It’s amazing what a trip to the old home land can do for you – mind, body, spirit and genealogy.
In 2006, Daryl, one of my cousins, and I, went on our annual journey south. We set out to find the cemetery of the Clarkson/Claxton family in Hancock County, Tennessee, and with help from our distant cousins who are locals, we found it. We would never have found it without their help!
In this area, everyone is buried in a “family plot” on the old family farm. Current property owners are generally pretty good about granting access, but they do want to know when you’re coming. Otherwise, you might get to see the business end of a shotgun. And no, I’m not kidding. Just ask Daryl!!!
This cemetery was literally out in the middle of a field. You can see it in the photo below, half way to the barn. This farmer was very generous to have fenced it and maintained it as well. No wild brambles like in so many.
Here’s a picture from the side road, easy walk, no woods. Yippee!!!
It’s rough land there for farming, although beautiful landscape. Daryl says it reminds her of Scotland. Lots of surface boulders that can’t be plowed. I can’t imagine how they eeked a living out of this terrain. Although you have to admit, it’s stunningly beautiful with it’s tiny yellow flowers among lush green grasses, cedar trees and grey boulders.
We walked across the field and entered the cemetery. Here, I’m between the gravestones of my great-great-grandparents, Samuel Clarkson and his wife, Elizabeth Speaks Clarkson.
Fortunately, we thought to close the gate…
…because shortly we had company.
The first few cows were pretty curious. Mostly they just gazed at us like, “look at those humans, inside the fence, golly gee.” About this time, it occurred to Daryl and I that we were the ones in the fence, not the cows. It wasn’t keeping them out, but keeping us in.
But then, things took a turn for the worse….and this guy showed up. He was not curious, he was undecided at first whether he wanted to add us to his harem….after all, we were in his field….or whether he wanted to get rid of us. Now this bull could easily have torn through that fence had he wanted to. We knew that, but fortunately, he didn’t.
Daryl and I suddenly became very grateful for that fence, for the gate, and that we were inside it and he was outside. So we went about our business, delaying the question of how we would ever get out of the cemetery to our car which was parked on the other side of the barn, across the open field, and where the bull could be hiding where we couldn’t see. Unfortunately, the farmer and his wife had gone to town, so no help was forthcoming from that direction. And there were no trees in the cemetery, and it was HOT!!! We had to escape, but how?
So Daryl and I set about photographing headstones which was why we were there in the first place. We kept a watchful eye on Mr. Bull, and he did the same with us, following us around the cemetery perimeter outside the fence, every now and then, making snorting noises, which I think translated into “Hey, baby!”.
This was the land owned by James Lee Claxton and his wife, Sarah Cook, then their son Fairwick Claxton and his wife Agnes Muncy, then Samuel Claxton/Clarkson and his wife Elizabeth Speaks. My ancestors lived and died here. Samuel’s daughter, Margaret Claxton/Clarkson who married Joseph Bolton who had my grandmother, Ollie Bolton, was born here. Fairwick’s mother, Sarah Cook Claxton/Clarkson is probably buried here as well in one of the graves marked only by fieldstones. Her husband, James Lee Clarkson/Claxton died in 1815 in Fort Decatur, Alabama and is buried there.
Fairwick’s tombstone is broken, and his wife Agnes Muncy’s isn’t inscribed, but probably a fieldstone near Fairwick’s. His gravestone is spelled Fairwix, but all that is left of his first name today is “ix.” I’ve also seen it spelled Farwix and Farwick.
Fairwix’s son, Samuel is buried quite near to him.
I always wondered if the family knew Samuel’s name was misspelled. If so, I can hear the discussion now, “Just put the stone in the cemetery….it doesn’t matter. I’m not paying for another one.”
The 1870 census indicates that both Elizabeth and Samuel could read and write, but Samuel’s mother, Agnes, could not. Samuel’s children attended school, and the older ones could read and write as well.
After awhile, the bull lost interest in us, mostly because his harem cows wandered off to graze someplace else and I think he thought his odds were better with them. However, when it came time to leave, we still snuck out of that fence, carefully shutting the gate, and set a new world’s record making the dash to the car. After all, we couldn’t see behind the barn and who might be lurking there. In the photo below, we are in the cemetery and the family barn is just outside. You can see several unmarked graves, or more specifically, ones marked only with fieldstones, which was certainly the norm. I was actually quite surprised that Fairwick had a stone.
The Clarkson barn is a beautiful old barn and the only building left from the time when Fairwick and Samuel would have lived. The current owner told us that the original house sat between the cemetery and the barn, in the barnyard
Mrs. Cavin, the current owner, said the original road ran right beside the cemetery, but they moved the road when they paved it and it is further away today. She also said that the original house sat behind the cemetery in the clearing and that there were three different families who lived in the general area.
There was a spring back in the holler, looking up Owen Ridge Road from the barn/cemetery and the families dug a 20 foot well or so and it always flowed into the basin. The women went down there to wash clothes.
I love this old barn. I wonder if Samuel sat on these rocks in the barnyard to take a break from time to time.
We took this photo, below, getting into the Jeep, following our record-setting dash. The mirror is in the lower right hand corner. You can see the cemetery in the distance behind the dead tree and the rusted car. We were fortunate that the bull didn’t chase us. Others have, but those are stories for another time. Where I grew up, one farmer had a bull and others shared. In Tennessee, everyone has their own bull. No bull:)
When we were saying goodbye to this land, I don’t think we realized that we wouldn’t visit again.
These old trees on the Clarkson/Claxton land were probably young when our ancestors lived there. What stories they could tell.
Now I don’t know if our ancestors can see us from the “other side,” but I’m telling you, if they can, Samuel, along with the rest of the family had one great laugh at us, trapped in the family cemetery on a hot spring day, by a bull.
