Abijah Thomas and His Octagon House


Thomas, Abijah, picture, standing 001
Abijah Thomas 1814-1876

This week on #52 Ancestors, the prompt is Family Photo.  Last week I wrote about Thomas Thomas and Freelove Cole, my 4th great-grandparents, and Abijah Thomas is their youngest son.  That would make him my great-uncle, four times removed   I cannot find a picture of Thomas Thomas, my great-grandfather, but finding a picture of one of his sons was pretty special.  You can read Thomas and Freelove’s story here: Searching for “FREELOVE” Perhaps Abijah looked a bit like his father Thomas.   I found Abijah’s story to be quite interesting and touching as he started with little and became a wealthy antebellum entrepreneur  who eventually went bankrupt and died penniless because of the Civil War.   It is a sort of “rags to riches and back to rags” story.  One of the interesting things about him was the famous Octagon House he built that still stands today!   But first let me get into Abijah’s story!

Abijah was born on May 21, 1914 on the South Fork of the Holston River, Smyth County, Virginia and was named after his father’s brother, Abijah.  He married Priscilla Cavinette Scott on June 2, 1836 and they had twelve children together.  He acquired a plantation of 400 acres and slowly began to accumulate numerous other land holdings in the thousands of acres.   He was a slave holder also as was the norm for huge plantation owners of the south.

Thomas, Abijah, portrait 001
Portrait of Abijah Thomas

Abijah is written up in Smyth County History (p. 180)  as ” a man of rare vision and enterprise, (he) was the foremost industrialist of Smyth County before the Civil War.  His developments of the iron industry in mines, furnaces, and foundries along the South Fork and on Staley’s Creek, made him a wealthy man for his day, and if the Civil War had not destroyed these properties and involved him heavily he would in all probability have amassed one of the great fortunes of the state, and have set his county fifty years ahead in industrial development.”

Abijah established the Holston Woolen Mills on the Holston River that was all water powered.  A town of Holston Mills grew up around it with saw mills, a shirt factory, stores, boarding houses, post office, schools and many homes.

Thomas, Abijah, Holston Mills, picture 001

Other industries that Abijah established included  a pig iron furnace, a tannery and a cotton mill.  All four industries spurred the growth of the county and state of  Virginia.

Abijah wanted a unique home – something representative of his progressive ideas, wealth and his social status.  He met Mr. Orson Fowler who wrote a book “The Octagon House: A Home for All” in 1848.  Mr. Fowler claimed an Octagon House would be inexpensive, give excellent views from all sides and allowed for good ventilation.  Abijah was sold and had a beautiful Octagon House built of 17 rooms, 10 closets and a storage room.  The exterior walls were made of brick which were made by the slaves on the property.   The interior featured rare painted ashlar upon plaster wall, marbleizing and  stenciling.

Thomas, Abijah, Octagon house, earlier days 001

The house was completed in 1857 for Abijah on his property of 400 acres and was assessed at being worth $5,000 in 1857.  Here are pictures of the original floor plans.

Thomas, Abijah, Octagon House, 1st floor plan 001                     Thomas, Abijah, Octagon house, 2nd floor plan 001

Unfortunately, this is what the grand old house looks like today.  The Thomas Family lost its fortune during the Civil War and the mansion was sold.  The last time it was lived in was the 1940’s and it has been neglected and has badly deteriorated over the years.

Thomas, Abijah, Octagon House, today 001

Here’s the good news – Abijah’s Octagon House, which is on Thomas Bridge Road, Marion, Smyth County, Virginia, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980 and the Virginia Landmarks Register.  The Octagon House Foundation, which has a Facebook page in case you wish to learn more or donate, plans to restore the historic home of Abijah.  Their vision of a completed restoration is as below.

Thomas, Abijah, Octagon house, restoration plan 001

In coming years, the Octagon House will be restored to its former grandeur and give visitors insight into the life of the Thomas family with tours and presentations.Thomas, Abijah, with grandson, picture, 1869 001

Thomas, Abijah, Octagonal House, book 001Mack Howard Sturgill wrote a book “Abijah Thomas and his Octagonal House, which tells the story of the Thomas Family including John Thomas, Thomas Thomas, Freelove Cole and, of course, Abijah Thomas.  Copies of the book are rare and may be found in Historical Societies.  I am still trying to borrow a copy.


Abijah Thomas  and Priscilla’s children were: Charles Benton Thomas, born 1837; Virginia Ann Thomas (1839-1917); Eliza Hamilton Thomas (1841-1865); Thomas Jefferson Thomas (1843-1906); Missouri Freelove Thomas born 1846; Asenath Wilder Thomas born 1848; Mitchell Wood Thomas born 1850; Martha Elizabeth Thomas born 1852; Mary Ellen Thomas (1854-1891); Abijah Preston Thomas born 1857; Montgomery Thomas (1860-1862); Priscilla Cavinette Thomas born 1864.

Abijah Thomas died December 1, 1876 and Priscilla, his wife, died in December of 1885. They were buried on a hill above their beloved Octagon House and elaborate tombstones were erected to mark their graves.   Rest in Peace Abijah and Priscilla!

Thomas, Abijah, grave, 1876, St Clair's Bottom, Smyth VA 001


Ancestry.com. Smyth County, history and traditions [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2005. (pages: 180,321-322)  Original Data: Wilson, Goodridge, Kingsport, TN: Kingsport Press, 1932.

Washington County, Virginia Probate Record Book, 10.  Pages 37 to 39.

Google Images related to Abijah Thomas and the Octagon House.

Southwest Virginia Today: https://www.swvatoday.com/image.

Sturgill, Mack Howard (1990); Abijah Thomas & His Octagonal House, Published by M. H. Sturgill.


Wikipedia: Abijah Thomas House.






Searching for “FREELOVE”

This week on #52Ancestors celebrates Valentine’s day!  Hmm – Searching for Freelove sounds like something from the 60’s and the Hippie movement!  However, this week, I actually found an ancestor whose name is Freelove Cole – Freelove Mason Cole Thomas to be exact!  52ancestors-sidebar-1

Freelove was my fifth Great-grandmother!  Freelove Mason  Cole was born on Christmas Eve, December 24 of 1773 in Ulster, Ulster, New York – then the Colony of New York in British Colonial America.  This was before the American Revolutionary War.  As a matter of fact, Freelove was the daughter of Captain Joseph Cole, III, who fought in the Battle of King’s Mountain in the Revolutionary War.  He was born in 1750 and died in 1826 so we know he survived the war.

Capt. Joseph Cole III married Remember Cole – another unusual name – “Remember” – not easy to forget that name (sorry for the pun!).   Remember’s maiden name was also Cole as she was the daughter of Israel Cole and Remember Burgess ( so that is where the name “Remember” came from!).  Capt. Joseph Cole III was the son of Joseph Cole Jr and Freelove Mason.  Now we know where the name “Freelove” came from also!   More on these ancestors from the Massachusetts Colony later.

Back to Freelove Mason Cole, my fifth great-grandmother, who was born in Ulster County, New York Colony.  Her mother, Remember Cole was born in 1751 but died in 1776 at about age 25.  Her father remarried twice after Remember’s death and he lived to 1826.  Freelove  married Thomas Thomas – his actual name was Thomas Jefferson Thomas– on 5 April of 1791 in Washington County, Virginia (I love all these names!).  At the time of marriage, Freelove was 17 and Thomas was 24.   Thomas Thomas was born December 6, 1766 in Southampton County, Virginia  and was the son of John Thomas and Mary Robinette.  

John Thomas left a will leaving land on the south fork of the Holston River in Virginia to his sons Thomas and Abijah.  At this time, the land was in Washington County but part of this county and Wythe County became Smyth County in 1832. Also, in 1821, John Thomas granted a “bargain Sale” of land for one dollar to Thomas Thomas  that was a second parcel of land on the south and north sides of the Holston River containing 315 acres.  This was land that John Thomas received as bounty land from the Commonwealth of Virginia and he sold it cheaply to his son ” in consideration of the natural love & affection” which he had for Thomas.

Freelove’s father, Joseph Cole, was a pioneer settler on Sinclair’s Bottom in Washington (now Smyth) County.  There is a deed from Joseph Cole (Freelove’s father) to Thomas Thomas, dated January 16, 1782, and recorded in the Clerk’s Office of Washington County for 150 pounds of current money, conveyed a tract of land described as follows: ” One certain tract or parcel of land containing 400 acres, be the same more or less, being the same that the said Joseph Cole purchased of Henry Bowen, being and lying in Washington County on the waters of the South Fork of Holston River.”  This part of Washington County became Smyth County in 1832.   This accumulation of so much land seems to be why the Thomas Thomas family came  to settle in Smyth County of southwest Virginia coming from Southampton County in southeast Virginia.

