Margaret Herrell, also spelled Harrell, was born about 1810 to Mary McDowell and William Herrell/Harrell, probably on the Powell River in Lee County, Virginia very near the border of Tennessee and Virginia.
In 1812, we know that William Herrell was living in Lee County Virginia based on the deed where he purchased land in Claiborne County, Tennessee, on Powell River very close to the land where his wife’s father, Michael McDowell lived, known as Slanting Misery. In fact, Michael witnessed the deed.
This photo shows the Herrell land, standing in the Herrell cemetery.
By 1814, Margaret’s father, William Herrell, was marching off to war, but Margaret was probably too young to remember much, if anything, about that.
Margaret Herrell married Anson Cook Martin about 1828, based on the birth year of her eldest child, in 1829, if his birth year is correct.
We know that in 1830, Anson Martin was living in Lee County, Virginia along with a John Martin. Anson was listed as age 20-30 as was his wife. No children are listed, which casts doubt on the birth of their first child in 1829.
The first actual record of Margaret that we have, by name, is on December 1, 1833 when she was noted as “received by experience,” typically meaning baptized, in the Thompson Settlement Church, just over the border in Lee County, Virginia, on the Powell River. Her husband Anson Cook Martin had been received by experience just two months previously on October 1, 1833, along with his brother James Monroe Martin. This would have been when Margaret was pregnant with William and John, if they were in fact twins as the 1850 census indicates.
When this part of the country was forming, churches were important social institutions, although it’s hard to think of a church with no building or permanent location as an institution. The church, in addition to religion, provided an important bond among residents and was often the only organized social outlet for women.
Thompson Settlement Church was established in 1800, just 4 years after Tennessee became a state. It was referred to as the River Church as it was established on and along the Powell River near where the river crossed between Virginia and Tennessee between Lee County Virginia and then Claiborne County, Tennessee, now Hancock County.
The Herrell Property is shown above with the red arrow.
For the first quarter century, until 1824, the Thompson Settlement Church met in various locations, including Rob Camp, shown above on the bottom left, in Claiborne County which would eventually spin off its own church. Meetings were being held in Rob Camp as early as 1801, according to Thompson Settlement Church minutes. Rob Camp was more than 15 miles from the mother church, but other churches were even further. Gap Creek was at Cumberland Gap, more than 35 miles distant, and Big Springs was south of Tazewell in Claiborne County at current Springdale, 35 miles in the other direction. Blackwater Church formed and was not far from Sneedville, 2 mountain ranges over and near the border with Lee County as well. In 1820, Mulberry Gap Missionary Church formed.
The photos above and below, taken by Phillip Walker, show the terrain of these hills. Above, Mulberry Gap from Mulberry Gap school, and below, Mulberry Gap Church nestled in the valley.
Initially, Thompson Settlement Church borrowed preacher Jesse Dodson from Big Springs Baptist Church. The first Thompson Settlement Church building, erected in 1822, measured 24X26 feet. This would have been about the size of a cabin. Before that, they met in peoples’ homes or outside. The minutes are full of references to places like “Earl’s Cabins” where the church was to meet on the second Saturday of each month. Oh yes, and church services were not always held on Sunday. It’s not recorded in the minutes, but revivals were legendary and very popular and families would come long distances and camp in their wagons for several days as visiting preachers would inspire them.
The current Thompson Settlement Church is the 5th building, but in the same general proximity. You can also see the location of Rob Camp on the map below, and the road between the two.
The Thompson Settlement church minutes are also full of “trials” where members were reported for offenses such as adultery (Nancy Fletcher), lying (Eleanor Fletcher), swearing (Henry Fortner), absconding this country without paying his debts (John Owens), disobeying the church (Elisha Steward), drinking spirituous liquors to excess (Robert Clark), not being lawfully married (Hanna Denham), unchristian behavior, using unbecoming language and requesting to be excluded (James Muncy), drinking to excess (Brother Carnes), not requesting a letter of dismissal (Lewis and Susannah Tasket) and worse yet, withdrawing herself from the church and joining the Methodist Society (Elizabeth Wells.) Knowing the history of the area, this was likely the Speak Methodist Church founded in 1820 just up the road a few miles in Lee County, Virginia. Brother Smith Sutton even turned himself in for drinking too much and getting angry. I wonder if his wife had anything to do with his decision to turn himself in!
