Posted in Ancestor Stories

Loyston Family Relocations

Imagine living on the land that had been in your family for generations. Your great grandfather had immigrated to America and settled in the area that is now your home. Close family and extended family are buried in your backyard. You know everyone who lives in a 10 mile radius since you see them every Sunday at church. To say you have deep roots in this land would be an understatement. Life can be hard, but it is what you know and you love it.

Now imagine a corporation comes in and tells you that you have to move. They explain that this is for your benefit and not theirs. This is the foundation of the Loyston relocation process.

The Interviews

When the Tennessee Valle Authority came in the area for the Loyston relocation, they knew they needed to interview the families who they needed to relocate. In order to do so, they reached out to local teachers and others who they considered “educated”. The thought was, if those who were being relocated were interviewed by others in the community, it may lead to a better outcome. This was true with some of the residents, but others did not trust the TVA no matter who they talked to.

As part of the interview process, Loyston residents were asked about themselves, their family, and how the supported/were supported by the community. Questions ranged from their religious affiliation and where they went to church to what newspapers they subscribed to. It interviewer also asked how far each parent went in school and if anyone in the family had a “physical defect”. No question was off the table in order to help the TVA collection information.

Evaluating Farms

In order for the TVA to give residents a dollar amount for their property, they needed to evaluate three things; the property, the resident’s income, and their expenditures. The majority of the families that were part of the Loyston relocation were farmers. Therefore, much of what was being evaluated had to do with farm land, livestock, and other farming needs.

Property

When looking at the property, the TVA made note of any livestock on the property. This included all animals from horses to bee stands. It was noted how many of each were located on the farm and then assigned a monetary value. Machinery used on the farm was also assigned a value. The last items listed as property was that of a personal nature. This included if the resident owned a car, a radio, a stove, a sewing machine, etc.. Just like the farm equipment, each of these items were given a price as to the value.

Lewis Loy’s Property evaluation
family income

To get a full picture of the family’s income, the TVA looked at both expenditures and receipts. Expenditures included everything from food to feed the livestock to taxes on the property. It also included cost of insuring the property which most farmers did not have. On the receipt side, the TVA looked at if the family when to market and how much they received for selling goods such as fruits, vegetables, milk, and other homemade goods.

The TVA also took into account the cost of running the household. They broke down each food item and evaluated how much the family used and what the cost would be. On some of the documents, you can see the actual receipt tape where the interviewer added up all of this information.

Lewis Loy’s income information
Outside income

The TVA also wanted to know if the resident was receiving what they considered “outside income”. This included income from savings account, pensions, insurance policies, and investments. This is also where if there were any kids living at home and working elsewhere would list their income. As you can see on the example below, the interviewer made a note that Lewis was “very curious about these questions.”

Lewis Loy’s Outside Income Information

The Final Report

After all the questions and evaluations, the interviewer was responsible for writing up a report of their findings. This report was basically an opinion of the interviewer of the likelihood of the resident willing relocating. You can see below in Lewis’ report, that the interviewer said he “gladly cooperated” with the interview, but that his attitude towards the TVA was “antagonistic”. The interviewer goes on to say that Lewis needs “further study” and that Lewis is only willing to give up the land that floods.

Final Page of Lewis Loy’s questionnaire

The last question which asks for the “gist of conversation” is always interesting to read. On Lewis’ form, it states that he is very clever but vows to not leave. This is usually where the interviewer gets brutally honest with how they feel about the family. I read one where the interviewer stated that the family desperately needed help or else their daughter would end up “working on a street corner”. I have also read several that call the family uneducated and, for that reason, easy to convince that relocating is for the best.

The Final Evaluation

The TVA took all of this information to form their opinion on where the displaced families of Loyston would go. While the majority of the residents finally gave in to the idea of moving, most agree that they were not given fair market value for their land. Farmers felt that they should have somehow been compensated for the fact that this property had been in their families for generations. The TVA did not pay for the emotional attachments that these families had.

Loyston and the TVA series

Make sure to also check out the other posts in this series…

Posted in Ancestor Stories

Loyston Grave Relocations

When the Tennessee Valley Authority came to Loyston, they knew they had to do two things. They had to relocate families and relocate graves. To do so, the TVA developed two departments. One group was responsible for interviewing families and taking inventory. (I’ll talk about that later this week.) The other group was responsible for documenting graves and contacting family members to ask permission to move their loved ones. Needless to say, the business of moving graves was not an enviable task.

