Thursday, November 24, 2011

Masters in my Southern Closet

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Photo from Library of Congress

Southern Slaves in 1862
I'll just come right out and say it. Some of my ancestors owned slaves. For obvious reasons, the whole topic of the War of Northern Aggression (some people really do still call it that) can generate a host of passionate responses, which is why the Civil War is still such a popular topic among historians and consumers of everything from books (rest in peace Shelby Foote) and magazines to tourism and television.

Of course, none of us today would condone any sort of slavery and most of us grasp just what a horrible institution it was but, if you are a hardcore southerner like myself, there are likely a few masters in your closet.

I do, however, have one slave-owning ancestor, Charles Randall Johnson, that I just discovered was likely also a "Union sympathizer."

While I am sure this made him very unpopular with his Confederate Haywood County neighbors at the time, it possibly created a bounty of testimonies and documents regarding his life that I can use to determine a great deal more about him.

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l to r: Thomas Jefferson "Tom" Castellaw, Nancy Marianna Johnson,
Bob Castellaw, Elizabeth Castellaw Williams, and Bob Williams
Charles Randall Johnson is my third great grandfather. His daughter was Nancy Marianna Johnson. She married Thomas Jefferson Castellaw and their son was Robert Edward "Bob" Castellaw who was the father of my grandmother, Elizabeth Castellaw Williams, who was the mother of my father, Bob Williams.

Charles was born about 1803 somewhere in North Carolina. By the 1830 US Census he had moved to Haywood County, TN (specifically in an area that would later become Alamo, TN and Crockett County), married Margaret Louisa Woods and set up a household that included:
One male 20 – 30 (himself)
One female 20 – 30 (his wife Louisa)
One female under five (his oldest daughter, Ann Elizabeth)
One male slave 10 – 24
One female slave 10 – 24
From his will, we know that Charles donated the land for the Johnson Grove Church in Alamo, TN.

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Photo from Kim Raines

Headstone of Charles Randall Johnson and Louisa Woods Johnson
in the Castellaw Family Cemetery in Crockett County, TN

Louisa died 28 March 1862 and Charles died 14 April 1864. They are both buried in the Castellaw Family Cemetery which is located south of Johnson's Grove on the west side of Castellaw Rd. in Crockett County.

Charles' estate provided for the following children:
William R. Johnson
Charles R. Johnson Jr.
Ann E. Johnson who married L. D. Whitaker
Peggy Johnson who married John Castellaw
Sallie Johnson who married John Sanders who died
Adeline Johnson who married Milton Midyett
Nancy Johnson (my direct ancestor)
Zach T. Johnson - minor
Louisa Johnson - minor
His will also included which of his slaves went to which of his children and their "value:"
Lot #1--C. R. Johnson, Jr. received negro woman Martha and boy Jerry valued at $925. 00.
Lot #2--Nancy Johnson received negro woman Manda & Cherry valued at $675. 00.
Lot #3--Sarah Sanders received negro woman Margaret and child Georgianna valued at $75. 00.
Lot #4--Louisa Johnson received negro woman Mary and her child Willie, also a boy John valued at $975. 00.
Lot #5--Z. T. Johnson received negro woman Priscilla & boy Silvester valued at $950. 00.
Lot #6--W. R. Johnson received negro man Nelson valued at $700. 00.
Lot #7--M. B. Midyett received negro man Peter valued at $700. 00
Lot #8--John E. Castellaw received negro girl Amanda & negro man Matthew valued at $807. 00.
Lot #9--L. D. Whitaker received negro girl _______ and boy Joe valued at $825. 00.
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I spent several hours this week trying to track down the name of Charles' parents which led me to a rare find and possible treasure trove of information: a book from the 47th Congress in which he was included in an act that provided his estate with payment of $250.

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Charles was one of the "the several persons in this act named" who were being paid "under the provisions of the act of July fourth, eighteen hundred and sixty-four." This referred to the Southern Claims Commission.

The purpose of the SCC was to allow Union sympathizers who had lived in the Southern states during the Civil War to apply for reimbursements for property losses due to U.S. Army confiscations during the war. Following the closing of the offices of the SCC, several claims were still pending or had not yet been submitted. To clear up these loose ends, a bill was introduced to make the necessary payments and settle any remaining claims.

