Archive for the ‘History’ Category

My Family: the Browns

After a busy semester that included a book deadline, I’m getting back to posting my old genealogical notes onto this blog.

This is a picture of my great-great-grandparents, Josiah and Margaret Williams. They are my mom’s paternal grandmother’s parents, buried (along with so many other of my maternal relatives) in thScan 16e Pilcher Cemetery near Brownstown, Illinois. I tell the story, here, of exploring that cemetery during my high school years and recording the inscriptions. I tell the story of the Williams family here.

Josiah was 20 years older than Margaret, and was first married to her older sister Winnaford. The sisters’ birth name was Brown—and the Browns are an interesting family in my ancestry.

In my genealogy files I have Brown family notes from another genealogist, Glenore Cole, but I don’t remember when Glenore sent these to me. (The pages are yellow, so I’m assuming it was back in the 1970s, when I did so much genealogy.) According to the notes, James and Eliza (Baldwin) Brown are the early ancestors of this branch—my 6-great-grandparents.

They were the parents of: James Brown, born Apr. 29, 1708 in Middlesex Co, VA, died March 3, 1784 in Culpepper Co., VA. Married in c. 1736 to Elizabeth Poole, born April 1719 in Gloucester Co., VA. Her parents were George and Elizabeth Poole.

The children of James and Elizabeth:

1 Hezekiah, born 1738 in Spotsylvania Co., VA, died Aug 29, 1821 in Frankfort, KY. Married to Anne Stubblefield, second marriage to Mrs. Sarah Long.

2 James, born April 19, 1742 in Mansfield, near Fredericksburg, VA, died June 24, 1825 in Bourbon Co., KY Married to Ann Davis on Nov. 15, 1764. Mary (c. 1740-Nov. 29, 1764). Married James Michael Rice George Henry (c. 1745 – after 1821). (Glenore Cole’s notes indicates that James’ and Ann’s son William Brown was an early settler of Sangamon Co., IL—as were my dad’s ancestors whom I discuss here. Did these families on my dad’s and my mom’s side of the family know each other during early 1830s? As with my dad’s ancestors, William Brown has a nice history in John Carroll Power’s 1876 History of the Early Settlers of Sangamon County, Illinois, pp. 146-148.)

3 Elizabeth

4 Sarah

5 Ann

Hezekiah Brown moved to Frankfort, KY in c. 1799. His first wife, Anne Stubblefield was born in c. 1747, possibly in King George Co., VA, and died before 1784. Her parents were Thomas and Ellen (Hackley) Stubblefield. Hezekiah and Anne’s children:

Ellen (Nelly), born April 22, 1764, died Sept. 1856, married to Matthew Newton Clarke

2 Mary (Molly), born c. 1766, died beofre 1819, married William Waters

3 Frances (Frankey), born Feb. 27, 1768, died Nov. 12, 1835. Married Rodham Priest , born c. 1770, died before 1819. (See the information in the fourth comment below.)

4 Jael (Jaly), born c. 1771/2, died before 1805.

5 Hezekiah, born c. 1773 in Culpepper Co., VA, died in 1845 or 6 in Fayette Co., IL. His two wives were – — Danks (or Daniels), and Delilah Currance. So Hezekiah, my 4-great-grandfather, was the pioneer of Fayette County, IL., but so was his sister Elizabeth:

6 Elizabeth (Betsy), born c. 1774. Married to Allan Thompson. I’ll talk about them below.

7 Ann, born 1775, married to James Mason and then Matthew Templeman

8 Lucy, born Feb. 10, 1782, died Oct. 3, 1863, married John D. Richardson

9 Henry (Harry), born c. 1783. Married to Mary Fitzgerald

Hezekiah (II) and Dorrance Currance’s children:

1 William D. (9/6/1798 to 4/26,1859), married Mary Hunter Currance

2 George D. (9/7/1803 to 12/17/1847, married Nancy Carneal

3 Henry (born 1809, probably in Logan Co., KY died 10/16/1856 in Fayette Co. IL, married Susan Pilcher (on May 3, 1832) and then Ann (Austin) Nichols (1819 – March 20, 1899) on Nov. 22 1841. He served in the Black Hawk War in Illinois.

4 Two daughters.

Henry and Ann Brown’s children:

1 Winnaford Ann (born 1834, died before March 1858), married to Josiah Williams on Dec. 5, 1852 by Rev. Benjamin D. Mahon.

2 George, born 1836

3 Margaret Adeline, born 1838, died July 28, 1893. Married on March 25, 1858 to Josiah Williams, who had been married to her older sister.

So we’re back to Josiah and Margaret Williams, my great-great-grandparents, whose daughter Susan married John Crawford—and they are my mom’s paternal grandparents, buried beside my own grandparents in the Pilcher Cemetery near Brownstown, IL.

Josiah and Margaret are buried in the same cemetery; I always wondered if Josiah’s first wife, Margaret’s sister Winnaford, is buried there, too, but there is no grave marker to know.

This is the line of my direct ancestors, but I need to back up and talk about my 4-great aunt, Elizabeth (Brown) Thompson, who was sister of my 3-great-grandfather Henry Brown’s sister. The 1878 History of Fayette County, Illinois mentions Elizabeth twice, though not by name, but rather as the mother of Vandalia pioneer Benjamin Ward Thompson (pp. 25, 60). The history indicates that the Thompsons moved to Fayette County in 1819 and settled a mile and a half south of Vandalia, in township section 29. 1819 was the year Vandalia was founded! Thompson, who was 13 that year, lived the rest of his life in Vandalia and was considered one of the beloved “old settlers.” The history indicates that “Mr. Thompson’s father died when his son was twelve years of age; consequently he was thrown entirely upon his own resources. He struggled alone, and the fact of his having so repeatedly been elected to important positions is the best commendtar that can be passed upon his life and character as a man and citizen” (p. 60).

B. Ward Thompson married Susana Bayle in 1828. Although Thompson is buried in the old Vandalia cemetery, Susanna is buried among my Pilcher and Gatewood ancestors in the Winslow Pilcher family cemetery. Nearby is Susanna and Ward’s daughter, Elizabeth, who married a son of Rev. Benjamin Mahon (my 3-great uncle in that family), whom I mentioned above as the pastor who married Winnaford and Josiah.

