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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

The Carthage Blade, 12 Sep 1889.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mistakes and mishaps

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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



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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


In researching my family’s histories, it seems most paths of study have led me to the dry fundamentals of land, marriage, and maybe a few telling court battles. From census records I also learned that most were farmers though I seldom get to learn what my folks really felt about the times and ways they lived. It is rare that we are privy to the soulful ways and beliefs of our family past.

A recent post on the Burris, Burress, Burrows, Burroughs Facebook Group by distant cousin John Stevens opened my eyes to things I had not realized existed.  John’s discovery allowed me to see deeper into events of 1863, learning of actual beliefs of opposition held by my family. Ideas opposing the war were more plentiful back then than I had realized. And yet, I think often about the families of those days who gave all for the cause.  Today, we are quick to aggrandize the war in terms of glorious battles and of the struggles faced by kith and kin.

I always assumed my folks were “good soldiers,” following the lead of fellow countrymen into battle ..a war I still don’t fully understand. But beyond the stereotypes often heard, many of us rooted in the south find that our personal histories are born in a different telling of this most divisive time in our country’s past.

Maybe driven by excitement, some of my kin likely enlisted into the Confederacy willingly at war’s first start.  However, as suffering increased and age limits for conscription widened, many had second thoughts. It was during this time that the Republican Party found footing through sympathy and the support of the Union League, being an organization with members, both black and white, who held meetings in support of the Union cause. Many did not believe secession was good, meeting defiantly to discuss their collective support of the old ways.


Dated August 28, 1863, six or seven hundred citizens in Stanly County gathered for a “peace meeting.” Can you imagine what such an event looked like?  Were your folks there in attendance? Leading the event were people near and dear to my family. Merely seeing their names mentioned in relation to the meeting, I am suddenly made aware of a belief system I never knew was held by my family. From a report in the Raleigh Standard, read carefully the following and imagine what such a gathering would look like as they met to craft a statement outlining their political beliefs.

For the Standard


At a public meeting held at Big Lick, Stanly County, on Friday the 28th August, 1863, some six or seven hundred persons were present, including gentlemen and ladies, supposed to be some two or three hundred ladies, and a large number of gray-headed men.

The object of the meeting being understood to be a peace meeting, on motion, J. C. Tucker was called to the Chair, and Henry Reed appointed Secretary. Messrs J. C. Burroughs, Lloyd Hathcock, L. C. Morton, J. C. Gilbert. E. H. Hinson, John Huneycutt, were appointed a committee to draft resolutions expressive of the same, who having reported the following preamble and resolutions which were unanimously adopted.

WHEREAS, We have every reason to feel devoutly thankful to Almighty God for the privileges, advantages, and blessings, we, as free men, enjoyed a republican form of government, therefore, be it:

     Resolved, Whereas, the time has arrived that every true friend of liberty should exercise the right which is guaranteed under the Constitution of North-Carolina to express his opinion with regard to the public good, and whereas, we are fully of the opinion that the condition of our people is such as to demand every lover of life and liberty to be willing to adopt some method, and to put fourth some effort to stop this wicked and bloody war.

     Resolved, That in defense of our rights and liberties we take a position upholding and defending the liberties of the people of this state, pledging our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor in her defense, whether against kings abroad of tyrants at home.

     Resolved, That the course of the Confederate government towards North-Carolina from the beginning of the war has been anything but fair and honorable, and that let her blood flow ever so freely, not a word is said or an act done to honor the valor or patriotism of her sons.

     Resolved, That we approve the removal of the Virginian as chief tithing man.

     Resolved, That we are willing to pay any reasonable tax in Confederacy currency, but we are opposed to paying any part of our produce as a tax, and that we hope the administration at Richmond will repeal that act.

     Resolved, Whereas, this State has been raked for conscripts very closely, while we believe in the law in other states has been only partially executed, we are opposed to sending any more men, at least until all other States have furnished their equal quota according to population.

     Resolved, That we are for a speedy and permanent peace that will guarantee to our rights and liberties.

     Resolved, That we agree to abide by a majority of the voters of North-Carolina in any plan that may be devised in convention assembled or otherwise.

     Resolved, That we, as enlightened and intelligent people, will never submit to be enslaved or annexed to any foreign of kingly government.

     Resolved, That we hate tyranny and oppression, for we had as soon be slaves in New York as in North-Carolina, in the United States as in the Confederacy.

     Resolved, That in our opinion, under the present crisis, the best thing the people of North-Carolina could do would be to go in for the Constitution as it is and the Union as it was.

