Old Lutheran Cemetery

WHEELS UP IN 30 …Anybody who watches the TV show Criminal Minds knows what I am talking about. But dang, I never thought I would ever use the phrase in writing about family history.  However, I have just learned that a few graves from long ago in Cabarrus County were horribly robbed. Will the victims end up being your family? Mine? If you’ve ever wondered if crazy bad things happened in the past, I can assure you that they certainly did. And if you are at all squeamish about gory things, this just may be the time to change the ole bat channel.

On 14 May 1857, and as appearing in The Daily Journal (Wilmington NC), the following is written about Cabarrus County.

“The people in the neighborhood of Concord, in this state, are very much excited by the discovery of an outrage which one would have thought impossible in this “nineteenth century.” At least, no one would have looked for the delusion and fanaticism which instigated it.

General Means, of Cabarrus county, received information that the graves of two children whom he had recently buried, had been robbed. He hardly believed it; but to be fully satisfied, he had an examination made, when it was found that both the bodies and one of the coffins were gone. Suspicion attached to a sort of Watchmaker and Quack Doctor, named Nugent, who had been a resident of Concord for some six months. He confessed the fact, not only of having taken up the bodies of Gen. Means’ children, but of fourteen others. He was so overwhelmed by the universal outbreak, and the fear of violence, that he died last week of fright’ at least, such is the opinion, as a post mortem examination revealed none of the effects of poison, nor any other cause of death. He said he took up the bodies to get oil  from them, having a theory that oil from a human liver was good for the liver complaints & c. After securing the oil, he was in the habit of burning the flesh and bones up; Gen. Means was shown where the ashes of his children were, and upon examination, some teeth and part of a skull were found.

A man named Baugus, a shoe-maker, has been lodged in jail at Charlotte, as being implicated.

It is one of this horrid, half-craze affairs, that belong to another age, but will sometimes appear in a manner, out of season. Nugent and associates must have been illiterate persons.”

This is not the sort of story one may wish to hear about family though looking at this from what we see today, I wonder if the lives of Gen. Means little children have been lovingly remembered?  Note that General William C. Means and family are buried at the Old Lutheran Cemetery in Concord where you would think a marker once identified his two children. They were victims and yet Find-a-grave, Geni, and Wikipedia say nothing about family who died in 1857.

And even in the case of such mentally deranged acts, family history continues. Hopefully, a place can be found in the future for sharing the lives of innocent people like this who should be recognized.  Isn’t that our goal?  And what about all the others whose resting places were criminally disturbed in this instance? This story certainly impacted more than just the Means family of Cabarrus County. In closing, the same story was retold in the Charlotte Democrat on 12 May 1857:

Dead Bodies Exhumed and Burned.

We learn that great excitement has prevailed in the neighboring village of Concord during the past week, caused by the discovery that several children, who died recently, had been disinterred  and their bodies removed.

There are a hundred rumors in circulation about the affair. After comparing the conflicting stories together, we make out the following statement of the case.

A quack doctor known by the name of Nugent, applied to a man to assist him in taking up a child that had been buried a few days before. The man made the request known, and intimated that two little girls , daughters of a very respectable gentleman residing in the vicinity, had been removed from their graves by this man Nugent for the purpose of extracting medicinal properties from their flesh and bones. To ascertain the truth of the rumor, the father had the graves re-opened, and found the coffins and bodies missing. Of course, this created deep sensation, and we are informed that it was determined to inflict summary punishment upon Nugent; but on visiting his house he was found very sick and in dying condition.  One report says that he took poison learning that his operations were known to the public -and another, that he died from a disease contracted from frequent handling of decomposed bodies.

Nugent died on Wednesday last. He made a statement before death, to the effect that he had exhumed about sixteen dead bodies in Concord and elsewhere, and after using them (for making medicine) he burned the flesh, coffins and everything, to prevent detection. His ash pile was examined and teeth and bones found therein.

His theory appears to have been that a medicine could be made by boiling the liver of a human being, that would cure liver complaint; and so with regard to other diseases. We learn that Nugent was from Forsythe county, and had been living in Concord about two years. He once lived in this town [Charlotte] we are informed engaged in selling peppermint and cinnamon drops. Before he died he gave the names of three or four of his accomplices, one of whom, a white man named Bogus, was arrested in this place last week and committed to Jail.

What the fellow did with the medicine he has been making, no one knows. We heard some one say he had agencies in Salisbury and Goldsboro, where one or more of his accomplices reside. Those persons who ae in the habit o buying and swallowing every kind of nostrum offered to them for the cure of diseases internally and externally, will take a hint from the above.


William Houston came to North Carolina from County Antrim, Northern Ireland in the mid 1730’s. The nephew of wealthy English merchant John McCulloch, William served as agent and trustee of his uncle’s colonization efforts.

Following passage of the stamp act, Houston’s powerful connections likely led to his appointment to the politically unpopular position of stamp distributor.  Public outcry led to his forced resignation after first being hanged in effigy. William’s aspirations realigned with that of the colonists based on the people’s will.

Settling in his home, Soracte, on the Northeast River near Kenansville, William Houston was also an important force in developing Duplin County.  Owner of several large tracts of land, it is in that sort of enterprise, and surely influenced by his uncle, that William appears in the early deed books of Anson County.

In 1768, Dr. William Houston and wife Ann of Duplin County sold 12,500 acres in Anson County to His Excellency William Tryon Esq. Captain General Governor and Commander in Chief in and over his Majesty’s Province in North Carolina …whew. The land sold was situated “in Mecklenburg County formerly part of Anson County on the Branches of Great Pee Dee and Johnston [Rocky] River.” I think the mention of Mecklenburg is in error and hopefully I will be able to convince you of my reasons why. As for Gov. Tryon, I found no deeds of his selling the purchase and following the conveyance he moved north where he served as governor of New York from 1771-1777.

Digging deeper in the deed, the conveyance is described as:

 “subdivided from the tract of land Number Six surveyed by Mathew Rowan Esq. and bound by tract of land Number Fifteen to the west and by Tract Number Seventeen to the north which said twelve thousand five hundred acres of land was granted to the said Doctor William Houston, one of the associates of Murry Crymble and James Huey, by patent bearing the date the third day of March one thousand seven hundred and forty-five …”

This is surely located within McCulloch’s 100,000 acre Great Tract Number Six which I’ve written about from various perspectives. However, though a small corner of Tract Number Six fell into old Mecklenburg [now Cabarrus], no way do I believe the above was situated in the county of Mecklenburg.

Also, it really makes no sense that Tract Six could be bound by tracts fifteen or seventeen. However, if looking specifically at the Great Tract Six (below), note that it is broken into eight lesser tracts. Looking closely, note that sections fifteen and seventeen are properly located per the deed description. Tract 15 is to the west and 17 to the north. That makes me believe the land being sold was tract number 16 and not 6.

Should six have been sixteen? Was six referencing the great tract and not one of the lesser tracts? I think so. Also, what about the description of the land as lying in Mecklenburg? More is needed to answer that dilemma, and to that end the answer was found through a happenchance observance of an important “zero”. Actually, this post is based on working backward from a proposed answer in hopes of learning how it came to be.  Isn’t that the purpose of genealogy and history?


Concerning North Carolina Secretary of State land grant records, a file number beginning with a zero indicates the grant was officially entered, but never issued. The grant never matured and therefore never became property. While working on my previous post about that subject, I visited NC State Archives where I spent time rolling through a reel of microfilm dedicated to grants beginning with zeros.  Rather than merely heading straight to my targeted document, I had the afternoon free and spent a little time visually scanning every document on the reel. There are a lot of cool plans that went wrong and lots to be learned from them!   Passing one image, I had a whoa kind-of moment upon seeing something that caught my eye.

File number 0532 represented a failed grant in the amount of 12,500 acres.  In the name of William Houston, the record included no date of entry or issuance. However, and at first not realizing what I was seeing, I made a copy of the cool survey which is really the subject of this post.

Surveyed on what appears to be 20 Mar 1770 by Robert Edwards, who I think lived in Anson County, the lower left corner of the plat identifies “Long Creek” which is in present day Stanly County. Comparing the plat to the eight lessor tracts making up Great Tract 6, it is clear the failed land grant 0532 represented section 16 from that map. Issues mostly resolved, it remains curious how William Houston acquired land in 1745 that was then entered by grant ca. 1770 …after the said Houston and wife sold it by deed to Gov. Tryon in 1768. I see hands with money under a table.

Now with the large tract physically located, what does that and a nickel do for us? Well …for the 1770 survey date, the plat physically locates lands of several people along with a simple name of an important settlement. Near the top left corner, a “C” shaped bend in Long Creek is identified as “Timothy Taylor’s Settlement.”

Timothy must have been a man of importance and is it possible he relates to a person of same name from even earlier in Chowan County NC?   Notice also at the top of the page that the big bend lies next to Long Lake, the water supply for Albemarle. Amazing how nearly 100 years earlier, a named settlement was in place at/near the present-day town of Albemarle.   This is clearly written on paper and therefore it must be so.

Looking broader afield, note that the plat shows Long Creek, which system forks to the east.  To the west is a creek or branch called Scaley Bark. Looking closer at the plat, you can see Timothy’s Settlement along with his other tract of 100 acres located at a fork further south. And on Scaley Bark Branch, one can see the lands of John Harbert Sugg and John Cooper. Even though this identifies only three different owners, the early documentation of physical location may be hugely beneficial in piecing together connecting properties.  I know from experience that numerous properties in the area mention abutments with the lands of these three people.

For instance, my ancestor is Solomon Burris who acquired land traceable to Nimrod Taylor on Scaley Bark Branch. I believe the land is in the area where Canton Road and Scaley Bark intersect. That location is very near the lands of John Herbert Sugg.

Try as we may, it’s not been possible to identify the heritage of Solomon’s wife Judith Taylor. And yet the name Timothy runs in the family. She may not be related to the family of Timothy though the following gives ammunition on why such thinking may need to be rethought.  Also, it’s cool to know that Albemarle once was located very close to a place with a different name.

I always find it interesting the ways in which seriously impactful information can be buried in unrelated sources. Ferreting out the connective tissue, sometimes accidental, is what keeps me digging. You never know where the next discovery will lead you. I wish now that I knew more about the first people who called present-day Stanly County home.



There’s a branch north of Richardson Creek called “Stegall”. It was there where in 1799 Solomon Stegall received two adjoining grants of 150 acres each. His neighbors at that time were identified as Rebecca Harrington and some fellow named Hinson. You would think the location of Solomon’s land has been lost as the property lines do not appear on today’s GIS (Geographical Information System) mapping site.  However, with a little training of the eye, Solomon’s lands become clear when looking at the forest and field lines in the above satellite image.

Putting pencil to paper, it is possible to visit what time has almost forgotten. Making that happen, in this instance, our quest to learn more about Steagall’s Branch passes through  a piece of neighboring land oddly having two beginnings. 

Back in the 1990’s, a lady from Texas named Karen Griffin contacted me about her ancestor who is named Wiley Griffin. Born ca. 1780, Wiley of Anson served from that county in the War of 1812. He later moved to Cherokee County, Alabama along with neighbors Emory Sharp and my distant ancestral cousin Jonathan Thomas. Late in life, at aged 92 and being in 1871, Wiley Griffin applied for a loyalist claim against the United States government in hopes of recovering the loss of his livestock valued at $968.00. The items were taken by General Sherman’s troops as they trailed the retreating Confederates after the fall of Atlanta.

Karen’s ancestor led an interesting life and in helping her to locate her family land here in North Carolina, I came across a 132-acre land grant in Anson County for Wiley bearing the entry number 0597. At the time I didn’t fully understand land grants …especially the significance of the zero at the front of the file number. Zeros have turned out to be very important so let me explain.

There was a time when all the North Carolina Secretary of State land grant records were poorly organized.  I have no idea as to how bad it was though my mind imagines musty odors and bundles of papers. Around the turn of the 20th century an effort was undertaken in which shucks were labeled with county names, entry, and final issue dates along with a descriptive word or two and most importantly, an identifying “file number”. The file number originates in the orderly listing of entries over time at the point when each was written into an official entry book.