Finding the Families

The first step to moving the graves in Loyston, was to find the heirs of those who were buried. Remember, it was the 1930s and some of the graves were marked with years from the 1800s. Finding the next of kin was no easy matter. The best course of action was to reach out the community to find family members. For that reason, it worked to the TVA’s advantage that Loyston, and the surrounding communities, were close-knit. Usually someone knew someone who was related to the person the TVA was looking for.

Once found, each heir had to sign off on the grave removal contract to give the TVA permission to dig up the remains and relocate them to a different cemetery. The TVA had a few cemeteries established for this reason. For example, New Loyston Cemetery would become home to a vast majority of the graves. Other remains were moved to the cemeteries requested by the family members.

The Grave Removal contract for my maternal 5th Great Aunt, Rachel Loy Irwin

As you can see in the above example, Rachel Loy Irwin’s son gave permission for the grave to be relocated. While these documents do not deal with the most pleasant information, a genealogist can find some important information. We know that Rachel had a son named Harvey Irwin. She learn when she died and her cause of death. The original cemetery, and where she is being moved to, is also listed. In this case, Rachel was buried at Anna Irwin Cemetery and is being relocated to Sinking Springs Cemetery.

Moving the Graves

After the TVA located the next of kin, the next step was to actually move the graves. To do so, either the named family member in the contract (or a family appointed representative) had to accompany the TVA to the original grave. Each excavation required a witness. At each disinterment, the TVA was required to fill out a Grave Removal Record. This was an accurate report of where exactly the original grave was and what was found in the grave. It also stated who the remains were transported to the new site. Once at the new cemetery, a “foreman of reinternment” reviewed the document and signed off that everything was handled accordingly. I don’t envy anyone who had to deal with the disinterment and reinternment of the graves.

Grave Removal Record of Rachel Loy Irwin

By looking at Rachel Loy Irwin’s Grave Removal Record, you discover just how specific the disinterment team had to be. The form asks for the condition of the container and the condition of the body. They were also required to state what was found in the casket (or box in many cases). In Rachel’s the only items listed were skeletal bones. Notice in the inventory line, it states that shoes were found with the remains. In other reports, you may find pieces of cloth or hair barrettes mentioned. The inventory items makes this feel a bit more personal then just the movement of bones from one place to another.

How to Find the Records

The TVA documents also included a follow up sheet that restated where the remains were reinterred. This document also includes the inscription found on the tombstone (if any). In some cases, pictures of the tombstones were included.

Post reinternment document for Rachel Loy Irwin

I have found the easiest way to locate the TVA Grave Removal documents is on Ancestry.com. To find these specific records, you will need to go under “card catalog” under the search category. Once there, type in “Tennessee Valley” in the keyword(s) box. This will pull up several results but you should see “U.S., Tennessee Valley Cemetery Relocation Files”. This will allow you to specifically search for your ancestor.

If you missed the first part of this series, “The History of Loyston”, make sure to go check it out!

Posted in Ancestor Stories

The History of Loyston

To understand the impact that the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Norris Lake Project had on this area of East Tennessee, you have to go back to the very beginning. Now, I’m not talking about the beginning of time, but more like the beginning of this area being settled. One of the very first communities in this area was Loyston.

Sharp’s Station

The first inhabitants of what would become the town of Loyston, was Hendrich Honus Sharp (my maternal 6th Great Grandfather) and his family. Hendrich was the son of John George Sharp and Anna Maria Loy. Hendrich’s father was a German immigrant who had settled and married in North Carolina. Hendrich was born in the North Carolina back country, but made his way to Tennessee thanks to Revolutionary War land grants. He settled on a slope of Big Ridge which overlooked the Clinch River. Due to the threat of Native American attacks, Hendrich built what would be called Sharp’s Station. The Station was essentially a fort for the settlers in the area and a place of protection.

Loy’s Cross Roads

A bit to the east of where Hendrich Sharp settled, another family was making their home in East Tennessee. John William “Fisher” Loy (my maternal 5th Great Grandfather) found a place to raise his family at the base of Big Ridge. Like Hendrich, John was born in North Carolina and came to Tennessee after the Revolutionary War. He soon discovered that the area was rich in iron ore deposits. Thanks to this discovery, John established a foundry and soon found himself in the middle of a new settlement. It did not take long for Loy’s Cross Roads to become just that. A crossroad and a gathering place for those who lived nearby.

John William “Fisher” Loy’s headstone which was made from the nearby iron ore deposits.

