Recreating Historic Photos Today – 52 Ancestors #259

As genealogists, we are always looking for new ways to have fun as well as share pieces of our family history with others. Especially others who might, just might, appreciate either the people involved, the history or the genealogy. Like, you know, the younger generation.

You just never know what might plant that seed.

Recently, my granddaughter, Phoebe, had a class assignment to obtain photos of a grandparent as a child and then take pictures of them today that shows the same spirit.

I was the fortunate grandparent selected, which meant that I also had the opportunity to look through old photos to find ones from my childhood, and to share with Phoebe stories of that time and place.

Until I began sorting through the photos, I never thought about why there weren’t any photos, other than school class photos, for about a 10-year period. Reflecting further, I realized that it was because we didn’t own a camera. We were “economically challenged” and a camera was a luxury. I never thought about it at the time.

My grandmother had a camera, but she died in 1960. My father apparently had a camera, because there were a few photos of me and Mom together that he had taken prior to his death in 1963.

I had never really talked to Phoebe about poverty and how we coped. I never knew anything different and our life, such as it was, just seemed normal to me. I didn’t think about discussing that time or those things.

I never told Phoebe that there weren’t places like Salvation Army and Goodwill at that time for low cost clothing. I had never explained about the kind-hearted woman, Gladys Caylor (1904-1997) who refurbished donated clothes, cleaned and repaired them, then invited people in need to “shop” in her living room and porch – never charging anyone one penny for anything.

We always took as little as we could, leaving as much as possible for people who needed more than we did. There were people much worse off than we were – people without food or shelter. We struggled and rationed our food, but never starved. I remember giving most of what little food we had left to a starving homeless beggar. I asked mother why, and she told me that he needed the food far more than we did – and “there but for the Grace of God…”

I learned about compassion at a very young age. Demonstrated lessons of heart stay with us for a lifetime.

I don’t know what we would have done without that generous lady. Mother was always embarrassed and tried to pay Mrs. Caylor, but she would never accept anything. She always insisted that it was nothing, that she enjoyed visiting with and helping people. She invited us to come and visit with her often, always feeding us while we were there too – whether we agreed to eat or not:)

May her soul rest in peace. She made such a difference in our lives.

Me suspenders.jpg

I had never explained that we always, always, selected clothes “too big,” even if they were free, so I had room to “grow into them.” I don’t think I ever had clothes that actually fit. I don’t remember wearing suspenders, but I assuredly did, as evidenced by this picture, to hold my pants up!

I hadn’t failed to explain because this was a secret, but simply because I didn’t think about it. It’s just how life was and it seemed unremarkable. This was my normal – and I’m none the worse for any of it today. In fact, I’m probably a better person because of those challenges – and examples.

Me Feb 1960.jpg

These pictures are cute now and at the time, I was unaware that not everyone’s life was the same. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss. Other than losing important people in my life, I was mostly a happy child.

In preparation for our photo shoot, I sent Phoebe several pictures that she could select from. When she arrived, I didn’t know what to expect, other than we would have fun!


The first photo that Phoebe selected is one with me holding an iron and looking a bit pensive. I remember helping Mom making those curtains hanging in the window – I think from what was left of an old sheet.

Me iron.jpg

Phoebe commented that the thing behind me didn’t look like an ironing board. I explained that we didn’t have an ironing board. When we needed to iron, which seemed like all the time, we put layers of blankets on that table, with a sheet over them, and that was our ironing board.

In this case, apparently the table wasn’t yet cleared to be transformed into an ironing board.

Phoebe thought there were flowers on the table, but looking closely, there were dyed Easter eggs and two chocolate bunnies, so this photo was taken near Easter.

Now for today’s recreated photo.

Me iron today.jpg

We found a flowered top in my closet, also now too large, that appropriately had been gifted to me second hand. It’s actually one of my favorites.

I’m a quilter, so the photo of the 5-year-old me holding an iron truly was prophetic as were the salvaged curtains.

Today, I have a large ironing board that my friend made for me using a sheet of plywood. It’s larger than most ironing boards, made specifically for ironing quilt tops, so we used a quilt as a cover and put a bouquet of flowers in the middle. My scissors are in evidence too, along with a plate collection from Mom and her mother.

I showed Phoebe her great-grandmother’s wedge irons for doll clothes that were heated in the fireplace.

Child's Iron 2

We discussed when electricity was wired into homes. My mother didn’t have electricity as a child.

Laughter and Smiles

Phoebe said that when she thinks of me, she thinks of me smiling and laughing because I smile “all the time.” If her father had been along today, he would have rolled his eyes and said, “that’s not the mother I knew.” 😊

Thinking about that made me laugh!

Me Playskool.jpg

Looking at the photos I sent Phoebe, apparently I did smile a lot, even then.

Me Timmy.jpg

Me with Timmy. I loved that little doggie. He let me dress him in doll clothes.

Me 1957.jpg

I loved Rex and my grandmother too. Apparently, something was VERY funny.

Me 1981.jpg

There’s about a quarter century between these photos. Not much changed!

Me wedding with Mom.jpg

And another quarter century later. I came by this trait honestly. That’s my mother beside me at my wedding reception.

Me laughing today.jpg

Phoebe snuck this one in on me.

If I’m going to be remembered for something, I want it to be for laughing and smiling a lot!

The Prom

I only went to one prom in my life – and this was it. My hair had already been straightened with an iron and curled in just the places I wanted it to curl. I spent years fighting with my hair. Now I just embrace it. So much easier.

Me prom prep.jpg

Mom had worn stage makeup while performing for years, so she knew exactly how to apply makeup while not getting it all over oneself. Not me, I struggled and still do.

Here, I’m sitting at Mom’s vanity in her bedroom before the prom working on my makeup. Mom sat at this vanity every single day to arrange her hair and apply makeup. Her parents gave the vanity, along with the rest of the bedroom set, to her as a birthday gift when she turned 16.

After mother passed away, in 2006, I inherited the vanity along with her other bedroom furniture. Today, this graces the guest bedroom where Phoebe and her family stay when they visit.

Me vanity today.jpg

We found Mom’s hand mirror that was laying on the vanity in the prom photo from 1971. Had I thought, I actually have the table runner, the gold powder box, the white porcelain tray and the pincushion too.

Phoebe and I looked through the drawers and I showed her the pea and marble-sized “pretty rocks” that her father had collected and given to his grandmother as a small boy.

Moms pebbles

Phoebe holds them in her hand today, but Mom held these smooth pebbles close to her heart her entire life.

Second Grade

I remember being so proud of myself in this picture of my second grade class. I’m the girl in the back row, second from right in the blue dress, just to the right of Mrs. Malone, my teacher.

I was quite proud because the smallest children were in the front row with the smallest desks. The medium height kids were in the middle two rows with medium desks.

Only the tallest kids were in the rear row and we had the “big kid” desks.

Me second grade.jpg

We were told to sit up straight and look busy. Notice our reading books on our desks. Reading was my favorite activity.

I explained to Phoebe that the classroom had two magazine subscriptions. One was to National Geographic magazine and the other was to Highlights for Children.

The day each month when those arrived was the best day EVER. I liked both magazines, but I devoured National Geographic, cover to cover. I read them over and over.

Me National Geographic today.jpg

In June 2018, I was featured in a story in National Geographic magazine about the Lost Colony of Roanoke. It just so happens that I still have my own desk that I used at home as a child. My kids both used this desk too.

You can see how small and low to the ground the chair and desk are. The top of the desk is below my knee, with the chair seat maybe 6 or 8 inches off the floor. I’m amazed I could sit down that far today, or get up😊

It’s braced with iron and miraculously still solid after all these years. I think it has a couple more good generations left – so maybe this will be Phoebe’s one day too.

Phoebe told me to hold up the National Geographic magazine with the Lost Colony article and look proud of myself – just like second grade. Mrs. Malone would be proud. So would Mom.

Phoebe loved the symbolic bookshelf behind me. At first, I was unhappy about the packing boxes in the photo, but they too are symbolic. Now I’m packing and sorting, preparing for life’s next exciting chapter, wherever it leads.

I’ve come so very far from that desk in Mrs. Malone’s classroom.

Roberta Estes Computer Scientist

In the Gene by Gene lab, Courtesy of the History Channel, “In Search of The Lost Colony of Roanoke” documentary which can be viewed here:

I’m firmly convinced that the enchanted, mesmerizing world revealed in the National Geographic magazine was part of what piqued my curiosity about all things scientific. The first influential steps in a lifelong journey. Today, I’m honored to be an affiliate National Geographic, Genographic Project researcher.

Happy Birthday

Me 5th birthday.jpg

This picture was taken on my 5th birthday. You can count the number of candles on the cake. I don’t remember what was in the gifts, but since my birthday was right after school started, many times I received books and school supplies.

While that might sound disappointing to some people, I didn’t mind at all. I loved books!

Oh, and I still love chocolate cake too!

Me at table today.jpg

Today, I often sit at the kitchen table and write my blog stories, like this one. Of course, I have my handy dandy phone by my side now too.

Phoebe took the photos in both black and white and color, adjusting the various camera settings. After all, this was a class assignment that we turned into a really fun afternoon.

We couldn’t decide which version we liked better. The black and white is more authentic to the original photo, but the colorized one reflects life today.

Me at table today color.jpg

As luck would have it, these photos were taken right after my birthday, so half a century (plus) after the original birthday photo. The new phone and red case was my gift from Jim. How times have changed. We didn’t even have a phone at all when the original photo was taken, and computers that weren’t the size of a building were something waiting in the distant future to be invented.

While overseas recently, my friend gifted me with books. Some things never change.

The only thing missing from this picture was chocolate and that’s because I cleared it off the table without thinking!

Throughout our photo shoot, we talked about things like trait similarities between generations. Who has whose smile? Who loves chocolate? How are we and family members alike and different? Phoebe didn’t have an opportunity to know my mother in person, but maybe she knows her a little better today than she did yesterday.

If we don’t take the opportunity to share our memories, even the ones we don’t think are important or relevant, they die with us.

Your Turn

It’s your turn now.

What kinds of old photos do you have that might be recreated? Maybe during the upcoming holiday season?

What seeds might be planted?

Is there an opportunity to utilize old photos to share the history of your family and family members individually, and have fun at the same time?

What things did you take for granted about your life that the are foreign to a younger generation?

What started you on the path to where you are today?

Whose kindness made a difference in your life?

What pebbles do you hold close to your heart, and why?



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Michael McDowell Jr. (c1747 – c1840), Revolutionary War Veteran, Spy, Miller and Apparently, Rabble Rouser, 52 Ancestors #258

I’m struck by how much Michael McDowell’s life reads like a book with distinct chapters. One closes and as the wagon pulls away from the old homestead and another opens.

Michael did that at least twice in his adult life.

I first found Michael McDowell in present day Hancock County, Tennessee and worked my way backward in time, which was anything but easy.

For starters, Hancock County records burned, twice. At the time Michael lived, it was Claiborne County, whose records are incomplete. The place where he lived also bordered Lee County, Virginia and the border between Virginia and Tennessee was disputed for the entirety of Michael’s lifetime. And not to mention various census years that I need that are missing.

For decades, I’ve felt like the great genealogy gods have a perverse and somewhat perverted sense of humor. “Oh, you’ve overcome that road block, well, try this one! Hahahahah.”

In reassembling Michael’s life and that of his parents and children, I’ve had to connect many dots. Some snapped right in, like puzzle pieces nestling together like Russian tea dolls, but a few…not so much. The further back in time we go, the more scarce and difficult the pieces. It’s doesn’t help any that his father’s name was Michael McDowell too, as was his son.

Our Michael McDowell Jr. was born about 1747, possibly in Lunenburg or Albemarle County. His father’s trail goes cold in 1755 in Bedford County where Michael Jr. entered the Revolutionary War in 1777.

The name of Michael’s mother is unknown. She could have been from anyplace between Maryland and Lunenburg County, Virginia. If she was the same age as Michael’s father, she would have been born about 1720, or about 27 when MIchael Jr. was born. It’s likely that someplace, Michael Jr. has siblings.

Revolutionary War Pension Application

One of our most valuable pieces of information about Michael McDowell is his application for a Revolutionary War pension found in Claiborne County, Tennessee. Two versions exist, one somewhat more detailed than the other.

Michael McDowell, Page 31 section 28, Michael McDowell S 1690 Virginia Service:

This day personally appeared before Samuel Powell, Judge of the Circuit Court of Law and this equity in Claiborne Co., TN. Michael McDowell, age 85, in order to obtain benefit of an act of Congress, passed June 7, 1832. He made this application 1832. States he entered the service in Bedford Co., VA 1777 or 1778. He was drafted to perform 3 months tour of duty and he belonged to Company of Capt. Arthur which was attached to the regiment of Col. James Calloway. He then marched to the lead mines in the western part of Virginia and built a fort, and also under Capt. Wm. Leftridge at the same Fort. And after his term expired, returned home to his residence in Bedford Co., VA, and again volunteered under Capt. Arther, and marched against the Indians, and again after returning home joined with some neighbors and friends with the citizens of the country calling themselves spies, to protect women and children from the skelping knife of the savage. He went to see his Capt. Arther who now lives in Kentucky and he is so parallized and so polsed? so that he can not speak, so as to be understood.

John Hunt a citizen of Claiborne County, Tennessee, certify that I am well acquainted with Michael McDowell, and it is reputed and believed in the neighbourhood where he lives that he was a Revolutionary War Soldier.

Affidavit of James Gilbert, one of the clergyman of the Baptist Church, state I am well acquainted with Michael McDowell.

John Hunt, High Sheriff of said county, makes the same statement.

This affidavit gives us a lot of information about Michael, including that he and his friends called themselves spies.

His age is given, which puts his birth about 1747.

We know that in 1777, Michael was 30 years old and living in Bedford County, Virginia. He was married by that time, with his son Edward born in 1773 and his son Michael (the third) being born before 1774.

Information from “TN Pension Roll of 1835” copied by William Navey:

Michael McDowell – Claiborne Co., TN – Private VA Line, $30 annual allowance – $90 amount received, Sept. 20, 1833 pension started – age 87 in 1835

State of Tennessee, Claiborne County This day personally appeared before Samuel Powell, Judge of the Circuit Court of law and equity in the state of Tennessee the same being a Court of Record, Michael McDowell age 85 years who being first duly sworn according to law doth on his oath make the following declaration in order to obtain the benefit of an Act of Congress passed June 7, 1832. States that he entered the services of the United States under the following named officers and served as herein states that he resided in the County of Bedford in the State of Virginia and some time in the year of 1777 or in the year of 1778 he was drafted to perform a three month tour of duty in the services his county and that he belonged to company commanded by Capt. Arthur which said company was attached to the regiment commanded by Col. James Calaway then marched to the lead mines in the western part of Virginia and we then built a fort and we were there stationed until my time of service has expired and then it was that Col. Calaway called upon us to volunteer our services in the cause of our country for the time of three months which this applicant did do in good faith and he states most positively that he did serve his country under the command of Capt. William Selfridge at the same fort and after his time of service had again expired this applicant returned home to his residence in the State of Virginia in Bedford County and some time after this applicant returned home he again volunteered himself under Capt. Arthur and he then marched against the Indians who were committing many defamations on the inhabitants of Virginia and the applicant states that he served in the campaign as long as his services was required by the commanding officer, but the precise time he does not recollect and then being discharged from service he returned to his residence in the County of Bedford. And this applicant begs leave further to represent to the department that some time after he had returned home from the last above mentioned campaign that he united himself with some of his neighbors and friends together with a vow to protect the women and children from the scalping knife of the savage and often performing a great deal of hard labour in the service of our country and after the spring of the year had set in and the savages had left the frontier we again returned home the applicant states that he believes taking the whole of his service together that he served in the cause of his country for the term of nine months although it may be more or it may be less. Said applicant also states that he has no documentary evidence of his services nor does he know of any living testimony by whom he can prove his services. He a few days ago went to see his Capt. (to wit) Capt. Arthur who now lives in the State of Kentucky and that he found that the said Arthur is paralyzed and so palsied that he cannot speak so as to be understood which now fully appears no reference to a document, herewith presented and signed by one of the Justices of the Peace in said state. Hereby relinquish his every claim to a pension or annuity except the present and declares that his name is not on the pensions roll of any agency of any state whatsoever. Sworn to in open court Dec. 1832

If this was sworn in December 1832, chances are very likely that Michael had already had his birthday for the year. His year of birth subtracts to 1748 in this document.

In a publication listing Tennessee veterans of the Revolutionary War, Michael is listed as having been born in 1745. The source of this information is not given.

I obtained Michael McDowell’s Revolutionary War Pension file from the National Archives.

Michael McDowell Rev War1.jpg

The actual pension act was found in Michael’s pension papework.

Michael McDowell Rev War 2.jpg

Michael McDowell Rev War 3.jpg

I originally though that Michael signed this document himself, but after looking more closely, he didn’t.

Michael McDowell Rev War 4.jpg

The “X, his mark” is present. Of course, we don’t know from this document alone whether Michael was simply too elderly and too feeble to write, or if he never could. Other documents will tell that story.

Michael McDowell Rev War 5.jpg

Michael McDowell Rev War 6.jpg

MIchael McDowell Rev War 7.jpg

Michael McDowell Rev War 8.jpg

$90 was a lot of money in 1832 – enough to purchase a farm or at least land to clear for a farm.

Michael McDowell Rev War 9.jpg

Michael McDowell Rev War 10.jpg

From these documents, we can put together roughly the following timeline:

When What Where
1777 or 1778 3 month tour Lead mines with Arthur and Callaway
Additional 3 months at lead mines Callaway requested, served under Leftridge
Home after the second three month tour Bedford County
Some time later Volunteered again to march against Indians With Arthur
Returned home Bedford County
Some time later Spied on Indians – returned home after spring when Indians departed

Michael states that he served 90 days in total, more or less. Given the dates above, his time spying on the Indians would have had to have been in either late 1777 or late 1778. If he was drafted in 1777, most of that year would have been consumed with the 6 months contiguous duty at the lead mines.

Michael McDowell Rev War 11.png

This final document is interesting in that it lists Michael as an invalid. It’s possible, at 85 years of age, that his invalid status is simply a result of his age, meaning he can no longer farm, and had nothing to do with his service or an injury. He did not apply in 1818 at which time destitute soldiers could apply.

These documents reveal more too. Michael left Bedford County and marched to the western part of Virginia. At this time, Tennessee and Kentucky didn’t exist, so Virginia just trailed off into nothing – with no western border as shown in the Fry and Jefferson map from 1775, below.

Michael McDowell 1775 Fry map.jpg

Revolutionary War Service

In the book, Virginia militia in the Revolutionary War: McAllister’s data we find several references to lead mines as well as the officer’s surnames noted in Michael McDowell’s pension application.

This book reveals: Capt. Benjamin Arthur R. Sept. 29, 1781 from Bedford County. James Callaway Co. Lt, S, Dec. 8, 1778. We then find Lt. Col. William Leftwich, S. Feb. 28, 1780. I’m not quite sure what that means, but it does confirm that they served.

Bedford County: 1776. Capt. Wm. Leftridge against Tories and Indians at Lead Mines, 47, 157.

This suggests that there might have been an encounter.

1780 – Capt. Robt. Adams’ Company guarding Lead Mines, 153.

Greenbrier County 1780: Capt. Thomas Wright raises a Company to go against the Indians at Detroit. But it was marched to Lead Mines on Holston, and then to Logan’s Station in Kentucky.

Jarvis Fields, in his pension application tells us that he served from Bedford County as well and he was called to duty in 1779 by Col. Calloway for guard duty at New London, in Bedford County, “the British prisoners taken at the Cowpens being confined there and at Lynchburg.”

Henry Cartmill who served from Botetourt tells us this about the possible location of the lead mines:

At another time he ranged the mountains between Fincastle and Sweet Springs in search of Indians. Himself and many others assembled at the lead mines in Wythe to meet Col. Fergerson who was said to be advancing from the Carolinas with a large force of Tories. After going as far as Stone House in Botetourt, they were stopped by Col. Skillern, commanding the Botetourt militia, until more men could be collected. News reaching them that the Tories were dispersed, they returned home.

Colonel Ferguson was killed at the Battle of King’s Mountain in October 1780.

William King states that he was enlisted in Bedford County in 1778 and for two months, he guarded the lead mines in Wythe County. Other men refer to the lead mines in Wythe County, as well.

William Murphy is very detailed in his pension application:

About Aug. 1, 1776, from Bedford under Capt. William Leftridge, Lt. Calloway, Ensign Joseph Bond. Guarded Chiswold lead mines till relieved by other troops. In April, 1777, was substitute three months for Lewis Dusee (?), who was drafted from Thomas Jones’ Company in Henry. Served under Capt. Peter Herston, Lt. William Ferguson, Ensign Edward Tatum in Col. Christie’s regiment. Marched 200 miles to Long Island in the Holston to stand guard during a treaty with the Cherokees.

Volunteered in April 1780, to serve three months against the Cherokees. Went as sergeant under Capt. Jno. Clark and Lt. John Bond, Gen. John Sevier being in general command. Marched to the headwaters of the Tennessee and killed a number of Indians, with the loss of Capt. Davis and Lt. Bond killed, and Jasper Terry wounded.

In February 1782, volunteered three months under Capt. John Clark, and Lt. John Murphy, of Washington County, N. C. (now Tenn.), Col. J. Brown commanding the regiment, and marched across Nolachucky and French Broad in pursuit of the Indians who had attacked Sherrill’s Station on the frontier, losing one of their number in the attack. We overtook a band, supposed to number 60 to 100, and killed, as was said, thirteen of them. In August 1782, drafted against the Indians again and hired George Doggett as substitute, but Gen. Sevier insisted that I go. Served under him in company of Capt. Thomas Wood and Lt. Vathan Breed, all the officers being of Greene Co. (Tenn.) We destroyed several Cherokee towns, killed a number of Indians, and took some prisoners. John Watts, a half-breed gave up a white woman named Jennie Ivey, who was taken from Roane’s Creek a year before.

The reference to Chiswold’s lead mines gives is a critical clue.

Michael McDowell lead mines.jpg

This waymark exists today at the intersection of interstate 77 and Route 52, but the actual mines were about 10 miles further south in the Austinville Community on a bluff on the south bank of New River. Known variously as the mines on Cripple Creek, the Austinville mines, or the Wytheville mines, they were discovered in 1756 by Colonel John Chiswell.

The original Fort Chiswell was built during the French and Indian War where the current village of Fort Chiswell stands, but was paved over when the intersection of I77 and I81 was constructed in the 1970s.

Given that Michael McDowell said that they built a fort, it’s probable that they built a fort at the actual mines to protect the lead, an extremely valuable commodity to both the militiamen and the Tories who were attempting to capture the mines.

The website, Diggings, below, shows the mine with the green balloon and the deposits in red. The information on the site states that production at the Austinville East Lead Zinc Mines began in 1753 and concluded in 1981.

Michael McDowell Austinville.png

This would be where Michael McDowell camped and built the fort.

MIchael McDowell mine.png

Today, the two routes from Bedford County to the lead mines, both through gaps in the mountains, would be either 110 miles or 125 miles.

Michael McDowell mine map.png

A Google satellite view of the vicinity shows extensive mining efforts at Chiswell Hole.

Michael McDowell Chiswell Hole.png

If the location of the original lead mines is accurately positioned by the green locator of the Diggings map, the original mine location would be where the white roofed building, below, is located today.

Michael McDowell mine location.png

Unfortunately, none of these roads are “drivable” today utilizing Google street view. Maybe in a few years.

Indians, Spies and Scalpings

In both application versions, Michael mentions being an Indian spy, banding together to protect people and that the Indians subsequently left the frontier. What can we discover about when and where this might have occurred?

Michael says he “marched against the Indians, and again after returning home joined with some neighbors and friends with the citizens of the country calling themselves spies, to protect women and children from the skelping knife of the savage.” He also mentions that he and his fellow spy citizens returned home in the spring, meaning they tracked Indians in the cold of winter.

We know that this was after Michael marched to the lead mines, which was probably about April 1777, based on the information unearthed about the mines and other men who served there, and after Michael served with Col. Leftridge and then marched with Captain Arthur against the Indians. After all that is when he “joined with some neighbors and friends.”

In Michael was at the lead mines in April of 1777, then he went home in about October of 1777.

We know that this was probably related to the peace treaty signed with the Cherokee Indians in July 1777 ceding the Watauga lands or in July of 1781 when they ceded more land, both events taking place at the Long Island of the Holston. Another treaty during this time was the Treaty of Fort Pitt signed in November of 1778 with the Delaware. It’s difficult to know which event might have resulted in the Indians leaving the frontier as he mentioned, an event that allowed him to finally return home for the last time – although it’s most likely prior to 1781.

Two articles shed light on this time period and events that clearly impacted Michael McDowell.

The first is found in The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 23, No. 2 (Apr., 1915), pp. 113-123, article by David I. Bushnell, Jr.

In the first of a series of articles titled, “The Virginia Frontier in History – 1778”, David Bushnell tells us that in 1774, Cornstalk, Chief of the Shawnee entered into a peaceful agreement with Lord Dunmore and subsequently became friendly with the English.

However, in November 1777, at Fort Randolph which was located at Point Pleasant (now West Virginia,) Cornstalk along with his son were brutally murdered. Ironically, Cornstalk had come to warn the settlers and his killing was in revenge for the murder of a settler by an Indian.

During the winter months that followed, the settlers realized what grave danger they had brought upon themselves by killing Chief Cornstalk and prepared for the now-expected attack by the Indians. In January 1778, Col. William Preston sent a letter from Montgomery County, Virginia, begging then-governor Patrick Henry of Virginia for assistance, expecting the Shawnee to descend upon the settlers at any time.

A widespread attack was expected, “upon all Frontier Inhabitants from Pittsburg to the lower Settlements of Clinch and the Kentucky.”

Col. Preston writes:

“I acknowledge, Sir, that this detestable murder was committed by backwoods men who ought to have behaved in a manner very different; and I am sorry to inform your Excellency that upwards of 100 persons in the County alone have yet refused to take the Oath of Allegiance to the State, many of whom are disarmed and the remainder soon will, who cannot claim, nor are they entitled to Protection while they continue Obstinate.”

“The inhabitants in this and the neighboring counties, especially those most exposed to danger are in the greatest consternation. Several thousand good subjects ought not to suffer for the indiscretion and obstinacy of a few. Being generally in low circumstances, they are not able to remove and support their families in the interior parts of the state, and by continuing at their homes, without the assistance of government, or the immediate interposition of Providence, they and their helpless families must fall a sacrifice to savage fury and revenge.”

“Should this (assistance) be omitted or delayed, I am fully convinced from long experience that this county or a great part of it will be depopulated before May next and the enemy, like blood-hounds, will pursue until they overtake their prey, even to the south side of the Blue Ridge, as they did not many years ago.”

Preston goes on to ask for provisions, stating that the lack of salt prevented people from laying up the quantity of pork that they would have otherwise done. He says they will be out of provisions in two months. Normally pigs butchered in the fall would last until at least the following summer when crops could be harvested.

Preston also asks for Indian corn to be purchased and says there is none in his or neighboring counties. Furthermore, “the want of lead is a most discouraging circumstance. They offer any price but they cannot purchase it.”

Guns don’t work without bullets and lack of lead for their muskets made the settlers little more than sitting ducks.

According to the response recorded in the “Journal for Council for 1778” in the Virginia State Archives, Greenbrier County also submitted a request and on February 19th, the Council agreed to the following:

  • One pound of lead for each militia man
  • To direct trusty scouts to range towards the enemy’s country
  • To advise proper stockades for receiving the helpless inhabitants, wherever the savages have in in their power to penetrate
  • To direct the County Lieutenants of Botetourt and Montgomery to consult together on the expediency of establishing a post near the mouth of Elk River for keeping up the correspondence between GreenBrier and Fort Randolph
  • To do so in the matter they judge best to reinforce the garrison at Fort Randolph with 50 men from the militia of Botetourt
  • That earnest and close pursuit of the foremost scalping parties be made in order to discourage others
  • To apprehend and deliver up the people concerned in that murder

On March 27, 1778 they recommended ordering 50 men from Rockbridge County, Virginia to Fort Randolph and 50 men each from Botetourt and Greenbrier County to “post at” Kelley and authorized 1000 pounds for “commissary.”

The order to “direct trusty scouts to range towards the enemy” stems from the following document passed by the General Assembly on May 5, 1777 as found in Henning (Vol IX, p294-295):

“The lieutenant or next commanding officer of the several counties on the western frontier, with the like permission, shall appoint any number of proper persons, not exceeding 10, in any one county to act as scouts for discovering the approach of the Indians…who on such discovery shall immediately give notice thereof to such militia officer.”

The scouts were instructed not to fire on the Indians, except in self-defense, but only to report locations to the militia officers. Their job was to find the Indians and spy upon them. Their instructions were to not lose time, to stay constantly “on foot” and after they “have fully ranged the part of the country which it was supposed would take 2 or 3 weeks,” they should report back. They were to take their own provisions, but they would be paid for them. I wonder if that ever happened.

However, now we know where the term that Michael used, “spies,” originated in this context.

