A few weeks ago my cousin Barbara sent me an annotated list of 15 households that were living near each other on the 1850 Jackson County, Tennessee, census. She suggested we take another look at the relationships among these families. Believe me, it is not that easy in Jackson Co. TN. These are the most complicated relationships I’ve ever seen. At least it seems so to me 165 years later; I’m sure the citizens of Jackson Co. in 1850 knew exactly who they were related to. Too bad somebody didn’t write it all down. The best we can do in 2014 is try to find clues in the census, court records (of which there were many), and DNA results.
Our related families lived in District 15 of Jackson Co. The enumeration of District 15 runs 12 pages, and Barbara’s list begins with the families on page 10. (My Stephen and Elzina—enumerated as Elsy—are on page 7.) The first family on Barbara’s list, shown as Family #1108 on the census, is Polly Carter, age 68; Leroy, age 27; and Isabella, age 12.
|1850 Census, Jackson County TN, District 15, Page 10|
Just taking this family as an example ought to give you an idea of the craziness of Jackson County. To begin with, Polly Roberts Carter was the long-time paramour of the infamous Enoch Carter. Enoch was married to Susannah Wilkinson in Greene Co. TN in February 1794, and they arrived in Jackson Co. about 1804. While he was still married to Susannah, he lived off and on with Catie Johnson, widow of William Pharris, and helped her spend the inheritance intended for William’s children. Catie finally left him when he married Polly, with whom he had also had a long-time affair. (By the way, Enoch may have been married a couple of times before he married Susannah, and he wasn’t finished when he married Polly. In between and after his marriage to Polly, he also had relationships—and children--with Rhoda Manier and Sookie Huff.)
Barbara is descended from Enoch and his wife Susannah Wilkinson, but she has long thought that my 2nd great-grandfather, Stephen Roberts, and his brother Caleb were the children of Enoch Carter and Polly Roberts before they were married. Honestly, I resisted for a long time because I had trouble believing anybody in the 1800s could treat marriage so flippantly, but it looks like Barbara is probably right.
Following Polly back to the 1840 census was my first clue. On that census her family consisted of 2 males 15-19, 1 male 20-29, 1 female under 5, and herself (1 female 50-59.) One of the males 15-19 is probably Leroy who is 27 on the 1850 census. The 5-year-old female could be Isabella, who is 12 on the 1850 census. I know it’s not conclusive, but I just can’t help but think that the male 20-29 is Stephen. He is not enumerated by name on the 1840 census, and he is not living with his brother Caleb. Nor is there a male 20-29 living with any of the possible Roberts families.
I shared with Barbara that I was coming around to her point of view on the parentage of Stephen and Caleb. She said, “I don’t know why I never thought of this before! Why don’t you check your DNA results and see if you have any matches who show Enoch’s maternal grandparents, Daniel McPherson and Ruth Shires, in their trees? If you have even one, it’s a good bet you are also a descendant of Enoch Carter!” I have at least 8, and that’s just on Ancestry.com. A few more show up on Family Tree DNA.
Polly does not appear on the 1860 census, but Leroy is enumerated as L.S. Carter, age 37, with his daughter Mary, age 5. What in the world is his occupation? The enumerator had quite fancy handwriting. Does it say “Whiskey & Candy”? The “whiskey” is clear, but I can’t decipher the rest of it. Apparently, Leroy’s wife had died. About 1867 he married Sarah Elizabeth Samples, who had previously been married to a McKinney. On the 1870 census Leroy, age 49, is enumerated with wife Sarah, age 36; Mary, age 16; John McKinney, age 14; Feby McKinney, age 11; Linder A. McKinney, age 9; and Mariah Carter, age 2. Trees on Ancestry.com list two more children: Nora “Nobie” Ann Carter, born 1871, and Leroy, born 1874. No occupation is listed for Leroy in 1870.
This photograph shows half-brothers Leroy Carter (son of Enoch Carter and Polly Roberts) and Enoch Chapman Carter (son of Enoch Carter and Catie Johnson.) I guess the brothers must have been close at one time, or why have their photographs taken together? However, the relationship ended in tragedy. They argued in the street one Sunday after church over a matter of scriptural interpretation. Enoch, in a pique of temper, threw a rock at Leroy and killed him. According to Carter family lore, Enoch changed his name and moved to Oklahoma, never to be seen in Jackson County again.
|Leroy Carter and Enoch Chapman Carter|
Photo contributed to Ancestry.com
Well, that’s family #1, and one brick wall may have fallen. Until something convinces me differently, I think I believe that my great-great-grandfather Stephen Roberts is the son of Enoch Carter and Polly Roberts.