Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Good Son of a Pirate: G5 Grandfather, Stephen Brooks (1703-1775)

G5 Grandfather, Stephen Brooks (1703-1775)

The Brooks line could have gone down with father and son pirate duo Joseph Brooks and Jr., but thanks to Stephen Brooks, it didn't.  His father and brother were killed in 1718, when Stephen would have only been 15. It is unknown whether he would have joined Blackbeard's crew had he been older. I like to think he was different from them. In any case, at 15, he was the man of the house. I do not know whether his mother, Esther, had any other children, but none are recorded.

For a man living in the 18th century in the wild lands of North Carolina, much is known about his life.

He was a mariner and ship builder, and spent his life in the Outerbanks. According to another researcher, Stephen owned his own ship but it was confiscated by the King. It's unknown why, but we do know that he tried to petition to have his ship returned to him. Colonial Records of NC states that he was denied. Whether or not this proves Stephen had ties to piracy like his brother and father is unknown, but it is suspicious.

He was a landowner. According to deeds for Currituck County, on June 16th, 1763, he purchased 80 acres of land near Hatteras Bank from Thomas Robb. Earlier that summer, he purchased 200 acres from Christopher Neal. 

Incidentally, the land he owned would have had a view of the place where his father was killed in the battle with Maynard decades earlier.
This would have been what his land looked like for sure. 

He had a wife, (name unknown), and together they had at least 4 sons: Stephen Jr., Isaac, Willoughby, and Thomas. Thomas was the youngest, and would become my G4 Grandfather.

Stephen would have known various ways to survive in a hard land. He knew how to grow crops in a swamp, how to survive a hurricane (a strong storm came through in September, 1715), he might have known how trap crabs, fish, hunt whales. The Atlantic and sounds of the Outerbanks would have been as familiar to him as the lines on his own hands. I like to think about how quiet it would have been out there, how dark at night, and how he might have seen wild horses grazing on his marsh, flocks of geese lifting through the surely thick morning fog.

He died on May 16, 1775, just a month after the Revolutionary War began. He was roughly 71 years old. Though he lived much of his life in Currituck County near the border of Virginia, he is said to be buried in Hyde County, near Mattasmuskeet Lake, which is further south, just inland from Ocracoke Inlet.

My impression of Stephen was that he was born on the fringes of society, in a remote and wild place to a father much like the land. Living down this reputation wouldn't have been easy. By accumulating land, he tried to enter a higher class, thereby securing a place for his sons and future generations.

Stephen's Legacy:

Stephen II was born in 1725. In 1752, when he was 25, he married Hyde County native, Mary Farrow (1730-1795). Mary was 22. Together, they had eight children: Celia Elizabeth (1753-1818), Isaac (1754-?), William, Esther, Jacob, Charity, Stephen III, and Sally. He owned quite a bit of land, much of which he purchased from his father-in-law Jacob Farrow.

Willoughby was born next. He married a woman named Frances and they had six children: Ann, Hannah, John, Mary, Thomas, and Isaac. He owned quite a bit of land in Currituck County, some of which he inherited from his father. At the time of his death, he provided for his heirs fairly and handsomely. According to his will, he owned a black horse named Bow, and a 2 year old mare named Inna.

This is what he gave his wife:
Item I give to my Wife Frances a negro gairl named Penny and her increase, one linnen wheel, one wooling wheal, one feather bed and furniture whereon she lays, four stocks of bees, the first choice, and two cows and calfs first choice one iron pot and three barrels of pork ten barrels of corn, twenty head of hogs first choice one with mare caled quen to her and heirs for ever.

There was quite an operation to divvy up: sheep, furniture, slaves.

Not much is known about Isaac at this time. There are so many Isaac Brooks it is hard to determine who was who.