     Resolved, That W. W. Holden is the ablest and boldest defender of our rights and liberties, and that we pledge ourselves to stand firm to him in the course he has taken in defense of our rights and liberties. Therefore, we say to him to stand firm to his post and to cry aloud and spare not.

     Resolved, That other districts and counties hold similar meetings.

     Resolved, That we are apposed to any more men going, only such as cry out the last man and last dollar. We think if that be the case there will go but few men.

     Resolved, That the proceedings of this meeting be sent to the Editor of the Raleigh Standard, with a request that he publish the same.

     There were three of four Destructives in the meeting, and they behaved themselves very respectfully, and spoke very favorably of all the resolutions passed with the exception of one or two small points.

     We have neglected to state that the meeting was opened with prayer by the Rev. Henry Garmon.

J. C. Tucker, Ch’n

         Henry Read, Sec’y

Son of George Reed and grandson of gold mine owner John Reed, the above-mentioned Henry Reed married Dovey Hinson in 1852.  Note that Rev. Henry Garmon, also mentioned, served as bondsman. The Reed family lived north of present-day Love’s Grove United Methodist Church which may have grown from Love’s Chapel which began as an offshoot of an earlier church known as Love’s Methodist. Of importance, Love’s Grove began as a Methodist Protestant Church which may have first been called Garmon Methodist which was located at the present-day site of Brown’s Hill African Methodist Episcopal Church, located on Hwy. 24/27 in Locust.

I believe Henry Garmon first founded a Methodist Protestant Church at Brown’s Hill which later closed as Love’s Grove Protestant Methodist opened its doors. The vacant church building, along with a small piece of land, was given to the black congregation of present-day Brown’s Hill A.M.E. Church. Henry Garmon was well thought of in his faith as beautiful stained-glass windows at the First Methodist Protestant Church on Hawthorne and Central Avenue in Charlotte (no longer standing) were placed in his memory. More can be found on Henry Reed and the unfolding of his faith in an earlier post.

Looking back to 1863, being no more than a month after Henry Reed served as recording secretary for the peace meeting, he wrote a telling letter to Governor Zebulon B. Vance:

Garmon’s Mills P. O., Cabarrus County

Sept. 26, 1863

To his excellency Gov. Vance,

By my father’s family record, I shall be forty-six years of age on the 20th of March next. I have a wife and four little children, the oldest only ten years of age, and an aged aunt dependent upon me for a support; and have been forced under fear of death to enter the army, as unlawfully I now think, as I did it involuntarily; as many of the parties to this violence acted or claimed to act under commissions as militia officers, I beg most respectfully to call your attention to the manner of depriving me of my liberty and family of their support and protection.

On the 28th of August last a meeting of citizens of Stanly county was held, at which I was chosen secretary and offered certain resolutions which were adopted, and published in the semi-weekly Standard of September 8th. They were in accordance with my private sentiments, and I did not know that there was anything illegal or improper in giving them public expression, or I should not have offered them.

On the 19th Inst. I was arrested at the house of Israel Furr in the county by Messrs. John Long, George Phifer, Henry Plott, [citizens of Ca. County] and Mr. Mooney, citizen of Cabarrus Stanly County. About a mile from Furr’s house they procured a guard and put me in their custody, took me to Morgan’s in this county, where some militia and a few Confederate troops were in camp; shut me up with ten [or] twelve other prisoners they had there, in a barn under guard.

