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

Friday, January 30, 2015

The Whittingtons, Part 5: George Arthur, Solomon Yancy, and Othaneil

These are the stories of the three sons of James and Frankie Whittington who stayed in Tennessee where their parents had migrated from North Carolina. One son stayed in North Carolina. Five other sons migrated on to Texas.This is Part 5 of the series.

Part 1: The James and Frankie Whittington Family
Part 2: William and Richard
Part 3: Agatha and Telitha
Part 4: Gibson and Weston
Part 6: Cason Coley, James Henderson, Quintillian, and Frances Ann


George Arthur Whittington

George Arthur Whitenton (as he spelled it) was born in Wake County, North Carolina on 1 or 27 June 1811.  His older siblings at the time of his birth were William (12), Richard (10½), Agatha (8), Telitha (6), Gibson (4), and Weston (23 months). He grew up in Wake and Johnston counties, being counted with his family on the 1820 and 1830 Census records in Johnston County. Interestingly, when he was 9 years old, his age must have been rounded up to the next census category. By the time he was a teenager he was probably helping with the family farm work, even though the family had slaves too. He moved with his parents when he was in his 20s to Tennessee, settling near Jackson in Madison County. He was enumerated there with his parents’ family in the 1840 Census. 

When he was 35, he married 19-year-old Martha Elizabeth Bledsoe on 5 February 1846. They had the following children, all in Madison County:

  • James Marshall Whitenton, 1847
  • Mary Frances Whitenton, 1848
  • Thadeus Erastus “Rock” Whitenton, 1850
  • Coley Horace Whitenton, 1852
  • Lucius Edward Whitenton, 1853
  • Virginia Elizabeth Whitenton, September 1856
  • George Quintillian Whitenton, 1859
  • William Louis Yancy Whitenton, 1862
  • Robert Lee Whitenton, 1864
  • Alethia Phidelia Ann Whitenton, 1866
The 1850 Census for District 17 of Madison County, Tennessee, shows that on November 14th George and Martha had James M, Mary F, and Thadeus, and that George’s farm was worth $300.

The 1860 Census for District 17, Madison County, Tennessee, shows their family with George at age 49, Martha age 33, James 13, Mary 12, Thadeus 10, Coley 8, Lucius 6, Lizzie 5, and Quince 2. Mary and Lucius were reported to have attended school within the year; none of the other children did, though, which seems a bit curious. George’s farm was worth $1100 and personal property $300. He owned no slaves and his two eldest boys were 13 and 10, so they were of limited help with the farm work. Either George had hired help or he did not have much of his land under cultivation. Still, with a total worth of $1400, George was doing quite well for himself.

During the Civil War, George’s tax assessment for June 1862 was for 1.75 on $500 for 110 acres of land. He had a penalty of 88 cents assessed for nonpayment of taxes for a total of $2.63 owed. He had a lot of company in not paying his taxes—most of the tax assessments on that page were unpaid, including his brother Solomon’s, but their brother Othneil had paid his tax. No doubt the War was making things more difficult for those with less wealth than others. Othneil had twice as much wealth as his brothers who were his neighbors; he also owned slaves. George never owned any slaves and did all his work himself, of course probably having the help of his sons.

Of course George and his family sympathized with the Confederates. When their last son was born in 1864, he was named “Robert Lee” after the great Confederate general.

George didn’t live long after the Civil War ended. He died on 10 March 1867 and was buried in the Whitenton Cemetery there in Madison County near the Whittenton farms at a place called Beech Bluff, next to his parents.

The last two of George’s children died young: Robert Lee Whitenton in 1880 at the age of 16; Alethia Phidelia Ann Whitenton in 1888 at the age of 22.

The other children married and gave George and Martha 46 grandchildren. George and his wife had the following descendants:

  • James Marshall Whitenton married Mattie Ann Moore on 4 January 1870 in Madison County, Tennessee. They had nine children:
    a. Minnie Hollan Whittington (1870) married John F. Cousens and had a daughter, Mary Frances.
    b. Laura Elizabeth Whitenton (1872) married Erbin Jared Cooper and had a daughter, Mary in 1912.
    c. George Stephen Whitenton (1874) married Mary Louis Newton and had Lillian Pauline in 1901, Percy and Marie in 1902, and Ruby in 1919.
    d. Walter Horace Lorraine Whitenton (1877) married (1) Sarah Louise Lallamand and had Marshal Edward in 1902 and Claudia in 1903. Walter m. (2) Abbie Rozella Gould and had Delta Valentine in 1913 and Emily LaRue in 1918.
    e. Laura Ruth Whitenton (1880), died at age 21 or 22.
    f. Robert Oscar Whitenton married Nell Crossan and had William in 1915, Mary Elizabeth in 1916, and Wilson Burton in 1924.
    g. Sallie Mae Whitenton (1885) married Oscar Joe Thorpe. No further details.
    h. Milton Marshal Whitenton (1888), wife unknown.
    i. Charles Lee Whitenton (1891) married Rose Katherine Gates. No further details.
    After Mattie died, James married Lucy Jane Roberts, and after she died, he married Effie Newman. James died 15 June 1936 in Benton, Kentucky at the age of 88.
  • Mary Frances Whitenton married John Brown. They had ten children:
    a. Martha Lula Brown (1871) married Charles Leonard Weir and had Joseph Leonard in 1894, Bertha in 1896, Roy in 1897, Annie M in 1900, Mary Lou in 1904, Jonnie Ione in 1906.
    b. Cora Lee Brown (1873), died unmarried at age 21.
    c. John Milton Brown (1874) married Ada Jester and had Alberta in 1904, Folger Irwin in 1907, and Laverne in 1910.
    d. Anna E Brown (1876) married Benjamin David Wimpee and had Mark in 1903, Cora in 1909, Benjamin in 1912, and Birdie in 1915.
    e. Neil Horace Brown (1878) married Martha Evaline Norwood and had Sadie Fern in 1905, Horace Corn in 1907, John Oakley in 1909, Neil Clyde in 1914, and Earl Wilson in 1917.
    f. Elba N. Brown (1880) died unmarried at age 24.
    g. Earnest Marshall Brown (1884) married Lula Mae Mason and had Mason in 1909.
    h. Bertha Ione Brown (1886) died at age 2 years.
    i. James D Brown (1888), no further details.
    j. George Frank Brown (1889) and/or Frank L Brown (1892). Possible marriage to a Lucille but no known children.
    Mary Frances died 9 January 1933 at the age of 85.
  • Thadeus Erastus was nicknamed Rack Whitenton. He married Margaret Isabelle Hendrix. They had eight children, three of whom died as unnamed infants. The others are:
    a. Nancy Rebecca (1872) died at age 2 years.
    b. Ida Belle (1875) died unmarried at age 19 years.
    c. Flora Kendall (1877) married James Calvin Walker and had Madge Irene in 1904, Idella in 1907, Martie in 1908, Jay in 1911, Earl in 1915, Cecil in 1918, and Marshall in 1919.
    d. Edgar Cleveland (1884) married Ora Allison and had Roy in 1906, Marvin in 1907, Ruby in 1908, and Rosie in 1910.
    e. Grover Horace (1886) died at the age of 14.
    Rack died 31 January 1923 in Maple Grove, Tennessee at the age of 73.
  • Coley Horace Whitenton married Sarah Jane Parham. They had two children, one of whom died as an infant. The other was Sarah E Whitenton, born in 1880. No further details.
    He died 13 April 1932 in Madison County, Tennessee, a few days before his 80th birthday.
  • Lucius Edward was nicknamed Ned Whitenton. He married Joseph Cordelia Sammons. They had five children:
    a. Joseph Edward (1882), no further details.
    b. Robert Taylor Whitenton (1886), no further details.
    c. Norvelle Whitenton (1890) married George Alfred Carter and had Maxine in 1911.
    d. Enloe Whitenton (1894), no further details.
    e. Dewey Whitenton (1898), no further details.
    But in the same cemetery with these people are Lorena Craft Whtenton (1902), and Dewey Craft Whitenton (1934), probably relatives. Ned died 30 December 1938, five days after his 85th birthday.
  • Virginia Elizabeth “Jennie” Whitenton married William J Nolan and had no children. She died in 1931 at the age of 75.
  • George Quintillian Whitenton married Anna Hatton. They had three children, two of whom were:
    a. Elma (1888)
    b. Guy (1893)
    The third child was likely a daughter who had married before the census was taken that showed the other two children in their early twenties and late teens. After Anna died, George married Cora Hunt. They had no children together. He died 23 April 1933 at the age of 75.
  • William Louis Yancey Whitenton went by the name of Yance. He married Maggie Lee Moore and moved to Arkansas. They had nine children, two of whom died young. Here is what is known of them:
    a. Lotta Whitenton (1890) married Henry M Wakefield and had Helen in 1909.
    b. George Turney Whitenton (1892), no further details
    c. Myrtle Whitenton (1895), no further details.
    d. Iva Bett Whitenton (1897), no further details.
    e. male child, 1900-1910, no further details.
    f. Louis Yancy Whitenton (1908), no further details.
    g. Norma Whitenton (1910) married Bruce Eugene Lewellen, no further details.
    h. Julius Whitenton (1913), no further details.
    Yance died in Marianna, Arkansas on 20 February 1929 at the age of 66.