The Thomas family was closely associated with the founding of the town of Marion in Smyth County (Presently the city of Marion).  When Smyth County was being formed, there was a controversy over choosing a county seat.  According to Smyth County History ( p. 78), “This commission spent a night with Mr. Thomas Thomas, on the South Fork (of the Holston River), where a discussion arose concerning a name for the new county seat.  Mrs. Freelove Cole Thomas, their hostess, opined that it would be fitting to name it in honor of Gen. Francis Marion, which was done.”  Now that is interesting that one of my ancestors actually named a town that became the county seat of Smyth County, Virginia!  General Francis Marion served in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and in the French and Indian Wars.  He was known as the “Swamp Fox” because of his style of warfare.

Freelove and Thomas Thomas had 10 known children and their daughter, Mary Polly Thomas, married William Porter in 1819.  Mary Polly Thomas Porter, known as Aunt Polly, lived to be 97 years of age.  She and William Porter are my fourth great-grandparents.   Other children of Thomas and Freelove included Remember Ann , Martha , Joseph , John, James, Anna, David, Sarah and Abijah.  William Porter and Mary Polly Thomas had four known children, one of whom was Susannah J Porter, my third great-grandmother.  Susannah married Thompson B James and they were parents of my second great-grandmother, Mary Ann James Ashlin. (See blog March 2018-“Portrait of a Strong Woman” for Susannah’s story)

One of the sons of Thomas Thomas and Freelove Cole was Abijah Thomas, named after Thomas’ brother, who was quite interesting and was named as a “man of rare vision and enterprise” in the Smyth County History.   See next week’s blog for his story and pictures!  Abijah was the youngest son and was born on the South Fork in the same house in which Mrs. Freelove Cole Thomas gave Marion its name.  Abijah built a large octagonal house that still stands on a beautiful location near Thomas’ Bridge and he died there on December 1, 1876.

Thomas Jefferson Thomas died on 22 May of 1838 in Adwolfe, Smyth County, Virginia at the age of 71.  According to the 1840 census, Thomas owned about 14 slaves at that time.  His wife, Freelove Cole Thomas died ten years late on 22 March 1848.  They were buried side by side in the Thomas Cemetery in Marion, Smyth County.

Thomas, Thomas, grave, 1838, Marion,Smyth VA (Freelove Cole) 001


Ancestry.com. Smyth County, history and traditions [database on-line]. Provo, UT: Ancestry,com Operations Inc, 2005; pages; 78, 181, 320-322.   Original data: Wilson, Goodridge, Smyth County, history and traditions. Kingsport, Tenn: Kingsport Press, 1932.

Washington County, Virginia, Deed Book No. 1, page 239.

Find A Grave; Findagrave.com; Memorials 59080417, Thomas Thomas and 59080548,

Freelove Cole Thomas.Thomas, Freelove, Dest. March 22, 1848; listed in A New List of the Surviving Members of the St. Clair’s Bottom Church, April 9, 1831.

Relationship Document of Thomas Thomas to his father, South Fork of the Holstonn River by John Thomas, Washington County, Virginia, Deed Book No. 7, Pages 157-158.

United States Federal Census; Year: 1830; Census Place: Washington County, Virginia; Series: M19; Roll: 200; Page: 292; FHL Film: 0029679.

United States Federal Census; Year: 1840; Census Place: Smyth, Virginia; Page: 408; FHL Film: 0029692.

AGBI; Genealogy of the Sampson Mason fam. Part 1; by Alverdo Hayward Mason; East Braintree, MS, 1902 (V. 1): 47,94.

Yates Publishing; U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA; Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2004

Annals of Southwest Virginia; 1769-1800 for Thomas; Ancestry.com



A Surprising Resource I wish I had Found Earlier!

This week’s prompt or #52 Ancestors is “Surprise.”  I was researching in a new site that I found this week.  Last week’s prompt was about libraries and I did some searching and found a new library resource that could be very helpful!  It was the Jones Memorial Library in Lynchburg, Virginia.  This library specializes in genealogy and local history of Virginia – mostly central Virginia.  Since my father and his mother were both born in Lynchburg and many of my ancestors lived in the city and surrounding area of Lynchburg, I knew this would really be worth checking out!  Some of the collections the Jones Memorial Library has includes, county histories and court records, family histories and genealogies, land and property tax records and census records.  If your ancestry searches take you to Virginia, this is really worth checking out!

Jones memor library 001
You can find the Jones Memorial Library on-line!  Here’s some of their offerings!

I found some surprising discoveries on this site and will write about a few.

My great- grandparents, William Domman Swanson and Cora Virginia Phillips Swanson, lived in Lynchburg City, Virginia as well as many other relatives.

William D Swanson 001
William D Swanson in fireman’s uniform about 1910.

My great-grandfather, William Swanson was a fireman employed by the City of Lynchburg from 1909 to 1926.  (See blog “A Fireman’s Story: My great-grandfather”, posted January 2018, for his story A Fireman’s Story: My great-grandfather).  I knew that he was killed in the line of duty on September 28, 1926.  He lived about a block from the fire station and had a gong in his home that would go off when ever a fire alarm came in to the station.  On this site, I actually found an article about how all the firemen had gongs in their homes when working for the City of Lynchburg in the early 1900s.  William just had to jump into his gear and wait outside to catch the fire wagon as it passed his house.

On the night of the 28th of September, the gong sounded at supper time and William got on his gear and ran outside to await the fire truck.  However, it was dark, rainy and the vehicle lights were blinding.  He went into the street to wave down one of the fire trucks but, unusually,  the fire chief’s car sped ahead of the fire wagon and didn’t see William and struck him.  The force of the impact was evidenced by the fact that the radiator of the car was crushed in and one of the head lights knocked off.  William was rushed to the Lynchburg Hospital in critical condition with a broken leg, broken ribs and internal injuries.  He passed away about 5 hours later.  This was a tragic story!

I found a map of Lynchburg in the 1920’s on the Jones Memorial Library site that shows the corner of Pearl Street and Main Street where my great-grandfather was hit.  I also know he lived on 408 Pearl Street.

Swanson, Wm D, death, Lynchburg, VA, map, 001 (2)

I also found a picture of the Lynchburg Firefighter’s Memorial Statue and Fountain that was dedicated to fallen firefighters.  One of the names on the plaque is my great-grandfather, William D Swanson.   This is definitely on my “want to visit” list!

Swanson, Wm D, Firemans Memorial, Lynchburg VA 1

This was an exciting find and more was to come.  When researching surnames, I entered “Phillips” and it came up with a picture of a home in Lynchburg on Federal Street in the 1930s that belonged to O. S. Phillips.  I knew right away that was the home of Oscar Stephen Phillips who married, Pearl Mae Swanson, the daughter of William D Swanson and Cora Virginia Phillips Swanson, my great-grandparents.  Sure enough, after checking census records, I saw that Oscar and Pearl did indeed live at 56 Federal Street in Lynchburg at that time!

Cora Phillips Swanson 001
Cora V. Phillips Swanson

Actually, Cora Virginia Phillips was the daughter of another Oscar Phillips – Oscar Fitzallen Phillips, my 2nd great-grandfather.  The two Oscars were cousins.   When checking my family records, I discovered that Cora Phillips Swanson never remarried after William’s untimely death and she actually passed away in this house at 56 Federal Street on 26 April of 1945.  She was living with her daughter and son-in-law at the time.




Phillips, Oscar S, home at 56 Federal Street, Lynchburg VA
56 Federal Street, Lynchburg, Virginia.  Home of Oscar S Phillips on right.  Circa 1935

I discovered even more!  Here is a picture of the Box Factory that my grandmother, Cammie L Swanson, daughter of William and Cora, worked in when she was 17 in 1910!

Swanson, Cammie, Box Factory picture 1 001 (2)

Some days researching genealogy are not always productive but sometimes you can hit a bonus — Thanks to Jones Memorial Library!  I’ll be back!

Who Would Have Guessed? What I Found in the Library!

Week 5 of #52Ancestors        The prompt this week “at the library. ”


Immediately this prompt brought me back a couple years when I had the great fortune to go to Salt Lake City, Utah and research at THE  LIBRARY!  Of course I am talking about the Family History Library which has became my most favorite library of all time!  I traveled there with my daughter, a dear cousin and a friend for an adventure that sparked my genealogical journey.   We left Chicago on a flight to Salt Lake City for a week of intense research.  We were in awe of this immense five story library and all the resources – just overwhelming!  If you have even been there, you know what I mean!  If you haven’t been there, you really should go!

