a tree-rific journey into family history

Archive for the category “My Kin”

Rebels and Relics: a southern genealogist ponders Confederate monuments

If you’ve been anywhere near a television or internet connection lately, you’ve likely heard the debate regarding the removal of Confederate monuments.

Many see these tributes as a reminder or even a celebration of our nation’s long and lingering history of racism. Others argue that destroying these statues or even moving them to museums is historical erasure and dishonors the legacy of the men those statues represent. The loud and violent presence of white supremacists hasn’t helped the cause. Somewhere in the banter is a disconnect between those who see this as just a small part of daily, systemic American racism and those who assume racial injustice died out around 1863, 1954, or 2008.

Let me say up front: I am sensitive to the issues of historical erasure and accuracy. Holding a degree in history and political science – from a southern university, to boot – and spending countless hours and unspeakable dollars researching my own family history, I am a firm believer in learning about and sharing stories from our past. Like any good scholar, I frequently bemoan the inattention given to vetting and citing sources in the Information/Fake News/Meme Age. And whether it’s statues, buildings, or people, I just generally like old stuff. So, I had some initial apprehension about removing these historical landmarks.

Early into my digging, I quickly discovered that the majority of these monuments did not go up in the generation of the Civil War. General Robert E. Lee, the recipient of many such memorials, was himself against such celebration and its detriment to the country. Basically, he wanted everyone to move on. It was a generation or two later, during Jim Crow segregation and violence, that many people – especially in the South – began erecting memorials to the Confederacy.

The Lost Cause revision of history romanticized the antebellum South and its rebellion while painting its participants as sympathetic, tragic figures. This focus gave white southerners a sense of identity, closure for their forefathers’ actions, and validation for their heirloom prejudices. It was decades after the war, during the propagating of this new Confederate sentimentalism and the legalization of Jim Crow in the South, that many of the memorials in question were built.

Of course, the Confederate monuments go beyond statues and include state holidays and names of cities and counties, public streets, and public schools. (My own state only split up a joint holiday between Robert E. Lee and Martin Luther King, Jr. in early 2017.) Unfortunately, this spinning of the American Civil War and insistence of glorifying the Confederate rebels led to generations of misinformation. In fact, one can easily find people today who genuinely believe the Civil War wasn’t really about slavery, and no amount of sharing secession speeches or soldier letters seems to change their minds.

While there were many complex factors leading the the Civil War, each essentially tied back into slavery. Which brings us back to the issue of whether removing tributes to the Confederacy is retelling or reinterpreting history. If anything, it appears to challenge the previous revision. The wish of those who want monuments removed and streets renamed does not seem to be to erase Confederate history but rather to tell an accurate and inclusive story. Whatever educational value these statues possess will still exist if they are moved to a museum, and people would be better served learning history from a variety of sources (such as books and primary artifacts) rather than statues built decades later to impress or intimidate.

But what of the desire to publicly celebrate and honor our ancestors? Like anyone else, my own ancestors have their stories woven into the story of their nation. My heritage includes people on both sides of the American Revolution, multiple Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, a member of the Ku Klux Klan, an entire branch who didn’t come to the U.S. until fifty years after the Civil War, and an old white lady who taught summer school at the segregated, black school because she believed everyone deserved an education (and she needed the money).

My wife’s family history includes people who were taken from their homeland and enslaved for generations. One literally fought for freedom as a soldier for the Union. Another was lynched in my wife’s hometown. They attended segregated and unequal schools. They endured harassment from fellow citizens and from the police.

As a genealogy enthusiast and family historian, I am convinced there is value in knowing the stories of our ancestors, but most genealogists I know will readily admit they don’t agree with or approve of everything their great-great-grandparents did and thought. How could we? Often, the rascals in our lineage have the most interesting stories in their dossiers. But I will not celebrate their bad deeds.

In my tree, I have killers and adulterers. The pictures of our ancestors that adorn the walls in our home include a Confederate colonel and a Klansman, both of whom I directly descend from. I’m celebrating my Confederate ancestor as one of my forefathers; I’m not celebrating the fact that he took up arms against his country – my country – to defend the South’s right to own other human beings who they considered inferior.