Solomon Yancy Whittenton

Solomon Yancy Whittington (his name was spelled Whittenton in later records) was born in Wake County, North Carolina on 20 July 1813. He was born into a large family consisting of his parents, James and Frankie Whittington, and his siblings William (age 14), Richard (age 12), Agatha (age 10), Telitha (age 8), Gibson (age 6), Weston (age 4), and George (age 2).

When Solomon was still a little boy, perhaps about 5 years old, the family gained a slave named Dolly from Solomon’s maternal grandfather’s estate. Soon his father purchased another slave, a young man, who helped in the fields.

Solomon grew up helping his father with the farm work. He appeared on the 1820 and 1830 census records living with his father’s family in Johnston County, North Carolina. The family moved from North Carolina to Madison County, Tennessee, in about 1838 when Solomon was around 25 years old. He was living in Madison County near Jackson in 1840 with his father’s family when the census was taken that year.

The young man seemed to have gotten into some trouble over a young lady just after the move, for in 1841 Solomon had to appear on a charge in civil court that he was the reputed father of the child of a woman named “Louvisey Manor” in McNairy County, which was not far south of the Whittington home in Madison County. However, the court ruled that since the woman and child in question had been continuously residing in McNairy County for the two years since its birth, the Madison County Court refused to have jurisdiction over the case and it was dismissed. Nothing more is known of whether this really was Solomon’s child, and it is further not known whether he ever paid anything to the mother. There could be some truth to the story—probably Solomon did have some relationship with the woman at least, but he never did acknowledge the child as his and nothing more was ever heard about it, so perhaps he was not the child’s father after all.

Still, Solomon ceased living in the family home after that and his sister Agatha, whose first marriage is something of a mystery, came to live with and keep house for him, resuming her maiden name, but bringing a girl with her whose last name is the same as her first husband. We don’t know if this girl was Agatha’s child or not, nor anything else about her, except that she was reported to be 13 years old in the 1850 Census when she was living with Agatha and Solomon. In that census, Solomon was reported to be 32, which shaved five years off his age. He had no property reported but was a farmer, so it is likely that he was working for his father, who lived next door.

Solomon seemed to be poorer at this point than the rest of his brothers except Weston, who had just moved to Texas and was struggling to get established there. Even the younger brothers had more property than Solomon. Was he the family “black sheep” for having been hauled into court over a matter that was seen as staining the family honor?

It seems likely that Solomon was courting at the time the census was taken, because he must have married Mary A. Hogins very soon afterward. Their first child, Valerie, was born the next year. 

Mary Hogins is a mystery to us. She was born in either North Carolina or Tennessee in about 1820. Her last name comes from Valerie’s death record, so it is the memory of a granddaughter trying to recall what her mother (Valerie) had told her, and who knows whether what Valerie said was an accurate reflection of what her own mother had told her many years before. There are several Hogins families in 1840 living not too far away in Dickson County, northeast of Madison County, and one of them could be Mary’s family. All contain females of the right age, but all is pure guesswork. There is a Hogan family in Madison County in 1850, but they were not listed on the population schedule, only on the agricultural schedule. More research is needed to determine whether anything more can be known of Mary’s family and origins.

The next year, on December 20, 1851, Solomon’s father gave him fifty acres of land in Madison County, Tennessee. But a month before that, his father had given his younger brother more than twice that amount of land. It was registered on August 10, 1853 (probably right after his father’s death).

Solomon and Mary had the following children:

  • Valerie Jane Whittenton, born March 1851 in Madison County, Tennessee.
  • William Whittenton, born 1853 in Madison County, Tennessee.
  • Mary Ann Whittenton, born 1854 in Madison County, Tennessee.
  • Frances Elizabeth Whittenton, born May 1855 in Madison County, Tennessee.
  • Mary Jane Whittenton, born 1857 in Madison County, Tennessee.
  • Jos Laney Whittenton, a daughter, born 1860 in Madison County, Tennessee.
  • Thomas Jabe Whittenton, born 1861 in Madison County, Tennessee.
  • Bedford Forrest Whittenton, born 1864 in Madison County, Tennessee.

In 1860 Solomon had a farm worth $1000; he had one man age 50 living with him and working on the farm. He had no slaves. Solomon had 30 of his 100 acres under cultivation. He had a horse and 2 working oxen. He had 3 milk cows and 3 other cattle, and 20 pigs. He had grown 250 bushels of Indian corn, two bales of cotton, and 19 bushels of wheat. He had 25 pounds of sweet potatoes, had made 150 pounds of butter, his home manufacturing was worth $40 and the value of slaughtered animals was $72. Solomon’s farm was valued at $1400 on that form. He must have had hired help, because his children were too young to help and he had a lot of work put in on that farm to have that much wealth.