Back to Elizabeth Thompson. Her son was a notable Vandalian, and two of Elizabeth’s daughters married notable Vandalians.

One, also named Elizabeth, married John A. Wakefield, another early settler of the Vandalia area—and the first white settler of Otego Township, where most of my mom’s side of the family settled. WakefiIMG_1084eld wrote a history of the Black Hawk War which is still considered an important primary source for that tragic conflict. His Find-a-Grave page provides some of his interesting life.

Another of Elizabeth’s daughters, Margaret, married Frederick Hollman, a German immigrant who was a key person in the establishment of Vandalia in 1819-1820. He was a member of the Ernst colony, a group of impoverished Germans under the leadership of Ferdinand Ernst, who settled in Vandalia in late 1820. Although Ernst died young and Hollman moved away, other members of the colony became important figures in later Vandalia history. My first book, High on the Okaw’s Western Bank: Vandalia, Illinois, 1819-1839, had an entire chapter devoted to the Ernst Colony, and I also wrote two articles on the colony, including this one.

So these two important early Vandalians are related to me by marriage: nephews-in-law of my 3-great-grandfather Henry Brown.

Read Full Post »

I haven’t posted to this blog for a while, because of other commitments. Now that things have gotten a little easier, I’m back to posting some things. Here is another installment of my family history: the Strobel family.


John and Emma Strobel, c. 1930. My dad said he took the picture.

When I was a teenager, I traced my mother’s side of the family, and then I hoped to write up a Strobel family tree. But then I went to college, became involved in other things, and drifted away from genealogy. Also, all my Strobel great-aunts and -uncles were deceased by 1961, when I was 4, and so I lacked that whole generation to interview. Such interviews had been crucial when I traced the Crawfords.

But I did trace my grandfather’s generation (he is number eight below) and the names of my father’s generation. Why is my name “Stroble” and all these people are named “Strobel”? Because my grandfather spelled the name both ways, and that was the way he spelled the name for my dad’s birth certificate. Grandfather’s tombstone has Stroble and his obituary has Strobel. In those days, you could spell your name as you wished, I suppose.

Here are my great-grandparents: John Strobel, b. Jan. 1, 1840, d. Aug 26, 1932. He married Emma Hotz,  b. July 7, 1846, d. July 7, 1937. They married June 20, 1865.

Their children: Mary, Lena, John, Ann, George, Charles, Amelia, Andrew, Gustave, Edward.

1. Mary Elizabeth (Lizzie) Strobel, Dec. 31, 1866, d. Aug. 30, 1904, married Frederick G. Schaefer, May 3, 1863 (in Germany), March 7, 1922: Children: Fred, Lady, Karl, Margaret

2. Lena Strobel, b. Oct. 18, 1868, d. 1955. Married Frank Hoffman, who lived 1864-1924 No children

3. John William Strobel, Dec. 12, 1870 to May 5, 1942. Married Sadie Durban. Children: Mary, Angeline,

4. Ann Strobel, b. May 11, 1872, d. Sept. 24, 1872

5. George Strobel, b. Nov. 13, 1873 Married Mamie Philips. Children: Lena, Lillie, Blanche, Emma,

6. Charles Nicholas Strobel, Nov. 5, 1876 till Nov. 27, 1961. Married Lillie E. Watkins, May 7, 1886 till Jan. 20, 1949. Their children: Tina, Leta, Jesse, Evalena, Donna, Delmar, Fred, Charles, Virgil, June. I want to add here that Dad was close to his first cousins in this family branch.

7. Amelia Strobel, August 20, 1880 till Sept. 7, 1961. Married Charles Holman, Oct. 11, 1877 till Oct. 1, 1951. Children: Van, Ethel, Paul, Leo, John, Mildred, Lucille, two infants, Gwendolyn and Leonard (twins, surnamed Holdman), Helen Mae (surnamed Holdman).

8. Andrew Christian Strobel, born Aug,7, 1882, died May 7, 1935. Married Permelia Jane Carson, March 22, 1890, d. Oct. 30, 1991. Her family, the Carsons and Colburns, are described elsewhere in this blog. Andy and Janie’s children: Paul (my dad) and Mary Gladys.

9. Gustave Strobel, Nov. 24, 1884 till Nov. 22, 1885.

10. James Edward Strobel, Oct. 12, 1887, Jan. 27, 1961. A World War I veteran, he never married, and was known locally for his horses. A person on the “Vandalia Memories” Facebook page wondered if I was any relation to Ed Strobel, because he was such a nice person and he let her ride his horses when she was little.

Around 1970 or 1971, my parents and I visited the St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Highland, IL. We found Gustave (“Gussie”) Strobel’s grave. Now that we’re in the era of the internet, there is that awesome site called Find-a-Grave, which identified a grave in Highland as my great-grandfather John’s father, Andreas Strobel (1804-Jan. 31, 1863): http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=strobel&GSbyrel=all&GSdyrel=all&GSob=n&GSsr=121&GRid=20406248&df=all&

Here is John’s page: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=25252546

Gustave’s: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=116669941

My great-grandmother Emma Strobel’s parents are also buried in that cemetery—which I didn’t realize when my parents and I visited it in the 1970s. They were Christian Hotz (Dec. 19, 1817, from Oestringen, Baden and came to America in 1841), died Feb. 22, 1902 in Highland. He married to Maria Eva Weber, who lived Feb. 22, 1822 till July 7, 1898. They married July 28, 1840. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=93228685

Here also is my blog post about John Strobel, including the text of his 1932 obituary. http://paulstroble.blogspot.com/2009/05/my-civil-war-ancestor.html

I always liked my ancestry, although it is almost wholly British, Irish, and German, not untypical of central and southern Illinois. As I’ve described elsewhere on this blog, I’ve a family branch that began with a Mayflower passenger, a branch in colonial Virginia (which, unfortunately, included generations of slave owners). One branch (which I still

Andy and Janie Stroble, c. 1908

Andy and Janie Stroble, c. 1908

need to write about for this blog) includes a historian of the tragic Black Hawk War in 1832. Other branches from Scotland, Ireland, and Wales arrived before the Revolution. The Strobel branch, however, came much later, in the 1840s, reflecting that great emigration from the German states in the mid 19th century. They were also German Catholic, not a popular immigrant group among some Protestants at the time, which makes me wonder what kinds of experiences they had in Illinois. They were the last of my family groups to arrive in America. Though they first settled in Madison County, Illinois, John and Emma eventually moved over to Fayette County, IL, in time for my grandfather to be born there in 1882. And so by 1882, all of my family groups were in place in Fayette County, where I was eventually born and raised.

