Documenting my family's past for future generations. My family tree includes the Smith/Mansell families of Alabama and Oklahoma, the Castle/Day families of Kentucky and Oklahoma, the Wheat/Ming families of Texas and Oklahoma, and the Bell/Roberts families of Mississippi, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Monrovia Testerman Update

Back in July I wrote a post about Salina Monrovia Testerman, the half-sister of my grandmother's half-sister, Cora. (Secret Sister) Of course, Monrovia was not a secret. It was just that none of us knew about her. An Ancestry hint, found by my cousin Linda, led us to discover records that gave us the outline of Monrovia's life. However, it's the conversations I've recently had with three of Monrovia's granddaughters that have filled in the details and answered the questions we had.

It all started with an email that said, "My name is Julia. I am a Testerman and I have lots of info. Please call me." So I did, and we had a delightful 3-hour conversation over two nights. Julia did have lots of info, and she was able to flesh out the bare outline of her ancestors' lives that I had found in historical records. A subsequent phone conversation with Julia's cousin Helen and emails from another cousin, Kathryn, added more details to the story.

  • Yes, Mary Frances Nickell, Julia's great-grandmother, was married before she married George Turner Castle, my great-grandfather. Her first husband's name was Silas Monroe Testerman, and he did die tragically before the birth of his daughter and namesake, Salina Monrovia Testerman.
  • Silas Monroe was pretty amazing. He was only 27 when he died, but he had accomplished a lot in his short life. He was a schoolteacher. He was a Mason and helped organize the Grange (in Morgan County, I presume); he kept a journal of his travels (which I hope to read); he played the violin and the dulcimer; he held a long-standing record as a high jumper; and on his way to school one morning he saved the life of a drowning man but lost his own life in the attempt.
  • On the subject of names: Helen told me that in the years following the drowning a lot of new parents named their sons Monroe. All three cousins told me that their grandmother was emphatic in her preference to be called Monrovia. 
  • Kathryn's mother told her that Monrovia was in the wagon with her mother and her new husband, George Castle, when Monrovia jumped down and ran back to her Testerman grandparents, "crying that she did not want to leave them." She was 8. She apparently stayed with them until she married Alonzo Jones in 1898. Those are the kinds of details I love and the kind of thing we wouldn't know from the historical record. It seems that both of our families were lucky that our grandmothers passed down their childhood memories.
  • I mentioned to Julia that my grandmother told me that when Grandpa Castle died, her cousin John Smith Castle went to Hazel Green to get Cora, who was going to school at Hazel Green Academy. She said, "Oh, my goodness! Both Monrovia and Alonzo graduated from Hazel Green Academy!" Here's another scrap of memory that has more significance now that I know that Cora was following in her older sister's footsteps. (I just realized while writing this that John Smith Castle, who was the son of James Harvey Castle and his wife Elizabeth Nickell, was Cora's first cousin on both her father's and her mother's side.)
  • Monrovia and Alonzo had 9 children: Carl; Bernice; Clarice; Estella (who preferred to be called Estelle); Mary Catherine (named for her great-grandmother, Mary Catherine "Kitty" Brooks Nickell); Vernon; Wendell; Virginia; and Alfred. Helen is the daughter of Bernice, the second of Monrovia's children; Julia's father was Vernon, child number 6; and Kathryn's mother was the next to youngest, Virginia.
  • Mary Catherine was the only child that did not reach adulthood. She died of diphtheria; Monrovia also caught it but survived. Alonzo went to town and got the diphtheria vaccine and vaccinated the rest of the children. 
  • Finally, the answer to this question: Did Monrovia and Cora visit each other as adults? Yes! Kathryn has photos of the two of them together when they were older. The two sisters were close. When I asked this question of Julia, she told me I needed to talk to her cousin Helen, because Helen was actually born in Herington, Kansas, where Cora and Fred Jones lived. Fred had gotten Helen's father a job with the railroad in Herington, and the family moved there. Helen lived there until she was 7. 
  • Monrovia lived to be 96. In her later years she moved to live with her daughter, Bernice, in Nampa, Idaho. She had a small mobile home in Bernice's back yard. Helen remembers her as a sweet-tempered person, although Julia remembers her as also being "straight-laced." 
  • In 1976 Carl, Bernice, Clarice, Vernon, and Julia went on a road trip to visit every place that the Testermans had lived, including Herington, Kansas, and Morgan County, Kentucky. Helen has a picture of her mother, Bernice, with our mutual cousin Ralph Jones from that trip.

I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Julia, Helen, and Kathryn. Their memories and their obvious love of their family have made me feel as if I have also met their parents; their grandmother, Monrovia; and their great-grandfather, Silas Monroe. 

One more goose-pimply coincidence: How did Julia find me? She is in the habit of doing genealogy research at the McClung Library in Knoxville, Tennessee, near where she lives. A fellow genealogy researcher there suggested she look at my blog because he knew that she was a Testerman. How did he find my blog? He researches the Reeds, another of my ancestral families. I'm so glad he shared his find with Julia!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Day Data

November 5 was the birthday of my great-grandmother, Sarah Florida Day Castle. To the older Castle cousins, and I consider myself among that number, she is the central figure of our childhoods. To my oldest Castle cousin she was the great influence and inspiration because "she could do anything!" She built houses and sidewalks, plucked chickens and milked cows, worked many jobs to support her family, taught Sunday School, led the PTA, welcomed her children and grandchildren to visit every Sunday and even live with her when they needed to, and lived by herself in her old age when she was almost completely deaf and blind. I've been writing a lot lately about our Castle heritage, so today I thought I would turn to the ancestors of Big Mom--the Days.

