In the couple of years I have been researching family history, I have made so very many discoveries! I have found a “new world” of ancestors out there just waiting to be recognized! The whole process of researching can be undaunting but also exciting. But my very favorite discovery came as a great surprise to me.
Last year, my daughter and I were attending a genealogical conference and taking advantage of the wonderful sessions given by professional genealogists. We learned new ways to search and find information on our ancestors. The Mayflower Society of Wisconsin had volunteers that would help with any of your research so we signed up for a slot to ask some advice. As I was going through my lineage that I had found so far, the volunteer realized that my lineage was going to end up at Stephen Hopkins – a Mayflower Pilgrim Ancestor. Seriously? I was floored! I could hardly believe that I was a descendant of someone who came on the Mayflower in 1620!
Then came about four months of intense research for records on all my direct descendants to prove my connection to Stephen Hopkins. That’s 15 generations of records! It was a ton of work but it paid off as I am finally admitted to the Society of Mayflower Descendants in the State of Wisconsin! The whole process of discovery was pretty exciting! As an added bonus, the Mayflower volunteer who first helped me determine my correct lineage turned out to be a cousin! He was also descended from Stephen Hopkins! So I gained a new cousin and dear friend!
In my lineage are some of the people who I have been researching and have written blogs about without realizing where their lineage would take me! Of course, the line starts with my father and his father, Clarence Lyons. The continuing line includes Susannah Ashlin, my great grandmother and her mother, Mary Ann James. My recent blogs are about the James family including Mary Ann. Her mother, Susannah J Porter and her grandmother, Mary Polly Thomas are next. Freelove Cole, mother of Mary Polly Thomas and her mother, Remember Cole completes the lineage that I am familiar with and have written about. The surprising thing about this lineage thus far is that all of them are females in a maternal line starting with Susannah Ashlin!
My future research will include the Cole, Paine, Snow and Hopkins families, the rest of the Mayflower lineage. However, I still continue to research the other line as one never knows where it will take you!
The prompt for week 6 was “Same Name” and, at first, I was thinking of the Cole family in which there were three Hugh Cole’s as direct ancestors but they need more research. Then I thought of Thomas Thomas my fifth great-grandfather – yes, that was his real name but I have already written about him. While I was researching Phoebe James and her family last week, I came upon her brother named James D James, my fourth great-uncle. Wow, they actually gave him a first name to match his surname!
Now if I met James James and asked him his first name, he would say “James.” Then I would have asked his surname and he would say “James.” I would probably say, “Seriously, you are James James?” How confusing that would have been! No wonder most of his records have his middle initial of D. However, he did have an interesting story!
James D. James was born in 1789 in Franklin County, Virginia, the fifth child of Spencer James and Frances Davis. Another source states he was born in Jamestown which was James City County at the time, but I found no record of Spencer James ever living in Jamestown. Amazingly, I found out that his father, Spencer James’ name was really James Spencer James- another James James! Luckily, James Spencer James mostly dispensed with the first name and most of his records are under just “Spencer James.” Why he decided to name one of his sons “James James” is not for us to know!
One 13 March 1817, James D. James married Mary Foster who was born about 1799 in Jamestown, Virginia. Mary was half Cherokee Indian. They settled on a farm in Patrick County, VA and raised ten children. They were a busy couple! The first child was Foster James, born around 1818 and the second child was Spencer T. James, born c1820. After them followed four girls and four more boys with the last child born about 1843. One of the sons, unnamed, died young. The two oldest sons married and had families by 1844 and one lived in Patrick Co. VA and one in Franklin Co. VA.
The year 1844 was a turning point for the whole family. James, Mary, the two married sons and their families, and all the rest of the children packed up everything along with the two family dogs and left Virginia! They traveled by covered wagons and one of the wagons carried a complete blacksmith ship – very handy for farmers! Where were they headed? Heard County, Georgia! Perhaps they heard of better opportunities there or had a land grant but we don’t know the real reason for the drastic move of about 500 miles in covered wagons!
The family first settled in Ridgeway Community, then nearer to Texas Community near Cedar and Town Creeks. The Creek Indians were in this area. During the building of their log houses and getting settled, the dogs disappeared. It was thought the Indians had killed them. Two years later, a relative named Daniel Arrington came from Franklin County, VA with the two dogs! The dogs had made the long trip back to Virginia by themselves! I have heard of dogs traveling back to old homes so there could be some truth in this story!
Here’s some more family stories but they can’t be verified. One day, the James’s found two sacks of seed corn hanging in a tree and another time they found a wild, dressed turkey in a bag hanging in a tree. They took it as a sign that they were accepted by the local Indians. During the wagon trip to Georgia, daughters Amanda and Lucinda rode “shotgun” on horseback. Lucinda broke a tree limb to use as a riding whip and when she got to Georgia, she stuck it in the ground. It rooted and grew to be an apple tree! The family settled and lived their lives in Georgia.
James D James died January 1870 in Heard County, Georgia. I found a record of his death in the mortality schedule for Heard County, Georgia. (see below) He died of old age according to his entry which is the third line down. He was 81 years old. His wife, Mary Foster James also lived to about 81, dying 10 years later in 1880. They are buried in unmarked graves in Almon Cemetery in Heard County, Georgia.
Trimble, David B (David Buchanan), 1922 (Main Author); Montgomery and James of southwest Virginia; Austin Texas: D.B. Trimble, c1992; Pages: 10, 16.
