Margaret N. Clarkson/Claxton (1851-1920), Baptist Church Founder, 52 Ancestors #39

Is Margaret’s surname Claxton, Claxson, Clarkson or Clarkston?  I know one thing for sure, it’s pronounced like Claxton in Claiborne and Hancock County, Tennessee.  There’s no debate about how to say it, only how to spell it.

It’s typically spelled Clarkson, today, but historically I believe the name was Claxton, for two reasons.  First, James Lee Claxton/Clarkson’s widow, Margaret’s great-grandmother, applied for a pension due to James Lee Clarkson’s death in the War of 1812.  After denial, she reapplied and said he was sometimes known as James Lee Claxton which was, in fact, how his records were recorded.

Y DNA testing of his male descendants finds that the Claxton/Clarkson line matches several other Claxton men, so the original surname appears to be Claxton – but it can be, and was, spelled various ways and today is typically Clarkson in Hancock County, Tennessee where the family has lived for generations.  We’ll refer to Margaret with her Clarkson surname.

Margaret N. Clarkson was born to Samuel Clarkson and Elizabeth “Bettie” Ann Speaks on July 28, 1851 on the old home place in Hancock County, Tennessee.  We don’t know what her middle initial, N., stood for.

The Clarkson land bordered the north side of Powell River on River Road.

powell river

These next photos are standing on the McDowell family land looking towards the Clarkson land.  This is a panoramic series from left to right.

clarkson1

clarkson2

clarkson3

The Clarkson land is shown in this hand drawn map of the Parkey survey.

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I found this land some years ago during a visit and plotted it on a current map.

bolton9

It was here, on the land her ancestors had owned for three generations that Margaret was born.  The farmyard is shown below.  The original house is gone but was probably in this clearing.

clarkson land

The 1860 census shows Margaret, age 8, living with her family in the Alanthus Hill section of Hancock County.  The surname is spelled Claxton.

samuel clarkson 1860 census

Margaret’s life changed dramatically when she was about 11 years old, when the Civil War broke out and Tennessee became involved.  On the night of March 30, 1863, her father, Samuel Clarkson, under cover of darkness, left home and crossed the mountains into Kentucky to enlist in the Union Army.  Did she know he was leaving?  Did the family gather to say a tearful goodbye?  Margaret would have been just 4 months shy of 12 years old.

In addition, Margaret’s first cousin, Fernando Clarkson served in the Union forces as did her uncle, Henry Clarkson who died in the service of his country February 2, 1864.  William Clarkson, another first cousin died  at Camp Dennison, Ohio on May 4th, 1863 and a John Clarkson, relationship if any, unknown, who enlisted the same day as William died on March 22nd, 1863 at Nashville.  The Clarkson family paid a heavy price, all fighting for the Union.  It had to be a sad and frightening time, especially for a little girl.

Margaret’s father, Samuel served for 2 years and 2 months, but became very sick with pneumonia and bronchitis.  He nearly died, and was dismissed in May 1865 when it appeared he would not recover.  Samuel returned home, but his service records show that he was ill for the duration of his life and died of bronchitis or pneumonia resulting from his Civil War service in 1876.  He was never physically able to support his family following the war and the family struggled, along with Samuel’s elderly parents and children, to maintain the family farm.

In September 1868, Samuel Clarkson was excluded from Rob Camp church for getting drunk and not being willing to make acknowledgement.  In other words, he refused to fess up and apologize publicly.  However, his family is still clearly very closely associated with the church, because his wife, mother and father, along with his daughter, Margaret, are all on a list of people who were dismissed from Rob Camp church in 1869 for the purpose of forming Mt. Zion Church.

After Samuel’s death in 1876, his widow applied for a pension.  As part of that process, several people gave depositions.

On December 8, 1879 Nancy A. Snavely aged 42 years of Alanthus Hill, Hancock Co., TN appeared as did Margaret Bolton, age 28, also of Alanthus Hills and said: “We was both present when Mary W. Clarkson, daughter of Samuel and Elizabeth Clarkson, was born on the 18th day of May 1872.  Both women signed.

margreat bolton signature2

Margaret Bolton was Margaret Claxton, the oldest child of Samuel Claxton.   Nancy Claxton, daughter of Fairwick Claxton, married James Snavely and was Samuel Claxton’s aunt.

