her mother’s monument. All of the above children’s baptismal records listed Edward Gostwick as the father, but only the baptisms that took place in Norton also listed Anne.

Sir Edward and Dame Anne’s Deaths

Much of Dame Anne’s adult life was probably spent moving around the Gostwicks’ property, giving birth to her children, raising them, and then helping with their marriages. Sadly, Sir Edward died on 20 September 1630 at the age of 42, 15 years to the day of his father’s burial. [23] He was buried in Willington Church in the Gostwick Chapel. A beautiful monument affixed to the wall exhibits statues of him, his wife Anne, their 5 adult daughters, and 2 of their sons.

The burial monument in Gostwick Chapel

One of the saddest parts of this story is that Sir Edward died a month before his youngest child, William, was baptized. It is possible that he met his son before his death, but it is equally as possible that he missed his birth and baptism. This would have been such a difficult thing for Dame Anne to endure.

Dame Anne only lived another three years. She died on 6 July 1633 and was buried with her husband. The most remarkable part of their deaths and burial is their burial monument. The inscriptions give such a sweet glimpse into their personal lives. Here is the first inscription:

To the memories of Sir Edward Gostwyke Knt. and Baronet, and Dame Anna his wife, eldest daughter of John Wentworth of Gosfield in Essex, Esqr., by whom he had issue 3 sonnes and 5 daughters. (They lived vertuously and died religiously). Shee in her widowhood like a true Turtle never joying after his departure till her dyinge Day.

Top half of the monument showing Sir Edward and Dame Anne
The bottom half showing seven of their children

Here is the second inscription:

On the death of Sir Edward Gostwyk Knight and Baronet. Chronogram. – Edward Gostwyk died 20th September, 1630, aged 42.

On the death of the most select Lady. Chronogram. – And the wife hastens to join her husband 6th July, 1633, Aged 42.

As a bright example of fidelity and social love, this marble is inscribed with the name of Gostwyk. They lived equal in piety and second to none. The one was quite wrapt up in the love of the other. He first yielded to fate, that she might not yield. She, however, was not a whit behind her husband in love. He, when he had numbered both thrice and four times six years (42), said, ‘O Anna, I have lived out my days,’ and fell asleep. She, when she had completed the years of her beloved husband, said, ‘O Edward, I have lived out mine,” and fell asleep. Thus they lived alike in mind, husband and wife; thus in life and mind alike they fell asleep. [24]

Isn’t that just beautiful and heartbreaking and wonderful? They must have been truly in love with one another, and it was quite apparent to whoever commissioned the inscriptions.

A Few Observations

– The “turtle” mentioned in the inscription is actually a reference to a turtle dove, known for “the constancy of its affection.” Another sweet testament to their love.

– Thinking back on their clandestine marriage, the inscriptions shed a new light on the circumstances. I would be willing to assume that Sir Edward and Dame Anne were quite in love with one another, and perhaps the his parents in fact did not approve of their marriage. Whatever the reason, they were definitely in love and were ready to get married.

Dame Anne’s Will

Sir Edward did not leave a will, but Dame Anne did. I am always thrilled when I find a will for any family member, but for me, it is incredibly special when I find one for an ancestress. For many women, it is one of the few places where their voices can truly be heard. Even better, Dame Anne left a will in 1633. 1633! That is 386 year ago!

Below are a few of the most important or genealogically interesting sections of her will:

In the name of God Amen, The fifteenth day of May in the year of our lord God according to the computacion of the Church of England one Thousand five hundred therty three I Ann Gostwicke widdowe late wyfe of Sr Edward Gostwicke of Willington in the County of Bedford beinge att the the time in reasonable helth and perfect Remembrance for which I doe blesse and praise Allmighty God…

I bequeath my soule to Allmighty God…

My body I committ to the earth from where ytt came to be privately buryed in the Parish of Willington in that Church so neare my dear husband as…will permitt and appoint my beloved Cosen Mr William Ashwell Gentleman and Merchant of London to bee my sole Executour…

I doe bequeath to Mr Hoyvill Preacher of Gods word in Willington the summe of fforty shillinges to Mr Cookson Minister twenty five shillinges to Mr Rydings Minister twenty two shillinges to my Cosen Panmer minister twenty two shillinges to buy them gold Ringes wth deathes hands

I doe bequeath to my sister…my ringe sett wth greene stones and three other ringes I have allready given wth my owne hands

the rest of my Jewells I doe give my Daughter Elizabeth and Ffrancis Gostwicke to bee equally devided

I doe bequeath my sister Katheryn Wentworth a silver porrindge of forty shillinges

I doe bequeath my dahter Mary Spencer my two silver candlesticks

I doe bequeath to my sister [Diana] Bowles fowre children twenty two shillinges a peece

I doe bequeath to my Gentlewoman Mary Payne my gowne and petticote of black satten and the summe of Tenn poundes of lawfull English money

all my other apparell I doe bequeath to my fowre daughters Bes Ffrank Joane and Anne to be distributed Bes to choose first then Frank

I doe bequeath all my child bedd linen…to my house of Willington and all damaske and diaper and all sets of table linnen whatsoever all holland sheetes and pillow…to be safely kept to remain to the house as long as they will endure wth carefull usage

and for all the ordinary howshowld sheets I doe bequeath to my two daughters Bes and Ffranke to bee equally devided but not to bee given them till they bee maryed

I doe bequeath to my servant Ffrancis Reade the summe of forty shillings and to my servant Masson twenty shillinges and to my two Chambermaydes each of them twenty shillinges and to the rest of my yearly servants tenn shillinges a peece and to the poore of Willington yf I bee buryed there fforty shillinges yf I die in London forty shillinges to the uphowldinge of that Parish Church in which God called mee all the rest of my estate whatsoever I doe bequeath to my Executor performinge my will as for the goods I tooke to my owne use I can owne — money uppon them consideringe I have kept all my Children in meate and apparell even since the diparture of their deare ffather…

Signed Anne Gostwick [25]

Dame Anne’s Will – Observations

What an amazing will! There are so many points to discuss!

  • “Dear Husband”

After reading through the will again after writing about the burial monument, the sincerity of her use of “dear husband” or “deare ffather” really struck me. It seems that she was very much in love with him, and her request to be buried as close to him as possible was very sweet.

  • Missing Children

There were several people missing from her will: her sons! Not one of her sons was mentioned in her will. I suppose this is because the 13 year old heir, her son Sir Edward, would automatically inherit the majority of his father’s property. Her other two sons, Thomas and William, were both under 10 years old. I am wondering if some other provisions were made for the sons elsewhere. This will go on the list of “things to research!”

  • Daughters and Bequests

She was sure to include all of her daughters: Elizabeth, Mary, Frances, Jane, and Anne. I love that she used some her daughters’ nicknames rather than their full names: Bes for Elizabeth, Franke for Francis, and Joan for Jane. That brings a bit of personality and private life to a very formal document.

