Sunday, January 29, 2012

What Happened in 1921 That Burned the People of 1890?

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Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan in "The Kid" in 1921

I am new to genealogy research so I am sure my recent "aha" moment is no news to the men and women who have been doing this for many years. I kept noticing a hole in my census findings for my Haywood County ancestors in 1890.

Digging a little deeper, I discovered the majority of the census records for 1890 were destroyed by a fire on January 10, 1921. My curiosity was peaked and it seems to be such a significant loss for genealogists, I decided to explore both the loss of the records and what was going on during that time in history to see what exactly happened.

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Postcard from Hot Springs, Arkansas, 1921


In early 1921, "The Kid" starring Charlie Chaplin had just opened, the very first religious service was broadcast in the U.S. from KDKA Radio of Pittsburgh and Hot Springs, Arkansas had just become the eighteenth location to be designated as a National Park. 

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Charles Buchanan and Nancy Jane Yelverton Lovelace, date unknown

In Haywood County, TN the home of Charlie B. and Nancy Jane Lovelace had finally begun to empty as the last of their 12 children were finally leaving (two additional children had died young). Their son Jim and his wife Ruby were next door with their six children including my grandfather Guy who was five. Ruby was pregnant with what we now know was her youngest daughter, Marie.

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The Willie Brantley family in 1926

About three miles north, Willie and Allie Brantley were setting up their farm and already had a 3-year old, my grandmother Virginia, and a toddler, her sister Cordilia. They were living next door to Archie and Mary Castellaw Brantley and the family matriarch, Margaret Rebecca Steele Brantley. Their daughter, Betty, would arrive in 1926.

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The Bob Castellaw family around 1912

Just a few miles east and right across from Holly Grove church, the Bob Castellaw home was full of children, from the oldest, Isaac, to the youngest, my grandmother Elizabeth who was six. Bob's mother, Nancy Mariana Johnson who had lived right across the road had just passed away on January 8, 1921.

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The Will Williams family around 1921

If you went south, toward Madison County, you would have found things were looking brighter for my great grandfather, Will Williams. His wife had died six years earlier and he had struggled for a while to keep things together and his in-laws had even threatened to take away his son, Bo, my grandfather. But, by 1921 he had two daughters with his new wife, Eva, and she was pregnant with another. Eventually, they would have eight children together.

In Washington D.C., Warren G. Harding was about to be inaugurated as the twenty-ninth President of the United States and the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution had just gone into effect, prohibiting the making, selling, possession, and consumption of alcoholic beverages...creating the opportunity for moonshiners and planting the seed that would become NASCAR.

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Commerce Department Building
19th Steet and Pennsylvania Avenue, northwest of the White House

In 1921, there was no "National Archives" so the eleventh census of the United States, taken in 1890, was stored in the Commerce Department Building which was at 19th Steet and Pennsylvania Avenue, northwest of the White House.

It was a treasure trove of information and was the first census to use "punchcards and an electrical tabulation system." The 1890 census had generated, for the first time, a separate form for each family, the number of children born vs. number living and even included a question about Civil War service.

Unfortunately, most of that information is gone. An article written by Kellee Blake in 1996 for "Prologue Magazine" explains what happened.
"At about five o'clock on that afternoon, building fireman James Foster noticed smoke coming through openings around pipes that ran from the boiler room into the file room. Foster saw no fire but immediately reported the smoke to the desk watchman, who called the fire department.

Minutes later, on the fifth floor, a watchman noticed smoke in the men's bathroom, took the elevator to the basement, was forced back by the dense smoke, and went to the watchman's desk. By then, the fire department had arrived, the house alarm was pulled (reportedly at 5:30), and a dozen employees still working on upper floors evacuated. A total of three alarms and a general local call were turned in.

After some setbacks from the intense smoke, firemen gained access to the basement. While a crowd of ten thousand watched, they poured twenty streams of water into the building and flooded the cellar through holes cut into the concrete floor. The fire did not go above the basement, seemingly thanks to a fireproofed floor. By 9:45 p.m. the fire was extinguished, but firemen poured water into the burned area past 10:30 p.m. Disaster planning and recovery were almost unknown in 1921. With the blaze extinguished, despite the obvious damage and need for immediate salvage efforts, the chief clerk opened windows to let out the smoke, and except for watchmen on patrol, everyone went home."
Fortunately, the census schedules of 1790-1820 and 1850-1870 were on the fifth floor of the Commerce Building and not damaged.