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Federal Mortality Census Schedules, 1850-1880, and Related Indexes, 1850-1880; Archive Collection: T655; Archive Roll Number: 9; Census Year: 1870; Census Place: Heard, Georga; Page: 160A.
Most of our ancestors lived in Virginia and North Carolina and when I think of it, they were so far away from where we live – So far away in distance and in time. The only way to get to know them is through research. I need to look at when and where they lived, their parents, siblings and children, their occupations, their neighbors, and anything else I can find. I want to envision them as individuals and not just a name on a pedigree chart. Last week I wrote about Mary Ann James, my second great-grandmother, who had married Columbus Perry Ashlin. Columbus was the son of Chesley Harrison Ashlin and Phoebe Byrd James. Yes, both Mary Ann and Columbus were of James lineages! ( I will add the links to what I have written about these families below.)
Phoebe Byrd James, my third great-grandmother, had a very interesting name and so far I have not been able to find anyone she may have been named after. Phoebe was born 17 July 1797 in either Henry County or Franklin County, Virginia and was the daughter of James Spencer James and Frances Davis. Her birth was most likely in Franklin County as her father, Spencer James, recorded a land grant there in 1796 and purchased more land in that county in 1797 and in 1799. Of the eight known children on Spencer James and Frances Davis, Phoebe was the seventh child.
On 30 December 1822, she married Chesley Ashlin. At the time of marriage, Phoebe was 25 years old and Chesley was 29 as he was born in 1796. The average age at that time for woman to marry was 20-21 and for a man was 26, so they were a bit older than the average to marry. The 1840 Census for Smyth County, Virginia only lists the head of house and numbers of free white person and number of slaves. Chesley and Phoebe’s household in 1840 consisted of nine whites (2 parents and 7 children) and nine slaves and employed an additional 5 persons in agriculture. Comparing all their census information to their neighbors, Chesley and Phoebe were fairly well off.
In 1850, Chesley’s real estate was valued at $5000 which would be about $165,000 today – very comfortable! Of course, all that changed after the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the many slaves Chesley owned. His personal estate dropped from about $400,000 in 1960 before the War to about $9,000 by 1870. The War was certainly devastating and life changing for the Ashlin family! By this time, Phoebe and Chesley were in their early 70s and may have looked back to see how very much their lives had changed in the last ten years.
Of course, it would be wonderful to have a picture of any ancestor but most of the time, there are no photos. I have not found any pictures of Phoebe but I did happen upon a picture of her sister, Elizabeth Booker James who married a William James, her second cousin. Now sisters don’t always look alike, of course, but a picture of a sibling is interesting, nonetheless!
During the better years, Chesley and Phoebe Byrd raised their family of seven children. Their first child, Frances Elizabeth Ashlin, named after Phoebe’s mother, was born 23 Oct 1823 when they lived in Franklin County, Virginia. Frances married Andrew Adam Kincannon in 1841 when she was just 17 years old. Her husband served in the Civil War and they had a farm in Smyth County, Virginia before moving to Atchison County, Missouri in about 1875. Andrew died in 1901 and Frances died in 1912 of pneumonia. They are buried in the English Grove Cemetery in Clarke, Missouri.
The second child was Lucy Ann Ashlin, born about 1826 in Smyth County, and according to one source, was a superb horsewoman and very beautiful. She was named after Chesley’s mother, Lucy Baker. In 1847, Lucy married John Hill Groseclose, and they lived on a fine plantation on Cripple Creek, Wythe County, VA. However, John was a womanizer and drinker. Lucy died in 1860 at about 34 years old of tuberculosis but family legend says she died of a broken heart due to John’ drinking!
James Hartwell Ashlin, third child of Phoebe and Chesley, was born in 1828 and married Elizabeth Dutton in 1851. James fought in the Civil War in the 48th Regiment of the Virginia Infantry, Company D and was in many battles. How Phoebe must have worried about him and his brother German Baker who also fought in the War! After the war, James died of “pulmonary consumption (tuberculosis)” at just 42 years old in 1870. My great-grandfather, Columbus Perry Ashlin was the next born in 1830 and I will add a link to his story below.
Daughter Catherine Mildred Ashlin, called “Kate,” came along in 1834 and married Robert Crow Williams in 1867. They lived in the Sugar Grove, Smyth County area and Robert served in the Civil War and lived until 1907, dying of old age. In 1916, Catherine applied for a widow’s pension which revealed that she had an income of only $95 a year and owned no property. She passed away in 1924.
Virginia Clementine Ashlin was born in 1836 and married John P Myers in 1875. It seems Virginia had a hard life as she was sickly and on the 1880 Census, she was just 42 and listed as “maimed, crippled or bedridden” with dyspepsia. Dyspepsia is a condition of the stomach that may include gall bladder trouble. John Myers died at 42 or 43 in 1884 and Virginia died in 1890 at age 54. The last child of Phoebe and Chesley was German Baker Ashlin, who I have already written about and will put a link to his post below. He had an interesting story!
Phoebe and Chesley had a lot of struggles in their life together for sure. They had to contend with losing their standard of living after the war. They had to worry about the safety of their sons in the war along with worrying about their other children- one who moved to Missouri and one who was sickly. They also endured the early death and burial of their daughter Lucy and their son James Hartwell Ashlin both dying of tuberculosis after a prolonged illness. Chesley Ashlin died on 10 June 1876 in Sugar Grove, Smyth VA and Phoebe passed away the next year on 24 April 1877. They were buried side by side in the Ashlin-Wilkinson Cemetery on Chesley’s farm in Sugar Grove.