Heck, there are lots of clues in land grants including information hidden within the file number. For example, in Anson County, grant number 1, the first entered, was issued in 1735 for land on White Oak River…wherever that is.  And pulling a number out of my hat, grant number 7000 was issued exactly one hundred years later for land on Rocky River.  From a glance at the size of the file number, one can make a decent guess as to when the lands were issued. But what about Wiley Griffin’s 0597? What do we read into that very different kind of number?

The Secretary of State’s office realized that some of the grants had been entered but had never been issued. Some folks came to the office, paid their fee, and declared the basic location of land to be granted. A surveyor may have even come out to document the land by way of hand-drawn plat. But for some reason, many land histories end there.  Maybe a mistake had taken place and it was later learned that someone else had rightful claim to the same property.  Note that grantees, the fellow receiving the grant, had to sit on the land for three years and make improvements which process makes sense. The delay gave time for any issues to work themselves out without having to involve the court.

For Willie (Wiley) Griffin, the entry date for file # 0597 was in 1827.  From the number, we know that prior to Wiley Griffin, 596 other people had also entered land that was never issued.  That’s a large number!

As for the specific land Wiley entered, the surveyor came out and created a site specific survey plat as appears to the far left below.  From the survey, the land is described as “joining John Coburn & the lands formerly belonging to Solomon Stegall and Rebecca Harrington on the north side of Richardson Creek.”  And then, seven years later, in 1834, Wiley’s friend Emory Sharp entered and was issued virtually the same piece of land …as is seen to the far right below. Indicating a change in neighbors, Emory Sharp’s land was identified as adjoining that belonging to Daniel Smith, Ransom Baucom, and Bryant Austin.  Also, Ezekiel Thomas, father of Emory’s friend Jonathan Thomas served as chain bearer for the grant. Overlaying Emory’s tract on top of Wiley’s (in red), you can see in the middle image how two different surveyors interpreted the land on two different dates.

To make sure you clearly understand the above, Wiley’s land grant entry never reached fruition whereas a few years later, his friend and neighbor Emery Sharp entered the same land which was indeed issued. Knowing the grant was near Stegall’s land, I took a chance thinking it might also be near the branch of same name situated east of New Salem and west of Pleasant Hill Church Road. Sometimes you get lucky and this time the 1830’s grant appears unchanged on the present-day Union County GIS site.  See it below? All those thin black lines represent property boundaries and Emery’s sticks out like a sore thumb.

Anchored firmly on the map, identification of the tract makes it possible to know with 100% certainty that both Wiley Griffin and Emory Sharp of Alabama once had interests in this land.  And in studying the shapes and title histories of surrounding tracts, it is further possible to build a sense of community by using survey and deed descriptions to locate and define the neighboring lands. Using pencil and a topographic map (below), I was able to transfer the hard numbers from old land grant surveys in a manner approximating what we see on today’s GIS map (above).  Note that some tracts are recognizable while others not so much so. That may be due to later agreements between neighbors, resurveys, or issues related to estate divisions, purchases, and recombination.

The following is included so you can verify what I have presented.   I advise you to take a look at  nclandgrants.com and the Anson County Online Deed Book as providing source documentation.  You can also check out my mapping pages which carry the platting effort much further afield.

(Shaded Red)  Grant 0597, Anson NC, ent. 7 Dec 1827, (patent not recorded). Entered by WILLIE GRIFFIN but never issued, being 132 acres on the north side of Richardson Creek joining John Coburn and the lands formerly belonging to Solomon Stegall and Rebecca Harrington beginning at a stake Daniel Smith’s Coburn’s corner two red oaks and post oak pointers and runs with the said line south 60 east 52.60 ch to a stake by 3 post oaks, then north 15.70 ch to a stake in his own line two red oak pointers, then west 6.70 ch to his corner post oak, then with his other line north 45 ch to a red oak two post oak and black gum pointers, then south 55 west 50 ch to to a red oak, then south 20 east 6 ch to the beginning. Chain bearers: Daniel Smith, Jesse Coburn.

(Shaded Red) Grant 6965, Anson NC, ent. 14 Jan 1834, sur. 20 Jan 1835, iss. 20 Apr 1835. Issued to EMORY SHARP, being 128 acres on Richardson Creek adjoining the lands of Daniel Smith and Ransom Baucom beginning at a hickory his own corner and runs south 44.3 chains passing his other corner to a stake by a pine and two post oaks in Daniel Smith’s line, then north 60 west 46.5 chains to a post oak Smith’s and Baucom’s corner, then north 31 east 19.1 chains, to a stake by red oak and small post oak in Bryan Austin’s line, then north 82 east 6.65 chains to his corner stake by three post oaks, then north 55 east 29 chains to a stake by three post oaks a black oak, gum, and dogwood in a hollow, then south 13.75 chains to the beginning. Chain bearers: Daniel Smith, Ezekiel Thomas.

A. Grant 5272, Anson NC, ent. 11 Aug 1796, iss. 9 Mar 1799. Issued to REBECCA HARRINGTON, being 200 acres beginning at a pine among three pines in her own line and runs north 60 west 63.50 ch to a red oak, then north 30 east 31.75 ch to a stake two post oaks and red oak pointers, then south 60 east 63.50 ch to a stake, then south 30 west 31.75 ch to the beginning. Chain bearers: Solomon Stegall, Charles Hinson.

Deed N-165, Anson NC, 8 Jul 1809, reg. Jul 1809. William Lehorn of Mecklenburg to John Lanier of Anson being 200 acres lying near the big branch …a tract of land taken up by Rebecca Harrington. Wit: Thomas Vann Senr, John (x) Taylor.

B. Grant 5367, Anson NC, ent. 23 Jan 1797, iss. 7 Jun 1799. Issued to SOLOMON STEGALL, being 150 acres on the west side of Richardson Creek beginning at a red oak among three pines and runs west 48 ch to a hickory with two post oak pointers, then south 32 ch in or near Rebecca Harrington’s line, then east 48 ch to a stake, then north 32 ch to the beginning. Chain bearers: John Harrington, Stephen Pool

C. Grant 5371, Anson NC, ent. 11 Aug 1797, sur. 10 Jan 1798, iss 07 Jun 1799. Issued to SOLOMON STEGALL being 150 acres beginning at his corner hickory by a pine and black jack and post oak and runs north 25 chains to a stake by a hickory and pine near Hinson’s line, then east 27.5 chains to a stake by two black jacks one post oak, then north 10 chains to a stake by two pines and tree post oaks, then east 22 chains to a black jack, then south 35 chains to a stake in his own line, then a direct course to the first station. Chain bearers: Henry Marshall, Absolem Stegall. 

D. Grant 6298, Anson NC, ent. 8 Mar 1816, iss. 19 Dec 1817. Issued to BRYAN A. AUSTIN, JR., being 300 acres joining Jno. Austin’s line on the headwaters of Austin Branch including near headwaters of Harrington’s branch. Beginning at a pine by two pines and hickory John Austin’s corner and runs with and beyond his line south 45 west 36.5 chains to a stake by three pines, then north 45 west 45 chains to a pine by two pines and post oak, then south 66 west 15 chains to a red oak by black jack and post oak, then south 5 east 50 chains to a stake by two sweet gums, then south 35 east 20 chains to a red oak by two red oaks, then north 80 east 20 chains to a stake by red oak and black jack, then north 45 east 58 chains to a stake, then north 14 west 23 chains to the beginning Chain bearers: Jesse Austin, Bryan Austin Senr.

E. Grant 5391, Anson NC, ent. 16 Jan 1797, iss. 26 Jul 1799. Issued to JNO. COBURN, being 400 acres on his lower corner on Richardson Creek and on Medling Branch beginning on his lower corner pine and post oak and runs north 15 east 15.5 chains to a red oak in Rebekkah Harrington line, then west 8 chains, then south 60 west 36 chains to Rebekkah Harrington’s corner, then north 30 east 26.5 chains to her corner post oak, then north 46 west 15 chains to a pine, then south 70 west 20 chains to a pine, then south 79 west 40 chains to a pine, then south 11 east 43 chains to a pine by a pine by a pine on the south prong of Medlings branch, then south 23 east 11 chains to a scaly bark hickory, then down the branch with the various courses 18.5 chains to a hickory by two hickories, then north 63 east 17.5 chains to a stake, then south 85 east 35 chains to said Coburn’s line, then with it to the first station.

Looking back to Rebecca Harrington’s Grant 5272, note that if we were to look a bit further south, records not shown would show that her husband Charles acquired a small piece of land much earlier.  Knowing that Rebecca was widow, one must imagine that her deceased husband lies at rest nearby.  Such information gives us important clues when trying to identify the ancient cemeteries of first generation arrivals who were buried without the luxury of proper stone.

There is lots to learn in researching land grants.  Take time to enjoy the process and don’t forget to compare your lands to GIS maps and deeds representing the community at large.


Important to our understanding of the family of Benjamin Rush, the following grouping of entries appear in the November 1819 minutes of Chatham County, North Carolina:

On 23 Oct 1799, Benjamin Rush of Franklin County purchased 640 acres adjoining Avent Ferry lands on the south side of the Cape Fear River. And then, dated April 28, 1801 in Chatham County, Benjamin Rush’s will and testament names his second wife Elizabeth Rush, son William Rush, daughter Ann Peyton, daughter Elizabeth Terrell, daughter Alice Devaney, daughter Amy Stringfellow, son Benjamin Rush and three daughters, Ruth, Judie, and Elizabeth.

Note the will names Elizabeth twice. First mentioned is “Daughter Elizabeth Teril” and at the end of the will, “Elizabeth” is mentioned as being one of Benjamin Rush’s three daughters.  Did he have more than three daughters? Are these both referring to one person or two distinctly different children named Elizabeth? Is it possible one daughter Elizabeth was born to Alice Griggs, Benjamin Rush’s first wife while the second was born to his second wife Elizabeth who is mentioned in the will? That’s not a far-fetched possibility and it appears from record there actually were two children named Elizabeth.

Comparing the court entries to the last will and testament, it is easily assumed that Benjamin and Elizabeth Rush’s daughter Judith married a Thomas. And later, court and land records prove that Hardy Christian married daughter Ruth or Ruthy Rush. On 9 May 1817 Christian Hardy and Rutha sold to Sylvanus Stokes land in Brunswick Co. VA. The conveyance was for her dower right following the death of her first husband Wm B. STOKES. So, once again, we see death and a second go round at marriage.  And of that event, as commonly occurs in this hobby, that fact is discussed nicely in published research by a respected family historian and friend. Take a look at Tammie Hudson Rabun’s post on the life of William and Ruthy’s daughter Hannah Stokes as told in “A Trip to Chatham County.”

In 1821, Ruthy and husband Hardy Christian sold their one-third inheritance of the Benjamin Rush estate to Thomas Springfield.  The deed mentions the land as being “one third part of all that tract of land formerly owned by Benjamin Rush Sen Dec’d and from him descended to his son Benjamin Rush who is since deceased and has now descended to his three sisters, Ruthy Christian, Elizabeth Perkins, and Judith Avent, which land is at present occupied by the wife of the said Benjamin Rush Senr, dec’d.” This passage indicates that the three girls’ brother named Benjamin Rush had died by 1821.

Benjamin Rush Sr. in the above, the son of another Benjamin, is at times referred to as both senior and junior. The first in the line died in the 1760s, so the deed could not be referring to him as being the senior. Instead, it appears from the deed that the Benjamin Rush who died in 1801 Chatham was the senior and that he had a son of same name who must have died prior to the above mentioned 1821 deed.

Looking at family pages online, it appears many believe the young son Benjamin moved to Montgomery County NC where he died in 1827.  Either the date of 1827 is wrong or that Benjamin is not the son of Benjamin Rush who dies in 1801. 