Sarah Florida Day was born on November 5, 1878, in Magoffin County, Kentucky, to James Thomas Day and Nancy Emily (Reed) Day. The first census on which she appears is the 1880 census of Johnsons Fork, Magoffin County. She appears as "Sariah," age 1, along with her father, mother, and sister Ida, age 3. The next document in which she appears records her marriage as Florida Day to George T. Castle on January 2, 1896. 

Her father, James Thomas Day, was born December 1st, 1856. I'm a little bit amazed that I have recently found a record of his birth on Ancestry. The columns in the birth register read: Date of Birth, Name of Child, Sex, Alive or Dead, Place of Birth, Father of Child or Owner of the Child, Maiden Name of Mother, Color of Child (White, Mulatto, or Black), Residence of Parents, and Remarks. Wow, that tells you right there that we are talking about a different century, and I haven't even told you about the Remarks column yet.

Kentucky Birth Record for James Thomas Day

The record for "James Thos. Day" says that he was a male, born in White Oak, to parents A.J. Day and Sarah Jane Oney, and his parents resided in Morgan County, as did all the parents of the children registered on this page. I even know from this record the name of the midwife who attended his birth: Elizabeth Whitt. Isn't that amazing? I was pretty sure that's what I was looking at when I saw a woman's name under Remarks for each birth. Some of them were repeated many times. Then I noticed that the first listing under Remarks on that page said, "Sarah Hampton Mid Wife." Scrolling back, I found Elizabeth Whitt's name on the previous page with the initials "M.W." after her name. Think of all the women who served in that capacity over the centuries and never got any credit. At least these women did.

It has been easy to document J.T. Day's life in existing records. In 1860 he appears on the census of Magoffin County with his parents, A.J. and Sarah, and a little sister, Nancy, age 1. By the 1870 census his mother Sarah had died, and James T., age 14, is listed with father A.J., stepmother Catherine, sister Nancy, brother John R., and half-siblings, Mary and Sanford. (Records vary on John's date of birth, but on the 1900 census it is reported as April 1861. If so, Sarah was his mother.) James lost his mother at the age of 5, but he honored her memory by naming his second daughter Sarah, and that name has passed down through the Castle/Day family. 

On April 13, 1876, James T. Day married Nancy E. Reed in Salyersville, Magoffin County. They went on to celebrate 55 years of marriage (their 50th was written up in the Tulsa papers) and had eight children: Ida; Sarah Florida; Zedda; Mary Emma; Cassa B. (the only boy, who died at the age of 4); Margaret; Minta; and Retta Lee. 

50th Wedding Anniversary, as reported in the Tulsa paper

James Thomas, beloved by his wife, children, and grandchildren, died on November 28, 1931, just shy of his 75th birthday. I have always been touched (and somewhat horrified) by the following photograph. Of course, the family was only taking part in a tradition followed by most everybody, attending the body of a deceased loved one, but just look at their faces. You can tell how devastated they are. 

I believe the girls are in order left to right by their ages:
(L to R) Ida, Florida, Zedda, Emma, Margaret, Minta, Retta Lee

All the records exist that make it possible for me to take the Day family back another generation. A.J. Day seemed to prefer the name Jackson in his early life or his initials later, but his death certificate gives his full name as Andrew Jackson Day. He first appears on the 1850 census at age 12, which would mean he was born around 1837/38, right at the end of Jackson's presidency. 

A.J. Day married Sarah J. Oney on September 20, 1855. Just now in carefully looking at their marriage records, I have discovered a mistake in parentage that has been in my tree for quite some time. The marriage register reads:

"Married by me at the House of James Oney on the 20th day of Sept. 1855 Mr. Jackson Day to Miss Sarah Oney he aged 18 yrs born in Grayson Co. Va. she born in Tazewell Co. Va aged 15 years single present James Oney & Harvey Whitt Given under my hand this 20th day of Sept. 1855. Wm. Lykins MB Church"

For years I have shown the father of Sarah as William Oney from Floyd County KY who had a daughter named Sarah on the 1850 census. That Sarah wasn't actually even the right age to be our Sarah. However, with the added information in the marriage register that Sarah was from Tazewell County, Virginia, and that her wedding took place at the house of James Oney (usually the father of the bride), I searched for James Oney in Tazewell Co. in 1850. 

James Oney was already in my tree with a connection to the Days. His wife was Rhoda Day, and they had a daughter Sally the right age to be Sarah. In 1860 James and Rhoda were living in Magoffin County KY, and they had a son named Creed F. Oney. If you read my post about the Days in Davenport, you will remember that I thought that James T. Day and family came to Davenport because of their connection to a minister named Creed F. Oney. At the time I thought they were cousins, but it looks like the connection was even deeper. Creed was James T. Day's uncle. Another connection seems to cement the deal. The other witness at the wedding--Harvey Whitt--was also originally from Tazewell County and his mother was Elizabeth Whitt, Sarah's midwife at the birth of her son James.