FHL, SLC 001
Family History Library at Salt Lake City, Google Images

My daughter and I arrived knowing very little about our roots, especially my father’s ancestry.  I knew he was born in Lynchburg, Virginia which was quite far from where he finally settled and raised his family – the western end of the Upper Peninsula  of Michigan where my mother grew up!  I spent my married life in southeast Wisconsin- still far away from Virginia.  I wasn’t even sure of the name of my father’s father – my grandfather who died, as I later found out, in 1939 of tuberculosis in Detroit where he had moved his family in the 1920s.   Both my parents had passed and I had no one to ask!

But all that was about to change as we immersed ourselves in our family history with the help of so many volunteers.  We learned how to search and find microfilm numbers and to use the microfisch machines.  We did this for a couple days then decided we needed more – we needed to find stories to go with the names of ancestors we discovered!  We spent the rest of our time there doing just that by searching periodicals and books and more books.   We had discovered more and more surnames we had never known – it was eye-opening!  There were surnames of James, Swanson, Dudley, Lyon, Smith, Ashlin, Cloud, Porter, Campbell, Catlett, Taliaferro, Madison, Mason, Underwood, Phillips and many more!    AND – we found stories and family histories!  What an awesome library – we really needed more like a month that just a mere week but we gathered as much as we could and delighted in our finds!

FHL, inside 001
Here is where we spent most of our waking hours!

One very amazing and memorable experience happened to me while there.  First I must tell you that my maternal grandmother, Alma Tusa Knihtila, died when I was but six years old.  My mother’s parents lived “just across the alley” from us and I remember a few things about her.  She had immigrated from Finland in the early 1900s.   I had one picture of her when she was older, probably about age 60 as she was 65 when she passed.  My mom told me once that she lived in a little tiny town of Amasa, Michigan when she came from Finland because she had relatives there.  We spent a lot of time in the “stacks” where the books are shelved by states and then by counties in the state.  Each row of stacks seemed a half mile long!

FHL, book stacks 001

Of course we spent a lot of time in the Virginia stacks.  One day, I wandered to the Michigan row of stacks and perused the counties, finally finding Iron County, Michigan books – the county where Amasa is.  I really didn’t expect to find anything about this tiny town but, to my complete surprise, there it was – a book on Amasa!

The book was titled simply, “Amasa, Michigan” and was published by the Amasa-Hematite Centennial Corporation printed in 1992.  I glanced through the thin bound book hoping to find some clues about my grandmother’s past.  What I did find was so unexpected – a picture of my very own grandmother, Mrs. Richard Knihtila, in the early years of her marriage – about 1914 or 1915!  Granted it was a small picture as she was with a group of people but there it was and she looked so beautiful!  A young woman with her long hair braided and woven around her head just as I remember how she wore her hair when she was my grandmother!

Here I was 1500 miles away from my home and almost on the other side of United States  and I open this book and there is a picture of my grandmother that I had never seen – a grandmother who died when I was six!  I would have never dreamed that I would find a book on little Amasa, Michigan in Salt Lake City, Utah!  It was so exciting and in that little book were more surprises!  I found pictures of two of her brothers who lived in Amasa and stories about their lives!  They stayed in Amasa and were a part of the community.   Now I knew their names and their children’s names and their stories.  So this is why my grandmother went to Amasa upon arriving in America – her brothers had gone before her and settled there.  Of course I copied the stories and pictures – pictures that I treasure.  It was an amazing find!

Alma in Amasa
My grandmother, Alma Tusa Knihtila, is the third from the left in the back row.  The picture I found in the Amasa  Book!

Later, my brother found some old family pictures of my grandmother with her mother and two sisters when she was a young girl in Finland before she came to America and gave them to me.   More pictures to treasure!  You can find the story of her coming to America in the blog “Mother’s Day” published May 2018 here: Mother’s Day

Grandma K with mother an 2 sisters 001
Alma, my grandmother is seated next to her mother, Sanna Puirola Tusa, and her two sisters, Hulda and Hilja are standing behind.    Circa 1908.

This is just one of the very many reasons that the Family History Library is so special for me.  It was an experience like no other.  If you are lucky enough to go, absolutely prepare your research plans ahead of time as it is easy to be overwhelmed by the massive amounts of information and resources.  We were happy to have so much assistance by staff members that we were able to focus our research to areas we wanted to cover.  We can’t wait to go back!



Native Americans in Our Past

Week 4:  “I’d like to meet..”   52ancestors-sidebar-1

This week, I was still involved in researching the Dudley family ancestors, particularly the children of Robert Dudley and Clarissa Isabell Ross, my 4th great-grandparents.  See their story on last week’s post.  Usually, I gather some basic details on each child and look for interesting stories.  The stories often makes them more human as opposed to being just names and dates.  I find that when I come upon someone who has an interesting story, I usually also learn some history – a learning experience!  That is what happened this week and I found someone I would like to have met!

Robert and Clarissa had 10 children that I know of and the seventh child was named after her mother, Clarissa Ross Dudley, but the family called her “Clarry” and many records used the nickname rather than her formal name.   Clarry was born in 1806 in Surry County, North Carolina, which is near the southern Virginia border.   Clarry married a man named Asa Hodges on 9 Oct 1830.

dudley, clarry, marr, 1830, surry nc (asa hodges) 001
Marriage record of Clarry and Asa

Asa is the man I would like to have met!  Asa was born in 1804 in Mount Airy, Surry County, North Carolina.   His parents were Giles Joseph Hodges and Mary “Polly” Noblett.  I found the will of Joseph Hodges who died about 1841 in Surry County and his will was probated on 4 July 1841.  In the will, his son Asa Hodges was left some stock and appointed one of the executors of the estate.  Others in the will besides his wife Mary were Asa’s brother Meredith Hodges (first born) and seven sisters.

Joseph Hodges parents, I discovered, were Bartholomew Benjamin Hodges ( 1752-1831) and Elizabeth Cockerham.    I found a picture of the cabin built by Bartholomew, Asa’s grandfather, that Asa’s father Joseph grew up in – an interesting picture.  The cabin was located on White Dirt Road in Surry County.   Asa probably was familiar with his grandparent’s cabin and visited there while growing up.  Amazingly, it still stands!

hodges, joseph, cabin picture (clarry dudley's father in law) 001

After Clarry Dudley and Asa were married, they stayed in Surry County according to the 1840 Census for Surry.  Sometime between 1848-1850, they had moved to Murry County, Georgia.  In the 1850 Census, Asa was 46 and a farmer.  Clarry was 44  and they had 9 known children, ages 2 to 18 (5 sons and 4 daughters).  All the children were born in North Carolina.  The 1860 Census found them living in DeKalb County, Alabama with a Post Office of Lebanon, Alabama.  Asa, listed as a farmer,  was now 55 and Clarry 54.   Six of the children were living with them and three of the sons were farm laborers.  The value of his real estate was $150 and personal estate was valued at $200.   That would be about $4500 and $6000 today.  Comparing Asa’s values with neighbors, several neighbors were around the same values as his but quite a few had higher values.

The Agricultural Census for Asa Hodges in DeKalb County, Alabama in 1860 did indicate that they were not really well off.  He held 30 acres improved and 10 acres not improved.  He owned no horses, mules or donkeys but had 2 oxen (for plowing) and 2 dairy cows and 2 other cattle.  He did have 15 sheep and 30 swine for a  livestock value of $150.  As for crops, he did not grow wheat, rice or rye but had 300 bushels of Indian corn, 50 pounds of tobacco and 15 pounds of wool.

So far, Asa Hodges seemed like an ordinary farmer – until I came across his military service! hodges, asa, milit, muster card, 1863, chickasaw nation (dudley) 001 His muster card for the Confederate army listed him as a private in Capt. J. T. White’s Co., Hunter’s Regiment of Indian Volunteers. The muster-in roll was dated Sept. 10, 1863 as part of the Chickasaw Nation!  Asa was Native American – Chickasaw to be exact.   He joined under Capt. Thomas Miller for 3 years or for the duration of the war.   This regiment of Indian Volunteers was organized Oct. 23 of 1863 so Asa was probably among the first volunteers.  Having an “Indian” regiment fighting for the Confederacy was new to me.   He was in the First Chickasaw/Choctaw Cavalry Regiment and keep in mind that he was about 58 or 59 years old at this time.

Some of the history of the 1st Choctaw and Chickasaw Mounted Rifles Regiment that I found states the regiment was first organized at Scullyville, Choctaw Nation in July 1861 with 1085 men,  In May 1862 it had 27 officers and 707 men.  The regiment had six companies of Choctaws, three of Chickasaws and one of half-breeds.  It lost 12 men at Newtonia and was attached to D. H. Cooper, T. Walker brigade, Tran-Mississippi Department.   The regiment skirmished in the Indian Territory (Arkansas) and lost three men at the battle of Poison Spring.  It was included in the surrender of June 23, 1865.