I’ll think about my grandfather this coming May 7th, the 80th anniversary of his death. He and my dad (who was 22 in 1935) walked together among the stores on S. Fifth Street in Vandalia, and Andy “just caught the door handle and fell,” in Dad’s words. He died of a stroke, age 52. “Everyone knew Dad, and liked him,” my father would say wistfully, and I’ve always wondered what nice times Andy and I missed because our lives did not overlap.


Read Full Post »

David and Esther Washburn

Esther and David Washburn

Another genealogical post. Forty years ago, I copied inscriptions at our family cemeteries, the Pilcher Cemetery and the Winslow Pilcher Family Cemetery. (I describe that project in another post, here.) Additional information about those families may be interesting to some readers.

When I was a child, visiting the cemeteries on Decoration Day, I liked to read the old tombstones but I didn’t know who the people were. When I became interested in genealogy as a teenager, how fun to realize the kinship connections. I learned that David and Esther Washburn, who are buried in the older part of the Pilcher Cemetery, are my great-great-great-grandparents. I was interested in tracing the history of their children, but I didn’t get very far and drifted away from genealogy during my college days.

But in the early 00s, I corresponded with a distant Washburn cousin named Hoy Washburn, who sent me a tremendous amount of research he and another cousin had done on the family. Here, I’ll copy the names of just my direct ancestors.

John Washbourne, born August 1, 1566 in Bengeworth, Worcestershire, England, died August 3, 1624. Married Martha (Timbrell) Stevens in St. Peter’s Parish, Bengeworth. She was born there about 1573 and died May 9, 1626. They are my 9-great-grandparents. Here is my blog post about the Washbourne generations in England.)

St Peter's in Bengeworth. From http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1645205

St Peter’s in Bengeworth. From http://www.geograph.org.uk/ photo/1645205

John Washbourne, baptized July 2,1597 in St. Peter’s Parish, Bengeworth, died March 17, 1671. He married Margery Moore on Nov. 23, 1618 in St. Peter’s Parish Bengeworth. She was born about 1586.

According to this website, John (1597-1671) sailed to New England in about 1631 or 1632, and settled in the town of Duxbury in Plymouth Colony, where he was a tailor. He and Margery were the immigrant ancestors, although Margery apparently died not long after they arrived in Plymouth. (Other interesting websites, for instance this one, can be easily searched for concerning these early Washburns.)

John Washburn, born about Nov. 20, 1620 in Bengeworth, died Nov. 12, 1686 in Bridgewater, Pymouth Co., MA. He married Elizabeth Mitchell in Plymouth on Dec. 6, 1645. She was born about 1629 in Plymouth and died before Dec. 5, 1684 in Bridgewater, MA.

Elizabeth was the granddaughter of a Mayflower passenger. Her parents were Experience Mitchell and Jane Cooke, and Jane Cooke was the daughter of Francis Cooke, who sailed on the Mayflower and signed the Mayflower Compact. Francis Cooke and his wife Hester (who came to the colony a little later, on the Ann) are my 9-great-grandparents. There is much online concerning Cooke and other Mayflower passengers. 

James Washburn (5/15/1672-6/11/1749), married Mary Bowden (about 1670-12/18/1745). They were from Bridgewater. They married Dec. 20, 1693

Moses Washburn (9/9/1702-10/31/1765), married Hannah Cushman (12/25/1705-after 7/29/1750). They married May 23, 1727 in Kingston, MA. She was the daughter of Robert Cushman and Perusus Lewis.

Bezaliel Washburn (about 1740-10/5/1813), married Patience Sollard, his third wife, on July 10, 1795 in Darmouth, Bristol County, MA. (What cool names! “Bezaliel and Patience, table for two…” The biblical Bezalel was one of the artisans on the Tabernacle in Exodus 31.)

David Wasburn (8/12/1785-3/13/1852), married Esther Griffith. David was born in Dartmouth. Esther was born in 1789 in New York. They both settled in Fayette County, IL in the 1830s, and died there. Their children:

* Alma Washburn
* Julia Ann Washburn, m. Jabez Luther
* Philip Washburn (1808-1841), m. Rebecca
* Reuben Washburn (b. 1810)
* Leonard Washburn (b. about 1815), m. Shara Ann Starnes
* Daniel Griffith Washburn (b. 1823), m. Mary Beach
* David J. Washburn (2/15/1825-1/30/1893), m. Sarah J. Crawford, who was my great-great-great-aunt in the Crawford family)
* George Washburn (1/24/1826-about 1880). He was my great-great-grandfather. His third wife,

My grandma identified this picture as that of her grandfather George Washburn.

My grandma identified this picture as that of her grandfather George Washburn.

Ellen (Long) Goodman, was my great-great-grandmother. His first wife, Octavia Pilcher, was my great-great-great-aunt in the Pilcher family.
* Hannah Washburn (1829-1907), who married William Lewis Pilcher, my great-great-great-uncle (Octavia’s older brother) in the Pilcher family. They are buried in the Winslow Pilcher family cemetery.
* Almon Delos Washburn (1831-1902)
* Eli Washburn (1832-1864: he died in the Civil War at Marietta, Cobb Co., GA)
* Ira Washburn (1836-1849.
* Leroy Washburn (1838-1908). He married Susan F. Crawford, my great-great-great-aunt in the Crawford family, and sister of Sarah, whom I just mentioned).

George and Ellen Washburn had two daughters Abagail

Four generations: my uncle Harold Crawford (the baby), my grandma Grace, her mother Abby Pilcher, and Abby's mother Ellen Washburn.

