All I can say is thank heavens for the government. Even back in “the day,” the government had a place in the lives of the citizens, whether they liked it or not, and because of the government, we have records today. In this case, without a marriage record and land records, we would never know the name of Lydia Brown, who she married or who her parents were. She would have been another no-name anonymous end-of-line female, but thankfully, she isn’t.
Besides, I love the name Lydia. It’s lyrical, almost musical. Had I known these names earlier, I might have named my daughters Lydia and Phebe.
Lydia was born sometime around 1790, or maybe slightly earlier, to Jotham and Phebe Brown, probably on Brush Creek, a branch of Little River, in Botetourt County, Virginia where they were living at that time. That part of Botetourt became Montgomery County.
By the time Lydia was about 7, her parents began selling their land, probably in preparation for moving, but Jotham died sometime between March of 1797 and May of 1800 when his widow, Phebe and heirs sold 104 acres on Terry’s Creek, a branch of Little River. Were it not for this deed, we wouldn’t have the names of Jotham’s children, nor would we know when he died.
From the Montgomery Co., VA court records – Deed Book C – page 326, courtesy of Stevie Hughs. May 16, 1800 – the following heirs of Jotham Brown, deceased, conveyed 104 acres lying in that county, on Terry’s Creek, a branch of Little River to Benjamin Craig of the same County.
The heirs named on the deed as follows:
- Wife, Phoebe Brown,
- Christopher Cooper & wife Jane Brown
- Salvanes (Sylvanous) Brown
- John Willis (wife unstated)
- David Brown
- John Brown
- Mary Brown
- Lydia Brown
- Elizabeth Brown
- Jotham Brown
- Mirey Brown
- William Brown
Lydia would have been between 7 and 10 when her father died and the land was sold. By the time the family moved to Greene County, she was probably 12 or 13.
Lydia’s mother, Phebe, was probably very perplexed about what to do. She was about 50-60 years old and she still had 3 unmarried children that she was raising. Lydia was the baby. Granted, she did have older children to help, but still, with many of the family members wanting to move to Greene County, or at least contemplating it, she had a decision to make.
Phebe’s oldest daughter, Jane Brown Cooper and husband Christopher Cooper obviously wanted to settle in Greene County, as they were the first to arrive in 1803. Phebe’s sons, Sylvanus, David and Jotham would follow by 1805. We don’t know for sure whether Phebe settled in Greene County, but unless she died before she could get there, it’s likely she did.
Phebe’s children who were at that time unmarried all married in Greene County, Lydia and Mercy both in October 1807 and William in 1811. So either Phebe settled here, living out her final years with her children, or she died and one of her older children took the younger ones to raise.
Given Phebe’s age, probably between 50 and 60 about that time, it’s certainly possible that she lived a good many years, probably with Jane Brown Cooper and family. We do know that Phebe signed as a witness on the deed when Christopher and Jane Brown Cooper sold their land in Montgomery County in preparation for the move to Greene County – so it’s very likely she moved right along with them.
Lydia would have lived with her mother, probably in the Jane Brown Cooper homestead, which was then, a cabin. Stevie Hughes found the location of the cabin, sadly, after it has been torn down. The last thing it had been used for was a storage shed. It was located very near, within 100 feet of Baileyton Road and Spider Stines Road, in Greene County. In the photo below, 100 feet from Baileyton Road would be about half way to the row of trees, below.
On down the road was the family burying ground. In the photo below, you can see the little balloon on the site.
If Phebe accompanied her family to Greene County, this is assuredly where she lies today. Lydia, would have stood in this very spot to bury her mother. We don’t know when Phebe died, but we do know that Lydia herself either died in 1817, or left Greene County in 1819. So she too could be buried here.
For the benefit of anyone trying to find this cemetery, look for the high tension wires and pole, where the little balloon is located, above. The cemetery is within a few feet and is very overgrown, although Stevie placed a lovely marker so that it will never be lost again. It would somehow be fitting if they were Scottish with the beautiful thistle blooming right by the stone.
