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.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Jacob Castle the Longhunter

The parents of Goldman Davidson Castle were William Castle (1799-1859) and Margaret Cox (1799-1880).  Siblings of G.D. Castle were James, John, Sarah, William Henderson, Margaret, Henry, George Harvey, and Patton Robert.  Sometime after the birth of their children, William and Margaret moved to Pulaski County, Kentucky, and then to Morgan County, in a large migration of Castles, Days, Salyers, and others from the Copper Creek area of southwestern Virginia. Goldman Davidson is thought to have been named for men with those surnames that his parents knew in Virginia. William’s parents were Jacob Castle, Jr. (1749-1849—yes, 100 years!) and Mary Shane. 

My cousin Fred Castle, son of my grandmother’s youngest brother Tom, was the Castle historian.  He made several trips to Kentucky and southwest Virginia trying to tie our Castles to the families of Castlewood, Virginia.  I remember when he first had contact with Castle family members that still lived in Castlewood, and how excited he was when he felt he could finally prove our descent, through William Castle, from Jacob Castle, “the Longhunter.”

Jacob Castle Sr. was quite a character, and if Castle family researchers are correct in naming Peter Cassel as his father, he came from quite a family.  Peter Cassel was the son of Johannes Cassel, a Mennonite who came on the ship Jeffries to Philadelphia in 1682 after attending a meeting in Kriesham, Germany, in which William Penn himself spoke to the audience about religious freedom and the land that was available in America.  Johannes became one of the signers of the Germantown, Pennsylvania charter.

Jacob took a different path—he went native.  His first wife was Shawnee; her name Sowege means “gliding swan.”  They married about 1736, and she was the mother of Jacob Jr. and perhaps others.  Jacob may have had several other wives, reputedly all Cherokee, with whom he had other children.  He came to southwest Virginia when it was the frontier, and apparently traded with the natives for land that became known as “Castle’s woods.”  Because his name had been associated with the area long before Daniel Boone set foot there, it has been suggested that old Jacob may have been the one who pointed out the Cumberland Gap to Boone.

Jacob’s Indian name was “White Tassel,” and some have even gone so far as to describe him as an albino.  It is more probable that, with his German heritage, he was very fair-haired compared to his Indian neighbors.  As a longhunter, he would have ranged far from home, killing deer for meat and hides with his long-barreled rifle made by German gunsmiths in Pennsylvania.  He would have lived much as the Indians did.  In my mind, I see him as a blonde Daniel Day-Lewis in The Last of the Mohicans.

For this next part I am indebted to Mitchell Farish, a librarian at the University of Virginia, who has a great website with the title “Birth of American Frontier Culture.”  He put historical documents and traditions concerning Jacob Castle into a context that finally made sense to me.

In 1740 Jacob bought land on the New River from Jacob Stover.  When he was home from his travels, he seemed to have conflicts with his neighbors, particularly one named Adam Herman (or Harmon.)  In 1746 Jacob and other settlers were detailed to build a road from Adam Harmon’s to the river; Jacob objected.  In April 1749 Herman’s home was robbed of several deer and elk skins on three consecutive days.  Jacob became a suspect since he hunted with a party of Indians that had been known to steal horses and other livestock in the settlement.  Herman applied for a writ to arrest Jacob Castle and led a posse to Jacob’s hunting camp in Castle’s woods, but Jacob’s Indian friends chased the posse away.  Later in the month Adam and his brother were arrested because they had robbed Jacob.  By May 17 Adam was out of jail, charging Jacob with “threatening to aid and assist the French against his Majesty’s forces.”  Jacob was arrested, tried, and acquitted of the charge of treason.

Others have commented that Jacob probably did feel more loyalty to his Indian friends—and thus the French—than he did to the British.  I would like to think so, since my sympathies have always been with the Indians.  (Wait till you hear about my ancestor on the other side of the family, William Whitley.  He and Jacob Castle are my only claims to famous ancestors, and they couldn’t have been more different.)  In any case, Jacob was thought to have taken part in the Battle of Kings Mountain in the Revolutionary War—with the Americans.

My cousin Fred died several years ago, but I was pleased to recently find this post of his from a genealogy message board about the eventual resting place of Jacob Castle: “What an experience it was to visit the area where the old Jacob Castle was supposedly buried on a hill near a plot of land still called Castle's meadow, uphill from Copper Creek.”  It makes me think of the poem by Robert Louis Stevenson:

Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

Monday, February 25, 2013

My Old Kentucky Home

When my grandmother left Kentucky in 1907, she never went back.  Morgan County was never far from her heart, though.  All of her siblings, except for the youngest two, had been born there.  Her mother and the other Day sisters who had lived in Morgan County all lived in Oklahoma. Even an old friend from home, Geneva Haney, lived in Tulsa.  When they got together, they reminisced about the old days back home.  

