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!

At the Library – Finding the Parents of Elizabeth “Besty” Wood Davis

I worked at a county Archives for several years after finishing my Master’s degree. This job was fun for me for many reasons, not least of which was that I could do some genealogy work on my own family during my lunch break. I knew that part of my mother’s family, the Davis family, settled in Williamson County, Tennessee for a time before they moved on to Marshall County.

Most of the research on the Davis family has focused on the male line; I was curious about the female sides of the Davis family, particularly Elizabeth “Betsy” Wood. She married Amos Davis, my 4th great grandfather, on 4 May 1809 in Williamson County Tennessee. Below is the marriage license:

Amos Davis and Betsy Wood marriage license.

As with most early marriage records in Tennessee, the parents of the bride and groom are not recorded on the licenses. All I knew at this point was that her last name was Wood, the license was dated 28 April 1809, they were married on the 4 of May, and that Betsy’s family likely also lived in Williamson County.

Williamson County Library and Archives Search

I began searching within the probate files located at the Library and Archives for testators with the last name “Wood,” hoping that I would get lucky and that either one of her parents would have left a will that named an Elizabeth or Besty Wood or Davis if she was married by that time. Most of the time, my blind searches don’t work out immediately, but in this case, it did! The first, realistic possibility of a family member was Johnson Wood who died in Williamson County in 1845.

Johnson Wood’s will was written on the 13 February 1845, and by May, he had died. I immediately began to read through the will, hoping to find any familiar names. The second bequest listed all of his children in this order: Thompson, Stephen, Johnson (deceased), Elizabeth Davis, Mary Sanford, Sary Wood, Fanny Sanford, and Jincy Fowlkes. Elizabeth Davis! How exciting! Elizabeth or Betsy Wood was the only woman of that name who married in Williamson County, so just on first glance it looked like I found the correct family.

Some of Johnson Wood’s children named in his will.

Johnson Wood’s inventory was very long, almost 7 pages of items that were purchased by his children, relatives, and neighbors. Elizabeth purchased a set of knives and forks, but that was all from her father’s estate.

Elizabeth Davis purchased items from her father’s estate.

Elizabeth Wood’s Family Background

This was all very compelling evidence that Elizabeth Wood Davis was the daughter of Johnson Wood, but I wanted to find more evidence that this was the case. I then stated researching Johnson Wood’s background. I found the record for a marriage between Johnson Wood and Fanny Thompson in Lunenburg County, Virginia that took place on 21 November 1783. This was an appropriate date of marriage for a couple to have a daughter who was born in 1793 (Elizabeth’s birth year). Elizabeth also reported that her birthplace was Virginia, also consistent with a marriage between the parents in Virginia.

Johnson Wood was the son of Stephen Wood and Ann Johnson, the daughter of Joseph Johnson. Joseph Johnson wrote his will in Lunenburg County, Virginia in 1761, in which he named his children: Michael, Isaac, Sarah Womack, Mary Weningham, Ann Wood, Joseph, Susannah Hudson, Elizabeth, Sisley, and Charity. After Joseph Johnson died, his son-in-law, Stephen Wood and his wife Ann, sued the executor. The spelled out the family relationships very well.

With these family connections in mind, it is easy to see how the naming patterns of Johnson and Fanny (Thompson) Wood’s descendants reflect their ancestry.

Stephen and Ann (Johnson) Wood’s children were: John, Sally, David, Patty, Johnson, and George. They named one son after Ann’s maiden name.

Johnson Wood, who married Fanny Thompson, had the following children: Thompson, Stephen, Johnson, Elizabeth, Mary, Sary, Fanny, and Jincy. Johnson and Fanny named a son Thompson after Fanny’s maiden name, a son Stephen after Johnson Wood’s father, a son Johnson after Johnson and his mother’s maiden name, and a daughter Fanny after Fanny Thompson.

Elizabeth Wood who married Amos Davis had the following children: Nathan, Stephen, Mary Elizabeth, John, Sarah Ann, Fanny T., Morgan A., Allen Johnson, and James. Stephen was named after his great grandfather, Stephen Wood, Fanny T. was named after her grandmother Fanny Thompson, and Allen Johnson was named after his grandfather Johnson Wood and great grandmother’s maiden name.

All the evidence shows that Johnson Wood and Fanny Thompson are the parents of Elizabeth Wood Davis.

