a tree-rific journey into family history

Watch Night: reflections on 150 years of freedom

Tomorrow night, December 31, 2012, marks 150 years since Freedom’s Eve was celebrated throughout the American South. Although the last night of 1862 was not the first time someone held a church service until midnight, that particular New Year’s Eve marked a special moment for some 3 million slaves. President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation would go into effect January 1, 1863 and free the enslaved black families of the rebelling Confederate states. Many African-American churches hold Watch Night Services on the last night of the year to worship God and commemorate the New Year’s Eve night their ancestors waited up to see if freedom would come. Although it would be a couple of years until all American slaves were free and more than a century until the black American realized true equality (particularly in the South), January 1, 1863 still stands as perhaps the single most notable day in the African descendants’ struggle for liberty.

As a genealogy hobbyist, I study the records our ancestors left in order to learn their story. For the American slave, few documents exist prior to emancipation. My wife’s relatives – the ancestors of my future children and grandchildren – were held as slaves in Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Some may have attended Watch Night services similar to those still held in our community today. As I reflect on 150 years of freedom for African-Americans, I try to envision those families on Freedom’s Eve. On a long night of great uncertainty and anticipation, these men and women turned to their faith for strength and hope. As with all of our ancestors, I am grateful for the obstacles they endured to provide us with the opportunities of today. I find comfort in hoping that the life we will live in 2013 is the answer to those prayers 150 years ago.


Deadend: stuck on Mamie Rice

Mamie Rice Hawkins Hammons was born in South Carolina in 1876 and died in Conway County, Arkansas in 1947.

Mamie Rice Hawkins Hammons, my wife’s great grandmother, was born in South Carolina in 1876 and died in Conway County, Arkansas in 1947.

I’m stuck. I can’t get past my wife’s great grandmother. Consider this blog post a cry for help or for a fresh set of eyes. Some dead ends in genealogy are understandable. Once we go back far enough or into a different language and country, we expect locating records to become more difficult. In researching my wife’s heritage, I have become stuck on a more recent branch- her great grandmother, Mamie Rice.


Mamie’s hand-written grave is more than either of her husbands received.

There is much that I do know about Mamie Rice. In a previous post, Matthew Hawkins: the man, the multitude, the mystery, I discussed her husband and twelve children. The puzzle for me is Mamie’s parents and childhood.   The earliest record I have for her is the February 25, 1893 marriage to Rev. Matthew Hawkins in Conway County, Arkansas. Her residence is listed as Center Ridge, Arkansas. The family should appear in the same county in the Birdtown/Springfield community in the 1900 census, but they seem to have been missed. Mamie does appear in the 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940 censuses. I also have a marriage record with her second husband, Elford Hammons, in 1924. Mamie died in 1947, and I have a grave and an Arkansas death certificate to back this up. I even have a note from Pence Funeral Home that her casket came from Pine Bluff, but where did she come from?

The oldest record for Mamie is her marriage at age 18.

The earliest record for Mamie is her marriage at age 18.

Mamie consistently lists South Carolina as her birthplace. Her youngest son filled out her death certificate, and he listed unknown for parents’ names. That speaks volumes. Did she not know their names? Or was he simply uninformed? I am confident her maiden name is Rice. She used it on the marriage record, and her kids used it later for delayed birth certificates.  She was born in December of 1876, but I cannot find her on the 1880 census. There is a Mamie Rice around the right age in South Carolina living with Robert and Sarah Rice, but she remains in the area into the 1900s. The 1890 census no longer exists so my next step in 1900. Are there in Rices in Conway County she could be related to? There is a set of African-American Rices in Plumerville, but they are from Tennessee. The only Rice in Lick Mountain Township (Center Ridge, her reported residence at marriage) during this time is Daisy Rice. Born in Arkansas, Daisy lives with her aunt Sophia Rome (a South Carolina native).  Daisy ultimately marries Wade Shell and moves to the Blackwell community. I have done some research on Sophia (1867-1932) and Daisy (born about 1888), but I have not yet found anything tying them back to Mamie Rice. My next step may be to order a death certificate for Sophia and hope her parents’ names will lead me back to some Rices. What say you, seasoned researchers? Anything I may be overlooking? Could her husband have simply created her in 1893 to be his wife?

It takes 4-6 weeks to receive a death certificate from the Arkansas Department of Health. Imagine my disappointment...

It takes 4-6 weeks to receive a death certificate from the Arkansas Department of Health. Imagine my disappointment…

Death and the Family Tree: vital records for irreplaceable people

Genealogy research is usually framed around facts from basic life events such as birth, marriage, childbirth, migration, death, burial, and such.  Lately, I have updated my tree with the worst kind of information: recent death dates. Today, my wife and I attended the funeral service of one of her maternal uncles. A couple of weeks ago, we unexpectedly lost a 22-year-old first cousin to a brain aneurysm  Death is a common theme in genealogy. Our family histories hold numerous soldiers taken in war, women lost in childbearing, and children wiped out by epidemics. Like all deaths, these events drastically affected the lives of those involved and shaped the narrative of our story. Your ancestors died, and as someone supposedly remarked at President Lincoln’s death, they “now belong to the ages.” There is much speculation and discussion regarding what exactly happens after death. For family historians, one thing is certain about death: you need to update your tree.