My grandmother subscribed to the Licking Valley Courier and even contributed articles when a newsworthy event happened in Oklahoma.  In later years she corresponded with her cousins Effie Castle Walters, Hattie Day Egelston, and Mearil McGuire.  The names of families like the Elams, the Lykins, and the Haneys, and towns with names of Caney, Cannel City, Malone, Stacy Fork, and West Liberty, were as familiar to me as Davenport, Red Fork, and Tulsa.

Surprisingly, it was my brother who got the idea for us to take a trip back to Kentucky, just the two of us.  I guess not so surprising, because he was raised by my grandmother from the age of 4 months and just as steeped in the lore of her old Kentucky home.  We set off from Tulsa in July 2010, one OCD woman and one ADD man.  It’s a wonder we didn’t kill each other, but we didn’t even have an argument. 

Of course, the OCD woman had made an itinerary that included the St. Louis Arch and our ancestor (on the other side of the family) William Whitley’s house in Crab Orchard, Kentucky, but I wasn’t so OCD that I minded stopping in the historical utopian town of New Harmony, Indiana or at Fort Boonesboro or at Ashland, Henry Clay’s house in Lexington, all on the spur of the moment.

William Whitley House
Ashland, Home of Henry Clay

The centerpiece of the trip, though, was a couple of days in West Liberty, from whence we set out to explore the courthouse, the historical society, and three million cemeteries.  (Of course, this was before the tornado that hit the town in 2012.)  We stayed in West Liberty and drove the winding State Highway 460 through all the little towns that my grandmother had told us about. 

We were looking for the cemetery where my great-great-grandparents, Goldman Davidson and Rachel Castle, are buried.  What we found is that there is a cemetery on the top of every hill in that part of Kentucky.  We got so we looked up every time we saw a hill, and sure enough, there was a cemetery there, many of which we duly explored.  We found some Castles and other related families, but not the ones we were looking for.

We had passed the same spot on the highway several times because there was a cemetery entrance across the road.  This time we read the street sign that said “Castle Branch.”  A family was working in their yard when we stopped to ask if they knew anything about the Castles.  All they knew was that the sign had always been there, but there had been no Castles there in their generation nor in the man’s father’s generation.  They did admit to knowing Virgil Castle—a prominent relative in the area, now deceased, that everyone had seemed to know.

We decided to call Virgil’s son and ask for directions to the cemetery.  We reached him by phone from the motel that night, and in his laconic Kentucky accent, he said, “Drive down the highway, turn at this road, look for a barn right beside the road.  When you see the barn, look back to your right up on the ‘purnt’ (point), and you’ll see the cemetery.”  The next day we drove there, and his directions were perfect, but I was A)unable to climb the incredibly steep hill up to the cemetery,  and B)scared of the pack of dogs roaming the neighbor’s yard. My brother, the intrepid former postman, made friends with the dogs, climbed the hill, but didn’t recognize any of the names in the cemetery.

We didn’t find the cemetery, but we did find another street sign.  This one said “Day Branch Road.”  Our family names are all over an area where no Days and few Castles have lived for 100 years.

We have not given up the quest to find the Castle cemetery.  We are going back this summer with directions from a Castle cousin.  If it turns out that we go back to the same cemetery that we visited before, I’m climbing the hill this time.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Grandpa and Grandma Day

Now seems a good time to talk about my other set of great-great-grandparents on the Castle side of my family: Grandpa and Grandma Day.  I feel like I know them even better than my Castle great-great-grandparents--even though they were gone long before I was born--because they lived and died in Oklahoma. I have photographs of them; I’ve been to the places where they lived. 

My great-grandmother Sarah Florida Day’s parents were James Thomas--sometimes called “Jim Tom” or J.T.--Day and Nancy Emily Reed. James was born 1 December 1856 in Morgan County, Kentucky, son of Andrew Jackson Day and Sarah Jane Oney.  Nancy Emily Reed, daughter of Lewis Reed and Sarah Patrick, was born 26 September 1853 (according to her headstone.) They married on 13 April 1876 in Salyersville, Magoffin County. Their marriage license says that they were married in the home of Nancy’s father, Lewis Reed.