On the 1838 membership list, Margaret and Anson Martin were both noted as dismissed, meaning they were members in 1838 and dismissed some time later. Anson joined Rob Camp Church in 1844, much closer to where they lived and a spinoff the of the Thompson Settlement Church. Anson died not long after, because the last child that Margaret had was Alexander born in 1844. Anson was only about 35 years old and left Margaret to raise nine children as a widow. She lived alone for the next six years or so, until she married Joseph Bolton after his wife died, leaving him with seven children. Their combined household of sixteen children, plus two more that they would have together, probably made for one noisy household in a relatively small space. Log cabins were all small, no matter how large your family.
The females on the list of Margaret’s children, below, have their names bolded, signifying that they passed the mitochondrial DNA of Margaret Herrell to their children. Today, anyone who descends from Margaret Herrell Martin Bolton through all females carries her mitochondrial DNA as well. In the current generation, this can be a male, because women give their mitochondrial DNA to all of their children, but only females pass it on. I have a DNA testing scholarship for anyone who fits this description.
With Anson Cook Martin, Margaret had the following children:
- John Martin born 1829 or 1833 died April 1, 1918 Harrogate, Claiborne Co., TN married Hannah Eldridge. His death certificate says he’s age 89, but his birth year has been overstruck with a magic marker, incorrectly, as 1839. Note that in the 1850 census, he is noted as a 17 year old twin with William.
- Eveline Martin born March 11, 1830, died Feb. 1, 1905 Whitley Co., KY, married to Alexander Calvin Busic who died in 1862 the Civil War.
- William Martin born 1833 died 1867-1869, married Rachel Markham. Note that William and John are shown as 17 year old twins in the 1850 census. Mary Parkey indicated that it’s believed that William is buried in the Martin Cemetery in the Hopewell Community off of Cedar Fork Road. Both he and his wife’s graves are unmarked.Martin Cemetery MapThis may be where William Martin is buried, but it looks to be too far west for the original Martin cemetery, given that the Herrell, Bolton and McDowell families were living on the Powell River to in the upper right hand corner on Slanting Misery between River Road and Wolfenberger Hollow Road.Slanting miseryThe Martin Cemetery is located off of Martin Cemetery Road.Martin Cemetery location
- Surrelda (Selerenda) Jane Martin born 1834/1836, died 1890 Hancock Co., TN, buried in Liberty Cemetery, Claiborne County, married Pleasant Smith.
We have a photo of Surelda Jane and Pleasant Smith. I wonder if he was tall or she was short, or both. I wonder if she looked like her mother, Margaret. This is probably as close as we’ll ever get to seeing Margaret.
Here is the photo restored, courtesy of Dillis Bolton.
- James Monroe “Roe” Martin born December 29, 1836 in Virginia, died November 15, 1914 in Middlesboro, KY, married Sarah Elizabeth “Betty” Bolton, daughter of Joseph P. Bolton and his first wife, Mary Polly Tankersley. In other words, he married his step-sister. Note, he is not shown with the family in the 1850 census.
- Manerva Martin born in 1838
- Mary Marlene Martin born March 10, 1839, died Feb. 17, 1893 Hancock Co., TN, married March 11, 1860 to Edward Hilton Claxton. She is buried in the Clarkson Cemetery near Mt. Zion Church where E. H. was the church moderator at Mt. Zion for many years. The Claxton’s owned the land just downstream of Slanting Misery.
- Malinda “Linda” Martin born July 31, 1842 died June 30, 1903 Whitley Co., KY, buried Riley Cemetery, Whitley Co., married James Parks.
- Alexander Martin born 1844, died after 1860
In the 1840 census, Anson Martin is living in Claiborne County, Tennessee and Anson and Margaret are shown with 6 children, 1 male under 5, 2 males 5-10, 2 females under 5 and 1 female 5-10. Anson is shown as age 30-40 but Margaret is shown as age 20-30. Based on all of the evidence for her birth year, I would think it is most likely 1810. It looks like they are short one daughter and the boys birth years don’t line up, but all of the boys are accounted for.
Margaret and Anson live one house away from her father, William Harrell and William lives 2 houses away from John McDowell, his wife’s brother.
