When the Great Depression struck in 1929, many people lost their jobs and were struggling to maintain their former lifestyles. My 2nd great grandparents, Thomas and Jessie Robinson, were no exception. My unusual source is a job application that Thomas filled out in 1931 after he had either lost or left his job with the Nashville Bridge Company.
Thomas, in the words of his son, was a self-made man. He was born to Samuel D. and Sallie (Cassetty) Robinson on 18 Feb 1873 in Nashville, Tennessee. Samuel had moved to Nashville just before the beginning of the Civil War. He served throughout the duration of the war and returned home after the surrender. He married Sallie in 1869 at the home of her father, Thomas D. Cassetty, on Spruce Street. Samuel was a very interesting man. He worked for several Nashville newspapers as a typographer for about 30 years and was active in the Tennessee Historical Society, Typographical Union, Frank Cheatham Bivouac, and the Sons of Temperance. He and Sallie only had 1 child, Thomas Henry, most likely named for Sallie’s father and Samuel’s brother who died in the Civil War. Sadly, Thomas lost his mother when he was 13 years old and his father died of pneumonia when he was 18 years old. I think this is what Thomas’s son meant by a self-made man. Thomas lost both parents by the age of 18, his paternal grandparents had been dead for many years, and his maternal grandfather died a few years earlier. He had few relatives still living apart from some of his maternal grandmother and Cassetty aunts, uncles, and cousins. Without his parents, Thomas was alone and had to rely on his relatives for help.
Samuel never purchased property in Nashville. Instead, he lived with his in-laws and rented property throughout the city. So, when he died, Thomas moved in with his grandmother, Matilda Cassetty. His uncle, W. M. Cassetty, offered him a job at the Cassetty Oil Company as a clerk, which he took. After the death of his grandmother, he moved once again, this time to his Aunt Ollie and Uncle John Roberts. He worked for the Cassetty Oil Company until 1897, when he married Jessie, and soon after their honeymoon, they moved to St. Louis. Thomas and Jessie only lived there for a short while, and they were back in Nashville by 1900. Thomas was once again working for his uncle, this time as a traveling salesman.
In 1908, he took a new job as a civil engineer who served as a traveling agent and contractor with the Nashville Bridge Company. He helped build bridges all over the southeast and was the most successful contractor in Nashville. Because of this, he was able to provide his family with everything they needed – beautiful houses in exclusive neighborhoods, cars, jewelry, private schools, and vacations. But by the end of the 20s, Thomas’s life started to take a turn downward. He was not the most upstanding man in some ways, and losing his job after the Depression hit was the first in a series of bad events that eventually culminated in his death in 1937.
He was then in need of a new job, so he applied, or at least filled out an application, for a engineering position with Du Pont. Whether or not he ever sent in the application is unknown, and as far as I know, he never worked for Du Pont. But the application itself is fascinating. Here are a few of the most interesting observations I made about the application:
Like most applications, it asked for personal details like full name, birthday, address, etc. This seems pretty basic, but I saw that Thomas lied about one very important detail: his birthday! He gave it as February 18, 1875 instead of 1873. Thomas was a very meticulous person, I am sure this was not an accident. I wondered if he lied about his age so that he appeared younger than he was to be more attractive to employers.
The application asked for the names of his parents and their birthplaces. I thought this was unusual, but it was helpful genealogically speaking. It helped me connect Samuel Robinson of Nashville to the Samuel Robinson of Winchester, Tennessee and the Cassetty family of Nashville to the Cassetty family of Gainesboro, Tennessee.
The application asked for his previous employment history, which helped me determine when he began working for the Cassetty Oil Company, when he moved to St. Louis, how long he worked for the Nashville Bridge Company, and why he left all of those positions.
The final, and to me, most interesting section, was his educational background. I knew that he was a civil engineer, so he had to have attended college at some point, but my family had no idea where. While in his 20s, he moved to Chicago and attended the Armour College of Engineering. Unfortunately, he did not graduate from the institution because of “insufficient funds.” He finished his degree in Nashville, and to my surprise, he also received his law degree. At one point, he was the only man in Tennessee to hold both degrees simultaneously.
This application gave me so much insight into the mind of my 2nd great grandfather. Sometimes, it pays to keep items that seem insignificant, because very often the opposite is true!
This post was a bit of a challenge! It was difficult to find an ancestor who had a life event that corresponded with my birthday, so I settled on one who was born two days before mine: Solomon Chapin (1733-1813).
I haven’t had a chance to do much research on Solomon, but the little I have done will be enough for a short post!
Solomon Chapin was born on June 4, 1733 in Mendon, Massachusetts to John and Dorcas (Wood) Chapin. The register of his birth is below:
The Chapins were a prominent family in Massachusetts. Solomon was the great-great grandson of Deacon Samuel Chapin and his wife Cecily (Penny) Chapin, early settlers of Springfield. By John Chapin’s time, the family had moved to Mendon, Massachusetts. The Chapin family made history in Mendon when John’s younger sister, Lydia Taft, became the first woman in to vote legally in colonial America at a town meeting in 1756.
In Mendon, Dorcas gave birth to her 8 children, including Solomon. When he was 20 years old, he married 24 year old Joanna White, also a resident of Mendon. Joanna was the daughter of Samuel White and Trial Rockwood. Poor woman, to be given the name Trial! It makes me wonder what was happening with her parents at the time of her birth. Puritans favored names like that, but perhaps some event gave them the idea to use it. Solomon and Joanna celebrated their marriage on 28 may 1754 in Milford, a town about 3.5 northeast of Mendon.
Shortly after their marriage, Solomon and Joanna moved to Uxbridge, Massachusetts, about 5 miles southwest of Mendon. Their oldest child, John (an my 6th great grandfather) was born there on 23 Spetember 1755. Eight more children followed: Darius, Samuel, Elijah, Phineas, Nathan, Joanna, Solomon, and Huldah.
In 1769, Solomon’s father, John, wrote his will and included Solomon in it. He left Solomon “one pound together with a Equal share in my clothes with ye Rest of my sons over & above what I have given him in another manner to him & his heirs forever.” He must have given Solomon money, land, or moveable goods at some point before his death, maybe before Solomon moved to Uxbridge.