After a while I was called out with another prisoner, and a Dr. Ramsey [Anderson] of our county informed us there was a man to be shot, and militia officers had it to do. We were both marched to camp under guard, where Ramsey [Anderson] announced the fact that a trial for treason was to take place, the militia officers would be the jury. These officers, about twenty in number, were arranged to the right and left of me, the other prisoner removed. Dr. Ramsey [Anderson] acted as judge and appointed Ellic Underwood prosecutor and Mr. Moody, prisoner’s counsel without consulting me in the matter. A rope was then called for by Ramsey [Anderson] or Underwood and produced. Underwood took it, doubled it up, and hung it in a tree near by. Ramsey [Anderson] then instructed the jury that I was to be tried by them for treason, that the punishment would be death if I was convicted. He then called and swore some witnesses about the resolutions above spoken of. Before the witnesses got through, I asked to have the resolutions themselves introduced; a paper with them in was handed to Underwood who refused to give them in evidence, or allow them to be read in my behalf, but put them in his pocket, when the testimony closed for the prosecution. Mr. Moody replied to a suggestion, that I should like some witnesses sworn in my favor, that it was unnecessary, that the prosecution must prove my guilt first. Underwood addressed the jury of officers, to the affect that I was guilty of treason, that the punishment was death, that I deserved it and ought to be hung as high as Haman. Moody had but little to say in my defense, when Anderson as judge, [told] to the jury that if they believed the evidence about the resolution opposing the tax in kind; and my offering the resolutions at the meeting spoken of, it was treason, and so was that about the constitution as it is and the Union as it was, and it would be their duty to bring in a verdict of guilty. The jury went down the road, and returned in a few minutes with a verdict of guilty. Ramsey [Anderson] then told me, that I was tried and convicted of one of the highest crimes in the known world; that the punishment was death, but as enough had been killed he would withold sentence until morning, to allow me to choose between entering the army and [or] being executed. A Mr. Cagle & a Mr. Heathcock were then allowed to hold up to me the terrors of the punishment that hung over me; and to urge me to enlist to avoid them. I was then remanded to the barn prison and a strong guard ordered over me to prevent my escape. In the morning I was taken out again under guard and Ramsey [Anderson] asked for my decision. I told him I wanted the advice of counsel before giving it, as I was ignorant of the law and had not intentionally done anything contrary to it. He replied ignorance is no excuse in times like these.

I was then put to marching up and down the road under guard, while Ramsey [Anderson] and two other armed men, took a prisoner off to the woods, and after a while returned without him, giving me the impression that he had been executed. Ramsey [Anderson] again asked for my decision. I told him I was in their power, if they wished to put me to death they could do so, and that I could not yet give a decision. He said they were bound to execute the law upon me unless I enlisted, but allowed a little further time for consideration. Under these circumstances I was forced to enlist under Lieut. Carter (who was near with some Confederate soldiers) to save my life. I did not do so of my own free will and since I have been allowed a few days liberty by enlisting, and relieved from fears of violence of which I was threatened, I begin to think that a great wrong may have been done to myself and family, and an offense to the laws and customs of the state, by the militia officers allowing the exercise of false judicial and executive powers by themselves, and others that should have been under their orders, at the time I was arrested, imprisoned, tried for my life and condemned to death unless I volunteered, as I was forced to do very involuntarily. I have not and shall not knowingly disobey the laws, nor do I wish to lose my life or liberty through unlawful means. I shall be forced so quickly from my family, that little chance of redress presents itself to me, but I trust, if these officers have permitted or caused me to be forced unlawfully into the army, your excellency will withdraw their commissions, after due inquiry, and let them follow [me] lawfully. The commanding officer of the Stanly county militia, I presume can give the names of all the officers, that took part in the proceedings against me. I know but few myself.

I am very respectfully,

Henry Reed

Stanly County. I Henry Reed of said county being duly sworn saith that the facts in the foregoing letter are true. Subscribed and sworn to before me.

This 29 day of sept. 1863

C. C. Love

(Notation on bottom of letter)
Gen. Gatlin will order the Col. of that County to explain this matter. Z. B. Vance

One thing leads to another and certainly the six or seven hundred people who attended the meeting were ridiculed for their political beliefs. Just as men stood defiantly on the battlefields, so were those who remained at home where they fought in hopes of peace.

Little did I know that family member Joshua Christian Burris was a leader in such service of his country. And as for J. C. Tucker, being the son of Leonard Tucker, he lived next door to J. C. Burris. At times our Burris Family celebrates old photos of a schoolhouse that stands  along the top end of present-day Newsome Road. The photos are a reminder of beliefs passed down by  kith and kin and I imagine many of the school children who once heard the war stories, including how the neighborhood men stood up to a cause they did not support.

In closing, I share the following plat of the lands once belonging to J. C. Burroughs (Burris) and his neighbor James C. Tucker.

[Note: all related deeds refer to the junction of Tracts A, B & C as the “Path” or “Tucker’s Path”]

A – Deed 2-270 Stanly, 182 acres, Joshua Burris to Allen Burris
Deed 14-580 Stanly, James Adderton to Allen Burris

B – Deed 26-77 Stanly, James T. Tucker to George E. Tucker, (Dower of Martha)
Deed 26-546 Stanly, J. A. Eury, Adm. of George E. Tucker to

C – Deed 17-139 Stanly, Daniel Freeman to James C. Tucker (refers to Tract B as belonging to
Lewis Tucker, refers to Tract A as belonging to Allen Burris, refers to land to the southeast            as belonging to J. C. Burris.

