Sunday, June 19, 2011

For Father’s Day I Want a Photo of my Family Lined up in Front of a House

I wish everyone still did this.

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l to r: Elvira Lyson, who was raised by Joe and Sarah Joyner Chambers
(she married Owen Thweat, brother of Ada Thweat),
Joe Chambers and Sarah Joyner Chambers, Jesse and Sally Joyner with Jesse's son, Herman
Alfred Bunn Joyner holding Howell, and Nancy Ross Joyner (child standing died as a small child).
The family to the far right is Nancy “Nannie” Williamson standing in the back row,
Janie Williamson Williams standing in the front row, Jessie E. Williamson standing in the back row,
far right, Mai Edith Williamson Shelton is the baby and
Joe and Mary Elizabeth Joyner Williamson are the parents.
Their youngest daughter, Jo Williamson Ried, was not yet born.
Janie Williamson Williams is my great grandmother.

I love when I find a photo of a whole group of my ancestors, pre-1900s, lined up in front of their house. Of course, it’s great to see what they looked like but a photo like this one provides lots of clues about their lives.

This particular photo was taken around the mid-1890s. It was originally shared with me by my aunt, Joline Joyner Williams. The patriarch of this family, Alfred Bunn Joyner, is seated in the middle of the photo and is my third great grandfather.

You can tell by their clothing, the size of their house and the fact that they could even afford a photo that they had achieved a measure of success in life in Haywood County. Before the Civil War this family owned a number of slaves and farmed a large amount of land most likely growing cotton.

In the 1870 United States Federal Census, six years after the Civil War, the value of Alfred Joyner’s land had grown to $2,400 but the value of his property had been reduced from $9,700 to $1,000, which was likely from the loss of slaves and the destruction from the war.
Headstone of Littleton Joyner in
Providence Methodist Church Cemetery in
Madison County, TN near the
Haywood County line.

Sadly, Alfred also lost his son to the war. When the Civil War broke out, Littleton Joyner, who was studying medicine, left school to join the Confederate Army and died on Saturday, June 28, 1862. According to his headstone, he “Sickened & died in Holly Springs, MS while in the Confederate Service."

Alfred Joyner himself would die very soon after the family photo was taken.

According to an article in the "Brownsville States Graphic" on July 20, 1899:
“…Mr. Joyner, after some years, married Miss Nancy Ross, of Madison County a most practical, level-headed, considerate Christian lady; dear aunt Nan, as she was familiarly called, who, with three sons, survive their noble father. Mr. Joyner was from his youth a consistent member of the M.E. church, South, of unswerving faith to his God and Savior; his faith in himself sometimes weak. His strong temperance sentiments were conspicuous in life, and in the hour of death, when his physician gave him, toddy, he said, ‘want pure water to drink.’.

Uncle Alfred Joyner was blessed with an active, vigorous old age; though in his ninetieth, year could walk or ride horseback; his mind was clear, and he was happy in society, or with his paper or his books. The whole community sorrow with Aunt Nan and the children and grand-children of this good old man, who went peacefully to reap his reward – the reward of the faithful, in August his remains were interred at Providence cemetery; funeral by Rev. B. F. Poebles.”
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My great grandmother, Janie Williamson Williams
This little girl in the photo is my great grandmother but someone I never met because she died August 19, 1914 in Haywood County when she was just 27. Her son, my grandfather Lloyd "Bo" Williams, was just four at the time.

Where did this photo come from?

Around the time this photo was taken, rural families of the south had an occasional photograph made whenever a traveling photographer came through the community.

The Farley Brothers Traveling Studio
William Brummitt Farley and his brother, Walter, did just that and called it The Farley Brothers Traveling Studio. Their studio was a small building on wheels which was pulled around by four mules.

There is no way to know exactly who took the photo of the Joyner family but I am very glad we have it today.

You can read more about this family on the Joyner and Williamson pages of

Saturday, June 11, 2011

America (and Haywood County, TN) Firsthand, from Settlement to Reconstruction

Fifth Edition of "America Firsthand," Volume One
by Robert D. Marcus and David Burner
being read by me on The Spring River in Hardy, Arkansas

I just returned from camping on the Spring River in Hardy, Arkansas.

In a moment of trying to be a good parent, I declared this to be a “no electronics trip.” Since there would be no Kindles or ipads, I grabbed a real book to read that has been on our shelf for a long time.

Being outdoors on the bank of a river turned out to be the perfect place to read the book, “America Firsthand, Readings from Settlement to Reconstruction.