Sometime between the birth of Solomon’s youngest child, Huldah, in 1773, and the start of the Revolutionary War, Solomon moved his family again, this time to New Marlborough, Massachusetts. For some reason, when the Revolutionary War began, instead of fighting, he sent a substitute in his place because he was the “chairman of class no. 1 in New Marlborough.” I will admit, I have no idea what that is referring to, so that is something else I will need to research!
In 1790, Solomon was still living in New Marlborough. He is presumably the one male above the age of 16 living in his household. There were also two females, one was his wife Dorcas. On 1 Feb 1805, Dorcas died and was buried in New Marlborough. Eight years later, on 13 May 1813, Solomon followed her in death and was also buried in New Marlborough. Like most of these posts, now that I am finished, I find I have so many questions, and I can’t wait to begin more research!
I always enjoy getting a chance to explore my German ancestors, and this week’s post is a perfect opportunity! My family, the Kriegs and Althausers, came over in two waves. Martin and Barbara Krieg immigrated in 1837 with most of their children. They landed in New York City and traveled west to Cincinnati where many other German families had already settled. One of their daughters, Anna (and my ancestor) had already married, and she and her husband chose to remain in Germany. In an earlier post, I explained the tensions and problems that existed between Anna, her husband Jacob Althauser, and her parents, so there is no need to retell that whole story. However, there are some points that are essential to make about Jacob’s trade and Anna’s land that shed some light on the employment chosen by their sons in America.
Jacob Althauser was the only child of Jacob Simon Althauser and Anna Sutter. His father was a baker, but it is likely that they also owned some farm land near town. Jacob trained as a cooper, or barrel maker, and as an adult, also farmed. Being a cooper was an important trade in southwest Germany because the area was wine country, and many barrels were needed for production. When his wife’s family left for America, the Kriegs signed over land where grapes were grown to Anna and Jacob. It wasn’t a large amount of land, so they probably made wine for the family and sold extra along with other produce from the farm. When Jacob died in 1852, he left Anna and their five children destitute. A little over a year after Jacob’s death, Anna and her children – Pauline, Andreas, Jakob Friedrich, Johann Jacob, and Wilhelm – immigrated to America. They also settled in Cincinnati near Anna’s siblings. The older children attended school in both Germany and America, and the boys probably began learning a trade.
In the 1860 census, the first in which the family was enumerated, Andreas and Friedrich were both listed as laborers, Johann as a carpenter apprentice, and no occupation was listed for Wilhelm. Carpentry is somewhat similar to being a cooper, though of course there are some major differences. Through the years, Johann worked as a carpenter and sold dry goods in Cincinnati.
The other three sons and their brother-in-law became involved in the distillery business in Cincinnati, Louisville, Kentucky, and Robertson County, Tennessee. Germany produced beer and wine, but whiskey was an important staple in American households, and Germans and others in Cincinnati took advantage of the opportunities its production furnished. In 1865, the city directories listed Andreas and his brother Friedrich as distillers working for the White Mill Distillery near Western Avenue, close to where they were living with their families. Both Andreas and Friedrich worked in distilleries for the rest of their lives.
Andreas – In 1870, Andreas was working in the vinegar factory in Cincinnati, which still required a form of alcohol distillation. By 1880, he was again working in a distillery at an unspecified job. In the 1890s, he served as the night watchman, which meant he stood guard over the warehouse to prevent break-ins. In the 1910 census, he was widowed and living with his niece. He died shortly after it was taken on 9 December 1910 and was buried in Spring Grove Cemetery.
Jacob Friedrich – Friedrich was employed by a distillery in Cincinnati, probably White Mill Distillery. He continued to work there until about 1883/85, when he was recorded in the City Directories of both Cincinnati and Louisville, Kentucky. In Kentucky, he worked for a branch of White Mill, J.B. Wathen & Brothers Distillery, and Marion Distillery Company. Friedrich continued to work until his death in 1907 in Louisville at the age of 67.
Joseph Beck – The oldest sibling, Pauline, was 21 years old when she landed in New York. By 1858, she had married Joseph Beck, himself an emigrant from Württemberg. Joseph worked as a distiller for the White Mill Distillery, like his brothers-in-law. Perhaps that is how he met Pauline, through her brothers.
Wilhelm – The youngest child, Wilhelm, my third great grandfather, was born on 11 January 1846 in Baden, Germany. His father died when he was 6, and as a 7 year old, he made the trip across the Atlantic to a new place. In 1860, he was 14 years old and living with his mother, and his 3 older brothers. No occupation was listed, and he did not attend school that year. However, I do know that he received a good education as he reported in a deposition that he was educated in schools in Cincinnati. When he gave the deposition, he was 72 years, and he stated that he could read and write in German, but not well enough to hold a conversation. This was possibly exaggerated as he was applying for naturalization during WWI when German nationals were vilified in American papers and courts. He likely attended a German school in Cincinnati where the children learned both German and English. His German may have fallen out of use after he left Cincinnati for Tennessee, especially if he wasn’t speaking it regularly.
Sometime during the 1860s, he was employed by S.N. Fowler, a distillery in Cincinnati, keeping the business records. In the 1870 census, William was recorded twice, once living with his brother Friedrich and his family and working as a “bar keep.” And second with his older sister, Pauline, her family, and his ailing mother, Anna. In either 1870 or 1871, he was hired to keep the books for Charles Nelson who had recently purchased a distillery in Robertson County, Tennessee. Nelson was a fellow German immigrant and by 1871, William had moved to Tennessee and was officially employed by the Green Brier Distillery. William was smart, capable, and trustworthy, so he was made the general superintendent and bookkeeper of the distillery and oversaw the everyday workings.
Distilleries were dangerous places to work, especially large-scale operations like the Green Brier Distillery. Machinery could easily main and kill employees. The Green Brier Distillery became one of the most successful distilleries in Tennessee, producing 380,000 gallons of whiskey a year by 1885. He worked for the distillery for 31 years, and after resigning, began the Althauser-Weaver-Webber Lumber Company. He helped run the company for 11 years until his age induced him to resign. William died in Nashville on 16 January 1922, and his family placed the following death notice in the paper.
None of William’s children followed him into the distillery business, possibly because prohibition was about to destroy whiskey production. It was also possible that his sons were provided different opportunities than their father because he sent them to college. But it is interesting that due to time, place, and circumstances, William, two brothers, and his brother-in-law all worked in the industry for many years.