In 1845, this part of Claiborne County, Tennessee would become Hancock County. It was about this time that Anson died.
In the 1850 census, Margaret Martin is shown in a close-knit family group. In order, we find the following households:
- Pleasant Tankersley, brother to Polly Tankersley
- Joseph Bolton and his wife Polly Tankersley – Joseph would be Margaret Herrell Martin’s second husband – very shortly, in fact.
- 3 houses
- John Bolton, brother to Joseph Bolton
- Jacob Wolfenbarger (confederate in the Civil War)
- John Martin with his apparent mother, Elizabeth Martin in the household
- Margaret (Herrell) Martin, age 38, born in Virginia, widow of Anson Cook Martin. She is shown with her children, the last one born in 1844, about the time that Anson died. It’s worth noting that she had 17 year old twins, William and John. Twins that lived were rather rare. The first 3, and the 6th child, were born in Virginia. Given where the family lived, they probably passed back and forth over the border quite easily. Margaret shows that she herself was born in Virginia in 1812.
- Margaret was living next to her parents, William and Mary McDowell Harrell.
- Abel Harrell, her brother, was living next to her parents.
- Mary Busic
- John McDowell, Margaret’s uncle.
In December 1852, Margaret Bolton was received by experience in the Rob Camp Church along with Syrena McDowell, possibly her brother’s daughter.
Rob Camp Baptist Church had officially spun off from the Thompson Settlement Church in the mid-1840s. By 1856, Joseph Bolton was embroiled in church politics after having been accused by Robert Tankersley, a black man, of saying he had stolen bacon and bread. Apparently unhappy, Joseph asked to have himself excluded from the church in April 1856. Apparently, Margaret continued to attend, because in 1866, Joseph was once again received by recantation and baptized into fellowship. By 1868, he was a deacon and in 1859, he and Margaret were founding members of the Mt. Zion Baptist Church, very close to the Clarkson cemetery, today. Eventually, Joseph was excluded from this church as well, and Margaret was dismissed, which means dismissed in good standing by letter, allowing a member to join another church, also in good standing.
Margaret’s father, William Herrell died in October of 1859. Although the courthouse records have burned, twice, some records do remain. This 1860 deed may well have been in private hands all this time, because it was given to me by a descendant of Alexander Herrell who still owns and farms part of this land.
The deed itself is in metes and bounds and is dated November 17, 1860, just about the right time for William’s estate to be being settled.
In the deed, “William Edens and Mary, his wife, Hiram Edens and Mildred, his wife, Nancy Herril, Joseph Bolton and Margret his wife and her heirs, have this day bargained and sold and do hereby transfer and convey to Alexander Herril and his heirs forever for $100 in hand paid a tract of land in Hancock County, district 14, containing 32 acres bounded as follows, beginning on the south bank of the Powels River…line of William Edens…”
The deed is witnessed by A. Montgomery and M.B. Overton and signed by all of the people listed as conveying the land to Alexander. I do wonder why Margaret’s brother Abel Herrell didn’t sign.
The 1860 census quality is very poor, but Margaret looks to be age 50, which would put her birth in 1810.
Margaret has two of her Martin children living at home. Joseph has 4 of his children from his first marriage as well, and Margaret and Joseph have two children of their own.
- Mary Ann Matilda Bolton born September 5, 1851, died July 2, 1909, married Martin Cunningham.
- Joseph B. Bolton, born September 18, 1853, died February 23, 1920, buried in the Plank Cemetery, Claiborne Co., TN and married Margaret Clarkson/Claxton.
Of course, this begs the question of when Mary Ann Matilda Bolton was actually born, and when Mary Polly Tankersley died.
The 1850 census shows Joseph Bolton still married to Mary Polly Tankersley, but Mary’s birthdate is shown to be September of 1851, so if both records are accurate, Mary died sometime after June 1850 and Margaret and Joseph were married before year end, giving the 9 months gestation necessary. However, there is a fly in the ointment. The census form is dated December 10th. Now, it’s possible that it was taken in December but “as of” June and it’s possible that Mary was born in 1852 instead of 1851. There are also other possibilities.
I tried to verify that Mary Ann Matilda is the same person who married Martin Cunningham in Claiborne County in 1877. Looking at the 1880 census, Martin and Matilda Cunningham have a son who is 2 years old and named Joseph, so I’m thinking this is the right person. She shows her age as 24 so born in 1856. Her husband is 4 years younger.