On the 1880 and 1900 censuses they were living in Johnson Fork, Magoffin County. The 1880 census says that Nancy Emily was born in January 1858.  (I can see fudging on the year a little since her other birth date makes her 3 years older than her husband, but changing the whole month?) By 1894 they had had all their children—seven girls! and one little boy, Cassa, who died at age 4. Kelly Day, age 3, listed as a son on the 1900 census, was really their grandson.

Sometime in early 1907 or before, they moved to Indian Territory, and settled near the town of Davenport in Lincoln County. 

They brought all the girls to live with them in Oklahoma: Ida, Zedda, Emma, Margaret, Minta, Retta Lee, and Florida who came with her husband, George Castle.  On the 1920 census James T. and Nancy were living on S. Olympia Avenue in Tulsa. In 1930 the Days were living in Claremore where they ran a boarding house for visitors who came to Claremore to take mineral water baths.

On their golden wedding anniversary the Days were written up in the Tulsa World.  You get the impression of a devoted couple, loving to each other and generous to others.

According to my grandmother, Grandma Day sometimes let her generosity get the better of her common sense.  “She would invite everybody at church over for Sunday dinner but she wouldn’t have wrung the chicken’s neck yet!” Grandpa Day was dearly beloved by his wife, his daughters, and his grandchildren.

Ida, Florida, Zedda, Emma, Margaret, Minta, Retta Lee
Grandma and Grandpa Castle

J.T. Day died in 1931 and Nancy in 1938.  They are buried in Davenport, Oklahoma, within sight of land that still belongs to Day descendants. Last summer I met some Day cousins at the Senior Citizen Center in Davenport, where we ate ham and beans with cornbread and homegrown sliced tomatoes, told family stories, traded photographs, then visited the cemetery together. We had never met but we came together to remember James Thomas and Nancy Emily Day.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Grandpa and Grandma Castle

How I know about the lives of the Castles in Kentucky is an example of what I mean about being a bridge.  My grandmother, who left her grandparents back in Kentucky in 1907, passed along to me a feeling that I knew them.  She bridged almost two centuries by introducing me to her grandparents, who were born in the 1820s!

This is what she wrote about her grandfather, Goldman Davidson Castle:
 "Sturdy type man--My first remembrance of Grandpa was about 1900-01.  He let me try on his steel-rim "specks" (spectacles) and walk up and down their long porch to their log house of 4 or 5 rooms.  The porch was boxed in on one end and contained the Castle, Kentucky Post Office. 

"Large orchard back of house, cribs of corn, barn for horses, cows, sheep, hogs, chickens, and turkeys--Meadow for mowing in front of house.  They lived there many years.  I think all the children lived there as they grew up.  After Frances Nickell died (childbirth), Dad brought 2-year-old Cora back to live at Grandpa's.  About 1903 the Post Office was robbed and crib of corn burned.  They were afraid to live alone and were getting up in years, so they moved in with us.  I have some pleasant memories of the whole family sitting before a wood fire in Grandpa and Grandma's room after dinner listening to Grandpa talk.

“He had beautiful, silvery, wavy gray hair and blue eyes--These words describe him:  pleasant, independent, honest.  He and my mother organized the first Sunday School at Stacy Fork, Kentucky.  I think most of the Castles were (hard shell) Baptists.  They held their association meetings once a year--

“He chewed Star tobacco that he bought in 2-inch by 2-inch squares (sweet) with metal stars on it.  He gave me the stars.

"The Castles had the reputation of having well-filled larders (pantries)--canned and dried fruits and vegetables, a smoke house, the ceiling bristling with hickory-cured hams--Grandpa was an artist at preserving meat and sausage--a barrel of kraut, a barrel of pickles, a barrel of sorghum, pounds of homemade butter with the imprint of a little jersey cow on the mold, jars of honey from the beehives in one corner of the big yard.

“In autumn, large holes were excavated in one corner of the garden plot, these were lined with straw and filled with potatoes, onions, turnips and apples, then covered with straw and dirt to a depth of no freezing.  The whole family joined in this project of producing and preparing ‘our daily bread.’ 

“Wood, coal and kerosene gave us heat and light.  We bought flour by the barrel, sugar by the 50# bag, had corn ground for meal at nearby mill.  These are a few happy memories of ‘my old Kentucky home.’”

About her grandmother she wrote:
"Rachel Sergeant Castle was completely wrapped up in her husband.  He was her world.  Grandpa was very attentive to her--  He always bought her something when he went to the store.  Her bureau drawer always had striped peppermint candy and sweet crackers in it.  She shared with me sometimes.”  (As I remember my grandmother telling it, her main memory of her grandmother Castle was that she usually didn't share.)