As a child, I always dreaded going back to school. The summers were the best part of the year. Not only was my birthday in the summer, but that season was full of swimming at the pool, riding bikes, and playing with friends. I never wanted it to end, but of course, every year it did, and I headed back to school. I enjoyed school much more in college and grad school when I was able to study what I really loved – history – rather spending so much time on (to me) less interesting subjects.
I was curious as to what subjects some of my ancestors studied when they attended college. Not many attended, and fewer graduated, but I am proud that some thought higher education was important and took advantage of it if they had the means. So this post will explore some those ancestors’ experiences at university.
1. Sir William Petre (abt. 1505-1572) – William began studying law at Oxford University in 1519 and in 1523 he became a fellow of All Souls College at Oxford. He graduated with degrees in canon and civil law in 1526 and began practicing the town of Oxford. He was quite talented and was noticed by the Boleyns, Cromwell, and Cranmer. Through their influence and his hard work, he eventually served as Secretary of State to 4 Tudor monarchs: Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. He built a beautiful Tudor home, Ingatestone Hall, in Essex and is buried in the local church. I am descended from him and his first wife, Gertrude Tyrrell, through his daughter Elizabeth.
Last year, I was fortunate to visit Ingatestone Hall. It was amazing to walk the halls and stand in the rooms where my ancestors lived. The Hall is in remarkable shape, barely altered since the Tudor era.
This spring, I was back in England, and my husband and I visited Oxford for the first time. We made sure to stop by a few places at the College that had a connection with William. These included All Souls College and Chapel.
2. Sir William Gostwick, Baronet and Knight (1565-1615) – William was the son of Elizabeth Petre and John Gostwick and grandson of Sir William Petre. He matriculated as a fellow-commoner at Christ’s College, Cambridge in 1582 probably to study law. A fellow-commoner was a student who had wealth, paid double the tuition, and enjoyed many privileges but was not a nobleman. Although William attended, there is no record of him graduating. He married Jane Owen, who boasted a more impressive pedigree than his. Her great grandfather was Robert Radcliffe, 1st Earl of Sussex. Her great-great grandparents were Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham and Catherine Woodville, sister of Queen Elizabeth Woodville wife of Edward IV. The Staffords were descendants of Edward III and had a good claim to the throne. Jane’s father was also a descendant of Owen Tudor, grandfather of Henry VII.
3. Sir Edward Gostwick (d. 1630) – Edward was the son of Sir William and Dame Jane Gostwick. He matriculated in 1606 at Christ’s College, Cambridge as a fellow-commoner, but there is no record of him graduating, just like his father. It is also probable that he studied law as well. Edward married Anne Wentworth, daughter of John Wentworth and Cecilia Unton a few years earlier. He was knighted in 1607 at Whitehall Palace, London, and in 1612, he succeeded to the baronetcy upon the death of his father.
4. Nicholas Spencer, Esq. (1573-1626) – Nicholas was the son of Robert Spencer and Rose Cokayne of Cople, Bedfordshire. When he was 16 years old, he entered the Magdalene College at Cambridge. He was likely a fellow-commoner as well, as although his family was well-off, they were not nobility. Interestingly, Nicholas’s daughter-in-law, Mary Gostwick’s 4th great grandfather Henry Stafford Duke of Buckingham was a patron of the college, and for over 100 years, Magdalene College was called Buckingham College. (12th great grandfather)
5. Nicholas Spencer, Esq. (1611-1643) – Nicholas Spencer was the son of Nicholas and Mary Spencer. Like his father, he also attended Cambridge. He matriculated at Queen’s College in 1628 to study law. The college was founded in 1448 by Margaret of Anjou. A year later, he was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn in London to continue his studies. Lincoln’s Inn is one of the 4 Inns of the Court where barristers trained and practiced law. It is still in existence today and is one of the most respected professional bodies in the world. However, he never went to the bar, which was fairly common. Many young men entered the Inns for the purpose of connections rather than seriously studying law. Education was very important to Nicholas, and he saw to it that his sons received it. In his will, he instructed that his oldest son William be educated at the grammar school, then sent to university, and then to go to the Inns of Court. His second son, Nicholas was also to receive an education at the grammar school and then sent to university. However, it seems that his younger son, Nicholas, never attended university as his father wished.
Although 4 of the 5 of the above ancestors did not actually graduate, they used the education they received and the connections they made during that period of their lives to better themselves and their families.
Non population schedules can be just as informative as population schedules, especially if one is interested in the everyday lives of ancestors. Many of my ancestors were farmers, so many of the non population schedules I have looked at are agricultural ones.
William C. McKelvey, my 4th great grandfather, was the son of an Irish immigrant. He was born in Pennsylvania on 26 April 1821, and in 1845, he married Jane Walter. He and Jane had five children: Elizabeth Ann, Cora Isabel, Elmira J., James Smith, and Emma Sarah. The first 2 children were born in Pennsylvania, but the 3 last children were born in Ohio, which means the family moved to Morgan County, Ohio by 1854.
In 1860, William’s real estate was valued at $3500 and his personal estate at $600, according to the population schedule.
The 1860 agricultural schedule breaks down those numbers further. William owned 65 improved acres and 128 unimproved, for a total of 193 acres valued at $3500. William used the improved acres to grow crops, and the unimproved may have been used as pasture for animals. His farming equipment – plows, etc. – were valued at $75. His farm also relied on animals, so he owned 4 horse, 4 milk cows, 8 beef cows, and 2 pigs valued at $400. The farm produced 40 bushels of wheat, 200 bushels of corn, 200 bushels of oats, 18 bushels of buckwheat, 220 pounds of butter, and 4 tons of hay. William’s production was comparable to his neighbors in his township that year.