Samuel Claxton/Clarkson, my great-great-grandfather, was born on this land on June 26, 1827. He served in the Civil War on the Union side, which is the only reason we have a photo of him along with his wife Elizabeth. He died in 1876 of the after-effects of his service, just two years after his father, Fairwick, and in the middle of a messy lawsuit involving Fairwick’s estate. Elizabeth delivered her last child in 1876 too, the same year her husband died, and that child had also been buried in this cemetery before she applied for her widow’s pension in 1878. Elizabeth had a lot of loss and grief in just a few years.
Samuel’s physical description by the War Dept. was that he was 5’6” tall, dark complexion and hair and blue eyes. The physical description for both his brother and his nephew were nearly identical except their heights were 5’8”. Samuel’s pension file number is 239822 and his widow filed under Clarkston on Oct. 18, 1878. As it turns out, he served under the spelling of the name Claxton although in records we find the name as Clarkson, Claxton and Clarkston, all 3 varieties. No wonder researchers today are confused.
When Samuel died, he was only 49 years old. What we know of him is mostly through court, census and military records. There is only one record in his “own” voice.
Samuel Clarkson married Elizabeth Speaks, daughter of Charles and Ann McKee Speaks and granddaughter of Nicholas and Sarah Faires Speaks and Alexander and Elizabeth McKee.
According to Elizabeth’s pension application, in an affidavit signed on December 8, 1879, Sarah Shiflet aged 51 of Alanthus Hill and Calvin Wolfe aged 56 of Alanthus Hill appeared and declared the following:
Sarah Shiflet declares:
“I was present when Samuel Clarkson and Elizabeth L. Speak, now Elizabeth L. Clarkson, claimant, was married on the 22nd day of August, 1850 by Rev. Nicholas Speak at the house of Tancy Welch in Hancock County, TN.”
Samuel would have been 23 and she would have been 18.
Calvin Wolfe declared exactly the same thing. Calvin was married to Rebecca Claxton, Samuel Claxton’s aunt. Tandy Welch (also spelled Welsh) was married to Mary Claxton, also Samuel’s aunt. Sarah Claxton married Robert Shiflet and was also Samuel’s aunt.
Nicholas Speaks, Elizabeth’s grandfather, was the founder of the Speak Methodist Church in Lee County, Virginia, just over the border. Tandy Welch was one of the elders of that church as well as a brother-in-law to Samuel Clarkson.
So we know where they were married, and that their wedding was well attended by aunts and uncles.
Samuel and Elizabeth Speak(s) Clarkson/Claxton had the following children:
- Margaret N. 1851-1920 married Joseph “Dode” Bolton
- Cyrena “Rena” M. 1852-1887
- Surrilda Jane 1858-1920 married William Luke Monday. Her death certificate says that she “had fits and fell into fire and burned to death.”
- Clementine 1853-after 1877
- Sarah Ann 1857-1860/1870
- Cynthia “Catherine” 1860-1939 married William Muncy, died of epilepsy
- John 1861- ?
- Matilda 1867-1944 never married
- Henry Clint born in 1869, may have married Amanda Jane Estep
- Mary W. 1872 – after 1930, married Martin Parks
- Jerushia 1874-1925 married Thomas Monroe Robinson, below
- Elizabeth 1876-1877/1878
The 1900 census indicated that Samuel and Elizabeth had 12 children and 9 were still living. The deceased children would have been Elizabeth, Cyrena and Sarah Ann. I believe they may have had one more child, Ellen. In the Clarkson cemetery, without a date, is one last stone that says “Ellen sleeps here.” Elizabeth Clarkson was the last Clarkson wife to have children, and it’s only her and her children’s generation that have carved headstones instead of fieldstones. There are several gaps between children that could indicated children who died before a census recorded them for posterity.
A very interesting fact that has become evident by finding a few of the death certificates of Samuel and Elizabeth’s children is that two of their children had epilepsy to the point that the condition directly or indirectly caused their death. This strongly suggests a genetic influence. Epilepsy does have a genetic component although other factors like head trauma make epilepsy more likely.
According to Stanford Medical School, doctors have discovered a technique called the gene chip, which can quickly screen thousands of genes in an individual. Each bright spot in the chip represents a strong presence of a particular gene in the person being tested. This quick test will help diagnose and treat epilepsy in the near future.
Fortunately, by my generation, if a predisposition to epilepsy was found in Samuel and Elizabeth’s children, it has not manifested itself in either my generation or that of my father, his siblings or my grandmother. Ah, the beauty of genetics. In this case, I was most certainly on the lucky side of the dice. Soon, it seems there will be help for those who weren’t as lucky. I was just sick to think of my great-aunt falling into the fire during a seizure.
The photo below, taken about 1900-1905, is the Tandy Welch home where Samuel Clarkson and Elizabeth Speaks were married. Note Cecil Wolfe sitting on top of the chimney!
In the 1850 census, the newlyweds, Samuel and Elizabeth Clarkson/Claxton are living beside his parents in Hancock County, where they would both live for the rest of their lives. They also lived beside Samuel’s brother, William, who would sue Samuel relative to their father’s land in the 1870s. Samuel also lived beside his grandmother, Sarah Claxton. All of their surnames were spelled Claxton in 1850.
On February 16, 1854, a note was recorded as due December 25, 1854 from Samuel Clarkston to William Kincaid for $4.75.
About the same time, Samuel buys items at the estate of Isaac Larimore; a satchell for 50 cents, a crock for a dime, a crock for a quarter and a set “t cups and saucers” for a quarter. Those were probably for Elizabeth. He then bought a shoat (young pig) for 1.55.
In 1860, life was pretty much the same as it was in 1850. They lived in the same place, but had 5 children. He is listed as a farmer and his wife’s occupation is listed as “scowering.” With a houseful of kids and doing laundry in the river on a washboard, I’d bet she did a lot of scowering.
