Charles Speak (November 19, 1804/5 -1840/1850), Church Trustee, 52 Ancestors #54

Charles Speak was born on November 19 in either 1804 or 1805, in Washington County, Virginia, the first child of Nicholas Speak and Sarah Faires.

We know little about the childhood of Charles, except by inference.

On August 12, 1804, Sarah and Nicholas were married in Washington  County, VA by the Rev. Charles Cummings.  Rev. Cummings was of the Presbyterian faith as were many of Sarah’s relatives, indicating that they were probably of Scotch-Irish descent. Reverend Cummings answered the call to minister about a mile northwest of present day Abington, VA and established the Sinking Springs and Ebbing Springs Churches.  Rev. Cummings died in 1812 and was buried at Sinking Springs, so it’s very likely that the Faires and Speak families were members of the Sinking Springs Church at that time and that the church of Charles’ childhood was likely Presbyterian.

Cummings Cabin Sinking Springs

Today, the log cabin of Reverend Cummings sits in the Sinking Springs Cemetery, founded in 1774, where the early settler burials are found in unmarked graves.  The photo above, courtesy the Historical Society of Washington County Virginia, shows the current church in the background.

There is a notation in the journal of Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury that he had visited in the home of Gideon Faires, so it is likely that Gideon embraced the faith of this new religion of Methodism sometime between 1802 when Nicholas and Sarah were married and 1816 when Francis Asbury died.  Perhaps Sarah and Nicholas were also caught up in this new faith.  In addition to Asbury, Methodist circuit riders traveled the area evangelizing the settlers.

In 1814, Charles’ father, Nicholas left in August to serve in the War of 1812 and was gone until he was discharged in February of 1815.  Sarah had 5 children by then, ranging in age from 9 or 10 to the baby at 13 months.  Charles was the eldest, turning 9 or 10 that November, and he would have been left to help his mother as best he could.  Nicholas would have left crops in the field which had to be harvested that fall, and I’m betting that young Charles did far more work than most children that harvest season.  While they expected and hoped that Nicholas would come home, they didn’t really know.  Many men didn’t.  This must have been a trying time for the family.

In the 1820 Washington County census, Charles would have been 14 or 15 and he is shown living with his parents.  Not long after the 1820 census, his father, Nicholas Speaks, would decide to move to Lee County, Virginia where he purchased land on  November 29, 1823 on Glade’s Branch, now known as Speak’s Branch, in the southern part of the county not far from the border with Tennessee.

Charles Speak married his sweetheart, Ann McKee on February 27, 1823, the same year that the Speak family bought the land in Lee County.  I wonder how that marriage proposal occurred.  Did Charles know his father was pulling up stakes and moving?  Had Nicholas been contemplating this move for some time, discussing it with his eldest son?  Did Charles tell Ann that he was going, moving to the frontier, and that he wanted her to come along?  Did she try to convince him to stay in Washington County?  Ann’s father was deceased, but was her mother still living?  Was this looked upon with high expectations and great anticipation, or dreaded, knowing the amount of work they faced, homesteading in the wilderness?

Was this move precipitated by religious conviction?  Nicholas Speak founded the church still known as Speak Chapel on Glade Branch and founded the Methodist religion in Lee County, shortly after his arrival.

The photo below of the original Nicholas Speak cabin was taken in the 1960s, more than 140 years after it was built.

Nicholas Speaks Cabin

Regardless of how it happened, it did, and Charles took his young bride to Lee County where they settled, their first child arriving about a year later in 1824.

Charles and Ann had the following children:

  • Sarah Jane Speak born about 1824, died 1888, married Andrew M. Callahan
  • Nicholas Speak born December 13, 1825, died after 1864, married Rachel Rhoda Callahan
  • Andrew McKee Speak born about 1826, died December 19, 1900 in Grant Co., KY, married Lavina Chance
  • Rebecca Speak born about 1827, married James Painter
  • Charity Speak born about 1829, died after 1880, married Adam Harvey Johnson
  • Elizabeth “Bettie” Speak born July 26, 1832 in Indiana, died Oct. 3, 1907 in Hancock County, TN, married Samuel Claxton

We have a picture of Elizabeth Speak with husband, Samuel Claxton/Clarkson in his Union army uniform before his death in 1876.

Samuel Claxton Elizabeth Speaks

Charles’ son, Nicholas Speak, named after his grandfather, fought with the Confederacy in the Civil War.