You can see the edge of the power wires behind the stone.
When I say it’s overgrown, I mean as tall as a person, but the field stones are there, hidden underneath. Only your similarly crazy cousins will do things like this with you!!! Love my cousins!
This is the land where Lydia lived as a child, before she met her future husband, William Crumley (the third), as viewed from the cemetery, a location she surely visited far more than she wanted. That was the pioneer life – the cycle of birth and death was often repeated.
There might have been a problem brewing in the neighborhood, because we know that William Crumley (the third’s) family was Methodist. His father, William Crumley (the second) was one of the founders of Wesley’s Chapel Methodist Church.
Stevie Hughes, the primary Brown researcher for our Greene County Browns believes that the Jotham Brown family was Presbyterian, in part because two of Jotham’s son-in-laws, Christopher Cooper and William Stapleton, signed a petition in 1785 to establish a Reformed Church of Scotland in Botetourt County, Virginia. That’s pretty telling.
If this is the case, we don’t know how this clash of religions was resolved, but it apparently was, because on October 1, 1807, Lydia Brown and William Crumley (the third) were married. David and Jotham Brown, Lydia’s brothers, were her witnesses. Also signing was William Crumley, although there is some question as to whether William Crumley (the second) or William (the third) signed the bond, because it appears that William Crumley (the third) may have been underage, having been born about 1789. In which case, both William and Lydia were about 18 and probably starry-eyed in love. They probably could have cared less which church they attended, if any. A fourth man who signed for the marriage license, James Gibson, is a complete mystery.
We don’t know exactly where Lydia and William lived, but we know they lived nearby because three of William (the third’s) siblings married children of Lydia’s older brother, Sylvanus Brown.
Within a year or so, they did what newlywed couple of that era did, they produced a child, John, born about 1808. William would follow and then Jotham on October 23, 1813, but then the War of 1812 would interrupt their lives. William Crumley (the third) would march off to War leaving a wife and a 3 month old baby, along with two toddlers at home. Lydia must have been terrified that he would die.
William enlisted on January 10, 1814 to serve until May 23rd. Instead, he was discharged, too ill to fight, arriving home on March 28, 1814. Lydia must have been a combination of thrilled to see William and horribly worried about how sick he was. I wonder how he got home.
In the first decade of their marriage, William and Lydia had 5 children: John, William, Jotham, Sarah and Clarissa, born on April 10, 1817.
But then, as they say, is when the trouble started. Now, the ancestors weren’t even aware of the trouble. They didn’t have a problem. The trouble is ours, caused by them. In fact, they are probably all collectively chuckling at us.
One of two things happened, either Lydia died right after Clarissa’s death, or she didn’t. It has been assumed by researchers, for a very long time, that Lydia died and that in October of 1817, William (the third) married Betsey Johnson, Lydia’s cousin, because the signature on the marriage bond for the 1817 marriage bond, below, looks nearly identical to the 1807 marriage bond for William (the third) and Lydia Brown (above).
The problem is that the 1807 marriage says the groom is William Crumley Jr., who is William (the third) who was likely underage at that time and could not sign for himself, and the 1817 bond says the groom is William Sr., who is William (the second). In neither case does the signature itself reflect Jr. or Sr. If these bonds are accurate as stated, then Lydia did not die and William (the third) Jr. did not remarry. Instead, the wife of William (the second) Sr. died and William (the second) Sr. is the William who remarried.
Lydia, instead of being present at her own funeral, was once again pregnant and went to her father-in-law’s wedding. Big difference, wouldn’t you say? But now you understand the problem. We don’t know if Lydia was busy getting buried or busy at a wedding, pregnant for my ancestor. Phebe, named after Lydia’s mother, would be born just 5 months and 7 days after the wedding between William Crumley Sr. and Betsey Johnson.