D – Deed 16-95 Stanly, Levi Tucker to J. C. Tucker (mentions corner of old mill seat)

E – Deed 16-95 Stanly, Levi Tucker to J. C. Tucker (mentions old mill seat)

F – Deed 19-374 Stanly, J. C. Burroughs & Wife to Eliza J. Hathcock
Deed 29-404 Stanly, Andrew and Sarah Honeycutt to R. M Hathcock

G – Deed 20-163 Stanly, Andrew Honeycutt to C. Fred Beck, “known as the Beck Tract”
       Deed 21-106 Stanly, J. C. Burris and wife to Fred Beck & wife

 H – Deed 32-93 Stanly, S. H. Milton, Commissioner, Adm. of Joshua C. Burris to John Allen Burris

  I – Deed 32-42 Stanly, S. H. Milton, Commissioner, Adm. of Joshua C. Burris to J. C. Murray.

I could delve further into the lands of others, but for now, the area of land above-mentioned happens to be in my immediate research.  The two people mentioned also had adjoining lands further to the west, situated north of present-day Red Cross and east of Locust. Seeing the men living in close proximity, I imagine James C. Tucker and Joshua C. Burris in conversation.  Maybe passing on the road and stopping for a minute to chat. I’d love to hear such conversations. The above stances taken tell volumes pertaining to beliefs, …not only during the times of war, but in more general terms pertaining to how they viewed their fellow man.

Were members of your family true Confederates or did they stand for the United States as it was v=before the Civil War? For me, my past is based on a house divided and in that realization I begin to understand things I have not yet considered.


From a memorable drive with fellow history buffs through Stanly County exploring the homelands of our Burris family past, I remember the hearty discussion as we drove east on Hwy 24/27 passing Liberty Hill Church Road.  It was at that point I asked the gang if anyone remembered a barn that once stood near the intersection. Somehow, my mind recorded the spot as being the place where a photo of my grandparents was taken during a 1910’s wedding celebration.

Pam and Brenda had a good time sharing collective stories of our distant cousins.  Filled with joy to be a part of this time of reminiscence, yet, it was at the moment we passed over the bridge that curiosity drove me to wonder why the store and old road intersection once stood so close to the creek? It didn’t make sense and I knew there must have been a good reason. Time passed and at a later date, Brenda shared a photo of Pettticord at work at his place of business (right).

Some months later, I went to a Wake County Genealogical Society Meeting where member and guest speaker David McCorkle spoke on map resources.  David created the site which is a super valuable resource for those of us working the early land records of our state.  And as it turns out, David and me are actually cousins as he descends from Headley Thomas, brother of David who is my second great grandparent. David McCorkle is also an Austin descendant which, as you will see, plays into this post.

In his presentation, David introduced the group to the interactive maps found on the UNC site titled North Carolina MAPS. This is a tool that allows the user to fade and merge various maps for purposes of comparison.  It’s nice to see an old 1800’s map overlaid on top of a present-day road map. It was a good night as I learned a trick that would surely be useful in future research. And then, occurring some time later, I revisited the site David showed us. It was in that effort that I came across a 1916 Stanly County soil map overlaid atop a recent county road map. Just click “Fade Historic Map” to the left on the page and you will be able to zoom in to see the small cropped section below. Notice at one time the bridge over Stony Run Creek served as crossing point for not one, but two roads. And note on the image below that I’ve placed a red dot at the intersection where the two roads cross Stony Run.

In the image above, you can see the old road intersection “on” the bridge and another just to the west showing the modern intersection of Liberty Hill Church Road and Hwy 24/27.  You can also see the old network of roads along with the blue markers indicating modern-day places of business.

On two separate adventures, both heading out from starting points at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, I remember the drives up Frog Pond Road, when almost immediately Pam pointed to an old path leading south.  She spoke of Hinson land and of a cemetery nearby. Looking at the old 1916 map above, you can see the path was once the road that crossed over Stony Run before heading northeast towards the church. Today that road is gone, and yet, those who are at rest nearby likely knew of it well. Looking back in time, I have to wonder if doing away with the section of road was a means of keeping peace between two closely located churches? hmmm…

Doing a little digging in, according to a February 2,1902 notification in the Albemarle newspaper The Enterprise, it appears that several sections of various roads were discontinued at that time. They including Austin Road from near Pleasant Grove Church to Stony Run:

“ a petition ….to discontinue the old road, and the Austin Road from
D. C. Hinson’s store to Stony Run Creek”

Today we study our family histories and we look at the paved black-top roads around us as if they have real relevance to our distant past.  Sometimes they do, and sometimes not. We think we can place our kin on them as if today were yesterday. It is not as the roads are not always as they once were. Time changes all and to really understand where family lived back in time, we must be willing to overlay every resource imaginable, …maps included, in order to glean clues from the shared foundational elements of our past. Only at that point can we begin to ask the smart questions. Hmmm  …in the above, which came first, the road running west to east or the one crossing Stony Run as it heads towards the northeast? That’s a smart question and what stories do the two roads have to offer?

