Sunday, February 22, 2015

Iva McElroy, my wife's great-grandmother

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Iva Griffith McElroy

I usually blog about my adventures while researching my own genealogy, but for a long time I've been wanting to begin looking into the ancestry of my wife Michelle.

A few years ago, her father gave her a box of things that belonged to her paternal great-grandmother, Iva Griffith McElroy, and at the top of my list for 2015 was to explore its contents. Because I love old photos, I was especially pleased to find several envelopes of negatives included with the photos, clippings and articles that were in the box.

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Since we were snowed in this weekend, it gave me time to scan the negatives and upload them to this Flickr gallery.

Most were taken in the 1940s and while I don't know everyone in the photos, I do recognize Michelle's paternal grandparents, Rose Johnny Lee Williams. I assume Michelle's great-grandmother took most of the photos because her name is on all the envelopes. Iva had quite a talent for photography, among other things.

Iva Ann Griffith was born June 27, 1900 in Cambridge, Nebraska. According to the 1900 census, taken a few months before her birth, Iva's mother, Lethie Minerva Griffith, was the head of the household. Also living in the home was Lethie's three-year-old daughter, Mabel, and 28-year-old brother, George Arbaugh.

Iva's mother had married Charles Wesley Griffith (Sept. 27, 1846 - Mar. 20, 1908) on June 28, 1895. It's unknown where he was when the 1900 census was taken, but it doesn't seem he was living with the family. Lethie was his second wife and he had a bunch of children with his first.

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Written on the back of photo:
Lethie Griffith's Blacksmith Shop, 1905
Arco, Idaho

By 1905, Lethie had moved to Arco, Idaho where she apparently managed a blacksmith shop and by 1908, it appears she possibly married Leon R. Richards and eventually settled in Clackamas, Oregon.

In a document completed in 1957, Ida wrote her mother's name was Letha Tyson so that needs a little more research.

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In a Portland Hospital by L.M. Griffith

Lethie was also a poet as indicated by a note on a page taken from a book of poetry called "Gems of Poesy." Michelle's grandmother, Rose Reyner, wrote that her grandmother had written the poem.

Lethie died Oct. 30, 1932 at age 66.

Iva married Alvin Allen Hash (Oct. 23, 1894 - March 31, 1957) in Oregon in 1920. Their children were John A. Hash, George Hash, Rose Hash (Michelle's paternal grandmother) and William Hash.

According to the 1940 census, the family was living together in Clackamas, Oregon. From 1949 to 1951, Alvin and Iva Hash owned and operated cottages and I assume the photos from the negatives were taken around this time and are of their children and guests at the cottages.

At some point in the early 1950s, Alvin and Iva divorced and he married someone named Dollie. Alvin Hash died March 31, 1957 and was buried at the Willamette National Cemetery in Portland.

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Letter of recommendation for Iva Hash

Through the 1950s, Iva worked a variety of jobs including manager of railroad dorms, home mother at a children's home and cook at the Rainbow Inn in Lebonon, Oregon.

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Possibly Joseph Lynn McElroy

Iva met Joseph Lynn McElroy at a Billy Graham Crusade and they married in Ada, Idaho on March 14, 1958.

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Iva's clippings relating to her son's ministries

Her faith was obviously important to Iva and all three sons, John, George and Bill, became ministers.

By the time Iva met Joseph McElroy he was also a man of faith but that had not always been the case.

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The McElroy Family
(Joseph Lynn McElroy far left)

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Joseph Lynn McElroy's graduation photos

McElroy was a very successful engineer who had built many large buildings in Portland, Oregon and had been a major contributor to the building of the Bonneville and McNary dams on the Columbia River. According to family stories, the loss of his business to an unscrupulous business partner and the death of his young son left McElroy depressed and he eventually became an alcoholic.

One night God spoke to McElroy and told him he was going to become a great missionary. He never drank again and dedicated his life to sharing the Gospel.

After they were married, Iva and Joseph McElroy spent time in Jamaica as missionaries. McElroy died on Feb. 6, 1972 in Oregon City, Oregon.

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Iva (right) and her sister, May Greer

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Ida McElroy toward the end of her life

Ida McElroy died on December 26, 1975 and was buried at the Mountain View Cemetery in Oregon City, Oregon.

