REIMAGINING THE GREAT WAGON ROAD

Today, while out in the yard working hard spreading a fresh layer of mulch over the flower beds, I had an epiphany concerning something that has been on my mind as of late. I have recently become enthralled with the degree in which many families may have spread out of Northeast North Carolina, and yet, for folks like me with roots in the southern Piedmont of North Carolina, it is the Great Wagon Road we wholeheartedly credit as bringing family to our state. With that thought laying heavy on my mind as I moved wheelbarrow loads of good stuff across the landscape, it suddenly hit me that there was something missing; something I wanted to see. For family like mine historically living in say Cabarrus County, North Carolina whose ancestors have Germanic last names like Sossomon, Meisenheimer, Clontz, Furr, or Dry, I got to wondering on how autosomal DNA products visualize the spread of such people from their ancestral beginnings here in the USA.

Of the image I quickly threw together at the top of the page, I confess to taking a little liberty in drawing how I might imagine “my” autosomal DNA spread if the Great Wagon Road really is as important to our lives as we give it credit. Do you like the tugboat my family came over on? Actually, looking like some poor representation of an intestinal track, the image in my mind wiggles all my family narrowly south from New York or Pennsylvania along the old road I can only imagine. Reaching their final destination here in our warm southland, families would of course begin to spread beyond.  Just maybe I am putting way too much emphasis on the “here,” being the place I like and know so well. Anyhow, I bet I am not alone in how I’d like to imagine the multifaceted bits of DNA journeying across the new land coming together in making me who I am today. But, seeing myself this way would be wrong and such a spread pattern likely does not exist, for anyone, and in that idea lies a question that piques my curiosity.

Now, for my own Ancestry DNA autosomal spread, really and truly, the image below represents the collective DNA making me who I am today …so they say.

Lore and historical documentation provide a colorful history for my early Germanic ancestors who traveled the Great Wagon Road to North Carolina. However, and based on the above visual presentation, such influences appear to be weak, at best, and may even be statistically non-existent. Though the stories I’ve heard are all about this trek, I see nothing above offering even a hint of these people. From that observation, I wonder about the reader, how many of YOUR descendants from ancestral German stock arriving in North Carolina followed similar patterns from origin as did mine? Particularly of interest to me are those traditionally believed to be rooted in the Germanic names common to early Piedmont North Carolina. Are there any of you out there whose autosomal DNA targets origins to the north, say in Pennsylvania? And please, I’m not referring to snowbirds or folks who have moved into our state in later years; instead, I question the pattern for those whose families have been in North Carolina since the invention of our famed red clay.  All I want to see is a real person’s visual DNA presentation capturing an arrival in Pennsylvania while also possibly doing the same for origins in say Virginia.

Of curiosity to me, maybe I have been misguided in placing so much emphasis on the importance of the Great Wagon Road. It’s a cool kind of stuff to tell a young person, though thinking about it, migrations from the far north were often accomplished as a singular trip, or maybe numerous journeys by different families making up who I have genetically come to be. The period of German migration took place during a short window of time such that autosomal DNA visual presentations may not show Pennsylvania because in part, many headed south soon after arrival in what may be defined as a singular journey or leg of a greater trip beginning in Europe.

Whereas for folks originating on the tidewaters of Virginia, many came to this country as indentured servants, finding freedom following the completion of years of servitude under a work agreement. Few had the means or even the desire to at first move far. All they wanted was their freedom and a sense of safety they first found within the swampy lands of our state’s northeast. Such people migrated slowly across the state with some maybe passing through places like Bertie County while others moved west before dropping down into our state to places like Granville or Stokes Counties. DNA mixed all along the way, creating a rich but complicated history influenced by the abundance of admixture. And yet, while some in many genetic families may have moved out of Virginia with descendants ultimately passing through numerous generational stops, others stayed put at which point new generations sprang into existence, diverging from various points along the migratory trail according to realities we hardly recognize.  Genetic mixing finds a multitude of paths in which DNA influences who we have become today. Going back to my love of yardwork, visualize carrying a busted bag of grass seeds from the car to a far point in the yard.  Not only will new grass grow beside the driveway, but one may also see its spotty “accidental” influences growing all along the way.

Maybe, just maybe, we need to look more deeply into the myriad of old Indian paths and the roads and communities springing from such beginnings. With my Germanic influences failing to be noticed by autosomal DNA mapping, I believe a plethora of research opportunity awaits many of us whose families are defined by a more enduring migration from the east.  For me, this is an important eye opener. Assuming the autosomal DNA spread presentations are accurate, shouldn’t one wisely consider such clues to be important, being ones we most need to seriously explore?

JOSEPH THOMAS GOES TO GEORGIA

In 1850, Joseph Thomas is living in District 13 in Savannah, Chatham County, Georgia. Enumerated as born in 1798 and head of household, Joseph may be married to the much younger Sarah E Thomas. According to marriage records for Chatham County, Joseph H. Thomas married Sarah Jane English on August 6, 1849. By occupation Joseph is a “net maker” with others in the home also being tradesmen including a saddler, several tailors, and a fisherman.  Some were born in Georgia while others came from Virginia, South Carolina, and as far away as Scotland.  As for Joseph, he is born in North Carolina.

The 1860 Chatham County census illuminates why the above may be important to me as at that time Joseph Thomas is 64 years of age, a farmer, with land and real property valued at $1,000.  In 1860 Joseph is enumerated as born in “Berty Co. N. C.”  At that point Joseph and wife Sarah have a respectably sized family with another couple, Jonah and wife Catherine Harrell living in the household.  This couple is also born in Bertie County NC.

In harmony with the 1850 Georgia census, looking back to Bertie County in search of clues based on the ages of Joseph and Jonah, I found Joseph clearly in the 1830 census as over thirty and under forty years of age. He is living within twelve households from Josiah Harrell (related to Jonah?). He’s also near James Collins and John Fife; understand my mention of both will become better understood in a bit.

So this is Joseph and in finding him, I can now begin to unravel a curious person who I’ve been wondering about. Particularly, there are some good mentions of Joseph Thomas in records though I have still not been able to properly connect him to earlier family. Yet, what we know solidly begins to resolve some issues connecting him to the lands and records of Josiah Thomas Senior, son of Joseph Thomas (II).

Josiah Sr. had a son “Jordan Thomas” whom folks have been all over the place in addressing.  The 1814 estate division of Josiah Thomas Sr. deceased devises upon son Jordan 80 acres along the road, I think being present-day Republican Road near the intersection of School Road. Laid off by Moses Gilliam, Turner Bazemore, Zed. Stone, and Geo Outlaw, and Simon A. Bryan: Jordan’s 80-acre share (shaded green) is identified as:

“beginning at a pine in the road in Turner Bazemore’s line, then to a  pine, then along the line of said Bazemore to a pine in Simon A. Bryan’s, then along his line and Joseph S. Pugh’s to a gum in a branch, then south 89 west a new line.”  

But then, at this point, we can begin to trace other members of family, and even those who are not, though Jordan becomes lost in an almost vacuum of nothingness.  One ray of hope some have followed is believing that Josiah’s son above is a Jordan Thomas who died earlier in Franklin County NC.  Though Josiah’s son seems to vanish, the dates simply do not match though for others out there chasing this fellow who served as Sheriff for Franklin County, I offer the arousing bit of record below.  Again, to be clear, this is the record for a Jordan Thomas, though not the son of Josiah of Bertie County.

Nearly coming to an end without any lifelines reaching back in time, I believe the record I’m about to share relates to both Josiah’s son and Joseph Thomas who moved to Georgia.  Dated May 15, 1833, Joseph Thomas of Bertie County purchased an eighty-one acre tract from John Fife (Bertie DD – 67). In the land instrument is written the following:

“a certain piece or parcel of land lying and being situated in the county and state aforesaid bounded by the lands of Joseph Pugh’s heirs, Josiah Thomas [Junior], Thomas Speller, and others it being the tract of land upon which Jordan Thomas late of the state and county aforesaid lived and died, it being the right of my wife Judah, daughter of the said Jordan Thomas.”

From this deed one can clearly see that Josiah’s son Jordan lived and died on the family lands he had inherited.  Further, according to a Bertie County marriage bond, the above John Fife and Judy Thomas were married on March 23, 1827. And of the marriage, Judy apparently died young as on April 16, 1838, John married second to Anna Harrell.  A sister or relative of Jonah Harrell who married Catherine and was living in 1860 at the home of Joseph Thomas in Savannah, Georgia?

Back in Bertie, Joseph S. Pugh who was mentioned in the deed died circa 1830 at which time Joseph Thomas and James Collins purchased canoes from the estate. Also making purchases nearby on the list was Henry Harrell whose relation to Jonah Harrell is unknown to me. Joseph Thomas, along with George Thomas, also provided depositions on how slaves owned by the heirs of Gov. David Stone deceased were hired out to move and stack lumber.

Pertaining to Joseph Thomas’ acreage purchased of John Fife in 1833, being the land once owned by Jordan Thomas, son of Josiah Thomas Senior, that land was not held too long as Joseph Thomas sold fifty acres of it in 1837 to “Elizabeth Speller” (Deed DD – 572). At that time the land is described as:

“Beginning at the road in the said Elizabeth Speller’s line then running her line near a south course to a corner in her line then running near a north east coarse to the road Everett Thomas & wife’s line then down the road to the first station.”

This appears to be Jordan’s land east of Republican Road.   The land on the west side of the road may have been sold to the house carpenter, Jeremiah Bunch.

Note that Everett Thomas is the son of Josiah Thomas Junior who received the northwest-most tract from his father’s estate, including the homeplace. The homeplace is identified in both the estate division and the 1860’s Confederate Engineering Map which the division plat overlays.  In 1850, 45-year-old Everett Thomas is living in the home of his aged father, Josiah Thomas, who is 75 years of age. Next door in the census is Jeremiah Bunch [Junior] who is also identified on the Confederate map.

Following recent participation in a genealogy talk at Historic Hope Plantation concerning architecture, specifically homes built by the family of person of color Jeremiah Bunch, Mr. Lou Craig offered to tour me though numerous places important to the family.  Seen in the Confederate map above, you will note Craig’s Mill close to the Josiah Thomas estate.  Well, that’s Lou’s folks and he carried us to look out from “school road” towards the old mill pond site.  Also, take a minute to look at the photo below.