Both Mary and Bess were married. Mary (my 11th great grandmother) married Nicholas Spencer, Esquire on 20 January 1629 in Ravensden, Bedfordshire. Mary’s wedding was the only one attended by both of her parents. [26] Bess married Miles Matthews on 13 March 1632. Their license, issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury, is quite informative:

1632-Mch. 13 – Miles Matthews, of Bishop’s Hatfield, co. Herts, Esq., Bachr, 33, & Elizabeth Gostwicke, Spr, 23, dau. of Sir Edward Gostwick, late of Willington Herts, Kt & Bart, decd., with consent of her mother Dame Ann Gostwicke, of Willington afsd, Widow, at St. Faith’s London, or Wormleigh, co. Herts. [27]

This is definitely my Bess, as the parents listed in her license leave no room for doubt there. In Dame Anne’s will, she states that if she dies in London, etc., so she must have been traveling between Willington and St. Faith’s Parish in London. St. Faith’s Church is longer standing, but it was attached to the old St. Paul’s Cathedral. This is likely the Parish church to which Dame Anne was referring in her will. Notably, Dame Anne gave her consent for their marriage, different from her own clandestine marriage.

Mary only received silver candlesticks, but she had likely been given other items upon her marriage. Her sisters received clothing, jewels, and ordinary house linen. As the main house in Willington would go to her son, Dame Anne wanted all the best linen to stay with the house.

  • Bequests to Servants

Dame Anne also left items and money to her servants. This gives me just a little insight into Anne’s daily life. As the wife of a Baronet, she was constantly surrounded by servants who helped her care for her children, run her house, and run her estate.

She names first her gentlewoman, Mary Payne, to whom she bequeaths a gown and petticoat of black satin and some money. A gentlewoman, used in this context, refers to a lady’s companion. A lady’s companion was a woman of genteel birth whose social status was slightly lower than the lady whom she was serving. Mary Payne, therefore, was probably from a respectable family, and though she wasn’t a serving girl, she was not the social equal of Dame Anne. Her main duties would include spending time with Dame Anne, reading to her or with her, providing conversation, and general companionship. She would be paid an allowance, would sleep in nice rooms in the home, help entertain, and accompany her mistress to social events. It seems that Dame Anne was a bit sad and lonely after the death of Sir Edward, so Mary Payne probably helped cheer her.

Dame Anne needed other female servants to perform other tasks within the household. Francis Reade was also given money, and was simply called a servant. She was likely the woman who supervised the other servants within the house, purchased items for the house, and kept accounts. Frances could possibly be a lady’s maid, who would have been in charge or dressing Dame Anne, caring for her clothes, running errands, and taking care of any personal issues her mistress might have.

Dame Anne also mentions two chambermaids, but does not give their names. The chambermaids would have been in charge of taking care of the rooms within the house, tending the fires, changing linen, and other small tasks the mistress needed completed.

The only male servant named was Masson, and he could have been tasked with any number of things, from accounts to horses.

Dame Anne also employed an unspecified number of other servants who she engaged on a yearly basis. These servants were probably house maids, kitchen maids, grooms, and page boys. These servants could also refer to any person who worked on the estate in any capacity.

I think it is fair to say that Dame Anne lived a life that was materially comfortable. She born into some luxury, married a baronet, and had a gaggle of servants to see to her and her family’s every need. Dame Anne is a good example of a 17th-century, noble woman who lived a fairly typical upper class life.

Conclusion

This was such a long post, so thanks for staying with me until the end! The more research I conducted on Dame Anne, the more I came to really connect with her. I think her love story is so sweet, especially for a the 17th century, though incredibly sad at the same time. Her will is definitely a treasure, and it provided such a fantastic window into the life of a noble woman. I am certainly fortunate to have found so much information about an ancestress who lived so long ago.

1. Gosfield Parish (Essex, England), Parish Registers, vol. 1, unnumbered 30th p., Anne Wentworth baptism (1590); Essex Record Office, Chelmsford.

2. John Gough Nichols, The Unton Inventories, Relating to Wadley and Faringdon, Co. Berks. In the Years 1596 and 1620, From the Originals in the Possession of Earl Ferrers, With a Memoir of the Family of Unton (London: John Bowyer Nichols and Son, 1841), 46.

3. Westminster Abbey, (Westminster, London, England), Anne Seymour, Duchess of Somerset monumental inscription, read by R. Vaughn, 23 April 2018.

4. John Gough Nichols, The Unton Inventories, Relating to Wadley and Faringdon, Co. Berks. In the Years 1596 and 1620, From the Originals in the Possession of Earl Ferrers, With a Memoir of the Family of Unton (London: John Bowyer Nichols and Son, 1841), 48.

4. John Gough Nichols, The Unton Inventories, Relating to Wadley and Faringdon, Co. Berks. In the Years 1596 and 1620, From the Originals in the Possession of Earl Ferrers, With a Memoir of the Family of Unton (London: John Bowyer Nichols and Son, 1841), 42-48.

5. “England Marriages, 1538-1973,” database, Findmypast.com (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=R_850372096 : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for John Wentworth-Cicely Unton, 9 Mar 1580.

6. William Loftie Rutton, Three Branches of the Family of Wentworth (London: 1891), 166.

7. Gosfield Parish (Essex, England), Parish Registers, vol. 1, unnumbered 30th p., Anne Wentworth baptism (1590); Essex Record Office, Chelmsford.

8. William Loftie Rutton, Three Branches of the Family of Wentworth (London: 1891), 167-168.

8. Gosfield Parish (Essex, England), Parish Registers, vol. 1, unnumbered 29th-32nd pgs., baptisms of John Wentworth’s children (1590); Essex Record Office, Chelmsford.

9. Frederic Augustus Blaydes, ed., The Visitations of Bedfordshire, Annis Domini 1566, 1582, and 1634 (London: 1884), 34.

10. G. E. Cockayne, ed., Complete Baronetage Volume 1, 1611-1625 (Exeter: William Pollard & Co., 1900), 100.

11. Gosfield Parish (Essex, England), Parish Registers, vol. 1, unnumbered 7th p., Gostwick-Wentworth marriage (1608); Essex Record Office, Chelmsford.

12. G. E. Cockayne, ed., Complete Baronetage Volume 1, 1611-1625 (Exeter: William Pollard & Co., 1900), 100.

13. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, Findmypast.com (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=R_850372096 : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Elizabeth Gostwick, 17 Mar 1611.

14. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, Findmypast.com (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=R_963892902 : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Mary Ghostwicke, 26 Dec 1612.

15. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, Findmypast.com (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=R_952291008 : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Fraunces Gostwick, 19 Feb 1615.

16. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, Findmypast.com (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=R_963895974 : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Willia Ghostwick, 12 Sep 1616.

17. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, Findmypast.com (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=R_963893605 : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Jane Ghostwicke, 20 Oct 1618.

18. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, Findmypast.com (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=R_963998834 : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Edward Gostwyke, 30 Mar 1620.

19. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, Findmypast.com (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=R_963996557 : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Thomas Gostwicke, 3 Jul 1621.

20. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, Findmypast.com (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=R_963996557 : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Hannah Gostwyke, 9 Dec 1622.

21. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, Findmypast.com (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=R_944958059 : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Anne Gostoyke, 12 Aug 1624.

22. “England Births & Baptisms, 1538-1973,” database, Findmypast.com (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=R_22086092225 : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for William Gostwyke, 17 Oct 1630.

23. G. E. Cockayne, ed., Complete Baronetage Volume 1, 1611-1625 (Exeter: William Pollard & Co., 1900), 100.

24. The Home Counties Magazine, Devoted to the Topography of London, Middlesex, Essex, Herts, Bucks, Berks, Surrey, and Kent, vol. 9 (London: Reynell & Son, 1907), 154.

25. Dame Ann Gostwicke will, Willington, Bedfordshire, 1633; PROB 11/163/736, Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury: Wills and Letters of Administration, The National Archives, Kew, England; imaged at “Discovery,” database, The National Archives (https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/D866438 : accessed 11 May 2019).