"Grandma Castle had gray hair combed straight back in a bun fastened with a 'tuck' comb.  Basque fitting with full skirts, calico blue and gray with black for her best dresses.  She smoked a clay pipe."

Note:  See Wikipedia for a description of “Basque (clothing).”

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Castles in Kentucky

Turning my lists of birth dates, death dates, marriages, and census info into a narrative has been a very helpful strategy. I would recommend it to everybody who does family research.  It helps you to see gaps in your research or facts that have not been apparent before.  I realized while writing this post that I didn’t really know when or why the Castles left Scott County, Virginia, and moved to Kentucky, first to Pulaski County and then to Morgan County.   A little research last night narrowed down the when, but I still don’t know the why—especially since the move doesn’t follow any obvious pattern east to west.

What I know is that my great-great-grandfather, Goldman Davidson Castle, was born in Scott County, Virginia, and married Rachel Sergeant there 1 September 1844.  It must have been not long after that they moved to Pulaski County, for they are found there on the 1850 census.  The census shows that son William, who was 4 years old, was born in Kentucky. 

On 28 May 1858 Goolen Castle (a nickname of G.D., along with “Gool”) bought 141 acres in Morgan County. By 1860 the family, with sons William, James, John, and Lilburn, are living in Morgan County.  The 1870 census shows the addition of Sarah Francis (my grandmother’s “Aunt Sis”), George Turner (my great-grandfather), and Nancy Anne, but sadly, John and Lilburn had died in 1861 of scarlet fever within days of each other.


In 1873 G.D. Castle bought an additional 64 acres in Morgan County. On the 1880 census the families of G.D. Castle, William Castle, and James Castle are all living next to each other.  On 21 March 1896 Goldman D. Castle was appointed Postmaster of Castle, Kentucky, at the age of 73. 

After the death of George Turner Castle’s first wife, Frances Nickell, their daughter Cora was raised by her Castle grandparents. G.T. Castle remarried to Sarah Florida Day on 2 January 1896.  On the 1900 census, George and Florida have two children, Fannie and Forrest.  Cora is enumerated twice--with the G.T. Castles and with her grandparents.  Geo. T. Castle was the county court clerk of Morgan County, and his daughter Fannie remembered accompanying him as he traveled by horse and buggy doing county business. He later took over for his father as Postmaster.

On 27 February 1907 Goldman D. Castle died.  Later in the year George Turner Castle and family moved to Oklahoma.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Castles in Oklahoma

Castle children about 1915
L to R: Jessie, Fannie, Forrest, Goldman, Georgia, Warner, Wardy
Tommie in carriage, mother Florida Day Castle behind Georgia

In the summer of 1907 George Turner Castle brought his wife, Sarah Florida (Day) Castle, and their children, Fannie, Forrest, Georgia, Warner, Wardy and Goldman (Harry) to Oklahoma.  They were following his in-laws, James Thomas Day and his wife Nancy Emily (Reed) Day, who had settled on a farm near Davenport, Oklahoma, in Lincoln County.  There is a difference of family opinion on how the Castles came to Oklahoma; one group says by wagon, another says by train.  I think that probably both groups are right and that the family may have come in two separate groups.  All I know is that my grandmother said that when the train pulled into the station in Red Fork that she thought, Those hills look just like the hills in Kentucky. Maybe I will like living here.  The oldest of the children, she was 10. 

When Oklahoma became a state in 1907, the family was living on a farm between Chandler and Davenport.  My grandmother remembered the bells ringing on Statehood Day, November 16.  In 1909 a sister Jessie was added to the family.  In 1910 the census shows the family living in South Fox Township, Lincoln County.  

Castle girls about 1909
Fannie graduated from Chandler High School about 1914.  Tommie, the last of George and Florida’s children, was born in September 1914.  Within a couple of years the family had moved to Red Fork, a small community west of Tulsa, where Fannie took the civil service exam and was appointed postmistress on 23 August 1917.  She hired her mother Florida as the post office clerk and went off to her teaching position in a one-room school between Owasso and Collinsville.  On weekends she visited her family in its rented home on W. 41st St., former home of Dr. and Mrs. Fred S. Clinton, which later became the site of Clinton Junior High School.

Postmistress Appointment

The 1920 census shows the Castles are living in Red Fork.  By then, the arthritis that had plagued George T. Castle for years finally incapacitated him.  On the census his occupation is listed as “invalid.”  His legs were so bad that he had to wear braces, and my grandmother recalled that his favorite pastime was sitting on the front porch at the Clinton house counting the automobiles that would go by in a day’s time.