I do not have the 1870 agricultural census, but I have found 1880. William had acquired more land, 107 acres of tilled land, 8 acres of pasture/meadow/orchard, and 125 acres of woodlands, for a total of 240 acres. The total value of the farm was $4000. He hired men to help on the farm for 10 weeks in 1879 and paid them a total of $50. The farm now produced 5 tons of hay, 350 bushels of corn, and 32 bushels of wheat. My favorite part of this census was the recording of orchards that people owned. On 8 acres of Williams farm, he grew apple trees, 1000 apple trees to be exact! I can’t imagine how many apples were produced each year and what they did with all of those apples. Apple pie? Apple butter? Apple cider? Yum! William also owned more sheep than in 1860. The flock had grown to 51, 20 of which were new lambs born in 1879, and in total produced 140 pounds of fleece. He also owned 3 horses, 3 milk cows, 7 beef cows, and 8 pigs. The 3 milk cows helped produce 300 pounds of butter. William and Jane’s 30 chickens laid 200 eggs, and the 23 other fowl helped to provide a varied diet for the family.
I find the details of the farm so interesting. William, his son James, and hired men probably tilled the fields and managed the larger animals. Jane and the girls likely milked the cows and cared for the chickens and fowl. What a busy life they all must have led! I’ve never visited the town where William, Jane, and their daughter and my ancestor, Isabel, lived and farmed, but exploring the workings of the farm has inspired me to take a trip!
On 24 December 1898, William hastily made a will, which he was unable to sign. It was likely he was very ill as he died shortly after. He could read and write, so he must have been in bad shape. Only three of his children were living by this time – James, Cora, and Emma. All three were left land, James 120 acres and his two daughters 60 acres each. His son was named executor, and his personal property was sold and would be divided among his heirs. Unusually, no mention was made of his wife Jane, though she was named as his widow in the probate information. The remainder of his personal property – including the farm implements and animals – were to be sold and split between his children and four children of his deceased daughter Elizabeth. So, that is what happened to the 240 acres, farm equipment, and animals recorded in the 1880 agricultural census. As to what happened to Cora, James, and Emma’s shares of the property, I don’t know. I assume Cora sold her portion as she lived in Nashville, but James remained on his land and based on Emma’s residence in the early 20th century, I believe she did as well.
Isn’t it wonderful how one document can help shed so much light on multiple generations of a family?
It seems that every family has a family legend about Native American ancestry, that some several times great grandmother was Cherokee. Well, my family is no exception. One side of my family has such a legend about my 5th great grandmother, Nancy Schultz Fisk (abt. 1790-1854). Very little reliable information is known about Nancy. According to the 1850 census, she was born about 1790 in Virginia, and her tombstone gives her surname as Schultz. She died in 1854 and was buried in the Fisk Cemetery. It is probably because her descendants know so little about her that there are so many stories about her origins.
Story 1: Nancy was the daughter of a Cherokee woman and a German trapper (hence the last name Schultz), and her future husband, Moses Fisk, saw her with her Cherokee grandmother one day. He fell in love with her, sent her back east to be educated, and when she returned, he married her.
Story 2: Nancy was the daughter of a Cherokee woman and a German trapper, and she was traveling with her brother when she met Moses Fisk. They asked for a drink of water, which he gave them, and he fell in love with her and married her.
Story 3: She was the daughter of German immigrants. Moses Fisk met her and sent her and her two sisters back east to be educated. When she returned, he married Nancy.
Sadly, none of these rumors have been substantiated. There is a possibility that she was part Cherokee, even more likely that she was of German extraction because of her last name. She and Moses lived in Overton County, Tennessee, whose courthouse burned during the Civil War, along with many of the records. So any information that could have shed some light on her background was likely destroyed.
There are a few things I do know about Nancy. She and Moses married around 1813, as their oldest daughter was born in 1814. She was also quite a bit younger than Moses, 30 years younger to be exact. He was 53 and she was 23, and he had a very strong personality, so it is not surprising that after their last child was born, they separated. They did not divorce, but she moved out of their house and into a smaller house next door. They lived that way until Moses died in 1840.
There is another indication that the Cherokee story might possibly be true. Moses was very interested in Native American artifacts and history, especially in Tennessee. He advocated for Native American rights and documented archeology sites in the Upper Cumberland. Moses was interested in history, but it makes me wonder if his interest in Native Americans stemmed from being married to a lady who might be part Cherokee, or if his interest in Native Americans influenced his choice of wife. Or maybe it is all unrelated, but I’d like to think there was some connection.
If a portrait was ever done of Nancy, it no longer exists. No description of her personality exists, and very few public records mention her name. As far as I know, our DNA does not substantiate that she was Native American, unless of course, that did not get passed down to us so it doesn’t appear in the test. I think she will always be somewhat of a mystery, and who knows, maybe some source will appear and it will give me all the answers I need!
Yesterday, I wrote about one of my ancestresses who was an oldest sibling, and today, I am writing about an ancestress who was the youngest sibling. Her name was Isabella, which I absolutely adore, and she was the youngest daughter of Joseph Kellam and his wife Lucy Shelton Kellam. Her father Joseph was born in Davidson County, Tennessee, and he was the third generation of Kellams living in the county. Her mother Lucy was the daughter of William and Eleanor (Greer) Shelton, also of Davidson County.
Joseph and Lucy married on 22 May 1839 in Davidson County, and they appeared together for the first time in the census in 1840. Lucy had three children from her previous marriage – Sarah Agnes, Lydia, and Hugh – living with them as well as her oldest child with Joseph, Eleanor. There were also 9 enslaved people living and working for the Kellams on their farm. Lucy gave birth to four more children in the 1840s: William Harris, Susan, Lucy, and my ancestress, Isabella. Isabella was born on 28 May 1849, and she first appeared in the census in 1850 with her parents, older siblings, and half sister Lydia. That year, Joseph’s real estate was only valued at $500, yet he still owned 13 enslaved people. When Isabella was 7 years old, her maternal grandmother, Eleanor Shelton, died, and she her siblings received legacies from her estate.
In the 1860 census, Isabella was 10 years old, living at home with her three unmarried siblings. Her father’s real estate was listed as $4,000, and his personal estate skyrocketed to 21,067, due to his ownership of 24 enslaved people. Isabella’s family was doing very well financially. Joseph owned 247 acres, 6 horses, 5 mules, 4 milk cows, 16 beef cows, 37 sheep, and 85 hogs, valued at $1367. The plantation produced 100 bushels of wheat, 1500 bushels of corn, 75 pounds of wool, 45 bushels of beans, 50 bushels of potatoes, 50 bushels of sweet potatoes, and 50 pounds of butter. Isabella probably had a fairly easy early life as a young girl. However, much of this changed after the Civil War. Isabella’s father, Joseph, died in the fall of 1865 after the end of the war. He might have died suddenly, as he did not leave a will. Isabella was 16 years old when he died, and life was probably quite a bit different.