And from the above court entries, who is James Perkins who the young Elizabeth Rush married and how does he fit into the family? The 1850 Chatham County census enumerates James Perkins as born 1791 with wife Elizabeth born 1801. That is a match. Is this the same Elizabeth mentioned as being among the three daughters of Benjamin Rush? It appears that, if so, she was born near the time of her father’s death. Found in the newspapers:   

The Spirit of the Age, Raleigh NC, 29 Sep 1862
At the residence of her husband, on Buckhorn, Chatham County, N. C.; Aug. 18th, 1862 Mrs. Elizabeth Perkins. She had been for many years a consistent member of the M. E. Church, South. Although feeble in body she was strong in faith, and we doubt not has entered into the rest prepared for the faithful. She leaves an aged and afflicted husband together with many friends and relations to mourn her demise. A FRIEND

James Perkins died later leaving an 1873 will and testament in which Archibald Murphy Yarborough was appointed executor.  And note that A. M. Yarborough had purchased land adjoining the Rush estate from Glover Avent who had acquired it from his parents Joseph and Judith Rush Avent.

And now, looking back to Judith who is mentioned in the above court entry, what is her story? Family along the river hold rightfully to Judith Rush as marrying Joseph Avent following the death of her first husband whose surname was “Thomas.” Born 15 Feb 1798, Judith’s grave marker at Memphis Methodist records her death as 11 Sep 1868. At the foot of the old carved stone is a concrete marker stating that Judith was the “wife of Joseph N. Avent and William Thomas.”  Born in 1798 and mentioned as being a “Thomas,” Judith in the 1819 court entry is identified as marrying and losing her husband before she reached the age of 21 years. 

The only person in the area fitting the bill is William B. Thomas believed to be the son of the elder Joseph Thomas. William’s father was either Joseph or his son John.  William B. Thomas lived in Moore County before moving to Marion County Georgia after 1830.  William married Mary Shepard per the will and testament of her father John Shepard (written in Georgia). However, it appears the couple may have divorced or for some other reason split as they were living separately in 1850.  Could a similar scenario have played out earlier with William leaving a first wife Judith? That idea is only a guess, a stretch, yet a possibility.

Another thought. Many of us with kin from early Chatham/Moore Counties know of Grissom Thomas. Born 1783.  Both the 1850 and 1860 census state he was born in Virginia.  It appears Grissom is not a member of the Joseph Thomas family from Bertie as they were in Wake County at the time of Grissom’s  birth. Also, DNA verifies the two families as being different; it is impossible for them to be blood kin. With that established, where did Grissom come from?  Knowing Benjamin Rush had ties to the Thomas family back in Virginia is it possible that Grissom is connected? I have no answers to that question though maybe someday Y-DNA will make the case one way or the other.

Now, looking beyond Chatham, chasing the distant past of Benjamin Rush and others who may have made the trip south out of Virginia, pieces of a new and different kind of puzzle have found their way onto my desk.

Years ago, Barbara J. Thomas pleaded with me to look at Benjamin Thomas who died in Franklin County.  At that time, I was wrapped up in other projects, unable to realize the possibility of ties she suggested.

Barbara learned of a family bible that had been discovered in town of Eden behind some hand-crafted fireplace mantle removed for repurposing. The bible mentioned her family descending from Benjamin Thomas of Franklin County NC. There are ties to the Rush family as well as possible links to other families out of Bertie County. Through dogged persistence, Barbara succeeded in acquiring the Bible which is now back in the Thomas family hands. Here is the record as it appears in the Franklin County NC USGenweb page:

Benjamin Thomas was born July 22, 1724
Catherine Thomas his wife was born January 3, 1719
Elisabeth Thomas was born November 28, 1748 –(she was the wife of Richard Duty Granville Co N C )
Susanna Thomas was born February 10, 1751 – ( she is the wife of Turner Harris ) Tombstone has been found with her name Susannah Harris 2/10/1751- 5/1/1799 Montgomery Co N C
Hannah Thomas was born April 1753 – ( she is the wife or Richard Bell) Can’t prove yet)
William Thomas was born February 5, 1755
Benjamin Thomas was born March 1757
John Thomas was born February 1759 – wife was Phyllis Bassett Milles
Anne Thomas was born March 5, 1761 – Martha Anne Ragsdale wife of Baxter Ragsdale II
Jabez Duty was born September 1, 1781
Rachel Duty was born December 28, 1784
Elizabeth Duty was born November 10, 1786
Sam Duty was born June 14, 1789
Sarah Duty was born May 1795

As it turns out, Benjamin Thomas’ wife, born 22 Jul 1724, is possibly Catherine Rush.  The proof is honestly not there, though it is possible she is the sister of Benjamin Rush who died in 1801 Chatham County.

From the 1842 division of the Elizabeth Rush lands (widow of Benjamin Rush) as seen more completely on Roots & Branches – my nc family archives,  Micajah Thomas Hawkins is shown owning 165 acres

“whereas Elizabeth Rush dec’d late of said county died about the 15th day of April 1841 being possessed of at the time of her death in dower right a tract of land in the southwest side of Cape Fear River containing by estimation and survey this day made by Nathaniel Clegg County Surveyor 665 acres and whereas by the death of the said Elizabeth Rush the aforesaid lands became the property of Joseph Avent and Micajah T. Hawkins jr, alias Joseph Hawkins heir at law of Col Joseph Hawkins dec’d .”

That is an important passage! In 1824, Chatham County deeds record a conveyance from James Perkins and others to Joseph Hawkins.  Remember, James Perkins married Elizabeth, the baby girl of Benjamin and Elizabeth Rush. 

This gets really confusing fast and I have found nowhere online that begins to put together what I’m about to lay out. That is, the above document mentions two men of name Joseph. The first being Col. Joseph Hawkins while the youngest was his namesake heir.  And yet it will be shown there were later generations of the name Joseph.  The elder or deceased was Joseph H. Hawkins who was powerfully known with an equally powerful brother named Micajah Thomas Hawkins selling the land on his behalf. Identified in record as being Joseph H. Hawkins, his name was recorded repeatedly as “Col. Joseph H. Hawkins” …just as appears in the conveyance. By the way, the name “Micajah Thomas” likely comes from an aunt Ann Hawkins who married General Micajah Thomas. That’s a hole other family and story for another day.

Living primarily in Warrenton, Joseph H. Hawkins owned large amounts of land in Franklin, Johnston, Cumberland, Moore, Chatham and Wake Counties. From 1820-1825, Joseph purchased lands in Chatham County from Jonathan Harrelson, Phillip Alston, Robert Hinsely, James A. Ramsey, Thomas M. Sturdivant, and James Perkins et. al.  Remember, James Perkins married Elizabeth, the daughter of Benjamin Rush.

On 16 Aug 1827, Joseph H. Hawkins dies. The following obituary appeared in the Fayetteville Observer:

“At Brunswick Mineral Springs, on the 5th instant, Col. Joseph Hawkins, of this city, comptroller of the State. Col. Hawkins was on his way to Mrs. Garnett’s Seminary in Virginia, to bring home two of his daughters, when that secret arrow, which flies unseen, arrested his course, and his vivid hopes of earthly prosperity are laid low in the dust. A widow and five children by a previous marriage, are left to deplore his unexpected death – Ral. Reg.

Penned earlier on 13 Jun 1824, and registered August 1827 in Wake County, Joseph Hawkins appoints “my brother Micajah T Hawkins” as one of the executors. Also mentioned: “I give to my infant son Joseph Hawkins all my lands on the Cape Fear River & Deep Rivers, I mean all my land in the county of Chatham No. Carolina…”

Boom! So, this passage or bequeath from Joseph Hawkins’ last will and testament clarifies the wording from the 1842 conveyance prior mentioned. We know that Joseph’s brother Micajah Thomas Hawkins sold land to Joseph (and Judith Rush Thomas) Avent. We now know that he, as alias, was selling land that had passed to “Joseph Hawkins, heir of Col. Joseph Hawkins, dec’d. It passed somehow to son Benjamin who died, and from there to his siblings.

Online histories don’t make the connection, but I’m thinking Col. Hawkin’s son, who was named Joseph, was Joseph J. Hawkins who married Eliza Savage Pugh, daughter of Maj. Francis Pugh and second wife Elizabeth Barker Tunstall.

Referring to the younger Joseph Hawkins as infant in the 1824 writing of his father’s will and testament, note that the term was not used as we might think today.  In the will, his father was making the point that son Joseph (S.) Pugh had not yet reached the age of maturity. However, he must have been close as by 1828 the son would marry, have a son, …and witness the death of his wife:

6 Nov 1828, The North Carolina Star
– In Haywood, Chatham County on the 17th September, Mrs Eliza Savage Hawkins, daughter of Maj. Francis Pugh, of Franklin County, and consort of Joseph J. Hawkins Esq.

Following the death of his wife, Esq. Joseph J. Hawkins, son of Col. Joseph H. Hawkins, moved to Haywood County TN where he is enumerated in 1830.  Tennessee estate records show Joseph S. Hawkins died ca. 1849. Sarah, his wife at that time, appears in 1850 as 42 years in age. Also in 1850 is M. T. Thomas, aged 25 who happens to have a son Joseph J. Thomas. Apparently, the son of deceased Joseph S. and first wife Eliza Savage Pugh, Micajah named his son for the child’s grandfather.   

Back in North Carolina, in 1842, the lands of Micajah Thomas Hawkins passed from father to son of same name. And at the same time, the land was sold to Joseph Avent as appears in the court ordered division already discussed.   Hawkins would live beyond 1858 when his obituary was published as follows:

29 Dec 1858, The Weekly Standard, Raleigh NC
Death of Gen. M. T. Hawkins – We learn from the last Warrenton News that Gen. Micajah T. Hawkins of Warrenton, died at his residence in that county, on the 22d of December, in the 74th year of his age.

The Hawkins’ lands along the Cape Fear in Chatham County were bounded by lands of important people. The land was bought and sold to and from important people.  And beyond the county, those people had ties back to Franklin, Warren, Bertie, and other counties.  It seems Franklin County provided crossroads for many of the elite on the move.

One of the families passing through Franklin included members of the Pugh family from earlier in Bertie. Elizabeth Savage Pugh married Joseph J. Hawkins. Below is a chart I put together showing the relation of Elizabeth Savage Pugh to a Joseph S. Pugh who owned land next to Josiah Thomas along the Chiska Swamp in Bertie.  Please look at my previous post for those details. Also, the next post will outline competing beliefs on the family of Josiah Thomas in relation with other families who may have also passed through the same lands and social arenas of Franklin County.


Know ye that we have granted unto DAVID STANDLEY – Seven Hundred acres of land in Bertie County beginning at a gum standing on the edge of the run at the upper side of a fence on a plantation on the south side of the Swamp then south 85 east 30 poles, then south 45 42 poles, then north 85 east 36 poles, then north fifty east 36 poles, then south 65 east 32 poles, then north 30 east 20 poles, then south 85 east 38 poles to a cypress a line tree between SPIVEY and JAS REED, then north 40 east 36 poles, then down the several courses of the swamp, then north 10 west 30 poles, north 70 east 30 poles to the line between STANDLEY and REED, then along STANDLEY’S own line north 45 east 36 poles TO THE FOOT OF LUMBER BRIDGE,  then south 70 east 37 poles, then south 55 east 36 poles, then south 45 east  45 poles, then north 60 east 60 poles, north 24 east 20 poles, then north 44 east 94 poles, then north 80 east 95 poles to SOLOMON CHERRY’S line, then south 70 east 50 poles along the swamp side being his line, then south 35 east 30 poles, then South 30, then south 16 east 80 poles, then east 30 poles, then south 36 east 44 poles, to the mouth of southern line, then south 10 east 24 poles, then  south 35 east 30 poles, then south 15 east 42 poles, poles, then south 50 east 16 poles, then south 70 east 28 poles, then south 31 east 28 poles, then south 63 east 62 poles, then north 80 east 44 poles, then south 51 east 35 poles, then south 20 east 22 poles, then south 53 east 48 poles  then north 80 east 10 poles, then south 50 east 20 poles, then then east 16 poles, then south 25 east 104 poles, south 15 west 26 poles to a white oak acorn tree between TITUS EDWARDS & AARON CHERRY standing on the south side of AARON CHERRY’S branch, then north 39 east across CASHIE SWAMP 82 poles to a cypress tree, then north 20 west 10 poles to a cypress JOHN HILLS corner in the edge of the swamp, then along his line north 10 west 100 poles to again THOMAS HOLDER’S corner, then along his line LAURENCE’S & WILLIAMS north 50 west 538 poles to a branch, POTEAT corner & BUNCH’S, and then along BUNCH’S line south 80 west 48 poles, then north 16 west 40 poles to a maple mouth of CONNARITSA CREEK, then along HENDRY’S line north 47  west 20 poles, then north 83 west 38 poles , then south 70 west 32 poles, then north 85 west 60 poles, then north , hen south 87 west 96 poles70 west 92 poles to a poplar STANDLEY’S own corner &. JAS. THOMAS, then THOMAS’ patent course south 40 east 94 poles to a cypress his corner standing on the edge of the run, then up the windings of the run to the first station.   – 23 Sep 1786.  Chainers: WILLIAM CHERRY, CADER CHERRY.