26. “England Marriages, 1538-1973,” database, Findmypast.com (https://www.findmypast.com/transcript?id=R_843921232 : accessed 11 March 2019), entry for Nicholas Spencer-Mary Gostwicke marriage, 20 Jan 1629.

27. Frederick Augustus Blaydes, ed., Bedfordshire Notes and Queries, vol. 2 (Bedford: F. Hockliffe, 1889), 74.

Large Family – The Family of Thomas Bills and Mary Collins

As everyone can probably see, I have used the past few days to play “catch up” with my genealogy posts! This spring has been surprisingly busy for me, and yesterday was the first day that I took some time to work on a project. Two of my project stars, Thomas Bills and Mary Collins, will also be the stars of this post!

Looking at my family tree, my ancestors either had very large families (I will call 8 or more large), or they had very small families (1 or 2 children). Very few fall in the middle ground, which to me is quite fascinating. Thomas and Mary Bills fall in the large family category, being the parents of at least 11 children that lived to adulthood. This definitely qualifies as a large family!

Who Were Thomas and Mary?

As I said earlier, Thomas and Mary are two stars of my most recent research project, and I find them particularly interesting because Thomas Bills was a Quaker and Mary Collins was not. Thomas’s paternal family were originally from Monmouth, New Jersey. In the 1760s, the Bills moved to a Quaker community in Surry County, North Carolina, and they eventually made their way to Maury and Marshall Counties, Tennessee. Thomas’s maternal family were also Quakers for many generations, but they came to North Carolina from Virginia.

Mary Collins is a bit of a mystery for me. I know almost nothing about her background except that she was not a Quaker. I have seen potential parents on other researchers’ trees, but as I have not been able to research her myself, for now, I will just leave that part of her story out. She was born in North Carolina between 1794 and 1799 (her ages are not very consistent throughout the census records).

Thomas Bills and Mary Collins became acquainted with each other while living in Surry County, and their courtship and marriage caused some ripples through the Quaker community. The younger generation of Bills were marrying men and women outside of the faith, which resulted in their dismissal. Twelve Bills cousins were dismissed between 1794 and 1816, including Thomas.

Thomas married Mary Collins on 11 Feb 1813. His bondsman was his uncle, Gersham Bills, one of his father’s younger brothers.

Marriage Bond of Thomas Bills and Mary Collins

On 3 April 1813, Thomas was dismissed from the Deep Creek Quaker community:

Thomas Bills’s dismissal from the Quakers

Move to Tennessee

I wonder how Thomas’s parents and grandparents reacted to his marriage. Were they unhappy? Were they shocked? Were they mad? Whatever their feelings, the whole Bills clan packed up and moved to Tennessee in about 1816 or 1817. Even if his marriage was controversial, the extended family did not split up and no visible ruptures (at least, from what I can see) happened to the family.

About three years into their marriage, Mary gave birth to their first documented child: Jonathan D. Bills. Jonathan was the only child (whose name I have found) who was born in North Carolina. The next documented child, Lucinda, was born about 1817 in Tennessee. Below is the 1820 Census:

Thomas Bills is the male between 26 and 44, and Mary is one of the females between 16 and 25. One of the males under 10 is Jonathan D., and one of the females under 10 is Lucinda. So that leaves 3 people unaccounted for: 1 male under 10, 1 female under 10, and 1 female between 16 and 25. Who are these people?

This will require some more research, but the older female could be one of Thomas’s sisters or one of Mary’s sisters (if she had any). The other two children could be the other female’s children, or they could be two of Thomas and Mary’s children who were alive during 1820, but whose names I do not know. By 1830, the mystery daughter has disappeared. If they are Thomas and Mary’s children, that means Mary might have given birth to 13 children!

1830 Census

Ten years later, the family had grown larger:

Thomas is the male between 30 and 39, and Mary is the female between 30 and 39.  Jonathan D. is the male between 10 and 14, and Lucinda is the female between 10 and 14. That leaves 1 male between 10 and 14 whose name I do not know. He is likely the same child as the one in the 1820 census under the age of 10. The new children include: Daniel and Matthew (ages 5-9), Rachel and Annie (under 5), and William J. (under 5). This leaves 1 male between 5 and 9 who is another mystery. The count now is 14 children, 3 whose names I have not been able to determine.

1840 Census

After another 10 years, the household has grown once more. First, the easy ones to identify: Thomas is the male between 50 and 59 and Mary is the female between 40 and 49.

The oldest son, Jonathan D., is one of the males between 20 and 29. Again, the mystery other older son is recorded, also between 20 and 29. Daniel is one of the males between 15 and 19, and the other mystery son in the same age range is also recorded. Matthew is the male between 10 and 15, and William J. is the male between 5 and 9.

The daughters are a little easier to identify. The little girl alive in 1820 never makes another appearance, so I can assume that she died early. Lucinda and Rachel are the two daughters between 20 and 29, Annie Catherine is the daughter between 10 and 14, Mary and Sarah are the females between 5 and 9, and the youngest daughter, Alsey Mahaley, is the youngest child under 5.

1850 Census

And here is my large family in 1850. Immediately, I spot an issue with Mary’s age. It is listed as 35 which, of course, cannot be possible. This is just a census taker error. The newest addition is John C., born in about 1842.

Some Observations – Marital Status

After combing through theses census records, what I found most interesting was how old many of the children were to still be living at home, unmarried!

The oldest son, Jonathan D., married for the first time when he was 57 in 1873.

Sadly, I lose both Lucinda and Rachel after 1850, so either they married and I haven’t found records for them, or they both died before 1860.

Daniel W. never married, and lived with his mother, brother Jonathan, and Jonathan’s wife during his adult life.

Sarah also remained single and lived with her mother and unmarried siblings.

The other children were a bit more conventional; they married in their late teens and twenties, and had children. This large family expanded some in the third generation, but not as much as might be expected.

More Observations – Naming Patterns

The Bills family were very close, and this is possibly best demonstrated by their naming patterns. Here are four generations of the family:

Daniel Bills m. Deborah Denman, whose children were:

William, Gersham, Hannah, Elizabeth, Sarah, Isaac Newton, Rachel, Patience, Daniel, Jonathan D., John

William Bills m. Susannah Hutchins (daughter of John Hutchins and Alice Stanley), whose children were:

Gersham, Daniel Baxter, Jonathan D.,  John, Deborah, Thomas, Mary Jane, and Alcey

Thomas Bills m. Mary Collins, whose children were:

Jonathan D., Lucinda, Rachel, Daniel W., Matthew W., Annie Catherine, William J., Sarah H., Mary J., Alsey Mahaley, and John C.

Thomas and Mary’s children were clearly named after family members. Mary J. shares a name with her mother and paternal aunt, while William J. has the same name as his paternal grandfather. Jonathan D., Daniel, and John were all named for their paternal uncles, paternal great uncles, a great grandfather, and a great-great grandfather. Alsey was likely named for her paternal aunt and her paternal great grandmother, Alice, and Rachel for her paternal great aunt. (As you can see, everyone mentioned is named for their father’s side because I don’t have the maternal line to compare. Hopefully I will make the maternal connections in the near future!)

Conclusion

There are so many benefits that come from researching ancestors with large families and extended kin networks. Much of a direct ancestor’s motivations, personality, and life experiences are shaped by his or her family members. Thomas and Mary’s family are a good example of this and having 14 children certainly qualifies as large. I hope to add more information to their large family’s story soon!