The good news is that death creates a great paper trail. For example, obituaries are valuable sources for research. They usually list parents, maiden names, children, occupation, religious beliefs, and specific dates in the life of the deceased. Funeral programs serve the same purpose. Death certificates are also great sources for research. A significant part of my work involves Arkansas, which did not begin keeping death certificates until 1914. Although an index is available to the public, the actual certificates are $10 and must be obtained through the Department of Vital Records. Death certificates are usually filled out by someone acquainted with the deceased and include information such as parents, birthplace, birth date, residence, occupation, cause of death, and burial. These answers are subject to the witness’s account but still make a great resource. Social Security Administration also has some detailed records for the deceased.  If an ancestor was a remarkable member of the community or died in some intriguing manner, newspaper accounts will provide valuable information. As I have mentioned before, cemeteries are also rich in history.

After the deaths of kings in the Old Testament, it was often written that he “slept with his fathers.” We will all go the way of our forefathers and mothers some day. Until then, let us learn their stories and share them with future generations.

Lucy Clinkscale Death Certificate

My wife’s first-cousin, twice removed, Lucy Clinkscale, died of consumption (tuberculosis). She was 14 years old and working as a house servant in 1920. She is buried in an unmarked grave in Friendship Cemetery atop Morris Mountain. Without her death certificate, none of this information would be available.

Feeney Death

This card in remembrance of my 4x-great grandfather, Robert Feeney (1812-1895), may have been from his funeral.

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).

The Growing Popularity of Genealogy: why it’s a good thing

I read an article today that confirms what many of us have now suspected for a few years: genealogy has become a mainstream hobby. According to the author, family history is now a billion-dollar industry that is America’s second favorite pastime (behind gardening). I imagine people have always been interested in their heritage, but technology has made this information well within reach. People want to know where they come from and how they got here. This mass interest in family history is good news, right? It depends who you ask.

I’ve heard the cynical mutterings from experienced researchers: “Nowadays, everyone’s a genealogy expert.” The commercials make it seem so simple. Just click a few leaves, and you’re a genealogist. I am taken aback sometimes by the user trees I find where the researcher has little or no sources and seems to have just blindly copied things they found. I am a bit suspicious when someone traces their lineage all the way back to Noah’s Ark in one afternoon. Skilled researchers, please rest assured that your abilities are needed as much as ever before. Here are a few reasons why this new-found popularity is good news for those of us already deeply entrenched in genealogy.

1)      Networking opportunities are at an all-time high. While local genealogical societies and workshops are still useful, mass communication has made sharing your family’s story a global endeavor.  As more and more family historians set up blogs, Twitter accounts, and newsletters, we are able to connect as never before. This can enhance our skill set and give us an appreciative audience.

2)      Professional researchers (and amateurs who don’t mind a little extra cash on the side) should view this as good for business. Growing interest in your field of expertise may bring competition, but it also means more potential clients. Even if people can find some of their story on their own, most will recognize their own limitations.

3)      The more people who contribute to the conversation, the more media and documents become available. The commercial success of genealogy means more records will be digitized and made available. And that random guy who starts a family tree with no analytical skills or understanding of sources may be the same guy who has your great-great-great grandmother’s portrait in a family Bible in his attic. So use caution, but embrace the popularity!

I found these pictures in my great-grandmother’s stuff. The more popular genealogy becomes, the better my chances are of finding out who they are!


Henry Strickland Jr. and Pauline Hardiman: tracing the tracks of a railroad family

Henry Strickland, my wife’s great-grandfather, was born in Arkansas around 1900 to Henry Strickland Sr. and Ora Leverett Strickland. The Stricklands came from Gwinnett County, Georgia, and the Leveretts were from Anderson County, South Carolina. Ora Strickland died when Henry Jr. was a teenager. Henry Sr. worked for the railroad until pneumonia took his life in 1929.  Like many people in Conway County, Henry Jr. tried his hand at farming before he ultimately went to work for the railroad.

Henry Strickland, Jr. and his oldest daughter, Elizabeth “Aunt Sister” Thurman.

Pauline Hardiman was born October 27, 1907 in Plumerville, Arkansas to Rev. Sampson Henry Hardiman and Pauline McFall Hardiman. Her father’s family came from Tate County, Mississippi, and her mother’s family from Greenville County, South Carolina. Pauline Hardiman was born as Pasalogna or Partholona but later took her mother’s name. Most people remember her simply as Grandma Pauz. When Pauline was 13, her mother died, and she married Henry Strickland Jr. a few months later on April 23, 1921. The Conway County marriage record lists her as 18 instead of 13.

