All content on this blog is copyright by Marci Andrews Wahlquist as of its date of publication.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Blog about a Blog

Very few of my family and friends have known up to this point about my guilty pleasure: following a blog written by Charlotte Crawley about the Duchess of Cambridge. My husband and I were wakeful anyway during the night when thousands of miles away it was the day of the marriage of Prince William and Catherine Elizabeth Middleton, so we tuned in and watched the wedding. My fancy was caught by this beautiful young couple who so obviously were in love, unlike the bogus fairy tale we had seen unfold between Prince William’s parents.

A few days later I found Charlotte’s blog and have been reading it a few times a week ever since. Sometimes I comment; mostly I just read and enjoy what people have to say. The tone of the blog has changed over time. First it was unqualified fans of the new Duchess of Cambridge; all was praise and sweetness and adoration. Then some more critical readers came on board, and I found the comments section much more interesting, sometimes annoying, even infuriating when they are really illogical. Always they are stimulating, and sometimes I have been persuaded to change my thinking. That is what makes the blog of most value to me.

During my first trip to London during my college years, I came away from my visits to Windsor Castle, Buckingham Palace, and other royalty-connected sites with a firm conviction that I was in the anti-monarchist camp. The materialistic excesses were overwhelming to me and seemed wrong compared to all the poverty around. My experiences with a class-driven society had left me more republican than ever. In several personal encounters with the so-called upper class, I found myself held in contempt for my ancestry and economic status—things that to me matter not one whit in the eternal scheme of things. I had no admiration for any of these people.

All these years later I feel guilty for adopting Cambridge-watching as a hobby when my initial reasons were as shallow as those of the people who despised me—I simply liked their looks. But in watching them I have been drawn to another royal—Queen Elizabeth herself. I have read about her, watched some documentaries, and everything seems to me to be admirable. This woman puts duty first, and yet she is still flexible enough to learn to do things differently even at her advanced age. I find her intellect and understanding to be deep and her sense of humor engaging. (How else can her appearance as a “Bond girl” at the 2012 Summer Olympics be interpreted?) She seems to regret parts of the past that to me were arguments for abolishing the monarchy at the time, and she seems to be actively promoting a different future with the hope of producing better people in her own family.

Family is the most important thing to me. I find the comments on Charlotte’s blog a bit alarming these days, with many critical voices calling for Catherine to stop indulging herself in what is perceived as the easy life of a mother of young children and get to work; some sort of serious, regular job seems to be the thing these people want her to perform. These are strange comments in my mind.

First and most important, I find it alarming that so many people think that Catherine should not choose to be a wife and mother before her so-called royal duties. It seems also that lots of people think little children do not need to have their mother around, that the nanny is there to allow Catherine to get away from daily work with George. It seems that motherhood and laziness are equated in most of the public’s mind. I cannot understand how people can think that rearing children is the same thing as taking a vacation. I am extremely annoyed that all the decades of work toward the liberation of women has not allowed women to choose any work they want, for if they choose the roles of wife and mother as their primary work, that is seen as an unacceptable choice, a lazy choice. But apparently the Queen sides with me: Catherine is being given the gift of time to spend with her children while they are young, and I can only applaud it. It looks as if Catherine had a good mother herself; I would imagine she wants to give her children the benefit of that experience. It certainly does make for a better-adjusted adult if it’s possible to give the child a well-adjusted, happy mother who likes spending time with her children.

Second, I think people who call Catherine lazy do not understand the monarchy at all. Most of the comments about Catherine being lazy come because people want to see her doing more of the charity and public relations work that the rest of the royal family does. But they fail to take into account the position she occupies within the royal family. She is a spouse of a royal, and not the next-in-line to the throne at that. Senior to her husband’s position are the Queen and Prince Philip, and Charles and Camilla. In addition, William is not a full-time working royal; none of the royal grandchildren are, and not all the grandchildren are destined to ever be working royals. Right now the Queen’s children and her cousins are full-time working royals, and the grandchildren help out. For William, Catherine, and Harry, it is a time of apprenticeship. For Catherine to do more work than her husband would be odd, and more so if she were to do more than his aunt and uncles and their spouses. Yet Catherine’s so-called fans find themselves disappointed that Catherine does not make herself into an activist for dozens of causes.