 

 

 

Bachelor Uncle – “Best Blood of the Revolution”

Every chance I get to write about my Dixon and Cochran families, I do! As they were the focus of my master’s thesis, I am overwhelmed with interesting material about them. When I saw that the prompt for this week was “bachelor uncle,” I couldn’t think of a better example of an exciting than Robert Dixon.

Background

So how is uncle Robert Dixon related to me? Sankey Dixon is my 5th great grandfather on my paternal side, and Robert is his older brother, making him my 6th great uncle. Robert and Sankey were the sons of John Dixon and Arabella Murray, both of Scottish and Scots-Irish extraction. John Dixon was a successful farmer in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and Arabella was the sister of wealthy merchant Robert Murray and aunt of the grammarian Lindley Murray. John and Arabella were the parents of at least 9 children: Robert, Isabella, Richard, James, Sankey, Mary, Anna, John, and Arabella.

Silhouette of Robert Dixon

Rumblings of Revolution

Robert was about 25 years old when on 4 June 1774 the inhabitants of Hanover gathered together to discuss the current political climate. The meeting resulted in 5 resolves in response to the oppressive “recent action of the Parliament of Great Britain.” The final resolve was the establishment of a committee consisting of 9 men from Hanover “who shall act for us and in our behalf as emergencies may require.” Robert had the great distinction of being one of the men elected to this committee.

When the Revolutionary War began, at least 4 of the Dixon brothers enthusiastically enlisted to fight. Robert, Richard, and John joined Captain Matthew Smith’s company in June 1775, followed by Sankey who joined the Pennsylvania Line a year or two later. The Dixon boys were quite famous in Lancaster County for their eagerness to fight the British. A neighbor, Robert Strain, made a shot pouch for Richard with “Liberty or Death” inscribed on the front. The brothers’ passion and courage so impressed Strain that he recalled “the whole of the four brothers of the Dixon family were in the service until the war was ended, and were the truest kind of Whigs and Patriots.” Although four of the Dixon brothers were well known for their service, it was the oldest brother, Robert, who acquired early fame as the “first martyr of the Revolution” as result of his participation in the Quebec Campaign.

Quebec Campaign

I was very fortunate to find that a friend of Robert Dixon’s, John Joseph Henry, kept a journal during the Quebec Campaign and later published it with clarifying notes and remembrances. Robert features in two anecdotes: crossing the Dead River and his death in Quebec.

Crossing the Dead River

The Quebec Campaign was notably led by Benedict Arnold, and the march from Pennsylvania to Maine to Quebec was arduous. Desertion was common especially as the frequent river crossings in leaking boats spoiled food and ammunition. Robert and his companions reached the Dead River, a tributary of the Kennebec River in Maine, in October 1775. The soldiers climbed the hills next to the river while boatmen polled and rowed the boats against the current. The river was already fast, but when it rained heavily on 19 October, the waters rose dangerously, the land became boggy, and the water fetid. Below is John Joseph Henry’s account of the disaster that awaited him, Robert, and the other soldiers on 23 October when they crossed the Dead River: (Please excuse spelling; original spelling has been kept)

Oct. 23 – When morning came, the river presented a most frightful aspect: it had risen at least eight feet, and flowed with terrifying rapidity. None but the most strong and active boatmen entered the boats. The army marched on the south side of the river, making large circuits to avoid the overflowings of the intervale or bottoms lands. This was one of the most fatiguing marches….But having no path, and being necessiated to climb the steepest hills, and that without food, for we took none with us, thinking the boats would be near us all day….Alas! all the boats of the army were on the opposite side of the river….We sat down on the bank sorely pinched by hunger, looking wistfully towards our friends beyond the torrent, who were in possession of all the provisions, tents, and camp equipage, convinced that the most adventurous boatmen would not dare the passage for the sake of accommodating any of us. We were, however, mistaken. There were two men…who had skill and courage to dare it….

The river was about 150 or 200 yards in breadth, counting on the increase of water by the rains. The force of the central current naturally formed considerable eddies at each side of the river….Quick, almost in a moment, Simpson was with us. He called in his loud voice to Robert Dixon, James Old, (a messmate,) and myself to enter the boat. We entered immediately. He pushed off; attempting the start by favor of the higher eddy, which was the main thing, we failed. Returning, to the shore, we were assailed by a numerous band of soldiers, hungry and anxious to be with their companions. Simpson told them he could not carry more with safely, and would return for them. Henry M’Annely…jumped into the boat; he was followed by three or four older inconsiderate men. The countenance of Simpson changed; his soul and mine were intimate. “O God,” said he, “men we shall all die.” They would not recede. 

Again we approached the pitch; it was horrible. The batteaux (boat) swam deep, almost ungovernable by the paddle….Simpson, with his paddle, governed the stern. The worthy Tidd in the bow. Dixon and myself, our guns stuck in the railing of the batteau, but without paddles, sat in the stern next to Simpson. Mr. Old was in the bow near Tidd. Henry M’Annally was adjoining Mr. Old. The other men sat between the stern and bow. Simpson called to the men in the bow to lay hold of the birch bushes: the boat struck the shore forcibly; they caught hold…but…their holds slipped at the only spot where we could have been saved; for the boat had been judiciously and safely brought up. Letting go their holds, the bow came round to the stream, and the stern struck the shore.

Simpson, Dixon, and myself, now caught the bushes, but being by this time thrown into the current, the strength of the water made the withes as so many straws in our hands. The stern again swung round: the bow came again ashore. Mr. Old, Tidd, and M’Annaly, and the rest, sprung to the land to save their lives. Doing this at our cost, their heels forced the boat across the current. Though we attempted to steady it, the boat swagged. In a moment after, at thirty feet off shore, being broad side to the current, it turned, borne under, in spite of all our force, by the fury of the stream. The boat upsetting, an expression, as going into the water, fell from me, “Simpson, we are going to heaven.” My fall was head-foremost. Simpson came after me….The art of swimming, in which I thought myself an adept, was tried, but it was a topsy-turvey business….We should have there died, but for the assistance of Edward Cavanugh….

Lying on the earth perhaps twenty minutes, the water pouring from my mouth, a messenger from the camp came to rouse us. Roused, we went in. But all eyes looked out for Dixon, all hearts were wailing for his loss.It was known he could not swim, but none of us could recollect whether he had dropped into the water or had adhered to the boat. After a while we had the inexpressible pleasure of Dixon in our company. He had stuck to the side of the boat, which lodged on a vast pile of drift wood some miles below, and in this way he was saved.

Arriving at camp, our friends had a large fire prepared, particularly for our accommodation; heat, after such an occurrence, is most agreeable. My two friends in distress (Robert and Simpson), whose clothing was principally woolen, felt none of my private disaster.

Quite the story! Luckily, Robert survived the ordeal as well as his friends, despite the fact that he could not swim!

Robert’s Death

The Quebec Campaign in 1775 was particularly disastrous for the patriots, and the meddling of a French spy about a month before the Battle of Quebec cost Robert his life. Below is the account given by John Joseph Henry, Robert’s friend and comrade:

Nov. 16th – In the afternoon a distressing occurrence took place here, notwithstanding our vicinity to [the nunnery]. Towards the evening the guard was relieved. Lieutenant Simpson commanded it. This guard was composed of two-and-twenty fine fellows of our company. When the relief-guard came, a Frenchman, of a most villainous appearance, both as to person and visage, came to our Lieutenant with a written order from Colonel Arnold, commanding him to accompany the bearer, who would be our guide across the river St. Charles, to obtain some cattle feeding beyond it, on the account of government. The order, in the first instance, because of its preposterous, was doubted, but, upon a little reflection, obeyed.

