UPDATE – Brick Wall – Sarah H. Hill (1827-1908)

Last year, I wrote about my 3rd great grandmother, Sarah H. Hill, and used her as an example of a “brick wall” ancestor. Her name has stared at me from family tree charts and my Ancestry.com tree for a long time, frustrating me to no end that I had no idea where she came from. As with any project, certain family lines were prioritized over others, and I just wasn’t able to devote much time to researching Sarah beyond searching through wills and census records on Ancestry.com. I had a feeling that either the records that could shed some light on her background were no longer extant, or her history might be buried in some obscure court documents that I could only access at the county level. I put Sarah away and did not return to looking for her origins until yesterday afternoon when I just had a good feeling about her. And to my great astonishment…

I FOUND HER FAMILY!

I was so amazed and beyond excited to be reading Chancery Court minutes that so succinctly named her siblings, father, and three grandparents. I can’t take full credit of making the “discovery” by myself or make it sound as though I traveled to Tennessee and sat in the Marshall County archives pouring over dusty minute books. This time, Google is the real hero, that and my ability to type in “Sarah H. Hill Alvin Johnson” into the search engine.

I did just that, and would you believe it, the first hit was their names found in a book entitled Tennessee Tidbits 1778-1914 vol. 4 by Marjorie Hood Fischer. Part of the book had been scanned, but not its entirety. From what I could tell, the author took abstracts of interesting court minute entries from across the state and compiled them into several volumes. Really, it was just luck that Sarah was in the volume at all. What was even more astonishing is she isn’t found in the book once, but several times!

Sarah, her four siblings, her siblings’ husbands, and their trustee were complainants in a suit filed against their father’s estate in the 1840s. At first glance, I suspected that this Sarah was my Sarah, but what clinched it was the fact that her first husband, Alvin Johnson, is named in one of the suits.

Here are the familial relationships noted in the court minutes (these minutes spanned several years in the 1840s):

Elisha Bagley – Grandfather

Richard Bagley – Grandfather and father of Robert W. Hill

Lydia Hill – Grandmother (her name is mentioned although in the minutes her relationship to the 5 siblings is not specified)

Robert W. Hill – son of Richard Hill and father of 5 children

1. Mary Ann Eliza Hill   m. William Webster

2. Amanda Jane Hill       m. James Turner

3. Sarah Harriet Hill       m. Alvin Johnson

4. Martha W. Hill             m. Abner J. Cole

5. William Jasper Hill

Court Case – James C. Record et al. vs. Robert W. Hill

James C. Record as the Trustee for Mary Ann Webster wife of William Webster, Amanda Jane Turner wife of James Turner, Sarah Harriet Hill, Martha W. Hill, and William Jasper Hill, sued Robert W. Hill, the complainants’ father. The abstract doesn’t specify what the case is truly about. It is mentioned that their maternal grandfather, Elisha Bagley, put in trust to James C. Record for the 5 children four enslaved people – Milly and her children Patrick, Roseannah, and David Crockett – on 25 May 1835. The minutes also mention another enslaved person, Simon, who was left presumably to either Robert W. Hill or his 5 children in the will of Richard Hill.

It seems that this case concerns the 5 heirs of Robert W. Hill, Richard Hill, and Elisha Bagley receiving their inheritance. The interesting part is that their father, Robert, was alive at the time; they weren’t suing his estate.

No date is given for this suit, but based on the daughter’s marriages, it took place between 26 January 1840 and 20 November 1843.

Court Case – Lydia Hill vs. James C. Record, James Turner, et al.

A second court case – Lydia Hill vs. James C. Record, et al. – dated 13 March 1844 gave a little more insight into the family relationships. The abstract only records that it concerned the minority of Sarah Harriet and William Jasper and that no guardian had been appointed to them. As their father, Robert, was still alive, this was a guardian ad litem, an impartial person assigned to protect their interests during their inheritance dispute with their father and apparently Lydia Hill, who I could see was another relative (I didn’t know at the time that she was Robert’s mother). The court chose George Elliott to fill this role.

On 10 June 1845, the guardianship issue was again addressed in court. By this date, Sarah had married her first husband, Alvin Johnson, and so only her brother was still considered a minor. It was decided that the portions inherited by Sarah and Martha were to be settled on them without the control of their husbands, Alvin Johnson and Abner J. Cole, respectively.

On 10 March 1847, a petition was submitted by John R. Hill, stating that Robert W. Hill had five children, and they were the only people entitled to the land given to them in Richard Hill’s will.

Soon after, Mary Ann Webster, Sarah’s oldest sister, also submitted a petition to the court asking that her interest in her grandfather’s land be vested in the land of Sarah Haywood (probably another relative).

