Family Records, Pshaw

The final line in my family tree is my maternal grandmother, Sarah Elizabeth Kirkpatrick, affectionately known to me as Gan. Her ancestors were from the deep south, and among them were slave holders. Growing up I had no inkling of her southern heritage, although she exhibited some southern pride in her younger years. Her more immediate ancestors fled the south for Texas before the war, at least partially sparing us the madness of the sin of slavery.

The record begins at a settlement in the early 18th century at the 96th milepost on a trail used by traders and Indians in the colony of South Carolina. This settlement became known as Ninety-Six. A little store supplying traders with such essential items as rum, sugar and gunpowder, is on record as early as 1730. 

Due to the expansion of white settlements, by 1769 Charleston could no longer serve as the only court house in the colony.  Therefore, seven circuit court districts were established and courthouses were set up for each district. One courthouse was established in the village of Ninety-Six and the district was named Ninety-Six District, soon to be called the “Old” Ninety-Six as the boundaries changed.

Two branches of Gan’s family tree go back to the Ninety-Six District of South Carolina in the 1700s: the Kirkpatricks and Joneses in Abbeville and the Bryants and Tollesons in Spartanburg. The Kings, one of which married a Kirkpatrick, lived in Orangeburg. So Gan was a real Southern gal.

The town of Abbeville, South Carolina, home of the Kirkpatricks and Joneses, developed around a spring that was set aside by General Andrew Pickens for public use. Pickens had settled at what is now Abbeville proper, prior to the American Revolution. The name of the town and county were given by Dr. John de la Howe, a French Huguenot settler in Western South Carolina, in honor of his hometown in France. The city was officially incorporated as a municipality within the State of South Carolina on December 20, 1832. 

Abbeville was settled by Scotch Irish and Huguenots. The Scotch Irish are descendants of early Protestant Scots who migrated from Scotland to Catholic Ireland to flee religious persecution by the English. The term Scotch Irish also serves as a euphemism for non-Catholic Irish. It was used by Protestant Irish immigrants to America to obtain jobs from employers who would not hire Irish Catholics. Of course, many employers had no compunctions about not hiring any Irish at all.

The earliest of my Jones ancestors that can be documented is Benjamin Jones. He was born around 1700 in Virginia. He had traveled to Abbeville, South Carolina and had joined a settlement along the frontier known as Long Cane near the Long Cane Creek. But clashes with the Cherokee were frequent. Long Cane Settlement was attacked by Cherokees on February 1, 1760. The following is an eye-witness account told by Mr. Aaron Price.

Yesterday se’n night the whole of the Long-Cane Settlers to the Number of 150 Souls, moved off with most of their Effects in Waggons; to go towards August in Georgia, and in a few Hours after their setting off, were surprized and attacked by about 100 Cherokees on Horseback, while they were getting their Waggons out of a boggy Place: They had amongst them 40 Gunmen, who might have made a very good Defence, but unfortunately their Guns were in the Waggons; the few that recovered theirs, fought the Indians Half an Hour, and were at last obliged to fly: In the action they lost 7 waggons, and 40 of their People killed or taken (including Women and Children) the Rest got safe to Augusta; whence an Express arrived here with the same Account, on Tuesday Morning … Mr. Patrick Calhoon, one of the unfortunate Settlers at Long-Canes, who were attacked by the Cherokees on the 1st instant, as they were removing their Wives, Children and best Effects, to Augusta in Georgia for Safety, is just come to Town, and informs us, ‘That the whole of those Settlers might be about 250 Souls, 55 or 60 of the fighting Men; that their Loss in that Affair amounted to about 50 Persons….

Charles Town South-Carolina Gazette, Saturday, February 9, 1760

Patrick Calhoun had been instrumental in settling this area and to establish a Presbyterian Church there. His son, John C. Calhoun, became famous as a U. S. Congressman, Senator and Vice President and an outspoken supporter of slavery and secession. But also among those settlers were Benjamin Jones and his grown daughter. A somewhat more graphic account was given later. 

But now came a season of dreadful trial to these devoted people. The Indian tribes, which almost surrounded them, became incensed against the whites, and rose in arms to destroy them. The inhabitants of Long Canes, in Abbeville, fled for refuge to the older and more settled parts of the country. A party, of whom Patrick Calhoun was one, who were removing their wives and children and more valuable effects to Augusta, were attacked by the Cherokees, on February 1st, 1760, and, according to contemporary journals, some fifty persons–according to other accounts, twenty-two persons–mostly women and children, were slain, and fourteen carried into captivity. After the massacre, many children were found wandering in the woods. One man brought fourteen of these young fugitives into Augusta, some of whom had been cut with tomahawks and left for dead. Others were found on the bloody field, scalped, but living still. Patrick Calhoun, who returned to the spot to bury the dead, found twenty dead bodies, inhumanly mangled. The Indians had set fire to the woods, and had rifled the carts and wagons, thirteen in number.

One of those slaughtered was Benjamin’s daughter. The bodies found were buried on the site of the massacre. The location of the massacre and the graves is identified by this historical marker. The site is near Troy, just south of the town of Abbeville.

Benjamin died later that year. The rest of his family stayed in Abbeville. His family included his wife Elizabeth Crain, and four sons. There was also a daughter Betsy, who would have been thirty two at the time of the massacre and may have been the one that was killed. I have no marriage or death record for her. 

Fifteen years later, the first land battle of the Revolutionary War in the South was fought there on November 19-21, 1775. About 500 Patriots hastily built a rustic fort, dug a well inside and fought an attack from a much larger force of Tories (loyal colonials). There were no British forces involved. The battle ended in a formal truce. At that battle, under the command of Col. Andrew Williamson, was Captain Adam Crain Jones, one of Benjamin’s five sons.

In 1788, after the War of Independence, Adam Crain Jones, as a representative in the South Carolina legislature, was called upon to vote on whether the legislature would meet in Convention on May 12th to consider ratifying the new Constitution of the United States. Adam Crain Jones, as a representative of the Ninety-Sixth, voted “aye” but the vote was only 76 “ayes” and 75 “nayes”. So South Carolina came very close to not even having a Convention to consider the ratification of the Constitution. However, on May 27, 1788, South Carolina became the eighth state to ratify the Constitution of the United States.

1790 Census

In the first U. S. Census in 1790, Adam Crain Jones, (now “Esq.”) was living in Abbeville, South Carolina with 25 slaves. This is many more than any other household on the census page. Slave populations were counted because of the “Three-fifths Compromise” of 1787 that proclaimed that each slave was worth three fifths of one white male for the purpose of determining how many representatives each state would have in Congress. This gave southern states more Representatives than they would otherwise have had.

Captain Jones’ son, Benjamin Franklin Jones, continued to live in Abbeville, South Carolina, as a slaveholder. He owned or controlled hundreds of acres of land upon the death of his father in 1815, as specified in his will in which he divided his slaves among his children and grandchildren. There are a lot of confusing legal negotiations between Benjamin’s brother, Henry Alexander Jones, and his many debtors, including Benjamin, in which Henry seems to have borrowed a great deal from many people and then went into bankruptcy. Hundreds of acres of land and many slaves were involved in paying off these debts.

Density of Slave Population, 1861

However, Ninety-Six District itself did not have as high a percentage of slaves in the population as the rest of the state. This 1861 map of South Carolina shows that the Ninety-Six District in the far northwest corner of the state has a lower density of slave populations (lighter shading). It may have been that the land was unsuitable for large plantations or just thinly settled. 

In 1828, fifty years after that battle at Ninety-Six, Katherine Obedience Jones, daughter of Benjamin and Mary Townes Jones, married William Hawthorn Kirkpatrick in Abbeville.

The parents of William Hawthorn Kirkpatrick migrated from Scotland. Thomas and Margaret McConkey Kirkpatrick, were married in Scotland and arrived in Charles Town, South Carolina in 1767 as part of the wave of Protestant Irish attracted by bounty land warrants under the Bounty Act of 1761. They settled in Abbeville, South Carolina, where their son, William Hawthorn was born in 1797. He and Katherine Obedience Jones had six children, three sons and three daughters, all in Abbeville. Little is known about William Hawthorn’s life in Abbeville except that in 1843, as the President of the Board of Trustees of the Methodist Protestant Mount Zion Church, he and his father petitioned the South Carolina Legislature for incorporation of the church. 

29 Nov 1843 Edgefield, South Carolina 

In 1846, William Hawthorn packed up all the kids and 6 “Negroes” in a 6 mule wagon and headed west, via Arkansas, to Hill County, Texas. William Hawthorn’s son, Addison, later wrote a book about this trip, The Early Settlers’ Life in Texas, and the Organization of Hill County, suggests a link to Scotland and a second explanation for my daughter’s red hair (the other is John Lattimore and Isabelle Frazier).

My grandfather, Thos. Kirkpatrick, came to the United States from Scotland before the War of 1812, and participated with conspicuous valor in same.” After leaving SC in 1846 and stopping in AR for three years they resumed the trip and, “In 1849 we resumed our journey to Texas and landed in what is now Hill Co. territory that same year; our family being as follows: W. H. Kirkpatrick, my father; two brothers — W. P. and J. R. Kirkpatrick — both older than I, and three sisters, namely: Mary, Antoinette and Alleen. There were seven of us in the family with six negroes. … We stopped for the night at a little log school house and found that the old time preacher, Elder Byers, was to preach there that night. Our crowd composed the greater part of the congregation. My father [WHK] made himself known to the preacher and told him that we were looking for the best country in Texas. Elder Byers told him to go on until he came in sight of the cross timbers on the east side of the Brazos River to a valley known as the Aquilla Valley, and he would find this the garden spot of Texas. So here we landed in 1849 and have been here ever since, and have seen all the changes as they came, transforming this section from a perfect wilderness into a civilized country with all the modern improvements.

The Early Settlers’ Life in Texas, and the Organization of Hill County, by Addison Kirkpatrick

William Hawthorn’s move to Texas with his family takes place in the very earliest days of the settlement of the state. Texas won its independence from Mexico in 1837 and became an independent republic. However, it turned out that Texans were not as independent as they thought they were. All hat and no cattle. In 1845 Texas joined the union and became the 28th state. Hill County was first settled around 1848, when Fort Graham was constructed. So the Kirkpatricks were among its first settlers. But “settled” is misleading. This was still Indian territory. The forts that were built throughout the West were meant to precede and protect settlers as they arrived. In this map, Falls County is just south of Waco at the edge of the frontier in 1849.

William Hawthorn took his family west long before the outbreak of the Civil War. Abbeville, however, would become known as the birthplace and deathbed of the Confederacy. It was in Abbeville that the first meeting leading to the secession of South Carolina was held in 1860 and the place where Jefferson Davis officially acknowledged the dissolution of the Confederacy in 1865.

William Hawthorn died in 1863 but he had his funeral preached before his death so he could censor it. Given that he was a Methodist minister, it’s a puzzle what he wanted censured. It may have been that he wanted to hide his slave-holding past. My father has a note saying “Milton Kirkpatrick, [former] slave of William, visited Lizzie in Chilton in about 1898”. Lizzie is probably William Hawthorn’s daughter-in-law, who we’ll get to later. In 1840, back in South Carolina, William Hawthorn claimed 14 slaves. In 1850 when the family was stuck in the mud in Arkansas, he claimed 5 slaves. But in 1860 in Texas, he claimed no slaves. If he brought six slaves with him to Texas, he must have emancipated them, as the Civil War had not yet begun and Texas was a slave state.

I looked at the census and found a Milton Kirkpatrick, a former slave born in about 1835 in South Carolina, and living in Falls County, Texas in 1870, where he lived until his death in 1912. If he had come to that very sparsely settled area in the late 1840s with William Hawthorn, he would have been only a teenager at the time. In 1870 he was living with his wife Melissa, also born in South Carolina, and their one year old son. In 1873 Milton married Julia Ann Harding, a native of Texas, and had 12 more children. One of his descendants was among the Tuskegee Airmen. Maybe Milton was one of the six slaves that William Hawthorn took with him from South Carolina to Texas, and wanted to keep the family’s slave-holding history a secret. Or, maybe, some of those former slaves he brought from South Carolina were actually his children. I have been in touch with Milton’s great great grandson, Cary Bible. He lists William Hawthorn as the father of Milton. Of course, there wouldn’t have been any documentation for this. But this is how I learned about the Tuskegee airman.

We will never know the answer to the mystery of why William Hawthorn Kirkpatrick wanted to censor his own funeral. But he probably had some forewarning of his demise. He traveled to Mexico in 1863 to buy some supplies and fell ill of Bright’s disease (kidney disease) on the way home and died in New Braunfels, Texas. If he had chronic kidney disease, then he could have had symptoms warning him that he was not well and not improving.

William Hawthorn and Katherine’s three sons lived to raise families of their own, including James Richard Kirkpatrick, my gr-gr-grandfather. But their three daughters died before the age of thirty. Life and childbirth on the frontier were very hard on women.

I found some interesting information in the the second volume of my mother’s baby book kept by her mother, Sarah Elizabeth Kirkpatrick, my Gan. In it, on about the tenth page, Gan throws a monkey wrench into the history of her family, but only on the maternal branches. She writes that my mother’s “great grandfather – JR Kirkpatrick, [was the] son of Wm Hawthorn and O. A. Kirkpatrick”, no maiden name given, not Katherine Obedience Jones. But she then says that “his mother was a Jones”, apparently referring to JR, whose mother was a Jones. Then she says “his maternal grandmother was a Calhoun” and “she” was cousin of John C. Calhoun, the fire-brand, pro-slavery, vice-president under Andrew Jackson (Gan didn’t write that, I did). Now I have no idea who she is referring to. There is no Calhoun in Gan’s family that I can find. THEN she says that my mother’s great grandmother, who would be JR’s wife, was “Sarah Elizabeth Kirkpatrick”, not Elizabeth Eller (King) Kirkpatrick. 

We can’t chalk this up to old age, because Gan was young when she wrote this. Anyway, Gan’s name was Sarah Elizabeth Kirkpatrick! On the next page of the scrapbook she seems to be copying from a bible record, because she provides dates of the births, marriages and deaths of the Kirkpatricks, all of which match those that I have, even when the initials are wrong, except that NOW she says that J R had two wives, “E. A.” and “S. E.”. The marriage date of JR to “S. E.” and the date of death of “S. E.” match those of Elizabeth Eller King. Since Gan never knew her, and JR died when she was ten, the confusion in the first name is understandable. Gan gives the death of “E. A.” the “first wife” as 1857, which is possible, since JR married Elizabeth Eller King in 1864. Unfortunately, J R does not appear in the 1850 census, probably because he was on the road to Texas. If he were, then we might see the name, or initials of a first wife. We’ll get back to all this in the next essay, as though you hadn’t already had enough.

Remember Milton Kirkpatrick? The black friend of the family who came to visit “Lizzie”? The family tree for Milton lists an earlier wife for JR named Sarah Allen Elizabeth Moore and four additional children. Even her name doesn’t match up with the initials provided by Gan, but it’s close enough. Milton’s tree also lists a second “wife” of William Hawthorn, an unknown slave, as the mother of seven children, one being Milton. Could she be the Calhoun that Gan was so proud of? The Calhouns were slaveholders.

So, let this be a lesson in the dilemma of even first or second hand accounts. They are usually taken as sacrosanct, especially if the source is a bible record. I will keep pursuing this until I give up.

Not a Brilliant Man 

The travails and controversies that plagued the earlier Lattimores continue with John Lee Lattimore, the eldest of the seven children of Samuel and Franny (Compere) Lattimore. He was born in 1836 in Benton, Yazoo County, Mississippi. Like his father, John Lee became a Baptist minister. And like his father and grandfather, his preaching was controversial. Perhaps because of that, he and Franny, never stayed anywhere very long. Each of their children was born in a different town in Mississippi or Alabama. 

One early event may be an indication of his tenacity. While a boy in Macon, Mississippi, he was “furiously attacked by a large dog, and while the animal was tearing his flesh in a shocking manner, he succeeded in killing him with his pocket knife”. Now, that’s a story to hand down to the grand kids.

While attending Howard College in Marion, Alabama, John Lee met and married Sarah Catherine Shivers in 1860. Sarah Catherine was the great granddaughter of Jesse B. Shivers, Sr who served in the Revolutionary War for two years as a musician with Capt. Child’s Company, Col. Hogan’s 10th North Carolina Regiment. He never saw battle (as a musician, he wouldn’t even have a musket) but he was granted a pension in 1819 anyway.

Sarah Catherine’s father was a veteran of the Texas War of Independence. In 1836, Orlando (Offa) Lunsford Shivers had just received his medical degree from Transylvania Medical College in Lexington, Kentucky, when he answered the call for volunteers to enlist in the sacred cause of Texas. He joined Captain Love’s Company in the 1st Regiment, 1st Brigade of the Texas Volunteers on June 4, 1­836 as a lieutenant under General Sam Houston. On that day he was put into temporary command of the unit due to the absence of Captain Love, who was on leave. He also served as a medical officer. After the war he returned east to find that his family believed him to be dead. 

After returning from Texas, Offa Lunsford taught at the Memphis Medical College and practiced medicine in Marion, Alabama. In 1837, Offa Shivers married Catherine Obedience Woodfin and they had nine children. Catherine Obedience was the daughter of James Woodfin and Catherine Steger.  who has a vary interesting family history which takes us all the way back to Jamestown. But I will leave that for the next essay. This one is long enough. 

Little is known about James Woodfin, except his birth, marriage and death. He was probably a planter because in 1850, he claimed 20 slaves. His father, however, was well known in Virginia Colony.  Rev Samuel Woodfin Sr (b 1722) was a blacksmith and a pastor at one of the earliest Baptist churches, Muddy Creek from 1784 to 1832 (48 years). “If father Woodfin had foibles, they were perhaps more conspicuous to himself than others, yet he had enemies disposed to magnify them”. There is no clarification of this. He died in 1832 at the age of 110.