Third, I find it utterly illogical that some of the people who profess themselves to be fans of the royals want to make them over into non-royals. What are they fans of, exactly? How can their comments be explained that call for Catherine to stop patronizing the charities and sports and other organizations (the same kinds the rest of the royal family work with) and take a regular job with a 40-hour work week? Only if you are calling for the abolition of the monarchy does it make sense to say that Catherine must work like that or else stop calling what she does now, work. (That these people do not allow acting as a patron to be classified as any form of work is another argument beside my point about their idea that Catherine should take a job with regular hours.) And to think she should have such a job is also illogical, because you would have to abolish the wealth of her family and make it economically necessary first. If you feel that none of the royal family actually do any “work,” then logically I think your position is that the money they receive from public funds is a form of charity to people who clearly do not need nor deserve it, and your next step is to call for the abolition of the monarchy.

I used to think abolishing this monarchy would be a good thing, but I have changed my mind. They may be anachronistic, and they may need to change with the times, but I do see that they have a lot of good to offer in the form of fund-raising for many, many good causes. Celebrities who are movie stars or sports figures or politicians do not have the same effect, nor do they have the same sense of duty, tradition, and higher purpose in the service of their country. Nonetheless, the royals can set the example for all those who have excessive wealth of a way to give back to society and lift the level of the country they live in.

I never want a monarchy in my own country, but let this one stay as long as they still provide a service to their public. When that ceases to be the case, then let them all get the jobs they will need. Meanwhile, I will keep watching the Duchess of Cambridge and hoping that she gets the time and space to rear little George and the next child in the best way possible. The world desperately needs more well-adjusted, happy people in it. Even a future king should have that chance.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Gone with the Whittingtons, Part 1

In 1910 when 19-year-old Lloyd Read wanted to marry Miss Lillie Belle Munro of Arkansas, lately come to Oregon, his family told him no, that she came from “poor white trash.” However, although Lillie’s Southern ancestors, the Whittingtons, were not quite the aristocracy of Gone with the Wind, they had been relatively wealthy slave-holders in North Carolina and Tennessee. They had so many children in their family, though, that they did not maintain their same standard of wealth in the next generation, which included Lillie’s grandfather Solomon, and Solomon’s family became poorer still after the Civil War.

James and Frances (Maynard) Whittington

Beginning with the generation born during the Revolutionary War, our ancestor James Whittington1 was born 23 June 1776 in Johnston County, North Carolina to Richard and Olive (Stephenson) Whittington. Richard owned property in Johnston County and had sold property before the 1770s in Edgecombe County. He and Olive had four children before James and five after. The children’s names were Lucretia, who married Asa Austin; Peggy, who married Allen Johnson; Allen Whittington; Mary, who married William Wilder; James Whittington; Sally, who married George Mainord; Richard Whittington, who married Sarah Dupree; Solomon Whittington, who married Sarah Lassiter; William Whittington, who married Sally Eason; and Jonathan Whittington, who married Clary Green 1st and Sally Allen 2nd. James’s father, Richard, had been born in Edgecombe County, North Carolina on 18 December 1748 and died in Johnston County, North Carolina on 20 October 1820, at the age of 72.



1The surname was spelled Whittington, Witington, Whittenton, or Whitenton, depending on who was writing it in the various documents. Different branches of the family began to standardize the name using whichever spelling they preferred after about 1810. I will use the spelling for adults preferred by each family member if I can determine it.)

The 1790 census shows that Richard held no slaves, nor did any of his Whittington relatives living in his immediate neighborhood, nor did his in-laws’ families, the Stephensons. In his immediate neighborhood were 195 free white men over the age of sixteen, 317 free white boys under sixteen, 625 free white women and girls, 24 other free persons, and 422 slaves.