Interestingly enough, on the back of a paper were listed locations, probably made by a scout, showing the locations visited. The author believes the numbers represent the number of miles:

  • From Culbersons bottom to the big Crab Orchard – 60 (Crab Orchard is in Kentucky)
  • From there to Maiden Spring – 15
  • From thence to Elk Garden – 17
  • To the Glade Hollow – 13

Underneath that is a total line and then 105.

  • To Cowins fort – 10
  • Moores fort – 5
  • BlackMores – 2
  • To Mockinson Gap – 18
  • To ye Great Eatons (?) – 8
  • To Capt Donelsons line – 8

Another total line and 174.

Fort Blackmore was located in what is now Scott County, VA, as is Moccasin Gap.

According to Familypedia.wikia, this 1774 copy of the Smith map with red circles indicates the locations of forts as shown on Daniel Smith’s original map, now in the Draper collection, item 4NN62. The red line became the Kentucky Trace.

1774 Smith map.png

This area includes part of the present Virginia counties of Tazewell, Russell and Scott from the Clinch River to the Holston.

Col. Preston apparently became more fearful and requested additional protection in May of 1778, the following being noted:

“The Board being informed of Col. Preston’s expored situation on the frontier and that is was apprehended (should be obliged to remove) most of the back inhabitants would quit their settlements, they do advise the governor to empower Col. Preston to keep a sergeant and 12 men stationed at his house as Draper’s Meadow to enable him to continue at his habitation and to encourage others to do so.”

In a second article in The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography Vol. 23, No. 4 (Oct., 1915), pp. 337-351 by David I. Bushnell, Jr. we find additional information.

A report detailed the importance of maintaining 4 forts, one of which is Fort Henry in Ohio County and one at Fort Randolph, which is on the Ohio at the mouth of the Kanawha river, the scene of the treacherous murder of Chief Cornstalk in November 1777. That act was the touchstone of the rebellion that caused the Indians to attack the settlers on the frontier. Fort Randolph was stated to be “200 miles distant from the settlements” and 150 men were requested for that location.

Michael McDowell Fort Randolph.png

Indeed, Fort Randolph is about 266 miles from Bedford County, VA.

Michael McDowell Bedford to Fort Randolph.png

Also requested for the various forts was 1500 gallons of whiskey. That’s a LOT of whiskey!

The two documents presented…enable us to picture the frontier posts as they were during the summer of 1778. Small groups of militia, at widely separated spots in the vast primeval forests. Nearby were the clearings and log cabins of the settlers. Supplies were scarce and consequently difficult to obtain and of a high price: a condition which resulted in more than one expedition being either postponed or abandoned. Scouts were ever on the alert for the approach of the warriors from beyond the Ohio; the accepted boundary between the white settlements and the Indian Country later to become the Territory Northwest of the Ohio.

That same year a census of the tribes was prepared by William Wilson at the request of the War Office as reported in the Virginia Historical Magazine:

1778 tribal census.png

1778 tribal census 2.png

The tribes were widely separated and the number of hostile warriors was given as 330, certainly a very conservative figure; but nevertheless, they were sufficiently numerous to spread terror over many hundreds of miles of the frontier.

In the endeavor to gain peace for the Virginia frontier, and the friendship of the Indians beyond the Ohio, Congress planned a treaty to be held at Fort Pitt, July 23, 1778, to be attended by commissioners of the government and representative of the different tribes. This was destined to be the first treaty between the United States and an Indian Nation, and was signed September 17th.

Michael’s Revolutionary War papers take us back to Bedford County, Virginia where he lived after being dismissed the final time from his Revolutionary War service – and presumably once the region became relatively safe again after November of 1778.

What we don’t know is which spring Michael was referring to, 1778, which is unlikely, given the above information, or perhaps the spring of 1779.

Bedford County, Virginia

Michael McDowell Bedford County

Bedford County is mountainous and rough. I visited Bedford County, years ago, and Bedford isn’t much different from surrounding counties. In essence, Bedford is part of the Appalachian range which extends for thousands of miles as an expansive sea of craggy rocks interspersed with tiny patches of green that farmers have been trying to cultivate since before the Revolutionary War. It’s also breathtakingly beautiful with incredible vistas.

Bedford County hosts a section of the Blue Ridge Parkway, a beautiful WWII era road that runs along the summits of the mountains offering stunning vistas, in particular the Peaks of Otter in Bedford County, shown below – visible for a hundred miles in any direction on a good day.

Michael McDowell Peaks of Otter.jpg

This might have been particularly relevant for Michael McDowell’s father, Michael Sr., who we know lived in Halifax County, Virginia in 1752. This means that if Michael Jr. was born in 1747, he might have been born in present day Halifax County which was Lunenburg County at that time. Interestingly, you can see the Peaks of Otter from Halifax County, below, at a location called “Top of the World.”

Perhaps Michael saw these mountains and felt irresistibly drawn towards them – an area that was then the risky, unsettled frontier.

Peaks of Otter

The photo above was taken from Halifax County, looking 50 miles distant to the Peaks. Did Michael live here, or see this on his way back and forth to the tobacco warehouses in Danville, in Pittsylvania County? As a young boy, did he dream of adventure there? One day that dream would come true.

Michael McDowell Peaks of Otter valley.png

Looking across the roof of the Peaks of Otter Lodge today, from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Many of the men who settled in Bedford County were Scots-Irish, and before that, they were Scottish families, so trying to farm fields filled with rocks was nothing new to them. Perhaps it even reminded them somewhat of home, or the homeland of their fathers and grandfathers anyway.

After finding Michael McDowell’s Revolutionary War record, of course I began digging in Bedford County for more information.

Ironically, some of the information I found in Bedford County in June of 2005 referred me back to Claiborne County, Tennessee.

At the Bedford Co. Historical Society, I found a McDowell family file and it held a contact from California from 1989 and 1990 who descends from our Michael McDowell

The researcher mentioned that in Mary Hansard’s book, Old Time Tazewell, Michael’s son Nathan S. McDowell is mentioned as being of Irish descent, which the researcher interpreted to mean that Michael was born in Ireland. As it turns out, Michael Jr. wasn’t, but his grandfather, Murtough McDowell, was.

Blackwater River

On September 24, 1783, Michael purchased 75 acres on the North side of Blackwater River in Bedford County from James Stevens. and on March 22, 1784 the purchase was confirmed in court. Witnesses to the sale were Richard Richards, Skinner Devaul(?) and Ambrose Rains.

Michael McDowell Blackwater River Bedford.jpg

It’s important to note that this does not say Michael McDowell Sr. or Jr., which it surely would have stated if there were two Michael McDowell’s living in the same county at the same time.

On the 1782 Bedford County tax list, we find only one Michael McDowell, listed with 1 free male above 21 years, no slaves, 4 horses, 11 cattle with 1 white tithable, himself.

Unfortunately, the tax list is semi-alpha, which means it’s not in household order, so we can’t look at the list to identify his neighbors. There are no other McDowell residents listed.

In 1783, we find Michael with 1 poll tax, 1 male over 21, 2 horses and 4 cows. Most people had both more horses and more cows that Michael.

By 1784, Michael is gone from the tax list but he doesn’t sell that land until 1793 as a resident of Wilkes County, NC.

It appears that the area of Bedford County where Blackwater River was located became Franklin County.

The Blackwater River runs for about 20 miles as the crow flies, west of the area called Callaway, to the left of the pin below, and the county line at far right where it opens into what is now Smith Mountain Lake, formed by the Roanoke River.

Michael McDowell Callaway.png

Given that Michael served under Colonel James Calloway, which means that Michael probably served with his local muster group, my strong suspicion is that Michael lived near James Calloway. Given that Callaway is located on Blackwater River, Michael probably lived in this region too.

Indeed, this is probably where he grew up because his father apparently applied for a land grant in 1754 on the Black Water River – although beyond the initial application we never find any additional informatoin about Michael Sr.’s 400 acres. He could well have forfeited the grant for any number of reasons.

The north and south branches of Blackwater are born near Calloway and flow eastward to the Roanoke.

Michael McDowell Blackwater River 2.png

Today, this area is a mosaic of farmland, but at that time, it was probably still forested, and men like Michael would fell trees to make room for fields.

Michael McDowell Blackwater satellite.png

Someplace, Michael’s land was probably here in this crazy-quilt mosaic of farmland and forest.

Michael McDowell Blackwater River Callaway Road

Today, Callaway Road where it crosses the Blackwater River. This would have been a ford when Michael lived here.

The Arthur family lived nearby too, with several deeds showing land near Goose Creek, in Bedford County, 4 or 5 miles east of the Roanoke River where Blackwater River empties.

This was Michael’s stomping ground growing up. It’s probably where he married his wife.

We know that Michael McDowell Sr. was on the Bedford County tax list in 1755, and given that our Michael was born in 1747 or 1748, the 1755 Michael had to have been Michael Sr., not Junior.

Or stated another way, it couldn’t have been Michael Jr. and there is a small possibility that the 1755 Michael was not Michael Jr’s father. Given that he was the only McDowell living in Bedford County by the same name, there’s a good chance that the 1755 Michael is indeed Michael Sr., the father of Michael Jr.

I checked all Bedford County deeds 1761-1771, wills 1759-1810 and court orders 1754-1761 – no Michael McDowells. He certainly kept a low profile.

There are also records in Bedford County for one Ephriam McDowell, no known relationship and these two male lines carry completely different Y DNA.

Michael McDowell bought land in Bedford County in 1783, but in 1784 he is not listed on the Bedford County tax list and a Michael McDowell is listed with 1 white poll in adjacent Botetourt County. Is this the same man? If so, was he trying out different locations? Why did he leave just after purchasing land?

If this isn’t the same Michael McDowell, what happened to that second Michael McDowell in Botetourt County? Where did he come from and where did he go? The only other McDowell in Botetourt in 1784 was George. However, there was a Michael in Botetourt, earlier, in 1774 who was found to be delinquent on his taxes.

If this was our Michael in Botetourt, he clearly didn’t stay and it was a very short chapter in a very long book. Our Michael is also not the Michael McDowell who served out of Pennsylvania in 1776-1777 in the Revolutionary War.

Where is our Michael?

Pat Bezet and Mary Kay McDowell

A few years after visiting Bedford County, I found Pat Bezet on an old Rootsweb board along with Mary Kay McDowell, the wife of Les who Kay believed to be a Michael McDowell Jr. descendant through Michael’s son, Luke. These women had done a massive amount of research on Michael and family, and I would spend the next several years following in their footsteps, trying to add additional tidbits. They were both very generous about sharing their work. However, it was interesting that even though we were all plowing the same fields, so to speak, that we all found things that had either been overlooked by the other parties or found different records altogether. Six eyes are obviously better than any two. By reviewing available records again, I’ve recently found things that all three of us missed previously.

Mary Kay McDowell systematically sifted through nearly all of the published Virginia sources available in the 1970s, 80s and 90s.

The results of our research and trips are intermingled in this article, with many thanks to both ladies.

Albemarle County, Virginia

It’s likely that Michael McDowell Jr. was born in 1747 or 1748 in Lunenburg County, Virginia or possibly in Albemarle County. Michael’s father, Michael Sr. was found in both locations.

Keep in mind that Halifax County where we positively identify Michael McDowell Sr. in 1752 was Lunenburg before that.

We find a similar name in Albemarle County, VA in the 1745 road records, dated June 27th in which Andrew Wallace was appointed surveyor of the highway from D.S. to Mitchams River and both Merlock (also transcribed as Mirlock) McDowell and Micha McDowell were ordered, along with other men to clear the road. Albemarle county as was formed from Goochland in 1744, although deed, court and will records did not begin in Albemarle until 1748. Albemarle road records are lost beginning in 1748. Research into Albemarle records from 1748-1753 produced nothing, nor did research into Goochland deed and will records from 1731-1749.

The name Merlock sounds very close to Murtough, Michael’s father’s name, raising the question of whether Michael was Merlock’s brother. It’s also worth noting that in Maryland, Murtough’s name was also spelled Murto, with the surname as Mackdowell and Mackdaniel. Names were spelled as the person hearing them understood them and spelling wasn’t standardized at the time.

If Michael was in Albemarle County, he was familiar with the Three Notch’d Road which is the road the crew where he was assigned was instructed to clear and open in 1745. Men were assigned to crews along the road where they lived.

The Virginia Department of Transportation document titled, “The Route of the Three Notch’d Road: A Preliminary Report” written in 1976 shows the “1740 House,” an old tavern near the site of the D.S. Tree, near present day Ivy Virginia. Today the building, also known as the “D. S. Tavern” is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The original 3 Notched Road was begun about 1742 and the route was marked the entire length between Richmond, VA and the Appalachian Mountains in Augusta County, VA – including running directly through Albemarle County and is currrently US 250. US 250 was rerouted in some places, but is basicaly the same road in Albemarle County.

If indeed this is our Michael’s father in the 1745 road record, this 1740 House which stood and functioned as an ordinary at the time was probably intimately familiar to him, both inside and out.

Michael McDowell Three Notched Road.png

The D. S. Tree is reported to be in the final segment of a the “Three Notched Road” between Secretary’s Ford on the Rivanna River, (near the old woolen mill adjacent to I-64 on the east side of Charlottesville) to the D. S. Tree in Michael Wood’s road, the road east from Wood’s Gap to Ivy.

MIchael McDowell 1740 tavern.png

Today, this private home is at the intersection of Dick Woods Road and 250.

Early deeds refer to Stockton’s branch of Mitchum River, and also Stockton’s ford.

Michael McDowell Woods Gap.png

An aerial view shows the mountainous area between Ivy and the top of the mountain range.

Michael McDowell Woods Gap aerial.png

According to Edgar Wood’s History of Albemarle county, Virginia, the D. S. Tree had the initials of David Stockdon, an early patentee of land nearby, carved into it. That tree no longer exists.

Here’s a section of what was called the “Three Notch’d Road” also known as the Mountain or Mountain Ridge Road, now US 250, which today intersects with the Ridge Parkway.

Below, Mountain Ridge Road, another name for the Three Notch’d Road.

Michael McDowell Mountain Ridge Road.png

Today, on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Jarman Gap.

MIchael McDowell Jarman Gap

The Appalachian Trail runs alongside Skyline Drive, which is the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I’ve hiked much of this area. You can see Wood’s Gap Road in this aerial.

Michael McDowell Appalachian Trail.png

Below, the road descending to Lickinghole Creek.


Here’s the view on Three Notched Road crossing Lickinghole Creek today.

Michael McDowell Lickinghole

Three notched road ascending the Blue Ridge below.

Michael McDowell Three Notch ascending Blue Ridge.png

Jarman(s) Gap Road today just before it begins ascending the mountains. Wood’s Gap is now Jarman or Jarmans Gap.

Michael McDowell Jarman Gap Road.png

Google Street View does not drive on roads with no center line. The trip from Jarman’s Gap Road alongside Lickinghole Creek, above, to Jarman Gap which is one of two gaps crossing the mountain range is maybe 5 twisty-turny miles on road 611 – complete with switchbacks.

Michael McDowell road ascending mountain.png

And of course, a 3 notched tree. The original D.S. tree stood east from Wood’s (now Jarman’s) Gap to Ivy, probably on the same property where the 1740 D.S. Tavern stood.

Michael McDowell three Notched tree.png

Ivy to Jarman Gap. Today you must use the Park Entrance, but not so then when they took the more direct route up the side of the mountain, marked with red arrows.

Michael McDowell Ivy to Jarman Gap.png

Michael Sr. worked here, opening the roads still in use today, but looking very different. The area where he was assigned was from the D.S. Tree to Mitchums River, which is Mechums River today – a distance of about 3 miles.

Michael McDowell Ivy to Mechums River

That means he would have lived someplace along this route probably on a spring branch of a creek where fresh water was available. This is likely where Michael McDowell Jr. was born.

I’m not convinced that the blue 250 portion is the original road, but Google didn’t drive down 738 which looks like it might have been the original road.

However, there is a portion where 738 and 250 join, and that was likely the original portion, as is the portion where Dick Wood’s Road and 250 intersect.

Michael McDowell Ivy to Michums River aerial

In fact, when I enlarged the photo, I could clearly see 3 Notch’d Trace, the portion that exists today, and the portion which no longer exists. You can see Mechums River at left and where it is crossed by 250. At right, with the arrows is the old section of 3 Notch’d Road.

MIchael McDowell 3 Notched Trace

Michael McDowell Sr. labored to maintain the road so that horses and wagons could ford Mechums River, below, today where 250 crosses. This could have been Stockton’s ford referenced in the various early Albemarle deeds.

Michael McDowell Ivy Road at Meachums River

At the intersection of Ivy Road and 3 Notch’d Trace, a remaining segment of the original road, we can see the Appalachian Mountains in the distance.

MIchael McDowell Ivy Road at 3 Notchd Trace.png

Those mountains would beckon to Michael Sr., whispering, “Come,” and he did, but first he took a detour.

Lunenburg County, Virginia

Lunenburg County, where we find Michael next, was formed in 1745 from Brunswick County. The 1748 tax map for Lunenburg is the first tax list available, so we don’t have any way of knowing whether or not Michael Jr., born about 1747 was born in Lunenburg or perhaps Albemarle. It’s also possible, although unlikely that the Michael in Albemarle wasn’t Michael Jr.’s father, and that he was still in Maryland before arriving in Halifax County.

Pat included the Lunenburg County 1748 tax list where Michal McDanel was shown with 1 tithe in the district taken in June by Mathew Talbot from Bleu Store to Little Roanoke. The Roanoke is now called the Staunton which forms the northern and much of the eastern border of Halifax County.

Michael McDowell Lunenburg 1746 tax map

Sunlight on the Southside by Landon Bell provides the Lunenburg tax lists, where extant. We find the McDowell family mentioned in the intro portion as being from Lunenburg Co., VA before they went to NC.

In 1749, we find Michael McDowell in William Caldwell’s district, which bordered Halifax on the north on the Staunton River. In 1752 Halifax was formed from Lunenburg, where Michael McDowell. had 1 white tithe, meaning white male over 16, and no negroes.

In 1749, the Lunenburg road orders included a Michael McDaniel, who may have actually been Michael McDowell.

In 1750 we find Michael McDowell in Nicholas Hale’s district with one tithe and neighbors that included Jacob and John Pybon.

In 1751, Michael is missing from the list and in 1752, Halifax County was formed from Lunenburg. We already know that Michael McDowell Sr. is in Halifax in 1752 where he signed a power of attorney to sell his father’s land in Maryland.

The Lunenburg Order books 1746-1755 reflect the following:

June 1753, Michael McDuel vs Jacob Pyborn – Pyborn not inhabitant of county – suit abates.

Trouble with the neighbors, it seems.

May Court 1754, John Thompson vs Michael McDuel – defendant not inhabitant of county – suit abates.

This tells us that Michael McDowell Sr. left between June of 1753 and May of 1754, and it might give us some idea of why. Trouble was brewing perhaps.

Given that Michael lived in Halifax in 1752 and is found in neighboring Lunenburg in 1753 – it appears that he might have moved often, perhaps back and forth across the county border, or maybe he lived near the Staunton River.

Michael Jr. would have been 5 or 6 years old in 1752 or 1753, so likely remembers moving frequently and probably remembered Halifax County.

Bedford County was created in 1753 from Lunenburg County, but as it turns out, Michael didn’t live initially in what would become Bedford County. He was in Halifax, at least for a short time before moving on to Bedford.

Halifax and Bedford 

Halifax County was formed from Lunenburg in 1752, and that’s where we find Michael McDowell in that same year, selling his father’s land in Maryland. Thank goodness for this link, because without it, we would never have been able to connect Murtough McDowell in Baltimore County, Maryland with Michael McDowell in Virginia.

Details are provided in the article about Michael McDowell Sr., but suffice it to say that Michael Jr. would have been about 5 years old when his father was selling his grandfather’s land. Michael Jr. probably never got to meet his grandparents. Maybe he heard stories about his grandparents’ lives back in Ireland. His father may have been born there. Michael Sr. was born around 1720 and his father was in Maryland by 1722.

An important aspect of the documentation of Michael Jr.’s life is that Michael McDowell Sr.’s signature was never recorded as being signed with an X. Michael Jr., on the other hand, never signed his name without using the X.

In 1754, we find a mysterious entry in Marion Dodson Chiarito’s book, “Entry Record Book 1737-1770” which covers land in the present counties of Halifax, Pittsylvania, henry, Franklin and Patrick, she says the following:

This book contains land entries in the western portion of the original Brunswick County, namely Halifax, Pittsylvania, Henry, Franklin and Patrick. The area concerned was south of the Roanoke-Staunton River, west of Tewahomony Creek, now Aaron’s Creek which divides Mecklenburg and Halifax cuonties, and extending to the Blue Ridge Mountains. These counties were formed from Lumemburg which was separated from Brunswick in 1746.

Marion continues:

It must be pointed out that an entry for land was but a statement of intention. Ownership of land resulted from satisfying the requirements for settlement the land and improving it. For this reason, many entries were voided.

On page 161 of Marion’s book, on page 203 of the original entry taker book residing in current day Pittsylvania County, we find an entry for a man who might be Michael McDowell:

Michael McDuell 400 on a Branch of Black Water River beginning at a white oak with 4 chops in it in the fork of said branch then up both forks and down the branch.

If this was Michael McDowell Sr., I’ve failed to find a deed of sale at any time, and he is next found in Bedford County, formed in 1754, which indeed did have a Blackwater Creek that extended from today’s man-made Smith Mountain Lake southwest to beyond Callaway, where Michael McDowell Jr. appears to have lived.

By 1755, Michael Sr. was found on the Bedford county tax list indicating that Michael Jr. lived in Bedford County from about the time he was 8 years old.

The next piece of Michael Jr.’s life is his Revolutionary War pension application where he states that he served from Bedford County in 1777 or 1778 and returned there to his home when discharged. Michael McDowell Jr. would have been 30 years old in 1777 and based on the ages of his oldest children, had been married about 5 years by then.  If still living, his father, Michael Sr., would have been at least 57 years old.

We have no idea when Michael Sr. passed away, but Michael Jr. bought land in Bedford County in 1783 with no indication that there were two Michael McDowell’s living there in either 1782 or 1783, nor were there any other McDowell taxpayers.

Was Michael alone? There aren’t any other McDowell males, but his mother could well have been living. He could have had sisters who married and lived nearby. His wife, Isabel, surely had family in Bedford County.

Those details will probably never be revealed, but if Michael had no family there, that might have been part of what encouraged him to move again – although it’s quite strange that he left just a few months after purchasing property – and without selling it.

There are missing pieces of his story.

On to Wilkes County, North Carolina

What? Another move?

Wilkes County, NC?  This man did not let any moss grow under his feet. Just saying.

So far, we have Michael McDowell Sr. in Baltimore County as a son of Murtough. Probably in Albemarle in 1745, in Lunenburg County between 1748-1750, selling land in Baltimore in 1752 from Halifax County and then on the Bedford County tax list in 1755.

MIchael McDowell Sr life.png

This is the migration journey of Michael McDowell Sr.

Michael Jr. was born someplace (probably in Virginia) in 1747 and served in the Revolutionary War in 1777 and 1778 from Bedford County. It wasn’t until 1783 that there is a record of Michael purchasing land, then leaving by the next year without selling his land. He was possibly living in Botetourt County, adjacent to Bedford – at least some Michael McDowell was found on the tax list there.

Michael McDowell Bedford Botetourt.jpg

Sometime after that, Michael Jr. moved to Wilkes County, North Carolina, although we do have a 2 or 3-year gap in Michael’s life. Where was he?

Michael McDowell Ivy to Halls Mills.png

Michael would add the area near Halls Mills on Sparta Road in Wilkes County, today, to his lifelong journey.

On February 4, 1786 there is a Wilkes County deed from John Hall Sr. to Michael McDowell for 161 acres including “the plantation where Michael McDowell now lives. Witnessed by William Abshire, James Gambill and Andrew Vannoy.”

This tells us that Michael was already living in Wilkes County.

The connection with the Vannoy family would continue for generations – into Tennessee  where their descendants 5 generations later, my grandparents, would marry.

Another 1786 reference to Michael McDowell was found in a November 24th deed between Owen and Robert Hall for “156 acres on Andrew Vannoy’s line, Mickel McDowell’s corner and the line between Hall and Mikel McDowell.”  Jacob McGrady witnessed this deed. Given that Michael was Andrew’s neighbor, that also explains why Andrew witnessed his purchase.

Michael McDowell first appears in Wilkes Co in 1786 on the tax lists (he is absent earlier) with 1 poll and 160 acres and in 1787 with 162 acres and 1 poll. Therefore, we know that 1786 is probably when Michael moved to Wilkes County.

The 1787 “census” of North Carolina shows us that Michael had in his household:

  • 1 white male age 21-60
  • 2 white males under 21 or above 60
  • 1 white female
  • no blacks

Michael Jr.’s sons, Edward, born in 1773 and Michael (the third) born before 1774 account for these two “under 21” males. Michael III and Edward first appeared in court records witnessing a deed in 1799.

James McDowell, not a confirmed child of Michael, was born about 1779 based on his age when he signed as a witness to a deed in 1801.

Michael Jr.’s son John was born in 1782 or 1783 based on a deposition as well as his gravestone, so we know for sure he was under 21 in 1787. He’s missing from this record.

This discrepancy for a long time caused me to question whether all of Michael’s sons were in fact his sons. DNA has partly answered that question, but not entirely.

Early Court Records

In 1787, in Volume 2 of the Wilkes County Court Minutes (January 25, 1785 – November. 1, 1788) Michael is mentioned on July 25th in the State vs Michael McDowell – indictment for trespass.

Trespass at that time often meant something different than the current meaning, although since the state is bringing charges and not a neighbor in a civil suit, perhaps not. In some cases, trespass means that one man charged another with farming part of his land, encroaching over the property line. In this case, since the state brought the charges, it sounds more like the trespass infraction we are more familiar with today.

Michael is found not guilty by a jury.

On the very next page in the minute book, and the very next day at court, Michael is listed on a jury.

Also on the same day; Michael McDowell versus George Lewis on appeal. A jury is sworn and this case is found for Michael, with his damanges assessed to 3 pounds, 7 pence and costs.

However, on he is again charged with trespass and the same jury is ordered to hear Michael’s case as is hearing the case of Owen Hall and John Hall Senior and wife, “case for words,” which is found for the plaintiff.

The State then moved Michael’s case to the civil docket and finds him guilty of trespass, as charged.  Apparently, Michael’s case has something to do with the Hall family dispute. Recall that the Halls were his neighbors. This also makes me wonder if Michael’s wife, Isbael, was a Hall. If so, and if she was the mother of Michael Jr., that means that the Hall family would have been in Bedford County in 1773 when Michael’s first son, Edward, was born. There are Hall families in Bedford in this timeframe, but of course, that doesn’t mean that they are the same Hall families, or connected in any way.

A year later, in July of 1788, Michael is again listed on a jury and on the tax list in both 1788 and 1789 with 160 acres and 1 poll, meaning only one male over the age of 16. Being listed as a juror indicates that he was a citizen in good standing, but that would change in 1790.

Michael’s record up until now contains multiple services as a juror, and also an involved trespass charge.

However, sometime much more serious happened in 1790.

Criminal Charges

Criminal Action Papers Wilkes County, NC – July Court session – 1790:

State vs Michael McDowell, William Abshers and Owan Hall, labourers, who on July 20, 1790 did beat, wound and ill treat Betty Wooten.

Three men – beating a woman. That’s unconscionable by any standard of measure. Once again, this involves the Hall family.

The Abshire family lived on the south side of Mulberry Creek.

In 1787, Michael would have been 40 and 43 in 1790. No hothead kid, that’s for sure. This charge is much more serious than trespass.

Ok, who was Betty Wooten?

Betty Wooten

In the 1790 census, the only Wooten in Wilkes County was one Elizabeth, probably called Betty for short, who had no adult men in her household, 1 male under 16, and 5 females. According to the July 29, 1788 administration bond, she was the widow of Lewis Wooten. If her children were all born at 2 year intervals before her husband’s death, and she was his age and married at age 20, Betty would have been about 35 in 1790 when she was beaten.

Betty Wooten lived near the Sebastians, three houses from Jacob McGrady, who lived three houses from Owen Hall, who lived beside Michael McDowell who lived two houses from Andrew Vannoy.

Owen Hall was Michael McDowell’s neighbor and in the 1790 census, he was married with 2 males over 16, 3 under 16 and 4 females. If he had children every 2 years and married at age 25, he would have been about 40 years old.

William Absher was born about 1769 and died in 1842 in Wilkes County, so he would have been 21. The 1790 census reflects that he is married with a child, living beside Frank Vannoy, Andrew Vannoy’s brother.

Honestly, what possessed those men? There is certainly far more to the story. How I would have loved to have been a mouse in that house. All of those houses. What happened in that lawsuit? This had to be perceived as very serious for the state to bring a criminal action. And what exactly does “ill treat” mean? Is it code for something else?

Michael McDowell didn’t serve on a jury for the next 3 years.

Michael Jr.’s son, Michael III

Michael McDowell Jr. had a son, Michael, who we’ll call Michael III (the third). It’s possible that Michael III was the person in trouble in 1790, but not terribly likely – he would probably have been under 20. In 1789, Michael Sr. only pays for 1 poll tax, meaning that his sons were not yet 16. That suggests that Michael III was not born before 1783 although it’s possible that Michael was born as early as 1778. Michael III doesn’t otherwise appear in the records until 1799, signing a document as a witness for his father which would suggest he’s 21 at this time, or born 1778 or earlier. Still, in 1790, Michael III would have been 12 if he were born in 1778, so he’s not likely the preson who beat Betty.

