Chattanooga Valley Baptist Church Cemetery

Find A Grave volunteers take photos of grave sites around the world, from small family plots to large city cemeteries. The photos go online in a “memorial” to the deceased. Family members can add biographical information and virtual flowers to the memorial of their loved one.

After using the site for many years, I decided to create an account to be able to add photos at the request of people who are learning about their ancestors. It is really easy to click on the “Contribute” tab and add memorials or upload photos to the website.

Today my goal was to respond to several “photo requests” in my area. There were three graves in the Chattanooga Valley Baptist Church Cemetery which had memorials on Find A Grave but no photograph. I clicked on the cemetery profile and found that 85% of the graves had photographs, so I set out to find out about the remaining 15%.

The cemetery is located near Chattanooga, Tennessee, and is on the site of the old Baptist Church, about half a mile south of the new church on Old Chattanooga Valley Road. It was a small, country cemetery, with about 800 graves dating from about 1900 to present. With my husband’s help, I divided the cemetery into quadrants and made notes about the condition of the headstones.

We were looking for the headstones of Charles Cate (1858-1935) and Sarah Cate (1867-1930) in addition to Sarah Deakins (1852-1924). There were about a hundred headstones from that time period of the 1920s or 1930s, but none belonged to the people we were looking for.

I took photographs of standing headstones which were so weathered that no carved words could be seen, and these can be shared with the people who requested photos to give them an idea of the situation.

In the far corner from the gate, with a beautiful view of a creek and several large old trees, was a pile of broken headstones. These probably matched the headstone bases which we found without any information carved into them. The broken fragments were partly buried in piles of leaves and dirt, and we didn’t have the necessary tools to safely move them without potentially damaging the fragile stone.

I plan to contact the church this week and get permission to work with those broken headstones. There are another twelve photo requests for an old cemetery up on Lookout Mountain which we will plan to visit soon and see if we can take pictures of headstones for those who are searching for information about their ancestors.

Name’s the Same

“Five Generations of Williams”

This week, Amy Johnson Crow encourages us to write about a family name that is frequently repeated. In my family we have five generations of Williams, beginning with Conrad Wilhelm Windisch, who Americanized his name to Conrad William Windish when he emigrated from Germany. Conrad was one of the “Forty-Eighters,” a name for immigrants who arrived in the United States around 1848 to escape the devastation following the failed German revolution.

Conrad William Windish (1)

Conrad William was born in the German Kingdom of Bavaria on 12 June 1822 (Find A Grave). We don’t know about his parents or his early life until he immigrated to the U.S. in 1848 through Ellis Island (Ship Passenger List). Conrad appears to have been traveling with a twenty-one year old woman, named M. Windisch, who was also a farmer. It isn’t clear if this woman was his wife or sister or another relation. However, I never found another record with her name on it.

Free Germany Clipart - Free Clipart Graphics, Images and Photos. Public  Domain Clipart.

Conrad and “M” traveled to the port city of Bremen to board a ship called either Fanny (Ancestry.com) or Famal (Ellis Island Foundation) around the first of May 1848. They arrived at Ellis Island exhausted by their voyage. The journey would have been arduous and three years later, the U.S. Congress initiated an inquiry into the “Sickness and Mortality on Board Emigrant Ships,” to investigate the appalling number of people who grew ill and even died on the journey (American Heritage).

It is possible that “M” is one of the thousands who died and was buried at sea, because when Conrad arrived in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania (perhaps to serve his term of indentured servitude in payment for his travel expenses) he was alone (Passenger and Immigration Lists Index).

By 1850, Conrad Wihelm Windisch had Americanized his name. He appears on the U.S. census as Conrad Windish, living in Chester, New Jersey, with several other farm laborers who worked on the Thomas family farm (1850 U.S. Census). One of the other residents was twenty-two year old Louisa Wagner, who had emigrated from Hessen, Germany aboard the S.S. Atlas (1846 Ship Passenger List). Louisa made the transatlantic voyage with her parents, but by 1850, twenty-five year old Louisa was on her own in New Jersey, while her parents were farming in New York.