In 1870, Isabella lived at home for part of the year before her marriage. The agricultural census shows some of the changes that occurred after the war and after her father’s death. Her mother, Lucy, now owned 144 acres, 103 less than in 1860. Of course, all the enslaved people were free, and there is no indication whether or not any of those people remained on the farm. As a widow, Lucy now only owned 1 horse, 3 mules, 2 milk cows, 2 beef cows, 14 sheep, and 8 pigs. 120 bushels of wheat, 36 bushels of rye, 700 bushels of corn, 30 bushels of oats, 100 pounds of potatoes, 30 pounds of wool, and 3 tons of hay.
By 1 June 1870, Isabella was no longer living with her mother, as on 30 May 1870, the 21 year old married Edward Green Sears, a 34 year old Civil War veteran. She moved in with him and his mother, Lucy Ann Sear, on her farm in Cheatham County. Edward’s father had died when he was young, so the newlyweds had that tragedy in common. Over the next 10 years, Isabella gave birth to five children: Nancy, Charles, Willie, Martha (my great great grandmother), and Edwin. They continued to live on the beautiful Sears farm near Pegram, Tennessee. The house, which burned many years ago, was an old one with a big porch and tall windows that could be thrown open in the summer to let the breeze in.
Over the years, some of her children married, and some didn’t, but my ancestress, Martha, and her family, though they lived in Nashville, visited Isabella and Edward often. I imagine that Isabella was close to her daughter Martha. Sadly, Edward died in 1922, and soon after, Isabella applied for a Confederate widow’s pension, which she received until her death in 1928. Isabella believed that it was important to have her affairs settled before her death, so she registered her will with Cheatham County on the 22 May 1923, a year after her husband’s death. In it, she revealed some interesting family information. She left to her four children equally 192 acres in Cheatham County that she called Joe Kellam’s place, of which was 1/3 of her father’s property that she inherited on his death, another 1/3 she inherited from her sister Lucy Kellam, and the other 1/3 land that she owned with Edward. This is one of the few places that names her father as Joseph Kellam. Anytime ancestors make references to their family members in public documents is wonderful!
Sadly, Isabella died on 16 March 1928 at the age of 78 years. She died in Cheatham County, probably at home, of appendicitis. Her daughter, Willie, was the informant on her death certificate. Willie accurately named Joseph Kellam and Lucy Shelton as Isabella’s parents, and provided her birth date and place. Isabella was buried the next day in the Sears family cemetery in Pegram, which my family still owns. The embalming and other funeral arrangements were taken care of by M.S. Combs, and company that my family has used since 1891. I don’t have any photographs of Isabella, nothing that belonged to her, but I feel like I know her just a little bit better after reviewing some records I haven’t looked at in a while!
Being the oldest sibling comes with a lot of responsibility. Parents rely on you, and your younger siblings look up to you. I’m the oldest sibling myself, and I can only imagine what it would be like to be the oldest of 11 siblings! My 2nd great grandmother, Maude Melissa Wimpee, was in just that position.
Maude was born on 17 January 1882 in Chattooga County, Georgia to Mark Washington Wimpee and Amanda Alice Scoggins. Mark was a farmer and blacksmith, and Amanda was the daughter of a Civil War veteran. They married on 13 March 1881, and their oldest child, Maude, was born almost 10 months to the day later.
Unfortunately, I do not know the names of all of Maude’s 11 siblings. The siblings whose names I do know include: Pearl (b. 1885), Martha (b. 1889), Mary (b. 1890), Winnie (b. 1893), Walter (b. 1895), Jessie Irene (b. 1899), and Ernest William (b. 1902). Martha, Winnie, and Walter all died as children, and the other three unnamed children must have died young as well, between Mark and Amanda’s marriage and 1900.
By 1900, Maude, her parents, her 5 living siblings – Pearl, Martha, Mary, Winnie, and Jessie – and her grandfather Harrison Scoggins were living in Trion, Georgia.
The biggest employer in Trion was the Trion Factory, a cotton mill, which opened in 1845. It had the distinction of being the first cotton mill in northern Georgia. Trion existed because of the mill; the company built and owned most of the houses and established the school. The Wimpee family, like most of their neighbors, worked for the mill and rented a house in town from the company. Mark worked as a blacksmith at the mill, and his three oldest daughters followed him there. Maude was 18 years old at the time, working as a weaver. Her younger sisters Pearl, aged 15, and Martha, aged 11, worked as spinners. In the past year, Maude worked 10 months with mechanized looms, a difficult and dangerous job. She likely worked six days a week, upwards 12 hours a day for a weekly pay of around $5. More men than women worked as weavers, so it was a little more unusual for Maude to hold that position. Maude had probably worked at the mill for a long time, as children under the age of 10 often worked to help out their parents. Spinning was an entry level job, one that was perfect for children under 16 like Pearl and Martha. There were also health risks for cotton mill workers, besides losing fingers in the machinery. Mill workers breathed in air filled with cotton particles, which would lodge in their lungs and cause byssinosis, or brown lung. Symptoms included coughing, wheezing, and sometimes death if the respiratory system failed.
By 1910, Maude and her older siblings were married and all escaped the cotton mill. Her father, Mark, was still working at the mill as a blacksmith, but her sister Jessie, though 11 years old, was not recorded as working, unlike Martha 10 years earlier. Either Mark was more financially stable with only four people living at home or Jessie’s employment was not recorded accurately.
On 11 November 1901, Maude married John Luther Kimbell also of Chattooga County. They ultimately had a large family of 9 children: Lula, Maggie, Jennie, Nellie, William, Pearl, Jimmie, Martha, Clara, and Ernest. John was a blacksmith like Maude’s father, though in their early married life they farmed rented land in Lyerly, Georgia. However, by 1920, Maude and John were living in Trion and Maude found herself living in rented, company housing just like where she, her parents, and siblings lived when she was a girl. John worked as a blacksmith for Mount Vernon Mill, and his oldest daughter, 17 year old Lula May, worked as an inspector in the cloth room.