Isaiah Thomas is the son of Michael Thomas, who is the son of Josiah Thomas Junior, the son of Josiah Thomas, Senior who died circa 1811-14. Apparently, the old home tract passed from Senior to son Junior and then on to Michael or at least later purchased by Isaiah as in real life the photo above goes further to unravel the mystery.  Looking beyond the stone, and beyond the woods, one will see a small field within which the old Josiah Thomas Senior’s home once stood.  So, this is naturally the perfect for a cemetery and likely under the leaf-covered ground lies stones marking the grave of original owner, Josiah Sr.  And looking beyond the distant field, see the woods in the background?  That’s on the other side of Republican Road and is close to the spot where Jeremiah Bunch’s home once stood before being moved to School House Road.

This was the area and land once lived upon by Joseph Thomas who later appears as “net maker” in the Savannah Georgia census.  We do not know yet how he ties into the family …maybe as a brother of Judy and therefore a son of Jordan Thomas.  And with that, it’s time for this bit of writing to come to an end until further information can be found kicking the can further down the road.

A LOOK AT THE PLACE WHERE FREDERICK THOMAS ONCE LIVED

Few passing by today are aware of the important ruin revealed if one could peer a little deeper into  the thick patch of woods. The site is most noticeable when viewed from overhead (right).

Registered in the Lee County deed book 23, page 488, Darius Thomas and wife Rosanna sold two and seven tenths acres for a price of $13.50 to Benjamin W. Hunter, John W. Laurence, John T. Kelly Sr., J. W. O. Thomas, William Bradley, John N. Smith, J. O. Kelly, John M. Hunter, and E. R. Partridge, trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church South. Note this was a deed reregistered from its original conveyance dated 27 Mar 1882 and the men were trustees from nearby Memphis establishing a new church.

Concord Methodist was located “on Fall Creek, and lying on the southeast side of the Fall Road and joining the lands of the first part, the said Darius Thomas, Harrington and others.” The metes and bounds go further, mentioning adjoining lands owned by “Shepard” and Joseph Thomas.” Note that Andrew Shepard and son John are known to have acquired land in this area going back to the pre-revolutionary war days in which this land was located at that time in Cumberland County. Keep the name Shepard in mind.

Below are the metes and bounds along with a plat I drew overlaid atop of the Google map. Though deeded in the 1800s, it is nice that the bounds are recognizable today.

Founding this little church must have been a high-water mark in the life of Darius Thomas and yet, he must have been equally proud in hosting the 1889 marriage of his daughter Ida G. Thomas (Jonesboro Leader, 29 May 1889).

Concord Church existed for more than 40 years though all that remains today are vines covering the hidden heap of wood once a house of worship built on land previously owned by Darius Thomas.

The church and name of Darius Thomas, who I had yet to research, are but a loose-ends that, when looked at more closely, began to unlock information about the lands where more distant family lived in old Moore County.  Dated 3 Jan 1917, the court allowed a transaction to be registered as an old deed was deemed to be an original. Note that Moore is a burn county so many of the deed books for that county are lost. In this case, the old deed acknowledged in 1917 was actually for 275 acres sold by Henderson and Darius Thomas on 8 Mar 1845 to Joseph Thomas (Deed 13-620 Lee County). An accompanying plat (below) indicates the southern-most end joins Shepard to the west and the said Henderson Thomas to the east.  Like the church deed, the southern end of this great tract adjoins Shepard’s land with the end line running 41 degrees off of north.  The church tract likely adjoins this land to the south.

More importantly, the deed describes the 275 acres as being “the following part of the lands held at his death by Frederick Thomas which said parcel of land is bounded as follows in Moore County on both sides of Fall Creek.” So, it is known that Frederick Thomas died before 1845 at which time Henderson and Darius sold part of the land to Joseph Thomas.  Was this a transaction among heirs?   Yes! It was, and can be proven as on 10 Sep 1838, Frederick’s widow, Nancy Thomas, wrote her last will and testament mentioning

“my children namely that is to say – Henderson Thomas, Deros [Darius] Thomas, Joseph Thomas, Caty Thomas and Patsy Thomas all my undivided interest in the negroes [unnamed] belonging to my husband Frederick Thomas Dec’d.”

Darius Thomas is appointed executor and the will was witnessed by Aa’n [Aaron] Thomas and Fredrick Rollins.

Take a look at the plat below and note that I have listed adjoining landowners in red.  Also, note that the adjoining line with Henderson Thomas crosses the “mill pond” at the point where the line crosses Fall Creek. And lastly, see the house? That’s likely Frederick’s house and if only we could locate the land it would be a sinch to identify the general location where Frederick Thomas once called home. Take a look:
Now, for this re-recorded deed plat, it is mentioned to look also in the same deed book being  620, though five pages back at page 615. In doing so, I found aa second detailed plat in somewhat the same hand and style updated though reflecting the 1845 deed. This new plat, below, was unceremoniously written with the survey being completed Sept, 6 1916 and filed on 9 Jan 1917.  The plat represents the division of lands belonging to Joseph Thomas dec’d. Again, I believe the plat for the 1845 deed is modern, being drawn by and likely at the same time as the same surveyor for the land below. At any rate, some interesting observations follow:

Purple line indicates Fall Creek and an unnamed branch, the mill dam and mill race. Tract 1&2 allotted to Lonnie and Catherine Thomas Tract 3 allotted to Malissa Howard Tract 4 allotted to J. Clyde Thomas Tract 5 allotted to Edgar Thomas Tract 6 allotted to L. C. Rosser.

When overlaid atop one of the layers available at the Lee County GIS site, and as based in matching up old lines to what is seen today, it becomes easily possible to identify the lands once owned by Frederick Thomas as passed through his heirs Henderson and Darius before falling into the hands of their brother Joseph.  Also now known is the general area where Frederick’s home once stood along with the branch that once served as a “race” for Frederick’s mill. As for adjoining lands, we know where Shephard once owned land as well as Frederick’s son Henderson. We can also see the lot where Concord Methodist once stood and of Darius, brother of Henderson and the above Joseph. Being thirty years before he gave the land for the little Methodist church, Darius actually deeded land in provision of Juniper Spring Baptist, which is located just down Buckhorn Road to the west.  In those acts, one might suppose that Darius owned sizeable amounts of land south of Buckhorn Road, in the areas where the two churches served the community.

Zooming in using Google maps, one can study Fall Creek and the branch where once there was a lake roughly 6 chains or roughly 400 feet wide. The image below, looking in the area where the branch once flowed, pretty much identifies what could easily be the old lake and dam site.

In closing, concerning Henderson Thomas, I may have him misidentified in much earlier research on Asa Thomas (soon to be corrected). In 1870, Henderson and family, including wife Martha Norris Thomas, are listed on Buckhorn Creek in Wake County with Henderson listed as being a millwright. That choice in career makes sense as the said Henderson Thomas had a great opportunity to hew his occupation while working on the family mill. From my earlier post, here’s a bit of that I wrote:

“Born ca. 1815, Henderson Thomas married Martha Norris on 17 May 1847. Martha is the daughter of Needham Norris and Patience Pearson. In the 1850 census, Henderson Thomas (millwright) and family are enumerated next to Needham Norris. In April of 1851, two tracts purchased by Henderson Thomas were recorded in court. First tract (deed 19-11, Wake NC) from Gaston Jones was situated on Carries Creek adjoining S. P. Harris. The second tract from John Watson was for 44 acres on the north side of Buckhorn Creek. In 1852, Henderson Thomas sold 33 ½ acres on Fish Dam Road “near the Holly Spring Meeting House” Henderson sold the land to Andrew K. Clements, James Rogers and Andrew W. Betts; Masters and Wardens of Holly Spring Lodge # 115. The land was likely purchased as a site to build an academy for the town of Holly Springs.”

Looking at the 1870 census, it appears Henderson may have worked two mills in two different counties as he was enumerated in both Moore and Wake Counties:

1870 Sloan Township, Moore County

1870 Buckhorn Township, Wake County

 

TAYLOR BURRIS – BURRIS TAYLOR

A Bit of Background.
From his Revolutionary War pension application, we know that my ancestor, Solomon Burris, married Judith [Taylor] in the 1780’s after arriving in Anson County where he enlisted for service. Notice the brackets around Judith’s maiden name? Based on supplemental evidence, it is rightfully believed Judith’s maiden name is likely “Taylor.” However, I find no absolute proof that Judith was born a member of the Taylor family.

The couple, Solomon and Judith Burris, lived out their lives in Stanly County, which formed from Montgomery, which was earlier cut from Anson. Buried in the crossroads community called Frog Pond, Judith’s gravestone at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church shows her birth as Nov 10, 1766 (see above).

Solomon’s pension application includes the family’s record which names his son Taylor Burris born “December, the 28th Day, 1784.” See it to the left, at the top? This fact is used in support of the idea that Judith’s maiden name is indeed Taylor. And using more distant records, some wrongly assess Judith Burris as being the daughter of Robert and Mary Taylor out of Edgecombe County NC.

The elder Robert Taylor wrote his will in 1758 Edgecombe County naming children Robert Jr, Edward, Joseph, Richard, Henry, William, Henry, Billington, Nimrod, Hudson, Judith, and Rachel. Another clue as to Judith’s ancestry, numerous children in the above-mentioned family of Robert Taylor can be later found living on land granted in early Montgomery, now Stanly County, located near the lands where Solomon Burris settled. By proximity of land in conjunction with naming patterns, we begin to connect Solomon’s wife to the highly suspect family of Robert Taylor. However, and picking up on “Judith” as being a named child in the 1758 last will and testament of Robert Taylor, it simply cannot be that Solomon Burris married Robert’s daughter Judith as her mentioning in the will occurred some eight years before the birth date of Solomon’s wife as appears on the her tombstone in Stanly County.  Solomon’s wife Judith was not even born when Robert Taylor named his daughter Judith in his 1758 will.