The Civil War
During the Civil War, Samuel Clarkson was a private in Company F of the 8th Tennessee Cavalry of the Union Army. He enlisted May 31, 1863 at London, KY for the term of 3 years and was discharged May 24, 1865 in Knoxville. What happened in-between those dates would cost him his life in 1876.
This region was torn between those serving with the Union and those in the Confederacy. I have to wonder why he close to volunteer to fight with the Union. Apparently this sentiment was prevalent in the entire family, as his brother Henry enlisted for the Union in July 1862 and would perish of disease in Louisville, KY in 1864. His brother, John, enlisted On March 15, 1862 and died on March 20, 1863. Samuel’s nephew, Fernando, enlisted about 10 days after his uncle, Henry in the same location at Cumberland Gap. Samuel wasn’t drafted, he went willingly and enlisted for a 3 year term of service. That means that his wife, now age 31 with 7 children would be left at home to farm, tend the children, fend of marauding soldiers from both sides and anything else that needed to be done. That would be a difficult decision for a man to make. But I bet she was a crack shot!
Samuel’s Civil War unit saw action in the following locations.
- Duty at Cynthiana, Ky., and along railroad till August, 1863.
- Pursuit of Morgan July 1-20.
- Buffington Island, Ohio, July 19.
- Operations against Scott July 25-August 6.
- Near Winchester, Ky., July 29.
- Irvine July 30.
- Lancaster, Stanford and Paint Lick Bridge July 31.
- Smith Shoals, Cumberland River, August 1.
- Assigned to 8th Tennessee Cavalry August, 1863
- Skirmish, Hawkins County, August 1, 1863.
- Burnside’s Campaign in East Tennessee August 16-October 17, 1863. Occupation of Knoxville September 2.
- Greenville September 11.
- Kingsport September 18.
- Bristol September 19.
- Carter’s Depot September 20-21.
- Zollicoffer September 20-21.
- Watauga River Bridge September 21-22.
- Jonesboro September 21.
- Hall’s Ford, on Watauga River, September 22.
- Blountsville, Johnson’s Depot and Carter’s Depot September 22.
- Blue Springs October 10.
- Henderson’s Mill and Rheatown October 11.
- Zollicoffer October 12.
- Blountsville October 14.
- Bristol October 15.
- Knoxville Campaign November 4-December 23.
- Siege of Knoxville November 17-December 5.
- Duty at Knoxville, Greenville, Nashville and Columbia and patrol duty on line of Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad from Columbia to Nashville till August, 1864.
- At Bull’s Gap till October, 1864.
- Rheatown September 28.
- Watauga River September 29.
- Carter’s Station September 30-October 1.
- Operations in East Tennessee October 10-28.
- Greenville October 12.
- Bull’s Gap October 16.
- Clinch Mountain October 18.
- Clinch Valley, near Sneedsville, October 21.
- Mossy Creek and Panther Gap October 27.
- Morristown October 28.
- Russellville October 28.
- Operations against Breckenridge in East Tennessee November 4-17.
- Russellville November 11.
- Bull’s Gap November 11-13.
- Russellville November 14.
- Strawberry Plains November 16-17.
- Flat Creek November 17.
- Stoneman’s Saltsville (Va.) Raid December 10-29.
- Big Creek, near Rogersville, December 12.
- Kingsport December 13.
- Near Glade Springs December 15.
- Near Marion and capture of Wythevill December 16.
- Mt. Airey December 17.
- Near Marion December 17-18.
- Capture and destruction of Salt Works at Saltsville December 20-21.
- Stoneman’s Expedition from East Tennessee into Southwest Virginia and Western North Carolina March 21-April 25, 1865.
- Wytheville April 6.
- Shallow Ford and near Mocksville April 11.
- Salisbury April 12.
- Catawba River April 17.
- Swannanoa Gap April 22.
- Near Hendersonville April 28.
- Duty in District of East Tennessee till September, 1865. Mustered out September 11, 1865.
Samuel’s regiment lost during service: 1 Officer and 37 Enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 1 Officer and 241 Enlisted men by disease. Total 280. Disease took six and a half times more men that actual warfare – and that’s not counting the men like Samuel who would succumb later.
Stoneman’s Expedition would be Samuel’s last battle. He came back from that battle quite ill, with bronchitis, and according to his military records, was hospitalized in Knoxville from then until he was mustered out in May and went home to Hancock County. I wonder how he got home. After arriving at home, according to later testimony, he was confined to home for 10 weeks to recover. He did recover somewhat, but never entirely, and was never able to “labor” normally.
Elizabeth’s Pension Application
In 1878, Elizabeth applied for a pension for herself and her four minor children based on Samuel’s service during the Civil War. This proved to be more difficult than anticipated.
Apparently there was some issue in terms of proving who Samuel Clarkson/Claxton actually was, and if he did or did not serve in the Army. Elizabeth had to jump through lots of hoops. Fortunately, she was able to do so.
On the 14th of Sept. 1878, Elisabeth L. Clarkson of Alanthus Hill age 46 swears that in order to obtain the pension provided by an act of congress approved July 14, 1862, that she is the widow of Samuel Clarkson who was a private in company F commanded by Fielding L. McVey in the 8th regiment of the Tennessee Cavalry volunteers in the war of 1861 and that her maiden name was Elizabeth L. Speak and that she was married to the said Samuel Clarkson on the 22nd day of August in 1850 at Tandy Welch’s in the county of Hancock an the state of Tennessee by Nicolas Speak, Minister of the Gospel and that there is a record evidence of marriage.
She declares further than Samuel Clarkson her husband died at home in Hancock County Tennessee on the 5th of December in 1876 of bronchitis which disease he contracted while in the service of the US and of which he died.