Catherine Obedience Shivers was also a Daughter of the American Revolution, three or four times, I’m losing count. Her ancestry is fascinating, but even this abbreviated account is a bit complicated. Her mother, Catherine McLaurine, comes from a long line of McLaurines with roots in Scotland. The McLaurines can be traced back to the 12th century in Scotland. There are many different spellings. These are not typos. 

The early MacLaurines appear in the book Scots and Scot’s Descendants, published in 1917. The Maclaurins were distinguished in the Middle Ages by their military exploits, but the family was ultimately overcome by more powerful foes and henceforth devoted itself mainly to intellectual pursuits.  The clan McLaren, sometimes called McLaurin, occupied the lands in Balquhidder and Strathearn since the 12th Century, where they were the predominant clan. This land was bordered by the McGregors of Glengyle. One of the earliest records of the Clan Laurin was in 1558 when a massacre took place in a feud between the McGregors and the McLaurins. A monument was erected in the churchyard of Balquidder in 1868 by Daniel McLaurin, bearing the inscription:

In memory of the Clan Laurin, anciently the allodian inhabitants of Balquidder and Strathcairn; the chief of whom in the decrepitude of old age, together with his aged and infirm adherents, their wives and children, the widows of their departed kindred – all were destroyed in the silent mid-night hour, by fire and sword by the hands of banditti of incendiarists from Clendeehart, A,D. 1558.

In modern times the most famous of its members was John Maclaurin, one of the leading divines. His son, Colin Maclaurin, the friend of Newton and the most famous of Scottish mathematicians.” However, my ancestor is not the brilliant Colin, but his brother, John, Jr. Again with the brothers.

The Rev. John Maclaurin, minister at Kilmodan, was a “faithful and zealous evangelical pastor.” As one writer says, “He not only distinguished himself by all the virtues of a faithful and diligent pastor, but has left in the records of his provincial synod lasting monuments of his talents for business, and of public spirit.” He also supervised the completed the version of the Psalms into the Gaelic language, which is still used in Highland churches. John died in 1698. There is a memorial plaque at Kilmodan Church in honor of John McLaren and his sons, John and Colin. The plaque is very hard to read. You can just make out the names: John MacLaurin, son John MacLaurin and son Colin MacLaurin.

John’s son, Rev. John MacLaurin, Jr, has been described as “the most profound and eloquent Scottish theologian of that century.” He was instrumental in the building of Glasgow’s Hospital in 1733, for the “mentally afflicted”. From this sprang the Glasgow Royal Asylum, and all the Asylums in Scotland. Those crazy Scots. So highly valued were his services by the magistrates of Glasgow that at his death in 1754 the Town Council voted the sum of £100 to his daughter. However, this wealthy daughter is not my ancestor, but the son, Robert McLaurine.

In 1750, the Rev. Robert McLarine was sent to Virginia Colony by the Church of England as Episcopal minister. From 1751 until his death in 1773, he was in charge of St. James Southam Parish, Episcopal Church in Petersville, Virginia. The following text is from a history of old Virginia churches published in 1861.

Of Mr. McClaurine, other favorable accounts of his piety and great benevolence have come to me. He preached at Tar Wallett, Manakin, and Peterville Churches: beneath the chancel-floor of the latter he was buried.He was the first of his name in Virginia. He left three sons and three daughters, two of whom lived and died in Cumberland, and the third at Norfolk, during the last war. Of the daughters, one married a Hobson, another a Swann, and a third a Steger. Their mother was Miss Blakely, from the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

Robert married Elizabeth Blaikley, whose family is interesting in their own right. Her mother, Catherine Kaidyee Blaikley, lived in Williamsburg, Virginia and was an “eminent Midwife” who delivered “upwards of three Thousand Children,” presumably white and black, slave and free. Her husband was merchant William Blaikley, who died in 1736. During her 35-year widowhood, Mrs. Blaikley lived in the house now called the Blaikely-Durfey House on Duke of Gloucester Street.

Blakeley-Durfey House

Robert McLaurine and his wife, Elizabeth, were the first to occupy the St. James Southam parish farm purchased in 1762 to support and house the minister. Somehow, however, McLaurine gradually acquired land for a second farm, totaling 633 acres. A house was built for Elizabeth McLaurine in about 1775, after Robert’s death, to serve as a home for her young family. Sorry, no pictures for this house. Elizabeth McLaurine is shown in the 1783 census as the head of the family of five, with twenty-five taxable slaves. In 1790, Elizabeth was listed with seven blacks over 16, one over twelve, and two horses. Apparently, the twenty-five slaves recorded there in the 1783 census had been distributed to Robert McLaurine’s heirs. 

Robert and Elizabeth’s son James McLaurine was born in Powhatan, Virginia in 1758. In 1789, James married Catherine Steger, the girl next door. The beginning of a family tradition. They set up home across the road from his mother, Elizabeth, in the house he called Edgemont. Catherine was the daughter of another Revolutionary War soldier, Hans Steger. But the most interesting story about her is about her grandmother, Ann Perrat Steger. The following story is from Sarah Catherine Shivers Lattimore through Aunt Polly. “The first Ann Perratt we know of was the daughter of wealthy parents in England. She ran away and married her father’s coachman, Francis George Steger. She was disinherited, but a year after, the young couple was bidden to come home. They married again with parental sanction, then were sent to America in a ship fitted with everything thought to be needed in the New World. When the father and mother died in England their wealth, reputed to be fifteen million dollars, reverted to the Crown as there were no other heirs, and the American ones, being blessed with much wealth, did not care to take the long journey back to England.” 

In February, 1777, James McLaurine enlisted in the Seventh Virginia Regiment of the continental line (infantry). The regiment marched during the winter from Fredericksburg, Virginia to Philadelphia, often sleeping in the snow. At Philadelphia, the regiment was inoculated for small pox (remember the scene in the movie “John Adams”?) and James came down with small pox, which was always a danger. Even still, he marched on to Middleboro, New Jersey, where he was discharged as unfit for duty. Family tradition has it that he wintered with Washington at Valley Forge, but I think that would have killed him and then where would we all be?

For the son of a preacher, James accumulated a lot of land. James believed in voting early and often.  In early days it was the Virginia law that a man could vote in as many counties as he owned property. When he was 80 years old James rode on horseback and voted in several counties, among them Cumberland, Powhatan and Buckingham.

James McLaurine not only broke the long line of McLaurine ministers, but he became a Methodist and burned the barrel of sermons (Episcopalian) that his father had left him to read and have published.  James married Catherine Steger and their daughter, Catherine Obedience McLaurine, married James Woodfin in 1811. Their daughter, Catherine Obedience Woodfin, married Offa Lunsford Shivers in 1837 in Maringo, Alabama. Their daughter, Sarah Catherine Shivers, married John Lee Lattimore, bringing all the names together. 

Catherine Obedience Woodfin Shivers and Sarah Catherine

The following is from a letter from their daughter Nannie E. Shivers Boggess (February 1934) to a Miss Kirtley who was researching families connected with the early days of the Judson Institute for Women in Marion, Alabama.

My father (Offa Lunsford Shivers) moved to Marion in 1841. “With a wife, two babies and a moon-eyed horse”….When he moved to Marion he had just completed his medical studies at a school in Forsyth, Ga. The School I think has not been in existence for many years. My sister, Sarah Catherine [Shivers Lattimore], called then by her full name, was a brilliant and faithful student, a great Christian and a wonderful woman all the days of her life. She was valedictorian of the class of 1857. My father and his family moved to the Judson Institute in the Autumn of ’64, when the Confederacy was tottering to its fall. I have many hazy memories of that time.

Nanny Shivers Boggess

Before the Civil War, Offa Lunsford Shiver was a slave holder. This snippet is from the 1850 U.S. Federal Census – Slaveholders. The columns are the number, age, sex and finally “colour”. There is another column for the “number manumitted”, which was zero for that page. In 1860, Offa Shivers claimed 20 slaves. It’s difficult to imagine why a physician would need so many slaves.

1850 Slave Schedule

Although he looks prosperous in this family portrait, after the war, Offa Shivers appears to have fallen on hard times. That was the case with many southerners after the war. With six of his children and his wife to care for, he seems to have taken in a number of boarders. The 1870 census lists three servants, four clerks and four railroad workers. Two of their children died as infants and Sarah Catherine had married John Lee Lattimore.

Offa Lunsford Shiver and Family

However, since John Lee is of the same generation as Edmond J. Gifford and Porter Wallace Roundy, the outbreak of the Civil War interrupted his life as well. He enlisted as a private in the confederate army and was promoted to 2nd Sargent of Company B, 37th Mississippi Infantry Regiment. The 37th Mississippi was under the command of Brigadier General Louis Hébert, who had fought at Wilson’s Creek against the 1st Iowa Infantry, Edmond J. Gifford’s unit.

The muster roll of the 37th Mississippi says that John Lee was captured at Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, the day the city fell, and then released in a prisoner exchange. Vicksburg was the last bastion of the Confederacy on the Mississippi River. Its loss would give the Union army control of the river. Grant’s siege of Vicksburg began in May 17th and ended on July 4th, 1863. On the evening of May 19, 1863, Federal artillery fire began and continued for forty-eight days and nights. The Confederate batteries in front of the Thirty-seventh Regiment were repeatedly attacked. The batteries held, but the assaults continued, inflicting heavy losses. The men served continuously in the trenches, exposed to the scorching midsummer sun and often to chilling nights. There were no troops to relieve them and afford them an opportunity to rest.

Caves of Vicksburg

The siege lasted so long that the citizens of Vicksburg took to digging caves into the hillsides facing away from the Union line in order to escape the bombardment. One resident had to stay awake to keep starving soldiers out of his vegetable garden. By June, half the Confederate soldiers were sick with malaria, dysentery and scurvy.

Then, on July 4th, 48 days after the attack began, the Confederates surrendered. In accordance with the terms of capitulation, the brigade stacked their arms in front of the battle lines, evacuated the trenches and were marched to bivouac in the rear of the works. They were then taken to a camp in Enterprise, Mississippi, where they were paroled and exchanged. It seems that it is more costly to keep prisoners, than to exchange them to fight again. However, with fewer arms, less food and thoroughly exhausted many parolees just went back home.

In November and December, John Lee is listed as “Absent without leave”. His commanding officer Hébert had also been captured, so there was no one to serve. One account that I read said he served until the end of the war. Many paroled officers went right back into battle. There is also an indication that he served as a Chaplain of the 46th Mississippi Regiment.

The following is from a letter written by Nannie E. (Shivers) Boggess, Sarah Catherine’s sister describing how John Lee came home to the Shivers’ house after being exchanged as a prisoner after Vicksburg.

My brother-in-law, Rev. J. L. Lattimore, went into the Confederate Service immediately after the war began. They were married in 1860 and the young wife came to live with her parents [Dr. and Mrs. O. L. Shivers, at Judson College] while he was away in the war. I am not familiar with the Judson buildings now, but the building in which my parents lived was the ‘New Building’. There were only two, the old building…and a two story building containing sick rooms above, a matron’s room and President’s Office on the 1st. The Dining room was in the basement of the new building. My parents’ rooms were on the first floor as was their parlor and the reception room for the school also. My sister’s room in which Judge Lattimore [ John Lee and Sarah Catherine’s second child] was born in 1865, was the 2nd room from the back porch on the south side of the hall, and the kitchen and servant houses were small brick buildings immediately in the rear. Into one of these small houses in the rear, my brother-in-law, Rev. J. L. Lattimore, when he came home after being exchanged after the siege of Vicksburg, was taken, subjected to scrubbings and hair cutting, all his clothing burned, before he was allowed to come into the house. Yes my sister had eight children all of whom grew to manhood and womanhood.

Nanny Shivers Boggess

After the war, John Lee returned to Alabama and he and his wife, Sarah Catherine, lived with his widowed mother, Franny, to help with the care of his two younger brothers, who continued to live with John Lee for some time. One of his obituaries describes how John Lee was persecuted at two points in his life for preaching “all the council of God” concerning baptism and communion. I don’t know what this means, but John Lee must have continued the Lattimore tradition of pissing off the officials of the Baptist church.

John Lee’s controversial sermons forced him to move frequently, eventually arriving in Falls County, Texas in 1874. This is how Sarah Catherine described their life together.

We began our married life in Enterprise, Mississippi, as teachers. The war ended that venture. In 1865 we went to Garlandsville, Mississippi, and taught there. Mr. Lattimore and Cousin Shelby preached much together during the years we lived in Garlandsville and Hickory. In 1868 we moved to Moulton, Alabama and lived there until 1874, when we came to Texas, to Marlin, where Cousin Shelby and Mary were. After living on Blue Ridge at Stranger, Falls County; and Decatur in Wise County; and Alexander in Erath County; we came to Dublin where Mr. Lattimore died on December 1887. He was pastor of the Baptist Church in Dublin when he died. He was a man of great firmness, of unalterable devotion to duty, of pure heart, uniformly courteous and unselfish. Not a brilliant man, but a thoroughly consecrated Christian in every way, inviting love and confidence. He was literally “Sans Pour, Sans Reproache”.

Sarah Catherine Shivers Lattimore


It’s interesting that they began their lives in Enterprise, the location of the parole camp after Vicksburg.

In 1874, John Lee and Sarah Catherine moved to Falls County, Texas. The last three of their eight children, including Bertha Woodfin Lattimore, were born there. But John Lee’s health started to fail. A physician friend of his was traveling to Florida and suggested that John Lee come along to see if a better climate would improve his health. But the travel so exhausted him that, before reaching his destination, he died in a sleeping coach on December 12, 1887.

After John Lee’s death, Sarah Catherine moved in with their daughter, Carrie Foust, in Dublin, Erath County, Texas. In a biographical essay of Sarah Catherine Lattimore, there is this accounting of her children:

From this happy and congenial union were born eight children – Prof. J. C. Lattimore, who was for several years a member of the faculty of Baylor University, and was seventeen years superintendent of the Public Schools of Waco; Senator O. S. Lattimore, of Fort Worth, well known in legal, political and religious circles throughout Texas; Samuel H. Lattimore, a strong and cultured young attorney of Muskogee, Oklahoma; Mrs. R. B. Spencer of Waco; Mrs. J. G. Purvis, of Proctor; Mrs. J. M. Higginbotham, Mrs. C. G. Foust, of Dublin, and Mrs. George C. Butte, of Austin.

The Texas Women’s Hall of Fame By Sinclair Moreland

You’ll recognize the last appendage, Mrs. George C. Butte, of Austin. Mrs. George C. Butte is Bertha Woodfin Lattimore, John Lee and Sarah Catherine’s youngest daughter. She will marry George Charles Butte. Woodfin was Sarah Catherine’s mother’s maiden name and it was carried down through the Butte generations to my cousin Woody. It is sad that even as this essay extols the accomplishments of a woman, it treats her daughters as unnamed appendages of their husbands. What’s even sadder is that this was probably true. At least Sarah Catherine was a writer of modest repute. In 1914, Incidents in the history of Dublin, gathered from participants and eye-witnesses, by Sarah Catherine Lattimore, was published.

Sarah Catherine Shivers Lattimore and children

Sarah Catherine is in the center of this picture. Bertha Woodfin Lattimore is seated on the right.

Bertha was born in 1878 in Blue Ridge, Falls County, Texas. After George Charles Butte made his way from California to Texas at the age of 10, he and Bertha Woodfin Lattimore were wed in 1898 in Erath, Texas where Bertha’s widowed mother, Sarah Catherine Lattimore, still lived with the family of her other daughter, Carrie Lattimore Foust. Sarah Catherine died in 1917, at age 76.

Before leaving the Lattimores, I have one more tale to tell, although there is disagreement over the veracity of one critical link. But I can’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.

My Veteran Ancestors

This Veteran’s Day I would like to honor my veteran ancestors. These are the ones that I have discovered.

Revolutionary War (12)

William Gifford

Rhode Island State Troops, Col. Lippit 1776, White Plains 1775, Princeton 1776. Reenlisted 1777 Col. Crary’s Regiment, Captain Manchester’s Company reenlisted 1779 twice more.

Uriah Roundy

Served under General Putnam, Major John Durkee, Col. Knowlton, Bunker Hill 1775, Battle of Trenton 1776, wintered at Valley Forge1777-78, Battle of Monmouth, Battle of Morristown. Possibly Washington’s personal guard.

William Reuben Briant

Capt. John William’s Company of Col. Buncomb’s Regiment, wounded at Brandywine 1776, wintered at Valley Forge1777-78, discharged at White Plains; reenlisted, fought at Battle of Cowpens.

Adam Crain Jones

served in the South Carolina Militia under Col. Andrew Williams at the Battle of Cowpens

William Townes

2nd Lieutenant, Cumberland County, Virginia Militia

Hans Steger

served as a 2nd Lieut., Powhatan Militia during the Revolutionary War. Enlisted under Capt. Joseph Carrington for the Minute Service, Amelia District, Cumberland Co., Virginia.

Amos Beard

Private in Hartwood’s Co., Col. Peter Porter’s Co., Col. Paterson’s Regiment, Continental Line, which marched in response to the alarm of Apr. 19, 1775 from Picket Co. Cambridge.

Daniel Roundy

Served in Capt. Gates Co., Vermont Militia, Continental Line.

Jesse B. Shivers

served as a musician in Capt. Child’s Company, Col. Abraham Shepard’s 10th North Carolina Regiment, Continental Line.

