Independence two ways

When I read the word of the week I knew at once who I was going to write about. She’s not an ancestor, but a neighbor of one.

Here’s the story –

in 1817 my 4th great-grandfather Robert T. Barlow moved from Hanover County, Virginia to Barren County, Kentucky where he bought 120 acres on the south fork of Beaver Creek. Among his new neighbors were several members of the Eubank family who had arrived in Barren County about ten years earlier.

Primary among those neighbors were Joseph Eubank and his sister Susannah. Joseph first purchased property in Barren County in 1808. Susannah first appeared there in July 1809 when the tax book recorded the amount she owed for several slaves. Joseph, Susannah and Susannah’s two sons Richardson and Pleasant moved to Barren County from Henrico Co, VA. (When Susannah’s death was recorded by the Barren County clerk, it stated that she was born in Henrico County.)

Susannah is a puzzle. She arrived in Barren County with two teen-aged sons, Richardson and Pleasant. Their names showed up in the Barren County tax records when they turned 21, Richardson in 1813 and his brother Pleasant in 1815. The boys had no identifiable father. There have been some suggestions, but no proofs have been made. Richardson’s second wife was my third great-aunt Lucy Fenton Barlow, who had her own mysterious fatherless child.

Susannah functioned as an independent woman in Barren County in a time when most women were identified only as adjuncts of their husbands. She was listed as head of household in all but one census. And when she died – at 85 in 1852 – her will was most remarkable.

It’s believed that her father was James Eubank who died in Henrico in 1799 and left a will with a curious clause. (Ancestry.com – Henrico mixed records, Vol 2-3, 1766 to 1852, pp. 497-498.)
In the will he starts out with the usual phrases, then leaves property to two sons, and follows with this –

“Item: I leave to my two single Daughters Susannah and Frankey so long as they or either of them remain single the remaining part of my land it being the place where I now live and at their death or marriage whichever may first happen my wish and desire is that such part of my lands ?but then? shall be equally divided amongst all my children that are now living to them and their heirs forever.”

James’ will refers to Susannah as single. At that point (1799) she would have had two young sons. After James’ will was read she might have felt she had good reason to continue being single. This is speculation only. The full truth about Susannah is waiting in the Henrico records at the Library of Virginia, still to be explored.

Now – about her will. I’ll preface this information by saying that when she moved to Barren County, she joined the Mount Tabor Baptist Church. At that time it was an integrated church which welcomed both free blacks and household slaves into the congregation if I’m reading the membership roles correctly. I’m sure this had some bearing on her thinking when it came time to write her will.

Here’s the first paragraph of that will:
Barren County, Kentucky Will Book 3, pages 363-364.

I Susannah Eubank of Barren County, Kentucky do hereby make my Last will and Testament in manner and form following, that is to say:
First – I do hereby manumit and set free from slavery my four negro Slaves, towit, Tom about thirty years old, Royal or Rial about twenty seven years old, Joh about 15 years of age, Harrison about thirteen years old. My desire and will is that the said Tom and Rial and John and Harrison be hired out for the term of one year after my decease and that the money arising from said hire be handed over to said negroes to enable them to emigrate to Liberia and that said Tom, Rial, John and Harrison be discharged from servitude and be thenceforth and forever free from and after one year from the time of my death . . .

The year was 1852. Here were four young men gaining independence. Sending them to Liberia was one of the many possibilities that the Abolitionists struggled with. Not perhaps the best solution but many people then felt that former slaves would never be accepted into American society.

The Forgotten Family


I belong to a lost family.

Back in the days B.C. (before computers) it was easier for this to happen. There wasn’t immediate electronic access to multitudes of records. It took a drive to the courthouse, or a train ride to another state. Lots of letters were sent – sometimes answered, sometimes not. It was much harder to gather and evaluate information.

Under these conditions three big books were written about one of my family lines. Thousands of records were accumulated, recorded and lovingly analyzed, and, even though he was in plain sight, they never found my 3th great-grandfather.

So, here’s my story:

At the end of the year 1836, there were two men named Henry Dacus who lived in Tipton County, Tennessee.
The first Henry was selling off all the property he had purchased in Tipton County in 1831, (the property descriptions match exactly) and was making ready to move. Henry was not a literate man. He signed all of his transactions with an “X”. The papers for the last of his sales were taken to the courthouse early in 1837 by the men I believe to be his father and his brother, Alexander and Lewis Dacus, because Henry had already moved with his family to Hickman County, Kentucky where he died in 1843.