More Records at the Library and Archives

It was so much fun to spend time with the original records and to see Johnson’s signature at the bottom of the will. Encouraged, I spent more time at the Library and Archives searching for other records pertaining to Johnson Wood and his family in Williamson County. I found deeds, court cases, tax records, and other documents that painted a clearer picture of their lives. Below are a few examples of records I found:

1. 1820 Census

Johnson Wood’s household in 1820.

1 male 45 years or over: Johnson Wood

1 female 45 years or over: Fanny (Thompson) Wood

1 male 26 to 44 years, 1 female 16 to 25 years: possibly Johnson and Fanny’s children or a child and a spouse

1 free black male 26 to 44 years: This is very interesting. I do not know the identify of this man, but he was living with the Johnsons on their farm along with 20 enslaved people.

Enslaved people enumerated on the 1820 Census.

There were 20 enslaved people living on the Johnson’s property and working the farm. From the record, it looks like 3 generations of one family are living there. This is one of the hardest aspects of the Johnson’s life to come to terms with. It is one thing to read about slavery in textbooks and history books, but it is quite another to see it in official records that your own family contributed to the institution.

7 enslaved males under 14, 5 enslaved females under 14

1 enslaved male 14 to 25 years old, 3 enslaved females 14 to 25

1 enslaved male 26 to 44, 1 enslaved female 26 to 44

1 enslaved male 44 and over, 1 enslaved female 44 and over

2. 1830 Census

In the next census, only Johnson and Fanny were still enumerated in the same household. However, 25 enslaved people were now living on the farm. This time, they were split up by more specific age groups.

5 enslaved males under 10, 5 enslaved females under 10

6 enslaved males 10 to 23, 3 enslaved males 10 to 23

2 enslaved males 24 to 35, 1 enslaved female 24 to 35

1 enslaved males 36 to 54, 2 enslaved females 36 to 54

3. 1836 Tax Records

Johnson Wood paid taxes on 250 acres located in Williamson County and on 13 enslaved people.

Conclusions

I hope that another prompt will enable me to write more about Elizabeth (Wood) Davis herself! But for now, I am grateful for this stoke of luck one day while doing some research on my break. And it just goes to show how valuable it is to spend time researching the females in your line. In many cases, I have found the most interesting stories on the female lines. They can be much more difficult than the males sometimes, but the rewards for the efforts are priceless!

I’d Like to Meet – Ann Cochran Dixon (1863-1857)

**Warning, this is a very long post!**

Several years ago, I very proudly finished my Master’s thesis in which my 5th great grandmother, Ann Cochran Dixon, was the focus. Here is the abstract of my thesis:

This thesis focuses on the importance that kinship network analysis lends to the study of women’s history, with a particular focus on women who did not leave behind personal writings. To colonial, national, and antebellum era women, “family” not only included the nuclear family, but also their effective kinship groups. To demonstrate the utility of kinship analysis, I have chosen Ann Cochran Dixon (1763-1857), a Scots-Irish frontierswoman, in relation to her Cochran kinship network. Ann and her kin are an ideal case study; she left no personal writings in which she specifically detailed life events, but the availability of sources documenting her family group makes it possible to reconstruct certain areas of her life through her connections with extended family members. Tracing and comparing the different actions of Ann Cochran Dixon and her kin spanning several generations will demonstrate that kinship can be used as a legitimate category of historical analysis.

My thesis heavily focuses on genealogy, the importance of family, and bringing the life of a woman who left no personally written records behind into focus. I lived and breathed Ann’s life for over three years, and when I was finished with my thesis, I felt like she and I were about as close as any alive descendant and deceased ancestor could be. So, I am very curious as to what I got right, and what conclusions were incorrect.

This is a very long post because I know so much about her and it has been a few years since I have reviewed my thesis. It is very difficult to summarize a project that was about 230 pages long and took over three years of research, but below are some of the most interesting points of her life.

Family Background

Ann’s life was incredibly interesting. Her Cochran family was descended from a John Cochran who lived in Paisley, Scotland in the late 1500s. He and his sons immigrated to Northern Ireland, where the large extended family lived until the early 1700s. In 1723, Ann’s grandfather, James Cochran, married his third cousin, Isabella Cochran, daughter of “Deaf” Robert and Jean (Stephenson) Cochran. The 1724/25 tax records for Sadsbury and Fallowfield Townships, Chester County, Pennsylvania, show that both Robert Cochran and James Cochran had left Ireland by that time.