Asa Hodges died in 1865 as he was killed or severely wounded, causing his later death, while serving in this Indian regiment, likely at the Battle of Poison Spring (Arkansas Territory) or Newtonia (Missouri Territory) although there is no recorded evidence of his death in battle or anyone else’s for that matter.

hodges, asa, poison springs battle, 1864, (clarry dudley) 001

Asa was likely in the 2nd major battle of Newtonia on Oct 28, 1864.  Confederate forces numbered 4,000 and Union forces were about 6,500.  This was the last battle of the Civil War fought in Missouri.  The Southern forces had Choctaw, Cherokee and Chickasaw soldiers while other Cherokee soldiers fought with the North.  More information can be found at http://www.newtoniabpa.webs.com..

So what happened to Clarry Dudley Hodges?  She is listed in the 1870 Census at age 64, widowed, living on the farm with her son, R. (Robert) D. Hodges, 25, who was head of household.   Four more children all in their 20’s lived there also – Martha, 29; Matilda, 27; Charles, 23; and Rebecca, 21.   In 1880, Clarry, 73, lived with her daughter Martha J Bruce and Son-in-law, James M Bruce, who was a farmer.   Clarry died in 1895 in DeKalb County, Alabama at about 89 years old.  Clarry was my 4th great – aunt.  Although her husband, Asa Hodges, was not a direct line descendent (although his children are cousins), I think he had an interesting story  – a story waiting to be told!  I am sure he would have had many adventures to relate!


Marriage Bonds of Surry, North Carolina: County Court Records at Dobson, North Carolina; Also, FHL microfilms:  0546467-0546474.

Wills, Vol 4-5, 1827-1867; Surry County, North Carolina; Will of Joseph Hodges probated on 4 July 1841; pages: 181-182.

United States Federal Census; Year: 1850; Census Place: Murry, Georgia; Roll: M432_78; Page: 200A; Image: 408.

United States Federal Census: Year: 1860; Place: Division 2, DeKalb, Alabama; Roll: M653_9; Page: 182; FHL microfilm: 803009.

23 July 1860, Division 2, DeKalb, Alabama Agricultural Schedule; Archive Collection; Number: M279; Roll: 27; Page: 25; Line: 13; Schedule Type: Agriculture.

U. S. Confederate Service Records, 1861-65; Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007.

Historical Data Systems comp. U. S., American Civil War Regiments, 1861-1866 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 1999.

United States Federal Census: Year:1870; Place: Township 6 Range 7, DeKalb, Alabama; Roll: 593_15; Page 826B; FHL microfilm: 545514.

United States Federal Census; Year: 1880; Place: DeKalb, Alabama; Roll: 12; Page: 577D; Enumeration District: 055.

A Special Name leads to an interesting Dudley story!

The prompt for the third week of January in my 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks Challenge is “Special Name.”    While researching the Dudley families with their many offspring, I came across a few unusual or special names such as James Ransom Dudley, my third great-grandfather whom I blogged about 2 weeks ago – I mean, where did a name like “Ransom” come from?  Then, I came across “Ransom Stillender Dudley” – now there was a name I never heard before – Stilllender!  It turns out the Ransom Stillender Dudley was the nephew of my third great-grandfather – my first cousin four-times removed.  I usually don’t spend a lot of time on “collateral relatives” (not direct ancestors) but this guy had an interesting story and it was begging to be told!

Ransom Stillender Dudley was born on 21 September of 1835 in Pulaski County, Virginia, the son of William Parham Dudley ( brother to James Ransom, my 3rd gg) and Mary “Polly” Stephens Deatherage.  I was quite excited to find pictures of both his parents.   When Ransom Stillender was born, his father was 42 years old and his mother was 31.dudley, mary deatherage 001Dudley,William Parham crop [1346]

Ransom was the 10th child of 14 known children of William and Mary Dudley.  Evidentially he was named Ransom after his uncle Ransom Dudley but I was unable to discover where the name Stillender came from.  Sometimes I find children are given middle names from the mother’s birth surname but I didn’t find that to be the case here.  Searching through ancestors of the Deatherage and Dudley families, there wasn’t any “Stillender” to be found!

The 1850 U. S. Federal Census for 1850 for William Parham Dudley  finds Ransom S. as 14 years old.  Ransom S Dudley was not found on a 1860 Census for his parents or any where else in Virginia and that may have been because he had joined the military.  One record showed that in February of about 1860, Ransom entered the Confederate Army as a member of the Pulaski Guards.   On 23 May of 1861 was the date of the Secession of Virginia from the United States to become part of the Confederacy.  Governor Letcher of Virginia officially transferred Virginia forces to the Confederacy on 6 June 1861.  The Civil War had begun.  Ransom stayed with the Pulaski Guards for about a year and then went into active service for the remainder of the war and…you probably guessed…he was sent up to the front lines.

He was in Company C of the Virginia 4th Infantry Regiment with his official enlistment date of 17 April 1861 and mustering out on 14 April of 1864.  I was able to follow his Company and Regiment history to track his service in the War and use other sources to verify what engagements he was in.  Many of the battles were familiar to me as being part of American History.  Ransom went from Richmond to take part in an engagement at Harper’s Ferry, then up the Potomac, fighting and skirmishing under General Johnson to fight at the Battle of Manassas where they routed the Federal troops.  His regiment then went to Fairfax Court House and took winter quarter at Centerville, Virginia.  The next spring brought them to Romney and Winchester and falling back to Staunton, Virginia.  The next battle was Kernstown, which I was not familiar with.

civil war, battle of kernstown 001I found that Kernstown was General Stonewall Jackson’s only major tactical defeat during the war but was really considered a strategic victory as it helped to divert Union forces from a campaign to attack Richmond.  From this information, I knew that Ransom was with General Stonewall Jackson’s regiment and stayed with him until that general was killed at Chancellorsville. Then, came Gettysburg, and most are familiar with this tragic and horrific battle in Pennsylvania.  At Gettysburg, Ransom S Dudley lost his left arm on July 3, 1863 and was taken prisoner.  It seemed his luck had run out.

Ransom was sent to David’s Island in New York, a Union prison and hospital for Confederate prisoners, and lay for four months under the care of  the Christian Commission.  According to Wikipedia, the” United States Christian Commission was an organization that furnished supplies, medical services , and religious literature to Union troops during the American Civil War.  It combined religious support with social services and recreational activities.  It supplied Protestant chaplains and social workers and collaborated with the U. S. Sanitary Commission in providing medical services.”  After the four months, Ransom was sent home minus his left arm until his mustering out.

civil war, david's island, ny, prison camp 001

Ransom was in Tazewell County, Virginia (near Wythe and Pulaski Counties) in 1866 after the war.  I found an interesting note about him contained in the “Annals of Tazewell County, Virginia” (p. 71).  In the August term of the court meetings, this note was added: “Ransom S Dudley, having lost an arm in battle, it is ordered by the Court that he be released from payment of county levies.”  This was the first time I came across such an action where the veterans were given special considerations!

No Federal Census was found for Ransom S Dudley for 1870 but on January 3, 1871, he married Mary Susan Arther.  Mary Arther was born in Botetourt County, Virginia in 1844, the daughter of John A and Elizabeth (Good) Arther, and came to Pulaski County in 1867 with her parents.  They were married by J. M. Kirkpatrick.  The 1880 Federal Census found Ransom and his wife living in Dublin, Pulaski County, Virginia and he was 45 years old and Mary was 38.  His occupation was “drives engine” as he was an engineer for the Norfolk & Western Railroad.  He must have been quite competent at using just one arm!  Mary’s parents, John Arther and Elizabeth Arther were also listed as living with Ransom and Mary along with a niece named Lutey Arthur, age 11.  Also in the household was a black servant, age 9, named Willie Cocke.

I had to skip to the 1900 census as there 1890 records were destroyed by fire – a great loss!  But I found that Ransom was also appointed U. S. Postmaster for the City of Pulaski, Virginia on 9 March of 1886 and again on 27 Jan of 1890.   Despite his handicap, he was able to secure jobs and support his family.

pulaski co va map 001
Location of Pulaski County in Virginia

In 1900, Ransom was now 63 and rents his home.  He was listed as a Railroad laborer but was not employed for 6 months.  Mary was also listed in the household along with a surprise —James Andrus, age 10 was listed as their adopted son!  Ransom was full of surprises!  James was born in June 1889 and was attending school.  Unfortunately, I was unable to find any more information on what happened to James Andrus, the adopted son, as yet.  Ransom and Mary did not have any children of their own that I know of.

grave of r s dudley 001On 21 February of 1908, Ransom S Dudley passed away and was buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Pulaski, Pulaski County, Virginia.  In trying to trace what happened to Mary, his wife, after Ransom’s death, I found her living with a niece and nephew, Phoebe and Dudley Sturdevant in Newbern, Pulaski, VA at age 75.  In 1922, at age 77, Mary applied for a widow’s pension which gave some vital information on the form.  It verified the date of their marriage, her age and place of birth, and that she was living with someone, probably a relative, named F. F. Wood.  She listed Ransom’s cause of death as ” Paralysis, resulting from injury” (sad) and stated she had not remarried.  Her income in 1922 from all sources was a mere $120 and she owned no property.   Mary died on July 27 of 1927, five years later, at age 83 due to dysentery and senility.  She was buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Pulaski, Virginia.