The effects of the Civil War on Solomon and his family are unknown, but it is apparent that their sympathies lay with the Confederate side of the conflict, as can be seen by the name of their last son, born in 1864, who was named after the Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest. One effect seems to be that Solomon came out of the war poorer than he went into it, which is not at all surprising for the area.

Researcher Diane Bollert with the website “Too Many Branches” found that Solomon was listed as a member of a church in Jackson, Madison, Tennessee, as of August 1869. Presumably this was the Primitive Baptist Church, but the record is not available to us.

In 1870 the county census taker for population missed Solomon and his family, but the census taker for the agricultural schedule came to the farm and found Solomon doing well, but with only half the land he had owned ten years before. In 1870 he had only 50 acres of land, of which 25 were under cultivation yielding 250 bushels of Indian corn, and 25 were woodland. The value of his farm was $800, and Solomon had paid out $50 in wages to his workers. His livestock, worth $800, consisted of  three horses, two mules or asses, one milk cow, three other cattle, eight sheep,  and twelve pigs. Inflation had hit, and although Solomon’s farm was half what it was in 1860, it was valued at more.

Solomon’s death was reported 8 December 1874 to the county court as follows: “Solomon Whittenton died about November 2, 1874; left wife and six children.” He was 61 years old.

His wife, Mary, died 20 December 1886, at the age of 66. His children William, Mary Ann, Jos Laney, and Bedford had all died before November 1887, and two of those children must have died before their father. Only four of the children grew up to marry and have children of their own:

  • Valerie Jane married James Hart and had four children.
  • Mary Jane married first Barney Johnson and had two daughters. After Barney’s death, she married William Lester Munroe and had eight more children.
  • Frances E married George D. Pond and had a number of children, only one of whom lived to adulthood, but he died soon after his marriage and left no children.
  • Thomas Jabe married a younger sister of George D. Pond, Narcissus Jane Pond, and they had a number of children.


Othaniel Whittington


Othaneil Whitenton (as he spelled his name in later records) was born 10 January 1816 in North Carolina. He was the ninth child of James and Frankie Whittington, who had six other sons and two daughters when “Othnell” (as he was often called) was born. They were: William (17), Richard (15), Agatha (13), Talitha (10), Gibson (8), Weston (7), George (4), and Solomon (2). Something about Othnell set him apart from the rest of his siblings. He ended up being the major heir of his father, and he probably was the wealthiest of them all too. Maybe he was just that much more capable than all his siblings, who knows? One interesting fact about him is that he is the only one of all the children to own slaves when he grew up. He inherited his father’s slaves, but he seems to have sold them and bought others. Others of his siblings were wealthy enough to afford slaves, but they chose not to.

The first records of Othnell are the 1820, 1830, and 1840 Census records, where he is counted among the males in his father’s family in North Carolina and Tennessee. The family moved to Madison County, Tennessee, in 1838 when he was about 22 years old. He probably grew up helping with the house and farm chores, and he learned farming at an early age along with his brothers, even though his father had slaves who doubtless worked in the fields too. There was usually only one slave in the family working on the farm; the other would have been working in the house where Othnell’s mother was probably overworked anyway. She died immediately after the family reached Tennessee, and Othnell’s father remarried five years later.

In 1850 when the Census named everybody (except the slaves), Othnell was listed in his father’s household as the last person, behind his younger brother Quintillian and older sister Talitha. His age is given as 30 which is off by four years, and his occupation is farmer. He owns no property and is probably working for his father.

At the end of the next year his father deeded him 110 acres of the family farm. The date was November 28, 1851. A month later, on December 20, 1851, his father deeded his older brother Solomon 50 acres. Why the amounts are unequal, and why all the rest of the sons got nothing comparable is one of the mysteries of this family. Maybe Othenell was the favorite son; maybe the rest were given money rather than property; who knows?

Othnell married Christena Rebecca Cox on January 13, 1858 in Madison County, Tennessee. She was born in Wilson County, Tennessee on January 5, 1834. She was 24 when they married; Othnell was 42.

Perhaps James had left Othnell with instructions to “take care of” his siblings remaining at home, for five years after James’s death, Othnell gave 50 acres of the land he got from his father jointly to his brother Quintillian and his sister Telitha on November 28, 1858. From somewhere he acquired another 50 acres though, because in 1860 his farm was reported to be 100 acres.

Othnell in 1860 had three slaves, a woman age 38, and two little boys ages 6 and 3. Othnell’s family in 1860 consisted of his wife, Christine, and a one-year-old son. His sister Telitha lived with them. His farm was worth $1000 and his personal estate $3000. He was working only 20 acres out of his 100-acre farm. He had 1 horse, 2 milk cows and 4 other cattle, and 12 pigs. He had grown 250 bushels of Indian corn and harvested 1 bale of cotton weighing 400 pounds.

His farm would today be worth over $300,000, not counting the home and personal worth. Add in his slaves and personal estate, and he was worth about $490,000–$550,000. He was wealthy for his time indeed.

His children were:
  • James Arthur Whitenton, born 1859.
  • Martha Ellen Whitenton, born March 10, 1862.
  • Frances E Whitenton, born 1866.

During the Civil War Othnell lost part of the value of his farm, and of course after the war his slaves were free. We have only a small glimpse of his situation during the war years; the tax assessment of 1862 showed that his farm was worth $1100 and of the $3.85 he was assessed for taxes, he paid $2.10 within 60 days. He did not pay the remainder until April 16, 1866, and then he had to pay $43.95.

In 1870 the agricultural schedule showed that Othnell’s farm had shrunk by half. He had 25 acres planted with crops and 25 acres of woodland. He had 4 horses, 2 milk cows and 3 other cattle; 10 sheep, and 50 hogs. He had harvested 25 bushels of winter wheat, 250 bushels of Indian corn, and 1 bale of cotton. His farm was valued at $1000, his farm implements and machinery $50, his livestock $500, and his crops $350, for a total of $1900. Despite inflation and the war, Othnell was not doing poorly at all. He died 29 March 1875 at age 59. His widow, Christine, invited her older brother, who was divorced, to live with her and the two girls, while James Arthur began going out to work for other farmers, boarding where he worked. Christine apparently lost the farm, and the family became very poor.

Christina Whitenton died April 7, 1885 at the age of 51.