 The Lumber Bridge has been a noted landmark in Bertie County history since the mid 1700’s. Being the primary crossing of the Cashie Swamp, the bridge connected the southern side of the swamp (a place called Republican) to the town of Snakebite located to the north.

The bridge and communities are located on a wonderfully illustrated map created by the Confederate forces during the war. And to my amazement, the present-day Republican Road follows the same path today as was taken in 1863 when the map was created. Facts like that are vitally important when comparing ancient records to what we see today. And in addition, the old Confederate map locates all the landowners and where they lived. More on that map later.

The 1778 Entry Warrant by Bertie County Entry Officer David Turner mentions that the 700 acre tract adjoined the lands of Tytus Edwards, Solomon Cherry, David Outlaw, Abner Eason, James Thomas, Edmond Standley, Embro Bunch, Hales, and Elisha Holder. The above survey plat and metes and bounds represents a land grant of 700 acres issued after the Revolutionary War in 1785.  The huge, sprawling tract follows the run of Cashie Swamp for miles from east of Lumber Bridge well past the mouth of Connaritsa Swamp. The survey plat also labels adjoining landowners which differs from what was written in the warrant and metes and bounds.  A clue in itself, the differences likely result from lands being exchanged during process.

Below is an overlay of David Standley’s grant onto an enhanced detail of the 1863 Confederate map of Bertie County. Note that it appears the long left appendage of the grant may have been originally drawn to the wrong angle.  That, or the 1863 map was drawn wrong.  In fitting the David’s land on the map, as it was originally platted, the left side did not accurately follow the Cashie Swamp.  The image below is a quickly drawn interpretation by me correcting the angle of the left side to better follow the flow of the swamp.

James Thomas is identified in the metes and bounds as owning the land on the north side of Cashie Swamp between David Standley and the road leading to the Lumber Bridge. Looking at both images above, James Thomas’s land is located in the red shaded area. From memory, later deeds show the tract going to James Thomas’ sons including Ezekiel at which time transactions mention a mill and the road leading to Lumber Bridge. [Note: with NC Archives closed due to the corona virus, I cannot provide detailed support information at this time.]

The above-mentioned James Thomas is certainly the same person who wrote a will and testament in 1780 before passing. Tradition and early genealogies wrongly established James as being the son of Joseph Thomas who named a son James in his 1733 will and testament. That simply cannot be correct as James’ supposed brother, Joseph II, wrote a will and testament in 1752 mentioning his deceased brother James:

6thly I give and demise to my daughter Elizabeth Thomas my land and plantation whereon Judeth Thomas now lives it being the land that fell to me by the death of my brother James Thomas.

If Joseph Thomas II wrote a will in 1752 naming his deceased brother, how could that brother live to write his own will in 1780? Yet to resolve that conundrum, new research has only served to intensify the mystery. Let us take a look.


In 1766, by the will of his father Joseph Thomas dec’d, Josiah Thomas, a taylor, purchased land from John Hill.  Being “320 acres on the south side of Cashy River” joining the Great Branch, Michael Thomas, Joseph Thomas, Whitmell Hill, Middle Branch, and Cashy Swamp. [I-80 Bertie]. And note that following the death of Joseph Thomas Sr, his widow Ann Thomas married the aforementioned John Hill. And note from Joseph Thomas Sr’s will that each of his sons was bequeathed land with this surely being a part.

Josiah Thomas’ brother Michael died young, writing his will in 1766 which reads in part: “I first constitute make and ordain my true and faithful friends Thomas Pugh and Hardy Hayse and Anney Thomas my Executors of this my last will and testament I now give and bequeath to my son Joseph a certain tract of land lying on Cashy Swamp the west side and the north side of Spring Branch at my father’s sd decd.” Mentions of “Spring Branch” in numerous transactions can be used to connect the family members. I will not yet delve into those deeds as I’ve yet to solidly prove the location of Spring Branch. However, once positively found, the Branch will key in unraveling many family mysteries.

Josiah Thomas married first Sarah Bazemore, the daughter of John Bazemore.  In his 1780 will and testament, John mentions the family thusly:

“I lend upon my son-in-law Josiah Thomas, husband of my daughter Sarah Thomas deceased, one negro wench named Nancy that is now living with him for the term of his natural life & after his death to be divided she & her increase among my five grandchildren to be Michael Thomas, Jordan Thomas, Josiah Thomas, Elizabeth Thomas, & Sarah Thomas.”

The will was witnessed by Josiah Collins whose grandmother, Rachel Bunch, was identified as being Mulatto, as was Josiah.  And, the will and testament of Josiah Thomas’ father Joseph was witnessed by Josiah Collin’s father Joseph, husband of Rachel of Rachel Bunch. Later deeds show Josiah Collins selling his lands back into the Bazemore and Thomas families.

Following the death of his first wife, it appears that Josiah married second a person named Susannah as she is later identified as “widow” in the estate of Josiah Thomas, deceased.

Looking back into the two families, in 1766, Jesse Bazemore purchased 253 acres from Robert Hardy. Being 253 acres, the land was located on the north side of Chesky Swamp, joining Thick Branch, Frances Hobson, Thomas Jones, Joseph Thomas, and Edward Gilman (I-50 Bertie).

Twenty three years later,  Jesse Bazemore purchased from Josiah Thomas a tract along John Brown’s line on little Chesky Creek running then up the branch and along the line of marked trees to the road that leads from Cashy Bridge to Halifax then up the road to the Spring Branch (P-85 Bertie). I wasn’t going to mention Spring Branch, but oh well….we now know Spring Branch was near Chesky Creek and the road leading from the Cashy Bridge to Halifax.

In the map below, you can see Chisky Swamp branching westward off the Cashy River north of Windsor. Both forks of the road passing around “Chisky Swp” on the map will get the traveler to Halifax. The more southerly route (shaded red) is a direct line to Woodville before crossing into Halifax County.  The northerly line (shaded green), known today as Republican Road, crosses over the “Lumber Bridge” and James Thomas’ land before passing through Snakebite, then turning west to Woodville. With that in mind, reel forward another 20+ years to the death of Josiah Thomas Senior, son of Joseph II who died ca. 1758.

In 1813, for the widow Susannah Thomas, a committee laid off  her 1/3 dower lands which joined a branch and the lands of James Wilford to the north. In 1814 the following plat and division among heirs was laid off by Moses Gilliam, Turner Bazemore, Zed. Stone, and Geo Outlaw, and Simon A. Bryan:

First: Jordan Thomas (80 acres) 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.

Second: Josiah Thomas [Junior] (80 acres) Beginning in Joseph S. Pugh’s corner gum, Jordan Thomas corner, south 89 west to a pine on the road, along the road to a branch near Josiah Thomas’ house, then along Turner Bazemore’s line down said branch to a chinquipine, then a line of trees S. 84 to the beginning.

Third: Elizabeth Thomas (95 acres) Beginning at old stump, low ground of Cashy Swamp, James Wilford’s corner, then along his line and Turner Bazemore’s to a chinquipine Josiah Thomas’s, then along his line south 48 east to a stake in a field, then north 60 east to a line of marked trees to the Cashy swamp, then up the swamp to beginning.

Fourth: Reuben Bazemore and wife Sarah (95 acres): Beginning at a gum in a branch, Jordan and Josiah Thomas’ in Joseph S. Pugh’s line, then down the said branch, being Pugh’s line, to Cashy Swamp, up the swamp to Elizabeth Thomas’ corner, then along her line to a stake in the field, Josiah Thomas line, then along his line to the beginning.

It appears that Josiah Thomas’ son Michael died young as he is not mentioned in the estate division. However, it remains possible he moved west.

Fast forward again 47 years and in 1860, the above Josiah Thomas Junior is listed in census as 85 years old, living in the home of his son Everitt Thomas. With that in mind, look closely again at the map above. Along the green shaded Republican Road, the 1863 map identifies “E. Thomas.” Because Josiah, born 1773, was living in 1860 at the home of his son Everitt, I assume the above mapped location is the same as the 1813 plat where Josiah Thomas Junior received an 80 acre share of his father’s estate. And on that piece of land, the division mentions and draws in the location of “Josiah Thomas’s house.” I assume that in 1860, Everitt and his father lived in the same house that Josiah Senior lived in when he died in 1813. Looking at the 1863 Confederate map, and overlaying it with the 1813 division plat, I was amazed at how accurately the run of the road, the house, and swamp fell into place. If you want to carry this further, look at Google maps.  The intersection of the road and corners of Jordan and Josiah Thomas lands in 1863 is the same as the present-day crossroads of Republican and School Roads.  Nearby is a little road called “Thomasville.”

From the map we learn of Craig’s Mill.  At some point I’d like to trace that land back in time as it should have once belonged to James S. Turner. But of the mill, from an old USGenweb site on Bertie County Mills, the following is said of Craig’s mill:

Owned by Rev. A.J.M. Craig, who married a Gilliam and who was the father of Governor Locke Craig.  This dam was the means of escape for the 62nd Georgia Cavalry after the Battle of Windsor when the 125-man unit was attacked by 1200 Union soldiers from Plymouth.

Looking at neighbors, and the surrounding lay of the land, one can begin to put together the past. In 1863, to the southwest of Everitt Thomas’ house is W. J Gilliam. He was certainly a descendant of William who helped divide the Josiah Thomas estate in 1813. The Bazemore family lands come into play to the north and going further north as you near Lumber Bridge is the Cherry and Bunch lands.  And pulling the loose estate papers for neighbors throughout the period, of special interest, depositions from the 1830’s estate of Joseph S. Pugh adds flavor while raising new questions.

Joseph S. Pugh and Jeremiah Bunch jointly operated a sawmill with John Butler employed as miller. Testifying in the hearing, Butler told of the mill house and of another workshop used by Jeremiah Bunch.  He told of “Sawing Season” likely a time of year when the waters ran at the right level to run the mill.  At question was the annual hire of a slave who helped with the milling. Joseph Thomas related the hiring of “a negro named Joe, belonging to David Stone’s estate, to his (Thomas) getting of logs for the saw mill and the piling of plank. In figuring out costs, lumbered wood was sold at a price of $1.00 per hundred feet of planking with $1.50 per hundred being the price for scantling, which is a smaller, more accurately dimensioned wood. Apparently two sets of books were kept with one reserved for “memorandums.” The practice led to Jeremiah not getting paid and hence the issue was raised during the estate settlement.

Levin Butler testified that he lived at the mill for two years and that earlier he did so at the mills of Outlaw and Butler. Levin said that 75,000 feet of wood being sawed was a fair average. At issue was a house built for James Cherry, being “28 feet long, 16 feet wide, 10 foot pitch, the roof 11 foot pitch, a piazza 28 feet long, 9 feet wide, with a room at one end of it 12 feet long.”