Four generations in 1909: my uncle Harold Crawford (the baby), my grandma Grace, her mother Abby Pilcher, and Abby’s mother Ellen Washburn.

and Susan. Susan is buried in the Bolt Cemetery with her husband Isaac England and near her parents. Abagail married Albert Pilcher and had one child, Grace, who married Josiah Crawford. “Joe and Grace” were my mother’s parents.

When I copied the inscriptions in the Pilcher Cemetery in 1974, I had difficulty reading the stones of Philip and Rebecca Washburn and Philip’s young brother Ira (whose twin Reuben died the same year as Ira). They are all buried near David and Esther in the old section of the cemetery.I remember getting down the ground and tracing the inscriptions with my fingers to determine the letters and numbers. I felt sad for Philip and Rebecca, married but young when they both died in 1841. What was their story?

Another Washburn family member, Cyrene (1814-1856) is buried nearby, too. I assumed he was a child of David and Esther, but according to Hoy Washburn’s wonderful research, Cyrene was David’s brother Stephen’s son. (Cyrene is a biblical name but for a place, rather than a person.)

Back to Francis Cooke: the Mayflower website gives some information about him, here. That site also gives famous descendants of the passengers, and the Cookes’ descendants include both Presidents Bush, Dick Van Dyke, “Grandma” Moses, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. How much joy it would’ve given my grandma to know she was distantly related to Roosevelt through her mother’s family! She was a stubborn Democrat and revered FDR.

(An addition from December 2018: I discovered and purchased a book by Nathaniel Morton, “New England Memorial,” which is the first history of Plymouth Colony–the first history published in the colonies, in fact—and contains information about Francis Cooke. Morton’s is the first publication of the text of the Mayflower Compact and its signers, including Cooke. The book was published in 1669: the one I purchased is the third edition from 1774, and the book had additional editions in 1826 and 1855. I mention this also because Morton came to the colony on the Ann–and thus my ancestor Hester Cooke was a shipmate with the future author of America’s earliest history, like her and Francis a Leiden separatist.)



Read Full Post »


Thomas R. and Margaret Gatewood

The Winslow Pilcher Family Cemetery lies along a country road near Brownstown, IL, not far from the larger and still used Pilcher Cemetery. to me it’s a peaceful place, a little graveyard with no recent burials, surrounded by farm land. Pilcher was my grandma Crawford’s birth name, and Winslow Pilcher and his wife Averilla were my 3-great-grandparents. They are buried here, along with some of their children (including my great-great-grandfather Jonathan Kay Pilcher and his wife Rhoda), and Averilla’s brother Thomas A. Gatewood, and their parents, Thomas R. and Margaret (Kay) Gatewood.

Forty years ago this summer, I copied all the inscriptions in these places. I was seventeen and enjoyed my genealogical hobby, about which I write

J.K. and Rhoda Pilcher's stone

J.K. and Rhoda Pilcher’s stone, photographed the same day, with the same cornfield in the background

here. I was also tracing the Crawford family history that Grandma (who died in 1972) had started, and I loved to study the Pilcher family history that one of Grandma’s first cousins had traced.

I drifted away from genealogy after I started college in 1975 but I’ve recently renewed my interest in the subject. The interest never entirely left me. For instance, during the winter of 1978-1979, I worked part-time at the Evans Public Library in my hometown, Vandalia, IL. A package arrived containing a manuscript for our historical collections: The Four Children of James Kay of Essay County, VA and Some of Their Descendants, compiled by Kent Kay Freeman of Tacoma, WA. I was thrilled to look through the typed manuscript! I wrote to Mr. Freeman and asked if I could have a copy. Seventy years old, he wrote right back and said that he had sent all available copies to libraries around the country and to his family, but that the Mormons were going to microfilm his material.

I went ahead and photocopied his interesting material, however, only for my private use. He had uncovered such a goldmine of information about my ancestors back to colonial days!

Recently I found the file again and decided to post on this blog just the information from Mr. Freeman concerning my direct ancestors.

This was VERY challenging material to unravel, not because Mr. Freeman’s material was substandard or vague, but because several of the people are named John or James or Richard or Mary or Margaret, and because the two families intermarried. I’ve left some redundancy in the story just to try to help with clarity.

The Gatewood line:

John Gatewood, Sr., married to Amy, is first recorded in Virginia (in what became Essex Co.) in 1663, and he died there in 1706. They are my 8-great-grandparents.

One of their nine children, John Gatewood, Jr. was born about 1675/80 and died in January or February 1750. His wife Catherine died in 1762.

One of their ten children, Isaac Gatewood, was born before 1720 and died in September or October 1765 in Essex. Co., VA. His wife’s name was Mary.

Among their children were Andrew, Mary, and Richard. This is the family group in which Gatewoods and Kays intermarried.

* Richard Gatewood married Averilla Andrews, the daughter of Thomas A. and Joice (Garnette) Andrews. One of their children was Thomas Richard Gatewood—or Thomas R. Gatewood, whom I mentioned at the very beginning as my 4-great-grandfather.
* Andrew Gatewood married to Margaret Kay (c. 1750-1827), a sister of my ancestor John Kay (1755-1812).
* And John Kay (1755-1812) himself married Andrew Gatewood’s sister Mary (1758-1839), and one of their children was also named Margaret Kay (1782-1857), and she married her first cousin, Thomas R. Gatewood. Thus the siblings Mary (Gatewood) Kay and Richard Gatewood, though fortunately not married to each other, are both my ancestors.

Thomas R. Gatewood was born in 1781 in Essex CO., VA and died September 11, 1856 in Vandalia, IL. Margaret his wife/cousin was born September 7, 1782 and died March 16, 1857. They married in Fayette Co., KY on August 19, 1803.

The Kay line:

The first Kays in Virginia were brothers, James [2] and William, sons of James Kay [1] of Bury, Lancashire. The brothers arrived in Virginia in 1658 and settled along the Rappahannock River.

James Kay [2] married Sarah Iveson in about 1662. Among their chidlren were William, Richard, and James [3]. James [3] married Mary Pannell in about 1696. James [3] and Mary had three children, one of whom was also named James [4], who settled in King George Co., VA. He had sons James [5] and John.