Knowing the danger, our worthy Lieutenant also knew the best and only means of executing the enterprize. The call “come on, lads,” was uttered. We ran with speed from the guard-house some hundreds of yards over the plain to the moth of the St. Charles, where the ferry is. Near the ferry there was a large wind-mill, and near it stood a small house resembling a cooper’s shop. Two carts of a large size were passing the ferry heavily laden with the household-stuff, women, and children of the townsmen flying from the suburbs of St. Roque….The carts were already in a large scow or flat-bottomed boat, and the ferrymen, seeing us coming, were tugging hard at the ferry-rope to get off the boat, which was aground, before we should arrive. It was no small matter…to outdo people of our agility. Simpson, with his usual good humor, urged the race, from a hope that the garrison would not fire upon us when in the boat with their flying townsmen. The weight of our bodies and arms put the boat aground in good earnest. Simpson vociferously urging the men to free the boat, directed them to place their guns in my arms, standing on the bow. He ordered me to watch the flashes of cannon of the city, near palace gate.

Jumping into the water mid-deep, all but Serjeant Dixon and myself, they were pushing, pulling, and with handspikes attempting to float the scow. One of the carts stood between Dixon and myself – he was tugging at the ferry rope. Presently, “a shot,” was called; it went wide of the boat, its mark. The exertions of the party were redoubled. Keeping an eye upon the town, the sun about setting in a clear sky, the view was beautiful indeed, but somewhat terrific….Out boat lay like a rock in the water, and was a target at point blank shot about three-fourths of a mile from palace gate, which issues into Saint Roque….It was plainly observable that many persons were engaged in preparing the guns for another discharge. Our brave men were straining every nerve to obtain success. “A shot,” was all that could be said, when a thirty-six pound ball, touching the lower edge of the nob of the cart-wheel, descending a little, look the leg of my patriotic friend (Robert) below the knee, and carried away the bones of that part entirely. “Oh! Simpson,” he cried, “I am gone.” Simpson, whose heart was tender and kind, leaped into the boat: calling to the men, the person of Dixon was borne to the wind-mill. Now a roar of triumph was heard from the city, accompanied by some tolerably well directed shots. The unfortunate man was borne at a slow and solemn pace to the guardhouse – the enemy every now and then sending us his majesty’s compliments, in the shape of a 24 or 36 pound ball. When the procession came into a line with the town, the guard-house, and nunnery, the firing ceased. At the time we were most busily engaged with Dixon, at the wind-mill, the vile Frenchman, aghast and horror-stricken, fled from us to the city. If his desertion had been noticed in time, his fate had been sealed; but the rascal was unobserved till he had run several hundred yards along the beach of the bay of St. Charles. He turned out to be a spy, purposely sent by government to decoy and entrap us, and he succeeded but too easily with the vigilant Arnold.

Dixon was now carried on a litter to the house of an English gentleman, about a mile off. An amputation took place – a tetanus followed, which, about nine o’clock of the ensuing day, ended in the dissolution of this honorable citizen and soldier. There are many reasons for detailing this affair so minutely to you. Among these are, to impress upon your minds an idea of the manners and spirit of those times: our means and rude method or warfare; but more particularly for the purpose of introducing to your observation an anecdote of Dixon, which is characteristic of the ideas and feelings then entertained by the generality of his countrymen. Before we left our native homes, tea had, as it were, become an abomination even to the ladies. The taxation of it by the Parliament of England, with design to draw from us a trifling revenue, was made the pretence with the great body of the people, for our opposition to government. The true ground, however, with the politically wise, was that that law annihilated our rights as Englishmen….Hence it was, that no male or female, knowing their rights, if possessed of the least spark of patriotism, would deign to taste of that delightful beverage. The lady of the house, though not one who approved of our principles of action, was very attentive to our wounded companion; she presented him a bowl of tea: “No, madam,” said he, “it is the ruin of my country.”

Uttering this noble sentiment, (Nov. 17th), this invaluable citizen died, sincerely lamented by every one who had the opportunity of knowing his virtues. Dixon was a gentlemen of good property and education, though no more than the first sergeant of our company. His estate lay in West Hanover township, in the county of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He was an agriculturist, which, in the vagueness and and uncertainty of our language, is called “a farmer.” In fact he was a freeholder, the possessor of an excellent tract of land, accompanied by all those agreeables which render the cultivator of earth, in Pennsylvania, the most independent, and, with prudent economy, the most happy of human beings.

The following morning, Simpson was the first to give me an account of Dixon’s death, which affected us much. His corpse received the usual military honors. Duty compelled my absence elsewhere. The blood of Dixon was the first oblation made upon the altar of liberty at Quebec, and Merchant was the first prisoner. The latter (Merchant) was a brave and determined soldier, fitted for subordinate station; the former (Robert) was intuitively a captain. 

According to the tale told by one of the Dixons’ former tenants, William Darby, an express rider delivered a letter to his father, John, informing him of Robert’s death. John was inconsolable.

Thoughts

I know that I quoted quite a bit from each story, but I wanted to include as much as possible to provide some context to the anecdotes. The river crossing story sounded just terrifying; it just shows how dangerous being in the army in the 18th century truly was, even when they weren’t in battle. Traveling from place to place had its own problems, including food shortages, weather, and malfunctioning equipment. Fortunately, Robert survived the river crossing, though he would not live much longer.

Robert’s death is such a tragic story. Not only did the actions of a spy directly lead to his death, but he sustained a horrendous wound and suffered through an amputation and infection before he finally died. The fact that he received full military honors at his burial has been commented on by historians. Although he was a non commissioned officer, he was treated like one. Some speculate it was because of he wealth or standing in his community, or because he was the earliest casualty of the campaign.

For me, however, the most amazing part of these anecdotes is the inclusion of personal details about Robert. For one, he couldn’t swim! I thought this was incredible, as his father’s land bordered a river, at a place called Dixon’s Ford. But perhaps the river was not very deep and he had no need to learn to swim. If Robert couldn’t swim, then I assume his younger brother Sankey couldn’t swim either. Henry also included details about Robert’s background – from a wealthy family, well-educated, and an “agriculturalist.” These details are supported in other documents and other sources, but it is so amazing to read the words that a contemporary wrote about a close relative. I am sure he was quite a character, and his actions and character left such an impact on Sankey that he named one of his sons “Robert” in his brother’s honor.

 

At the Courthouse – Sheriff Mark Washington Wimpee

One of the best parts of genealogy (for me anyway) is traveling all over the U.S. and abroad to research in person! I also prefer to research locally rather than on the state level unless I have multiple counties to cover in a short trip, and in many cases, especially in the south, this means going through records at the local courthouse. While I could highlight interesting records I have found there, I instead want to highlight an ancestor who spent a lot of time at the courthouse as his position as the sheriff: Mark Washington Wimpee.