The abstracts leave a lot to be desired in terms of what exactly the cases were about and family dynamics. Not that I am complaining; I am VERY grateful for what I do have. It just leaves me anxious to know more!!

But Wait, There’s More!

Sarah appears again in Tennessee Tidbits! And what I read in the second entry explains one of the biggest questions I had about Sarah: if she was the same person who married Alvin Johnson and Nathan Calloway Davis, why was her name listed as Sarah H. Hill in both marriage records? I assumed she would be Sarah Johnson when she married Nathan. The reason: DIVORCE!

Of course divorce! That makes sense.

Sarah H. Johnson filed a bill for divorce on 22 August 1856 against her husband, Alvin A. Johnson. She stated that they were married in Marshall County, Tennessee (on 17 September 1844 when she was 17 years old). They separated four years prior to filing, so about 1852. She charged him with adultery with “sundry lewd women,” including someone whose last name was Delany. The court granted her divorce and restored her maiden name, Sarah H. Hill. This is why her named was “Sarah H. Hill” on the second marriage record to Nathan Davis.

Sarah also asked that the money held (probably in trust for her) by James B. Tally – the money given to her by her grandfather Elisha Bagley – be given to her.

I want to believe that she did receive her money and that she was finally free of a man who probably made her life very unhappy. The coward didn’t even bother to show up to court for the proceedings.

When she married Nathan Davis on 23 September 1858, she was a divorced woman using her maiden name once again.

Inheritance Issues

Of course once I found this information, I kept digging to see what else I could find. I was desperate to find more about Sarah’s siblings, parents, and grandparents. The court cases indicated that the wills of Richard Hill and Elisha Bagley existed in the 1840s, so I had some hope that I could find them now. Unfortunately, in that area of Tennessee, there were several courthouse fires that destroyed records. I was pleasantly surprised that both wills I was searching for do exists and were on Ancestry.com.

I won’t go into too much detail here (I may want to use these for future posts), but I do want to relate the bequests in them that are relevant to Robert W. Hill and his 5 children.

Will of Richard Hill

Richard Hill, father of Robert W. Hill and grandfather of Sarah Harriet Hill, wrote two wills, one on 7 February 1832 and the second on 30 May 1832. The later will was the one most likely used for the estate settlement, although I have not seen that either was recorded as probated. Both wills were entered in the Maury County will books.

It begins, In the name of God Amen I Richard Hill of Maury county and state of Tennessee being in a low state of health but of sound mind and memory do make and ordain this my last will and Testament…

And then proceeds with specific bequests. The ones of interest right now concern Richard Hill’s wife, Lydia, and Robert W. Hill and his children:

I give and bequeath to my wife Lydda two negroes named Sarah and Lizza I also lend to my wife Lydda the following that is Joanna Chainy Will Thomas Willis Aaron Isaac and Jacob for her own use and benefit during her natural life…

I also lend to my said wife Lydda all that part of my plantation in Maury County which lies south of Thomas Branch during her natural life…

I also lend to my said wife all my household and kitchen furniture beds bedsteads and bed furniture and all my plantation and farmin utensils in the same manner…

I give and bequeath to the children of my son Robert jointly one negroe man named Simon, and all my land that lies north of Thomas’ branch, and also at my said wifes death or marriage, all my land lying south of Thomas Branch, to them and their heirs forever.

Item my will is that all the personal property or estate that I have lent to my wife as above mentioned, be at her death be divided in the following manner, that is to say My son Roberts children one third…

These bequests show the players in the 1844 case of Lydia Hill vs. James C. Record et al. a little more clearly. Lydia was Richard’s wife and (verified in yet another court case) Robert W.’s mother. Lydia Hill was taking her grandchildren – including Sarah H. Hill – to court in the mid 1840s over some discrepancy over their inheritance of the slave, Simon. The later court cases over the land must have taken place after Lydia’s death as her grandchildren weren’t set to inherit any of that real property until then.

This will made me wonder why Robert was skipped over in favor of his five children. Perhaps Richard had already given his son property. Or, perhaps Richard and Robert were not on the best of terms by his death. I think the former is more likely. Another court case – Levi Cochran vs. Robert W. Hill – makes it clear that Robert was living with his parents at the time of his father’s death and even after to help his mother manage her business. But, I will need to look at the court minutes in full to have a better understanding of the circumstances.

It seems that by 1847 the five Hill heirs had probably received their interest in their grandfather’s land, which means their grandmother died around that time.

Elisha Bagley and a Deed of Trust

Elisha Bagley died on 21 May 1858 while living in Lincoln County, Tennessee at the age of 82. His first wife, Sarah Wilkins, died in 1830. He remarried 9 years later to a woman named Elizabeth Todd.