Calvin Wolfe declared exactly the same thing. Calvin was married to Rebecca Claxton, Samuel Claxton’s aunt.  Tandy Welch was married to Mary Claxton, also Samuel’s aunt.  Sarah Claxton married Robert Shiflet and was also Samuel’s aunt.

So, we know where Margaret’s parents were married and that the wedding was well attended by aunts and uncles.  We also know that Margaret Clarkson attended the birth of her younger sister.

The 1870 census misspells the surname as Caxton, even though living next door is Fairwik Claxton, Margaret’s grandfather.

samuel clarkson 1870 census

In or about 1873, Margaret married Joseph B. “Dode” Bolton, the son of a family who attended the same church that her family did, according to Mount Zion Baptist Church records.  The Bolton family was also near neighbors on Powell River.

Their first child, Ollie, my grandmother, was born on May 5th, 1874 and in June of 1876, their first son, Charles Tipton Bolton was born.

On December 5, 1876, with two small children on a cold, bleak day, Margaret buried her father, Samuel (not Saluel, no matter what the headstone says) Clarkson, here in the Clarkson family cemetery, beside her grandparents and in all likelihood, her great-grandparents as well, although their graves are unmarked.  We know that Nancy Workman Muncy, Margaret’s great-grandmother, in the 1860 census, at age 99, was living with her daughter and husband, Agnes Muncy Clarkson and Fairwick Clarkson, so she is assuredly buried here as well as Fairwick’s mother, Sarah Cook Clarkson who died in 1863.

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Margaret would have stood in this cemetery two years earlier too, probably beside this exact same barn, in February 1874, heavily pregnant with my grandmother Ollie when her grandfather, Fairwix Clarkson died and was buried here.  The cemetery is called the Cavin Cemetery today, but it’s really the original Clarkson cemetery.

Clarkson Homesite

In May of 1876, Margaret (often spelled Margret in the church records) and Joseph Bolton were among the 18 people listed as founders of the Little Mulberry Church in Hancock County.

Little mulberry

In 1877, in the Rob Camp Church minutes, Margaret’s two sisters, Clementine and Catharine are baptized with a group of other people, probably during or following a revival.  However, in July 1880, Clementine is cited and then excluded by the church for the horrible infraction of…..dancing.  Now, I bet that was the talk of the neighborhood!!!

But Clementine is not alone.  In 1879, and again in 1887, Joseph Bolton is in trouble at Mt. Zion for drinking and swearing, so they apparently did not remain members at Little Mulberry long.

In 1880, Margaret and Joseph appear to be farming Joseph’s mother’s Herrell land in Hancock County, near the Clarkson land on near the Powell River.  They have three children.

Hancock County was actually a rather small community of sparsely populated mountain valleys.  Word traveled much faster than one would think.  In 1885, the Hancock County courthouse burned.  That must have been the talk of the county for months.  Goodspeed’s History in 1886 says that all records were burned and there were no plans “of yet” to replace the courthouse.  In 1930, the new courthouse burned as well.  Amazingly, some records do remain, mostly chancery suits after the first fire.

The 1890 census is missing of course, but we know that in 1892, Joseph Bolton’s mother had died and the heirs conveyed her land, so it’s very unlikely that Joseph continued to farm that land.

In the 1900 census, Margaret and Joseph appear to have moved as they are found in the 8th District and in 1910, they reportedly live on Back Valley Road as detailed in the article about Samuel Bolton, their son killed in WWI.

In 1907, Margaret’s mother, Elizabeth “Bettie” Speaks Clarkson, died on the old Clarkson home place at 75 years of age.  She outlived her husband by 31 years and never remarried.