James McLaurine

served in Capt. Charles Fleming’s company in the Seventh Virginia Regiment of the Continental Line, commanded by Col. Crockett

Walter Carson

served in the Pennsylvania 10th Regiment, Continental Army

Texas War of Independence

Orlando Lundsford Shivers

served in Captain Love’s Company in the 1st Regiment, 1st Brigade of the Texas Volunteers on June 4, 1836 as a lieutenant under General Sam Houston

Civil War

Edmund J Gifford

Enlisted as a Private in Company K, 2nd Cavalry Regiment Wis. Promoted to Full 2nd Lieutenant on 4 Jan 1862. Mustered out June 11, 1862 due to injury.Served in Company A, 1st Infantry Regiment Iowa, fought at Wilson’s Creek 1861, injured in fall from his horse

Porter Wallace Roundy

Enlisted as a Private in Company K, 2nd Cavalry Regiment Wis. Promoted to Full 2nd Lieutenant on 4 Jan 1862. Mustered out June 11, 1862 due to injury. He reenlisted in 1864 in the 37th Wisconsin Infantry. He served as hospital steward at City Point during the siege of Petersburg.

Herman Frederich Bonorden

Enlisted as a Bugler in Company E, 2nd Iowa Cavalry 2 years after arriving from Germany. Mustered out on 03 Oct 1864. Detailed to payroll dept. the next year, where he stayed until discharge Sept. 1864.

Offa Lundsford Shivers

37th Mississippi, at Vicksburg, taken prisoner and exchanged


George Charles Butte

served as a Capt.& Major US Army, 1914 -1924 during WWI and as

the Chief of the Foreign Intelligence Section of the General Staff, Washington, DC, 1918.


Porter William Gifford, Jr.

served as a Major during WWII and was Chief of the Aircraft Section, Maintenance Division, 2nd Advanced Air Depot Area, IX Air Force Service Command, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star.

Felix Lattimore Butte

Served as a surgeon in the Army Medical Corp. 1942 -1945, stationed in England.

Tempest in a Teapot

Although Daniel and Ann Lattimore had moved their entire family to Indiana around 1810, at least one grandchild returned to the South. This was Samuel Stockton Lattimore, a highly revered Baptist minister who somehow got embroiled in a tempest apparently through no fault of his own. 

Before moving to Jefferson County, Indiana, in 1811, Samuel’s grandparent’s, Daniel and Ann Lattimore, had a son, John Jr., who was born in 1778 when the Lattimores were still in North Carolina. He married Isabella Carson in North Carolina and they also came to Indiana with their own five young children. They settled a little to the north of Daniel and Ann, in Jennings County, where they had five more children. Those pioneer women! But it takes a big family to work a farm.

In those days, Indiana was on the frontier. In 1816, friendly Indians came to John’s door to warn the family that hostile Indians were in the area. John and his wife and their six or seven children, by this time, fled to safety in Madison, 20 very difficult miles away. 

John’s in-laws, the Carsons, also migrated to Jennings County, Indiana from Rutherford County, North Carolina. Isabella’s father, Walter Carson, was a veteran of the Revolutionary War. He initially volunteered in the militia of York County, Pennsylvania. He later moved to South Carolina and served in the militia there as well. As with the Lattimores, Walter Carson took all of his children with him to Indiana and settled near the Lattimores along Grahams Creek. 

John Lattimore, Jr.

John and Isabella’s son Samuel Stockton Lattimore was born in 1811 while his parents still lived in North Carolina. He was one of the few Lattimores that left Indiana and returned to the South. He first appears in Mississippi, where, in 1834, Samuel married Francis Ann Compere, a daughter of English missionary, Lee Compere. 

Lee Compere, was a highly revered, if also controversial, Baptist preacher and missionary. Lee was born in Market Harbor, Leicestershire, England in 1790. In 1815, the Baptist Mission Society (BMS) of England appointed Compere to serve as a missionary among the slaves in the British colony of Jamaica. The missionary efforts of Lee and his wife Susannah Voysey Compere in Jamaica were successful in building a congregation, but the couple angered the BMS by openly opposing slavery. Which, I suppose, means that the Baptists condoned slavery.

Lee Compere

So Lee and his wife Susanna moved to Alabama in 1822 to continue their missionary work with the Creek Indians, but then became embroiled in the struggles between white and Creek slave owners and the issue of Indian removal. The Comperes provided the Creeks with the Western-style education that they wanted for their children but prohibited Christian evangelism, thus ignoring the terms of the official agreement between the Creeks and the Georgia Baptists. Among the Creeks, as in Jamaica, the abolitionist Comperes found a receptive audience for Christianity among black slaves. Creek slave-owners, however, eventually forbid their slaves to visit the Compere’s mission. Lee continued his mission work until late in life and ended up in Texas with his son Thomas. For more information about Lee Compere, click here.

Samuel Stockton Lattimore may have been greatly influenced by his father-in-law, Lee Compere, or he may have already been a Baptist minister when he met the Comperes. But he took a more orthodox position within the Baptist community. Samuel Lattimore appears in three books published in the 19th and early 20th century about the history of the Baptist Church. Annals of the American Pulpit: Baptist. 1860 by William Buell Sprague, The Baptist Encyclopedia – Vol. 2, 1881 by William Cathcart, and A Complete History of Mississippi Baptists, from the earliest times, 1903 by Z. T. Leavell and T. J. Bailey, 1903.

Reverend Samuel S. Lattimore was born in Rutherford County, North Carolina March 9, 1811; removed with his father while a child to Jennings, Indiana. At 14 years of age he became a member of the literary institution at South Hanover, Indiana, supporting himself by his own exertions. He remained at this institution for nine years, until he completed his course in July 1833. During this period he became a member of the Presbyterian Church and remained in this connection for six or seven years.

Leaving college soon thereafter, he went to Vicksburg, Mississippi thence to Clinton and shortly after taught in the school at Society Ridge. In 1834 he was ordained to the gospel ministry and became general agent for the Mississippi Baptist State Convention. In Dec. 1837 he settled at Middleton, Carroll County, Mississippi, where he engaged in preaching and teaching a school under Baptist auspices until 1840, when he removed to Sumter County, Alabama, where he preached to Providence and other churches. In 1845 he was again general agent for the Mississippi Baptist State Convention. In 1847, he was called to the pastorate of Macon Church, Noxube County, Mississippi. Remaining there one year he accepted a very urgent call from the Aberdeen Church, with understanding that he should return to Macon after the lapse of a year. Accordingly he returned to Macon and remained till he again accepted an invitation to take charge of the Aberdeen Church. In this relation he continued until his death.

From 1849 to 1854 he was President of the Mississippi Baptist State Convention. In 1834 he married Frances A, daughter of Reverend Lee Compere. He died suddenly Oct 17, 1857. He was a man of marked ability, of warm & generous affections, eloquent as a preacher, able as a writer and eminently successful as a minister of the Gospel.

The Baptist Encyclopedia

I know the reading is a little tedious but the details matter. The first sentence identifies this as our Samuel.

The third book provides detailed accounts of the meetings of the Mississippi Association, an entity composed of the Baptist churches in Mississippi. The book mentions the many sermons given and roles played by S. S. Lattimore, J. L. Lattimore, W. C. Lattimore, Lee Compere and E. L. Compere. These are Samuel Stockton Lattimore, his sons, John Lee Lattimore and Walter Compere Lattimore, his father-in-law, Lee Compere and his brother-in-law, Ebenezer Lee Compere.

The first mention of S.S. Lattimore is in 1836, when it is noted that he was to become the general agent of the Mississippi Association of Baptist Churches. He continued to serve the Association until 1855 when he “was in ill health, but still in the years of his usefulness. They parted with him with sincere regret.” The book has many references to S.S. Lattimore’s service and sermons. But S.S. Lattimore’s association with the Mississippi Association was soon to become controversial.

Every five years or so I sit myself down with determination to try to figure out this controversy. And every time, I throw up my hands in disgust. But, for your sake, here I go again. Two pamphlets were published by A. Newton and our Samuel Lattimore:

The Conspiracy exposed, and Rev. S. S. Lattimore unmasked, by A. Newton and S. S. Lattimore, 1841

Examination of the last new school book on baptism: Or a plain statement, in relation to certain difficulties between Rev. A. Newton and the author of this pamphlet by Samuel S Lattimore, 1843.

The first one is available on line, but not the second. Supposedly written by both Rev. A. Newton and Rev. S. S. Lattimore, it starts this way.


One word, if you please, before you lay this pamphlet down. Had you heard any thing before of the subject, which is brought to your notice upon these pages? Not a word, says one. Then it is just as you please whether you read this paper or not I do not care to disturb the equanimity of your temper, or to trespass upon your time with any personal affair of mine. I would be pleased to have you read to be sure – but I allege no claim upon your time or your patience. And although you may be amused, I am not sure that you will be benefitted; except it may be, that, in turning over another page of the history of human depravity, you shall be better able to resist the influences of the hollow-hearted and false among your fellow-men.

I have heard something of this controversy, says another. I am sick of what I have heard already. I care not to hear any more about it.

Patience, friend! You say you are sick. How do you suppose I feel? Take a full dose, and perhaps you may be relieved. You have not heard all about it, that is certain. However, you can do as you please. One thing, let me say, I have a right to ask, not as a favor to any to any one, but as an act of justice to all. You will, of course form no opinion in the case, if you decide not to read. You cannot decide not to read, and reserve to yourself the privilege of approving or condemning, as caprice or prejudice or interest may dictate. Solomon says, he that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly unto him. You would not be guilty of such folly, would you? Then read and judge for yourself. You may then form and express whatever opinion you please.

The Conspiracy exposed, and Rev. S. S. Lattimore unmasked

And it just gets worse. You can perhaps see why I have been both intrigued and infuriated. This is the beginning of the introduction to a 191 page “pamphlet”, with 91 pages of supporting documents and 100 pages of outrage and self pity apparently arising from Mr. Newton taking umbrage at being accused of spreading falsehoods concerning whether or not Mr. Lattimore denied attending a masquerade ball in New Orleans, or perhaps a brothel. The documents involve apparently countless Baptist ministers and church officials, as well as documents written by Mr. Lattimore. There seems to be no other portion of the pamphlet written by Mr. Lattimore, despite the claim of joint authorship and the implied endorsement.

I’m not sure why this tempest in a teapot fascinates me so and yet I cannot bring myself to get to the bottom of it. Newton certainly provides enough documentation and argument to justify his feelings of being slighted. But I guess that is part of the problem. This controversy is of such little importance and yet the amount of verbiage is so vast that I am unable to sustain the necessary effort to plow through it. But how can there be nothing there? And there is another pamphlet! In past years I felt that there must be more substance to this controversy. However, more recently I’ve become aware of just how petty and vindictive people can be for no good reason whatsoever.

At the time this was going on, Samuel was the president of the Judson Institute and very active in the Baptist community, of which he was a long-standing, highly regarded and respected member. Alas, mental exhaustion forces me to leave it to the reader to decide if there is any there there. Please let me know if you are successful.

At this time, Lee Compere was not doing so well, either. There apparently were still some Baptists who resented Lee’s opposition to slavery. In 1857, there was “material for a sad paragraph in two resolutions passed at the session.” The first resolution was passed “to raise funds for the assistance of the venerable Lee Compere. To the credit of the body, a response was made, but it appears feeble and limited. Ten persons proffered $5.00 each. Lee Compere, born in England, missionary to Jamaica, the benison [sic] of the Creek Indians, father-in-law of S. S. Lattimore, in old age and in want, and a public collection taken for him of fifty paltry dollars! What a frowning wall before the Baptist ministry of Lee Compere, brainy and brave, prompt and pious, famous foreigner, God chosen vessel, in old age and in want!

A second resolution “was double in its intensity. S. S. Lattimore, the pulpit prodigy, was dead. Generous to a fault, his family was left in ‘straitened circumstances.’ His name is in Foster’s Chronicles. He could ‘insinuate himself into the very soul’. He held the fierce lightnings in his grasp, and stood on seamless granite. His head was bathed in the exhilarating atmosphere not breathed by the vulgar herd of men. The gifted Lattimore was gone, and his family in straightened circumstances, and a collection to be taken in the churches to liquidate his debts.” Baptist ministers were not well paid nor, apparently, well kept by the church in their declining years. He and “Franny” had seven children before he died in 1857, age 46, when the youngest was only two years old.

Later in 1857, this note appeared. “S. S. Lattimore had been the subject of scurrilous attack, by some secular newspaper. The Choctaw had long honored him, and much revered him. He was in very feeble health, and as his step was unsteady, he had been accused by merciless enemies of drinking. This stirred the blood of the Choctaw Baptists. But before the Association arose from its labors, the sad news reached them that the gifted Lattimore was dead. A good report was written, expressive of their sorrow. As to the life, and death of this great orator, much has been written in the history of the Aberdeen Association. Suffice it here to say that in discursive thought he has had few equals among our brethren, and no superiors.” Well, at least a good report was written.

However, the effort to honor Samuel continued to be wanting. There seemed to be some irregularities. “He had been such a popular preacher that there was an offering taken throughout Mississippi for a memorial. In 1860, there was a resolution of the Association, making inquiry concerning J. K. Barry, appointed by the Aberdeen Association, to raise funds for the erection of a suitable monument at the grave of S. S. Lattimore, and for relief to his widow, and requesting that Association to obtain, if possible, from the said Barry, a full list of contributions made to him for these objects, and that the same be published in the Mississippi Baptist.”  However, before the memorial could be built, a person grabbed the money belt where all the money had been put and rode off on a horse. He was never caught and Samuel was buried in an unmarked grave in Odd Fellows Rest in Aberdeen, Mississippi.

After Samuel’s death, Franny could not take care of her seven children, or at least the five youngest ones. Her mother, Susanna Compere, had died in 1834, a year after the birth of her ninth child. Her father, Lee, had remarried in 1836. So when he was in “straightened circumstances” in 1857, he continued his Baptist ministry in Mississippi and then appears in Navarro County, Texas with his second wife and a grandson in 1870, next door to his son Thomas and his family. At 79, he was trying his hand as a farmer, having given up preaching. He died a year later.

So, when Samuel died, Franny was on her own and also in “straightened circumstances”. Apparently, she never remarried. In fact we don’t know what happened to Franny, except that she apparently died in Jennings County, Indiana, where her husband’s family lived. Maybe her in-laws took her in. Her two youngest sons, William and Walter, went to live with their eldest brother, John Lee, who was still a minister in Alabama. William eventually went to live with his grandfather, Lee Compere, in Texas.

Samuel’s and Franny’s son John Lee Lattimore also became a Baptist minister and traveled around the south before settling for a while in Falls County, Texas, some time between 1870 and 1880. There, the youngest of John Lee’s daughters, Bertha Woodfin Lattimore, would meet George Charles Felix Butte.

On the Road Again

My great grandfather, George Charles Felix Butte, married the charming Bertha Woodfin Lattimore. My Lattimores go back to the earliest days of the Virginia and Carolina colonies.  They made their way from Pennsylvania down the Great Wagon Road to settle amongst the Indians that still lived there.  The Stocktons were some of the earliest settlers in Virginia Colony and left their mark on the land.  Like the Renfros who moved from Kentucky to Illinois, the Lattimores also left the South for Indiana.  

From “The Lattimores, A Family History”, by Esther Lattimore Jenkins, we have the following, perhaps fanciful, account. In about the year 1690, three brothers, John, Daniel, and Samuel Lattimore, sailed from Ireland to Philadelphia. John and his brothers were probably “Scotch-Irish”.  They may have been orphans and they probably arrived in Philadelphia as “bonded” (indentured) servants.  Bonded servants were of two categories, voluntary and involuntary.  In the first category were those men and women who desired to come to the colonies but were too poor to pay the costs of transportation.  Of their own accord they bound themselves to an employer for a specified time in return for transport and maintenance.  The involuntary category included orphans, vagrants, paupers, debtors, and convicts.

John Lattimore, the youngest, was then a mere boy and had red hair and blue eyes.   There are several John Lattimores in a row here, so I will refer to them as “John the Immigrant”, “John Sr.” and John Jr.”   John the immigrant left Philadelphia and settled in Virginia with his wife Sarah.  This migration was part of a general trend.

Around 1732, the first large group of Scotch-Irish settlers migrated to Virginia from Pennsylvania along the Great Wagon Road. By the year 1736, Virginia was flooded with Scotch-Irish Settlers. In Prince William County, Virginia, the Lattimores settled near an old Indian Trail leading south to the Carolinas. This trail was used as a major road by the settlers, and became known as “The Old Carolina Trail”. It is likely this is the trail the Lattimores used on their trek south, always after more and better land.

They settled in the wilderness of the western Carolinas until after the Revolutionary War. Around the beginning of the nineteenth century, when more land was opening up, most of the Lattimores pushed on west. Although one branch of the family stayed in North Carolina, others went to Tennessee, Kentucky and Indiana, always taking up land and starting churches.

The Allegheny and Appalachian Mountains prevented settlers from moving directly west.  Instead, they moved southwest along the valleys carved in the Allegheny Mountains by the various rivers.  Once in Virginia, settlers could cross into Kentucky along the Wilderness Trail and through the Cumberland Gap, as the Renfros did.  Or they could continue south where the road ultimately reached South Carolina.  And by now we know where those big Conestoga wagons came from.

A map of the most inhabited part of Virginia containing the whole province of Maryland with part of Pensilvania, New Jersey and North Carolina. Drawn by Joshua Fry & Peter Jefferson in 1751, published by Thos. Jefferys, London, 1755. This landmark map, unusual in that it relied on firsthand surveys, is the first correct depiction of the Allegheny Mountains, complete with ‘The Great Road from the Yadkin River through Virginia to Philadelphia distant 455 Miles’ – an accurate survey of what would come to be styled the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road.

John the Immigrant and his wife Sarah had a son, John Sr. who married Isabel Frazier, who is known only for having had three sons and three daughters all with red hair and blue eyes except Sarah, who had black eyes and black hair.  And almost all of them married a Stockton:

Francis Lattimore (ca 1744-1817) married Rachel Stockton
John Lattimore, Jr (1745-1821) married Jamima Stockton
Margaret Lattimore married Newberry Stockton
Daniel Lattimore (ca 1750-1831) married Ann Stockton

Jamima, Rachel and Newberry were also siblings. And Ann was their cousin.  Daniel and Ann are my ancestors.