George Thomas deposed that Jos. Pugh was to provide the materials and Bunch the millwork.  “He was to furnish the logs and float them down to the mill. But does not know the arrangement between them, as to the logs got out of the Highwoods.” “Samuel Pierson?, ——-“ Among them Thomas Speller and Josiah Thomas had logs sawn up, but on what terms the sawing was done for Mr. Speller, he does not know. The sawing for Thomas was on shares.”

From the estate sale, Joseph Thomas and James Collins bought two canoes.

Joseph Scott Pugh was from a wealthy family. His father Francis Pugh married Elizabeth Standley, daughter of David Standley. Though Joseph S. Pugh owned land in numerous places, I wondered about his land adjoining the estate of Josiah Thomas Senior. Overlaying the estate plat to the 1863 Confederate map, and seeing that the Craig Mill at that time adjoined the Thomas land to the south, and realizing this was the land Joseph S. Pugh, is it possible that Craig Mill once belonged to the said Pugh?

The thought becomes especially tantalizing seeing the words of Josiah, George, and Joseph Thomas recorded in the 1830’s estate deposition for the deceased Joseph S. Pugh. I can imagine the mill in place and logs being floated downstream by a slave of the deceased Governor David Stone. II can imagine Joseph Thomas with his newly purchased canoe proudly gliding along the Cashy. Everything fits though, because NC State archives is closed due to the pandemic, I am prevented from doing a title search of the land. I cannot prove this until we get back to normal.

And of the depositions, who are George and Joseph Thomas?  Josiah did not have sons of those names. Grandsons maybe? How do they fit into the family?

At this point I have not been able to identify the parents of George and Joseph.  It’s possible they were sons of the deceased son Michael Thomas who appears to have died young?  George and Joseph could also have been born to Jordan Thomas. He married Milly LAsiter in 1795 with next door neighbor James Wilford serving as bondsman. Jordan Thomas disappears following his father’s estate division.  Regardless, the above George and Joseph are seen numerous times in estate and other records connected to the neighborhood of Josiah Thomas, senior.

At this point I will stop with this post though know that the mystery continues.  There exists Josiah and Jordan Thomas to the west in Franklin County NC.  It appears they are not related, though the discovery of several records raises hesitation.  All of that will be dealt with in the next post. As for now, it’s good to know where Josiah Thomas senior lived as well as James. The two can’t be brothers though may be kin.  I’ll leave it like that.


It would be nice if what is available in surviving records was intact enough to clearly tell the stories we all seek of our past.  That’s not possible simply because many of the records are gone ..lost or destroyed over time. Seeking to find our way back across the Great Pond, we from the Old North State are tempted to look upstream, gathering the answers to our questions from such books as The Virginia Cavaliers and writings of people like John Boddie.  Genealogical CliffsNotes of sort, such publications provide cheat sheet histories leapfrogging family histories across the eastern tidewaters of Virginia.

Hypothetically, the novice, in one sitting, can sit down in a library, and by studying the works of folks like Boddie, can chase their lineage back to first arrival in historic James Town, …that is the goal, isn’t it? But really and truly, such an approach is 100% absolutely backwards. It’s ALWAYS best to start with the here and now, slowly and methodically working one’s way back through yesteryear.  Move from the known to unknown, not the reverse.

Books such as The Cavaliers are awesome though they will get you in trouble. Quoting such research is like quoting any.  What are the resources and how are the connections made?  How were the connections made especially when they are inferred because of record losses and multiple generational gaps passing through counties with little surviving history.

Bad examples are set in place and later incorporated as gospel by later generations of us weekend historians. It is a tough reality and one that tempts us all.  And yes, we’ve all given in only to worry about whether our own version of events will stand the test of truth. We’ve all made mistakes and of each one, it’s bad when intentions are questioned after our own memory fails. Also, in truth, the study of family history is merely a hobby or interest that can go away as easily as the day you first leaned you were hooked. When you lose interest, the drive to make things right disappears as well. Always work to keep fresh those things you love …history for some of us requires emotional maintenance.

In the game of putting together your family puzzle, realize there are going to be plenty of times when you can fit together multiple pieces and yet not fit them to the rest of the picture you hope to present.  We know the information is important, but how do we show it? When that happens, do not ever force the pieces. That is wrong! If you knowingly force unproven connections, all you are doing is setting the stage for your work to be hijacked through error and misinterpretation. Explain yourself forty ways from heaven so you will not be remembered by your mistakes.  Yes, things may have happened as you believe, though reality is an equal opportunist and always reserves its right for being found. Once in print, errors seldom go away.

Donald Rumsfeld was correct, concerning “knowns,” there are numerous variations on the theme of knowledge. Rather than seeking to build the family tree of all trees, for the family historian, it is nice to do studies as if they were snapshots in time. Take time to learn and appreciate all you can about a certain place, time, and person. Document and source your work and celebrate that one thing. At least for a given time or event, you can proudly declare that you know what happened. History is like a loaf of bread.  We can serve it up whole or sliced.  

From a singular point of interest, move your research backward or forward in times …slowly. And most important, expand your point of interest in hopes of gaining perspective.  If you can’t find what you need on a person, look next at the family, and then next at the neighbors, and then next at time. It’s like casting a net for fish, sometimes you need to cast wider in order to capture the same number of fish. You can’t tell which way to go simply by looking at the water.  Most of the time the fish themselves will tell you where and how big a net you need to present.

And about the process as is related to family history, it is one thing to put yourself in the shoes of an ancestor …it is another to put yourself in the shoes of all your ancestor’s neighbors. Seeing a person through their friends and enemies can be very enlightening. If you cannot find the answer by looking at the individual, open your field of view. The effort adds a level of difficulty though the results are hugely rewarding.

And here I sit writing this gibberish while surely you are wondering why.  Well, things have been quiet with my paternal Thomas family history for quite some time. And with the virus and such, I decided recently to look online to see if I had overlooked anything. As is normal, one thing led to the next and from there another piece of the puzzle fell into place.  Thoughts from new Facebook communities gave me new perspective.  From people I don’t even know, I’ve learned it’s not so much about learning the details you are looking for as is having the electronic ear of those willing to comment on your ideas.

Anyhow, in a matter of a week, I’ve gained enough information to provide my first good snapshot of James Thomas who died ca. 1780 in Bertie County.  The research reinforces what I had believed concerning James’ homeplace and neighbors while totally changing other thoughts.  The effort begins to connect me to generations of Joseph Thomas who I believe are in my family. Yet unanswered is the exact connection between Joseph and James.  Someday I’ll be able to connect this grouping of puzzle pieces to the remainder of the picture. But most of all, in this process, I’ve learned important stuff reminding me of the woes of following the leads of others. That, and seemingly out of nowhere, I am reminded of how it is  possible to change an entire story through the discovery of a single record that was there all along. Like Jack Palance said in the movie City Slickers, it’s just one thing. However, in family history there are many things.

In my next post I plan to introduce James Thomas, not his genealogy, but a simple slice of his history. Sometimes genealogy is not so good when seen in entirety.  Its outer shell is tough, hiding you from the yummy details. When you find that happening, try serving up your family by the slice. Sometimes a little bit of history goes a long way.


Pronounced somewhat like  ..Las VEGAS, the hotel community of Weggis is tightly nestled against the nearly 6,000 ft Mt. Rigi, along the northeastern shores of Lake Lucerne. Driving into the area two days earlier, after touring the Dolomiti mountains and Neuschwanstein Castle, we stayed at the remote location on the east side of Lake Lucerne because it was cheaper and offered a more restful atmosphere. Normally we would have chosen center city though the morning voyage into Lucerne by boat added to the sense of adventure.

Waking early for the next leg of our trip, I remember eagerly watching the MeteoSwiss weather report on TV as we dressed and readied to hit the road. The forecast had not changed as the development of afternoon storms was still predicted for the Alps.

We were scheduled to stay that evening at the Hotel Wengener Hof in the mountain resort of Wengen. Our goal for late afternoon was to hike from Männlichen to Klein Scheidegg along which route we would experience the awesome views of Mönch, Eiger, and Jungfrau. By the way, cars are not allowed in Wengen and the mountain top town is reachable only by cog wheel train. As for its pronunciation, my wife and I loved saying to each other …Veeeengin.

Hearing the weather report, my anxieties ramped up knowing that we had to reach the mountains before arrival of any storms.  Switzerland is not cheap, and I envisioned our next stop as being a beautiful Julie Andrews type of singing-on-a-mountain-top day. Or, it could end up with us sitting in some unknown restaurant looking out at stormy weather in wonderment of what could have been.  My goal was to reach the Lauterbrunnen car park by noon.

Heading out and being no more than 45 minutes into our drive around Lake Lucerne, something went wrong. Passing the city and maybe a few smaller towns, somewhere in the middle of nowhere our navigation system suddenly came alive. It ordered us to take the third exit at the next round-a-bout. Problem?  We were traveling an Autobahn grade highway and there was no round-a-bout in sight!

An exit sign appeared ahead and not knowing what to do, we took it and crossed the highway as if a round-a-bout had existed.  Driving maybe ten minutes in God only knows what direction, the navigation system alerted us again that we needed to turn around and go the other way.  At that point I was imagining my mountain views melting away in the dismal rains I had read about in travel forums.  You would not believe how many people seek ideas on what to do when their Alps trips turn to rain. Anyhow, making the correction and reaching the point where things first went wrong, we were told once more to turn around!  At that point Christina pulled out her cell phone and soon we were back on track using Google Navigation.  We lost an hour.

Once more we became lost.  Seeing signs for Bern and areas within France, I knew we had gone too far.  We turned and eventually found our way to the correct exit leading to the Lauterbrunnen Valley. The views at that point were not immediately exciting. We were on a meager two-lane road heading off into lower elevation mountains. But, while looking ahead, in the direction of our remaining 20-minute drive, the occasional curve gave view to the whitest of peaks I have ever seen.  Framed by the narrow and shadowy valley walls, the triangular peak of Jungfrau, known as the top of Europe, jutted proudly from the skyline ahead.  The mountain was brightly lit by the sun, which was thankfully still visible!


Jungfrau, Switzerland

Lauterbrunnen is known as the land of waterfalls. Numerous falls drop along nearly vertical valley walls to the green and flat pastureland below. One such fall actually cascades within the mountain which attraction is a must see. Another fall provides a scenic backdrop as it drops behind the town.  Though arriving late, we drove fifteen more minutes beyond Lauterbrunnen deeper into the box canyon to the end of the road.  It was pretty cool to stand at the exact point where the green fields turned into the towering  Jungfrau which stood before us.

Turning attention to reaching our hotel, we then headed back to town and parked near the train station.  Thank goodness we had prepacked smaller luggage for that evening’s one-night stay. We took a short walk from the parking deck to the train station where we caught a 30-minute scenic ride to Wengen.


About Wengen, it is situated on a gently sloping plateau or bluff about half-way to the top of the mountain ski area known as Männlichen. From Wengen one must take a gondola the remainder of the way to the top.  That, or hike a strenuous 3,500 vertical feet over a matter of several miles. More about Männlichen later.

Once off the train in the town of Wengen, we bounced our roller luggage behind us as we strolled the main street towards our hotel. Our stay was near the Evangelical Reformed Church which location offers one of the best views of the valley below. Note that the photo at the top of the page was taken from this viewpoint.

Warmed by the summer winds flowing northward off the Mediterranean Sea, the building skies ebbed and flowed with the continual passing of clouds and sun. Making it to the hotel, where, upon being cordially greeted, we were shown to our fifth-floor room. We had our own little balcony where the cool breeze and warming sun added much relaxation to this once in a lifetime experience. It was great!  What an escape from the summer heat we had left back in North Carolina!  The entire morning had been spent in the car and now, being about 2 pm, we decided to take a well-deserved nap before heading up to the top from which point we planned to hike back down by way of Klein Scheidegg.