Elisha and Sarah’s daughter Elizabeth married Robert W. Hill around 1820, and their first daughter was born in 1824. Sadly, Elizabeth died on 19 May 1835 at the young age of 33, leaving behind five children. According to the Marshall County minute books, Elisha Bagley put into trust for his 5 Hill grandchildren the four enslave people – Milly, Patrick, Roseannah, and David Crockett – on 25 May 1835, just six days after his daughter’s death. He probably intended them to be Elizabeth’s share of his estate. Again, this is just a guess as I haven’t read the actual deed yet.

However, that doesn’t explain why the 5 Hill grandchildren would take their father, Robert W. Hill, to court, as he was not the trustee of Milly and her children. That was undertaken by James C. Record. This just shows that there is more to the story.

But what funds held by a James B. Talley was Sarah referring to in her divorce? I am just guessing here, but I believe the enslaved people must have been sold, and Sarah wanted her share of the profit given to her. The funds could not refer to anything in Elisha’s will as although he wrote it on 29 November 1855, he didn’t die until 1858 and Sarah’s divorce took place in 1856. James B. Talley was Sarah’s uncle, the husband of her mother’s sister, Bethenia Anne (Bagley) Talley. Why he had Sarah’s money, I have no idea. Again, more questions have come up that can’t be answered until I see all the records in full, not just abstracts.

Will of Elisha Bagley

When Sarah’s grandfather, Elisha Bagley, wrote his will in 1855, she was separated from Alvin Johnson but had not yet filed for divorce. She wouldn’t marry Nathan C. Davis until a few months after his death in 1858. So what did Elisha leave to Sarah and her siblings in his will?

Item Sixth – I will and bequeath to the heirs of the body of my deceased daughter Elizabeth C. Hill one fifth of my real & personal property.

However, some problem seems to have arisen during the settlement. The will was proved in court in 1859, but in 1871, the property is still being settled! James B. Talley was at some point appointed the administrator. Whatever dispute happened, a judgment was rendered in the Circuit Court in 1871. This seems to be the James B. Talley vs. W. F. Kirchival case. However, another case – Mary Webster et al. vs. James B. Talley – was filed in the Chancery Court in Lincoln County around the same time .

Mary Webster is, of course, Mary Ann (Hill) Webster, the oldest sister of Sarah Harriet Hill who was one of the prime movers in the cases brought against their father Robert W. Hill.

After judgments had been rendered, Mary Ann Webster, James and Amanda (Hill) Turner, and Nathan C. and Sarah (Hill) Davis finally received their portions of their grandfather’s estate.

Conclusion

Davis_Sarah_tombstone

In short, those abstracted court minutes in Tennessee Tidbits opened up several new branches of my family! I now have so many more questions about Sarah and her relations, and I am so excited to get my hands on the actual court minutes, deeds, and court cases.

Looking at these records reiterated to me just how difficult and sad life can really be. Sarah’s mother died when she was just eight years old, her father seems like he was a difficult man to live with, she married at a young age to a man who cheated on her, and her second husband died twenty years after they married. I hope that she found some happiness with Nathan C. Davis and with her own children.

She lived to be about 81 years and was buried next to her second

husband and some of her children on the Davis farm in Marshall County, Tennessee. I have no photos of her, but after these discoveries, I feel like I know her quite a bit better.

Brick Wall – Sarah H. Hill (1827-1908)

Oh, so many brick walls, so few records. My battle with them makes genealogy both exciting yet frustrating. I have conquered several of my brick walls over the past few years. Sometimes once I smash through, the records are plentiful and I can keep researching. Others are met with another brick wall or two immediately after my success.

But, there are others, like Sarah H. Hill, who just refuse to yield their secrets, leaving me stuck (at least, at the moment). I know quite a bit about Sarah, but not enough to be able to place her in a family group with certainty.

Tombstone of Nathan and Sarah Davis

Sarah’s Background

Here is what I know about Sarah’s background, family, and origins:

  • Sarah was born in 1827. This date is on her tombstone.
  • Sarah was born in Tennessee. All of the census records agree on this point.
  • Sarah’s maiden name was Hill. The death certificates of her sons, Lyndol and Richard, and daughter, Addie, both give her name as Sarah Hill. This is also supported by her marriage record Nathan C. Davis. Her name is recorded as Sarah H. Hill.
  • Sarah was possibly married twice. There is a Sarah H. Hill who married Alvin A. Johnson on 17 September 1844 in Marshall County, Tennessee. Oddly, if this was indeed her first marriage, I would think that her name would be Sarah Johnson in her marriage record to Nathan, rather than Sarah Hill.
  • Both of Sarah’s parents were born in North Carolina. Unfortunately, many Hills in Marshall County were born in North Carolina, so this is helpful but it also doesn’t really narrow down anything.
  • In 1880, a Betsy Glenn is living with Nathan and Sarah. She is recorded as Nathan’s sister-in-law. None of Nathan’s siblings married a Glenn, and like Sarah, both of Betsy’s parents were born in North Carolina. It is possible that Betsy is Sarah’s sister.
Sarah Davis and family in the 1880 Census.