Iva's son, Dr. John A. Hash, founded Bible Pathway Ministries, an organization that provides devotional content and Bibles to countries around the world.

He died at the age of 90 in 2012.

For more blog entries, visit my Blog Home Page or to check out the genealogy research about my specific family lines, go to my Haywood County Line Genealogy Website.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Brother George Williams' slaves

                                                                  Photo/Lib. of Congress

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Modern handwritten note in case: Slave nanny/white
child image came from an estate sale somewhere
in the flat lands delta area of Arkansas.

Slavery as a concept sucks. No one really disputes that now. But it's hard to get past slavery as a concept and really feel the horror that it truly was.

My ancestors who migrated from Bertie County, North Carolina to Haywood County, Tennessee in the 1830s succeeded because the Delta ended up being the perfect place for growing cotton. The more cotton they grew, the more successful they became and the more land they could acquire. And the only way they could grow that much cotton was by using slave labor.

I've been reading a lot lately about attitudes and the cultural aspects of slavery in the South in an attempt to figure out was going on in the minds of my slave-owning ancestors in the early 1800s but it hasn't really connected personally for me until this week when I began reading some of the probate documents from the estate of my fourth great-grandfather, Brother George Williams (1797 - Oct. 3, 1852).

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Probate record from the estate of
George Williams, December
term of the Madison County Court
of 1852

From the records, I know that when he died, Williams was the owner of four slaves: Milly, a woman who was young enough to be the mother of small children; Ned, Millie's son who was around three years old; Winnie, Millie's daughter who was around nineteen months old; and Henrietta, a young girl who was fifteen years old.

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Probate Record of the estate of
George Williams, Jan. 5, 1853

It seems after George died, the assets of his estate were being divided among his wife Nancy (who remarried quickly after his death), his son Solomon Williams and his grandson Hugh A. Montgomery. 

It was determined the four slaves were to be sold and the proceeds split between the family members.

The slaves were "offered at the courthouse door in Jackson, Tennessee on Jan. 1, 1853. Henrietta was sold to Anderson Delapp for $759 while the little children, Ned and Whinney, were sold to Peyton Graves. Interesting to note the family had specifically requested the two children be sold together. That begs the question, if they were empathetic enough to make that request, why not give the children their freedom? 

Milly, the children's mother, was not there to see them sold and taken away. Included in one of the documents was the simple statement "the fourth one Milly having died since the last court."

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Physical and mental evaluation of Henrietta

One document in particular provides the most insight into the minds of those for whom slavery was a normal part of society. I warn you, it's not easy to read.

January 4, 1853

Mr. Stephens

Dr. Fenner and myself have examined the girl Henrietta belonging to the Williams Estate and as to the state of mind think her about a smart and sensible as she looks to be just the plain ordinary amount of intellect of a coarse field hand. No reasonable ground of objection on this score.

As to the health of body she is in one important particular (of the state of her monthly periods) unsound and from the statement of the negro confirmed by statement of Mrs. Williams has been so since the spring of 1852.

We do not apprehend that she is incurably so but it will require exemption from exposure and skillful medical treatment to give her the best chances for relief from the suppression of the important function and if not relieved (for this often obstinate) her value as a breeding woman would be destroyed and her general health after some time might be so undermined as to lessen decidedly her usefulness as a working hand.

Respectfully submitted by A. Jackson 

The sale of all three slaves was later "set aside" and it was determined that they would be sold "as such time as petitioners shall instruct the court."

This is a story with details I'll never be able to figure out and it generates a lot of questions that will never be answered. 

After the Civil War, many slaves took on the names of their owners so it's just possible the siblings Ned and Whinney took the last name Williams. Ned Williams would have been born in Madison County, Tennessee in 1848 and Whinney Williams would have been born around 1850. Their mother's name was Milly.

I'll never understand how anyone could justify or explain the atrocities of slavery, but by writing about these four, at least I'll make certain their sacrifice is remembered somewhere.

For more blog entries, visit my Blog Home Page or to check out the genealogy research about my specific family lines, go to my Haywood County Line Genealogy Website.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

More details about Brother George Williams discovered

One question those of us who claim genealogy as a hobby often hear is, “how far back have you gotten?”