Thomas was born in 1738. He fought in the Revolutionary War, married a french woman named Angelica Riordame, and had a nine children: Thomas Jr., David, John, Christopher, Deuteronomy, Polly, Midget, Stephen, and Jeremiah. He also became a Methodist minister, as did many of his sons and nephews. Much more about him later.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pirates? Pirates!: G6 Grandfather Joseph Brooks (?-1718)

Joseph Brooks (? -1718)

Blackbeard's Battle Flag
I don't know where Joseph Brooks came from, but I do know where he ended. He and his family, a wife Esther and at least two boys, Joseph Jr. and Stephen,  lived on the outerbanks of North Carolina at the turn of the 18th century.  It was a remote and wild area, and residents would have lived a primitive lifestyle. How they came to live in this land is unknown, though some have a theory that they were descendents of The Lost Colony and Crotoan Indians. None of this, however, has been proven. What we know is they were there, and their lives must have been very hard against the elements, storms, lack of proper nutrition, and little to do in the way of making a living. Perhaps because of the wild nature of the land, or lack of enforced law, whatever the case, this area was ruled by pirates or "bankers" from 1710-1718. Joseph and his son, Jr., were some of the pirates. In fact, they were pirates in the infamous Blackbeard's crew.

It is unknown when Joseph hooked up with Blackbeard, but it has been well recorded in every account of Blackbeard's death that Joseph, Sr, my g6 grandfather, was killed on the Queen Anne's Revenge when Leut. Maynard attacked. His son, Joseph, my 5th great grand uncle, was captured and later hung in Williamsburg, Virginia. I think he was about 18 years old, as I believe he was the oldest of the two brothers since he was named after his father. Stephen, my g5 grandfather, was born in 1703.

According to a fellow researcher, Baylus Brooks, "'Outer Bankers' were a surly sort, prone to living by beachcombing after shipwrecks and even creating disaster in order to assist the shipwrecks’ occurrence" ( One historical account states that Bankers without ships would lame a horse, hang a lantern from its neck, and force it to walk back and forth on the shore. Because of its stumbling, the lantern mimicked a ship's light bobbing on the waves. Thinking that direction was deeper water, ships would come to shore and run aground, allowing the Bankers to plunder their stores.

It goes without saying, North Carolina was wild at this time. There was little “civilized” behavior, even the Governor was in cahoots with Blackbeard. Bayless Brooks conjectures, "Imagine what the average colonist must have been like and especially the “lower-classed” Indians, for which most English had great distrust. A lawless life probably looked perfectly natural to them. But, the Colony of North Carolina was growing fast and Indian ways and Piracy could no longer be tolerated, as Joseph Brooks and his son found out in 1718" (

Apparently, England did not have a problem with pirates as long as pirates did not direct their attentions towards the English. Blackbeard and his men were not discerning with their victims and Leut. Maynard was sent to stop them. This resulted in a horrific battle.

But first, a little of what life was like for the pirates. The General History of Pyrates by Capt. Charles Johnson, published in 1724, was particularly helpful in finding facts about their actions.

In Spring 1717, Blackbeard and his men took a French ship off the coast of Barbadoes. They renamed it the Queen Anne's Revenge, and mounted it with 40 guns.
Queen Anne's Revenge
They soon took another ship near St. Vincent, plundered it, and set it on fire, setting all its men on shore without harm. They got in a scuffle with Scarbourough which lasted a great while, but won.

They sailed to Honduras, Grand Caymen, Jamaica, The Bahamas, then on to Carolina. Off the coast of Charleston, they created much havoc by attacking English ships and disrupting trade.

At one point, according to Capt. Charles Johnson, Blackbeard and his men needed medicine. They sent a crew on shore who demanded from the city a chest of medicine. They held prisoners hostage and threatened to set ships on fire if they were not given it.

They walked the streets publicly and were openly despised as thieves and murderers. Probably to rid the streets of them, the city gave in to their demands. Blackbeard let the prisoners go, after relieving them of their gold and silver.

From Charleston, they sailed to North Carolina. Blackbeard planned to break up his company, securing money for himself and his best friends, ultimately cheating the rest. He grounded his ships at Ocracoke Inlet and left many men on a deserted island to die. (They were saved a couple days later by a ship passing by.)

In early 1718, Blackbeard married his 14th wife, a 16 year old girl. According to Capt. Johnson, it was Blackbeard's custom to force his wives into prostitution to his men after his wedding night.

In June, 1718, they sailed for Bermuda. They returned to Ocracoke early that fall, and patroled the area for several weeks. Eventually, sailors and planters living near the shore tired of Blackbeard's whoring and thieving ways. They requested help from the Gov. of Virginia. The governor sent Leut. Maynard to stop him. A proclaimation was issued asking for the death and capture of all pirates.