Though it’s quite impossible for Solomon’s wife to be the daughter of Robert Taylor, maybe she could be a descendant named in honor of the mentioned daughter whom so many confuse to be our maternal ancestor.  Or, looking back even further in time, Robert’s wife is believed to be the daughter of Judith Elizabeth Billington. So here again, the naming tradition supports the idea that Solomon’s wife somehow descends from the family of Robert Taylor who died ca. 1758 in Edgecombe. It’s good, I buy into it, but I must acknowledge that the proof is subjective.

The nature of homonymous naming patterns is indeed historically rich in the ways of our southern heritage though interpretations have confused the dickens out of many researchers seeking to refine the tangled family trees.  Lost beyond the scarcity of surviving records, there once existed a time and generations of people who could have helped us out.  They lived among these people and could have offered a much better understanding of the confusing relationships we struggle to understand today.

At some point one realizes that searches may bear no more fruit as the twisted possibility of relations can no longer be verified. At that point, maybe having studied the winds and seeking spiritual guidance by clapping the spit on our hands, it is easy to ere by converting one’s plausible maybes based on guesswork supported by some self-anointed rationale.  Passing on the street some unknown person whose recognizable likeness you reacted to with dropped jaw, subjective perpetuation of family throughout the generations have unknowingly produced familial doubles, multiple narratives, and doppelgängers through ill-conceived thoughts based on a narrow smattering of records discovered. It’s a huge problem and yet, genealogically speaking, we come to appreciate that such mentions of family indicate that we are quite close to discovering the truths of who we are. It may be that such naming patterns draw us as close to our ancestral clan as we may ever come and that’s a good thing worthy of being screamed from the mountain tops.

Beyond Robert’s naming of children in his last will and testament as was recorded in Edgecombe County NC, the migration of his sons is well-recorded. Much of the family stopped off in Chatham County NC before settling on Long Creek, south of present-day Albemarle in Stanly County NC. Also settling in the same area of present-day Stanly County was Timothy Taylor who has no known ties to the family of the elder Robert Taylor. However, such ties, if they ever existed, seem plausible though very confusing. It’s one thing if Solomon’s Judith is the daughter or cousin of one of Robert Taylor’s sons living on Long Creek; it is another if she somehow descends from Timothy whom little is known. It’s my belief that telling the story inclusive of all the various possibilities is much more intriguing than if it had been passed down singularly by declaration built upon guesswork. So, there we are, this and a nickel’s worth of cultural flavoring is all I have on my Taylor family ancestry.

Curious to learn from any published use of the names Burris and Taylor within the confines of my North Carolina stomping grounds, I searched Newspapers.com where I came across the following 17 Nov 1826 notice by former Montgomery County Sherriff Abram Forrest concerning land being sold due to unpaid taxes. Published in the North Carolina Star (Raleigh NC), the sale represented serious business as much of the land was likely being sold because the folks listed were either dead, woefully in debt, or had moved beyond the county. Just as with naming patterns and how the miscommunication of their attribution can alter history, bits of information as found in this Sherriff Sale may be fraught with opportunities for error. I’ll delve into that broader aspect in my next post, but for now, do you see a name on the list below that might be significant for the Burris family? How about for the Taylor Family?

The Big Sale.
History is written on what is known.  Naming patterns strongly suggest that Solomon’s wife is a member of the Taylor family.  Clues direct research towards the sons of Robert Taylor as they are living near Solomon and Judith Taylor Burris during the early years of settlement in now Stanly County. The fact that Judith gave birth to oldest son Taylor Burris is important. And, in a twisting of that logic, we find an equally intriguing clue within the wording of a common sale notification.

If we can gather an idea of Judith’s ancestry based on the name of her son, how then should we interpret the person “Burris Taylor” who, in 1826, had two 100-acre tracts of land being sold by the Sherriff in order to pay back taxes?

I have yet to locate Burris Taylor in census or any other surviving record though he would certainly appear in the Montgomery County deeds and court minutes if only the courthouse had not been burned by arson. Damn!

The naming of this fellow could be in honor of a  friend or neighbor though like with Judith, it’s equally likely that the naming of Burris Taylor is rooted in family.

Having his land sold in 1826, and knowing that Burris Taylor was at that time an adult of at least 21 years of age, he would have been born ca. late 1700s to 1805. Normally two tracts of land would not be purchased and sold for back taxes, all occurring in one year.  Considering the amount of time needed for Burris Taylor to acquire and have reason to sell the land for taxes, it’s likely that the said Burris Taylor was born in the late 1700s or earlier. This would make him of age, a candidate to be the son of one of the older Taylor boys who settled in now Stanly County. And, if so, it’s possible one of those Taylor fellows married a girl whose mother or other honored ancestor was a member of the Burris family.

Here’s another way to look at it.  The men in the families of Burris and Taylor have been somewhat easy to locate though about this case, is it possible Solomon’s father Joshua Burris Senior had a daughter? …one who married a Taylor man? Sure!  You see, we just don’t know and yet it’s nice now to be close to people we can look back on as likely being family.  However, you will not see me make a claim or grandiose statement on the possibility as doing so would be wrong.  We simply don’t know.

Burris Taylor is a new suspect to be pinned to our family’s wall for further investigation. Maybe he died and then again, maybe he made it to Tennessee, Alabama, South Carolina, or Kentucky where the winds of migration carried many Americans from the State of North Carolina. It’s amazing to come across something so simple as a twisted family name on a tax sale, and then asking the honest questions pertaining to meaning, I am humbled in realizing there is much we simply don’t know. If he lived and had children, Mr. Burris Taylor could conceivably be the ancestor of millions today. That’s a huge number and they would all be my cousins, just maybe.

THE FAMILY GARDEN

Here it is the day before Thanksgiving and lately I’ve been thinking a lot about yesteryear and of the many gatherings at momma’s and at the homes of distant family. Yesterday, I bought the meats and produce needed to make this year’s holiday meal for mom, wife Christina, and myself. Studying the bin near the back of the grocery, the big Tom was obviously too large so I stood there dumfounded wondering what to buy.  Go big, or not …hmmm? An employee, ripe in his years and while sweeping the floor, saw me and stopped a minute to weigh in on my dilemma before offering his own take on my predicament.  Regardless of the various scenarios I presented, he caringly responded “if it works for you, that’s good.”  Well yes, of course and I was about to walk away when behind me I noticed packages of precooked turkey in gravy hanging from the deli display …the only requirement was a microwave and six minutes. Sold! …the smaller portions were perfect for mom and I as my wife is purely vegetarian.

Next was the big decision, should I buy the Italian pole beans or the big cans of Hannaford’s string beans? Are the Italian beans anything like those out of Kentucky I grew up eating? Lord, how I yearned one more time for mom’s home-canned beans.  I remembered all those years the many jars set atop towels along a wall in the living room.  Every week or so mom used the back of a spoon to tap the jar lids, making sure the seals had not failed. Before leaving the grocery, I had potatoes, beans, a pie, and all the fixings, along with ingredients needed to make a cheesy broccoli casserole.  Mom never made casseroles as that dish is especially intended for my wife who had been thinking lately of her sister. Sue passed years before my wife and I ever met and I understand she loved to cook and always made a wonderful casserole, as well as numerous yummy desserts.

And now, back home, while mom watches her sixth episode of Little House for the day, I sit nearby with laptop on my knees content that the world is good. Christina, walked by, heading to the front yard carrying every spare bed sheet she could find. She marched like a soldier on a mission to do battle in advance of this year’s first seriously freezing night. Life is so simply harsh and I’d like to tell her that all is okay for this is the time for nature to yield in advance of winter. Unlike in spring, a time when swelling buds from warming temperatures are often unfairly nipped, the suddenness of a killing frost in the fall is better understood. We spiritually grow to appreciate death and the need for rest in advance of the big reveal to come.

My dad used to say that this was the time when the yard had gone to rest. He would have spent the last weeks before Thanksgiving “putting the yard to sleep” and at that point, only needed to further worry about the falling leaves for which his Lawnboy was the answer.  And on the festive day of Thanksgiving, he understood the need for appreciation, giving thanks for this year’s bounty while preparing his thoughts for the doldrums of winter.

I’ve grown my share of gardens, but as mom often pointed out, it’s not such a big need anymore since food has become cheaper with the refinement of quick-freeze vegetables. I guess it has gotten much better that way as to the contrary, mom often spoke of her childhood and of her father declaring “look, those are homes of Republicans as all they knew to eat was out of a can.” About our society’s move from subsistence gardening, I remember telling a lady once that people don’t garden like they once did to which she responded, “but I have a lovely garden!” When asked how many quarts she had put up her response was a simple conversation halting “ohhh.”

Beyond growing vegetables from seed, I am blessed to have grown up in a family who looked at every spot of yard wondering “what could go there.”  Times were different early on with few buying plants from the nursery as money was tight. I remember driving with dad “down home” where he dug up three small river birches from the bottom land where he had played as a child.  He saw liriope borders at a house on Queen’s Road and somehow ended up with a start. I remember Ms. Bost, Ma Boone, and Ms. Mac, all neighbors, each independantly proud of their yards and yet there is plenty of evidence of their sharing.  It’s neat now to drive down any street in the older parts of town, seeing plantings clearly resultant from what was once a very neighborly exchange.  I may spot in yards near each other, the same forsythia, azalea plantings, or some old cultivar of hellebore, imagining the conversations and numerous platitudes that led to what I am seeing.

We all take a little from our “roots” and for me I am grateful this year that I was raised to appreciate gardening, and yet we are all modified in it all, in time. After the passing of my father, mom and I spent countless hours in both her yard and beyond, contemplating on what next. We’ve made mistakes in layout and selection and even had to start over a few times, but this thing of gardening is a journey, and the process is all about change. Embrace it and yet, in taking account of my own little slice of the world, I am thankful to be able to honor my family past through landscape.

Whether by way of the King Solomon daffodils or my dad’s favorite Camelia Japonica, or maybe Ms. Mac’s Formosa azalea and even the iris I am photographed trampling as a toddler, I am surrounded by memories as I sit here contemplating next year. I am also thankful for buying into the idea of sharing, and of asking for “starts” from family and the special people I have visited through the years. In my yard is a rock from Pless’ mountain, in Arkansas, just as there is a rock from “down home” along with bricks hand-made by my grandfather’s siblings. I was given a Japanese maple said to have been the offspring of a grand tree that once adorned Billy Graham’s momma’s front entrance.  And there are also the azaleas and the Grandsire Greybeard given to me by family friend Loren Smith.  These plants and many more are now a part of my herbaceous memory album, linking me to my past. The smell of earth and joy in maintaining my simple connections are as important as any family photo I own. Each speaks in its own way and yet both pictures and plants are finite to the degree we care for their preservation.