In a few years James Arthur moved to Alabama, and there he met a young widow, Josie Brewer (nee Jones), who had three children, Charlie, James, and Annie. They set up housekeeping and were married July 19, 1895 in Lauderdale County, Alabama. They had the following children:
  • Alonzo E. Whitenton, b. November 11, 1894
  • Bessie Whitenton, b. November 1897
  • Walter Whitenton, b. September 1899
  • Mattie Whitenton, b. 1904
  • Jesse O. Whitenton, b. May 18, 1907
  • Luther Whitenton, b. July 8, 1909

James Arthur Whitenton supported his family all his life by doing farm work, but he never did own his own farm. He was able to advance from hiring himself out to renting a farm. His family all moved to Poinsett County, Arkansas in the 1920s and there James died in 1928.

His sister Martha, meanwhile, met a man named Barney Beauregard Williams and married him in 1887, when she was 25 years old. Barney was a year older than Martha and was a farmer born in Tennessee to North Carolina parents. They had the following children:
  • Ernest E, born in March 1892
  • Ben H, born in June 1895
Barney owned his own farm, so the family were comfortable throughout their lives. Martha died from complications of a gall stone in June 1929 at the age of 67.

Nothing is known further about the youngest sister, Frances.


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

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Mabel and the “Perfect” Wash



Mabel Wahlquist recorded her memoirs on 18 hours of cassette tapes starting in 1974. I transcribed them in 1991 and this year decided to prepare an electronic copy with hyperlinks. I couldn't resist publishing this excerpt today. This takes place between 1912 and 1920. 

I just came in from hanging a batch of clothes in my usual haphazard way, which I tell Elizabeth is a rebellion of the many, many years that I had to do it the “right” way. So maybe I might take the time to tell you about a typical wash day in Myton.

Our old washer had broken down before we left Heber, and so by the time we got out to Myton, we had to do our washing on the board. As I’ve said before, Mother was not in good health. She had sciatic rheumatism, which made it impossible for her to wash on the board, so doing the washing fell mostly on me. And it was not the easiest job in the world, with all of the heavy clothes that we had in those days. I don’t mean to imply that Mother didn’t work hard, because she did. The washing on the board just happened to be one of the things she couldn’t do, but she did many other things on wash day. She always sorted all of the clothes and got them ready to wash. And you must remember that in those days we didn’t have permanent press and drip-dry and all of the things that we have today.

We had mostly white clothes. Our sheets were all white, no pretty stripes or flowers; our towels were all white, and our underclothing was white. The men’s dress shirts were all white, no pretty colors like we have now. So most of the washing consisted of white things. And then there were the boys’ work shirts and their overalls and their socks, which were black, and of course Mother’s and my stockings were black too, black lisle—and our handkerchiefs of course were white. And that was mostly what our washing consisted of.

Mother always sorted the clothes for me and got them ready to wash. The sheets and the pillow cases all went in a pile, and then the underwear in a pile, and each thing in its own little pile in the order in which I was to wash them. I’ve often thought that Noah could have used Mother very nicely when he was putting the animals into the Ark, because she certainly had an orderly mind, and I’m certain that she wouldn’t have gotten any of the animals mixed up. There seemed to be a law in those days exactly how a washing should be arranged. I don’t know whether it was handed down from mother to child or not, but if it were, I’m afraid Mother failed to get it handed down to me. Why it should make such a big difference whether a handkerchief should get mixed up with a shirt is something I’ll never understand, I’m afraid. But I’ll have to hand it to Mother, she certainly tried, and even though I don’t do it to this day, I have a real sense of guilt if I don’t get that washing out the way that Mother taught me that it should be done. But I’ll have to admit that Mother had a real knack that all things must go like things together, and if a white nightgown happened to get mixed up with the sheets or vice versa, it would have been a most terrible thing.

While she was sorting the clothes, I was busy getting the water. Of course first we would have to stoke up the stove. If it was 100ยบ in the shade, which it sometimes was in the summertime, the old stove had to be stoked up as hot as we could get it. And the only way you could keep all those white things clean was to boil them. We would put the boiler on—I’m sure most of the older ones of you have seen a boiler, and the others, I can’t really describe it to you—it was a large tub-like, oblong-shaped thing that covered the two front burners of the stove. And we also had a water heater on the side of our stove, and then of course we put on as many pans and buckets and whatnot on top of the stove as we could, of water. Of course you mustn’t forget that this water I carried from the hydrant that I told you about, which was on the far end of the block where we lived, a bucket in each hand. And many trips were required to get the water to do a week’s wash.

The boiler would be filled with water and when the other water was warm, a tub would be filled with water and I would start to scrub, beginning with the sheets and going in Mother’s proper order down through the various types of clothing. I would scrub them on the board and then they would be wrung out by hand and put into the boiler. We couldn’t put too much in the boiler at a time, because it had to be loose enough in there so that it could be stirred around with a stick and all of it be properly boiled. 

After it had boiled a few minutes, it would be taken out with the stick into a pan and from there transferred to the tub of water again, and there it would be rinsed thoroughly to get all of the lye soap out of it and to be checked to make sure there weren’t any spots left that had been missed. Then it would be put from that tub into another tub of clear water with some bluing in it. The only bleach that we had at that time was this bluing. When that was done, then it would be ready to hang. 

It would take several times, several boilers full, to get all of the white clothes done. Then after the white clothes were done, of course then you started scrubbing on the board on the colored clothes. They didn’t go in the boiler; they were simply washed in the hot water with the lye soap and scrubbed on the board. Then they were wrung out by hand and put into the clear bluing water and wrung out by hand again. Then they were ready to go on the line.

Here again, hanging the clothes on the line was something that I just simply never did quite learn to accept. I think a woman’s character was judged by how she got her washing on the line. The sheets must hang absolutely even, the corners must be pulled straight and square. Everything had to go in its order: the shirts must all be together, all the white shirts together and all of the tails had to hang exactly to the same length, no deviation whatsoever. The towels had to hang exactly the same length; they all had to be together. For a towel to show up between two shirts would have been as bad as an elephant and a cow getting into the Ark together, I think. Even after you got the white clothes all out in their exact order and all hanging evenly at the bottom, then you started on the colored ones the same way. All of the blue shirts must be together, all of the aprons together, not an apron between two house dresses; that would never do. Finally, down to the very end would come the black socks. Every sock must be exactly even at the bottom. When it was all done, it was really a work of art. And it would take me all day, let me tell you that.

And of course when you got through with the washing, you had all this nice, soapy lye suds left, and that meant a marvelous time to scrub the kitchen and the room next to the kitchen. That room we used—we had a bed in it, but we also had our dining table in it and we ate in there on Sunday and at times when there were too many of us at home to eat at the kitchen table. Those two floors were bare and they had to be scrubbed on your knees with this lye soap. It made the bare wood floors a beautiful, clean white, just as white as your hand. Well no, not as white as your hand, because your hands were red by that time. When you got that done, of course the porch had to be mopped because that was where we did all of our taking care of the milk, and that’s where the separator was, so that had to be scrubbed and kept nice and clean too. So this was really quite a day, wash day.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Whittingtons, Part 4: Gibson and Weston

Gibson and Weston Whitenton were among the sons of James and Frankie Whittington who left Tennessee and moved on to Texas. Two more of their younger brothers would follow them.