Before we move on with the Lattimores, I want to tell you a little about the Stocktons.  The paternal grandfather of Ann and her cousins, Rachel, Jamima and Newberry, was Davis Stockton.  There is a lot of baloney in online genealogy, and off-line as well, so I spent two days believing that Davis Stockton was related to a signer of the Declaration of Independence.  I even wrote it up, with references and everything.  But then I stumbled upon a description of how DNA evidence proves this to be untrue.  However, Davis was a very interesting person in his own right without needing to be related to anybody and left his own mark, literally, in the pre-revolutionary Virginia Colony.

Davis Stockton’s origins are unknown.  He is believed to have come from Ireland but there is no evidence.  He first appears, with his family, in the Ivy Creek area of Albemarle County, Virginia on March 12, 1739 when he obtained a grant for 400 acres.  So we don’t have any record of where he or his children were born, including Samuel, Ann’s father.  Even the name of his wife is disputed.  But Davis left his mark, or marks, on Virginia.

Among the earliest settlers in the western part of the county, who came as is said under the leadership of Michael Woods, was a family named Stockton. Though their name has entirely disappeared, they have in a number of ways left their mark behind. They consisted of several branches. They erected perhaps the first mill in that section of the county. The north fork of Mechum’s River still bears the name of Stockton’s Creek, the south fork in early times was called Stockton’s Mill creek, and the first name by which Israel’s Gap was known was Stockton’s Thoroughfare. The famous abbreviation of D. S. is also ascribed to the head of the family. One story recites that Michael Woods and Davis Stockton landed at Williamsburg, and came to the wilds of Goochland together, that arriving at D.S. [which is just a tree], they advanced in different directions, Woods continuing straight forward to Woods’s Gap, and Stockton bearing to the left along the foot of the mountain towards Batesville, and that as a memorial of the place where they separated, Stockton carved his initials on a tree.

Albemarle County in Virginia, by Rev. Edgar Woods, 1901, pp. 319-320

The D.S. Tree remained a landmark for many years.  It even appears in orders from the Goochland County Court for building roads. “Road to be Clear’d . . . On the Petition of . . . Davis Stockdon . . . Sam. Arnett [Samuel Arnold], Richard Stockdon, Thomas Stockdon . . . Leave is given to Clear a road from Thomas Morrisons to the D.S. tree in Michael Woods road.” 

In fact, an early map of the road that became a part of the Three Notched Road clearly marks the “D.S.” tree, which is about half way between University (of Virginia at Charlottesville) and the Mechum River. Eventually, a tavern was opened at the D.S. Tree.  Taverns played a very important role in Colonial America.  This is where local residents went to meet and share news.  Travelers stopped to eat, refresh their horses and stay overnight.  They were the cell phones, restaurants, newspapers, gas stations and motels of those days.

D. S. Tavern is one of Albemarle County’s few remaining early ordinaries and the only one in the region to preserve its original bar cage. Tradition holds that the tavern marks the site of the D. S. Tree and the zero milepost of the Three-Notched Road, a principal artery from Richmond to the Shenandoah Valley in the 18th and 19th centuries. “D. S.” is said to stand for [Davis] Stockton, who blazed the trail from Williamsburg and carved his initials on the tree. 

Virginia Landmarks Register, edited by Calder Loth, 1999, p. 11

This next map, made in 1864, identifies only the dwellings and the names of the owners.  The D.S. Tree would be at Dr. Stevens house, which was probably used as a tavern.  The road running south from there is the way Davis went a century before.

Map of Albemarle County / from surveys and reconnaissances made under the direction of Albert H. Campbell Capt. P. Eng. & Chief of Topographical Dept. D.N.V. by Lieutt. C.S. Dwight.

The tavern still exists today.  It started as a one-room log structure and was expanded over the centuries.  The original building is probably on the left.

D.S. Tavern

Most of Davis’ children left Virginia, which probably explains the disappearance of the name at Israel’s Gap and Stockton Creek Mill.  Only his son Thomas, father of Jemima, Newberry and Rachel, died nearby, in Charlottesville.  

Davis’ son Samuel, when he was about 18 years old, served in the Albemarle County Militia in 1758 to protect the frontier from Indians.  Virginia was the frontier.  Shortly thereafter, Samuel married Prudence Torbet and they had three children.  At least, only three are mentioned in his will.  Their only daughter, Ann, married Daniel Lattimore in 1770 in Albemarle County, Virginia.  

During the next two years, Daniel and Ann, and maybe Samuel, can be traced through land purchases and sales from Virginia to South Carolina to North Carolina, where their children, and many grandchildren, were born in Rutherford County, North Carolina, just over the state line from Spartanburg County, South Carolina, where the Bryants lived.  I’ll get to them later.

But around 1810, Daniel, Ann, their children and grandchildren, were on the wagon trail again, crossing the Appalachian Mountains along with thousands of other adventurous souls, to Indiana.  This became possible when the Wilderness Trail opened and the Cumberland Gap was widened, in 1775, by Daniel Boone and his buddy, James Renfro, Jr., to allow for the passage of wagons through the gap. 

Once again, some of my ancestors are in the same area at the same time.  But this time these are my mother’s ancestors on the same path as my father’s ancestors. However, these families didn’t come together until my parents met 130 years later in Dallas. But this is not too surprising.  The new country, as well as its population, was small and those who eventually met in Iowa and Texas would have had to travel  through the same gaps and along the same roads that opened in the mountains and the frontiers as they became “settled”. 

As with all my Southern ancestors, I will not shy away from their participation in America’s original sin, slavery. Here is a newspaper advertisement placed by Samual Stockton offering to sell some of his land for “half the value of it money in negroes.” It is very distressing to see such a casual reference to his willingness to trade land for humans in bondage. 

However, for Daniel, the move from the southern states may have been due to slavery.  Daniel Lattimore was a staunch Presbyterian, and Presbyterian ministers were preaching abolition even at this early date. Although the 1790 Census shows that Daniel’s brothers Francis and John owned slaves, Daniel did not.  Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois attracted many settlers from the slave states because the act creating the Northwest Territories specifically prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude.

In 1811, Daniel Lattimore arrived in Jefferson County, Indiana Territory with his family, including his son John and his wife Isabella (Carson) and her parents, Walter and Mary Carson. Indiana Territory was mostly unclaimed land and considered to be still in hostile Indian Territory.  Daniel erected a large two story home out of hand made bricks, with walls 18 inches thick. According to Mrs. Jenkins, the house was still standing on the road between Deputy and Kent, was well kept, and was being lived in in 1982.  

Daniel Lattimore died 12 February 1831, and Ann Stockton died 28 March 1838.  Lattimore descendants remained in Jefferson County, Indiana for generations.  But remember what I said about my mother being 99% southern stock?  So, Indiana not being in the south, someone had to make the return trip.  That would be Daniel’s grandson, Samuel Stockton Lattimore, who had made the trip north with his parents, John and Isabella (Carson) Lattimore, as an infant and would return south to live a very different lifestyle.

Murder, Mayhem and Madness

Wow, where to begin?  The Buttes were a very accomplished bunch.  All the ones that I knew (aunts, uncles, cousins) were brilliant.  It’s tempting to just give you the list of their accomplishments written up in their obituaries.  However, it’s more fun to hear the stories.  So here goes.

Charles Felix Butte-Caspari was born in Holland in 1830.  His parents were from Italy.  They apparently never immigrated. In 1853 a “C. Butte”, born in 1831, arrived in New York on the F J Wickelhansen.  When he next appears in the 1880 Census, he is married with three children and is a civil engineer in San Francisco.  His wife, Lina Clara Stoes, was born in 1850 in Austria and came to America alone in 1868 on the ship Hermann when she was 18 years old. 

She gives no profession but is listed as being in a “cabin upper level”.  Somehow she or her parents, or maybe her future husband, managed to pay for this.  Somehow Charles and Lina met and married, appearing in San Francisco in 1880 with their three sons, George, Charles and Paul, who had been born there.  The eldest, George, was three years old, so Charles and Lina married in about 1876, several years after her immigration. In 1886 Charles received a patent for a fruit drying machine. He is later listed as a superintendent at the California Dryer company. Charles and Lina remained in California until their deaths in 1900 and 1910.  However, somehow young George was in Texas at age 9 living on a farm.  But before we get to that mystery, I have to tell you about Charles’ other son, Charles.


Charles Felix, his father’s namesake, was a prosperous civil engineer and San Francisco “clubman”.  He married Lenore May Hughes in 1907 and they had three sons.  But in 1934, Charles divorced Lenore, and, that same year, married Emily Maude (Rice) Zigler, “well known in San Francisco and Indianapolis social circles”.  Though what she was know for, I cannot say.  Lenore then sued Emily for $100,000 for Alienation of Affections and Charles turned “approximately $500,000 in property over to his sons”.  This notice gives a little of the background of Charles’ relationship with his first wife.

The resulting financial distress proved fatal.  Using a “curtain pole”, Charles “bludgeoned his socially prominent wife and then heeded her dying request for a farewell kiss”.

Two psychiatrists agreed that Charles “was perfectly sane when he clubbed his wife to death” just  before their second honeymoon after a six month separation.  “She opened her eyes after I struck her the last time and said ‘kiss me goodbye-I’m dying,’” Charles told Detective Yoris. “I knelt down and kissed her and then she was dead.”

But aid was on the way.  Charles’s brother, George Charles Felix Butte (I know, it’s confusing) was reported to be arranging to fly from Mexico to Seattle to provide legal advice to his troubled brother.  

You see, George had made a few headlines himself.  He had been the Dean of the Law Department of the University of Texas, the Republican candidate for Governor of Texas, the Attorney General of Puerto Rico, Vice Governor of the Philippines, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines.  He could probably have gotten Charles off even after he kissed his wife goodbye.  George, the accomplished brother for once, is my ancestor.

But, in the end, George didn’t come.  

Charles died in Walla Walla, Washington at the age of 63 after serving a life sentence and apparently getting paroled at some point.  But that’s not all.  Of the three sons of Charles Felix and Lenore, one was named … wait for it … Charles Felix Butte. However, he always referred to himself as Charles Butte.

The immigrant Charles Felix Butte-Caspari’s eldest son, my great grandfather, was George Charles Felix Butte LLB JD.   The Buttes were worse than the Renfros in unimaginative names.  He named one son George and another, my grandfather, Felix.  

Anyway, as I mentioned before, George Charles was to come to the aid of his murdering younger brother, Charles, in 1938.  But he didn’t.  He was in Mexico at the time and died there two years later, at age 62, of an “intestinal blockage”.  But in those 62 years he made quite a few headlines and was the predominant topic of conversation at our family gatherings with the Butte aunts and uncles in Austin and San Antonio.  There was a great deal of pride in his accomplishments and they are so numerous that I could never keep them straight.  George even had his own Wikipedia entry but it disappeared for some reason.  Here’s part of it:

Butte was born [in 1877 in San Francisco, California, to Charles Felix Butte and the former Lena Clara Stoes. When he was nine years old, Butte’s family moved to Hunt County, east of Dallas, Texas, where he was reared on a farm near Commerce and attended public schools.

In 1895, he received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Austin College in Sherman. He moved to Dublin in Erath County near Stephenville, where on August 21, 1898, he married the former Bertha Lattimore (November 23, 1878–July 13, 1926). Thereafter, he received another bachelor’s degree and in 1904 a Master of Arts from the University of Texas at Austin.  He studied at the University of Berlin in Berlin, Germany from 1911–1912, and received a degree in jurisprudence from the University of Heidelberg in Germany in 1913. He also studied at the École de Droit in Paris, France. Butte was admitted to the Texas bar in 1903, the Oklahoma bar in 1904, and the bar of the Supreme Court of the United States in 1907.

From 1904-1911, Butte practiced law in Muskogee, Oklahoma, when he left the practice to travel and study in Europe. During World War I, Butte was chief of the Foreign Intelligence Section of the General Staff of the U.S. Army, based in Washington, D.C., with the rank of captain and then major.

Now I can tell you the rest of the story.  Notice that George received his first bachelor’s degree in 1895 when he was 18 years old.  Then, after he married, he received a second bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas in 1903.    

One of George’s daughters, Pauline, was an avid family genealogist. According to Aunt Polly’s research, young George went to live with his maternal uncle, Henry Stoes, at Rockwall, Hunt County, Texas in 1887, at the age of 10.  This was long before the scandals in San Francisco, so he wasn’t being sent to get away from all that negative attention.  But that also would mean that Lina Stoes did have family in Texas.  I was able to find Uncle Henry in a later census record in Las Cruses, New Mexico.  But I don’t know why young George was raised on a farm in Commerce, Texas.  And, of course, we don’t have the 1890 census to verify any of this.  The town of Commerce, also in Hunt County, is very proud of its history. “In 1885, the year of incorporation, Commerce had twelve businesses in addition to a hotel and livery stable, a wood shop and wagon factory, and a steam mill and gin, as well as a church and school.” The biography above says he came with his family to Hunt County in 1886.  According to the Census, his father died before 1900, but I don’t know where, and his mother, who died in 1910, and brothers remained in California.  So why was he sent to Texas? I don’t know.

But it’s a good thing he was because George Butte and Bertha Lattimore met and were married in 1898 in Erath County, Texas, where Bertha’s mother, Sarah Catherine (Shivers) Lattimore lived.  Hunt County and Erath County are on opposite sides of Dallas.  Maybe they met in Dallas.  

Bertha was the first wife of George Charles Butte and the mother of all of his children, including the first born, Felix Lattimore Butte, my grandfather, who was born in Sherman, Texas, north of Dallas in 1901.  Bertha’s brother Samuel, that “strong and cultured young attorney”, as we will find out later, followed them to Muskogee and remained in Oklahoma the remainder of his days.

Bertha died young at age 49 in 1926 of a ruptured appendix, when her youngest child, Pauline, my Great Aunt Polly, was just 9 years old.  Aunt Polly wrote this about her memories of her mother:

Because I was not quite nine years old when she died, I have only snatches of memories which I believe are distinct from the things told to me later about those early years.  I remember her singing the old favorite hymns as I stood very close to her in church. She had a sweet clear singing voice and was often asked to sing at friends’ weddings—some of her favorites were “Oh Promise Me” and “Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms”.  Trying to write this evokes a deep sadness (and a lump in my throat) because I lost her so early in our lives together. 

I’ll cover the Lattimores and their ancestors in the next post. 

I never met my great grandfather George, but the thing I remember the most was hearing about his third marriage to a Filipino woman, Angela Montenegro, whom he met while serving as the acting governor of the Philippines.  Although this was somewhat scandalous, the grownups all agreed that she was a lovely woman and made George very happy.


One thing that was not discussed in any detail was the nature of his run for Governor of Texas in 1924.  Based on appearances, he was entirely surprised to be nominated by the Republican Party.  Then Dean of the University of Texas Law School, he was returning home from Europe when he received the news.  “I was overwhelmed,” he said on his arrival in New York. “I am virtually a nobody in Texas politics. Why, I wouldn’t recognize the State’s political leaders if they strolled down the pier to meet me.”  

The thing the grownups didn’t even whisper about was the influence of the (un)desirable Ku Klux Klan vote.  If the Republicans were to have a chance at winning the Governorship, they could not afford to alienate the Klan.  The importance of the Klan vote was evidenced by George’s need to defend himself by stating “I am not now and have never been a member of the Ku Klux Klan. I have not now and never will have any alliance with it.” 

The former governor, and husband of the Democratic nominee, “Ma” Ferguson, charged that, failing to find anybody on land, the “Republican – Ku Klux” crowd had “finally jumped on one poor ignorant professor away out in the middle of the ocean and thrust upon the poor devil the Republican – Ku Klux nomination for Governor.”

I don’t really understand the ins and outs of Texas politics in the ’20s, or any other time for that matter, and I think that is a positive attribute.  But it seems that the Klan’s loathing of the Democratic Fergusons lead them to vote for Uncle George.

Mrs. Ferguson’s Republican opponent in the general election was George C. Butte, dean of the University of Texas law school. Ferguson attacked him as “a little mutton-headed professor with a Dutch diploma,” who was taking orders from the “grand dragon” of the “Realm of Texas,” Z. L. Marvin, “the same as Felix Robertson did [another Felix?].” According to the New York Times, the November 4 election signified “the greatest political revolution that ever took place in Texas.” Tens of thousands of rock-ribbed Democrats cast a ballot for a Republican candidate for the first time. Klansmen deserted wholesale to Butte, who was not in sympathy with the organization, as did a number of anti-Ferguson Democrats, outraged that Ferguson should return to power through his wife. [“Texas in the 1920s” Handbook of Texas, Texas State Historical Association]

He also benefited from the Suffragists’ abhorrence of “Ma” Ferguson.

Caught between a rock and a hard place, many of the former suffragists found themselves unable to bring themselves to support Ferguson. Instead, they did what was then almost unthinkable in Texas politics. They crossed party lines and supported the Republican candidate, George C. Butte, dean of the University of Texas law school. Ordinarily, Republican candidates for governor polled between 11,000 and 30,000 votes statewide. In the election of 1924, Butte received over 294,000 votes — most of them from women. [“Women’s Suffrage Movement in Texas”, Texas State Library and Archives]

But that was not enough to win the election.  

The Texas Klan quickly died out after that. “It was all over,” recalled a former Klansman. “After Robertson was beaten [in the Republican primary] the prominent men left the Klan. The Klan’s standing went with them.”   


The Buttes were blessed with brilliance but plagued by mental and emotional problems. But George and Bertha’s children were some of my favorite relatives when I was a child.  The eldest was Felix, my grandfather. More on him below. The next, George, I didn’t know.  Woodfin, or Uncle Woody, was a lot of fun.  He also was a law professor at the University of Texas.  He had a son, Johnny, who was absolutely brilliant.  Uncle Woody and Aunt Pat had two grand pianos in their house so that Uncle Woody and his son could play duets together.  It was astounding.  Tragically, their Johnny suffered heat stroke his first year at Yale, and lived in a vegetative state thereafter. 