There are several correspondences between the War Dept. and Elizabeth. She was forced to find people who were present at the births of her children and at her marriage since the Hancock County marriage records were burned during the Civil War. She did, and they testified or gave depositions. She was awarded a pension until her death in 1907 in the amount of $8 a month, plus $2 a month for each child under 16.
Elizabeth had to prove that Samuel Claxton in the War Department records was the same person as her Samuel Clarkson. A letter from the War Dept. dated Nov. 4 1878 referencing pension 239,822 states that Samuel Clarkson is not on the roster but that Samuel Claxton mustered out May 20, 1865.
On July 5, 1880, the Clerk of Hancock Co., stated that he find no marriage record for Samuel Clarkson and Elizabeth Speak, but that “much of the marriage records of about the date 1850 were lost during the late war.”
Elizabeth also had to prove that Samuel’s illness that caused his death was service related.
In 1879, Rachel Lemons, age 52, who along with Margaret Clarkson Bolton has been present at the birth of Matilda, testified to the following:
“Samuel Clarkson came home from the army sick. Henly F. Robinson MD, now dead, was his physician. I was present and heard the doctor say that Clarkson was afflicted with bronchitis and that he, the doctor, could patch him (Clarkson) up for awhile but that no man could cure him, he was very weakly until he died with said disease.”
General affidavit in the case of Elisabeth Clarkson widow of Samuel Clarkson March 1, 1879. Samuel Payne age 38 a resident of Hancock County and William Sulfrage, aged 57, of Claiborne Co., TN declare:
Samuel Payne declares that he was a soldier in the 8th regiment Tennessee Cavalry Company E and that he knows that Samuel Clarkson belonged to the same regiment (F).
William Sulfrage declares that he was a soldier in the 8th regiment TN Cavalry Company F and the he knows that Samuel Clarkson belonged to the same regiment and company. The discharge of Samuel Clarkson sets forth the same fact.
Samuel Payne signs, William Sulfrage with his mark.
A “Proof of Disability” form was completed by a Justice of the Peace in Hancock Co. On June 19, 1879, M.B. Overton, Sneedville, age 56 of Hancock Co., swears “that he was acquainted with Samuel Clarkson and that he was the same Samuel Clarkson who was a private in Company F, 8th regiment of the TN Cavalry and who was discharged at Knoxville on the 20th of May 1865.” He further states that he “was acquainted with the said Clarkson from his youth and he appeared to be as stout as men of his size and that he joined the US army and that in the year 1864 he was at Knoxville, TN and found the said Clarkson in the hospital under medical treatment and ever after that time he was very feeble and died in 1876.” Affiant further states that “he was with the said Clarkson at different times and places and noticed that he was very feeble and that he was not by any means stout as he was prior to his enlistment in the army and that his breath was very offensive.”
In an affidavit on June 27, 1879 Samuel M. Payne 39 years of age a resident of Hancock County declares that he “and Samuel Clarkson belonged to the 8th TN Cavalry and that Clarkson was a good soldier until after Stoneman’s Raid in December 1864 when the said Stoneman returned to Knoxville the said Clarkson was sick and was treated in the hospital at that place for he was in the Raid.”
Payne further states that he was in the hospital with Clarkson and that he, Clarkson, told him that he had bronchitis and that he had been personally acquainted with Clarkson since the war and Clarkson told him different times that he had bronchitis which was contracted while in the Army and that it would terminate in his death sooner or later and his information is that Clarkson died with that disease.
Samuel’s doctor testified in an affidavit in Madison Co., KY in the matter of Elizabeth L. Clarkston. On November 18, 1879, Doctor C.J. Bales age 30 a resident of Kingston, Madison Co., KY states that:
Swears “that he is a practicing physician and knew claimant for about 6 years and he did not know claimant prior to enlistment, but have known him since the spring of 1873. He was his family physician and lived 7 or 8 miles from him. I do not know if he was a sound man or not prior to the enlistment.” He further stats that he “did not treat claimant while in service but treated him since his discharge. My first treatment was on Dec. 2, 1876. His physical condition was bad, he had pneumonia from which disease he died. He had bronchitis the first time I ever saw him and told me he became diseased while in the Army. He labored some after his discharge but was not able to perform hard labor.”
Bales also stated:
“Samuel Clarkson died Dec. 4 1876. Immediate cause of death pneumonia. I knew him from March 1873 to the date of his death. He was afflicted with chronic bronchitis while I knew him. He told me that he became afflicted while in the Army. Pneumonia an inflammation of the ?? lungs. Chronic bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes. Therefore when pneumonia sets up in connection with chronic bronchitis the danger is increased as in the case of Samuel Clarkston.”
Affidavit On June 24, 1880 of Calvin Wolfe age 57 of Alanthus Hill in Hancock Co., TN. and Margaret Bolton of the same place, do state as follows:
“Samuel Clarkson came home sick with bronchitis after he was discharged from the service of the US, was confined to his house 10 weeks and was treated by Dr. H.F. Robinson, now dead. He, Clarkson, partially recovered and got able to walk and ride around through the country and labor a little. He never got well. Complained all the time. Sometimes he could do about half days labor at other times he was not able to do anything. He was troubled more or less all the time with a cough. Also general debility up to the time that he was treated by Dr. Bales. We have personal knowledge of these facts. We lived a close neighbor to him.”
Affidavit of Clementine Clarkson, age 24, of Alanthus Hill in Hancock County on June 23, 1879.
Clementine states that at the time of her father, Samuel Clarkson’s illness, she was away from home and her mother sent for her to come home. She did so and when reached home and finding her father very feeble she asked him “what’s the matter?” His answer was “I have got that old disease that I had when I came out of the Army, bronchitis and I want you to come home and your mother wait on me.”
She further declared that she never heard of her father having bronchitis until he came home from the US Army and that he died on the ___ day of December.
A letter from the War Department dated April 28, 1879 states that for Samuel Claxton there is no original enlistment or muster-in roll, but the muster rolls for company F of the 8th Regiment of the TN Cavalry show the following evidence of service.