This is Part 4 of the series about the Whittington family of North Carolina and Tennessee and Texas.

Part 1: The James and Frankie Whittington Family
Part 2: William and Richard
Part 3: Agatha and Telitha
Part 5: George, Solomon, and Othaneil
Part 6: Cason Coley, James Henderson, Quintillian, and Frances Ann

Gibson Whitenton

Gibson (he spelled his surname Whitenton) was born 29 June 1807 in Johnston County, North Carolina. He was the fifth child and third son of James and Frankie Whittington. When he was born, his siblings were William (8), Richard (6¾), Agatha (4½), and Talitha (2). He and his next younger brother, Weston, seemed to be close friends as well as brothers.
Gibson was a member of his father’s household on the 1820 and 1830 census records for Johnston County, North Carolina. He probably appeared on the 1810 Census as well, but very probably the family was on the federal listing for Wake County and that return is missing from the archives and was never microfilmed. Sometime in the 1830s the family moved to Tennessee, and Gibson went with them.

Gibson married Elizabeth Williams in Madison County, Tennessee, on August 20, 1840. He and Elizabeth were both 33; her birth date was April 16, 1807. He had been living with his father’s family, but he and Elizabeth immediately set up housekeeping in a little home nearby. In the 1840 Census the two of them were living next door to his brother Weston’s family, and just two houses away was Gibson’s father’s family. Together Gibson and Elizabeth had the following children:

  • Sarah James Frances Whitenton, born 30 September 1841 in Madison, Tennessee.
  • Elender Whitenton, born 30 June 1842 in Madison, Tennessee.
  • Martha L Whitenton, born 1844 in Dyer, Tennessee.
  • David William Whitenton, born 27 October 1847 in Madison, Tennessee.

In 1850 Gibson and Elizabeth were living in District 17 of Madison County, Tennessee. Their family consisted of Sarah JF, age 9; Ellender, age 8; Martha L, age 6; David W, age 3; and a hired man, George Smith, age 18. Gibson’s farm was worth $250.

Just about the time of Father James’s death in 1853, Gibson sold his Tennessee land and went to Texas to join his brother Weston in Goliad County. In 1854 Gibson owned a horse, eight cows, one yoke of oxen, and some hogs. His total worth was $104. He had to pay 75¢ poll tax, a reminder that this was the South where elections were restricted to those who could afford to vote. His state tax was only 15¢. Probably he started out down there working for his brother since he didn’t have any real estate property on the first tax roll.

The next year his tax assessment shows he gained one cow, but his total worth dropped to $79. Gibson and Elizabeth must have been struggling at first to get established in Texas, but their circumstances soon improved substantially.

In 1860 Gibson’s farm was worth $1100 and his personal property $600. The census showed his age was 53, that he was born in North Carolina, and his occupation was a farmer. His wife and children were all identified only by their initials. The children’s ages were correct, but his wife had shaved several years off her age. People have always wanted to be younger than they are!

We don’t know what happened to Gibson during the Civil War, if he was affected in any way. Certainly he did not seem to be affected economically; the evidence is that he continued to do well, based on tax records from the years of the War.

The 1863 tax roll listed $1015 worth of property for Gibson, consisting of “Land, Horses, Cattle &c”. This is a little lower than his worth before the War started.

The 1864 tax assessment showed that Gibson’s total worth was $910, consisting of land and livestock (horses, cattle, sheep, and hogs). He had 198 acres worth $500; the original grant was owned by S. Byrnes. The poll tax had risen to $1.00; his state tax was $5.55; his county tax was $1.38⅓.

One year later his situation was a little improved. He had a total worth of $982. He had 200 acres from S Byrnes valued still at $500.

The voter list for 1867 showed that on July 30, 1867 Gibson lived in Precinct 3 of Goliad County and had been there for 15 years, which might be rounded up since it seems hard to believe that he and Elizabeth would have struggled nearly five years to get land and begin to live comfortably. Two or three years of struggle, give or take a year, seems more realistic for their situation.

On the agricultural schedule for 1870, Gibson had 202 acres of land, with 22 under cultivation yielding 300 bushels of Indian corn. His farm was worth $700. A little oddly, Gibson listed no livestock of any kind, while next door his brother Weston had plenty. It makes one wonder whether the brothers were sharing the animals that helped work the farm.

On the 1870 census population schedule, Gibson was 63 years old, still farming, and he listed his worth as $696 of real estate and $500 of personal estate. This is the highest relative value Gibson realized in the five years immediately following the War. Postwar economics caused Gibson’s relative wealth to decrease for several years after this.

Living with Gibson in 1870 were his wife, Elizabeth, and their son, David, who was 22 at the time. Also living in the same house were their daughter Sarah and her husband David Kersey. The Kerseys reported that they just got married in July, and the census was also taken in July, on the 22nd of that month. Finally, there was a young hired man living there too, named Thomas Adcock, age 18, from Mississippi. Next door were Gibson’s brother Weston and his family.

Their daughter Martha L appears to have married Samuel H Jones in June 1869 in Dyer County, Tennessee (or Sam Johnson—there are marriage records for both names with the same bride). Perhaps she was there visiting relatives when she met him. They moved to Missouri and had a daughter in 1871, Lizzie Jane. Nothing further is known about their family, except that Martha died in 1874.

Sadly for Gibson and his children, Elizabeth died the next year on May 17, 1871. She was 64 years old. However, living near Gibson’s brother Weston was a family named Jacobs, and they had an attractive, widowed relative named Mrs. Mary Ann Jacobs. Not five months after Elizabeth’s death, Gibson married Mary Ann Jacobs in DeWitt County on October 8, 1871. What did the children think? Was this quick, or were there extenuating circumstances?

Mary Ann had been born in South Carolina on March 9, 1832. She had at least one daughter from a previous husband, but the daughter’s last name was not “Jacobs,” so there is a little mystery about Mary Ann’s relationships.

The 1871 tax rolls for Goliad County show Gibson’s relative wealth had decreased. He had 197 acres from “Squire Burns” valued at just $1 per acre, and his livestock consisted of 6 horses valued at $100, 22 cattle valued at $100, 280 sheep valued at $228, and miscellaneous property valued at $59. His total property value was set at $684. Based on the value of the land, Gibson probably was grazing the cattle and sheep on it and not cultivating any.

Gibson’s state tax was $3.42, then for some reason the poll tax was left blank, and the next column shows 17¢ for a total state tax of $3.59. His county taxes were broken down into categories for county, special, road, repair, and school taxes. His were $1.71, $3.42, $2.71, 68⅔¢, and 34⅓¢, with the total appearing to be $8.86⅔ (I know that doesn’t add up, but that’s what is written on the form). In addition to these taxes, he had to pay 25¢ to a “justices fee,” and 40¢ to a “justices commission” with a total of 65¢ to “fees and commissions.” When we complain about our taxes today, we can see there is a long history of taxes piling up on a person.