On November 21st, 1718, Maynard caught up with Blackbeard at Ocracoke Inlet, and engaged him in battle. The Queen Anne's Revenge was fitted with guns; Maynard's ship, The Pearl, was not. Still, he came close to Blackbeard's ship and Blackbeard boarded, thinking he was getting the upper hand. It was there a close hand to hand fight ensued. Blackbeard was wounded 25 times, and shot 5 before he died. My grandfather, Joseph, was killed aboard The Pearl. Joseph, Jr. was wounded but captured. Maynard cut off Blackbeard's head and posted it on the bow of his ship. He paraded it like that along the James River for weeks on end.
Thus was the fate of Blackbeard and my grandfather Joseph Brooks. The fate of Uncle Junior was similar in kind.

In his book, Blackbeard: America's Most Notorious Pirate, Angus Konstam writes of Joseph Brooks, Jr. and the fate of Blackbeard's crew. To paraphrase:

In jail awaiting trial, 5 of the 16 pirates captured that day turned informant with the hope of remaining alive. Joseph Brooks, Jr. was not one of those men. One after the other, Joseph Brooks, Jr and the other pirates listed below were forced to stand on a cart, their hands tied behind their backs. A rope was looped over a convenient tree and the noose tightened around the pirate's neck. The condemned men would have been given a chance to speak, then a preacher should have said a short prayer. The cart and horse were led away, leaving the men kicking in mid-air (271-276).

A General History of the Pyrates, by Capt. Charles Johnson, pub. 1724

Though Captain Johnson was obviously biased against pirates, reading his account of the often brutal ways of Blackbeard and Joseph Brooks leaves me with mixed feelings. While pirates are often romanticized in popular culture, and certainly by my beloved Johnny Depp, they were in truth very cruel and crude in real life. Even after all this research, I can't say I know much about Joseph Brooks, but here's what I do know:

He knew the ocean and was well-traveled. He desired all things rich and sparkly. He drank rum in excess. He was supersitious. He knew the smell of cocoa, the particular color of indigo, the blurred lines between salt and fresh water. He was loyal, brave, and fierce. Though many say he fought on the wrong side, it may have been all he knew. No one knows where he came from, and his body was most likely committed to the sea without ceremony.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

G3 Knowles and Cruz: Lula Mayfield Knowles & Antonio "Tony" Cruz, Jr.

Great-great-grandparents: Lula Mayfield Knowles & Antonio "Tony" Cruz, Jr.

Lula was the daughter of Sarah Ann Russell and Oscar Washington Knowles. She was one of eight children, and the first generation in the Knowles line to be born in Key West. On the Russell side, she was a second generation conch. She was born on October 1, 1877. She marries Tony Cruz, son of Mary and Antonio Cruz, at the age of 18 on May 30, 1896. Tony was born in April, 1874, making him 22 when they married. Their first son, Oscar, was born in '97, and a daughter, Florine, in '98.

In 1900, they rented a house on Southard, close to Tony's mother Mary. Tony is a cigarmaker and was educated. Lula could also read and write.

The next decade would bring three more sons: Albert Bernard in 1901 (my great-grandfather), Hubert (1904), and Frank (1907).

In 1910, they rented a house on Flemming. Antonio was still a cigarmaker. The only other point of interest in this census is that Antonio spoke English and Spanish, proving that it was possible his parents never learned English, or if they did, Spanish was spoken predominantly in the home.

Their last two children were born in 1913 and 1915: Doris Melrose and Leo Jack.

By 1920, at the age of 44, Tony has made a big change in his life--he's now a fireman. His son, Oscar, age 23, is also a fireman. He still lives at home and isn't married. At 18, Albert, my great-grandfather, is a laborer at the US Air Station. Hubert, 15, is a helper in the lunch room. Which lunch room I'm not sure--perhaps at the high school? Florine, 21, still lives at home and doesn't work. She is married but her husband does not live with them. Frank is 13 and is in school. Doris and Jack are 6 and 4.

1930 shows Tony is still a fireman for the city, and everyone has left home except Doris and Jack, who are 16 and 14. 1930, however, will be a tragic year for the family.