Sarah died at age 21 on March 15, 1862. A.J. Day remarried to Catherine Jane Reed on November 24, 1864, in Magoffin County. A.J. and Jane had three children of their own: Mary Margaret, Sanford Jackson, and Andrew K. Sometime between 1910 and 1920 the families of Mary and Andrew K., including A.J. and Jane, moved to Ohio. Andrew Jackson Day died in Warren County, Ohio, on December 16, 1921. His death certificate says he was born in North Carolina on May 3, 1835, and his father's name was Thomas Day. 

Aunt Emma wrote on the back of this picture:
"A.J. Day with 2nd wife"
A.J. and Catherine J. Day headstone
Lebanon, Warren County, Ohio

Jackson Day, age 12, appears on the 1850 census of Morgan County, Kentucky, along with father Thomas P., age 46; mother (?) Margarett, age 34; Anice, 15; Itera, 7; John, 4; Clarinda, 2; Cale (female, apparently Cahala), age 1. Daughter Carrie A., age 18, was already married to James Wells. A lot of trees on Ancestry identify mother Margarett as Margaret "Nancy" McGrady--the Nancy because daughter Carrie's death register entry says that her parents were Thomas and Nancy Day. I have not found any documents that prove that Margaret and Nancy were the same person. Thomas's marriage in Grayson County, Virginia, on December 9, 1830, was listed in Early American Marriages, Virginia to 1850 , but his spouse is not named, at least not on Ancestry.

By the 1860 census Thomas P. Day's family had scattered. Fractured would be more like it. We talk about blended families now; we've got nothing on the 1800's when so many families were destroyed and rebuilt by the deaths of parents, especially mothers. Apparently, sometime not long after the 1850 census was taken, Margaret died. On March 8, 1852, Thomas remarried to Mrs. Mary Stacy--herself a widow. Thomas P. Day's household on the 1860 census looks like this: Thomas P. Day, age 59; Mary Day, age 45; Mary J. Peyton, age 3; Lucinda Peyton, age 1. What? What happened to Thomas's kids, and who are Mary and Lucinda? 

Well, on August 4, 1851, Anice (spelled Annis) married Alfred Davis. Jackson married Sarah in 1855. On April 10, 1857, Itera/Itura married John Haney. Clarinda, age 14, is living with them on the 1860 census. John, age 16, is living with Carrie and her husband. On the 1870 census both Clarinda, age 24, and Cahala, age 21, are living with Carrie and James Wells. Some of this might just be empty nest stuff, but do you get the feeling that Thomas's kids don't like their stepmother Mary?

Mary is too old to have been the mother of Mary J. and Lucinda, and besides, their name would be Stacy, not Peyton. Going back to the 1850 census I found Mary, living with her husband, George Stacy. Their only daughter is Elizabeth. Elizabeth married Benjamin F. Peyton in 1856 and died of "fever" in 1859 at the age of 17, leaving behind two daughters, Mary J. and Lucinda. Mystery solved. 

Thomas P. is living and listed on the 1870 census at age 66. "Keeping house" for him is Lurinda, age 48. I literally have no clue who she is. None of his daughters would be that old. Another wife? One more clue comes from the death certificate of Thomas's daughter, Annis. She died in 1921 at the age of 85. The death certificate says her father was Tom Day, and her mother was Nancy McGradia. I'm not deciphering that from somebody's handwriting; it is typed on the document. At least I know where the name Nancy McGrady came from. 

Death certificate of Annis Day Williams

"McGradia" is listed as a surname only twice on Ancestry--one might have been McGradie, and the other is our Nancy. I've found a couple of women on Findagrave with the first name of McGradia, but not one person with that surname.

Much of what I have learned about Thomas Day's parents comes from a biography of Joseph Day published in Carroll 1765-1815: The Settlements: A History of the First Fifty Years of Carroll County, Virginia by John Perry Alderman and posted by a kind Ancestry member with the cute username of cmyroots. Joseph Day was probably the son of Joseph and Susanna Day, who were listed as taxpayers in Montgomery County, Virginia, by 1782. Some users on Ancestry give Susanna's maiden name as Huston.

Their son Joseph was born in Pennsylvania about 1776 and married Rhoda Cock in 1796. The couple moved around some, living on a couple of tracts of land deeded to them by Rhoda's father, Andrew, and buying others. They also had ten children, according to Joseph's will: Robert, Penelope, Thomas, May, Theodota, Andrew, Rebecca, Joseph Day Jr., Rhoda (who married James Oney), and Hannah. The Carroll County book says this about Thomas: "Thomas Day married Nancy McGrady in Grayson on December 9, 1830; he did not live long in the county and many of his descendants are to be found in Kentucky." 

Rhoda Cock died August 16, 1827. Joseph remarried a couple of years later to a much younger woman, Rebecca Dunn. (He was 54; she was 18.) They are found on the 1850 census in Carroll County. He is listed as 74, she as 38. Also enumerated with them are Rebecca's daughter Louisa from her first marriage, and their seven children: Lorenzo, Malissa, Peter, Commodore, James, Lucy, and John. Joseph died at about age 80; his youngest child was 8.

After reading about Grandpa Day's parents and grandparents, it makes me appreciate his 55-year devotion to Grandma Day even more!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Secret Sister

I think the Castle readers of this blog will be interested in this post, but I also think our experience with this new "relative" could be helpful to anyone doing family research.