View From Our Hotel Window

Awakening and at ease, upon stepping out on the balcony, I was greeted with clouds and peppering rain. My heart sunk knowing that our only sight of sun-lit mountains may now be a thing of the past. However, journeying forward and before reaching the lift station, nature again greeted us with sunshine. The second chance assurance was welcomed and made for an even greater day. And yes, there were more brief showers. Though to our delight, we would learn that the clouds and their shadows punctuated the constant change of scenery. With each passing minute nature demanded us to stop and take notice of something yet unseen. Every view was new and the clouds, sun, and rain were all part of that rhythm.

And about the gondola, our visit was in the first week of summer operations. The gondola had just opened for the season after being retrofitted with something new.  Passengers could now pay an additional five dollars to climb a stairway leading to a railed viewing platform where they could make the ride atop the car itself.  Wow, my wife and I were the only ones onboard and of course we gave it a try. We felt like Leonardo DiCaprio proclaiming King of The World in the movie Titanic! No more cagy feelings from being pinned up while forced to see the world through scratched window panes. The unobstructed view and overall experience was fabulous.


About Männlichen.  Upon reaching the lift, we learned that the trail leading to Klein Scheidegg had not yet opened.  Snowpack along a north facing wall still buried a section of the trail making it impossible to hike. At that moment it was truly a bummer though how could one complain as our being where we were was an amazing opportunity .

Disembarking the gondola, the lift operator reminded us of something that I did not hear. The message later turned out to be important.

We walked the area noticing how others moved about quietly in awe. Their words were carried away by the gentle breeze that swept the mountain top vista. Everyone was trying to absorb it all while seeking some magical  viewpoint and photo opportunity. It was a difficult task to improve on the vastness of perfection we saw before us. In time we came to realize that  no camera made  will capture the image better than what is naturally created in the mind’s own eye. Photos are great, but best of all are the memories they stir.

Hiking the grassy meadow along the Männlichen Royal Walk, we slowly made our way to the pinnacle.  Much of the time was spent wandering here and their chasing every visual nuance we saw. The grass was deep and green. The landscape was filled with an inordinate enormity of flowers recently released from the grip of last winter’s snow. Dandelions were everywhere with their puffy heads as big as tennis balls. Nature even called upon us to crawl the ground where we inspected many other flowers of the like we had never seen.

And of the cows we had hoped to see …they had not yet made it to the top.  We were at the place showcased in numerous episodes of Rick Steve’s TV series of travels in Europe.  From his shows, we learned that every year cattle farmers from as far away as Lauterbrunnen walk their small herds to summer on the grassy meadows above. As the trail remained blocked with snow, their annual journey up the mountain was yet to come. Also, every fall, a return trip ends when a fair like atmosphere envelops the town of Wengen as the annual parade of herds arrive home from their summer stay up top.


Walking to the cliff’s edge, looking below, we were graced with the sight appearing along the cable way towards the village of Wengen.  And peering further down-slope, we could see the waterfall dancing like a whip along the rock cliff as it found its end behind the quaint town of Lauterbrunnen.  The whole of the valley was visible with mountains equal to those we stood upon rising beyond. And even further yet, in the hazy expressions only displayed in context of distance, appeared Interlaken and Lake Thune shining like a ribbon of silver in the afternoon sun.

Turning our heads and walking the mountain ridge in the opposite direction, one’s eyes are greeted by the distant alpine town of Grindelwald. Way down below and being nearly 15 miles away, the town sits at the end of a sister box valley to that of Lauterbrunnen.  And cloaked in clouds, rising from the edge of this valley town, were the three great mountains. Mönch, Eiger and Jungfrau stood before us occasionally showing themselves from under the ghostlike movements of velvety clouds.

My wife and I had recently seen the Eiger Sanction, and yes, there we were with the mountain standing before us. And as for Jungfrau, known as home to the highest rail station in Europe, you could catch glimpses of that facility shimmering in the bright but sinking sun. How wonderful it was to see these things, knowing too that trains ascended the great mountain by way of tunnels carved deep into the hard rock. There was so much to take in and we were at the right place and our time was good.

Reaching the top of Männlichen, a viewing platform had been arranged just so people could get a better view.  It made me chuckle as that whole idea struck me funny.  Who needed a platform as the view was all about and everywhere!  On the other hand, it was nice to sit a spell with my wife, taking in all that we had seen. We absorbed it all, anticipating clouds with their shadows racing across the landscape below. In one-minute we were cloistered in passing banks of cloud only to be suddenly released into brightness with an unopposed vision of all that the Almighty says is good.

I cannot say enough about the beauties we saw. All I could think was …what if it had rained?  We would have never known. Seeing is knowing, and in all of this, my wife and I took the time to spread out in the deep grasses near the upper reaches of this great place. We laid there for what seemed to be an hour, resting, holding hands and talking about what we were seeing. Everything was good and perfect. And then my wife noticed something out of place.


Truly alone, all the people we had earlier seen were now gone.   Looking downward towards the lift station, the gondola was no longer running. It was after 5 pm and the lift had closed. The mountain, for all practical purposes, was closed. I could not imagine it being so as we were nearing the golden hour. This was rightfully the time of day when nature shows its best. We were in trouble and yet, we were at a place of peace.

We walked our way back towards the lift station knocking on all the doors that were now bolted. We saw a trail sign and realized we could hike back up Männlichen and then down the 3.500 ft of elevation covering several miles of unknown wilderness. It must be steep and I had no map or plan to study.  Also included in the equation was my heart. Having recently undergone ablation surgery for afib, my need to take medication was critically important.  Normally I carry an emergency dose on my key ring, though this time it was empty from being used the day prior. My much-needed medicine was stored in luggage back at the hotel.


Continuing to explore the mountain top, a small ski lodge had not yet transitioned to be open for summer.  Workers were likely staying there and possibly others, though from outside, the place appeared to be deserted. We circled the building before eyeing someone inside who came to our aid. We stood there for ten minutes discussing possible options with one being the hiking trail down to Wengen. That idea was not advised and quickly shot down. We were told that coming up from Grindelwald, there was a small road which could be used.  And once reaching Grindelwald, we could catch the train to a small town nearer to Interlaken where we would then transfer to another train running to Lauterbrunnen. And, from Lauterbrunnen we would catch the little cogwheel train we rode earlier. Below is map showing our plan.


Yellow – Cogwheel Train to Wengen, Green – Gondola Ride and hike, Purple – Taxi Ride to Grindelwald, Gray – train back to Lauterbrunnen

We were told all of this was doable that evening with the aid of Regio Taxi Service that could carry us down to Grindelwald. That is if a driver could be reached who was willing to make the nearly 15-mile trip up the mountain. Agreeing to this plan, the lady pulled a phone number from behind the counter and made the call. Heck, it was only money, but in return we had the chance to see this place in a way many tourists never will.  Witnessing the falling sun and coming on of evening was worth every penny spent. And one nice thing, paying with credit card, we were shielded from the pain of seeing dollar bills flow from my wallet much like the water fell from the mountain below.


We waited outside, at ease watching the sun set.  It took a little over thirty minutes and then, coming up the distant roadway, we could see the taxi slowly winding its way up the mountain (above).  The lady driver pulled up and in memory of the experience, I asked and was granted approval to take the photo below.


Our taxi ride down the mountain was an experience in itself.  The driver was very friendly and listened to Bavarian yodeling music most the way down. She quietly sang and yodeled along with what was playing.  She showed real appreciation and talent for the unique genre of music.  And of this experience, how often does one get to hear yodeling whilst riding down the mountain in a taxi!

We passed all sorts of barns and homes distinct to the region. After explaining what we needed to do next, our driver dropped us off at the train station at which time she encouraged us to hurry as the approaching train would soon be leaving. We boarded the train as the sun began to set behind the mountain we had just descended.  Reaching the connecting station known as Zweilütschinen, we waited at the remote location for thirty minutes for the next train heading to Lauterbrunnen.


Finally back to Wengen, we enjoyed a plate of cheese and potato raclette and cold Swiss beer. What a day! And now making it to our room, the remainder of the evening was spent on our little balcony watching the last glow of day disappear from the tips of distant mountain tops.

It was a day I’ll never forget and then for the next day, we planned to see the underground water fall and views from the other side of the valley before picking up the car for the ride south into Italy.  Our next night’s stay was scheduled for Varenna, a little lake front town on lake Como. That is a story meant for another day.








Awakened by the sound of pelting rain, and peering out with nose against the windowpane, the soupy mix of fog and cloud obscured the view across the loch. It was our first trip to Scotland and this was what we crossed the ocean to see.  Such weather is nothing new to the locals and as Tom Bryan tells us in one of his poems, it …

Gets in yer neb, lugs,
unner thi oxters tae.
Oan yer heid, in yer een
til ye’re drookit, ken?

Seeking to share with you my expectations for the day to come, the above (deciphered with aid of an online translator) warns simply … yes, the rain and fog gets into your nose and ears and even under the arms too. It gets on your head and in your eyes until you are totally drenched, you know?

Staying in the town of Oban, we found lodging at Barriemore B&B which, overlooking the seawall, offered a panoramic view of the protected sea passage with glimpse of Loch Linnhe lying beyond. From our bedroom we could lay eyes upon the waters at a point where the lake intersects the Sound of Mull. Likely the most distinguished cartographic feature of Scotland, Loch Linnhe cuts northeast across the land mass as if carved in one blow by some mystical God of yore. The lake spans north from Oban to Inverness situated on Scotland’s north coast.

Oban, the primary seaport serving the rich fishing waters surrounding the Hebrides, is home to a fleet of ferries communicating the northwest reaches of the country. And, travelling west by ferry from Oban across the Sound of Mull, one can visit the Isle of Iona, the Outer Hebrides, and of course the Isle of Mull. It is this last location that my maternal Love family claims to be their ancestral home. And, it is in that piece of information that the reader can find reasoning for why my wife and I decided to visit this distant place. Below is the itinerary for this leg of our quick trip encompassing the United Kingdom.

We had a long day ahead with our next night’s stay being in Edinburgh.  Timing was crucial as for that evening, we held two expensive tickets to the year’s first showing of the annual pageant known as the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

We loaded the car aboard the Caledonian – McBrayne ferry for a short ride to the Craignure dock located close to Duart Castle on the Isle of Mull.  The journey by water was vividly wonderful though the changing weather constantly threatened to chase us from the rails to safe hidings within the ferry. We passed several sailing vessels and a remote lighthouse before Duart Castle appeared from the fog. The view across the water stirred stories I had been reading, including one of the history of the Spanish Armada and of the nearby sinking of one of its ships.

Arriving at Craignure, we disembarked and drove the long and winding road (pun if you like), passing through tall ferns, towards Duart Castle.   The tour was worth the effort though most important were the stories told by an animated old guide who reminded me of some character from a British TV comedy series. In full regalia including kilt and all the accoutrements, the old gentleman spoke briskly with a most interesting brogue.  Of course he was interested in my good ol’ southern drawl as I asked if he knew anything of my Love family who supposedly lived nearby. He expressed in no uncertain terms that it is highly improbable that they ever set foot in the castle.  Yes, he said, they may indeed have been septs of clan McLean, though that in no way means they ever lived in the same house.  He encouraged me to visit a bookstore and museum in Oban specializing on clan histories.  To that  directive I would have obliged though the seaport town was now a place in my past …at least for now because we hope to pass through Scotland again on some trip in the future.

Leaving Duart, it would have been wonderful to drive the several hour trip along the loop road around the Isle of Mull.  And better yet, it would have been amazing to explore the rugged beauty of Iona which is reachable by way of another ferry from the south of Mull.  So many great choices and it always comes down to a matter of time …and money!!  So, instead, and realizing the need to push forward, we drove a few miles to the Fishnish Ferry which allowed us to cross the Sound of Mull back onto the mainland of Scotland.