George Turner Castle

Castle boys in early 1920s
L to R:  Goldman (Harry), Warner, Wardy, Forrest
Tommie in front
Around the time of her first grandchild’s birth in 1921, Florida and her father, J.T. Day, built a home for the Castle family at 3319 W. 38th St.  Living there on the 1930 census are George and Florida; the unmarried children: Warner, Goldman, Jessie, and Tommie; and Georgia, a widow, with her daughter Marilou, age 9.  George Turner Castle died 24 January 1932. 

Castles and Days at house on 38th St. about 1928
The house on 38th St. was the family home for decades, site of Sunday dinners and football games in the front yard.  All the adult children and their families were welcome to come home, and at one time or another, almost all of them lived there.  At one point Florida had a child living on W. 39th St. (Wardy), W. 40th St., (Forrest), W. 41st St. (Warner), and W. 42nd St. (Fannie.)  Florida, known as Big Mom, became deaf and almost completely blind, but continued to live by herself at the house on 38th St. until she died in May 1962 at age 83.  

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Grandparent #1: Weaver Harris Smith

Weaver Harris Smith was born 18 December 1895 in Catoosa, Indian Territory.  He was the youngest son of Stephen A. and Fannie Smith and the only child born in Indian Territory.  His mother died when he was almost 10.  While his sister Lou was kind to him, his older brothers did things like filling his Christmas stocking with coal and switches.  One of them recommended he try "toilet water," but didn't explain exactly what that was, leading to an incident that was comical, but probably not to Weaver.  He spent his younger years in Oologah, using the town pump as home base for games of Go Sheepie Go.  We once took him back to Oologah to see his old home, and he remarked that he remembered it as much bigger.  

Smith home in Oologah, Oklahoma

My son at the Oologah water pump, about 1980
He was living in Collinsville in 1917 when he registered for World War I.  He met my grandmother there, courted her for several years, and married her on 30 June 1918.  On their honeymoon the newlyweds visited Waterloo, Alabama, the Smiths’ old home. 

Fannie and Weaver, 1919
Weaver and Fannie at the Beckham home in Waterloo, AL
They rented a house on the corner of W. 41st St. and S. 26th W. Ave. in Red Fork and started “housekeeping.”  Grandpa joined the union as a pipefitter and worked at the Sun (DX) Refinery in West Tulsa.  He helped build the gasworks on the Arkansas River.  They had really hard times because he was often on strike, but maybe they did a little better than the other families because Fannie was working as a teacher.  The other men would give him a hard time about it, and he would say, “Well, at least my wife is smart enough to get a job!”  By 1934 Weaver and Fannie had bought a house at 2717 W. 42nd St., just a few blocks from their old rent house.

My grandparents, me and my brother on porch
at 2717 W. 42nd St., Christmas 1960 

Grandpa began to have health problems when he was in his 40's.  He survived a cerebral hemorrhage because the doctor in Red Fork performed an experimental operation, drilling holes in his head to relieve the pressure.  He had several heart attacks and had a leg amputated at about age 70 because of circulation problems.  

Grandpa was a nice-looking man now that I look back on it.  He was wiry and strong and had a shock of heavy hair that I think was just beginning to go gray in his 70’s (although he always wore a hat.)  I think it must be telling that I remember him as tough and strong, because he had health problems from the time I can remember him.  I never thought of him as weak.  In his late 60’s he could still do a trick that he had done all his life.  Holding a matchstick between the fingers of his right hand, he would hold his left hand behind his back, doing a one-handed pushup and grabbing the matchstick with his teeth! My recollection of his toughness might have something to do with the fact that he cussed like a sailor, and though he often seemed to be in a bad mood, I always knew he loved me.  He and my grandmother seemed like the mismatch of the century, but they were completely devoted to each other.

He was helpful around the house in a day when most men weren't.  Before my grandmother retired, he stayed home with my brother and me after our mother died.  He was the family dishwasher.  He used to complain that all he did was "wa' dish, wa' dish."  He and my grandmother hardly ever fussed, but I remember them getting into an argument once in the kitchen when he was washing dishes.  He threw a wet rag at my grandmother and knocked her wig askew, and they ended up laughing, the argument forgotten.

My grandparents washing dishes at the house
on 42nd St.