James and Frances up to 1820

James, as a young man in Wake County, North Carolina, married Miss Frances Maynard (also spelled Mainard and Mainord), who went by the name of “Frankie,” on 9 April 1798. Frances was the daughter of William Maynard and his wife Agatha (possibly surnamed Davron); Frances was born on 15 February 1780 in Wake County. In the 1790 Census, a William “Mainyard” lived in Wake County with three males over 16, five males under sixteen, three females, and seven slaves. This was probably Frankie’s family. Nearby lived the family of Gibson Maynard, who could easily be Frankie’s uncle. Together James and Frankie had 13 known children, born probably in Johnston County:
  • William Maynard Whittington, b. 9 February 1799.
  • Richard Merritt Whittington, b. 16 September 1800.
The 1800 Census shows James and Frankie living in Johnston County, North Carolina, with those two little boys. Next door to their family lived James’ father with his family of eight. James and Frankie next had:
  • Agatha Bless Whittington, b. 27 October 1802.
  • Talitha Cumi Whittington, b. 13 March 1805.
  • Gibson Whittington, b. 29 June 1807.
The next child was known to have been born in Wake County:
  • Weston Whittington, b. 8 July 1809.
and the list for Wake County is missing, so probably they lived in Wake County. They had the following children:
  • George Arthur Whittington, b. 1 June 1811.
  • Solomon Yancy Whittington, b. 20 July 1813.
  • Othaniel Whittington, b. 10 January 1816.
  • Cason Coley Whittington, b. 18 February 1818.
  • James Henderson Whittington, born 8 June 1820.
Frankie’s father, William Maynard, died about 1817 and the probate took about two years to be settled. In May 1817 her brother George and others petitioned for a division of the real estate, and in November 1818 James and Frances Whittington and others petitioned for division of the real estate. Apparently William Maynard had been a relatively prosperous man; his heirs appear to have fought over exactly how his estate would be divided. His will is a mass of contradictions. After the will was settled, James Whittington appeared to have moved into the slave-holding class of society. Frankie and James inherited a slave named Dolly from the estate of William Maynard.

It is interesting to note that in 1804 the last of the northern states to abolish slavery, New Jersey, effectively created the North-South dividing line along the old Mason-Dixon line that divided Pennsylvania from Virginia and Maryland. The United States then passed its first abolition-oriented law, the Slave Trade Act of 1807, which outlawed importing slaves from overseas. Sadly, this law was widely ignored in the South. It is evident that the Whittington family obeyed the law, though probably due to economics rather than to moral conviction. They identified with their Southern compatriots.

The Family in the 1820s

The 1820 Census listed James Whittington among the heads of families of Johnston County, North Carolina. With him was a woman aged 25–45, which was his wife Frankie. There were two girls in the 10–16 category, Agatha and Talitha at the ages of 17 and 15 actually; and there were nine boys and young men. The four under age ten were Solomon (7), Othaniel (5), Cason Coley (2), and James Henderson. The youngest boy, James Henderson Whittington, was two months old when the census taker came that summer and lived only until the next May. The three between 10 and 16 must have been Gibson (13), Weston (11), and George (George was 9, but perhaps they rounded up his age—they definitely had Agatha in the wrong category). The young men aged 18–26 must have been William and Richard, who were 21 and 19, respectively.

There were two slaves in this family. One was a woman aged 26–45 who must be Dolly, and the other a young man aged 14–25. Considering that Frances was in charge of a household consisting of three men and nine children under age 16, and one of the two girls she could expect to help her with housework may have had some problems, and she was expecting another baby within a month, perhaps Dolly was a household worker. The young slave man perhaps was helping James and the older young men with the farm work. The price of slaves in the 1820s was between $300 and $400, depending on age and sex, so we can see that the James Whittingtons were now on the wealthier side of society. Most slave-holders in the Carolinas at this time were owners of small or medium-sized farms, and they had one to just a few slaves. Only the wealthy plantation owners could afford to have many slaves, as was the case with Frankie Mainard Whittington’s father.

The next children to be born to James and Frankie were:
  • Quince Tillian Whittington, b. in 1822.
  • Frances Ann Whittington, b. 14 January 1829.
On 16 February 1823 daughter Agatha Bless Whittington married Alexander S. Collins in Johnston County, North Carolina. Her eldest brother, William, signed the bond for the marriage license. Perhaps her groom was too poor to afford it.

According to Diane Bollert’s research, the Whittingtons were members of the Primitive Baptist Church of Johnston County.

The Family in the 1830s

The 1830 Census showed James and Frankie living in Johnston County, North Carolina, with nine children, two of whom are a mystery. Talitha was a young woman now, possibly helping her mother in the house. Solomon and George were between 15 and 20 and surely would be helping with the farm work, as would Cason and Othnell, between 10 and 15. Even 8-year-old Quince would do his share of chores. The girl under 5 was baby Frances Ann, but there were two other small boys, one under 5 and one between 5 and 10 who are unknown to us. It could be that these were two children born in that seven-year period between Quince and Frances Ann, and perhaps they died as children and their names were lost to posterity. Another possibility is that they were children of William, who was said to have been married quite young, but no record of his family has yet turned up. If this were the case, there was no woman in the household who could be William’s wife, so either William’s wife had died, or the scenario was something entirely different.