Conrad and Louisa were married in Philadelphia Pennsylvania in 1852 (Marriage Record), and became naturalized U.S. citizens in 1855 (1900 U.S. census). They raised their children, William, Elizabeth, Georgia, and Frank, in Burlington County, New Jersey.

William Windish (2)

William Windish, the oldest child of Conrad William and Louisa Windish, was born in Burlington County in 1852. William and his siblings were able to attend school (1860 U.S. Census). When he was seventeen, William lived on the Morgan family farm where he and his brother George were farm laborers for part of the year (1870 U.S. Census).

In 1877, William married Alice, the daughter of David and Lydia Vansciver. William and Alice moved to Palmyra in Burlington County, New Jersey, and continued the farming tradition (1880 U.S. Census). Their children, Georgia, Lysia, Dora, William Conrad, and Louisa, were able to get a good education (1900 U.S. Census).

The Windish home on Kossuth Street was in a German neighborhood. Their grandson, Pete, remembers that the neighborhoods of Riverside were divided by nationality (Pete Windish Audio Tape) as more immigrants poured into the area, escaping war and economic depression in Europe. They found plenty of work in New Jersey and the community thrived through the turn of the century and into the early 1900s.

William Conrad Windish (3)

Their son, William Conrad Windish was born on 28 March 1883. William and Alice made sure that their children received an education and had all of the opportunities that life in America could afford. Young William was not a farmer as his parents and grandparents had been. At age 17, he took a job in a local textile mill, knitting socks on one of the big machines that became popular at the turn of the century (1900 U.S. Census). In 1902, he married Jeanette Lillian Baugh, a young lady from across the river in Philadelphia. William found a more profitable job at the Watch Case factory (1910 U.S. Census). They rented a home on Delaware Avenue in Riverside, New Jersey, where they raised three children: William Samuel, George, and Bessie.

Watch Case Building Riverside NJ 062611 | Former Keystone Wa… | Flickr
Watch Case Factory, Riverside New Jersey

William Samuel Windish (4)

William Samuel Windish was born in Riverside, New Jersey in 1903. He was a member of the Greatest Generation, growing up during World War I. He married Mae Agnes Endicott in 1930, just as the Great Depression was beginning and the young couple lived with the Endicott family as they were getting their start in life.

Nelson William Windish (5)

William and Mae were pioneers at heart. In 1932, they moved from their bustling New Jersey city to an isolated cabin in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Northern California. In 1933, Mae gave birth to twin boys– Nelson William and Ike Windish. However, Ike was a frail baby and died due to lack of medical care. The family was devastated and Mae insisted that they move back to the city where her children could benefit from good schools and doctors.

Nelson William’s brother, Pete, told a story of when the boys were young. They had chronic throat and sinus problems, so the doctors suggested both boys have their tonsils out around the year 1945. Their parents checked them in to the local hospital one evening with plans to have surgery early the next morning. However, William and Pete were nervous and since their hospital room was on the first floor, they waited until everyone else was asleep then they climbed out the window and walked home. The next morning their mother found them sleeping in their beds as if nothing was wrong! The doctor said they had to have the surgery, so back to the hospital they went and this time the surgery took place. Both boys felt like they earned all of the ice cream that was served to soothe their sore throats afterward and it did help their chronic illness so it was worth the effort.

When the boys were teenagers, Mae and William moved them back to the Sierra Nevada Mountains where Nelson William worked in one of the last gold mines in California.

There you have it, five generations of Williams, from Germany to California! If you have German ancestry you can learn more about German Immigration at FamilySearch.

Works Cited

1846 Ship Passenger List, The Statue of Liberty—Ellis Island Foundation, database and images (https:// heritage.statueofliberty.org/ : accessed 16 February 2021), “Passenger Record,” for Louisa Wagner, age 20, arrived 1 January 1846 on the Atlas.

1848 Ship Passenger List, The Statue of Liberty—Ellis Island Foundation, database and images (https:// heritage.statueofliberty.org/ : accessed 16 February 2021), “Passenger Record,” for C. Windish, age 25, arrived 1848 on the Famal.