Grandpa had a lot of colorful expressions.  On 42nd St., he had his own bedroom at the back of the house that he called the “north 40.”   My favorite was “shoe mouth deep,” indicating the depth of water you were stepping in.  He also talked about being so “poor that you couldn’t buy a mosquito a wrassling jacket,” although I can’t imagine what that means.  Grandpa loved “wrassling”--professional wrestling. He would get so excited watching it on TV that we were afraid he’d have another heart attack.  Although he certainly couldn’t help it, I think that the fragility of his health made a big impression on me as a kid.  Between that and the Smith motto “If anything can go wrong, it will,” I grew up pretty fearful, but also pretty appreciative of all the small things that you can lose at any time. 

Christmas at the house on 38th St., 1965 
It was always hard for me to go away from home to spend the night with somebody, because I was afraid that something would happen to him while I was gone (although what I thought I could do about it, I don’t know.) And then something did.  My dad and brother and I had gone out to eat on a Saturday afternoon.  When we came home, my grandmother had had to call an ambulance to come and get Grandpa.  He had had another heart attack, and this time he didn’t recover.  He died on May 17, 1970. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Smith Cousins

Questions from the past still linger, but there are plenty of Smith descendants out there trying to find the answers.  I have made connections with a descendant of every child of Stephen A. Smith, except for Ella, who stayed in Alabama, and John, who had no children.

Stephen A. Smith and children
I never knew any of Molly’s family growing up, but I have corresponded via with a woman whose children, through their father, are descendants of Molly. (She lives in another state, but because she has an unusual surname, we found that her ex-sister-in-law was someone I knew.  Isn’t the world small?) 

I became great friends with the daughter-in-law of Billie Byars (daughter of Owen Smith--see “Beginnings and Endings”) who was an ardent genealogist.  Unfortunately, she passed away last year but left a huge legacy of genealogical research behind for her daughters.

Weaver and Owen Smith
I grew up knowing the children and grandchildren of Lou Smith Barlow.  At about age 5 or 6, I attended Lou’s granddaughter’s wedding.  Lou’s daughter and son-in-law owned a bakery and made the cake for my wedding.  Then I lost track of them.  Recently, I corresponded via with the daughter of the couple whose wedding I attended in the 1950s.

Lou and Albert Barlow and children
on their 50th wedding anniversary
I got some valuable information from Rosa Mae Martin, daughter of Barbara Smith, many years ago.  She was a favorite of my grandmother's, and I had found her phone number in Temple, Texas, in my grandmother's address book.  A fact she told me, that the Smiths owned a furniture company in Montgomery, Alabama, was confirmed by the Confederate pension application of Alexander Jackson Smith’s widow that I found recently.  Their son was president of the Wheeler-Smith Furniture Co. in Montgomery.  In July I had a message through from a great-granddaughter of Barbara's who has just started doing genealogy.

Application of Alexander J. Smith's widow
for Confederate benefits, listing her
son as president of Wheeler-Smith Furniture Co.
I went to high school with the grandson of Albert Smith.  In the past couple of years I have received messages from both him and his sister on  Their father, son of Albert and Gertrude Smith, recently died in his 90's.  

Smith boys--Turner, Albert, Weaver, and John
Two of my cousins, sons of Turner Smith, live together in Tulsa.  I may have to call them up, as they reputedly have the only studio portrait of Stephen A. Smith.

There are almost enough of us to have a reunion.  Hmm…  

Friday, February 8, 2013

Smith Questions

So, where do I go from here?  What are the questions I want to answer about the Smiths?

Who were John A.’s parents?  No idea.  I need a copy of John A.’s will—it exists, but I haven’t seen it.  Not that it lists his parents, but it might give me some clues.  I don’t even know what part of Virginia he came from.  My brother supplied a sample of yDNA but no connections with Smiths yet.

Was Mary E. a Williams, and if so, who were her parents?  On the death certificate of her son, Alexander Jackson Smith, his mother was listed as Mary E. Williams and his father as John Smith.  Was she related to Minor?  It appears not—another researcher I have corresponded with has seen the family Bible of Minor Williams’s family—no Mary listed among siblings.

What happened to Sarah, Martha and Willis?  Probably died young but don’t know for sure. 

Who is the father of Moses?  John A. Smith was alive and bought land in Pike Co., AL, in Sept. 1849 but he died before Nov. 1850 when Mary E. was listed as head of household on the census.  Mary could have been pregnant with Moses when John died.  Interesting note:  It appears that Alexander Jackson Smith and Moses Calvin Smith married sisters, Mary Ann Charlotte Briggs (or Breggs) and Nancy Ann Mathilda Briggs. 

Why does the name Willis carry down through the family?  Any significance to the fact that Cynthia’s son is a Willis, her daughter Amanda named a son Willis, and Stephen and Fannie had a son named Willis?  Jackson is another name that repeats from Alexander Jackson Smith, Stephen’s brother, to John Jackson, Stephen’s son.  Do the names Willis and Jackson go back even further? 