My cousin Linda recently texted me this question: "Was Cora's mother's name Mary Lesterman?" and then followed it up seconds later with a second text: "Never mind -- I remember it was Frances Nickell -- brain lapse."

Cora was the half-sister of the eight Castle siblings who were children of George Turner Castle and Sarah Florida Day. Cora was the daughter of G.T. Castle with his first wife, Frances Nickell. Cora's parents married in Morgan County, Kentucky, on 17 October 1884, and Cora was born on 10 October 1890. Her mother passed away on 10 April 1893, and Cora was subsequently raised by her Castle grandparents. Her father remarried to Florida Day on 2 January 1896.

The Castle and Nickell families were connected by more than just this marriage. Frances's sister, Elizabeth, was married to G.T. Castle's brother, James. The graves of James, Elizabeth, and some of their children (including Caledonia and her foot) are located with those of James and George's parents, Goldman and Rachel (Sargent) Castle, in Panama, Morgan County, Kentucky. You can read about our discovery of the graves here. That's why we were so sure that George T. Castle's first wife's name was Frances Nickell. That's all my grandmother ever called her.

Family of James H. and Elizabeth (Nickell) Castle

Which brings us back to Mary Lesterman. Linda had gotten a hint on (Kentucky, County Marriages, 1783-1965) that George Castle had married Mary F. Lesterman (or in another index--Mary Flesterman) on 17 October 1884. We had both disregarded the hint because it was the wrong name, but what Linda had noticed was that it was the same date. That made me take a look at the original record of the marriage.

Hint #1: I've seen this hint over and over in genealogy self-help books, and I try to look at the original record if it's available online, but I don't always if I'm in a hurry. Make a vow right now: Always look at the original record if you have access to it.

The handwritten record made it obvious that the bride's name was not Flesterman; it was Mary F. Lesterman or maybe even Testerman. But what the index didn't show, and the original marriage register did, was the place of marriage: the home of J.W. Nickell. James Wilson Nickell was the father of Frances and Elizabeth Nickell. It began to be more and more probable that Frances Nickell was the same person as Mary F. Lesterman/Testerman.

Marriage record of Mary F. Nickell and S.M. Testerman

Hint #2: Usually my hint would be "Don't assume two people with similar names are the same person," but in this case, If dates or other details match up, don't assume that two people with similar names are not the same person.

My next step was to search the Ancestry records for a Frances Nickell who married a Testerman in Morgan County, Kentucky. Sure enough, Mary F. Nickell, age 17, married S.M. Testerman, age 27, on 4 February 1876. Sadly, Silas M. Testerman died 19 May 1876. Again, checking the original record supplied information the index didn't show. Poor Silas drowned. And apparently--and here's the thing that has surprised Linda and me--Mary Frances was pregnant.

Death record for Silas M. Testerman

Hint #3: Check all the census records you can find for the relative you are researching. If I hadn't, I might never have noticed that Mary Frances had a child.

The next census in which Mary Frances would have appeared was the 1880. On the 1880 Morgan County census I found Mary Testerman, age 22, widowed, with daughter Salina M., age 3. Kentucky birth records show that Salina was born 17 November 1876.

Unfortunately, as most genealogists learn to their chagrin, the 1890 census mostly does not exist, due to a fire in 1921 at the Commerce Department Building where the records were stored. By 1900 Mary Frances was dead, and George Castle was remarried. The 1900 census shows that his family consisted of himself, wife Florida, and children Cora, Fannie, and Forrest. (Goldman and Rachel Castle, the next family on the census, also claim Cora, calling her "step daughter." Of course, she was really their grandchild.)

So, what happened to Salina?

Hint #4: Pay attention to Ancestry resource tips.

When you look at a source for an individual on Ancestry, Suggested Resources appear to the right of the page. I think they must be sources that are attached to the same individual by other Ancestry users. They are often extremely valuable when other records for an individual (census, birth, marriage, death) are difficult to find for some reason. (Beware; sometimes they are wrong. That's what makes me think they are selected by Ancestry users--sometimes in error.) In the case of Salina M. Testerman, they were very helpful--because Salina did not always go by the same first name.

When I look at Salina M. Testerman's 1880 census record, records for the following names appear in Suggested Resources: Salina Testerman, Monrovia Jones, Selina M. Jones, Monrovia Testerman, and Salina M. Testerman. Of course, I had to click on all the resources to determine if they all referred to the same woman. Apparently, they do.

Having not seen Silas M. Testerman's middle name on any primary source, I wasn't sure what it was until I found an entry on Findagrave for Silas Monroe Testerman. It looks like Mary Frances gave her baby a name that honored her father: Salina Monrovia. Monrovia Jones is enumerated on the 1900 census in Morgan County, Kentucky, with husband Alonzo H. Jones, whom she had married in 1898, and son Carl M. Jones, age 1. In 1910 the Jones family, with several more children, are living in Missouri; in 1920, 1930, and 1940 they are living in Kansas.

According to Findagrave, Alonzo and Monrovia are buried in Memorial Park Cemetery in Chanute, Kansas. Alonzo died in 1952; apparently, Monrovia moved to Idaho to live with one of her children, because the Social Security Death Index shows that a Monrovia S. Jones (with the same birth date as Salina M. Testerman) died in Nampa, Idaho, in 1971. They must have returned her body to Kansas for burial beside her husband.