Earlier, at home and with the aid of mouse and computer, I guided my little yellow Google Man along every possible route leading to Edinburgh. I knew we would want to traverse the Scottish Highlands by way of the famed region of Glen Coe.  But now, being on the west side of Loch Linnhe, what route would give us the best view of the highlands?  I also sought the narrowest, windiest, and most quintessentially Scottish route possible through the scarce populated area that laid before us.

My research effort paid off as I found a one-track road B8043 which crawled down the hills before reaching the waters. There, skirting the edge of a cliff, we drove the narrowest of road which ran along the shore with magnificent views towards the distant mountains. You could see the heart of the region where Scottish clans once battled.  We also had the chance to drive through herds of sheep with frequent stops for plenty of photos including that of a schooner anchored offshore.  For those fearful of British cars and driving on the wrong side of the road, such a route is simply magnificent, offering a safe change to build confidence behind the wheel.

We drove another 15 miles north along the west side of Loch Linnhe before crossing over another ferry at the village of Corran. From there we headed into Glen Coe, considered to be one of the most beautiful spots in the world. It is also the place, where in 1692, a massacre took place in which 38 members of the McDonald Clan were slaughtered or burned to death.

There is an eerie sort of beauty one witnesses while passing through the deep glen. The almost reverent display of fog and cloud silently dances among the craggy mountain tops. Carved by an ancient glacier, this masterpiece of nature is defined by its steep valley walls which, upon reaching the top, quickly turns and rolls suddenly downward to meet the cascading river below. The vision recalls the goings-on of those rugged people who once lived in this desolate region. One can imagine muddy legs and bodies wrapped in woolen kilts tending livestock on the landscape where grass is plentiful. It is so beautiful!  Yet, deeply green with dense growth of ferns and other native fauna, even the ground we walked upon purged itself of water with each step we made. Tom Bryan gets it right as you cannot visit this mystical place without expecting to get wet.

Exiting the valley to the east, the view spreads wide with your eyes being pulled slowly downward following the vanishing road where, in the distance, it crosses a contemporary arched bridge spanning the River Etive. Nearby is the King’s House, a B & B once on the military route, which was built by the English army in the aftermath of the 1745 Jacobite rising. Though set in an utterly different context, the view is as grand as that Forest Gump witnessed at the ending of his run among the natural monuments of Arizona. You cannot drive the road without expressing awe in the presence of this display of God and nature.

At this point, the sun was running its race as did we.  It would have been nice to visit the lands of Rob Roy McGregor and the Stirling home of Robert the Bruce …but time was against us.

Reaching the outskirts of Edinburgh, I felt this was a city I did not care to drive. It was full of one-way roads and we were coming in on a busy afternoon. We made it to a remote car park as a special news bulletin broke on the radio. Hurriedly preparing to board the bus for the ride into town, we missed the message though heard mention of trouble in town.

Concerning tourism, this was one of Edinburgh’s greatest weekends throughout the year. On tap was the Edinburgh Festival Fringe which “is the single biggest celebration of arts and culture on the planet. For three weeks in August, the city of Edinburgh welcomes an explosion of creative energy from around the globe.” Also, just beyond the drawbridge leading into Edinburgh Castle, a stage was set for an evening extravaganza showcasing the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Performers included the country’s top military drum and pipe band along with the royal marching band. Also, in 2013, the year we attended, a guest group from Korea was invited to perform. In addition, there was a special appearance by the puppet War Horse in celebration of that year’s well received movie of same name. Each night the show ends with an amazing fireworks display taking place above the castle walls. Below are a few pictures taken from the event along with official video showing the entire Tattoo for 2013.


With all this in mind, we rode the bus to Edinburgh old town where we were let off at the North Bridge stop.  We had a room reserved at The Scotsman, a really nice hotel once the home of the Edinburgh Newspaper. Getting off the bus and crossing over the main rail station by bridge, we were a bit curious about the many emergency vehicles we saw along the side of the road.  Represented were every sort of police, ambulance, and rescue unit imaginable along with vans marked Terrorist Response blah-blah-blah. They all had their lights flashing  ….hmmm, not good.

The walk leading to the hotel entrance was lined with groups of emergency workers apparently wrapping up what was going on. My wife and I moved forward to the front desk where we were told that a young Russian couple had just committed suicide two floors above where we were scheduled to stay.  We were told they had had made a pact and released two military grade canisters of cyanide gas in their room. Serious Stuff! And the building had been fully evacuated and returned to normal except for the floor where the couple had stayed. Folks from that floor still filled the hotel lobby.

Wow, you can imagine that with all the events scheduled for the day, the emergency response teams assumed the suicide may have been part of some opening volley or part of a massive terrorist plot.

As we checked in, sofas and furniture from the deceased couple’s room was being removed behind us. A lady from Texas was standing near us in robe, upset because she could not get back to her room to finish getting ready for the evening’s performance.  As for us, my wife and I made it up to our room where we caught a thirty minute nap before having to head up the Royal Mile towards the castle. The evening went splendidly as did our three-night stay at the Scotsman. It’s sad for the deceased couple …and really for all involved.  Though, the excitement will be one that I will always remember.  On the next day the headlines went worldwide.  Headlines included everything from “Horror on the Sixth Floor” to “Cyanide Suicide” on a copy of the Daily Record which we brought home with us from our trip.



Flying over the Alps, is that the Matterhorn I see?

While paddling late afternoon across the lagoon, my head came to a stop as my eyes locked on an impressive range of snow-capped mountains rising in the distance above the islands of Venice. The bold and angular mountain tops, far away and barely in focus, appeared to be what we had crossed on our earlier flight from Frankfurt.  That is another story. Anyhow, the distant panoramic view was simply stunning!  We had to go there!

dolomiti routeI spent the next few years studying on what I had seen on that earlier trip. It turns out that I had been looking at the Dolomiti, known also as the “pale mountains” for their light-colored rock structure.  The Dolomiti are made of fifteen massifs, being compact groups of mountains. Google image searches led me to learn that that this was a place we would wat to see.    But what route to take?  How would a trip through the Dolomiti fit into a travel itinerary?

Looking at it from a grander view, I thought, how nice would it be to see and be able to compare the Swiss Alps, the Dolomiti, and lake country of northern Italy …all in one trip? An itinerary fell into place with exception to the route through the Dolomiti.  I knew we would want to see Oberammergau (site of the Passion Play) and Neuschwanstein Castle, but what land route should we take to reach Austria? What was the oh-my-gosh, most beautiful road passing through northern Italy? After countless hours on the computer walking my little yellow Google man on every “blue” road I could find, I realized the entire blessed place was simply beautiful.  That did not solve my problem!  In the end, from a Frommer’s online travel forum, some local truck driver wrote of his many deliveries through the region. He said there was only one great route and provided a Google Map to support his claim. Basically, the route carried us north on A 27 before crossing through the mountains to A 22 which carried us to Innsbruck, Austria. A believer in word of mouth, I jumped on the idea which fit perfectly into an upcoming trip.

[note: I’ve never planned something that could not be improved upon. In the following posts I’ll try to also include information on things we should have done differently.]

After flying into Venice, with two days there (you can never have too much of Venice), we rented a car at the airport and headed north on A27. Oh, and we let the rental folks know the nature of our itinerary so that they would give us a car with enough umph to make the trip.  Looks were not important at all on this trip.

Making good time on this first leg of the trip, I learned much later that we had overlooked a stop worth making.  The town of Treviso, near Venice, is inland though built on the water with canals like Venice. Of special interest, a restaurant there, called Le Becherrie, is supposedly the place where the desert Tiramisu was first made. How about that! That is the kind of thing you want to experience in travels!

In two hours of drive time we arrived at Cortina d’Ampezzo, which, for us, was the visual gateway into the Dolomiti. From that point the road narrowed, winding its way upward through pristine hemlock forests with occasional views of massive walls of stone.  The road became straight and easy going for a while as we appeared to ride the top of some long flat-topped ridge.

We had not realized how important the region was in war.  During World War II, allied troops advancing north out of Africa punched through the region. And in World War I, intense mountain-top battles halted the advance of Austrian/Hungarian troops into Italy.  Prior to the war, much of the area in present day Italy was part of Austria. At one point the Italians planted large amounts of explosives under a cliff-top military post which when detonated, destroyed the high elevation perch along with many Austrian troops thereupon stationed.  The trained eye picks up on the large number of explosion pock marks in cliffs and mountain sides throughout the drive.


Passing near the congested community of Pian Falzarego, we turned onto SP 24 which carried us onward to the pass of Valparola. Cars packed the roadside as people in gear ventured deeper exploring this most rugged leg of our trip.  The road narrowed a bit as it skirted the top of the world. It was June and we were nearing the snow line. The view of grotesque and ever-changing jags of mammoth rock renewed with each twist and turn as we neared the pass. Like looking across some ancient graveyard of giants, the view from the 7,000 ft elevation was immense, giving us unimaginable glimpses of the ancient stone monuments as far as one’s eye can see.


If the elevation and distant views were not enough, a small museum along this highest run of road was packed with artifacts and story-telling placards of horrific battles once fought nearby.  Built in the 1890’s, the Austrian built Forte Tre Sassi, or Fort of Three Stones, was a favorite target for the Italians during WWI. The bombed landscape and a crucifix stand in solemn remembrance of a past people today hope will never be repeated. I encourage you, to Google walk this impressive section of highway. Click on this Google Link

From Valparola Pass, we turned south passing numerous hillsides, each covered in green unlike in winter when Italians ascend to this place to enjoy skiing and other winter sports.  We reached the town of Arabba and turned onto SR 48 which wound tightly upward to Passo Pordoi, a ski resort and travelers’ stop for many on bus excursions. The location is also well travelled by cyclists as well as those cruising on motorized bikes.

We reached the stopping point for the day and luckily our hotel had been earlier booked from home. Being the first week of June, our trip happened to occur during the customary change-over period from winter to summer. [note: plan accordingly as in Italy and elsewhere in the alps, resorts typically close or greatly reduce operations during the first week of June in order to clean and adjust for summer following the end of ski season.]  Unplanned travel during this time is a bit risky if you do not book your stay in advance. Also, note that access to some of the higher elevation trails may be denied in order to protect tourists from the dangers of unsafe conditions.

Our timing was both good and bad, the hotel accidentally booked us during their close time. So, we, among with a few others, were the only ones staying at Hotel Col di Lana. The price was fair and their restaurant was the only one  with full menu  that was open for many miles.  Following a good night’s sleep, I awoke before sun up to hike the hill to a small chapel that stood nearby. The rising sun from that spot was fabulous. In the distance, a round topped monument marked the burial site of over 8,000 Austrians who had died and were buried at that place during the two world wars.


After breakfast, we went across the street and rode the gondola to the ski post at the top of the mountain. It was June and yet we were able to hike for hours along the snow packed landscape. The view was breathtaking, and we gave thanks for our safety upon reaching an iron cross people collectively filled with stones from the surrounding area.  We joined in the tradition.

Heading back to the road, we drove north again passing grand displays of nature such as Tore del Sella and Grohmannspitze.  The road would soon turn more westerly as our slow downhill descent led us through miles of little mountain villages. Soon we came upon A27 where the remaining hour drive into Austria was along a major four lane highway. Our trip through the Dolomiti was at end.


The sights we saw were incredible and will always stay in my mind. Going back to the days of my childhood, I remember a scout leader once telling us that the Virginia Blue Ridge mountains we made almost as if God had raked the back of his fingers along the earth below. In comparison, we were told that, here in North Carolina, it was as if God had grasped, squeezed, and sat back down clumps of earth below.  Virginia was a land of narrow ridges with long broad valleys while North Carolina, a land of ancient hills rolled with time creating many twists and turns and cold dark hollows.