James Kay [2] had sons William and Richard, and Richard had a son Robert, who settled in Caroline Co, VA. Robert, in turn had sons named Robert and James—yet another James Kay! This James lived in 1778-1835.

Mr. Freeman could not establish a certain relationship between these Kays and our definite ancestor, who was ALSO named James Kay, whose will was probated in Essex Co, VA in 1769. Surely a connection exists, he writes, perhaps with the King George Co. Kays or with the Caroline Co. Kays.

“Our” James and his wife Mary—-my 6-great-grandparents—had four children, and two of those children we met already (above): Margaret (c. 1750-1827), who married Andrew Gatewood, and John Kay (c. 1755-June 5 1812) who married Mary Gatewood (c. 1758-1839).

And… one of John and Mary’s daughters was Margaret Kay, who (as I wrote above) married Thomas R. Gatewood.

Before I return to Thomas R. and Margaret (Kay) Gatewood. I want to linger with “our” James Kay, my 6-great-grandfather. His will, probated Feb. 2, 1769 (and quoted in toto by Mr. Freeman) reads:

“In the Name of God Amen. I, James Kay of Essex County being sick & weak but of Perfect mind memory and understanding and Knowing that it is appoitned for all men once to Die, but knowing the uncertainty of the same, do by these presents make this my Last Will and Testament, in the manner and form Following. Imprimis, I Lent unto my believe Wife Mary Kay all my Estate both Real and Person during her natural Life or Widowhood, and at the time of which shall happen I give and bequeath it in the Following manner. Item, I do give and bequeath to my daughter Margaret Kay, one Negro boy called Goerge, one ditto called Ben, and one Girl called Lucy, to her and her lawfull heirs forever. Item, I give and equath to my son Richard Kay, one Negro Girl called Sarah an ten pounds Curt. money to him and his heirs forever. Item, I give and bequeath to my son John Kay, one Negro man called Scipio and one Girl called June to him and his heirs forever…. “ and it goes on to give other slaves to his son Christopher, and to stipulate that his land and holdings be devided equally among the four children.

But there is is: my ancestors were slaveowners. My family shares in this horrible national sin and the racism with which we still struggle. The Gatewoods owned and bequeathed slaves as well.

James’ son John Kay—my 5-great-grandfather—was in the Revolutionary War. He was listed as a Sergeant on Feb. 16, 1776 in Capt. Thomas Berry’s company, in the 8th Virginia Regiment of Foot, commanded by Col. Abraham Bowman. On Feb. 3, 1777 he was promoted to Ensign and served until he resigned his commission on Apr. 24, 1778. He was paid six pounds a month, or $20, as an officer in the Contential Line.

Mr Freeman goes on to say write that John and two of his siblings sold their shares in their father’s property to brother Richard. Mr. Freeman speculates that this was in preparation for their move to Kentucky, where John Kay appears in Fayette Co., KY land records in 1786. His will, too, leaves slave to his heirs, in addition to other property and land. His will indicates that he was wealthy at the time of his 1812 death, compared to his $20/month pay as an Ensign in the Revolution.

As I heard the story from older relatives, Thomas R. and Margaret Gatewood, their daughter Averilla and son Thomas A., and their spouses and children came to Fayette Co., IL in the late fall of 1829. Thomas A.’s first wife’s name is unknown, but Averilla’s husband was Winslow Pilcher. Supposedly the roads were too bad for them to continue and they settled the Four Mile Prairie area. The Pilcher family built a house near what is now the small Winslow Pilcher family cemetery; an older relative of mine, born in the 1890s, said she had faint memories of the house, which was torn down when she was small. The Gatewood-Pilcher extended family was not among the very earliest settlers of the Vandalia/Fayette Co. area; Vandalia was founded in 1819, and the first white settlers date from 1815 and possibly earlier. But among my ancestral families, they were the first to arrive and live in the area.

from the centennial history of Brownstown, IL (1970)

from the centennial history of Brownstown, IL (1970)

According to Mr. Freeman, Thomas A. Gatewood was born about 1806/10 and died about 1878/79, and had ten children altogether with two wives. His sister Averilla was born May 12, 1804 and died August 28, 1879. He married Winslow Pilcher in 1820. The son of Lewis Pilcher and Mary Rogers Pilcher, Winslow was born October 1, 1794 in Virginia and died May 8, 1866 in Fayette Co., IL. He served in the War of 1812, from Spotsylvania Co., VA, under Capt. McSmith, and received bounty land in Fayette Co. IL for his service. Their children were:

William Lewis Pilcher: November 2, 1821 to January 16, 1899
Thomas Gatewood Pilcher, Jan. 27, 1823 to March 2, 1895
Margarette Pilcher, Feb. 4, 1824 to 1835.
Sarah Pilcher, May 28, 1825 to 1837.
Robert James Pilcher, Aug. 22, 1826 to May 28, 1911.
Mary Ann Pilcher, born Dec. 22, 1827 to 1843/44
Winslow Pilcher Jr., Feb. 17, 1829 to July 4, 1911
Octavia Pilcher, Feb. 16, 1831 to the 1850s
Eliza Jane Pilcher, Sept. 8 1832 to Jan. 8, 1912
Elizabeth Catherine Pilcher, born Feb. 6, 1834, died in 1838.
Louisiana Pilcher, born Dec. 11, 1835, died Feb. 24, 1897.
Joshua Pilcher, born and died Oct. 1 1837
Richard Andrew Pilcher, born Aug 29, 1838 died March 11, 1895
Jonathan Kay Pilcher, born Jan. 23, 1840, died May 12, 1908
Josiah Rogers Pilcher, born Apr. 6, 1842, died March 26, 1928
Charles Benjamin Pilcher, born March 16, 1844 died July 4, 1922
Averilla America Pilcher, born Nov. 13, 1846, died Oct. 15, 1921
Cordelia Caroline Pilcher, born Sept. 8, 1848, died June 15, 1925.