On August 1st, Lula dies at age 53 of an infection in the heart, known officially as myocarditis. How she received this infection is not known, but apparently myocarditis is difficult to detect even with today's medical advancements. According to a public health web site, there may be no symptoms at all. Some symptoms may be similar to the flu. If symptoms occur, they may include:
  • Abnormal heartbeat
  • Chest pain that may resemble a heart attack
  • Fatigue
  • Fever and other signs of infection including headache, muscle aches, sore throat, diarrhea, or rashes
  • Joint pain or swelling
  • Leg swelling
There is some confusion as to where she died. Her burial card states 522 William Street, but the obituary says 415 William Street. 522 William no longer exists--it's bed and breakfast's swimming pool now. 415 William Street is a gorgeous bed and breakfast, still in its original state from the late 1800s. I went there and took photos, but it seems as though it was too large and fine a house for a fireman's salary to rent. I spoke with the owner of the house, and she said a William Russell built the home. Lula's grandfather was a William Russell, but I was never able to pin her William Russell to this house in any of the census records. (See the post titled Untangling the Russell Roots.) There were quite a few Russells on the island.  

Lula's burial card. Cause of death myocarditis

Lula's mother would die 18 days later of a brain hemorrage.

Tony eventually married his deceased brother's wife, name not known at this time, and moved with her to Lake City, Florida. He died in September, 1939 and is buried there. (Photo of headstone forthcoming.)

Lula and Tony's family:

Oscar Brian Cruz was born September 15, 1897. He married Mary Elizabeth Brady (also another relative of mine through another branch, though she and Oscar wouldn't have been related.) They married in 1920 and had three sons: Robert, Oscar, Jr., and John. (It is through John that I'm related to a close high school friend, Marissa.)

Oscar died in 1954 and his wife died three years later. They are buried in the same grave.

Florine Nadine Cruz was born March 20, 1898. She married Graham Malcom Archer in 1917 when she was 19. They had two children, Juanita and Carewe Gordon Archer. By 1930, they lived in Tampa. Graham was a sawyer at a box factory. Graham died in 1965. Florine died Aug. 3 1987. They are buried together in Tampa.

Albert Bernard Cruz, my great-grandfather, was born October 3, 1901. At 24, he married Marie Nelson. The marriage did not very last long at all. In 1927, he married Mary Elizabeth Knowles and they had three children: Albert, Jr. (my grandfather), Betty Jean Cruz, and Donald Ray Cruz. In 1930, he worked at the power plant. He then worked as an electrician on the Navy base. After being severely injured on the job, he retired in the 1950's. He died on March 27, 1974. (Much more about he and Elizabeth later.)

Hubert Cruz was born on November 8, 1904. He married Ruth Griner in 1927 at age 22. Together, they had five children: Flora, Hubert, Jr., Ruth Rose, Kenneth, and Doris. Hubert was a general laborer. He died just a few days shy of his 65th birthday in 1969.

Frank Cruz, b. Oct. 27, 1907, was also a general laborer. He married Ruby Carey around the year 1930. They had one child, Betty Marie, and lived in Miami the majority of their lives. Frank died in January, 2009 in Miami.

Doris Melrose Cruz was born Oct. 10, 1913. She married a captain of the police department, Everett R. Rivas. They had one son, Everett, Jr. Doris died May 22, 1987 at age 68.

Leo Jack Cruz was the baby of the family, born June 19, 1915. He married a woman named Doris and they had four children together: Leo Jack, Jr., Barbara, Claudia, Tony. Sadly, in 1943, Jack Jr. pulled a pot of boiling oil down on himself. He died shortly thereafter and is buried near his grandma Lula.

I never had the chance to meet my great-grandpa Albert, but I remember Uncle Jack well, as he died at age 82 the summer I graduated high school, in 1997. He and Aunt Doris were very sweet people.  They lived in Lakeland, FL and died there.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Great-great-great Knowles: Oscar Washington Knowles (1843-1885) & Sarah Ann Russell (1848-1930)

Oscar Washington Knowles & Sarah Ann Russell

Oscar was born about 1843 on Long Island, Bahamas to John Thomas Knowles and Hannah Elizabeth Prance. He migrates with his family to Key West before he's 7 years old.