The second Henry purchased his first piece of property in Tipton County toward the end of 1836, signing his name to the agreement, and over the next few years he continued to purchase more property there. His signature was always “Henry A. Dacus.” This Henry died in Tipton County somewhere between 1870 and 1880. Two different people – right?

Imagine you’re a genealogical researcher in 1970 and have made the decision to research your family line. Your family tradition says that your second great grandfather James Alexander Dacus came from Tipton County, Tennessee and moved to Yell County, Arkansas with his new wife when he was 20. (around 1840) You call the library in the closest big town and ask the librarian to look up “Dacus” in the 1830 census index book for Tennessee or drive to the appropriate office of the National Archives and look at Tennessee microfilm.

You find that there are 4 families with that surname in Tipton County in 1830. (One man is named Henry). Only one family is recorded in 1840, but three of the four are there again in 1850 (One is again named Henry). In 1860 Henry is still there. Would it occur to you that you needed to look for Henry in Hickman County, Kentucky as well? I don’t think so.

I happened on this problem after Ancestry had started posting all the censuses on-line. I was looking for my own second great grandfather William Dacus, who showed up in Yell County, Arkansas at the beginning of the Civil War – age 45. (I knew to look there because my grandmother said her mother was born in Dardanelle, AR in 1869 and her grandfather was born in Tipton County, TN @ 1820). Included in William’s family record in the 1870 Yell County census was a Johnnie Dacus, 21, from Kentucky, and, being perennially curious, I decided to check the 1850 and 1860 censuses in Kentucky to see if I could find his family there – I did – on line – no phone calls – no train trips. I located his family in Hickman County, KY and then could back track to find all the other information – William, William’s father Henry (there you are at last!) who died in 1843, court records, all the family names, the works.

I look at those three books and see all the times my family was explained away or puzzled over and set aside because of the lack of access to records. The big problem is that people are still using these books to substantiate their research and I find I still belong to a lost family no matter how many letters I write, or how many times I explain.

Don’t misunderstand me. There’s lots of great material in these volumes. Lots of hard work went into assembling them, BUT we have so much more information available to us now. There are now so many more ways to answer puzzling questions than there were 40 years ago. I guess the message is to rejoice in all the information we now have to work with and take the time and effort to be curious enough to ask the puzzling questions.

A Favorite Picture

This is a picture of my great-grandfather Cal Drew and his dog Snoop.

He was born Carle “Enrique” Drew in Creston, Iowa in 1857. His siblings all called him “Reek”- he quickly changed his name. He married Estella Meacham in Rice County, Kansas in 1882 and they led a varied and interesting life.

They homesteaded a farm northwest of Chase, Kansas. In the winter Cal hunted, and shipped many ducks from the salt marshes at Stafford, Kansas to eastern markets. He was in charge of the Stafford Gun Club and the Salt Marsh Hunting Club for some time. The picture comes from this time period.

Around 1904 Cal and Estella had a merry-go-round and an arc-light movie machine and in the summer they set up shows in small Kansas towns.

My aunt wrote a profile of Cal which gives a little more information about him and his wife Estella.

Calvin was a handsome man and his wife Estella was an excellent needlewoman and so kept him supplied with beautifully embroidered black sateen shirts, the cuffs and fronts of them being heavily embroidered. Calvin played the bones and perhaps the french harp with a small groupd of men who played for dances in and around Chase, Kansas.

In 1912 Cal and Estella moved to Wichita, Kansas – to a house next door to their daughter, Mabel. After Estella died during the flu epidemic in 1914 Cal wandered for a while, living first in Protection, Kansas and then in Hutchison. He returned to Wichita to live with his daughter in 1920 and died there in 1928.

A lengthier version of this article was written for Week 2 (Jan 8-14) of the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge.

Introduction

When I decided to work on the “52 ancestors in 52 weeks” project I sent copies of what I’d written to several family members.  I found I wanted more feedback that any of them could provide. So I decided on a blog. That decision meant that I had to update my knowledge of HTML and learn CSS in order to modernize my existing web site, and then learn how to use WordPress. So I’m not going to make the whole 52 weeks. But  I have hopes for the rest of the year.  Let me know what you think.