Loyston

After a post office was established in Loy’s Cross Roads in 1866, the name of the town was changed to Loy’s Crossroads. In 1894, the name was changed once again to Loyston. When the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) came to survey Loyston in the 1930s, the town contained approximately 70 residents. The town itself included a post office, two general stores, a filling station, a café, a mill, and a barbershop. The majority of the residents considered themselves Methodist and attended church at the Sharp’s Station Methodist Church. Loyston had become an important community that serviced many of the smaller communities in the area. Therefore, when the TVA began talking to the town’s people about possible relocation, the residents became a bit apprehensive.

Sharp’s Station Methodist Church in the 1930s

The Flooding of Loyston

While I’ll go more in depth in future posts about the TVA and the relocation of graves and families, it’s important to understand what happened to the town itself. Loyston was flooded to make what is now Norris Lake. The town was not destroyed. After those who lived in the area were relocated and Norris Dam was finished, the town of Loyston was flooded. Rumor has it that when the lake levels are at the lowest, you can still see the top of the church steeple peaking out of the water. Divers have also taken equipment down to video what Loyston looks like. However, since the water is so murky, it is difficult to make anything out. If you ever find yourself at Big Ridge State Park, there is a trail that you can take that allows you to look out over the water where Loyston once stood.

Norris Lake where Loyston once stood
Posted in Ancestor Stories

Revolutionary Man – John “Raccoon” Miller

We all have what I like to call a “gateway ancestor”. You know the one ancestor that as you were researching you realized that you actually like genealogy. For me, that ancestor was John “Raccoon” Miller. I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about how my mom got me started in genealogy, but it wasn’t until I started researching John Miller and reading his stories that I became truly hooked. Let me tell you a bit about this revolutionary man.

Who was John “Raccoon” Miller?

John Miller was born in 1747 with the exact location still up for discussion. Some say he was born in South Carolina. Others state that he was born in Holland. Nobody has any proof to back up those claims. I tend to lean to the third opinion. That he was born in Scotland. If you know the history of the Scottish coming to American, you know that North Carolina was a hotbed for Scots to settle. Also, I have found a document placing a John Miller being born in 1747 in Scotland. The only problem is, with such a common name, it is hard to say with 100% confidence that this is him.

Documents for John Miller are a bit scarce until he shows up in Haywood County, North Carolina in 1776. At this point, the American Revolution is in full force and he is serving with the North Carolina militia. However, he does find time in his busy schedule to marry Eve Weidner. Together they have seven children; John, Nancy, Isaac, Lewis, Rachel, Elizabeth, and Jacob. The family will eventually make their way across the mountains and settle in the State of Franklin (modern day East Tennessee).

It’s War Time

When the American Revolution made it’s way to the North Carolina back country, John Miller did not hesitate to join. Enlisting in the North Carolina militia, John was able to encourage others to join the cause due to his standing in the community. He fought bravely in many battles, the most notable being the Battle of Kings Mountain.

Artist painting of The Battle of King’s Mountain

John not only served his county proudly, but he made some useful connections along the way. One of his new friends was future Tennessee governor, John Sevier. John soon found himself as one of Sevier’s trusted companions. So much so, that Sevier made John a Captain in the militia. The two would remain friends after the American Revolution. The would both be instrumental in what would be known as the State of Franklin.

It’s Peace Time

After the war, John would find himself with significant land holdings in both North Carolina and Tennessee, thanks to military land grants. John would hold onto most of the land, allowing it to pass down the generations. However, always being one up for a good story, there is a rumor regarding John and the land he owned in what is now Middlesboro, Kentucky. Supposedly, John was given an offer he just couldn’t refuse and “sold” the town for a bottle of moonshine. I have yet to find any documentation that this actually happened, but I feel like if moonshine is involved it may have been an “under the table” transaction.

One of John Miller’s land deeds

John was also quite the entrepreneur, not just with land but with some unique items. He took it upon himself to buy some silkworms and set them up in his barn. John then proceeded to sell the silk to local merchants to make some extra money. Nobody in the area had ever grown silkworms or even knew what to do with them. But, in true John Miller fashion, he figured it out and turned that silk into gold.

The Legend of John “Raccoon” Miller

Nobody really knows how John Miller was given the name “Raccoon”. The most logical story that has been handed down is that since there was another John Miller in the area, he was given a nickname in order to distinguish between the two. Whatever the reason, the memory of “Raccoon” Miller still lives on in East Tennessee. If you ever find yourself in Maynardville, Tennessee, you will see Raccoon Valley Road which runs though that acreage that belong to John. You will also find a highway maker that shows the location of Miller’s blockhouse.