In a previous post, I introduced Mark Washington Wimpee as the father of my great great grandmother, Maud Melissa Wimpee. Mark was one of 16 children (yikes!) born to Mark Ragan and Mary Ann (Jester) Wimpee. Six of Mark’s siblings died young, and I do not know the names of any of them. His remaining siblings were: Melissa, Francis, Martha, Sarah, George, Benjamin, Cora, John, and Riley. Mark R. Wimpee was a carriage and wagon maker, and he and his large family moved around through the years, presumably as Mark R. looked for work. Around Mark W.’s birth in 1859, they were living in Polk County. In 1870, they were living in Warren County, Kentucky, and by 1880, they were living in Dirt Town, Chattooga County, Georgia. This is where he married Amanda Alice Scoggins on 13 March 1881.

Like his father, Mark W. moved his family around for better opportunities. He farmed in Chattooga County for a while, and in 1896 he purchased 160 acres near Huntsville, Alabama. By 1900, he had returned to Georgia, putting down roots in Trion where he worked as a blacksmith at the Trion Cotton Mill.

Sheriff of Chattooga County

The earliest evidence that I have found of Mark W. serving as the sheriff of Chattooga County is in a newspaper article concerning an accidental wound he sustained while sheriff. Soon after the incident, a rumor spread that the Deputy Sheriff J. W. Alexander, and one of Mark’s close friends, shot him, and to out an end of this rumor, D.S.  placed the following in the newspaper:

30 November 1913 in The Atlanta Constitution

After he placed his denial in the paper, Alexander was relieved of his position, and Sheriff Mark placed his version of the story in the paper, which was also supported by witnesses:

7 December 1913 in The Atlanta Constitution

This conflict seems to have driven the two men apart, and in January 1914, both men announced that they were running for Sheriff:

17 January 1914 in The Atlanta Constitution

Fortunately for Mark, he won re-election as Sheriff of Chattooga County, despite the problems between him and his former deputy and running mate.

Interesting Cases

Sheriff Mark was involved in some interesting cases during his tenure as sheriff. One concerned Frank Matthews, a Texas man who robbed the Lyerly Bank and whose trial was held at the Summerville County Courthouse. Sheriff Mark was in charge of moving Matthews from Fulton County to Chattooga County, but as can be read in the following article, somehow Matthews left the train when it pulled into Rome and Sheriff Mark failed to stop him. Matthews did arrive in Summerville for trial, but his “escape” became a point of contention during the 1914 sheriff race.

5 April 1914 in The Atlanta Constitution

Another notable case was the Floyd-Anderson murder, and the details can be found the in following article. It seems that Mrs. Floyd and Mrs. Anderson began the argument, and it ended with William Anderson fatally shooting Rob Floyd, which he claimed was self defense.

9 November 1914 in The Atlanta Constitution

Anderson turned himself in to Sheriff Mark, who promptly escorted him to jail. Luckily, Sheriff Mark did not lose this prisoner.

Retirement

The Anderson-Floyd case was likely the last major one of Sheriff Mark’s career. Just a few weeks later, Mark was forced to resign because he was suffering from some health problems. J. W. Anderson was likely thrilled, as he became sheriff upon Mark’s resignation.

13 December 1914 in The Atlanta Constitution

Post-Retirement

At the end of 1914, Mark was in ill health, but likely so was his wife, Amanda. She died in August of 1915 and was buried in Trion.

I have yet to locate Mark in the 1920 census, but by the late 1920s, he had remarried and was living in Mobile, Alabama. He died on 2 May 1932 in Mobile at the age of 72, leaving his second wife a middle-aged widow.

Although Mark only spent a few years as sheriff, they were quite eventful in and out of the courthouse.

Family Photo – 50th Wedding Anniversary Photograph

This wonderful photograph was taken in June 1948 to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of my great-great grandparents, Bailey Peyton and Clara Dona (Christian) Upton. They are seated in the middle of the photograph. The couple had married on 18 June 1898 in Overton County, Tennessee, and their union created the large, beautiful family you see in this photo!

Clara Dona was the tenth of eleven children born to Moses Elian Christian and Louisa Margaret Jane Hooten. She was the great granddaughter of educator, surveyor, and author Moses Fisk and the great-great granddaughter of Revolutionary War officer Gilbert Christian. She came from a well-known and well-educated family, which was in direct contrast with the family of her husband, Bailey Peyton Upton. Bailey was the son of Turner Mike Upton and Martha Daughtery. Martha’s parents had quite a scandalous past, and their story was highlighted in this post. Mike’s parents were Riley and Martha Upton, and evidence points to Riley being the illegitimate son of Turner Johnson, a close neighbor and friend.

My granddad once told me a story about Clara Dona and Bailey Peyton. According to him, Bailey Peyton either couldn’t read or write, or he couldn’t read or write very well, and Clara Dona said she wouldn’t marry him until he learned. She then taught him how to read and write (or at least improved his skills), and then they were married.

Below is the 1880 census record. Both Bailey Peyton’s parents could read and write, and he, his older sister Minnie, and his older brothers Montee and Dennis attended school within the year. The census taker recorded that Bailey Peyton, Dennis, and Minnie could not read or write, and Montee could not read, yet they all went to school! This evidence seems to prove granddad’s story correct: although Bailey Peyton attended school, he might have only gone some of the time and he was only partially literate.

Interestingly, the 1900 census shows Bailey Peyton and Clara Dona living in their own home soon after their marriage, and Clara is recorded as illiterate! This is an error of the census taker, as I have seen examples of her ability to read and write. However, all of Clara’s tutoring paid off, and Bailey was recorded as literate.

The Photograph

I do recognize quite a few people in this family photograph, but I will just point out a few. The photo features Clara Dona and Bailey Peyton, their children, their spouses, and their grandchildren. My grandfather is standing fourth from the left, between two of his cousins wearing white dresses. His parents, Audrey Vonda (Upton) Davis and Lyndol Davis are standing on the opposite side of the photograph. Vonda, Clara Dona and Bailey Peyton’s oldest daughter, is in a white dress, standing in the front row, fourth from the left. The lady just behind her turned her head and is laughing. Lyndol Davis is standing two over from Vonda, with a young boy in front of him.

It is a sweet photograph, and it really shows what a close-knit family they were. Clara Dona and Bailey Peyton celebrated their 60th anniversary ten years later, but she died the following year, and Bailey six years later. What a fortunate couple to live such long, happy lives together!

Love – Love for a Wife…and a Mistress?

Love is a very complicated emotion. Although this is Valentine’s week, this story deals with how love can sometimes go wrong and how love can change over time.

My 6th great grandfather, Thomas Harvey, married his first wife, Sarah Ann (probably Williams) in about 1761. I have no idea if they were in love when they married, but I assume that they probably were. That is the challenge with our ancestors, isn’t it? We don’t really know their inner thoughts or their true feelings about anything. I would love to believe they were in love when they first got married.

Thomas and Sarah Ann were certainly married by 10 October 1765 when they both signed a deed selling 150 acres in Halifax County, North Carolina. Over about a fifteen year period, Thomas and Sarah Ann had seven known children: William, Thomas, Elizabeth, Caty, Sarah, Hannah, and Oney Scyprett.

Elizabeth, my 5th great grandmother, appears in several records while she was a child. On 10 Dec 1783, Thomas sold, or more likely gifted, a young enslaved girl to his daughter, Elizabeth, or Betty.