In 1872, Gibson’s tax roll showed 200 acres at a value of $250—inflation must have hit, or he was cultivating a few acres with a crop that gave him a good return. He had more value in livestock as well: 5 horses at $100, 2 cattle at $25, 300 sheep at $1 apiece. The total of his property this year was $730, a little better than the year before. His taxes were $10.47.

In 1877 Gibson’s tax roll showed apparently different lands in his possession. In this year, the original grantors of his lands were Turner for 207 acres and O’Neil for 113 acres. The value of these two pieces of land together was $576. He had 2 dogs valued at $200 and a “carriage, buggy, or wagon” valued at $50. Can you imagine today buying a dog for more than you paid for your ride? His relative wealth was close to the same as five years before.

The 1880 Census found Gibson on June 22nd of that year nursing a broken leg. He was 72 years old and still reported his occupation as “Farmer.” His wife “Marianna” was 48, keeping house, and was born in South Carolina, as were both her parents. Her daughter Florence Deeton, age 19, was living with them.

Next door to them on one side was the family of Gibson’s son David, a farmer like his father. David at that time was 32, and his wife, Amanda, was 26. Their son, Jesse H, was 1. David and Amanda had gotten married in 1874. Their children would be:
  • Jessie Henderson Whitenton, 1879–1952
  • Charlotte Elizabeth Whitenton, 1881–1960
  • David William Whitenton, 1883–1964
David Sr. was a farmer like his father. He died in Goliad County on April 4, 1912. His wife, Amanda, died in 1920.

Next door to them on the other side was the family of Gibson’s daughter “Ellinda” as this census taker wrote it. Her husband, John Adcock, was 41, and Elender was 37. Perhaps John was a relative of the hired man from ten years before, Thomas Adcock. John’s and Elender’s children were:
  • Elizabeth, 1864
  • Margaretta, 1867–1891
  • Alexander, 1870–1951
  • William Moody, 1873–1948
  • Robert Jefferson, 1876–1895
  • David W, 1878–1969
  • Gilbert Adolph, 1882–1957
John and Ellender moved to Pearsall, Frio County, Texas, soon after the census was taken. There Ellender died January 20, 1883 at the age of 40.

Four or five houses away from Gibson’s son David was the household of Gibson’s eldest daughter and her family. David B. Kersey was 44 at this time, a farmer, and Sarah was 38, keeping house. Their children were:
  • Talitha Elizabeth, 1871–1910
  • Martha J, 1874–1886
  • Matthew James, 1874–1962
  • Gibson A, 1876
  • Elender Cassandra, 1877–1969
Sarah and David Kersey prospered and lived all their lives in Goliad County. David died in 1913 and Sarah in 1929.

The final record we have showing Gibson on his farm is a tax assessment from 1885. He had two pieces of land totaling 227 acres, valued at $681. He had 2 carriages, 2 horses, 20 cattle, and 220 sheep. The value of all of these was $840, making his total worth $1521. Gibson was a prosperous man.

Gibson died 8 January 1888 in Goliad County and was buried there beside Elizabeth. His second wife, Mary Ann, died November 21, 1898.


Weston Whittenton

Weston was born January 8, 1809 in Wake County, North Carolina. Records for Weston spelled the family name Whittenton. When he was born, his older siblings were William (10), Richard (8), Agatha (6), Talitha (4), and Gibson (1½). He and Gibson seem to have always been close.

Weston married Lucy Ann Williams in Wake County, North Carolina in about 1830 when they were both about 21 years old. They had the following children:
  • John R, born in Wake County in September 1832.
  • James William, born in Madison, Tennessee in mid-to-late 1837.
  • Sarah C, born in Tennessee 17 April 1840.
  • George M, born in Tennessee in 1843 and died between the ages of 7 and 17.
  • Mary Elizabeth, a twin born in Texas on 17 February 1851.
  • Lucy Ann, a twin born in Texas on 17 February 1851.
As can be seen by the births of the children, Weston and his family moved to Tennessee about 1837 or a little before. The 1840 Census shows them in Madison County, next door to Gibson and his new wife. The census has problems though, because it lists a male child age 5–10 and two female children ages 5–10 and under 5. We know the older female child should have been a male instead. Then the total in the household says 6, although only 5 are shown. One is engaged in agriculture, which of course would be Weston.

Weston and his family moved to Texas sometime after George’s birth in 1843, but before the Census was taken in September 1850. This was curious, Weston’s move. He was right in Victoria County where his older brother William died in 1849, and yet Weston never claimed any part of the estate that was being probated right at that time, with notices being posted in three different places in the county. If he had just moved there, it’s possible he missed all the notices, but it’s a stretch of the imagination to think that he moved all the way from Tennessee to the very county where his older brother was known to have been living and then did not contact anyone about him. If he moved there before, say in the mid-to-late 1840s, he must have contacted William—and if so, perhaps they had a major falling-out. Even so, why would he not claim part of the estate? Weston was not doing all that well at the time. The whole thing is odd to say the least.

The 1850 Census for Victoria County shows Weston Whittenton on September 13, 1850. Weston was 41 years old, his wife, Lucy Ann, was 39. The children were: John R (age 18), James W (age 13), Sarah C (age 10), and George M (age 7). Weston and John R were listed as farmers.

By 1854 Weston had moved to Goliad County near Gibson and his family. Perhaps some of their closeness stemmed from the relationship of their wives. Both women were from the Williams family originating in Wake County, North Carolina, but their exact blood relationship to each other is unknown.

Weston acquired a farm worth $140 on a stream called Coletto. He had a horse, 2 cows, a yoke of oxen, and some hogs. His total worth was $221. The poll tax was 75¢. His state tax was 33¢. The next year his tax report shows the same value for his farm. The livestock changed though—he had two horses, one cow, and his oxen and hogs rose in value from $50 to $65, making his total worth $255.

The 1860 Census, taken in July that year, shows Weston’s farm was more modest, worth $250, but his personal property was worth $600. His 22-year-old son James William was farming with him, and he had a young man from New York living with him and raising stock with a worth of $800. His family consisted of his wife, Lucy Ann, his son James William (age 22), twin daughters Martha Elizabeth and Lucy Ann (age 8), and Mr. F. Greenly, the stock raiser from New York.


Weston’s son John R, age 27, was enumerated twice in 1860. On June 1st he was reported as living in Texana, Jackson County, Texas with his wife, Martha W., age 22, and their daughter, Allice L., age 3, with his wife’s family, William and Sarah Probst and their other children. John’s occupation was a saddle tree maker and he had a personal estate of $300, and his birthplace was Wake County, North Carolina. Martha was reported born in Live Oak County, Indiana. Allice was born in Goliad County, Texas. Living with the family is 77-year-old John A. Anderson, a cabinet workman whose worth is $200 and who was born in Anderson, South Carolina. In the other enumeration on July 26th, John, age 27, was listed as a farmer in Goliad County with no estate. Martha and Allice were with him, and John’s brother James William, age 22, was enumerated with them but had no occupation listed.