Elizabeth Speaks 1896

This is the only family picture known of Bettie Speaks. It’s thought to have been taken about 1896 and it’s possible that Margaret Clarkson Bolton is in this photo.  If so, she would be the eldest child, possibly the person to the furthest left in the middle row or the furthest right in the rear.  Bettie Speaks is in the center of the middle row in the black dress.  If anyone can further identify these people, I’d surely appreciate it!

Margaret Clarkson and Joseph Dode Bolton had 11 children from 1874-1897, of which, at least 2 died young.  They could be buried in the Clarkson cemetery.

  1. Ollie Florence Bolton, my grandmother, born May 5, 1874 in Hoop Creek, Hancock County, died April 9, 1955 in Chicago, Illinois. She married William George Estes in 1893, later divorcing about 1915.
  2. Charles Tipton Bolton born June 30, 1876, died before 1953, enrolled for the WWI Draft in Sonora, Washington Co., AK, listed his father as J.B. Bolton in Hoop, TN.
  3. Elizabeth Bolton born 1879, married E.C. Baker Dec. 20, 1901 in Claiborne Co., died before 1953.  Note:  A family member who personally knew and was friends with “Lizzie” Bolton who was married to E.C. Baker tells me that she was unquestionably the daughter of Daniel Marson Bolton.  So the Joseph’s daughter, Elizabeth, married someone else.
  4. Dudley Hickham Bolton born March 21, 1881, registered for the draft in Hoop, Hancock Co. TN for WWI, married to Tilda, died before 1953.
  5. Dalsey Edgar Bolton born July 26, 1883, died Nov. 9, 1946, El Paso, Texas from a broken back in an auto accident in New Mexico, wife Jennie in 1940 census.
  6. Ida Ann Bolton born May 30, 1886 married Gilbert Scott Saylor, lived in London, KY, taught school, no children, died June 7, 1953 of breast cancer, buried in the Plank Cemetery.
  7. Mary Lee Bolton born June 21,1888 married Tip Richmond Sumpter, died Sept. 25, 1935 in Illinois, buried Brush Creek Cemetery, Divernon, IL.
  8. Estle Vernon Bolton born December 4, 1890, died December 1971, Truth or Consequences, Sierra Co., NM.
  9. Cerenia Elizabeth “Lizzie” Bolton, died young, before the 1900 census.
  10. Samuel Estwell H. Bolton born June 12, 1894, died October 8, 1918, France, a casualty of WWI, buried in the Plank Cemetery, Claiborne Co., TN.
  11. Henry Bolton born May 1897, probably died before 1910 as not in census.

Of these children, only two females lived to have children, other than Ollie.  Ollie has no living descendants who carry her mitochondrial DNA.  I have a DNA testing scholarship for anyone, male or female, who descends from either daughter, Elizabeth or Mary Lee through all females to the current generation.  Mitochondrial DNA is passed from mother to all of their children, but only females pass it on.  Margaret’s mitochondrial DNA would tell us a great deal about her ancestry.

Land

We only know of one parcel of land that was actually owned by Margaret Clarkson and Joseph Bolton.

On March 31st, 1902, a deed was filed in Hancock County by and between S.F. Clarkson who was appointed administrator of the estate of Fernando Clarkson deceased, late of Hancock Co., Tn. by the county of Hancock on Dec. 11, 1900 and Joseph Bolton of Hancock Co., stating:  On July 30, 1896 Fernando Clarkson decd did sell to Joseph Bolton a certain tract of land and execute him a title for the said tract of land lying and being in the 8th civil district of Hancock Co and on the Sulphur Fork of Mulberry Creek and bounded as follows: with L. Overtons line to G. Overtons line and thence east with G Overton’s line to a conditional line between Thomas Reed and Bolton and then with a conditional line in H.S. Fugates line to a small oak on the top of Wallen’s ridge with H.E. Fugate and E. Overton’s line.  S.F. Clarkson does now convey to Bolton together with the right of way for a road through the land now held by Thomas Reed. Signed by S.F. Clarkson and witnessed by R.L. Parkey and Ollie Parkey.