Actually a textbook, and available in many other volumes, it presents the stories and letters of people from history in their own words. From the well known, like John Smith who describes the Powhatan Indians he discovered in Virginia, to the lesser known like John and Margaret Winthrop whose love letters give a glimpse into the lives of the Puritans, reading the writing of people who were actually there truly makes history come alive for me.

I highly recommend these books for anyone interested in genealogy and when was the last time you bought a good book for 99 cents?

This also got me thinking about how happy it makes me when I run across things written by my own ancestors.

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Sim Cobb, his third wife Caroline and his headstone
in the Cobb family cemetery in Haywood County, TN

One of the best examples I have found so far is Sim Cobb’s 1875 diary, a great deal of which is reprinted in “Nicholas Cobb Descendants, Neighbors and Relatives” by Joe H. Cobb, a book that costs a little more than 99 cents. But if you happen to have an extra $250 and have the Cobb family in your line, it is a great investment.

Sim, my second great uncle, was brought to Haywood County by his father and my third great grandfather, John Hardy Cobb. He fought in company L of the Seventh Tennessee Calvary in the Civil War. He married his third wife, Caroline Fletcher when he was 63 and she was 32 and they stayed married 24 years and had four children together. At the time they were married, she was younger than two of Sim’s children. Sim died in 1927 at the age of 87 and was buried in the Cobb Family Cemetery and Caroline died eight years later at the age of 64 and was buried at the Holly Grove Baptist Church cemetery.

Sim spent a great deal of time with many of my ancestors including W.C. Cobb, Tommie Rawls, J.C.W. Cobb, Sam Marbury, Sarah Elizabeth Steele, Daniel Watridge, Tinie White, Martha Watridge and others.

Here are a few of the entries in Sim's diary that mention my ancestors:
Sunday January 17 - went to father's in company with William Thomas Cobb and back to John Charles Warren Cobb and from there to Daniel W. Watridge and took supper and came home - Bet went to Daniel W. Watridge.
Sunday January 31 - Bet went to her mother's and I went to Daniel W. Watridge; faired off about 12 o' clock; took dinner at Daniel's and came home.

Friday February 12 - Went and asked hands to help roll logs. John Charles Warren Cobb, Leonard Decatur Cobb, Daniel W. Watridge, John F. White, W.G. Booth and J.E. Lott helped some.

Sunday May 2 - went to Sunday School; Daniel W. Watridge and family was here and stayed until after supper.

Monday October 4 - Daniel W. Watridge came to get me to go with him to hunt horses.

Tuesday October 5 - Cloudy and rainy; went with Daniel to hunt horses, we went to the bottom as far as Lewis Tatum by 12; took dinner at his house; went to near Woodville and back to Tatum's by night.

Wednesday October 13 - Went to Daniel W. Watridge and got his mules; James L. White came with me and drug old Jack off (dead mule or horse possibly).
You can read more about these families on the Cobb page or the Watridge page of

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Items from Robert Green Marbury

Another really interesting written history from one of my ancestors was shared with me by my cousin, Janet Marbury Lewis.

Robert Green Marbury, my fourth great grandfather, had some really fascinating things including letters that have been passed down to Janet.

One letter, from his brother was written to him on April 14, 1889.
Mr. R. G. Marbury
Haywood County, TN
South Chicago

APR 14th 1889

My Ever Dear and only brother

I now write in reply to your kind letter of some months since. This leaves us tolerably well. I truly hope this letter will find you and yours in good health and doing well. Have no news of much interest to write. I want to see you and yours worse and more than I can express but see no chance to come. Money is so scarce and times are so close that I can hardly venture to make the trip down there. I would gladly come to see you if I could. I do hope and constantly pray God that I may yet live to see you but if never we do meet on this earth let us work and pray God that we may meet in heaven where parting will be no more forever and where we shall sing praise to God for ever and forever more.

I see Rush is married again. Well I hope he and his dear companion will live a long and peaceful and happy life and he be prosperous and kind to each other.

I was very glad to know you are keeping in pretty good health and spirit and I hope and pray God you will continue so. Yes, I was truly sad over Cleveland’s defeat. Cleveland got more popular votes than Harrison by nearly 100,000. The Republicans bought up the bosses of big companies such as foundries, big machine shops, mills factories and these bosses and head men after getting immense pay turned their men over to the Republican Ring to vote the republican ticket there never was as much money spent by the republican party before. They paid from 1 to 500 dollars a piece for votes and that is the way they swung NY in to their line.