Seeking to find the perfect picture for this simple sort of post, I chose the image above, of germinating larkspur raising their heads from the cooling grounds as winter approaches.  I have always heard of the magic of larkspurs, imagining them peppered wildly throughout my flowering landscape.  Of this understanding, and in moving beyond the traditional conversations over chain-linked fences o old, Facebook connected me with an old family cousin who as a child, played with and walked to school alongside my mother. Mom and I had the chance to visit in person and through the next year or so, it was good to see these folks sharing a bit of the past, of their gardening, and of my newly found cousin’s beautiful larkspur. From an envelope of seed received through the mail, this year’s “start” has been productive with the memories now being made secure as next year’s flowers break from the ground. At a time when most things in the landscape speak of going to sleep, Larkspur bless us with the realization there are plans greater than what we naturally expect.

LANDS IN BERTIE: FROM SAMUEL BASS TO JOSEPH THOMAS

Genealogical/historical blog writing offers a wonderful twist on the old social art of fishing for information.  Research is refined and uniquely presented in hopes of gaining notice and further refinement.  Often, we never get to know the writers except by what we glean from the quality of their work. As for the blog site Colonial Andersons of N. Carolina, for several years I’ve admired the illustrative land grant plats and related discussion.  I am a frequent visitor as I’ve recently learned that both my paternal grandmother and grandfather have roots passing through the lands lying between the Roanoke and Chowan.

As for Bertie County, many people researching the area must overcome the fact that there are:

    • Unique waterways including funny, though importantly named creeks, rivers, swamps, and even upside-down swamps called Pocosins. You’d think you could drive through and study these things from the comfort of your car, but ohhh no …the terrain will not allow for that as things are not what they would seem. Understanding the flow and locations of all these sources of water is important for us “people hunters.” Also, the names of many of these bodies of water have been duplicated many times, appearing in records at different locations across the county …with spelling evolving independently over many years.
    • Many land grants were issued in the mid-late 1700s as “Lord Granville Grants” which early source typically does not include fully detailed metes and bounds. Without the numbers you can’t get an accurate idea for the shape and size of many of the early tracts. Besides these worries, the surveys for many of the earliest land grants are lost, meaning that one must depend on entry book descriptions along with deeding descriptions from later conveyances.
    • Family names. Unlike any other county I have seen in North Carolina, given names passing through Bertie are repeated within the family tree as well as outside.  It’s easy to bark up the wrong tree here and the use of the same given names over numbers of generations frustrates the search. This problem is likely born in very early arrivals with naming traditions spreading ever so wider as generations moved out of Virginia.

A few years ago, I wrote a post about these things as related to my own research …telling of curious tracts of land and the numerous locations where I believe my Thomas family possibly lived. Here is a map I altered showing the areas I was studying:

I was hoping that someday, someone would respond and set me straight. That very thing recently happened in part by way of a pingback indicating that Colonial Andersons of N. Carolina had mentioned my post in connection with theirs entitled the Tuscarora Town.” In that post, the lands of Milton, Busby, Parker and others have been accurately platted near the Roanoke River not far from Woodville. The platted lands on the post were once owned by a person named Joseph Thomas.  For the first time, I can look at the area with clear understanding of the early community. It’s also proper here to note that this information jibes with what I had learned from my friend Gregory Tyler whose family home stands nearby.

All of this is wonderful though finding this information in no means eliminates my concerns.  Yes, it’s possible I relate to a Joseph Thomas who owned land in the vicinity of Running Creek near Woodville though I find other records of a person named Joseph Thomas who lived 12-15 miles away, closer to present-day county seat of Windsor. Are the two Thomas men named Joseph related, possibly the same person or do their purchases of land reflect different generations of the same family? Note there are also Phillip and Lazarus and other Thomas men who once lived to the north, along the present-day Northampton County line. Some show all these men as being of the same family and yet, others are not in agreement. You would thing Y-DNA would give us the answer though at this point not enough good Thomas men have been tested! Is it possible that any family ties are much more distant if even related at all?

At some point soon I want to revist records for Thomas lands in the vicinty of Woodville. But for now, my curiosity leads me down Hwy 308 to Joseph Thomas who purchased land in 1727 from Samuel Bass.  That land is identified as lying south of Kesia Swamp and is the first known deeded land for “Joseph Thomas in Bertie County.” Looking back a few months earlier, Samuel Bass had purchased the same tract from William Griffin. Overlaid atop a historic map drawn during the Civil War, the tract originally attributed to this “Joseph Thomas” appears roughly in green. Oh, and as will be later shown, the tract in white belongs to Josiah Thomas, who we believe is a descendant of Joseph Thomas.

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A year ago, I graphically overlaid a topographic map with the plat of a 700-acre land grant issued in 1786 to David Standley (seen outlines in red below). The piece of land ran miles down the Cashie Swamp and its original survey shows the names of adjoining owners (right). Of interest in this exercise, the survey also references the mouth of Connaritsa Swamp and historic Lumber Bridge which crosses Cashie Swamp between the communities of Snake Bite and Republican.  This was fun to see as I knew the tract could be graphically expanded or made smaller until the illustration correlated with known locations on topography maps.  The tract, being long with a bend south made me realize how accurate the surveyors were in the early days. Anyhow, related to this post, note in the image below that the southern-most end of the tract adjoins the lands of “John Hill,” just as David Standley’s survey suggests.

US Topographic Map Collection – [M-204 Bertie, 3 Aug 1773, Whitmell Hill and Winefred his wife to Josiah Williams] Being 700 acres of land lying in Cashy Swamp beginning at a little cypress on Cashy Swamp being in the line of Catherine Hunter minor of Moses Hunter Dec’d then N 44 W 90 along Cashie Swamp being her line to a beach her corner standing on the swamp then up the swamp being Maj. Robert West’ line S 85 W 38 to a gum on the sd swamp then along the said swamp N 57 W 22 to a cypress then along the swamp N 75 W 26 to an ash then N 76 W 12 to an ash in the swamp then S 51 W 28 to a beach on the swamp then S 41 W 28 to a beach then S20 E 32 to a beach then S 18 to a cypress then S 44 W 24 to a beach then N 41 W 8 to a white oak on the swamp then N 15 E 26 to a gum then N 16 W 28 to an ash then N 42 W 38 to a maple then N 19 W 36 to beach N 52 to a beach on the swamp then N 33 W 24 to a gum then N 68 W 26 to a gum then S 78 W 48 to a white oak then North 16 W 30 to a beach then N 3 E 36 to a poplar then N 42 W 2 to an ash then N 12 E 16 to a water oak then N 40 W24 to a gum on the swamp near (Bryar?) House then N 36 along sd swamp being Joseph Thomas’s line to a cypress in the swamp then N 11 W 50 to an Elm then N 71 W 20 to a cypress then N 7 W 26 to a beach then N 43 W 28 to a beach then N 46 W 70 to a cypress then N 10 then N 7 E 36 along Henry Bunch’s line to a white oak then N 8 W 22 to a beach then S 72 W 20 to a cypress then along the swamp being Bunch’s line then N 27 W 34 to a beach on the swamp then N 33 E 16 to a beach then N 57 W 18 to a beach then N 27 W 68 to a beach on swamp then N 22 to a chinkerpin then N 43 W 20 to a beach then N 18 to a beach then N 30 E 26 to a chinkerpin then N 44 W 20 to a hickory on the swamp then across the Cashy Swamp to a pine on the swamp standing above Micajah Thomas’ plantation then down the said swamp S 28 E 14 to a red oak then S 12 W 56 to a beach then S 33 E 16 to beach then S 7 W 27 to a pine then S 53 W 16 to a dogwood then S 11 W 14 to a gum in John Hill Junior’s line then S 51 E 6 to a beach them S 46 to a sourwood then S 36 W 30 to a chinkerpin then S 47 E 38 to a gum them S 8 E 42 to a pine in Whitmell Hill’s line then S 44 E 22 to a hickory then N 53 E 8 to a pine then S 65 E 20 to a pine. Witnesses are Hezekiah Mohum and Bart. Barnes.

Not readily appearing in land grant records, deed (K-284 Bertie) identifies a 700 acres Granville grant issued in 1762 to John Hill.  That deed only identifies metes and bounds for the starting line though names of numerous adjoining owners, including Joseph Thomas and Micajah Thomas, are also included.

Starting with the first survey line at the southern-most end of this tract (shaded green below), the deed reads:

“beginning at a little cypress on Cashy Swamp, being in the line of Catherine Hunter minor of Moses Hunter Dec’d then N 44 W 90 along Cashie Swamp ….”

Note that the mentioned land originates as a grant to Robert West who sold it to Michael Hill (G-289 Bertie). Michael Hill in turn sold it to Robert Hunter (G-282 Bertie) who happened to be Katherine Hunter’s grandfather. In 1753, Robert Hunter penned his last will and testament which reads in part:

“7thly I Give and Bequeath to My Loving Son Moses Hunter … one Tract of Land Lying on Cashy and Willis Quarter Swamps which sd. Land, I bought of Coll. Robt. West & Michael Hill this Land I Give to the sd Moses his heirs and assigns for Ever …”

Providing the perfect starting place for orienting the sprawling lands purchased of Whitmell Hill, note that the Hunter lands (shaded green) are described in- deed as:

“lying in ye fork of Cashy and Wills Quarter [now Hoggard’s Mill] beginning at a beach in Cashy swamp & running a north east course to Coll. Robt’ West’s corner, from thence a southeast course to Wills Quarter Swamp, then down the Swamp to the fork, then up Cashy Swamp to the first station.”

From this information we know that Whitmel Hill’s 700-acre tract ran all the way from Wills Quarter northward past the mouth of Guy Hall Swamp (now White Oak Swamp) to where the tract abuts the lands of David Standley.