In 1730, “Deaf” Robert Cochran, Ann’s great grandfather, authors an incredible document: a family history of the Cochran family in Northern Ireland. Over the next 130 years, the births, marriages, and deaths of subsequent generations were added to it and new copies were produced. I was astonished at the information contained within. Robert recorded family information stretching back to the John Cochran of Paisley. He remembered names, places, and recounted some interesting anecdotes. I found two copies of this document in Pennsylvania, and I was fortunate that Ann, her siblings, and her parents were recorded in the book by later generations.

James Cochran did very well in Pennsylvania, and he set up his children to do well. He owned a large farm, ran a successful tavern, helped found a local church, and funded a local school. He and Isabella had 7 children: Anne, Robert, George, John, Stephen, Jane, and James. Anne married twice, first to Alexander Lecky and second to Reverend John Roan, a well-known Presbyterian minister. Robert married Janet Boyd, but died quite young. George, Ann’s father, was a blacksmith and married Nancy Henry, the sister of Reverend Hugh Henry, whose ministry was based in Maryland. John became a medical doctor and served as the Surgeon General of the Continental Army during the Revolution. He married Gertrude Schuyler of the wealthy New York Schuyler family. Stephen’s primary occupation was farming, and he ran the tavern after the death of his father. He also served in the Pennsylvania General Assembly from 1777 to 1779. Jane married another Presbyterian minister, Reverend Alexander Mitchell. James learned the trade of saddlery and died at the age of 29. All of James’s children became important members of their Scots-Irish society and even played important roles on the state and national levels.

Early Life

Ann was born to George and Nancy (Henry) Cochran in 1763, though the actual day and month has not been verified. She was either born on April 9 (tombstone and death notice) or August 16 (obituary written by granddaughter). Ann suffered two devastating losses in her early years. Her grandfather James died in 1766 (Isabella died in 1760), followed by her mother in 1769. The deaths also greatly affected George, who struggled to maintain his family financially. As a result, Ann was sent to live with her aunt, Anne Roan, and uncle, Reverend John Roan, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where she spent the next five or six years of her life.

Rev. John and Anne Roan had several children: Jean, Elizabeth, Mary, and Flavel. Mary was a year younger than Ann, and they became very close. The Roans also took in their nephew, Archibald Roan, after the death of Archibald’s father. Ann, her cousins, and Archibald all received very good educations from John and Anne. They girls learned to read and write as well as household activities, while the boys learned many subjects as well reading and writing in Latin and Greek. It seems that all members of the Roan household enjoyed reading books from Rev. Roan’s impressive library of 101 books.

Reverend John Roan died on 3 October 1775. Before his death, he made a will in which he mentioned Ann and Archibald. To Ann, he gave £10 “To be paid when she comes to the age of eighteen years of age if her father remove her not from my family before that time.” He also left her an additional £5 if she married someone her aunt approved of. Ann was now 12 years old, and her father George had another choice to make: leave her with her aunt Anne or bring her back to live with him in Chester County and forfeit her inheritance. There is no evidence that Ann received her inheritance, and her obituary states that she returned to her father’s house.

Revolutionary War

Ann’s father’s family was very involved in the Revolutionary War. Ann was very proud of her family’s involvement, and she loved to tell stories about them. Her uncle Stephen Cochran captained a local militia company, and her cousin Samuel and brother John enlisted. Her father, George, also served in the war as an artificer making items like horseshoes for the army and in the militia. Her uncle Dr. John Cochran was eventually introduced to George Washington and quickly became one of his most trusted medical advisors. He was later the Surgeon General of the army.

Through her uncle John Cochran, Ann had interesting ties to the Valley Forge encampment. She, likely along with her father, traveled to the encampment where she stayed with her uncle. It was there that she met Martha Washington, which was one of her proudest moments.

Father’s Death and Marriage

Ann’s father George died in 1786 when Ann was 23 years old. Now, Ann had lost all of her guardians: both Cochran grandparents, both parents, and her uncle John Roan. Ann’s inherited a “Young colt and the colt the bay mare is with one bed and furniture, likewise a cow and calf.” George was worried about where Ann would live after his death, and in his will, encouraged Ann to live with her sister, Isabel, and her husband, Eliezer Hamill, but only “if they could agree.” Apparantly, they did not agree, and Ann instead chose to move to Northumberland County, Pennsylvania to live with her sister, Jean, and her husband, William Thompson.