Trimble, David B. (David Buchanan), 1922 (Main Author); Montgomery and James of southwest Virginia. Austin, Texas: D.B. Trimble, c1992; Pages: 10, 16.
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Non-population Census Schedules for Virginia, 1850-1880; Archive Collection: T1132; Archive Roll Number: 10; Census Year: 1870; Census Place: St Clair, Smyth, Virginia.
National Park Service; U.S. Civil War Soldiers, 1861-1865 [database on-line] Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007.
Many of my ancestors seemed to be born, to live and to die in the same locale. As for the ancestors that lived in the 1800’s that was particularly true. After all, many were farmers and toiled on their lands and could only socialize with close neighbors. Travel was by wagon or horseback and the miles one could cover were limited. For the most part, they just stayed put. Smyth County, Virginia, near the Blue Ridge Mountains, was a place many of my ancestors lived their entire lives. I have been researching the James family line and am starting with Mary Ann James, my second great-grandmother. She lived her life in Smyth County around a town called Sugar Grove.
Mary Ann James was born 18 Jun 1838 in Sugar Grove, Smyth County, Virginia and was the first child of eight children of Thompson B James and Susannah J Porter. The 1840 Census for Thompson B James listed the family living in Smyth County with 2 daughters, Mary Ann and her sister Frances Elizabeth. The 1850 Census revealed that they lived on a small farm – certainly not rich folks! The real estate value of their land was listed at $1500 in this census which would be about $42,000 in today’s value. Compared to other farms in the area, this was a smaller farm leading me to believe that the James family were not as well off financially as some of their neighbors.
In the 1850 census, Mary Ann was listed as 12 and Frances as 10 but there were now more siblings. William Porter James was age 8, Louisa Freedom James was age 5 and James A James was just 2 years old. There was another daughter named America Adaline James who was born 30 Oct of 1845 but died of unknown causes on 17 Feb of 1849 at just about 3 1/2 years old! America died before she was listed in any census. Susannah James also must have been pregnant when the census was taken as their seventh child, Oscar LeGrand James, was born on 1 Nov 1850. No doubt that Mary Ann, being the oldest, was relied on for helping with the chores and taking care of her younger siblings. It must have been quite sad for the family to lose little America Adaline at such a young age!
The last and eighth child, Susannah Columbia James, was born 2 Jan 1853. But tragedy struck the family again in 1853 when Thompson, Mary Ann’s father, died on 24 Dec, Christmas Eve! He was but 40 years old and died of “consumption” which was the common term at that time for tuberculosis. He was most likely ill with the disease for a long period of time which would have put more responsibility for the rest of the family to run the farm. Mary Ann was only 15 when her father passed. Susannah was left with seven children to raise on her own and run the farm.
The next year brought more tragedy for Mary Ann’s family. The baby Susannah Columbia died in September of 1854 at about one year and eight months old. How sad for Susannah to have to bury another young child especially after losing her husband! Susannah continued to work the farm with the help of her children for about 9 more years and then remarried to a William M James.
Mary Ann married Columbus Perry Ashlin on 18 Sep 1855. Mary was 17 years old and Columbus was 25 at the time of marriage. Columbus had been also born in Sugar Grove, Virginia like Mary Ann and was the son of Chesley Ashlin and Phoebe Byrd James, local farmers. If you check last weeks blog, you will discover how Mary Ann and Columbus were related to each other! Mary Ann and Columbus went on to have 12 children and lived in the same area around Sugar Grove all their lives. Their first child was Susanna Virginia Ashlin, born in 1856, who married George Lyons, and were my paternal great-grandparents. Columbus passed away in 1902 and Mary Ann passed on 20 Sep of 1921. They are both buried in the Ashlin-Wilkinson Cemetery in Sugar Grove.
Mary Ann (James) Ashlin lived to age 83 and died in St. Clair, a small community outside of Sugar Grove. She lived her whole life in the Sugar Grove area. Although it appears that the first part of her life growing up had a lot of tragedy, she went on and made a good life with her husband Columbus. However, they did not completely escape tragedy. Three of their children, two sons and a daughter, died in infancy. The rest of the children thrived and married and gave them many grandchildren!
Trimble, David B.; Montgomery and James of Southwest Virginia. Austin, Texas, 1992, pg. 20.
Vogt, John and Kethley, T. William Jr.; Smyth County Marriages, 1832-1850. Iberian Press Publishing, Athens, Georgia, 1984, p. 27.
U.S. Federal Census 1840, Smyth, Virginia; Roll: 578; Rage: 396; FHL microfilm: 0029692.
U. S. Federal Census 1850, District 60, Smyth, Virginia; Roll: M432_976; Page: 227A; Image: 455.
Hockett, Thomas Jack & Hunt, Sheila Steele; Smyth County, Virginia Marriages, 1851-1891. Hockett and Hunt Publishers, 1999, p. 90.
Register of Births for the Southern District of Virginia, 1856; FHL microfilm: 2,046,967.
While thinking of which of the long lines of ancestors I would like to explore next, I decided to research more on the ” James” line. The James family line is on my father’s side of the family and started mainly with Columbus Ashlin and his wife, Mary Ann James who are my second great-grandparents. The curious thing about this couple is that they were actually cousins of a sort!