The mountains we traveled in Italy were mostly in the range of 12,000 ft elevation. They were pristine and had only recently been pushed from the ground below. I can imagine that once upon a time the views in North Carolina may have been similar.  Our 6,000 ft. mountains were also once 12,000 feet tall.  Imagine the 6,000 feet of rock and soil that is now gone.  Where did it go? The view for us is about the enormity of erosion where in Italy it’s about the birth of the same process that is forever changing.


archivesOutpours of raw emotions during the last few months have fueled Covid related fears. The tragic loss of life at the hands of a policeman has challenged the underpinnings of who we are as a people. Sense of due process is nowhere to be found and it seems each of us are pitted against each other based on opinions, that in good times, would remain properly confidential.

Marrying later in life, my wife Christina and myself have devoted ourselves to each other, along with trying to be the best aunt and uncle we believe possible. We also decided early that much of our free time would be spent in our yard and on travels abroad. It has been a great experience and we have loved every minute of our adventures. However, as with others who travel, our “experiences” remain locked within our minds and out of sight as bits of info on the phone or camera card. It is sad and very seldom that we have the chance to share the dirty little details of where we’ve been.

In hopes of dampening the unhealthy stew of reality presently in place, I plan to keep one eye on world events while aiming my heart to better days. I hope you enjoy as my memories are put into word.  If not for you, then at least I’ll have a place to go when retrieval from the eventual failing of memory prevents me from remembering. No rush!

Travels do not happen without planning.  Along with planning come hitches. As my childhood scoutmaster Steve Dubay once said many years ago, the most perfect scouting outings will not be what you will remember most. Instead, you will reflect fondly on the freezing cold, the blistered foot, and knowing you survived the seeming unsurmountable challenges. For me, no better wisdom has ever been spoken. But that really is not true either as when asked what he wanted most in life, my father’s answer was simply “kind words and cool water.” Nothing else matters.  I hear you dad and am reminded once more what that really means.

I will not base the upcoming posts chronologically or in any other order. They will be randomly presented thoughts beginning with a domestic trip made in 2001. This initial post will be followed with tales from excursions mostly to Europe.  My wife and I have witnessed many things in our few years of travel. Two times we saw the sun fall, a policeman silenced a knife wielding terrorist, and watching from the gate window, we saw our plane leave without us. We survived an attempted robbery, sunburn, and numerous mishaps on the motorways.  We could have traveled in the security of a hired tour guide, though I am thankful we did it our way.


As assistant director of the Crafts Center at North Carolina State University, my responsibility back then was over the maintenance of many things mechanical, along with the supervisory role over the best equipped student owned woodshop in the nation. At that time, I would rather be carving a piece of wood than having a fine dinner. I did not even own a pet as my world back then was greedily driven by the need to create.

It was also a time following the passing of my father. It was a time when a newfound interest in family history threatened to upend my love of wood.  It was actually ten o’clock at night and having finished teaching a Wednesday evening introductory woodworking class, I swept up the shop, turned in my class folder, and waved bye to the student attendant as I headed out on my adventure.  Having recently learned of Benjamin Thomas, my earliest known paternal ancestor, my old red truck was packed with blanket and pillow in tow as I headed north to Washington DC.  My goal?  …to learn from what I could find at National Archives. Without any real planning, my interests were primarily centered around Revolutionary War records and War of 1812 bounties. If time allowed, I hoped to swing up to Philadelphia in search of records for a John Love, who once lived there. He may or may not have been related to my mom’s side of the family.

Clicking along I-95 through the dismal darkness of southern Virginia, my mind drifted off to my only other trip to DC …which was made with my family in the mid 1960’s. Surely less than 6 years old, back then I found no interest in the long wait to see a tiny flame they called eternal. Dad, bless his heart, was never good in heavy traffic.  I remember going back and forth, rounding the round-a-bouts and crossing the Potomac river numerous times until we could figure out where we were heading. I also remember seeing the statue of Iwo Jima numerous times though I do not think we ever found the entrance and a place nearby to park. I loved the Washington Monument if only I would have been tall enough to see out of the windows.  And Jefferson and Abe Lincoln were awesome.  Did you know the names of many states are named on a five-dollar bill?  Mostly about DC, I remember the zoo and dad getting too close to the tiger’s cage and of how far a cat of that size can pee. But of it all, my little mind made note of the enormity, especially the impressive granite monuments which were everywhere.

All but falling asleep at the wheel, it was late night and I remember the Pentagon appearing out of the darkness as I approached DC. After being lost for quite a time, I remember passing Lafayette Park to the right with St. John’s Episcopal coming into view on the left. My tired eyes could not grasp what they beheld as the church porch was covered with temporary tents made of cardboard and other rubbish. The nearly 100 people encamped alerted me to an element that my considerations had overlooked. It was sad and a memory I will never forget.

Driving a bit further and winding my way through several blocks of governmental plaza, I came upon Pennsylvania Avenue and knew from the hardcopy map that archives was nearby. At that time, being after three o’clock am, my eyes hurt really badly from sawdust and a lack of sleep. I was absolutely worn out.  Needing sleep, the tree lined curb along Pennsylvania Avenue was the perfect place to get some sleep …so I thought.

No more than thirty minutes into stretching out on the bench seat with pillow, someone knocked at the glass sidelights startling me into a painful existence somewhere less than being fully awake. It was the homeless people. That is all I could think, and then I was fully awake …and scarred. Easing back into driving position and cranking up the trunk, I continued down Pennsylvania Avenue towards the Capital building.  It was at that point that I glanced at the gas gage which was near empty.  Wow, there I was in the land of monuments and no gas in sight.

I turned onto a road and remembered what I had once been told.   “If lost, continue in one direction till you come to a landmark.”  For me, the landmark I sought was a gas pump and I knew driving around the capital would be fruitless. After a few miles all I saw was the gateway over Chinatown as the glaring lights of police cars passed in the distance. In a few more miles I came upon a sketchy all-night gas station. Attempting to pump the gas myself, a person possibly homeless entered my world. He took the pump handle from me and smiled as he began pumping the gas.  I gave the poor fellow a bit of money and we both went on our way.

Realizing I could not simply park and camp on the corner, I decided to make the best of the situation. For the next hour I drove around all the sights in DC seeing the glow of each monument from afar. It is a scene like none other. Somewhat like the somber reverence of a moonlit graveyard, the shades of black were strong, demanding respect and attention. Ever since the experience I have always wondered about leading a field trip to some such field of stone as part of a study in photography. I surely do not have the talent to lead such an activity though would certainly pay to participate.

It was not long before sunrise and I knew I had to find my way back to archives. Regardless of who I met in the dark of night, I decided to pull over once again along Pennsylvania Avenue. Finding my way to sleep, I slept for just a bit before once again being awakened.  This time the source of agitation came from men hollering from the next block over.  I cranked up the old red truck once more and drove around the block to scope out the situation. The noise was from construction workers waiting for the underground parking garages to open for the upcoming day. I pulled behind them where I found peace and real sleep.

At that point, and out of nowhere, suddenly the noise was excruciating as the city had come alive. Cars zoomed by as people passed to my right and left. Quickly cranking up the truck I ducked into the garage where nature demanded of me another hour of sleep. I obliged. Upon reawakening about seven o’clock, I climbed out of the stale underground tomb. It was difficult to push myself in the hot morning air along the brightly lit sidewalks of summer.

I made my way around a building and through the columnade of the Navy Memorial before crossing the busy street to the front entrance of archives.  Better awake than me, the homeless were busily putting their cardboard homes back into hiding for another night.   There were also workers dragging out hoses to wash the sidewalks. The good town was alive and ready for the day.  Turning to visualize where I had been the night before, a smile came over my face realizing my fears had all been unfounded.  There before me was the tree lined curbs where I had spent the night in fear. Looking a little higher I realized I had chosen to camp out under the overhang of the J. Edger Hoover Building.  Really, were those homeless people who had awakened me upon my first arrival? G-men maybe? Hmmmmm …you can always tell the new kid on the block.


National Archives is everything I thought it should be.  Upon entering the first order of business is the filling out of official paperwork authorizing the issuance of an identification card. Within the grand entryway, an ink pen adorned with cardstock resembling a feather quill was used to sign in. Access to microfilm rooms was by way of secure doorways like the ones you would expect on a battleship.

That morning I met with an archivist who scheduled retrieval of the original documents which I later viewed in a reading room while wearing cotton gloves. The day was splendid and as a side note, at one point I noticed people gathering at a window along one wall of the building.  Curious as to what was going on, I had to look. Appearing straight down from the window, a long transfer truck was stuck in the steep and narrow ramp leading to the basement loading bay.  I understand all the records for out-going president Bill Clinton were onboard the truck which was much bigger than those the building was originally designed. My mind was too tired at the time to comprehend the humor though I overheard all varieties of yuck-yuck as I got back on task.

Leaving the archives by four o’clock pm, I had no more than an hour before I really needed to head north. After grabbing a dog and some chips I made my way around to the back side of Archives where the Constitution was on display.  Crossing the street, I had about thirty minutes to tour the National Portrait Gallery. It was wonderful! Even if by way of quick glance, I had the chance to lay my eyes on America’s greatest treasures. This was also the place where once stood a hotel where William Thornton’s National Patent Office was housed. Thornton was interested in North Carolina’s gold and bought up nearly 50,000 acres to search for it in present day Stanly County. Leaving the Gallery, I grabbed a dog and chips before returning to my truck for the next leg of the trip to Philadelphia.


Somewhere in Maryland, or possibly Pennsylvania, I pulled over at a truck stop to grab a bite and catch some zzzzz’s. Waking late in the night, a bird bath was in order before changing into a fresh set of clothes. Ahhh, much better! And back on the road, crossing the bridge into Philly, I made it to downtown in the wee hours of morning.  The ornate courthouse stood tall with the statue of William Penn powerfully lit against the ink blue sky. Luckily, I found a parking deck within two blocks of my destination. The prison styled barbed wire wrapping the deck alerted me that this place was not as civil as I would wish it to be. Crime must be a real issue in Philly.


courtesy of wikipedia 

As there was another hour or so remaining until sun-up, and really wanting to get a better look at the courthouse, I risked the opportunity to get out and explore the surrounding area. The sight was amazing though it was quite eerie walking through the dark passages running underneath the Courthouse.  Trusting the rising hair on the back of my neck, I made my way back to the safety of my truck for a quick nap.

The rising sun was coordinated with steady stream of business folk walking the city street, all heading towards the courthouse. I followed suit though stopped at a breakfast house where I had a good meal while watching the almost military-like maneuver passing by the window.

I eventually made it to the clerk of deeds office where the workers were just opening shop.  Asking about the location of deed indexes, my slow southern voice gave away the fact that I was not local.  And in return, their answers were quick and initially unhelpful until they realized I was on a mission and would not go away until satisfied.  Really, all I wanted were any deeds for John Love ca. 1850-1880 …easy peasy! That, and then estate records, marriages, and were there other things I could find. It never ends.

The man helping me told me I really needed to go to a records office at another location that was put in place for people like me to research.   He told me of the subway and of going across town to reach the facility. Clueless and never having ridden a subway, I asked about a taxi. The man was actually quite kind as nearing lunch time, he told me to give him thirty minutes and he’d ride out to the facility with me. It was a rough ride but glad I the public servant had been there for me.

I found a few deeds and records that will be used someday in a later post.  However, I did not find the smoking gun I had been looking for.  The day was long and it was nearing 4 pm when I decided on one last option.  While walking the area the night before, I had noticed a fine building with plaque reading “Historical Society of Pennsylvania.” Making my way back to the courthouse, I walked down to the building where upon entering I was told that only thirty minutes remained until closing.  I spit out the name John Love and begged if they had anything quickly accessible. The historian walked me to the card catalogue where we found the bible record for the man I sought.  It was not THE smoking gun I had been looking for though I did have the opportunity to hold a document that drove my hypothesis deeper. Often, we drive hundreds of miles only to realize that we have arrived at a place different than what we had envisioned. That, or we learn new information that sends us to a hundred miles in another direction. And, sometimes there is a dead end.

Returning to Raleigh, I slept for days.  My trip north will always remain with me. It was a great summer trip though my fond memories of those days were upstaged and robbed by the deeply sad events occurring a month later on September 11.