This ends my story of Ransom Stillender Dudley, a man with a special name and a special story.  He was a soldier, prisoner and survivor of the Civil War and a man who seemed to make the best of things despite his losing an arm and was compassionate enough to adopt a son.  Hope you enjoyed his story!


Virginia, Select Marriages, 1785-1940 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.  Also: FHL microfilm: 2,048,472.

United States Federal Census; Year: 1880; Census Place: Dublin, Pulaski, Virginia; Roll: 1386; Page: 240B; Enumeration District: 057.

United States Federal Census, Year: 1900; Census Place: Pulaski, Pulaski, Virginia; Page: 25; Enumeration District: 0050; FHL microfilm: 1,241,724.

United States Federal Census, Year: 1920; Census Place: Newbern, Pulaski, Virginia; Roll: T625_1907; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 61.

Library of Virginia; Richmond, Virginia; Confederate Pension Rolls, Veterans and Widows; Collection #: CP-5_139; Roll #:139; Roll Description: Prince William County (surnames FO-Y) to Pulaski County (surnames A-Hen).

Historical Data Systems, comp. U. S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2009.

A Brief History of the Dudley Family by Naoma Dudley Slone. Contributed to Ancestry.com.

U. S. Appointments of U. S. Postmasters, 1832-1971 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2010.  Also: Record of Appointments of Postmasters, 1832-1971, NARA Microfilm Publications, M841_145 Rolls, Records of the Post Office Department, Record Group #28, Washington D. C.: National Archives; Volumes 51 and 80.

Ancestry.com. Annals of Tazewell County, Virginia from 1800 to 1922 in two Volumes Harman, John Newton, Richmond: W.C. Hill Print. Co., 1922-1925; Vol. 1, p. 71.

Wikipedia: United States Christian Commission and Battle of Kernstown.

Find A Grave, database and images, memorial page for Ransom S Dudley, Find A Grave Memorial no. 99426181, citing Oakwood Cemetery, Pulaski, Pulaski County, Virginia, USA.

Certificate of Death for Mary Susen Dudley, Commonwealth of Virginia, Bureau of Vital Statistics, State Board of Health, Reg. Dist. No. 0773, Pulaski, Pulaski County, Virginia: Reg. No. 73.


The Challenge of Finding Charles Dudley

This week’s prompt is “Challenge” and I found that solving the mystery of our first Dudley ancestor to immigrate to America and unravelling his story is indeed a true challenge.  It is a challenge that raised more questions than answers!

Last week  I was searching for the first Dudley ancestor who immigrated to the American Colonies.   The immigrant I found was Charles Dudley, my fifth great-grandfather.  I found him in a round about way as so often happens in genealogical research!  I was researching Robert Dudley who married Clarisssa Isabell Ross, and were my fourth great- grandparents.  This led me to explore their children and one daughter, Elizabeth Dudley, had married a Hardin Herring.   Elizabeth was also called “Betty” in some sources and “Betsey” in others which also made research on her a bit challenging!

I had to search for her husband and found information on Hardin Herring in the “History of North Carolina”  (see sources below).  Hardin Herring’s father was Henry Herring who came from Virginia to Surry County, North Carolina in colonial times and bought a tract of land on Stuart Creek.  I knew the Dudley family was in Surry County and that Robert Dudley had land on Stuart Creek so things were starting to become familiar.  I learned that Henry Herring contracted to pay for the land in tobacco – interesting!  Tobacco was the currency of the period.  Henry lived only a few years and the perfecting of the title to the land on Stuart Creek was left to family members.  His son, Hardin Herring, had made farming his lifelong occupation in Surry County and took a wife to join him in this endeavor.  He married “Betty” Dudley, who I determined was Elizabeth Dudley, daughter of Robert and grand-daughter of Charles Dudley.

Now I had found Charles, the father of Robert Dudley, through his grand-daughter, Elizabeth (Betty).  The source also stated that Charles was a native of England and added this information on Charles:

“He (Charles) is said to have been a younger son of a wealthy nobleman.  When a youth, seeking adventure, he ran away and accompanied a neighbor to America.  In this country, he acquired land on Ararat River in Surry County (North Carolina), and here he reproduced so far as possible the circumstances and environment of the typical sporting English squire.  He evinced a great fondness for fast horses and kept up a free-handed hospitality.”

That was quite an interesting insight about Charles Dudley but I needed to know more and to further verify this information.   I found that a Charles Dudley was born in England on 21 December 1750 as recorded in his Anglican Church Prayer Book and Psalms, place not mentioned.   One source stated he was born in Sedgley, Staffordshire and was the son of Thomas Dudley (1716-1758) and Hannah Maria Keeling or Keelinge (1720-1790).   A Charles Dudley was baptized on 27 July 1752 in Tipton, Staffordshire, England, son of “Thos. Dudley and Hanamarie” according to  England Birth and Christening records.  This may or may not match our Charles Dudley.  However it seems unlikely that if he was born in 1750 that the parents would wait until 1752 to baptize him considering the prevalence of infant mortality at the time.  FamilySearch has a record of his birth as 30 June 1752 and his christening at St. Martins, Tipton, Stafford, England on 27 July 1752.  This seems to be the truer date of birth for Charles.

UPDATE: However, I recently found that the Charles Dudley, son of Thomas and Hannah had died young in England so it could not be our Charles!  So the search for his true parentage continues!

dudley, charles, birth, baptism, 1752, eng 001 (2)

But which birth record is for our Charles Dudley?  The date written in the prayer book or the birth and christening records for St. Martins?  After all, the prayer book also had names and birth dates of wife Mary and their son Robert and daughter Judithe.   Would not the dates written by Charles himself be accurate?  There is a difference of 2 years between the 2 sources and it is assumed that both are the same Charles Dudley.  More research questions emerge!

Charles married Mary Dulyin in 1769 in England.  Mary Dulyin was born 14 July of 1749 and they were married for about 31 years until Mary died in Surry Co., North Carolina just before 1800 at about age 51.  Their first child was Judithe Dudley born 5 May 1770 and second child was son Robert Dudley, born 30 December 1772, my 4th great-grandfather.  Charles married  Elizabeth ____ soon after  his first wife’s death in 1800 and they had supposedly two daughters, Nancy  in 1806 and Mary on 10 April 1808.  Wife Elizabeth died in 1859 in Mount Airy, Surry, North Carolina.  There are confusing records about the last two daughters, Nancy and Mary, and they may indeed be the same person.  According to the Surry County Historical Society records, Mary may have had the nickname of Nancy.  Mary  (Nancy) married Thomas Poore,  had 8 children and her descendants preserved the prayer book containing vital dates of birth – no death dates were recorded.

dudley, charles, bible record closeup 001

I discovered an immigration record for a Charles Dudley arriving in 1776 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.  Charles Dudley was recorded as the “Primary Immigrant” but does not record if his wife accompanied him as they would have been married by then.  He would have been about 24 years old if this is the record of our Charles Dudley.  It is not contrary to the history about which stated he came as a youth (young man).

We can follow Charles’ migration somewhat.  His son Robert was born in Carolina County, Virginia so we can assume Charles was in Virginia about 1772.  In 1782, Charles Dudley owned 200 acres of land in Surry County, North Carolina.

dudley, charles, land grant, 1787, surry nc 001  Now here is an interesting fact – this land was acquired by the famous “Siamese Twins”, Chang and Eng.  Prior to his death in November 1781, the land was owned by Mr. Byron Bunker, a descendant of one of the “Twins.”  Charles Dudley received a land grant for 100 acres on 9 August on 1787 on the south side of the Yadkin River in Surry County.  Further research discovered that his first land grant was earlier – in November of 1777 and he received 3 more grants for a total of about 1000 acres.  Based on the land records, I can assume he moved from Virginia to North Carolina between 1772 (when son Robert was born) and 1777.

In 1780, it is believed that Charles was part of the Surry County Militia of Patriots that fought at the Battle of Shallow Ford.  According to Wikipedia, the Battle of Shallow Ford occurred on October 14, 1780 at the Yadkin River and the outnumbered patriots (Whigs) with help from a troop of Virginia militias, defeated the Tory army and caused them to retreat.  The Battle occurred a week after the Battle of King’s Mountain and was an important turning point in the Revolutionary War.