In the 1900 census, Matilda Cunningham’s son Joseph was followed by daughter Margaret two years later. However, Matilda’s age is listed as 40 and her birth year given as 1860, which we know is incorrect from the earlier census.
The Civil War left no family unscathed. Sometime after 1860 and before 1870, Alexander, Margaret’s youngest child by Anson Martin died. Did he die in the Civil War? Perhaps, but we have no proof. He was the right age and in the right place, that’s for sure. Hancock County was raided by bands of both Union and Confederate forces, plus, battles were fought nearby at and around Cumberland Gap. Food was scarce and families were frightened, both for those who left to fight, and for those who stayed behind.
Margaret’s daughter, Evaline, lost her husband, Calvin Busic in the war to malarial fever, according to the 1890 veterans census, leaving her with three children to raise.
In 1869, Margaret and Joseph Bolton were founding members of Mt. Zion Church. Margaret’s name is listed in the member’s list alongside Matilda Bolton and Evaline Busic, her daughters.
The 1870 census shows Margaret Bolton, age 60, born in Virginia. Neither Joseph nor Margaret can read nor write.
In 1874, on the same day her father, Joseph Bolton, was censured by the Mt. Zion Church, Matilda Bolton made application for a letter of dismissal from the church.
On July 1, 1778, the following deed was executed.
Whereas we Pleasant Smith, Serelda Smith his wife, John Martin and Hanah Martin his wife have a fee simple interest in remainder to take and be united with the processions after the death of Marget (sic) Bolton who has a life interest in the same in tract of land in the state of Tennessee Hancock County Number 14 district containing by estimation 50 acres be the same more or less bounded by the lands of John McDaniels, Elexander Herrells and others. For the consideration of $100 to be paid in hand we have bargained and old and hereby convey to J. M. Martin the fee simply interest in remainder…this first day of July 1878. Witnessed William Cook, D.M. Bolton and signed by John (x) Martin, his mark, Hannah Martin, her mark, Pleasant Smith and Serelda T. Smith.
This was not filed until December 10th, 1892, suggesting that Margaret Herrell Bolton had died by that time.
On July 12, 1878 a deed was signed between Joseph Bolton and Margaret Bolton his wife, Hiram Edins and Mildred Edins his wife, William Edins and Mary Edins his wife, Nancy Herrell and Alexander Herrell and Jane Herrell his wife to William J. Edins, all of Hancock Co., TN for “a certain tract of land for $200 to them in hand paid and receipt is hereby acknowledged lying in district no. 14 on the North side of Powells River known as a part of the widow Herrell dower containing by estimation 20 acres and bounded as follows…beginning on the N bank of Powells river on Hiram Edins corner, thence up the river as it meanders the distance unknown to an ash on the bank of Powells river, then leaving the river northwardly the distance unknown to a large hickory on the top of the river bluff, thence northwardly the distance unknown to a poplar and elm in a field, thence northwardly to Wolfenbarger’s line, then went to Hiram Edins.” Witnesses JM Martain and JD Wolfenbarger. Margaret Bolton her mark, William Edins, Mary Edins her mark, Hiram Edins, Mildred Edins her mark, Alexander Herrell, Jane Herrell her mark, Nancy Herrell her mark.
These are Margaret Herrell Martin Bolton’s siblings conveying the land of her mother, “widow Herrell.”
In the 1880 census, Joseph and Margaret have moved to Claiborne County and they are living beside Milton Bolton. This is in the Little Sycamore area not far from the Plank Cemetery where Joseph is buried. Margaret is age 72, so born in 1808 and can read but cannot write. He can do neither.
Margaret was born in Tennessee but both of her parents were born in NC. Joseph was born in VA, as was his mother, but his father was born in England.
In the Hancock Co. 1880 tax list from the E. Tennessee Roots vol VI, number 4, Margret Bolton is listed with 55 acres, $350 value, 105 to county, 35 to state, 35 to school, 87.5 for special 262.5 total taxes, no poll. This is very odd because her husband, Joseph Bolton Sr. did not die until 1887.
Joseph Bolton Jr. lives beside her with no land, 1 poll, but then under him it says 100 to school and 30 special and 130 total, paid to Edds.