Was Cynthia “married” to Jordan Lindsey?  My guess is that Cynthia had children by a Lindsey, perhaps Jordan.  She didn’t feel free to name her children Lindsey when Jordan’s wife was still alive but by 1870 both Jordan and his wife Elizabeth were dead, and Cynthia could freely use the surname Lindsey.  With all justice to Cynthia, going by the name Smithy makes her sound like a madam.  

Who was the father of Elizabeth Simmons?  According to family trees on, Luke Russell Simmons’ wife’s name was Priscilla.  Was she Priscilla Soles?  Some have listed Priscilla Hargette as his wife but haven’t seemed to notice that Priscilla Hargette died in 1811 before many of the Simmons children were born. 

Why the migration from North Carolina to Alabama?  My cousins in Alabama have written a book about the descendants of Elisha Mansell, Sr. called Pages from the Past.  In the book they relate two theories about the emigration of the Mansells from North Carolina to Alabama. 1) They had made their living from the tar and turpentine derived from pine trees that had become less plentiful in North Carolina. Or, 2) Indians were being rounded up for the Trail of Tears and as several Mansell men had married Indian wives, they decided to remove themselves to Alabama.  The Smiths moved to Pike Co. from Coffee Co. sometime between 1865 and 1868 when Stephen and Frances marry in Pike Co.  I don’t know why.  The Smiths followed the Mansells to Lauderdale Co. in the 1870s.

How are our Mansells related to the Mansells in Marion Co., AL (Elvis’s family)?  Why did the family sometimes use the name Mansfield?  My cousins have a theory that our Mansells stopped off to see the Mansells in Marion County on their way to Lauderdale County in the 1870s but didn’t feel welcome as the Mansells in Marion County had been Union sympathizers.  No one knows if Mansfield was an alias or just an alternative spelling.

Did Elizabeth Simmons come to Oklahoma and then return to Lauderdale County with Joanne Mansel Webb’s family to be buried at Mt. Olive, Waterloo?  Where is she buried?  Family tradition says 1) under the cedar tree, 2) under an unmarked pile of rocks, 3) where Margaret & William Mansell’s headstones were incorrectly laid, or 4) did she really die in Oklahoma?

Who is the father of Frances?  William Cotton or someone else?  How will we ever know?  Could she be Elizabeth’s granddaughter, child of one of her sons?  If so, why did she ever use the name Cotton?

How did Frances die?  In a Rogers County, Oklahoma, county history book, one of the Smith grandchildren stated that she fell into a well and drowned.  That was never a story I heard growing up.  If I remember anything, it is that Fannie died of “female trouble.”

Where were the Smiths in 1900?  Hiding in a cave??  According to family tradition, Stephen’s Civil War pension record, and applications for tribal membership, the family came to Indian Territory about 1893-1894. The youngest child, Weaver, was said to have been born in Catoosa, Indian Territory, in 1895.  The family is living in Collinsville in 1910.

Is there any truth to the story of Cherokee heritage in our family?  Probably moot, as it is apparent we can’t connect to anyone on the rolls. Will we ever know?  My DNA shows up 98% European.  Maybe the 2% Uncertain is native American!!

As these questions are answered, more will have to be asked.  It’s a never ending quest.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sweet Home Alabama

In the summer of 2011 I convinced one of my best friends to travel to Alabama with me to look at cemeteries, libraries, and court houses.  I had to sweeten the pot by promising to see some non-genealogical attractions, so we 1) ate dinner to live music and shopped the courthouse square in Oxford, Mississippi, 2) made a pilgrimage to William Faulkner’s house, 3) visited Helen Keller’s home in Tuscumbia, 4) saw a restored Frank Lloyd Wright house in Florence, 5) had a couple of quintessential Southern lunches, and 6) shopped for shoes.

Rosenbaum Home in Florence
William Faulkner's house in Oxford, MS

Helen Keller's house in Tuscumbia
Schoolhouse at Old Alabama Town

We met two of my Mansell cousins in Florence, and they took us to the cemetery at Waterloo where Elizabeth Simmons might be buried in an unmarked grave.  We visited Pope’s Tavern, an inn where Andrew Jackson stayed on his way to the Battle of New Orleans, and the Rosenbaum Home, a beautiful restored home-turned-museum designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.  Jean and Laura were the epitome of Southern hospitality. On our way out of town the next morning we finally found—after thoroughly searching the wrong cemetery—the grave of Ella Smith Beckham, the only one of Stephen’s children to stay in Alabama.