Those who applied for funds had to prove they:
1. were loyal to the United States during the Civil War
2. had supplies officially taken by or furnished to the U.S. Army in the war
Eventually, there were 22,298 claims of which only 32 percent of the claims were approved for payment. The process was not easy and those who applied used everything they could to get a little cash from Uncle Sam. Many of the applications include answers to questions mentioning personal descriptions, and accounts of events during the war, military records of claimants, or their relatives, letters, diaries, and family Bible records and legal documents like wills, property inventories, and probate records.

So you can see why I was so excited to find out Charles was included in that process and began immediately trying to track down his application file.

However, if it were that easy, it wouldn't be fun.

Although, several sites including and have begun uploading the information, so far, Charles R. Johnson has not been included in any of the actual lists of people with application information available. This could be because his claim was settled long after many of the original claims from the SCC.

Next step will be to try and figure out where all the mirofilm of the original files are stored and if its possible for them to search for his application.

As part of my search, I'll send a link to this blog that contains the information I am looking for so if you happen to be reading this and are a librarian with access to those files or a researcher who knows how to find them, please let me know and I'll owe you.

If you researching your genealogy and have southern ancestors, you'll want to see if you have relatives included in the U.S. Southern Claims Commission Master Index.

Visit my Blog Home Page or the Haywood County Line Genealogy Page.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Murder, Death Certificates and a Cemetery Mystery Solved

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X marks the spot of the Williams Family Cemetery
Since I first began researching my ancestry, I have been trying to find the graves of my second great grandparents, George D. Williams and Martha Jane Watridge. Now that has uploaded some Haywood County, TN death certificates from his time period, I have been able to find the confirmation I needed.

I already knew the likely location of their graves was in a patch of trees in the middle of a field behind the farm of my Dad’s childhood friend, Milton Booth.

My father remembered riding horses in the area with his father, “Daddy Bo,” and him pointing to that area as the location of his grandfather’s grave. His grandfather was George D. Williams.

Last year, Milton took me back to visit the site and all that was left was pieces of an old iron fence that did appear to be from an old cemetery.
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Last winter, when it was easier to explore the area, which is overgrown with vines and bushes, my Dad and I, along with my brother-in-law Alan and nephew, Caleb, searched the area for any signs of headstones. We found nothing.

Last week, my cousin, Betsy whose mother, Betty Brantley Sullivan was a sister of my grandmother, Virginia Brantley Lovelace, emailed me the death certificate of our ancestor, Maggie Williams Sullivan she had found on

Maggie was George D. Williams’ niece through his brother, Edward. According to her death certificate she was buried in the “Williams Cemetery.” The undertakers were listed as “Castellaw and Watridge.”

I immediately went online and checked and found that George’s death certificate was also now there and his place of burial was listed as “family burial ground” with “Castellaw and Watridge” also listed as the undertakers.

Late last week, Betsy confirmed with a senior family member that the location suspected was indeed once referred to as the “Williams Family Cemetery.”

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Death Certificate of George D. Williams
About George Williams
Although everyone seems to have forgotten even where he was buried, and his headstone seems to have been long plowed under, George D. Williams was an interesting and important part of his community just a little over 100 years ago. He was named after his grandfather, George Williams who was a pastor of the Holly Grove Baptist Church in Bertie County, NC and moved to Haywood County, TN in 1836 to be one of the first pastors of Zion Baptist Church.

Pastor George Williams’ son was named George Solomon Williams but went by the name of “Sol.” In 1860, Sol was living in Haywood County with his wife Catherion Arthur Nowell and children, Elizabeth (age 15), my direct ancestor George (age 11) John (age 9), Edward (age 7) and William (age 2). Sol died in 1864 at the age of 44. While I have not yet been able to confirm he died in the Civil War, there were several George S. Williams from Tennessee who fought in the war, and the timing would certainly work.

Sol’s son, George D. Williams was born 27 Nov 1846 “professed religion” at Zion Baptist Church in 1862 and was baptized there in 1864. At the age of 22, he married Martha Jane Watridge whose family was among the original settlers of Haywood County.

The couple had six children before Martha Jane’s death on 22 Dec 1888 when she was 37. Her youngest son, my great grandfather, William Lafayette Williams was just 10-months old.