George Charles and his sons

Then came Catherine, whom we all called Aunt Ta, my most favorite great aunt.  She was funny and had a glass eye.  When she was young she was sitting in the stands watching a baseball game when the ball flew right into her eye.  Even with no depth perception, she was a great pool player.  And her son, Woodfin, one of my favorite cousins, followed the family tradition and became a judge. His older brother, Stephen, was a Chess Master as a senior in college. His younger sister, Casey, was wild and was frequently the topic of family conversation.  I think she came to a tragic end. 

Beth, Polly and Sara

Finally, there was little Sarah Pauline, or Aunt Polly.  She was only a few years older than her niece, Beth, and often visited at the Butte house in Dallas on Maplewood Avenue.  Next door lived the Gifford Family and Beth and Polly came to know the Giffords’ son, Pete, who was about Polly’s age.

Now, to my grandfather, Felix Lattimore Butte, George and Bertha’s first born. During his youth he lived for a while in Austin and then Muskogee, Oklahoma while his father practiced law there.  Later, he benefited from his father’s stays in Berlin, Heidelberg and Paris while George was obtaining (more) advanced degrees.  He followed the family tradition of being very accomplished, playing the violin, becoming not only a doctor but eventually the Chief of the Orthopedic Surgery Department at Baylor Hospital in Dallas.  Always a point of pride in the family.  He worked there, literally, until the day he died in 1962.

While Felix was studying in Austin he met a very vivacious young lady from Chilton, Texas, Sarah Elizabeth Kirkpatrick.  They married on September 17, 1924. The marriage announcement in the San Antonio Press September 13, 1924 had Elizabeth’s name wrong, referring to her  as “Mary”.  She must have been furious.

Elizabeth and Felix 1924

Felix and Elizabeth were separated for a year or two while he was at medical school in Galveston.  Elizabeth had graduated from the university and was back in Chilton teaching school.  His letters are very passionate and creative in the greetings and closings he uses.  Or maybe that was just how young twenty-somethings wrote in the early twenties.  After their marriage, Felix became a professor of anatomy at Galveston from 1927 until 1933. There are a lot of pictures of them with their daughters Rose Elizabeth and Sara and son Felix, Jr at the beach.  Rose, my mother, changed her name to Beth because she got tired of the other children calling her “Rosie Butt”. Galveston also became a frequent destiny for our family summer vacations when I was little.  

Beth, Sara, Elizabeth, Felix, Jr and Felix

Next Felix and his family moved to White Plains, New York, so that he could train further in New York in the specialty of orthopedics. Felix’s medical career was interrupted by military service from 1942 to 1945.  Their children were in their early teens and did not see much of their father during those years.  He served as military doctor in England.  There was family gossip, via Aunt Sara, that he fell in love with a nurse and must have considered leaving Elizabeth, because she and the children knew of the affair.  However, he returned home and was a very devoted husband and father.

Elizabeth and Felix

After the war Felix’s peers considered him a superb technician, and his main clinical interest was the spine.  He is thought to have been the first to use a particular type of fixation in the stabilization of spines. He became well known for the treatment of scoliosis.  I have a box with with his spine, skull and hand (well, not literally his).

Felix always referred to Elizabeth as “Pretty”. Elizabeth loved to write poems.  I received one every year on my birthday, as did everyone else.  Here is an early one that she wrote to Felix.  It is in a plain envelop so it may not have been mailed, but delivered by her hand.

Elizabeth loved Dallas society and was a very active member of the Dallas Garden Club.   She made very elaborate flower arrangements and entered them into contests.   She had come a long ways from the little town of Chilton.  She also taught piano.  I was one of her worst pupils.  

My grandfather loved sports cars.  He had an MG and Elizabeth (all the other grownups called her Libbo) had a pink Caddy or Lincoln Continental with “suicide doors”.  Not to be outdone, my father bought my mother an Austin Healey.

I remember when I was very young Aunt Sara and “Uncle T” would come “home” to visit during the holidays.  Since they were aunt and uncle, I thought they were husband and wife.  Sara must have been living and working in New York by then and Uncle T was in the navy.  Here’s a picture of him in his uniform.  I look like I’m 2 or 3 years old.  Shortly after that, he had a mental breakdown and was eventually diagnosed as a schizophrenic.  

The family gossip (via Aunt Sara, again) was that Felix could not see that his son was ill.  He must have expected a great deal of his son.  Young Felix Jr had attended Yale and would, of course, be as gifted as all the other Buttes.  Some said that early treatment might have prevented such a serious illness.  After his breakdown, Uncle T lived in the Veterans Administration hospital in Topeka, Kansas for many years.  

Many years later, after my mother’s death, that my father told me of his almost life-long infatuation with Polly.  Polly married in 1940, so she was out of the running when he came home from the war.  Not everyone was pleased that Pete married Beth.  His sister Marjorie said to me, at the hospital where my mother lay dying, that “Pete should never have married her.  Her mother pushed Beth on [poor little] Pete.”  As if his mother had nothing to say in the matter.  That was the last conversation I had with my very unfavorite Aunt Marjorie.  Maybe the marriage was simply his mother’s (Eveline Bonorden Gifford) way of keeping her only son near her in Dallas where Beth’s parents lived as well.  

After my mother died, Pete and Polly had an intense love affair. But Polly had hepatitis and was too ill to be a constant companion for him.   She could never leave San Antonio but Dad might have moved there to be with her. I begged her to let him just adore her.  But Polly said he deserved better than a dying woman.  Polly died a couple of years after Dad remarried.  But he continued to see Polly until her death, which infuriated that other woman. 

My Veteran Ancestors

On this Veteran’s day I would like to remember my ancestors who served on behalf of the United States since its founding.

Revolutionary War

William Gifford 

Rhode Island State Troops, Col. Lippit 1776, White Plains 1775, Princeton 1776. Reenlisted 1777 Col. Crary’s Regiment, Captain Manchester’s Company reenlisted 1779 twice more.

  Uriah Roundy

Served under General Putnam, Major John Durkee, Col. Knowlton, Bunker Hill 1775, Battle of Trenton 1776, wintered at Valley Forge1777-78, Battle of Monmouth, Battle of Morristown. Possibly Washington’s personal guard.

  William Reuben Briant

Capt. John William’s Company of Col. Buncomb’s Regiment, wounded at Brandywine 1776, wintered at Valley Forge1777-78, discharged at White Plains; reenlisted, fought at Battle of Cowpens.

  Adam Crain Jones

served in the South Carolina Militia under Col. Andrew Williams at the Battle of Cowpens 

  William Townes

2nd Lieutenant, Cumberland County, Virginia Militia  

  Hans Steger

served as a 2nd Lieut., Powhatan Militia. Enlisted under Capt. Joseph Carrington for the Minute Service, Amelia District, Cumberland Co., Virginia.

  Amos Beard

Private in Hartwood’s Co., Col. Peter Porter’s Co., Col. Paterson’s Regiment, Continental Line, which marched in response to to the alarm of Apr. 19, 1775 from Picket Co. Cambridge.

  Jesse B. Shivers

served as a musician in Capt. Child’s Company, Col. Abraham Shepard’s 10th North Carolina  Regiment, Continental Line. 

James McLaurine 

served in Capt. Charles Fleming’s company in the Seventh Virginia Regiment of the Continental Line, commanded by Col. Crockett 

Walter Carson 

served in the Pennsylvania 10th Regiment, Continental Army 

William Carson

Capt. James Moores Co in Col. Waynes Batt. Of Forces Raised in the State of Pennsylvania in Camp at Ticonderoga Nov. 26, 1776 Promoted to Sergeant July 6, in Command at Baking

Civil War 

Edmund J Gifford

Enlisted as a Private in Company K, 2nd Cavalry Regiment Wis. Promoted to Full 2nd Lieutenant on 4 Jan 1862. Mustered out June 11, 1862 due to injury.Served in Company A, 1st Infantry Regiment Iowa, fought at Wilson’s Creek 1861, injured in fall from his horse

Porter Wallace Roundy

Enlisted as a Private in Company K, 2nd Cavalry Regiment Wis. Promoted to Full 2nd Lieutenant on 4 Jan 1862. Mustered out June 11, 1862 due to injury. He reenlisted in 1864 in the 37th Wisconsin Infantry. He served as hospital steward at City Point during the siege of Petersburg.

Herman Frederich Bonorden

Enlisted as a Bugler in Company E, 2nd Iowa Cavalry 2 years after arriving from Germany. Mustered out on 03 Oct 1864. Detailed to payroll dept. the next year, where he stayed until discharge Sept. 1864.


  George Charles Butte 

served as a Capt.& Major US Army, 1914 -1924 during WWI and as 

the Chief of the Foreign Intelligence Section of the General Staff, Washington, DC, 1918.


  Porter William Gifford, Jr. 

served as a Major during WWII and was Chief of the Aircraft Section, Maintenance Division, 2nd Advanced Air Depot Area, IX Air Force Service Command, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star.

Felix Lattimore Butte

Served as a surgeon in the Army Medical Corp. 1942 -1945, stationed in England.

Fathers and Sons

The really sad thing here is that I know very little about my grandparents, Porter William and Eveline (Bonorden) Gifford. He died in 1941, when my father was only 23. I don’t think that my father knew his father very well, either. My grandfather was away in Honduras building railroads for United Fruit for much of my father’s childhood.  He used to joke about growing up in a house full of women, his mother and two significantly older sisters and at least one maid. Later in life, my father wrote a biography of his father.  A friend of his who read it said that it was a good written record of my grandfather’s business career, but he didn’t feel that the reader would learn anything about my grandfather as a person or as a father.  But my father didn’t have anything more to say about his father, so he retitled it as a “Business Biography”. This seems to be a family tradition now: fathers and sons who don’t know each other well.

Although he was the youngest, after his father died, my father was groomed to take over the running of the company his father had founded in Dallas. His older sisters were not allowed to be involved, of course. The most famous project that the company was involved in is the triple underpass under the railroad at the western end of downtown Dallas where, in 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated.

Dealy Plaza

I never met my grandfather and, although Eveline died when I was twenty, she was not very approachable and her life is as much a mystery to me, even though we often had Sunday dinner at her house. She and my father would talk business and my brothers and I would amuse ourselves. Oddly enough, after she died we found a box with a hand-drawn family tree, many old family pictures and Civil War memorabilia.  She probably put the tree together from her mother’s bible that she also had. Fortunately no one else in the family was interested in these things except my father and me. This is how we got started in our genealogical research. It was one of the few things that we bonded over. But the bonding was difficult.

Döllinger Bible

Fortunately, a great deal is known about the Bonordens because they were very accomplished and well researched.  And, again, the military is helpful. So we go back to the un-united German states of the mid 19th century. There is a book with a very detailed history of the Bonorden family written by a distant relative. But I’ll just give you some highlights. The name is thought to come from the phrase “bie Norden” (in the North) because they came from a small area to the north of the region between the Bucke Mountains and Schaumburg Forest.  The name is first seen mentioned on a bill of sale in the records of the town of Stadthagen in 1493.  I would have a map here, but the frequently changing borders makes it hard to get an accurate one. Skipping many generations, and interesting stories, I will begin with the first of several physicians.  I have names for their wives but know nothing about them or their families, so this account, as with many, is male-centric.  

Hermann Friedrich Bonorden (the first of three), born in 1710, is known to have been a surgeon through his death certificate. We know from the births of his children that he lived in Herford, but there is no record of his practicing surgery there.  This is the beginning of the line of Herford Bonordens.  Other than that, very little is known about his life.  So it is assumed that he was a surgeon in the Prussian military.  This would require strict training and testing in surgical schools and hospitals.  A military surgeon would hold an officer’s rank and be commensurately paid.  Surgeons in the Prussian military at that time were responsible for the total care of the soldiers, in both war and peace.  They also cared for civilians who could not afford the university trained physicians.  However, rosters of military surgical schools and hospitals were seldom kept, so we cannot say exactly where Hermann practiced.

Hermann’s son, Johann Heinrich Bonorden, born in Herford in 1736, was also a military surgeon, but there is much more information about him than his father.  He was the Royal Prussian Company Assistant Medical Officer in the Grenadier Company of the 2nd Infantry of the Moselle, No. 11 (whatever all that means).  He was also the first official city and county surgeon.  In addition, his surgical skills led him to be named the official prison surgeon and district surgeon.  All of these positions were highly prized and are evidence of the esteem in which he was held.  He lived to the very old age of 75 in 1811.

Johann’s only child, Phillip Heinrich Bonorden, was born in Herford in 1771.  As a student at the Friedrichs Gymnasium, he was required, starting at age 11, to give a public speech.  The topic of his first speech was “On Fashion”, the next was “The Advantages of Studying”, then “By What Means did the Popes Reach their Heights?” and, finally, at 17, “The Joys of the Heart and of the Mind”.   However he failed the “Arbiter” ( a Regents Exam).  This exam required that he translate Horace from the Latin, prepare a Latin essay on “About the History of the Science and Pharmacology in Ancient Times”.  His German essay was “What Value Does History Have for Us?” (very apropos).  

Somehow he managed to enroll in the Halle University a month after the failed exam (there must have been retakes) and also to become a physician. As the official physician of the Bunde District, he supported the use of the controversial smallpox vaccine.  

He appears to have had a sense of humor.  He was well recognized among his neighbors because of his habit of walking back and forth in front of his house in his pajamas.  When asked by a policeman whether he owned a dog, he replied “no” for several days before admitting that he had no dog, but he did have a puppy, which he then pulled from his pajama pocket.  Well, it was probably funny at the time. 

Philip’s first wife, Dorothea Auguste Nandorf,  died of typhus.  Their son, Hermann Friedrich Bonorden, also a physician (the 8th in nine generations), would later make a study of the causes of typhus.  He was born in 1801 in Herford but later retired in Cologne and so began the Cologne branch of the family.  

Hermann Friedrich’s first wife was Marie Charlotte Gossauer, who bore him nine children before dying in 1851.  Like his grandfather, he served as a military surgeon but was also a renown medical researcher.  Hermann Friedrich published articles on several diseases, including syphilis.  His scientific work won him a professorship at the Friedrich Wilhelm Institute in Berlin. He was awarded most of the prestigious honors in medicine at the time.  He was also a mycologist.  His best known publication is his Complete Mycological Handbook, published in 1851. Of Hermann and Marie’s nine children, one immigrated to America in 1854 or 1859, depending on which census you look at, and settled in Iowa, of course. This was only a few years after the revolution of 1848 in Germany.

Prussia was the largest of the 39 German-speaking states, or kingdoms, of the German Confederation, a loose association meant to balance the power between its two dominant states, Austria and Prussia.  However, in 1848, crowds of people gathered demanding freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, arming of the people and a national German parliament.  Overwhelmed by this pressure, King Frederick William IV of Prussia yielded verbally to all the demonstrators’ demands.  

But the king soon refused to “pick up a crown from the gutter” and unilaterally imposed a monarchist Constitution on Prussia as a way to undercut the democratic forces.  As a result, the grip of the landowning classes, the Junkers, remained unbroken.  By 1892, Prussia had acquired all of the German states.

Thousands of middle class liberals fled abroad, especially to the United States. This wave of political refugees became known as Forty-Eighters.  Many of these German immigrants made their way to the Midwest.  They settled into tight-knit German-speaking communities across the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys but quickly adopted their new country. 

According to Joseph Eiboeck, a veteran German newspaperman, in his book, Die Deutschen von Iowa und deren Errungenschaften (The Germans of Iowa and Their Achievements), Davenport was “the most German city, not only in the State, but in all the Middle West, the center of all German activities in the State”. But this is not surprising. A large number of Germans settled in Davenport.  But German customs sometimes clashed with those of their Irish and Yankee neighbors.  While the Germans lived on the western side of the town, non-Germans would usually reside in the eastern part, with Harrison Street being the dividing line. 

The main issues of contention were temperance and Sabbath laws.  The German and Irish had no problem with each other in their love of beer, lager and ale.   But despite the German opposition, a strict state law was passed in 1855 forbidding the sale and production of alcohol in Iowa.  The law led to a full-blown riot – called the “Whiskey Riot” – when Germans challenged the authorities’ seizure of liquor.  As the size of the heavily voting German community increased, the law was weakened to leave temperance laws to each community.

Still, the “Anglo-Americans” couldn’t swallow the Sunday afternoon picnics and parades.

The population has a preponderating element of the German race, who carry with them, along with their love of lager, sour-krout [sic] and Bolognas, their free and easy habits of Sunday afternoon diversion. At the “Dutch Gardens,” as they call one place of amusement, I saw on Sunday afternoon several hundred people swigging lager on benches under the trees whilst listening to the strains of a fine band.

In 1859 Sunday “Blue Laws” were passed to curb the Germans’ Sunday amusements, closing all gardens, dancing saloons and other places of amusement Germans regularly frequented.  However, after two weeks, the ordinance was repealed following massive German protests. 

In 1854, the Saratoga docked in New York from Liverpool with refugees of revolution and deposited them at the immigration facility on Ellis Island. Among them were Ludwig Ferdinand Dӧllinger, a shopkeeper, and his wife Sofie Fredericke and their children, Herman, age 15, Gustave, age 11, Emma, age 7 and Clara, an infant.  Although they considered themselves to be German, they had begun their journey in Prussia.  

On another ship, at about the same time, Herman Frederich Bonorden left his home in Prussia and came to America alone in his twenties in 1859.  His parents and maybe even his two brothers remained behind in Prussia.  Perhaps Herman Frederich left Prussia to make a name for himself, separate from his famous father. (At least he spelled it differently.)   

Herman F. Bonorden

Two years after arriving in America, on August 16, 1861, Herman was in Davenport, Iowa, and drafted for three years as a bugler in Company E, 2nd Iowa Cavalry, which became part of the Army of the Mississippi.  He may have seen action at Monterey, Tennessee and Farmingham, Mississippi in April and May of 1862.  But war did not seem to suit Herman.  On May 10, 1862, Herman was put on “extra duty clerk in Q.M. Dpt.”  in the pay department.  He remained there for the duration of the war. That’s all I know about his service. 