The winter has been lighter and milder here than has been known in a great many years. I hope Rush will stay with you to help and take care of you dear brother. Take good care of your self and remember me in your prayers as I do you in my prayers every night. Please write soon all ___ _____. I will try and write you once a month from this out. You please do the same with out fail.

W.C. Marbury
Robert Green Marbury died on May 27, 1904 and his obituary included this description of him:
“Mr. Marbury was one of the most genial of men, and industrious farmer, and a first rate sportsman, fond of the hunt, a fisherman, fond of animals and birds and in love with all nature, and all the beautiful works of his Maker. Godly, sincere, loyal and honest, a host of friends, will long cherish his memory."
You can read more about this family on the Marbury page of

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a. Virginia, Cordillia and Betty Brantley in the foreground around 1940
b. Virginia, Cordillia and Betty Brantley with their mother Allie around 1970
c. Virginia and Cordillia around 1985

This last example of letters from ancestors I am greatful for was to my maternal grandmother, Virginia Brantley Lovelace from her sister, Cordilia Brantley Jacocks and gives what I think is a great example of what their lives were like in Haywood County in the late ‘30s at the end of the depression.

Bells Tenn
June 15, 1939

Dearest Virginia,

How are you all getting along? I haven’t heard from you in all in so long I thought I would write to you. I had to write a letter because no one in this county had a postal card.

I guess you know by now that I’m an old married lady now. I don’t feel so much older though. Maybe I just haven’t had time yet.

How is Bobby? Tell him I said Hello and that he has a new uncle. I guess he thought that J.T. was already a member of the family though.

Are you all through chopping cotton? Daddy is going to try to get through by Sat. J.T. and Mr. Arthur have been chopping for hire while it was too wet in theirs. I haven’t chopped any since I married. I am celebrating. They are ? here this ? but they won’t let me help.

I mean they really are nice to me here. They treat me just exactly like they treat J.T. and Solan. Aunt Clara said to tell you she thought about you every day and would surely like to see you but that was a little too far to walk.

When have you seen Aunt Gladys? I haven’t seen anyone in a long time.

Tell Bobby J.T. said tell him “hey.”

How is Guy? I’m so sorry he isn’t doing well. Daddy said he looked mighty bad last Sun. aft. when they went by there. They said Aunt Mabel was sick too. I guess our family has a curse over it. Something is always happening to us.

I aimed for us to go up to mothers Sunday but we messed around and didn’t even get up until nearly eleven o’ clock. Aren’t we lazy?

Didn’t it rain hard Sat night? J.T. and ? and I got wet all over. We went to Bells and were coming back when it started raining so hard.
That lightening scared me. I never saw it lightening so hard in all my life. I better get up from here. I’ve got to wash out some things and finish cleaning up the house. I clean up the house and ? the kitchen every morning.

Well I’ll see you when I can.

Lots of Love,

Only a few people write letters any more but lets hope the genealogy fans of the future try to figure out who were through more than just our emails and texts. That's one of the reasons I started a blog.

Hopefully, just like these letters, it will help those in the future learn a little more about the ancestors who came before them.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Chief Tom Blount and the Tuscarora War of North Carolina

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Tuscarora Indian with daughter
Photo from The Onondaga Portraits
by Toba Tucker
John Yelverton, my seventh great grandfather, joined the colonial settlers in what would become Bertie County, North Carolina in 1703 when he was in his early 20s. Through his wife, Elizabeth Blount, he was connected to the fascinating leader of the Tuscarora Indians, Chief Tom Blount.

Yelverton, who shows up in records in 1704 as a juror, was likely well respected and a wealthy land owner himself because his young wife, Elizabeth Blount was from one of the most important families in the region at the time. Elizabeth was the granddaughter of Captain James Blount who had settled in North Carolina in 1669, become a member of the court and one of the Lords Proprietors’ Deputies.

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The first permanent settlement in North Carolina,
Edenton is the "mothertown" of the state. Edenton at once became
the focal point of civilization in the province,
the capital of the Colony and the home of the Royal Governors.
By 1711, John and Elizabeth had three of their children; James, Elizabeth and Ann, and the family lived on Queen Ann’s Creek in Edentown, NC.

The settlers began building plantations and farming the land and quickly encroached upon the hunting grounds and villages of the Tuscarora Indian Tribe. Additionally, many of the villages were raided by European settlers and young men and women were gathered up and sold as slaves.

The Tuscarora villages around John Yelverton’s plantation were led by a chief who was extremely close to Yelverton’s wife’s family; an Indian who had been baptized and given the name Tom Blount. Just how close the chief was to the Blount family is a matter of debate.