Martha Jane Watridge Williams Obituary
Martha J. Williams died 22 Dec 1888 wife of G.D. Williams and daughter of James Watridge and granddaughter of Bro. Decaon W. Watridge. Married George D. Williams 17 Dec 1868. She was born 27 Aug 1852. Leaves husband and 4 Children, one and infant babe.
Source: Zion Baptist Church Book of Obituaries, pg. 5

The other children of George and Mary Jane were E.L., James Solomon, John, George T., and Elberta. E.L. likely died young as he does not show up on the 1880 census with the others.

The location of her grave has not yet been determined and she is not listed in the Cobb Family Cemetery, Zion Cemetery or Holly Grove Cemetery so it’s very likely she was buried in the family cemetery.

Around 1890, George began writing obituaries for members of Zion Baptist Church and helped write obits for Bet Cobb, Christian C. Rooks, Mary Watridge, Henry Day Brantley and many others that can be found in Nicholas Cobb Descendants by Joe H. Cobb.

At the age of 53, in 1899, George married 39-year old Virginia Estelle Cobb who was the daughter of John Charles Warren Cobb and Penelope Trottman White, early Haywood County settlers. Together, they had a daughter, Mary Lorene.

In the 1910 census, George and Virginia are living on a farm between the homes of the families of his brother John W. Williams, George and Mary Castellaw and Champ C. Watridge.

I believe it was George Castellaw and Champ Watridge who performed the task of undertaker when George died on 2 Apr 1919 at the age of 72, most likely from prostate cancer.

George’s obituary was a little light on the details, which is ironic considering he wrote so many obits for other people.

George D. Williams Obituary
G.D. Williams died 2 April 1919, born 6 Nov 1847. Professed religion 1862 at Zion Church. Baptized by Rev. G.E. Thomas.

Source: Zion Baptist Church Obituary Book, pg. 88
The other person that was possibly buried in this cemetery was Maggie Williams Sullivan, George’s niece from his brother, John.

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About Maggie Williams Sullivan
My cousin, Betsy has done a lot of research on Maggie Williams Sullivan who is in her direct line.

Maggie was born in Haywood County on 21 Apr 1881. When she was 17 she married Ellis B. Sullivan. Their union was destined to be a rocky one and by April 27, 1905, they were in court where Maggie was seeking a divorce.

In the court document, it states:
“the defendant is guilty of such and cruel and inhumane treatment of complainant as to make it unsafe and improper for her to habit with him and be under his dominion and control…he has offered such indignities to her person as to render her condition intolerable and thereby forcing her to withdraw.”
Maggie received custody of the couple’s three sons: Emory (age 5), Raymond (age 3) and Calvin (age 1).

Life was hard for even large farming families during that time. It must have been really difficult for a 24-year-old woman with three small children.

A few years later, Ellis may have seemed to have changed his ways or perhaps age had mellowed him enough that Maggie decided it was worth the risk but, regardless of the reason, on 14 Sept 1909, Ellis and Maggie were remarried.

After their remarriage, in 1910, they had a baby, Loran, who died either at birth or within the first year. Another, Alonzo, was born in 1912 and died just three years later. Their last two children, Alma Catherine who was born in 1915 and George Washington who was born 22 Feb 1916, lived to adulthood.

On July 4, 1917, Ellis came in from the cotton field and Maggie shot and killed him.

The funeral home entry for Ellis states that he was “killed by Mike Holbrook after he spit tobacco juice all over Mr. Holbrook.” However, it was determined that was just a story the family created to keep her out of trouble.

Maggie was eventually indicted by the Haywood County Grand Jury and found guilty of his death. She was sent to serve time at both the State Penitentiary in Nashville and Western State Hospital in Bolivar, TN but was released early after her brothers introduced some "new evidence" to the court.

Maggie died on 28 Apr 1921 at age the age of 40, likely from cancer.

Their children were split up and raised by a variety of family members.

Visit my Blog Home Page or the Haywood County Line Genealogy Page.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Is a House Still a Home if You’re Chained to a Tree in the Front Yard?

I am finally finished with getting the initial information I have about my Yelverton line uploaded to

It took longer than expected since they are an interesting bunch and I kept getting sidetracked. I noticed the houses in which they lived became a big part of the life story of many of them. From a house in the colonies where rebellions were planned to one built during the turn of the century that was recently added to the "National List of Historic Places" to another in a cotton field where the children were chained to a tree out front, nearly every generation had some interesting houses to offer.