“Enlisted as a private May 31, 1863 at London, KY to serve 3 years. On roll from enlistment to October 31, 1863, he is reported present and so born on sub rolls to March and April 1865 when reported absent sick since March 12, 1865 Knoxville, TN. He was mustered out on ? Roll May 20, 1865 at the Asylum US A Genl. Hospital in Knoxville, TN. Name not borne Samuel Clarkson on any roll on file.”
A letter from the Surgeon General’s office dated Aug. 8, 1879. Samuel Clarkston private Co F 8 TN Cav entered Asylum G.H. Knoxville TN March 12, 1865 with chronic bronchitis and was discharged from service May 20, 1865. No regt records on file.
A July 5, 1880 affidavit before JP of David N. Louthen 43 (or 48) years, resident of Hancock Co., TN, Mulberry Gap, in the case of Samuel Clarkson.
“I was with the said Clarkson many times after he was discharged from the service. He stated to me that he was still troubled with bronchitis or lung disease that he contracted in the service. Some 2 weeks before said Clarkson died he stated to me that he was becoming worse with the said disease.”
Rachel Lemons declared relative to Elizabeth Clarkson’s pension application:
“Samuel Clarkson came home from the army sick. Henly F. Robinson MD, now dead, was his physician. I was present and heard the doctor say that Clarkson was afflicted with bronchitis and that he, the doctor, could patch him (Clarkson) up for awhile but that no man could cure him, he was very weakly until he died with said disease.”
Indeed, he did become worse and succumbed on December 5, 1876, just three weeks before Christmas. Given his health and his obvious misery for the decade before his death, one wonders if this was perceived as a tragedy or as a blessing – a release from interminable torture.
Elizabeth, Samuel’s widow, declares that Samuel Clarkson, her husband, died at home in Hancock County Tennessee on the 5th of December in 1876 of bronchitis which disease he contracted while in the service of the US and of which he died.
She declares she has remained a widow since the death of Samuel Clarkson. She has the following children under the age of 16 living at home whose names and date of birth are given below:
- Matilda Clarkson born March 5, 1867
- Henry Clarkson born June 19, 1869
- Mary W. Clarkson born May 5, 1872
- Jerusha Clarkson Feb. 1, 1874
Elizabeth signs as Clarkston.
Elizabeth finally received a pension retroactively of $8 per month commencing on Dec. 5, 1876 and an additional $2 per month for Matilda, Henry, Mary W. and Jerusha until they reached the age of 16.
The Clarkson family members attended the Rob Camp Baptist Church which was located not far from where they lived.
Church notes reflect that in August 1858, Mary Martin, Malinda Martin and Saliner Tankersley of color, Elizabeth Clarkson, Nancy Clarkson, William Clarkson, Samuel Clarkson and Edward H. Clarkson were received by experience. This typically means they were then baptized and became members of the church after having a revealing religious experience. From the number of people joining that month, I suspect that there had been a revival. Given that a church revival was THE only social outlet for the area, aside from regular church services, pretty much everyone attended, coming from miles around and camping for as long as a week in their wagons. Revivals were legendary. And revival fever – it was infectious – terrible ketchin’.
If you’ve ever heard one of those southern fire and brimstone preachers, you’ll understand what I mean. They’ll literally scare the Hell out of you, or scare the you out of Hell, one way or the other! By the time they’re done with you, you can feel and see the flames lapping at your toes!!! And you certainly don’t want to be the only one left behind when all of your siblings and neighbors are escaping Hell’s firey reach – so it’s into the river and into the church. In Samuel’s case, it would have been the Powell River, beside his house and near the church as well.
This baptism, below, was typical of this region and occurred in the same part of Hancock County, in the same way, near the Tennessee/Virginia state line in 1963.
Almost exactly a decade later, we find a note about Samuel in the Rob Camp Baptist Church minutes dated Saturday, Sept. 2, 1868: “Excluded Samuel Clarkson for getting drunk and not being willing to make any acknowledgements whatever.” This means that he wasn’t willing to publicly apologize and admit that he “did wrong” and promise to mend his ways. Clearly, he didn’t think he had “done wrong,” or he wasn’t about to mend his ways. One way or the other, Samuel was done with church altogether.
In May of 1869, a group of people including Elizabeth, Samuel’s wife and several other family members were excused from Rob Camp Church to establish a new church, but Samuel’s name was not among them nor was his name among the new Mt. Zion Church membership. His severance with organized religion was apparently permanent. I wonder if there was a preacher at Samuel’s funeral.
In the 1870 census, Elizabeth Speaks and Samuel Claxton have 8 children and are living beside his parents, Fairwick and Agnes Muncy Claxton.
Samuel’s father, Fairwick Claxton died on February 11, 1874. On Jan. 19, 1875, a lawsuit was filed in Hancock Co. Chancery Court that eventually would be settled after Samuel’s death in the Tennessee State Supreme Court. That’s where Daryl and I found those records which had been transferred from Hancock County before the courthouse burned. Thanks Heavens for small favors!
Samuel’s brother, William Clarkson filed suit against Samuel Clarkson, etal.