Some sources state that Charles died in 1859, making him 108 years old at the time of death!  However there is no proof of this.  So here was another challenge!!  I decided to review census records for Charles in Surry County.  The first census I found him in was the United States Census of 1784-1787  where his surname was listed as “Doudley.”  Henry Herring (see above) was also on the census.  The Census records for 1790 affirms Charles as a resident as does the Census for 1800 -both in Surry County.  The 1800 Census also listed his son Robert as a separate household.  Charles is listed on the 1810 Census in Surry and he would have been around 60 years old.  However, the 1820 Census for Surry County does NOT list Charles Dudley but does list his son Robert and his grandsons, Ransom and William.   In 1830, only Robert is listed as Ransom and William moved to Virginia in 1828.  No Dudleys were listed in Surry County in 1840 (Robert died in 1834).  Judging by these census records, I believe that Charles Dudley died sometime between 1810 and 1820 between the ages of 60 and 70 and not in 1859.  His wife Elizabeth lived until 1859 but no actual death record for Charles was yet found.  Charles was buried in the Herring-Dudley Cemetery, Mount Airy, Surry, North Carolina.

So it seems there is more research ahead on Charles.  However, we know he was brave enough to immigrate and finally establish himself in North Carolina and live the life of an English Squire.   He was a patriot and helped to defend his home and county from the British.   He sold land that would belong to the Siamese Twins, Chang and Eng.  His son Robert lived near him with his family which may have been comforting.  He had to endure the loss of his first wife around 1800 but quickly remarried.  In all, despite the lurking questions, I did learn some interesting facts about my immigrant fifth great-grandfather!



History of North Carolina, Vol. 5, North Carolina Biography; Connor, R. D. W. (Robert Digges Wimberly), 1878-1950; Boyd, William Kenneth, 1879-1938; Hamilton, Joseph Greoirede Roulhac, 1878-1961; Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, New York; Published 1919; Vol. 5, p. 76.

Ancestry.com. England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975 [database on-line], Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.

Charles Dudley  Family Bible Record:  1749-1830; State Archives of North Carolina; Call # 400.1.1.761; also, North Carolina Digital Collections.

A Brief History of the Dudley Family; contributed be Naoma Dudley Slone; http://mv.ancestry.com/viewer.

Ancestry.com. U. S. and Canada, Passenger and Immigration Lists Index, 1500s-1900s; Original data: Filby, P. William, ed.; Farmington Hills, MI, USA: Gale Research, 2012.

The Heritage of Surry County, Surry County Historical Society; Family No. 209; p. 166.

Surry County, North Carolina, Land Grant No. 1834; Aug. 9, 1787, Bk. No. 65; Page No. 279.

U. S. Census – Dudley in Surry Co., North Carolina, 1786-1850; Compiled by Nancy Bryant 4/25/00 based on information on census information on microfilm and books at Family History Library, Los Angeles, California.

England Births and Christenings 1538-1975, database, FamilySearch; Citing Charles Dudley; FHL microfilm 1,526,134.

Who was the FIRST Dudley to Immigrate to the Colonies!

It is a new year of “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” with prompts each week by genealogist Amy Johnson Crow.


Last year in 2018 I fell a bit behind on weekly blogs due to our moving to a new home.  This year, I will do my best to blog something about our ancestry each week!  Our prompt for this first week of January is “First.”  I have recently started working on our Dudley ancestry – a line from Mary Lavalett Dudley, wife of Joseph Cloud Lyon, my second great-grandparents.  In my research, I wanted to determine who was the first Dudley ancestor to come to this country.

Last month I wrote about Ransom Dudley and Jency Lyon, my third great-grandparents, and parents of Mary Lavalett Dudley.   Further research brought me to the parents of Ransom (also called James Ransome Dudley) which were Robert Dudley and Clarissa Isabel Ross.  According to my sources, Robert Dudley, my fourth great-grandfather, was not the first Dudley to come to the Colonies.  I discovered he was born in Caroline County, Virginia on 30 December 1772 just before the Revolutionary War and at some time later, his family moved to Surry County, North Carolina.  Surry County is along the border of southern Virginia and northern North Carolina.  Robert Dudley  married his cousin, Clarissa Isabel Ross, in 1791 in North Carolina when they both were about 19 years old.  Clarissa was also born in Virginia and her family moved to North Carolina also.  She was the daughter of William Ross of Amherst Co., Virginia and Rachel.  There is some discrepancy whether Rachel’s surname was Fugate or Coxey.  Most sources claim her birth name as Fugate.

Robert Dudley and Clarissa had 10 children from 1792 to 1815 including James Ransome Dudley, my third great-grandfather, and their first-born child. (see Dec. blogs)  Other known children included:  Mary Dudley Boyd; William Parham Dudley; Elizabeth “Betsey” Dudley Herring; Charles Dudley; Nancy Dudley Whitaker; Clarissa “Clarry” Dudley Hodges; Judith Dudley Snow; Frances Dudley Gordon; and Celia Dudley Moore.  The Dudley children grew up in Surry Co., North Carolina but many did not stay there. About 1828, the great westward movement had begun and free government land was available for the asking.  Robert’s three sons, Ransom, William and Charles, left to move westward into new territories.  Ransom and William Dudley and their wives settled in Montgomery County, Virginia due to the hardship of traveling with young children but Charles and his family continued on to Indiana territory and later, to Illinois.  Of the daughters, Mary married Hugh Boyd and they ended up in Mooresville, Morgan Co., Indiana.  Clarry Dudley and her husband, Asa Hodges, lived in DeKalb Co., Alabama and Judith and her husband, Simpson William Snow ended up in Thurman, Fremont, Iowa.  Frances and husband, William Gordon, lived in St. Louis, Missouri!   So the family of Robert and Clarissa Dudley were scattered all over the young nation, it seems!

Indeed, Robert dared to wander and in the History of North Carolina (p. 76), mentions that after reaching manhood, Robert took his family to Georgia, but did not find that state entirely to his liking and soon returned, having made the entire round trip with wagon and team!

However, Robert and Clarissa then remained in Surry Co, North Carolina in the Mount Airy region according to U. S. Census records.  In 1800, they lived in Salisbury, Surry Co. and in 1810, they were listed as living in just Surry County.  1820 found them in Capt Farkners District of Surry and 1830 just listed Surry County.   Robert was also on the 1812 tax list for Surry County.  Robert died on 4 October 1834 and left a will.

Dudley, Robert Will 001

Robert stated in a nuncupative will that he wanted “his property to remain as it then was and wished no division to take place in the same until after the death of his wife or widow and until his daughters or children are all married.”    However, four years later in 1838, there was a sale of his personal estate and his widow Clarissa, age 78, was living with her daughter Betsy and son-in-law, Hardin Herring so the wishes of Robert were not carried out unless there was an agreement by his children, to dispose of his estate in this manner!

Mt Airy North Carolina map

So ended the story of Robert Dudley and I found he was not the first Dudley to immigrate to the American Colonies!  Recent research has uncovered that his father, Charles Dudley may have been the first Dudley of our line to immigrate!   Charles was born 21 December of 1750 in Sedgley, Staffordshire, England and died in Surry County, North Carolina!  Next week, I plan to reveal my research into Charles Dudley and tell his story.


The Heritage of Surry County, Surry County Historical Society, Family # 209, p. 166.

Ancestry.com, North Carolina Marriage Index, 1741-2004 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2007.

Ancestry.com, Virginia, compiled marriages, 1740-1850 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 1999.

Charles Dudley Family Bible Record, 1749-1830; State Archives of North Carolina; North Carolina Digital Collections; Call # 400.1.1.761.

A Brief History of the Dudley Family, contributed by Naoma Dudley Slone, Ancestry.com.

Year 1800; Census Place: Salisbury, Surry County, North Carolina; Series: M32; Roll: 32; Page: 647; Image: 653; FHL microfilm: 337908.

Year 1810; Census Place: Surry Co., North Carolina; Roll: 43; Page: 670;Image: 00353; FHL microfilm: 0337916.

Year 1820; Census Place: Capt Farkners District, Surry, North Carolina; Page: 758; NARA Roll: M33_82; Image: 413.

Year 1830; Census Place: Surry, North Carolina; Series: M19; Roll: 125; Page: 113; FHL microfilm 0018091.

1812 Tax lists, Surry County, North Carolina.

History of North Carolina, Vol. 3, p. 76. for William J Herring.




Inventors Uncovered!

While researching the family of my third great-grandparents,  Ransom Dudley and Jency Lyon Dudley, whom I wrote about last week, I found many surprises.  I had no idea that we had ancestors who were genuine inventors! (Ransom Dudley and Jency Lyon: Searching Beyond the Records!