As it turns out, the road crossing Stony Run in early deeds is identified as “Austin Road,” now Newsome Road, as it passes almost due north beyond Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. Another road running by the church towards the northwest is present-day “Frog Pond Road,” known in deeds as the “old Concord Road.” (See below)

The GIS mapping image above shows two pieces of deeded land from David W. Burris and wife Sarah. Deed 29-282 Stanly is for land going to Timothy C. Burris. Shown in yellow, the southwestern corner of that tract is identified as joining the “Concord Road”. The green tract Deed 53-416 Stanly went to William A. Burris in which the southeast corner is identified as lying on Austin Road. Note that the branch separating the two tracts is identified as Whitley Branch.

Somewhat disconnected from records showing the road passing over Stony Run near the intersection of Liberty Hill Church Road, today Austin Road officially meanders to the north across the heart of Stanly County, beginning north of Locust and ending near New London (right). However, Austin Road appears in records following that path as far back as the mid-1800’s, and yet, “Austin Road” is also mentioned in records much further to the south. The story and origin of Austin Road may have once been important though I believe its meaning has been altered and lost in part through time.

Looking at present-day Hwy 205 between Rocky River and Oakboro, several early land records refer to that stretch of the road as also being called “Austin Road.” I could show you the platted tracts but will instead wait to tell that story on another day. Anyhow, it makes big sense that the road originates to the south as a large enclave of the Austin family first settled on the south side of the river where Hwy. 205 crosses Rocky River into Union County.  Also, this stretch of Hwy 205 leaves the river to Oakboro where it follows Main Street northward. There, its present-day name changes to Oak Ridge Road.  Towards the end of the 1800’s, deeds indicate that Hwy 205 followed Oak Ridge Road well north of the present-day town of Red Cross. However, going back further in time, the road was known as “the Ridge Path.”

So, from Red Cross north, there was once the Ridge Path.  And splitting off easterly from Hwy 205 to the south in present-day Oakboro was the Big Lick/Albemarle Road, known today as St. Martin’s Road. However, heading to the northeast a short distance north from the start of St. Martin’s Road is Liberty Hill Church Road, named for the church just up the hill from where the road intersects Hwy 24/27.  Connecting gaps of what is shown in records of olden times, we can see that Austin Road once followed Hwy 205 from Rocky River north through Oakboro where it turned northeast. It may have run north across Red Cross but for sure later followed the path of Liberty Hill Road across Hwy 24/27 to near Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. From there, Austin Road may have followed present day Newsome Road north.

At one time Austin Road passed Pleasant Road Church before intersecting with present-day Austin Road where it continued to the northeast toward New Salem. I think the section of Austin Road west of the intersection of Newsome Road is a relatively new occurrence. And yet, back in the old days there was Motley Road and Tucker Path.  I’ve not yet got those perfectly figured out though they ran through the present-day woods near the intersection of Newsome Road and Austin Road.

Adding one more twist to this twisted roadway kind of story, Newsome Road, being old Austin Road, may have once turned through the woods, crossing Bear Creek to the south of where Austin Road crosses today. From the 1916 soil map, Austin Road could have run the course of Newsome Road much like how it runs today (red line). However, notice the green line. That could have easily once been the run of early Austin Road. Not knowing for sure how it ran, we should keep our minds open to all possibilities. This stuff gets really interesting when maps begin to reveal their iterations of change much akin to what we seek in exploring our families.



Land records are a great tool for putting back together your ancestral history.  In this case, while researching the area where my Burris family lived in Stanly County, mapping efforts put me in contact with John Perry who wrote Governor Zebulon B. Vance pertaining to her husband’s whereabouts during the civil war. In following up from my last post on that subject, I’d like to share with you a bit about John Perry’s loose estate papers recorded 1865-1871. The following land division of his estate clearly locates neighbors and the old “Concord Road.” And looking at the GIS map for Stanly County, the estate land is identifiable in present-day property lines.