What happened next is even more frustrating than when CVS destroyed the Union Avenue Baptist Church (my lifelong anti-CVS protest is still strong, see CVS Killed My Grandma).

The records that had been ruined or damaged had been moved to a warehouse for temporary storage while rumors were circulating among those who cared that they would be completely destroyed rather than spend any government money on any restoration. It seems historians, government officials, genealogical organizations and others protested loudly and any thought of destruction of the records was quieted.  In May 1921, everything was taken back to the Commerce Building.

For ten years, what remained of the 1890 census was kept in the Commerce Building but apparently no real recovery was initiated. What happened next is really insane.
"In December 1932, in accordance with federal records procedures at the time, the Chief Clerk of the Bureau of Census sent the Librarian of Congress a list of papers no longer necessary for current business and scheduled for destruction. He asked the Librarian to report back to him any documents that should be retained for their historical interest. Item 22 on the list for Bureau of the Census read "Schedules, Population . . . 1890, Original." The Librarian identified no records as permanent, the list was sent forward, and Congress authorized destruction on February 21, 1933. At least one report states the 1890 census papers were finally destroyed in 1935, and a small scribbled note found in a Census Bureau file states "remaining schedules destroyed by Department of Commerce in 1934 (not approved by the Geographer)."
What the heck people of 1932? I understand the depression was going on but come on.

These are a few fragments of the records remaining from Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, and the District of Columbia but only 6,160 names are included.

If you are interested in the topic, this presentation by archivist Constance Potter looks at why some records did not survive and how others just made it to the National Archives.

For more about my family research, visit my Blog Home Page or the Haywood County Line Genealogy Page.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Man of Pleasing, Attractive Personality and was Loved and Admired for his Honest Traits and Character and his Friendly Disposition Which Attracted to Him a Legion of Friends

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The children of Ben and Mary Marbury:
l to r top: John W., Rosa and Robert
bottom: Hardy Joyner and Wiley

That impressive headline is from the obit of my second great grandfather, Hardy Joyner Marbury.

My cousin Betsy recently emailed me this great photo she found of him and his Marbury siblings.

The Marburys are really interesting branch of my tree to research because their lineage can be traced all the way back to Alfred the Great.

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Hardy Joyner Marbury

I had never seen Hardy. To me, he looks a lot like my uncle, Bill Lovelace.  Hardy was the father of my great grandmother, Allie Marbury Brantley who was the mother of my grandmother, Virginia Brantley Lovelace.

Hardy Joyner Marbury was born on May 25, 1872 in Haywood County, TN.

As a young boy, he lived with his parents, Benjamin Franklin and Maggie Yelverton Marbury and siblings on a farm in district four of Haywood County, next door to his mother's parents, Samuel and Ann Yelverton.

His mother died when he was only 12 in 1884 and his father died shortly after that. According to family history, Hardy's father, Ben, was killed by a train while walking down railroad tracks between Jones Station and Allen’s Station in Haywood Co., TN. He was buried in the Zion Baptist Church Cemetery. I am uncertain who raised Hardy and his siblings after their parents deaths.

On August 26, 1893, 19-year-old Hardy Marbury married Sarah Evelena “Lena” Booth. Lena was the daughter of William G. “Billy” Booth and Elishia White.

Hardy and Lena are mentioned in the diary of early Haywood County resident, Sim Cobb:
March 21, 1890

Rained last night and through the day; rolled logs; Willie and J.E. Lott, Albert Cobb, W.T. Cobb, J.F. White, Hardy Marbury, Ed Mitchell, Will Raddle, and Mr. Hunter was the help. pg. 492

April 15, 1890

Rained very much last night and through the day; Hardy Marbury was here today; Ada and Lena got 5 cents worth of chewing gum. pg. 493

“Nicholas Cobb Descendants" by Joe H. Cobb. 

In 1895, at the age of 23, Hardy joined Holly Grove Baptist Church.

In the census of 1900, Hardy was 28 and Lena was 31. Residing with them are their three children, Dennis who was seven, Maggie who was four and Allie who was two. The family owned both their farm and their home and both Hardy and Sarah could read and write.

10 years later, in the census of 1910, they had added a daughter to the family. Mabel was age nine in 1910. The family also had a 16-year-old boarder named John H. Mann.

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Hardy Marbury Obit

Hardy died in 1932 at the age of 59 and was buried at Holly Grove Baptist Church cemetery. His oldest son had died a year earlier and his oldest daughter would die just a year later.
Hardy Marbury Obituary
"Brownsville States Graphic"
March 1932

Mr. Hardy Marbury was born May 25th, 1872 and departed from this life March 2nd, 1932. He was married to Miss Lena Booth, August 26th, 1893.