Highway Marker in Maynardville, TN

John Miller passed away on August 25, 1832 in Maynardville, Union County, Tennessee. He is buried along side his wife, Eve, in Ousley Cemetery in Maynardville.

John and Eve’s headstones in Ousley Cemetery, Maynardville, TN

I think it is safe to say why John Miller caught my attention. He was the first ancestor that I really got to know. Researching John is the reason I joined the Daughter’s of the American Revolution. I guess you could say that even in death, John “Raccoon” Miller is still making his presence known.

My Daughter’s of the American Revolution pin

Make sure to read the stories of my other revolutionary ancestors.

Posted in Ancestor Stories

Revolutionary War Soldier – John Hanna

In case you couldn’t tell, the Revolutionary War is my jam!  I mean, if I could find some magical stones and travel though time, this is without a doubt the era that I would want to land in.  I love hearing the different stories of my ancestors who were alive during this time.  It makes me wonder what part I would have played in this part of history.  Today, I’m digging into my ancestor, John Hanna.

giphy-7

Who was John Hanna?

John is my 6th Great-Grandfather on my paternal side. This line, according to records I have so far, originated in Ulster, Ireland. John was actually born on a ship in 1756 as his family made their way to America from Ireland.  His parents, James A. Hanna and Anne Johnson had six other children; Elizabeth, James W, William, David, Joseph, and Martha.  The first three children were born in Ireland while the last three were born in Virginia.  I suppose John being born at sea was in true middle child fashion.  The family arrived in Pennsylvania and made their way south where they settled in the Virginia colony.

John’s Revolutionary Experience

John enlisted in the Continental Army in Greenbrier County, Virginia in 1777.  He joined as a private under Captains Samuel Lapsley and Alexander Breckenridge.  He saw quite a bit of action during his time in the army.  He fought at the Battle of Monmouth, the Battle of Point Pleasant, and the Siege of Charleston (South Carolina).  If you’re a Hamilton fan, I’m sure you’re familiar with the Battle of Monmouth.  I’m looking at you, Charles Lee.

giphy-8

At the Siege of Charleston, John was taken by the British Army as a prisoner of war.  He was held captive for about eighteen months.  Unfortunately, there are no records of where John was held or what the conditions were.  It seems that after his release, John was honorably discharged from the Army by Captain Breckenridge. 

Post-War John

After the war, John settled in Augusta County, West Virginia.  While living there, he met and married Jane Graham.  Jane and her family were also from Ireland.  If history teaches us anything, it seems more than likely that their families were from the same area of Ireland.  They married in 1787 and together had seven children; John, Robert Graham, Jane, Christopher, Joseph, Elizabeth, and Martha.

In 1825, John applied for his Revolutionary War pension.  According to the documents, John considered himself poor and desperate needed the money to support his family.  Both of his daughters, Elizabeth and Martha, were living with him as well as four grandchildren.  John also states that while his occupation is that of a farmer, he is physically unable to do the work.  He lists all of his assets, as well as items that he has sold, to prove to the court that he needs this money.  His pension is approved on July 6, 1825.

One page from John Hanna’s pension application.

John and Jane eventually moved their family to Jackson County, Ohio.  The children would scatter to different states after that.  You have to think that John was proud of this fact.  He had fought for this country and the right for his children to explore it.  John Hanna passed away on April 11, 1845 at the age of 89.  I think it’s safe to say that John lived a long and eventful life!

The headstone of John Hanna. He is buried in Fairmount Cemetery in Jackson, Ohio.

Read about more of my revolutionary ancestors…

Posted in Ancestor Stories

Robert Messer: North Carolina Regulator

The big moments in history are often the only moments we talk about.  The Sons of Liberty, George Washingon, and The Battle of Yorktown seem to get the most press when talking about the Revolutionary War.  What about all of the moments that happened before the war even started?  What about the story of the North Carolina Regulators?  Here is the story of my 7thgreat grandfather and North Carolina Regulator, Captain Robert Messer.

Who was Robert Messer?

Captain Robert Messer was born in New Bern, Craven, North Carolina in 1734. History tells us that New Bern was named after the town, Bern, in Switzerland. While I have yet to prove that the Messers came from Switzerland, it is safe to say that they did come from the Germany/Switzerland area. Not much is known about Robert’s family. I have yet to find any information on his parents or if he had any siblings. We do know that Robert married Mary Ann Basket. There are rumors that say Mary was at least part Indian and that her Indian name was “Little Flower”. Now I’m not sure how true this is. Maybe Mary was part Indian or maybe somewhere down the line somebody thought “Little Flower” and Basket went good together.