Even with all those boys to help with the farm work, one of the two slave women on the 1830 census, one age 10–23 and the other age 24–35, was probably working with them in the fields. By this time, landowners with many slaves were discovering that they could make a lot of money by hiring their slaves out to other farms. The Whittingtons may very well have had hired slave labor to work in the fields as well as using their own slave and the sons of the family. It seems likely their other slave was working in the house, helping Frances with the children and the enormous amount of work all these people would generate. The older of the two slave women could be Dolly, if she was 26 in 1820 and was 35 at this census, taken a different time of the year.

Frances had borne 13–15 children in thirty years and was probably worn down with all the work. In 1830 she was 50 years old; she had 11 boys and men, four women, and a baby to feed at least three times every day. The laundry must have taken two full days a week, and the ironing a full day, and sewing or mending would have to be done every day, not to mention the daily cleaning and regular heavy scrubbing, carrying water, etc. Their culture and circumstances would have led them to believe the slave women were necessary, especially since James was obviously wealthy enough to afford them.

This evidence shows that James had become prosperous. The slaves’ cost was around $600 then, which would be about $15,400 in 2012 dollars. James probably sold the young slave man he had owned in 1820 and bought another woman, unless these two slave women were a mother and her 10-year-old daughter, born just after the last census. Slave women and girls were worth more than slave boys or young men, until the men were about 25 years old, and then the cost became about equal. Various studies have shown that it was actually less expensive to employ farm workers than to own slave workers until the farms were turned to cotton, but at this time they were planted in various crops including tobacco, but cotton was not yet king. The economics and politics and the culture of the time were somewhat complicated, to say the least.

During the mid-to-late 1830s, James Whittington and most of his grown sons moved their families to Tennessee, settling near Jackson in District 17 of Madison County. Tennessee historically had belonged to North Carolina, but it was made a separate territory in 1790 and then a state in 1796. Madison County lies in the west part of the state on the Gulf Coastal Plain, the 10-mile wide eastern border to the Mississippi River.


James’ son Richard did not move with the family. He had married Martha Helen Peebles in North Carolina on 16 March 1826 and had a farm there into the 1860s. On October 3, 1837, son William acquired land in Victoria County, Texas, so perhaps he moved from North Carolina all the way down there. Son Weston had married Lucy Ann Williams about 1831 and had a son born in North Carolina in 1832. Weston’s next son was born in Tennessee in 1836; he had bought property in Madison County on 26 December 1835, the first of the family to do so. James had bought property in Johnston County, North Carolina, in the summer of 1836, and then two years later he bought land in Madison County, Tennessee, on September 13, 1838.

Tennessee was being settled at a faster rate in those days than it had before—the wilderness seemed just about tame there. The Indian Removal Act had been passed in 1830, and in 1838 and 1839 President Martin Van Buren’s administration forced more than 17,000 Cherokee Native Americans, along with their approximately 2,000 black slaves, off the land and sent them west. In came the white settlers with their own black slaves.

After moving to Tennessee, helped or not, Frankie died early in 1839 at age 59, probably worn out by childbearing and the heavy work of those days. The family name began to change. Back in North Carolina, it was mostly spelled Whittington. In Tennessee it began to be spelled Whittenton, and some branches of the family would adopt Whitenton later on.

During the 1830s the Whittington family would have been interested in and partial concerning the various political changes that affected the Southern way of life. The Nullification Crisis in South Carolina established the precedent of a state rebelling against the Federal government over the issue of states’ rights, and President Andrew Jackson himself stated that the next crisis between the states and the federal government would be over the issue of slavery.

The Family in the 1840s

The 1840 U.S. Census lists Father James and his family in Madison County, Tennessee with two of his sons living very close by. In his household, James had one boy age 15–20 which was Quince. He had three boys age 20–30 which were Othnell, Solomon, and George. He was between 60–70 years of age. On the female side he had a girl between 10–15 which was Frances Ann. He also had a young woman in the family between 20–30 who must have been Talitha, although she was 35 years old at this point. But she seemed to always shave years off her age in later census records, so this is not too surprising. The total in the household was 10; there were three slaves with the family. Two female slaves were in the 24–36 and the 20–24 age categories. These women could be the same two slaves listed in this household in 1830, but if so, the older woman cannot be the same one as in 1820 unless the ages assigned her are way off in one census or another, which of course is possible, given that Talitha had lost a good ten years off her age and could have been the one giving the information to the census taker. The slave boy was 10–24; he could easily be a son of one of the women.

