Unraveling the Odd Fellows Lodge Meeting in Claiborne County, Tennessee – 52 Ancestors #343

I have absolutely no idea where I got this newspaper clipping, but I found it buried among some papers as I was sorting through a box. I’d much rather go down this rabbit hole than sort and clean any day, so I felt compelled to see if I could figure out when this mystery photo was taken.

Why am I so interested?

My grandfather, William George Estes, known as Will, is pictured in the center of the second row.

I “thought” Will was probably a member of the Odd Fellows Lodge near Springdale in Claiborne County, but I wasn’t sure.

Springdale, the bottom red star, is more like a named area and not a village or town per se. It’s a crossroads stop along the old buffalo trail, now 25E, marked by a few houses, a gas station today, and the primitive log cabin Big Springs Baptist Church which was already more than a century old by the time this photo was taken.

The Estes family lived in a holler a couple miles down Little Sycamore, the intersecting road heading east from Springdale.

The winding back roads intersect with Little Sycamore Road near Pleasant View Baptist Church. Once there, you follow around the church and up a dirt road around the cemetery where most of the family is buried, until you turn, cross a creek and travel back up into the hollers “till you can’t go no further.”

The Estes Holler “road” turns into a two-track, or less, crosses the mountain, and exits on the other side of the ridge into Vannoy Holler. There’s no turning around or backing up, so once you start over the mountain, you’re going all the way. Trust me on this one.

Back in the WPA days in the 1930s, the first actual road through the county was an amazing 16 feet wide, with three inches of gravel. Before that, dirt and mud.

Some of the other men in this picture are my relatives too and they all lived down Little Sycamore, which is the name of the stream and the road that runs along it, both.

Of course, as a genealogist, I’m curious as to when this photo was taken, and where.

I love the women’s fine hats as they sat on the porch. It looks like a warm day and I’m not sure I’d want to be wearing those long skirts, long sleeves, and bonnets. I can tell you those women probably arrived in wagons or buggies, not riding horses sidesaddle individually. Some may have walked. The home looks well-cared-for and lovely.

According to an old newspaper article, including a photo, there was a fine plantation-style home near “Roundtop,” the “hill” that actually defines Springdale. Unfortunately, I can’t tell if this is the same home, but given the fancy dresses and the location, it surely might have been.

Every man, except my grandfather, was wearing a hat. Not sure what that says about my grandfather, but I’d wager it wasn’t good. If he wasn’t wearing a hat for a photo like this, I’d bet he didn’t own one. Life was difficult for my grandparents back then. In the 1900 census, Will reported 6 months of being unemployed, but none of the rest of the men on that page reported anything near that.

My first guess would be that this picture was taken about 1910 based on a few pieces of information about my grandfather. He was born in 1873 and looks to be around 30 here, more or less. After he married Ollie Bolton in 1894, they moved to Springdale, Arkansas for several years, returning to Tennessee between June 1898 and 1900, before the census.

I know my grandparents moved to Indiana approximately 1912, sometime after the 1910 census and before 1913. I also know my grandfather moved back to Tennessee 1915ish, apparently got divorced, and was living in Claiborne County in March 1916 with his second wife who happened to be his first wife’s cousin. Suffice it to say there was bad blood between Will and the Bolton family.

Sometime after the 1920 census, he moved to Harlan County, Kentucky.

Based on this information, this photo was probably taken sometime between 1900 and 1910, or after 1915 and before 1920, although he does not look 40+ in this photo.

Let’s see what kind of information we can discern based on the names of the men provided.

Front Row, left to right:

Allen Hodge – Born in 1846, he died in 1925 on Lone Mountain. He looks to be about 65 or so in this photo. According to the census, he was 73 in 1920. Lone Mountain is the name of the road at the Springdale crossroads that heads west, while Little Sycamore goes to the east.

Willie Hodge – Son of Allen, Willie was age 26 in the 1900 census and looks to be maybe 30 in this photo. He was born in 1873 and died in 1961.

Worth Epperson – Worth Epperson lived in Estes Holler beside Will and was married to Cornie Estes, my grandfather’s sister. Worth was born in 1873 and died in 1959. He looks to be about 30, maybe 35 in the Odd Fellows picture.

Photo of Worth Epperson, at left, standing with Will Estes in their later years.

Milt Dalton – Born in 1880, he married in 1900 and was living in the Springdale area of Claiborne County in the 1900 census near the Venables, Campbells, and Hursts.

Lee Day – In 1900, Lee Day, born in 1862, was living off of Little Sycamore Road just beyond Estes Holler, near the Plank Cemetery, beside the Boltons and Venables. He married Cora McNiel in 1899. Cora was the daughter of John Anderson McNiel, the great-nephew of my 3 times great-grandmother, Lois McNiel who married Elijah Vannoy. In other words, Lee’s wife was my grandfather’s 2C1R. These families all clustered a couple of miles east of Springdale, between the Pleasant View Church and Liberty Church.

Pryor Carr (holding child) – I wish they had given the name of the child which would make dating this photo significantly easier. Pryor Carr was born in 1869 in Springdale, the area where Little Sycamore Road intersects with now 25E, but formerly the Kentucky Road. He died in 1926 in Madison County, KY. Pryor only had two sons, Shelby born in 1903 in Lee County, and James born in 1905 in Springdale. By 1910, this family had moved to Rose Hill, Virginia.

Willie Vannoy – Born in 1877 in Vannoy Holler, he died in 1950 and looks to be about 35 in the Odd Fellows photo.

Willie and Pearlie Shumate lived “up to Lone Mountain” which is the same road as Little Sycamore, but west of Springdale. Willie Vannoy and my grandfather were first cousins.

Jim Hodge – uncertain, but Hodge family members lived near Estes Holler on Little Sycamore.

Jim Bolton – Two Jim Bolton’s from this time frame are first cousins, born in the early 1870s, and live near each other on Little Sycamore. Will Estes was married to Ollie Bolton who was also first cousins with both Jim Boltons.

Arch Bartlett – Born in 1883, married in 1906 to Lillie Painter whose parents lived in the middle of several Bolton families.


Row Two:

Joe Campbell – If this is the correct Joe Campbell, he was born about 1845 in Claiborne County, the grandson of George Campbell and Elizabeth Dobkins and a double third cousin to William George Estes’s grandmother. Joe would have been about 55 in this photo. The Campbell family members lived all up and down Little Sycamore Road.


Bill Cunningham – Born in 1872, it’s unclear who Bill’s parents were. However, the Cunningham family lived near the Estes family.

Thomas Sulfridge – One Thomas Sulfridge was born about 1855 and lived in Claiborne County, although this may not be the same person. By 1912, he was living in Kentucky.

Bob Ferguson – Born in 1869, in 1900, William Mack Ferguson was living in this part of Claiborne County.

Will Estes – In 1900 and 1910 my grandfather was living in Estes Holler by the Cunningham and Hodge families and Worth Epperson. Sometime after 1910, the family moved to Indiana, but after 1914 and before 1916, he had moved back to Claiborne County and remarried. His daughter, Irene was born in March 1916 in Shawnee which is in the North part of the county. I don’t believe Will ever lived in the Springdale area again and eventually moved to Harlan County, Kentucky.

Martin Venable – William Martin Venable was born in 1881. The Venable family married into the Estes family and was living beside Milt Dalton and the Cook, Bartlett, and Campbell families in 1900. Martin was a 3rd cousin to Will Estes through his mother on the McNiel side.

Milt Bolton – Two Milt Boltons were alive during this time. The younger man was born in 1884 which would mean he would be between 20-30 in this photo. The man in the picture is clearly an older man.

The older Milton Halen Bolton was born in May 1844 and died in 1907, a half-uncle to Ollie Bolton, the wife of Will Estes. Milt’s wife, Narcissus “Nursey” Parks was also Ollie’s first cousin, twice removed on her mother’s side.

We also have a newspaper clipping of Milt Bolton’s funeral. Unfortunately, most of the people are unrecognizable, but the photos look similar and the actual funeral is very interesting.

Mont Carr – a physician born in 1870 and who lived in the neighborhood. I’d say he looks to be about 50 in the picture. He died in 1937. I can’t help but wonder if this photo was taken at his home.

Howard Friar – Howard, born in 1875 and his wife, Mary Ann “Ropp” Bolton were the best friends of Will Estes and Ollie Bolton Estes.

Both couples moved to Indiana as tenant farmers at some time after 1910. Will Estes, at left with Ollie, took their photos together in Indiana.

In 1920, Ropp and Howard were still living in Indiana, but moved back sometime before 1930. Ropp was Ollie’s first cousin. The fact that Howard was in the Odd Fellows photo pretty much eliminates the photo dates in the 19-teens.

Back Row:

Willie Bartlett – If this is the right person, Wiley Bartlett in 1910 was living near a Carr family.

George McNeil – Named after our common ancestor, this George was born in 1866 in Claiborne County, lived by the Bolton families and died in 1934. He married Nervesta Estes, a first cousin once removed to Will Estes. George McNiel was also Will’s third cousin through his mother, Elizabeth Vannoy.


Is there any wonder why I match the DNA of almost everyone from this part of Claiborne County?

So, When Was the Picture Taken?

By process of elimination, we have bracketed these dates:

  • Pryor Carr only had two sons, assuming he is holding his own child. Shelby was born in 1903 in Lee County and James was born in 1905 in Springdale. Given the Odd Fellows vest, the child had to have been a male. By 1910, this family had moved to Rose Hill, Virginia. Based on this, we can fairly confidently say that this photo was taken sometime between 1905 and 1907 when one of those babies was about 18 months old. We know this had to be taken before 1910 when the Carr family was no longer living here.
  • The cincher here is Milton Bolton’s death year of 1907, although unfortunately, we don’t have an exact date.
  • Based on this combined information, the photo had to have been taken between 1905 and 1907, before Milton Bolton’s death.

My grandfather, Will, would have been turned 32 in March of 1905 and 34 in 1907. He and Ollie had brought either 7 or 8 children into the world by then, having lost either 3 or 4.

At least two children died after 1900, Robby perishing in a fire when their cabin burned to the ground between 1904 and 1907. A third was likely born and died about 1900, based on a telltale gap between children.

Will doesn’t look very happy in the Odd Fellows photo, but then again, smiling for photos wasn’t a “thing” back then. I’m actually surprised that Will didn’t take the actual photo. He was a photographer. My Aunt Margaret said that he had his camera “rigged up with some kind of timer.”

Will always looked concerned in the family photos he took, so maybe he was worrying about whether the camera would work without him behind the box. He’s in the back row at far right in this 1913 photo where he looks somewhat older than in the Odd Fellows picture.

Other than Ollie and William George to the right in the back row, Ollie’s cousins, Clara and (the younger) Mont Bolton are at far left, and possibly family friend Ted Barnes is third from left in the tie. Beside Ollie is Elizabeth Bolton, sister of Mont and wife of George Smith. Apparently a family group had gone on a great adventure, visiting Ollie and Will in Indiana.

One of Will and Ollie’s sons, Joseph, was missing in this photo, reportedly at scouts. My father, William Sterling Estes is the youngest male in the front row on the left beside his brother, their oldest son, Estle. Beside Estle at the right of the front row are cousins Lee and George Smith. The blonde female is their daughter, Minnie, born in 1908 and the brunette is Margaret born in 1906.

If Will had been responsible for taking the Odd Fellows photo, I would have thought that he would have been standing in the front row, not behind. But he wasn’t in the above family picture. Margaret was in this photo, so she should have known about how they took photos of the entire family, including her dad. In fact, I specifically asked.

Or maybe, just maybe, Ollie, my grandmother took the Odd Fellows photo. Maybe she went along to whatever event was happening and was dressed in one of those long dresses. Maybe she wandered off the porch long enough to do the honors.

Cameras and photographers were quite scarce at that time which is why we have so very few photos. Photographers had to develop the film and print the final pictures. Will may have been the only photographer in the county. I know he was sought after to attend many family reunions to record the event, his black camera on the tripod in tow with the black curtain that went over his head. He even took along his own quilted backdrop, seen in the photo of Ropp and Howard Friar with their baby.

I’m grateful for this picture, along with the men’s names and this stroll down memory lane with my grandfather and his kin, one warm summer day long ago.



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12 thoughts on “Unraveling the Odd Fellows Lodge Meeting in Claiborne County, Tennessee – 52 Ancestors #343

  1. Roberta, this is a great collection. I ENJOYED IT. Plenty of good-looking family members.

    I have been able to do very little with my research for at least three years. Health problems—almost 90, which doesn’t leave me much time for fun and games.

  2. I so love the way you put your family stories together with pictures and lots of great genealogy information. I strive for this, but I don’t seem to have enough hours in the day! I so commend you for staying on task and getting these articles finalized in a timely manner. I love everything you write! Please don’t stop!!!

  3. I now know how I match the Estes family. i believe through the Cora Mae McNiel. I went to school in Batavia, Iowa with Fred Estes Ornduff’s grandson. He is also my cousin.

  4. I find this extremely interesting. My family name is also Estes from Mount Pleasant,Tn. They also moved to Indiana I the early 1900’s. Named changed to Esters. 3rd Great Grands George Estes and Elizabeth Pillow.

  5. Very interesting, Roberta. I have family that came from the Lone Mountain area, and Tazewell. Moore Family, mostly moved West.

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