Because neither William Crumley the second or the third had a will, nor did Lydia or Betsey, we have had to retrofit the Crumley children by virtue of family history, opportunity, location, process of elimination of other parents, and in some cases, naming patterns. Not fun.
Therefore, Clarissa is believed to belong to Lydia and William (the third) but she did marry in Greene County in 1834 instead of in Lee County where her parents had been living. However, we know these families kept in close contact. They only moved about 50 miles away and there was a main road between Hawkins County Tennessee and Lee County Virginia, where they moved to, and Greene County, Tennessee, where they moved from. Other parent candidates for Clarissa have been eliminated.
The next child is Phebe, my ancestor, born on March 24, 1818 and she does live, marry and die in the Hawkins/Claiborne area of Tennessee where it borders Lee County, Virginia. There is very little question about whose child she is. Furthermore, her name is Phebe, Lydia’s mother’s name, and if Phebe belonged to Betsey Johnson, Betsey would have been several months pregnant when she married William Crumley in October of 1817. That means if Lydia died giving birth to Clarissa or shortly thereafter, in mid-April, William would have gotten Betsey pregnant in June, just two months later, and married her in October.
The problem is that we have a lot of variables here. Is Clarissa really Lydia’s child. Did Lydia die in 1817? Did Betsey Johnson marry William the second or William the third. Is there any possibility that Phebe is really the child of Betsey Johnson and William (the second) rather than Lydia and William (the third)?
If Lydia died, then we have the answer to the questions, but I don’t think she did. One reason is that the child born in 1818 is named Phebe, after Lydia’s mother, and the two following children, respectively, name a child Lydia and Jotham, so it certainly seems like Lydia would be the most likely candidate for the mother of all of the children of William Crumley (the third.)
So let’s move forward with the assumption that Lydia lived. If so, then she moved to the border of Lee and Hancock County in 1819 or 1820. William Crumley (the second) purchases land there in 1819, but in the 1820 census, it’s William Crumley (the third) and family who is found living there, probably on his father’s land.
By 1830, William (the third) and wife, according to the census, have moved to Pulaski County, Kentucky but by 1840, they are back in Claiborne County, Tennessee, the neighbor county just south across the state line from Lee County, Virginia.
The last known child is Aaron, born about 1821. Lydia would have been 31 or 32 at that time, so it’s unusual that they had no more children. Either some died or there are children unaccounted for, which is entirely possible since the Hancock County records have burned. In 1845, Hancock County was formed from parts of both Claiborne and Hawkins County, Tennessee.
Lydia’s children begin to marry, with John marrying a woman named Mahala in 1828 followed by Jotham marrying Ann Robinette in 1834. Clarissa also marries in 1834, but in Greene County to George Graham. In 1838, Belinda (or Melinda) married James Hurvey Davis in Claiborne County. In 1845, William married Becky Malone in Greene County. In 1844 Aaron married Mary Ann Scofield in Lee County, followed by Phebe marrying Joel Vannoy in Claiborne County in 1845 and then the last child to marry, Sallie, also called Sarah, married the widower Edward Walker in Hancock County in 1848.
Lydia is still living in 1840, or at least in the census there is a woman of her age in the William Crumley (the third) household. She may have lived long enough to see all of her children marry. If she did, then she also buried her son, Jotham, who died in August of 1841, leaving a wife and three children, one of whom was named Lydia.
Lydia died sometime between the 1840 census and the 1850 census. I suspect it was closer to 1850 than to 1840, simply because her husband, William Crumley did not remarry until within a year’s time of the 1850 census, according to the census document. Most men who are going to remarry do so fairly quickly. The census was taken on November 11, 1850, but it is supposed to be taken “as of” June, so William remarried sometime after June 1849.
We don’t know exactly where Lydia would be buried, because we don’t know exactly where William and Lydia would have lived after their return to Claiborne County. However, based on the 1840 census records, they lived beside Eli Davis. Eli Davis in 1829 bought land from Neal McNeal, whose land lay close to Mulberry Creek on present day Turner Hollow Road, half way between the left arrow and Mulberry Gap Church on the map below.
They may also have lived on Blackwater in present Hancock County when Lydia died, because that’s where William Crumley (the second) had owned land and by 1850, William (the third) is found living dead center in the middle of the Melungeon families, neighbors to the Gibson families. Vardy, the heart of the Melungeon community is found on Blackwater Creek. Son John Crumley is also living in the Melungeon neighborhood, which suggests strongly that both John’s wife, Mahala, and William’s second wife, Pqa (sic), are likely from that community as well. The Gibson family is one of the prominent Melungeon families, and remember that a James Gibson signed for Lydia Brown and William Crumley’s marriage license in 1807.
Living on Turner Hollow Road in the 1840s makes a lot of sense, because Phebe Crumley, daughter of Lydia, had to be in the neighborhood to meet Joel Vannoy who she married in 1845. Edward Walker who married Sarah Crumley lived another mile or so down Mulberry Gap road.
On the map above, Joel Vannoy lived with his parents where the left red arrow is located on Mulberry Gap Road and William Crumley (the second) owned land on Blackwater near the right arrow. For both families, this church would have been 4 or 5 miles at most, and possibly closer. However, if William Crumley lived adjacent the Neil McNiel land, then he lived adjacent or at least near the uncle of Joel Vannoy, so it would have been easy for Joel Vannoy to meet Phebe Crumley.
The Mulberry Gap Church is just about equidistant between where Joel lived and the Blackwater community, located in the gap between the two, and people from both areas were known to attend – although Mulberry Gap Church records that early don’t exist. In that day and time, church events were great match-making opportunities for young people.
This picture shows the Mulberry Gap Church, at right near the pole, snuggled into the Gap through the mountain range. This is the only Gap between Blackwater and Mulberry Gap road. Philip Walker took this photo from Mulberry Gap on Mulberry Gap Road.
Lydia may be buried in this vicinity, along Blackwater Road, where she at one time lived. This land spanned the Hancock/Lee County border along Blackwater Creek, where William (the second’s) land is known to have been located.
Furthermore, Lydia’s sister, Mary who married William Stapleton lived on Blackwater as well. We know where the Stapleton’s land was located, just on the Lee County side of Blackwater Creek, between the state line and where the two Blackwater Creeks converge, a couple of miles upstream. In fact, in a very odd twist of fate, eventually, Mary winds up owning the William Crumley land on Blackwater.
Mary, who died in 1843, is buried in the Roberts cemetery, a very small cemetery at the foot of Powell Mountain along Blackwater Road. It’s possible that Lydia is buried there with her sister as well, especially if William Crumley (the third) did not own land at the time that Lydia died. She had to be buried someplace. Mary’s hand carved tombstone is show below, and is located by that of her husband, William Stapleton.
It would certainly be helpful if we knew whether Lydia died in 1817. If she did, then clearly, none of the children born after 1817 were hers. So, let’s divide Lydia’s children into two groups. The first group would be her children regardless. The second group belongs to the wife of William Crumley (the third), whoever she was from October 1817 on.
These children have been assigned to William Crumley (the third) and his wife on a variety of evidence, including the fact that William (the second) and William (the third) relocated from the main Crumley group in Greene County, TN, so any Crumley’s found in Lee County, VA, Claiborne and Hancock Counties in TN are very likely descended from the Williams.
- John Crumley was born 1808/1809 in Greene County, TN and married about 1828 to Mahala. He had 13 children including one named Lydia and one named Phebe. He died was living in Lee County, VA in the 1870 census and died sometime thereafter.
- William Crumley IV, born in 1811, married in 1840 to Rebecca Malone in Greene County, died in August 1864 in Pickens County, South Carolina. He named one son Jotham. I have always questioned whether he is truly their child, but how else does one explain the name Jotham? Plus, we don’t have any other parent candidates for him – the rest have been eliminated.
- Jotham Crumley born October 23, 1813 in Greene County, married on August 14, 1834 to Anne Robinette in Lee County, VA and died on August 22, 1841 in Lee County. Had 3 children and named one daughter Lydia. When you notice Jotham’s birth date and Sarah’s, below, it’s obvious that one family or the other is incorrect and I suspect that Sarah’s is incorrect.
- Sarah/Sallie Crumley born September 28, 1813, according to her tombstone, in Greene County. However, her War of 1812 widow’s pension application and census documents place her birth in about 1815. Her name is reflected both ways, Sarah and Sallie, sometimes even in the same legal document. In 1848, In Hancock County, Tennessee, she married widower Edward Walker Jr. who died in 1860. The marriage ceremony was attended by her brother John Crumley, according to a later affidavit. Sarah left Hancock County about 1880 with her two sons, James Hervey and Milton Green Walker, winding up in Cocke County where Greene was elected to the State Legislature the year after Sarah died. She died January 11, 1898 and is buried in Newport, Cocke County, TN in the Union Cemetery – at least now. That cemetery wasn’t opened yet when she died, so her children had her buried and then exhumed and reburied in the new cemetery on the family plot when it opened. She is buried with her sons in “lane 1.” Sarah was a dedicated Methodist, attending the Thomas Chapel Methodist Church in Hancock County when they lived there. In Cocke County, Sarah’s sons owned a hotel near the train station. It burned in 1912, forcing her sons into bankruptcy and destroying all of the family memorabilia including photos and several Bibles. If there was a William Crumley Bible, this is probably what happened to it.
- Clarissa Crumley born April 10, 1817 in Greene County, married January 16, 1834 to George Graham in Greene County and died there on Sept. 23, 1883. Buried in the Cross Anchor Cemetery. Had a son named William, but no Lydias or Jothams. Other parents for Clarissa have been eliminated by process of elimination. The mitochondrial DNA of Clarissa’s descendant matches that of Phoebe’s descendant and both match that of Phoebe Brown’s descendant.
- Phebe Crumley born March 24, 1818, married January 19, 1845 to Joel Vannoy in Claiborne County, died January 17, 1900 and is buried in the Pleasant View Cemetery in Claiborne County. Had 7 children, but no Lydia or Jotham among them. There is a William and an Elizabeth but those are both very common names.
- Belinda or Melinda Crumley born April 1, 1820 in Lee County, VA, married on November 4, 1838 to James Hurvey Davis who died in 1865 in Lee County, VA. He was buried in the Mulberry Gap Church cemetery where he was a deacon and church clerk for many years. When “Malinda” died on September 28, 1905, she was buried there alongside James. They share a stone. They had four children, and one daughter was named Lydia.
- Aaron F. Crumley was born about 1821 in Lee County, Virginia. On November 21, 1844, he married Mary Ann Scofield in Claiborne County, TN although she died before July of 1863. Aaron moved to Appanoose County between 1850 and 1852 with his father, William Crumley (the third) and his second wife, Pya. Aaron volunteered for the Civil War draft in Appanoose County, giving his birth as age 41 as of July 1, 1863, unmarried, and born in Tennessee. In 1864 Aaron married Catherine Hopkins in Appanoose County, Iowa. He married a third time in 1876 in Appanoose County to Provy Lockman, but only had children by his first two wives. One of his children was named William and one was named Jotham.
We decided a few years back to see if we could solve the question about whether or not Lydia gave birth to both children, Clarissa and Phebe, using DNA testing. I described this effort and the variants in detail in the article about Phebe Crumley Vannoy, but let’s summarize here.