Also, now knowing that the Hill and Hunter lands adjoined land owned by Robert West, I have a good understanding of a particular piece of land purchased by Joseph Thomas in 1746. But before going into that, look back at the green lines of the sprawling grant originally issued to John Hill before being passed down to Whitmel. Note how the lines somewhat follow the swamp edges when compared to the underlying topography map.  To the west of Robert West’s lands, note how the old survey dips severely at one point while the topographic map takes the Cashie River on a gentler curve. See it?  Zooming in on this area using Google Maps, amazingly it is easy to ascertain the ancient swamp edges which did in fact once dip more severely to the south.

Our family believes there is a Joseph Thomas (I) who dies in the 1730’s followed by a son Joseph Thomas (II) who dies in the 1750’s. With that in mind, Joseph Thomas purchased land in 1746 by John Bell (G-78, Bertie).  This deed indicates the land was purchased by Joseph Thomas (II) as his believed father had already passed. Later, in 1769, the very same piece of land was sold again by Joseph Thomas to Joseph Collins who had served as witness in the 1752 last will and testament of Joseph Thomas (II). This last sale was made by a person we refer to as Joseph Thomas (III) who we believe to be the son of Joseph Thomas (II). Joseph Thomas (III) moved west where he eventually wrote his last will and testament in 1819 Chatham County NC. Joseph Thomas (III) had also been indentured to David Turner in 1763 to learn the art of cabinet making.  Court recordings of the indenture reads:

Feb 1763, Bertie – Ordered that Joseph Thomas orphan of Joseph Thomas Dec’d be bound to David Turner to learn the trade of a Joiner and Cabinet Maker of ye. Age of sixteen years.

The deed in 1769 indicates Joseph Thomas (III) had reached legal age, having completed his indenture. This would be his last known record in Bertie County before moving to Wake/Chatham.

Take a minute to locate the corner identified with a red letter “A.”  See it? Today this corner stands along or near School Road, just east of Thomasville Road …can’t make this stuff up!  However, back in 1774, the survey of Hill’s deeded land identifies that the lines passed by “Friers House” before intersecting the “Joseph Thomas” line and his cypress corner at the red letter “A.” This is likely the western terminus of the land Joseph Thomas (II) purchased of John Bell (shaded purple).  Also, and having written about this before I ever knew of the above, an 1813 estate land division for the lands of Josiah Thomas was situated across the river from this land. From the division, we know Josiah had children Jordan, Josiah Jr, Elizabeth, and Sarah who married Reuben Bazemore. Finally there was one more conveyance of the land at red letter “A” that had already passed from John Bell to Joseph Thomas (II) and from Joseph Thomas (II) to Joseph Thomas (III) before falling into the hands of Joseph Collins. In 1814, Jacob Collins of the State of Georgia and County of Tatnell of the one part acting agent for Joseph Collins, heirs David Collins, John Collins, and john Collins heirs and Drury Wilson of the state of South Carolina Edgefield district, Jonas Summerlin & wife of Bertie Boswell (Braswell?), Charles Collins and the heirs of Miliba Collins of the one part to John Bass (Y-40 Bertie). Being sale of David Collins estate, the land in question is the same as that which was deeded to Joseph Thomas (II) by John Bell. Oh, and following the death of Joseph Thomas (II), his widow Ann married the above-mentioned David Collins.

Following the green survey to the north, the green lines of Whitmel Hill’s 700 acres passes two tracts owned by Henry Bunch (see the red letter “B” & “C”). Note that the above Joseph Collins married Rachel, the mulatto child of Henry Bunch.

Now, north of the red-letter C, note how the Cashie River bends severely as it passes White Oak Creek, once called Guy Hall Swamp which enters to the north. Being the earliest known land owned by our earliest known Joseph Thomas (I) in the area, in 1727 Joseph Thomas purchased 200 acres from Samuel Bass (C-212 Bertie).  On the very same day, Joseph sold to Samuel Bass his lands along Oropeake Creek located near the Virginia State line in present-day Gates County. The metes and bounds for the Cashie River land reads:

“on the south side of Kesiah Swamp beginning at a pine in the woods by William William’s plantation, then north 5 east 320 poles to a pine standing on the Kesia Swamp, then according to the winding of the swamp to the mouth of the great branch, thence the various courses of the said branch to a pine in his headline, then along the headline to the first station. “

Do I have this correct? Going from the Great Branch to Kesia or Cashie, is the terminology used to  identify river changes occurring as the waterway transforms from a true river to becoming more or less a swamp? Through my eyes it appears this tract is situated somewhat in the purple shaded tract. However, yet another conveyance of the same land shows the tract may have been but a portion of an even larger tract. In 1774, Whitmel Hill and wife Winifred again sold and to Josiah Williams (M-206 Bertie). Being the next deed in the deed book from Whitmel Hill’s conveyance of the big green sprawling tract, you’d think and would be correct that the two pieces of land are near each other. From this second deed, the metes and bounds read:

“Beginning at an old ash on John Hardy’s corner tree, then south 65 west 270 poles to a pine, north 25 west 320 poles to a pine, north 65 east 320 to a pine on Cashy Swamp, then the windings of the swamp to the first station.”

Not the same metes and bound as appears in the conveyance from Samuel Bass to Joseph Thomas, this deed goes on to reveal additional details:

“Containing by patent granted to John Griffin 591 acres and was given by Wm. Griffin, son of the said John Griffin to his wife Mary Griffin by will which land …except a parcel of the land which was sold by William Griffin to Samuel Bass containing an estimated 320 acres …know by the said sale to the said Bass since belongs to Joseph Thomas.”

Reaching the most-northerly end of Whitmel’s 700-acre conveyance, the lines cross the river for which no distance or directions are given.  Differing from what I have drawn, at this point I believe the northern end of the tract should be bent or shifted a bit to the east so that the lines cross the river only once as indicated. Also, at spots the width of the tract is surely narrower or wider as we really don’t know what the line crossing the river looks like. However, if I ever had the chance to walk this area, I think it being the tight bend across from the mouth of Guy Hall Swamp (now White Oak Swamp), I would be able to also see the lands sold in 1727 to Joseph Thomas. And if that’s not telling, now turning to follow the green lines and the run of the river south, Whitmel Hill’s conveyance continues after crossing the water:

“…then across the Cashy Swamp to a pine on the swamp standing above Micajah Thomas’ plantation then down the said swamp.”

I believe this is Michael Thomas, son of Joseph Thomas (II). After Joseph died in the 1750’s, Michael was appointed guardian of his younger brother Josiah.  Josiah appears in period tax lists as living in the home of Michael Thomas. Note that in his 1752 last will and testament, Joseph Thomas (II) leaves to wife Anne his plantation “known as Spring Branch.” And in item 2, Michael Thomas is bequeathed 640 acres purchased of Thomas Kearsey.

Note that Thomas Kersey purchased land from William Ricks that adjoined lands of Thomas Busby (B-173 Bertie). Clearly, this purchase happens to be 12-15 miles away, being part of the lands near Woodville identified on the Anderson of N Carolina blog site. This deed is extremely valuable in that it solidly connects the estates of Joseph Thomas (I) and (II). And yet, in item 3, Josiah received land occupied by Nathaniel Keel joining Michael and Thomas Blount’s land.  You would immediately assume this land was also situated near Woodville and that may be correct though who was the named Thomas Blount?  The father of Winifred who married Whitmell Hill, a Thomas Blount, late of Edenton, purchased 591 acres south of Cashie from John Lett (F-200 Bertie). The description mentions John Hardy’s corner and further states the land was given by

“William Griffin son of sd. John Griffin to his wife Mary by will ..which land was sold by William Griffin unto Samuel Bass …since belonging to Jos. Thomas.”

Some say the Blount family of Woodville area are Tuscarora, are they? Or are they kin to Thomas of Albemarle?

There’s much more we could say about Michael Thomas though back to the green-lined tract sold by Whitmel Hill to Josiah Williams, after leaving the “Micajah Thomas plantation,” the next mention in the survey is of adjoining land owned by John Hill Junior.  Oddly, John Hill Junior does not show up on any Hill family trees and is considered an unknown.  However, for the Thomas family, we know for sure that he married Anne, the widow of Joseph Thomas (II) following Joseph’s death in the 1750’s.

In 1766, likely at a time of coming of age, Joseph Thomas (II)’s son Josiah Thomas was deeded land by Joh Hill (L-80) “in consideration of the Last Will and Testament of his father Joseph Thomas deceased.”

 “Being on the south side of Cashy River, …beginning at the mouth of the Great Branch between the said and Michael Thomas’s Plantation running up the said branch westerly to Joseph Thomas’s line then aling his head line south to a lightwood limb & marked pine tree Whitmel Hill’s corner, then eastwardly along a line of marked trees to the head of a branch called Middle Branch, then down he branch to the Cashy Swamp and then up the swamp to the first station.”

Note that the land is deeded by John Hill, not John Jr and the deed is witnessed by Joseph Collins.

And then in the same general vicinity, Josiah and Nancy Collins sold to John Thomas 70 acres (P-180) lying on the south side of the Cashie Swamp beginning at a stooping oak in the Spring Branch then down the various courses of the said branch to a pine in the branch then running across a line of marked to another branch that makes out of the Spring Branch to a water oak then running the various courses of the said branch to the head line Jesse Bazemore’s line then running across a line of marked trees to the first station, being the land that Michael Thomas sold to John Capehart and the said Capehart sold to John Freeman and & by Freeman to Josiah Collins. The deed was witnessed by Josiah Thomas, John Collins, and Mary Asbell …all identified in the 1752 last will and testament of Joseph Thomas (II). I have no idea who John Thomas was, though Josiah witnessed the deed.

Returning to the green-lined survey of Whitmel Hill’s conveyance, next down-stream below John Hill Jr is mention of none other than Whitmel Hill. There ae numerous deeds connecting to families of Pugh, Hill, Freeman, Hardy, and Bazemore. However, to be able to properly place and draw the tracts, I must first know for sure the locations of several ancient streams once running through the area. One such tract passed from John Capehart to John Freeman (O-52), then from John and Sarah Freeman to Francis Pugh Junior.  Note that this land adjoins Thomas Clark, John Bazemore, Jesse Bazemore and David Collins, who married Anney, the widow of Michael Thomas who died in 1766. There is so much more to be gleaned but my out-of-towner knowledge does not know locations that surely exist on old deeds and plats quietly held by area farmers. To be able to draw adjoining lands, I need to know the locations of Spring Branch, Middle Branch, and Thick Branch.