When asked (and frequently without being asked) I can tell you about one of my sixth great-grandfathers, John Baptist Lovelace, born in 1712 in Baltimore or one of my seventh, James Castellaw, born in 1685 in Renfrewshire, Scotland. I can tell you all about one of my eighth great-grandfathers, Richard Cobb, who was born in the mid 1500s and was educated at Oxford or his son who arrived in Jamestown in 1613.

And the Marbury side? No lie. I can go all the way back to Alexander the Great.

Since Williams is my surname, it’s the branch of my tree I would really like to be able to track as far back as possible. Unfortunately, I've never been able to get the Williams family beyond my fourth great-grandfather, Brother George S. Williams who was born in 1797 in North Carolina.

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Will Williams, Lloyd "Bo" Williams and Bob Williams

Brother George S. Williams was the father of Solomon “Sol” Williams who was the father of George D. (probably Dempsey) Williams who was the father of Will Williams who was the father of Lloyd “Bo” Williams, who was the father of Bob Williams who was the father of me. 

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Holly Grove Baptist Church
Bertie County, North Carolina

Until last week, what I knew about George was that in 1833 he was a minister leading a congregation at the Holly Grove Baptist Church in Bertie County, North Carolina. Around this time, many of his friends and family were migrating from Bertie County to Haywood County, Tennessee.

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Zion Baptist Church in Haywood County, Tennessee

One of the first things they did when the got to their new home was to set up a church where they could worship. By 1836, they needed a full-time minister for their church, which they had named Zion Baptist Church. They wrote Brother George and his wife Nancy (I do not yet know her last name) and they moved from Bertie County, North Carolina to Haywood County, Tennessee where Brother George became one of the early pastors of the church.

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1950 Census Record of Brother George and Nancy Williams
in Madison County, Tennessee

In 1850, the United States census shows that George (age 53), his wife Nancy (age 40) and their daughter, Harriet (age 17), were living in Madison County, Tennessee, which is just adjacent to Haywood County. His occupation was listed as “Baptist Minister.” They were living next to their son's family (my third great grandparents), Solomon Williams (age 30), Catherion Arthur Nowell Williams (age 23), and their children, Elizabeth (age 6) and George (age 4 months).

The Montgomery family, living on the other side, never seemed relevant to my research so I have always ignored them.

That’s pretty much all I knew about Brother George Williams. He just kind of disappeared after that.

Until last week, that is. I received an email from my cousin Betsy who had gotten an email from Deb, a fellow genealogy researcher who was exploring her Montgomery family line.

As it turns out, Brother George Williams had a daughter named Mariah who married Hugh A. Montgomery on December 7, 1843 in Madison County, Tennessee. Together, they had a son, James Alexander Montgomery, who was born around 1845. This was the Montgomery family living next door to Brother George and Nancy. Mariah Williams Montgomery died very young and her husband remarried. George died soon after and Nancy, his wife, remarried a man named Edward Williams (brother of George perhaps?).

Deb and I emailed a bit and she suggested I check out the files on Family Search she had been using for research and I found even more info to help fill in some blanks on these ancestors.

The settlement of George’s estate and distribution of his land created quite a stack of legal documents for the Madison County probate Court.

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Survey of George Williams land left to his descendants

Multiple surveys of their property were commissioned so the land and property could be divided correctly.

Nancy Williams, the widow of George, sold 100 acres to her son Solomon. However, George left the adjoining land to his grandson, James Alexander Montgomery, who was a minor at this time.

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Signatures on legal documents dividing property of George Williams

It's interesting to see the signatures of my fourth great-grandmother, Nancy Williams, and my third great-grandfather, Solomon Williams, on sone of the documents that were signed more than 160 years ago.

In several places George’s death is stated as occurring on “the 8th of December 1854, but in other places it states “…Rev. George Williams departed this life intestate on the 3rd day of October 1852.” That seems more likely the correct date.

In one document, Nancy is refered to as “Nancy F. Williams” which adds another clue that I may be able to use to help identify her later.

But the best news of all came in the form of additional information provided by Deb that indicates the possibility of the location George's burial place. I've always wondered why George Williams wasn't buried at Zion since he was such a big part of the history of that church.