Note here that the Michael who signed the deed signed with an X, but Michael the witness, presumably Michael III, signed his name.

This is an important generational differentiation, because Michael Sr. in Virginia apparently could write, Michael Jr. could not, but Michael III could.

The 1790s in Wilkes County

In the 1790 census, we find Michael McDowell living in Wilkes County among and near people who would also move to Claiborne County, Tennessee just a few years later, specifically the Baker, Herrell and Vannoy families.

Michael McDowell 1790 census Wilkes.png

In 1790, Michael had the following members in his family:

  • Males under 16: 4 (John 1782/3, Michael c1778, Edward 1774 and possibly James c1780)
  • Males over 16: 1 – Michael himself
  • Females: 2, one of which would be his wife and the second would be daughter, Mary born c1787

This tells us that Michael had 3 additional children between 1787 and 1790, 2 sons and a daughter or the 1787 tax list was incomplete – the more likely scenario.

If Michael was born in 1747/1748, he would probably have married at about 25, so roughly 1770-1775. He would have been having children from about 1771 or 1772 to roughly 1793 or perhaps somewhat later, depending on the age of his wife of course.

Therefore, the 1790 census should show all of his children, with the exception of any child born after 1790. It’s very unlikely that any of his children had already left home.

In 1790, Michael had 5 children, assuming that one of the females was his wife.

In 1790, Michael is shown on the tax list with 156.5 acres and 1 poll. Why does he have 156.5 acres this year and from 160-162 acres previously?

In 1791, the Wilkes County tax records are not complete and he is not shown through 1794, so they may be only partial as well.

On July 31, 1792, page 35, the court notes record an order for Michael McDowell to “have leave to rebuild and continue the mill formerly the property of said McDowell.”  Now indeed, this is a curious order. Did the mill wash away? Did it burn by some chance? What happened that he needed to rebuild the mill? So tantalizing and frustrating at the same time! This is the only indication we have of Michael’s occupation other than the lawsuit of 1790 lists the three man as laborers.

Maybe the 1790 Michael was Michael’s son, but I would have expected the suit to say that if it were. The fact that no Sr. or Jr. designation exists suggests that the younger Michael was not of age, so no designation was yet needed.

This court entry also tells us of a major catastrophe in Michael’s life. Given his run-ins with the law, I have to wonder if there wasn’t some form of “neighborhood justice” going on here. Of course, that could also be my overactive imagination, but beating a woman is a pretty severe offense and would garner long-standing animosity from her family.

Mix that with a little alcohol and that’s the perfect recipe for retribution.

From a 1793 deed, we discover Michael’s wife’s name when Michael sold his land in Bedford County. Did Michael sell his property in 1793 to pay the bills while the mill was being rebuilt, to pay for the rebuilding of the mill or to help replace income he would have lost while the mill was out of order? There was no insurance in those days.

It was Pat Bezet that discovered Michael’s wife’s name, Isbell.

I found a sale of property or deed for Michael and Isbell McDowell. Isbell is listed as his wife in Wilkes Co., N.C. The property they are selling is in Franklin County, VA. The timeframe for the sale was 1793. If you look at the forming of the counties, Franklin was formed from Bedford and Henry County in 1785.

On February 16, 1793, Michael McDowell and his wife, Isbell, from Wilkes County, NC sold their 75 acres of land on Blackwater River, which was at that time located in Franklin County, VA after it had been divided from Bedford.

Michael McDowell Blackwater 1793 sale.jpg

Michael and Isbell both signed three times, all three times via a mark. Witnesses included John Abshire, Robert Hall, Jacob McGrady, Edward Abshire and another John Abshire who appears to be different from the first one, differentiated by his ability to sign his name. Jacob McGrady was the local minister.

There’s clearly a connection of some sort with the Abshire family, given that the 1790 record of the assault on Betty Wooten included Owen Hall along with William Abshear as defendants.

This deed confirms that the Michael McDowell from Bedford County is one and the same as the Michael McDowell in Wilkes County. What we don’t know is the reason this land wasn’t sold before Michael moved to Wilkes County. Obviously Michael didn’t need money from the Virginia land to purchase his land in Wilkes.

For some time, I thought that maybe the Michael McDowell in Bedford County was Michael McDowell Sr. If that was the case, then Michael Jr. would only have sold this land after Michael Sr. died. The problem is that the purchase deed in 1783 doesn’t say anything about Michael Sr. or Jr., indicating that there weren’t 2 men in the county by the same name. The 1782 and 1783 tax lists only show one Michael McDowell and we know our Michael was married and having children before this time, having served in the Revolutionary War in 1777 and 1778. He was a married adult and certainly wasn’t living with his father.

While we can’t prove definitively, I suspect that Michael Sr. died in Bedford/Franklin County, VA years before, sometime after 1755 and before 1782, and we can safely say that the land on Blackwater River always belonged to Michael Jr. If Michael Jr. had sold this land as part of an estate, he would have had to share with heirs, and he clearly sold this entire tract himself.

Unfortunately, Michael Sr. simply disappeared after 1755 in Bedford County, apprently never owning land before or after he sold his father’s Maryland land in 1752 out of Halifax County.

In November 1793 in Wilkes County, once again Michael served on a Jury, as he did in May of 1794 and 1795.

In 1793 and 1794, an attorney, Joseph McDowell is recorded in Wilkes County, but he dies in 1802 with no connection to Michael.

In 1795 and 1796, Michael McDowell in Capt. McGrady’s district is shown with 1 poll tax and 160 acres on the tax list adjacent John Abshire and near the preacher Jacob McGrady. Other neighbors include the Vannoys, members of the Shepherd family and others who would intermarry and move to Claiborne County, Tennessee at the same time as Michael McDowell.

At some point, Claiborne County, the next frontier, probably became the topic of local chatter – at the mill, at church, wherever people gathered.

In November of 1796, Michael served again as a jury member.

The 1797 tax list shows Michel with 1 poll and no acres. What happened to his land?

There is no tax list for 1798.

In 1799, Michael McDowell sold land to the preacher, Jacob McGrady. The deed is in very poor shape, but you can make out the words “Mulberry Creek” and Robert Hall’s line. I could not find the acreage listed, so we don’t know if this is all of Michael’s land, or just part.

Michael McDowell 1799 deed to McGrady (2).jpg

The deed is signed by Michael using his mark and then witnessed by a Michael McDowel who can sign, an Edward McDowel who cannot sign and a Robert Hall who cannot.

My guess would be that the reason that Michael had no property tax in 1797 and 1798 is that he had rented the land to Jacob McGrady, who eventually bought the land, but was paying the taxes on the land as part of their rent or lease agreement.

We are left with the question of how, without land, Michael made a living? In 1797, Michael would have been 50 years old.

The same year as his land sale, in 1799, Michael McDowell, in Capt. Gradie’s district (6) is shown with 200 acres and 1 poll. Where did this land come from? Michael’s original land purchase was 161 acres.

On May 3, 1799, the State versus Michael McDowell for tresspass, again. The jury found Michael not guilty, as charged, and order that George Lewis pay the costs. He also served on a jury the same day in lieu of another juror. I’m wondering if it’s because Michael is present in the courtroom and can serve when another juror didn’t show up.

The same day, Michael also files Michael McDowell vs George Lewis: Appeal. The jury is sworn and finds for Michael, his damages 3 pounds 7 pence and costs.

In August of 1799, Michael again serves as a juror.

The 1800 tax list for district 6 is missing but we do have the census that provides us with at least some information.


The 1800 census holds some surprises. For example, it looks like Michael has daughters we don’t know about.

Michael McDowell 1800 census Wilkes.png

1800 Wilkes County NC census, Morgan District – Michael McDowell

  • 1 male over 45 (Michael 53)
  • 2 males 0-10 (Nathan, Luke, William?)
  • 1 female over 45 (wife)
  • 1 female 10-16 (Mary)
  • 2 females 0-10 (unknown daughters)

Based on the 1800 census, Michael’s older sons have already left the nest, but where are they? Perhaps they are workers on someone else’s farm, or they are living someplace with in-laws if they have newly married.

Dec. 12, 1801 – a Wilkes County deed conveyance between Humphrey Cockerham and Abel Sparks on the east fork of Swan Creek is witnessed by a James McDowell, possibly son of Michael McDowell. Who was James McDowell? We don’t see this name again, nor is there “room” on Michael McDowell’s 1787 tax list for another male who would have been of age in 1801, but there is on the 1790 census. James could have been just passing through.

On May 8, 1802, Milley Carter, administrator of the estate of Henry Carter who on May 3, 1799 had a land entry for 40 acres, sued Michael McDowell and David Hickerson. Found for the plaintiff regarding “a piece of land supposed to be the property of Michael McDowel joining Benjamin Sebastian’s land.” Ordered by the court for the sheriff to sell the land. For some reason, Jeffery Johnson, Constable, was mentioned.

On August 4, 1804, suit was filed by Elisha Reynolds versus Allen Robinett and Michael McDowell for debt. Jury finds no payments nor setoffs and awards fir the plaintiff with damages. Of course, we don’t know if this is Michael or his son. Michael does serve on a jury the same day, so I suspect this is the elder Michael.

I get the distinct impression that we may be missing some land transactions.

In Book F-1, a November 12, 1805 deed for that same 156 acres conveyed in 1786 refers to the line of Andrew Vannoy and Michael McDowell again.

A hint about the area where Michael McDowell lived in Wilkes Comes from his neighbor’s land grant. John Herrold’s son, William Herrold/Herrell, would marry Michael’s daughter Mary in 1809.

Land grant entry number 1246 and grant number 2421 for 200 acres for John Herrold states that the land is on the Chinquepon Branch of the Hay Meadow Creek on the waters of Mulberry beginning near the head of the said branch and that it is against Michael McDowell’s line. The survey was entered November 16, 1801 and was actually recorded in Feb 1802. Chainers were John Roads and Michael McDowall.

There is a drawing of the survey but it simply looks like a square and there are no watercourses noted. The name is spelled variously Herrild, Herrald, Herrold. John paid “4 pounds” for this survey in 1804. I find it interesting that they are still using the old English money measures and not dollars.

Finding Michael’s Land

During a visit in 2004, 200 years later, now-deceased cousin George McNiel helped me located John Harrold’s land on Harrold Mountain.

Harrold mountain

Having found John’s land, of course, we’ve also in essence found Michael’s land, or at least the neighborhood, because their land abutted.

Michael McDowell Waddell Drive.png

Harrold Mountain is where Waddell Drive is located today, with the Harrold cemetery on the land originally owned by John Harrold.


John Harrold’s land abutted Michael McDowell’s, and his son married Michael’s daughter.

Haymeadow Creek, mentioned in John Harrold’s grant, is to the far left, with Harrold Mountain Road crossing it. John’s land was probably larger than the area shown.

Michael McDowell Harrold land.png

The Zion Baptist Church is a very old “primitive Baptist church” where many Harrold family members are buried. It’s likely the church where Michael attended as well, and where Jacob McGrady preached. The remnants of the original log cabin church were located in the woods behind the current church, years ago, according to old-timers in the neighborhood.

Zion Baptist Church

We know beyond a doubt that Michael’s land was on a watercourse, probably Mulberry Creek. His neighbors the Sebastians, as well as John Harrold had land on Mulberry Creek. Andrew Vannoy owned land adjacent Michael, and he lived north of Mulberry Creek.

The court records tell us that Michael had a mill. On the map below, John Herrald’s land and Haymeadow Creek is to the right. Sebastian Road in in yellow. Mulberry Creek is at left with the red arrows. Note the Mulberry Primitive Baptist Church.

Michael McDowell Mulberry and Haywater.png

The Mulberry Primitive Baptist Church is shown with the red arrow, below, so this area is likely Michael McDowell’s, with John Herrald’s land to the right, probably out of view. Michael’s land was probably larger than this view.

Michael McDowell Mulberry Primitive.png

The Mulberry Church wasn’t formed until 1848, but it serves as a good landmark for Mulberry Creek.

Sparta Road runs through a valley that is pretty heavily treed on the right side, so it’s difficult to find a view of the area where Michael would have lived. This would have been the road Michael traveled to access his land, of course, not paved and likely only wide enough for a wagon.

Michael McDowell Mulberry Creek.png

Here we can see Mulberry Creek running alongside the road.

Michael McDowell mountains.png

The Mulberry Primitive Baptist Church would be hidden behind the clump of trees at left, with the mountains in the distance, in the center, probably belonging to Michael.

It would have been difficult to eek a living out of this land. No wonder Michael had a mill someplace on Mulberry Creek. Halls Mills could be the location. On the map below, we can see the locations where the various families lived. Halls Mills is on Mulberry between John Herrald’s land, Vannoy Road and McGrady where Jacob McGrady lived, so it’s a good candidate and we know Michael lived adjacent the Hall family.

Michael McDowell neighbor lands.png

Vannoy Road actually arched further to the north shown by the red arrows.

This is really rough terrain. I was warned NOT to drive Vannoy Road around the mountain between Buckwheat Road and Sparta Road, near McGrady, even in a Jeep.

Michael McDowell Vannoy Road.png

It’s a dirt 2 track with no room for 2 cars and no place to turn around. I was told by the locals that it’s in essence a game of chicken and someone gets to back up. They even avoid this road.

The 1805 tax list shows Mich. McDowell with 1 poll and 233 acres in Capt. Rouseau’s district adjacent a John Findley and beside James Patten *Store. The asterisk is unexplained on the list. Based on later information, this entry appears to be Michael McDowell III.

The same year, another Michael McDowell with 200 acres and no poll is shown in Captain Kilby’s district, listed beside Jacob McGrady and Andrew Vannoy. Edward Dancy is next door, then we find John McDowell with 1 poll and no acres. This second Michael McDowell in Capt. Kilby’s district would be the elder man, Michael Jr., now age 58 and probably with either an old age or an invalid exemption which is why he had no poll tax. There has to be some benefit to all of those aches and pains of old age.

John McDowell is Michael’s son. We know this because on November 5, 1800 in the court notes, we find that Michael McDowell Junior is appointed constable, with William Abshare and Michael McDowell Senior for his securities.

Given that we know there were two Michael McDowells in Wilkes County, an older and a younger, and given that both signed a deed in different capacities in 1799, the Michael involved in these transactions might be either man. However additional information shows us that an 1813 transaction could not have been the elder Michael McDowell Jr., because he was in Claiborne County, TN by that time. Anything involving Michael McDowell from 1810 or later in Wilkes County was not Michael McDowell Jr., because he was gone by then.

Michael McDowell III appears to have lived only in Wilkesboro, not on the mountain where he was raised.

1810 and Beyond in Wilkes County

The Wilkes Co. census in 1810 shows the younger Michael McDowell on page 848 and Jacob McGrady (the preacher who married William Herrell and Mary McDowell in 1809) on 868. In other words, Michael McDowell III does not live near where his father lived.

No older Michael McDowell is present. In 1800 Jacob McGrady is on page 55, Michael is on page 54 and John Herrell Sr. and Jr. are on page 46. They are the only Herrell’s in Wilkes Co. It is spelled Harral. William Herrell/Harrold/Herrald who married Mary McDowell is also missing.

In 1810, Michael McDowell (III) is listed in Wilkesboro itself, not the area on Harrold Mountain where Michael Jr. lived. Michael III is age “to 45” with 4 young children and owning 10 slaves. This is not Michael Jr., but his son who would have been age 30-35, estimating that he had been married 9 or 10 years to have 4 children.

Where is our Michael McDowell? There is no other census listing in the entire US for a Michael McDowell. Keep in mind that the Tennessee and Virginia 1810 census schedules were destroyed.

In the book “The Land of Wilkes” by Johnson Hayes, written in 1962, Hayes mentions in Chapter 10, page 91, under “County officers from the beginning to 1960, among others, Michael McDowell in 1810. This surely must be Michael III, because Michael Jr. has probably already departed for Claiborne County and Michael III has established himself in Wilkesboro.

March 27, 1810 Deed Book G-H – Robert Keeton to Michael McDowell, negro woman named Betty and her child named Sandy

August 27, 1811 – Between James N. Fenely and Michal McDowell…negro man named Charles, age 35. Witness John Finley. Signed James N. Fonely, page 211

These slave transactions hurt my heart. I wonder if a difference in conviction caused Michael McDowell Jr. to leave Wilkes County, apparently with the rest of his sons, daughter and son-in-law, while Michael McDowell III remained behind, purchasing slaves. Their lives clearly followed divergent paths.

Dec. 15, 1811 – Deed Book G-H, NC Grant 1817 John Herrald 200 acres Chinquepin Branch of Haymeadow Creek, the waters of Mulberry, Michael McDowell’s line

December 14, 1811 – NC Grant 2847 William Sebastian, 200 acres waters of Mulberry Creek the south side of Wheatley’s Mountain, near the head of Miny Branch…McDowel’s line

This land would have been surveyed prior to this time, so the references to McDowell’s line would have been historical in nature.

Wheatley family deeds indicate that they owned land near the Reddies River, between the river and the top of the range to the north.

Michael McDowell Wheatley Mountain.png

On this map, we see Sparta road with the red arrow, Mulberry Creek with the purple arrow, Gambill Creek with green and the Reddies River with tan. Sebastian Road is just to the south as is Harrold Mountain.

Based on the various deeds and descriptions, Wheatley Mountain appears to be this piece of heavily forested land.

Michael McDowell Wilkes neighborhood.png

This aerial map of the entire neighborhood takes into consideration everything we know from the various deeds. Vannoy Road is in yellow at left. Michael’s neighbor was Andrew Vannoy.

Vannoy Road intersects with Sparta Road near McGrady and Jacob McGrady bought Michael’s land when he sold.

The Wheatley family owned land between Roaring River and the top of the mountain.  The mustard arrows at right track the West Fork of the Roaring River, with Gambill Creek shown in Green. The Gambills were Michael’s neighbors.

Harrold Mountain, towards the bottom, owned by John Harrold, adjoined Michael’s land on the waters of Mulberry Creek. Mulberry Creek, purple, tracks Sparta Road, red, all the way through the valley.

The grey arrow points to Sebastian Road near Harrold Mountain.

In 1810, we begin to see activity by the younger Michael McDowell, the next generation.

Feb 12, 1812 – Between Michael McDowell and Joseph Baker..$400…negro boy named Seaser, age 9. Witness James Waugh and R. Carson. Signed Michael McDowell, page 377

In both 1810 and 1813 a Michael McDowell purchases more land in Wilkes, including a one-acre lot in the town of Wilkesboro in 1813 (which was established in 1799). We don’t have records of the disposition of this land, but we know it can’t be Michael McDowell Jr., because he is in Lee County, Virginia in 1810.

Moving On to the Next Frontier

Yes, Michael McDowell Jr. moved once again, this time to the next outpost in the westward migration journey – Claiborne County, Tennessee on the Virginia border with Lee County.

MIchael McDowell Ivy to Slanting Misery map.png

Michael’s no spring chicken, and he’s starting over at age 63 in a place that can only be termed inhospitable.

Another chapter closes, and a new one opens. What lies ahead?

A place aptly named Slanting Misery.



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Phoebe: Board of Trustee Member at 16 – 52 Ancestors #257

Phoebe JCF Photo.jpg

I’m just going to have to ask your forbearance. This is my granddaughter, Phoebe, who at the age of 16 has just been appointed to an advisory board of trustees for a nonprofit organization, Jackson Community Foundation. No, that’s not a typo. She’s only 16, and it’s no small nonprofit.

I’m proud as punch, as you’ve already figured out, I’m sure.

I’m the grandma and that’s my job.

However, Phoebe truly is remarkable. I know every grandma thinks that, so this is exactly why I’m asking forbearance.

You see, this almost wasn’t a happy story. In fact, it almost never happened at all.

We Nearly Lost Her

I’m holding Phoebe, my first grandchild, in the photo below, immediately after she was born, just before I realized she was turning blue. Actually, her hands already look blue in this photo. The nurse was unconcerned and told me this was “normal,” but I knew otherwise and let’s just say I became very assertive very quickly. By the time I waylaid a nurse, any nurse, Phoebe’s lips were blue.

There was no time to lose. When that second nurse realized what was happening, Phoebe was quickly whisked away into neo-natal intensive care where she spent the next week or so. She was not absorbing oxygen and nearly died.

Phoebe born.jpg

We were terrified.

This was a tough time for our family, in many ways. For her parents and me too. I had already lost one newborn baby, and this was eerily similar – way too close for comfort. Years before, I held my own baby as she passed away.

Thankfully, Phoebe improved and clearly survived, but that wouldn’t have been the case without modern medical care. A few decades ago, she would only have been one of those anonymous blank spaces in the census – a child only suggested by their absence and not known by their presence. Except, for us, as for those families, she would never have been anonymous. She would always have been a hole in our hearts.


A week or so later, she came home from the hospital.

Phoebe newborn quilt.jpg

Here’s Phoebe being held by her aunt the day she came home from the hospital – with her “welcome to the world” quilt from Grandma.

I made each of my grandchildren a quilt when they were born. That’s just the first of many quilts I’ve made them. I’m so glad they love grandma’s quilts – and now they like to quilt with grandma too.

I started quilting when I was young with scraps from making my own clothes when I was about the age Phoebe is now.

Phoebe and me as teen.png

Here are photos of Phoebe and me at about the same age. I fought to straighten my hair. Phoebe embraces her lovely curls.

My first professional photo wouldn’t be taken until I was 26 and out of college.

Phoebe is light years ahead of me and just sparkles with energy and enthusiasm!

Phoebe with daughter.png

Phoebe with my daughter at about the same age.

The Wedding

When Phoebe was three months old, my daughter made Phoebe a tiny dress to match the wedding décor, and Phoebe was in her grandmother’s wedding.

Phoebe at my wedding.jpg

Of course, Phoebe has no memory of that day, but I surely do!

Phoebe wedding 3 months.jpg

Fortunately, we took photos, because this wedding photo would be the only full family photo we would ever have.

Phoebe family wedding photo.jpg

These pictures make me cry today, for the loss, but also for the love. My mother and brother are both gone now.

Phoebe my wedding dress.png

This spring, Phoebe standing in the bedroom with my mother’s furniture, trying my wedding gown on.

Phoebe my wedding dress with sister.png

Someday, it will be hers to wear if she chooses.

Phoebe and Mawmaw

In our family, until this generation, grandmothers were called Mawmaw. Sadly, Phoebe also has no memory of my mother, Mawmaw.

Phoebe with Mawmaw.jpg

This is one of only a couple photos of Phoebe with my mother. This was Phoebe’s first Christmas and the only one with her great-grandmother.

Here’s Phoebe’s photo beside my mom’s high school graduation picture.

Phoebe with Mom.png

Making Memories

As Phoebe began to grow up, we started making family memories, like this one at Disney World.

Phoebe at Disney.jpg

And yes, as any good grandparent would do, Phoebe went to the Bippity-Bop Boutique and magically became transformed into a Princess. That boutique is a goldmine designed to mine the bank accounts of grandparents which it does VERY successfully, I might add.

Our family events seem to be punctuated by quilts.

Phoebe Princess quilt.jpg

I finished this quilt for Phoebe at Disney so she could have her very own special princess quilt to go with the one-of-a-kind special princess dress I made for her to wear at Disney. I was concerned that she would be upset that she didn’t have a more traditional princess dress like the other young princesses, but she wasn’t, and loved her unique “grandma princess dress.”

Phoebe Tinkerbell dress.jpg

What a great adventure.

Phoebe fountain.jpg

Even if it was beastly hot.

Phoebe facepaint.jpg

Phoebe got to wear both lipstick and nail polish for the first time! She was so excited, and then facepainting too.

Phoebe grandpa shark.jpg

There are just no words for some things, but grandpa makes scary things not so much!

Phoebe Disney family.jpg

I’m not sure who these other family members are. I must have missed something in my genealogy.

Grandma’s Princess

Planning for college or not, she’s still my Princess – even though she’s old enough to drive the chariot now. How did that happen anyway?

Princess Phoebe.jpg

For the next couple of years after Disney, we had princess everything!

Phoebe with princess jewelry.jpg

At least that made gift shopping easy.

Phoebe princess hat.jpg

Now that’s some hat. Even the English would be jealous!

But something was in the offing that was even better than being a princess.

Becoming a Big Sister

Phoebe big sister.jpg

Phoebe became a big sister!

Phoebe grandpa big sister.jpg

We nearly lost this baby too, for an entirely different reason. We didn’t realize it at the time, but this child was in constant pain for months.

Phoebe with baby sister.jpg

Phoebe loves her sister, even though her sister didn’t always love to be carried around like a baby doll!

Phoebe sister first steps.jpg

A year and a risky, life-saving surgery later, Phoebe was there for her sister’s first steps, with Dad and Grandpa. What an exciting red-letter day.

Phoebe with Disney dress.jpg

After that, Grandma made Disney dresses and goodies for both girls.

Phoebe sister with Disney dress.jpg

It was difficult to take photos of Phoebe’s sister, because once she started walking, and running, she never slowed down!

Phoebe bedtime yoga.png

The girls are inseparable. Here, they are doing “bedtime yoga” to quiet down before bedtime, under grandma’s quilts. I love it that their parents share these wonderful photos with me!


Phoebe began to engage in sports from a young age. She ran her first (partial) race with her dad when she was 3.

Phoebe first marathon.jpg

He’s pinning her runner identification on. A rite of passage in this family. Phoebe was so excited.

Phoebe first run.jpg

You can see her in the brightly colored clothing right up front, in the center. Unfortunately, she got run over by another runner, fell and bumped her head on the concrete, but got back up, crying, but carried on. Her Dad picked her up, which made her unhappy.

Phoebe with Dad.jpg

Dad carried her part of the way, first in his arms, then on his shoulders as he ran. She was on top of the world there.

Sometimes, it’s not about winning but being present in the moment.

Phoebe and gymnastics.jpg

Phoebe has always loved all kinds of sports. Gymnastics, horseback riding, volleyball, soccer, basketball, karate,swimming and I’m sure I’ve forgotten something.

Phoebe and soccer.jpg

I love the look of intensity on her face. She’s a dedicated athlete.

Phoebe and kids.jpg

Phoebe has always been a team player and enjoys working with young people, volunteering her time at various camps and events including coaching soccer.

Essential Lessons

Phoebe jewelry.jpg

Grandma teaching Phoebe the essentials of life. How to select jewelry. Next, we moved on to chocolate and dessert😊

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Hey, a grandma’s gotta do what a grandma’s gotta do!

Phoebe missing tooth

And you’ve got to show grandma your missing tooth.

Not only that, but she lost that first tooth after tripping over another dancer at a recital. Afterwards, she proudly rushed off the stage displaying her prize tooth gripped tightly in her hand! She didn’t miss a beat dancing! No one would ever have known what happened – but she also didn’t lose the tooth. Great recovery!

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Who can resist those eyes? Not me, that’s for sure.

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Not sure exactly how, but somehow she wound up in Kansas. You don’t suppose she clicked do you?

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We’ve now graduated to fabric shopping for quilts with grandma! Yes!

Phoebe, Nora and Quilts

My mother only quilted at Missionary Circle, but this quilt made by her grandmother, Nora Kirsch Lore, represented the State of Indiana in the 1933 Chicago World’s fair.

climbing vine quilt

Nora is Phoebe’s 3 times great-grandmother.

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Here’s Phoebe beside Nora at age 22 in 1888 when she was married.

Maintaining the family tradition, Phoebe likes to quilt with Grandma now.

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Sometimes the hardest part of quilting is making decisions. Here, Phoebe’s planning blocks for a college quilt.

Farms are Fun

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Phoebe has lots of interests, farm animals among them. Somehow, I think that runs in her blood.


My daughter with our orphan goat, Peewee, when my kids were growing up. Peewee wore diapers in the house and wore a yellow sweater to town for walks on a leash.

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Phoebe doesn’t know it, but on the farm at home, my dad used to plant pumpkins every year just so the grandkids could grow and select their own pumpkin for carving. She would have loved that, and him. I’m sure he’s watching over her now.

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Grandma doesn’t exactly have a farm, but I do have a labyrinth.

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Our ancestors carried water and also maple sap in buckets like these.

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I think she’s moved on to chain saws now.

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Perhaps Phoebe has her grandmother’s “boot” gene.

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Phoebe is no one-trick pony, um, I mean, unicorn, though. Not one bit.


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Phoebe loves music. All kinds of music.

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Phoebe and the family drum corps.

From a very young age, she was attracted to any musical instrument.

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You know, how you hold your tongue really DOES matter!

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Phoebe plays a number of instruments, but loves to play the piano. For hours on end.

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Alone or with someone. Sometimes her sister sings along.

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Phoebe was playing with the Jackson Symphony Orchestra and winning state-wide championships before she was 12. The first year she won, she was actually competing in the youngest category that began at 13 – and they didn’t know exactly what to do because she was actually “too young” to win. The prize was money and a scholarship.

Phoebe and Dad by piano.jpg

Sometimes her dad had to come directly from work to be at her recitals and events. I love this picture of them together!

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This was probably actually Phoebe’s first “professional” picture.