Emma Auguste Dӧllinger

But I have learned quite a bit about the service of Emma’s brother Herman Dӧllinger (not to be confused with her future husband Herman Bonorden) who also served in the American Civil War from its beginning to its end, and kept a diary as well.  The diary has been transcribed by Floyd Kallum, a Bonorden descendent, and copied and bound.  It has a wonderful introduction concerning who Herman was and how the diary came to be in Floyd’s hand, but as Floyd quotes Napoleon, “Above all, be distrustful of eyewitnesses, – the only things my Grenadiers saw of Russia was the pack of the man in from.”  Maybe that’s what Napoleon wanted historians to believe.

But there seems to be some truth to that.  I have always been disappointed that Porter Wallace Roundy was not a more vigorous writer in his diary that he sort of kept at City Point, Virginia.  As a hospital steward, he must have seen so much more than the back of the soldier in front of him.  But, most likely, what he saw was too horrid to describe or even want to remember.

All of this is by way of apology for not giving you any tidbits from Herman Döllinger’s diary.  I have picked it up several times to read.  As he writes, “nothing of importance” happened most days.  When things became eventful, there was no time to write and probably no wish to record.  As many have said, war is mostly long periods of excruciating boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.

Floyd adds  a lot of commentary along the way to give some context to Herman’s observations.  On page 15 he notes that Herman Döllinger served with his future brother-in-law,  Herman Frederich Bonorden at Corinth, Mississippi on May 9, 1862, when the 2nd Iowa Cavalry joined with the 56th Illinois Volunteers and other regiments for the attack on Corinth.  It was actually not much of a battle.  After the enormous losses at the Union victory at Shiloh just days before,  General Grant took it slow in advancing on the Confederate retreat.  But the Confederates staged a ruse, leaving a few troops at Corinth lighting fires, drumming, and making all sorts of racket while the Confederate army slipped quietly to safety.

In 1859 Sunday “Blue Laws” were passed to curb the Germans’ Sunday amusements, closing all gardens, dancing saloons and other places of amusement Germans regularly frequented.  However, after two weeks, the ordinance was repealed following massive German protests. 

In 1854, the Saratoga docked in New York from Liverpool with refugees of revolution and deposited them at the immigration facility on Ellis Island. Among them were Ludwig Ferdinand Dӧllinger, a shopkeeper, and his wife Sofie Fredericke and their children, Herman, age 15, Gustave, age 11, Emma, age 7 and Clara, an infant.  Although they considered themselves to be German, they had begun their journey in Prussia.  

Sofie Fredericka Döllinger

On another ship, at about the same time, Herman Frederich Bonorden left his home in Prussia and came to America alone in his twenties in 1859.  His parents and maybe even his two brothers remained behind in Prussia.  Perhaps Herman Frederich left Prussia to make a name for himself, separate from his famous father. (At least he spelled it differently.)   

Two years after arriving in America, on August 16, 1861, Herman was in Davenport, Iowa, and drafted for three years as a bugler in Company E, 2nd Iowa Cavalry, which became part of the Army of the Mississippi.  He may have seen action at Monterey, Tennessee and Farmingham, Mississippi in April and May of 1862.  But war did not seem to suit Herman.  On May 10, 1862, Herman was put on “extra duty clerk in Q.M. Dpt.”  in the pay department.  He remained there for the duration of the war. That’s all I know about his service. 

But I have learned quite a bit about the service of Emma’s brother Herman Dӧllinger (not to be confused with her future husband Herman Bonorden) who also served in the American Civil War from its beginning to its end, and kept a diary as well.  The diary has been transcribed by Floyd Kallum, a Bonorden descendent, and copied and bound.  It has a wonderful introduction concerning who Herman was and how the diary came to be in Floyd’s hand, but as Floyd quotes Napoleon, “Above all, be distrustful of eyewitnesses, – the only things my Grenadiers saw of Russia was the pack of the man in from.”  Maybe that’s what Napoleon wanted historians to believe.

But there seems to be some truth to that.  I have always been disappointed that Porter Wallace Roundy was not a more vigorous writer in his diary that he sort of kept at City Point, Virginia.  As a hospital steward, he must have seen so much more than the back of the soldier in front of him.  But, most likely, what he saw was too horrid to describe or even want to remember.

All of this is by way of apology for not giving you any tidbits from Herman Döllinger’s diary.  I have picked it up several times to read.  As he writes, “nothing of importance” happened most days.  When things became eventful, there was no time to write and probably no wish to record.  As many have said, war is mostly long periods of excruciating boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.

Floyd adds  a lot of commentary along the way to give some context to Herman’s observations.  On page 15 he notes that Herman Döllinger served with his future brother-in-law,  Herman Frederich Bonorden at Corinth, Mississippi on May 9, 1862, when the 2nd Iowa Cavalry joined with the 56th Illinois Volunteers and other regiments for the attack on Corinth.  It was actually not much of a battle.  After the enormous losses at the Union victory at Shiloh just days before,  General Grant took it slow in advancing on the Confederate retreat.  But the Confederates staged a ruse, leaving a few troops at Corinth lighting fires, drumming, and making all sorts of racket while the Confederate army slipped quietly to safety.

There is one entry, on January 1, 1863, that is worth quoting, along with Herman’s creative spelling. 

Continued our march this morning early toward Lafyette [Tennessee], after marching about 1 mile, and was about to passe a house a lady came out, and complaint about the soldears taking her chickens, and all her turnips, and wanted the Col. to guard them, the Col. askt her, wheather she wanted the Government torn down, she said, she did not, then he askt her wheather she wanted the Confedracy to be establishet, she said she did, and that she was a southern women, the Col. apliet, if that is the case, i donat Care, if the[y] eat up your house and home, at that time we all jumpt in to her tirnip pach, and get all we wanted.

There are no entries after December 31, 1963, when he came to the last page of the diary for that year.  However, Herman continued to serve, eventually under General Sherman on his March to the Sea.  After the surrender of the Confederacy, the Union Army began sending its troops home to be mustered out.

Sargent Herman F. Dellinger (or Dillinger, the army was never sure how to spell it but always got it wrong probably because of the umlaud, ö) was on the first leg of his long journey  to Springfield, Illinois on board the U. S. Steam Transport “General Lyon”, along with about 500 to 600 others, including women, children and freedmen.  The ship was bound from Wilmington, North Carolina to Fortress Monroe in Virginia, at the opening of Chesapeake Bay.  On March 31, 1865, when off Cape Hatteras, a storm was encountered and the “General Lyon” caught fire and sank.  Only twenty-eight persons were saved.  

Herman may have sent his diaries to his and Emma’s mother, Sophie Fredericka, as he completed them, but the last one was probably with him on the General Lyon.  It has never been found.  The Adjutant General’s Report lists all member of the 56th Illinois Volunteer Infantry and their fates. 

After the war Herman Frederich Bonorden applied for US citizenship, which he received in Sept, 1864 in St. Louis.  Then, in September 1865, he married Herman Döllinger’s sister, Emma Auguste Dӧllinger, in St. Louis. We don’t know where Emma was living before she met Herman, but maybe it was St. Louis.  It’s impossible to know if the Dӧllingers and Bonordens knew each other in Prussia.  I have no information about the Dӧllinger family prior to their immigration to America.  It appears that Emma’s father, Ludwig Ferdinand, returned to Germany, where he died four years after leaving.  He may have been ill when disembarking at Ellis Island and not allowed to stay.

After their marriage, Emma and Herman returned to Iowa from St. Louis and Herman was admitted to the Iowa State Bar.  He practiced as an attorney at law in Iowa City, where they raised their nine children.  Iowa City is only about 50 miles west of Davenport.  I have an old German bible in which  Emma kept the records, in German, of the births in the family.  There is no evidence that Herman returned to Davenport after the war.  If he had lived there, he may have met Porter Wallace Roundy, also a Civil War veteran, and his daughter, Nettie May, and his grandsons, Edward and William Gifford.  But it is safe to assume that Herman’s daughter Eveline met Edward H. Gifford’s son Porter because of mutual friends in Davenport.

Sofie Fredericka Döllinger

Then, amazingly, with seven children to feed, clothe and educate, and a mother-in-law to care for, Herman decided to change professions.  In 1887, he went to Washington and applied to the Bureau of Pensions to be a pension examiner.  That same year he applied for a disability pension for himself based on his service in the War of the Rebellion.  His family remained in their home in Iowa City, Iowa and then Quincy, Illinois while Herman traveled for work in Illinois, Missouri and Washington as a pension examiner.  When Emma died in 1900 at the age of 55, she left Herman to raise their four youngest children who were all teenagers by then.

Eveline Victoria Auguste Bonorden 1900

So, even as he claimed to be disabled to the extent of being “totally unable to earn a support by manual labor”, he worked as a pension examiner for seventeen years.  In 1907, he applied for an increase in his pension shortly after Congress approved such increases. In fact, it seems that every time Congress passed a new pension act, Herman had his application ready.  

Eventually, he no longer needed to plead a disability, only his war record. In 1910, at 75, he was living in Washington, DC, with his daughter Bertha (unfortunate name; she looked like a Bertha) and stated that he had been working as a pension examiner for 16 years.  In 1911, he and his daughter Bertha moved to San Diego, California, and Herman applied for a transfer of his pension to his new address.  In this case, the six month residency requirement for the transfer was waived by H. R. C. Shaw, Chief, Certificate Division, based on reliable information from Herman’s colleague, Mr. Works, that “pensioner intends to make San Diego his permanent home.”  It’s good to have friends in the Pension Office.  

Herman F. Bonorden

Finally, in 1912, he wrote to J. L Davenport, Commissioner of Pensions in Washington (errors in the original). 

Dear Sir;      I hope that you upon seeing the signature below, will remember the Special-Examiner and Clerk that worked in the Bureau from Aug. 1887 to Sept, 15” 191[?]., and had to resign on account of the failure of his eye-sight, to make room for some one else, more phisically able to perform his duties.      Since September last I have lived here [San Diego] with one of my daughters, as a poor relation on my $20.00 per month pension. I am poor in health and financially; saved only a small amount of money during my civil service. My wife died years ago, leaving me with a large and expensive family which used up most of my salary….June 30 last I was 77 years of age and will not live very long, I am almost blind on account of which I use a type-writer. I respectfully ask you to do a favor to a former faithful and efficient employee of the Bureau and if not contrary to your duties, to make my case “Special” so I can draw the increase at San Francisco, Cal. September 4” next and I will thank you ever so much.  A premium on a life policy is due early in Oct.

It appears that his case may not have been treated as “Special”.  Three years after this letter, Herman was sent another form to fill out for his pension.  But he apparently did eventually receive an increase in his pension.  In 1917, his pension check for $90 (which is way more than $20) was returned to the Pension Office “because the pensioner died Apr 30 1917”.  The check had been mailed, ironically, to the “Fredericka Home for the Aged”.

Lillian, Bertha and Eveline

This is, indeed, a sad, but perplexing tale.  It’s surprising that a man who was a lawyer for 18 years and then a Pension Examiner for another 17 years could not have saved for his retirement.  And when his wife Emma died in 1900, the “large and expensive family” she left him with was composed of the four youngest children.  The eldest of these, Otto, age 22, would soon marry and was probably helping to support the family; the next eldest, Bertha, age 20, would care for Herman until his death.  She never married and lived alone after her father’s death until her own in 1945.  The other two, Eveline, 16, and Richard, 13, would not be home much longer.  

Here is a photograph of the eight siblings on the only occasion they were all together.  My grandmother, Eveline is second from the right.

The Bonorden Siblings

In 1907, Herman and Emma’s daughter Eveline married Porter William Gifford (Sr), the son of Edmond (Edward) H. Gifford and Nettie May Roundy, and grandson of Edmond J. Gifford and Nancy Ann Renfro.  Porter was 22 years old and Eveline was 25 years old. Eveline and Porter had three children: Edna May, Marjorie, and Porter William, Jr, my father, born in 1918 in Dallas.  I believe that this long line of distant fathers and their sons left its mark on my father. 

Porter, Marjorie, Eveline and Edna May

Porter worked for the Walsh Construction Company of Davenport.  In 1906 he formed a subcontracting partnership, Walsh, List and Gifford construction company, with Bill List.  They probably moved frequently to live near the job sights. By 1918, they had moved to Biloxi, Mississippi where the children’s grandfathers, Porter Wallace Roundy and Edward H. Gifford, visited them.

Then, throughout the twenties, Porter, sometimes with Eveline, traveled to Honduras with the Vaccaro family.  I count 13 trips in those ten years, some of them with Eveline returning home alone.  Porter’s Company built railroads from the Vaccaro’s banana plantations to the port of La Ceiba for shipping the bananas to the U. S.   He looks like a giant in this picture and he was quite tall.  But I think these “Caribs” are children.

Porter and Eveline eventually settled in Dallas, Texas. They would move next door to Dr. Felix L. Butte, another descendant of German immigrants, and his wife, Elizabeth (Kirkpatrick) and their three children. Their son, affectionately known as “Pete”, would marry the girl next door.

War! War! War!

Sometimes people ask why history is mostly about wars. One reason is that war departments keep excellent records. Sometimes those records and the census are all a genealogist has to go on. Social history is more ephemeral. And this is the case with my Roundy ancestors.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, there were enough wars in the 18th and 19th centuries so that my three closest Roundy ancestors fought in one and each Roundy widow applied for a war pension. This is fortunate because, without letters or diaries, these applications provide most of the personal information that is available about the men and their wives. Uriah Roundy fought in the Revolutionary War. Uriah’s son, Daniel Roundy, fought in the War of 1812. Daniel’s son, Porter Wallace Roundy, fought in the Civil War. His daughter, Nettie May Roundy, married Edward H. Gifford, my great grandfather and estranged son of Edmond J. Gifford.

Recall that Edward H. Gifford was born in Muscatine, Iowa, on April 4, 1861, a week and a half before the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter. The next month, his father, Edmond J. answered President Lincoln’s first call for 75,000 volunteers. This left their mother, Nancy Ann (Renfro), with two small children, William and Edward, to care for. Although Edmond J.’s service lasted for only three months, I can find no evidence that he ever returned to Nancy Ann and their sons. By 1870, Edward and William were living with their mother in Davenport, where she worked as a seamstress and William, only 14, was a store clerk. In 1880, Edward cannot be found and his brother William was living with their grandmother Elizabeth Cormack Renfro in Rock Island. By this time, their parents had been divorced for eight years. There’s no sign of their mother, and their father had remarried and moved to Petoskey, Michigan. 

Then Edward met Nettie May Roundy and his brother William met a woman named Lizzie and they were married in a double ceremony on July 1, 1880 in Davenport by Rev. H. S. Church. Looking at William and Edward side-by-side makes it hard to believe that they are full brothers. So, maybe Nancy Ann Renfro Warren was pregnant by her first husband when she married Edmond J. Gifford, making William and Edward only half brothers.

Lizzie, William, Nettie May, Edward 

Edward was a member of Trinity Masonic Lodge in Davenport and worked as a messenger for United States Express Company in Davenport until at least 1900. The United States Express Company, founded in 1854, was third in size and importance among the 19th century express operations. It was headed by a banker, D. N. Barney, who was also the president of Wells, Fargo & Co.  A few months later, in the spring of 1855, he also headed the National Express Company. This must have been an interesting business arrangement. The United States Express Company mostly served the states of the old Northwest Territories. Think of Charlie Utter in Deadwood.

Edward and Netty

After Nettie May died in 1905, I have no record of Edward’s activities until 1921, when Edward traveled with his son Porter, who was 35 at the time, to Honduras. Porter had started a railroad business, Walsh, List and Gifford and was beginning a project for the United Fruit Company building railroads in Honduras to transport bananas from the trees to the port in La Ceiba for shipment to America. 

As further evidence of the estrangement from his father, on his passport application in 1921 Edward says that his father is E. J. Gifford, birthplace “U.S.A. New York I Think.” He also lists his father’s birth year as 1839 instead of 1830. Remember, Edmond J. said in 1900 that he had not heard from his son since 1885. Edward even gets his own birth year wrong, giving 1863 instead of 1861. Edward says that he is currently living in Biloxi , Mississippi, working as a farmer. His son Porter had just moved to Biloxi , maybe to be near New Orleans for all his traveling. More on that in the next essay. When asked why he was going abroad he writes, “To work, Vaccaro Bros. & Son on railroad construction”. This is then crossed out and only the word “Employment” is left as the answer. 

Edward’s Passort

Edward died two months after returning from his first trip to Honduras. He was only sixty. Edward’s son Porter would continue the railroad business in Honduras and eventually start building railroads in Texas.

Now on to Nettie May’s family, the Roundys. The Roundys are well researched because they were often pillars of their tiny communities and one became a founder of the Mormon Church, which puts great store by genealogy. Nettie May’s 6th great grandfather, Philip Roundy, was born on the Isle of Guernsey in 1628 and arrived in Salem, Massachusetts in 1656. After Philip, there was his son Robert, then his son John, then his son Robert, then his son John, then his son Uriah, who may have been a person of some note. According to “Roundy History” by Jesse Warner, Uriah Roundy was a Personal Guard to General George Washington during the Revolutionary War. However, this seems to be a remnant of the pension application of his widow, Lucretia (Needham) Roundy and repeated in the book. More on that below.

The Revolutionary War

Uriah Roundy was born in 1756 in Rockingham, Vermont and he died there, too, in 1813. In between, he moved to Connecticut, fought for years in the Revolutionary War, married Lucretia Needham and had eleven children. 

Lucretia Needham’s family, at least the Needhams, can also be traced back to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, where Lucretia’s g-g-g-grandfather Edmund Needham arrived from England in 1638 and settled in Lynn, next to Salem. The Needhams stayed in Lynn, Massachusetts for generations, a succession of Edmunds and Daniels. Lucretia’s father ventured as far as New London, Connecticut, where Lucretia was born in 1760.

The history of the Roundys says that John Roundy and all of his sons, including Uriah, served in the Revolutionary War. However, the details are murky. It may be that Uriah was a member of General Washington’s “Life Guards”. But Revolutionary War records are very incomplete. Most of the ones held in Washington were lost when the British burned the city to the ground during the War of 1812, sometimes referred to as the Second American Revolutionary War.

Our best information comes from the pension applications made by Uriah’s wife Lucretia after his death in 1813. Although the act establishing the pensions was passed in 1838, Lucretia did not apply until 1841, when she was 81 years old, blind and unable to sign her name. She claimed that Uriah signed up as a Continental soldier in Windham County in a Connecticut Unit on 1 May 1775. His major was John Durkee of Norwich and that Uriah’s first big battle was Bunker Hill on 17 June 1775, where he served under General Putnam. She thinks he was wounded in the ribs by a bayonet and she thinks this was at the Battle of Brandywine and that he was under the command of Colonel Knowlton. 

Serving under Major Durkee, Uriah crossed the Delaware River with General Washington on Christmas Day 1776 and participated in the Battle of Trenton. and even spent the winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge before engaging the British at the Battles of Monmouth and Morristown. So he could have served as a personal guard to General Washington. But, his name does not appear on the available list of Washington’s Guards. He also may have run into William Gifford in Col. Lippitt’s Rhode Island Regiment.

The description of Uriah’s military service contained in Lucretia’s pension application implies that he served in a Connecticut Regiment. But the Pension Board denied the application because they said that his name did not appear on any Connecticut rolls. But I found him listed in the Connecticut Revolutionary War Military Lists, 1775-83 in Capt. Abner Robinson’s Rhode Island company, Oct.1777. I, along with a couple of experts I corresponded with, am willing to take Lucretia’s word for it. Her version of Uriah’s service gets enough names and places correct that it’s hard to believe that it isn’t true. Besides, John Durkee raised his regiment in the same town, Norwich, Connecticut, in which Uriah and Lucretia were married in 1780. 

It turns out that, according to the Daughters of the American Revolution, Uriah Roundy later served as a private in the Rockingham, Vermont company of Captain Jonathan Holton, which saw action “in the Alarm in Oct. 17, 1780”, which occurred after he and Lucretia were married. This is not quite as heroic as the previous account, but it’s still enough for the D.A.R. This British-led Indian Raid was the last and one of the most savage Indian raids of the Revolutionary War. It was an attempt by the British to use their Indian allies to terrorize the Colonial frontier settlements. Three hundred Indians, with their British leaders, attacked Royalton, Vermont without warning, burning the town to the ground. 

Shadrach and Betsy Roundy

Uriah, on the other hand, filed a certificate on March 20, 1797, recorded by the Rockingham town clerk, which reads: “This is to certify that Uriah Roundy is of and belongeth to the Universalist Society in this town and contributes to the support of the same”. It is said, by explanation, that this certificate allowed Uriah to avoid the town “Ministers Tax”, by claiming his preference for or belief in the Universalist Church. This issue took me into an in-depth reading of the Minister’s Tax, which was imposed by each town on its citizens to pay the ministers of the Puritan churches. Although there were members of other faiths in these towns, the Puritans were the majority and so the tax laws continued to be upheld. No separation of church and state in those days, even though Vermont ratified the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, in 1791.

Lucretia Needham Roundy, Uriah’s wife, frail and old, moved from Rockingham to Spafford, Onondaga County, New York, sometime after her husband’s death in 1813, with all or most of her, by then, grown children. Her children became prominent citizens of the tiny new town. Uriah, Jr. was postmaster and his brother Asahel served in several town offices. Both Daniel and his brother Uriah, Jr headed west sometime between 1830 and 1840. Lucretia must have gone with one or both of them because she died in Michigan in 1845 when she was 85 years old. 

The War of 1812

Uriah Roundy’s son, Daniel, was born in Rockingham, Vermont, in December 1780, just after his father fought in the Alarm at Royalton, Vermont.  My father’s records show that from October 15 to November 17, 1813, Daniel served in Capt. Asahel Langworthy’s Co. of Vermont Volunteer Riflemen in the War of 1812. More on this later. Daniel and his wife Ruth Beard were both the grandchildren of Daniel Needham and Hannah Allen. Their mothers, Hannah and Lucretia, were sisters, making Daniel and Ruth first cousins. Marriage between first cousins was not unusual in small isolated communities that were settled by only a few families.  Ruth’s father, Amos Beard, served in the Revolutionary War from Massachusetts. He enlisted four times but saw only brief engagements. His name appears in the official roster of the soldiers of the American Revolution as buried in the state of Ohio, where Amos died in 1821. 

Daniel and Ruth Roundy had five children in Spafford, New York, including their youngest, Porter Wallace Roundy, who was born in 1829, within a year and 100 miles of the birth of Edmond J. Gifford in Utica, New York. Then the family moved west to Cook County, Illinois by 1840. So Daniel Roundy ended up in Illinois just as Hicks Gifford was. And just like Hicks, Daniel purchased public land in Illinois: 160 acres in Cook County, E SE Sec 34 and 35, Twp 41N R9E Hanover Township. This took place 1 May 1845. He continued to make land purchases until he died there two years later. 

An 1861 plat map of Cook County shows that a P. Roundy owned the lands that Daniel purchased. Since Daniel had only one son or grandson with the initial P, I assume that Porter Wallace Roundy inherited the land from his father. 

After Daniel died in 1847, Ruth remarried in 1854 to a Benjamin Blodgett, who then died four years later. Then, until her death in 1894 at age 94, she lived with her son Porter Wallace and his wife, Jane, and their daughter, Nettie May, in Davenport, Iowa.

In 1889, Ruth applied for a widow’s pension under the “Act of March 9, 1878”. She had legal representation from John W. Morris, attorney at law, and a former principal examiner U.S. Pension Bureau. Amazingly, his name and former position at the Pension Bureau are shamelessly stamped on the application and all supporting affidavits. His former employment as a pension examiner apparently did not exclude him from later representing pension claimants. It may have given him an advantage since he made it so obvious. Or maybe full disclosure laws required it. 

The application goes into great detail about Daniel’s life, including the fact that he had been married previously, that Daniel was a tin smith, that he was 6’1” tall and that his eyes were gray. Since Ruth was 89 years old at the time, it is possible that she made her mark on the application not because she was illiterate, but because she was blind. Anyway, she was also confused about her husband’s military service. She thought he had served under Capt. Gates, of Ohio. Then there are several pages of affidavits, including a physician’s affidavit from her son, Dr. Daniel Curtis Roundy, saying that her husband Daniel died of “malarial fever”.

Then the decision comes in 1890: “Application for pension is rejected on the ground of your remarriage after the soldier’s death.” But her son, Porter Wallace, did not give up. At the bottom of the rejection letter he wrote a note to Green B. Raum, returning the letter to him. Then there are several pages of a digest of laws and practices by the Pension Bureau. This includes the stipulation that if a widow of a soldier in the War of 1812 remarries before 1878, she is still eligible for a pension. 

Finally, there is a letter dated May 11, 1889, from John W. Morris, attorney at law, but also the former principal examiner, to the Commissioner of the Pension Bureau requesting the latest known address of Ruth Roundy Blodgett. On the final page of the packet in my father’s files is the Widow’s Brief, with Mr. Morris representing Ruth, and finally the correct service record for Daniel. But this appears to be a rejection. It is “sub”mitted “for rejection Feb. 4th, 1890”.

Poor Ruth. She died in 1894, five years after applying for the pension and there is no evidence that she ever got it approved. The pension acts were passed in 1871 and 1878. Why did she wait eleven years to apply? Blodgett was long dead and her marriage to him didn’t affect her eligibility. She had been living with her son Porter and his wife Jane for over twenty years. Maybe she and Porter didn’t feel the financial need for it. But we will see that that was not the case. 

The Civil War

There are several reasons why Porter Wallace Roundy is interesting. His Civil War memorabilia has been passed down through the generations, including his day book from the war and memorial pins; he’s the first of four Porters in the family and his daughter, Nettie May, married Edward H. Gifford. 

Porter Wallace was born in Spafford, New York in 1829, about 90 miles from Utica, where Edmond J. Gifford was born in 1830. Porter Wallace had come west around 1838, going by a memorial of his better known brother, Daniel Curtis Roundy. Both Porter and his brother Daniel married women named Jane Young, but I can find no connection between them. Porter Wallace married Jane Ann Young in in 1855 in Sharon, Wisconsin, where her parents lived. She came from Maryland. Little else is known about Jane Ann, only her parents’ names and a few dates. In 1859, still in Sharon, Wisconsin, Porter Wallace and Jane Ann became the parents of their only child, Nettie May. In 1860 Porter Wallace was Deputy Sheriff of Darien, Wisconsin, which was named after the town in Connecticut. If Porter Wallace inherited his father’s land in Cook County, Illinois, there is no record of him selling it.

When President Lincoln first called for volunteers, in 1861, Porter Wallace enlisted on November 18, 1861 as a private in the Wisconsin cavalry. He was promoted to Full 2nd Lieutenant in January 1862. However, Porter Wallace managed to injure himself in June in a fall from his horse and had to resign. One document says it was during a cavalry charge but not where or in what battle this took place. 

However, Porter Wallace reenlisted on March 30 1864 into the 37th Infantry Regiment Wisconsin in which his brother Daniel Curtis Roundy served as Regiment Surgeon. It looks like he went in the place of someone else who was drafted but paid the $300 bounty to Porter Wallace to go in his place. 

Porter was promoted to Hospital Steward in April. The 37th Infantry Regiment was then sent to join the siege of Petersburg, Virginia. Company S was posted to the City Point Depot. “From the end of June 1864 to May 1865, City Point provided all supplies necessary to support the 125,000 men and 65,000 animals of General Ulysses S. Grant’s Union Armies which lay siege to the strategically important town of Petersburg, Virginia.” Petersburg was between the Union forces and Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. 

City Point was on a little spit of land sticking out into the James River. This allowed for easy off loading of munitions, food, clothing, saddles and everything else an army required. The boats also brought in medical supplies for the treatment of the wounded in the hospitals.

Seven hospitals operated at City Point during the siege. The largest was the Depot Field Hospital which covered nearly 200 acres and could hold up to 10,000 patients. Twelve hundred tents, supplemented by ninety log barracks in the winter, comprised the compound, which included laundries, dispensaries, regular and special diet kitchens, dining halls, offices and other structures. Army surgeons administered the hospital aided by civilian agencies such as the U.S. Sanitary Commission and the U.S. Christian Commission. Male nurses, drawn from the ranks, made sure each patient had his own bed and wash basin; and regularly received fresh pillows and linens. The excellence of the facilities and the efficiency and dedication of the staff not only made the Depot Field Hospital the largest facility of its kind in America but also the finest. 

Nation Park Service

There are actually a lot of photographs of the City Point Depot and Hospitals. I tried to find one picture of the hospitals that would give a visual sense of the description above. However, I finally decided to use this one from Matthew Brady’s City Point Collection at the National Archives. This shows trains used to take supplies inland to the Union troops at the siege of Petersburg. The large house in the distance might be the home of the large plantation that was taken over by the Union Army as Headquarters for General Grant.

U.S. Military R.R., City Point, Va. Field Hospital

It was at the siege of Petersburg that the “Battle of the Mine” (or “Crater”) was fought. The Union troops from Pennsylvania devised a plan to tunnel under the Confederate earthworks and place dynamite. Then the dynamite would be exploded on June 30th to allow the Union forces pass through the resulting break in the earthworks to take the city. However, disaster ensued. The Union regiments ended up trapped in the “crater” while the Confederates picked them off from the ground above. If you remember the opening scene in the movie “Cold Mountain” you have a sense of the tragedy.

Entry in the daybook of Porter Wallace Roundy

Of the Union forces there were 419 killed, 1,679 wounded and 1,910 missing. The wounded were taken to City Point Depot hospital to be treated. On that day, in his diary, Porter writes, “at 4 ½ oclock. Am they blew up the Rebbles Fort & faught 4 hours & forty minits & charged twice & charged again at 11 oclock & still again 2 ½ oclock P.m. It is all [?] at the front this morning.” Porter Wallace did not make another entry into his diary for several weeks after that. Porter Wallace and his brother Daniel were mustered out on July 27, 1865.

Porter Wallace Roundy

From the pension records and his diary it’s clear that Porter Wallace was sick for much of his second duty. Disease was the cause of more than half of the deaths of soldiers during the Civil War. Porter Wallace continued to be unwell after the war and was put on a disability pension. I’m pretty sure this is a picture of Porter Wallace, especially when you compare it with the pictures below. It’s probably after the war when he is still a young man, only 36, despite his appearance. His hair is still dark and many veterans had long beards, probably more from necessity than fashion. 

After the war in August 1869, Porter and his wife and daughter Nettie May moved to Davenport, Iowa, where, in 1870, Porter owned one horse and ten acres of improved land planted with Indian corn and oats. The U. S. census lists Porter as working as a gardener in 1870, a “market gardener” in 1880, a gardener in 1885. The 1900 census says he was in the “milk business”. This looks like an economic decline for Porter and this may be what lead his mother Ruth to apply, futilely as it turned out, for a war widow’s pension.

It was in Davenport that the Roundys met Nancy Ann (Renfro) Gifford and her two sons, William and Edward H. Gifford. Nancy Ann Gifford was divorced from her second husband, Edmond J. Gifford, in 1872. She had been living in Davenport since at least 1870, separated from her husband and working as a seamstress. In 1880, Nettie May Roundy, Porter’s daughter, married Edmond H. Gifford, Edmond J’s son, in a double ceremony with William Gifford, Edmond’s brother, and his bride Lizzie.

About this same time, Porter Wallace applied for an “invalid pension” for his service in the Civil War. As one of his witnesses says, “after his discharge,…he was in very feeble health appeared to be entirely broken down, was troubled with a cough, and appeared to be totally unfit and unable to perform any manual labor.” Maybe that is why he did not do well farming or gardening. His application was apparently approved because in 1891 he applied for an increase of $4 in his pension because of his increasingly poor health. When new pension laws are passed in 1907 and 1912, he applied again. 

Porter and Jane Ann celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in 1915. They lived together in Davenport until her death in 1916. 

Jane Ann (Young) and Porter Wallace Roundy 1915

His 1915 Iowa State Census card tells us a little more about him. It shows that he had a eighth grade “common” school education and could read and write and had no church affiliation. It also confirms his Civil War service. 

1915 Iowa State Census

After Jane Ann died in 1916, he visited his grandson, Porter William Gifford, and his family, who were living in Biloxi, Mississippi. How Porter Wallace managed to get from Davenport to Mississippi and then back to Iowa is probably a good story. That’s a long train ride for a 90 year old disabled Civil War veteran. There are several pictures like this one of Porter Wallace sitting on this porch in Biloxi. 

Porter Wallace Roundy, Biloxi, Mississippi

Porter Wallace continued to live in Davenport with the Harrison family. Porter had lived in Davenport since the Civil War and probably was reluctant to uproot himself. Then on April 12, 1921, his pension check for $150 was returned by the Davenport postmaster. W. N. Campbell notes “DROPPED because of death, which occurred on Feb. 1, 1921”. Porter Wallace was 92 years old. He outlived his wife, Jane Ann, and his daughter, Nettie May. His son-in-law, Edward H. Gifford, died two months later. For a disable Civil War veteran, he lived a long time.

War Memorabilia

I have a number of items from Porter’s and Edmond’s civil War service. There are Porter’s brass identification stencil and three pins from the G.A.R. There are two memorial ribbons worn in remembrance of a friend and Davenport native, August Wentz, during parades in Davenport. However, these probably belonged to Edmond. August Wentz and Edmond both fought at Wilson’s Creek in 1861. Wentz also reenlisted and was killed that same year in Belmont, Missouri. Both battles were demoralizing defeats for the Union Army. The Davenport Grand Army of the Republic Post was named in his honor.

This photo was probably taken at one of those G. A. R. memorial events and these two men must have served with Porter, who is in the middle (note the distinctive ears). 

Nettie May Roundy and her husband, Edward H. Gifford, would have two children, Aimee Edna Gifford, born 1881, and my grandfather, Porter William Gifford, born 1885, both in Davenport, Iowa. He died before I was born, so I have no personal memories to relate. He was an enigma even to his son, my father. 

Adventures in Genealogy Myth-Making

Now that I have traced Edmond J. Gifford’s lineage back to Quakers of Massachusetts and the pilgrims of the Mayflower, it’s time to explore some other lines in my family tree. Recall that Edmond J. Gifford married Nancy Ann Renfro in Rock Island, Illinois in 1858. Her ancestry is very interesting but a bit tricky to follow. First of all, they couldn’t agree on the spelling, using Rentfrow, Rentfroe, Rentfro and those variations without the “t”. And, as one of my father’s correspondents wrote, “[u]forntunately, the Renfros had large families, and tended to name the children without much originality.” To make things worse, Renfros tended to marry cousins as a rule, rather than an exception.

You Don’t Always Get What You Want

My Renfros hail from Virginia, Kentucky and Illinois. But they, and other American Renfros, do not descend from Scottish royalty. It is generally asserted among amateur Renfro genealogists that American Renfros are direct descendants of “Baron James Renfrew” of Scotland, an illegitimate son of King James V. Beginning in 1404, the title of Baron of Renfrew was bestowed on the heir-apparent to the Scottish crown. There was a James Stuart, not Renfrew, who was an illegitimate son of King James V of Scotland. Being illegitimate, he was ineligible to inherit the throne and so never was Baron of Renfrew. Instead, his half sister Mary Queen of Scots became queen. He was a fascinating man and worth reading about, but his children were Stuarts, not Renfrews, and even if he changed his name to Renfrew, he only had daughters anyway. That’s it. No connection American Renfros.

So instead we will start with William Rentfro, who was born in 1702 in James City County, Virginia. James City County was first settled at Jamestown in 1607 and is one of only six original “shires” still in existence in Virginia. It includes Williamsburg and is too rich in history to go into much detail here. 

We are interested in one of the many William Rentfros who had a son who was one of the many James Renfros. One of them made a bit of a splash in Kentucky, the Virginia county and the future state, though only one person seems to remember why. To get to what and why, let’s first look at some history of colonial place names and boundaries.

Before the Revolutionary War, each of the 13 colonies claimed quite a bit of territory in the “frontier” east of the Mississippi River. The Colony of Virginia included what became the states of Kentucky and West Virginia. These territorial claims were ceded to the new Federal government partly in return for the assumption of the states’ Revolutionary War debts. 

In 1776, the new state of Virginia created Kentucky County, which looked a lot like the State of Kentucky today, which become a state until 1792. Then four years later, this county was broken up into three new counties, one of which was Lincoln County, named for Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, a military commander in the Revolutionary War. Too early for old Abe. However, Abe Lincoln was born only two and half hours away (by car).

It was here that our story of the Renfros begins. William Rentfro married Elizabeth Cheney in 1726 in Botetourt County, Virginia and they had ten children, including James. The Cheneys had been extensive land owners in Virginia, but little else is known about them. In a “History of the Renfros”, by Delores S. Willey, we are told that the “Rentfros” were important people in Virginia, owning land and serving as “Mayor, Officers in the Militia, Superintendent of Elections”, surveyors, sheriff’s and magistrates. Willey goes on:

The Baird family ancestry tradition tells us that the farm of William and Elizabeth Rentfro was located next to that of the Washington family. That young George Washington and young William Rentfro, the 6th child of William and Elizabeth, played together as children; fishing and hunting over the farms. Both wanted to become land surveyors and learned the trade from William’s older brother, James.

“William Renfro, 1734-1830: Some descendants, relatives, and allied families,” by Josie and Delila Baird, 1973.

The Washington farm mentioned here is “Ferry Farm” (its modern name) where young George grew up. It is across the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg, Virginia and about forty miles south of Mount Vernon. If this is true, then theRenfros would have lived near the Washingtons along the Rappahonnack River during George’s childhood between 1738, when Augustin Washington acquired the farm there, and 1751 when George surveyed land with Lord Fairfax.

The map below was made between 1736 and 1746. The Washington farm was next to the Ball farm that belonged to Martha Ball Washington’s family. There are no Renfros on the map and there is no other documentation for this claim, either.

A map of the Northern Neck in Virginia : according to an actual survey begun in the year MDCCXXXVI, and ended in the year MDCCXLVI

A map of the Northern Neck in Virginia : according to an actual survey begun in the year MDCCXXXVI, and ended in the year MDCCXLVI

However, James Renfro would have been a good surveying instructor. Later in life, James’ skill as a surveyor was officially acknowledged:

JAMES THOMPSON appointed Surveyor, Jan 1782. JAMES RENFRO was appointed deputy Surveyor Feb. 1783, and DANIEL BOONE Aug. 19, 1783. From 1780 to 1787 Surveyors were in great demand because of the immense amount of bodies of land taken up. These were among the first surveyors.

History of KY, Lewis Collins (typescript) Court Order Books, Lincoln Co.

James made good use of his surveying skills by moving further west into Lincoln County which was still part of Virginia. History books would have you believe that the only way for James to get to Lincoln County from James City County was along the Wilderness Trail blazed by Daniel Boone from 1769-71 through the Appalachian Mountains. West of the Cumberland Gap, the trail became the Wilderness Road. Whether James was a part of Boone’s expedition is not known because no records seem to exist concerning the other members of the party. 

However, there is strong evidence that a number of pioneers had created settlements in the future state of Kentucky long before Boone blazed the famous trail. James Renfro’s marriage to Lydia Harris in 1761 and the birth of his son James Renfro, Jr. in 1768 both took place in Kentucky County. These events predate Boone’s expedition. Although there is some controversy about who and when and where the trail was blazed, it happened because of the demand of settlers to move into rich land that had already been discovered and settled by a number of earlier pioneers. 

Unfortunately, I know very little about Lydia, James’ wife, except that she died young, at age forty. She bore James seven children and died in 1780, three years after the last one was born. They spent their nineteen years together in Lincoln County.

However, I found a typescript document in my father’s Renfro file containing excerpts from “Renfro Valley: Then and Now” written by John Lair in 1959 and printed in “History of Renfro Valley”. The excerpts focus on the role of James Renfro in this history. The description of the terrain and roads are illustrated in the map below, which I was amazed to find somewhere. Lair tells us:

The original Renfro Valley settlement had it’s beginnings in Feb. of 1791, with the building of the first cabin on Renfro creek. Although the cabin was built, and lived in for many years, by John and Lulu Renfro, neither the creek nor the valley were named for them. Old land grants to James Renfro, show, in 1788 the stream as a boundary line, and is written in as Renfroes Creek. Little is known of James Renfro, beyond the fact he was a busy speculator in Kentucky land for some years following the Revolutionary War.… Local folklore has it that this James was struck by lightning and killed, while searching for Swifts silver mine, this mine is a well known legend in Renfro Valley, Kentucky.

John Renfro, probably secured his land from James, what relationship, we do not know. John had come into Ky. through the Cumberland Gap with a large group of settlers, he dropped out of the party to visit relatives there at that time.… [In] 1790, John Renfro set out with a man named Lavender, they followed a well marked trail to the Hazel Patch, and there the trail forked, one path leading up Roundstone Creek, and on towards the Boonesboro settlement, crossing the mouth of Renfro Creek, at what was later known as Langsfords Station. The other fork was the old Wilderness Road, which crossed Rockcastle River and went towards The Crab Orchard, passing by the big cave at the head of Little Renfro. At the forks of the trail, they were on land belonging to James Renfro, and from time to time crossed other tracts of his, regardless of which route they took. To have followed Boones path toward Boonesboro would have made easier traveling, once they had cut through the dead brush hell. This route was less traveled and less likely of Indian attacks, but was more thinly settled, and they would find themselves without a nearby station if they should be set upon by savages. To choose the Wilderness Road meant they must travel through the Rockcastle Hills, a stretch of country, where in even that day, when all of Kentucky was a wilderness, was known as The Wilderness. The Wilderness was the most dread part of the whole journey, to and from the settlements in the interior. Less then 14 miles from where they stood, was Stephen Langfords Tavern or Station, which is present day Mt Vernon, Ky. and not more then 2 mi. from the head of Little Renfro. Between Langfords station and the Crab Orchard, the road was patrolled by Col. Wm. Whitley. Farther along, they came to other James Renfro holdings, lying along the Wilderness road, and extending to the big cave, following down the stream, they came to the site of an ancient encampment and battle ground of the Shawnee Indians, from which the creek got it’s first name, soon they came to a larger Renfro Creek stream, they followed it and in the early afternoon of a late summers day, they came to a place where the valley opened out to it’s greatest width–here they settled and this is present day Renfro Valley, Kentucky.

This fork in the road is clearly visible on the map. Apparently, James Renfro owned land all along and between these roads.  At the fork in the Wilderness Road, John Renfro stood on James’ land and no matter which fork he took he would cross more tracts of James’ land. 

After the American Revolution, an act of Congress established the Land Office. Under the act, a person could purchase as much vacant land as desired for £40 for each one hundred acres. The treasurer issued a receipt, this was presented to the state auditor, who then issued a certificate. The certificate could be taken to the register of the Land Office to get a warrant authorizing any surveyor to “lay off” the amount of land specified on the warrant. You can even see digital copies of the original land patent (under British rule) or grants (under United States jurisdiction) and transfer documents. For example, below is the survey, page 3, for survey no. 6342 signed by James Renfro and James Thompson. It includes a small diagram of the tract of land. However, locating this tract of land is not as easy at it was in Illinois (see Hicks Gifford). There, the tracts were clearly labeled portions of clearly identified sections which were identified by townships and ranges. In Virginia, as in the other colonial settlements, this is not the case. Instead, parcels were, and still are, defined by meets and bounds. 

For example, the survey above says “Beginning at A an elm and ash in the line of Rentfros Survey thence South …”. I can’t make out the rest. On the little map on the document, “A an Elm & Ash” mark the beginning. Then one follows the directions and distances that make up the meets and bounds to identify the property. By following a chain of title through successive deeds one would find new surveys identifying neighboring properties. This is a complicated process and requires a visit the the county court house to dig through the deed books I’m too old for this so I gave up trying to locate James’ holdings this way. So I did a map search.

I was very confused by Lair’s description of following the Little Renfro until it meets the larger Renfro Creek. That’s because there’s a lake in the way. Then I realized why this lake isn’t mentioned in Lair’s account. IT WASN’T THERE THEN. Here’s Renfro Valley today, most of it now under water in a lake created by a dam under I 75. This reminds me of a movie, something about a lost brother.

Renfro Valley

Little Renfro Creek empties into the lake from the south and Renfro Creek comes in from the north and now trickles down from the dam along Hwy 25 and then off to the right. There is a tiny town of Renfro Valley just below the dam. But there is no longer a valley in Renfro Valley. 

But that’s not the end of the story. John Lair wasn’t just any old Kentucky hillbilly. He was a great Kentucky hillbilly. He was the founder of Renfro Valley Entertainment Center.

This is the real deal. I won’t try to write his biography here. It really has nothing to do with us except for Lair’s decision to keep the Renfro name alive in that part of the country. Just one more in a long line of Renfro myths. James lived to a very old age of 73 and died in Renfro Valley. His grave is probably under water.

James Renfro Jr. and Margaret Jackson

One of James’ sons, James Jr., was born in 1768 in Lincoln County, Virginia and moved on from Kentucky with his family to Illinois. His most remarkable recorded accomplishment is having 15 or so children. Well, they were actually his wife Margaret’s great accomplishments. None died in infancy and most lived a full life. What records we have indicate that they were all born in Lincoln County, Kentucky between the years 1782 and 1814. In 1810 James moved with his wife and many of his children to Madison County, Illinois. In my father’s files there is the following:

The family spent the winter of 1810-11 in Ridge Prairie, three miles south of Troy, a short distance from Downing’s station, a fort erected for the protection of the settlers against the Indians….

There is an account of this area of Illinois during this time. 

In 1810 there was a regular line of forts…. It was the business of those rangers to be always on the march and occasionally visit all those forts and see that everything was right. Most of the time they were kept on the frontier watching for Indian signs and whenever they discovered any signs of Indians they followed up. If they could overtake them, the rangers invariably chastised them and sometimes wholly exterminated small bands.

This is a small, sadly common commentary on Indian affairs during the settlement of the West. 

However, to say that James and Margaret lived in Madison County doesn’t tell us much. When the county was initially established in 1812 it took up the northern three quarters of the state. Then the county boundaries seemed to change annually. In the “History of Madison County”, James and his sons, especially Jesse, are described as prominent citizens in the early years of Madison County. In 1813, James was chosen as a member of a commission 

To fix the permanent seat of justice of Madison county,… to meet on the first Monday in February, 1813, — they shall proceed to designate a convenient place for fixing a county seat for the erection or procurement of convenient buildings for the use of the county….

The book also describes how James brought his family, including sons Jesse and James III, to Madison County: 

Jesse Renfro … is one of the oldest residents of the southern part of the County. James Renfro [III] removed with the family to Illinois in 1810. In the spring of 1811 his father [James, Jr.] settled in township three, range eight, and died in 1814 while on a visit to Kentucky. 

This narrows things down some. We know about townships and ranges and sections. James and Margaret settled in the area that became Collinsville. However, James Jr died shortly thereafter.

In addition to this information, my father received a letter from Eva Renfro dated 1981 in which she describes a land purchase in 1818 by James Renfro of Sec 24 T3N R8W. Since this is 2 years after James Jr’s death, this land must have been purchased by his 27 year old son James III (more of that original naming). This became the family homestead where four generations of Renfros lived. Eva, the letter writer, was the last Renfro to live on the land and the last of her line. 

The town of Collinsville sprouted nearby. This is Collinsville in 1873 “Maps of Madison County” showing Renfro land in Section 24 on the right edge two thirds of the way down. The J. J. Renfro is James’ son Joseph. Some of the original purchase had been sold.

Here is a drawing of the house, the home of James’ son Joseph J. from the same book.

After James, Jr died in 1816, his widow, Margaret, had to sue for custody of her youngest children, the “orphans of James Renfro”. Not only did women have no rights to property, they did not even have rights to their own children. Among the fifteen children of Margaret and James Jr. was their youngest son, Absalom Foley Renfro. Absalom was an infant when James Jr. and Margaret moved the family from the wilderness of Kentucky to the Great Plains of Illinois. Since James Jr. died so soon after arriving in Madison County, it is reasonable that his widow Margaret and the younger children lived with one of the older children. But before 1850, only heads of households are listed in the census. Then, in 1825, Margaret married Jesse Conway in Edwardsville, but he died in 1840. Then we lose sight of Margaret. Therefore, we don’t know where Absalom and his mother lived after his father died. But Absalom would eventually make a move that would bring the Renfros in contact with the Giffords.

Absalom Foley Renfro and Elizabeth Cormack

Once Absalom was fifteen he was probably apprenticed out, probably to a cabinet maker. In 1830, he married Elizabeth Cormack in Madison County, Illinois. Absalom was then a cabinet maker on his own. But when histories of Madison County were written, Absalom was overshadowed by his older brothers, Jesse and James, who were Baptist ministers and, thus, very well known. But Absalom and Elizabeth followed the family tradition if having a large family, thirteen children, one dying in infancy. By 1850 they had all moved to Rock Island, Illinois, a very interesting place.

Since we have come to Illinois in the mid 1800s, we have come to the impact of the Black Hawk War, which took place in 1832. It was at the future site of the town of Rock Island that Black Hawk broke the treaty of 1804 (remember, this is written by the victors, not the vanquished) by crossing the Mississippi from Iowa back into Illinois after agreeing to cede it. 

But it was the creation of Rock Island County in 1831 that provoked this return of Black Hawk to Illinois because the new county included one of the last remaining Indian villages. These two versions of wrongdoing lead to the Black Hawk War. Although it lasted only three months, it put Rock Island county in the national news. Paradoxically, white settlement increased dramatically. The town expanded from the exploding trade along the Mississippi River in the 1840s. Then came the first “iron horse” in the 1850s and the railroad’s choice of Rock Island as the site for the first bridge across the Mississippi River.

The route of the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad (what’s that song?) was chosen because the Mississippi River was easiest to cross at Rock Island, where there was literally a large rock island in the middle of the river. This map, and the illustration above, shows the first railroad bridge crossing from the town of Rock Island in Illinois to the island of Rock Island and then across to Davenport, Iowa. The Rock Island line ran from Chicago to the Pacific, running through Rock Island City. It also ran from Chicago to New Orleans.

Undoubtedly, the booming economy of Rock Island was a draw for a cabinet maker like Absalom Renfro and his wife Elizabeth and their dozen hungry mouths to feed. A growing settlement meant new businesses and homes which required new furniture. This is where their second child, Nancy Ann, was born and raised and met and married A. J. Warren, who worked as a sawyer, in 1851. Shortly thereafter Absalom died, leaving Elizabeth to care for their youngest children. In 1860, she was living with the three youngest, James (again), Laura and George. One of Granddaddy’s correspondents says that Elizabeth ran a boarding house at Beaver Street near Rock River in Rock Island. 

Undoubtedly, the booming economy of Rock Island was a draw for a cabinet maker like Absalom Renfro and his wife Elizabeth and their dozen hungry mouths to feed. A growing settlement meant new businesses and homes which required new furniture. This is where their second child, Nancy Ann, was born and raised and met and married A. J. Warren, who worked as a sawyer, in 1851. Shortly thereafter Absalom died, leaving Elizabeth to care for their youngest children. In 1860, she was living with the three youngest, James (again), Laura and George. One of Granddaddy’s correspondents says that Elizabeth ran a boarding house at Beaver Street near Rock River in Rock Island. 

Meanwhile, Warren and Nancy and their infant daughter Lila moved to Bloomington, Muscatine County, Iowa in 1856 and also took in boarders. One of those boarders was E. J. Gifford, who was also a sawyer. As you know, this coincidence is critical to our story. Also in the household were A.J.’s mother, Nancy Warren, Nancy Ann’s little sister, Mary, 13 and brother Innes, 8. Here is the 1856 Iowa Census:

As you can see, both Warren and Gifford were sawyers. I have never met a sawyer or known what one was so I looked it up. Before there were electric saws and machines that could pre-cut wood to different lengths, anyone wanting to build a house, furniture, fencing, barrows or wagons, say, needed to obtain wood custom cut. Unless there was a sawmill nearby, the only way to get wood was to go to a sawyer. 

As I recounted earlier, the living conditions in Bloomington resulted in Nancy divorcing A. J. Warren and marrying Edmond J. Gifford. Their son, Edward H. Gifford would marry Netty May Roundy. We turn to the Roundys next.

Of Absalom’s and Elizabeth’s twelve adult children, 5 died in 1919, including Nancy Ann, and a sixth died in 1918. I couldn’t get any details on any of the causes of these deaths and there were no obvious disasters, except for one, the influenza pandemic, something we have all learned a great deal about recently. It began in the Fall of 1918 and spread throughout the world. Ports and railroad hubs were particularly vulnerable because the disease spread quickly among mobile populations. Rock Island was both a Mississippi River port and was located on a heavily traveled railroad. It is estimated that 675,000 Americans died of the flu from 1918-19. Nancy Ann, at 86, was the eldest of the five siblings that died during the year of the influenza and the elderly and young were most vulnerable to it.

Nancy Ann Renfro

And this brings us to the end of our story of the Renfros. They were not descended from Scottish royalty, may not have been friends with young George Washington, and lost the valley named after them.