As you can see on the map below, Sulphur Hollow connects directly with Hoop Creek Road to the southwest and to Mulberry Creek to the northeast which follows 63 and then dumps directly in the Powell River.

sulphur hollow

If you look carefully at the map below, you can clearly see the loop of “Slanting Misery” at the top of the map.  The Clarkson land is just to the right of where Mulberry Creek empties into Powell River, so Joseph Bolton and Margaret Clarkson Bolton moved about a mile from the land where she was born.

sulphur hollow mulberry creek

You can see in this satellite view that this land is quite mountainous.  On the map below, you can see the original Clarkson land where the cemetery is located at the red arrow.

sulphur hollow and clarkson land

It’s uncertain whether Margaret and Joseph owned land in 1918 when their son died, or in 1920 when both Margaret and Joseph died of the flu.  Typically, if people owned land, they would be buried in a family cemetery on their own land.  I did not find a deed for the sale of their land in Sulphur Hollow, and it’s possible that their residence in Back Valley and Hoop Creek was actually this same land, but we don’t know for sure.

Passing Over

Margaret and Joseph both died in 1920, within days of each other, during the last part of the Spanish flu epidemic that began in 1918.  Family rumor was that he died and the family put the body in the barn or woodshed and waited for her to die before burying both of them.  According to Joseph’s death certificate, he was buried relatively quickly, so the “double funeral” rumor, although quite romantic, isn’t true.

margaret clarkson bolton death

Margaret is buried beside Joseph Bolton in the Plank Cemetery, in Claiborne County, just across the county line from Hancock County, where Joseph’s father is also buried as well as their son, Samuel, who died in 1918.

bolton14'

There are many unmarked graves in the Plank cemetery.

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A Good Story

Recently, someone commented that these articles make “it sound so easy.”  What sounds easy?  Everything about genealogy – especially finding ancestor’s graves and land.  That’s because it’s only the success stories that I’m sharing.  What you see is what I found, positively, about these ancestors – over a cumulative 35 years of research.

What you don’t see are the complete bombs, near misses and unproductive research trips, and let me tell you, there were many.  But even those misadventures have redeeming qualities.  I want to share one wonderful, but not terribly genealogically successful, trip to Claiborne and Hancock County in the 1990s when I met Mary Parkey, a woman who is very likely a cousin, who graciously agreed to show me around.  How I wish we could test Mary’s DNA to confirm that cousin theory.

Without Mary, I would never have found these locations.  This terrain is beautiful, but confusing and inhospitable and I am constantly lost there, even with a map.  We didn’t have GPS then, but GPS doesn’t work today because in many places the mountains are too steep for the GPS to see their satellites.  Cell phones don’t work either.

Sadly, Mary perished in the fire when her home burned on March 9, 2000.  Along with Mary, all of the genealogical records and holdings of the Claiborne County Historical Society perished as well.

Mary and I found Clarkson burials and land.  They were related, cousins, just not MY ANCESTORS, which is who I wanted to find.  So close, literally, but so far away.  So, come on along with Mary and me on our great adventure in 1992!

Roberta and Mary’s Great Adventure

In 1992, during my last research visit to Claiborne County prior to Mary Parkey’s death, Mary and I had a great adventure, which I am recording here as a fond memory, although at the time, parts of it were really pretty frightening.  Genealogy is always full of adventures of one sort or another but these were, well, unique.

I had recently purchased a small red car, a Chrysler Sundance prior to my visit.  I had decided to drive the smaller Sundance instead of my larger mini-van with higher clearance due to the Sundance’s increased gas mileage.  Mary and I visited many graveyards, and in at least one, we needed both a tractor and Boyd Manning to gain entrance to the Clarkson cemetery behind his house and through his pasture.

Mary indicated that she knew where there was either an old Herrell house or a graveyard, or both.  Much of the area we were traversing was very remote, to the point where if you got lost, it might be days until someone found you.  We started down a long one-track path, and clunk, my car bottomed out on a hidden rock in a large puddle, and we couldn’t go anyplace. We were stuck, like a turtle on a post.  No amount of pushing or pulling would help, so we decided in our infinite wisdom to just walk on down the hill toward the Powell River to wherever it was she thought we should visit.

mary parkey

This is Mary beside the area where we were stuck. Powell River was at the bottom of the hill.