As you can see, there are many clues to her origins but so far, those clues haven’t produced information about her parents.

Wills in Marshall County, Tennessee

Unfortunately, few Hill family members left wills in Marshall County. The five wills written in 1909 and before were of particular interest to me – John Hill, Richard Hill, Emily Hill, A. W. Hill, and John F. Hill – but sadly, none of them contained any reference to my Sarah Hill or Sarah Davis.

I did, however, find who I believe are the parents of the Betsy Glenn living with Nathan and Sarah in 1880. In 1857, Samuel Glenn wrote his will, naming wife Frances Ann and daughters Elizabeth M. Glenn, Mary N. A. Glenn, and Susan S. A. Glenn. His son, Samuel A., and son in law David Nix, husband of Samuel’s daughter Frances, were named administrators.

Like the Besty Glenn living with Sarah and Nathan, she was born about 1819 or 1820 in Tennessee, she never married, and both parents were born in North Carolina. After looking at the evidence, Betsy Glenn and Elizabeth Glenn, daughter of Samuel, are definitely the same person. Going back to the 1880 census, it seems that the label of “sister-in-law” in relation to Nathan Davis is probably incorrect. Betsy Glenn was not Sarah H. Hill’s sister, and so far, I have not been able to find a connection between the Glenns and the Davis family. However, I have not yet had the chance to research deeds and court cases in Marshall or Lincoln Counties as of yet. These records often reveal familial relationships when wills are missing or vague.

Possible Hill Relatives

Children of Nathan Davis and Sarah Hill Davis

Often, when I do not know where to turn, I look at the names of a couple’s children for inspiration. Sarah and Nathan had six children: Richard E., Steel C., Albert E., Richard Lee, Addie E., and my ancestor, Newton Harrison. Of all of these names, Steel was the most unusual.

I began searching on Findagrave.com using the names Steel and Hill, and I found a family cemetery in Lewisburg in which was buried the family of Isaac H. Hill and Margaret (Steele) Hill. At first, I was very hopeful that this Isaac and Margaret Hill might be my Sarah’s parents.

 

 

 

  • My Sarah named one of her sons Steel, which was Margaret (Steele) Hill’s maiden name.
  • Isaac and Margaret Hill’s children were born in the 1820s and 1830s, making them the correct ages for Sarah’s siblings.
  • Their last name was Hill, and they lived close to the Davis farm.
  • Isaac Hill’s father’s name was Richard, and two of Sarah’s sons were named Richard.

Sadly, this hunch was also wrong. Isaac and Margaret did have a daughter named Sarah, and like mine, she was born in 1827. However, that Sarah Hill married Andrew Bryant, and their family is well-documented. I was so close!

Conclusions

So far, my investigation into Sarah H. Hill Davis has been fruitless. Every time I believe I have made progress, I find documents that prove just the opposite. I suppose that failure is also progress because failure helps to eliminate possible immediate family members. I still believe that even if Sarah doesn’t fit into the Isaac/Margaret Hill family as one of their children, she might be related to them in another way.

At this time, I am optimistic that records in Marshall County that I have not yet perused might provide some answers. I suppose I need to plan another genealogy trip!

 

Large Family – The Family of Thomas Bills and Mary Collins

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

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

Who Were Thomas and Mary?

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

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

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

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

Marriage Bond of Thomas Bills and Mary Collins

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

Thomas Bills’s dismissal from the Quakers

Move to Tennessee

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

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

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

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

1830 Census

Ten years later, the family had grown larger:

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

1840 Census

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

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

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

1850 Census

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

Some Observations – Marital Status

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Observations – Naming Patterns

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

Daniel Bills m. Deborah Denman, whose children were:

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

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

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

Thomas Bills m. Mary Collins, whose children were:

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

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

Conclusion

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

 

 

 

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!

Nice – Matilda Apple Cassetty

Matilda Apple Cassetty is one of my ancestors with whom I am quite fascinated, and yet I can’t really say why that is. Possibly, it is because I know so little about her, despite the fact that I know an overwhelming amount about her husband and her son-in-law (both are also my ancestors). One of the few things that I know about her falls into the “nice” category, and that event I will of course expound upon in this post. But I also want to use this post as an opportunity to lay out what I know about her, what I wish I knew, and my theories as to her parentage.