Laura, me, and Jean at
Pope's Tavern
In Montgomery we spent the morning at Old Alabama Town, an authentic 19th century village, and ate the best Southern lunch at a nearby restaurant—baked chicken, fried green tomatoes, and yummy coconut cream pie.

On that trip I also had one of the most perfect days I’ve ever had, genealogical or otherwise. 

After eating breakfast at our hotel in Montgomery, we drove to Troy in Pike County and Elba in Coffee County, two of the towns in which my Smith relatives lived.  Outside of Troy I found the graves of my great-great-grandmother Mary E. Smith and my great-grandfather’s sister Cynthia. 
Mt. Moriah Baptist Church Cemetery outside
Troy, AL
At the wonderful Troy Public Library, the librarian in charge of the genealogy section was so helpful, and in two hours I found a purchase of land by John A. Smith in 1849; Mary E. Smith and Cynthia Smith on the 1855 Alabama state census; and three marriage licenses:  of Amanda Lindsey to Melvin King, of Cynthia Lindsey to James King (Melvin’s father), and of Amanda Lindsey King to W.J. Register.  (I had begun to think that the marriages of all the Smith girls were figments of their imaginations!) 

After a morning in the library we ate wonderful chicken salad at the Byrd Drug Store on the courthouse square.  From there we drove to Elba and then on the highway on our way back to Montgomery we found a shoe mall!  A steak dinner and a swim in the hotel pool put an end to my perfect day in Alabama.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Mansell Connection

The first time I ever heard the Mansell surname was on the Guion Miller application that my great-grandfather Stephen A. Smith filed on behalf of his children.  He claimed that his late wife Fannie’s maiden name was Mansell, that Fannie’s mother was Elizabeth Simmons, and that Elizabeth’s mother’s name was Priscilla Soles.  My grandmother had always called her mother-in-law Fannie Cotton, and that was the name that I had used to try to trace Fannie’s family.  At the time I thought perhaps I had found a clue that would let me find Fannie’s family through her true surname, but it hasn’t been that easy.  One complication is that Mansell can be spelled a hundred ways: Mancil, Mansel, Mansell, Mansfield, Mansild, etc.  For the sake of ease, I will spell it Mansell.

It turns out that Elizabeth was married to John Mansell and had the following children with him: William A., born about 1826; Samuel J., born about 1828; Daniel Monrow, born 1833; Simeon C., born about 1835; Benjamin Franklin, born about 1836; John E., born about 1842; and Amos P., born about 1843.  The family migrated from Columbus County, North Carolina, to Alabama after the birth of the first three boys.  John Mansell died in May 1844 so he can’t be the father of Fannie, who was born 7 June 1849. (Another son, Simeon, was born in 1845 so his parentage is suspect as well.)  Elizabeth remarried on 26 August 1863 to William W. Cotton, who could possibly be Fannie’s father, but if so, it seems odd that they waited to marry until 14 years after Fannie’s birth. 

In 1850 Elizabeth, head of household and using the surname Mansfield, was enumerated in Pike County with her sons William, Samuel, Daniel, Benjamin, John, Amos and Simeon, and her daughter Frances.  In 1860 William, Samuel, Simeon and Frances are still living with their mother, along with 7-year-olds named Pugh and Nancy.  It’s never been determined to whom they belong, and they have not been found on subsequent censuses.   In 1870 Elizabeth is married to William Cotton and they are both living with her son, William.  Between 1870 and 1880 several family members moved from Pike County to Lauderdale County, Alabama.  In 1880 Elizabeth and son William are living in Lauderdale County.

Elizabeth was born in 1812 in North Carolina, perhaps the daughter of Luke Russell Simmons, whose wife’s name was Priscilla. Other researchers have shown her father as Benjamin Simmons.  She probably married John Mansell in the mid-1820s, based on the birth of William in 1826.  She moved to Alabama with about one hundred other residents of Columbus County, North Carolina, in the 1830s.  Members of the family in Alabama have been told that Elizabeth is buried in an unmarked grave in Mt. Olive Cemetery, Waterloo, Alabama.  Attached to the application for Cherokee citizenship that Fannie Smith made in 1896 is an affidavit by her mother Elizabeth Cotton, taken in 1894 in Cleveland County, Oklahoma Territory.  It is possible that Elizabeth came to Oklahoma with the Smith family and then returned to Alabama with other family members, where she died.

Tree under which it is said that Elizabeth Simmons
(Granny Cotton) is buried in
Mt. Olive Cemetery, Waterloo, AL