It is interesting that both John R and James William were enumerated twice, with James being once with his parents and once with his brother’s family.

It seems likely that the truth must be something like this:
  1. John R moved his family to Texana in late May and was recorded by the census taker there.
  2. The Goliad County census taker came around and Weston reported his and Lucy’s family, including James.
  3. The Goliad County census taker came back later to ask about the empty house near the Whittenton farm, and Lucy reported her son John R’s family as if they still lived there, to make sure they did not get missed by the census, and she did not know the details of his occupation nor his property value. She included William with his brother’s family (not knowing Weston had told the census taker he lived with them now), and perhaps James William did live with his brother up until they moved.
What is most interesting is that one report uses James’ first name, and the other report uses the middle name, William. That’s what makes it likely that two different family members did the reporting. Since “James” is the same as Weston’s father’s name, and “William” is short for Lucy’s maiden surname, perhaps they each favored their family’s part of this son’s name. It does make it seem as if the one son were two people though.

The Civil War erupted right after this census, and Weston’s sons John R and James William served in the Confederate Army. John enlisted in the Texas infantry, serving in the 8th Regiment under Col. A.M. Hobby, Company E under Lt. Col. John Ireland. The regiment spent most of the War defending the coast between Corpus Christi and Galveston from Union invasion, but in March 1864 they went over into Louisiana and fought in the Battle of Mansfield on April 8. 

James William went to DeWitt County (next door to Goliad) and joined William O. Yager’s 3rd Battalion Texas Mounted Rifles. Yager’s Regiment was consolidated with the 8th Cavalry and renamed the 1st Texas Cavalry Regiment. Pfc. Whittenton was a member of Company B. They fought a few skirmishes in Texas and then went over to Louisiana and fought in the Battle of Mansfield, on April 8, 1864, and he was killed in that battle. His brother apparently was with him because their units were put together in that battle. James’ name underwent a metamorphosis during the War. His first enlistment is under the name “J.W. Whittington.” But during his six months’ service in that regiment, his papers were filed under the name “W.J. Whittenton.” Then when he was formally listed with the 1st Regiment, it was under the name “William J. Whittenton.” From this evidence we can conclude that he went by the name of “William” and reversed the order of his names. Of course it must have been devastating to Weston and Lucy for James to have been killed.

John served until the War was over, but there is no record of when and where he and his company were captured or surrendered. On August 16, 1865, he took the oath of amnesty at the Courthouse in Victoria County, Texas.

In 1869 the tax assessment for Weston’s property showed he had 72 acres worth $300. He had three horses and 25 cows and a total worth of $480. His taxes were 72¢ for the property and $1 for the poll tax. It looks as if he had the cattle grazing the land rather than farming it. His total worth was $780 for the year, so his financial situation looked very much the same as ten years before.

Weston’s son John R still held property in Goliad County or perhaps had moved back there, for his tax assessment is on the next line. He had 5 acres worth $200, so probably he had it all under cultivation in cotton or some high-value crop. He had two horses, seven cows, and “merchandise” for a total worth of $458. His taxes were 68¾¢ for property and $1 poll tax. John’s first wife, Martha, had died before 1870, and his mother-in-law moved in with him to take care of his daughter Alice.

The 1870 Census was taken July 22nd in Goliad County and shows Weston at age 60 (he was really 61), as a farmer with land worth $250 and a personal estate of $230. This looks as if his worth has gone down over $300 in one year, with $50 of it being land. What could have caused such a drastic decrease in fortune? Perhaps he gave some land to one or another of his children and personal property to the others.

On May 3, 1871, twin daughter Lucy A. Whittenton married William Noll in Goliad County. They had a daughter, Christine Elizabeth Noll, born 4 July 1872. William apparently died right around that time, for Mrs. Lucy Ann Noll married Charles Andrew Johnson in Victoria County on July 6, 1874. They had three sons who lived to adulthood, and apparently two other children died young (the 1900 census recorded that Lucy had borne six children, four of whom were living).

Weston died also in 1871 (we hope it was after Lucy’s wedding). This was also the same year that his brother Gibson’s first wife died. Weston’s exact death date is unknown. The next known record of Weston’s widow shows her paying property taxes in 1871 on what she had after Weston had died. She apparently was not left any land. She had 1 horse, 30 cattle, and miscellaneous property to make her total worth just $310. In 1880 she was living with her daughter Lucy Ann Johnson, and that is the last record we have of her.

John R married again in June 1872 to Margaret Jane Probst, who was born in December 1837. She was a younger sister of his late wife. They had no children together.

Weston and Lucy’s daughter Sarah was married to a man named John W. Kuykendall, and they had at least four children:
  • Dora Florence (February 1860)
  • Cynthia (1862)
  • John M (1867)
  • James W (February 29, 1870)
In 1880 Sarah reported on the census that she was living with these four named children in Cuero, DeWitt, Texas, although her son John M was also recorded as living with his grandmother Lucy Whittenton in his aunt and uncle Johnson’s family. On January 25, 1887 Sarah married James Maddox. He died before 1900, and there Sarah was in DeWitt County alone in her home. The record shows that Sarah bore six children and that two had died before 1900. Since the four who are named above were all still living in 1900, either Sarah had children with John Kuykendall who died unnamed (there is a span of five years between two of the living children as well as the years after 1870 and before John died when she could have had children), or she had two children with her second husband and both died. Sarah died 15 October 1920.
Lucy Ann Johnson died May 24, 1901. John R died in April 1902 and his widow, Margaret, died in 1921 in a home for Confederate widows. Nothing is known further about Lucy Ann’s twin, Mary Elizabeth.


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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Whittingtons, Part 3: Agatha and Telitha

This is Part 3 of a series about the Whittington family of North Carolina and Tennessee and Texas.

Part 1: The James and Frankie Whittington Family
Part 2: William and Richard
Part 4: Gibson and Weston
Part 5: George, Solomon, and Othaneil
Part 6: Cason Coley, James Henderson, Quintillian, and Frances Ann

Agatha Bless Whittington 

Agatha Bless Whittington was born 27 October 1802 in Wake County, North Carolina, the third child and first daughter of James and Frankie Whittington. Her older brothers were William, age 3 years and 10 months, and Richard, age 2 years and 1 month.

We know very little factual information about Agatha, and even what is documented is shrouded in mystery. A bond was paid on February 16, 1823 in Johnston County, North Carolina for the marriage of Agatha Bless Whittington and Alexander S. Collins. Curiously, Alexander was unable to pay the bond for the marriage license, so Agatha’s brother William provided it. Agatha and Alexander married on that day or shortly thereafter—or did they?