By 1930, Maude and John owned their home in Chattooga County, but they were still very involved in the cotton mill. John was working as a welder for the mill, 18 year old son Bill was working in the south room doing an unspecified job, and 16 year old Berel was working as a spinner. 10 years later, John was no longer working for the mill. Maude and John’s 32 year old single daughter, Jennie Lee, was working as an inspector at the mill, and their married daughter Pearl was employed at the Trion Glove Mill as a sewer.
Like most families living in a mill town, it seems that Maude’s life revolved around the mill. Three generations of her family worked there, and I found it very interesting that the sibling who worked in the cotton mills as children had a higher chance of marrying men who worked in the mills and finding employment for their children in the mills as well. The younger siblings who didn’t work in the mills as children didn’t work in them as adults, didn’t marry people who worked in them, and their children found other employment. For example:
Pearl Wimpee Jackson Crisp – Pearl and her second husband, Felix, lived on a farm in 1920, but by 1930, they were living in Trion again. They rented a house for $5.00 in a mill company neighborhood. Felix worked at the cotton mill as a napper, and their 20 year old son Clinton worked there as a weaver. In 1940, Pearl and her family had moved to Walker County, Georgia, where Felix now worked on a farm, but their oldest son Clinton still worked in a cotton mill as a doffer.
Martha Wimpee – She worked in the mills as a child and died sometime between the 1900 and 1910 census. I wonder if she died from complications from working at the cotton mills.
Mary Wimpee Philips – She married Albert Philips, a farmer. She didn’t work in the mill as a child, unless it went unrecorded, and she, her husband, and children did not work in the mills.
Winnie Wimpee – The census did not record that she ever worked in the cotton mill, but she, like Martha, also died sometime between the 1900 and 1910 census.
Jessie Wimpee Kearsey – She married Claude Kearsey, and they moved around during their marriage. Claude worked in different capacities over the years, but according to the census records, not in the cotton mills.
Ernest William Wimpee – He worked contracting jobs during his adult life, and as far as I can tell, never worked in the mills unless it went unrecorded in the census.
Of the 5 Wimpee children who lived to adulthood – Maude, Pearl, Mary, Jessie, and Ernest – Maude died first. She lived to be 80 years old and was well loved by her family. I can only imagine that being the oldest sibling in such a large family and working in a cotton mill as a child and young woman must have had quite an impact on her and her actions throughout her life.
So, it has been several months since my last 52 Ancestors blog post. Life got in the way (in good ways!), and I just wasn’t able to keep up with everything! Now I have quite a few posts to catch up on, starting with a colorful character in my family.
McCama W. Robinson is one of those ancestors that keeps surprising me the more I delve into his life. Somehow, he is a mysterious character, yet I also know a lot about his personal life. I feel as if I know him really well, but I don’t know him at all. Like most of his male Robinson descendants (and some of their wives), his life was fairly well documented, and those documents reveal his complicated and interesting life.
I know almost nothing about McCama’s background. The 1850 and 1860 census give his age as 45 and 54 respectively, which places his birth around 1805/06. Both censuses record his birthplace as North Carolina, and in a letter to a Pennsylvania genealogist in the 1880s, his oldest daughter states that the Robinsons were of English extraction. And that is all I know about his origins!
McCama, a successful cabinetmaker, was living in Winchester, Tennessee by 1830 when he married Margaret Ingles Dixon, daughter of Ann Cochran Dixon and Sankey Dixon, a Revolutionary War officer who died when Margaret was 7 years old. Margaret and her mother Ann were living with Margaret’s oldest brother, Dr. Matthew Lyle Dixon in Winchester, and after McCama and Margaret’s marriage, Ann moved in with the newlyweds.
By 1834, McCama had the means to purchase a house and lot in Winchester, which he previously had been renting from Joseph Bradford. It was in this house that he and Margaret spent their early married years, and most likely where Margaret gave birth to their first four children – Rachel Ann, Samuel D., Elizabeth White, and William Darby. Four more children followed – Isabel, Sarah Sloan, Henry Clay, and Mary D.
From the outside, the family looks happy, but the domestic scene within the household seems to have been a complicated one. Public records exhibit conflicting images of McCama’s personality. On the one hand, McCama was hardworking and provided well for his family. He was an active community member, frequently serving as a juryman from the 1830s through the 1850s and as a road overseer in the 1840s. On the other hand, his frequent outbursts of passion led to involvement with the Franklin County court. McCama appeared before the Circuit Court several times during the 1830s, both bringing charges as the plaintiff, and more commonly, being accused of various offenses as the defendant. Franklin County’s court records prior to 1832 were destroyed, so only McCama’s legal problems from that year forward survive. McCama was first levied with three bills of indictment for assault and battery in the November 1836 term. In July 1837, after engaging in an affray, or a public brawl that disturbed the peace, with Powhatan Statum, McCama pled guilty for the fight and paid the fine and prosecution costs. The Circuit Court jury also found him guilty of the assault and battery charges, and as with the affray, he was responsible for the fine as well as the cost of the suit.
McCama’s own cases did not prevent him from attending court in November 1836 to give evidence against Joseph Lockhart for “keeping a disorderly house.” Despite his lengthy and costly court proceedings, McCama was determined to pursue his case against Lockhart in 1838. Lockhart instead counter charged McCama with trespassing with force and arms, for which McCama was convicted and paid yet another fine. Including two additional suits he brought against William A. Caldwell and Henry Hamblin, McCama was involved in four cases in the Circuit Court in the 1830s. The court records indicate that McCama might have been difficult to live with, or, at the very least, had a tendency to bring unnecessary attention to his wife, children, and mother-in-law. To his credit, as the years passed his legal troubles lessened and he mainly appeared in court records being paid to build coffins for various paupers in the community.
Despite some of his questionable actions in public, he was also a somewhat forward thinking man, especially in regards to education. He sent his oldest son, Samuel, to Carrick Academy in Winchester, and based on letters written by Henry, the younger sons also likely attended. In 1831, McCama signed a petition to the Tennessee Legislature to open the Winchester Female Institute. All of his daughters demonstrated their education in one way or another, which leads me to believe they all likely attended the institute or possibly one in Nashville. Rachel Ann taught school, and Elizabeth married the John Sturtevant, the head of the Tennessee School for the Blind, where she taught classes. McCama helped to provide his children, boys and girls, with an education that helped them lead successful lives (with some monetary assistance from their grandmother Ann).