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I have miles and miles of footage of Phoebe playing soul-searing, breathtaking music. Songs were even composed for her to play at university competitions.

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Phoebe accepting a state-wide award with her teacher.

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You’ll excuse me if I call Phoebe a child prodigy, because she is – and I am, after all, the grandmother. I will, however, spare you the videos, although you’d probably enjoy them😊

Phoebe did not get her musical talent from me.

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Phoebe’s great-great-grandmother, Edith Lore Ferverda played the piano beautifully, accompanying a great many dance recitals as my mother performed.


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As Phoebe has continued to mature, she developed an interest in science. Here, she’s swabbing for DNA testing.

I have NO IDEA where she got the idea to do something like that😊

Granddaughter DNA 2016

Next, Phoebe wanted to sequence DNA. Here, she’s in the lab at Michigan State University doing just that with strawberries.

We’ve spent hours reviewing where her DNA segments originated – because she is lucky enough to have the autosomal DNA of 3 grandparents and one great-grandparent, plus several aunts and uncles.

Phoebe’s DNA as compared to mine. The blue areas on her chromosomes are what she inherited from me.

Phoebe me DNA

Nothing makes genetics personal like your own family members and the power of visual examples.

Just a Normal Teen

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Amid all of this serious stuff, Phoebe is just a normal fun-loving teen.

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Cutting up with her friends.

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Petting dinosaurs.

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Making friends with chickens!

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Playing in the snow. Her sister is hidden behind the tree and just caused it to dump on Phoebe.

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This young woman perseveres and conquers what she sets her mind on.

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Phoebe Branches Out

Now in the second half of her teen years, Phoebe is branching out and finding her wings – or maybe her voice.

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Yes, Phoebe still hikes and climbs trees. One of my favorite photos, a lucky shot.

However, when on the ground, Phoebe has taken a shine to the stage. She has danced for years, but the theater bug has bitten her recently.

Phoebe play.jpg

I was convinced that Phoebe was going to be a geneticist, but she has since developed an interest in the arts, aside from piano performances. She also sings, dances and now acts in community theater.

Phoebe stage.jpg

Of course, my mother performed professionally – so maybe Phoebe comes by that ability naturally.

Barbara Ferverda dancing 1944 2 pro

Must have “skipped a generation,” or two, because I guarantee you, I have absolutely no talent there.

Phoebe Mom DNA.png

Is Phoebe’s dancing and theatrical ability handed down on the red segments above, passed down to Phoebe from my mother, through my blue segments? If so, those genes didn’t express in my generation.

Public Service

While Phoebe was recently appointed to the board of trustees, this is not her first time working as a public servant.

Phoebe volunteers at the Dahlem Outdoor Environmental Education Center and has been a volunteer assistant camp counselor since she was 13. She has been attending since she was 5. It’s one of her favorite places.

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Phoebe’s on the committee for the annual Goblin Walk Fundraiser. She’s a moose, above, in brown, and a hummingbird in the blue/green sweatshirt, below.

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Phoebe sees beauty everyplace and in everything.

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She has a great eye for color and detail and enjoys photography in grandma’s garden.

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Phoebe was quite pleased with herself the day she realized she was taller than grandma.

What Phoebe doesn’t realize is that the white and purple phlox blooming beside us is from her great-grandparent’s farm. Yes, Mawmaw and Pawpaw are with us in subtle ways.

I dug the Phlox and brought it home the day Dad passed away. A few years later, it moved along with me to a new house and is now migrating to my children’s gardens a quarter century later.

Our ancestors are with us, not only in our DNA, abilities and appearance but in other subtle ways too.

Someday, I hope these same plants, or their descendants, will grow in Phoebe’s own garden. In the mean time, I’ll be the steward of the plants because she has a lot of cultivating to do.

The future is bright and full of promise. Whatever Phoebe’s life choices, I’m privileged to witness this remarkable young woman develop her potential, find her grounding, fledge the nest and fly on her own.

I have no doubt that Phoebe will leave this earth a better place than she found it.

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Her ancestors would be very, very proud of her. This one already is!



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Charles Campbell (c1750-c1825): Unique Y DNA Chips Away at Parental Brick Wall – 52 Ancestors #256

I’ve been struggling for years, decades actually, to identify the father of Charles Campbell of Hawkins County, Tennessee. We’re finally making progress by combining family oral history with traditional records research, Y DNA, and the process of elimination – thanks to a combination of people.

I think you’ll find the twists and turns in this journey interesting. It sure has been enlightening!

Thank Goodness for my Campbell Cousin!

Recently, my Campbell cousin agreed to take a Y DNA test.

He descends from my John Campbell through son William Newton Campbell whose line migrated to Texas. William died in 1908 in Davidson, Oklahoma.

Charles Campbell testers.png

Sadly, both earlier testers from the Charles Campbell line have passed away, so their Y DNA tests can’t be upgraded. My Campbell cousin represented by kit 905207 has been the critical link in what I think might just be a chink in the long-standing brick wall of Charles Campbell.

And if it isn’t THE chink, it’s still chipping away at that wall.

Who Were Charles Campbell’s Parents?

Charles Campbell was in Hawkins County in 1788, in what would become Tennessee in 1796. He may have been in Sullivan County as early as 1783.

The people who settled in this part of eastern Tennessee, and specifically in the neighborhood along Dodson Creek where Charles Campbell owned land and lived most of his life arrived in what is known as the Rockingham migration.

In fact, this 1784 tax list from Rockingham County, VA shows several people who were Charles Campbell’s direct neighbors in Hawkins County, including Michael Roark whose property abutted Charles’. In addition, the Grigsbee (Grigsby) family is found nearby as well as the Kite family whose property is just down the road beside the Louderbacks.

Charles Campbell 1784 Rockingham.png

However, looking on the 1782 tax list for Rockingham County doesn’t show Charles Campbell who was having children as early as 1770, so was assuredly an adult on personal property tax lists, someplace, by 1782, assuming he wasn’t in a wagon on his way to the next frontier.

Note that Lexington, Virginia, now in Rockbridge County, but then in Augusta County, is on the same migration path down the Shenandoah Valley – the only reasonable path from Rockingham County to the area on Dodson Creek just south of Rogersville, Tennessee.

Charles Campbell Rockingham to Rogersville.png

It’s 72 miles from Rockingham to Lexington. You have to go through Rockbridge County, on the main road at that time, to get to east Tennessee from Rockingham County.

We know, from deeds, that Gilbert Campbell lived on the main road, a location at the ferry where travelers would stop to rest, and talk, and discuss the new frontier where land was available for the asking.

This is most likely the path that Charles Campbell traveled in the 1780s. But where did he come from, and who were his parents? Is there any way to make that discovery?

Y DNA Matching

Our Campbell tester matches both of the earlier two descendants of Charles Campbell, as expected, but there’s another person that this group matches as well.

At 111 markers, my cousin matches a descendant of Gilbert Campbell who wrote his will in 1750 and died in 1751 in Rockbridge County, VA.

Charles Campbell match.png

Looking at the Campbell DNA Project, the Campbell men are part of the HUGE group 30, compromised of many, many Campbell descendants. However, look at who kit 81436, a descendant of Charles through son George, matches most closely.

Charles Campbell Gilbert match

Click to enlarge

Yep, Gilbert again.

The Campbell Article

All I can say is that I’m extremely grateful for the Campbell DNA Project at Family Tree DNA, because without this project, and project administrator Kevin Campbell, this brick wall wouldn’t even be threatened.

Kevin along with James A. Campbell wrote an article that was published in the Journal of the Clan Campbell Society (North America) Vol. 43, No. 2, Spring 2016.

To set the stage, two groups of Campbell families settled in Augusta County, VA in the late 1730s as land became available in the Borden tract. Both groups had as their progenitor a man named Duncan Campbell, born in Scotland. No confusion there, right?

One Duncan moved to Ulster County, Ireland and died. His descendants immigrated into Pennsylvania in 1726, then on into Augusta County about 1738, according to the article’s endnotes.

This is the group, shown along the South River where the green arrows point, that our Campbell line matches most closely.

The Tinkling Spring Church, the first formed in the area is shown as well. For many years, the minister baptized children in homes because either a church building didn’t yet exist or was too distant. He baptized Gilbert’s son, Charles, in 1741.

Charles Campbell north and south.png

The second Campbell group, shown in red, settled along the North River in present-day Rockingham County, about 15 miles north of Staunton, then Orange County where we find a description of a deed in 1745. This family’s oral history relates that their ancestor, also Duncan Campbell, never left Scotland before immigrating to the colonies.

The red line is unquestionably not our line.

Gilbert Campbell’s land was located in present day Lexington, further south yet.

In the article, Kevin describes how he determined that the Campbell families of Southwest Virginia, specifically Augusta County, are actually two separate Duncan Campbell lines of Campbell men. This doesn’t mean they are unrelated historically, but it does mean their common ancestor is many generations in the past.

Thankfully, the 2 lines have developed enough mutations over time that patterns exist in both lines that set them apart from each other.

Let me review the relevant portions of the article that are pertinent both geographically and historically, as well as genetically.

This excerpt is indeed exactly how I feel about my Charles Campbell.

“Just looking at land transactions involving Charles Campbell from 1740-1770 in Augusta County and lands just south of Augusta County was disheartening. How many Charles were there? How did they relate? One needed a genealogical chart just to map Charles Campbell.

Who was, or were, Charles Campbell of Augusta County?”

The researcher who said that was Catherine Bushman who reported that there were two Charles Campbells in Augusta County in the 1740s on to past mid-century. One Charles Campbell was found on the North River who held land with Hugh Campbell at Mount Crawford. A second Charles was found on the South Shenandoah River who had multiple, sizeable land holdings. These men lived 20 miles apart.

But neither of these men can be our Charles, because our Charles died about 1825, so he would not have been alive and owning land by 1740.

But still, we have two adult males named Charles who might be the parents or relatives of my Charles. Unfortunately, neither of them appear to live in the green group.

The DNA of the North and South Augusta Campbells

Kevin compared the DNA of several males who are proven to descend from the North and South Augusta County Campbell lines.

On all 10 differentiating markers that form the signatures of the North and South groups, our Charles Campbell men match the South Campbell group, meaning that our Charles Campbell group is more closely related to Duncan Campbell whose descendants lived along the South River – the descendants of “White David” Campbell and his brother Patrick Campbell.

“White David” and Patrick were the sons of John Campbell and Grissel “Grace” Hay, who was reportedly the son of Duncan Campbell and Mary McCoy.

To the best of our knowledge, neither of these families had a Gilbert. Who was Gilbert?

Gilbert Campbell

The descendants of Gilbert Campbell have another defining group of markers that are only found among this group.

Charles Campbell Gilbert markers.png

While all of the testers have tested at marker CDY, only three have tested at markers DYS710 and DYS510. The other two yellow men are deceased, of course, but it’s very likely they would match kit 905207 given their proven line of descent.

The only close Campbell line matches who carry these markers are our three men and the descendant of Gilbert plus an unidentified William born in 1750 in Virginia and died in Alabama. The closest is Gilbert and he’s in the right place at the right time.

So, where did Gilbert Campbell live and what do we know about him?

I reached out to Kevin Campbell again, and he provided what he could. There isn’t much known, but combining what he provided with what I found elsewhere, there is at least something.

Gilbert lived in the right place at the right time, in what is now Lexington, Virginia, located in Rockbridge County.

Gilbert Has a Son, Charles

Perhaps the single most exciting piece of evidence discovered about Gilbert Campbell, in combination with his location, is that he had a son named Charles.

In the book Tinkling Spring, Headwater of Freedom, A Study of the Church and her People 1732-1952 by Howard McKnight Wilson, published in 1954, we discover the following:

Page 73 – The location of this road is shown at strategic points on the original map of Maryland and Virginia made by Colonel Joshua Fry…and Colonel Peter Jefferson…in the year 1751. Leaving Philadelphia, the road went through the present location at Lancaster, PA turned southwest and crossed the Potomac at Williamsferry (now Williamsport, Maryland) and continues south by the present site of Winchester, VA. It kept to the east in the Shenandoah Valley, then down Mill Creek and across North River of the James at Gilbert Campbell’s Ford, and on toward Roanoke, turning southward just west of Tinker’s Creek on the outskirts of the present city of Roanoke.

Page 74 – Orange County, VA court order dated May 23, 1745, the Augusta County people were authorized to make the first improvements upon this road, where it fell within the bounds of the new county. Report of the commissioners is as follows: …Inhabitants between the mountains above Thompson’s Ford and Tinkling Spring do clear the same and the said road continue from Tinkling Spring to Beverley Manor line and that Patrick Campbell, John Buchanan and William Henderson be overseers and that all the inhabitants above Tinkling Spring and Beverley Manor line do clear the same and that the said road continue from Beverley Manor line to Gilbert Campbell’s Ford on the north branch of the James River and…that the road continue from Gilbert Campbell’s Ford to a ford a the Cherry Tree Bottom on the James River…and that a distinct order be given to every gang to clear the same and that it be cleared as it is already blazed and laid off with two notches and a cross…dated April 8, 1745.

Page 471 – Record of Baptisms by Reverend John Craig. Charles Campbell, son of Gilbert Campbell, October 15, 1741, at the house of Gilbert Campbell on the North Branch of the James River.

Woohoooo – look at that!!!

What other records exist for Gilbert and his wife?

In the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia by Lyman Chalkey, Volume 1, page 27, we discover what was surely the high drama soap-opera of the day. Everyone who could possibly attend court would have, and those who couldn’t surely waited anxiously for the sound of hoofbeats upon the road – the first person to return so they could hear what had happened.

Charles Campbell Gilbert 1747.pngCharles Campbell Gilbert 1747 2.png

Of course this begs the question of the identify of Mary Ann Campbell, and was she related to Prudence in some fashion? Unfortunately, Mary Ann is still anonymous, but we do have information on the immediate family members of Gilbert, and she’s not a daughter.

Gilbert Campbell’s Family

The family group sheet provided for Gilbert Campbell by the Clan Campbell Society provides the name of the wife and children of Gilbert. Gilbert’s wife was named Prudence and is reported with a surname spelled both Osran and Puran (Chalkey pages 19 and 22), in Augusta County Court records and elsewhere as Osmun and Ozran. Prudence died before March 16, 1768. The society lists their marriage as having occurred in Pennsylvania, but the source is not mentioned, with information as follows:

Gilbert died before February of 1750 (old date, 1751 new date.)

  • Son James born about 1734 in Ireland, married Elizabeth.
  • Daughter Elizabeth born about 1736 in Ireland, married a Woods.
  • Daughter Prudence born about 1738 in Ireland, married a Hays.
  • Daughter Sarah born about 1740 in Virginia.
  • Son George born October 21, 1740 and died on February 7, 1814, both in Augusta County. Married in 1765 to Agness McClure 1746-1797.
  • Daughter Lettis born in 1743 in Albemarle County married John Woods. (Note that if George was born in Augusta County in 1740, it’s unlikely that Lettis was born in Albemarle.)
  • Charles Campbell born in 1741.

If their date for the birth of Gilbert’s son, James, is accurate, he cannot be the father of our Charles who was born before 1750, based on the dates of the births of his sons. How the society estimated the date of James’ birth is unknown.


In 1742, Gilbert purchased 389 acres of land in the Borden Tract (Forks of the James River, now in Rockbridge County,) from Benjamin Borden for 11 pounds, 13 shillings, and 4 pence. The Crossing of the North Fork of the James (now Murray) River was known as Campbell’s Ferry. Roughly a decade after building his home, Gilbert died. According to Chalkey, persons owning land adjacent to Gilbert’s were John Moore (Chalkley, v3, p263), John Allison (ibid, p. 267-8), Robert Moore (ibit, p. 272) and Joseph Walker (after Gilbert’s death) (ibid, p. 340).

This is interesting because Jane Allison married Robert Campbell, the son of John Campbell and Grissel Hay, in Rockbridge County. Robert wound up in northern Hawkins County, Tennessee and his son James was long believed to be the father of brothers George and John Campbell. I chased this James, and his children for years, and there’s not even a shred of a hint of evidence that he was the father of George and John.

However, there could have been some morsel of truth in that they could have been related.

Gilbert’s Will

The abstract of Gilbert Campbell’s will is found in Lyman Chalkley’s Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia, Vol. 3, p.19., Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1989.

The original is found in Augusta Co. Court, Will Book No. 1, p. 294. The abstract reads as follows, along with additional information:

Page 294: 29th August, 1750. Gilbert Campbell’s will, of Forks of James River, plantationer

  • Wife, Prudence Campbell, alias Osran
  • Son, George (infant)
  • Son Charles (infant)
  • Daughter, Elizabeth Woods, alias Campbell
  • Son, James
  • Daughter, Prudence Hays
  • Daughter, Sarah Campbell
  • Daughter, Lattice Campbell

Executors, James Trimble, Thomas Stuart and Andrew Hays.

Teste: James Thompson, Robert Allison, Alex. McMullen.

Proved, 26 February, 1750 (current 1751), by Thompson and Allison, and probate granted to Andrew Hays.”

Page 308. — 27th February, 1750-51. Andrew Hays’ bond as executor of Gilbert Campbell, with sureties Charles Hays, James Walker.” (Chalkley, v. 3, p. 20).

Page 372. — 23 May 1751. Gilbert Campbell’s appraisement, by Alex. McMullan, Robert Allison, James Thompson, Andrew Hays. (Chalkley, v. 3, p. 22).

Page 373. — 23rd May 1751. Appraisment of goods left by Gilbert Campbell to his wife, Prudence Campbell, alias Puran. (Chalkley, p. 22)

Will Book No. 2. Page 243. — 17th May 1758. George Campbell’s bond (with Robert McElheny, Robt. Moore) as guardian to Lettice Campbell, orphan of Gilbert Campbell.” (Chalkley, v. 3, page 48.)

Chalkley’s Abstracts, Vol 3, p. 102: Will Book No. 4 includes the following statement: “Page 82. . . 16 March 1768. Prudence Campbell’s proven account. . . “

It’s worth noting that James is not mentioned as an infant, meaning he was born before in 1729 or earlier, so the society’s estimate of 1734 is off by several years, unless they have used age 16 as the definition of “not an infant.”

It’s interesting that no guardians were appointed for George or Charles, or those documents haven’t been preserved/discovered/reported.

While Chalkey provides the extract of Gilbert’s will, in an old Rootsweb list posting, Gilbert’s full will is provided by Tim Campbell.

1750 Page 294: 29th August, 1750. Gilbert Campbell’s will, of Forks of James River, plantationer–Wife, Prudence Osran Campbell, alias Osran; son, George Campbell (infant); son, Charles Campbell (infant); daughter, Elizabeth Campbell Woods, alias Campbell; son, James Campbell; daughter, Prudence Campbell Hays; daughter, Sarah Campbell; daughter, Lattice Campbell. Executors, James Trimble, Thomas Stuart and Andrew Hays. Teste: James Thompson, Robert Allison, Alex. McMuIlen. Proved, 26th February, 1751, by Thompson and Allison, and probate granted to Andrew Hays. Augusta County Will Book 1

A copy of this document in is Tim Campbells’ files. Gilbert Campbell left his plantation to wife Prudence until son George came of age, at which time she was to have half, then when son Charles came of age, she was to have just the house and adjacent field, i.e., the 2 boys were to receive parts of the plantation as they came of age. George was to receive the half “next to the river” and Charles was to receive the other half. Children Elizabeth, James and Prudence were to receive one crown apiece. Charles and George were to pay the other 2 siblings, Sarah and Lattice, 2 pounds each and 20 pounds was to be set aside for their well being out of the plantation.

Land Location

Rockbridge County VA Deed book A page 7, April 7, 1778 – Joseph Walker sells to William Graham 291 acres (then in Botetourt, now Rockbridge County), bounded on north by James River, corner Gilbert Campbell’s and John Moore’s.

The part of Rockbridge where Lexington is located appears to have fall into Botetourt County for about a year.

Using Borden’s land grant map located here, along with an index located here, I have been able to locate Gilbert’s land in what is now Lexington, Virginia adjacent a James Campbell who was possibly/probably Gilbert’s brother. One of James’ tracts adjoined Gilberts and another was close by.

Charles Campbell Rockbridge map.png

On the detailed plat maps, here, that can’t be reproduced, tracts 198 and 184 are adjacent, while 172 is a bit more distant on the bend of the river. By searching for the names of Gilbert’s neighbors listed in deeds, you can see that the Moore, Allison and Campbell families all lived adjacent one-another.

Charles Campbell Gilbert google map.png

Looking at Google maps, it’s easy to overlay the approximation of Gilbert’s land, along with that of James. The James who obtained the 434 acres of land in 1756 could have been Gilbert’s son by either age estimation, but he could also have been a brother, other relative, or unrelated. The James obtaining the 175 acres of land adjacent Gilbert’s land in 1768 could have been brother or son, but is likely related.

Charles Campbell Lexington.png

A Campbell researcher descended from Gilbert’s son George tells us the following:

In my visit to the Rockbridge Co Historical Society last year I learned that the town of Lexington is on Gilbert’s plantation of 389 acres. Washington and Lee Univ. sits on top of the hill where Gilbert’s home was located. Gilbert’s ferry was where the waterfall is crossing the now Maury River (renamed from North River.) Has anyone found the marriage for Gilbert and Prudence??? I found in a book at their public library that Gilbert was quite active in the Presbyterian Church. Does anyone know where in Rockbridge he is buried?

Here’s a closer view of that area.

Charles Campbell Gilbert closeup.png

A very, very interesting aspect of this land is that the trail may not go cold with the death of Gilbert. When Gilbert died in 1751, his will dictated that his land descend to his two sons, George and Charles when they came of age.

Additional Charles Campbell Information.

Charles, the son of Gilbert would have come of age in 1762.

Our Charles had sons John and George in about 1770 and 1772, but it’s not known how many other children he might have had, or his wife’s name.

Aside from the names of his sons, the location of his land and neighbors in Hawkins County, the only other firm piece of information that we have about Charles Campbell is that he died sometime before May 31, 1825 when a survey for neighbor Michael Roark mentions the heirs of Charles Campbell. A court record entry says that a deed of sale was to be recorded by Charles’ heirs, but it was never recorded in the deed book, and his heirs names are never given in any Hawkins County record. Nor did he have a will. So frustrating.

In Rockbridge County, formed in 1777 from parts of Augusta and Botetourt County, we find the following records:

  • 1764 John Campbell committed for abusing Henry Filbrick and disrupting the court. Charles Campbell committed for abusing the court.
  • 1764 Charles Campbell qualified as ensign.
  • Vol. 1 March 19, 1765 – John Moore to Charles Campbell, 230 acres in Borden’s track, corner John Houston’s land, Wit William Mann, Archibald Reaugh, Samuel Downey, Delivered to C. Campbell’s executors March 23, 1827.

Note the date in 1827 when this was actually delivered to Charles’ executors.

When I saw this note indicating that Charles Campbell had died by 1827, I became very excited. Is this the same Charles Campbell who had died in Tennessee? Did he still own land, absentee, in Rockbridge County?

John Moore’s land abutted Gilbert Campbell’s. There could be two different John Moores, but this is likely Charles the son of Gilbert.

1765 Page 46.-14th August, 1765. George Campbell, Agness Campbell, his wife, and Prudence Campbell (widow of Gilbert Campbell), his mother, to Andrew McClure, £130,194 acres in Forks of James and in the fork of Wood’s Creek and North Branch of James; corner Joseph Walker. Teste: Jno. McCampbell, Charles Campbell. Delivered: grantee, September 1770. Deed book 12

This 194 acres is probably George’s part of his father’s estate. Note that Charles signs and a John McCampbell does as well, or McCampbell is actually Campbell. Andrew and William McCampbell had grants north of James Campbell who lives on the bend of the river, west of Gilbert.

Of Gilbert’s 389 acre plantation, this leaves 195 acres remaining, plus Prudence Campbell’s house and field.

1766 – Charles Campbell (Borden’s land) appointed appraiser.

Page 137 – May 20, 1766 – Charles Campbell (Borden’s land) appointed Constable.

Page 138 – Charles Campbell – certificate for hemp.

Vol 2 Page 403 – 1767 Charles Campbell listed on Borden land, also noted as a constable.

In 1768, James Campbell also obtained a certificate for hemp. He is also appointed constable.

We know that Gilbert’s son Charles’ brother was James.

Vol 3 Page 484 – May 24, 1769 John Sproul and Margaret to Alexander Wilson, 250 acres in Borden’s tract, corner Andrew Steel and William Alexander, corner Robert Telford, Robert Lowry. Wit Charles Campbell, Thomas Alexander, Robert Wardlaw

April 27, 1769 Thomas Vance and Jenat to John Campbell. 148 acres on the North Branch of James, corner Mr. Thomas Vance, Wit James Cowan, John Alison, Charles Campbell, John Shields Jr.

Given the mention of John Alison and Charles Campbell, this appears to be near Gilbert’s land. The Allisons lived adjacent Gilbert and also directly across the river. There’s a John Campbell involved. He’s not the son of Gilbert – could be be the son of James?

Page 485 – June 15, 1769 Charles Campbell and Margret to Joseph Walker, 199 acres on Woods Creek in Fork of James River, corner Arthur McClure, Joseph Walker’s line, Robert Moore’s line, Wit James Hall, Joseph Walker, Delivered Joseph Walker June 1783

This has to be Charles, the son of Gilbert. The acreage equals exactly that of his share of Gilbert’s land and the neighbors are the same. Joseph Walker was a neighbor of Gilbert Campbell. This is also the timeframe when a Charles Campbell shows up purchasing land in East Tennessee. Did he sell out to move on? The land was sold in 1769, but never “delivered” until 1783.

Between 1768 and 1771, a chancery suite was in process involving Charles Campbell (trustee) for work to be done at the New Providence Meeting House that involved Wardlaw, Houston, Moore, Walker – all familiar names. This church was founded in 1746 on land purchased by the Kennedy family. John Brown, married to Mary Moore, the “Captive of Abbs Valley,” was the pastor for 42 years, resigning in 1794. This church was about 15 miles north of Lexington.

There is a 1773 suit where John is a son of Charles Campbell, so this Charles cannot be ours because his son John was not born until between 1772 and 1775.

Page 196 – Feb. 17, 1778 – Justice in the new Rockbridge County, Charles Campbell. This is likely Gilbert’s son.

1791 – Rockbridge County, VA Deed Book B, p. 340. 11 October 1791, 270 acres from    Robert Harvey and Martha his wife, heirs-at-law to Benjamin Borden dec’d of Botetourt County, VA to Charles Campbell between said Campbell’s plantation and John McCray’s land, Robert Wardlaw’s line. Signed: Robt. Harvey, Martha Harvey, Teste: William Buchanan, William Wardlaw, Wm. Wardlaw, Alexr. Sproul, Jas. Campbell, Delivered Anniel Rodgers per order of Saml. L. Campbell, one of the exors of sd. Chas. Campbell dec’d 26 March 1827.

This deed has a very similar date as the John Moore to Charles Campbell deed in 1765 that was delivered to Charles’ heirs in 1827. This deed goes further though and references Campbell’s plantation. It doesn’t say anything about Charles heirs being in Tennessee, and if this is our Charles, we know for sure that John and George were living in Claiborne County by then, and Charles Campbell was deceased by sometime in 1825 in Hawkins County. Of course, this land could have been owned absentee for all those years by Charles of Hawkins County.

The following deposition was found in the Rockingham County Circuit Court book, page 122:

Mary Greenlee deposes, 10th November, 1806, she and her husband settled in Borden’s Grant in 1737. Her son John was born 4th October, 1738. She, her husband, her father (Emphraim McDowell, then very aged), and her brother, John McDowell, were on their way to Beverley Manor; camped on Linvel’s Creek (the spring before her brother James had raised a crop on South River in Beverley Manor, above Turk’s, near Wood Gap); there Benj. Borden came to their camp and they conducted him to his grant which he had never seen, for which Borden proposed giving 1,000 acres. They went on to the house of John Lewis, near Staunton, who was a relative of Ephraim McDowell. Relates the Milhollin story. They were the first party of white settlers in Borden’s Grant. In two years there were more than 100 settlers. Borden resided with a Mrs. Hunter, whose daughter afterwards married one Guin, to whom he gave the land whereon they lived. Her brother John was killed about Christmas before her son Samuel (first of the name) was born (he was born April, 174xxx). Benj. Borden, Jr., came into the grant in bad plight and seemed to be not much respected by John McDowell’s wife, whom Benj. afterwards married. Jno. Hart had removed to Beverley Manor some time before deponent moved to Borden’s. Joseph Borden had lived with his brother Benj.; went to school, had the smallpox about time of Benj’s. death. When he was about 18 or 19 he left the grant, very much disliked, and dissatisfied with the treatment of his brother’s wife. Beaty was the first surveyor she knew in Borden’s grant. Borden had been in Williamsburg, and there in a frolic Gov. Gooch’s son-in-law, Needler, has given him his interest in the grant. Borden’s executor, Hardin, offered to her brother James all the unsold land for a bottle of wine to anyone who would pay the quit rents, but James refused it because he feared it would run him into jail. This was shortly after Margaret Borden married Jno. Bowyer. John Moore settled in the grant at an early day, where Charles CAMPBELL now lives. Andrew Moore settled where his grandson William now lives. These were also early settlers, viz: Wm. McCandless, Wm. Sawyers, Rob. Campbell, Saml. Wood, John Mathews, Richd. Woods, John Hays and his son Charles Hays, Saml. Walker, John McCraskey. Alexr. Miller was the first blacksmith in the settlement. One Thomas Taylor married Elizabeth Paxton. Taylor was killed by the falling of a tree shortly after the marriage. Miller removed and his land has been in possession of Telford. Deponent’s daughter Mary was born May, 1745. McMullen was also an early settler; he was a school teacher and had a daughter married. John Hays’s was the first mill in the grant. Quit rents were not exacted for 2 years at the instance of Anderson, a preacher.