Ancestry and Parentage

Matilda Apple was born about 1823 in either Jackson or Smith County, Tennessee. Jackson County suffered several courthouse fires, which is also incredibly frustrating for a genealogist, but much of Smith County’s records are in tact. This is what makes determining Matilda’s parents so difficult. I do know that she was married by the 1840 census to Thomas D. Cassetty, and they began their married life in Jackson County. The first census shows that Matilda is the young woman between 14 and 19 living in the household with T. D., who is between the ages of 20 and 29. Matilda must have married by the age of 17, if not slightly younger. No children were recorded in the house, indicating that they were likely newly married.

1840 Census, Jackson County, TN. Shows T.D. Cassetty and wife Matilda soon after their marriage.

The marriage records for both Jackson and Smith County begin late, so as far as I know, no record of marriage for T.D. and Matilda exists. However, I know that they were married from other sources like newspaper articles. Three of Matilda and T. D.’s children’s deaths were recorded by death certificates, and all three children give Matilda’s maiden name as Apple, as does a Who’s Who article about their son William Martin Cassetty. He was most likely the supplier of the information, and it is reasonable that he knew his mother’s maiden name.

So I know Matilda’s maiden name, approximate birth year and place of birth, but who are her parents? There were several Apple families living in the Jackson/Smith/Putnam County region of Tennessee during the 1830s-1850s, and all of them could trace their lineage back to Daniel Apple and Barbara Spoon. Several of their sons, including David Apple, George Washington Apple, and Daniel Apple Jr., migrated to Jackson and Smith County, Tennessee. All three brothers can be seen on the 1830 census in Tennessee:

David Apple

Males: 2 under 5, 1 5-9, 2 10-14, 2 15-19, 2 40-49 (one must be David)

Females: 1 under 5, 2 5-9, 2 10-14, 1 15-19, 1 20-29 (2nd wife Mary Thackson)

George Washington Apple

Males: 2 5-9, 1 10-14, 1 15-19, 1 30-39 (G.W. Apple)

Females: 2 under 5, 1 5-9, 1 10-14, 1 30-39 (wife Mary McDonald)

Daniel Apple Jr.

Males: 1 under 5, 3 5-9, 1 10-14, 1 30-39 (Daniel Apple Jr.)

Females: 3 15-19, 1 40-49

In 1830, Matilda was 7 years old and would be noted in the Females 5-9 column. Of the three brothers, only David and George have daughters between the age of 5-9. I can therefore eliminated Daniel Jr. as Matilda’s father.

George Washington Apple’s two daughters under 5 are undoubtedly Celina (born 1828) and Barbara (born 1830) who are recorded with their parents in the 1850 census in Jackson County. I don’t know for a fact that the other two females aren’t Matilda, but it seems likely they are not based on information from other family members. The older daughter is likely Elizabeth Apple who married a Holford, and the other is Eliza Jane who married George Ridley Holleman. It seems all the females in this household have been accounted for.

That leaves the household of David Apple. David had three sons with his first wife: Milton (born 1805), Anthony (born 1808), and Madison (born 1815) and at least two unknown daughters who were under 10 in the 1820 census. He married for a second time to Mary Thackson after the 1820 census, with whom he had at least 6 children 1830 and after, as well as one son, Jackson Carroll Apple (a Tennessee Senator whose parents are named in the Biographical Dictionary) born in 1825. This leaves several sons and at least 6 daughters in the 1830 census unaccounted for (the other children appear in the 1850 census). The two oldest are likely the two daughters found in the 1820 census. One of the unknown daughters of David and his second wife was a daughter between the ages of 5 and 9, the correct age for Matilda.

There are two other documents that I have found that support the idea that Matilda was a very close relative of David Apple and likely of Anthony Apple, David’s middle son by his first wife: 2 deeds between them and Matilda’s husband, T.D. Cassetty.

On 15 December 1842, Anthony Apple sold to T. D. Cassetty of Jackson County 50 acres of land in Smith County that also touched Anthony’s land. It would make sense that a young T.D. might purchase land from one of his wife’s relatives, especially early in the marriage.