By the late 1830s and early 1840s, McCama’s legal problems gave way to financial ones. His mother-in-law, Ann, worked hard to receive a substantial $320 pension every year for her husband’s service in the war. She saved her money, and when in 1838 McCama sold his home and lot, Ann began negotiations to purchase a house in her own name. She purchased a house and 1 1/2 acres in the town of Winchester, and her son-in-law, daughter, and grandchildren moved in with her. Such an accomplishment for Ann might have been seen as a societal failure for McCama. Men coveted independence in order to satisfy their social expectations as patriarchs and successful providers for their dependents. Between his court drama and his inability to hold onto his real property, McCama instead had to yield authority to his mother-in-law.
Ann was very protective of her interests, and she kept very careful records of the debts owing to her because she had no intention of allowing people to borrow large sums without repaying her, including McCama. In the July Term of 1842 in the Circuit Court, Ann brought a suit against McCama for debt of over $700. He told the court that “he can not gainsay the plaintiffs action against him and confesses Judgment for the sum of seven hundred and eighteen dollars and seventy eight cents.” The court determined that McCama had to repay the full sum as well as court costs. The court minutes does not specify the reason why Ann loaned such a large amount of money to McCama. In November, McCama registered a deed of trust between himself and Burr H. Emerson for Ann’s use, in which he conveyed some of his most valuable possessions. Many of the items pertained to his cabinetmaking business such as his tools of the trade – lumber, bed screws, varnish, and turning lathe – while others were products of his labor – dining room tables, bureaus, and sugar chests. As McCama was “desirous to Secure and make certain the payment,” he agreed that if he did not repay Ann by May 12, 1844, Emerson “may expose the said property to public Sale, and sell it to the highest bidder for cash.” No records remain to tell the outcome, but as Ann did not haul McCama back into court, she must have received her money one way or another.
It seems that Ann was not very trusting of McCama, which makes me believe there must have been something else about him that isn’t explicitly stated in the public documents. I am inclined to think he must have been a heavy drinker, or have a temper, or just irresponsible with his finances. Whatever it was, Ann chose to bypass McCama when she wrote her will in 1845. She bequeathed to Margaret the house and lot purchased from Thomas Wilson, her “old negro man Andrew,” and her household and kitchen furniture. If Margaret died first, everything would be split among Margaret’s children. Nothing was left to McCama, not even a life interest in the house. At this time, both McCama and Margaret were in bad health, and their situations may have been why Ann wrote her will at this time.
McCama and Ann were both Whigs; McCama even named his son Henry Clay after the great Whig statesman. Evidence of his political leanings was documented in a newspaper article that appeared in The Tennessean, a Nashville newspaper, on 14 September 1882. Veterans of the Mexican War assembled in Nashville for a reunion, among them a man from Winchester who knew McCama in the 1840s. The story goes as follows:
“Rev. W. W. Estill, of Winchester, Tenn,. is here among the Mexican Veterans. He was Ensign of Co. E. Third Tennessee regiment in the Mexican War. The flag carried by him was one of the finest that was taken into Mexico by the U.S. troops. One side was the stars and stripes, made of silk, the other white silk, and was made by the Whig ladies of Winchester in 1840, the staff being made by M. W. Robinson, then a cabinet-maker in that place. It was carried by the Whigs of Franklin county through the campaigns of 1840, ’41, ’43, and ’44 and presented to Capt. George T. Colyar’s company in 1847. On being taken out for presentation to the company. Mr. Rboinson was among the group of citizens surrounding it, and, taking hold of the staff, remarked that he had made that staff in 1840 and had seen the flag in every political campaign since, and those who had carried it had stood nobly by it, and was proud to see his hand-work go forth in the cause of his country, and hoped that those to whom it was entrusted would carry it to victory and return it untarnished. That fine flag, however, was never returned.”
This anecdote shows that McCama was patriotic, talented, and politically engaged, with no hint to his issues. This story just demonstrates how all people, including our ancestors, are complicated beings with many different sides.
Despite McCama’s earlier problems, his cabinetmaking business flourished by the 1850s, allowing him to engage a partner, Henry Hall. After the initial investment of $500 in the company, three men labored for “average monthly wages of $75, [and] produced furniture worth $1,500 from 5,000 feet of lumber….” McCama earned at least $900 per year, almost three times the amount Ann received as her pension. McCama placed an advertisement for the firm of Robinson and Hall in the first edition of The Winchester Appeal on February 16, 1856. It announced to “their friends and the public generally” that their new shop was now located on the square, and they sold “furniture constantly on hand, or made to order.”
Ann died the next year, and her executor (notably not McCama) placed an advertisement in the paper for the sale of her house. Her granddaughter Elizabeth’s husband purchased the house, and the surviving grandchildren split the profits as their inheritance.
Soon, McCama’s life began to unravel. Perhaps McCama’s bad health finally caught up to him; he and Henry Hall placed a short notice in the newspaper announcing that “The firm of Robinson & Hall was dissolved January 1st 1859, by mutual consent.” In the 1860 census, McCama was still listed as a cabinetmaker. This indicates that despite his health, he still produced some furniture on his own. However, his circumstances proved insufficient to properly care for his three youngest children, Belle, Sarah, and Henry. On March 6, 1860, the County Court appointed G. A. Shook “guardian of the person and property of Bell W., Sarah S., & Henry C. Robertson [sic] minor children of M W Robertson [sic]. Seven months later, McCama petitioned the court to remove Shook as guardian because the children were “residents of Rutherford County Tennessee & that Jas. R. Mankin is their legal guardian in said county.”
After the court case, McCama disappears from public records. His son, Henry, sent McCama one letter dated July 8, 1861 while Henry was serving in the Confederate Army. That is the last time any mention of McCama was made during his lifetime. It is likely he died shortly after that, and it’s possible that one of Henry’s furloughs was taken to attend his father’s funeral. McCama was probably buried in the Winchester City Cemetery next to his wife Margaret, mother-in-law Ann, and children William and Mary. There is no headstone; therefore, no date of birth or death has survived.