The Barker-Moore House in Edenton, NC

John Yelverton, my 7th great grandfather is a nice little connection to the colonies and Edenton, NC. He was born in England around 1685 but by 1703 had traveled to North Carolina where he married Elizabeth Blount, the grand daughter of Captain James Blount, a colonial official and one of 18 leaders in Culpeper’s Rebellion.

Ironically, the town where John lived, Edenton, was actually named after Governor Charles Eden who was the stepfather of my sixth great grandmother, Penelope.

Before he died, John deeded land in Edenton that was described as:
“a tract of 100 acres of land which contained houses, orchards, gardens, fencing timbers & trees, woods, water & waters courses.”
Sounds like a nice place to live.

It was likely very much like the Barker-Moore House that was also in Edenton and built around the same time. That house was where Ms. Moore hosted the Edenton Tea Party at which my sixth great grandmother, Penelope was an attendee.

Dred and Ellen Yelverton House in Wayne County, NC

My third great grandfather, Samuel Yelverton, had a brother named Thomas who had a son who built a really great house you can still see today.

At the end of the nineteenth century, Thomas and his wife Nancy’s Wayne County, NC farmhouse burned to the ground. Their son, Dred Yelverton, purchased a blueprint from well-known architect George F. Barber and hired a contractor in Freemont, NC to construct a new two-story transitional Queen Anne/Colonial Revival-style house about 1900. Dred encountered a problem with the contractor, filed a lawsuit and lost.

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Photo from "History of Wayne County."

Photo of the Yelverton family in front of their house
with inset of Dred and Ellen Yelverton

The house stood unfinished for years. The census taker of 1910 recorded Dred and his twin sister, Nannie, aged 52 living in a house across the road from their homeplace. In 1912, Dred married which triggered the completion of the home in 1913.

The house is said to have been well maintained and nearly unchanged since it was completed. One of the most intact Barber houses in North Carolina, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on September 4, 2009 for its “distinctive design and exceptional condition.”

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Another house, not on the National Register, but I’m sure, just as important to its owner was the house of Polly Whitney Yelverton who was born in November 1850 to my second great grandparents, Samuel and Ann Yelverton. Polly spent a lot of time at her home in Denmark TN. So much so that, when she died in March 1929, the above article was written that celebrated the fact that Polly had spent most of her time at home. She never rode in a car or a train and had never even been to the “county seat.” Apparently, she told someone, “I never cared about being a gadabout.” According to the article, even her funeral was held at her house. She really did have a hard time leaving home.

The non-gadabout Polly was the sister of two of my ancestors: Maggie Yelverton Marbury and Nancy Jane Yelverton Lovelace.

Maggie was my third great grandmother. Married to Benjamin Marbury, she was the mother of Hardy Joyner Marbury who was the father of Allie Urn Marbury Brantley who was the mother of Virginia Brantley Lovelace who was the mother of my mom, Shirley Lovelace Williams. You can read more about them on my blog or on the Marbury page.

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Charles B. and Nancy Jane Yelverton Lovelace

Maggie and Polly’s sister, Nancy Jane, was my second great grandmother. She was married to Charles Lovelace and they were the parents of Jim Lovelace who was the father of Guy Lovelace who was the father of my mom, Shirley Lovelace Williams. For more details on all the children of Charles Buchanan and Nancy Jane Yelverton Lovelace, see the Lovelace page.

So yes, that means my grandparents were like fourth cousins -- which is technically ok -- but I do forgive anyone reading this who just whispered under their breath, “well that explains a lot.”

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Yelverton House, photo from Elma Ross Library

Lastly, a Yelverton house I have not seen but ran across a photo of in the genealogy room of the Elma Ross Library in Brownsville, TN is off Highway 138 in the Woodland area of Haywood County and is supposed to have belonged to Etheldred (pronounced Eee-thell-dred) Yelverton, the brother of Polly, Maggie and Nancy Jane.

Dred,” as he was called, was apparently an angry man. Although the number of children he had could have contributed to his bad temper. If the research is correct, Dred was the father of:
Maggie, Ivy Franklin, Glenna, Willis Wilkins, Harry Lewis and Harvey with his first wife. Then came Samuel Edward, May Marie, Lessie Bebe, David Olie, Fred Rainer, Etheldred Hardy Jr., and Alsey Thomas with his second wife.
That’s 13 kids and certainly not a lucky number, especially when you are poor.