1850 U.S. Census, Chester, Burlington, New Jersey, population schedule, p. 93B, dwelling 137, family 140, Conrad Windish and Louisa Waggoner; database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 10 February 2021); citing NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 443.

1860 U.S. Census, Cinnaminson, Burlington, New Jersey, population schedule, Mount Holly Post Office, p. 961, dwelling 103, family 98, Conrad Windish and William Windish; database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 10 February 2021); citing NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 685.

1870 U.S. Census, Cinnaminson, Burlington, New Jersey, population schedule, Burlington City Post Office, p. 49 (penned), dwelling 397, family 371, William Windish; database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 10 February 2021); citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 854.

1880 U.S. Census, Cinnaminson, Burlington, New Jersey, population schedule, p. 27 (penned), dwelling 241, family 283, William Windish; database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 10 February 2021); citing NARA microfilm publication, roll 772.

1900 U.S. Census, Riverside, Burlington, New Jersey, population schedule, p. 2B, dwelling 31, family 32, William Windish and William Windish; database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 10 February 2021); FHL microfilm: 1240957.

American Heritage

Find A Grave

Marriage Record, Saint Michael’s and Zion Church (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), “Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records, 1669-2013,” Conrad Windisch–Louisa Wagner, 25 February 1852; digital images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 16 February 2021).


The Time My Family Made National News: Harper’s Weekly, 1897

My ancestors have been farmers for hundreds of years. While I find them fascinating, they are decidedly not “newsworthy.” This is why I was totally surprised to find that one time, my ancestors made national news. I wish they had a “feel-good” story that I could enjoy sharing with family and friends. Instead, the New York news magazine Harper’s Weekly reported on my ancestors after a terrible tragedy, “The Tragedy of Buck Island.”

Sketch of Buck Island Massacre from Harpers Weekly, 1897
Image 1, Depiction of the Buck Island Massacre, published in Harper’s Weekly, 1897*

The Rodens are from northern Alabama, where the Tennessee River flows through Marshall County. Before the Tennessee Valley Authority built Guntersville Dam in 1939, there were several small islands in the river. Each winter, farmers would drive their cattle onto these islands for protection from thieves and wild animals. My ancestor, Benjamin Roden, built a small cabin on Buck Island to provide shelter for the men who took turns staying there to guard the livestock. 

One of the reasons that the 1897 Harper’s Weekly article is so wonderful is because the construction of the Guntersville Dam changed the landscape drastically in 1939. The article by John A. Wyeth does a fantastic job describing the landscape just as it was in the mid-1800s, when my ancestors first came to the area.

Wyeth notes, “Just in this bend in the river is a group of islands…Buck Island is one of this cluster and contains about eighty acres of ground…. At the time of which I write, however, it was almost wholly covered with a heavy forest of tall oak, hickory and gum trees, of which the leafy tops shut out the rays of the summer sun while the soil from which they sprung was hidden in a wilderness of cane [he is referring to the native plant called American Bamboo] from ten to thirty feet in height and thick that in many places a man could not penetrate unless with an ax or hunting knife he cut his way… The farmers drove their cattle into these islands for winter pasturage, where upon the rich perennial cane they fattened until the freshets of spring forced them again to higher ground for safety.”

The storm of civil war, Wyeth explains, changed everything for farmers in northern Alabama. “It found a paradise of plenty and left it a wasted, blackened and desolate land. None but those who knew the fertile and beautiful ‘Valley of the Tennessee’ in the days of the old regime, when its hillsides were burdened with fruit and foliage… and then visited after Appomattox, can realize the great change which has transpired… Within a radius of thirty miles, Guntersville, Vienna, Woodville, Camden, Larkinsville, Bellefonte, Stevenson, Scottsboro and Claysville, all thriving towns, were wiped out by fire.” 

Wythe explains that the poor farmers of this region were more concerned with feeding their children than maintaining the Union. They tried to keep out of the Confederate service because, “They held that it was a slaveholders’ war, and as they never owned and never expected to own a slave, they did not see why they should do any of the fighting.” From the records, it sounds like the Roden men were conscripted into the Confederate Army, but they were able to come home occasionally to tend the crops and livestock so that their entire livelihood would not be wiped out.