Robert and Mary Messer had 6 children; Christian Sargent, Joseph E, Tipton, Jarred, Mary Ann, and Solomon. Christian is my 6th great grandfather, and along with Robert plays an important roll in some pre-Revolutionary folklore.

The Regulator Movement

In the early 1770s, the colonists were beginning to become dissatisfied with the British Crown. In North Carolina, this led to the formation of the Regulators. While the Regulators are usually ignored in Revolutionary War history, it is safe to say that the battles involving the Regulators are basically the beginning of the Revolution.

Highway marker in Alamance County, North Carolina

If you are an Outlander fan, who may recognize the story of the Regulators, after all Murtagh was one.  You also know that the series covers the Battle of Alamance and even mentions the notorious Herman Husband.  Husband was one of the most well known Regulator leaders and is often credited for the documents produced by the movement.  Governor Tryon had his sights set on Herman Huband even before the Battle of Alamance occurred.  For the record, I kept waiting for them to mention Robert Messer in one of the Outlander episodes.  Sadly, he didn’t make the cut.

In May of 1771, the Battle of Alamance took place in Orange County, North Carolina. Captain Robert Messer fought along other Regulators against Governor William Tryon and his militia. While the Regulators lacked the supplies and organization that Tryon’s militia had, they were able to hold their own during the early part of the battle. Unfortunately, the battle turned and ended in the favor of Governor Tryon. In the end, Tryon took 13 Regulators prisoner…one of those being Robert Messer.

messer 3

In the days after the battle, Tryon killed one of the prisoners to make an “example” of what would happen to someone taking a stand against the Crown. The other 12 were told to take an oath in order to show their allegiance to the Crown. Only six of the Regulators took the oath while the others were on their way to stand trail for treason.

It didn’t take Tryon long to decided that the six remaining Regulators were guilty of treason against the Crown. Judge Richard Henderson handed down the judgment of violating the Riot Act to Robert Messer and the five others. Messer and the other captured Regulators were to be hung for their crime. Like many of Tryon’s acts, this was to be a public hanging with hopes of putting a stop to the Regulator uprising.

Let’s Make a Deal

The most gut-wrenching part of the story would happen next. In hopes of a last minute pardon, Robert Messer’s wife, Mary, and son, Christian (who was around 11 years old at the time), made their was to Orange County. In the minutes before the hanging was to occur, Christian Messer, threw himself at the mercy of Governor Tryon. It is said that Christian begged Tryon to take him instead and allow his father to go home and continue to provide for his family. Legend says that Christian told Tryon he was worried about what would become of his mother Mary if Robert was to be killed.

Article from The Daily Times-News (Burlington, North Carolina) July 23, 1934

Tryon’s assistant, Colonel Fanning, stepped in and convinced Tryon to momentarily pardon Messer. Fanning came up with the deal that if Messer could find Herman Husband and bring him back to Tryon, then Messer could have his freedom.  (Sidenote:  while Herman Husband was at the Battle of Alamance, he did not actually participate in the fighting.  He was a Quaker.).  Messer took the deal and set off to find Husband.  To keep Messer honest, Tryon held Robert’s wife and son as hostage until he returned.

Messer was able to track Husband down just across the border in Virginia.  The only problem was that Messer was one man and had no way of actually bringing Husband back to North Carolina.  Realizing that he had run out of options, Messer made his was back to Tryon empty handed.  Tryon then proceeded to arrest Messer and release his wife and son.  Tryon took no pity on the Messers, and along with the 5 other “traitors” Robert was killed.

Headstone that marks the place of the Regulators hanging in Hillsborough, North Carolina

If you ever find your way to Hillsborough, North Carolina, there is a marker in a field where the hanging took place. This is the one place where I can go and actually feel a connection to my ancestors. It’s strange to stand there and think what was going through Robert’s, Mary’s, and young Christian’s mind. I’m very proud of my ancestors for standing up for what they believed in, regardless of if all the stories are in fact true. Stories like this make spending countless hours in a library well worth it.

messer 4

Check out some of my other revolutionary ancestors.