This is quite different than a statue in a park, courtyard, or city square dedicated to someone whose notoriety is based solely on his fighting against the United States in order to maintain the privilege of owning other people. I wouldn’t want my kids attending Robert E. Lee Elementary School any more than I’d want them to attend Dylann Roof Middle School or Joseph Goebbels High School. I suppose private citizens can honor Osama Bin Laden or Jack the Ripper in their own homes, but I do not think the government should endorse such characters.

My passion for history implores me to know and tell the stories of the past. But my knowledge of both the past and present prevents me from celebrating someone based on their willingness to take up arms against our country to preserve their ownership and assumed superiority of another race.

If only this sudden fervor for history included preserving endangered cemeteries and sacred sites for indigenous peoples, investing in historical and cultural programs, and increasing exposure to inclusive and accurate information.

Confederate Memorial, Haywood County, Tennessee

This 1909 memorial outside the Brownsville, Tennessee courthouse honors locals who died fighting for the Confederacy. My wife’s great-grandfather was born into slavery in this county. There is no mention of the Union soldier who enlisted from the area. (Credit:




Wiley Thomas Childers: a confusing Confederate

Wiley Thomas Childers

One of my two pictures of Wiley Thomas Childers. This photo was uploaded to by user ChadWalker67, who also has some awesome family Bible photos of the Childers family.

Like many Americans, I had ancestors fighting on both sides of the Civil War (and Revolutionary War, but that’s another story). One of my Confederates was Wiley Thomas Childers (1847-1901). My great-great-great grandfather appears in Alabama on US census records in Talladega, Marshall, Clay, and Morgan counties between 1850 and 1900. He and his second wife, Nancy Susan Windsor (1857-1939), left Morgan County and moved to Texas in December 1900. lists a WT Children who served in Hardie’s Reserve Calvary, a unit which saw action in Georgia and Alabama (including Talladega) from 1864-1865. So I assumed this was my ancestor’s war record… until I saw the Widow’s Application for Confederate Pension that Nancy filled out!

Pension records are great sources of information!

Pension records are great sources of information!

“He enlisted as a Private in Company H, 53rd, Regiment Georgia Infantry May 5, 1862 at Zebulon, Ga. Was taken prison Dec 3, 1863 Near Knoxville Tenn, imprisoned at Rock Island Baracks, Rock Island Ill. Released June 17, 1865.”

53rd Regiment of Georgia Infantry?? Prisoner at Rock Island from 1863-1865?? My ancestors are awesome, but they cannot be in two places at once. There must be some bad information somewhere. This new guy sounds more exciting, and I would hope his  own widow would know the correct information when she applied. The most logical explanation would be two guys with the same name serving in the war. I found a new Wiley T. Childers who lived in Pike County, Georgia (where the 53rd was formed). It appears that either my ancestor just happened to enroll 120 miles from home where another Wiley T. Childers lived, or my ancestor’s wife unintentionally(?) used the Confederate service record for the wrong Wiley Thomas Childers when she applied in 1932. Either way, I have some more research to do!

Isaac Van “Dock” Brown and Caledonia Jones: Happy 142nd Anniversary!

Happy 142nd anniversary to my great-great-great grandparents, Isaac Van Brown and Caledonia Jones!


Isaac Van Brown was born September 18, 1847 in Alabama to James Brown and Morelda Zurilla Wilson.


Caledonia Jones was born in Morgan County Alabama in 1853 to Solomon P. Jones and Paralee Jennings. Isaac (known as Dock) and Caledonia married on June 1, 1871 in Morgan County, Alabama.


Together, they had ten children. After Caledonia’s death in 1891, Dock purchased 158 acres of land at Brown’s Point. He was a farmer and dealer in herbal medicine.  Each of their ten children remained in the area, and a large remnant can be found there today. Isaac and Caledonia are interred at Old New Canaan Cemetery.


The Importance of Oral Histories in Genealogy and Family History: give grandma a call

One of the most enjoyable and important aspects of family history is collecting stories from family members. For many, these stories are what initially interested us in family history.  Genealogies tend to focus on names and dates, but oral traditions add flesh to the skeleton. Parts of the stories can be verified or disproved with thorough research. Even the unconfirmed aspects can still make awesome writing.