It was on one of these visits home that the Rodens ran into Ben Harris and his band of “cutthroats and marauders.” These were men who dodged Confederate service by hiding in the wilderness, sometimes spying or conducting guerrilla warfare unofficially on behalf of the Union. Led by Harris, the gang made a business of pillaging farms which men had left to fight in the war. Harris was from northern Alabama himself, so this was a more personal attack than any met on the battlefield.

The Harper’s Weekly article explains that in December 1863, James Roden and his neighbor, Charles Hardcastle, were on leave from the Confederate army to drive their livestock to winter pastures. James and Charles agreed to make the journey to Buck Island together for added protection from cattle thieves. James, his son, Felix, and his brother, Porter, traveled with Hardcastle to Buck Island on December 23rd. The men knew that if they were caught, “they would in all probability share the fate of many others who had been killed by this murderer,” named Harris. 

A week after they settled in, James’s father, Benjamin Roden, came to relieve one of the men. Moments after he arrived at the camp, they were discovered by none other than Ben Harris, accompanied by a squadron of men in U.S. cavalry uniforms. Research later found these men were not Union soldiers, they probably stole these uniforms to keep warm in the winter. Benjamin attempted to reason with the gang, but to no avail. Harris was growing wealthy thanks to his illegal activities, and he wanted no witnesses to haunt him after the war was over. 

Charles, Benjamin, James, Porter, and Felix, were lined up on the bank of the Tennessee River and shot, execution style, their bodies tossed into the river. All four Roden men died on the spot, while Charles was badly wounded. He managed to cling to some driftwood and float away towards the distant shore. Freezing cold and weak from the loss of blood, he made his way to the nearby home of his brother-in-law where he stayed until he was well enough to return home. 

News soon reached James’s wife, Mary. At that time, she was pregnant with James’s eleventh child. Imagine how she felt to discover that James and Felix were never coming home. I am descended from Mary’s daughter, Catherine, who was two years old when her father died. It appears that she never spoke of him to her grandchildren, and in that generation, the grandchildren weren’t allowed to ask such questions or didn’t think to do so. 

This execution-style killing of the Roden family is known as “The Buck Island Massacre,” in local history. It is mentioned on the granite Confederate Monument in front of the Marshall County Courthouse in Guntersville, Alabama.

Image 2. Shared by “Southern Fried Common Sense” 2015*

The Harper’s Weekly was a surprising place to find my family history and it felt very personal in spite of being a national publication. I am still trying to figure out how to feel about an artistic rendering (Image 1) of my great-great-great-grandfather’s murder.

This is Week 7 of the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge. The prompt from Amy Johnson Crow was “An Unusual Source.”

*Works Cited

Roden, C.W. “The Buck Island Massacre — A Roden Family History & Tragedy,” Southern Fried Common Sense. http://southernfriedcommonsense. blogspot.com/2015/03/the-buck-island-massacre-roden-family.html . Accessed 21 February 2021.

Wyeth, John A. In Harper’s Weekly, Vol. 41, p. 897–98. New York, NY: Harper’s Magazine Company, 1897. Read on Google Books https://books.google.com/ books?id=FEVaAAAAYAAJ. Accessed 20 February 2021.

Wyeth, John A. “The Tragedy of Buck Island,” The Progressive Farmer, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 12 Oct 1897, p. 5, col. 2-4. Read on Newspapers.com https://www.newspapers.com/clip/4723731/the-tragedy-of-buck-islandcharles/. Accessed 20 February 2021.

Additional Reading

Bean, Heather. “Grave Reminders,” 28 July 2017. Includes photos of the Roden Family Cemetery near Buck Island and a family photo of some of James Roden’s descendants.

Samuel John Ingram Jr.

(1845-1913)

Born 25 October 1845, Samuel Ingram Jr. was the oldest son of Samuel John Ingram Sr. and Susannah Crawford Ingram. Samuel and Susan were married 22 October 1842 in DeKalb County, Georgia (Georgia, Marriage Records, 1828-1978, image) where their fathers were successful landowners. They purchased land in Randolph County, Alabama in 1850 (U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Doc. #11687) and moved there to raise a family.