Wow, talk about a goldmine of historical information!

Given that in 1806 Charles Campbell seems to be still living near where his father lived, by John Moore, this seems to preclude Gilbert from being the father of our Charles Campbell.

However, our Charles could be the son of the early James Campbell, if James was the brother of Gilbert. It’s also possible that our Charles is a grandson of Gilbert through his son, James, who was apparently of age by 1750 when Gilbert wrote his will.

Rockbridge County Tax Lists

Rockbridge County Tax lists are available in some format from 1778 to 1810, so let’s see if we can find a pattern there.

Tax List Name Additional Info Comment
1778 Charles Campbell 2 tithes
Charles Campbell (possible second entry, according to a different source)
George Campbell 2
1782 A (alpha list) Charles Campbell Esq 1 tithe, 2 slaves, Fanny, Dennis, 9 horses, 30 cattle Alexander, John, Henry, Joseph Sr and Jr. Campbell also Crockets
George Campbell 1 tithe 7 horses 12 cattle
George Campbell 1 tithe 6 horses 17 cattle
1783 George 1-0-0-6-14 Tithes, slaves>16, slaves <16, horses cattle,
George 1-0-0-7-9 Joseph, Joseph, John, Alex with note Dougal, Duncan, Henry Campbell
Charles 1-1-1-7-28 Slaves Jenny, Dinnis
1784 George 1-0-0-6-14 Joseph, Hugh, David,
George 1-0-0-6-11
Charles 1-1-1-9-29 Slaves Fanny, Dennis. Other Campbells incl Alexander, Duncan, Henry
1785 George 0-0-0-5-10 John, Joseph, (both no tithes), Joseph, Hugh, Andrew, Duncan, Alex, David, Robert Campbell
George 1-0-0-3-4
Charles 1-1-1-9-28
1786 Charles 1-1-1-11-26 Slaves Fanny and Dennis, other Campbells include Joseph, John (no tithe), Andrew, Henry, Samuel,
1787A George 0-0-0-3-6 Duncan, Henry, Samuel, Robert (no tithes), Alex no white tithes
Charles 1-2-0-11-30
1787B George 0-0-0-3-18 David, John, Joseph, Joseph, Andrew, Hugh
1788 A George 1-0-0-2 Robert, Duncan, Alex, Henry, Samuel,
Charles Campbell, Esq 2-2-0-10
1788B George 0-0-0-4 Andrew, John, Joseph, David, Hugh
1789A George 1-0-0-2 David, Duncan, Alex, Henry, Samuel
Charles 2-2-0-11
1789B George 0-0-0-3 Hugh, John Jr., Andrew, Robert
1790A George 1-0-0-2 Samuel, Henry, Henry Jr, Duncan, Alex, David,
Capt. Charles Campbell 2-2-0-10
George 1-0-0-2
1790B George 1-0-0-4 Alex, Hugh, John, John, Robert
1791A George 1-0-0-2 David, David, Duncan, Henry, Samuel, Alex
George 1-0-0-2
Capt. Charles 3-2-0-10
1791B George 1-0-0-5 John, John, John

I skipped ahead to 1800 and Charles is still on the tax list. He’s easy to recognize because he seems to be wealthier and has more livestock, not to mention slaves.

Given his presence in Rockbridge County, clearly Gilbert isn’t the father of our Charles. But the name Charles clearly runs in Gilbert’s line too.

What About James Campbell?

It’s worth noting that there is no James Campbell on these early tax lists, at all, so the James who owned land in 1756 and 1768 either died or moved on. Could this James be the father of our Charles?

Depending on his age, it’s certainly possible.

The son of Gilbert named James is probably accounted for by an 1804 deed from James Campbell who lives in Kentucky in the suit John McCleland of Rockbridge County vs James Campbell involving the Hays family.

On the muster list of the year 1742 – on Capt. McDowell’s list – Gilbert Camble and James Camble are listed together, so this James was clearly of age then, meaning he could have been the father of Charles Campbell who would have been born in 1750 or earlier.

I need to work on James, in particular land sales, to see if I can figure out what happened to him.

The James Story

The oral history of James Campbell being the father of John and George Campbell took root years ago with an earlier researcher.

Several years ago, Mary Price sent me information titled “Campbell – Dobkins Connections” which she compiled in the 1960s and 1970s before her mother’s death. Unfortunately, Mary was elderly at the time and only sent me the first few pages, although she meant to send the rest and thought she had. I’m hopeful maybe she sent the entire document to another researcher who will be kind enough to share.

Unfortunately, some of the books in Claiborne County (TN) Clerk’s office that Mary accessed were missing by the time I began researching a generation later, and I fear that much of what she found may have gone with her to the grave.

Mary descended from the same John Campbell that I do. All 3 of John’s sons, Jacob, George Washington and William Newton went to Texas.

  • Jacob Campbell was born in 1801 in Claiborne County, TN, had 5 sons and died in Collin County, Texas in 1879/1880.
  • George Washington Campbell was born in 1813 in Claiborne County, died sometime after 1880 and had at one son, John C., born in 1845. In 1860, he’s in Collin County, TX, along with Mary Price’s relatives, in 1870 in Denton County and in 1880, in Cooke County.
  • William Newton Campbell was born in 1817 in Claiborne County and died in 1908 in Davidson, Tillman County, Oklahoma. In 1870, 1880 and 1900, he lived in Denton County, Texas, He had 5 sons, all born in Tennessee and all died in or near either Tilman County, Oklahoma or Ringgold in Montague County, Texas.

Our Documented Campbell Line, According to Mary

Mary Price starts with John Campbell:

John Campbell was probably born in Shenandoah Co., Va. in the 1770s. In the 1950s a descendant of John Campbell interviewed some of his uncles in Texas who were in their eighties as to the name of John’s father. They all said his name was James Campbell as they were told by their grandparents.

That means the uncles would have been born in the 1870s and were probably second-generation Texans.

There is a James on the 1783 tax list for Shenandoah Co., Va. It is not known if he ever moved to Tennessee. Perhaps he did, to Jefferson Co., Tn., however, we have no proof. We researchers have found that there were new numerous Campbell families – all using the same first names – in almost every county searched.

We have been unable to find a will or an estate settlement for this James Campbell.

Claiborne Co., Tn. was formed in 1801 from parts of Grainger and Hawkins Co. We find our John Campbell serving on the jury in 1803. In 1802 our John purchased land in Claiborne Co., Tn. from Alexander Outlaw. Outlaw lived in Jefferson Co., Tn. and was married to a Campbell lady. This Alexander Outlaw also had dealings with our Jacob Dobkins in Jefferson Co., and also with our Dodsons in Jefferson Co., Tn.

Mary’s family was from Tom, Oklahoma, east of that area, but her grandfather, Lazarus Dobkins Dodson, according to Mary, settled in Texas in the 1880s or 1890s near the Campbell relatives. He married in Denton County in 1899 and died in Cass County in 1964.

Charles Campbell Texas.png

Given the proximity, I’d wager that the Campbell men Mary mentions were the ones in Collin County. Given the people involved, they were at least 3, if not 4 generations removed from John Campbell, and of course, they had never lived in Claiborne County. Their grandparents or great-grandparents moved to Texas.

George and John Campbell’s father appears strongly to be Charles Campbell, not a James. There is no James that fits. But Charles, who lives in the neighbor county, on Dodson Creek, down the road from the Dobkins family, sells land to his sons, John and George, who jointly dispose of that land just before arriving in Claiborne County. In Claiborne, they are both married to Dobkins sisters and live very close to Jacob Dobkins, their father-in-law. Furthermore, I match 45 Dobkins descendants who descend through other children of Jacob Dobkins.

It’s not surprising, several generations removed, that Mary’s relatives remembered the name of John’s father incorrectly, but John’s grandfather may indeed have been James.

It’s worth nothing that the name Gilbert never appears in the children of John or George.

John Campbell has children:

  • Jacob (his wife’s father’s name)
  • Elizabeth (his wife’s sister’s name)
  • Elmira
  • Jane
  • Martha
  • Rutha
  • George Washington (George is his brother’s name)
  • William Newton

George Campbell has children:

  • Dorcas (his wife’s mother’s name)
  • Peggy
  • Jenny (his wife’s sister’s name)
  • Charles (his father’s name)
  • James
  • John (his brother’s name)
  • Elizabeth (his wife’s name)

Back to Mary’s Story

The Campbell family, from which our John Campbell descended were originally from Inverary, Argylishire, connected with the famous Campbell clans of the Highlands of Scotland, and emigrated to Ireland near the close of the reign of Queen Elizabeth in about the year 1600. The Northern portion of Ireland received, in that period, large accessions of Scotch Protestants, who proved to be valuable and useful citizens. Here the Campbells continued to live for several generations until at length, the emigrant and progenitor of our Campbell Clan to America, old John Campbell arrived in 1726 in Donegal, Lancaster, Pennsylvania with 10 or 12 children.

Some of his children had already married and had children of their own. It did not take long for them to start making records. Old John Campbell’s son, Patrick who was born in about 1690 was serving as a constable by 1729.

About 1730, old John Campbell along with 3 of his sons, Patrick among them, removed from Pennsylvania to what was then a part of Orange Co., which later became Augusta Co., in the rich Shenandoah Valley of Va.

This Patrick Campbell became the ancestor of the famous General William Campbell and William brother-in-law and first cousin, Arthur Campbell. These two men were prominent men in Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee during the time of our Campbell’s there.

Arthur Campbell (1743-1811) lived just over the Claiborne County, TN border in Middlesboro, KY, with his son James transacting business in Claiborne County. I chased this line for years and it’s not ours.

Our line of Campbell (John) was no doubt close kin to them, but so many John Campbells, that I cannot tie him in or document him for sure.  But I do not have any doubt that this is the clan we descend from.

The Campbell family that eventually migrated to Claiborne County Tennessee is first documented with Dugal Campbell in 1490 in Inverary, Argylershire, Scotland and is the Campbell clan. His son Duncan b 1529 had son Patrick b 1550 who had Hugh b 1580 who had Andrew b 1615 who had son Duncan b 1645 who married Mary McCoy in 1672. Duncan and Mary immigrated to America with their children and grandchildren.

Their oldest son, John was born in Drumboden, near Londonderry, Ireland and married Grissel Hay, but died on the boat to America in 1725. However, they already had children, Robert b 1718 in County Down Ireland, died Dec. 24, 1810 in Carters Valley, Hawkins Valley, Tn, Archibald, Colin, William and Catharine. Some researchers show additional children.

Robert Campbell married Letitia Crockett b 1720/30 d abt 1758 in Prince Edward Co, Va. They had James Campbell b 1745/49 died before May 31 1792 in Carters Valley, Hawkins Co, Tn., Alexander b 1747, Elizabeth b 1751, Catharine b 1753, Anna b 1755, Jane b 1757, Martha b 1757, and Robert b 1761.

James and Letitia Allison, a niece of his father’s second wife Jane Allison, had John Campbell b 1772/75 d Sep 22, 1838, Elizabeth and George b 1770. James was killed by the fall of the limb of a tree while at work stocking a plow at his home in Carter’s Valley, 19 miles from Rogersville, Tn. The widow married William Pallett, settling in Warren Co.

Mary states the informatoin about John Campbell who died in 1838, meaning our John, being the son of James Campbell and Letitia Allison as fact, but it was then and is still unproven. She had found a James Campbell and assigned John to him.

I chased the Robert Campbell family too, relentlessly, for more than a decade – researching on site, finding Robert’s land and several cemeteries but not any sons of the James who died there in Carter Valley in 1792. There’s NO evidence that he’s the father of John. Nothing in the court records for orphans at his death. Nothing at all.

Robert Campbell Carter Valley.jpg

The land in Carter Valley is beautiful, and I was sad that I couldn’t find any evidence since Mary had seemed so sure. It was a beautiful wild goose chase:)

Robert Campbell Carter Valley Cemetery.jpg

It is interesting to note though that Robert Campbell settled for some time in Rockbridge County, married an Allison, and is found on tax lists before moving on to Hawkins County. He probably knew Gilbert and may have been related.

However, there is absolutely no connection found between Robert’s son, James, or his widow and her second husband, to Claiborne County or any John or George Campbell. Believe me, I tried.

Given the name of Allison, and the affiliation of Gilbert Campbell with Allisons and Crockets in Rockbridge County, I’m not entirely convinced the Prince Edward County Campbell’s were terribly far removed from the Rockbridge County Campbells. They may have know they were related and may have been relatively closely related, aunt/uncle, first cousins, even undocumented siblings perhaps.

The name of James Campbell may still be important in our search, because Gilbert Campbell’s brother appears to be James, or at least a James is associated with Gilbert in some way, aside from being his son. A William Campbell lives close by too.

Y DNA would not be able to differentiate between brothers and autosomal DNA is too many generations removed. If we knew the names of James Campbell’s wife, meaning the James who was the probable brother of Gilbert, we might be able to use autosomal DNA to determine a connection with her family.

However, without additional actual documentary evidence, such as information about James, his wife or even a definitive surname for Prudence, we’re mired in the mud.

According to Governor David Campbell

The grandson of “White David” Campbell, to differentiate him from his cousin “Black David” due to his fair coloring, not as a racist designation, became governor of Virginia and thankfully recorded a great deal, in his own handwriting, which has been preserved today at Duke University.

Ken Norfleet, perhaps the preeminent Campbell researcher, quotes David as follows after providing an introduction:


I have no documentary evidence which substantiates the existance of any of the early generations of Campbells prior to John Campbell (d. 1741), husband of Grace Hay. Hence, mention of these early Campbells should be carefully qualified. The early generations of Campbells shown in this genealogical report are those cited by Governor David Campbell in a note I found among his papers (see below).


Governor David Campbell (1779-1859) of VA was a meticulous researcher and it is mainly due to his work that the story of John Campbell and Grace Hay (parents of White David) and their descendants has survived. Governor Campbell’s papers and other documents are part of the Campbell Papers Collection (about 8,000 documents) located at Duke University, Durham NC. A microfilm copy of the Campbell Papers is located at the Tennessee State Library and Archives in Nashville. In 1996, while reviewing this microfilm copy, I found the following note, in Governor David Campbell’s handwriting, on microfilm reel number 1 (my comments are in brackets):

“Genealogy – The Campbell Family

“The farthest back the Campbell family can be traced is to Duncan Campbell of Inverary, Scotland, the place where the old Duke of Argyle and most of the Scotch [sic] Campbells lived. It was in the latter part of Queen Elizabeth’s reign that Duncan Campbell moved from Inverary to Ireland. Not long afterwards, in the reign of James First, when he had come to the throne, forfeitures were declared at Ulster in 1612, and Duncan Campbell bought a lease of the forfeited land from one of the English officers. One of his sons, Patrick, bought out the lease and estate in remainder, whereby he acquired the [land in] fee simple. How many other sons Duncan may have had is not known.

“Patrick had a son Hugh, and he a son Andrew. The generations from Andrew to our great-grandfather John [husband of Grace Hay] are not stated. It should be to Duncan, father of John Campbell, [who] emigrated to America with his family in the year 1726 and settled in the Sweet Ara river where Lancaster now stands in Pennsylvania. He [meaning John Campbell, husband of Grace Hay] had six sons, Patrick, John, William, James, Robert and David. Three – to wit – John, William and James were never married. John died in in England having gone there with Lord Boyne and became [his] steward.”


Governor David Campbell (1779-1859), in a letter to Lyman Draper, dated 12 Dec 1840, had this to say concerning the origin of his branch (White David’s) of the Campbell Clan in America (my comments are in brackets):

” … The Campbell family from which I am descended were originally from Inverary in the Highlands of Scotland – came to Ireland in the latter part of the reign of Queen Elizabeth & thence to America. John Campbell [husband of Grace Hay] my great grandfather and the great grandfather of Gen’l William Campbell of the Revolution came from Ireland with a family of ten or twelve children, leaving behind him only one son, and settled near Lancaster in Pennsylvania in the year 1726. His eldest son Patrick was the grandfather of Gen’l William Campbell. His youngest son David [White David] was the father of Col Arthur Campbell and my grandfather. So that Gen’l Campbell and myself were second cousins. The family remained in Pennsylvania but a few years and then removed to the frontiers of Virginia, in that part which afterwards formed the county of Augusta. Here they lived many years. John Campbell (my father) the eldest son of David and Col Arthur Campbell the second son were born, raised and educated in this county. Gen’l William Campbell was also born, raised and educated here. …” [see Draper Manuscripts, Kings Mountain Papers, 10DD6, pages 1 and 2.]

From my own research, I can place these Campbells in Beverley Manor by 1738 – in that year Patrick Campbell acquired 1546 acres of land in the Manor. John Campbell (husband of Grace Hay) died in about 1741 as his estate was appraised/inventoried in that year. In summary, based on my own research among the records of Orange and Augusta Counties VA, Governor David Campbell’s story of the origins of his family in America appear to be entirely reasonable.


Date:01 January 1998

” …although a number of people have attempted research in Ireland absolutely no further information has appeared about the ancestry of Duncan Campbell who married Mary McCoy.

“Pilcher states quite clearly at one point in her book that her information on those earlier (likely fictitious generations going back to Inverary) were taken by her from an elderly relation who thought she remembered that information. Pilcher had not intended to publish her book and it might have been better had she not, since the misinformation has misled so many and God knows how many family histories have now been published giving her bogus material as their source. Her later material appears to be more sound, although since she often gives no sources or references (as to where material was found), it means that anyone of the descents of those whom she outlines has to re-do the research.

“I have also thought that there might be some connection between the Drumaboden and the 18th century Virginia Campbells. But none has as yet appeared. Two professional research efforts in Ireland have so far been conducted, one just completed and the other in the ’80s.These were conducted by getting a group of descendants to put up some funds each and were coordinated through the Genealogists of the Clan Campbell Society of the time. While both were helpful in clarifying where no information could be found (so making easier any future research efforts), neither produced any clarification on the ancestry of either family going back from Ireland to Scotland.

“If you want the results of the second research effort you could write to the Society Genealogist, Dr.Ruby G. Campbell PhD, 3310 Fairway Drive, Baton Rouge LA 70809 USA, and ask her to let you know what to send her for the photocopying and mailing costs. But the information is not, I seem to remember, directly concerned with Drumaboden. …

” … There are in fact three sets of Northern Irish Campbells who may or may not be connected: Drumaboden, Duncan and his cousin Dugald Campbell, and the 18th century Virginia Campbells descended from one John Campbell who came over to Pennsylvania at a fairly advanced age in the 1720s or 30s.”

What Does This Mean, Exactly?

You may be wondering right about now what all of this means, to me. You might be wondering why I just didn’t stop when I discovered that Gilbert’s son, Charles never left Rockbridge County.

Clearly, my Charles in Hawkins County can’t be Gilbert’s son – so why didn’t I just throw in the towel and call it a day?

Negative evidence isn’t all bad, even though it’s disappointing when we were hoping for something more.

Let me just say that I’m really grateful that I did the extra research NOW, not in Rockbridge County in 3 weeks, because that’s where I was headed.

To be quite clear, it’s still possible that my Campbell line descends from James, Gilbert’s probable brother or possibly Gilbert’s son, James – although that’s much less likely, given his age. I need to find deed records for the earlire James selling his land to determine what happened to him, and if he can potentially be the father of my Charles.

However, even if we don’t know the identity of Charles Campbell’s father, YET, we know one heck of a lot more now than we did before this exercise, such as:

1 – We know that we don’t match the North River Campbells, and I can disregard those lines.

2 – We know that we DO match the following South River line in some way:

  • Duncan Campbell and Mary Ramsey
  • John Campbell (the immigrant) and unknown wife
  • John Campbell (1645) and Mary McCoy
  • John Campbell (1674) and Grace/Grizel Hay, immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1726. They had 6 sons. John died in England and James in Ireland, leaving Robert and William who never married, along with Patrick and “White David.”

3 – We know that we match Gilbert’s Y DNA more closely than any other lineage,  represented by descendants of the South River group in Augusta County through John and Grace’s sons David and Patrick Campbell.

4 – We have discovered a unique Y DNA “signature” in our line that will assuredly help us unravel future matches – and may lead to another match that is even more revealing.

5 – We have identified a James Campbell to follow. Given the close geographic proximity of James to Gilbert, as well as the “rumor” of James in our line, in addition to the fact that George named a son James – the James who owned land adjacent to and near Gilbert may in fact still be a good candidate. In fact, right now, he’s our best candidate!

I’d love to discover more about that James Campbell and locate a Y DNA descendant to test.

Seeking James Campbell

Do you descend from a James Campbell found in Orange, Augusta or Rockbridge County, Virginia in the 1740s through 1770s? Did he own land on the James River sometimes after 1756 and before 1782?

We know by 1782 that James wasn’t living in Rockbridge County, because he’s absent from the tax lists.

Do you know the name of the wife of the James Campbell who was associated with Gilbert Campbell?

Do you descend from Gilbert Campbell and his wife, Prudence?

If you descend from the Augusta, Rockingham or Rockbridge County Campbells or from the Lancaster County, PA lineage, have you DNA tested?

I’d love to hear from you.



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Hot on the Trail of Elizabeth (c1720 – 1758/1782) Ulrich’s Parents, Thanks to Mitochondrial DNA – 52 Ancestors #255

I’m so close to discovering the identify of Elizabeth Ulrich’s family that I can taste it – but I’m not quite there. Maybe you’re the person who has the critical piece information that solves this puzzle.

I’m looking for several things – and any single one would help:

  • Information about the Heinrich Angle (Henry Angle or Engle) family of Pennsylvania and Maryland in the 1700s. There’s more information about this mystery man later in this article.
  • Information about Mary Elizabeth Angle born about 1740, the wife of Johann Jacob Brumbaugh who was reportedly the daughter of Henry Angle of Washington County, MD.
  • Any descendant of Hans and Christina Berchtol born in Krottelbach Germany and died in either Konken or Steinwenden. The descent needs to be through all females to the current generation which can be male. Their two daughters, other than Susanna Agnes Berchtol who married Johann Michael Mueller, were Ursula born about 1696 and Barbara (Barbel) born about 1693. It’s not known if these sisters survived and there is nothing to suggest they immigrated from Germany. I know this is a long shot, but it’s the best bet to obtain the mitochondrial DNA of Susanna Agnes Berchtol given that she has no proven daughters. I’ve always wondered if Elizabeth Ulrich was actually a Berchtol and the only way to prove or disprove this is through mitochondrial DNA.


  • There is a suggestion that Susanna Agnes Berchtol and Michael Miller had a daughter, Barbara Miller who married John Garber and died in Shenandoah County, Virginia about 1808. Autosomal DNA suggests this as well, but unfortunately these Brethren families are so heavily intermarried, with several missing wives, that concusions can’t be made based on autosomal matches, at least not yet. I would like to find anyone descended from Barbara through all females as well. If that person’s mitochondrial DNA matches that of Elizabeth Ulrich, that’s a huge piece of evidence. If this is you, please contact me – I have a DNA testing scholarship for you!
  • Direct matrilineal descendants of any of the families mentioned in the History of the Church of the Brethren in the Southern District Pennsylvania that would have founded the York County congregation about 1738 and before 1745 including “Leatherman, Martin, Ulrich (Stephen Sr.), Greib/Gripe/Cripe, Becker, Stutzman, Dierdorff and Bigler.” Two additional Mennonite families in that same vicinity who married into the Miller line were Berchto/Bechtol/Bechtel and Garver/Garber. Direct matrilineal descendants mean through all females to the current generation, which can be males.

We Have Elizabeth Ulrich’s Mitochondrial DNA (YAY!!!)

Recently, a cousin, Craig, found my original article about Elizabeth Ulrich, born about 1720, either in Pennsylvania or Germany. She died after 1758, possibly before 1766 but definately before 1782 when Stephen Ulrich remarried. It’s important to remember that these people didn’t speak English, so Elizabeth would have had to have spoken German to communicate with her husband.

The great news is that Craig is her direct matrilineal descendant through all females, meaning he carries her mitochondrial DNA which is haplogroup U2e1. That’s the key to finding her family!

Craig descends from Elizabeth’s daughter, Hannah Ulrich who married a Puterbaugh and I’m incredibly grateful that he contacted me!

Craig’s Matches

Elizabeth Ulrich’s DNA matches a person whose ancestor is Elizabeth Rench born in 1787, who married Abraham Deeter and died in 1858.

Elizabeth Ulrich mtDNA match.png

Elizabeth Rench was the daughter of Catherine Brumbaugh and Peter Rench born in 1762 in Hagerstown, MD and died in 1818 in Miami County, Ohio.

Johann Jacob Brumbaugh’s wife was reportedly Mary Elizabeth Angle, daughter of Henry Angle of Washington County, MD and who died in 1806 in Bedford County, PA.

Henry Angle’s wife is said to be possibly Elizabeth Diehl.

A second mitochondrial DNA match also descends through Elizabeth Rench although Catherine’s surname is shown in this tree, below, as Clary. This person’s earliest known ancestor is listed as Mary Elizabeth Angle though, so Clary appears to be in error – a phenomenon not uncommon in trees.

Elizabeth Ulrich mtDNA match tree

Click to enlarge

Note the line above Peter Rench – Susanna Ulrich, daughter of Daniel, son of Stephen Ulrich and Elizabeth. These Brethren families were definitely intermarried a couple of generations later.

If you’re thinking to yourself, these are Brethren names and the exact Brethren migration path, from Frederick County, Maryland, through Bedford County, PA and on to Miami County, Ohio – you’re exactly right.

And of course, Elizabeth Ulrich and her family were Brethren and followed that exact same path too.

Where is Elizabeth Ulrich?

Elizabeth married Stephen Ulrich (Jr.) in roughly 1742, the same year he bought land in York County, PA. Based on this marriage date, it stands to reason that Elizabeth’s parents also lived in York County, or nearby, at this time. They were almost assuredly either Brethren or Mennonite.

By 1751, Elizabeth and Stephen Ulrich had moved to Frederick Co., MD, along with a number of other Brethren families, including Michael Miller. Hagerstown, the same place that Catherine Brumbaugh and Peter Rench lived was located in Frederick County at that time.

Washington County, MD whose seat is Hagerstown was formed in 1776 from Frederick County.

Now, we have the same group of Brethren families in the same county in Maryland at the same time.

Mary Elizabeth Angle

FindAGrave shows the following information for Mary Elizabeth Angle Brumbaugh.

Mary Elizabeth Angle Brumbaugh FindAGrave.png

Of course, we all know to interpret sites like FindAGrave as hints and not confirmation of anything without additional sources. It’s a great hint though!

Brumbaugh History

We find the following informatoin in the North American Family Histories.

Brumbaugh history.png

Brumbaugh history 2.png

I would love to see the 1780 deed mentioned above. It’s not available in the deed books for Frederick County on Family Search unless you’re in a Family History Center.

Getting out my Brethren Encyclopedia, on page 219, we find:

Brumbach Family (Brumbaugh)

Most Brethren members of the family descend from these immigrants. Johann Jacob Brumbach, (arrived Philadelphia, Aug 31, 1750 on the ship Nancy) : Johannes Henrich Brumbach (Philadelphia Sept 30 1754 on the Neptune or the later’s two recorded immigrant sons, Conrad and Johannes (Philadelphia, October 7 1765 on the ship Countess of Sussex). Jacob Brumbach settled in Frederick Co., MD, married Mary Elizbeth Angle, daughter of immigrant Henry Angle, and joined the Brethren. Other principle settlements were in Washington Co., MA, Franklin, Bedford and Huntington Co PA. From these points the family spread westward into Ohio and were among the first settlers in Elkhart and Kosciusko Co, Indiana.

There is a Georg Engel who arrives in Philadelphia in 1737, but of course without significant additional information, there is no way of knowing if he is connected.

Is This a Red Herring?

There is no way of knowing without more information if this is “something” or a red herring. The geography and Brethren connection make me suspect it’s “something,” but we need a lot more than my suspicions combined with circumstantial evidence, no matter how strong. Even with mitochondrial DNA evidence.

We do know that Elizabeth Ulrich, wife of Stephen, was born about 1720, but we don’t know if that occurred in the US or abroad. We know that she was probably married to Stephen in York County, PA about 1742 or so because that’s where her husband’s father, also Stephen Ulrich (Sr.), had purchased land.

Without looking for an Engle, Angle or Diehl, we can’t connect the dots in that region. In the book, History of the Church of the Brethren of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, on page 382, we see that there are two Engle men in that area in 1800, so they may have been there earlier too, although the earliest records are incomplete. There is no Diehl mentioned that early, but Mennonite families are not recorded in this book and they did live nearby the Brethren – and intermarried.

It’s also worth noting that present day York County, across the river from Lancaster County, PA is only about 100 miles from Philadelphia, a primary port for immigrant arrivals, along with Baltimore, about 50 miles distant.

Additional Sources

Apparently in the Palmer Papers, Heinerich Engel’s wife was reported as a Diehl.

Heinrich Angle wife.png

Also, in the Brethren Digest V9 Issue 63 where Mary Elizabeth Angle was discussed, according to the note about the wife of Henry Angle. I have sent the person who posted the note a message.

I e-mailed the Fendrick Library who holds the Palmer papers and they have kindly offered to copy the relevant page for me.

I contacted the Brethren Heritage Center where a volunteer asked who published the Brethren Digest. Good question. I’ve been unable to determine the answer, so the name of the publication may possibly be misquoted. If anyone recognizes this or has more information, including the article itself, please contact me.

Henry Angle’s Will

In this document, which is a poor copy I found posted on Ancestry, Heinerich Angle’s 1810 will confirms that he was Brethren, but his daughter appears to be “Mary Brewer,” not Mary Brumbaugh, although this is clearly a transcription of the original. This does call Mary’s identity into question along with Henry as the father of Mary Elizabeth Brumbaugh.

Heinrich Angle 1810 will.png

Furthermore, if Mary was born in 1740, her father would have been born between before 1720, so a will dated in 1810 means that Henry would have been very old – in his 90s. Not impossible, but unlikely. Is this perhaps the wrong Henry Angle?

I tend to think so, because if Mary Elizabeth Angle Brumbaugh died in 1806, as shown on her tombstone, then her father would not have mentioned her in a will written in 1810, not to mention by the name Mary Brewer.

The 1790 census isn’t much help, as it shows Henry Angle of Washington County, MD with 3 males over 16, 2 males under 16 and 5 females. This suggests that he’s not an elderly man, but it’s not conclusive. One of the other males over 16 could be an adult son and one of the women could be the son’s wife, so we can’t really get an idea of Henry Angle’s age.

If Mary Elizabeth Angle born 1740 who married Johann Jacob Brumbaugh is the daughter of Henry Angle who died after 1810, then Elizabeth born circa 1725 who married Stephen Ulrich couldn’t have been Mary Elizabeth Angle’s sister. For that to happen, Henry and his wife would have been born in 1700 or before in order to have a daughter born circa 1720/1725 which puts him at 110 years old in 1810. While I’m open to a man dying in his 90s, I’m not buying that he lived to 110.

Therefore, Elizabeth could have been this Henry Angle’s wife’s sister or aunt, but not his daughter – IF Mary Elizabeth Angle Brumbaugh’s father is the same Henry Angle that died in 1810. I don’t think that he is, given that he called his daughter Mary Brewer and Mary Elizabeth Angle Brumbaugh died in 1806. I suspect this Henry Angle may be the son of the earlier Henry Angle, and therefore the brother of Mary Elizabeth Angle who married Jacob Brumbaugh.

Until proven otherwise, I’ll assume the 1810 will is NOT for the man whose daughter is Mary Elizabeth Angle that married Johann Jacob Brumbaugh. Dang all these “same names” anyway!

Therefore, Elizabeth Ulrich could potentially be the daughter of Henry (Heinrich) Angle and his wife, just not the one who died in or after 1810.

If Mary Elizabeth Angle was Heinrich Angle’s daughter, it’s also unlikely that he had a second daughter named Elizabeth, but without primary documentation of some sort, there’s no way to know Elizabeth’s complete name, or if Mary Elizabeth’s is actually accurate.

Some of my DNA matches on Ancestry show Henry (Heinrich) Angle in their trees, but show a death of March 14, 1780 – however, all without documentation. is wife, Elizabeth Diehl is shown born in 1714 and dying in 1767, also without documentatoin or sources. If this information is accurate, clearly Elizabeth Diehl cannot be the mother of Elizabeth Ulrich who was born in the 1720s and married Stephen Ulrich in about 1742.

Therefore, if Elizabeth Ulrich is related to Elizabeth Diehl, and those dates are remotely accurate, she would have to be her sister, not her daughter. Of course, the dates may not be accurate.

Mary Elizabeth Angle Who Married Johann Jacob Brumbaugh

The Palmer Papers reportedly state that Heinerich Angle’s (also spelled Engle) wife was a Diehl.

If she was a Diehl, and if her sister or daughter was Elizabeth who was to married Stephen Ulrich (Ullery) in about 1742 in York County, PA, then Elizabeth’s Diehl father would have had to have been in that area too. Lots of “ifs.”

Henry Angle pedigree.png

Could this work? Yes.

Does it work? I don’t know.

We need more information.

At the suggestion of a Diehl researcher, I checked the book, “Diehl Families of America,” by E.H. Diehl printed in 1915, with no luck.


What are the possibilities?

  • This is a red herring and the exact full sequence DNA match to another Brethren family in the same time and place is happenstance. I know that’s unlikely, but it’s certainly possible, as much as I’d like to believe that it’s not.
  • Elizabeth, Stephen Ulrich’s wife and Henry Angle’s wife are related, but back in Germany.
  • Heinrich Angle’s wife was a Diehl and finding her parents and family will provide us with the information we need to connect the dots to Elizabeth who married Stephen Ulrich. Wouldn’t that be a dream come true!
  • Heinrich Angle’s wife was not a Diehl after all.
  • Obtaining the mitochondrial DNA of the other Brethren and Mennonite families mentioned at the beginning of this article will rule them in or out. Tests might provide a mitochondrial DNA match with families known to be in the same church, and pietist German immigrant group in York County. Or, conversely, a non-match would rule out those same families. Sometimes negative evidence is quite valuable to rule out possibilities.


  • Perhaps Craig, the mitochondrial descendant of Elizabeth Ulrich has another mitochondrial DNA match that leads someplace – anyplace. I’ve checked the full sequence and lower level matches and no other match leads anyplace useful. They are reflective of German heritage in general but all encounter brick walls in other locations. Rats!
  • Autosomal DNA links to a Diehl family. This is certainly a possibility. Craig has not taken the Family Finder test, but I and many others have. Everyone descended from Elizabeth married to Stephen Ulrich can check their results for any Diehl descendants – especially from Heinrich (Henry) Diehl from Maryland. However, given the level of Brethren intermarriage, finding a Diehl may result from later intermarriage. I have about 75 Diehl matches between Family Tree DNA, MyHeritage and Ancestry, and they are mostly interrelated in my Brethren line in some fashion, many in multiple ways.
  • Wait for more mitochondrial matches. Waiting is not my strong suit, but sometimes we don’t have a choice and one never knows what each new day will bring. After all, it brought Craig!
  • Dig through the relevant records in Frederick and Washington County, Maryland along with York County, PA.
  • Locate the missing records mentioned earlier in this article.
  • Find someone who has actually researched this specific Angle/Diehl family. Is this person you?

Do you have any information on a Diehl line in the Brethren/Mennonite part of Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia, from the early mid-1700s? How about from Baltimore or Frederick or Washington County, Maryland, the area associated with Heinrich Angle?

Please let me know if you do.

Eventually, we will solve this puzzle! We’re adding evidence piece by piece. I so wish Elizabeth could just tell us the answer.



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Dean Long: Wishing You a Good…Death – 51 Ancestors #254

Dean Long 1970s.jpg

I’ve been trying to figure out how to say this for some time now, so I’m just going to come right out and say it.

I certainly wish you a good life, but I also wish you a good death.

Let me explain.

A quarter century ago today, on Sunday of Labor Day weekend, my much-beloved step-father, Dean Long whom I called Dad, slipped away from us – after removing his own tracheostomy tube.

He took that drastic action because his life, and his slow, tortuous death had become untenable. He was ready to end his own suffering and check out.

Dean Long obituary extract.png

Of course, obituaries never tell us about actions like that. They focus on the positive and the family members – generally saying nothing at all about the final chapters of the person’s life.

Especially if it was less than wonderful.

Dean Long death certificate.png

I assure you, death from “end stage COPD” or slow oxygen starvation is less than wonderful.

Punctuation Marks

Our lives are punctuated by major events – the first of which, of course, is our birth. We have absolutely no control or input over that event.

Throughout our lives, other milestones occur – loves, marriages perhaps, births of family members, deaths of loved ones and eventually, our own passing over as our light winks out.

We do control the intervening events, at least to some extent, by our own choices.

But then, there’s death. We may or may not influence our own death, the cause and or the timing. Death may be sudden and swift, an accident perhaps, or long and lingering. It may be as a direct result of our choices, or not.


Each relationship has its own landmark events. My relationship with Dad was divided into three sections, the first being before he came into my life.

I didn’t know him until I was a tween, and he didn’t start dating Mom until I was a teen.

The transition into part 2 occurred in 1972 when he became my stepfather.

Mom Dean wedding

He had lost his own daughter as an infant who would have been about my age, before his wife’s death, so our unification as a family was a blessing for both of us.

For the next 22 years, our relationship was marked by seasons on the farm and normal family events. I gave him 2 grandchildren, he “gave me away” at my wedding.

Wedding me with Dad

He had faith and confidence in me when no one else did. He told me I could do anything I set my mind to, and I believed him.

The third stage has been since his passing, life without him.

A Personal Demon

Dad lived through hell with the slow, inevitable deaths of his daughter and wife. His only remaining child, a son, had issues that eventually would claim him too.

Dad had chronic health challenges himself, bleeding ulcers, then believed to have been brought on by stress. No one ever doubted that, given what he was living through on a daily basis at the time the ulcers developed.

Dad’s first wife and family were called into a hospital room more than once to be informed of the grim news that he wasn’t going to make it.

Like a cat with 9 lives, miraculously, somehow, he did. But Dad wasn’t immortal, and eventually became his own worst enemy. He ran out of lives and miracles.

Dean smoking.jpg

Dad smoked.

Dean Long smoking ad.jpg

When he was young, smoking was popular and fashionable. We can thank the tobacco industry for that. He was hooked.

Dean Long smoking ad glamorous.jpg

After they were married, Mom quit smoking, but Dad never did. Nicotine is incredibly addictive – the fourth most addictive substance in the world according to American Addiction Centers. Knowing people who have and haven’t kicked the habit, I can vouch for that statement. Even 30 years later Mom said she WANTED to smoke. She just didn’t.

Problems Begin

In the 1980s, Dad began to develop breathing problems. At first, he chalked it up to age and his other pre-existing health issues. By then he was, after all, 60.

He ignored it as long as possible as the symptoms gradually worsened, until ignoring them wasn’t possible anymore. One day in the early 1990s he had an “incident” at home. How my mother who was only a slip of a woman managed to drag him out of the house, shove his limp body into the car and drive the 25 miles or so to the nearest hospital emergency room is beyond me, but she did.

There was little hope. Mom thought sure he was dead and alternated between yelling at him not to give up and praying as she drove like a bat out of hell.

In spite of his condition, the ER staff revived him – barely. He remained hospitalized for weeks, and when finally released, he hadn’t had a cigarette since that fateful day.

He was told that if he stopped smoking permanently, as in didn’t start again, he would probably have several good years left, but if he did not, he would die of COPD, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder, then known as Emphysema. I’ll spare you the photo, but if you’d like to see what lung tissue of a smoker with COPD looks like, click here.

It’s no wonder he couldn’t breathe.

Back to the Barn

Dad was a life-long farmer, and even though he had officially been “retired” for years, unless the farmer moves away from the farm itself, they never really retire.

Dad leased the land to his nephew, but he still kept his workshop at the barn which was his regular respite from all things worldly.

It was also a place where Dad could smoke without anyone knowing. Except of course, we did know. The smell gave him away.

He wound up in and out of the hospital for the next year or two, always swearing he wouldn’t smoke again, and always doing it anyway.

Labor Day, 1994

My life was a mess in 1994, from one end to the other. Every way imaginable – in addition to Dad’s illness.

My (now former) husband suffered a massive stroke in June of 1993, but hadn’t died. I was supporting the family and trying to earn enough to pay his gargantuan bills, PLUS being the caregiver for a severely disabled husband who could never be left alone, not even for a minute.

In early summer, not long after Father’s Day, Dad became ill again. The routine was disturbingly familiar – the hospital, intensive care, tubes, machines endlessly beeping and sleep-deprived prayers.

A few weeks later, Dad was sent to a “rehab hospital” where it was hoped he would recover enough to go home, or at least to a nursing home.

Dad wasn’t improving this time. Mom said he was getting worse and it didn’t look good. She was a wreck. Mom and Dad both needed me.

My friend who was a nurse came to stay with my husband so my daughter and I could go and visit Dad one last time. My son was at college and headed for the hospital directly from there.

Dad had been on a ventilator to assist his breathing, but a permanent tracheostomy was installed during his hospital stay, causing him not to be able to talk.

Dad, quite irritated with the trach, and that he was still alive and miserable, was done with both – and removed his own trach tube.

How he managed to find enough strength to do that is also beyond me – but he was one determined man, and he did.

That event in the rehab hospital caused him to be sent back to the regular hospital where he refused all treatment except for comfort care.

At least now he could talk to people.

The family had gathered and we were sleeping in shifts on the floor in the family lounge, taking turns sitting by his side. As the sun rose on Sunday morning of Labor Day weekend, Dad drifted in and out of fitful sleep. My daughter and I had not left the hospital in 2 days and we needed to go to the farm to take a shower.

Dad hadn’t yet passed away – in spite of removing his trach. Maybe there really was at least a glimmer of hope.

We told Dad we’d be back in an hour. He tried to make a joke about how difficult it was to die and how he wasn’t doing a very good job. My eyes filled with tears to see him that way, so small and weak and vulnerable, yet still trying to be jovial to make us laugh.

A man of very few words who rarely expressed emotion, he told us he loved us. That should have clued me.

As I walked into the farmhouse 20 minutes later, the phone was ringing. There was no need to go back to the hospital. Dad was gone. He had chosen his time and departed.

We turned around and went back anyway, for Mom.

Apparently, Dad was waiting for us to leave because he knew how upsetting it would be for my daughter and me to see him pass. He told Mom as much. Then he shut his eyes.

His last act on this earth was one of generosity – even in his death.

That was the story of those 22 years I spent as his daughter – he was always thinking about Mom and me.

Thankfully, Mom was sitting beside him, holding his hand, telling him to “go on.”

Somehow, I think he was waiting for me at the farm that day, by the time I arrived. I knew he was with me. I was not alone.

His Own Terms

In one way, Dad died on his own terms. He removed the trach and decided enough was enough.

But in another very crucial way, he did not. No one would ever choose to slowly suffocate.

Yes, you could say that he asked for it by continuing to smoke – and indeed he did.

Addictions are like that – you don’t think about the long-term consequences because you’re only going to do it “just this once” to quiet the cravings. Of course, there is always another “just this once.”

But by the time we had arrived at Labor Day weekend in 1994, the only thing Dad had control over was removing that trach tube. There was no turning back time.

Anger, Sadness, Grief

I loved and still do love Dad incredibly, but I was angry with him too. It seemed like his death was so senseless and futile.

He could have lived longer had he only been able to walk away from those evil cigarettes, if not in the early 1970s when Mom quit, then at least later.

But he was unable to do that.

He suffered terribly, and so did we.

I know one thing – if there was anything that could have motivated Dad enough to stop smoking, it would have been me, Mom and my kids. He told me that he felt he had failed us – although we reassured him that he had not and we loved him regardless.

I didn’t, but I wanted to say that he had only failed himself. I didn’t have to. He knew that. I didn’t want him to think I was disappointed in him.

It wasn’t his own death that concerned him, but what would happen to Mom.

Everyone suffered during Dad’s prolonged illness, his actual death, and the ramifications to the family afterwards. Those lasted more than another twenty years – beyond Mom’s death – and his death colored the quality of the rest of her life.

Thank goodness we had those 22 years, less 18 days, together as a family.

A Quarter Century

It’s been a quarter century ago this morning that he left us.

As I ponder this past 25 years, of course I grieve his actual passing and life without him. He was a Godsend to my family. A quiet, inspirational giant of humanity among men.

However, I’m also struck with the sadness and horrific slowness of his death.

In 1990 when my sister died, it wasn’t slow, but quick and sudden. We were shocked and no one except her husband got to say goodbye. In fact, I’m not positive that he did.

I used to think I didn’t know which was worse, sudden departure with no goodbyes or a more protracted exit, allowing goodbyes.

Clearly, there’s a range for everything. No one, but no one wants a prolonged suffering tortuous death. Just as clearly, very few would opt for an impaired life with little quality or becoming a burden on the family.

Some people might prefer a happy medium, with a little “notice” in order to get their affairs in order and say a proper goodbye, whatever that is for them.

We may or may not have influence or control over the circumstances of our death.

Our “affairs” should always be in order.

Wishing You a Good Death

Perhaps the nicest thing I can do for you is to wish you a “good death” when you’re the most vulnerable and no longer in control of your life. Whatever it is that “good death” means to you.

I know what it means for me.

I’ve prepared, well, except for my genealogy which is probably never going to be “done.” I have a lot more research to do, so I hope I’m graced with a lot more time to finish😊

Wills and other documents have been put in place because eventually, we all need them.

I know that the last time I see people may actually “be” the last time I see them – due to either their demise or mine.

Every time we get in the car to run an errand, we risk our lives at some level. I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to stay home. I accept whatever level of risk is inherent with full comprehension that one day, somehow, someplace, my 9 lives will expire too.

I try to live my life with the understanding that if I get my way, my “good death” will be quick and sudden. Preferably sleeping with a cat or two laying on me, with no one bothered with hospitals and such. That means that one fateful day, an otherwise routine interaction with my family will in fact be their final memory of me. That’s how I’ll be remembered. I always try to keep that in mind and choose my words so that neither I nor they will have regrets.

May you experience a wonderful life, living every day and each experience to its fullest potential. Reaping every opportunity that life has to offer.

And when the time comes, may you also be blessed with a “good death.”

heart swirl



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A Visit to the Ancestral Kirsch and Koehler Homes in Fussgoenheim, Germany – 52 Ancestors #253

My Kirsch ancestors were born and lived in Fussgoenheim, Germany, along with Koehler family members. Recently, a friend, Noél who lives in the US but was traveling to Germany made me a fantastic offer – one I couldn’t believe – or turn down.

Noél offered to drive to Fussgoenheim during a trip to Germany and see if she could find the Kirsch/Koehler houses based on the photos in my blog articles.

Can you believe that? Well, neither could I, especially after discovering that the small local museum was entirely unresponsive and uncooperative. I had heard, for years, that the little museum housed genealogies and photos of the oldest local families as well as the oldest homes. Nope, they said, they know nothing – and then when I tried to make arrangements to visit, crickets.

A year earlier, when another cousin attempted to visit, they also found the door locked and the secrets firmly held. How sad.

I told Noél that I really could not impose on her vacation in that way.

Noél, an avid genealogist, however, was not to be deterred!

“Yes, the minutes are precious, but I can always make time for a fellow genealogist…plus you did help me…”

I can’t even begin to express my gratitude to Noél and her husband.

Historic Fussgoenheim

The article where I published the Kirsch/Koehler photos, taken by a cousin, Marliese, who was raised in Fussgoenheim and sent the photos in letters to a US cousin is titled Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler (1772-1823), Weak Child, Baptized in a Hurry – 52 Ancestors #228.

In early 1948, Marliese, then a teenager, wrote a letter addressed to “Koehler Family of Aurora, Indiana from Marliese in Fussgoenheim,” hoping that it would make it’s way to someone. It did.

In the letter she said:

Hunting through things, I discovered your address and pictures which my grandmother said were her American cousins, her only relatives.

More than a year ago, I decided to write but the thought that my letter might be regarded by you as a begger letter detained me from writing.

After providing additional family information, she closed:

We would be very happy to hear from you, the only relatives on my grandmother’s side.

She signed the letter, “Marliese, granddaughter, niece of Marie Kirsch.”

Hazel Koehler’s father, Henry, then age 79 answered Marliese on August 27th.

Marliese and Hazel wrote back and forth for more than 25 years, with Hazel saving everything, which eventually allowed me to corresponded with Marliese’s daughter briefly a few years ago.

I have never been so grateful for old correspondence. Their letters were immensely helpful, not only with genealogy but to gain historical perspective of both World War II and life in Fussgoenheim during earlier generations.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch home

Please note that in the original article I was uncertain about whether the house pictured above is the Kirsch or Koehler home, but rereading Marliese’s letters, including her address, combined with the address Noél found proves unquestionably that this home is the Kirsch home, not the Koehler home. I’m simply overjoyed, because this home still exists today AND I have photos.

Marliese tells Hazel:

We live in the old homestead of your ancestors, and in Germany the people that live on the farms need not suffer hunger.

Marliese’s letters portray a grim story of the war and the aftermath. I will include snippets throughout this “visit” to put the images in perspective and provide a bit of history about the family that lived in this home during that time.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch Koehler homes 2

In her November 1948 letter, Marliese says:

We still live in the old parental home and birthplace of your father and grandmother, because their house and acres were taken over by my great-grandfather, Jacob Kirsch. Even today some of the older people in the village call him Koehler Kirsch.

Marliese enclosed this identification document that included Jacob’s photo.

Jacob Kirsch b 1842 Fussgoenheim.jpg

Marliese continues:

I am 17 on Christmas Day. My father, Otto, 47, is the son of Marie Kirsch born in 1871, daughter of Jacob Kirsch whose sister Elizabeth married Philip Koehler with whom she immigrated to America. With them was also a brother John Kirsch.

Since my grandmother had no siblings and her father’s brothers and sisters went to America, they were her only relatives. I never knew my grandmother since she died 2 years before I was born.

Jacob, pictured above, is the great-grandson of  my ancestors, Johann Peter Koehler and Anna Elisabeth Scherer. He also descends from my Kirsch line in Fussgoenheim, but I’ve yet to figure out exactly how. Fussgoenheim has experienced record loss, but the Kirsch, Koehler and Koob families are very intertwined and it’s likely that Jakob descends from multiple ancestors in all 3 families, as do I.

Marliese goes on to say that:

The Kirsch family lived ever since 1626 in Fussgoenheim. Statistics which I have obtained which is one of the oldest families and John Kirsch 4th was one of the richest farmers in the area.

Fussgoenheim is about 70 km from France. I went to college where I studied both English and French.

While goods, according to Hazel, were no longer rationed in the US, they were in Germany according to Marliese, and would be for a long time to come.

Fussgoenheim street

In my articles, I always try to give directions so that any future genealogist could follow my path and find what I found. In this case, finding what I thought was the Kirsch home and publishing the location, I did myself a huge, and I mean huge, favor. I just didn’t realize it at the time.

The Genealogy

I pieced together the genealogy of the both Marliese and Hazel from their correspondence and subsequent documents. When Marliese first began writing, she had to depend on the memory of her parents, and needless to say, memories had faded with time. Eventually, she did obtain some documents from the town hall as well as a Koob descendant whom she describes as an old neighbor boy Walter Schnebel, and unraveled a bit more. Walter is reportedly writing a book.

Sometimes Marliese referred to people by thier nicknames which really threw me for a loop, necessitating piecing several clues together. Not to mention that names were recycled generation after generation, of course.

I won’t be including a lot of genealogy, but for reference and documentation purposes, I’m providing their trees.

Marliese's grandmother Kirsch's line

Marliese’s grandmother’s Kirsch/Koehler line. Marie was born in the Kirsch house in Fussgoenheim. Click to enlarge.

Hazel's Koehler Kirsch line

Click to enlarge. Johann Peter Koehler was Hazel’s grandfather, born in Fussgoenheim.

Roberta Kirsch Koehler tree

Roberta’s Kirsch/Koehler line. Click to enlarge. Philip Jacob Kirsch was born in Fussgoenheim.

Noél’s Trip

I tried to schedule an appointment at the museum in Fussgoenheim, with no luck. The people I was referred to never replied, and then neither did the original contacts. Very frustrating and not very welcoming.

Noél’s trip was imminent, so I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best, meaning that she could find something, even without local assistance. Frankly, I wouldn’t have blamed her one bit had she thrown in the towel at that point.

I waited to hear. I tried not to worry.

A month later, late one night, an email arrived from Noél, where she says:

Let’s start with the “not good” news.

My heart sank.

The museum in Mutterstadt is only open by scheduling an appointment in advance which we found out today at the Rathaus. So that was a bust. 😠 We tried to visit the library in Fussgöenheim in the hope of finding more information on the two families. Only open on Tuesday from 3-6 and Thursday 4-7  😔

By the way, the Rathaus is the city hall – the same place I had called and written trying to schedule someone at the museum. They aren’t open without an appointment, then refuse to schedule one. Yes, I’m still salty about that.

Now on to the good news.

Holding my breath now…

Your Google Earth research was positively spot on. And we have a huge number of pictures for you. However, they are locked in my camera until we can download them so I took a number on my cell phone to hold you over until we return.

Jumping for joy!!!!

Noél is apparently aware of my (ahem) ancestor-rock-addiction.

There were no rocks for me to grab at the Kirsch home but there were a number of rock-shaped pieces of stucco (that had fallen off the house) so I grabbed one for you.

Fussgoenheim stucco.jpg

This piece is large marble size – about three quarters of an inch.

You will be happy to know that I was able to walk beside the Kirsch home to take photos. Look at what is on the second floor in that picture…wonder if it came with the house???

Enjoy the pictures and I’ll send a ton more when we return. Let me know if you have any questions. FYI the house number for the Kirsch house is #9.

Then…drum roll…the photos!

The Teaser Pictures


I am literally feasting my eyes.


Click to enlarge

If you compare the original Marliese photo, you can see the “door in the door” above that was standing open in the photo from the 1930s or 1940s.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch wall.jpg

It looks like the house that Marliese marked secondly as the Koehler home is gone today and is where there is a gate in the wall between the two homes. I wonder when that happened.

Noél tried to find someone at home, but no one answered.


However, look at this beautiful garden area at the Kirsch home today.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch antiques.jpg

And this! THIS! Be still my heart. Were these items from the original house? Did my ancestors own these? What is that area beneath the roof and above the wall? Was it originally the barn and held these items? Marliese did send a grainy photo with her father driving a tractor, so it would have been housed someplace.


Looking at the Kirsch home from down the street. I still can’t believe I actually found it on Google maps, and Noél found it too.


The neighbors, further down the street. I can’t help but wonder if more relatives lived here. Of course they did! We just don’t know who they were.

I was ecstatic to receive these teaser photos, but there was much more on the way a few weeks later!

More Pictures

One rainy day when I desperately needed something uplifting, Noél’s envelope arrived, plopped down on the doorstep in the rain by the mail carrier. Thankfully, Noél had packaged things carefully.

I found these things inside:

  • A thumb drive with pictures
  • A small box with my stucco piece that had fallen from the Kirsch house
  • A guided tour with the photos printed in order that they had been taken

She went to a lot of effort on my behalf. Shall we accompany Noél?

Welcome to Fussgoenheim

I can’t tell you how excited I am!

Fussgoenheim has existed since at least 893 when a list of goods is found in the records of the Prum Abbey. Jerg Kirsch, born about 1630, is reportedly already in Fussgoenheim in the first records and noted as “mitpichter des Sankt Jopten Altargutes,” which I’m told translates to someking akin to “land church tenant.” Another researcher indicated that he was co-tenant of the Josten estate.”

Marliese, who had access to far more records than I do, indicated that the Kirsch family was in Fussgoenheim in 1626.

There may well have been another 800 years of ancestors living right here before Jerg. The first population details were recorded in 1560 when 150-200 people were living in Fussgoenheim. Today, there are about 2,500.


Looking at this sign, I surely wonder if any of my ancestors were here in 893. The town is reportedly in the process of publishing a book by Walter Schnebel, but I’m not holding my breath.

Fussgoenheim Ruchheimer and Hauptstrasse.jpg

Noél found the Rathaus at the intersection of Ruchheimer Strasse and Hauptstrasse.


Around the corner, the library, also closed.

Fussgoenheim library.jpg

Not to be deterred, Noél and her husband went on to find the Kirsch and Koehler properties.

Fussgoenheim intersection Ruchheimer Hauptstrasse.jpg

Again, the intersection. To find the Kirsch home, Noél would turn to the right.

Fussgoenheim corner.jpg

They found the street.


The older homes have the large doors which function as car doors, driveways and gardens today. Historically, the houses in the village were all joined for protection and defense – so these doors opened into work areas for the homeowners who were farmers and craftsmen. The fields were located behind the homes in very long narrow plots.

Fussgoenheim aerial fields.png

Here’s an aerial view with the top red arrow pointing to the intersection and the lower red arrow pointing to the Kirsch home. Note the fields to the rear of all of the properties.

Marliese’s mother wrote to Hazel in 1949:

You asked why our houses are so close together. Our ground is so rich that a farmer with 32-40 acres is considered a rancher of high standing. In normal times, a farmer with 8 to 12 acres can live solely off the crops which he can raise. The fields of various sizes are situated about the village and all is bottom land (not hilly.)

Then she adds:

When the war broke out, we could not buy enough to eat. We raise mainly vegetables and cannot raise livestock so must buy our draft animals.

My father’s sister’s only son just returned from Egypt where he was an English prisoner all this time. Now he’s 28.

Fussgoenheim Hauptstrasse 2.jpg

Many of the large doors open into a courtyard today. Most seem to be a car door with a person door included.