I have heard a few genealogists use the quotation: “Every time an old person dies, a library burns to the ground.” In other words, there is a vast amount of unique and important information in each old person (and even young ones). For example, my wife’s grandmother will be 94 years old this year and has been in the same community her entire life. She can recall people and events that possibly no other living person can. We should get everything we can from these sources.

Of course, the actual interviewing is not always easy. I suggest doing your homework first, and if possible, give the person some time to prepare for your conversation. Still, some of the best recollections come in casual, impromptu chatting. Sometimes a natural, unforced conversation is more productive. Try to guide the discussion without leading it too much. Or just shut up and listen. The key is not being afraid to ask questions. Write letters. Ask for pictures. Call distant relatives. E-mail other researchers. You’ll never find this stuff is you do not seek it.

When my grandmother was young, her grandmother (my great-great grandmother pictured below) told her a story about her own grandfather (my 4x great pictured below). Since my grandmother shared this story with me last year, the story has now spanned seven generations in only two conversations. James Goodloe Woods (1823-1895) was a Primitive Baptist minister who practiced and preached abstinence from alcohol consumption. When Elder Woods became very ill, he was forced to consume alcohol to medicate his pain (the story does not mention it, but they actually lived near the Jack Daniels Distillery). Rather than live in hypocrisy or alter his beliefs, Elder Woods resigned from the ministry until he recovered from the illness (at which time I assume he traded the bottle back in for a Bible). I doubt any historical record exists that could have provided these details. This interesting, amusing, and revealing story survives today because people listened to their grandmothers.

He practiced what he preached, and when he did not practice it, he did not preach.

He practiced what he preached, and when he did not practice it, he did not preach.

Other stories about my great-great grandmother, Pearle F. Woods Holman (1879-1975) include her bragging about never washing a single dish and also one where her steering wheel disconnected. She just pretended to keep driving rather than admit the error. I don't think cars went very fast then anyway...

Other stories about my great-great grandmother, Pearle F. Woods Holman (1879-1975), include her bragging about never washing a single dish in her entire life and also one where her steering wheel disconnected. She just pretended to keep driving rather than admit the error. I don’t think cars went very fast back then anyway…

The Agony and Mystique of Unknown Photographs: awesome old pictures included!

Pictures are one of the most exciting and sentimental parts of family history.  An old photograph or sketch of an ancestor can bring to life their time period and their humanity. Unfortunately, many of these treasured documents fail to tell us who we are looking at. Although I appreciate the mysteriousness of an unknown or unidentified picture, I would much rather know how I am connected to the subject. The most obvious hint comes from the photo’s source. You can gather some clues about the potential identity if you know who the photo once belonged to. In older photos, the names of the photographers and their city may be printed on the back. You may even think you recognize features that relate to known images. Unfortunately, none of these are absolute or anything more than educated guesses. In genealogy, we try to base our conclusions on more than just good guesses.

Below are samples from two batches of unknown photos. The first batch came from my great-great grandmother, Pearle Feeney Woods Holman (1879-1975). When she passed at 95 years of age, she left behind about 60 wonderful old family photos. The newest pictures appear to be the 1930s. The older items went back to the old daguerreotype prints of the 1800s. The only labels were for her father and for the family dog. Within a few years of her death, her only child and her remaining sisters passed away. By the time I began doing family tree research, there was no one left to identify these relatives. A couple of photos involving young girls were printed in Seattle which suggests they are of her sister’s family. The rest are a mystery. I assume the unknown pictures belong to either her family or her husband’s. Based on their parents’ names, these pictures are likely from the Feeney, Holman, Landess, and Woods families of Lincoln County, Tennessee. I sent copies to a genealogy society in the area, but no one was able to identify my people.

The second group of photographs recently came to me from my wife’s third cousin via his daughter in law on Simply put, this man’s great grandmother and my wife’s great grandfather were siblings. Unfortunately, their branch left rural Conway County, Arkansas for the bright lights of Kansas City some 70 or so years ago. The twenty or so unidentified pictures came down through his mother, Cora Lee Govan Hayes (1926-1986). He seems certain the pictures are from his mother’s Arkansas roots. Her grandparents belonged to the Brockman, Clinkscale, Govan, and Tyus families of Center Ridge, Arkansas. Although there are some older people left in the community who remember Cora Govan’s parents and grandparents, their eyes and minds are not what they used to be. What a great reminder of the importance of labeling old photographs…

Maybe someday we will know the identities of these family members!