Grandma’s first cousin Blanche Harstad did a wonderful job tracing the descendants of those Pilcher children who survived childhood and married. Jonathan Kay Pilcher, the fourteenth child of these original eighteen children of Winslow and Averilla, was my grandma Crawford’s paternal grandfather. His wife Rhoda, nee Oliver, preceded him in death in 1893.

Unless indicated otherwise, everything up till this point has been from Mr. Freeman’s wonderful manuscript. The rest of this post is my own material gained from other sources.

06-27-2009 12;02;06PMGrandma had this c. 1891 photo of Jonathan and Rhoda and their children (that is, those who survived to adulthood: near Jonathan’s grave are buried several of his siblings who died in childhood). Grandma’s father, Albert Pilcher, is the adult son seated in front.

As I said before, forty years ago this summer, I copied all the inscriptions in both Pilcher Cemeteries. In the smaller, family cemetery, there are Thomas R. and Margaret 24493_373112738518_1553765_nGatewood are buried there. Thomas A. Gatewood has only a stone inscribed with his initials T A G. Averilla’s grave is unmarked, and Winslow’s grave is marked with only a rock, but a memorial to him because of his War of 1812 service was placed upon his grave in 1972.

Among Winslow and Averilla’s children, five are known to be buried there: Jonathan, William, Charles, Louisiana, and Octavia, though her grave’s location is no longer known. Charles was one of the last burial in this place. I’ve always wondered whether the several uninscribed rocks mark the graves of the children (Margarette, Sarah, Mary Ann, and Joshua). It make sense that they do, because this land would’ve been part of Winslow and Averilla’s property. But that is speculation.

Scan 10I was thrilled to see Thomas’ name appear in an 1840 Vandalia newspaper, where he was running for reelection as Fayette Co., IL coroner (he lost). But above his name is none other than Lincoln who was running as presidential elector for the Whig party.

I’ve already written quite a bit on the Pilcher family in this earlier post. Winslow Pilcher shows up in state records as a worker on the construction of the Vandalia Statehouse. The building served as state capitol in 1836-1839, prior to the removal of the state government to Springfield in 1839. But several people pitched in during the summer and fall of 1836 to construct a suitable building for the government, and Winsow was paid for hauling timber to the public square and later for sweeping out the senate chamber.

Scan 13

from “Laws of Illinois, 1837.”

I sometimes call this my ancestral claim to fame, since Lincoln served in that building. When I wrote my history of early Vandalia (High on the Okaw’s Western Bank, University of Illinois Press, 1992), I made sure to mention Winslow’s name in my account of the constuction effort. But, as I’ve written here, this entire family branch has many interesting aspects including a colonial heritage, (tragically) slave ownership, an ancestor in the Revolutionary War, pioneers who journeyed from Virginia to Kentucky and from Kentucky to Illinois, and settlers among the earliest to settle in Vandalia and Fayette County, Illinois.

(After I posted this material, I did an internet search for Gatewoods in Essex Co., Virginia and Kays in Virginia. Try that yourself and find some interesting websites that provide more information about these families. )

(Another update: I hadn’t been to the smaller Pilcher family cemetery for several months, and yesterday when I visited (8/9/14), I discovered that two large trees had broken off and fallen. The plain stone that marked Winslow Pilcher’s grave was shattered and the War of 1812 marker was broken. Jonathan and Rhoda Pilcher’s monument was fallen over, and several other gravestones were askew. The tombstones of Thomas and Margaret Gatewood were intact, since they’re a little north of those trees. Someone had sawed the tree trunks, so I hope that there is an effort to get the cemetery in shape. I’ll try to find out more.)


View of the Vandalia Statehouse, from the hill where my parents are buried.  Photo by Kathy Schultz.

Read Full Post »

355_31627078518_1197_nWhen I was a little boy, one old gravestone in our family cemetery fascinated me. The lettering was archaic and concentrated at the top of the stone. The inscription read “SACRED to the Memory of Comfort Williams, Who Died March 30, 1847, Aged 54 Years.” I knew we had Williams cousins in and around the area. When I was a VERY small child we attended the Williams family reunion in a nearby park.

But when I became interested in genealogy in 1970, when I was thirteen, I began to put family information together. I soon realized that I was related to Comfort (a woman’s name, I learned) and in fact, she is my 3-great-grandmother.

I don’t remember how I connected with an older, distant cousin named Helen Jacoby Dickes, but she provided me her genealogy of Comfort’s family. I still have her photocopy, with its faint type and slick paper common to photocopies of that time. Her genealogy was a terrific gift. I learned so much about the family. Comfort’s second son Josiah, who was buried nearby in the little cemetery, was my grandfather Josiah Crawford’s material grandfather.

Furthermore, I learned that Comfort had come to our home area (Fayette County, Illinois) with her five children, in around 1840, and that her family were buried in Obetz, Ohio, just south of Columbus. Buried there were were husband Josiah, her parents John and Margaret Weatherington, and her sister Rebecca and her husband, George Washington Williams. I would love to know more about her decision to go west. All these relatives buried in Obetz were dead by 1840; did she feel like she had no reason to stay in that area? Why did she come to Fayette County, Illinois?

At some point my parents took me to Obetz (I was stil young at the time). We found a row of graves: the bronze marker for John and Margaret Weatheringon, a grave-sized stone slab for George Washington Williams, and a bronze marker for him and his wife Rebecca Weatherington, and unmarked place, and then the grave of a relative named O.H. Perry Williams. According to Helen’s genealogy, the original gravestones were replaced with bronze markers in 1938—but there was supposed to be one for Josiah, and there was none. I’ve always surmised that the unmarked place to the right of George and Rebecca was Josiah’s grave, though I don’t know that for sure.

So Comfort’s husband Josiah Williams (his life dates are 1786-1826) has many descendants 230 miles to the west of his burial place. What about his family? Helen knew only that his parents were John Williams, married to a woman named Rebecca. In 1786, when Josiah was born, they lived in Kent County, Maryland. In 1790, they lived in Hampshire Co. Virginia (now West Virginia), where John appears in county records. Rebecca alone is found in the 1800 census with small children, so John may have died in the 1790s. In other records, Helen found three children of her’s:

George Washington Williams. His Find-a-Grave memorial is here.