Now, at this point the green lines of Whitmel Hill’s survey ends abruptly as I believe an ancient page of a recorded deed has been lost. From that point south, the tract surely passed by lands that were later owned and passed down by Josiah Thomas via his 1813 estate. As appears in a more detailed discussion, this land is located near the old Craig Mill.  Opposite the river from the Joseph Thomas (II) purchase of John Bell, this land appears to be somehow connected. And looking at the above map of Whitmel Hill’s conveyance, I’m sure that if it the deed had survived intact, further mentions of Joseph, Michael, and Josiah Thomas would appear in the description now lost and gone. However, going one step further, let’s look at the period 1770 map by John Collet. As has been pointed out, some things are not to scale and are even misplaced. Though, the map clearly shows Hill’s Mill on a stream shown in the above topography map as following the western side of Whitmel Hill’s conveyance.  I’d love to learn more about this area and of the creeks and odd waterways needed to carry this conversation further ….

 

A SLICE OF WAKE

Above is a portion of the old Marcom Map which shows land grants in early Wake County.  Wake County is represented by all of the area with white background while the green shaded land is old Cumberland County, now Harnett County.  To the west you see the yellow shaded area which is old Orange County, now Chatham County. And about Wake County, note that  a southern sliver of that county was originally formed from Cumberland while the western lands of Wake were cut from Orange.

I remember years ago seeing this and noticing names connected to what I had thought was my family’s home lands along the Rocky River which runs through Southern NC.  In the map I see lands of Silas Green who connects with William, Richard, and Leonard Green who we know made the move south.  My Thomas family in Anson County connects to Gideon Green who somehow connects to the Green family/families of Wake. My earliest known ancestor, Benjamin Thomas, may be the son of or somehow related to a person named Jacob Thomas who quietly appears in the above land study.

I also see Nathan Thomas and Dilliard or Hilliard Thomas who lived not far from Joseph Thomas in early Wake County.  Joseph Thomas, ancestor of many in present-day Chatham-Moore-Harnett Counties lived near present day Shearon Harris Lake, not seen on this map but is just a bit off of the map to the west. Recently my DNA has proven to match descendants of Joseph Thomas and in that I remain curious as to possible connections to the other Thomas families (Nathan and Hillard) who we have yet to find descendants to test. And, look closely and you will see the name Joseph Thomas mixed upon some of the records outlined below. This never escapes my mind and someday I will be able to understand the relationships binding us just as do the property lines as seen on the map.

But for now, I want to try to look at all this in a slightly different way. Recently, David McCorkle digitized all the early Wake County land grant surveys on his site called NORTH CAROLINA LAND GRANT IMAGES AND DATA. For this post, I decided to screen print individual survey images which have been resized and floated into place based on the above Marcom Map.  I refer to all of this as an alphabet study to maintain focus while protecting my personal sanity. Note that I’m limiting the number of plats to the number of letters in the alphabet. Oh well, it works in concept though you will notice I did go over by one.  Anyhow, take a look at my map below utilizing hand drawn boundaries from 240 years ago.  It blows my mind how well the accuracy various surveyors were able to maintain any sense of accuracy! Even though some of the names are not found in court and deed books, it is nice to be able to realize the possibilities revealed in studying the neighborhood where family once lived.

A. Felps Smith, Wake County Grant # 484[A] – 300 acres issued 1780. Both sides of Buckhorn joining Richard Hill and the county line. CC: David Jones, Elkin Jones.

B. Richard Hill, Cumberland County Grant # 48 – 660 acres issued in 1763. Both sides of Buckhorn.

C. Ebenezer Folsom, Wake County Grant # 995 – 281 acres issued 1787. South of Buckhorn, joining “formerly Charles Jones”, Watson’s, Felps Smith, and the County line. CC: Joel Edwards, Frederick Jones.

D. Francis Hobson, Wake County Grant # 453 – 350 acres issued 1780. Both sides of Buckhorn, joining Britain Womack, William Jones at a rocky hill, and Wm. Watson. CC: Carnaby Stevens, Elkin Jones.

E. Dennis Collings [Collins], Cumberland County Grant # 47 – 175 acres issued 1763. Both sides of Buckhorn joining John Smith. This land was later sold to Charles Smith. Likely surveyed at the same time as Grant # 48 to Richard Hill.

F. Peter Quarles, Wake County Grant # 1054 – 400 acres issued 1787. Both sides of Buckhorn, joining William Jones, Charles Jones, and near David Jones. CC: Joseph Thomas, James Stephens. Question: Is this Joseph Thomas III or his son who married in 1789 Mary Oaks?

G. David Jones, Wake County Grant #495, 300 acres issued 1780. South side of Buckhorn joining Felps Smith. CC: Felps Smith, Elkin Jones.

H. Albritton Jones? The Marcom map indicates the land in area of “H” belonged to Albritton Jones though I’ve yet to find the legal deed or grant for that piece of land.

I. Felps Smith, Wake County Grant # 457[A] – being 100 acres issued 1780. Waters of Buckhorn, the warrant says on both sides of Horse Branch and the Survey says both sides of Horse Branch. CC: David Jones, Phelps Smith.

J. William Watson, Wake County Grant # 974 – being 200 acres issued 1787. Horse Branch, joining Phelps Smith, David Jones, and the county line. CC: John Burt, David Smith.

K. David Jones, Wake County Grant # 0121 – being 50 acres with the “0” in the file number indicating the grant was never issued. The original warrant was for land adjoining his own and the Cumberland County line.

L. Solomon Rogers, Wake County Grant #1470 – being 640 acres issued 1809. Warrant to Survey mentions joining to Nathan Thomas. Survey identifies the land on Hector’s Creek joining Mathew R. Turner, the county line, and David Jones. CC: Darling Jones, James Jones.

M. Solomon Rogers, Wake County Grant #1469 – being 360 acres issued 1809. Waters of Buckhorn, joining David Jones, his own, and William Jones. CC: Reddick Jones, William Nash.

N. Jesse Jones, Wake County Grant #1009 – being 200 acres issued 1787. Both sides of Horse Pen Prong of Neils Creek joining his own line. CC: Mark Myatt, James Lightfoot.

O. William Jones, Wake County Grant #975 – being 200 acres assigned to William Jones by Daniel Oldhands and issued 1787. On the Fork of Neals Creek “including improvements made by Jacob Thomas.” CC: Fredrick Jones, Joshua Elkins.

P. William Love, Wake County Grant #1296 – being 100 acres assigned to William Love by Jesse Jones and issued 1798. West side of Neals Creek joining Jesse Jones and William Jones. CC: John Terrialle, Clem’n Stinson.

Q. William Jones, Wake County Grant #975 – being 240 acres assigned to William Jones by Daniel Oldham and issued 1787. Gum Spring Prong of Neils Creek and joining his own line. CC: Joshua Elkins, Fredrick Jones.

R. Hilliard [Hillery] Thomas – No grant, deed, or court record survives for Hilliard Thomas though his ownership of this tract is indicated in “U” above in which he is mentioned in the survey for Silas Green’s land grant. Also,

S. James Stephens, Wake County Grant #1393 – being 200 acres issued 1802. Both sides of the Gaulberry Fork of Neils Creek. CC: Darling Jones, Redick Stinson. Later a James Stephens witnesses deeds between the children of Joseph Thomas in Chatham Caunty.

T. Solomon Rogers, Wake County Grant #1398 – being 640 acres issued 1802. On the Cape Fear, the warrant mentions Nathan Thomas, William Jones, and himself. CC: Reddick Jones, William Nash.

U. Silas Green, Wake County Grant #1230 – being 500 acres issued 1797. Waters of Neals Creek and Braswell Creek, adjoining James Stinson, his own, Croswell’s old field (may be the family of Richmond Croswell who owned two tracts of land in Anson County NC. The first was beside Jacob Thomas and the second several miles away beside Benjamin Thomas Sr on the north side of Richardson Creek). Note that Croswell’s fold field is described in the grant as lying on Hilliard Thomas’ line (southern-most line issued to William Jones in 1787). It also adjoined James Stinson’s corner and the head of Horse Pen Branch. CC: Thomas Beany, Jas. Stinson.

V. Silas Green, Wake County Grant #1035 – being 400 acres assigned to Silas Green by Rowland Stinson issued 1787. Head Branches of the South Prong of Middle Creek, and on both sides of Braswell’s old Road, including the Burnt Tavern, beginning at a hickory near said tavern. CC: Etheldred Jones, James Shelton.

W. Nathan Thomas, Wake County Grant #1214 – being 314 acres issued 1797. Joining Braswell’s Creek, his own and Silas Green lines. CC: Jonathan Thomas, Asa Thomas.

Asa Thomas. Served in the Revolutionary War in the stead of Etheldred Jones to whom the said Asa lived in the household while learning the trade of blacksmithing. Asa never received a land grant or deeded land. He was listed as chain bearer for grants issued to Nathan Thomas. He married Pleasant Matthews, daughter of Joseph and Ann Matthews. Joseph Thomas’ son Micajah is named in the last will and testament of Redmond Matthews who may be Asa Thomas’ brother-in-law. Asa was listed as insolvent ca. 1797 and removed to Anson County NC where he’s listed in the 1800 census. In 1854 Wake County, and on behalf of Asa’s war record, Asa’s son David applied for a Revolutionary War pension.

X. Nathan Thomas, Wake County Grant #509 – being 200 acres issued 1780. Both sides of Braswell’s Creek including improvements made by Edmond Mathews. CC: John Norris, Gerrard Stephens.

Y. John Stinson, Wake County Grant #1034 – being 200 acres issued 1787. South side of Middle Creek, both sides of Braswell’s Creek joining Rowland Stinson’s former lands. CC: Etheldred Jones, James Shelton.

Z. Rowland Stinson, Wake County Grant #415 – being 600 acres issued 1780. Both sides of Braswell’s Creek joining Utley lines. CC: Gerrard Stinson, Nathan Thomas.

AA. Mathew Rainer Turner, Wake County Grant #1319 – being 150 acres issued 1799. Gum Prong of Neils Creek. CC: Jesse Jones, Solomon Rogers.