In June 1881, Joseph and Margaret Bolton along with D.M. Bolton and Silveny, his wife purchase land together from Daniel Jones and on November 25th of the same year, they deed the land on Little Sycamore in Claiborne County along with Daniel Marson Bolton and his wife, Silvania to H. H. Friar.
April 4, 1885 – From Alexander Herrell, Nancy Herrell of Hancock Co. and Margaret Bolton of Claiborne Co. to William Mannon of Hancock, parcel of land for $175, 65 acres it being a part of a 50 acre grant granted to Thomas Lawson Sr. assigned to John Grimes of number 485 dated March 13, 1827 also a part of a larger grant granted by the State of TN to William Mills of number 56 dates the 9th of January 1852 lying in the 14th district of Hancock and on the N side of Powels river bounded…JW Yeary’s corner but now William Mannon’s corner, conditional line between James W. Yeary and William Mills, conditional line between JW Years and Green B. Lawson, also between JW Yeary and William Herrell… conditional line between SP Lamarr? And Greene B. Lawson…conditional line between Greene B. Lawson and William Mills. All 3 sign with a mark and Emanuel Stafford and Andrew Mannon witness.
This is likely part of the original William Herrell land and possibly the widow Herrell’s dower land.
Joseph Bolton, Margaret’s second husband, died on December 28, 1887 in Claiborne County and was buried in the Plank Cemetery. They had been married or 37 years.
In 1889, a lawsuit was filed by James Speers against defendants that are the children of Margaret Herrell Martin Bolton, by both of her husbands.
James E. Speers in a March 1889 lawsuit vs J.M. Martin, William J. Martin, Joseph Bolton and Margaret in Hancock Co. Cannon Herral, Alexander Herrell and John McDowell were witnesses paid by Speer. W.J. Martin was also a witness. (Note the elder Joseph Bolton died in 1887 so this must be the younger Joseph B. Bolton and Margaret Clarkson.)
This may imply that Margaret Herrell Bolton has passed away by March 1889 or simply that she has passed her interest to her children.
Margaret Bolton probably rests with her husband, Joseph Bolton, in the Plank Cemetery, in Claiborne County very near the land they sold to the Frairs in 1881.
However, we’re not sure. Joseph’s grave is marked but Margaret’s isn’t. It’s possible that after Joseph’s death she moved back to the 4 Mile Creek and Powell River area of Hancock County, possibly to live with one of her children. There is a list of members in the 1885 Rob Camp Church minutes and Margret (sic) Bolton appears on that list along with many Herrells, McDowells and Clarksons. Of course, Joseph Bolton Jr. also had a wife named Margaret, so they are difficult and often impossible to tell apart.
Did Margaret go back “home?” It’s certainly possible. The Mt. Zion Church minutes indicated that on June 3rd, 1888 Margret Bolton, Farwick Shiflet and a
Adeline Shiflet along with Jane Montgomery were received into the congregation. The younger Margaret Bolton, wife of Joseph B. Bolton, was already a member of this church, and as late as 1887, Joseph B. Bolton was still attending because that is when he was last censured for drinking and swearing. Two men by the same name, father and son, should not be allowed to have wives with the same first name as well.
If Margaret Herrell Bolton did move back home, then she may not be buried in the Plank Cemetery, but may be buried in the Herrell Cemetery in Hancock County, located on River Road not far from the Martin Creek Church, in one of the unmarked graves shown below, or even possibly where Anson Martin is buried. Of course, Anson may be buried in this cemetery as well.
The Herrell Cemetery is located on River Road, shown on the map below.
Many of the graves are unmarked.
Margaret was the first generation to be born and to die in the same general area of Hancock County. She lived her life in these beautiful and rugged mountains, buried two husbands and at least 4 children. She was a founding member at Mt. Zion Church and may have been a founder of Rob Camp Church as well. She found herself a widow in her 30s and raised her children, as a widow, for more than 5 years before remarrying. Likely, she farmed, just like her husband would have done. It was farm or starve. Margaret could neither read nor write, but she owned land. When she remarried, she married a man who was a widower and who had 7 children of his own, increasing her household size to 16 before having 2 more children with Joseph Preston Bolton, her second husband.