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The Woods Family Bible: a rare glimpse into the longings of the long-gone

As my dry skin and chilly toes remind me, we are well into the winter months now. I enjoy the uniqueness of each season, but my mind is already anticipating a romanticized version of springtime. According to a drawing in an old Bible, I’m not the first person in my family tree to daydream of a little cabin by a river in the woods.

Woods Bible

The Woods Family Bible

An old family Bible can be a family historian’s dream come true. I know other researchers have hit the genealogy jackpot with loads of family history recorded on the old brown pages of such an heirloom. I suspect the Woods family Bible comes from the late 1870s so you can imagine my excitement when I first opened its pages.


Notice the Bible is engraved for Mr. and Mrs. W.E. Woods. This is the mister.

Unfortunately my 3x great grandparents, William Ed Woods (1851-1889) and Belle Feeney Woods (1854-1943), of Lincoln County, Tennessee did not take the time to record their history therein. Someone included several old pictures in the back without any labels. William Ed Woods’s father, James Goodloe Woods, was a minister in the Primitive Baptist Church.  Their daughter, Pearle Feeney Woods Holman (1875-1975), held the Bible for years but also failed to label the pictures or record any data about our heritage. Although I was impressed by the photographs and name engraving on the cover, I found the best artifact folded up inside the crumbling pages.

I wonder if it still exists. Or if it ever did...

Drawings were a bit different before computers…

The writing below the sketch reads “Spring House, River + Bridge from Up Riverside.” I can’t make out the initials and have no idea if this spring home even existed, but a chilly night like tonight has me longing to cross that little wooden bridge to my springtime cabin in the woods…

The Savory Branch in Plymouth Colony Court Records: drunk under an hedge in an uncivil and beastly manner

Just in time for Thanksgiving, I recently did some work on a branch of my tree which settled at Plymouth Colony. Thomas Savory (1617-1676) arrived from Wiltshire, England during The Great Migration and married Ann. She may have been an Eddy or a Rogers, depending on whose account you are reading. When researching ancestors in the last century or two, there is usually a decent amount of records available. When I find myself in the 1500s or 1600s, I am at the mercy of many semi-sourced accounts. Fortunately, this ancestor came from an English-speaking nation with many records and settled into a heavily-documented region. Not all branches are so easy. I can trace colonial American branches with some confidence by relying on local histories, court records, and church records from their original country. The courts had a lot to say about my 10x great-grandparents, Thomas and Ann Savory! Although I did not travel to Massachusetts to read these summaries of court records, I found several excerpts online. For now, I must assume their authenticity. In addition to land transactions and a will, I also found the following juicy stories:

The court records included Thomas and Ann Savory legally giving two of their young children to other couples to educate and train them. At first, I assumed this was an indication of poverty, but a little reading online indicated that this was actually common at Plymouth. This ensured the child literacy, job skills, and religious education. Today, I would have difficulty turning my five year old son over to a local carpenter, but this was a different world.

In 1652, the court appointed Thomas Savory to serve as undermarshall. He held the post until 1670 when he was terminated for “having been found several times unfaithful in the performance of his said office.” He was reinstated a month later. Thomas Savory was arrested more than once for drunkenness, and the jury recommended a whipping in one incident. Ann Savory was once fined for being drunk on the Sabbath instead of attending church. She was even with a man named Thomas Lucas. A commentator wrote that he was essentially the town drunk, and that the wording here does not suggest adultery. I’ll let you decide:

“Ann, the wife of Thomas Savory, was presented before the Court to answer for being at home on the Lord’s day with Thomas Lucas at unreasonable time, viz:, in the time of public exercise in the worship of God, and for being found drunk at the same time under an hedge, in uncivil and beastly manner, was sentenced by the Court as followeth, viz: for her accompanying of the said Lucas at an unreasonable time as aforesaid, she was sentenced to sit in the stocks during the pleasure of the Court, which accordingly was performed and executed; and for her being found drunk as aforesaid, fined five shillings; and for prophaning the Lord’s day, fined ten shillings, according to the laws in such cases provided.”