Pauline Hardiman Strickland AKA Grandma Pauz

Together, Henry Strickland Jr. and Pauline Hardiman Strickland had seven children: Ollie Bell Strickland (1922-1990), Henry Strickland III (1924-1924), Elizabeth K. Strickland Thurman (1925-2005), Laberta Strickland Jackson (1928-2007), Willie Hamp Strickland (1929-1992), Walter Strickland (abt 1930-abt 1930),  and Earl Strickland (born 1931). Henry’s job with the Missouri Pacific Railroad caused the family to move around. Pauline Strickland later remarked to her grandchildren that they “lived like gypsies.” The family spent significant time in Van Buren, Arkansas before settling in Coffeyville, Kansas in the 1930s. At only 43 years of age, Henry Jr. died of a heat stroke and is interred at Edmonson Cemetery in Plumerville.  Despite being only 35 and having children at home, Grandma Pauz never remarried. I like to imagine she was a strong, independent woman, and that Henry Jr. was simply irreplaceable. City directories show Pauline working as a motel cook a few years following Henry’s death. Some of Henry’s sons would follow in their father and grandfather’s footsteps by working for the railroad.  Pauline Hardiman Strickland died on November 7, 1989 and is interred at Fairview Cemetery in Coffeyville, Kansas.

Henry Jr. and Pauline’s five children who survived infancy: (back row) Earl, Elizabeth, Ollie Bell
(front row) Laberta, Willie Hamp

City Directory for Coffeyville, Kansas in Montgomery County, 1939 (click to enlarge)

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?

Rosie Morris: starting over in Conway County, Arkansas

Rosa Ann Morris, my wife’s great-great grandmother, was born in Georgia in the 1860s to Boston Morris (1832-1895) and Huldey Annie Sloan Morris (1842-1914). I use the phrase “in the 1860s” because her birth year is difficult to pin down. This is typical for ancestors born in times before birth certificates and Social Security records, but Grandma Rosie is especially troublesome.  The following sources suggest various birthdays and illustrate why so many family histories simply give someone’s birth as “about” or “around.”

1862 1930 census
1863 1870 census
Oct 1863 1900 census
1864 1880 census
1865 1910 census
1866 2nd marriage
1867 1920 census
1868 1940 census
Feb 1868 tombstone

Rosie Ann Morris married Ned Freeman on May 13, 1884. He is the father of her firstborn son and possibly her first two daughters. When Rosie Morris chose to join her parents and many of her siblings (Ella Morris Dooley, Francis E. Morris Morris, John B. Morris, Arenda P. Morris Dooley, and Robert Wheeler Morris) in settling at Center Ridge, Arkansas, oral tradition suggests Ned Freeman refused to leave Georgia. Forsaking her husband (possibly while pregnant with her third child), Rosie blazed a trail to Conway County, Arkansas. The families named their new home Morris Mountain. I initially was troubled that her sister, Francis Morris, had married a man named Robert Morris from the same small county in Georgia, but I later realized that these two sets of Morris families who intermarried and founded Morris Mountain both likely took their surname from the same slave-holding family.

Once in Arkansas, Rosa Ann Morris gave birth to her third child and later married Steward Clinkscale on May 15, 1896. Steward already had eight children from his first wife, and within a few years, their brood totaled 14 combined children. Unlike her parents and husband, Rosie was able to read and write. She and Steward were among the early members of Mt. Zion Methodist Church at the foot of Morris Mountain where she served as a stewardess. Rosie lived about 95 years and saw the birth of 20 known grandchildren and several great-grandchildren. She died January 21, 1958 and is interred at the Mt. Zion Methodist Church with three of her children. One can only imagine how different things would have been had she stayed in Georgia with Ned Freeman.

Below are pictures of Rose Anna Morris Clinkscale’s six children. I am still searching for one of Grandma Rosie herself!

Carrie B. Morris (1883-1954) married Thomas Andrew “Swilin” Dooley (1880-1978). Her name is pronounced “car,” not “care.”

James Paul Morris (1886-1965) married Alice Hawkins (1896-1988) and fathered four known children.

Myrtis Morris (1892-1926) married Dock Lee Clinkscale (1882-1931) and is my wife’s great-grandmother. She had six children and died from childbirth complications.

Classia Clinkscale (1898-1974) married Burnish B. Brockman (1895-1949) and had six children.

William Boston Clinkscale (1900-1980) married Ora Dean Gilreath-Dunbar (1907-1990).  Uncle Boss had four children.

Theodore Roosevelt Clinkscale (1902-1985) married Isabella Payne Johnson (1905-1997).

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