He professed faith in Christ and united with Holly Grove Baptist church in 1905, later moving his membership to Allen’s Baptist church, living a committed Christian life.

He is survived by his wife and three children, Mrs. Herbert Lee Marbury, Mrs. Willie Brantley of Brownsville, Mrs. Erban Jackson of Jackson. One sister, two brothers and ten grandchildren.

He was a faithful, devoted husband and father. A man of pleasing, attractive personality and was loved and admired for his honest traits and character and his friendly disposition which attracted to him a legion of friends.

Though the inevitable hour has come to him and his soul has winged its flight from the threshold of his earthly home to that Celestial one where he will be forever blessed.

Yet we can always remember him for the life he lived and the sunshine he scattered and the love he possessed within his soul for others.

For all that the master does,
Is done for the best,
For his life has been chosen
Here from all the rest
His work here is o’er,
His battle is won,
The task he attempted here,
Has been done.
His soul has taken refuge,
To that bright shining shore;
Where he will join with
The happy throng forever more.


Hardy's wife, Lena, lived for many years with her daughter and son-in-law, Allie and Willie Brantley until her death in 1949. My mother, who was nine when Lena died, remembers her as dressing in black, being quite and just sitting in a rocking chair dipping snuff. My mother remembers pulling off limbs of a sweet gum tree for Lena to use to brush her teeth.

For more, visit my Blog Home Page or the Haywood County Line Genealogy Page.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

How Granny and Daddy Bo's Fight in 1975 Helped Me Find Some Old Photos Today

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Daddy Bo, Granny and me around 1970 likely at The Smokies

I recently found more really old family photos thanks to my 12-year-old self and my grandmother, Elizabeth Castellaw Williams.

I actually got my first taste of genealogy from Granny, as we called her, one summer when I was about 12. I was spending a week with my grandparents near Holly Grove in Haywood County, and a heated argument broke out between them. I remember it like it happened yesterday. I was hiding behind the well house in their back yard, surrounded by irises, so I had a perfect view of Granny standing on the landing at the back door, hands on her hips, breathing hard, and Daddy Bo down below looking like he was ready to explode but not quite sure how.

I remember she had a tissue in her hand and she was wiping sweat off her forehead. Some pretty ugly accusations were thrown around and Granny threatened to throw Daddy Bo out and take "Poppa's land" and there was no way she was going to let him send her to Bolivar. I remember him being at a loss for words, shaking his head and walking away.

I would eventually discover they were a passionate couple. Heated arguments one minute with him living in a trailer in the back and then holding hands the next. You could easily tell the status of their relationship by whether his recliner was in the den or if he had moved it into the kitchen so he could watch wrestling alone. One never knows what really goes on in a marriage but I know for certain, their's was never boring.

Anyway, Daddy Bo left and spent the rest of that day at the barn and I guess Granny needed an ally so she began talking about the past and her parents and siblings and things that happened years ago.

She pulled out some old albums and some envelopes stuffed with papers and photos and began telling me some fascinating stories that involved sex, death, land-stealing, arson and the place everyone in Haywood County feared, "Bolivar," which was, and actually still is, the location of Western State Mental Hospital.

I was terrified and excited all at the same time.

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Joe Williamson and daughters
Janie (Daddy Bo's mother), Jessie, Nannie, Jo and Mai

As she was telling the stories, I mentioned I needed to figure out a way to remember who was in the pictures so she got a pen and began writing on the first one. I stopped her after that first photo and got some paper and drew outlines of the people and she identified them. Since I was so into it, Granny said she would give me the photos when she died.

I gave the paper with the drawings to my mother and went on with my life. 

True to her word, when Granny died in 1998, among some of the things in the chest she kept in the guest bedroom was an envelope with "give to Scott Williams" written on it. Along with the old photos she had shown me she had also added a few others.

I recently ran across the drawings at my mother's house and it made me remember the envelope of photos Granny had left me. I located the photos in the same envelope in an old filing cabinet we keep in the attic.

Below are the drawings and the photos from the envelope:

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Robert Edward "Bob" and Zula Zera Watridge Castellaw
and children around 1908

back row l to r: Bob, Isaac, and Daniel
front row l to r: Brant, Rob Zula and Irene

Ruby and Elizabeth were not yet born

This photo is still in remarkably good shape and has a lot of details. It shows how much Bob had aged by the time the photo above was taken. Daniel is looking like he wants to get away.