Which is the weird thing. Cora Castle also married a Jones and lived and died in Kansas. I think Cora met her husband, Fred L. Jones, after the Castle family moved to Davenport, because Fred was born in Arkansas. They are listed on the 1910 census in Chandler, Oklahoma, with their son Ralph, who was just a baby. I can't find them on the 1920 census, but on the 1930 census they are living in Herington, Kansas, where they are both buried.

Cora Castle, Herington KS, 1940's

Chanute and Herington are about two and a half hours away from each other. Did Cora and her half-sister, Monrovia, visit each other as adults? Considering that he lived in another state, we saw our Jones cousin, Ralph, often. My grandmother told me stories about Cora, who was 7 years older than she was. She never mentioned that Cora had a half-sister, as far as I can remember, but Salina Monrovia had already married in 1900 when my grandmother was just 3, and by the time the Castle family settled in Davenport, Oklahoma, Salina Monrovia was in Missouri.

I have recently had a DNA match with a Jones cousin, the son of Ralph's brother, Lavelle. I have messaged him to ask about Monrovia, but I haven't heard back from him. If he has anything to add to the story, I will let you know.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Revolution Road Trip: Jacob Castle and Shenandoah

Finally--Shenandoah National Park! I had been anticipating this since I realized that Jacob Castle owned land not far from the park. Tim and I had visited Castlewood, Virginia, on a previous trip (see Genealogy on the Road: Castlewood Virginia), but Castle's Woods was not the first place Jacob lived in Virginia.

On I had found an entry for Jacob Castle under "Virginia Land, Marriage, and Probate Records 1639-1850." Although the original land transaction was recorded in the Augusta County court records, the Ancestry entry comes from "Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia, 1745-1800." Compiled by Lyman Chalkley and originally published in 1912, the Chronicles contain abstracts of Augusta County court records from 1745 to 1800 and is available online. (The University of Virginia urges caution when using these records; don't assume that just because a piece of information is not in the Chronicles that it doesn't exist.)

One of the entries that mentioned Jacob Castle was a land record dated 17th May 1752. In its entirety it says: " Edward Watts and Elizabeth, of Culpeper, to John Magret, 125 acres. Mouth of Hawksbill of Shanando; 200 acres sold by Jacob Stover to Jacob Castle; Castle sold 75 acres to Jacob Coger, 26th June, 1740, and 125 acres to Elizabeth Downs, present wife of Edward Whats. 33d [3rd?] September, 1742." In other words, Jacob Castle bought 200 acres from Jacob Stover (more about him later) before 26 June 1740; he sold 75 acres to Jacob Coger in 1740 and the remaining 125 acres to Elizabeth Downs (later Watts) in 1742. The land was located at the "mouth of Hawksbill of Shanando."

Jacob Stover is a well-known name in the history of this part of Virginia. He was born in Switzerland in 1688 and emigrated to Pennsylvania with a group of fellow Mennonites, possibly in 1702. He first bought land in Pennsylvania, not long before marrying Sarah Boone, the aunt of Daniel Boone, on 15 March 1714. In 1729 he first visited the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and in 1730 received two grants of land, 5000 acres each, from the Virginia Council.

According to the Family Search Wiki on Virginia Land and Property, "Land grants from this office were given in two ways--to those who brought persons to Virginia (headright grants) or to persons who paid money into the treasury (purchases). Headright grants were issued from about 1618 to 1732. A person was given a patent for a certain number of acres (usually 50 per person) for himself, his wife, servants, slaves, or any other passengers for whom he provided passage." Part of the colorful story surrounding Jacob Stover is that, in the absence of enough people to secure the 10,000 acres he requested, he submitted names for all of his livestock.

It appears that Jacob Stover and Jacob Castle were also friends. When Jacob Stover died in 1741, Jacob Castle was named guardian of Jacob's son, Abraham, who was under the age of 21. For a more complete picture of the peopling of the Shenandoah Valley by Jacob Stover and others, see The German Element of the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, published in 1907, by John Walter Wayland, available online.

As usual, I learned a lot after I returned home from our trip. Before the trip I had googled "Hawksbill" and "Shenandoah," guessing that the word "Shanando" was a different, older spelling of that lovely word. I found that there was a Hawksbill Creek in the Shenandoah Valley, and not only that, but the highest point of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park was Hawksbill Mountain. There was a great map of Shenandoah National Park and surrounding areas on the Park website. Perhaps from the viewpoint of Hawksbill Mountain, we could see the mouth of the Hawksbill or the point at which it flows into the Shenandoah River, and we could pinpoint the approximate location of the land that Jacob Castle owned.

We entered the park at the northernmost entrance and stopped at the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center for our first photos of the valley. I was expecting beauty, but the view of valley and mountains exceeded my expectations.

Why, oh why, did Jacob Castle leave this beautiful place? The gorgeous views may not have impressed the pioneers; we love the mountains because we are on vacation, and we don't have to climb them or go around them to get where we are going. However, as the pioneers found out, the Shenandoah Valley was prime farmland. Some families have lived here and farmed here since the 1700's. We decided it was because our Jacob wasn't a farmer; he was an adventurer.