First, let’s look at the maternal line for Columbus. Columbus Perry Ashlin, born 5 September 1830 in Sugar Grove, Smyth, Virginia, was the son of Chesley Harrison Ashlin and Phoebe Byrd James – Yes, his mother was a James! Now Phoebe James was born in 1797 in Virginia to Spencer James and Frances Davis. So, to review, Chesley and Phoebe were my third great-grandparents and Phoebe’s parents, Spencer James and Frances Davis James were the fourth great-grandparents. And, just to add to the lineage, Spencer James’ parents, Samuel James and Mildred Taliaferro, are the fifth great-grandparents. Here’s how is works out on the pedigree chart below.
Now, let’s look at the paternal line for Columbus Ashlin’s wife, Mary Ann James. Mary Ann, born 18 June 1838 in Smyth County, Virginia, was the daughter of Thompson B James and Susannah Porter who are my third greats. Thompson B James was the son of Ezekial Beriel James and Frances Baker James. Thompson James’s parents, Ezekial and Frances would be my fourth great-grandparents. So far, so good.
Now it is getting a bit dicey as I discovered that Frances Baker James’ parents are Spencer James and Frances Davis – the same couple that are parents of Columbus Ashlin’s mother, Phoebe Byrd James. Research proved that Phoebe Byrd James and Frances Baker James were indeed sisters and daughters of Spencer James and Frances Davis! This is where the cousin relationship comes in for Columbus and Mary Ann. Of Spencer and Frances’ daughters, the older daughter, Frances Baker, was born in 1791, married Ezekial James when she was but 16 years old. Her sister, Phoebe, was born in 1797 and did not marry Chesley Ashlin until she was 25 years old.
However, recall that Spencer James and Frances Davis are my 4th greats according to Columbus’ lineage. Now let’s look at Mary Ann’s pedigree and when we find her connection to Spencer and Frances, they are actually my 5th great-grandparents in her lineage! So Spencer and Frances are my 4th AND my 5th great-grandparents! This makes Spencer’s parents, Samuel James and Mildred Taliaferro my 5th AND my 6th greats depending on which pedigree chart you are following! Take a look at Mary Ann’s pedigree chart!
So you see, researching the very long James lineage can and will be challenging! I have to keep in mind that each person was one of my unique ancestors and look for their individual stories! I will certainly have to minimize their dual relationships to myself and my family and focus more on researching their lives and telling their tales. More to come in future posts as I share what I find on this long line of the James family!
If you would like to see what I have already written on the James Family Line, you can check out the following posts!
I have but a few photos of my maternal grandmother, Alma Tusa Knihtila. She was an immigrant from Finland coming to America with her older brother, Arne Tusa in 1909. She was 22 years old. Before Alma left Finland, her mother, Sanna Tusa, had a portrait taken of herself and her three daughters, Alma, Hilja and Hulda. I was given this photo a couple years ago and was amazed as it was the first time I ever saw my grandmother as a young lady! She was so very beautiful! She did live across the alley from us while I was young but I don’t remember but little of her as she passed away when I was six years old in 1952. She was only 65 years old then.
My next favorite photo of my grandmother Alma is one I found by accident in my mother’s old album, tucked in the back. Here Alma is sitting on the left side of the bench and three of her Finnish lady friends have come for coffee and a chat dressed in their Sunday best complete with fancy hats! My grandmother had the charge of babysitting that day her friends came and the girl on the blanket is me with my older brother, Arthur. We all had to pose for the picture!
This picture was taken around 1949. There are a few things I do remember about my ever so kind grandma Alma. She would take my brother and I regularly to the sauna and get us squeaky clean then buy us an Orange Crush soda from a big red Coca-Cola dispenser. She went with us to the Finnish Lutheran Church on Sundays and made sure we went to Sunday School. She had huge lilac bushes in front of her house and I used to pick bouquets for her and she would always act so surprised and pleased when I gave them to her.
She had a huge weaving loom in her barn where she would weave beautiful rugs from rags. I would sit on the floor next to it while she ran the loom and I would wind strips of rags into balls. My grandmother had soft brown eyes and very long hair that she would braid and then wind around her head. At night, she would brush her hair out over and over. I have other recollection of her but this picture of her and her friends is precious because it stirs old memories. I can almost hear them chatting in Finnish and laughing together!
It is truly amazing to me what ordeals some of our ancestors had to survive to make a better life for themselves and their families – a “Fresh Start” – so to speak. To travel to a new place to settle in the mid 1700’s was not an easy endeavor as my ancestral Cole families found out! This is the story of a journey made by Cole families in 1771.
My sixth great-grandfather, Joseph Cole Jr, son of Joseph Cole Sr. and Freelove Cole, was about 21 years old in 1771, having been born 28 May 1750 in Rehoboth, Massachusetts Colony. He had recently married Remember Cole (an unforgettable name!) on 26 Nov of 1769 who was born in 1752 and was about 18 years old in 1771. You probably noticed that her maiden name was the same as Joseph’s but they were actually from two different Cole families – families that were great friends and neighbors.