A Yelverton descendent, told me her grandmother remembered Etheldred as being a very mean man who was known for things like chaining his son up to a tree in the front yard and, once, causing a man to die by scaring him to death. He apparently lived up to his nickname, “Dred.”

I am pretty sure his sons didn't have the same problem as their Aunt Polly and got in the closest car, train or anything they could find with wheels, the moment they were old enough, and got the heck out of town.

Now that I have completed uploading the info I have to the Yelverton page, I am ready to move on to the family of my second great grandmother, Nancy Marianna Johnson.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Man Named Vivian Married to the Woman Named Joseph

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Back: Allie Marbury Brantley and William "Willie" Day Brantley
Front: Daughters Virginia, Cordillia and Betty
Families grow, split and separate faster than you realize. I assume the offspring of my own children, and their grandchildren and great grandchildren will spend holidays together and be in each other’s lives 50 or 100 years from now. But, more times than not, that's not the case.

I recently attended the family reunion of my maternal grandmother’s family, the Brantleys, and joining us for the occasion was a branch of Brantley family we had never met. They were descendents of a man who I always noticed sitting there on my family tree because of his name, Vivian, and that of his first wife, Joseph.

This was the reunion of the families of Willie and Allie Marbury Brantley’s daughters: Virginia Lovelace, Cordillia Jacocks and Betty Sullivan.

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l to r: My third great grandfather, Henry Day Brantley,
second great grandfather, Henry Preston Brantley and
great grandfather, William Day Brantley

Willie Brantley was the son of Henry Preston Brantley who was the son of Henry Day Brantley.

Henry had several brothers and sisters including Vivian Everett Brantley whose descendents joined us at the reunion. Other than his name, I knew nothing about him. Now, I even have photos.

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Viv and his second wife Josephine

Vivian Everett “Viv” Brantley was born Feb. 3, 1882 in Haywood Co., TN.

On Oct 29, 1900, he married Joseph Lyda Castellaw who was a granddaughter of Thomas Jefferson Castellaw, my third great grandfather on my father’s side, and his first wife Mary Elisar Castellaw.

Two of Viv’s brothers, Archie Brantley and Walter Brantley married sisters of his wife: Mary Castellaw and Emily Castellaw. So three sons of Henry Day Brantley married three daughters of Thomas Jefferson Castellaw Sr. I bet that was a very confused group of cousins.

Another interesting fact is that Lyda Castellaw Brantley’s uncle (the brother of her mother, Emily Thomas Castellaw) was Revered George Thomas who moved to Haywood Co., TN around 1840 to be the pastor of Zion Baptist Church.

In the Haywood Co., TN census of 1910, Viv and Lyda own their farm and live in District five only a few farms away from his brother Reginald and his farm.

In the Haywood Co., TN census of 1920, five farms away from Viv and Lyda is the farm of my great grandparents, Willie and Allie Marbury Brantley and their 3-year-old daughter, Virginia, who is my grandmother.

Lyda died of liver cancer on August 12, 1923 at age 41, leaving behind three children: Joseph, age 22, Robert “Bob,” age 11, and Margaret, age seven. Their last child, Larry Archie, had died as an infant the previous year at seven months old. Both Lyda and Larry Archie are buried at Holly Grove Baptist Church Cemetery in Haywood Co.

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Viv and Josephine Brantley

Four years later, on Aug. 22, 1927, Viv married Anna Josephine Proctor. He was 45 and she was 19.

They had three children: Jerry Proctor, Barbara Josephine and Larry Day, whose middle name came from his grandfather, Henry Day Brantley.

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Viv Brantley with unidentified boys, possibly
the children of his son, Jerry.
Viv died on July 12, 1964 at age 84 in Haywood Co. and Josephine died in Feb. 1981 at age 72.
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Descendants of Viv and Josephine Brantley
At the family reunion were the daughters of Viv and Josephine's son, Larry Day Brantley. It was a lot of fun meeting new family members and filling in some more detail on

You can visit the site to find out more about the Brantley and Castellaw families or check out more pictures from the reunion below. You can click to enlarge the photos below.