The number of persons engaged in agriculture in this household was four, and since Othnell, Solomon, and George were all farmers as soon as they were on their own, they must have been three of the workers. It seems likely that James himself was the fourth, which leads to the rather surprising conclusion that probably none of the slaves was helping with the farm work. But with Frankie recently dead and a little girl still to rear, perhaps one of the slaves was devoted to little Frances Ann as a nurse-governess. Talitha may have had some mild mental disability—perhaps that was why the family seemed to consider her younger than she really was. One of the slaves was certainly in charge of the household work.

With thirteen children in James and Frankie’s family, this gets a little complicated, but we will try to say where each of the children was during the 1840s.

Son William didn’t appear in the 1840 Census because he was in Texas, and at that time Texas had declared independence from Mexico, winning its war officially in 1836 but continually being attacked by Mexican forces, particularly those under Santa Anna, until the United States intervened in 1846 and annexed Texas after beating Mexico in 1848. A tax assessment exists for W.M. Wittenton in 1846 in Victoria County, where he eventually died.

In the 1840 Census, son Richard M. Whittenton lived in Panther Branch, Wake County, North Carolina. He had a wife and two boys under ten and two girls ages 10–15 listed with him. These children were Mazy Helen, Eliza Jane, James Thadeus, and John Peebles.

On August 20, 1840, son Gibson married Elizabeth Williams in Madison County, Tennessee, and the two of them appeared in the Census four households above his father’s family. Gibson was recorded as working in agriculture.

Next door to Gibson was Weston’s family in the 1840 Census listing. Weston had a wife age 20–30, same age as he; they had three children listed. They had a son under age 5 who was James, age 3. They had two daughters listed on the census, the elder age 5–10 who should have been a male, John Rufus, age 8; and the other a girl under 5 who corresponds to baby Sarah. Curiously, the total number for this family was listed as 6 although only five tick marks were present on the census. Sometimes census takers got things wrong. Perhaps when he came around, all the children, along with their cousins, maybe three dogs and four cats and the family pig were all around him making noise and he couldn’t hear the mother right. Sometimes it simply was because the family was not at home and the census taker asked a neighbor to describe the family. Weston was recorded as working in agriculture.

Son Solomon got into trouble in 1841 in the Madison County Court for having fathered an illegitimate child with a woman named “Louvisey Manor” in McNairy County (south of Madison) two years before and failing to pay its support, but the Court decided it had no jurisdiction over the case since the mother and child had lived two years in McNairy County from the time of the birth, so Solomon was apparently off the hook. There is no evidence that he ever recognized this child as his own, and perhaps it was not.

Son Cason Coley did not appear in the 1840 census, and we have to wonder whether he had gone to Texas or where he was. He was 22 at the time of the Census. He later appeared to have acquired land near where William lived, but William died all alone, so Cason Coley could not have been with him. Maybe Cason Coley went wandering around the west until he felt like returning to Texas.


On February 5, 1844, Father James married Mrs. Kettura (Katherine) Lester Betts, a 57-year-old widow, in Madison County, Tennessee. She owned 300 acres in Madison and Haywood counties, a single plot left to her by her husband William Betts, who had died September 7, 1835.

Son Gibson and his wife Elizabeth probably moved over to Dyer County, northwest of Madison County, by 1844. Their daughter Martha was born there, and then they moved back to Madison County.

On February 5, 1846, son George Arthur married Martha Elizabeth Bledsoe in Madison County. He was 35, she was 19.
During the 1840s, son Weston moved to Texas, first living in Victoria County near where his brother William had acquired land several years before. He eventually settled in Goliad County.

The baby sister of the family, Frances Ann Whittington, married Christopher C. Harris on 14 February 1848 and moved to Arkansas; nothing further is known about them.

Down in Texas William died at the age of 49 or just 50, before 12 March 1849 in Victoria County. I have not been able to trace whether he ever married or what became of his children if he had any. His death records show no heirs at all, not even his brothers. Dates for the distribution of his land by deeds are on 4 June 1850, 25 June 1850, 12 February 1853, and 26 November 1853. His personal estate was auctioned in May 1849 and the rest of his estate settled by October 1851.

Politically, the 1840s affected the Whittington family chiefly by the United States having acquired Texas and several territories at the end of the Mexican War. Many Southerners were moving to Texas as cotton gained in economic importance and farmers depleted their soil by overplanting it with cotton. They looked to the southwest for new lands and were glad when Texas was added to the U.S. as a slave state, giving them the rights and freedoms they had been used to and also helping to balance power between the North and South in the U.S. Congress. However, this led to a four-year struggle between political forces over the issue of slavery that ended short of war when the Compromise of 1850 was signed, allowing California to join the Union as a free state in return for the Territories of New Mexico and Utah (which encompassed the present-day states of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada) to allow slavery.