Joseph Cole Jr. came from a lineage tracing back to James Cole of London (ca1600), then Hugh Cole I, Hugh Cole II, Hugh Cole III and then Joseph Cole Sr, father of Joseph Jr. On the other hand, Remember Cole’s lineage was from a Daniel Cole (b. ca1614, England, settling in Plymouth Colony in 1633), then Israel Cole I, Israel Cole II, and finally Israel Cole III who was the father of Remember Cole. Remember Cole’s mother was Emary _____. It can be confusing but just know that there were two unrelated Cole families that became related through intermarriages.
In the mid 1700s, Israel Cole II and his family, including Israel III’s family, were found living in Poughkeepsie an New Paltz, Ulster County, New York Colony. Not surprising is that the Joseph Cole Sr. family were also living there. These two lines were joined by intermarriages of their children – one such marriage was Joseph Cole Jr and Remember Cole – newlywed in 1769. Both of these Cole families had received several land grants in Washington County, Virginia – the part of Washington County that would eventually become Smyth County, Virginia in 1832. One can only speculate why they wanted to move but here it was – their chance for a fresh start!
They decided to travel all together- two families of Coles with parents, grandparents, children and extended families- to their new land and they got together and made a plan for their journey. Now if this would have been modern times, they could have driven, flew by plane, taken a train, etc. but this was 1771 and roads were poor or non-existent and overland travel was slow and treacherous in wagons and on horseback. Danger of attacks by Native Americans or highway robbers was real. The map below shows how far the trip really was from Ulster County, New York to Smyth Co., Virginia!
Their grand plan was to jointly hire a boat and sail down the Hudson River to the Atlantic Ocean and sail south to Virginia. After landing in Virginia, they would travel by river and overland to their destination. A story regarding the migration of the Cole families to Virginia was carried down through the generations and told to a William Jones, who wrote it in a manuscript: When Joseph Cole, Zachariah Cole and Sampson Cole with their wives were getting aboard the boat at New York to sail for Norfolk, Virginia together with several others, one of the party, Dorcas Cole, was very much alarmed by the sight of so much water. She cried out, “We will be drowned, we will be drowned!!” (She was a Baptist) and her brother Eleazer Cole (who was a Methodist Minister), remarked to her, “Stick to your faith! If you are born to be drowned, you will be and if not, you will not! That was Baptist doctrine.
Thankfully for me, the Cole families did survive this perilous journey and Joseph Cole Sr. and Freelove Cole, my seventh great-grandparents, settled in the area of the south fork of the Holston River. Their son, Joseph Cole Jr. and Remember Cole, my sixth great-grandparents, also settled in that area and raised their family. Joseph Cole Sr. established a grist mill, called Loves Mill which was still in operation in 1962. Cole family members in Washington and Smyth Counties are well documented in historical and legal records. They had large families who farmed their lands, operated grist mills, defended their nation and made valuable contributions to their neighbors and their state. Their dead are buried in almost every cemetery. The St. Clair Bottom Primitive Baptist Church has many graves marked with Cole names. The Coles had indeed made a fresh start and thrived in their new land!
I would like to share the story I discovered about the oldest ancestor I found so far. James Marshall Burch was the son of Stephen Burch and Elizabeth McDaniel, my third great-grandparents, who I wrote about in the last post, and James lived to 102! James was my third great-uncle. Now I was amazed to find an ancestor who lived so long and knew I had to find our more of his story!
James Marshall Burch was born on 14 February of 1831 – our present Valentine’s Day- in Amherst County, Virginia and died 25 February of 1933 at 102 years and 11 days old according to his death certificate. He married Bettie Elizabeth Coleman on 31 May 1865 in Amherst County, VA. However, his marriage license listed him as 24 in 1865. Now wait– that would make him 92 years old at death in 1933. Clearly, I needed more research. Going through records I found on James, there were several conflicting facts about his age. The 1900 U. S. Census recorded him as age 60 making his birth as 1840, not 1831. Then the 1860 Census recorded him as 26 making his DOB about 1834!
The mystery was solved when I found his three page application for pension documents that was completed in his own handwriting in 1908 and stored in the Library of Virginia. In a sworn statement, he listed his age as 77 which would make him 102 in 1933 at the time of his death! The document was witnessed by two comrades from his unit and signed by his physician. The oath was administered by the Amherst County Circuit Court judge making the affidavit irrefutable proof of his actual age of 77 in 1908. So he really did live to 102!
His wife, Bettie Elizabeth Coleman was the daughter of Hugh Nelson Coleman and Mary J Christian. Bettie was born 15 Mar 1850 in Amherst County VA and when she married 34 year old James Marshall Burch, she was 15 years old. James worked at various places throughout their marriage including the N&W Railway, the Southern Railway (15 years) and the C&O Railroad (9 years). He once worked for the Lynchburg Transit Company as a driver for the first horse drawn Trolley. A picture of a horse drawn trolley is above but that is not James – just an example of an interesting occupation!
Before he married, the Civil War had begun in 1861 and James Marshall enlisted with his older brother, Fielding Burch and younger brother, Milton Burch, in Company G, 51st Virginia Regiment, CSA, under Captain Henley and General Gabriel C Wharton. The three brothers along with their brother-in-law, George Moon (who was married to their sister Caroline) all enlisted on the same day, 29 Jun 1861, hoping to stay together. James was in 25 engagements and wounded five times and was captured and escaped several times during his tour of duty. He participated in the Virginia Peninsula Campaign, Virginia Valley Campaign, Battle of Richmond, Petersburg, eastern Tennessee and the Battle of Manassas. He applied for his pension in 1908 at age 77 and was proud of his service. He attended all the Confederate functions and received a lot of attention. He was a member of the Garland-Rhodes Camp and served as dignitary in post-war celebrations for years receiving military honors at his death. He was presented an elaborate and ornate walking cane by the U. S. Ambassador from Mexico. When James passed away, he was buried in his Confederate uniform as he wished.