The first inventor I came across was the first born son of Ransom and Jency,  James Lyon Dudley.  Just to give some background on him,  James was born in Surry County, North Carolina on 23 July 1819.  His family moved about 1828 to Pulaski County, Virginia where James spent his childhood.  His father, Ransom, was a blacksmith by trade and no doubt, James spent time with his father learning from him.  By time he was an adult, James was a skilled workman with the tools of a blacksmith.  He was also a devoted father.  He married Harriet J. Pratt before 1842 and they had eight children.  Harriet died 9 November 1862 in Pulaski at about age 37.

In 1861, the Civil War had begun and James, about age 42,  enlisted as a private in Company C, the Virginia 4th Infantry Regiment of the Confederate Army.  He was a member of the Reserves, enlisted to defend their homes from war’s ravages.  He served four months and was in one engagement.  He enlisted again in 1863 in the Fort Lewis Volunteers, afterward called Company B of the 4th Virginia Infantry.  James was discharged after 2 years for disability and had attained the rank of Sergeant.

But the real tragedy of the War came when his young sons also enlisted.  His oldest son, Guilford Madison Dudley  was 18 and a blacksmith and was in the Confederate Army from beginning to end and came home safely.  Guilford enlisted in Co. D, Virginia 4th Infantry Regiment on 18 April 1861 as a Private but had been promoted to full Sergeant  by August of the same year.  The 4th Infantry Regiment saw a lot of battles including the first and second Manassas, Gaines Mill, Malvern Hill, Sharpsburg, Charleston, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg.   Guilford married Emma Victoria Shelton after the war and lived until 1923, dying and being buried in Roanoke, Virginia.

However, another of  James’ sons, Charles Thomas Dudley, age 17, enlisted 1 July 1861 in Company H, Virginia 21st Infantry Regiment but did not survive the war.  Charles was slightly wounded at Sharpsburg and went on to fight at Chancellorsville with General Jackson.  He was taken sick soon after and sent to a Confederate Hospital in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, near Gettysburg, to recover.  Unfortunately, Thomas died and his burial place is unknown.

In 1864, James Lyon Dudley remarries to Mary J Kerkner on 27 February and they had a son, Walter, in 1867.   James invented a wheel brace for buggies and wagons and patented it on July 9, 1878 as Patent No. US205845A.  The invention related to certain improvements in devices for bracing or strengthening vehicle wheels.   He had state and county rights for sale of his wheel brace.   He lived in Snowville, Pulaski County, Virginia.  James died 6 March 1905 in Pulaski, Pulaski County, VA at about age 86.

Dudley, James Lyon, invention wheel brace 001

Dudley, McWane Eliza Hogue 001 (2)
Eliza Hogue Dudley 

It was pretty exciting to find an inventor in the family and even more surprising to find 2 more inventors in the same family!   James’ sister, Eliza Hogue Dudley, was born 30 May 1838 in Wytheville, Wythe County, Virginia and was about 19 years younger than James.  Their parents, Ransom and Jency, had 12 children over a span of 30 years from 1819 to 1849.   On 14 September of 1858, Eliza Dudley married Charles Phillip McWane.  Charles McWane was and interesting person of Scotch-Irish parentage who was a carpenter, patternmaker and inventor.  He was born 4 May 1833 in Nelson County, Virginia.

McWane, Charles Phillip 001


Charles Phillip McWane was granted a patent #484043 on October 11, 1892 for his Hillside Plow.  According to the written description from the United States Patent Office, “The invention relates to improvements in reversible plows.  The object of the present invention is to simplify and improve the construction of the mechanism employed for securing the mold-boards of reversible plows to either side of the latter and to enable the mold-boards to be readily detached from such securement at one side of the plow for turning and to be quickly secured at the other side.”

McWane, C P Hillside Plow invention 001

Further research revealed that Charles McWane’s father, William McWane, was a millwright and skilled mechanic and a close personal friend of Cyrus McCormick of reaper fame and he had actually assisted largely in perfecting the first practical harvesting machine.  Charles had started an Iron Foundry business after the Civil War and all the sons of Eliza and Charles worked in the business.  Eliza and Charles had nine children from 1859 through 1884, five sons and four daughters.   In 1908, four generations of their McWane family gathered in Radford, Virginia to celebrate the Golden Anniversary  of Eliza and Charles.  The four generations comprised 65 persons!  Eliza died 13 March, 1913 and Charles died eleven years later on 15 April 1924 in Blacklick, Wythe, Virginia.  They were buried in the East End Cemetery of Wytheville, Wythe, Virginia.

McWane Company old picture 001
First McWane company in Alabama

But that wasn’t the end of the McWane story! Charles Phillip McWane had entered the foundry business in 1871 and his sons, Henry and James Ransom (J. R.) McWane managed various parts of the family business.  In 1903, J. R. McWane settled in Birmingham, Alabama and began a modest foundry enterprise and in 1904, Henry set up a subsidiary, McWane Pipe Works, to make cast iron pipe and fittings.  Eventually, the McWane Cast Iron Pipe Company was established by J. R. which grew rapidly, even expanding to the west coast in 1926 and later into Canada and world wide!  It is still in operation today as McWane, Inc., and is led be Chairman Phillip McWane and has more than 25 plants in North America and the World.  Pretty impressive for a company that traces its roots to the ingenuity of a family who lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and are my ancestors!  You can find out more about the McWane Co. on the web by searching on Google or Wikipedia.

The third inventor I found was the son of Walter Figot Dudley – recall that James Lyon Dudley, (the first inventor above) had married a second time after his first wife, Harriet, died.  With his second wife, Mary Kirkner (Kerkner), he had one son, Walter.  Below is a family photo of Walter and his family taken Thanksgiving Day 1915 at their home in Glen White, West Virginia.  Pay attention to the second boy from the left standing in front named Frank.

Dudley, Walter family 1915 001

This was Frank Edward Dudley born in 1909 in Blue Jay, Raleigh, West Virginia.  He became Dr. Frank Dudley and was one of the top men in the nation in the field of radiation control and was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of California, Los Angeles for his accomplishments.  He had a lifetime of accomplishments and was a versatile inventor and owned and operated with his wife, a million dollar a year business in Westmont, New Jersey.

Dudley, Dr Frank Edward 001
Dr. Frank Edward Dudley

Frank ‘s first job was in the coal mines as a “coal picker”  and worked his way up to mining engineer and later became an electrician. He learned electrical engineering from a two year correspondence course and got a job with the Naval Shipyard in Virginia.  By 1946, Dudley was placed in charge of radiation measurements for the atom bomb tests on Bikini Island.  He established and headed the first U. S. De-contamination Laboratory on  Bikini Atoll.  He organized the Franklin Manufacturing Company in 1947 to market his inventions.  He holds 38 foreign and U. S. Patents on his inventions which are varied and used not only in ships and refineries and atomic reactors but also used for sea rescues, on school bus warning lights, and for the blind and the disabled.  His accomplishments are many and too numerous to write about here and more information can be found on theFind A Grave, memorial ID 75509300 or by searching for him by name on the web. Dr. Frank Dudley died on 4 Oct 1971 at aged 62 after suffering an apparent heart attack at the Westmont hospital.  He was buried in the Woodland Cemetery, Ironton, Lawrence County, Ohio.

In searching my ancestry, I have found a few scoundrels but finding these inventors was rewarding!  After all, each and everyone has a story to be discovered and told!


  • Historical Data Systems, comp.  U. S. Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry Operations Inc., 2009.
  • United States National Archives. Civil War Service Records [database on-line].  Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 1999.
  • Virginia Compiled Marriages, 1851-1929 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2000.
  • Find A Grave, http://www.findagrave.com, database and images. Dr. Frank Edward “Doc” Dudley, Memorial 75509300.
  • United States Patent Office, C. P. McWane, Hillside Plow; Patent No. 484,043; Patented Oct. 11, 1892.
  • United States Patent Office, J. L. Dudley, Vehicle-Wheel; Patent No. 205,845; Patented July 9, 1878.
  • A Brief History of the Dudley Family, Contributed by Naoma Dudley Slone, Ancestry.com; Ancestry Operations Inc., Provo, UT, USA.
  • Virginia Deaths and Burials, 1853-1912. Index; FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2010; FHL microfilm 553181.


Ransom Dudley and Jency Lyon: Searching Beyond the Records!

When researching an ancestor, it is always a bonus to find a photo, a unique fact or a written history – anything that goes above and beyond the census, birth and death records.  To find any of these extra bonuses makes the ancestor more human and more endearing  than envisioning just a statistical person!  While researching my third great-grandparents, James Ransome Dudley and Jane Mallory Lyon, I found facts that made them come to life for myself even without photos!