It remains unclear what prompted his scrapes with the law and troubles at home. His oldest son, Samuel, was an active member of the Sons of Temperance. Did this stem from dealing with a parent who drank excessively when he was a child? I will probably never know. But he certainly was a colorful character and no doubt would have been a very interesting person to know.
This week’s 52 Ancestors prompt is about music, which is near and dear to my heart. My family is very musical; I play the flute and piano, my brother plays the piano and drums, my mom plays the piano, my grandmother plays the piano, and so did my 2x great grandmother, Jessie Robinson, and her sister Bertha. I know that another 2x great grandmother had a piano, so she likely played as well.
Of all of my family, my great great grandmother, Jessie Preston Robinson, was by far the most accomplished. She played the organ at her church in Nashville for many years, and when she was younger, she often performed at musical events. I had heard family stories for years about her talent, but I didn’t realize the extent until I found some of the pieces she played at recitals.
Jessie was born on 20 January 1876 in Zanesville, Ohio to Charles and Cora Preston. Charles was a molder, and in 1881, he was hired by Phillips and Buttorff Manufacturing Company to be the foreman of their foundry. Charles moved to Nashville, and Cora and their children, Jessie and Walter, followed in 1882.
By 1886, Jessie was enrolled in a music course taught by Mrs. Cleveland, though she had likely been playing for several years. She, along with other piano students, exhibited their skills on 15 May 1886:
A Delightful Little Concert.
There was a delightful little concert last night at the residence of Mr. B. Franklin on Monroe street, given by members of Mrs. Cleveland’s musical class. When it is considered that many of these are children who commenced studying music only last fall, the excellence with which the different numbers were rendered is remarkable. The programme was as follows:
Instrumental duet – “Mountain Glee,” Miss Mary Lee Jones and Miss Jennie Sweeney.
Silver Springs Waltz, Miss Jessie Preston.
Chorus – See Saw Song.
Vocal solo – “Flee as a Bird,” Mr. Percy Cleveland.
Instrumental solo – “Highland Glen March,” Miss Mary Lee Jones.
Chorus – “Come where Flowers Bloom.”
Instrumental solo – “Woodland Echoes,” Miss Maggie Epperson.
Vocal quartet – “Moonlight will Come Again,” Mrs. Cleveland and Messrs. Cleveland.
Instrumental solo – “Blue Mozella Waltz” and “Faust March,” Miss Jennie Sweeney.
Vocal duet – “I Come, I Come,” Miss Edwards and Miss Epperson
Song – “My Cottage Home,” Mrs. Cleveland and sons.
Duet – Heel and Toe Polka, Miss Epperson and Miss Preston.
Instrumental solo – Sonata in E (Lichner) No. 2, Miss Jessie Preston.
Instrumental solo – “Chant de Berger,” Miss Maggie Epperson.
On February 10, 1888, when Jessie was 12 years old, she participated in another performance of her musical abilities as a student of Mrs. Cleveland. She performed “German Triumphal March” by Jacob Kunkel and “Il Trovatore.”
Here is the first page of the “German Triumphal March.” I was incredibly impressed that Jessie could play this at such a young age! It proves how talented she really was.
Below is the sheet music for “Il Trovatore, a musical selection written by Giuseppe Verdi and arranged for the piano by E. Dorn. It is another complicated piece for a young girl to play.
By 1890, Jessie had left Mrs. Cleveland’s school and was receiving lessons from Professor Emmet Coyle. On 7 June, Jessie and other students performed at the Y.M.C.A.:
PROF. COYLE’S RECITAL.
A Charming Amateur Entertainment at the Y.M.C.A. Last Night.
The pretty auditorium of the Young Men’s Christian Association building was well filled last night by a representative audience of Nashville’s most cultivated lovers of music. The occasion was a piano recital by the pupils of Prof. Emmet Coyle. Mr. Coyle is a young man of marked ability as a musician and instructor. He has already attained considerable prominence in musical circles with a reputation extending beyond the city. Those of his pupils appearing were Misses Sammie Warren, Jennie Sanders, Rosa Rosenzweig, Lizzie Corder, Lillie Veronee, Emma Englert, Nellie Hagerty, Jessie Preston, Hattie Clarkson, Clara Jungerman, Carrie Zickler, Annie Zickler, Sophie Levy, Ray Flattau and Fannie Flattau, and Masters Frank McDonald, Charlie Sanders, Abe Rosenzweig and Arthur Jungerman. The selections were from classic music and, in the main, quite difficult, but the piano work was good, reflecting praise on both instructor and pupils.
The programme was pleasingly varied by several of Nashville’s talented amateurs, whose appearance is always hailed with pleasure. Mr. Tom Norton McClure sang a pretty selection; Mrs. A. H. Stewart rendered Belline’s Bridal Song; Mr. Robert Nichol sang Verdi’s “Evi Tu Che Macchiavi;” Miss Lillie Pearl Levy sang “Madaline,” from White’s composition, and Miss Mamie Geary and Prof. Coyle rendered DeBeriot’s seventh concerto with piano and violin. Prof. Feliz Heinck, of New York, also appeared. He sings a rich and well cultivated baritone which won especial applause. He has been induced to consider location here.
The entertainment was, on the whole, one of the most thoroughly satisfying of the season.
Sadly, Emmet Coyle died in 1891, and by necessity, Jessie would have found a new musical instructor.
Another reference in the newspaper of a performance in which Jessie took part appeared on 11 February 1894:
Jessie was 18 years old when she played the piano in this recital. I just wish it included what pieces she played! An interesting observation for me was that another performer, Jennie Cassetty, was Jessie’s future husband’s first cousin. This is the first time where I have seen a connection between the two families prior to Jessie and Thomas’s marriage in 1897.
After learning about Jessie’s musical talents, it made me wonder where her musical ability came from. I honestly did not think I would ever learn this, but then I found a photo in an old family album that answered this question: her father! Jessie’s father, Charles Preston, played the violin, as shown in the photograph below. Unfortunately, I don’t know anything further, and I don’t know who the other man is, but it gives a tantalizing glimpse into the Preston’s family life.
It was so much fun to find out that music connects the generations of my family, from the 1850s to the present. And it is very fitting for such a musical family to have lived in Music City! (Nashville)