Upon turning the corner at the bottom of the hill, we were stuck by two things.  First, the beauty of the river, still untamed and wild after centuries.  There is simply no place more beautiful than Appalachia in the springtime.

mary parkey spring

Peeking at the Powell River through the leaves budding.

mary parkey powell river

The mountains the beautiful pink flowers.

mary parkey buds

However, turning to look the other way, we were greeted with quite another sight.

mary parkey cabin on powell river

Upon investigating this further, I decided to approach and knock on the door, until I saw the skull.  What you can only see the edge of is a huge pile of beer cans in the lower right spilling into the driveway.  This pile was probably the size of a full sized van.  I don’t think this was quite what Mary, a never-married devoutly religious reverend’s daughter, had in mind.  She looked horrified.  Seeing the look on her face, I knew we were in trouble.

mary parkey cabin closeup

After really taking stock of things, this place seemed rather unfriendly and somewhat inhospitable, to put it mildly, and Mary and I decided to leave very quickly, and hike back up the hill.  However, given that our vehicle was in fact blocking the only exit (or entrance) to this location, and we didn’t really want to meet the residents, we had to figure out how to obtain help quickly.  This was before the days of cell phones, and even today, more than 20 years later, cell coverage in the mountains of Tennessee is spotty at best, and this kind of steep terrain is not a good candidate for any reception.  So we started walking on the “main” road which was at least paved.

No one passed us, and several minutes later we came across an orange truck with someone sleeping in it.  We discussed what to do, so we decided to make noise.  No luck.  So we knocked on the window of the truck.  No luck.  So finally we opened the door and woke the poor guy up.  He was scared half out of his wits.

We told him we were stuck and needed to be pulled off of the rock.  He told us that he wasn’t allowed to do that.  We asked if he was allowed to sleep on the job.  That nice gentleman decided to help us after all and here is the photo of the truck and the car after we were pulled out of the large puddle.  But guess who got to crawl under the car in the mud to attach the tow chain.  Well, it certainly wasn’t him.  However, we were grateful for the help regardless.  We figured it beat the heck out of waiting for the residents of the house to return.

mary parkey adventure

My family hadn’t been interested in coming along on this genealogy adventure.  I told them over and over how much I loved the mountains, and they knew well that I’d love to live there, but didn’t because I couldn’t make a living.

One of the areas that we had to traverse to visit the old Clarkson cemetery behind Boyd Mannings took us through a gully that held an old log cabin.  I don’t know who originally owned this cabin, but it could well have been one of our Clarkson family members who owned the land adjoining the Manning (Mannon) land.  One thing is for sure, certainly our family visited there, as everyone visited all the neighbors in those days.  E. H. Clarkson, who is buried in the cemetery on this land was one of the founding members of the Mt. Zion Church which is also very close by.  This was likely his land.

Mary said the current owners had purchased a mobile home and moved “up the holler”, meaning in this case more near to the road.  However, when they left, it was like the cabin in the hollow was suspended in time.  We went inside as there were no locks and the doors weren’t shut, and mason jars lines the shelves, tattered curtains hung on the windows – time just stopped there many years before.  I could well imagine the voices of generations of children when the cabin wasn’t old – children who had long ago died after living long lives and were in fact buried with their parents and grandparents in the graveyard watching over the house like a silent sentinel from the bluffs above.

As we approached this dwelling, I was struck by the realization of how difficult the lives of those who lived here must have been.

mary parkey clarkson land

Mary and I couldn’t imagine how one could ever get a car into this hollow, let alone back out again.  Maybe they couldn’t which is why there were so many car carcasses abandoned here.

mary parkey clarkson land2

I find old cabins fascinating, and I surely wish this one had been more accessible to a road.  Looking at this building closely, we see the evidence of good years and bad years.  The good years are marked in time by the addition of rooms.  Look at the logs whose ends are protruding half way through the house. This surely looks like the house was built in at least two distinct sections.

mary parkey clarkson land3

Take a look at the elopement door on the second floor in the above photo.  Family history tells us that one of our McNiel ancestors eloped out a door like this with her beau, but not this house or these families.  At least, I don’t think so….