Nicholas enlisted on Sept. 30, 1861 as a private.  He was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant, served in Virginia, and was commissioned an officer in Company C, Virginia 21st Infantry Battalion.  He then transferred to company E, Virginia 64th on Dec. 1, 1862.  He rejoined on October 20, 1863.  He is “present” on pay muster rolls through August 30, 1864.  However, it is noted in September and October of 1864 that he “is dismounted at present” which means he was without a horse.  In November and December 1864, he is “absent to get a horse but his time has expired.”  His last record is that he is a prisoner of War and was paroled on April 29, 1865 at Cumberland Gap at the end of the war.  The record on Ancestry which is a compiled service record says he did not survive he war, but I find nothing in his actual records on Fold 3 to indicate otherwise.  He was a POW, released at the end of the war.

I found Nicholas’s POW records as well which say he was at the Military prison in Louisville, KY, captured in Lee Co., VA, on May 17, 1864, initially sent to Nashville, received in Louisville on July 14, 1864 and sent to Camp Douglas in Illinois the same day.  Nicholas’s record says that he, “claim to have been loyal.  Was conscript in the rebel army and desire to take oath of allegiance and become a loyal citizen.”  That tactic, true or otherwise, apparently did not work, because he remained a POW until the end of the war.

Samuel Patton Speak, son of Charles’ brother, Samuel Speak, also served and was captured the same day but died Nov. 20, 1864 of smallpox and was buried near Camp Douglas.  Samuel Patton Speak’s brother, William Hardy Speak was also captured the same day as the other two Speak men, sent to the same prison, but survived the war.  There are abbreviated notes that indicate he may have claimed he was conscripted as well.

Charles Speak’s sister, Rebecca, had been married to William Henderson Rosenbalm (Rosenbaum.)  Rebecca died in February of 1859 and with four small children to raise, William remarried that November to her sister, Frances, known as Fannie, also a sister of Charles.  They had 4 more children in quick succession.  William Henderson Rosenbalm enlisted as a confederate soldier on April 18, 1863, was captured in Lee County, VA on May 17, 1864.  On July 17th, he was in Louisville in the Military prison and was transferred to Camp Douglas, noted as conscripted, where he was received the next day.  His military records show that he died on September 25, 1864, a prisoner of war, also at Camp Douglas.

All 4 men were captured the same day in Lee County.  They must have been together, probably patrolling at night from the pieces I put together of their combined service records.  These men were Charles son, Nicholas, Charles’ nephews Samuel and William and Charles’ (deceased and living) sisters’ husband, William Rosenbalm.  This must have been a terribly devastating day for the Speak family.  And this at the same time that Charles’ sister, Elizabeth’s husband, Samuel Claxton, was serving the Union and several of his family members died in that service.  The families only lived 6 or 7 miles apart although clearly their allegiances were worlds apart.

Camp Douglas, south of Chicago, Illinois, on the prairie, was one of the largest POW camps for Confederate soldiers and became known as the North’s Andersonville.  In the aftermath of the war, Camp Douglas came to be noted for its poor conditions and death rate of between seventeen and twenty-three percent.

Toward the end of 1864, surgeons refused to send recovering prisoners back to the barracks due to the rampant scurvy, attributed to the policy of withholding vegetables from the prisoners. In October 1864, 984 of 7,402 prisoners were reported as sick in the barracks and were believed to have been significantly underreported.

Meanwhile, in November 1864, as repairs were being carried out, water was cut off to the camp and even to the hospital. Prisoners had to risk being shot in order to gather snow, even beyond the dead line, for coffee and other uses.  This was the time during which both William Rosenbalm and Samuel Speak died, on September 25th and November 20th, 1864, respectively.

Some 4,275 Confederate prisoners were known to be reinterred from the shallow camp cemetery to a mass grave at Oak Woods Cemetery after the war.

It’s doubtful that Nicholas was conscripted, given that he was an officer and he signed this receipt as such.  It’s impossible to tell without being there, but it would appear that the Speak family in Lee County, Virginia, were Confederates.

Nicholas Speaks Civil War

It must have been difficult after the Civil War for Charles Speak’s adult children to resolve the breach of the Civil War.

Elizabeth Speak Claxton’s husband, Samuel Claxton, died as a result of his Union service in 1876 while Elizabeth’s brother, Nicholas Speak, fought for the Confederacy and was a POW under horrific conditions.  Nicholas reportedly died in the 1860s, after the war ended.  Samuel Patton and William H. Speak, two of Charles’ nephews also fought in the same unit with Nicholas, were captured along with him on “nite duty.”  One of the newphews died.  William Rosenbalm, Charles’ brother-in-law was also captured that fateful night and died as a POW as well.  If those men really were conscripted, then perhaps family relationships might not have been so difficult.  Regardless, having spent all of those months in a Union prison would have been life altering and would not make anyone fond of the Union.  Maybe it’s a good thing Charles and his wife didn’t live to see this misery and the very large wedge the Civil War probably drove between their children.