In August 1860, fourteen-year-old Samuel Jr. was growing up in a thriving farming community near Rockford, Alabama. He had plenty of family nearby, including grandparents, aunts, and uncles, from both the Ingram and Crawford sides of the family. Samuel, four of his brothers and one sister attended the nearby school (1860 U.S. Census, Rockford, Alabama). The value of the family’s estate was about $1,600, which is the same as $50,200 in today’s American dollars (www.in2013dollars.com).

1860 U.S. Census, Samuel Ingram, image from Ancestry.com

Six months later, the state of Alabama seceded from the Union. The newly formed Confederate States of America attacked Fort Sumter, and on 15 April 1861, President Lincoln called on the militias to suppress the rebellion. By July, Alabama was calling on able bodied men to join the fight for independence.

Samuel enlisted as a Private with the 17th Alabama Infantry Regiment, Company D (U.S., Civil War Soldiers, 1861-1865), along with his brother David. They mustered in Montgomery, Alabama, and spent time in Rome, Georgia, Dalton, Georgia, and Atlanta, Georgia. They moved into Tennessee with General Hood and suffered a great loss at Nashville. Both David and Samuel survived and were decommissioned when the regiment surrendered at Greensboro, North Carolina in 1865 (https://archives.alabama.gov/referenc/alamilor/17thinf.html)

The Ingram family lands were significantly reduced by 1870, and their estate was worth only $200 (1870 U.S. Census), an 85% loss from before the war.

Samuel returned to Coosa County and married Mary Jane Blaylock in 1868 (Alabama, County Marriages, 1805-1967). Between 1870 and 1889, the Ingrams had eight children: Mary S. Ingram 1870, Samuel W. Ingram 1871, George Washington Ingram 1872, Sarah “Nettie” Barnett Ingram 1876, Martha Ingram 1879, Susie Ingram 1880, Annie Georgia Ingram 1883, and Bessie Laura Ingram 1888.

Mary Jane passed away in the late 1880s, and I haven’t yet found a cause of death. Samuel moved in with his oldest son, Samuel, in Shelby County, Alabama. As he grew older, he found a woman who could help take care of him and keep him company in his later years.

Samuel married 38-year-old Oda Gambrell in 1910. Oda had never been married and the pension that she would be entitled to as the widow of a Confederate Veteran would help her in her later years. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement for Samuel and Oda. The couple settled in Vincent, Alabama.

Samuel died in 1913 and he was laid to rest at the Macedonia North Cemetery in Shelby County, Alabama.

Photo shared to Find A Grave by Kitty Walker Lennard www.findagrave.com/memorial/43030578/

52 Ancestors: Favorite Photo

My Grandma Margery raised seven children on the Japanese island of Okinawa. Her husband was stationed at the U.S. Air Force base there twice, with a short break at Keesler AFB in between.

Margery loved Japanese culture, collecting several mementos which adorned her home in Bessemer, Alabama during her later years. The most memorable for me was a graceful porcelain statue of the goddess Guan Yin, standing atop a lotus pedestal with a willow branch resting in her hands. I imagine my grandmother often called on the help of Guan Yin, the deity of mercy and compassion, while she was raising seven children!

By the time I met Margery in the 1980s, her health was failing. She passed away in 1993 just after her seventieth birthday. The few memories I have of my grandma are her frail body and the stacks and stacks of books which she read to pass the time.

When I found this picture of her in the San Bernardino County Sun newspaper, I felt like I was meeting Margery White for the first time. She married Vernon Demaree in 1939 at the age of sixteen. He was twenty years old and earned a good wage as a clerk for the Santa Fe Railroad.

In this photography, Margery, called Margie by her friends and family, was radiant in a traditional white dress of a style that showed off her strong yet graceful figure. With her fair skin and a bouquet resting in her hands, she closely resembles the porcelain statue which she would buy in Okinawa twenty years later.