The other end shows evidence of mudding.  This could be a third addition, or the original logs were in such poor condition that they simply tried to mud over the entire end of the structure.  Watch that step though, it’s a doosie.

mary parkey clarkson land4

This family was fortunate.  Their water source, a nice spring, emerged from a small cave and was still running into a little collection pond close by.  This fresh spring would have made this location a prime piece of real estate to original settlers.

If I closed my eyes, I could hear the children running with their buckets to the spring to fetch the water.  I could also see the forlorn folks in the winter when times were cold and when sadness visited with the deaths of children, lovingly washed, then taken up the hill to rest forever.  Trips to the well were not always happy events.

mary parkey clarkson spring

In later years, they would bring water for the many washing machines strewn about the place.  Clearly getting things into the holler was so difficult that there was never a need to remove them. Wash was done outside under a somewhat protected area with 3 or 4 tubs.

There was evidence of outside cooking as well.  A summer kitchen was probably used when possible.

mary parkey clarkson land5

I’m sure when this laundry arrangement was achieved, that some woman that I am probably related to was exceedingly happy and quite the envy of her neighbors with her outside laundry and tubs.  No longer did she have to go to the spring or scrub on a washboard in a tub.  Quite a modern convenience.  Again, closing my eyes, I can hear her husband bringing home a labor saving device, relieving her aching back.  Women then had to do laundry, literally, by hand, for their families which might consist of a dozen or more people plus extended relations.  Yes, he would have been a very popular fellow.

mary parkey clarkson land6

Everywhere we looked were the remnants of the testimony of the hard lives people lived. However, with another glance, was also the beauty in which they lived.  Nothing is free – they sacrificed for this right.  I understood with clarity why my family had always been drawn back to this place of stark beauty, charming, enchanting, captivating.  It had captured my heart.  I would return again and again to these hills to find my ancestors, to find myself, to find my past.

The graveyard was large and may have serviced several families who lived close by.  Many unmarked graves lie under plain field stones, in fact, most weren’t marked by name, but everyone knew who was buried where.  People married their neighbors, so everyone was related in one way or another, just a large extended family.

They feuded like family too, the records of which are in the chancery suits of Hancock County.  After Fairwick Clarkson died, his children fought over his land, some even changing their names.  Some were buried on the old home place with him, others were buried here after moving on, off of the original Clarkson land.  The people buried here are the descendants of Henry Clarkson, Fairwick’s brother, who died in his early 20s.

Regardless, this silent sentinel is not telling the secrets of the decades and now centuries of lives it has watched from these stony bluffs.  The only hints are given by the very worn names on the gravestones, and some of them are now speaking so softly we can no longer hear their voices.

Folks then and some now actively visited the graves of their loved ones and conversed with them.  One of the houses in this cemetery holds the grave of Flossie Akers who died young, probably in child birth or of complications.  Her family built a small gravehouse, enclosed her stone, added her photo which was unheard of in that day and time.  They furnished the house with a table, 2 chairs, curtains, decorations including a vase with flowers on the table, and other homelike accoutrements that make it seems like someone just stepped away and never happened back.

flossie akers grave house

Flossie Akers grave house, above and below.

flossie akers grave house2

Locals tell of the family coming here with picnics to visit with Flossie as long as they lived.  Grave houses were not unusual in this community, especially in the Melungeon familys, but this is the only one in this cemetery.

flossie akers grave house inside

This grave house had a window, curtains, and a door to keep the elements at bay.  Flossie’s stone is inside.

flossie akers stone

I have never seen a photo on a stone this old before, nor in an impoverished area.

flossie akers picture

Flossie was a Minter before her marriage.  Her mother was Martha Clementine Claxton or Clarkson who had married Vig Minter.  Martha was the daughter of Edward Hilton (E.H.) Claxton/Clarkson and Mary Marlene Martin, the daughter of Margaret Herrell and Anson Cook Martin.  Margaret Herrell Martin was the second wife of Joseph Preston Bolton.  Edward Hilton Claxton/Clarkson was the son of Henry Claxton and Martha Walker.  Henry was the son of James Lee Claxton/Clarkson.  After Henry died, Martha married Henry’s brother’s son, William.  Are you confused yet?  So am I.  Welcome to my world of Appalachian endogamy where your family tree looks more like a vine!