BB. This area needs further study as the Marcom map does not show origination.

Please do not consider the following exact …. However, and based on the 1914 soil map for Wake County, I overlaid the above land grant plat in order to gain a rough idea of where the platted lands are today.

In closing, my last post pertained to my discovery of survey plats for James Battle who owned land near the Cumberland/Chatham County line along the Cape Fear River. In the next post, which may take some time to complete, I hope to present a similar map as that above for a streak of land connecting the Cape Fear to Wake County. In all of this, for me, my mind is always sighted based on the concept of birds of a feather.  If Jacob and Joseph in Wake are truly my kin …they are, then friends etc.. who journeyed with them from where they earlier lived should appear somehow in the record as seen by way of plat maps.

EMPTY SHUCKS

Lost or missing records are a major issue for those of us seeking to uncover our family histories. Most often records are destroyed by courthouse fires, floods, or even from hurricanes and cyclones. Many of the records needed to trace my own family in early Stokes County NC were destroyed by a “cyclone” that leveled the Surry County Courthouse in the 1830s. And beyond accidents and acts of nature, there is arson used by criminals of the day to destroy legally critical documentation. As an example, Mathew Cagle witnessed such a fire while he and his son camped near the courthouse in Moore County.

The Carthage Blade, 12 Sep 1889.

“…about two hours before the fire broke out I noticed a light about as large as a candle in the Register of Deeds Office. I thought nothing of the circumstance, and again went to sleep. The next thing I heard, my son called me and said the court house was on fire. I hurriedly ran up there and into the building and noticed that fire was issuing from the Register’s office door. I pushed the door, which was slightly ajar, open and saw a large pile of books burning very rapidly, as if saturated with oils or spirits turpentine.”

Looking at land records back to origin, a decision was made many years ago by our state to organize the piles of surviving colonial and Secretary of State issued land grants for safety and public consumption. Documents were collected, assembled, and placed into shuck-styled envelopes based on their origination as sequentially appearing in patent books as “entries”.  As an example, see the patent book entry for Alexander McAlister below. Click on the image to enlarge and read carefully as this entry is important.

Shucks were arranged geographically by county with file numbers given to each entry. All related documents were placed into the shucks which included warrants, reassignments of land grants, surveys, and other related documentation.

Sometimes the supporting documents were lost and never found with only the original entries in the patent books surviving. Of course you can’t place the patent book into a shuck so somehow the discrepancy needed to be communicated. In such cases of missing record, as appears to the right in the microfilm image of the shuck for the above Alexander McAlister, the patent entry for that particular grant was given a file number along with a brief description abstracted from the patent book. But of huge disappointment to people like me on the search, notice the red highlighted statement at the top which reads: “THERE WERE NO DOCUMENTS IN THE SHUCK AT THE TIME OF FILMING.”

Note that Alexander McAlister’s grant file no. 297 was located “on the east side of the N’t W’t River [Cape Fear] beginning at a gum where the Earl of Granville line crosses said river”. This is really important geographically and wouldn’t it be great if the original survey plat survived? Oh well … it appears at some point the state lost their copy of the document. You would believe that all is lost, and yet, guess what?  …the original owner’s copy of the survey survives! It survives!

Beyond the numerous ways in which records became lost as outlined above, land granted to Alexander McAllister was impacted by a later occurring era of great industrialization built on the mining of forests, coal, and iron. Lost within the acquisition of huge multi-thousand acre tracts, title histories for many land grants in the region surrounding the Cape Fear River, such as that belonging to Alexander McAlister, are now lost to the world. And even today, brick manufacturing companies and the enormous Shearon Harris Nuclear Plant properties make it virtually impossible for the untrained eye to imagine what once stood on such sites. Within this reality, how can it be that Alexander McAlister’s land documents survive?  And similarly, what do we know of the surrounding lands?

A fellow by name of Jonathan McGee Heck was responsible for locating and acquiring raw materials needed to sustain the Confederate forces. Following the war, and operating from his home in Raleigh (today being a major landmark in our city), J. M. Heck pursued northern industrialists to which end he met and joined with George Lobdell of the Lobdell Car Wheel Company of Wilmington, Delaware. George Lobdel manufactured train wheels during the war and afterwards, following evaluations of scavenged wheels from Confederate Fleets, the said Lobdell learned that a particularly hard grade of steel originated from iron mines located near Buckhorn Falls on the Cape Fear. At a time when the south was economically depressed, Lobdel and Heck took advantage of the opportunity though their efforts ended abruptly when the valuable veins of ore ran dry. Their holdings included a steam ship, furnaces, and many acres on the northeast side of the Cape Fear River.

Jonathan McGee Heck lived out his life in Raleigh where he died. Today his papers reside at the North Carolina State Archives. Going the extra mile in chasing my family’s loose ends, I decided to explore the collection. Among the papers are deeds and early communications related to the mining effort.  And as appears below, the 1759 survey for Alexander McAlister’s grant can be found among the papers.

How cool is that!   Not seen in any index or other format, and being lost as were many other grant documents from the time and area, Alexander McAlister’s original paper copy passed from his hand through successive owners before finally reaching the hands of Jonathan McGee Heck whose family wisely placed the papers at NC State Archives for preservation. The collection also holds the original 8 Nov 1761 deed of conveyance for this tract from Alexander McAlister to William Tully. Further title history for this tract is as follows:

  • Deed 2-292, Cumberland, 1763, William Tully to Robert Perrygrove
  • Deed 2-522, Cumberland, 1765, Robert and Febe Perrygrove to John Johnston
  • Deed 2-608, Cumberland, 1765, John Johnston to James Brazier
  • Deed 7-100, Cumberland, 1782, James Brazier to his loving son Elijah Brazier

Let’s take a closer look before leaving this particular tract of land. Referring to the survey, note that the Earle of Granville line once served as the southern boundary for the immense Granville Tract which took in nearly the northern half of our state. You’d think physical memory of that land would be lost by now however, unlike on the eastern side of the Cape Fear, the western side did not experience the same sorts of loss from industrialization. Also, and giving us a valuable bit of information, on the west side of the river, the Granville line served to separate old Orange from Cumberland County which later became Chatham and Moore Counties.  Lee County was cut from Moore and Chatham in 1907 though today the remnant remains of the old county line, the Granville line, can clearly be seen as a horizontal anomaly in the quilt work pattern of modern day property lines as seen on the county GIS map below. See it?

Now that we’ve looked at the McAlister tract, let’s take a minute to explore another lost land grant document from Jonathan McGee Heck’s papers. Being land grant no. 2187 issued in Cumberland County, the 250-acre tract issued to James Brazer [Brazier] adjoins his own mill tract, being the above mentioned 100 acres originally issued to Alexander McAlister. The shuck for James Brazier’s grant is not empty though it ONLY contains the entry officer’s order to survey the land as seen to the right.

As with Alexander McAlister, James Brazier’s original copy of the actual survey passed through numerous landowners before finding its way to the collection of Jonathan McGee Heck. The actual survey goes further in depth than what was provided in the entry officer’s orders. The survey as seen below mentions the Granville line with the plat referring to the same as being “Brazier’s line”. Hugely important, the survey plat also identifies “John Burt’s line” to the north and “Anderson’s line” to the east. As for Anderson, a quick search of the Cumberland County Register of Deeds and land grant records at NORTH CAROLINA LAND GRANT IMAGES AND DATA, we learn that land grant no. 1437 to the east was issued in 1756 to John Anderson out of Bladen County. The grant was entered at a time before the formation of Cumberland. The shape and orientation of John Burt’s land to the north is a little more problematic in visualizing though look soon for updates related to this and lands of others who lived on what’s now the Harnett County line along the waters of Parkers Creek.

Bringing this post to closure, many from my extended family passed through the above lands. Knowing that every clue should be considered, and as will later be shown, locating this land at the foot of Buckhorn falls is an important step in figuring out the history of my early Thomas family.

mistakes and mishaps

I’ve been following this fellow as he struggled to rewind the mixed threads of his ancestral heritage from Northeast North Carolina. Like him, I too grasp at and struggle in an effort to build on the meanings of discoveries as they are revealed. Interpretations of things from the past sometime bring down the walls, allowing us to see clearly to earlier times. And yet, often such finds only serve to reinforce the fact that we simply don’t know and may never know enough to make honest judgments.

The following post by Justin Petrone is refreshing as he addresses an error based on the reality that we can’t safely discuss the past until we’ve gained an idea of what it was like. And in that, we will certainly make mistakes from which much too can be learned. Understanding the unbending relation between present tense and past, we’ve all heard what Donald Rumsfeld once said about the matter: “reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know”.

MELINDA PLESS – WITCH AND THE CRUMBS LEFT BEHIND

I’m not a Stanly native and what I know of the place comes from books, legal records, and mostly from what I’ve grown up hearing from relatives on both sides of my family. Recently, friend and fellow blogger Tammie Rabun Hudson wrote an in-depth piece on the “Witch of Big Lick.” Titled “Facts and Fairy Tales: The Real Story of Lynn Bird,” the story told by Tammie is much different than what I have heard  in passing. And in her telling of the story I came to learn that my distant cousin Melinda Pless, AKA Lynn Bird, was “the” person accused in tales as being a local witch  who lived in the community of Big Lick. Before reading this post, I strongly encourage you to read Tammie’s compelling narrative on this local Stanly County lore.  And to say clearly, it seems Tammie was able to connect the dots between the people and the related events though neither she nor myself have found any compelling information verifying that my great grandmother’s aunt Melinda Pless, was indeed a witch. Melinda may have been scary, and surely she was “different”, though records do not support that she was ever one of them boo-scary kind of witches we read about in fairy tales. Let me offer a little back story on why this whole idea is of importance to me.

My father grew up on Big Lick Road in the 1920’s and loved to share stories from his youth. He especially spoke of the hard times, joining the Civilian Conservation Corps and heading west on train during the Great Depression. Of his childhood, dad spoke of those difficult years, of snaring songbirds for basic sustenance. Times were indeed hard though his mother Eva Burris Thomas was an angel while his father Daniel Arthur was known to be a hard sort of man. Until now,  I never realized that as children, my father’s parents once lived on the same piece of land where they likely shared time as children. And it so happens that this piece of land earlier belonged to none other that Lynn Bird, the so-called witch.