The Montgomerys buried some of their family members on their land. Deb's research indicates there were at least seven family members buried there, including Mariah Williams Montgomery. The chances are quite good that George Williams could have also been buried in the cemetery alongside his daughter.

                                                                                            Photo/Deb Kueter
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What remained of the Montgomery Family Cemetery in 1995

Unfortunately, a housing development called Walnut Trace was built close to the cemetery along Cooper Anderson Road in Madison County so its very likely nothing remains there today.

In the coming weeks I'll be posting more results from this research about the Williams family.

For more blog entries, visit my Blog Home Page or to check out the genealogy research about my specific family lines, go to my Haywood County Line Genealogy Website.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

An account of the remarkable occurrences in the life and travels of Colonel James Smith

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John Wayne as Colonel James Smith
in "Allegheny Uprising."

Although my ancestors migrated from North Carolina and settled West Tennessee in the early 1830s, they weren’t the first to find the area appealing. Indians like the Chickasaw were using it as a camping and hunting ground for thousands of years before the wagon trains began unloading.

In school, the role of Indians was always part of our early Tennessee History curriculum and most Memphis-area youngsters growing up in the '60s and '70s could count on at least one field trip to Chucalissa Indian Village. It's not even all that unusual to stumble across flint arrowheads in the area, although I've never been that fortunate. While playing in the woods as a young boy, I frequently entertained the idea that an Indian possibly walked over the very spot on which I was standing. 

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Title page of Colonel James Smith's book.

If you happen to have an interest in the Indians of the early colonial period, you may enjoy a book I just finished that's available for free download or in hardcover

“An Account of the Remarkable Occurrences in the Life and Travels of Col. James Smith, Consisting of an Autobiography and an Analysis of Indian Culture” was written by Smith in 1799, 40 years after his capture and captivity by Indians.

In 1755, when he was 18 years old, Smith was part of an army of 1,400 who were sent to attack the French army at Fort Duquesne (now known as Pittsburg) as part of General Edward Braddock’s British Regiment. In his book, Smith claims he was taken captive by a band of Lenape Indians and stayed with them nearly five years.

Although initially beaten and tortured, he was eventually adopted into the tribe and became one of them. This excerpt, which takes place early in his story, shares what happened at the end of the adoption ceremony and is a great example of Smith's style of storytelling. 
"The old chief, holding me by the hand, made a long speech, very loud, and when he had done he handed me to three squaws, who led me by the hand down the bank into the river until the water was up to our middle. The squaws then made signs to me to plunge myself into the water, but I did not understand them. I thought that the result of the council was that I should be drowned, and that these young ladies were to be the executioners. They all laid violent hold of me, and I for some time opposed them with all my might, which occasioned loud laughter by the multitude that were on the bank of the river. At length one of the squaws made out to speak a little English (for I believe they began to be afraid of me) and said, 'No hurt you.' On this I gave myself up to their ladyships, who were as good as their word; for though they plunged me under water and washed and rubbed me severely, yet I could not say they hurt me much." 
His account of his years with the Indians is especially interesting because of his observations and reporting on the tribe’s social structure, religious beliefs and attitudes about Europeans who were settling around them in increasing numbers. 

Smith was one of many around this time who published accounts of first-hand experiences of living with “savages.” These captivity narratives were often based on actual experiences but many contained fictional elements used either to make a point or to make the story more sensational.

After his nearly five years living with the Indians, Smith escaped to Montreal where he was captured by the French and held for four months until being traded in a prisoner exchange with the British. Upon his return home, he said his friends and family "found him quite like an Indian in his walk and bearing."

In later years, Smith led the “Black Boys” a group of men from Pennsylvania who, ten years before the American Revolution, rebelled against the British. He eventually became a legislator in Kentucky, a Presbyterian missionary and a writer. 

Smith died on his farm in Kentucky around 1812. 

The film “Allegheny Uprising” was loosely based on Smith and the Black Boys Rebellion and stared John Wayne as Smith.

For more blog entries, visit my Blog Home Page or to check out the genealogy research about my specific family lines, go to my Haywood County Line Genealogy Website.