Other than the census, the only other piece of information we have about  Charles Speak is his mention in a deed in 1839 when Nicholas Speak transferred the land for Speaks Methodist Church to the trustees that included his son Charles.

To Tandy Welch, Trustee of Speaks Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church

This Indenture made this ____ day of ____ in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty nine Between Nicholas Speak of Lee County and State of Virginia of one part and Tandy Welch, William Morgan, Adam Yeary, Charles Speak and Nathan Hobbs, trustees in trust for the use and purpose herein after mentioned all of the County of Lee and State aforesaid (Morgan, Welch and Yeary of Claiborne County and State of Tennessee) Witnesseth that the said Nicholas Speak for and in consideration of the sum of one dollar in specie to him in hand paid the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged hath given granted bargained and sold and by these presents doth grant bargain and sell unto the said Tandy Welch, William Morgan, Adam Yeary, Charles Speak and Nathan Hobbs and their successors (trustees) a certain lot or parcel of land containing one acre and 9 poles lying and being in the county and State aforesaid and bounded as follows Beginning at a white oak on the west side of Glade branch S 150 W 13 poles crossing the branch to a white oak near rocks N700 E 13 poles to a double dogwood & white oak N 150 E 13 poles to a white oak thence a strait line to the Beginning to have and to hold the said tract of land with all appurtenances, and privileges thereunto belonging, or in any ways appertaining unto the said Tandy Welch, William Morgan, Adam Yeary, Charles Speak and Nathan Hobbs and their successors in office forever for the use of the members of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States according to the rules and disciplin which from time to time may be agreed upon and adopted by the ministers and preachers of the said Church, at their general Conference in the United States. And in further trust and confidence that they shall at all times permit such ministers and preachers, belonging to said M. E. Church to preach and expound the word of God therein. And the said Nicholas Speak doth by these presents warrant and forever defend the before mentioned piece of land with the appurtenances thereto belong unto the before mentioned trustees and their successors in office forever against the claim of all persons whomsoever. In testimony whereof the said Nicholas Speak has hereunto set his hand and seal the day and year aforesaid.

Nicholas Speak {Seal}

At a court of quarter sessions continued and held for Lee County at the courthouse thereof on the 19th day of June 1839 This Indenture of bargain and sale for land between Nicholas Speak of the one part, and Tandy Welch, William Morgan, Adam Yeary, Charles Speak and Nathan Hobbs of the other part, was acknowledged in open court and ordered to be recorded.

Teste F.W.S. Morison CC

Speak Chapel

The church, shown above, is not the original which was a log structure and burned in the late 1800s.  The current church was constructed about 1900 and still stands.

In the 1840 census, Charles is shown with 1 male age 30-40, wife age 30-40, 6 children; 2 males 10-15, 1 female 10-15, 2 females 5-10, 1 female under age 5.

The 1840 Lee County census is taken in house order and has not been alphabetized.  There are 6 Speak households living adjacent in Lee County so I’m suspecting that the entire Speak family all lived on Nicholas’ land adjacent the church.  James Bartley, married to Charles’ sister, Sarah Jane Speak, also lives next door.

Speak Lee Co 1840 census

Speak Lee Co 1840 census 2

Charles and his wife both died between 1840 and 1850 and are assuredly buried in the Speak family cemetery, across from Speak Methodist Church, even though they have no stone.  Their graves are among those unmarked or marked with field stones.  At the time, the family members knew where they were buried, as they stood beside the graves at the funeral, and that was all that mattered.  They weren’t thinking about great-great-great-grandchildren returning 170+ years later.

speak cemetery

Charles and Ann were both between 40 and 50 years of age when they died, certainly not elderly.  They had no children after 1829, or at least none that we know of.  Ann would have been just under 30 in 1829, so perhaps she had health issues, or children were born and died.  Apparently whatever killed Charles and Ann wasn’t terribly contagious, because none of their children died, nor did Charles parents or siblings who obviously lived in close proximity.

Both of Charles parents, Nicholas and Sarah Faires Speak would have stood beside the grave as they buried Charles.  It was unusual in that time for both aged parents to be alive.  They would have stood over Ann McKee Speak’s grave too, as they buried her, probably without any of her family in attendance since Ann and Charles moved away from Washington County, Virginia, when they married.  Nicholas likely preached the sermon for both his son and daughter-in-law.  He was not a young man himself, between 58 and 68.  While Nicholas committed their bodies to the soil and their souls to God, Sarah assuredly gathered their 6 children to her and cried as she buried her son and daughter-in-law, her grandchildren’s father and mother, both within such a short period of time.