John Williams. His Find-a-Grave memorial, with a link to his wife’s, is here.

Josiah Williams, born September 22, 1786.

“All these sons married Weatherington sisters,” writes Helen. And that brings us to Comfort (Weatherington) Williams’ family.

The Weatheringtons (or Worthington: the name is written differently in different sources) were descended from Nicolas Worthington who came from England to Maryland in 1650, or possibly from Capt. John Worthington, who also came to the colonies in the seventeenth century.

John Weatherington—Comfort’s father—was born in Hampshire Counity Virginia. and moved to Hamilton Weatheringontownship, Franklin Co. Ohio by 1805. His wife’s name was Margaret. Their bronze marker in Obetz reads: “Erected to the Memory of John Weatherington, Born June 23, 1755, Died in the Year 1831. Margaret Weatherington, Consort of John, Born Oct 23, 1759, Died Sept. 29, 1828.” As Helen lists them, their children were:

Isaac, born 1772, died August 18, 1837, married Elizabeth Hornbecker.

John, born 1774, died April 18, 1848

William, born 1778, died Feb. 2, 1862. Married Magdalena, born 1793, April 28, 1859

Rebecca, born 1781, died June 18, 1859. Married George Washington Williams

Margaret, married John Williams on June 7, 1807

Elizabeth, married Archibald Smith

Sarah, married John R. Delashmut

Comfort, married Josiah Williams.

Josiah served in the War of 1812 as a sergeant in Capt. Andrew Dill’s Company, 1st Regiment (McArthur’s Ohio Volunteers and Militia. His service commenced May 1, 1812 and ended April 30, 1813. He married Comfort Weatherington (or Worthington) in 1813. She was born in Virginia in 1793 and died in Fayette Co., IL March 30, 1847. Their children were:

Josiah and Margaret Williams

Josiah and Margaret

Margaret Williams, Nov. 15, 1815 to Jan 1, 1885, married Daniel Jacoby. Six children

John Williams, Aug. 29, 1817 to Apr. 17, 1867. Married Sarah Taverner. Nine children

Josiah Williams, Sept. 17, 1819. Married to Winneford A. Brown (with whom he had three children) and Margaret Adaline Brown (with whom they had eleven children. Josiah and Margaret are my great-great-grandparents: my material grandfather’s material grandparents. Here is a link to the history of the local Brown family.

Cordelia Williams, born about 1821, date of death unknown but probably before 1860. She married Benjamin Powell and then Dudley H. Mabry with whom she had one child.

Edmonson M. Williams, born 1824, date of death unknown. Married Barbara Crawford, with whom he had ten children, married a second time and had one more child. “Later he deparated from [his second] wfe, went West and homesteaded [in Kansas],” writes Helen. Barbara is my great-great-great-aunt through the Crawfords.

Rebecca Comfort Williams, born Feb. 25, 1827 to March 20, 1878. Married Robert James Pilcher. Four children. Robert is my great-great-great-uncle through the Pilchers (Grandma Crawford’s family).

When my daughter was 600 miles away in college near Pittsburgh, I stopped by Obetz a few times while traveling I-70. I’d visited the place three or four other times since first coming here about 40 years ago. The cemetery is a large and pretty churchyard at the outskirts of the village. I can only imagine how beautiful were the virgin woodlands and prairie in that area when Josiah died in 1826, how different the scene would have looked compared to today’s small-town scene. I was a couple days too early for Obetz’s Zucchini Festival.

Now that we’ve moved to St. Louis, I’m close to some local cousins who are also descended from this side of the family. A few weeks ago a cousin-couple here in town wrote me through Facebook and invited my wife Beth and me to an evening church event with them and another cousin-couple.

Say what you will about online networking sites, but thanks to Facebook I’ve been able to reconnect not only with old friends but also with several cousins with whom I hadn’t seen or contacted for ages! We can chat a bit, offer encouraging words, and stay connected.

It’s cliche to say, but what would Comfort have thought about the ability of her descendants to communicate? When she died in 1847, communication and travel were still pretty much identical; telegraphy was in its earliest days and limited to a few areas.


Read Full Post »

Small Town America, by photographer David Plowden, is a favorite book. I wrote and published this review in Springhouse several years ago. The book was published by Henry N. Abrams, Inc. in 1994 (price $49.95) and although it’s no longer in print, it is available via Amazon sellers and used book sites.(1)

The American small town remains fixed in our imaginations. Those of us who have left small hometowns lament, paradoxically, at the changing social forces that beset small communities. Qualities remain fresh in our minds: the excitement that once typified the small business districts; the perceived slowness of time and pace; the ability to conduct serious business transactions on a first-name, handshake basis; the neighborliness along with the provinciality; the easy association of names and families; the lack of privacy that contrasts with the often-preferred anonymity of urban and suburban existence.

When I originally wrote this review in 1996, I had just self-published a set of previously-published essays in a little book Journeys Home. Therein, I remembered my mostly happy childhood in a small southern Illinois town, Vandalia, IL. In the years since I’ve continued to write about my home places, interjecting stories in otherwise my books with topics unrelated to the small-town theme. To use Frank Zappa’s term, the small town (and the larger themes of place and of human community) have comprised my “conceptual continuity.” If you have a similar kind of loyalty to your small town roots, you’ll appreciate Plowden’s words and pictures.

In spite of their seeming simplicity, small towns are very complex places, both in terms of social dynamics and in their potential for varied portraiture. In his introduction to Plowden’s book, David McCullough, author of acclaimed historical biographies, notes how different are the portraits of small towns among works by writers like Mark Twain, Willa Cather, Sinclair Lewis, Sherwood Anderson, and Larry McMurtry (not to mention, he notes such different movies as It’s a Wonderful Life and Blue Velvet). Several photographers, like Quinta Scott (Route 66: The Highway and Its People, 1988, text by Susan Croce Kelly), Drake Hokansen (The Lincoln Highway, 1991), Richard Avedon (In the American West, 1983), and the novelist and photographer Wright Morris (The Home Place, 1947, Photographs and Words, 1991) have published haunting photographs of small town people and places.