While living with her sister and brother-in-law, she was introduced to Sankey Dixon, a close friend of her cousin, Sankey Dixon. She and Sankey were married on 7 June 1788 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Sankey was the son of John and Arabella (Murray) Dixon. John had a large farm, and Arabella was well-connected as the niece of wealthy merchant Robert Murray or Murray’s Hill, New York.

They made their first home together in Hanover Township, Pennsylvania. Their oldest son, John, was born in 1789 and baptized by their local minister. In about 1791, Sankey and Ann left Pennsylvania for the Shenandoah Valley. During thier residence there, more children were born to them: Matthew Lyle, Robert, Nancy Henry, Isabella, and Mary Roan.

Tennessee and Sankey’s Death

By 1807, the family had moved once again, this time to Knox County, Tennessee, where their youngest daughter, Margaret Ingles, was born. Interestingly, Ann’s cousin, Archibald Roan, was already living there and had served one term as Tennessee’s second governor from 1801-1803.

By 1814, Ann’s children were growing up. Both John and Isabella died as small children, Matthew was apprenticed to a doctor, Robert was apprenticed to a cabinetmaker, and the three remaining daughters – Nancy, Mary, and Margaret – were living at home with their parents. Sadly, Sankey died of an unspecified illness on 11 November 1814 when Ann was about 51 years old. The oldest son, Matthew, wrote a very sad letter to his father’s old friend and mother’s cousin, Flavel, to relay the news of Sankey’s death. It is clear from the letter how much Matthew was affected by his father’s death.

Ann was now a widow and had to support her three daughters. Her good friends, Hugh and Elizabeth White, came to her rescue and allowed her and her daughters to live with them until Robert came of age. Ann commented later that White acted as “more than a brother” to her during her time of crisis.

The family lived in Knox County until about 1822, when Ann and her youngest daughter, Margaret, left to live with her oldest son, Matthew, in Winchester, Franklin County, Tennessee

Life in Franklin County

Matthew Dixon was wealthy, had a successful farm and medical practice, was instrumental in beginning a male academy, and was the teller of the first bank in Winchester. Ann and Margaret lived a very comfortable lifestyle with her son.

In 1830, Margaret married the local cabinetmaker, McCama W. Robinson (link to my post on McCama can be found here), and Ann moved in with her daughter and son-in-law. McCama was constantly in trouble with the law, which probably made things quite tense at home. Nevertheless, Ann took great pride in her grandchildren, whom she helped name. Margaret and McCama’s children were: Rachel Ann, Samuel D., Elizabeth White, William Darby, Isabella White, Sarah Sloan, Henry Clay, and Mary D. Rachel’s middle name was for her grandmother, Elizabeth White was named after Hugh L. White’s wife, William Darby was named for the famous geographer and one time tenant of Sankey’s father and a correspondent of Ann’s. Isabella’s middle name also referenced the White family, Sarah Sloan was the name of one of Sankey’s nieces, and Henry Clay was named for the Whig politician. Both Ann and McCama were Whigs. As can be seen, most of the Robinson children were named for people important in Ann’s life.

Ann was also likely the driving force behind her grandchildren’s education, both the boys and the girls. The boys attended a private academy in Winchester, and the girls likely attended the female academy or one in Nashville.

Revolutionary War Widow’s Pension

In 1838, Ann applied for her widow’s pension for the first time. She went to court and gave a statement about her husband’s service, their marriage, and their children. She successfully submitted enough proof for her to qualify, and as a result, she received $320 a year due to Sankey’s rank as a Lieutenant. For the first time in her life, Ann was receiving an independent income. She returned to court several more times to refile her petition every time the legislation changed. She received her pension every year from 1839 until her death in 1857 for a grand total of $5,760.

This money allowed Ann to take control of her life financially. She purchased her own house in Winchester and moved her daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren to it in 1844. She also purchased her own furniture and loaned a substantial amount of money to McCama in 1842.

Ann’s Will

Both McCama and Margaret were in bad health by 1845, and Ann decided it was time to make her will so that her intentions about the distribution of her estate would be in writing. I believe at this point, Ann was quite worried that one or both of them were going to die. Ann made it very clear that if she was to die, all of her assets were to go directly to Margaret and were not to be touched by McCama. If Margaret predeceased her, then everything was to be split by Margaret’s children. Nothing was to go to McCama. She clearly intended to take care of Margaret and her children. She also stipulated that money was to be spent on the education of all of her grandchildren.

Five years later, Margaret died and was buried in the Winchester City Cemetery next to William Darby and Mary D. Robinson who were already dead. With Margaret’s death, Ann had outlived all seven of her children and even some of her grandchildren. This must have been quite a lonely feeling for her.