Posted in Ancestor Stories, Revolutionary

Eve Weidner: Revolutionary Woman

Often, when we think about the Revolutionary War, we only think of the men who fought.  We focus on the battles and who won or lost.  We talk about the men who were Generals, the men who enlisted, and all the men in between.  We tend not to talk about the women and how important their role was in winning America’s freedom.

Who was Eve Weidner?

Eve (or Eva) Weidner was born to Ludwig (Lewis) Weidner and Barbary Boyer on January 31st, 1751 in Lincoln County, North Carolina.  While little is known about her mother, Ludwig was of German descent and held his German traditions close to his heart.  Growing up, the Weidner’s were known revolutionaries living in a county full of loyalists.  This more than likely made growing up challenging for Eve.  This is why the Weidner family started moving towards western North Carolina and the Tennessee border.

Like Father, Like Son-In-Law

Records for Eve become a bit scarce until she marries John “Raccoon” Miller on March 1st, 1776 in Haywood County, North Carolina.  The Millers would move on to Hawkins County, Tennessee and eventually settle in Union County, Tennessee.  Once settled, Eve and John would have seven children: John, Nancy, Isaac, Lewis, Jacob, Elizabeth, and Rachel.

If legend is true, John Miller seems to be a lot like Eve’s father, Ludwig.  They were both revolutionaries and participated in battles with local militia.  One of the most notorious stories of Eve is when she was left at home with the children while John was off on one of his excursions.  The story says that the family dogs started barking and going crazy while Eve and the children were inside.  Living in known Indian Territory, Eve immediately had the children hide while she grabbed a shotgun.  Eve then went outside to defend her home against the said Indians.  While not much is known about the actual encounter, I think it’s safe to say that the Indians probably thought twice before messing with Eve again.

Show Me the Money

John passed away in 1832 and had never applied for his Revolutionary War pension.  Well, Eve decided that she would go for it, twenty years after John died.  It seems that Eve was not a woman who would ever take no for an answer.  I will tell you that people thought that a woman her age attempting to get her dead husband’s pension was crazy!  According to the pension documents, Eve was 100 years and 6 days old when she started the application process.  While there is no documentation if Eve ever received John’s pension, I think it is safe to say that whatever Eve put her mind to she succeed.

An example from Eve Weidner’s pension application.

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story

Eve passed away on August 12th, 1853 in Union County, Tennessee.  She was 102 years old.  Just a few years ago, a local Daughter’s of the American Revolutionary chapter in Knoxville, Tennessee, recognized Eve for her efforts and support during the Revolutionary War by giving her a new headstone.  It is always nice when women recognize other women!

Eve Weidner’s gravestone.

I feel that it is important that we continue to share the stories of our female revolutionaries.  The Revolutionary War was not just fought on the battle field, but all across the colonies.  These hidden stories need to written to preserve the memories of colonial women.

Posted in #52Ancestors, Ancestor Stories

Let’s Start At the Very Beginning

When deciding what to write about for Week One’s 52 Ancestor challenge, I thought it would be best to start at the beginning. If you’ve been a follower of the blog for a while, you know that I got my love of genealogy from my mother. What you probably don’t know is how she found her way into the genealogy world and became the official family historian. So, here is her story..

Pamela Sue Burkhart was born in 1957 in Detroit, Michigan to Dorothy Jean Price and Vernon Burkhart. Her parents were both from Harlan County, Kentucky. They had moved to Detroit for work by way of the “Hillbilly Highway”. My mom says that when she was growing up, it was just like being in the south. All of her neighbors were either from Kentucky or other southern states. Families in their neighborhood held tight to their Southern traditions. So, while they were living, and working, in the north, most families never really embraced the Michigan way of living.

My mom with her grandfather, William Howard Taft Price

My mom married my dad, Christopher Franklin Arthur, in 1975. His family came from a similar background. They made their way from West Virginia to Michigan for work also. To say that my childhood had mostly southern influences and traditions would be an understatement. In 1991, my dad’s job moved us back to the south. This time, though, we were heading to Tennessee.

About this time, my mom began to hear stories about her 2x Great Grandfather. There was a family discussion on what his name was and which side he fought for during the Civil War. At the time of the war he lived in East Tennessee (Union County to be exact). If you know your Tennessee history, you know that the state was split on who fought for which side. While rumors were that he fought for the Union, nobody knew for sure.

Now that we were living in Tennessee, about 4 hours away from the Knoxville/Union County area, my mom decided to put this “discussion” to rest. She now had easy access to the Tennessee State Archives and, with a little drive, access to the cemetery where her 2x Great Grandfather was buried. Needless to say, she solved the mystery and figured out the Elias S. Carroll was a Lieutenant in the Union Army during the Civil War.