In this book, David Plowden has brought together 111 photographs of small towns, taken over 25 years, into a composite portrait of “any town” U.S.A. Plowden has published several collections of his photographs. In the accompanying essay, Plowden recalls Putney, Vermont, where he was born in 1932. Liveries, general stores, “tonsorial parlors,” grist mills, and blacksmiths of the town had, by the time of his childhood, largely given way to barbershops and small cafes, local telephone operators who handled all incoming and outgoing calls, busy railroad stations, and a variety of downtown stores. Transactions were informal and trusting. One’s private affairs were public knowledge. The late-1800s facades of the business district featured modern signs more suitable for ubiquitous automobiles. Change inevitably comes, with interstate highways, Wal-Marts, and other franchises. The postwar generation, eager to be progressive, razed old buildings. Grand old hotels became homes for the elderly. Farms became “agribusinesses.” Prominent citizens died. “His” Putney no longer exists.

Many of us understand the poignancy of that change. Several years ago, in a Flagstaff, AZ, bookshop, I found Plowden’s earlier and angrier book, The Hand of Man in America (1973). Using his own words plus an array of black and white photos from around the country, Plowden called attention to the destruction wrought to American landscapes thanks to industry, strip malls, superhighways, and the loss of local heritage. Writing about local change can be subjective, for what is condemned as garish in one era is deemed old-fashioned in the next, and a few of Plowden’s 1973 examples of visual ugliness look to me today as quaint and even nostalgic.

Small Town America, while including concerns about social change, is a more positive though still elegiac account. That’s a value of photographs and judgments like his; they help us track social change and judge the value of structures that are part of our human-built landscapes. Plowden includes a generous number of black and white photographs from towns from New England to the West. He prefers buildings and rooms that hearken to his own childhood and includes fewer architectural steles characteristic of the 1950s and 1960s tourist trade. His exterior portraits include grain elevators, quiet railroad crossings, Victorian-era commercial blocks, and other styles and ornaments of vernacular architecture. He includes one photo of a wonderful old gas pump that still carries its glass crown.

Most of Plowden’s photographs depict interiors: antique hardware cabinets still in use, heavily used roll-top desks, general stores, barbershops, theaters, hotels, taverns, post offices, courtrooms, lodges, libraries, schools, and churches. I love one church interior that has the old-fashioned wooden display board for weekly attendance and offerings. Such photographs call attention to the towns’ “glory days” yet testify that the furniture and fixtures of bygone eras are by no means removed from everyday life, nor rejected for not being modern.

He also photographs several people: a horse trader, a rare blacksmith in the full regalia of his trade, a kid on a bicycle, children in school, a librarian, a judge, farmers, a barber, a tavern owner, a woman who runs a restaurant, a bearded restaurant customer working on his beer, and other small town folk. Like Quinta Scott’s Route 66 individuals, and unlike Richard Avedon’s Western people, Plowden’s several portraits of small town people look natural, in the midst of their life and work, and by no means unhappy. They’re the kind of people you and I know well.


1. This book is one of several books that Plowden (who turned 81 last October) has published, like the recent Requiem for Steam: The Railroad Photographs of David Plowden. His website is davidplowden.com.

Read Full Post »

securedownloadThis website tugs at my heart strings. It provides a brief history of Yale Divinity School, where I earned my masters degree in 1982, and includes two of my teachers, Robert Clyde Johnson and Colin W. Williams, and faculty I knew, Harry Adams and Aiden Kavanaugh, and Dean Leander Keck. I’ll always be grateful for my studies and friendships at YDS!

At the moment, though, I’m interested in the section that credits the eighth Yale president, Timothy Dwight IV (1752-1817), for getting the momentum going for the eventual establishment of Yale Divinity School.

I’ve a collection of early 1800s travel books. They’re related to the history of my hometown, Vandalia, IL, when it was state capital in 1819-1839. I love the old writing style of travel authors of the era (including, to me, an abundant use of commas), and the interesting things the authors’ observed and preserved. These records of people, places, economy, and landscape are now indispensable to historians.

securedownload-1Knowing Timothy Dwight’s connection to my beloved school, last fall on a whim I purchased Dwight’s Travels in New England and New York. It’s a four-volume set, the first edition printed in New Haven by S. Converse in 1821, and includes all the maps. The books record economic and social aspects of New York and New England during the 1796-1817 period. Leafing through Dwight’s volumes provides a wonderful sense of northeastern life at that time.

My wife is a university president, and I love Dwight’s preface about the rigors of his work.

“In the year 1795 I was chosen President of Yale College. The business of this office is chiefly of a sedentary nature, and requires exertions of the mind almost without interruption. In 1774, when a tutor in the same Seminary, I was very near losing my life by inaction, and too intense application to study. A long course of unremitted exercise restored my health. These facts, together with subsequent experience, had taught me, that it could not be preserved by any other means. I determined, therefore, to devote the vacations, particularly in that autumn, which includes six weeks, to a regular course of traveling. In September 1796, the execution of my design was commenced; and the first journey mentioned in these letters, was accomplished. Before its commencement, it occurred to me, that a description of such interesting things, as I might meet with in my excursions, would probably furnish amusement to my family. I therefore put a note book into my pocket, with an intention to set down in it whatever should suit my inclination…”

He goes on to say that the note book was substituted with a regular journal, and he resolved to observesecuredownload the rapidly changing area of New England (and later he added New York), to preserve its aspects for posterity and to address misrepresentations of New England about the region by other writers.

In his “Journey to Province Town,” page 79 of Volume III, we read:

“The houses in Yarmouth are inferiour to those in Barnstable, and much more generally of the class, which may be called, with propriety, Cape Cod Houses. These have one story, and four rooms on the lower floor; and are covered on the sides, as well as the roofs, with pine shingles, eighteen inches in length. The chimney is in the middle, immediately behind the front door; and on each side of the door are two windows. The roof is straight. Under it are two chambers; and there are two larger, and two smaller, windows in the gable end. This is the general structure, and appearance, of the great body of houses from Yarmouth to Race Point. There are, however, several varieties, but of too little importance to be described.”…

Why quote this paragraph? It’s the first use of that term “Cape Cod house.”

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »