William Crumley the Third (1788-1859) and The Crumley Curse, 52 Ancestors #80

Did I mention about the Crumley Curse when I wrote about William Crumley (the third’s) father, William Crumley (the second)?  It’s started out being kind of cute and was originally called “The Crumley Conundrum.”  Then it devolved into “The Crumley Curse,” and that’s one of the nicer names.  And believe me, it’s not cute at all anymore.

I’m beginning to wonder if we’ll ever get these William Crumleys and their wives sorted out.  And just when you think you’re making headway, boom, it all blows up, making one, as the quilters say “lose their religion.”  If you don’t know what that means, well, then – let’s just say it has to do with swearing.  Yep, the same thing that got more than one of my ancestors kicked out of church – so let’s just say I come by it honestly!

I just know the ancestors are practical jokers and they’re someplace saying to each other, “Hey, watch this….” as we discover once more that what we thought we knew isn’t really what we thought at all.

Some ancestors are worked on in three stages.


The first stage is the euphoria that comes with initial discovery.  There’s just nothing like that feeling of seeing your ancestor’s name for the first time and knowing that they are YOUR ancestor, YOUR flesh and blood, and their history is YOUR history.  Which brings me to stage two.

Information Gathering

The second stage is information gathering.  You go through the census, through the deeds in the county where they lived, through the court records, through everything you can find including what others before you have written.  I extract every record for that surname….well…I do now.  I wasn’t always that wise which meant many times that I had to go through the same records multiple times.  Families, do, indeed, fit together and it’s the total picture that tells the story.  Which leads me to the third stage.


Unraveling what I’ve woven together.  Yep, picking it back apart strand by strand.  This is the stage where I realize what I think I know is not at all what it seems.  Maybe it’s that you discover what previous researchers stated or surmised is incorrect.  Maybe you find another puzzle piece they didn’t have.  Maybe something just seems wrong to you, causing a re-evaluation.  Regardless of what it is, it’s more like ripping out a seam with a seam ripper, and the joining seams too, than building.  In my quilt group – we call it reverse sewing.  It is indeed, reverse genealogy, but sometimes you have to unbuild in order to rebuild.  Sigh.  At least you can salvage the pieces and reassemble them in a different way.

The Crumley family has been like that – and I’m still not positive I have it right.  Welcome to genealogy where at least 4 men, 4 generations in a row, have the same name, with additional men carrying the same name in brothers’ and uncles’ lines….and no wills…and wives names either unknown or unproven. Oh yes, and owning land on two forks of the same creek, with the same name that spans two states.  In fact, it appears that the land may actually span the state line.  I guess that makes it easy to avoid the revenuer, the tax collector, the sheriff, etc.  Hide and seek.  Welcome to the Crumley family.

Frederick County, Virginia to Greene County, Tennessee

William Crumley, the third, was born sometime around 1789 in Frederick County, Virginia to William Crumley, the second, and his unknown wife.

William (the third) moved as a child to the Territory South of the River Ohio sometime after his father’s name appears on a 1789 tax list in Frederick County, Virginia and before 1796 when his father’s name is found on a document in the Territory South of the Ohio, soon to be Tennessee.  In 1797, when William (the third) was about 8 years old, his father, William (the second) was a founder of the Wesley’s Chapel Methodist Church in Greene County, TN, so we know positively that William (the third) was raised in Greene County from that time forward.

Traveling to what was then the frontier was probably a great adventure for a 7 or 8 year old boy.  To give you an idea of what the area was like, Tennessee was nicknamed “The Squabble State.”  Still, the brave and the squabblers flocked to this region, then the westernmost edge of the frontier, for land and opportunity.

Unfortunately, the 1790, 1800, 1810 and 1820 censuses are missing for Greene County, Tennessee.  This confirms that God does have a sense of humor.

We know that his father, William the second, reportedly a miller by trade, purchased land in 1797 and 1805 on Lick Creek in Greene County, TN and reportedly proceeded to build a mill, near or at Carter’s Station.  I say reportedly, because I can find no actual documentation that he was a miller, nor can I prove that he wasn’t.  There is oral history from a number of different sources, some within and some outside of the family.  Furthermore, I can’t confirm his land at Carter’s Station either.  For all the world, the evidence looks like his land was several miles to the east – but I haven’t been able to do a deed “puzzle type” reconstruction of the area.

For purposes of comparison, here is a map showing the Wesley’s Chapel Church and the location of Carter’s Station. At the opposite end of the blue route.  In-between we find both Hardin Chapel Methodist Church and Mt. Pleasant Church, the location of Cross Anchor Cemetery.  All of these locations play a part in the life of William Crumley, the third.

Wesley to Carters

Assuming that William Crumley (the second) was a miller, it’s very likely that William (the third) learned this trade as well – if for no other reason than to be able to help his father and it was the most readily available trade to learn.  However, the only documentation we have of what William (the third) did for a living is from the 1850 Hancock Co., TN census where he says he is a carpenter.  He does live 2 houses from a miller though, so there may be some significance to that.  But, back to Greene County.

We know as a child, at least from 1797 on, William Crumley (the third) attended the Wesley’s Chapel United Methodist Church.  The original building burned in 1880, but the newer church dating from that timeframe stands beside the church cemetery.

Wesley's Church

There are Crumley’s buried here yet today as well as Browns.  Lydia Brown was the wife of William Crumley (the third) and the daughter of Jotham Brown and his wife, Phebe, whose maiden name has remained elusive, but is speculated to be Johnson.

Wesley's cemetery

One Brown burial is William, a fourth generation descendant of Jotham and Phebe Brown, the parents of Lydia Brown, who would marry William Crumley, the third, in 1807.  Roots here run deep and there are no family trees, only entwined and knotted up family vines – with the leaves all having the same names…over and over.  Naming your child “after” someone is an absolutely lovely way to honor your ancestors and your siblings, parents and grandparents – unless you’re the genealogist 100 years or so later trying to unravel all of those people with the same name!

Wesley's William Brown stone

The next peek we have of William Crumley (the third) is on October 1, 1807 when he marries Lydia Brown in Greene County, TN.  The Brown family had arrived in Greene County beginning in 1803 with more members arriving in  1805.  The Browns lived about half way between Hardin Chapel and the Mount Pleasant Church, at the intersection of Spider Stines Road and Baileyton Road.

The Browns, Johnsons, Babbs and Crumleys were all living in Frederick County, Virginia and all migrated to this part of Greene County, although the Brown family took a detour to Montgomery County, VA first.  They were probably already related.  We don’t know who the mother of William Crumley, the third, was.

In 1808. William Crumley Jr. (the third) was listed as a witness, but beyond that, he doesn’t appear in the court records.

The Crumley Land

Truthfully, the Crumley land is a mess.  Let me give you an example.

William (the third, we think) purchased 126 acres of land on a branch of Lick Creek on June 12, 1811 from John Campbell.  This land lay between John McCurry and Mary Gass and the transaction was witnessed by Benjamin McNutt and Joseph Lackey.  Lick Creek runs the entire distance from Northeast of Wesley’s Chapel Church to Southwest of Carter Station, transecting the entire county.  However, one hint is that Crumley Road, Northeast of Wesley’s Chapel, is on Lick Creek.

In 1811, William Jr. (the third) is listed on the tax list for the first time, signifying that he is age 21.  If this is accurate, he was born about 1790, which would be about right.  He is listed with no land and one poll, but the list could have been taken before be bought land in June.  In 1812, William Jr. is specifically listed with 126 acres, which is why we think he is the William who bought the land.

Yet, in 1813, William Crumley, with no Sr. or Jr. designation, is taxed with 326 acres, which would be the 200 acres owned by William Sr. (the second) and the 126 owned by William Jr. (the third.)  Confused yet?  Me too.  Remember – the Crumley Curse…

The tax lists, shown in the William (the second) story contradict each other.  In order to try to straighten this out, I entered all of the land transactions into a spreadsheet.  This includes all land transactions in Greene County, TN and later Lee and Hawkins Counties on the Virginia/Tennessee border.  (Click once to see spreadsheet in a separate window and click a second time to enlarge.)

Crumley land grid

The best I can tell, it looks like William Crumley Sr. owned the 126 acres, because that land is sold in 1819 for $230 and seven months later, William Sr., specifically stated as Sr., purchases land in Lee County for $230.  So who knows which William actually purchased that 126 acres. It’s possible that the two Williams transacted a sale between themselves that was never recorded.

In 1820, William (Sr. – meaning the second) sells part of his land in Greene County to son Abraham, 54 of his 200 acres and six months later, sells 134 acres to Joshua Royston, which equals 188 acres.  Where is the other 12 of the 200 acres owned by William Crumley and the 50 acres purchased in 1797, not to mention the 10 and 20 acre grants he obtained in 1820?

No place does either the buying or the selling deed tell us how many acres William Crumley Sr. bought in Lee County, but if Isaac sold all of his father’s land in 1837, then it was 100 acres. However, he sells it for $50 after purchasing it for $230 – so this doesn’t make sense.  I would say the acreage is probably more like 460 acres if 100 of those acres sold for $50.

However, the purchaser, Polly (Brown) Stapleton, was his mother’s sister, so who knows if this is what would be considered an “arms length transaction” or if he sold the entire tract.  However, in 1852, Isaac did sell what appears to be all of his land before packing up and leaving with his father for Iowa.  Part of that is probably the balance of his father’s land.  I have not read those actual deeds.

The War of 1812

Much of the rest of what we know about William Crumley (the third) is by inference – because he had no will and none of his children are specified as children in any document.  Thankfully, he moved away from Greene County, TN where the Crumley group settled, or we would have had no prayer of figuring out which children were his.

By the time William (the third) enlisted to serve in the War of 1812, he and Lydia had 2  children.  John Crumley was born about 1808 or 1809 and William (the fourth), if William was his son, was born in 1811.

William (the third) served in the War of 1812 in Capt. Jacob Hoyal’s Company of Col. Ewin Allsion’s Regiment of East Tennessee Militia.  William enlisted January 10, 1814 to serve until May 23 but was discharged “on account of sickness and arrived at home March 28, 1814.”

However, this affidavit of power of attorney filed in Greene County in August of 1814 tells us something slightly different.  In this, he says he joined on January 6th to March 15th, 1814.  So, according to this document, he was discharged, ill or not.  I initially thought this would not be his signature, because of the “seal” and because the clerk signed most of these types of documents, but if you look at the signature, it’s significantly different than that of the clerk’s handwriting.  For example, look at the capital C in the signature and in the text.

William Crumley poa

Did William Crumley (the third) march to Alabama?  Here’s a brief regimental history of Colonel Ewen Allison’s unit provided by the Tennessee State Library.

This regiment was also designated as the First Regiment of East Tennessee Drafted Militia. The unit was part of General George Doherty’s brigade, along with Colonel Samuel Bunch’s Second Regiment. Doherty’s brigade participated in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend (27 March 1814) where they were part of the right line of attack on the Creek fortifications. There were casualties in many of the companies, especially in those of Captains Everett, King, Loughmiller, and Winsell. The Nashville Clarion of 10 May 1814 has a complete listing of the dead and wounded from this climactic battle of the Creek War.

The principal rendezvous point for this regiment was Knoxville. From there they traveled to Ross’ Landing (present-day Chattanooga), to Fort Armstrong, Fort Deposit, Fort Strother, Fort Williams, to Horseshoe Bend, and back by the reverse route. Captain Hampton’s company was ordered to man Fort Armstrong in mid-March 1814. Arms were scarce in this unit and rifles often had to be impressed from the civilian population along the line of march.

William’s brothers Samuel and Aaron also served in the same militia Company.  It might be useful to check their service records as well, although they have not yet been digitized at www.fold3.com.  Hmmm, order from NARA for $75 each, or wait???

William’s illness may well have saved his life.  This unit participated in the Battle of Horseshoe Bend on March 27th, and many casualties were sustained.  William didn’t know it when he left, but Lydia was pregnant with their third child, Jotham, who would be born in October of 1814.


In 1814, Aaron Crumley, brother of William (the third), marries a different Lydia Brown, a cousin of his brother’s wife.  Now are you confused?  I told you this family was a vine!

William (the third), styled as William Crumley Jr. in Aaron’s marriage document, signs for him as his bond.  This should be the signature of William Crumley Jr. (the third) and not Sr. (the second.)

Note that this signature looks different than the one on both the 1807 and the following 1817 marriage document.  However it looks identical to the 1814 power of attorney document.

Aaron Crumley 1814

Also in 1816, William Crumley Jr. (the third) signs for the bond of his brother, Isaac Crumley who married Rachel Brown.  Note that this marriage record was not returned for almost a year, the bond being taken in September 1816 and the document not returned until August 1, 1817 by Christopher Kirby, likely the minister who married the couple.  This signature looks different, but there are no other known William Crumleys in Greene County.  The Crumley Conundrum strikes again!

Isaac Crumley 1816

Who Got Married in 1817?

Things get even more confusing in 1817.

Because there is a marriage record for a William Crumley in 1817 in Greene County, it has been assumed (you know about that word) that Lydia, wife of William (the third,) died in 1817 following the birth of Clarissa, and that William (the third) was the William Crumley who married Elizabeth “Betsy” Johnson, believed to be the daughter of Zopher Johnson, Sr., and his unidentified wife, and a cousin to William (the third’s) first wife, Lydia Brown.  By now, I’m positive you’re confused.

However, there is evidence to suggest that William Crumley (the third) was not the William who married Betsey Johnson.

For example, William (the third) and Lydia are reported to have had a daughter, Clarissa, born in April of 1817.  My ancestor, Phebe Crumley was born to William (the third) and his wife, whoever she was, on March 24, 1818, in Lee County, VA as reportedly by later census records, eleven months after Clarissa’s birth, according to Phebe’s tombstone.  Needless to say, if William (the third) married Betsey Johnson in October of 1817, he had a newborn child from Lydia (who would have been being nursed by someone) and had gotten Betsey pregnant about 3 months before their marriage and no more than 3 months after Lydia’s death (if she died).  Yes, that is certainly possible.  But did it happen?

The 1817 marriage bond clearly says that William Crumley Sr., married Betsey Johnson, and William Crumley Sr. was William (the second), the father of William  (the third) who would have been styled as William Jr. at that time in Greene County and clearly was styled as such on other documents from the same time period.

William Crumley Betsey Johnston marriage

It’s no help at all that Jotham Brown signed for both bonds.  Jotham was the father of Lydia Brown, the first wife of William Crumley (the third).  Lydia’s father died in 1799, so the Jotham who signed with an X was Lydia’s brother.

Keep in mind that Betsey Johnson was said to be the cousin of Lydia Brown.  If they were cousins, meaning first cousins, they would have shared grandparents.  Unfortunately, we don’t know who Lydia’s grandparents were, on either side.

If they are cousins, and if Jotham Brown’s wife is Phebe Johnson, daughter of Zopher Johnson, as theorized, but not proven, then indeed Betsey Johnson could have been a cousin of Lydia Brown, but, and this is a really important but – they could not have shared the same mitochondrial DNA.

Mitochondrial DNA is passed from a mother to both genders of her children, but only the female children pass it on.  Everyone carries their mother’s mitochondrial DNA and it is not mixed with any DNA of the father.

If Zopher Johnson had daughter Phebe that married Jotham Brown, Zopher’s unknown wife would have given her mitochondrial DNA to Phebe and then to Lydia Brown, Jotham and Phebe’s daughter.

Betsey Johnson would have been born to a male child of Zopher Johnson by his unknown wife.  Betsey would have inherited the DNA of that male child’s unknown wife, NOT of Zopher Johnson’s wife.  So, unless Zopher Johnson’s wife and his son’s wife shared a common matrilineal ancestor, the DNA of Lydia Brown could not match that of Betsey Johnson.  This is important because the DNA of both Clarissa, born in 1817, before William’s marriage to Betsey Johnson, and Phebe born in 1818 after William’s marriage to Betsey, is a match.  Furthermore, both women also match to another descendant of Phebe, Jotham Brown’s wife.

Zopher wife mtdna path

So, it’s very unlikely that Betsey Johnson is the mother of Phebe Crumley, which eliminates William Crumley (the third) as the William who married Betsey Johnson in October, 1817 in Greene County, TN.

Because I simply could not let this go, I asked Stevie Hughes, a Brown/Johnson researcher, to review the possibilities for Betsy Johnson’s identity and here is what she said, in probability order.

#1 Betsey is the daughter of Zopher Johnson, Revolutionary War Soldier.  I believe this is probable, given he is the ONLY one in Greene County by 1809.

#2 Betsey is the daughter of Moses Johnson, BROTHER to Zopher, the Rev War Soldier.  I THINK….but cannot prove Moses went to adjacent Hawkins Co BEFORE 1809.  I KNOW Moses was gone from Greene Co as of 1809.  He never appears in ANY Greene Co tax list or court record after 1809.  It is POSSIBLE he left Greene County as early as 1800 since there are no tax lists for the north part of the county between 1800 thru 1804 and 1806 thru 1808.  He is NOT in the 1805 list, however, neither is Zopher; so obviously the 1805 list is incomplete or for some reason Zopher (and Moses??) were “missed.”  NOTE the half brother, Harrison Johnson (son of Zopher “the elder” and a much younger, 2nd wife) IS in the 1805 list.  And, in 1809, there is a one-line entry in a Court record stating Harrison is executor of Zopher Johnson “deceased.”  I believe 1809 is the “magic” year where after the death of Zopher “the Elder,” the brothers wanted to go “seperate ways” and the family farm was split among the heirs, with Harrison and his mother going to western TN, Moses goes into Hawkins Co, and Zopher the Revolutionary War soldier is the only one who stayed in Greene Co.

#3 It is POSSIBLE, but very unlikely Betsey was a WIDOW of one of the Johnsons.  Reason being is I have “accounted for” all of our Johnsons in the tax lists from 1790 (arrival) thru 1798 (last complete tax list) until the tax lists resume in 1809 thru 1817.  Also, I have studied ALL Johnson marriages (brides and grooms) from inception of the marriage records up through 1868 (Burgner’s book).  I have an extensive “chart” of all these Johnson marriages, both male and female; and to a large degree, I have cross-indexed those acting for bondsmen (marriages, wills, deeds, etc.)  There are no other Johnsons –male or female– of our family who are in the northern part of the county during these years.  Also, there is no Orphan Court Record (if she was a widow and had children); nor does she appear in a tax list (if she was a widow and her husband’s land went to her).  There is no remarriage for her where one of our greatly intermarried “kin”….or neighbor….acted as the bondsman.  EXTREMELY unusual for our group….. and in my mind it would not have happened for an “outsider” to have been the bondsman for a 2nd marriage.

However, there is one possible fly in this ointment.  Zopher Johnson, the Elder, was born in the early 1700s. It’s very unlikely that he was still having children in 1770-1780 which is when Elizabeth “Betsy” Johnson would have been born, by a first wife.  However, if by some fluke Elizabeth is the daughter of the same mother who had Phebe born about 1745 who married Jotham Brown, then their mtDNA would have been the same.  Jotham the Elder has children from about 1745 to about 1780, so Elizabeth could have been his daughter, but not likely by the same woman as Phebe born in 1745.  Plus, family history says they are cousins, not sisters.

I have to tell you, all of this uncertainly and what-iffing makes my head hurt.  I’m reminded of this cartoon, found on the internet from Pardon My Planet.

Signature Composites

Stevie, sent me this signature composite from various documents in an effort to sort through the various William Crumleys.

Crumley signature comparison

The signature of William in 1817 is showing signs of being unsteady.  The loop on the W wobbles.  William (the third) would have been about 28 and his father, William (the second) would have been roughly 50 at that time.  That’s really not terribly old.  Maybe someone bumped his arm.

To add to the signature confusion, we also have this 1825 receipt from the court in Hawkins County.  We don’t know which William Crumly this is, the second or the third, but it is his signature.

William Crumley 1825 signature

Do you think you have this figured out?  If you’re like me, you think that the 1807 and 1817 signatures are the same, the two 1814 signatures are the same, and the others are different – although how to account for that difference without any more William Crumleys mystifies me.  But just as you get your mind all comfortable with that, I want to share one more signature with you.

William Crumley Civil War signature

Which signature do you think this looks like?  If you said either the 1807 or the 1817 signatures, you would be wrong.  Below is the full document.

William Crumley civil war document

This document is from the Civil War from the National Archives in a document series titled “Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens or Business Firms, 1861-1865,” after BOTH William Crumley (the second) and (the third) were long dead.

This William Crumley could be William (the fourth) son of William (the third,) as he was born in about 1811. Signatures can be both confusing and deceiving.  I jumped like I had been shot when I saw that curly W signature signature (pardon the pun.)

The most reasonable explanation I can find, with the least amount of stretch, is that if William Jr. – meaning the third, was born in 1788 or 1789 as the 1850 and 1852 censuses indicate, he would have been underage when he married in 1807, only 18 or possibly 19 years of age.  His father, William (the second) would have had to have signed for him, which is why the 1807 and the 1817 signatures look alike.  The 1807 William Crumley signature itself doesn’t say Jr. or Sr.  The document only says that William Jr. is getting married.  In 1811, the first year William Jr. (the third) is shown on the Greene County tax list, he would have been age 22,, born in 1789 – so this is very likely the answer.  Otherwise, where was he on earlier tax lists?

Someone Died

Regardless of whether William Crumley (the second) or William (the third) remarried in 1817, someone died.  William (the third) likely lost his mother.  If it wasn’t his mother, then he lost his wife, leaving him with a newborn infant.  I believe it was William (the third’s) mother that died, in part because of the matching mitochondrial DNA evidence between descendants of Clarissa Crumley, Phebe Crumley and Phebe Brown, their grandmother.

If the family was still attending Wesley’s Chapel, William’s wife might have been buried there, although the cemetery appears to date from the “new” church built after the church burned in 1880.  William’s wife might also have been buried at the Cross Anchor Cemetery although at that time it was likely still the Gass Family Cemetery.  Another possibility is that William’s wife is buried in the Kidwell Cemetery which was begun about 1800 when the Kidwell Meeting House stood on that land.  She could also be buried at Carter Station.  A great-grandson, Thomas Crumley, born in 1852, in a letter said that the early generations of Crumley’s were buried at Carter Station.  William (the second) was the first generation to settle in Greene County, so his wife would have been the first of the founding generation to pass over.  The other information provided by Thomas in his letter has proven to be accurate.

The Move to Lee County

Then, in 1819, for some reason, nearly the entire family decided to up and move to Lee County, VA.

Greene co to Lee co

William Crumley (the second) along with two of his sons, William (the third) and Isaac set about in 1819 making preparations for moving to Lee County, VA on the border with Hawkins County, TN.

On April 5, 1819, just before moving to Lee Co., VA., William sold his 126 acres of Lick Creek land to Humphrey Malone.

“The Early Settlers of Lee Co., VA” says that a William Crumley Sr. from Greene Co. bought 250 acres of land from William Sparks on November 11, 1819 for $250.  It was witnessed by William Crumley Jr.  The William Sr. in this case must be William (the second) and Jr. must be his son William (the third.)  Therefore, we now know that William the second did in fact move to Lee Co. along with William (the third.)  However, he is entirely missing from the 1820 census.  Where the heck was he???


11 NOVEMBER 1819 – 100 acres – DBK 9, p 6, Lee County, Virginia]

This Indenture made this 11th November 1819, between William Sparks of Lee County and state of Virginia of the one part, and William Crumley of the County of Green and state of Tennessee of the other part; Witnesseth that for and in consideration of the sum of two hundred and 30 dollars lawful money of the state aforesaid to him in hand paid by  The sd  Crumley at or before the sealing and delivery of these present the recipt whereof is hereby acknowledged and ……therewith fully satisfied and paid ….bargained sold and deliveres with the said Crumly a certain parsel or tract of land, lying and being in the County of Lee situated on the west fork of black water creek and bounded as followeth to wit:  Beginning at a Poplar and two Beeche’s thence North 35 degrees West 50 poles to a Poplar and Burch on the side of Powell Mountain  Thence with the lines of the original patent so as to include one hundred acres by running straight along 1st survey having the last and to sd William Crumly senior together with its appertenances.  To Have and To Hold The sd delivered parsal of land with all and singular the appertenances belonging as in any anywise to sd premises free from the claim or claims him the sd Sparks or his heirs or assigns forever In Witness whereof  I have herewith set my hand and seal

Sealed, signed, dated and delivered in the presents of}          William x Sparks    {Seal}

Joseph Baker,  mark
William Crumly Junr
Thomas Anderson

Note that the Anderson Cemetery is just a mile or so north of the Lee County line on Blackwater Road and this deed is witnessed by Thomas Anderson.

By 1820, William Crumley (the third) was living in Lee County, Virginia with one male under age 10 (Jotham), 1 male age 10-16 (William or John), one male 26-46 (himself), 3 females under 10 (Clarissa, Phebe and Sarah), one female 16-26 (unknown) and one female 26-45 (presumably his wife.) It’s problematic that one male is missing and one female, Belinda, supposed to have been born in April 1820 is missing as well.

This census raises troubling questions.  Who is the unidentified female?  Only two sons are listed, one son believed to be William (the fourth) is missing.  He is not found in any public record until his 1840 marriage to Rebecca Malone in Greene Co. whereas son John married in 1828 and is found in Hawkins Co. in 1836 and in the 1840 Claiborne Co. census beside William (the third).  Jotham married in 1834 and is found in the 1840 Lee Co. census.  Is William (the fourth) really the son of William (the third) and if so, who raised him and why is he never found in Lee, Hawkins or Claiborne County?

The youngest daughter, Belinda, may actually not have been born until after the census.  Her absence is easier to explain, at least hypothetically.

William Crumley Sr. (the second) who bought the Lee County land is back in Greene County finishing up a lawsuit in October of 1821 and selling his land, preparing to remove entirely from Greene County.  Actually, we don’t know positively that the lawsuit is William Crumley (the second) and not (the third,) as the document never says.  William (whichever) petitions the court to transfer the venue for an appeal of the lawsuit to Hawkins County stating that he doesn’t feel he can get a fair trial in Green County, and that some people, obviously meant to imply the defendant, Johnson Frazier, were “fomenting” hard feelings towards William. He was obviously very troubled by this turn of events.

We’ll never know the details, but it’s certainly possible that William (the second) never meant to remove when he bought the Lee County land in 1819.  He could have been purchasing that for his son, William (the third,) whose wife’s sisters already lived there, but then decided to sell out and move on during the 1821 trial.  Regardless of why, that is exactly what he did.

In 1824, William Crumley obtained a 50 acre land grant on Blackwater Creek in Hawkins County.  This part would become Hancock County in 1845.  We are not sure which of the Williams owned this land, but I suspect it was William (the second.)

In 1834, in Lee County VA Deed Book 15 page 162, a deed from William Crumly  to Peter Louisey (sic) is registered on December 22, 1834 but dated October 31, 1831. William Crumley of Lee County. VA and Peter Livesay of Hawkins County TN, for $300, land in Hawkins County on Blackwater bounded by the Reis (probably Rice or Rheas) line, 47 acres signed W M Crumley.

We believe this 1834 land sale was by William Crumley (the second) since William (the third) had moved to Pulaski County by 1830.  But, we’re not positive since we don’t actually know which William applied for the land grant for this tract of land.

Crumley 1824 land grant

Blackwater Creek

Blackwater Creek is extremely remote, so remote that just getting there requires one to navigate a quagmire of maze like back roads, any one of which could lead to an unexpected problem.  It’s still dirt and one lane and feels more like someone’s long driveway than a road.  Cell phones nor satellite navigation systems work there due to the tall, steep mountains.

Today, bootleggers or under-the-radar farmers who don’t know you and certainly don’t want their crop discovered can be lurking on these desolate back roads.  The locals warn you about this and I was more than a little nervous.  In earlier times, Indian attacks and buffalo stampedes were the worry of the day.  Yes, there were buffalo on Blackwater Creek at one time.  And Indians too.

Blackwater road lee co border

In fact, Blackwater Creek, it turns out, was very desirable property and a very busy place at one time.  Believe it or not.  You’d never know today.

Reading the actual deeds is just so critically important.  In this deed, Isaac Crumley, son of William Crumley (the second) sells land to Polly Stapleton, the sister of Lydia Brown Crumley, the wife of his brother, William Crumley (the third.)

Lee County, VA, Deed Book 7, page 241 – January 15, 1837

Isaac Crumley to Polly Stapleton, 100 acres lying on the west fork of Blackwater, just above Blackwater Salt Works, for $50, adjoining land of John Williams.

Notice the comment about the Blackwater Salt Works.  In this next deed, the salt works aren’t mentioned, but the land granted to John Neill and William Roberts is.

Lee County, VA, Deed Book 12, page 77 – April 25, 1852

Isaac Crumley and his wife Mary of Lee County to William Chandler, Jeff Chandler and William Howe, all of Lee Co, 3 tracts of land on Blackwater Creek, 150 acres, 50 acres granted to James Fletcher, 837 acres, balance of 937 acre tract survey granted to John B. Neill and William Roberts by the commonwealth of Virginia, for $1000.  Signed by both Isaac and Mary B. Crumley

1832 Rhea map salt works

This 1832 Matthew Rhea Map, the first Tennessee map taken from surveys clearly shows the salt works.  In 1832, this is one of the few features noted, so it was obviously well known and important.  And guess who owned this land…

The Sullivan County, TN Department of Archives and Tourism tells us the following:

Blackwater is located at the crossroads of the old trading route from the Cumberland River to the Cherokee nation in East Tennessee and the old hunters trace from the New River to Kentucky. Today, Blackwater is an isolated community as to commerce and transportation, but it was not so isolated in the mid eighteenth century due to the large buffalo lick. Over the eons of time, herds of buffalo had carved out trails radiating out from the lick to the grazing meadows in Powell Valley, Rye Cove, and south to the Clinch River valley. Herd animals would travel great distances to a salt lick to replenish their need for salt, an essential mineral in their diet. A salt lick is a site where the soil and rocks contain a natural deposit of salt and was called a lick because the animals would lick the soil or rocks to a depth of several feet to satisfy their need for this essential element.

A salt lick was the favorite hunting site of the Indians and long hunters. The hunters would position themselves at strategic points along the trails the animals traveled to the lick and make their kill. Numerous historical records of the frontier give accounts of the well-known licks such as the Bledsoe lick in Sumner County Tennessee, the Blue lick in central Kentucky and the French lick in southern Indiana, but little is known about the large lick at Blackwater. Perhaps this is because the Blackwater lick was discovered at least a quarter of a century before the licks in Sumner County in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana and by the time of their discovery the pressure of hunting at the Blackwater lick had depleted the size of the herd animals to near extinction; however, the trails carved out by buffalo remained and were used by the hunters as the choice route leading from the frontier to Kentucky. The long hunters knew about the lick as early as 1761, and it was a landmark on the old hunters path from the New River to Powell Valley.

Land records tell us much about the route the hunters took to seek game around the large salt lick and the grazing grounds in Lee County. The Hunters path is well defined until it reaches the little salt lick, Duffield, but from this point little is known about the route to Powell Valley; however, the land surveyors made notations on their surveys that give clues as to the route of the path. A land grant to Arthur Campbell [LO 45-325] describes the location of the grant as being at the Hunters Gap in Lee County and on both sides of the Hunters path. This tells us that the Hunters path ran along the south side of Powell Mountain from Duffield to Blackwater and crossed the mountain at Hunters Gap. The path ran down Wallen creek to near its mouth on Powell river where again the land surveys pick up the route of the Hunters path.

Another grant to Arthur Campbell [LO Q-318] is described as being on the south side of the Powell River and on both sides of the Hunters path. This grant is located about one mile west southwest of where Wallen Creek flows into Powell river. The Campbell grant [LO Q-318] is adjoined on the west side by a land grant to Robert Preston [LO 27-57]. The Preston grant is described as lying on both sides of the Hunters path. From this information, we know that the Hunters path ran from near the mouth of Wallen Creek across the area known as the Rob bottoms and crossed the Powell River at White shoals. Again, the surveys tell us that the path ran in a north or northwest direction from White shoals as a grant to Robert Preston [LO 27-41]is described as lying on the west side of trading creek and one of the survey points is described as “white oak south side of the old Kentucky trace on John Ewing line with same”. From this point, the path or trace ran to Martins station but the exact route cannot be proven by land records.

Records show that Elisha Wallin and William Newman hunted around the Blackwater buffalo lick as early as 1761. Wallins Ridge and Newman Ridge were named after them.  (Note that Wallin’s Ridge and Newman’s Ridge border Blackwater Creek on either side.) Other long hunters surely knew about the lick. Evidence of the buffalo trails remains on modern maps by the names of geographic features such as Hunters Ford, Hunters Valley, Hunters Gap and Hunters Branch. No doubt the long hunters in quest of game followed the herd animal paths from their favorite grazing grounds to the salt licks. There were many small licks in the area used by deer and other small game, but needs of the herd animals would require the mineral deposits of a much larger lick such as the Buffalo Lick at Blackwater.

The importance of the Blackwater lick is clearly pointed out by the claims of the land speculators. As early as 1775, Thomas Osburn had settled on land adjoining the Buffalo lick and obtained a land grant from the Commonwealth of Virginia by virtue of Right of Settlement.

“Washington County Survey Book 1,Page 389 Commissioners Certificate – on the forks of black water a north branch of Clynch River – beginning at the foot of Powells Mountain on the west side of the Buffalow Lick – at the foot of Newman’s ridge on both sides black water joining Powells Mountain, includes improvements, actual settlement made in 1775 – August 22, 1781”.

The name Blackwater appears in land claims as early as 1775, and the name was known far and wide. Claims were filed in the Virginia Land Office and the North Carolina Land Office for land at Blackwater so hunters from North Carolina and Virginia had spread the word about the large buffalo lick at the Blackwater.

From the North Carolina Archives, we find that Walter and Robert King filed an entry with the North Carolina Land Office for 250 acres that was to include an old buffalo lick.

“Recorded in North Carolina Land Office File No 28 Hawkins County records. Walter King & Robert King make entry No 1947 entered 12 Oct 1779,250 acres near the foot of Powell mountain by the name of Black Water: Beginning near the creek at a poplar, white oak, poplar s;150 poles to a stake, then W;280 poles to a stake, then n;150 poles to a   stake, to include an old Buffalo Lick, surveyed 16 Sep 1793. Thomas Church assigned his interest in the Wilkins land to William Hord and Hord assigned it to Walter King & Robert King 1 Nov 1792”.

In the meantime, Walter Preston was issued a land grant from Virginia that bordered the Thomas Osborne grant and included the buffalo lick. To further complicate the issue Arthur Campbell also obtained a grant from Virginia that included the buffalo lick, all of the Thomas Osborne grant and much of the Preston grant. Apparently Preston ended up as the legitimate owner as he sold his grant to James White. The heirs of Campbell made an effort to reclaim their Blackwater grant, but I find no record that they were successful.

Blackwater buffalo lick

Osborn and Preston land grants at Blackwater, Virginia. Copyright 2009, W. Dale Carter.

The Thomas Osborn grant ended up under the ownership of James and Stephen Osborn. A deed recorded in Lee County Deed Book 3, page 189:

“Stephen Osborn & Comfort & James Osborn & Mary to William Roberts, 31 Jul 1810, DB 3-189. 400A by survey only the 1/2 of the Buffalo lick excepted for James Osborn the same being the west side of the said lick running through the middle thereof with the conditional line made by John Osborn & Roberts from thence marked around the lick on or near the bank of the same $650”.

This deed shows that James Osborn reserved for himself ½ interest in the salt lick when the Thomas Osborn grant was sold to William Roberts. Apparently the lick site was developed as a salt works as a deed made 29 December 1817 and recorded in Lee County Deed Book 3, page 399, shows that William Roberts and his wife, Catherine sold ¼ part of a tract known as the Blackwater tract, to Jessee G. Rainey.

“Being a part of tract said Roberts purchased of James & Stephen Osburn. Including the lick premises and well, now occupied by said parties together and including 100 acres”.

The deed shows that by the year 1817 a well had been dug at the salt lick site. On 5 June 1818 William Roberts and wife sold 1/8  part including the lick premises and well recorded in Lee County Deed Book 3, page 405, and on 12 May 1818 William Roberts and wife sold ½ interest of the lick tract to Joseph and James McReynolds of Bledsoe County, Tennessee for $3,000. Recorded in Lee County Deed Book 3, page 406. The McReynolds deed shows that something of great potential lay within the boundary of the tract. At that point in time, land in and around Blackwater was selling for $1 to $2.50 per acre. The McReynolds paid $60 per acre.

From this time forward, the land records do not show what happened as to the ownership of the salt lick tract; however, on 19 January 1835, by order of the Lee County court, Jacob V Fulkerson, commissioner of the court, sold one moity of the Blackwater salt lick to Dale Carter of Russell County, Virginia. Carter was a large land owner and land speculator who owned large tracts in the Elk Garden and in present-day Wise County, Virginia.

Why all the interest in the buffalo lick? Most likely these early land speculators had visions of developing the site as a salt works much like the one at Saltville. In fact, a salt works was operated at Blackwater for a period of time.

There are two further pieces of information that have a bearing on the land and the road where William Crumley (the second) and probably (the third) lived.

Lee County Order Book 2, page 364 27 Jan 1818; David Burk proposes an alteration in the road leading from the Blackwater salt works up Blackwater to the state line.

The above statement shows that “up” does not mean north, because the state line is south of the salt lick.  Therefore, the land description that says that the Crumley land was “above” the Salt Lick probably means between the lick and the state line.

Lee County Order Book 2, page 374, 29 Apr 1818: John B Neil, Elisha Rogers; Thomas Roberts; William Wallin and David Lawson view a road from the forks below the Blackwater salt works to John B Neils.

This would be the road where William Crumley lived.  His land abutted that of John Neils and William Roberts .

Today, the Roberts Cemetery is near the head of Blackwater Creek in VA, very near the salt lick, located on SR 70, 10 miles south of Jonesville, VA at the foot of Powell Mountain near a group of houses across the road from the Collingsworth Cemetery.  The Roberts Cemetery is where Polly Stapleton, aka, Mary Brown Stapleton, sister of Lydia Brown, wife of William Crumley (the third) is buried.  In fact, it may also be where Lydia Brown Crumley is buried as well.

Note also that William Crumley (the third’s) grandson, John Crumley’s son, James H. Crumley born in 1839 in what became Hancock Co, married on May 10, 1865 to Martha Anderson.

Anderson Cemetery Roberts Cemetery

On this map above, the Anderson Cemetery (left red arrow) is about a mile north of the Virginia/Tennessee border, and the salt lick is another 2-3 miles north of that.  The Roberts Cemetery (right red arrow) is near the salt lick.

You could say that all of Blackwater Road was the Crumley stomping ground.  They knew every nook, cranny and mountain ridge.  William Crumley the second lived his life from 1820 or so until his death after 1837 but before 1840 and his son, William Crumley (the third) lived here from 1820 or so until he packed up his wagon and left for Pulaski County before 1830.  In 1840 William Crumley (the third) had moved back and lived nearby, one ridge over, but by 1850, he was once again living on Blackwater, on the Tennessee side of the line.  For thirty years William Crumley (the third) trod and plowed this land and the land in this area…more or less…except when he moved to Kentucky.  William (the third) buried his wife, (step)mother and father here, not to mention his son Jotham…and those are only the family members we know about.  There were surely more.

I have to believe he would have been pleased to see me on Blackwater Road, looking for his land.  Seems that the Crumleys return here much as the buffalo returned to the salt lick.

Which William Lived Where?

The 1830 census becomes even more confusing, because William (the second) has apparently moved to Pulaski Co., KY., 80-100 miles west of Lee Co., Va. where he appears on the 1830 census age 40-50, one female 20-30 (unknown), one son 5-10 (Aaron), one son 15-20 (Jotham), one daughter 5-10 (Belinda), one daughter 10-15 (Phebe), one daughter 15-20 (Sarah or Clarissa) and one female 40-50, presumably his wife.

Again, son William (the fourth) and a daughter are missing, although Belinda, or at least a female that age, is present in this census.  There is also an extra female, age 20-30.

Pulaski County records have never been searched for William although many of their records were destroyed by fire in 1871.  William could have lived there for only a short time, around 1830, or he could have lived there nearly 20 years, from not long after 1820 to not long before 1840.  A volunteer searched the tax records from 1823-1839 and found no William Crumley, although three years were missing.  I’m guessing this means that he likely did not own land there.  I searched Pulaski County grantor indexes and found no William Crumley by any similar spelling, including Chumley.  The grantee indexes have not yet been imaged, but to buy and sell you have to be both a grantee and a grantor, so it’s unlikely that William owned land in Pulaski County.

Unfortunately, this was my last hope for discovering, positively, William (the third’s) wife’s name after the 1817 marriage.

However, in 1830, there is a William Crumley living in Lee County.  Lo and behold, it appears to be William Crumley (the second).  He is shown, aged 60-70, which would be accurate.  He was shown with 2 females in the household, his wife age 50-60 (presumably Betsey) and a girl age 5-10, possibly a grandchild, or maybe he and Betsy Johnson had one child after their marriage.

Sometime during the next decade William (the third) returned from Kentucky.  I think he returned before 1838 because his daughter Melinda (Malinda, Belinda) was married to James Hervey Davis in Claiborne County in 1838 – and you have to see each other to court.  He may have returned before August 1834 when his son Jotham was married in Lee County.

William (the third) appears on the 1840 Claiborne Co., TN census, age 50-60, possibly no wife, one son 15-20 (Aaron,) two daughters 20-30, (Sarah and Phebe) and one female 60-70 who is unknown.  The female age 60-70 could Lydia and the census date column information could be wrong.  Or Lydia could have died and the female could be Betsy Johnson Crumley, since it appears that William (the second) had died.

Wouldn’t it be a great twist of irony if William Crumley (the third) actually did wind up living in the same household with Betsey Johnson Crumley after his father’s death, even though he was not her husband, but her step-son, as well as her cousin by marriage.  Sometimes, the truth is stranger than fiction.  Especially in this family line.

Finding William (the Third)

The Claiborne County residence in the 1840 census also suggests that William Crumley is living further west than his father who lived on the border of VA and TN on Blackwater Road, which was part of Hawkins County before Hancock was formed about 1845.  Blackwater Creek and Powell Mountain were originally the eastern boundaries of Claiborne County, where it intersected with Hawkins before the formation of Hancock.

Interestingly enough, I accidently discovered where William was living in 1840 – and it makes a great deal of sense.  This comes in the “truth is stranger than fiction category,” as I wasn’t looking for William Crumley at all when I made this discovery.

I had noticed that in 1840, William Crumley (the third) was listed on the census, along with his son John Crumley, living between Eli Davis and Littleton Brooks.

William Crumley 1840 Claiborne

I was looking for where Elizabeth Shepherd McNiel lived in 1830, and she lived beside her son Niel McNiel.  I noticed in some documents that Niel’s land abutted that of Josiah Ramsey.  One of my very experienced genealogy cousins descends from the Ramsey family and I knew she had done a lot of research, so I contacted her to see if she knew the location of Josiah Ramsey’s land.

Cousin Dolores sent a map with land locations overlaid, which was of primary importance.

Josiah Ramsey land division

On the 1830 census, Elizabeth McNiel and her son Niel McNiel live between Josiah Ramsey and Eli Davis in the upper right hand corner of this map.

In 1840, William Crumley is living between Eli Davis and Littleton Brooks and near the Hopkins, all shown on this map as neighbors.

In the lower left, Daniel Rice’s land is shown where it would abut Elijah and Joel Vannoy’s lands.  Why is this important?  Because in 1845, William Crumley (the third’s) daughter, Phebe, would marry Joel Vannoy, son of Elijah Vannoy.

So, not only do we now know how Phebe and Joel met, as near neighbors, we also know where William Crumley was living in 1840 after he returned from Pulaski County, KY.  Additionally, in 1848, William’s daughter Sarah would marry Edward Walker, who lived a mile or so beyond Elijah Vannoy’s land on Mulberry Gap Road.

Now, where is this land today?  On the map below, William Crumley likely lived just below the Turner Hollow label.

McNiel to Vannoy

I mapped the location where Niel McNiel would have been living next to Elizabeth McNiel and Eli Davis on present day Turner Hollow Road (on the right) and then where Joel and Elijah Vannoy owned land on Mulberry Gap Road at the red balloon on the left.  Keep in mind that they would likely have taken the “back way” since Rebel Hollow and Turner Hollow intersect and it looks like Joel and Elijah Vannoy probably owned the land between Mulberry Gap Road and the back side of Rebel Hollow Road.  Of course, at the time, it wasn’t called Rebel Hollow Road – a name it acquired during the Civil War.  The history of the Mulberry Gap church tells us that the name arose because a group of southern sympathizers lived there.  Hmmm….

William (the Second) Dies

In January 1837, William (the second) sold his land in Lee County to his son Isaac.  In 1841, Isaac had to prove the deed in court by the testimony of James Weston, Thomas Stapleton and Thomas Weston (husband of Hannah Crumley), the same men who witnessed the 1837 sale, and the deed was recorded October 18, 1841.  This, along with the fact that William (the second) is missing in the 1840 census, suggests that he died between 1837 and 1840.

Thomas Stapleton is the son of the sister of Lydia Brown, Mary “Polly” Stapleton.  In fact in an every larger twist of fate, Isaac, just a decade later, sells at least part of the William Crumley land on Blackwater to Polly Stapleton.

William (the third) lost his father about 1840.  This could have had something to do with why William (the third) returned to the area from Pulaski County.  His father may have been ill in the 1830s and needed help.

William Goes A-Courtin’

William (the third’s) children began marrying in 1828, when John, the eldest son, married a woman named Mahala, last name unknown.  In 1834, Jotham married Anne Robinette in Lee County.  Clarissa married John Graham in 1834 in Greene County and Melinda (or Belinda) married James Hurvey Davis in Claiborne County in 1838.  Aaron wouldn’t marry Anne Scofield until 1844 and Phebe married Joel Vannoy in 1845.  In 1848, Sarah, called Sallie, would marry Edward Walker, a widower who lived in Mulberry Gap Road just down from where Phebe and Joel Vannoy lived.  By 1848, William’s cabin would have been empty and quiet, so it appears that William went a-courtin’.

William (the third) married Pequa (Pya, Pqa, Paa) some time in 1849 or early 1850.  They are listed in the 1850 census of Hancock Co. as ages 61 and 53 and it’s noted that they were married within the past year.  Unfortunately, the Hancock County courthouse burned, twice, so there is no further information available.

It’s unlikely that Pequa had never been married before, given her age.  However, there are no children showing that would have been hers, so if she had children, they were already married and gone, although that is unlikely given that women generally have their last child in their early 40s.

Pequa’s name is extremely interesting.  In 1850, William Crumley (the third) lives in the middle of the Melungeon neighborhood.  John Crumley, his son, lived adjacent and very likely married into the population, as his wife’s name is Mahala, a name traditionally found in the Melungeon families, made particularly famous by legendary Melungeon Mahala Mullins, a very rotund and colorful bootlegger.

The Crumley land, on Blackwater, is also in the Melungeon neighborhood.  The name, Pequa, however, is not found in any other instance in this region to the best of my knowledge, and I’ve researched here for over 30 years now.  Pequa, is, however, a Shawnee word for Phoenix, or risen from the ashes.  There have been family rumors for years of this line being “Native,” but if this is true, and it’s through Pequa, then it’s not a direct line to any of the Crumley children, because by the time Pequa married William Crumley, she would have been too old to have children.

One More Move

Something nudged William to move on, even though he had already seen his 60th birthday.  Why William would want to pack up everything he owned, leave much of his family behind and rattle around in a wagon with no shocks, creaking and bouncing over dirt roads full of wagon ruts, or mudholes, depending on the season, is beyond me.  Appanoose County, Iowa is about 800 miles, on today’s roads, from the area where William lived in Hancock County.  At ten miles a day, the journey would have taken 80 days, or nearly an entire miserable summer.  What was this man’s motivation?

Hancock Co to Appanoose Co

Furthermore, Appanoose County is significantly further north than Hancock County, Tennessee.  I’m betting that William had no idea what was in store for him in terms of winter weather.  Genweb has a delightful page with frightening snow pictures of Iowa weather.  I doubt, if William had seen these, he would have been nearly so willing to depart.  It’s dramatically different than the South.

Appanoose snow

William and Pequa moved to Appanoose Co., Iowa in 1851.  William was shown as age 64 on the 1852 Iowa State census, so born about 1788, but did not appear on the 1860 Appanoose Co. census that listed Pequa as age 64.  William (the third) apparently died after the census in 1852 but before the census in 1860.  He did not die within a year of the census, because he is not listed in the 1860 mortality schedule.  Pequa’s death date is unknown but both are buried someplace in Appanoose Co., Iowa.  After William’s death, Pequa lived with a family in Unionville, a very small town of about 2 blocks in length.  Perhaps William is buried near here.

Unionville, Appanoose Co., Iowa

Iowa was a very different place than William (the third) had ever lived.  It was flat with a horizon that went on forever.  No hills, no mountains.  I wonder if he was happy.  I guess, in part, that answer might have something to do with why he left in the first place.  Perhaps he missed owning land and he apparently had none after returning from Pulaski County, KY.  Maybe he had never really owned land.  Or maybe he just had a case of wanderlust.

Appanoose co horizon

In the “Iowa History up to the 20th Century – History of Iowa from the Earliest Time to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century” Vol 3, in the “Early History of Iowa” section, page 349, Greene Co., it mentions William Crumley coming to Greene County in 1850-51.  This is the same time that the other Crumleys migrated to Iowa.  On the same page in the book, it mentions S.G. Crumley as county clerk and Isaac D. Crumley as sheriff.  The Crumley men apparently succeeded there.

“The History of Appanoose County, Iowa, Containing A History of the County, its Cities, Towns” tells us that land opened for survey in 1850, was initially delayed a bit due to a boundary issue, but by 1860, nearly all of the land was claimed.  The availability of land may have been why William left for Iowa.  Maybe William found something he had chased his entire life.  A review of the Iowa records has never been done.

William’s Death

Several months after I wrote and published this article, cousin Keith, a descendant of William’s son, Aaron, contacted me and said that back in the year 2000, he had visited the Unionville, Iowa cemetery and had found William’s stone.  He took a photo and was kind enough to share with me.

William Crumley stone

I was there able to find the cemetery on Find-A-Grave and found another photo as well.

William crumley stone2

“From the collection of Rhonda L. (Atkinson) Johnson – Find a grave contributor #47027837 rhondabrent Ancestry Family Tree: Atkinson Family Tree:rhondabrent1”

Indeed, this cemetery is just within the village of Unionville, in the upper right hand corner by the T61 marker, to the right.  You can see the rectangle shaped area.

Unionville Iowa map

Here’s a closeup of the cemetery

Unionville Iowa cemetery

William’s final resting place has been identified now, thanks to cousin Keith, and along with it, a mystery has been solved.  The inscription of William’s stone not only tells us when he died, but how old he was, down to the day, so we can now calculate his birthdate as well.

William died on February 15, 1859 at the age of 70 years, 8 months and 13 days.  Utilizing a reverse date calculator, this gives us a birth date for William of June 2, 1788.

Many thanks to cousin Keith.

William’s probate record is shown below as well.  Perhaps eventually the wills of Appanoose County will be online as well.


William’s Children

Children of William (the third) assembled from family information, census and land information are as follows:

  • John Crumley born 1808 in Green Co, TN married Mahala born in 1812 and lived in Hancock County. He named a daughter Lydia. The 1870 census shows a John Crumley in Lee County VA, age 62 (born 1808) with Mahalia, 58, several children, with John stating he was born in Green Co., TN.
  • William Crumley (the fourth) who married Rebecca Malone in 1840 in Greene County was attributed to William (the third,) but I have my doubts, especially since William (the third) was “missing” a child in both census where William (the fourth) should have been listed. However, this William did name a child Jotham.  It also appears that Clarissa was raised by someone in Greene County as well.
  • Jotham (also noted as Sotha) Crumley born October 23, 1813 Greene Co., TN, died August 22, 1841, Lee County, VA, married Ann Robinette on August 14, 1834 in Lee Co., VA.
  • Sarah “Sallie” Crumley born 1814/1815 in Greene County, TN, married Edward Walker in 1848 in Hancock Co., TN. The Walker homestead, a log cabin, still stands.  The Vannoy and Walker households in Hancock County were on the same road and only a mile or so apart.

walker homestead

  • Clarissa Marinda Crumley April 10, 1817 married George Graham in Greene Co January 16, 1834, buried in the Cross Anchor Cemetery, Greene County, TN. There are no children named Lydia or Jotham, but the mitochondrial DNA of Clarissa’s descendants matches that of Phebe, indicating they share a common maternal ancestor.
  • Phebe Crumley born March 4, 1818 died January 17, 1900 married Joel Vannoy and in the late 1860s, moved down the road to Claiborne County where they lived in the Little Sycamore community in Vannoy Holler and had a large family.
  • Belinda Crumley born April 1, 1820 married James Hervey Davis in 1838 in Claiborne County. She died in 1905 and is buried in the Mulberry Gap Baptist Church Cemetery.  Of note, she also named a daughter Lydia.  I would very much like to have a DNA test from someone who descends through all females through one of her 4 daughters, Martha, Lydia, Nancy and Louisa.  This would confirm or refute the tests of Clarissa and Phoebe as being the children of Lydia Brown.
  • Aaron Crumley born in 1821 in Lee County, married Mary Ann Scofield on November 21, 1844 in Claiborne County, TN. Named a son Jotham.  Aaron moved to Iowa with William and Pequa.

Cousin Keith also provided a photo of Mary’s stone, also found in the Unionville, Iowa, Cemetery, so we know that Aaron lived close by as well.

Mary Scofield Crumley stone

She died November 1, 1862 at 38 years, 7 months and 1 day.  I would have expected that Aaron would be buried here as well, in an unmarked grave, but cousin Keith uncovered information in later census that Aaron went on to Missouri and Kansas.

Cousin Keith also provided an obituary for one of Aaron’s sons, which may provide some breadcrumbs for researchers on this line.  I notice that the Crumleys continues to move to new areas as Indiana, Pennsylvania and Houston, TX are mentioned.

Crumley, Aaron's child obit

Of William’s children, the ones I most question as belonging to William Crumley (the third) and his wife, Lydia, are William and Clarissa, both because they married in Greene County, TN.  Either they were raised there, or the family traversed back and forth quite a bit.

Crumley DNA

When I first began the Crumley DNA project, there was one burning question we wanted to answer.

In addition to this Crumley family, who at that time we presumed was connected to the Greene County group, there was one George Crumley in Sullivan County, TN.

For decades, the two families searched for a common ancestor or a link to prove they were related – or that they weren’t.  That link remained elusive, although both families did have children named William,  Unfortunately, William is such a common name that one really can’t draw any inferences from that alone.

The most difficult part of this comparison was finding the first Crumley males from each group to test.  DNA testing was in its infancy.  I formed the Crumley DNA Project and began to see who I could find to test to represent the two lines.

I’ll never forget the cousin, nicknamed Wildman, who made and sold possum skin bikinis for larger women on the internet, and would give a discount if the lady would send him a picture of herself in the bikini.  Wildman wanted to know if I wanted to clone him.

I told him no, and the possums don’t want more than one of him either:)

At that time, more than a decade ago, there was little understanding of any genealogical DNA testing, so the folks who tested did so simply out of trust and good grace.  Wildman represented the Sullivan County line and my cousin Jerry represented the Greene County line.  We just knew we were all from the same ancestral line.

Except… we weren’t.

Thank Heavens, the answer is definitive.  No maybe or ambiguity about it.  Not only are we not related, we’re not even in the same haplogroup.  We were disappointed, but so glad we could stop chasing that elusive connection document that didn’t exist.

The George Crumley line is haplogroup G-M201 and the Greene County line is haplogroup I-M223.

Crumley DNA project

But, are we sure?  Was there an NPE or undocumented adoption in one line or the other.  We needed a second male descended from a second son of each ancestral line to test, just in case.

We found another Crumley male for the Greene County group three months later, but it would be another year before we found another male for the Sullivan County group.  Even today, that group hasn’t grown beyond the original two.

We did in fact confirm that yes, the two groups are entirely separate.  Now the confusion is only genealogical when their descendants move into counties where their records are co-mingled – like, oh, say, multiple William Crumleys.

Yep, the Crumley Curse lives on!


Other contributing researchers to the Crumley family are Truett Crumley (deceased), Paul L. Nichols (deceased), Stevie Hughes, Larry Crumley, Irmal Crumley Haunschild (deceased), Jerry Crumley, and Nella Myers (deceased.)



I receive a small contribution when you click on some of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

30 thoughts on “William Crumley the Third (1788-1859) and The Crumley Curse, 52 Ancestors #80

  1. Nadine, this goes on forever, but it optimizes the kind of researcher I would love to be. But I neither have the discipline nor the patience. She posts nearly everyday– I can hardly believe how she can write do profusely and keep her stuff straight. But it makes me think of our Francis, the Fishers and Eberlys– so I tractate a history. If you don’t keep an open mind, you will never get it right!!! – Tom

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Pingback: Jotham Brown (c1740-c1799), Maybe a Dissenter, 52 Ancestors #81 | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  3. Pingback: Phebe (c1747-c1803), Is Jotham Brown’s Wife Zopher Johnson’s Daughter?, 52 Ancestors #99 | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  4. I was so glad to see all of this. Just by chance I ran across it and it was great fun to read. Now I am hoping I can print it all off because my printer is low on ink!!! To make a long story short…I am a Crumley. My grandfather was James Edward Crumley and his dad was James H. Crumley. Somewhere along the line Mahala showed up in my research. I am not good at it. I just started. My dad’s name was Willie Alonzo Crumley. We lived in Lee County close to the TN line. Mom never told us much. She always said the Crumleys all died off. I didn’t know what to believe. I never knew my grandfather…he died the year I was born. I have one brother Edward and he has no children.

    • I show a James Howard Crumley born Feb. 13, 1931 in Lee County. His father was Alonso S. Crumley born Jan 13, 1908 and married to Dollie Mae Muncy. Is that your line? I don’t know the children of James Howard Crumley or who he married.

      • I am wondering if we are related. I have a great grandfather who was adopted by the Vandaveer family (previous name Crumbly) may be mis-spelled. I’m not sure if the dates work out though? His mother had passed, and also a younger sister. We are currently working on DNA for the family from CRI genetics.

        • I hope you will test at Family Tree DNA where they offer matching. Lots of Crumley relatives have tested there.

          • I will be doing a similar dna test with extra info. Keep you posted as to results. I found a lot of info on find a grave website pertaining to Vandaveer family

          • John Crumley was my great grandfather 4th removed according to ancestry .com .

          • I’ve got some of what I think is new Info re: William Crumley (the Second) and his children(including Isaac D and William (the Third).. You mentioned he gave or sold land to his son Isaac. Isaac is my great, great grandfather. He was born 1797, married Rachel Brown in Lee County TN in 1816. They had 10 children (see below) and during all this time, sold the Lee County TN land, and moved to Lee County, Virgina. Then, when Rachel died in 1850, Isaac apparently opted for free land (grant for Louisiana Purchase territories) and moved to Greene County, Iowa.

            Reverend Isaac D Crumley, b 1797 had the following children:
            Children of Rev Isaac D Crumley and Rachel Brown Crumley
            1. Lydia Crumley: Birth: MAR 1822 in Greene Co., TN. Death: 19 FEB 1857 in Greene Co., IA
            2. William P. Crumley: Birth: 1824 in Lee Co., VA. Death: 15 APR 1861 in Greene Co., IA
            3. Sylvanus Goodson Crumley: Birth: 12 OCT 1826 in Lee Co., VA. Death: 18 OCT 1918 in Jefferson, Greene Co., IA
            4. Hannah H. Crumley: Birth: 24 JUL 1828 in Lee Co., VA. Death: 20 Nov 1918 Jefferson, IA
            5. Isaac D. Crumley (“Jr.”): Birth: 1829 in Lee Co., VA. Death: 27 FEB 1862 in Greene Co., IA
            6. Asenath Crumley: Birth: 1831 in Lee Co., VA. M. John B John. Death: 1910 Rippey, IA
            7. Mary Ann Crumley: Birth: 1833 in Lee Co., VA. Death: AFT 1885
            8. Jotham Crumley: Birth: 1837 in Lee Co., VA. Death: 15 SEP 1862 in Mound City, IL
            9. Jacob Hicks Crumley: Birth: MAY 1837 in Lee Co., VA. Death: 1919 in Buffalo Co., NE
            10. Alfred Crumley: Birth: 1839 in Lee Co., VA. Death: 1909

            Of the above, when Isaac moved to Greene County, IA, (1850) His 5 oldest children all made the 850 mile trip with him. (Lydia Crumley Babb, William P Crumley, Sylvanus G, Hannah Crumley Babb, and Isaac D. Crumley Jr.). They were among the 1st 10 “White Men and Women” to occupy Greene County, IA.

            William P Crumley, b 1824 (#2 above) was my great grandfather.

            If you send me your email, I’ll send you the word/docx file with more info.
            Truett Crumley has helped me over the years with much of this.
            SO, Roberta you are descended from William the 3rd, and I am descended from Isaac D, so that William Crumley (the second) was our common ancestor. (in my case, Wm the Second was my great, great,great, grandfather)
            Roger Crumley

          • This is very exciting. I’ll email you shortly! Have you tested your autosomal DNA and do we match? There are many Crumley descendants at Family Tree DNA in the Crumley DNA project.

          • I’m not sophisticated about this. I DID get DNA tests from both MyHeritage.com and “23andMe”.
            Roger Crumley

        • Hi Stacey. I’m not sure. I’m from Rippey, Iowa, in Greene County, Iowa. I traced a lot of my ancestors who came to iowa in the 1850’s. Some from Virginia, I think, andsome from Tennesee. i believe that (if I’m remembering correctly) my grandfather William Halsey Crumley was born in Rippey Iowa, in 1862. (my father (Wm Halsey’s son) Dwight Crumley, born in Rippey, Iowa, 1900).
          I believe that William Halsey Crumley was the son of Isaac Crumley, who was a Methodist Minister who came to Rippey in about 1854. He was also Sheriff of GreeneCounty, Iowa.

          I don’t think (but not l100% certain) that they were NOT direct descendents of William the III Crumley (the one of “The Curse”).
          But it’s a bit strange, because I think William the III DID come to iowa, but it was Unionville, Iowa…and about the same time…around1850 or so. BUT…..I think William the II DID in fact move to Greene County (Rippey, Iowa area) for a few years…BUT subsequently died, and I think there is evidence that his tombstone is back in the Unionville, Iowa Cemetary. Unionville is a good 80 miles, or more, south and east of Rippey. and in those days…that would have been a laborious trip.
          but his tombstone (Willliam III, of the Curse) appears to have been in unionville.

          If you can shed any further light on this, please let me knowwhat you learn.

          Roger L Crumley MD
          U.C. Irvine Professor of Head & Neck Surgery.

  5. I hope I’m not too late with this reply, and that at least ONE of you will pick it up.
    I’m very positive that I’m descended from William Crumley the 3rd. it seems to be he, who
    drew up the streets of our town (Rippey, iowa) in about 1850; he was elected to local office…and so was Isaac Crumley (a son, or brother??) in Greene County, IOWA…(Not Green County, Tennessee).
    I’m very curious and would like to learn more about this. can anyone else help???!
    Unionville, Iowa, is a good distance from Rippey. and is maybe 90 miles or more SouthEAST of my hometown of Rippey.
    But I’m VERY interested in the entire Crumley family genealogy. I think that possibly William 3’s son was killed in the civil war, and had fathered a son. However he was killed in the civil war and never met that son, whom I think was possibly my great grandfather. (My father Dwight M Crumley was born in Rippey, in 1900, to William Halsey Crumley)

    Further……someone once told me that ALL us Crumleys emanated from a James Crumley who came to the US in 1757 (or earlier) and settled in Pennsylvania. He supposedly fathered 17 SONS….and that’s why are so many of us Crumleys out there.

    please someone….respond to this!!!

    Roger L Crumley MD, MBA
    Emeritus Chair, Head & Neck Surgery
    University of California, Irvine

    P.S. I have/had two brothers.
    David Dwight Crumley…my oldest brother, was a prominent attorney in Iowa and died in 2016.
    Phillip James Crumley, a retired periodontist, is Very Well known, as the leader of the Natural Gas Jazz Band, a dixieland band out the San Francisco area. Phil is still alive, and leading his band, at age 86, out of San Anselmo California.

  6. Pingback: Lydia Brown’s 3 Daughters: Or Were They? Mitochondrial and Autosomal DNA to the Rescue – 52 Ancestors #218 | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  7. My husband’s family descend from William 3rd through son Aaron F and Mary Ann Scofield. There are at least 3 family members who have done Ancestry DNA (2 male, 1 female). I would love to correspond with you about this family line.

    • I don’t know much about Aaron but glad to hear from you. Have you DNA tested? We have the Crumley DNA project at Family Ttee DNA.

      • This is my husband’s line, but I am the family historian in this regard. Both my FIL, his brother, and a female cousin have done DNA testing through Ancestry. They are g-g-g grandchildren of Aaron F Crumley, son of William (the third). They descend from Aaron’s daughter (of Mary Ann Scofield) Sarah Alice Crumley Dodd. If i read this correctly, Cousin Keith mentioned above, descends from a son of Aaron and wife 2 Catherine Hatfield (widow of Perry Hopkins), a half brother to Sarah.

        Thank you so much for this incredible work.

    • Cathy were your descendents from the Unionville, Iowa (Appanoose County) area, or elsewhere?? I’m trying to make the connections between Unionville, and the Crumleys who helped develop Greene County, Iowa (in the 1850 – 60 era).

  8. I am a descendant of William and Catherine Roberts who owned the Salt works for a time. I loved reding your research notes. Excellent It was fun to read even though I am not related. Bet our ancstors knew year other though.

  9. Pingback: County Formation Petitions Resolve Long-Standing Mystery: Which William Crumley Got Married? – 52 Ancestors #244 | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

  10. Pingback: DNA Painter – Touring the Chromosome Garden | DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy

Leave a Reply