The second document was a deed of trust written on 30 September 1843 and was made between Thomas D. Cassetty and David Apple. It reads:

I have this day bargained sold and by these presents do convey unto David Apple of the County of Putnam the following property to wit three feather beds steads & furniture one Beauro one press one folding leaf table one dressing table two trunks one clock house hold & kitchen furniture one shot gun two cows & calves one yoke of oxen one horse one mares saddle also one tract of land in district No 16 in Smith County lying on both sides of the Walton Road …to have and to hold to the agoresaid David Apple and his heirs forever Now this deed is made to secure tohe said Apple in the payment of two debts for which he is security for the undersigned one to the Bank of Tennessee for seventy two dollars one to the Academy at Gainsboro for two hundrend and seven dollars. Now if the undersigned shall well and truly pay said sums of money to the said Apple on or before the first day October 1844 then this deed shall be void and of no effect or otherwise the same shall remain in full force and virtue….

Thos D. Cassetty

It is very probable that T.D. approached his father-in-law to be a security for his debts, especially if T.D. couldn’t repay the debts, all of his possessions would go to the father-in-law who would be inclined to return them. Deeds of trust were often made between close family members who wouldn’t take advantage of the ones who owed money.

To me, this is pretty compelling evidence that Anthony was Matilda’s older half brother and David Apple was Matilda’s father.

Two other small pieces of evidence also indicate that David Apple and Mary Thackson Apple were Matilda’s parents. The oldest child, Sarah (my ancestor), was named for T.D.’s mother Sarah, but the second child, Mary, was likely named for Matilda’s mother. If Mary was indeed her mother’s name, then Mary Thackson Apple is a perfect candidate. Even more telling is the fact that T.D. and Matilda named their oldest son David, indicating that either Matilda’s father was David Apple.

1850 Census showing T.D., Matilda, and their oldest children.

The deeds, census records, deeds, and naming patterns all seem to point to David and Mary Thackson as the parents of Matilda Apple.

As a side note, Matilda’s Apple family was of German extraction. Both Matilda’s grandparents, Daniel Apple and Barbara Loffel (Spoon) were from German families. Daniel Apple’s father was an immigrant from the small town of Usenborn, Wetteraukreis, Hessen, Germany, northeast of Frankfurt. He was naturalized with his father and brother in Alsace Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania in 1761.

Nice

Now it is time to tell about the one story I know of Matilda and why it was “nice.”

Matilda and T.D. Cassetty had eight children: Sarah or Sallie, Mary, David, John, William Martin, James Tecumpsah, Sidney, and Olepta. In 1856, T.D. moved the family to Nashville, where he was a successful Justice of the Peace for many years. He was well-known in the city, was often in the newspaper, and was very involved in fraternal societies including the Sons of Temperance (even though that did not dissuade him from occasional public intoxication). The family lived in a very nice house on Spruce Street, employed servants, and allowed Tennessee senators and congressmen to board periodically with them.

1860 Census, showing T.D., Matilda, and their children living in Nashville.

In 1869, the oldest daughter, Sallie, married Samuel D. Robinson, a typographer and Civil War veteran who knew her father through the Sons of Temperance. Sallie and Samuel might have also met through another means. In 1870, Edward “Ned” Apple was living with Matilda, T.D., Sallie, and her new husband Samuel in Nashville. Ned was the son of George Washington Apple, Jr., the son of George Washington Apple, Sr., that would make GW Jr. Matilda’s first cousin and Ned her first cousin once removed. Presumably, Ned had been sent to live with his cousins in Nashville so that he could attend the Tennessee School for the Blind, which was run by Samuel Robinson’s sister, Elizabeth Sturdivant, and brother-in-law, John M. Sturdivant. It is not clear how long Ned had been living with the Cassettys. If he had been sent prior to 1870, somehow the Blind School connection might have been how Sallie and Samuel met.

1870 Census, showing T.D., Matilda, some of their children, cousin Ned, boarders, and their domestic servants.

Eventually, Samuel and Sallie moved out of her parents’ home. Sallie gave birth to only one child, a son, Thomas, in 1873. She died of a stomach tumor in 1886.

Death notice of Sallie Cassetty Robinson.

Thomas’s father, Samuel, only lived until 1891, when he suddenly died of pneumonia. Thomas was only 18 years old, no longer a child, but as he had just finished high school, it would have benefited him greatly if his father had lived longer to help him with work. To make matters more difficult, Samuel never purchased property in Nashville. Instead, he, Sallie, and Thomas moved frequently and rented apartments. So when he died, Thomas had no income and no ability to pay rent.

This is when his widowed grandmother, Matilda, swept in and took care of him. She offered for him to live with her at her home on Line Street, and his uncle William offered him a job as a clerk at the Cassetty Oil Company. Matilda, who had lost her husband a couple of years earlier, was probably glad to have her grandson live with her. Her kindness probably made a big impression on Thomas.

Cassetty residences in Nashville in 1893, the year Matilda died.