Fussgoenheim Hauptstrasse distance.jpg

Look! Look! I can see it, on the left just beyond the pink buildings in the distance!!!

Fussgoenheim Kirsch on Hauptstrasse.jpg

Here it is!


Just look at that! The large door is almost as large as the house and is as large or larger than the portion of the building to the right of the door. I surely wonder what is inside today. The window in the right part is entirely shuttered and the ones on the second floor of the part on the left too.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch garden designer.jpg

Garten Testaltung translates into garden design. A gardener – how fun.

Fussgoenheim Koehler wall 2.jpg

To the right of the house is the garden wall where the old Koehler house used to stand. The extremely frugal Germans hardly ever tear anything down, so I wonder what happened to that building. Other buildings of the same age are being lived in and are well-maintained.


You can see that the house in front is gone, but several buildings to the rear remain.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch Koehler

It’s obvious in an aerial photograph too.


Driving on down the street and looking back. I wonder what the difference was between the houses with the roofs with and without that little triangle shaped divit in the front. Maybe built at different times, or socio-economic class perhaps. The tallest buildings had more windows in total and 3 rounded ones.

Fussgoenheim architecture.jpg

Why are the upper windows small and rounded on top?

These are the kinds of questions the museum or local historian might have been able to answer.


The sign on this house translates into “installer and heating builder master plant.” Another house with a large door that connects two buildings on the same plot of land.

Fussgoenheim door.jpg

I love those old wood doors. I wonder how old that wood is.


The Kirsch house has only one small rounded window, while some of the larger homes have 3 and an extra story.

I’ve also wondered when people who lived here obtained amenities like sewers and electricity. In one of Marliese’s letters, she said that they had electricity since 1910 in Fussgoenheim.

Interestingly, she also mentioned in that same letter that the family all has dark hair. So did our Kirsch line.

As Marliese chattered about the family, more than once she mentioned that people often didn’t talk about family members who “died young.”

Anna Maria Kirsch had a daughter, Maria Katherine (1825-1862) who was married to Carl Ritthaler who later moved to Maudach after his wife died. They had a son, Peter, born in 1860 and his name was Peter Ritthaler and now I hear that my uncle’s son-in-law came from Maudach. He said yes, his relatives came from Fussgoenheim and that his father who died 3 years ago was Peter. He said his grandmother was Koehler but she died young. He said he had a godfather in America but he doesn’t know much about it because his father talked little about it.

Taking a Walk

Noél was able to walk along the left side of the house.


Note the corner where the stucco has been repaired. That’s your anchor point for the next few photos.


The wall of the Kirsch house. In the photos from the 1930s or 1940s, another house stood up against the Kirsch home on this side.

Even after the war ended officially, times were very difficult for German citizens. It was to this home that Hazel sent gifts to Marliese and her family who were terribly embarrased about their economic situation resulting from the war.

In a letter in 1948 titled, “To Our American Family from Your German Family,” Marliese’s mother writes to Hazel:

Thanks for that rich package to our Marliese which you have sent her. Marliese has never had these things because she was only 7 when the war broke out. We know them only by name.

However words fail me to say the things I should and feel because the knowledge of knowing we are not in a position to repay you.  No words can express the happiness which you have bestowed upon our child and none of us could keep back our tears of happiness to see her as happy as she was.

It is hard to select which item has brought her most happiness. Take for instance the nylon hose which is only a dream for younger girls over here. And solemnly she tells everyone that this treasure, her nylon hose, she will only wear on very rare and special occasions.

And then the chocolates and sweets; this also is treasured very highly. To prove it, Marliese and her father are fighting a civil war, because every time she checks upon the contents, somehow it has diminished. Questioning her father, he had to admit getting into it. He too is very fond of sweets. His excuse is that he has more of a right to take a piece now and then; so he says that his relationship is much closer than hers. This brought laughter and all was forgiven.

It is true that all the food things which you have sent have made us very happy but you ought not spend money on us. We do not go hungry. Of course it is impossible for us to obtain the things that you have sent. In years past we have learned to restrict ourselves of luxuries and delicacies.

You can imagine how happy it made us to receive your first package on Christmas Day, which is as you know Marliese’s birthday. She was ready to go to church Christmas morning as the mailman came. He said “Santa Clause from America is here.”

It fills my heart with joy and from the bottom of my heart I wish to thank you for all the happiness you have bestowed upon our Marliese. Actually you don’t even know her. I want to take the opportunity to introduce you.

Marliese as a child has filled our hearts with happiness. She was and is a good girl as well as brave. In school she was a top scholar. Her vocabulary is wide, therefore we sent her to college. There again she was one of the best scholars. The sad thing, however, is that we had to curtail her studying.

Financially we became embarrassed but most of all we needed her help at home.  Physically, I am not too well. It was a hard blow to her as well as the professors, but it could not be helped and now she is a very able hand in the house as well as in the field. Her heart however, is still on studying to further broaden her. Any problem that occurs here in document or writing or just plain figuring, it is Marliese who does it. Therefore it is more helpful and interesting to her when you write to us which is a change when she can answer your letters.

The prisoners of war who returned compared American and German farming.  Everything in America is mechanized but over here we must farm day in and day out. Between March and November we spend all our time in the fields and housework is much neglected. Only on Sundays we were allowed to catchup a bit. It is definitely not a nice life to live. It is very trying and tiresome. Farming is since June 1948 due to the stabilizing of the dollar(?), one of the most essentials. We have two hired hands, plus 4 by day in the summer. This last year we have had to do with one hand only and do the rest of the work ourselves.

Perhaps some of the space in the second building, to the rear and in the lofts was for the hired hands.


The windows would have been added since that time, perhaps when the neighbor structure was removed. This tells us that these buildings or additions to the Kirsch home were originally built before the neighbor house was demolished, and probably long, long before.

Obviously, even though the houses are built against each other, they do have separate support, framing and walls because the houses on both sides of the Kirsch home have been removed and this house still stands. I wonder how many hundreds of years old it is and what records might still exist.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch left wall 2.jpg

It looks like the Kirsch home has been expanded several times. The windows on this side look to be glass bricks, but the bricks in each section are different from each other.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch left wall 3.jpg

It looks the fourth addition has a more modern square roof on top. I’m reminded of the farm houses in the US. My Dad used to say you could always tell when it was a good year because houses had room additions and new barns.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch left wall 4.jpg

Notice the pink neighbor building butts right up against the Kirsch home. In some places, the stucco has fallen off and you can see the original brickwork.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch bricks.png

The bricks below are exposed on the front portion of the building at the driveway. We know this portion of the house was there when Marliese lived here, and her ancestors before her. These bricks below don’t look like they were laid with mortar. I can’t help but wonder if descendants still own this property, but I have a vague memory of Marliese’s daughter saying no.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch old bricks.png

Ok, let’s go back out to the street.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch exit.jpg

I must say, the building between these two wasn’t very large, only wide enough for a driveway now. However, as we’ll see in a minute, that wasn’t terribly unusual.

In the vintage photos, one man was wearing an apron that looked like a butcher’s apron, which might explain the need for a separate building that didn’t need to be very wide. Craftsmen in these villages practiced their trade where they lived.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch neighbor.jpg

Between the buildings, you can see another yellow heritage home across the street. I wonder who lived there when my ancestors lived here. Given that both the Kirsch and Koehler families married heavily into the Koob family, they surely lived in very close proximity.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch sidewalk.jpg

The sidewalks are new, of course. In the vintage photos, they look so to be quite uneven cobblestones, probably constructed at different times, then patched – the goal being mud reduction.

All of the buildings have the dark brown area at the bottom front-facing – both then and now. I wonder what it is and why. This one looks to be metal. Are the spaces vent holes?

Marliese’s father, Otto, may give us a clue in a letter he penned to Hazel on Christmas Day in 1949.

All through the war we lived in constant fear and danger day and night. We had air raids due to the fact that we live right in the vicinity of the two cities of Ludwigshaven and Mannheim.  Night after night we live in our basements in order to get some sleep and again today that fear of constant fear and hardship has arisen from the east (Russia) and we are praying to god to spare us from this danger. We are very well informed what communism is because our boys had fought in Russia and have felt with soul and body the principals of communism.  Thank God I was not a soldier but a factory worker.

This tells us that there is a basement in this house, so these must be basement windows of some sort. I wonder if basements were originally included as safety for the family. Germany has a very long history of warfare and invasions.

My ancestors stood and walked here on these streets. They were born and died here. Generation after generation for at least 400 years – in tough times and those that were prosperous.

Marliese Gets Married

Marliese never got to return to college. The war interrupted so many lives and plans.

By 1951, Marliese was able to send some things to Hazel from Germany, which pleased Hazel to no end. However, for some reason, they were prohibited from sending glass items.

I was very touched in 1954 when Marliese invited her “Aunt Hazel” to her wedding, a love-struck young bride.

Aunt Hazel was greatly appreciative, but unable to attend. Today, we hop on planes with barely a second thought, but not then.

In 1959, Marliese tells Hazel that they are paying her generosity forward by sponsoring two families in the “East Zone” of Germany.

Marliese and Hazel became fast friends, even though Hazel was more than 30 years older then Marliese. They shared news of births and deaths, and at one time, some 25 years later, recapped their quarter century of being enmeshed in each other’s lives. They had met when Marliese’s family was in great need and had seen each other through immeasureable joy and grief as family members arrived on and departed from this earth.

About 1974, Hazel writes, chatting about her cat, then:

So much has happened in 25 years.

Mama, Papa, Papa’s sister Blanche, Papa’s 2 sisters Aunt Anna Metzger and Aunt Laura Littell, cousins Harry and Earl Littell, and Dan Metzger have all passed on.  Also Papa’s half sister Aunt Minnie Gerlach also his 2 half brothers John and George Koehler.  Only one half brother left Herman Peter Koehler who lives in Florida.

Over there in Germany your father and grandfather were gone and you were 17.  Now you are married with 6 children. I hope your mother is well.  I have kept all your letters and pictures.

Marliese’s father and grandfather died 5 weeks apart and the grandfather lived with them in the Kirsch home.

Eventually, in the mid/late 1970s, Marliese shared with Hazel that her daughter was in the US and through another of her children had an 8 month old grandchild.

Marliese’s mother still lived in the Kirsch home in Fussgoenheim and I believe Marliese and her family did as well. Eventually, they all moved.

In 1977, Hazel wrote to Marliese’s daughter in the US. The torch was passed to yet another generation.

Hazel, who never married, told Marliese that she went every week to visit the Riverview cemetery in Indiana where her father, as well as Anne Marie Kirsch are both buried. Hazel said Anne Marie Kirsch Koehler (1804-1888), who immigrated as a widow after Martin Koehler died and remained that way the rest of her life, was the 7th person to be buried in that cemetery. Anne Marie was baptized as Anna Margaretha – Anne Marie was her family nickname.

Marliese continued with her interest in genealogy over the years, in spite of having a large family with at least 6 children. In a letter written some time after 1975, she said:

The ancestors left Germany because it was a time of need.  A lot of hard work and little money.

I had always wondered what prompted Philip Jacob Kirsch and several family members to undertake that journey, especially knowing there was no going back or seeing anyone left behind.

Marliese also mentioned that the French destroyed some of the records at some point, so the regions genealogical records are incomplete. I’ve since discovered the same issue.

It seems that the history of Germany is steeped in both warfare and economic ebb and flow.

The Koehler Family

By comparison, the Koehlers who lived next door, were relative newcomers.

Marliese writes to Hazel on her 17th birthday, Christmas Day, in 1948 saying that soap is a luxurty and simply cannot be obtained in Germany. She says she can’t remember the last time she ate chocolate. Chocolate and cocoa weren’t available at all for most of the 10 year war, “but they are “now” but are very expensive.” Too expensive for Marliese’s family.

She says they have been very busy laboring in the fields and she had to leave college to assist.

Marliese is embarrassed about their poverty and accepting gifts when she can return nothing. War was a decade of hell, encompassing almost all of lifetime that Marliese remembers. Families turned to God and the church, because their faith was often the only thing they had to sustain them.

We are praying to God that He may save our homeland for ourselves, because He would know the approximate time of another war involving our vicinity.  We would pack up and leave.  Maybe we are forced to leave and now I wish you a very happy New Year.

And then, Marliese shifted gears and told us this tidbit.

The old Koehler homestead is not in Fussgoenheim, but is in Rheingoeheim, exactly 8 miles from Fussgoeheim. There are many people there with that name. Our great-grandmother came from there with that name. My mother remembers that her great-grandmother had relatives in America, but cannot remember particulars. I wonder if we are also related on my mother’s side.  I am trying to find the birthplace of Martin Koehler.

In July 1939, Marliese added this:

My father belongs to a singer society and one day when he was coming home from a rehearsal he told me that Martin Koehler, your grandfather, is one of the charter members. He verified it by explaining a large picture on which were all charter members and others that had joined is proudly hanging on the wall of the home of the Society. The picture is in the form of a tree and Martin Koehler is one of the roots as a charter member. And my father is one of them.

We had been told that Martin Koehler, my father’s grandfather was a music teacher and it must be the connection he had with this society and being a charter member, where the folks got that idea.

Not long ago I was told by an old woman that we are related to you on my mother’s side. My mother’s great-grandmother was Barbara Koehler and hailed from Rheingoehheim and now I have found out that Rheingoenheim and Ellerstadt are the same line and clan.

That tidbit about the Rheingoenheim and Ellerstadt families is quite interesting, because those villages aren’t exactly neighbors.

Fussgoenheim Ellerstadt Rheingoenheim

I don’t find the Koehler family in Rheingoenheim, but across the Rhine in Seckenheim in older generations. Rheingoenheim is between the locations, so that makes sense.

Fussgoenheim Ellerstadt Rheingoenheim Seckenheim

Johann Peter Koehler was born in 1723 and died in 1791, in Ellerstadt. However, at least some of his children moved to the neighbor village, Fussgoenheim. Johann Peter’s daughter, Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler was born in Ellerstadt, but she married Andreas Kirsch of Fussgoenheim.

The Koehler home belonged to Johann Martin Koehler and Anna Margaretha Kirsch. I don’t know if Marliese ever found this informatoin, but Martin was born on October 23, 1796 in Ellerstadt. In 1821 he married Anna Margaretha Kirsch, the daughter of my ancestor Andreas Kirsch and his wife Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler who lived next door in the Kirsch house.

Margaretha Elisabetha Koehler was the daughter of Johann Peter Koehler and Anna Elisabetha Scherer of Ellerstadt. Johann Peter and Elisabetha were the grandparents of Johann Martin Koehler. These 2 families began intermarrying and continued for several generations.

After Johann Martin Koehler, a musician, died in 1847 or 1848, Anna Margaretha Kirsch Koehler immigrated to Dearborn County, Indiana with her 3 sons and her brother, Philip Jacob Kirsch’s family.

Ironically, Philip Jacob Kirsch’s son, Jacob, born in Mutterstadt Germany in 1841 founded an establishement in Aurora, Indiana called “The Kirsch House.” Of course, I think fondly of this home in Fussgoenheim as “The Kirsch House” too – the original one.

The Kirsch House

So many of my ancestors lived in this this very house, looked out of these windows and touched this wood. Some, their identities, unknown today, probably roofed this structure with baked ceramic tiles centuries ago. Others passed by and married into the Kirsch family. In a small village, everyone knew every person who lived in every house. There were no strangers and few secrets.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch Koehler ancestors.png

The ancestors blocked above in red we know lived or died in Fussgoenheim. The red stars we can probably safely assume did. Johann Peter Koehler lived in Ellerstadt, the next village over, just two miles up the road, but you know he visited his daughter and several of his other children who married in Fussgoenheim.

The Koob family also figures prominently in both of these families, so I wonder if the Koobs lived in one of the neighbor houses in the pictures.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch home looking up.jpg

Looking up at the Kirsch home as we walk past. These two families were surely in and out of both houses as if they were one.

Noél was able to photograph the garden area of the Kirsch home.


Those are incredible wagon wheels, crocks and lanterns! I see a plow, I think, a yoke for oxen and so many other pieces of memorabilia. Horseshoes, baskets and harnesses. Noél’s camera took amazing, clear, photographs and I was able to zoom in for a great view.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch garden 2.jpg

Facing the home, at right is the smaller building to the right of the main large door, and indeed, that large brown door is access to the alleyway between the two structures for parking. The actual house doors open into this garden/driveway area.

I believe the wooden gnarly thing beyond the small tree in the very corner of the photo to the left is an old grapevine.


Person after my own heart – a rock on the steps.

The carved or cast stone basins are watering troughs.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch garden 7.jpg

A millwheel and a barrel, along with more wagon wheels and a broom.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch garden 5.jpg

Goodness. Baskets and bells and tables and chairs and stumps, plus a garden gnome of course.

What a beautiful way to decorate a small space.

The Koehler House

Stepping back onto the sidewalk, the building to the right, above, is the small structure to the right of the large brown door when facing the building from the street, with the one window, before the garden walls starts, below.

Fussgoenheim Koehler wall 3.jpg

The wall is where the Koehler home used to be.

Fussgoenheim Koehler tiles.jpg

I wonder if the building in back of where the Koehler home stood is original or new.


I think it looks to be newer, based on the windows.

Fussgoenheim Koehler garden.jpg

Noél was able to see over the top of the gate.

Fussgoenheim  Koehler garden 2.jpg

The right side of the structure behind where the Koehler house stood.

Fussgoenheim Koehler garden 3.jpg

Like all of the old homes in this village, it seems to be a combination of living and work space.

Fussgoenheim Koehler garden 4.jpg

This property today looks possibly to be a combination of 2 earlier properties.


I’ve wondered if historically this area flooded. The buildings seem to have some moisture-looking damage at ground level, and the fronts all seem to be “buffered” in some way for a foot or two above the sidewalk.

Marliese wrote to Hazel sometime in the spring of 1949.

Last year in a calendar from our homeland, the Pfalz, I read that many years ago families by the name of Hohenbacher from our town as well as the Pfalz immigrated to America as well as did hundreds of other families. They homesteaded in different states and so it came while reading in the calendar I found Aurora, Indiana. I found a street in Aurora named Hohenbacker. Is that so? I had to write to you and have been so happy to receive your letters.

We live 10k from the Rhine, so don’t have to fear a flood. It used to flood, but it is dammed in its banks.  When your grandmother was here, there was still the danger of high water or floods, but not now.

Aunt Hazel, in your letter to asked me my wishes. Well, this is a little bit embarrassing. I do not want anything. I cannot see that I should burden you with things that are costing money. I am happy that I can write to you and get an answer from you. We have lived through so many years of war and had to make the most of it and better times I do hope are ahead. Direct hunger, we have not, because we always have our bread and potatoes. We are managing and make the best of it with our clothing. We have learned to be satisfied and I am not reared to live in luxury. At the beginning of the War, I was only a little girl. We could not purchase anything and so all clothing for me was retailored from my mothers and grandmothers. Today it is not quite as bad. We are able to purchase the most essential things, but all goods and materials are expensive but cheap. We still do the best we can and only buy when necessary and so again I would like to say it would only hurt me to know you have to spend money on me. If I only knew that times would get better and I would be in a position to repay you, then I would say that I would be happy and pleased over most anything to say outright I need everything, but this I only whisper to you for I am so afraid that you would be sorry you had answered by letter and the greatest heartache for me would be to stop corresponding with my aunt in America.

We take so much for granted today. Eventually, Marliese was able to send a cuckoo clock to Hazel for her father, but sadly it arrived after he died a tragic death.

Hazel was so pleased to be able to send gifts to Marliese and her family that brought joy.

Ancient Homes

Fussgoenheim Kirsch goodbye.jpg

The Kirsch and Koehler homes were probably some of the oldest houses in Fussgoenheim, situated a few houses from the Rathaus where government affairs occurred, and the present-day library is located.

How do we know these buildings are ancient?

According to Fussgoenheim history, until the 1800s, only the eastern route consisting of Hauptstrasse, translated literally to “main road,” and Ruchheimer Strasse was populated.

Fussgoenheim map.png

The settlement in Fussgoenheim of many peasants, craftsmen and merchants led to a significant population increase in the first half of the 1800s from about 500 inhabitants in 1815 to about 1000 in 1840.

The 16 members of the combined Kirsch and Koehler family left for Indiana on June 14, 1847 from the port of Le Havre, according to the Mutterstadt, Germany civil register which recorded the date. The entire town of both Mutterstadt and Fussgoenheim must have turned out to say goodbye as a wagon loaded with their worldly possessions began the 450 mile overland journey to the port of LeHavre where they would board a boat to cross the Atlantic. A year and three weeks later, on July 4, 1848, they would finally arrive in the port of New Orleans, to board a paddlewheeler that would paddle its way up the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, arriving in Aurora, Indiana a couple weeks later where they may have had family or friends waiting.

Aurora was very similar to the Rhine valley where the Kirsch family had lived for countless generations.

Growth and Expansion

It wouldn’t be until about 1950 that the population of Fussgoenheim reached 1500 according to official records, but Marliese said in 1948 that the population was about 2500.

During the growth period beginning in the early 1800s, settlement expanded in a westerly direction because the steep slope on the eastern border constituted a problem.

The Kirsch and Koehler homes reach far back into antiquity, probably predating the Hallberg Castle, built by Jakob Tillmann von Hallberg just down the street from the Kirsch home in Fussgoenheim in 1740.

Fussgoenheim Hallberg Castle.jpg

Jerg Kirsch predated Jacob Tillman in Fussgoenheim by more than 100 years.

While the Kirsch and Koehler families were craftsmen in the 1800s, we don’t know much about their lives in the 1700s. Jerg’s son, Johann Michael Kirsch, my ancestor who died in 1743 was noted as a court member or juror. This could well have been where he served!

It’s likely that many if not most of the village residents who lived along Hauptstrasse worked for the wealthy Hallberg family, including the Kirsch family who lived at 9 Hauptstrasse and eventually the Koehler family at 11 Hauptstrasse. The castle was only a 5 minute walk away.

Fussgoenheim Kirsch 9.jpg

Even the Kirsch house number is decorated with horseshoes constructed to look like a flower – a lovely wink to the past. I so wonder if these were salvaged from the barn.

Fussgoenheim Koehler 11.png

House number 11, the Koehler home, or where it was, well, let’s just say it’s not what it used to be.

Given the smallness of the village and how few homes would have existed – it’s very likely that other ancestors lived in these houses in earlier generations as well. If a village had 500 inhabitants, and each family had 10 members, that’s only 50 homes in 1815 and 100 homes by 1850. We could probably look at the church records between 1750 and 1800 and figure out who those 50 household (500 people) around 1800 would have been.

I suspect that by the time records began to be kept, everyone was already related. In the 1800s, everyone was literally related to everyone else. By that time, the Kirsch family had been there for at least 200 years, roughly 8 generations of intermarrying. Maybe the Koehler bloodline was a welcome addition, although somehow I’m thinking that a village only a couple miles away was also quite interrelated.

Saying Goodbye

Alas, it’s time to say goodbye to the Kirsch home and where the Koehler home once stood.

Fussgoenheim Koehler Kirsch goodbye.jpg

Will this house still stand in another century, given that the houses on either side have already passed into memory sometime in the past 75 years? It’s difficult to maintain a vintage home.

If they don’t, Marliese and now Noél will have preserved at least a part of this wonderful home’s legacy for future generations. I can’t say a large enough thank you to Noél for her extremely generous gift.

Fussgoenheim aerial.png

My heart is touched to be able to visit, through Noél, this beautiful home in the quaint village of Fussgoenheim, a medieval farm village sewn into a patchwork quilt of fields in the German countryside.

A place where the land is nourished with the ashes, and DNA, of generations of my ancestors.

Ancestors Stories

If you’d like to read more about this family, I’ve written the following individual stories and there are more to come:



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A Crown Jewel for Rachel Rice (c 1707 – after 1767) – 52 Ancestors #252

Rachel’s life story, unfortunately, must be told through the life of her husband, children and the historic events that surrounded her in colonial Virginia.

We know Rachel’s first name thanks to the will of her husband, Joseph Rice, wherein he mentions his wife, Rachel, twice. We have no idea who Rachel’s parents might be.

Joseph wrote his will on December 14, 1765 and in the will, after leaving land to his sons and son-in-law, along with items to daughter Mary Rice, Joseph then turns to his wife, Rachel:

  • Well beloved wife Rachel remainder of personal estate during her natural life.
  • Sons John, William and Charles after decease of wife, 7 pounds current money of Virginia.
  • Rest of estate divided equally after decease of wife. Wife Rachel and David Rice and John Watkins executors. December 14, 1765.

The will was probated on June 16, 1766, so Joseph died sometime close to June.

When Joseph died, three of his sons were underage, meaning that four children were not. If he had underage sons that were 20, 18 and 16, for example, that means that Rachel, assuming she was his only wife and the mother of those children, was approximately 43 years of age 16 years earlier, making her roughly 59 when Joseph died. This suggests Rachel was born about 1707.

The only other actual document we have involving Rachel is the 1767 tax list where she is listed with son John, which tells us that John is age 16 or over in 1767.

Update: A transcribed 1769 tax list shows Rachel taxed with 1 tithe, although who or why is not clear, adjacent Joseph Rice (1), Matthew Rice (6) with James Rice and 4 slaves, James Rice (1), William Rice and Ben Rice (2), David Rice and Joseph Rice (2), William Rice), Rachel Rice (1), John Rice (1), Matthew Rice, Jr. (1), Nathan Rice (1), Thomas Rutledge (1), John Rutledge (1), John Robbins (no number) and then Jeay Rice (1). Jeay is probably Icay. The next year for which tithes exist is 1776 and Rachel is gone.

This updated information means that Rachel was alive in 1769, so after that date but probably before 1776.

I believe Rachel eventually lived with her son Charles, assuming she lived that long, based on this item from Joseph’s will:

  • To my well beloved son Charles Rice the remainder part of my land whereon I now live after the death of my well loved wife to him and his heirs forever.


If Rachel was born about 1707, her birth might have been recorded in the parish records of either Hanover County or New Kent.

The Saint Peter’s Parish Register exists for New Kent County from 1680 to 1787 and is transcribed here.

Only one birth of a Rachel occurred in the right timeframe.

  • Rachel Jackson was married to Edward Bettes in March of 1708 and a daughter, Rachel, was born in 1709. Her mother, Rachel Jackson Bettes died in 1719.

Rachel might have been named after other Rachels as well, and some might have been named after her.

  • Rachel daughter of Edward Huchens and Rebecca was baptized in 1686.
  • Rachel daughter of Edward Johnson and Elizabeth was born in 1686.
  • Rachel Cox was born to George Cox in 1690.
  • Rachel daughter of Alice Doe was born in 1690.
  • Daniel Murfield married Rachel Coker in July of 1708.
  • Rachel Watson died in 1726.
  • Rachel Slayden and her husband Arthur had children in 1730 and 1735.
  • Rachel Watson, daughter of Alexander and Esther Watson was born in 1734.
  • James and Rachel Blackstone had a daughter in 1735.

St. Paul’s Church in Hanover County was established in 1704 and has records beginning in 1706, but apparently only the vestry records remain. No Rachel’s appear before the mid-1700s.

If Rachel Bettes isn’t the right Rachel, and I’m not suggesting that she is Rachel Bettes, then either our Rachel’s birth record doesn’t exist or she wasn’t born there.

Early Life

We know that Joseph Rice was found in Hanover County listed in a merchant’s debt book in 1743 and again in the 1744-1745 book. In 1746, Joseph purchased the land the family lived on the rest of his and Rachel’s lives on Sandy River in Amelia, soon to become Prince Edward, County, Virginia.

Since we know that three children were underage in 1766, they clearly had to have been born after arriving in Amelia/Prince Edward County – birthed in the new homestead.

Older children would have been born in Hanover County where baptism records don’t exist, so the wagon lumbering westward would have carried Joseph, Rachel and at least 4 children.

It’s likely that either there were more children and they either died or married and moved away before 1766, or, Rachel buried several babies in Hanover County. Perhaps a combination of both.

Most couples had children on the average of every 18 months to 2 years, for approximately 22 years of marriage. Someplace between 11 and 14 or 15 children would have been born, assuming no deaths at birth which would have resulted in an earlier “next” pregnancy.

Only 7 children total are mentioned in the will and Icay, although not mentioned, is very probably #8.


Religion is always a hot-button. Religious doctrine defines many of our life choices as well as our personal beliefs. For example, Joseph and Rachel did not own slaves, while most of their neighbors and even Joseph’s brother, Matthew, did own slaves. Based on Joseph’s land purchases and estate, the fact that he didn’t own slaves wasn’t based on money, so it clearly had to be based on a moral compass, likely a religious belief. Quakers, Brethren and some Methodists eschewed slave ownership.

Joseph Rice’s son-in-law, James Moore didn’t own slaves either, and James’s son William Moore had become a dissenting minister in the Methodist faith by 1775.

In 1759, Joseph Rice built a dissenting “meeting house” on his property in Prince Edward County.

Dissenters in colonial Virginia were those who did not want to worship in the Anglican church even though their actions were illegal at the time. Catholics were outlawed, but dissenters were any non-Catholic faith such as Presbyterians who arrived from Pennsylvania between 1738 and 1743, Methodists and Baptists. In Virginia, legal activities, such as marriages, were required to be performed by Anglican ministers, resulting in many marriages performed outside of the Anglican church not being registered with the clerk at the county courthouse.