My mom now has the statue and every time I see it, I think of my Grandma Margery, looking lovely in her white gown with her whole life ahead of her.

This is week 4 of the “52 Ancestors” series inspired by Amy Johnson Crow. I didn’t manage the first three weeks but these are great writing prompts and I will catch them as I can. https://www.amyjohnsoncrow.com/52ancestors52weeks/

Notes:

Martin, Winifred, ed. “Miss Marjorie White Married in Santa Ana.” San Bernardino Daily Sun, July 8, 1939. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/69732608/.

Who’s your daddy, Sarah Ingram?

I started research on the 32 Ancestors project by visiting my Ancestry.com family tree and picking out one of my 3rd-great-grandparents. I didn’t know much about the Ingrams, so it seemed like a good place to start! My records from years ago said that Sarah “Nettie” Ingram’s (1876-1957) parents were John and Sarah Ingram of Walnut Grove, Mississippi. However, the more I looked in to it, the more I realized that the girl, Nettie Ingram of Walnut Grove, did not line up with the woman, Sarah Nettie Ingram of Greenwood, Mississippi.

I know something of Sarah Ingram from her granddaughters, Mary Ann and Catherine Griffin. My Grandmama Mary Ann remembers her grandmother, Sarah Barnett Ingram, coming to visit the Griffins at their home in Montgomery, Alabama. Sarah was a talented seamstress and she always brought beautiful dresses to share with her granddaughters.

Sarah Ingram married her cousin, George W. Ingram, in 1899. They had three children named Thelma, Godfrey, and George C. In 1912, her husband died and Sarah went to work as a seamstress to support her family.

There is a wealth of information available about Sarah Ingram from the time she got married in 1899 until her death in 1957. However, details about her early life are difficult to find.

Then I found Sarah’s obituary and there were so many more questions than I had started with! Her children were all named correctly, but there were four siblings listed as survivors and I had never heard of them (St. Clair News-Aegis, 1957). Stranger still, they were all Ingrams. Wouldn’t that be Sarah’s in-laws, the siblings of her late husband, George Ingram, and not her own biological brother and sisters?

After careful research, I determined that Sarah’s maiden name was Sarah Barnett Ingram. People called her Nettie, short for Barnett. Her parents were Samuel and Mary J. Ingram (1880 U.S. Census, Coosa County, Alabama). Sarah’s husband, George Ingram, was her first cousins, so yes, they were both Ingrams from birth!

George and Sarah shared common grandparents, Samuel and Susannah Ingram.

After George died, Sarah married George M. Tupper. They had one daughter, Clara Tupper Nunn. When Sarah was in her 70s, she moved in with Clara’s family at their beautiful apartment in the New Orleans French Quarter (New Orleans City Directory 1945).

Now I can write my 32 Ancestors post about my 3rd-great-grandparents, Samuel and Mary J. Ingram.

Citations

Google, “Streetview,” digital images, Google Maps (http://maps.google.com : accessed 20 January 2021) photo of 1002 Esplanade Avenue, New Orleans, LA.

“Last Rites Held for Mrs. Sarah Ingram,” St. Clair News-Aegis (Pell City, Alabama), 15 Aug 1957, page 9, col. 4. [database with images] Newspapers.com (http:// newspapers.com : accessed 12 January 2021).

“New Orleans, Louisiana, City Directory, 1945, ” digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 12 January 2021).

Samuel Ingram, head of house. “1880 U.S. Census, Coosa, Alabama.” [database with images] Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 12 January 2021).

Sarah Barnett Ingram (1876-1957)

This week I learned about my great-great grandmother, Sarah Ingram. Her husband died in an accident at the mill where he worked and she used her skills as a seamstress to support three young children. I found several ads in an old Greenwood, Mississippi newspaper where she advertised.

Sarah passed her sewing skills down to her daughter and granddaughters. My grandmother, Mary Ann, told me she and her sisters were envied by the other girls in school because they had the most beautiful clothes! This would have been in Montgomery, Alabama, during the 1930s and 1940s.