James and Bettie had six daughters and one son, John Henry Burch, Sr, born in 1874 in Amherst County VA and died 1947. The six daughters were Virginia Elizabeth Burch (1866-1945), Lillie Belle Burch (1871-1936), Mary Sue Burch (1876-?), Laura Burch (1878-1963), Carrie Levinia Burch (1884-1984), and Katie Lelia Burch (1885-1982). The 1900 city directory for Lynchburg had the family listed as renting at 114 Withers Street and James working for the City of Lynchburg. By 1920, Bettie, 70, was living with her daughter Carrie Burch Costan and her daughter’s family on Floyd Street and James Marshall, 86, was living next door with another daughter and family, Katie Burch Kersey.
Bettie Burch, his wife, died 19 March 1924 at the home of her daughter, Carrie Lavinia Burch Costan, 1301 Floyd Street, Lynchburg. Bettie had been an invalid for six years and her death at age 74 was due pulmonary tuberculosis. She was a member of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and operated a guest house in Big Island, VA. One family story claims she once set her pillow on fire from smoking her petit pipe in bed!
James lived with his daughter Carrie Costan at 1301 Floyd St during his last years and had an upstairs room. Family story has it that “he was an early riser and demanded a big breakfast of eggs, pork and fried potatoes. He made noise until someone would get up and fix his breakfast. Lunches were served promptly at twelve noon and dinner precisely at five o’clock. He enjoyed a snort each night before bedtime. His grandson, ‘little John’ (John Percy Burch), would sneak a bottle of booze to his room. His granddaughter, Kalypso, who lived there said he could ‘really spin a yarn.’ She recalls his telling that he was beside General Thomas C ‘Stonewall’ Jackson when the general was shot. Once while hunting in Bedford County, James Marshall was late or dinner. A search party was organized and found him ‘lost’ in the woods. He would never admit to being lost but was grateful for their efforts to bring him home. She said that reporters often tried to trick him about his age to see if they could catch him in a lie. They always got the same number regardless of the manner in which the question was posed.”
Kalypso, his granddaughter, also revealed that her grandfather would “walk downtown and ride the trolley home using his pass. He would often sit in front of Schewel’s at 11th and Main Streets and watch the women. When he returned home he would exclaim at the shortness of the lady’s dresses bearing their feet.” James was a member of the College Hill Baptist Church and affiliated with Fairview Christian Church where he was baptized at age 100 years.
This wonderful character named James Marshall Burch died at the home on Floyd Street on 25 February 1933 at age 102. The cause of death was listed as senility. He was laid to rest in Spring Hill Cemetery in Lynchburg next to his wife Bettie.
Virginia, Marriages, 1785-1940, Salt Lake City, Utah, FamilySearch 2013; Marriage Register 2, p. 79; FHL film: 30311.
Find A Grave: findagrave.com; Memorials # 99421947 and 99422043.
Since I had been focusing on the Phillips family lately, I decided to research more into the related Burch Family lineage. Nancy Jane Burch was married to Oscar F Phillips and they were my second great-grandparents. Nancy was the daughter of Stephen A Burch and Elizabeth McDaniel, my third greats! Researching this Burch family was a challenge and I still am left with questions! You can read more about the Phillips family here: A Family of Phillips!
Stephen Burch was born about 1786 in Fauquier County, Virginia and was the son of Leonard Burch and Monokey Guy Webster – yes, her name was “Monokey” according to many of the records. Her mother’s maiden name was Mary Guy so that is where the “Guy” came in. Stephen’s father, Leonard, was listed in the Fauquier County tax list in 1788 as was Leonard’s father, John Burch Sr and two of Leonard’s brothers named John Burch Jr and Francis Burch. More on them will be coming in another post. After about 1796, Leonard Burch moved his family, including 10 year old Stephen, to Amherst County, Virginia. By 1801, all the Burch brothers lived in Amherst County. It was quite a long move as shown by the two maps of the counties!
I found that Stephen had at least two sisters named Ann and Nancy and one brother named Simeon. Ann died about age 4. Stephen and his brother Simeon were sometimes confused with each other in some family histories but Simeon was born in 1790, 4 years after Stephen. Solving the mystery of the name of Stephen’s wife was another challenge as some records stated that her name was Elizabeth Miller and not McDaniel. Census records just listed her as “Betsey Burch” with Betsey being a common nickname for Elizabeth.
There is a marriage record for Stephen Burch and Eliza Miller in 1813 in Amherst VA but this is probably not our Stephen Burch. Evidence that Elizabeth’s birth name was McDaniel comes from several sources including the death certificate of their son, James Marshall Burch, which names his parents as Stephen Burch and Elizabeth McDaniel. In the Virginia, Deaths and Burial Index, the death record for Stephen listed him as married to “Elizabeth McDaniel.” Finally, John McDaniel and Margaret Rucker McDaniel, likely Elizabeth’s parents, were neighbors of the Burch family according to the 1850 Agricultural Census so it is likely that Stephen knew Elizabeth as a neighbor and married her.