Shenandoah National Park runs the length of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and you can drive it from end to end in 6 to 8 hours. Between the length of the drive and my brother's fear of heights, we didn't make it to Hawksbill Mountain. As Tim pointed out, Couldn't we see Jacob Castle's land from the valley just as well as from the mountain? So we drove back out the north end of the park and headed through the Shenandoah Valley, which was just as beautiful with its views of the Blue Ridge Mountains on one side and the Shenandoah Mountains on the other.

We were nearing the end of the mountain ranges when we suddenly crossed a bridge with a sign that said Hawksbill Creek. I shrieked, and the intrepid Tim again tried to find a way we could get to our destination without losing our lives in a fiery collision with an 18-wheeler. We were really in luck this time. Tim realized that the creek went under the bridge and came out on the other side in the town of Luray. In fact, there was a whole park that ran alongside the creek.

I don't know how far we were from "the mouth of Hawksbill of Shanando," but it was good enough for us. We were standing on the same creek that ran through the land of our ancestor, Jacob Castle.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Revolution Road Trip: Presidential Places

The last leg of our road trip was taking us to Jacob Castle's land in the Shenandoah Valley, but first we were going to visit a place that I have wanted to see for many years. Over the years I have sponsored three student trips to Washington, D.C., and as part of those trips I've been to Jamestown, Colonial Williamsburg, and Mount Vernon (twice), but somehow those trips never included Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson. Now I was finally going to get to see it.

Our early morning began with breakfast at the Woodlands Hotel right outside the gates of Colonial Williamsburg. The hotel was full of student groups and brought back memories of my previous trips. My predominant feeling was relief that other people were responsible for the teenagers milling around the lobby and dining room! We hit the Colonial Williamsburg gift shop just as soon as it opened--I bought my very own Shut the Box--and we were on our way to Monticello.

By the time we got to Monticello it was 11:00 a.m., and the Michie Tavern was opening for business. In all the years I have heard about Monticello, I had not heard about the Michie Tavern, which has its own history. The tavern was built by William Michie in 1777 and had been a local meeting place for years before Michie petitioned in 1784 for permission to operate an "ordinary." defines an ordinary as "(in a restaurant or inn) a complete meal in which all courses are included at one fixed price," which is exactly what the Michie Tavern serves in its buffet of typical Southern lunch fare: fried chicken, black eyed peas, mashed potatoes and gravy, peach cobbler, and more. The food was delicious, and the building was beautiful.

Michie Tavern

It's even more amazing when you discover that the Michie Tavern has not always been in this location. After the inn closed around the time of the Civil War, it was a residence for the Michies and others. In 1927 it was purchased by a local businesswoman who had an idea for a museum and had the building moved 17 miles to its present location a half-mile from Monticello.

After lunch we headed down the road to Monticello. What I have always admired about Thomas Jefferson is his wide-ranging and inventive mind, so my favorite parts of Monticello showed his ingenious side. I was very interested in the 7-day clock just inside the front door and how they had to cut a hole in the floor to make room for Saturday in the basement. I also liked the imaginative arrangement of his alcove bed and the closet above it.


Jefferson's tomb through the fence

Our next stop was an unexpected pleasure. Until my brother told me, I didn't know that Montpelier, the home of James and Dolley Madison, was so close to Monticello. It is a beautiful house in a beautiful setting. I've always admired Dolley and have learned to admire James Madison, "the father of the Constitution." The combined intellect of our Founding Fathers (and Mothers) never ceases to amaze me.

View from the front porch
Madison's tomb and family cemetery

Tim and I discussed how many Presidential graves we have visited. He beats me by a bunch, but I now have visited the resting places of George Washington (Mount Vernon), Thomas Jefferson (Monticello), James Madison (Montpelier), Andrew Jackson (The Hermitage), William Howard Taft (Arlington National Cemetery), Woodrow Wilson (Washington National Cathedral), and John F. Kennedy (Arlington National Cemetery.) At least I think I have seen Taft's and Wilson's, since I have been to Arlington and the National Cathedral twice each.

Our final family-related stops would come the next day but for the evening we were staying in a cute little cabin on a lake, part of a resort time-share my brother and his wife have. I could have stayed there for a week and enjoyed the view from the living room windows.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Revolution Road Trip: The Mings and Edenton

Edenton, North Carolina, lies on the Albemarle Sound, a body of fresh water separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a portion of the Outer Banks. Edenton Colony was the first permanent settlement in North Carolina. The town was established in 1712 and incorporated in 1722, named for Governor Charles Eden, who had recently died; it is the county seat of Chowan (accent on the second syllable--Chowan) County. Edenton was an busy port in the 1700's. According to the North Carolina History Project, "Between 1750 and 1775, Edenton entered a period of great economic success and was a vital stop along trade routes between New England and the West Indies. Between 1771 and 1776, the records show that 827 ships passed through Edenton..."

Our association with Edenton comes from our Ming ancestors, who were early inhabitants of the area. (The following information is a result of the research of Ming descendants, including my cousin Paul E. Ming, who generously shared his research results with me.) Joseph Ming, son of David and Elizabeth (Carter) Ming of Bermuda, was the first Ming to live in North Carolina, having been granted 200 acres for bringing in seven settlers, including his son Thomas. Joseph Ming was a seafaring man, master of the sloops, Tyrall and Ruth of North Carolina. Records show that he came to Bath County NC in 1701; early maps show Bath County on the south side of Albemarle Sound, while later records indicate that Joseph owned land on the Yeopim River in Chowan County on the north side of the Sound.