James Ransome (also spelled Ransom) Dudley and Jane Mallory Lyon were the parents of Mary Lavalett Dudley, my second great-grandmother, who had married Joseph Cloud Lyon.  So far I have not found any relationship between Jane Mallory Lyon and her daughter’s spouse, Joseph Cloud Lyon.  They seem to be from two different Lyon families but further research may reveal a common Lyon ancestor – you never know! James Ransom Dudley was born 2 December of 1792 in Surry County, North Carolina, the first born son of Robert Dudley and Clarissa Isabell Ross who had ten known children.  Robert Dudley and Clarissa Ross were originally from Virginia and were married in 1791 in Surry, North Carolina and made their home there.  Surry County  NC  is along the southern border of Virginia.

Jane Mallory Lyon, my third great-grandmother, was also called “Jency” and was born 12 January 1801 in Surry Co., NC.   Jency was the daughter of William Lyon and Dianah Smith who were also originally from Virginia and married in 1795 and settled in Surry Co., North Carolina.  Many of the records I did find on James Ransome Dudley referred to him as just “Ransom Dudley” and Jane was referred to as “Jency”.  For simplicity sake, I will call them Ransom and Jency.  They were married in Surry County on 26 April 1818 when Ransom was about 25 and Jency was 18.  According to their marriage document, Ransom had to post and pay a 500 pounds to the then governor, John Branch, to get the license to marry! (see below)   Their union produced twelve known children and at least 72 known grandchildren!

Dudley, Ransom and Lyon, Jency, marriage 1818 001
Marriage Bond of Ransom and Jency – note Ransom’s signature!

In 1820, they lived in Capt. Farkners District, Surry, North Carolina and the Ransom Dudley family had a total of nine free white persons and no slaves listed in the census.  Ransom was a blacksmith by trade and was elected sheriff on several occasions including Sheriff of Surry County at one time.   They lived in Surry County until about 1828.  At that time, the great westward movement had begun and free government land was available for the asking.   I was fortunate to discover a brief history of the Dudley family that told of their migration!  It seems that three sons of Robert Dudley and Clarissa Ross Dudley, namely James Ransom Dudley, William  Parham Dudley and Charles Dudley, left Surry Co. with their families intent on moving westward into the new territory.  Ransom and his brother, William Parham, came into Montgomery County, Virginia, circa 1828-1829,  and settled there due to the hardship of traveling with young children.  The youngest brother, Charles, and his wife Ann, continued on to Indiana Territory and are recorded in the Monroe County, Indiana Census of 1850 with eight children.  Part of Montgomery County VA, where Ransom and William settled became Pulaski County ten years later in 1838.  Montgomery and Pulaski County contain many descendants of Ransom and William Dudley today and parts of William’s family moved to Tazewell County VA and to Bluefield, West Virginia.

It seems the Ransom Dudley family moved around a bit as they were in Wythe County, Virginia in 1830 and lived in Newbern, Pulaski County, Virginia in 1840.  I was so very excited to find that Ransom and Jency’s granddaughter, Marietta McWane Kegley, wrote a private book that revealed some facts about her grandfather, Ransom Dudley!  The title of the book was History and Genealogy – Dudley 1406-1956- McWane 1796-1956.  The author, Marietta Kegley, was the daughter of Elizabeth Ross Dudley and Charles P McWane.   Elizabeth Ross was the fourth child of Ransom and Dudley.  In her book, Marietta describes her grandpa, Ransom, as follows:   “Grandpa moved from the Deever’s place to ‘Possum Hollow’ and kept the tollgate on the road leading from Nashville, Tennessee to Washington D. C.  He later moved to Newbern (Virginia) and had a blacksmith shop and wagon stand, where old Joe Anderson house now stands…Later Grandfather moved to Snowville, where he operated the first iron foundry in what is now Pulaski County.  Grandfather Dudley was descended from Lord Guilford Dudley, the Duke of NorthCumberland, and uncle of Lady Jane Grey. (This is not yet proven.)”  What a great insight into the life of Ransom and Jency!

So in 1850, Ransom is a blacksmith in Pulaski but 1860 brings a surprising new occupation for him – hotel keeper – and this is in Wytheville, Wythe County, Virginia.  In 1866, Ransom was taxed $25 as a “Retail Liquor Dealer”  according to the U. S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists for Wytheville.  Ransom supposedly had a bar or pub he ran in the hotel.

Dudley, Ransom, VA Tax for Liquor dealer 001
1866, Ransom Dudley was taxed $25 as a Retail Liquor Dealer, Wytheville, by the IRS.

1861 was also bringing the Civil War and no one in Virginia escaped the influence of this life-changing time.  Ransom was about 68 at that time and too old to serve but his sons were of an age to enlist.  The oldest son James Lyon Dudley enlisted as a Private in Company C, Virginia’s 4th Infantry Regiment of the Confederate Army.  He was a member of the Reserves, enlisted to defend their homes from war’s ravages.  He first served 4 months and was in one major engagement.  He enlisted again later in 1863 in the Fort Lewis Volunteers, afterward called Company B of the 4th Virginia Infantry from Pulaski County, and was discharged after 2 years for disability.

Not only did Ransom and Jency have to worry over the fate of their son during the War, they had two grandsons serving in the Confederate Army.  Their son, James Lyon Dudley, had  two of the sons who served.  The oldest son, Guilford Madison Dudley (1843-1922) was in the Confederate Army at age 18 from the beginning to the close of the struggle and thankfully came home unharmed.  However, another son, Thomas Charles Dudley (1844-1863),  was in the service at age 17 and slightly wounded at Sharpsburg (Maryland).  This son was with Jackson when that gallant general fell in the battle of Chancellorsville, but he was taken sick soon after.  He was removed to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania (near Gettysburg) and died there.  I am sure there may have been more grandchildren dying in the war and will keep searching for these brave souls.

After the war, Ransom had given up being a hotel keeper and at age 78, he was back working as a blacksmith according to the 1870 Federal Census.  The family had moved again to Black Lick Township in Wythe County, Virginia.  In 1874, Ransom’s beloved Jency died very suddenly at age 73.  Ransom was found living with his son, Houston Matthew Dudley, and his family in 1880 and is 87 years old.  Ransom was listed as a widower and noted on the census as “sick” due to “Old Age”.   Ransom lived 5 more years and died on 13 April of 1885 in Wytheville, Wythe, Virginia.  He was 92 years old.  His burial place is yet unknown.  He had a long and interesting life!  He was mainly a blacksmith and at least two of his sons also became blacksmiths.  Ransom’s other jobs included Sheriff, Hotel Keeper, Bartender, farmer, toll gate operator and he also started up an iron foundry.  His life was full and interesting- a hard working man taking care of his family!

Finding extra information from family histories made the story of Ransom and Jency more insightful and meaningful.  Although I found no pictures of them, I did stumble upon a picture of Ransom’s brother, William Parham Dudley, who journeyed with him to Virginia from North Carolina.  Looking at William’s photo gives one a bit of an idea of what his brother, Ransom, may have looked like.  Thank you, Lesli Wall, for the image!

Dudley,William Parham crop [1346]


Marriage Certificate for Ransome Dudley and Jency Lyon.  Bond Date 26 April 1818. County: Surry, North Carolina; Record #: 01 0645; Bondsman: John Davis; Bond #: 000144266.

The Heritage of Surry County, Surry County Historical Society, Family # 209, p. 166.

1820 U S Census; Census Place: Capt Farkners District, Surry, North Carolina; Page: 758; NARA Roll: M33_82; Image: 413. 

A Brief History of the Dudley Family, Contributed by Naoma Dudley Slone, Ancestry.com; Ancestry .com Operations, Inc., Provo, UT, USA.

1830 U S Census: Census Place: Wythe, Virginia; Series: M19; Roll: 200; FHL microfilm 0029679.

1840 U S Census: Census Place: Newbern, Pulaski, Virginia; Page: 193; FHL microfilm 0029690.

James Ransome Dudley on WikiTree; WikiTree.com.

U. S. Census Year: 1850; Census Place: District 48, Pulaski Co., Virginia; Roll: M432_971; Page: 223A; Image: 117.

U. S. Census Year: 1860; Census Place: Wytheville, Wythe, Virginia; Roll: M653_1385; Page: 742; FHL microfilm 905385.

Historical Data Systems, Comp. U. S. , Civil War Soldier Records and Profiles, 1861-1865 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2009.

U. S. Census Year: 1870; Census Place: Black Lick, Wythe, Virginia; Roll: M593_1682; Page: 418A; FHL microfilm 553181.

Virginia Deaths and Burials, 1853-1912. Index, FamilySearch, Salt Lake City Utah, 2010; FHL microfilm 2048587.

U. S. Census Year: 1880; Census Place: Wythe, Virginia; Roll: 1395; Page: 474A; Enumeration District: 110.

U. S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918; Wytheville, Wythe, Virginia; May 1866; Page: 187. (Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. ; Provo UT, USA. )