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Robert Edward "Bob" Castellaw and sons Isaac,
Daniel and Robert Jefferson around 1899

Although my grandmother identified the people in these photos, I am not certain she was correct. After chatting (via Facebook) with my cousin Sandra, we believe the lady in the photo marked as number two is actually Nancy Marianna Johnson Castellaw who was Granny's paternal grandmother. 

We're still checking on the identity of the others.

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Likely Robert Edward Castellaw around the 1890s
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Likely Nancy Marianna Johnson
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Likely Zula Zera Watridge Castellaw around the 1890s

Also in the envelope were six photos of my dad as a boy.

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Bob Williams

My grandmother must have liked this photo of herself since it was the only one she included. She and my grandfather have a Bonnie and Clyde thing going.

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Lloyd "Bo" and Elizabeth Castellaw Williams
at a gas station around 1935

If you went to the Memphis Zoo in the '40s and '50s you probably had a photo made like this one of my father.

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Bob Williams at the Memphis Zoo in the late 1940s

I had to get my dad to help identify these people. A few of them we can't ID. Email me if you know who they are.

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children on front row: Jerry Taylor, unknown, Bob Williams,
Glynn Watridge, Unknown, Ann Sullivan

second row: Edna Watridge, Elizabeth Williams, Martha Edna, Hubert Jones

back row: Everette Watridge, Bo Williams, Sonny Boy Taylor

For more, visit my Blog Home Page or the Haywood County Line Genealogy Page.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hugh Jackman, Andrew Lytle and I in the Bahamas

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l to r: Hugh Jackman, Hugh Jackman's nanny, and me

So my wife and I were at a water park in Atlantis at Nassau a few days ago with Hugh Jackman, the actor. OK, so we weren't exactly "with" Hugh but we were at there at the same time and, as you can see, I have the picture to prove it.

Traveling can be a pain but, in addition to offering the occasional opportunity for a random celebrity sighting, it's a great chance to catch up books that need to be read.

For this trip, I included "A Wake for the Living" by Andrew Lytle which was published back in 1975.

I've run across references to Lytle several times in researching my own Tennessee ancestors and wanted to find out more about him and his writing. He was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in 1902 and went to Sewanee Military Academy, Exeter College in Oxford and Vanderbilt University.

Lytle helped to found the Southern Agrarian Movement in the early 1930s with eleven other well-known southern writers, poets, essayists, and novelists. They were major contributors to the revival of Southern Literature in the 1920s and 1930s now known as the Southern Renaissance.

"The Twelve Southerners" as they were called, valued many aspects of Southern culture and confronted the "widespread and rapidly increasing effects of modernity, urbanism, and industrialism on Southern culture and tradition" in the early '30s.

In this book, Lytle does pretty much what I try to do with my Web site which is explore each branch of his family tree and try to present who they were by looking at what they did.

I was hooked on the book as early as page three:
"If you don't know who you are or where you came from, you will find yourself at a disadvantage. The ordered slums of suburbia are made for the confusion of the spirit."
That's one of those sentences that are worth reading a few times. If I was going to get something tattooed on myself, that might be it.

In "A Wake for the Living," Lytle writes about many of his family's experiences during the decades leading up to The Civil War and then shares a lot of second-hand information told to him about being in and around Tennessee during the war.

I had many Tennessee ancestors who joined the Confederate army so his recounting of the 19th Tennessee Regiment on page 189 was especially interesting as it's possible it included my second great grandfather, Thomas Jefferson Castellaw.
"The weather was almost unendurable. It rained ice. The surface of the roads froze. Snow fell, and the covering was slick as glass until the heavy wagon wheels broke through into the frigid slush beneath. In places the teams went down belly-deep, and Hood's barefooted infantry staggered through the freezing mud, sometimes up to their armpits. The jagged ice cut their frostbitten feet and smeared the way with blood, congealed enough in places to mark the ice. An ox, exhausted with work, fell by the side of the road; and before the blood could congeal, the desperate men had stripped his hide from his smoking body and tied it about their feet."
Dang, that's some good writing.

Lytle wrote many other books, several of which I have now ordered and plan to read the next time I am headed out looking for celebrities to stand close to.

"Bedford Forrest and His Critter Company" is considered one of the best works about the Civil War general Nathan Bedford Forrest.