While the Ming family first settled in Bath County, sometime after 1700 the sons of the elder Joseph are living in Chowan County, perhaps after the death of their father in 1707 or an Indian massacre that occurred in Bath County in 1711. In 1719 Joseph bought 150 acres of land in Chowan County. Sometime before 1722 Joseph married Rachel Ward, because in that year "James Ward deeded to planter Joseph Ming for a marriage already solemnized between Joseph and Rachel gave two plantations westward of Yoppim River Bridge, being 108 acres and 200 acres with cattle in Bridge Neck." By 1759 Joseph Jr. had acquired more than 508 acres of land in Chowan County.

Joseph and Rachel had six children: Thomas (born about 1734), Sarah, James, Mary, Joseph (III), and Annarita. Joseph's will, signed 1 December 1750, names his heirs as wife Rachel; sons Thomas and Joseph; daughters Sarah Wilkins, Annarita Collins, and Mary Ming (later Haughton); and grandsons, Joseph Wilkins and Thomas Collins. Joseph died by 16 July 1751 when an inventory of the estate was taken. 

Our ancestor is Joseph's son Thomas. His birth date of 1734 is estimated because Joseph's will of 1750 stated that he was not yet 18 and provided three more years of schooling for him. By 1752 he took over administration of his father's will from his brother Joseph who was in ill health, so at that point he must have been 18. Thomas married Delilah (probably Felton) in the early 1760's as their son James was born about 1765. Thomas was a miller; he owned a grist mill on a branch of the Yeopim River which divides Chowan from Perquimans County. It was paid for in full by 5 December 1766 and sold on 21 March 1768. During the 1760's and 70's Thomas and Delilah had seven children: sons Joseph, James, Thomas Jr., and Willy; and daughters Mary, Rachel, and Penelope.

By 1782 the family had moved to Edenton. In that year Thomas purchased a small house in town. According to tax records, he also retained ownership of 200 acres in Chowan County. In the first census of 1790 Thomas's household included two males over 16, one male under 16, four females, and ten slaves. Thomas made his will 6 November 1792 and had passed away by 1796 or early 1797. Marriages of Thomas and Delilah's children include: Joseph to Sarah Beasley; James to Ann Beasley (our ancestors); Thomas Jr. to Sarah Burkett; Mary to a man named Warburton; Rachel to Harry Gregory; and Willy to Elizabeth Roberts. 

The Beasley family name appears as early as 1675 in what is now Perquimans County NC. Ann Beasley was the daughter of Thomas and Martha Beasley, who married after 1754 in Perquimans County. Thomas had died in 1790 as Martha appears as head of household on the 1790 census in Chowan County. Daughter Ann married James Ming on 23 February 1790. Martha died in 1806 and her will was probated in Chowan County in 1809. It listed children Sarah and husband Joseph Ming, Ann and husband James Ming, Samuel, Joseph, and Elizabeth (Mrs. Haughton). The Haughtons were a large family that lived in the same area as the Ming and Beasley families near the Yeopim River, which separates Chowan and Perquiman counties.

Samuel, the eldest son of James and Ann Beasley Ming, was born in 1792. Thomas (our ancestor) was born 14 February 1796. James had his own farm by 1797 when his father died, according to a suit filed against him by his mother (!) for having possession of three of her slaves. After this line of Mings having lived in Chowan County for over a century, James left the county sometime after 1815. By the 1820 census James and his family were living in Limestone County, Alabama. Some of the Ming families remained in Chowan County for several more years, but they slowly died off or moved away. By the end of the 1800's the Ming name had disappeared from the census records in Chowan County.

My brother and I had been excited about visiting Edenton for several years, having heard about it from our cousin Paul Ming. My brother found a connection to Edenton that he wasn't even aware of until we visited this summer. He teaches this political cartoon, published in London in March 1775, to his 8th grade American history students, but he didn't realize that the event that it satirizes happened in Edenton.

Image from North Carolina History Project

Our first sightseeing stop was the Penelope Barker House, which is Edenton's Welcome Center and the home of the woman responsible for the Edenton Tea Party, the subject of the above cartoon. 

Photo from Edenton Historical Commission

Penelope had been widowed twice before marrying lawyer Thomas Barker in 1757. In his capacity as agent for the North Carolina Colony, Thomas traveled to London in 1761 and was stranded there until 1778 because of the British blockade of American ships. For seventeen years Penelope managed the family's affairs in North Carolina and became involved in the protest against British taxation. After writing a public statement encouraging a boycott of British tea and cloth, she invited 50 women to a "tea party" on October 25, 1774. According to the blog, "History of American Women," Penelope said, "Maybe it has only been men who have protested the king up to now. That only means we women have taken too long to let our voices be heard. We are signing our names to a document, not hiding ourselves behind costumes like the men in Boston did at their tea party. The British will know who we are." While the British ridiculed them as loose women and bad mothers, the signers were praised by the colonists.

Among the names of the 50 women who signed the Resolutions of the Edenton Tea Party were: Elizabeth Beasly, Sarah Beasley, Anne Haughton, and three women named Elizabeth Roberts. It's not known exactly how these women might have been related to our Ming/Beasley ancestors.