Not included in the estate division is Margaret Perry’s dower rights to one-third of the acreage.  Routinely the widow’s third incorporates the “homeplace” …the house and fields nearby where the couple once lived together. Again, in this case, in the loose estate papers, it is evident Margaret petitioned for her right though the papers do not spell out the location. Knowing Margaret is buried just short distance to the north of land to be shown in this writing, I believe that is the location of John and Margaret’s old homeplace.  That is the dower third, being land that once belonged to Margaret’s family.

As follows, the above image of John Perry’s estate division plat is defined below.  Following that is the above division plat overlaid against the present-day GIS map. Notice the run of the present-day Frog-Pond Road in comparison to what was known as the Concord Road back in 1871. Study the neighbors, and where their lands adjoin those once owned by John Perry. Finding this morsel of detail gives us an anchor point which will be used to learn where others lived nearby. Take a look at the estate division:

State of North Carolina Stanly County   March 3rd, 1871.

Pursuant to an order of the Probate Court issued the 28th of Feby., We the undersigned commissioners after being summoned and duly sworn proceeded on the 3rd day of March 1871 to lay off a lot and value the lands of John Perry, dec’d as follows:

First Division Lot No. 1 (red shaded below) – Beginning at a post oak by a small hickory on the side of Concord Road in Silvia Smith’s line and runs with said line So 14 ½ Et 38 chains to her corner red oak, thence So 66 Wt 2 chains and 70 links to a stake by a red oak, thence So 76 Wt 20 chains to a stake in Benjamin Hathcock’s line by post oak, red oak, and pine, thence with his line & passing his corner no 2 ½ Et 43 chains to a stake in Lloyd Hathcock’s line on the side of the Mill Road by 3 red oaks, a corner of Lot No. 2, thence east 9 chains and 60 links to the beginning containing sixty-four acres allotted to Lewis Perry valued at $160 dollars.

Lot No. 2 (yellow shaded below)– Beginning at a stake on the side of Mill Road in Loyd Hathcock’s line, by 3 red oaks a corner of Lot No. 1 and runs with said Hathcock’s line No 2 ½ Et 14 chains to his corner bunch of sourwoods, thence with line again 86 ½ Wt 55 chains and 75 links passing his corner to a stake by 2 post oaks Green D. Whitley’s corner, thence with his line No 3 Et 11 chains and 75 links to a stake in the said line by a red oak and post oak, thence So 85 Et 55 chains and 50 links to a stake in Sandy Dry’s line by 2 red oaks and a post oak, thence with said Dry line So 21 Et 14 chains and 64 links to a stake in the Concord Road by white oak, pine, and sweet gum, thence with Silvia Smith’s line So 14 ½ Et 11 chains and 75 links to a post oak by a small hickory on the side of the Concord Road, a corner of Lot No. 1, thence with the line of said Lot Wt 9 chains and 60 links to the beginning containing 67 acres allotted to Silvia Smith valued at $150-75 cts.

Lot No. 3 (green shaded below) – Beginning at a stake in Sandy Dry’s line by 2 red oaks and post oak, a corner of Lot No. 2 to a stake in Green D. Whitley’s line by a red oak and post oak, thence with said Whitley’s line No 3 Et 14 chains to a stake by a post oak, thence So 87 ½ Et 37 chains and 50 links to a fallen hickory in a field Sandy Dry’s corner, thence with his line So 2 Wt 5 chains and 50 links to his corner maple near a branch, thence with his line again So 79 Et 7 chains and 25 links to his corner stake by 2 pines, thence his line again So 2 Wt 6 chains to his corner dead red oak by 2 hickories, thence his line again So 79 Et 9 chains and 25 links to his corner stake in the Concord Road by 2 post oaks, 2 red oaks, and a black gum, thence his line again So 21 Et 3 chains to the beginning containing 67 acres allotted to Caswell Perry valued at $134 dollars

And we further report that each distribution shown is 148 dollars and 25 cents and that Lewis Perry whose Lot No. valued at $160 dollars pays to Caswell Perry who drew Lot No. 3 valued at one hundred and thirty-four dollars, the sum of eleven dollars and 75 cents, and that Silvia Perry who drew Lot No. 2 valued at one hundred and fifty dollars and 75 cents, the sum of two dollars and 50 cents to make his share equal.

Given under our hands and seal – B. T. Hathcock, J. T. Tucker, Lewis Tucker.