Lytle spent the last 20 years living in his cabin on the grounds of the Monteagle Sunday School Assembly, not far from the campus of the University of the South. He died in 1995 at the age of 92.
Andrew Lytle Obit in The New York Times
December 15, 1995

Andrew Lytle, an author, critic, teacher and raconteur and the last of the 12 Southern writers who banded together in the 1920's to form the Agrarian movement, died on Tuesday at his cabin in Monteagle, Tenn. He was 92.

Although he was overshadowed by such Agrarians as Robert Penn Warren, John Crowe Ransom, Donald Davidson and Allen Tate, Mr. Lytle is considered to have more than earned his chapter in "I'll Take My Stand," their 1930 manifesto warning of the perils of industrialization and urbanization.

More so than the others, Mr. Lytle, whose essay, "The Hind Tit," was a paean to the small farm, actually lived the agrarian tradition. The only real farmer in the group, he ran a series of family-owned farms and tended a garden that supplied virtually all the produce for his table until he was well into his 80's.

As an author, Mr. Lytle was a writer's writer, one whose finely honed intricate tales tended to win more critical praise than popular acclaim. His first novel, "The Long Night" (1936), and "At the Moon's Inn" (1947) were both well received, but it is "The Velvet Horn," (1957) that is regarded as his masterpiece.
For more, visit my Blog Home Page or the Haywood County Line Genealogy Page.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Grave Hunting

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l to r: Louisa Johnson, Bob Williams, Scott Williams, Charles Randall Johnson

I recently wrote in this blog about my third great grandfather, Charles Randall Johnson. During the recent holiday week, my Dad and I decided to try and find the grave of our ancestor and his wife, Louisa Wood Johnson.

We headed to the Johnson Grove area of Crockett County, TN and after a lot of wrong turns and asking a couple of strangers, we finally found the cemetery. In case you ever want to visit Charles and Louisa, once you pass Tucker's Grocery on Castellaw Rd., you'll turn left at Johnson's Grove Baptist Church.

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Tuckers Gro. on Castellaw Rd.

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Johnson's Grove Baptist Church

There is actually another connection between the church and my third great grandfather. He donated the land on which the church stands.

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The deed of land to the church
from Charles Randall Johnson's
Number 711
C.R. Johnson
To Deed
Baptist Church

Haywood County Tennessee
Know all men by these ? that I Charles R. Johnson of the state and county above ? have this day ? unto the Baptist Church of ? called Johnsons Grove and worshiping in Haywood County Tennessee may right and title to one acre and nine poles of the land upon which this house of worship now stands. The title to be fully and entirely vested in through long as thoz shall use the house and land to worship as a Baptist church having the privilage to extend the house to other denominations as a matter of ? which ? in this ? beginning at a...

C. R. Johnson 

Once you drive about a half mile down Johnson's Grove Rd, you'll see The Castellaw Cemetery up on a hill on the right.

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The Castellaw Cemetery

In addition to Charles and Louisa, there were lots of other family members buried in the cemetery.  

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Headstone of John Edward Castellaw

John Edward Castellaw
married two of the daughters of Charles R. Johnson. In 1854 he married Margaret Wood Johnson and then after she died, he married her sister and my second great grandmother, Nancy Mariana Johnson. Interestingly, John Edward was also a half brother to Nancy's first husband, Tom Castellaw. John Edward and Tom had the same father, Thomas Jefferson Castellaw Sr. who was my fourth great grandfather.

Once we left the Castellaw Cemetery, we headed a few streets west and found another of Charles and Louisa's children, William R. Johnson and his wife Mariah. This couple's grave sits surprisingly close to the road on the edge of a field.

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Headstones of William R. and Mariah Johnson

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Headstones of William R. and Mariah Johnson

In the past, their graves were each next to a tree but now, the trees too have died and there remains only stumps where they once were. That is likely what kept their headstones from being destroyed by farming equipment.

From what I have been able to find, it appears they did not have children of their own, but after William’s father died, he became the legal guardian of his youngest siblings, Zach and Louisa. I have not found any more information on the siblings.

As we headed back out of town, I noticed a possible cemetery in the middle of a field. Out in the country, if you spot a clump of trees that farmers have not touched, there's a good chance someone is buried there.

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I ran through what looked like to me like grass (sorry, I'm not a farmer) and pushed my way through a lot of growth and discovered...

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the solitary grave of Major J. E. Varner who was born on March 11, 1842 and died February 15, 1873. I don't know who he was but I do know he was a Mason. If you have been looking for your Varner ancestor, here he is.

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Major J. E. Varner

That ended of our grave hunting for the day and we headed to Herbie Town.

For more, visit my Blog Home Page or the Haywood County Line Genealogy Page.