During one of our many road trips to East Tennessee

She now had a taste for the research and how if felt to solve a family argument. Now she was eager to see what else she could find. Family history had always been important to her, but now it was at another level! This was long before internet research was a thing. I love reading over some of the notes from phone calls and the emails that went back and forth between newly discovered relatives. If she had not laid such a great foundation, I would not be the genealogist I am today.

I asked my mom what advice she would give to someone beginning their family history/genealogy journey. Here is what she told me:

Listen to the stories. Find what they all have in common. Usually there is a least a small nugget of truth in there somewhere. Be patient and be willing to put in the work. It will all be worth it!

My mom and I
Posted in Ancestor Stories

AMMD Pine Grove Project

Sometimes the messages you find in your Ancestry inbox can bring about the best connections. That is how I met my cousin Sonja. We matched each other through AncestryDNA and after a few back and forth messages, we figured out our connection. Sonja is my 7th cousin, 1x removed. While that might not seem like a close connection, it doesn’t matter. We are still family and hopefully someday soon we will move from Facebook family to hanging out in real life family!

As I’ve got to know Sonja better, she told me about the AMMD Pine Grove Project. I fully support any project that seeks to save historical areas/buildings, but this was family! This project is working to save the Pine Grove School. The school was established by free African Americans who wanted to give their children the gift of education. Founded in a rural, segregated, farming community, it is a very important piece of history that needs to survive for future generations.

The Project recently received recognition as one of 2020 Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Places by Preservation Virginia. Preservation Virginia is the premier preservation organization in Virginia. It warms my heart to see all the hardwork paying off! Below you’ll find the press release talking about the designation, and details about the project, written my Sonja’s mother (and another one of my wonderful cousins), Muriel Miller Branch. Also, make sure to check out the bottom of the release to see where you can find more about the AMMD Pine Grove Project and how you can support this wonderful project!

 Muriel Miller Branch, President of the AMMD Pine Grove Project and former student of the Historic Rosenwald School, stands in front of the community’s beloved Pine Grove School in Cumberland County, Virginia as she is creating a video to submit to Preservation Virginia.  

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Pine Grove School Community on the                                                       

2020 Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Places

May 19, 2020

The cause for today’s celebration (May19th) is to announce the Pine Grove School Community’s selection as one of the 2020 Virginia’s Most Endangered Historic Places by Preservation Virginia, the premier preservation organization in Virginia. This recognition coincides with AMMD Pine Grove Project’s vision of “Preserving History, Expanding Community.”

Pine Grove School’s origin is as humble as the former enslaved and free African Americans who established the school  to educate their children in this rural, segregated, farming community.  In 1916, Black residents of the community seized the opportunity afforded them through the Rosenwald Fund and building project, to build a school. They contributed the land, a sizable amount of money, and the labor to build it, and the school opened to students in the Fall of 1917.

Pine Grove School is one of the few remaining Rosenwald Schools established in rural communities throughout the South for the purpose of educating colored children. The brainchild of  Dr. Booker T. Washington of the Tuskegee Institute and Julius Rosenwald, President of Sears Roebuck Company, both visionaries, devised a plan to build state-of-the art schools for children who would not otherwise have received an education due to Jim Crow laws imposing racial segregation. The two-room schoolhouse served Pre-K to Sixth grade students, who walked up to five miles to attend their cherished school. 

In 1964, after the school closed its doors, a groups of concerned residents of the community, led by Mr. Robert L. Scales, rescued Pine Grove from auction by Cumberland County, and later repurposed  the building to serve as the Pine Grove Community Center for over a decade. However, with the death of many of its members, the School became neglected. Pine Grove School was on the verge of demise until, in 2018, members of the Agee-Miller-Mayo-Dungy families created a grassroots organization to save the school. The newly formed group paid the back taxes and began to visualize a new life for Pine Grove. Shortly after organizing, AMMD learned about the proposed installation of a Mega Landfill adjacent to Pine Grove which would adversely effect both the historical integrity and the environmental integrity of the school and community, and a two-fold fight ensued. Muriel Miller Branch, an alumna, spearheaded the effort to save the school that she, her father, and numerous relatives and neighbors had attended. 

The efforts of the AMMD’s Pine Grove Project have been rewarded many times over by attracting family, alumni, community, scholars, legislators, environmental justice organizations,  and historical and cultural institutions.  It has become a beehive of inspired, willing workers. 