So, to figure this all out a little more clearly.  Flossie was related to both Joseph “Dode” Bolton and his wife.  Flossie was Joseph’s half-sister’s granddaughter.  Flossie was also the first cousin twice removed from Margaret Clarkson Bolton, Joseph’s wife.  Intertwined relationships like this are very common among the mountain families.  Both Joseph and Margaret would have stood beside her grave, weeping at her young life gone.

Flossie was 22 when she died in 1915, so the tradition of gravehouses and regularly visiting them was still practiced for some time after her death.  People living in 1992 remembered those cemetery visits.  The furniture in the house was old but not unusable in 1992.  Flossie had lots of Clarkson company in that cemetery.

flora clarkson stone

Flora Clarkson is the granddaughter of Martha Walker through her second Clarkson marriage to William “Billy” Clarkson.

This Clarkson cemetery is full of my family, for as far as I could see, my cousins, although not my direct ancestors who, we would discover years later, are buried in a different cemetery a mile or so up the road.  The earliest marked burials here  E. H. (Edward Hilton) Clarkson and his wife, Mary Martin Clarkson, founders, along with the Bolton family, in 1869, of the Mt. Zion Baptist church nearby.

As always, I have very mixed emotions in old graveyards.  While I’m thrilled to find my relatives, I’m also struck with the sadness of those who have buried loved ones over the years, of deaths too young, of wars and ambushes, of slaves and Indians being forced to leave their land and families, of children leaving their parents, and parents leaving their children.  I am left with a feeling of awe, of reverence, of being allowed to visit a sacred space.  I am always somehow a little amazed that my own flesh and blood is here.  I believe my ancestors accompany me on these adventures, pointing the way sometimes, but others, acting as the trickster.  I can tell my ancestors had quite a sense of humor.  As long as we remember them, our ancestors live.

As I look up after my silent prayers for them, whispered thankfulness for being allowed to find them, I am once again greeted with the spring-kissed beauty, contrasted with barrenness.  It was spring and the land was coming back to life after a well-deserved rest.

I know that I will forever be drawn back here, like a moth to the flame.  I have found what is me.

Upon my return home to Michigan, I shared my experiences with my family whose reactions ranged from complete apathy (teenage son), utter horror (former husband) to mild amusement (grade school daughter).  No one but me thought of it as a great adventure, and certainly, no one wanted to repeat it with me. I tried to convince them of the things that call and pull to me from this land, but they were hearing none of it.  They ignored me.

Finally, in utter exasperation, I pulled out the photos of this long abandoned cabin in the hollow with the wash stations and the elderly cars, spread them out like a big fan on the kitchen table.  I then announced with my best Southern belle drawl, starting with a very slow, “Weellllllll…..”, hands firmly on my hips and a smile on my lips that I had a surprise for everyone…….that I had in fact purchased this ancestral home site and we were moving.

The silence was absolutely deafening, the stares astounded.  Given my love for this land, I truly think they believed me, and had it not been for other circumstances involving my husband’s health, I could have milked this for a good long time.  Suddenly instead of worrying about who was going to get to watch TV, they were worried about who had to do the laundry in the outside tubs, if we’d have electricity and more important yet, a phone, and who had to fetch the water.  These were not the joyful children of my musings I might add.  In fact these children weren’t joyful at all.  Oh, this prank was good, so good, while it lasted.  Sadly, it was just that, a prank.  I didn’t buy the house and there was no cabin in the mountains to call my own that my ancestors had called theirs.