Know all men by these presents that I Thomas Harvey of the county of Halifax No. Carolina for and in consideration of the sum of fifty pounds current money to me in hand paid by Betty Harvey have bargained sold and delivered and by these presents do bargain sell and deliver in plain & open market to her the said Betty Hervey one negro girl about 16 years old named Lucy and the said negroe girl Lucy unto her the said Betty Harvey her heirs and assigns will well and truly warrant and for ever defend witness my hand and seal ye 10th day of Decem’r 1783.”
Thomas Hervey <seal>
Signed seal’d and deliv’d in the presence of William Harvey senr. William Harvey, Halifax County dst. Feb’y Court 1784. Then this bill of sale was exht’d in open court ack’d by Thomas Hervey Esq. the party thereto and on mo’n ord’d to be rd. Registered” Wm Wooten C.Co. Registered Jno Geddy P Regr.

Later, another entry in the deed books shows what happened to Lucy, though the wording to me is a bit odd. It does show, however, that this Betsey/Betty was the same as Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Hervey.

Betsey Hearvey of Halifax Co. gives a Negro girl Lucy given to her by her father T. Hearvey to a Negro girl Minny given to her by virtue of a bill of sale from her father aforementioned.

Around the same time as Thomas was presenting gifts to one of his children with his wife, Sarah Ann, he had also taken a mistress. Interestingly, her name was also Elizabeth, though she was known as Bettie. Bettie Pritchett at some point caught the eye of Thomas, and again, though I can’t say whether or not they were in love, they certainly had enough affection for each other to carry on a relationship for years that produced at least 6 children. The earliest birth date of any of their children I have been able to find is 1781, though some children could be born before that. Either Gideon, born in 1781, was the oldest, or possibly his sister Polly. Thomas and Bettie’s other children were named Peyton, Nancy, Betty, and Judith.

Bettie Pritchett was not Thomas’s second wife, as has been asserted in the past. Sarah Ann was still living when Thomas wrote his will in 1806, and Bettie died in 1802. As far as I have seen, Thomas and Sarah Ann never separated, so I am quite curious how this arrangement worked. Did Thomas live with his wife and legal children, or did he live with his mistress and his illegitimate children? Or did Bettie and her children live on property that Thomas provided for them? I also wonder what Sarah Ann thought of this. After all, Thomas had an entire other family. His affair with Bettie was long standing, not a one time mistake. Maybe he loved her, maybe she saw a good opportunity to be taken care of by a man with some wealth. Did Thomas love both women at once? I will never know the answers to these questions, but the possible ones are fascinating to think of.

By 22 December 1802, Bettie Pritchett had died, and Thomas decided it was time to do something in a legal sense for his illegitimate children.

Be it known to all people to whom these presents may come that I Thomas Harvey Senr for divers good causes & reasons as well as the good will and respect I bear unto the children of Betty Pritchet decd, Gideon Harvey Pritchet, Payton Harvey Pritchet, Nancy, Betty, Judah Harvey Pritchet I freely & absolutely give unto them & their heirs lawfully begotten forever as follows.

Five negroes named thus Cary, Redick, Sampson, Nat & Jacob and all that tract of land that I hold by virtue of a deed that I hold from Willis Alston Esq. with three feather beds and a good riding horse apiece, all to be equally to be divided amongst them at my death to them and their heirs forever.

Likewise I lend to their sister Polly Williams during her natural life one negro named Isaac with proportionable part of above mentioned land and after her death to be equally divided amongst her children lawfully begotten of her body for them to be possessed with at the time as above mentioned to them & theirs forever. And if any of the above mentioned children should die before they have an heir lawfully begotten of their body then their part of the above mentioned legacy to be equally divided amongst the rest of the surviving children.

This deed gives some possible answers to the above stated questions. Likely, Bettie died very soon before this deed was drawn up, and this was Thomas’s way of ensuring that his children with Bettie were taken care of.

It also gives a possible explanation of where his children were living before Bettie’s death. As he gave a tract of land, personal possessions, and slaves to his children, it is quite possible that all of this was already in their possession and that this was Thomas’s formal way of giving them their inheritance.

Another interesting observation concerns the children’s surnames in the deed. They are all called Hervey Pritchett, using the surnames of both their parents and demonstrating their status as illegitimate. However, it seems that Thomas did not object to his children using his surname and their mother’s interchangeably as on a deed in 1804, Peyton Hervey Pritchett signed as Peyton Hervey alongside his father’s name.

Thomas lost another whom he loved in the early 1800s other than his mistress, Bettie. Thomas visited William Hervey, his son, along with his daughter Elizabeth, when he was close to death and heard what William intended to do with his estate. A few days later, he died. Undoubtedly, Thomas was quite sad over the death of his son.

Thomas Hervey’s Will

On 12 February 1806, Thomas Hervey wrote his will. The majority of the bequests in the will focus on his five children with Bettie Pritchett, but he did have enough respect for his wife and legitimate children to name them first.

First Item I lend my wife Sarahann Hervey the plantation I now live on and three negroes namely Billy Jesse and one more negroe woman which my Exors is to purchase of equal value of my negroe woman Polla out of money raised out of my estate with a sufficiency of horses and stock and kitchen and Household furniture sufficient for her comfortable support during her life.

2nd Item I give and bequeath to my Seven children which I had by my wife Sarahann Hervey, Betty Sullivan (sic Sullivant), William Hervey, deceased (?), Caty Christie, Sally Smith, Thomas Hervey, Hanna Beele (sic Bull) and One Hervey, all that property of negroes land & that I have heretofore given, devised, and delivered to them & their heirs for ever.

Will naming wife Sarah Ann and legitimate children.

So it seems that his children with Sarah Ann had already been provided for, and he wished his wife to have what she needed during the rest of her life.

He then used the rest of the will to outline his illegitimate children’s inheritance. He reiterated what he had already laid out for them in the deed of 1802 – land and slaves – along with two other tracts of land. He also gave his grandsons by Gideon and Peyton land, and he instructed that the residue of his estate should go to Gideon, Peyton, Betty, Nancy, Judith, and the children of Polly to be divided among them. He also gave Sarah Ann’s share to his illegitimate children after her death.

Lastly, he appointed his two sons by Bettie Pritchett – Gideon and Peyton – the executors of his estate, and not his sons by Sarah Ann who were still living – Thomas and Oney.

Sons Gideon Hervey Pritchett and Peyton Hervey Pritchett named as executors.

I wonder if this action demonstrated some favoritism for his illegitimate sons over his legitimate ones. Were his sons by Sarah Ann not on the best terms with their father? Also, Thomas clearly names Gideon and Peyton as his sons, which I don’t believe he does in any other document.

Thomas is also very careful to use both Hervey and Pritchett as their surnames, not just Hervey, but not just Pritchett either. To me, this signals that he was not at all ashamed that he had fathered other children out of wedlock, but that he very openly claimed them as his own.

Using Hervey/Pritchett Surnames

After their father’s death, the Hervey Pritchett children stopped using Pritchett in many official documents and instead used only Hervey. Many, but not all. Take a look at Gideon’s census records. In 1810, 1830, and 1850, his name is Gideon Hervey. But in 1840, it is Gideon P. Hervey. P is undoubtedly for Pritchett. As for Peyton, in every census record except 1810, his name is either listed as Peyton P Hervey or P. P. Hervey. Again, the P is for Pritchett.

When both sons wrote their wills, they styled themselves as Gideon P. Hervey and Peyton P. Hervey. Although they used Hervey as their official surname, they wanted Pritchett to be a part of their name and were not ashamed to hide it. I think that shows love for both of their parents.