The Family in the 1850s

In 1850 Father James, with his wife Kettura, had a farm worth $1000, which in 2012 value would be approximately $60,000. He had four slaves, and his sons Quince and Othnell, ages 23 and 30, were working as farmers for him. His daughter Talitha also lived there (it says she was 40, but she was really 45—and the census shows that she was illiterate as well. With all the rest of the family being literate, including her sisters, this seems to indicate that Talitha might have had some sort of disability, though she was not listed in the “insane” or “idiot” columns).

The slaves were two women ages 60 and 25, a young man age 23, and a boy age 9. The older woman, born about 1790, could have been Dolly, with them from 1817, if her age in the 1840 census was off by about 9 years (which could easily have been the case). The younger woman could be her daughter or the man her son; or they could have been a married couple. No doubt the younger slaves were working the land with the sons.

In 1850 daughter Agatha had split with Alexander Collins and was keeping house for her brother Solomon, who was not married. (Alexander Collins died in 1860 in North Carolina; he apparently never remarried.) With Agatha and Solomon Whittington was a 13-year-old girl named Catherine Collins who might be Agatha’s daughter, but we have no way of knowing. She could be another relative of Agatha’s former husband. Agatha was going by the name of Whittington again and married a Mr. Crabtree the next year. Also in 1851 Agatha joined the Baptist Church in Madison, Tennessee. That is the last we know of her until she died in 1889 at the age of 86.

In 1850 son Gibson and his wife Elizabeth had moved back to Madison County from Dyer County, Tennessee. Their farm was worth $250, and they had four children: Sarah James Frances, age 9; Elender, age 8; Martha L, age 6; and David Williams Whittington, age 3. They had no slaves; instead, they had an 18-year-old hired man named George Smith

In 1850 son Weston was in Victoria County, Texas with his wife, Lucy Ann, and their four children: John R, age 18; James William, age 13; Sarah C, age 10; and George Maynard, age 7. Their farm was about 140 acres and they were doing well. Weston had no slaves; he and his elder son had cultivated a part of their land and they were raising pigs. They had oxen to plow their land.

Son George and his wife, Martha, lived in Madison County, Tennessee, with their three children when they were recorded in the 1850 Census: James Maynard, age 3; Mary Frances, age 2; and Thadeus, 8 months. George had no slaves, although he had a farm worth $300; he had only a part of it under cultivation. In 1853 George and his family joined the Baptist Church of Madison, Tennessee, the same one his sister Agnes had joined two years earlier.

Solomon in 1850 was farming, but he had no property worth anything and lived next door to his father, so he was probably still helping with his father’s farm; however, his fortunes were about to change.

The farm work was probably too much for Father James. He was 74 years old in 1850. At the end of the next year he gave his sons Solomon and “Otel” (Othnell) gifts of parcels of land. First he gave Othnell 110 acres on November 28, 1851, and a month later he gave Solomon 50 acres on December 20th.

Certainly James Whittington must have been slowing down at the end of 1851. Just two and a half years after dividing the bulk of his land between his sons, he died on May 20, 1853. It is interesting to speculate on the family dynamics that led to this curious division of land. Othnell, it seems, was the heir to the bulk of his father’s property. The older sons—William, Richard, Gibson, Weston, and George—all seemed to have acquired property without their father’s giving it to them, but perhaps he had helped with money. William of course died before his father. The rest of the older sons were married before their father passed away.

Solomon appeared to have been the black sheep here. Until he married in 1851, his father appeared not to have helped him, and then only at the very end of the year, and with less than half what the younger, single brother was given a month earlier. Presumably Cason Coley had been helped to acquire land in Texas in the same way his older brothers had been.

The daughters were not given land by their father, but perhaps they were given dowry money. After Agatha’s marriage ended, she moved into a house with her brother Solomon and kept house for him. Perhaps they were two “black sheep” together.

Father James may have provided for his other children, if the action of Othnell ten years later in granting his sister Talitha and his brother Quince jointly fifty acres can be construed as complying with James’s wish that Othnell take care of them.

