Winding my way through Union and upper Anson Counties, it feels like home. I quickly get the since that I’m surrounded by many who I can rightfully call cousin. There are so many and yet all of these folks are descendants from just one couple, Benjamin Thomas and his wife whose name is yet unknown. This makes me wonder of Benjamin, of his brothers and sisters, cousins and extended family living somewhere else prior to his coming to Anson County. Where are they?
For years, actually forever in my life, such thoughts were but a dream. However, recent testing of my Y DNA was matched spot on by a distant cousin whose family grew out of Moore County NC. Dan’s ancestor in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s was named John Thomas who married Mary Oaks in Wake County. Like me, Dan too wonders about his family. He wonders about where they lived, where they went to church and what forces led them to move about within the community.
Yesterday I came across a wonderful article in our state’s regional Baptist newspaper called the Biblical Recorder. The following is a memorial from that paper to John and Mary’s son Tillman Thomas and his wife Harriet Judd. Note that Tillman is the brother of Dan’s ancestor who is also named Daniel:
A Remarkable Family.
The Biblical Recorder, Raleigh, NC, 9 August 1899, Page 6
The elder brethren of the Raleigh Association, as well as those of the Little River, may remember the name Tillman Thomas, who was often delegate to those bodies from Juniper Springs (formerly Muddy Springs) church. This venerable man was for many years a deacon and influential member of the above named church.
Brother Thomas died in 1885, but he has left behind an offspring which reminds us, in some ways, of the beginning of the tribes of Israel. His widow, Mrs. Harriet Thomas, is still living and is now in her 91st year. Her health is remarkably good for one of her age. She enjoys company, and her eyes sometimes sparkle with a merriment akin to childhood. She has been for nearly seventy years a member of the same church to which her husband belonged.
To these good people were born twelve children. Two died in childhood. Two others died in later years. Of theeight now living the youngest is in her 49th year. Three of the sons of the venerable couple are, and have been for several years, deacons in the church of their parents. All of the 10 who lived to maturity united with the same church. To these 10 were born 92 children, of whom 55 are or have been members of the church with their parents. Of all the descendants 83 have united with some church, most of them with Juniper Springs.
There are five generations of this family now living. Mrs. Thomas has living 8 children, 77 grandchildren, 154 great-grandchildren and 4 great-great-grandchildren, making 243. There are dead of all 40, making a total of the dead and living, 283.
Is it any wonder that when our brethren come to Juniper Springs they expect to find a pleasant home with “brother Thomas?”
P. S. –This is only one family of the Thomases.
S. W. Oldham
Grotto, N.C., July 10, 1899.
All I can say is wow! Back in 1899, the newspaper editor had a similar view of the family as do Dan and me. He lays out all the numbers, concluding with the thought that this represents but one of many families. There are more!
In writing this post I made the trip today down to Juniper Springs Baptist church. There is actually not a huge number of Thomas family represented in that church cemetery. However, just up the road, Tillman and family can instead be found at Baptist Chapel Baptist church. Let me share what I found along with some of the questions that peaked my mind’s interest…
First, looking above at the church sign, the founding date is 1913. What is its history prior to founding as Tillman was buried on the property in 1885, more than thirty years prior.
Looking at the graves of Tillman and Harriett, note that they are modern foot markers likely placed in the past twenty years. Also, Harriet’s maiden name is known through records to be Harriet Malinda Judd, whose brother Henderson was murdered by the KKK for intermarrying with a black woman. The stone for Harriet reads Harriett J Thomas. Also, her husband is known in some accounts as William Tillman Thomas and in others as Henry Tillman Thomas. His stone reads Henry Tillman Thomas.
Looking online at find-a-grave, there is an image of a much older stone in the name of Harriet Thomas whose husband is identified as T. Thomas. I looked over both Baptist Chapel and Juniper Springs and did not find the stone …it’s gone. Below is the photo from find-a-grave and know that the dates work. This is certainly Tillman’s wife.
Note in the image a fence corner in the upper left and also a marker in the background with stone finial. There’s only one such stone in the graveyard and it marks the resting place of Harriet’s son Jefferson.
Today I took a photo of the markers for Tillman and Harriet along with the fence and background markers. Below you can see that photo beside another in which the stone of Harriet Thomas is overlaid. It works, as the background images are close to what they were in the original photo showing only Harriett’s stone. From this I know the stone was destroyed or for some reason removed.