Their only son, Joseph “Dode” Bolton was my great-grandfather. His daughter, Ollie was my grandmother. She died five months before I was born, so I never knew her. Her son was my father. I mention this, because Margaret, through her descendants gave me a very special gift.
Because Margaret had two husbands, we have the potential to tell which DNA came from her, and only her. Normally, with a couple, we can only say that the DNA came from one of the two people. However, by comparing the DNA of people who descend from Margaret through her two husbands, we can isolate Margaret’s DNA. Wherever the descendants of the children from the first husband match the descendants of the children from the second husband, the only common denominator has to be Margaret.
I was quite excited at first, because there are two other people who descend from Margaret’s marriage with Anson Martin who have tested, and whom I match. But then, I took a good look at their pedigree charts, and I also share a Clarkson line with them. The Clarksons also lived right along the Powell River. So, we can’t tell if we are matching on the Herrell line, or the Clarkson line. I was quite disappointed, until I realized that one of our matches was on the X chromosome, and it has special inheritance properties. You can see the match to the person in orange on the X chromosome at the bottom of this chromosome chart. The places where the blue and orange match up are the locations where the tree of us share DNA – but that’s the DNA that might be Herrell or Clarkson.
The X chromosome is inherited from only part of your ancestors. Specifically, men only inherit an X from their mother, because they inherit the Y from their father that makes them a male.
My X inheritance path from my grandmother Ollie Bolton is shown on the fan chart, below. You can see that wherever there is a blue male, he only inherits from his pink mother and that creates entire vacant areas of the pedigree chart. This limits who I can inherit my X chromosome from – dramatically – and would be even more restrictive if I were a male.
The question now was whether or not the orange person also has Margaret Herrell Martin in her X chromosome inheritance path, and NOT any of our other common lineages. Her tree, beginning with her grandparents, is shown below.
After verifying that I have none of these other lines in my tree nor that my ancestral lines fed any of these lines, I concentrated on the relevant lineage of her tree..
My match didn’t have her tree entirely filled out, but I can complete it easily. The X inheritance path to Margaret Herrll is shown by the red arrows. The green arrows also show individuals from whom she inherited her X chromosome, but they turn out to be irrelevant because they don’t lead to a common ancestor utilizing only the X inheritance path. Said another way, I do share several common ancestors with this woman, including Joseph Bolton, but they are irrelevant when evaluating X chromosome matches unless the X path results in common ancestors. Of course, many lines are eliminated from the X inheritance path.
In her case, Surelda Jane Martin is the daughter of Margaret Herrell Martin and Anson Cook Martin. My matches inheritance path to Margaret is through her father, who inherited his entire X from his mother Nursie Bolton, who inherited her X from her mother and father Alvis Bolton and Helen Smith. Helen Smith received her X from her father Pleasant Smith and mother, Serelda Martin, whose mother was Margaret Herrell.
Our other common ancestral lines are through the Bolton and Clarkson families. If you look at my fan chart, you’ll note that my Clarkson line ends at Samuel Clarkson/Claxton because he didn’t inherit his X from his father and my Bolton line ends with Joseph Bolton because he didn’t inherit his X from his father, Joseph Bolton – so those are entirely irrelevant to the X chromosome.
In my matches tree, Alvis Bolton inherited his X from his mother Nursissa Parks, who inherited her X from her parents, Jacob Parks and Polly Claxton/Clarkson. However, Polly Claxton inherited her X from James Lee Claxton/Clarkson and Sarah Cook, neither of whom are in my X inheritance path. They are two generations upstream of Samuel Claxton, so that line has already been eliminated, as was the Bolton line.
Therefore, the only ancestor I share in common with my match that falls in both of our X inheritance paths is….drum roll….Margaret Herrell Martin Bolton.
Therefore, that beautiful orange segment on the X chromosome is a gift to me, and my match, directly from Margaret herself.
Isn’t it beautiful, seeing an actual artifact from Margaret Herrell?
Switching to table view, we can see all of the segments that I share with my orange match. However, we can’t tell if the matches on chromosome 2-13 are from the Herrell, Bolton or Clarkson lines. However, due to the special inheritance path of the X chromosome, we can identify the X segment specifically as having come from Margaret Herrell, by process of elimination.
Margaret was obviously an incredibly strong, resourceful and resilient woman. I like to think that in addition to some of her DNA, I inherited some of those qualities as well.