Sadly, Matilda did not live long after Samuel’s death. She died of a heart attack on 13 October 1893 and was buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Nashville next to T.D. and several of her children.

Record of Matilda’s death in Nashville.

 

Matilda’s death notice.

Though I know very little about her personal life, Matilda must have had a kind heart, particularly when it came to her relatives. She brought her blind cousin into her home so that he could attend a prestigious school for the blind in Tennessee. She also took in her grandson who had lost both parents and the only grandfather he ever knew (T.D.) within the space of five years. I truly believe that without help from his grandmother and uncle, Thomas would have had a very different, and certainly more difficult, life.

Frightening – Amputation

My biggest fear is physical pain. Even the anticipation of physical pain makes me afraid! So it is no wonder that one of the most frightening stories I can think of has to do with amputation.

This story has three main players – my great great grandfather Newton Harrison Davis, his older brother Richard Lee, and their father Nathan Calloway Davis. Newton was the youngest child of Nathan and Sarah (Hill), born in 1870. This was a second marriage for both his father and mother, so Newton had quite a few half siblings as well. By 1880, only Nathan and Sarah’s children were still living at home. Nathan owned a large farm in Marshall County, Tennessee, part of which is still in my family today. Nathan primarily raised Tennessee Walking Horses It was primarily a Tennessee Walking Horse farm, but they also raised cows, sheep, and swine.

Newton Harrison Davis, 9 years old, living with his parents and siblings in Marshall County, Tennessee.

When Newton was about 10 years old, he and his older brother, Lee, went hunting somewhere in the county. At some point during their hunt, Lee accidentally shot Newton in the arm! The boys made it back to the house where Nathan assessed the damage. I can only image how painful it was for Newton, how badly Lee felt, and how upset Nathan and Sarah were over the incident. Luckily, Nathan was also a physician. He owned an impressive collection of medical books, most of which Nathan’s grandson gave to a local Marshall County doctor years later.

The wound was so bad that Nathan was forced to amputate Newton’s arm right below the elbow. I hope that Nathan was able to give Newton some chloroform or anything to help dull him to the pain of the saw. In the end, everything turned out alright. Newton survived the ordeal, and when he was older, he married and farmed. It seemed his accident did not slow him down at all! In photographs, it is obvious that he is missing his arm. The sleeve is often pinned to the back of his jacket.

What a frightening event for everyone involved!

Cause of Death – “Crushed Under A Train”

The story of the death of my 4x great grandfather, Richard Swift, is quite sad, and even more so after I learned the circumstances surrounding his death.

In a way, this post is a continuation of three other posts I have written this year. First, I wrote about Reverend William Swift, Richard’s great grandfather and an immigrant ancestor on his father’s side. A couple of days ago, I wrote about Colonel Nicholas Spencer, Richard’s 4x great grandfather and an immigrant ancestor on his mother’s side. Yesterday, I examined a court case concerning the estate of Richard’s uncle, Spencer Ariss Moss, in which Richard was one of the complainants. And with that, this post is all about Richard Swift.

Background

As I have written quite a bit about Richard’s family, I won’t rehash too much of it here. Richard’s parents were Catherine Moss (1763-1816) and Richard Swift (1767-1831). Catherine was born in Loudoun County, Virginia, but by 1779, she had moved with her parents to Caswell County, North Carolina. There she married Richard Swift on 2 November 1787. Richard Swift was the son of William Swift Jr. and Frances Waddy, born 2 April 1767 and baptized on 7 May in Goochland County, Virginia.

Richard Swift Jr. was born in Tennessee on 8 July 1807 after his parents and older siblings had migrated from North Carolina. In 1830, he married Mary Fulcher, and after that date, he begins to appear in records in Robertson County, buying and selling land and slaves with his relatives and in-laws. He was a farmer and by trade a cooper, or barrel maker. He never owned particularly large parcels of land, only about 300 acres at a time.

Richard and his wife Mary had quite a large family: William, Martha, Catherine, Matilda, James M., Tennessee, Mary Frances (my 3x great grandmother), Elizabeth, Richard, Park Bailey, and Laurinda. All 11 children grew to adulthood, which for that time, was quite an impressive feat.

The Crime

As I mentioned, Richard was a cooper and by 1881 as a 73 year old man, he still operated his cooper business on his property. The following articles describe the events of Sunday, 20 February 1881 at Richard Swift’s home in Greenbrier, Robertson County, Tennessee.

Article in The Tennessean announcing the arrest of Joseph Pike and Lewis Sadler. 22 February 1881.
Account of the robbery and arson, published in the Leaf-Chronicle on 25 February 1881.

A third man, John Reese, was also arrested in connection with the theft and arson.