After James’s Death

James Whittington had such a large family to provide for that it seems to have somewhat depleted his resources. Certainly none of his children attained the wealth that their father had acquired, and several of the children had very large families themselves. It was probably economics that encouraged four of the five brothers who relocated from Tennessee to Texas. The eldest son, William, went there first, perhaps as early as 1837, and maybe Cason Coley went about the same time. Next Weston migrated in the mid-to-late 1840s, and Gibson joined them after Father James’ death, probably about 1854. Finally, after the Civil War ended, Quince went to Texas, probably to escape the consequences of not finishing his military service during the War. George, Solomon, and Othnell stayed in Tennessee, and of course Richard never left North Carolina. Of the daughters, Talitha stayed in Tennessee with her brother Othnell’s family. We don’t know where Agatha went after marrying Mr. Crabtree. Frances Ann ended up in Arkansas, her husband obviously one of those who took advantage of the opening up of the southwest, although they didn’t go as far as Texas. Of all the family, only Othnell had the kind of wealth approaching that of their father. He was the only slave owner of them all as well.

By the 1850s many slave-owners, excluding the very wealthy plantation owners, had realized that selling their slaves was more lucrative than keeping them to work the land. By those times in Tennessee it was definitely more economical to hire workers rather than to own them. Even Othnell with his greater acreage and personal property than his brothers in 1860 owned just three slaves, a woman and her two little sons, compared with their closest neighbor who had 18.

Each of James’s children has a fuller description of his or her own life as an adult. Click the links below to go to the rest of the posts.

Part 2: William and Richard
Part 3: Agnes and Telitha
Part 4: Gibson and Weston
Part 5: George, Solomon, and Othaneil
Part 6: Cason Coley, James Henderson, Quintillian, and Frances Ann


Note: If you would like to purchase a copy of the entire book, with updates, sources, and more, please send me a message.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Traditions

We were sitting around our Christmas tree tonight after reading our scriptures, talking about Christmases in the past and things we had done.

My husband’s family, at the end of World War II, had to wait clear until the third week of January to have Christmas, because one of his brothers was coming home from the war and was delayed week after week. The little kids got to open up all the things in their stockings, but the tree was left up and all the packages sat under it as the time slowly passed. You can imagine the little kids peeking into the living room day after day to make sure their things were still there, hoping the day would hurry that Grant would come home and they could open their presents.

Christmases at their house did not start early in the morning. First, Mother Wahlquist made a big pot of oatmeal, and everybody had to eat a big bowl. She figured that with all the candy and goodies they were about to consume, they had better start the day with something nourishing. Then they were allowed to open their stockings and start opening gifts.

One year when Christmas fell on Sunday, they went to Sunday School before they opened their packages. All the other kids at Sunday School asked, “What did you get? What did you get?” and were aghast to find out the whole family had not gotten up early enough to open things beforehand.

In the Andrews household, the kids got up very, very early, but they were under strict orders to be quiet enough that the parents did not have to wake up with them. We were allowed to open our stockings and enjoy all the fruit, nuts, and toys in them. We had to wait for our parents to get up before we could open anything else. We didn’t have to eat a big breakfast, but we were expected to eat the fruit in the stockings, at least an orange.

Nowadays our main Christmas tradition is to gather on Christmas eve and read the Christmas story from Luke 2, with the story of the wise men in Matthew 2. We think of our Savior and His birth, and about His life, His example, His sacrifice for us, and why He is our main gift.

Some years we also read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol aloud to one another, but this year was not one of those times.

I remember one very early Christmas in my life—it was when I was still sleeping in a crib and wearing “sleeping bag” pajamas, which meant it was when I was only about 17 months old. I awoke some time in the night and wondered if Santa Claus had come yet. I had four older brothers, and they had apparently told me all about Santa Claus. My brother Larry was responsible for one of the bars being gone from near the end of my crib, and I slithered out between the bars.

Carefully I balanced myself in my pajamas with my feet at the corners of the zippered bag and walked stiff-legged down the hallway, which was lighted by a pink light bulb, to the corner where I peered around into the living room. The tree was a big dark mass, and so was the fireplace. They were maybe a little scary. In fact, they were scary. I turned and hurried as fast as I could go without falling over.

When I got back to my crib, I forgot to turn sideways and got stuck trying to get back in. I started to cry, but I immediately thought, “Mommy and Daddy will be mad if they know I got out,” and I was afraid Santa Claus would take away all my presents. Stopping made me think, and thinking made me remember to turn sideways. I climbed in and gathered my “blanky” up to my cheek and fell asleep.

Have a merry Christmas, everyone, and may the peace the angels sang about that first Christmas come fill your hearts.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Picky Eater

Last night at dinner my brother asked our mother, “How did you manage to keep all of us from finding out all these things you don’t like to eat?”