Women at that time didn’t have a lot of choice in selecting a faith different from that of their husband. Rachel was a dissenter’s wife, and therefore by definition a dissenter, whether or not she would have made that decision without the influence of her husband. Either way, that choice, whosever it was, affected her life in numerous ways. For example, the work that was performed by slaves elsewhere fell to the family members – and much of it to the wife.

While wives at that time weren’t sold as chattel property like slaves were, they didn’t have many rights and fewer realistic options.

Dissenting, however, seemed to run in Rachels’ family, so perhaps she had been raised in a family with “radical” religious ideas.

Rachel’s nephew through her brother-in-law, David Rice, was a Presbyterian minister, also named David Rice, another dissenter, who settled and was beloved in Kentucky.

William Rice, perhaps Rachels’ son, built a meeting house, believed to be Baptist, in 1775, just 9 years after Joseph Rice died in Prince Edward County. Rachel may have lived long enough to witness that!

Dissenting seemed to run in the family!

Rachel’s Children

Joseph’s will provides us with the names of Joseph’s children, presumed to be Rachel’s children as well.

In order mentioned:

  • Son-in-law James Moore, who is married to Joseph’s daughter. James Moore’s wife, possibly Mary Rice, was born about 1723 based on the ages of known children.
  • John Rice, underage in 1765, so born after 1744, appears in Prince Edward County records as early as 1752, so this John is clearly not John, the son of Joseph.
  • William Rice, underage in 1765, so born after 1744, appears in the county court records in 1766 as a patroller for 20 pounds of tobacco per day as pay. These records are likely for William, the son of Joseph and Rachel. In 1775, William Rice built a dissenting meeting house on the main road.
  • Charles Rice, underage in 1765, so born after 1744, first appears in the Prince Edward records in 1761, so that Charles cannot be the son of Joseph and Rachel.
  • David Rice, born before 1744, appears near Rachel on the 1767 tax list. Joseph’s brother Matthew also has a son named David.
  • Joseph Rice, born before 1744, appears near Rachel on the 1767 tax list with 1 tithe and the 133 acres left to him by his father.
  • Daughter Mary Rice who appears to be single in 1766.
  • Icay Rice, not mentioned in the will, but in May of 1765, Joseph states in a deed where he sold land to Icay that he was his son. Ican first appeared in the county records in 1760 signing as a witness, so would probably have been born in 1739 or earlier.

Rachel Rice 1765 deed Joseph to Icay.jpgRachel Rice deed 1765 Joseph to Icay 2.jpg

Joseph’s Estate

While life on the frontier in a homestead was indeed challenging, especially when compared to life today, Joseph and Rachel were not poor by the standard of the time in which they lived.

In colonial Virginia, when a man died, the estate was appraised and his effects sold or at least valued.

One can tell a great deal about the life of the family by the estate inventory since absolutely everything was included, down to the silverware.

Let’s take a look at Joseph Rice’s estate inventory, because those items will tell us a great deal about Rachel’s life too. The wife owned nothing separate from the husband, so her possessions, except for her clothes, would be included in his estate inventory. I’ve left the spelling, which was not standardized at the time, as found in the original.

  • 31 cattle
  • mare, 5 horses
  • 12 sheep
  • 10 geese
  • 16 hoggs

In that day and time, 31 cattle and 6 horses was a substantial estate. Five of those horses would probably have been stud horses, probably “rented out” to “cover mares” for local farmers.

  • Cart, wheels, old rake

A cart would have been a two-wheeled device as opposed to a wagon with 4 wheels. Wooden wheels broke often, so the wheels were likely spares from “other carts.” You can see colonial carts here that would have been used to ferry tobacco from the fields. Carts can be pulled by people, but wagons need horses or oxen.

Primitive rakes were nothing more than a backbone of wood with wooden teeth, attached to a handle.

Rachel Rice rake.png

  • 12 bells

Rachel Rice cowbell.jpg

These must surely have been cowbells. At that time, farmland wasn’t fenced so you needed to go and find your cows in he woods.

  • 4 jugs, butter pott

Rachel Rice jug.jpg

The jug was probably stoneware. I wonder what Joseph kept in his jug. Some jugs were whiskey jugs.

The butter pott was probably included in the inventory with the jug because it too was stoneware – a cup or small bowl into which churned butter was deposited.

  • some camphire and tickler (tuhler) bottles and a funnel

I can’t find either tickler or tuhler bottle, so perhaps this word is something different.

You can see a Camphor bottle, here. Camphor was used in colonial America as a purgative and was also believed to prevent illness. In 1793, a letter sent to a doctor in Philadelphia where a yellow fever outbreak was underway instructed people to use vinegar or camphor on their handkerchief when visiting the sick, to carry it in smelling bottles and use it frequently.

Camphor was a luxury, imported from Asia, the only place in the world where it was grown. In 1764, Sauer’s Herbal Cures Book referred to its usage. The Dutch imported Camphor into the Netherlands, which in turn exported it to the colonies. It was believed that because Camphor was acrid smelling and kept moths out of clothing, it would do the same for other agents of disease.

Most uses of camphor were external, because internal uses have unexpected, or maybe expected, results. Camphor “drives worms out of children and suppresses sexual passion,” so women were warned about not taking it internally. Camphor, especially camphor brandy, served to effect clandestine abortions. Fits, as mentioned by Sauer, were epileptic seizures.

Here’s what Sauer had to say:

Rachel Rice camphor.pngRachel Rice camphor 2.pngRachel Rice camphor 3.pngRachel Rice camphor 4.png

I had to laugh. Yes, Camphor combined with Opium and brandy will assuredly “calm feverish delirium,” because you’re out cold!

So sniff it, drink it, use it as a poultice, make it into Camphor Brandy, or mix with opium and brandy and if it doesn’t kill you, it will cure you!

So, I’m guessing between the Camphor bottles, funnel and jugs, that perhaps Joseph Rice was medicating his family with this wonderful all-purpose remedy, as needed – like any responsible head of household in the 1700s would do.

  • 4 pair cards

Given the word pair, these have to be wool cards.

Rachel Rice wool cards.png

Sheep were washed in a nearby stream before they were shorn in late spring or early summer. The sheep weren’t happy and resisted, requiring multiple adults.

Rachel Rice sheep shearing.jpg

This painting is from the later 1800s, but sheep shearing didn’t change much in a century.

Wool much be thoroughly greased before it can be carded using either rape seed oil or pig grease – three pounds of grease or oil per 10 pounds of wool.

Wool cards were typically leather covered wood with wire teeth. Matted wool was place on one card and them “combed” with the other, unmatting the wool much like brushing hair. You can see how, here.

By 1830, this process had been mechanized. The fact that Joseph Rice had 4 pairs of cards tells us that Rachel and her two daughters spun wool thread to be woven into clothing and the sheep tell us where it came from.

  • 3 drawing knives

A drawing knife is a traditional woodworker’s tool used for shaping wood by removing shavings.

Rachel Rice drawing knife

By Simon A. Eugster – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Here’s a contemporary draw knife being used to construct a flatbow. According to Wikipedia, drawknives were used to remove large slices of wood for faceted work, to debark trees or to create roughly rounded or cylindrical billets. In essence, it’s used for curved shaving.

Did Joseph and his sons use these 3 for clearing his land and debarking the trees?

  • parcel carpenter tools

Rachel Rice carpenters tools.jpg

Carpenters tools consisted of mallets and hammers, wood screw vices, calipers possibly, chisels, saws, boring tools, wooden tools or metal braces and planes to smooth rough surfaces. Adzes would have been used to rough cut the wood or strip the bark from the wood before the more refined tools were used to make furniture or possibly for the interior carpentry of a home. You can read more here.

  • parcel shoemaker tools

Rachel Rice shoemakers tools.png

Shoes are a universal necessity. The fact that Joseph has shoemaker’s tools suggests that he made the shoes for his own family. The above image is from 1658 in a shoemaker’s shop, and below, from the Maine State Museum.

Rachel Rice shoemakers workshop

By Billy Hathorn – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

By Billy Hathorn – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Shoemaking is typically a specialized skill, where the shoemaker makes shoes for many people and families. Every land-owner was indeed a jack-of-all-trades and the master of at least one.

Shoemakers also made boots. Shoes at that time were not constructed for left and right feet. Shoes needed to be switched back and forth so the shoe was not deformed to fit one foot at which point they were considered “ruined.”. Shoes were also passed down in families and inherited.

  • two old swords, pistol barrel

Old swords, so let’s suppose they were Joseph’s swords from when he was a young man, from about 1730 or so.

This Antique Arms gallery shows a wide variety of swords.

As I’ve discovered, there are multiple types of swords – two handed swords, one handed swords and sword styles varied in different places in the world.

Rachel Rice fencing.jpg

This plate from The Expert Swords-man’s Companion by Donald McBane (1728) shows a Scottish fencing master holding a basket-hilted broadsword, but on the table beside him are shown broadswords and smallswords. On the wall behind him, we see flintlock pistols and a target. Joseph Rice may have had all of these things.

  • 3 reaphooks, meal sifters
Rachel Rice reaphook

By David Jackson, CC BY-SA 2.0 uk,

A reaphook is also known as a sickle.

Google shows several early primitive grain sifters. A meal sifter might have been for flour.

Rachel Rice grain sifter.png

  • old baskets, wool, flax

Baskets were heavily used, so not many remain today from the 1700s. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has a lovely basket-making article and slideshow on their website. Every family needed many baskets and white oak was preferred because it was the only tree in Virginia that would split thin and remain flexible enough to weave.

If you’ve never tried it, basketmaking is a long, tedious affair and makes your hands raw.

Wool and flax were both used to make thread to weave into cloth for clothes.

Rachel Rice flax

By D. Gordon E. Robertson – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The perennial flax plant has beautiful blue flowers. Rachel probably loved the blooms, reaching across the horizon in a sea of blue.

Rachel Rice flax pods.jpg

The flax plant, shown above, became linen, eventually, after much work. The seeds from the pods were harvested, also known as flaxseed which can be eaten, then ground into a meal or turned into linseed oil.

Rachel Rice flax.png

The soft, flexible fiber used to weave clothing is extracted from the bast beneath the surface of the stem of the flax plant is called roving and looks similar to blonde hair.

Rachel Rice hackle

By Kozuch – Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The hackle or heckle tool is used to thresh flax and prepare it for weaving.

Rachel Rice flax prep

By Pymouss – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

You can read more about flax production here.

  • bed (2), bedstead, furniture, bag of feathers

Rachel and Joseph had 2 beds, possibly two bedsteads and furniture, along with a bag of feathers that would have been curated from the geese to stuff the bed or beds. Some beds were stuffed with straw, so feathers were a luxury. Do you have any idea how many feathers it takes for a feather bed? 90 pounds

This article shows beds and bedsteads from a wealthier non-frontier home, but the basics are the same. The difference would have been that cabins wouldn’t have had ornate hangings.

Wikipedia tells us that:

Feathers for a featherbed could be saved from geese or ducks being prepared for cooking. In England servant-girls were often allowed to keep feathers from poultry they’d plucked and could save them to make a featherbed or pillows for their future married life. Live birds might have their soft downy breast feathers harvested three or four times a year, as described in an account from 20th century Missouri. Some poultry feathers were undesirable for mattress-making, especially chicken feathers. The best featherbeds were filled with a high proportion of down; larger feathers needed to have their quills clipped.

Lengthy preparation and good aftercare were essential. Before use, all feathers and down had to be aired outdoors in sun and breeze or stored indoors in a warm dry space; this would reduce smell and eliminate moisture. Even so, there could be what Harriet Beecher Stowe called “the strong odour of a new feather-bed and pillows”.

In other words, you could either smell the feathers or smell the stove. Apparently either or both was better than not sleeping on feathers.

  • barrell with salt

According to “Salt in Virginia,” Virginia has plenty of salt on its eastern edges – not to mention that seawater could be boiled. Apparently, Joseph purchased salt by the barrel, given that it was necessary for the preservation of “bacon,” as all pork was called at that time. One thing is for sure, Joseph couldn’t produce salt on his plantation unless he owned a salt mine.

  • 3 old chests and a box

This blanket chest from Virginia in the 1730s is probably very similar to the chests owned by Joseph and Rachel.

Rachel Rice chest.jpg

Additional photos of this beautiful primitive chest, which is for sale, can be seen here. Take a look at the closeup photos, especially of the beautiful joints. Be still my heart!

  • Corn, cotton, tand leather

Crops and leather. Leather, of course, was used to make shoes, some coats, breeches and furnishings. Nothing that died went to waste, except for humans.

Believe it or not, the history of hides and tanning in Virginia was a political minefield. Virginians couldn’t obtain enough leather from England, and the English didn’t want the Virginians exporting hides to England and ruining their markets. You can read about leather workers in Virginia here.

Tanning isn’t a pleasant process. It stinks, literally, and was relegated to the edges of a community or a specific stream branch. Hence, in Halifax County, James Moore’s land included Tan Trough Branch. Probably as far as possible from any house because no one wanted to go there when things were “odiferous.”

A hide to be tanned must be removed from the body before the heat leaves the animal. It gets worse from there. Wikipedia tells us about the history of tanning:

Formerly, tanning was considered a noxious or “odoriferous trade” and relegated to the outskirts of town, amongst the poor. Indeed, tanning by ancient methods is so foul smelling, tanneries are still isolated from those towns today where the old methods are used. Skins typically arrived at the tannery dried stiff and dirty with soil and gore. First, the ancient tanners would soak the skins in water to clean and soften them. Then they would pound and scour the skin to remove any remaining flesh and fat. Next, the tanner needed to remove the hair from the skin. This was done by either soaking the skin in urine, painting it with an alkaline lime mixture, or simply allowing the skin to putrefy for several months then dipping it in a salt solution. After the hairs were loosened, the tanners scraped them off with a knife. Once the hair was removed, the tanners would “bate” (soften) the material by pounding dung into the skin or soaking the skin in a solution of animal brains. Bating was a fermentative process which relied on enzymes produced by bacteria found in the dung. Among the kinds of dung commonly used were those of dogs or pigeons.

One piece of trivia you never wanted to know. Each animal contains exactly the right about of brains to tan its own hide.

Parent: Why, I ought to tan your hide.

Sassy child: No need, I have enough brains to do it myself.

Rachel Rice tanner.png

Here’s a tanner at work in Nuremberg in 1609. I guarantee you, no one but no one wanted this job.

  • money scales

Colonia Williamsburg tells us that the colonists didn’t have paper money. Their only money was made of precious metal and there really wasn’t any standard. Therefore, when credit and barter weren’t used, coins were weighed on a scale. Coins were often cut into 8ths, hence the saying, “pieces of 8.”

Rachel Rice money scales

By Photographie personnelle User:Poussin jean – objet personnel User:Poussin jean, CC BY-SA 3.0,

This set of scales, complete with weights, is probably fancier than Joseph and Rachels, but it functions in exactly the same manner.

  • ladle, fleshfork


A ladle is typically a large circular spoon. This one has a maker’s mark.

Both a ladle and a fleshfork would be used for cooking. A fleshfork is a long-handled typically two-pronged fork used to hold down meat while being carved. The ladle and fleshfork would probably have been part of a cooking set that hung on a fireplace.

  • parcel of old books

This one hurts me. I would love, LOVE, to know the names of those books, because they would tell us so much about their owners. Books were precious commodities and rare on the frontier. This also tells us that Joseph knew how to read, and it’s possible that Rachel did too. If Rachel had signed a deed, would have known for sure. It’s likely that these books were religious in nature, but one glaring omission in the inventory is a Bible.

  • some bottles and old punchboles

Early bottles were all hand-blown glass and reused until they were broken.

Rachel Rice bottles.jpg

I took these photos of a glassblower at the Jamestown Glass House in the authentically reproduced glass-blowing studio.

Rachel Rice glass blowing..jpg

A punch bowl is interesting in that it suggests entertaining. A ladle would also be utilized with a punch bowl.

According to this article:

In the 18th century, drinking was the most popular of all tavern recreations…The kind of drink offered by an individual tavern was a factor in its location, the availability of supplies, and the economic status and aspirations of its tavern keeper. Drinking habits did not differ significantly from colony to colony, where the majority of the inhabitants were British. Rum was the most popular distilled liquor of the time. Punch was a combination of then luxurious ingredients. The drink was made using the rinds and juice of imported lemons, limes, and even oranges, commonly mixed with rum, and white or brown sugar. Lime punch was the most popular version of the drink…punch was served warm and sold in taverns by the bowl.  Toddy–rum mixed with sugar and water–and sangre–a mixture of wine or beer sweetened with sugar and flavored with nutmeg–were also dispensed by the bowl. Wine, imported from Spain and Germany, was also served in taverns, but was not widely available outside the cities. Madeira, served during the meal, was the most expensive and popular wine. The consumption of wine, like punch, was limited to the more affluent. Many colonials drank cheaper, fermented beverages made locally. Cider (hard cider) was sold by the jug. Beer was either imported from England or locally brewed. Brandy was usually imported, but native varieties were sold, made from peaches, apples, or cherries. Homemade liquors gained popularity during the Revolution when the importation of alcohol, beer, and wine was halted.

—Early American Taverns: For the Entertainment of Friends and Strangers, Kym S. Rice for Fraunces Tavern Museum [Regnery Gateway: Chicago] 1983 (p. 85-96)

This might explain the punchbowl, the jug and the cyder.

Beyond the home, colonials consumed food and drink within another social setting–the tavern. Ordinaries dotted the colonial landscape. Ferries and courthouses were prime locations. The numerous watercourses that interrupted overland travel in North Carolina often necessitated ferriage. While waiting for ferrymen and perhaps for favorable winds, travelers needed an opportunity to rest and refresh themselves. Ordinary keepers emanated chiefly from the middling ranks of society. Indeed, the occupation of ordinary keepers may have been a springboard to prominence, for the proprietors of public houses made many acquaintances…and maintained a creditor’s hold over many of their patrons. Dinner consisted of meat (sometimes two dishes), hot or cold, salted or fresh, with or without corn or wheat bread, and with or without small beer or cider. Supper and breakfast included a hot meat and small beer. Often breakfast consisted only of tea or coffee and wheat bread, hoe cake, or toast. A variety of alcoholic liquors was served in the provincial taverns. They were rated by the gallon, quart, pint, gill, and half-gill but often were sold by the bow, nip, or dram… Rum generally came from the West Indies or New England. Cider might be the ‘common Carolina’ variety or it might be imported from England or New England. It was sometimes designated as ‘summer’ and ‘winter’ cider and rated in quality from ‘good’ and best.’ Also popular were beer, brandy and wine. Varieties of beer included those form Europe [and} from the colonies. Ordinaries offered homemade peach and apple brandy as well as the imported drink. Mixed drinks, particularly punch, greatly appealed to the colonials. Punch, consisting of five ingredients, usually contained rum with ‘loaf’ or brown sugar. Another favorite was the toddy, made of rum, brandy, or whiskey…

—“The Colonial Tavern: A Gathering Place in the Albemarle [North Carolina],” Alan D. Watson, A Taste of the Past: Early Foodways of the Albemarle Region [North Carolina], James C. Jordan III guest exhibition curator [Museum of the Albemarle: Elizabeth City NC] 1991 (p. 36-41)

Joseph never applied to have an ordinary, but this sure makes me wonder, along with his location, if he didn’t have overnight travelers as guests from time to time – especially given that people would have traveled for significant distances to attend the meetings at his dissenters meeting house.

Of course, guests would have meant more work for Rachel, and possibly a little extra income too. How I would love to step back in time and have a meal with Rachel.

  • rifle, smooth bore gun belt, shot bagg
Rachel Rice rifle

By Antique Military Rifles – originally posted to Flickr as Kentucky’s, CC BY-SA 2.0,

By Antique Military Rifles – originally posted to Flickr as Kentucky’s, CC BY-SA 2.0,

An absolutely beautiful smooth longbore flintlock antique rifle can be seen here and here’s something about the history of shot bags and powder horns. View a muzzleloader re-enactment here along with the history of the accoutrements.

  • 2 smoothing irons, 2 candlesticks

A candlestick would have been the holder for a candle. The inventory doesn’t specify the material, but some would have been silver or brass and others perhaps pewter. It’s possible, but unlikely that they were wood. A few were blown glass candleholders and some were porcelain. I find it odd that there were only 2 for the entire house.

Rachel Rice candlestick.png

A smoothing iron is for ironing clothes, specifically linen. Truthfully, I never even thought about people on the frontier and ironing. I assumed (yes, my bad) that they wouldn’t have had any clothes “fancy enough” for ironing, nor would they have wanted them given the rigors of the lives they led. I was obviously wrong.

As it turns out, I have two smoothing irons, or parts of them.

Child's Iron

Child's Iron 2

These were children’s toy irons.

My mother told me that they were placed in the fire or on the stove, then used hot. When they cooled, they were put back in the fire to reheat. It was always best if you had two irons. That way, you could be using one while the other was heating. As we see below, Rachel had either one or two spares. I don’t know if the “iron” itself included one wedge or not.

  • 2 iron wedges, parcel of old hoes and axes

You can see two types of iron wedges above.

Hoes were critically important for weeding which prevented damage to crops and increased production. Weeds sucked water and nutrients from plants. Iron implements were a scarce commodity and expensive, so anything like hoes and axes were sharpened and well cared for.

Rachel Rice hoe.png

Colonial hoes shown above, thanks to Google.

Axes came in a large variety of shapes and sizes.

Rachel Rice ax

By Original uploader was Fir0002 at en.wikipedia – Originally from en.wikipedia; description page is/was here., CC BY-SA 3.0,

You can’t chop trees down and clear land without axes.

  • parcel of pewter dishes

Rachel Rice pewter dish

I would wager that the pewter dishes used by Rachel and family were utilitarian and not decorative. Some pewter plates were beautiful, armorial and inscribed.

Rachel Rice pewter.png

Pewter was the social step above eating from wooden trenchers, but not as upper-crust as silver or porcelain. Pewter was the common man’s plate. I wish they had said how many were in a parcel. Often in estates, there aren’t enough plates for each family member to eat from one.

Pewter plates were relatively common, so lots of these are for sale today.

  • parcel of cyder casks

Casks were a type of barrel which was made by a cooper.

Rachel Rice cyder.jpg

This painting shows cider making in 1840. Those were not small barrels.

If Joseph and Rachel had cider, which fermented into hard cider, they obviously had apples, which implies an orchard. Rachel probably made apple pies and when apples were in season, apple everything including apple butter. Yum!

I can’t help but wonder if three are any old apples trees on Joseph’s land today. If so, that might be indicative of where his house was located.

  • parcel of salt

How much is a parcel?

  • 4 old saddles and horse harnesses

Leather would also have been used to make both saddles and harnesses. Colonial Williamsburg has a saddler shop with wonderful photos. Saddles came in various styles and sizes – including side-saddles for women – but those are often mentioned separately in estate inventories.

  • 3 bee hives

Everybody loves sweet things – even our ancestors.

Rachel Rice beehives.png

Some hives were boxes. I wonder if all 3 hives provided for their family, or if they sold to neighbors. I’d bet some of that honey went in the punchbowl to sweeten the rum punch.

  • whip and cross cut saw

Whips varied widely by purpose. Riding whips served more as reminders to the horse, but the cat o’nine tails was a torture device. Since Joseph and Rachel, thankfully, did not own slaves, let’s assume it was for the horses and used sparingly.


Crosscut saws cut across the wood grain and are used by 2 men to fell trees. Ironically vintage saws are rare on the market today because they are coveted for their high quality over contemporary models.

  • 6 iron potts, a grinstone, pan

You can see a collection of old iron cooking pots here. Iron pots would have hung over the fire in the fireplace.

It’s hard to say whether the grindstone was one that was used manually or one used in milling. Since it’s combined with pots and pans, I’d wager that it was a kitchen manual grindstone, similar to what the Indians used to grind their corn and grains. We used to find these in the fields at home, generally with their stone remaining in the groove.

Rachel Rice grindstone.jpg

  • loom and slay

Rachel Rice weaver.jpg

A weaver in Nurnburg in 1425. Weaving didn’t change until the industrial revolution in the 1800s.

You can read about and see examples of colonial weaving, spinning and dyeing here. I’m not a weaver and I don’t exactly understand the purpose and function of a slay, so I found a YouTube video where a weaver explains and shows this process. The slay is an integral part of the weaving process. Weaving seems to have a language of its own.

If Rachel had flax, wool and a weaving loom, you can rest assured she was dyeing the textiles too, probably in the tub and pails listed next on the inventory. It seems as if the men taking the inventory were listing things as they walked around the house.

  • washing tub, water pails

Bathing wasn’t common or popular and might have happened once a year in the late spring. Today we would turn up our noses, but then, everyone simply smelled the same way.

  • wollen wheal

A woolen wheel was used for spinning the wool into thread before weaving, of course.

Rachel Rice spinning wheel

CC BY 2.5,

Spinning wool at the Conner Prairie living history museum loom house.

  • 2 tables, parcel of chairs

It’s interesting that they have 2 tables to go with that parcel of chairs. This might imply that their house was larger than the typical cabin which was about 16 by 18 or sometimes smaller. Their tables were likely made in Prince Edward County with Joseph’s carpentry tools, not hauled overland in their wagon.

  • shears, iron skillet, pickler bottle, bridle bitt

What the heck is a pickler bottle? Google failed me.

Rachel Rice shears

By Cstaffa – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Given the wool, shears could have meant shears to shear sheep, above, or scissors. Or maybe one item was used for both activities.

Cast iron skillets would rust if left wet or neglected, but given that most kitchens only had one or two pots or kettles and maybe one skillet, it was in use every single day. Rachel had 6 pots, probably of different sizes, but only one skillet.

  • 3 beds, furniture

I wonder why these 3 beds were inventoried separately from the other 2. I’m guessing that perhaps these were located in the loft and were of a different quality. Note there are no bedsteads.

  • 3 cattle hides, knives, forks

At that time, sometimes families didn’t have enough utensils for all family members, so they shared or ate with their fingers, or both. Some families didn’t have enough chairs either, so sometimes benches were used or people sat on the floor or outside. I seldom see benches listed separately. They were considered very utilitarian, roughhewn and slapped together, while chairs were considered luxuries and furniture.

Rachel Rice silverware

By Reptonix free Creative Commons licensed photos –, CC BY 3.0,

This English dinner setting from about 1750 shows the silverware of the timeframe. Spoons weren’t used, and often people ate directly off of the knives.

Dishes weren’t washed as we know it today. They were wiped off and used again.

  • parcel of wax and talon

I think this may be tallow, not talon. Women made tallow candles using cotton or linen wicks, another use for that flax. Tallow candles were smelly, given that they were made from animal fat, but they could be kept for extended periods. Wax candles were not unpleasant, but wax was less plentiful. Tallow was used by poorer people. Some people used candle molds, but wicks could also be dipped into tallow to form candles for those too poor to afford molds.

Maybe Rachel used wax candles for company and tallow for everyday when no one else was around – although there are no candle molds listed.

Beeswax would have been made into candles too. You can read about the various methods of candlemaking here.

If you want to try making tallow candles, here’s how.

  • spectacles, razor, hone

Spectacles! Either Joseph or Rachel needed these, or maybe both and they shared them. Spectacles would have been considered a luxury and probably only utilized by someone who was trying to read. If Joseph Rice built a dissenting meeting house in 1759, it’s certainly possible he was the one reading and preaching on Sundays in his meeting house. Unless of course there was a traveling preacher who would have stayed with him, probably enjoyed some punch, and then preached up a storm on Sunday!

This person has a collection of 1700s spectacles on Pinterest.

Rachel Rice spectacles.png

And another one here.

Rachel Rice spectacles 2.png

Glassblowers in the 1700s tried to blow lenses of various thicknesses based on a cursory examination. This causes me to wonder how Joseph acquired his spectacles. I don’t know if there were glassblowers in Amelia or Prince Edward County, but I’m guessing not. That means that either Joseph went back east or somehow the spectacles made their way, perhaps with peddlers, to his plantation.

A razor at that time would have been a straightrazor.

Rachel Rice razor

By Dr. K. – I (Dr. K.) created this work entirely by myself., CC BY 3.0,

I have to tell you, the thought of running one of these implements over my neck, right by my juggler vein, makes me shudder.


Rachel Rice hone

By Dr.K. – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

A hone is a stone used to sharpen the razor..

Rachel Rice shaving.png

These instructions from the 1840s provide instructions for how to shave with a straightrazor.

  • paper, some bottles, old file

If Joseph Rice had paper, someone was writing, and it was most likely him. Paper was being made in America by 1690, but that “paper” was made out of old clothes, cotton and linen, rags and scraps, pulverized into mush and formed into somewhat of a parchment. Before 1816, all paper was made by hand.

Rachel Rice paper.jpg

This example of “paper” currency wasn’t really paper as we know it today, meaning created from wood pulp.

Glass bottles were blown and were never thrown away.

Rachel Rice glass bottles.png

Early bottles like these ones from the Jamestown Glasshouse were seldom clear. Green and blue were the most common colors.

Rachel Rice glass bottles 2.png

  • pair bullet moles

This would be bullet molds, not moles, although that could be the pronunciation at the time.

Early firearms were not made to any particular standard, so neither was the ammunition. Every person had to