Drunk under an hedge in an uncivil and beastly manner? Sit in the stocks? Apparently the Puritans were not as pure and stuffy as I first thought…

“Yankee Jim” Brown: my outlaw ancestor

James B. Brown, my 4x great-grandfather, married Morelda (sometimes Zurilla) Wilson in Morgan County, Alabama in 1846. They had five known children: Isaac Van “Dock” Brown, Sarah Ann Brown Graves, Lena Jane Brown, James H. Brown, and Mary Brown. Another family historian recorded that in the Civil War, Yankee Jim was a neutralist. He lived at Brown’s Point located on Brindlee Mountain in Alabama. The Union troops ravished the countryside, but they spared James Brown’s whiskey distillery. After the war, he moved to Marshall County before dying at his daughter’s residence in Cullman County in his mid-late 90s.

In April 1906, James B. Brown lay on his deathbed in Cullman County, Alabama. As oral tradition has it, the nearly 100-year-old whiskey distiller left his sons with one last shocking revelation:  he came to Alabama some 70 years before to escape the law. He was the sole survivor in a shootout with the law that resulted from an illegal counterfeiting ring (perhaps in his home state of Pennsylvania). He rode south to Alabama where he assumed the name James Brown. Apparently, his deathbed confession did not include his real identity.  He was known as Yankee Jim because of his accent although other accounts record him as nicknamed Dago (an ethnic slur for Italian descendants). In census records, he lists his mother as a New Yorker and his father from New York or Wales. The lack of solid information regarding Jim’s real identity or his crimes has made this a brick wall in my research. So if you know if any Pennsylvania counterfeiting shootouts, please leave a comment.

Morgan County, Alabama marriage record for James B. Brown and Morelda Wilson dated July 24, 1846. Her name is sometimes given as Zurilla or Sarillda.




Isaac Van “Dock” Brown (1847-1919), the son of a secretive scoundrel, is pictured here with his wife Caledonia Jones (1853-1891).

Unhappy Endings: researching your tree may require tissues

Family history is often uplifting, motivating, and inspiring. We tend to view our ancestors’ stories as triumphant, rags-to-riches, beating the odds success stories. We are impressed with their ability to seemingly overcome all sorts of harsh adversity to pave the way for us. Unfortunately, not every story in the tree has a happy ending. Some are just downright depressing.

While I am sure most of our ancestors led reasonably happy lives, I am always taken aback at the poverty, infant-mortality rates, short life spans, abuse, and tragic deaths that seem commonplace just a few generations ago. The hardships that the average person endured were very different than the world I live in. While their lives were simpler (my 5x great-grandmother did not have to memorize twenty log-in passwords or worry about her caloric intake), these predecessors dealt with hard realities. Knowing their plight helps us understand the remarkable triumphs in our tree and helps us appreciate some parts of modern life. Here are a few stories:

1) Myrtle Woods, my first cousin 4x removed, was born in 1892 in Lincoln County, Tennessee. Her grandfather, James Goodloe Woods, is my 4x great-grandfather. Myrtle’s mother, Mattie Nevels Woods, died shortly after Myrtle’s birth. Myrtle married Matthew Rowzee when she was fifteen years old. Her only child, Margaret, was born in 1909. Myrtle died at age 18 of tuberculosis, and her daughter died the following year around her second birthday.

Tennessee death record for Myrtle Woods Rowzee

2) Tabitha C. Hill is the sister of the 4x great grandmother of my wife’s double 1st cousin once removed. A daughter of Milton and Mariah Hill, she married A.F. Inman around age 13 on September 18, 1890 in Perry County, Arkansas. Ten years later, in the 1900 census, she is a widow working as a servant in someone’s house. She is 22 years old and has lost a husband and four children. The trail runs cold after 1900. In a nearby county, a Tabitha Hill (not Inman) marries in 1904. The groom is widowed by 1910.