However, in the end, what children are infused with in their youth, they carry with them at some microscopic level, like seeds waiting for the perfect spring moment to sprout.  It would be another 20 years before my daughter would return with me as an adult, herself infected with the love of the mountains and hills, and would ask me, “Mom, where is that cabin and do you think it’s still for sale?

21 thoughts on “Margaret N. Clarkson/Claxton (1851-1920), Baptist Church Founder, 52 Ancestors #39

  1. The plight of many women throughout history……….they had fewer choices………how it saddens me. Just my personal opinion.

    Thanks, Roberta, for sharing.

  2. “The silence was deafening” (when you made the announcement of the impending move!) I bet that’s a story they tell your grandchildren, Bobbi.

  3. Good Evening Roberta. I have been working on research re your Genealogy. There are definite links to the (Edward Hilton) and to Margaret Clarkson) (Claxton). It is really a fascinating story of your family. It really ads a huge hit to my Family Tree. The many stories that you have let us know of are really fascinating. It is indeed a beautiful series of incidents and stories. Your photos are a great addition to all of this Genealogical masterpiece. Thank you Roberta and also to all of the rest of the family who are part of our Family for so much help. Love to all, Paul Morris Hilton, tinym81@rogers.com

  4. Nice article.
    In the past 150 years of direct descent, I have found Clarkson, Claxon, Claxton, Clayson, Clackson…. but mostly first name Thomas. The joke is that we change the surname with each generation. No dna match to Robertas’ Clarkson’s.
    My Fathers mother had 4 names, including first name. Edith Payne, Edith Parker. Emily Payne- Parker, Elsie Clarkson Elsie Parker and K Elsie Parker. ( Clarkson does not count, married name). I think it made it easier to get employment, if one had a bad review from a prior employer. This was in 1900. ( England) ( try findint THIS family through paper genealogy 🙂
    Richard Clarkson,
    dna R-PF4363

  5. Another great piece! Another inspiration. I always make a cup of coffee and settle in to read these ancestor stories of yours like another chapter in an intriguing novel! And I know it’s not easy–I’ve got four-page bios of a few of my people, and those took me 20 years to do. Excellent work and thanks for sharing.

  6. When we visited in-laws in Greene county, Tennessee we were told that you stand a distance from the door and wait until someone surfaces. If you don’t you may get shot. The Navajo have the same custom.

  7. cindyb22, Well, hells bells, I am lucky to be alive. I also visited relatives in Tennessee 50 years ago, and I did not know about that custom,,,,,,,,Is the custom still in effect? LOL

  8. I, too, have some ancestors who seemed to be called Clarkson or Claxton alternately or at random. They were from Lincolnshire England. Might be a clue about where yours came from. Supposedly my 6th great grandmother was Mary Claxton b. 1716 in Kirkby On Bain. She was the daughter of Robert Clarkson. She married William Bailey b 1711 in Billinghay, Lincolnshire, England. Marriage record calls her Clarkson. Another alternate spelling seems to be Claxen.

    We have at least one other surname in common, which slips my mind at the moment.

    In enjoy your blog and I am learning a lot. Thanks!

    Joan Brune Fuson

  9. Rather than making the research look easy, you give us a bar to try to reach. Thank you so much for sharing your family stories.

    I am often reminded of the old Mexican legend that says there are three types of death: The first occurs when all bodily functions cease and the soul leaves the body; the second occurs when the body is interred, returning one’s physical shell to the earth; and the final, most definitive death, occurs when no one remembers you.

    What a small thing for us to do for our ancestors – we remember them.

  10. I loved this one! Brought back so many memories. I remember my Granny had such bicep muscles for a little old lady and all from scrubbing clothes on a wash board. And we aren’t talking about ‘delicates’ – but heavy miners work clothes too.

  11. Makes my heart go pitter-patter. I’ve walked the land of my ancestors in the Piedmont of North Carolina. I know that feeling. Words can’t really describe it. I could share it with my mother, though. She understood. You have touched my heart with this one.

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  13. Hi, my name is Cheryl Bolton and my great grandfather is Dalsey Edgar Bolton. I would love to chat with you as I am very new to all this. My family and I live in Dallas, TX.

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