Conclusion

Thomas loved many people in his personal life: a wife, his seven children with his wife, his mistress, and his natural children with her. Thomas may have loved all these people, but how did they tolerate each other? Sarah Ann likely bore little love for Bettie and Bettie for her. Did the two sets of children get along or did they resent the existence of the others? There was quite an age difference between Sarah Ann’s oldest children and Bettie’s youngest, so maybe they had little to do with each other. Whatever their true feelings, Thomas seems to have put everyone in a rather interesting, if not uncomfortable, situation. I just wish I knew how everyone handled it! Love is complicated.

Surprise – Unknown Uncle Walter

I have shared a few stories about my Father’s Father’s side of the family on this blog. In some recent posts, I highlighted the Althausers, Prestons, Sears, Robinsons, and Dixons, all of whose stories have plenty of interesting turns and surprises. For me, one of the most exciting surprises, and earliest genealogy victories, was finding a great uncle that I didn’t know existed on that side of the family.

In an earlier post, I mentioned that my Dad is a fourth generation only son, so there are very few relatives on that side of the family. On the wives’s sides, many of their siblings either stayed single or never married, so no cousins were produced. Therefore, I was very familiar with the names of the odd great aunt or uncle.

All of my life, I heard about my great great grandmother, Jessie (called grandmother Robinson by my Dad) and her sister, Bertha (called Aunt Bert). Aunt Bert married but never had children, and after Jessie’s husband died, she moved in with Aunt Bert. My grandmother and my Dad knew them both, so I’ve heard plenty of stories about the sisters and their husbands.

My family also has lots of pictures of Jessie, Aunt Bert, and their parents, Charles and Cora Preston. While sorting through some of these family pictures, I found several of a very handsome young man who greatly resembled Charles, but I had absolutely no idea who he could be as all the other males relatives were accounted for. What made the photos even more tantalizing were that many of them were taken at photography studios in Nashville around the same time that Jessie, Bert, and their parents were having their photos taken in Nashville. Who WAS THIS?!

As I began going though other Preston documents, I found two letters written by Cora to Charles in 1882. Charles was living in Nashville and in the process of moving Cora and Jessie down. Cora made a mention of “the children” and what they were up to. Now this was very odd. In 1882, Jessie was six years old, but Aunt Bert wasn’t born until 1886. So, either I had Aunt Bert’s birthday completely wrong, or there was another child born between the two sisters, one I had never heard of before. Was this child the mysterious boy and man in the photographs?

This mystery is one of the reasons I first signed up for Ancestry.com. I wanted to search the census records to see if there was anything that I didn’t know or that my family didn’t know or had forgotten. The first census year I checked was 1880. With any luck, the mystery child was born prior to the census date. Here is what I found:

Preston household in Zanesville, Ohio in 1880.

As you can see, the Prestons are living in Zanesville, Ohio: Charles, Cora, Jessie, and….Walter? Who is Walter? According to the census, Charles and Cora had a 1 year old son named Walter. He is very likely the other child to whom Cora was referring to in her letter. Surprise 1: Cora and Charles had a child named Walter who was completely unknown to me and my parents.

Now I had more questions. Did this Walter die young? Is that why we didn’t know about him? Or did he live, and was he the mystery man in the photos?

Preston household in Nashville in 1900.

Without the 1890 census, I moved on to the 1900 census in Nashville, Tennessee. There, I found Charles, Cora, and Aunt Bert living together. No Walter. However, check out the last two columns. Either Charles or Cora reported to the census taker that Cora gave birth to 3 children, and ALL 3 CHILDREN WERE STILL LIVING. Wow, now wasn’t that a bombshell?!

So Walter WAS alive, but where was he living? He was not living with his sister, Jessie, and her family, so I assumed he must be living somewhere else in Nashville. After some searching, I found the following entry in the 1900 census:

Walter Preston household in Nashville in 1900.

This Walter was the best candidate for my Walter in Nashville. The birth year was about right and he worked as a moulder, the same line of work which his father and grandfather were in. They had been married for 3 years (about 1897) and had no children. A search of the Nashville City Directories showed Walter Preston in 1896 working as a moulder at the Phillips and Buttorf Manufacturing Company, the same company that Charles worked for as the foreman. In 1895, Walter was listed as living in the same household as Charles and Cora. I think I found their son. Surprise 2: Walter was still alive in 1900.

Walter, His Wives, and His Children

On 6 July 1897, Walter married his first wife, Clara Jackson, in Nashville. However, their marriage didn’t last. In April 1898, Clara filed for divorce from Walter. The newspapers cited failure to provide, but the divorce petition also listed not being faithful and cruelty.

The divorce was put on hold when Walter enlisted in the Spanish American War and was shipped off to San Fransisco for training. In October 1898, the First Tennessee Infantry left for the Philippines, where Walter saw action during the Philippine insurrection. Walter finally returned to Nashville in 1901 with the rest of the First Tennessee after 3 years in the army. During his service, Walter got into some trouble which resulted in a disease that contributed to health problems that he battled for the rest of his life.

In June 1902, Clara finally received her divorce from Walter. Clara moved back in with her parents, and Walter also returned to live in his parents’ house. In about 1905, Walter left Nashville and moved to Waterford, Ohio where he married his second wife, Nellie Shirk. Below is the marriage record:

The next year, Charles Preston died in Nashville, and named Walter as his son in his will. He left Walter a farm in Beverly, Ohio as well as some money.

The marriage record and the will showed that Walter was indeed the son of Charles and Cora McKelvey and was very much alive. Below is part of the 1920 census, which shows Water, wife Nellie, and two daughters Ruth and Cora, living in Cleveland, Ohio.

Walter Preston and family in the 1920 census.

Nellie Preston died in 1923, and as Walter was in such bad health, he sent his two daughters to live with their maternal grandparents. Walter’s health continued to deteriorate, and he finally died in 1927 while living in a home for veterans.

The Photographs

After these revelations – Charles and Cora had a third child, Walter reached adulthood, Walter was married twice and had two children – I took another look at some of the family photographs. There were several photographs labeled Cora and Ruth, who I now knew were Walter’s children. The girls were very distinctive looking, which helped me identify a photograph of their mother, Nellie, standing with the same handsome man, though a bit older, holding a baby in his lap. This was most definitely a photograph of Nellie and Walter. This photograph helped me determine that the other photographs of the same man were in fact Walter, Jessie and Aunt Bert’s brother.

This photo shows Walter in his wool uniform from the Spanish-American War. (Knowing that he served also helped identify that this man was Walter) The original photo was cut in a circle, likely to fit into a frame. I assume this photo sat in either Charles and Cora’s house or in Jessie’s.

Walter in his uniform.

This photograph shows Walter as a very fashionably dressed young man. It was taken soon after Walter moved back to Ohio. I think this is my favorite photograph of him!

Walter Preston, taken about 1906.

Conclusion

I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Walter, the uncle I never knew about. I have a couple of theories as to why we never heard about Walter. First, he died in 1927, before my grandfather was even born. Second, he lived in Ohio for half of his life, and it is doubtful that he ever came back to Tennessee. Third, he lived a bit of a wild lifestyle, and maybe Jessie and Aunt Bert tried to hide that fact. They did a fairly good job of keeping family secrets under wraps. I found out that Jessie did keep in touch with Walter’s children, particularly Ruth, and that Ruth visited Jessie on a couple of occasions. But, for whatever reason or reasons, Walter’s memory just disappeared.

After I told everyone about Walter, they were all so astonished. But the funniest part was after I found all of this out, I asked my grandmother if she had ever heard that Jessie and Aunt Bert had a brother, and she said, “oh yes, I kind of remember that now.”

Nice to meet you, Uncle Walter!