3) Benjamin Cohee (1843-1903) of Clinton County, Indiana is my first cousin 5x removed. His father and my 4x great-grandmother were half-siblings. He served in the Civil War and fathered nine children with his first wife, Elma Hoover (1850-1898). He later married Lizzie Hurst and committed suicide a few months later. I imagine his war service, the loss of his wife, and his own infirmity led to his decision to end his life. Although suicide is not an indicator of a tragic life, it does suggest an unhappy finish. The Frankfort Banner ran a lengthy article on his death.

PLANNED HIS OWN DEATH: BENJAMIN F. COHEE SOUGHT RELIEF FROM PHYSICAL SUFFERING. Appalling Early Morning Discovery By Members of His Family-Tragic Close of a Well Spent Life.

The self-inflicted death of Benjamin F. Cohee, the splendid citizen and prosperous dry goods merchant, which occurred Sunday morning, was a crushing blow to his family and a decided shock to the entire community in which he has been so long and favorably known. Although he planned the taking of his life with a deliberation and caution such as a sane person would be expected to make use of, the fact that he had been in ill health for a considerable time, suffering from a malady that affected his brain, working disastrously upon his nerves and causing him to suffer the horrors of insomnia, it is but reasonable to suppose that the rash resolve was taken and executed at a period of acute mental derangement, or to end the sufferings which would not yield to treatment.

He arose about 7 o’clock Sunday morning and despite the fact he had not rested well during the night seemed to be in fairly good spirits. Mrs. Cohee, who is suffering from an affection of the ear, and who also had a wakeful night, was advised by Mr. Cohee to remain abed a few hours longer in the hope that she might get much needed sleep, he remarking that he would replenish the fire and get the house warmed up before calling other members of the family. The indications go to show that he very soon afterwards formed and carried out the resolve to put an end to his life.

Being unable to sleep, Mrs. Cohee arose shortly after the conversation had with her husband and in the course of time noted his absence from the house. She looked into all the rooms where he might likely be and inspected the out premises, but could discover no trace of him. Thinking that perhaps he might have gone to the home of one of his sons she telephoned to Bret Cohee and learned that he had not been there. The son seemed intuitively divine that all was not well with his father and hastened to the Main street homestead. He also made a through search of the house and grounds with no better success, until his attention was attracted to a door in an addition on the northwest corner of the house and which he found to be fastened, apparently from the inside. There are two apartments in this addition, one used as a store room, the other for a wood house. It was the door leading to the latter that was secured. After repeated efforts Mr. Cohee succeeded in forcing this door open to be met with the appalling sight of his father’s body suspended by a cord from an overhead beam. A step ladder which was resting against the wall told too plainly the means employed for carrying out the dreadful design. A cord such as used for suspending window weights, had been tied around the beam and the distance properly measured to prevent his feet from touching the ground. The door had been fastened by a stake which was securely driven into the ground.

When discovered the body was still warm, and hoping that there might be a spark of life remaining Mr. Cohee with assistance released his unfortunate father and carried him into the house and summoned a physician. Every effort was made to resuscitate him, but without avail. The cruel cord had done its work effectually. It was about 9 o’clock when the discovery was made, indicating that considerable time had elapsed between the performance of the deed and the hour that Mr. Cohee arose. Corner Brown came about ten o’clock and viewed the body, being in the county attending a patient when first summoned, and gave permission for its preparation for burial.

Mr. Cohee had been an invalid for several weeks and during the early stages of his illness was in a critical condition for several days. He suffered terribly from some ailment of the nerves and muscles of the back and neck which affected the brain. Superinduced by this affliction, he was a slave to that dread foe of health, insomnia. It had been noted, however, that he seemed much improved during recent days and the family had urged him to take a trip south, which he was considering, it being thought that a change of climate and relaxation from business cares would prove beneficial. Saturday he was quite cheerful and complained less than usual which was taken to be an encouraging sign and the family was wholly unprepared for the crushing sorrow which fell upon the hitherto happy household Sunday morning. The funeral was held from the residence, 358 South Main street, Wednesday morning at 10 o’clock. The services will be conducted by Presiding Elder C. A. Brooke and Rev. H. G. Ogden, pastor of the Methodist church. Internment at Bunnell cemetery.