Enrolling docket – chancery court – Page 167 – January 19, 1875 – To the Honorable H.C. Smith chancellor for the first chancery district of Tennessee sitting at Sneedville…your orator William Clarkson, a resident of Union Co., Tn., that on the 11th day of Feb. 1874, his father Fairwix Clarkson died intestate in the said county of Hancock. A few days before the death of said Fairwix and while on his death bed, and in his last sickness, he was by means of undue influence induced to sign deeds which purported to convey his real estate to his son Samuel Clarkson and one of his granddaughters, Nancy Furry, and a daughter Rebecca Wolfe, each getting a separate tract by a separate conveyance. The deed to the said Samuel Clarkson conveyed a tract lying in the 4th civil district of said county of Hancock adjoining the land of Melburn Overton, James Overton and others, the tract conveyed to said Nancy Furry lies in the same civil district and adjoins lands of Montgomery and Clarkson and others and the tract conveyed to Rebecca Wolfe lies in the same civil district and adjoins the lands of Rhoda Shiflett, Henry Yeary and others. Said lands are valuable and are worth $2000 or more. The consideration named in each of said deeds in the sum of $150 but nothing was paid. These lands constituted almost the entire estate of said Fairwix. He left a widow surviving him and several other children and grandchildren who were in no way provided for by said intestate. Your orator shows dates and expressly charges that the two said deeds were pretended to have been made and executed, the said Fairwix Clarkson was so enfeebled in mind that he was incapable of doing any binding act, and that therefore the said pretended conveyances were not his acts and deeds and that he really died the true owner of said lands and the same of rightly belong to his heirs-at-law.
The suit goes on to name the many heirs of Fairwick.
June 2, 1875 – The answer of Samuel Clarkson, Nancy Fury, Rebecca Wolf and Agnes Clarkson to the bill of complaint of William Clarkson files in the chancery court in Sneedville…these respondents reserving all the benefits of exceptions to the complaints said bill answering say – They admit the death of Fairwick Clarkson as stated and that he died intestate – that 5 days before his death he executed the deeds mentioned in the bill and while in his last sickness and in his proper mind. That some 12 months or two years before his death, (page 185) he expressed the same feeling and agreed to the same contracts as mentioned in the deeds as being his free and voluntary act and such as he intended to carry out. He was in his proper mind all the while during his last sickness and equally so 12 months on two years before the execution of the deeds mentioned in the bill and the deeds only carried out his expressed contract two years before his death and without any undue influence or inducement of any kind whatever.
These respondents admit the conveyance were made to them and made in good faith and for a valuable consideration – Respondent Samuel Clarkson’s 100 acres more or less lies in the River Bluffs and is of little value. Respondent Nancy Furry has about 100 and 20 acres on the top of the river bluffs in the limestone and cedar and Rebecca Wolfe has about 56 acres on the same lonts? of land. These respondants state they have paid fully for the land and will probably have to pay more than their contracts on the debts a matters the deceased much desired should be paid and hence said deeds were executed in good faith and for the purposes stated. Respondents have lived with the deceased and his wife, now his widow, for at least 7 years working hard for his support and his hers? who has relinquished her dower interest to these respondants. The lands are properly bounded and located by the bill, but the estimated value is too much. Respondents admit the number of heirs stated, respondents now repeat and state that their Father the deceased was properly at himself when the deeds were executed and only executed a contract contemplated 12 months before that time – the there was no undue influences used or persuasion to induce the execution of the deeds, that they were freely and voluntarily executed by the deceased. Respondent also shows the estate was indebted and no personal estate to payment and these respondents has paid up the debts.
This document tells us that Fairwix was unable to attend to the farm for the last 7 years, which means since 1868, and Samuel, in addition to his own health issues, assisted his ailing father, helping to support his parents, sister and niece.
Depositions ensued. In one taken Feb 11, 1876, we find the following testimony by John T. Montgomery:
2nd by complainant – do you know who waited upon Fairwix Clarkson and attended to his affairs for some years before he died and for who?
Answer – I have a knowledge of Samuel Clarkson and family cropping him would and doing his milling .
Oral Examination of complainants state of Samuel Clarkston lived on the land so mentioned and cultivated the same during the time.
Answer – he was living on the place and cultivated part of it.
On June 14, 1876, Samuel Clarkson was deposed. This is the only record we have of his actual words.
The said witness Samuel Clarkson aged about 49 years being duly sworn deposed as follows.
Please state if you are the son of the said Fairwick Clarkson and one of the defendants in this case.
Answer – I am said to be the son of Fairwick Clarkson and am one of the defts in the case.
2nd question – State if you were well acquainted with your father before his death and for what length of time?
Answer – I was well acquainted all of my life with him.
3rd question – State where you lived at the time of your father’s death?
Answer – In the 14th Civil District of Hancock County Tennessee on the lands I got of my father.
4th question – State how far you lived from your father? (page 3)
Answer – I live some two hundred and fifty or three hundred yards from father.
5th question by defts – State who provided for your father before his death and how long?
Answer – I provided for my father about seven years before his death. I made the grain and took care of it for him, and paid the rents of my own crop. And I also got his firewood for him, that is the principal part of it – and prepared it for the fire place and put it on the fire for him.
6th question by respt. – State if your father was properly in his mind up to the time of his death?
Answer – To my knowledge he never was out of his proper mind.
7th question – State how long before your father’s death he contracted to you the part of the land you live on, and anything you may know about the balance owned by the other defendants?
Answer – My father contracted the land to me that I now live on in the year 1867. And he died in the year 1874. He said that he was going to strike off the lands on the side of the road he lived to Nancy Furry and Rebeca Wolfe except fifty acres to Furnando Clarkson.
8th question – State if at any time (he) your father ever showed you any of the lines and what he said about them?
Answer – (He) my father showed me a corner tree to the part I got of him. He said that was the corner to which he was going to make me deed. He said he was going to go and show deft Wolfe his line he said that his wife had paid him for it and was going to make them a deed to it. He said he was going to cut-off to Rebecca Wolfe about fifty acres, and deed the other to Nancy Furry. He said she had paid for it value received and he was going to make her a deed to it. The deeds were after words made to Defts. This talk all passed before he was taken down sick. The deeds were made after wards.
9th question – State if you paid for your part of the land and how? Answer – I did pay for it… In pure hard labor. I am still paying for it by taking care of my mother as was my contract. I paid about thirty five dollars and Calvin Wolfe and wife and Nancy Furry paid about forty-five dollars on fathers debts since his death.