Grandmama Mary Ann used to make me dresses like the ones in this picture, into the early 1990s. They were so old fashioned, I really hated them. When I was ten, she sent one made of teddy bear fabric with a big (seriously GIANT) white bib and pink sash. This week it started to make more sense. She enjoyed making us beautiful clothes like her mom and grandmother had done for her. I had no idea it was a family tradition and I have a lot more appreciation and respect for my grandmother’s “old fashioned” hobby.

It wasn’t just a hobby to Sarah Ingram and her daughter. It was a necessity and they took pride in their ability to make something beautiful in an otherwise challenging situation.

32 Ancestors Project

Thanks to modern record keeping and DNA testing, it is fairly easy to research parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Things can start get challenging around the 2nd great-grandparents, and by the time we start to learn about our 3rd great-grandparents, there are so many difficulties with finding accurate records that it takes an experienced family historian or genealogist to form the correct conclusions about who our ancestors are.

Everyone has thirty-two biological 3rd great-grandparents. Those from blended families, including remarriages and adoptions, might include even more ancestors in their family tree!

This year, I’m going to dive in to the notes and records that I’ve collected on my own 3rd great-grandparents. I’ll use the information to write a research report and then pick out the most interesting bits about each person to write a blog post.

I was born around 1980, so my 3rd great-grandparents lived through the Civil War and Reconstruction Era of American history. Some were first generation Americans, while others were from families who had been living in North American for hundreds of years by that point.

In the year 2020, we were plagued by a pandemic, political unrest, and more; but we aren’t the first generation to struggle and overcome adversity. Our ancestors have a lot to teach us about appreciating the time period that we live in, and about what it means to be a citizen of the United States and a citizen of the planet Earth.

In 2021, my goal is to record and share the stories of my “32 Ancestors,” in the hopes that we can learn from the past and realize that we aren’t alone in our struggles. Others have persevered through similar challenges and we are the evidence of their successes.

A Patriot from Colonial North Carolina

The Hicks family has passed down the legend of Colonel Thomas Burwell Davis, an ancestor who served in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. In 2019 they decided to find out how much of the story is true about their Patriot Ancestor.

Burwell Davis was born 14 August 1756 in Granville County, North Carolina located along the Virginia-North Carolina state line. The Davis family came to the area during the Colonial Period, and land records show that they were able to keep the same land in their family for many generations. 

Davis lived in the same community for his entire life, though the name of the county changed three times during his lifetime. When Burwell Davis was born, the community was called Granville County, named for the Earl of Granville, who the locals felt was a British tyrant. In 1764, Bute County was formed from a division of Granville County. In 1779, the North Carolina General Assembly voted to remove the colonial reference to the British Earl of Bute, and renamed the community Warren County, after American Revolutionary War hero, General Joseph Warren. 

During the 1760s, the residents of this farming community on the Virginia-North Carolina border were known for their patriotism. It was said “There are no Tories in Bute,” as the citizens strongly sided with the cause of the American colonists. When war broke out, many local men joined the Continental Army to fight against the British.

In the fall of 1778, Burwell Davis joined the regiment of militia under Colonel Thomas Eaton and General John Ashe at the Bute County Courthouse. He served for a period of six months, seeing action at Briar Creek, South Carolina, and supported American troops who were fighting in Savannah, Georgia, and Charleston, South Carolina. He was discharged and returned home in May of 1779. 

Burwell Davis was drafted a second time in March 1781. He donated a horse to the Continent Army in order to shorten his period of service. Davis served under Captain Thomas Alston of Warren County and Colonel Malmedy, a French immigrant to Rhode Island who was given command of the North Carolina Light Dragoons. After two months, Davis was discharged and returned home in May 1781.

The American Revolution ended on 3 September 1783, when U.S. and British representatives signed the Treaty of Paris. Burwell returned home and started a family. He enjoyed telling his children and grandchildren stirring scenes of his time as a soldier and of life in Colonial America.

Census records from 1790 to 1840 show that Burwell Davis grew in prosperity with each passing decade. At the time of the 1790 U.S. Census, he lived near to his father, Peter Davis. Burwell was the head of a small household, perhaps consisting of himself (free white male age 16 and over), his wife Patsy (free white female), one male child (free white male under age 16), one daughter (free white female), as well as one enslaved person.