I utilized the mitochondrial DNA because it is passed from the mother to all of her children, without any of the father’s DNA. Therefore what is passed to the children is exactly the same DNA that the mother carried. Her daughters pass it on, intact, to their children, but her son’s don’t pass it on at all.
Therefore, if you can find descendants from these women who descend through all women to the current generation, then you can determine what their ancestor’s mitochondrial DNA looked like, and compare it to each other.
We found descendants of both Clarissa and Phebe, and indeed, their mitochondrial DNA does match. We then found a descendant of Phebe Brown, Lydia’s mother, through another daughter’s line, and both Clarissa and Phebe’s descendants match that person as well. Therefore, while it doesn’t guarantee us that this is a mother daughter relationship, what we can say positively is that those three women share a common female ancestor, likely the mother of Phebe Brown, whose mother is unknown.
Phebe Brown has been theorized to be the daughter of Zopher (Zophar) Johnson (Johnston) Sr., also found in Frederick County, Virginia in the 1780s, along with the Browns and Crumleys. I asked Stevie Hughes if she could find a proven descendant of Zopher Johnson’s wife thought all females to the current generation. Unfortunately, that is not an option. Zopher had only one proven daughter, Marsy or Mercy, who married Robert Foster. They had only one daughter whose line Stevie traced for several generations in Greene County before it disappeared.
What their DNA can tell us, aside from matches, is something about where their ancestors originated. Can we tell if they were indeed Scotch-Irish?
Family Tree DNA gives us several tools to use. One tool, the Matches Map shows us where the most distant ancestors of people our participants match are found in Europe. In our case, there aren’t many, and the two we do have are not in the British Isles.
This screen shot is of the most distant ancestral location of the full sequence matches of one of our Lydia descendants. As you can see, there aren’t any matches whose ancestors are in the British Isles, but let’s face it, there are only two matches who know, or think they know, their ancestor’s locations in Europe. So that’s not much to go on.
Now, absence of evidence does not necessarily equate to evidence of absence. We’ll need to wait for more evidence and more high resolution matches before we can make any inferences as to ancestral location of Phebe Brown’s direct matrilineal ancestors.
Another tool is the Ancestral Origins data base, shown below, which tells us the locations that the full sequence matches identify as the location of their most distant matrilineal ancestor. You’d think it would be the same information as is shown on the map, but it isn’t necessarily because lots of people don’t complete the geographic information for the map.
This type of information, of course, can be useful but also suffers from the age-old genealogy problem of people providing information that may or may not be correct. Still, trends can be suggestive and enlightening. Unfortunately, we don’t see any trends here. I’m not using the HVR1 data alone, because it’s not specific enough to be useful. I’m only utilizing the higher resolutions results.
A third tool, Haplogroup Origins, pulls academic data base matching at the haplogroup level into the mix. As you can see, the geography is very broad, so while it’s interesting, it’s not definitive.
The Mystery Remains
So, the mystery of Lydia Brown remains. There is no smoking gun but there is a little bit of smoking DNA evidence that suggests that Lydia was the mother of both Clarissa and Phebe. Still, mitochondrial DNA can’t confirm a mother daughter relationship and no DNA testing can confirm a child/parent relationship that many generations ago.
Where was Lydia between April and October of 1817 – being buried or getting pregnant for Phebe and attending her father-in-law’s wedding?
Most of the existing records have been thoroughly reviewed in Lee County, Virginia and in Greene, Hawkins and Claiborne Counties in Tennessee, but the records of Pulaski County, KY have never been searched. It’s possible that a deed or some other record there might provide the first name of William’s wife.
Be it Lydia or Betsey – it’s an answer and that’s what we need. Of course, if it’s not Lydia, then there are a whole different set of questions that need to be answered, like…what set of circumstances would allow the DNA of both Phebe Crumley’s descendants and Clarissa Crumley’s descendants to match with the DNA of Phebe Brown? But no need borrowing trouble, at least not yet. Heaven knows, we have enough challenges with this line already!
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