I remember, many times, my dad standing on the porch of his old home place, pointing across the turnip patch towards Big Lick Road to where his childhood fears had yet to release their grip on him. He told of walking the road home from school in Oakboro by moonlight late in the evenings and having to gather nerve to run past the old graveyard where he declares he saw spooks. He certainly passed the old Green-Carver Cemetery, once larger and maybe more scary than the sanitized setting and few stones that remain today.  Is that what he remembered? After reading Tammie’s story, and digging a bit into lands I had platted in the area, I realized that my efforts connected to Tammie’s post about the witch.  Little had I known while growing up, my Thomas family’s annual Christmas Eve gathering at the West Stanly Saddle Club occurred at a place important to my father’s grandpa G. W Thomas who happens to be my namesake. The place nearby was also important to my grandma’s parents. And, it is also important in connection to the story of Lynn the witch. The modern-day saddle club is located near the heart of the community and all of the happenings occurred on the route my dad frequently walked in the dark from school. Did he know of the witch? What had he learned from his family and how did those memories play into the stories I never quite understood?

In this post, I’ll tell of the lands in the neighborhood as they relate to Tammie’s findings on the Witch of Big Lick. However, note that the following is a land-based report with no additional  info on the witch herself.  For that, again I ask you to read Tammie’s post. I do hope the two narratives together will provide a more meaningful context for the life of Melinda Pless, who happened to be the daughter of Peter Pless. She was also known as the Witch of Big Lick.  And like every good witch story, I hope the following crumbs of land records will offer a safe path for navigating the landscape where this occurrence took place, a long time ago.

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Below, you see the red shaded Ridge Road heading southeast before changing its name to Main Street (Oakboro) at its intersection with Big Lick Road. Once following the basic path of the main ca. 1771 road leading from Charlotte to Elizabeth Town, also known locally in time as the Old Polk Ford Road, Big Lick Road runs to the west, crossing over the blue shaded Cucumber Creek. See them?

Back around 1838, Charles Pless, son of Peter, and many others in the community moved west to Pope County Arkansas for reasons remaining unclear. Charles would settle along the north shore of the Arkansas River on granted land “West of the Cherokee Reservation”. He was joined by his sister Catherine and her husband George H. Teeter who had lived on the Cabarrus/Stanly line north of present-day Hwy 24/27. Others in the Pless family made the trip including possibly Peter Pless, the father who acquired a land grant in Pope County though who is known to have lived out his life and died in Stanly County.

Much later (ca. 1861), and again for reasons not fully known, another migration headed west to Arkansas.  At that time, John Adam Pless, a younger brother in the family, would make the journey. Adam earlier married Winna Julina Murray who Tammie Rabun Hudson indicates may be the child of a mixed-race family, a possibility much more common than tradition would have us believe. Winna died in 1843 and is buried at Flat Rock Lutheran Cemetery in Stanfield. John Adam married second ca. 1845 to Catherine Efird, daughter of Martin and Mary Coble. Mary is the daughter of David Coble and had been married first to Levi Honeycutt.

 

 

In 1850, John Adam Pless purchased 119 acres, being a break-up parcel of the Great Tract (Deed 6-44 Stanly). Identified as tract #1 in the master plat illustration above, at the time of conveyance the land joined Jesse Morton to the west and Gideon Morgan to the north and east where the land also joined “Austin Road,” now Liberty Hill Church Road. About the Gideon Morgan tract to the north, originating as a conveyance from Joseph Marshall to Solomon Hathcock and identified as tract 2 above, Gideon purchased the 534 acres from Solomon Burris (Deed 19-517 Stanly). The western half of that large tract was sold to David Burris (Deed 19-519 Stanly) with the eastern half being sold to J. A. Morgan (Deed 8-99, Stanly).

John Adam Pless settled on lands in Arkansas between Pless Mountain and Shinn Mountain north of London Arkansas.  Adam lived a long and prosperous life as appears in the following 1923 announcement of his 100th birthday.

John Adam Pless lived a few years beyond hs 100th birthday as he died in 1927 at which time his grave was marked by family as “Pioneer, Patriarch, and Patriot.” The above photograph of Adam with flowers was, I believe, snapped at his 100th birthday celebration.

 

Looking back to the plat map above, Jesse Morton sold tract #3 to William A. Morton (Deed 5-396, Stanly). The eastern boundary of the tract joined Austin Road while the northwest corners adjoined the lands of John Pless.  As seen to the left in green, this tract is but a parcel cut from a larger tract conveyed to Isiah H. Coley, being part of the break-up of the Great Tract (Deed 3-148, Stanly). Note that the early conveyance to Isiah Coley identifies both Old Polk Road and Austin Road. Polk Road followed the old Big Lick Rod before crossing over somehow running the path of St, Martin’s Road. Neighboring landowners are mentioned of which one is A. Bird. Remember from Tammie Rabun Hudson’s post that Melinda Pless, Witch of Big Lick and sister of John Adam, married James A. Coble before he died during the Civil War.  Melinda married second the much older Charles Bird, son of the above-mentioned A. or Andrew Bird. Somewhere near his lands records should guide us in visualizing events as they happened.

Before delving into the Bird, Pless, and Coble dilemma, take a look at the illustrated tracts #A-F. In May 1864, the estate of Jesse Morton deceased (Deed 5-456, Stanly) was divided among his heirs as listed:

  1. To Rufus Morton – Absalom Hahn to the north
  2. To Jesse F, Morton – Joining the Coley tract on a line of his old 200 tract.
  3. To Martha Almond – Absalom Hahn to the north and Sidney Smith to the east.
  4. To Elizabeth Hartsell – Sidney Smith to the east
  5. To David Morton – W. A. Morton to the east
  6. To Lucy Smith – W. Irvin Morgan to the west (excluding 1 acre for the [Big Lick] church)

Keeping in mind the location of Andrew Bird’s land and looking at the master plat map above, tract #4 was conveyed in the early 1850’s from George W. Teeter to James A. Coble (Deed 3-336, Stanly). The deed mentions Jesse Morton to the east, Jacob Green to the west, Charles Bird to the south and A. Bird to the southeast. George W. Teeter, not to be confused with George H. Teeter, married Elizabeth, the daughter of Andrew Bird and they later removed to Cabarrus County. Also, note that James A Coble married Melinda Pless about the time of this transaction. This whole idea goes to show that Charles Bird, Melinda’s second husband, was actually a next-door neighbor. And looking at this tract on the Stanly County GIS page, note the southwest side of tract # 4 intersects the end of Saddle Club Road. That’s where the West-Stanly Saddle Club is located happening to be on or next to the lands once owned by my distant cousin Melinda Pless, the so-called witch of Big Lick. It is also the place were I enjoyed many Christmas Eve meals with my family.

George W. Teeter sold a second tract to James A. Coble in 1852 (Deed 34-392, Stanly). Identified as tract # 5 above, the deeded land crosses Cucumber Creek while joining Jacob Hartsell to the south and “The Big Road” to the east. The deed does not give dimensions for the distances of lines along and leading from the road, so I cannot say with certainty whether the eastern side of the tract abutted present-day Swift road or an older iteration running nearby. Of major importance, the trapezoidal shaped western portion of the tract # 5 was later sold by Titus Coble and wife to E. A. Anderson (Deed 43-82, Stanly). See it in the maser plat? This tract was defined in the deed as being “Lot 2 of the lands of Melinda Byrd”. The deed also refers to the easterly abutting land as being Lot 1 of the estate. Per Tammie Rabun Hudson’s article, Everette A. Anderson clearly fits into the family story.

There’s one other tract that’s relevant to the story of Melinda Bird. I’ve yet to find origination in terms of ownership though the title history of tract # 6 connects with two of my direct ancestors.  Going back to the estate of Melinda Bird, J. F. Green, Guardian of Everette and Ida Anderson sold the land to William A. Cagle (Deed 16-470). At that time the land joined John T. Dry to the southeast.

To the right are the three platted pieces of land (tracts 4, 5, & 6) most relevant to this report. Their orientation to the surrounding community is easily discerned on the Stanly County GIS map. Also, note that I’ve penned in the flow of Cucumber Creek. And below, the image orients Jams A. Coble’s larger tract #5 that he purchased from George W. Teeter.

In the next image, we see that tract # 6 nearly doubled in size to the east when S. S. Lilly and wife Martha later sold it to Tabitha J. Rowland (Deed 24-264, Stanly). Tabitha is the daughter of Andrew J. and Mary Ann Crayton Huneycutt.  Tabitha married Thomas J. Rowland. Tabitha purchased the land at a time when the neighbors were identified in the deed as C. A. Huneycutt to the northwest, Yow to the southwest, Huneycutt to the southeast, and Pless to the northeast.  I’ve yet to find a deed for the Pless land.  Tabitha later sold the northeast corner of the tract to William H. Sasser (Deed 127-80, Stanly).

Now a drum roll please ….And as seen below, in 1899 Tabitha J. Rowland sold 68 acres, being the western half of the land, to G. W. Thomas who happens to be my great grandfather (Deed 33-460 Stanly). And then ten years later, for some reason, J. H. C. Flowe sold the same land to George H. Burris who is my grandmother’s father (Deed 40-46, Stanly).

The last tract shown  near the top of this post on the master plat map is tract # 7 which was deeded to Jacob Green as a part of the break-up of the Great Tract (Deed 6-436 Stanly). The large 212-acre tract adjoined Holden Hartsell land to the south and was later conveyed by William Hartsell to William R. Hartsell (Deed 10-154 Stanly). The Green-Carver cemetery that my dad walked by as a child is located along Big-Lick Road within the heart of this piece of land.

Seeing how close the cemetery was located to Melinda’s land, and how both my grandfather and grandmother’s parents had real estate connections to the land, I have to wonder if as children, did my grandparents live in fear of old Aunt Melinda? Did they play around the old home, did they dare the spirits, or did they walk quietly in fear in passing the place as did my dad? I think that as a child my dad likely grew up hearing these stories.  And whether or not Melinda was truly a witch, hearing of the details as told by Tammie Rabun Hudson and others takes on a different meaning when you are able to physically connect landscape, family, and stories occurring long ago.