Grave Stone – Margaret Perry

We often think of the civil war in terms of swords, bayonets, and the deadly exchange of lead. It was a man’s time, a period in our history most remembered in terms of valiant military engagements. However, and regardless of whether Union or Confederate, the ravages of war truly found their way home in the form of private thoughts penned by the soldiers, their wives, family, and friends.  For instance, realizing he was on the losing side, and sitting in camp around a fire, my own family member Michael Garmon Love wrote the following to his wife Phoebe:

November 16, 1863

Deare wife I wish that this civil ware wod stope soe that we all cold come home to live with our famles a gain as we Did Be for this ware tuck plase and I am in hopes that we all will be at home til Spring – hit is thought that N. C. will go back in the Union and I hope that she will and that Be fore Spring for I cant help but think that we are on the wrong side.”

Such sharing of thoughts must have played out many times as soldiers came to grip with the realities of war and how history would eventually record their roles. Much more than the sterile documentation appearing in combined military records, such descriptive letters offer a hugely valuable glimpse into the lives of our soldiers. And as for their families and friends, the soldiers were not alone as during the tumultuous years, communities grew vocal. Like those on the fields of war, families and friends expressed their thoughts concerning the war. Whether writing in complaint or support of actions, they did all that was humanly possible to alleviate very real hardships.

About our remembrances of early letter writing, there is a valuable collection of documentation stored at North Carolina State Archives known as the Governor’s Letter Box. Now contained in a large series of document boxes, all the known letters ever received by each and every North Carolina Governor is chronologically preserved for posterity.

Imagine reading your ancestor’s complaint’s about goings-on during the Revolutionary War? Maybe some letters about business and life in the back country? Thoughts were shared pertaining to everything from slavery to marital infidelity.

Covering the period of the Civil War, the largest availability of such letters was those addressed to Governor Zebulon Baird Vance. It was among letters written to him that I discovered the following which was penned by Ms. Margaret Perry. Her return address was identified as Big Lick N. C.

Feb 7th 1863

Dear Govrnor I once more take my pen to address your Excellency concerning my husband which has not returned to his family yet, nor we have heard nothing of him since he was forced off. Dear Governor I can inform you with truth that if he does not return shortly, nothing but starvation, devastation & final ruin to his family will be the consequence. The news was afloat here that he was released but if he would return to his family. Col. Simpson of Stanly County & others say he is in Castle Thunder in Richmond.

According to Stanly County census 1850 – 1860, John Perry would have been 53-55 years of age in 1862. He was well above the 45 years old age limit enacted in September of that year and was even older at that time than the 50 years old limit set in 1864, near the close of war. John Perry may have been conscripted though something else seems to have been in play. Maybe John had been taken away because of some belief he espoused or possibly for something he had done.

Recorded in records as Lieutenant, Col. John Brantley Simpson mustered out in April 1862 at which time his military record includes a resignation letter which simply reads: “I have the honor of tendering my resignation as Lieutenant in “H” Co. 14th N. C.  Troops, unconditionally for good and sufficient reasons.” Recommending that the resignation be accepted, the receiving officer noted: “as I am satisfied that Lieutenant Simpson is mentally incompetent to perform the duties of his office”. From this point I have no thoughts concerning further roles John B. Simpson may have played in the war. However, mentions by him and others that John Perry had been sent to Castle Thunder is seriously noteworthy. Let’s look deeper.

For every warring party there must be a place to quietly dispose of unruly citizens deemed to be spies, political prisoners, or those having been charged with treasonous crimes. For the Confederacy, such people were sent to a prison in Richmond VA known as Castle Thunder (photographed to the left). A brutal place, many sent to Castle Thunder never returned home as they were quickly sentenced to death.

Is it possible that John Perry had committed treason? Well over age, was he wrongly conscripted and lost among the action or was he being held as prisoner at Castle Thunder? Exactly a year later, following the first letter to Governor Vance, Margaret penned the following:

 Marg’t Perry
Feby 7th 1864

Dear Governor I would be very glad if you would give me an Answer & let me know what I may depend on as I have to break up house keeping in a short time if he don’t return. Also receive my kindest repsects due to your excellency for your kindness – yours truly

Margaret Perry

To His Excellency Z. B. Vance

Address – Stanly County
Big Lick P. O

[I have demanded this —– but heard nothing from it – Z. B. V]

So, for more than a year Margaret Perry was living without her aging husband who she suspected from the word of others that he may have been sent to Castle Thunder. From online family histories, it is said that John Perry died ca. 1865 in Stanly County.  Is that true or did he perish from multiple gunshot wounds from a firing squad occurring out of public site behind the fence at Castle Thunder? Had he been hung for actions? Or, did John Perry ultimately return to Stanly County where tradition says he would later die? It seems those are all valid possibilities.