Neither Charles nor Ann are found in the 1850 census.  Charles’ daughter Rebecca is living with her grandparents Nicholas and Sarah Speak.  Charles’ daughter Charity is living with her sister, Sarah, who married Andrew Callahan.

Elizabeth Speak, age 18, Charles’ youngest daughter was married to Samuel Claxton earlier in 1850, by her grandfather, Nicholas Speaks, the Methodist minister, by then 68 years of age, at the home of Tandy Welch.  Tandy Welch had married Mary Polly Clarkson (Claxton), daughter of James Lee Clarkson and his wife Sarah Cook.  James and Sarah also had a son, Fairwick Clarkson, who married Agnes Muncy, and their son Samuel Claxton married Elizabeth Speak.  Tandy was one of the Speak Chapel church trustees noted in the 1839 church deed.

On the map below, the Claxton land where Elizabeth Speak and Samuel Claxton lived is represented by the red balloon, and Speak Chapel is at the top.  The walking directions and options are shown. Certainly a horse and wagon would have been quicker, but still, it’s not like the siblings lived next door.  Tandy Welch lived near the Claxton’s as well, so Speak Methodist Church was a long way to go for Sunday services.  He was obviously very committed.

Speak chapel map

Charles and Ann only had 2 sons, and those two sons only had 3 sons between them.  We weren’t able to obtain a Y DNA sample from Charles’ line, but this is when having a large family comes in quite handy.  When the Speak(e)(es) DNA project was founded in 2004, we were able to obtain a Y DNA sample from another of Nicholas’ sons, James Allen Speak’s descendant.

Many times in DNA testing, when you can’t find a suitable candidate in your own line, you need to go back up the tree and follow sons lines until you find someone with living direct male descendants who are willing to test.

In our case, the SFA, Speak Family Association was the key to finding other Speak descendants who are interested in genealogy and therefore, willing to test.  Since that time, we have another two Nicholas lines represented, through sons Joseph and Jesse, but still no Y DNA candidates for son Charles.  Three of Nicholas’s 7 sons are now represented in the Speak Y DNA project.

Autosomal, another type of DNA testing for genealogy, confirms that the cousins from the various lines are related, but still, I’d like to see Charles Y DNA results, because he’s my direct ancestor.

Maybe someday!

That’s the great thing about DNA testing, you never know who is going to test and match.  There is a new surprise just about every day.



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20 thoughts on “Charles Speak (November 19, 1804/5 -1840/1850), Church Trustee, 52 Ancestors #54

  1. Hi Roberta,

    I haven’t read your entire post yet because my eye was caught by the maiden name of Charles Speak’s mother (Faires). Do you know anything about her antecedents? I’ve been working on an Augusta County, VA, Bunch line that may have been related to Farris families in Virginia (Louisa/Albemarle/Augusta Counties), as well as a Pharris family in Sumter County, Alabama. I suspect there’s a Farris/Pharris link, but haven’t dug into it yet (I’ve also seen it rendered “Phares”). Any information you might have and be willing to share about Sarah Faires’ ancestry could be a big help. Thanks!

    -Mark Bunch

  2. My husband is a Brit and his surname is Speke, however, the town in Shropshire, Bridgnorth that his father was born in is full of Speakes, Speeks etc. as well as Spekes. No Scots Irish, seem to think it’s a French derivative surname.

    • Hi Cindy. We’d love to welcome your husband to the DNA project if he would like to test his Y line. We do have one man from that area who has tested that I’d be glad to put you in touch with.

  3. I believe the Faires family was also enumerated as Farris. I have been looking for the parents of my earliest known paternal ancestor, James Short, for many years. Believe he was born in Washington Co, VA about 1805 and was adopted or illegitimate. DNA proves his bio father was a Gilliland. His mother may have been the Short. 1810 Washington Co. census has an Elisabeth Short and next door is Gideon Farris. This is the only record I can find for her. Does anyone know of a connection between the Faires/Farrises and Shorts and/or Gillilands? Thank you. Ruby Caroline Short

    • Hi Ruby, Roberta and I were just discussing what a small world it is! Sorry, I don’t have anything to offer, but I think Roberta may have some information on Gideon. If I come across anything, I will know to pass it on. Nice to see you on the Faires Wheel! -Mark bunch

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  8. I am a great great granddaughter of Nicholas Speak. His daughter was Eliza and she had a sister also and other siblings also.
    He never came home from the war. He had a nephew and he was the one who was captured and eventually released to come home to Rose Hill, Va. I grew up there.

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