10th question by same – State if the above payments were part of the consideration of the decd mentioned.
Answer – No they were not (page 5)
On July 15, 1876, Agnes Clarkson, the mother of both Samuel and William Clarkson was deposed. Among other things, she said the following:
By same – Did you hear the decd Fairwix Clarkson say anything about the disposition he had made of the lands in dispute in this case as what he intended to make of said land and at what time did you hear him talk about the matter?
Answer – I have years ago heard him talk about what disposition he intended to make of it.
By same – Please state what he said before to the disposition of said lands.
Answer – He and myself were alone and he said he wanted his business wound up that he intended to make three deeds one to Samuel Clarkson, one to Rebecca Wolf and one to Nancy Ferry(was then). I asked him what he intended to do with his other children and he said he would do by them as they had done by him they had left him in a bad condition and he had nothing for them. I persuaded him to leave same land for them and he said I need not talk to him for he would not.
This document was found in the case file and includes Samuel Clarkson’s signature, unless a clerk wrote and signed everything.
It was acknowledged that the deposition be taken at the house of Agness Clarkson on June 9th. Agness was the mother of both William and Samuel, and this entire situation must have grieved her heart deeply as she watched it destroy what was left of her family.
On December 5, 1876, Samuel died, officially of pneumonia, but probably of tuberculosis contracted during his Civil War service.
Court record on March 13, 1877 – In this case the death of the defendant Samuel Clarkson is suggested and admitted to be true and the defendant left a widow Elizabeth Clarkson and several children viz., Margaret Bolton wife of Joseph Bolton, Rena Clarkson, Clementine Clarkson, Jane Monday wife of Luke Monday, Catharine Clarkson, Matilda Clarkson, Jerusha Clarkson, Mary Clarkson, Elizabeth Clarkson, John Clarkson, Henry Clarkson and the two first named children being adults. Thomas McDermott solicitor of said minors, Elizabeth, Rena and Joseph Bolton and wife Margaret Bolton enter their appearance and waives service of process. It is therefore ordered and decreed that this cause be and the sheriff is ordered to summon Luke Monday and the other children of said deceased to appear at the next term of this court to show cause if any why this suit should not be revived against them.
March 14, 1878 – the court finds that there was no undue influence, and William Clarkson requests a trial transcript for the supreme court, where he intends to file, which is where Daryl and I found this case.
Shortly thereafter, Elizabeth applies for a widow’s pension based on Samuel’s service in the Civil War. She could have applied earlier, but maybe she just needed to end one crisis before beginning a separate legal action.
That’s about all we know about Samuel Clarkson/Claxton’s life, at least from the records that existed at the time he lived. Fortunately, there are a few records, all born out of conflict of some type. That conflict certainly was a detriment to his life. The Civil War cost him his life, and the lawsuit over his father’s land had to make his last year of life miserable. He passed over, worried I’m sure, about the outcome of that suit and his wife’s ability to support herself and raise the underage children still at home. Not to mention, Samuel was supporting his mother as well, apparently an arrangement promised to his father, Fairwick, before his death. What would happen to her?
There is a great irony here, and that is that cousin Daryl and I descend, one of us from Samuel, and one of us from William. Do you think they were both turning over in their graves? Daryl is one of my closest cousins and friends, while I’m sure that the rift over Fairwick’s estate stood between the brothers as insurmountable as a mountain.
There is something else that William and Samuel shared with all of their Clarkson/Claxton male kin who carried the surname, and the Y chromosome of Fairwick and of James Claxton before him, and that is their DNA.
The Claxton/Clarkson DNA
The Y chromosome is passed from father to son, unchanged, and unmixed with any DNA from the mother, which gives us the ability to track this DNA back in time.
Several Claxton/Clarkson men have tested in the Clarkson/Claxton DNA project. As it turns out, there are several separate groups of Clarkson/Claxton men in the DNA project. There are, however, 19 Clarkson/Claxton/Williams men who are unquestionably matches to each other that include this group of Clarkson/Claxton men.
We don’t know exactly how all of these men are related, but we know positively that they are, because their DNA matches and their surnames are very similar. Based on the surname, it’s seems that the original name was Claxton, not Clarkson, which makes research somewhat easier and explains the constant confusion in Hancock County surrounding the surname.
The first group labeled Bedford and Claiborne Co., TN group reflects the ancestry of Samuel Claxton. Fortunately, our Claiborne/Hancock County line is represented by three different kits, number 48133, 139774 and 117479. Yes, for two of those kits, the surname is Williams, the result of a common law marriage wherein the children took their mother’s surname, but research has proven, along with the DNA, that biologically this line is Claxton. Kit 48133 descends through Fernando Clarkson, son of James, son of Fairwick. The Williams line descends through Hugh Claxton, son of Henry Avery Claxton, son of Fairwick.
The Claxton DNA markers are unique enough that at both 37 and 67 markers, these men only have matches to other Claxton and Williams men. That’s certainly a blessing since their haplogroup is R-U198, a subgroup of about a quarter of European men who test. I am thankful for our rare STR marker values which make us unique. Not everyone is that fortunate. If one of our participants were to test further, I’m sure that we would be members of a smaller haplogroup subgroup as well. Maybe someday someone will take the Big Y, after we find that common ancestor, which seems to be a more pressing focus than haplogroup definition.
On the chart below, notice the “mode” line. We could just as easily call this the “earliest ancestor reconstructed” line for our Claiborne/Hancock Claxton group. This is because the mode is the most frequently found number for each STR marker within the group. In other words, whoever our common ancestor is, this is what his DNA looks like, using all of the results to determine the original value.
Each of the colored boxes within the group shows the difference from the mode, in coloration. You can double click to enlarge the chart.