Our mother is picky about the things she’ll eat. She doesn’t like fish or fowl. She doesn’t like tomatoes—the slimy texture of the seed part is too horrible for her to bear, so she avoids tomatoes with a passion. She likes the yolk of the egg but not the white (it’s also slimy). She doesn’t like most vegetables. She doesn’t like olives. She doesn’t eat game meat. She doesn’t eat onions or peppers or cucumbers or celery. She’ll eat the white meat from a chicken if you cook it so that it doesn’t taste like chicken. It should go without saying that she’ll never eat anything that’s supposed to taste like chicken and really doesn’t, but that’s what you tell the kids so they’ll try it. If you carefully smother fish in other flavors so that there is not the least hint of fishiness, she’ll eat a tiny portion.

Her answer to the question was simple—she wasn’t going to have spoiled children. We were not going to be allowed to become picky eaters. She carefully hid her own pickiness from us.

The rule was that we had to try everything, and you had to eat everything that you put on your plate. One of my brothers developed an aversion to green peas. One time he offered to eat his entire paper dinner napkin to get out of eating his green peas, and an exasperated parent said if he thought the napkin would taste better than the peas, go ahead. I watched him, fascinated. Would he really eat the whole thing? He did. Everybody was laughing so hard by the time he finished that he didn’t even get punished. And in later life he ate peas.

My mother was the youngest of a very large family. By the time she came along, Grammy was so tired out that she allowed my mother to have her own way just about all the time. And if my mother wasn’t with her parents, she was visiting one of her married sisters or brothers, and they delighted in letting her have her own way about everything. Fortunately, my mother has an inherently sweet nature, or she’d have been impossible.

When my parents married, my dad delighted in spoiling my mother further. He did everything he could for her. Once, he complained upon coming home from work that the house was messy. She retorted, “Do you want a clean house, or happy children? You can’t have both.” He never complained about that again. She wasn’t a bad housekeeper, she just allowed toys to be out. But every Saturday everything had to be cleaned, and we all learned very early to help her. When he retired, he took over the finances and the cooking, freeing her from those chores. He did most of the housework. He did most of the shopping.

Now that he’s gone, I do all those things for her. I guess I am the third generation of Spoilers in her family. So when my brother visits and sees that I try to cater to my mother’s tastes by making different things for dinner for her and for the rest of us, he can be all amazement about her secret being out now. She is a Picky Eater and we have been trained to allow that.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I Waited All My Life to Read Moby-Dick

I am finally reading Moby-Dick: or, The Whale by Herman Melville.

It used to be a point of perverse pride with me that I successfully completed two English degree programs and most of a Ph.D. and had never read the iconic novel. It was almost a challenge—try to avoid this American novel and still say, “I’m an English major” in an American university. It helped that I emphasized Anglo-Saxon language and literature, concentrating on everything written before the year 1200 in England.

So as Beowulf would cry, hwæt! þu rēd Moby-Dick? Wundorlic!

I have read only the first few chapters and already am delighted with the style:

“. . . yet, somehow, I never fancied broiling fowls;—though once broiled, judiciously buttered, and judgmatically salted and peppered, there is no one who will speak more respectfully, not to say reverentially, of a boiled fowl than I will.”

And the philosophical musings:

[On joining the crew of a whaling ship] “And more than all, if just previous to putting your hand into the tar-pot, you have been lording it as a country schoolmaster, making the tallest boys stand in awe of you. The transition is a keen one, I assure you, from a schoolmaster to sailor, and requires a strong decoction of Seneca and the Stoics to enable you to grin and bear it.”

Ha! I love that.

“. . . there is all the difference in the world between paying and being paid. The act of paying is perhaps the most uncomfortable infliction that the two orchard thieves entailed upon us.”

Take that, Adam and Eve!

I don’t think I would have appreciated these kinds of passages and Melville’s style when I was in my 20s. It took me a long time to appreciate the discursive, the rambling, the interpolative, and the beautifully wrought convolutions that characterize Moby-Dick. When I was in my 20s, I was reading for story, themes, and character. Those made far easier-to-write critical papers than did literary style. Now I have time and taste for the intricate workings of language, and I am glad I did not read this novel until this time when I appreciate it fully.

I do not think it is fair to this book or to students to make them read this novel. This is a novel for the reading connoisseur.

If I go along in this same manner, making notes on all the passages that strike me, I am going to finish reading this book sometime in the year 2024 if not later. But since the year 2024 will come whether or not I read this novel, I’ll keep reading and keep you updated, shall I?