Stephen and Betsey Burch had about 15 children that they raised in Amherst County, Virginia. I was able to find information on most of them. One son died at age 22 years of typhoid fever and another son died at age 20 of brain fever. One daughter, Soluda, was classified on the 1850 Census as an “idiot” as she must have had some type of mental disability. I found out that census enumerators used the term “idiot” for “a person the development of whose mental faculties were arrested in infancy or childhood before coming to maturity.” For us, in a more enlightened age, a number of known disabilities would have fallen in this category, including Down’s Syndrome. Soluda was born in 1830, never married, and lived to 1890. It is not known where she lived after her parents died.
There are census records for Stephen Burch from 1820 to 1840, but the most information about the family comes from the later census of 1850. In 1850 the entire family was living in the household of a man named Madison Davis, age 40, who was a dentist and owned a large farm. It appears that Stephen and his sons worked the farm for Davis. Madison Davis may have been related somehow to the Burch family. Also the Agricultural Census of 1850 listed Stephan as also owning a small farm of his own but he was less well off that most of his 40 some neighbors as the farm was only worth about $200 and about $7 worth of farm implements. He also owned one horse, one milk cow, and nine swine and his farm produce 10 bushels of wheat and 200 bushels of Indian corn. He owned no slaves.
Ten years later, in 1860, things did not improve much and 74 year old Stephen was still a farmer but owned no real estate and must have rented a farm and his personal estate was only $150 value. Worse yet, his wife, Betsey Burch, died in 1860 of unknown causes. He now had one horse, two milk cows, three other cattle, two swine for a total livestock value of $100. He also produced 35 bushels of wheat, 125 bushels of Indian corn, 25 bushels of oats, and 350 pounds of tobacco. The next year brought more woes to the widower Stephen as the Civil War began and his sons and sons-in-laws were of age to join the fight.
Three of Stephen’s sons enlisted the same day, 29 June 1861, in Company G of the Virginia 51st Infantry Regiment to fight for the Confederacy. Most likely the three brothers, James Marshall Burch, Fielding Burch and Milton Burch wanted to stay together. Their brother-in-law, George Washington Moon, who married Caroline Burch, also joined the 51st. Their sister Sarah Elizabeth (Lizzie) Burch had married Benjamin S Phillips (who was the son of my 2nd great-grandfather, Capt. Benjamin Phillips) and Ben enlisted in Co. H of the Virginia Artillery. Benjamin either died in battle or as a result of war injuries, disease or other causes, shortly after 1861 leaving Lizzie a widow.
James Marshall was engaged in 25 engagements and wounded five times and Fielding lost the use of his left hand. Milton was discharged in January 1865 after being disabled. The 51st Virginia saw duty in the Virginia Peninsula Campaign, Virginia Valley Campaign, Richmond, Petersburg, eastern Tennessee, and the Battle of Manassas. From what I found, “on March 2, 1865, the battered, depleted and severely outnumbered 51st Virginia and the rest of Wharton’s division was overwhelmed by Sheridan’s Federal Cavalry under Gen. George Custer at Waynesboro, VA. The majority of the regiment was captured and sent to Fort Delaware or Elmira NY as prisoners (until the war was over).”
The Burch family was truly involved in the Civil War and the War certainly changed the lives of all of them! After the war, Stephen Burch was missed in the 1870 Census although he was still living. He died 10 Dec 1875 in Pedlar and Elon, Amherst County, VA at age 89. According to Find A Grave, the body of Stephen has been lost or destroyed and believed to be buried at the Clarence Davis Cemetery on the Davis Farm. This must be the farm that Stephen managed for Madison Davis in 1850. It is very possible that Betsey McDaniel Burch may be buried in the same cemetery. Find A Grave information:
In the next post, I hope to write more on the Burch family including the children of Stephen and Betsey. There are some very interesting stories to be told!
Huffman, Jon E. The John and Nancy (Burch) Nichols Family, published online, 2008; Pages: 1-7.
Year 1850; Census Place: Eastern, Amherst, Virginia; Roll: M432_933; Page: 89B; Image: 180.
In the last post, I wrote what I have found on the “mysterious” Captain Benjamin Allen Phillips and Mary Nicholas Cazey, my 3rd great grandparents. You can see their story here: The Mysterious Captain Phillips
I had been unable to find parentage for either of them and decided to research their children in case I could find some clues to the mystery. This was in vain. However, what I did find were some interesting stories that were just begging to be told. After all, every one of the ancestors I find has a story, some more revealing and colorful than others, but stories to be told after all. These are some stories I found about my 3rd great aunts and uncles!
The first child of Capt Benjamin Phillips and Mary Cazey was Maria Ann Phillips who was born in 1811 in Lynchburg, Campbell County, Virginia. I did know that Benjamin and Mary were married in 1811 also and Maria’s birthplace tells me their residence at that particular time although they were married in Henrico County VA. Luckily, I found a marriage announcement from the Lynchburg Virginian newspaper from Monday, June 16 1834 (page 3) revealing that Maria had married James William Oliver! James was a plasterer by trade and they lived in the Lynchburg area. I found a record of eight children for the couple but the marriage years must have had some rough times as two of their daughters died quite young. Amanda Oliver died at age 12 and Mary E Oliver died at age 10 – both from unknown causes. Harriet Oliver, born 1835, did not have a death date or other information so may have also died young. Their son Benjamin died at about 15 or 16 years old. Other children were Richard Monroe Oliver, William H Oliver, James M Oliver and Frances Indianna Oliver. Maria’s husband, James, passed in 1878 and Maria passed in 1880 at the home of her daughter Frances.