North Carolina census indexes yield no Alexander Collins and wife in 1830 or 1840. There is a slight possibility that they were living with older relatives: in Wake County, North Carolina, in 1830 a man in his 50s named Uriah Collins had in his household a young man and woman in their 20s who could possibly be Alex and Agatha. Uriah’s household also had a woman in her 50s who is probably his wife, and two other young women, one in her 30s and one aged 10–15. It is nothing more than speculation that these people could be Alexander’s parents and sisters, and they do live quite close to Agatha’s brother Richard and his wife. No other Collins family in either Johnston County or Wake County has any people of the right age other than this one.

Alex died in 1860 all alone and his estate went to public auction as his effects were unclaimed.

Meanwhile, apparently Agatha moved to Tennessee with her father’s family and in 1850 was keeping house for her brother Solomon, just before his marriage. And her name on that census was “Agatha B. Whittington.” Did she ever marry Alex Collins, or did one of them back out at the last minute? Were they married and subsequently divorced, and did she resume her maiden name? There was a “Catherine Collins,” age 13, living with Agatha and her brother. Was this a relative of Alex? Could Catherine be the daughter of Agatha and Alex?

In 1851 Agatha joined the Baptist Church in Madison, Tennessee. That same year she was said to have married a man named Mr. Crabtree, but no source has been located to support this. In fact, nothing further is documented of her life after the 1850 Census. She was said to have died in 1889; again, no document has surfaced to support this.


Talitha Cumi Whittenton 

Some sources say her name is Tabitha but since in the Bible verse (Mark 5:41) the phrase is Talitha cumi, most likely her name was that very phrase.

Talitha was born in North Carolina on 13 March 1805. She was the fourth child of James and Frankie Whittington, with two older brothers and an older sister in the family when she arrived.

Her age changes in the census records over time. In the earliest record we have for her (the 1820 Census), her age is in the correct category. In 1830 she is in the 20–30 category and was 25 years old. In 1840 she is again in the 20–30 category although she was 35 years old. The 1850 Census reported that she was 40, but she was really 45. In 1860 she lived with her brother Othnel and his wife and infant son. She was reported to be 50, but she was actually 55.

She never married and lived with her parents until they had both died; then she apparently lived with her brother Othnel.

On November 28, 1858 her brother Othnel deeded her and their younger brother Quintillion jointly a piece of land in Madison County, Tennessee, described as “50 acres off the east end of 110 acres on which he lived, given to him by his father . . .”. This deed was registered on May 22, 1861.

The Civil War was just getting under way when this deed was recorded—in fact, North Carolina’s legislature had just voted two days before to secede from the United States and join the Confederate States of America. Quince went off to war and after that to Texas. But the records don’t show what happened to the land he and Talitha jointly owned. Perhaps she bought him out; perhaps there was no money and Quince simply left.

Talitha is reported to have died 27 July 1888, but no record has surfaced to prove that date. Oddly, I have a distinct memory of seeing a photograph of her gravestone online, but I didn’t save a copy and cannot find any trace on any website that I know of, so I must have been dreaming—or it disappeared in a mysterious way shortly after I viewed it.


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Saturday, January 17, 2015

A Spider and the Lost $500 Bond

When researching the great uncles and aunts of my Grammy, Lillie Belle Munro Read, I came across a marriage bond for great-aunt Agatha Bless Whittington and Alexander S. Collins, dated February 16, 1823 in Wake County, North Carolina.

In looking for further records about the Collinses while they were married, I came across a probate file that possibly belonged to Alexander S. Collins. It was dated 1860 and was very brief and inconclusive as to whether it belonged to great-aunt Agatha Whittington’s ex-husband. One thing in the inventory caught my eye, however: “1 spider” it said, among a listing of kitchen items. I immediately envisioned a spider web above a kitchen cupboard, catching unfortunate bugs and keeping them out of the food. Okay, impossible. What is a kitchen implement that was called a “spider” in the 1800s?


A quick search online shows that it was a long-handled, three-legged skillet or frying pan, probably made of cast iron. 

Nathaniel Euse and James Sears and Mills L. Eure put up a bond for $500 on November 7, 1860 for Nathaniel Euse and James Sears to be granted Letters of Administration as Special Administrators over the estate of Alexander Collins. They were charged with the task of completing an inventory within three months and returning it to the Court. The Court Clerk, Henry I. Eure, witnessed the petition. The inventory was taken November 15, 1860, and that’s all that was in that file. Why wasn’t the estate settled?

On November 6, 1860, over 80% of the country went to the polls, and Abraham Lincoln won the presidency without winning a single southern state. I don’t know how long it took in those days to count the votes and come up with the final tally, nor do I know the exact date of the electoral college votes, but it would have been very soon. And just a month later, the southern states started to secede from the Union. North Carolina was the last to secede of all the southern states that joined the Confederacy, on May 20, 1861.

North Carolina was reportedly less physically affected than most Southern states by the war, having few battles fought within its borders and none of them large. But certainly it was very much affected by the fact of being at war and by all the available men being conscripted.

After the War, North Carolina was beset with political problems that were not easily resolved. In 1870 the conservative Democrats regained control, and in that year on July 4th, the Probate Court of Gates County under Judge R.B.G. Cowper granted John J. Gatling Letters of Administration de bonis non for the estate of Alexander Collins. That meant he was a successor administrator of the estate, so this new file must be tied to the 1860 beginning. Within the new probate file are some twenty-two pages of documents, including promissory notes with the name “Alexander S. Collins” on them. A search of North Carolina records reveals no other Alexander S. Collins of the right age except the one who in early life was associated with Agatha Whittington, so this must be our man.

He must have died in 1860. He himself signed a promissory note in January of that year, and then the probate started on November 7th of that year. There were notes owed the estate dated November 17, 1860 that could not mean Alexander Collins had loaned money to anyone. Since the original inventory was dated November 15th, probably the estate auction was held two days later and some of the buyers never paid up. Administrator John J. Gatling eventually sold those notes to a man named Carter for five cents. Carter was speculating that perhaps he could track down the defaulters and make them pay something after 15 years.

What happened to the earlier administrators? A search of the census records shows there were two Nathaniel Eures in Gates County, one born in 1798 and another born in 1848. The older man must have been the administrator. Perhaps he did not survive the War. As for James Sears, he was born in 1818, married in 1838, held a number of slaves in 1850, and his probate was begun in 1870. The co-signer on the original bond, Mills L. Eure, had a son also named Mills L. Eure who was born in 1838. The younger Mills served in the Confederate Army and married after the War. It was probably his father who lost the money through the chaos the War caused.

How much money was $500 worth back then? It would be a lot of money to lose. There is no exact calculator that tells us, but there are several websites that take a stab at it. According to one of them, $500 back then would now buy you roughly $14,300 worth of “stuff.” Yes, that would be a lot of money to lose back then. We do not know if they lost it or not. 


Either way, that $500 was just a drop in the sea of the troubles of that time.


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