The Mission of AMMD Pine Grove Project is to work cooperatively with a broad coalition of individuals and organizations “to protect, restore, and repurpose the historic Pine Grove Elementary School as an African American Museum and Cultural Center to showcase the contributions of the community that built and sustained it.

For more information, about the AMMD Pine Grove Project, email: ammdpinegroveproject@gmail.com.

You can also follow the organization on Social Media:

https://www.facebook.com/ammdpinegroveproject/

https://www.instagram.com/projectpinegrove/

Posted in Ancestor Stories

A Long Line

So many times in genealogy research, we see a long line of males with the same given name.  First there is John, and then another John, and so many more John’s after that.  Add in a common surname and it’s enough to make your genealogy mind go crazy!  One thing you don’t normally see is when the female line of the family uses the same name time and time again.

On my maternal side, I have found that I come from a long line of women named Lydia/Lettie.  I had seen lines of more popular names like Elizabeth and Mary, but for some reason, this naming pattern really stuck with me.  If you look at traditional European naming patterns, the first daughter is usually named after the father’s mother and the second daughter is named after the mother’s mother.  This line kind of followed that pattern, but what do you do when both the paternal and maternal grandmother are named Lydia?

The line begins with my maternal 5x Great-Grandmother, Lettie Virginia Mantooth.  Lettie was born in 1796 in Shenandoah County, Virginia to Thomas Mantooth and Elizabeth Phariss.  She married William Hall and together they had seven children; Samuel, Hannah, Mary, Lydia, Herman, Thomas, and John Hall.  Lettie passed away in 1850 in Cocke County, Tennessee.

Lettie’s daughter, Lydia Hall (my 4x Great-Grandmother), was born in 1832 in Cocke County, Tennessee.  She married Solomon Price and together they had nine children; John, Lettie A, Sarah J, Nancy, Elizabeth, William, James, Mandie, and Solomon.  Lydia passed away in 1890 in Cocke County, Tennessee.

To make matters a bit more complicated, Lydia Hall’s mother-in-law was also named Lydia.  Lydia Messer was born in 1806 in Burke County, North Carolina to Christian Sargent Messer and Jane Barnett Freeman.  She married Richard “Big Dick” Price on February 11, 1825 in Haywood County, North Carolina and together they had five children; James Turner, Solomon, Sarah, Joseph, and William.  Lydia passed away in 1876 in North Carolina.

 

Now…back to Lydia Hall.  Her daughter, Lettie A. Price (my 3x Great Grandmother), was in January 1856 in Newport, Cocke County, Tennessee.  She married William Howard Henderson on February 24, 1884 in Cocke County and together they had five children; Lydia Jane, James, Delia, Amanda, and Winnie.  Lettie also had two other children with an unknown man; Ruben B and Abraham Benjamin.  Lettie passed away on May 1, 1899 in Cocke County, Tennessee.

Next in line is Lettie’s daughter, Lydia Jane Henderson (my half 3rd Great Aunt).  Lydia was born on March 20, 1888 in Cocke County, Tennessee.  She married Benjamin Lewis Ford on January 21, 1908 in Cocke County and together they had 13 children; Rufus, Martha, Lewis D, Pauline, David, Fanny, Lettie Ellen, Dolophos, James Ike, Creola, Mack, Laurie, and Carrie.  Both Benjamin and Lydia had children from previous relationships.  While they did raise these 13 children together, I am still working on who exactly belongs to who.  Lydia married for a second time to Joe Stokely Shelton on July 24, 1965 in Cocke County.  She passed away on June 25, 1977 in Bridgeton, Cumberland County, New Jersey.

The last of the Lydia/Lettie line is Lydia Jane’s daughter, Lettie Ellen Ford (my half 1st cousin, 3x removed).  Lettie was born on October 10, 1914 in Cocke County, Tennessee.  I have not found a record of Lettie being married and her headstone shows her maiden name.  She did have one son, Nicholas Ford.  Lettie passed away on September 18, 1977 in Bridgeton, Cumberland County, New Jersey.

I will admit that this line got a bit complicated when researching.  I had to work hard to keep all my Lydia and Lettie ancestors straight!  So, to recap, the line is Lettie Virginia Mantooth to Lydia Hall (who’s mother-in-law was Lydia Messer) to Lettie A. Price to Lydia Jane Henderson to Lettie Ellen Ford.  Hmm…maybe I should change my name to Lydia!