Elizabeth Ann Phillips was the second child of Capt Benjamin and Mary Phillips and was born in 1815. Elizabeth married Peter Garrett Akers on 29 June 1836 and they had two known children, Charles Edward Akers and Elizabeth C Akers. Sadly, this marriage did not escape tragedy either! The year after her daughter was born, Elizabeth herself passed away on 15 March 1842 at the young age of 27! She died after a painful illness of eight months at her father’s residence. Elizabeth was buried in the Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg VA.
Benjamin and Mary Phillips’ third child was also a daughter, Mary Catherine, born in August of 1819 in Lynchburg. She married a trader named Francis Smithson and they had at least one son named Darius. However, it seems things did not go well for Mary Catherine! When she was 50 years old, it was noted on the 1870 Census for the family that she was classified as “insane!” Now this could be a generalized term applied for many disorders. It was also noted that she could not read or write. Ten years later, I found Mary Catherine as widowed and in 1900, she lived with her sister Caroline Phillips Ford and was 80 years old. None of the other census records noted any insanity for Mary and she died in 1905 at age 84.
The first son of Benjamin and Mary was their 4th child, Benjamin S Phillips, who was born in 1820 or 1822. This son married Sarah Elizabeth Burch, who was also called “Lizzie Burch.” They were married on 27 Jan 1859, just before the Civil War. Now the Phillips family in interrelated with the Burch family so Benjamin S and Lizzie may have been cousins. Interesting that Ben was 37 and Lizzie was 22 at the time of marriage – a difference of 15 years! When the Civil War began, Ben enlisted in the Confederate Army and served in the 1st Regiment of the Virginia Artillery, Company H. I found one son of theirs named Henry Clay Phillips. All I could discover about his death was that Benjamin died after 1861 which makes me wonder if his death had anything to do with his service during the War.
Frances J Phillips was another daughter of Capt Benjamin and Mary and was born in 1830. There may have been another unnamed son born before her but this is not verified. Frances married Edward J Taylor in 1850 and they lived in Lynchburg also. Little is found about Frances except that in 1880 she was a widow and living with a cousin in Powellton, Brunswick County, VA. She died 9 July 1885 in Lynchburg at about age 55.
Although it was difficult to find a lot of information of the above siblings, I struck a bonus with the next daughter, Caroline Agnes L Phillips! Caroline was born in January of 1831 and married Simeon Walter Ford on 14 Dec 1849 in Lynchburg when she was 18 years old. Simeon Ford, according to the 1880 census, was a Yard Master for the Railroad. I found eight children of Caroline and Simeon Ford including: John Ford (1853-?); Ella Ford (1853-1904, possible twin of John); Anna Alice Ford (1855-1893); James Ford (1856-1870); Alpheus Marcellus Augustus Ford ( 1856-1870, possible twin with James); Thomas Ford (1859-?); Mary Lillian Ford (1860-1941); and Simeon Walter Ford, Jr. (1862-1941). This last son, Simeon Jr., married a first cousin, Nannie Belle Phillips, the daughter of Oscar F Phillips, Caroline’s brother. I wrote their story in another blog. You can check it out here: Simeon and Nannie Belle Ford – A Surprising Couple!
One surprise on the 1880 Census for Elon, Amherst County VA where they lived (near Lynchburg) is that Caroline and Simeon had an adopted son who was five years old in 1880 and named Blucher Ford. Blucher died in 1899 at age 24 of unknown causes. Caroline Ford died as a widow on 26 Feb 1904 at age 65 and she died at home after an illness of two months. According to her obit, Caroline “bore her sufferings with Christian resignation and fortitude.” Her son, Alpheus, arranged her burial and paid $40 for her casket and another $10 for 2 hacks (?) for a total of $50 which he paid in cash. That was a good deal of money for that era!
Son of Caroline and Simeon, Alpheus Marcellus Augustus Ford, will be remembered for his unusual name and was quite a character. He married a Susie St. Claire and they had about 6 children. Alpheus died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1937. Without going too far into researching collateral ancestors, I did find some interesting things about a couple of Alpheus and Susie’s children.
One of their sons named Ralph Michael Ford died at age 48 and the cause of death was a sub-dura hematoma due to a fracture of the left temperal bone. According to the death certificate, his death was ruled a homicide as the injury was sustained in a fist fight! He died at age 48 in 1950. That had to be quite a fight! I did search for newspaper articles or other information on his death but have not found anything as yet.
Another son of Alpheus and Susie was named Simeon W Ford after his grandfather and he served in WWI. I was lucky to happen upon a picture of him in his WWI uniform!
Of course there are more stories of the Fords that will have to wait for another day.
Going back to the children of Capt Benjamin Phillips and Mary Cazey, their last child was my second great-grandfather, Oscar Fitzallen Phillips. Oscar was born in 1832 and married Nancy Jane Burch, the daughter of Stephen Burch and Elizabeth Miller McDaniel. I have written a post of their history and you can find their family story here: A Family of Phillips!
All in all this was quite an interesting family!
Virginia, Marriages 1785-1940. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013; FHL film 32235; Page: 50 & 56.