By the 1840 U.S. Census, Burwell was the head of a household which contained 40 people. His Will, written 27 June 1842, named many of his children and the enslaved persons who were living in his household. He requested that his estate be kept together for the support of his son, Samuel Davis, and his daughter, Jane Powell. He bequeathed to each of his children a “negro” along with “their increase from this day.”  Additionally, each of his sons received a large tract of land.

On 29 August 1832, Burwell Davis “appeared in open Court before the justices,” and made a statement about his service during the American Revolution. Burwell’s pension record states that his rank was “Private,” and he qualified for a pension of $26.66 per year. Neither his pension record nor his statement at the pension interview mention whether he was ever married nor do they name any other family members. Additionally, the name of the justice who signed the statement of Burwell Davis was Peter R. Davis, but no relationship between the two men was referred to in the document. 

Upon his death in 1846, Burwell Davis was buried in the Shady Grove Methodist Church Cemetery. His headstone reads: 

Burwell Davis

Col. Thomas 

Eaton’s Regt.

Rev. War

His obituary relates that he “commanded in a very high degree the esteem and regard” of his fellow citizens. He was looked upon as a relic of revolutionary times, and the generation “which achieved our country’s freedom and independence.” 

In 1917, the Warren Record did a series of articles on the history of Warren County. They discuss whether it was Burwell Davis, or his father, Peter Davis, who has the honor of being the patriarch of the Davis family in Warren County. The article states that Peter Davis was married twice, and it names ten of his children. The article states that Burwell Davis was married to Patsy Hawkins of Halifax, North Carolina. The couple had eight children: Sallie, Dick, Jennie, Samuel, Nancy, Edward, John S. and Isham. The article continues to say that Burwell Davis was by no means an ordinary man. He was raised in the colonial era and attended school only six months where he learned “reading, writing and ciphering.” As an adult, he “had a great thirst for knowledge,” spending many hours improving his mind by reading books and building an impressive library. Burwell was known as one of the best informed and most interesting men of his day in the county. 

Conclusion

In an affidavit, Burwell Davis states that he was born 14 August 1756, in Bute County, an area known today as Warren County, North Carolina. He was a Patriot during the American Revolutionary War, serving on two different occasions, for a total of eight months, and was discharged with the rank of “Private.”

No records could be found for Colonel Thomas Burwell Davis. However, many “family memories” posted to the Internet name Burwell Davis as “Colonel Thomas Burwell Davis,” perhaps due to misreading the headstone where the name “Colonel Thomas Eaton” is written below that of Davis. 

Bibliography

Burwell Davis Obituary, The Raleigh Register (Raleigh, North Carolina), 01 Sept 1846, p. 2, col 3; digital images, Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/clip/55557522 : accessed 10 March 2019).

Burwell Davis household, 1790 U.S. Census, Warren, North Carolina, page 64; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 10 March 2019), citing National Archives microfilm publication M637, roll 7.

Federal Writers’ Project, North Carolina: A Guide to the Old North State (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1939).

“North Carolina Probate Records, 1735-1970,” images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 19 March 2019), entry for Burwell Davis; Warren County Courthouse, North Carolina.

North Carolina, Secretary of State, Granville Proprietary Land Office: Land Entries, Warrants, and Plats of Survey 1748-1763 Lewis Davis 1754 (North Carolina State Archives: Raleigh, North Carolina).

Peter Davis household, 1790 U.S. Census, Warren, North Carolina, page 64; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 10 March 2019), citing National Archives microfilm publication M637, roll 7.

T. J. Taylor, “Old Times in Warren: Burwell Davis,” The Warren Record (Warrenton, North Carolina), 16 March 1917, p. 1, col 1-2; digital images, Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/clip/55547825 : accessed 10 March 2019).

U.S., Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files (NARA microfilm publication M804, 2,670 rolls). 1832 application of Burwell Davis, aged 76; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15. National Archives, Washington, D.C.; digital image, Ancestry.com