After visiting the Roanoke River Lighthouse, one of the most photo-worthy sights in Edenton, we took a boat tour in the estuary.

I found out that an estuary is, according to Wikipedia, "a partially enclosed coastal body of brackish water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea." Our tour guide, a retired submariner, took us on a tour of the coastal sights of Edenton. 

The Liber-Tea

We saw the Barker House and other residences from the vantage point of the estuary.

We saw the "Dram Tree," a cypress tree that has been standing in the Edenton harbor for centuries. It became the custom for a ship entering the harbor at Edenton to place a bottle of Jamaican rum in the roots of the tree. Ships going out of the harbor stopped at the tree for the crew members to drink a dram, thus ensuring good luck for the journey.

And in another cypress tree out in the estuary we saw a huge nest, and my brother was the first to see the eagle-size bird that built it. Our guide explained that it was an osprey, and the one in the nest was the male, and the one we saw flying and hunting was the female.

Osprey nest in cypress tree

Our last stop for photos was the Chowan County Courthouse. Built in 1767, it is the oldest still-functioning courthouse in the United States. 

I turned to look back across the green at the estuary, and this scene took my breath away. Not the first or last time that would happen on this trip.

The day was not over yet. After a nerve-wracking detour around the naval base in Norfolk (and the amazing sight of a battleship being loaded by crane), we arrived in Colonial Williamsburg. After a delicious dinner at Berret's Seafood Restaurant, across the street from William and Mary College, we walked through Merchants Square and met a friend of Tim's and her husband for a stroll and drinks at Josiah Chowning's Tavern in Colonial Williamsburg. The atmosphere was cozy, and the sing-along was so fun!

Berret's Seafood Restaurant

My yummy meal at Berret's

Sing-along at Josiah Chowning's Tavern

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Revolution Road Trip: Dempsey Powell and Wake Forest

Leaving Kings Mountain, we drove through the small town of Lowell, looking for a place to eat. We found a great little diner called "Grits 'n Greens." Even at lunch, we couldn't escape history. We noticed that the large photographs on the walls were all of child textile mill workers in the late 1800's. One of us said, "I wonder if that has anything to do with Lowell, Massachusetts?" We googled, and sure enough, Lowell, North Carolina, took that name because they hoped to become a center of textile production. We were definitely in North Carolina, not Massachusetts, because the menu was all-Southern. I had the BLT with fried green tomatoes, and Tim had the special--fried chicken with greens and fried okra. Yum yum!

We were on our way to Wake County, North Carolina, to stay the night with my brother's brother-in-law and his family, and then on to Wake Forest to explore the area where our Powell ancestors lived. We were met with Southern hospitality, a great dinner, and fun by the pool, playing a colonial game called Shut the Box. I am completely addicted! It is a simple game, but so much fun, especially with a big group of family.

Shut the Box!

The next morning after breakfast by the pool, we took off for Wake Forest, about 40 minutes away. We were looking for the home of Jesse Powell, the son of our 5th great-grandfather, Dempsey Powell (See The Powells) and the brother of our 4th great-grandfather, Caswell Powell. We had the history of the house from an online article about downtown Wake Forest and the address from the Wake Forest Historic Preservation Plan, also available online.

I typed the address into Google Maps, and we found ourselves in Wake Forest on Capital Boulevard, a highway running past self-storage units and car lots. We couldn't imagine how there could be a 200+-year-old house where it was supposed to be. I didn't even see the little road running parallel to the highway and into a wooded area, but my brother did. He got us turned around to make another run at it, and this time we pulled off the highway and down a little road/driveway to find the Jesse Powell House, built about the year 1800.

According to the Wake Forest Downtown article, "Powell built the beautiful symmetrical Federal house that still stands on the east side of Capital Boulevard. He had inherited 318 acres on the north banks of the Neuse River after his father, Dempsey Powell, died in 1793, and later added several hundred more." We can also add Jesse to our list of education-minded family members; in 1826 he founded the Pleasant Grove Academy just across the road from the house.

In addition, he was responsible for building a road through Wake Forest, long known as the Powell Road and now part of South Main Street. Tim and I spent some time on North Main Street, walking through the historic district and admiring the beautiful houses and gardens. When I got home and did some research, I found out why the Jesse Powell House still stands, even so close to the highway. It was a conscious decision by the highway planners.

In a memorandum concerning the "Proposed Improvement of US 1, from US 401 Northward to Wake Forest Bypass, Wake County," dated 1972 and available through Google Books, the director of the survey staff made these statements: "We believe that the Powell House is of considerable importance, historically and especially architecturally...The house was built about 1800 by the Powell family, probably by Jesse Powell, son of Dempsey Powell, a soldier in the American Revolution...We believe that the Powell House is one of the very finest Federal country houses in Wake County and among the significant buildings of its type in the state. Its importance is such that if this alternate [the choice of highway direction] is selected, we urge strongly that you consider an arrangement that would not disturb it." And they did.

Dempsey Powell was our second connection to the Revolutionary War, and we were headed to Edenton, North Carolina, home of our Ming ancestors, where we would learn that the citizens of Edenton, especially the ladies, had a most interesting role in the lead up to the American Revolution.