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Johnson J. John
Photo from The Onondaga Portraits
by Toba Tucker

Some think Tom Blount was an orphan who had been adopted by one of Captain James Blount’s sons while others think he was actually the illegitimate offspring of a Blount and an unknown Indian woman. One interesting fact from Beverly A. Ramesy’s book “The Blounts of Mulberry Hill” is that, “in addition to the children named in his will, family tradition indicated that James Blount had a natural son to whom he left no real property.” Could that have been Chief Tom Blount?

Regardless of the exact relationship, Chief Tom Blount was a good connection for Yelverton to have considering what was coming for the settlers. Chief Tom Blount led the northern Tuscaroras but unfortunately for the Europeans, the southern tribe was led by an Indian named Chief Hancock.

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Cover of John Lawson's 1709 book
In early September 1711, Hancock’s Tuscaroras captured John Lawson, an explorer, surveyor, and author of “A New Voyage to Carolina” along with Aron Christopher De Graffenried (the founder of New Bern County, NC) and several others.

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Baron Christoph Von Graffenried's drawing, The Death of John Lawson,
depicts Von Graffenried, his servant, and John Lawson being held captive by
Tuscarora Indians shortly before Lawson's death.
Image courtesy of North Carolina State Archives,
Division of Archives and History. More info
According to De Graffenried they tortured Lawson by driving numerous splinters into his body and setting them on fire, slowly killing him. Although in later years doubt was cast upon the truthfulness of De Graffenried’s version of events and some even went as far as to accuse him of setting Lawson up and having him killed.

On September 22, 1711, knowing there would be retaliation from the settlers, the Tuscaroras struck first and killed hundreds of settlers along the Roanoke River.
“Divided into small war parties, the Indians swept down the Neuse and along the south shore of the Pamlico. Two hours later, 130 colonists lay dead, about the same number on each stream. Some were tortured horribly, others were desecrated after death. Many were left wounded. The less fortunate were taken captive. The rest of the people fled for their lives, leaving the bodies of their loved ones to be eaten by wolves and vultures. In their violence, the Indians had no regard for age or sex. After several days of slaughter and destruction, the enemy drew back into Hancock's Town to rest for further violence. With them, they took plunder and captives, including women and children.”
The militia of North Carolina along with "six hundred militia from South Carolina and three hundred and sixty Indians under Col. Barnwell" were called into the area to attack the Southern Tuscarora and defend the settlers.

According to records, on Dec. 17, 1712, both John Yelverton and his father-in-law John Blount, along with other men in their community, gave bushels of Indian corn “by order of Maj. Gale for public service.” The corn and other food was used to feed the militia.

The Tuscarora were "defeated with great slaughter; more than three hundred savages were killed, and one hundred made prisoners." These prisoners were largely women and children, who were sold into slavery.

Chief Tom Blount was then offered the chance to control the entire Tuscarora tribe if he assisted the settlers in putting down Chief Hancock. Eventually, he did capture Chief Hancock who was executed in 1712.

In 1715, Yelverton’s youngest child and my sixth great grandfather, John Yelverton Jr., was born.

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1914 Iroquois Group in Winter
Source: SummertownPrints

By 1717, many of the Tuscarora Indians left North Carolina to join the Iroquois Indians in New York.

Chief Blount became “King” Blount and it appears he remained the leader of an increasingly smaller tribe as, through the years, more and more of the Tuscaroras joined their friends and family in New York and Canada.

I have not yet located information on his death but by 1752 Moravian missionaries visited the reservation, and noted "many had gone north to live on the Susquehanna" and that "others are scattered as the wind scatters smoke." Bruce Trigger, ed., Handbook of American Indians; Volume 15, 1978, pp. 287-288

John Yelverton Sr. lived until 1750 and died around the age of 65 at his home in Edenton, NC.

Today, Tuscarora still live in Canada and New York and continue as a sovereign nation with the Haudenosaunee government including chiefs, clan mothers, and faithkeeper. They maintain much of their culture and traditions.

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l to r: Nancy Jane Yelverton Lovelace, Jim Lovelace,
Guy Lovelace and Shirley Lovelace Williams

John Yelverton Jr. was the father of Hardy Yelverton who was the father of Etheldred Yelverton who was the father of Samuel Yelverton who was the father of Nancy Jane Yelverton Lovelace who was the mother of Jim Lovelace who was the father of Guy Lovelace who was the mother of Shirley Lovelace Williams who was the mother of me.

You can read more about the Yelverton family on the Yelverton page of