John Reese arrested in connection with the crime. Published in The Tennessean on 26 February 1881.

Not only did the thieves steal $1000 from Richard (quite a sum back then), but they also burned some of his outbuildings. Luckily, his home was not set on fire as well. Richard, though old, was determined to see the culprits were prosecuted.On 7 June 1881, Joseph Pike, Lewis Saddler, and Jeff Warren were indicted for “willfully and maliciously” burning the house of Richard Swift. It was also ordered that the sheriff of Davidson County bring Pike and Saddler back to Robertson County, as the men were apprehended in Nashville. On 10 June, Pike, Saddler, and Warren were all indicted for “burglary and house breaking.” Richard testified, as did his son James and sons-in-law B. F. Webster and G. B. Blackburn. The thieves stole “United States bank notes commonly called green backs,” “National Bank notes,” “current gold coin,” current silver coin,” “current silver silver dimes half dimes and of current nickle” for a total of $1,500.

On 14 June, the arraignment of Pike and Saddler took place in Robertson County. They plead not guilty, but “there not being time to finish the trial of the cause today,” it had to be continued to next day at 8:00 a.m. Lewis Saddler was found not guilty of the charge of arson, but like the day before, they again ran out of time to finish the trial. On 16 June, Joseph Pike was found guilty of arson. That same day, he also plead not guilty to burglary and larceny, but during the proceedings, he changed his mind and plead guilty. The article below gives more details about his trial on the 16th.

Joseph Pike confesses to the crime. Published in The Tennessean on 17 June 1881.

Although he plead guilty to burglary, on 17 Jun he moved for a new trial in the arson case. Neither the Attorney General nor the jury were inclined to be generous in this case, and his request for a new trial was overruled. On 18 June, he received the following sentences:

Burglary and Larceny: “Undergo confinement of hard labor in the penitentiary at Nashville for the term of Eight years commencing on the 16th day of June instant that he be rendered infamous and disqualified to give evidence or exercise the elective franchise or hold any office under this state and that he pay the costs of this prosecution.”

Forgery & False Pretenses: (unrelated to the Swift arson and burglary) Three years hard labor.

Arson: “Undergo confinement of hard labor in the penitentiary for the term of Eight Years commencing at the expiration of the term of eight years and three years for which he is sentences in the two cases of the state vs. Joe Pike et als…The defendant prays an appeal to the next term of the supreme court at Nashville which is granted and here tenders his bill of exceptions….”

Richard’s Death

Sadly for Richard and his family, the ordeal was not over. The Supreme Court of Tennessee did plan to hear Joe Pike’s appeal, so Richard made plans to travel to Nashville to testify, along with his son and sons-in-law. The family were going to catch the train at Greenbrier Station and take it to Nashville. However, when attempting to cross the train tracks, he was struck by a train and killed. The articles below are two different accounts of the accident recorded in local newspapers.

Article in the Tennessean about the death of Richard Swift. Published 5 July 1881.
Account of Richard Swift’s death, published in the Leaf-Chronicle on 12 July 1881.

It is just heartbreaking to think that Richard died in such a terrible way, in front of his family, who were apparently grief stricken. It is even more horrible that the only reason he was at the station that morning was to serve as a witness at the Supreme Court at the trial of the man who stole from him and burned his cooper shop.

That same day, his oldest son William purchased burial clothes for Richard from Dean & Durrett, dry goods dealers. For $32.90, he purchased 1 suit of black broad cloth, 1 pair of Morocco shoes, 1 shirt, 1 pair of drawers, 1 pair of hose, 1 linen collar, 1 pair of gloves, and 1 neck tie. The family intended to bury him quickly, so William paid the $0.75 express fee.

Richard was buried in the family cemetery in Robertson County, probably within the next few days.

His Estate

His oldest son, William, was the administer of his estate along with his son-in-law J. W. Sprouse, and they sold at public auction his personal property. It included:

1 axes, augers, rakes, hoes, shovels, 16 ft of rope, a scythe, 8 bridles, 6 bits, horses, 1 wagon, 1 gun, 1 bedstead, 1 cupboard, 1 table, 1 dressing table, bacon, 2 cradles, saddles, pigs, fodder, oats, corn, and rails.

His wife, Mary, was assigned a years allowance from the estate, which included 20 barrels of corn, 1000 pounds of pork, 675 pounds of flour, 1000 bushels of oats, $20 worth of coffee & sugar, $2.00 worth of spice, pepper, & soda, 1 barrel of salt, $12.50 worth of vinegar & molasses, and 5 gallons of coal oil.

After the personal property was sold and his debts paid, his wife and his 11 children received $7.48, a very small amount.