Below are scanned copies of the  two letters written by Margaret Perry:

The war ended in 1864 with all those involved returning to their homes. Looking into the Stanly County loose estate papers, in November 1865, Margaret Perry petitioned the court (below) for her rightful widow’s dower:

North Carolina          Court of Please & Quarter Sessions
Stanly County            November Term 1865

           To the Worshipful, the Justices of said County, the Petition of Margaret Perry would respectfully show that she is the widow of John Perry who died intestate since the last Term of this court leaving your petitioner wholly unprovided for. She shows that he left a personal estate out of which she is entitled to a year’s provision for the support of herself & family & to this end prays your worship to appoint a Justice of the Peace & three freeholders unconnected with the parties to allot & set apart a year’s provision for the support of her self & family out of the crop, stock, & provisions on hand and in case of a deficiency to make up the same in money. ….is bound your petitioners will ever pray & c.


[Committee chosen:G. D. Whitley, B. L. Whitley,
Benjamin Hathcock, Alex’r Dry]

For some reason, John Perry is not identified above as being “deceased,” which was customary used in such writing. However, Margaret states in the petition that her husband died AFTER the last session of court which would have occurred in the spring of 1865.  That statement indicates he was alive in 1865, well beyond Margaret’s February 1864 letter seeking to locate her husband. Leaving you with that bit of information, I’ll begin to close this post realizing multiple scenarios exist that could account for the sequencing of John Perry’s death. The old man could have followed a regiment into battle, coming home at the end of war unaccounted for along side the unit. He could have been held prisoner at Camp Thunder though surviving, was able to later return home. And yet, I’m poised to consider the words of Col. Simpson. He would not have mentioned Castle Thunder unless he knew of reasons supporting the possibility that John Perry may have been sent there.  From the letter there is no doubt that John Perry had done something wrong in the eyes of the Confederacy. He was not a true Johnny Reb, whatever that means. And as for Margaret, it seems her concerns all along were about bringing her husband home, …but her concerns were also about self-preservation.  Whatever was going on, I would love to have a moment to speak with Margaret. Who was she?

Born ca. 1805 to George and Sylvia Bloom Springer, Margaret married John Perry, son of Elijah and Sarah Perry.  John and Margaret acquired numerous tracts of land in the vicinity of present-day Ridgecrest and Austin Roads in Stanly County. Also living nearby were Joshua Burris who married Margaret’s sister Sarah. There were others including members of the George Whitley family. Having platted the area, for me it is an eye-opener seeing the family lands spread out on a map identifying where the folks lived in the early 1800’s. The stories we hear become imaginable like a kid staging war with little plastic army men. More on that later but for now I’ll leave you with the following concerning Margaret Perry’s resting place.

Dated 30 Aug 1834, and recorded 1844 in the newly formed Stanly County, Lewis Springer sold to John Perry fifty acres (Stanly 1-197) located on present-day Ridgecrest road. This is not your normal fifty acres as one line of the little square tract is identified as joining Lot 1. Another line adjoins Lot 4 and yet another joins Lot 5. The deed occurred before the formation of Stanly County though was later registered in the new county.  It references what appears to be an even earlier estate division. Whose?  More too on that later, though I’ll let you know that fitting together those other tracts (1, 4 & 5) as prior mentioned has been a fun exercise during our present pandemic way of life.

A little graveyard is nested within a tree line along Ridgecrest where the gravestones of Margaret Springer Perry and others stand.  The cemetery happens to be located on the 50 acres possibly acquired from Margaret’s parent’s estate. If so, and I hope that soon you’ll help me make that determination, Margaret was laid to rest on her land she likely was awarded as dower following the unusual death story of her husband John Perry. It may also be the land the couple acquired following the death of Margaret’s parents. Margaret’s gravestone is pictured at the top of this post. The resting place of her husband John Perry remains unmarked.

A final thanks to Pam Holbrook, Brenda Combs, and Tammie Rabon Hudson.  Working lots with land records, it is vitally important for me to make contact with those who live in the area and of those who study and know the families involved. I invite the thoughts of anyone related or of those who now live in the area.  This will especially be true pertaining to my next post which will discuss the lands surrounding the Margaret Perry Cemetery. Wow! …what if her parents were buried at that site? What if she and her husband John had received a share of the George Springer estate upon which he was buried? Wouldn’t that be cool?

Margaret Perry Cemetery