Ann’s Death and Legacy

Ann retained her health until March 1857. Then she quickly deteriorated, finally dying at home on April 12, 1857 in Winchester, Tennessee.

Ann Dixon’s tombstone.

A short death notice was placed in the local paper:

From the Winchester Home Journal

It in no way alludes to the full and interesting life that she led.

Ann’s property was sold off, and the money from the sales was divided equally between her living grandchildren. Over the next few years, tragedy continued to strike the family that Ann loved so much. McCama’s business failed, and he relinquished guardianship of his three youngest children – Isabella, Sarah, and Henry – to others, including his oldest daughter Rachel Anna Mankin. In 1861, both Samuel and Henry enlisted in the Civil War. Samuel was wounded but survived the war, but Henry was killed at the Battle of the Wilderness. McCama likely died during the Civil War as he disappears from any records after 1861.

The five remaining grandchildren – Anna, Samuel, Elizabeth, Isabella, and Sarah – worked to preserve Ann’s memory.

Ann Mankin learned from her grandmother’s past that when
relatives needed aid, other members of the kinship group had a responsibility to assist. Just as Ann Cochran Dixon’s aunt and uncle, Reverend John and Anne Roan, took her in as a child, Ann’s granddaughter Ann Mankin and her husband James extended the same care to their young relatives. Childless themselves, Ann and James supported not only her siblings Belle, Sarah, and Henry Robinson, but also James’s five orphaned nieces and nephews. Later in life, Ann also used her education, so important to her grandmother, to teach school in Rutherford County, Tennessee.

Reminiscent of his grandparents, Samuel’s “war record was his greatest pride and the chief topic of his thoughts and conversation.”An energetic writer, Samuel submitted his first essay, entitled “Battle of Kennesaw Mountain,” to the editor of The Annals of the Army of Tennessee, published in 1878. In 1883, the First Tennessee Infantry veterans appointed Samuel to a committee in charge of compiling information about the regiment for Dr. John Berrien Lindsley’s The Military Annals of Tennessee: Confederate. This resulted in the completion of Samuel’s second essay, “The First Tennessee.” Samuel also followed the lead of his uncle, Matthew Lyle Dixon, by becoming an enthusiastic and active member of various societies, including the Temple Division Sons of Temperance, Vanderbilt Lodge Knights of Honor, Nashville Typographical Union No. 20, Frank Cheatham Bivouac, and the Tennessee Historical Society. Although he did not preserve his family history to the same extent as did his sisters Elizabeth and Isabella, he did donate to the Tennessee Historical Society two original deeds to his uncle Robert Dixon’s property in Knoxville.

Ann’s influence can also be seen in the life of her granddaughter, Elizabeth
Sturtevant. Elizabeth and her husband John were well-respected educators in Nashville for many years, and they combined their talents in order to serve young men and women in Tennessee who had lost their sight. John and Elizabeth transformed the reputation of the Tennessee School for the Blind and changed the futures of students who might otherwise have received little or no education.

Ann’s youngest Robinson granddaughters, Isabella and Sarah, also showed their devotion to their grandmother. While Isabella guarded some of their grandmother’s possessions, Sarah was interested in retaining Ann’s real property in Winchester. Sarah purchased Ann’s lot and she and Isabella lived in their childhood home until in 1904. When Belle entered the newly established Old Ladies Home in Chattanooga, with the help of the honorary board president of the home, Emma Wells, she donated a small collection of papers that meant so much to her to the Tennessee Historical Society. They included Ann’s obituary, catechism, a letter to Ann from her brother John, the silhouette of Sankey’s brother Robert Dixon, and a few other items.

Why I Want to Meet Her

Ann had such an incredible impact on her family, and I would really love to meet her. I have so many questions to ask her about her life, and I would especially like to see if some of the conclusions I made about her life were correct or if I was completely wrong. Some questions I have are:

1. Who were Nancy Henry’s parents?

2. Can you give me exact details about your stay in Valley Forge?

3. What is your birth date?

4. Where did you and Sankey live in the Shenandoah Valley?

5. Was McCama an alcoholic?

6. What was your real opinion of McCama?

7. Why was Margaret’s health so bad?

8. Did you enjoy living with John and Anne Roan? Or did you wish you were home with your father?

9. Was Sankey a good husband?

I could go on and on with questions! If I could invite Ann to dinner, it would likely be a very long dinner.