You can see that Fairwick has three kits who descend from him. Kit number 48133 has had a mutation at location DYS439 and kit 139774 has experienced a mutation at location CDYb. For both of these men’s lines, those will be line marker mutations. We know they happened between Fairwick and their generation. In the case of kit 139774, we know that CDYb mutation happened between Hugh and the current generation, because kit 117479 who also descends from Hugh does not carry that mutation. In fact, kit 117479 has had no mutations since Fairwick, and judging from the fact that he matches the mode exactly, as well as the Bedford County Group, shown by kit 23358, directly above his, exactly. He has had no mutations since the original common ancestor, probably a few generations earlier, probably someplace in North Carolina. This tells us that Fairwick also matched that original ancestor exactly. We don’t know about Samuel directly, since no one in his direct line has tested, but he is most likely to match Fairwick exactly.
It’s ironic, in this family drama, that what we do know about Samuel’s DNA is courtesy of his two brothers, both of whom were probably estranged from him, based on what happened to his father’s estate
In many ways, Samuel’s life, and death, make me sad. This isn’t the way life is supposed to work. There was no “happily ever after.” Elizabeth and Samuel had a normal beginning, married in her uncles house, and began their family. I’m sure they were like every young couple, starry-eyed, very much in love, and excited to set up housekeeping. He bought her teacups and saucers, a luxury in the back woods, hills and hollers of Appalachia. However, the Civil War interrupted their life and as fate would have it, defined their future, abbreviated as it would be.
We’ll never know what inspired Samuel to volunteer to fight. The Claxton’s didn’t own slaves and neither did most people living in Hancock County. It was a rocky area not generally able to support more people than lived there – let alone anyone extra. Most of the residents are clannish and while they are very interested in the neighbors business, who they are likely related to several times over, they want to remain out of the business of anyone they don’t know. For some reason, Samuel must have felt strongly about the Civil War, because he, two brothers, one brother-in-law and a nephew, Fernando,volunteered as well. Three of those four men would perish in the war and Samuel afterwards.
The illness that Samuel contracted during the war clearly made the man miserable. The testimony of the people who knew him and the physicians who treated him make that evident. He complained all of the time and his breath was very offensive. He coughed constantly, was weak and couldn’t work. He spent from late 1864 until his death in 1876 as an ill man with increasingly degenerating health, but still caring for his aging parents.
His wife, Elizabeth, called one of her daughters home to help. The only thing that saved this family was likely that they lived in a nuclear family unit, meaning several generations lived on the land, including Samuel’s father, Fairwick, his mother and several of his siblings lived in close proximity. Looking back and at the testimony about his father, Fairwick, during his last 7 years when he was disabled, I have to wonder if some of the reason that Samuel’s siblings all-too-willingly left was to escape a disabled and needy father, grandmother and brother. Life during this time was very difficult for the Clarkson family, and they could have used any help they could have gotten. Fairwick was obviously very hurt by the fact that so few of his children helped him when he was in need and chose to treat them as they had treated him.
To make Samuel’s life even more miserable, two of his brother’s, John and Henry died in the Civil War, as did his brother-in-law, John Wolfe. This family was wracked with tragedy and sorrow during the Civil War and never escaped that long shadow.
Samuel apparently drank. We don’t know the circumstances, or how often, but he was obviously unrepentant, according to church records in 1868. I guess if anyone deserved to get drunk, it was probably Samuel Clarkson. He earned the right. I hope that drinking didn’t become yet another chronic problem for him. He might have used alcohol to deaden pain, either physical or emotional, or both.
By the time Samuel’s father, Fairwick, died in 1874, 3 of Fairwick’s sons were dead, two of them in the Civil War, his son-in-law of the same cause, and one daughter. In addition, Samuel was gravely ill and Fairwick had to know he was not long for this earth. That left only 2 daughters and William as the healthy son, but William moved away from the homeplace, to Union County. Fairwick’s wife, Agness’s, depositions about how only Samuel, one daughter and one granddaughter helped them are hard to read without heartache, especially knowing how ill Samuel was while he was trying to help his father.
Agness would bury her son Samuel, before her own death sometime after 1880.
On top of all of that, Samuel’s wife, Elizabeth, would bury her last child born in the year Samuel died, along with at least 3 more before 1900. Oral family history is unproven but indicates that both of her sons died about 1900 as well. Some of Samuel and Elizabeth’s children and grandchildren are shown in this photo taken about 1896.
Samuel’s last days weren’t heralded by being surrounded by a loving family, but by a lawsuit filed by his only living brother alleging that Samuel unduly influenced their father prior to his death. He would have died in the house that sat in this clearing between the rocks and the barn.
The pictures reveal the true value of that land – it was, in essence, unfarmable, full of rocks – but Samuel had to deal with the allegations and the turmoil of the lawsuit in addition to his rapidly failing health. Elizabeth must have been a wreck. In addition to everything else, she had two epileptic children. After Samuel’s death, she also had her mother-in-law to care for. How did she manage?
Samuel gave a deposition at his mother’s house just weeks before his own death and died before that lawsuit was complete. No undue influence was found, but then William refiled the suit in the Supreme Court, so the drama continued. We never did discover exactly how that Supreme Court cases ended, but since William never owned any land in Hancock County, I would presume that that suit too was found in favor of Samuel’s heirs.
I hope that Samuel truly was proud to wear his military uniform. He seemed to be, and he and Elizabeth make a beautiful couple. I’m so grateful for that photo – it’s the only one of Samuel, although he doesn’t look particularly happy – although no one smiled in pictures taken during that timeframe. Both Samuel and Elizabeth sacrificed greatly. He gave the ultimate sacrifice – that of his life, after fighting a valiant battle for 11 years after the war, while helping his father. It was a battle Samuel would not win. Elizabeth carried far more than her share of the load, beginning with the war and never ending until she was buried alongside Samuel in the Clarkson Cemetery in 1907, still his widow, 31 years after his death.
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