Benjamin F. Cohee was a son of Mr. and Mrs. Jonathon Cohee and was born in Rush county, Indiana, Sept. 28, 1843. He grew to manhood on a farm and when the call was made for soldiers to suppress the rebellion he enlisted as a private in Co. D, 68th Ind. Vol. Inft., serving three years. At the close of the war, his father having located in Frankfort, Mr. Cohee came here and took a clerkship in the store then operated by his father and Wilson Cohee, an uncle of the deceased. In 1867 his uncle retired and the deceased became a partner in the business which then as now was situated on the southwest corner of the square. After the death of his father he was in partnership with his brother, W. H. Cohee, for a time, later acquiring full ownership of the prosperous business. As his sons grew to manhood they were admitted to partnership in the business and for many years the firm has been styled B. F. Cohee & Sons. He was one of the most familiar men of the county and the store which he helped to establish has grown to metropolitan proportions and is a monument to his thrift, enterprise and sterling character as a citizen and business man. On Sept. 20, 1868 occurred his marriage to Miss Elma Hoover, whose death occurred about six years ago. Nine children were born to this union, two dying in infancy, a third, Katie Cohee, passing away after the death of her mother. The surviving children are Albert B., Edgar M., Walter B., Rolland F., Edith and Velma. He is also survived by two sisters and one brother, Mrs. John W. Newhouse, Mrs. James F. Hoath and W. H. Cohee. Sept. 17, 1902, he was married to Mrs. Lizzie A. Hurst, at Elwood, Ind., who survives.

He was for a number of years a member of the city council and since the operation of the new reform law had been a member of the county council, having been re-elected at the last election. Mr. Cohee was not a member of any secret fraternity but belonged to the Methodist church and contributed liberally of his means to the support of that denomination. He was a man of spotless character, honest and just in his relations to his fellow man and true to his obligations as a citizen. It was in his home life, however, that his character shone in its brightest splendor. No man loved his home more than he and his thoughts were always for his children. In return for his parental regard they gave measure for measure in filial respect and esteem, loving their own firesides but never losing their love for the hearthstone of the family homestead.


The list of unhappy endings could go on and on. For information on one particularly ill-fated branch, read A Cougar and Her Cubs: the children of Martha Altic Aitkens.  I hope this post has not been too depressing!

Elder James Goodloe Woods: busy with business

James Goodloe Woods, my great-great-great-great grandfather, was born February 1, 1823 in Franklin County, Tennessee to William C. Woods (1776-1840) and Mary Harris Woods (1782-1838). His father was a large landowner of Scotch-Irish descent who ministered in the Primitive Baptist Church. James Goodloe Woods was a grandson of Archibald Woods (1749-1836), a Revolutionary War soldier and settler of Boonesborough, Kentucky alongside Daniel Boone.

James Goodloe Woods married Susan J. Boyce (1824-1865) on November 30, 1843, and they soon moved to Fayetteville, Tennessee. Six children were born to this union: James H.C. Woods, William Ed Woods, Joseph Goodloe Woods, Mary Ann Woods, Martha E. Woods Fleming, and Archibald M. Woods. After his wife’s death, James Goodloe Woods married Louisiana S. Webb (1824-1905). What I find most intriguing about James Goodloe Woods are his many business ventures and occupations. Like his father, James Goodloe Woods was a minister in the Primitive Baptist Church, a member of the Masonic Fraternity, and a farmer. He partnered with James H. Cobb to operate a saddlery, tanning, and harness business. They also bought and shipped produce. They built the first livery and feed stable in Fayetteville. Elder James Goodloe Woods also served as justice of the peace and constable before opening his own law office. He was director and president of the Winchester & Alabama Railroad. According to his granddaughter’s obituary, this was the first railroad in Central Tennessee. He also served as director and president for the First National Bank for many years. Elder Woods died October 19, 1895 and is interred at Rose Hill Cemetery in Fayetteville, Tennessee.

William Ed Woods (1851-1889) is my great-great-great grandfather and a son of James Goodloe Woods. He and his wife Belle Feeney Woods (1854-1943) had five daughters.

Can you read the writing at the bottom of James Goodloe Woods’s grave?

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