When he's 22, he marries young Sarah Ann Russell on May 26, 1865. Soon after, their first child is born, Sarah Golden Knowles. Then a son William Edward is born in 1869. The 1870 census records the foursome as living in Key West. Oscar is a seaman, Sarah keeps house. Neither can read or write.

The '70s will bring four more daughters: Emma (73), Ella Louise (74), and Lula Mayfield Knowles, who would be my great-great-grandmother, and Winnifred (79).

In 1880, they are living on Flemming Street. Oscar is still working on the sea. Two more children arrive: Catherine (81) and Henry Lee (84). A year later, in 1885, Oscar dies of marasmus, otherwise known as severe malnutrition. This leads me to believe times were hard, but particularly hard for this family. Somehow, the others survive. Does this mean Oscar made sure his family ate rather than himself? I'd like to think so. However, marasmus usually only happens during times of famine, or to the young or very old. It is difficult for me to believe a grown man would let himself starve to death. There must have been some other underlying illness which caused him to not be able to absorb nutrients. However, according to the mortality schedule for that month, there were two other men who died of marasmus, but Oscar was the only one of the three with a job. As a fisherman, he should have been able to provide himself with a steady supply of food.

After Oscar's death, Sarah is recorded in the 1885 census as still living on Flemming Street. All of her children live at home. Her daughter Sarah is 19. Her oldest son William is 17. He works as a cigarmaker. The family's financial independence now rests solely on him for a number of years.

In 1900, they are still in the same house, 929 Flemming Street. Sarah is not working, but her son William is now a sponge fisherman. Daughter Sarah has either moved out or died, as there's no proof she lived yet her three children, Rafael, Charles, and Selina Perez lived with their grandma Sarah. In this census, Mama Sarah states that she had 9 children, but only 8 lived. Sarah's daughters Ella, Lula, and Winifred have married and moved out. Emma marries a Curry, but lives with her mother. At 26, she has had three children but none of them lived. Emma works as a tobacco stripper in the cigar factory. Sarah's youngest son, Henry Lee, is still living at home and is a clerk in a fur store.

In 1905, Sarah's baby Henry Lee will die at age 20. Cause unknown.

In 1918, Sarah will lose another daughter. Winnifred dies of pneumonia at age 38. 

1217 Newton Street
By 1920, Sarah has managed to buy a house, 1217 Newton Street. Living with her, daughter Emma who is now divorced, 46, and still a tobacco stripper, and her grandson Rafael who has taken the name Knowles and at 35 is a salesman in a cafe, which perhaps means he was a waiter.

Like many Key West houses it's almost impossible to see the house for the vegetation

View of the front porch. Historical house plaque makes me believe this house
looks much the same as it did when Sarah owned it.

Sarah must endure the loss of yet another daughter. Lula dies August 1, 1930. Sarah passes away less than three weeks later of a cerebral hemmorage. She was 74.

The stories of Oscar and Sarah's children:

Sarah Golden Knowles is somewhat of a mystery. Other researchers have her children as Rafael and Selina, born 1880 and 1885, with the last name Perez, but Sarah is 16 in 1880 and still living at home even in 1885. No children are listed as living with them. It's possible Selina and Rafael lived elsewhere, or perhaps weren't even her children. This is a mystery as they are never on any census with her. There is no evidence Sarah ever married, and none that she lived after 1900. In 1900, children Rafael, Selina, and Charles Perez lived with her mother Sarah, their grandmother. There is a Sarah Knowles, age 36, who is a washerwoman and lives down the street from her mother Sarah on Flemming. No proof that this is the same Sarah, though it does make sense. Nothing can be found on Sarah after 1900. Rafael doesn't marry, but lives in Sarah's house until at least 1935. Selina marries twice and has many children. What happened to Charles isn't known.

William Edward Knowles marries Emma J. Thompson on May 17, 1901 at age 31. They have three daughters: Etta (1907), Violet (1913), and Rosalie (1915). William is a sponger. His wife Emma dies in 1922. In 1935, William lives with his sister Emma, daughter Rosalie, and nephew Rafael in his mother's house on Newton. He is a seaman. William dies on Dec. 5, 1940 at the age of 71.

Emma Knowles marries Charles Curry in 1890 when she's 17. They have 3 children, but none of them live. She and Charles separate by 1900. Emma lives with her mother and works as a tobacco stripper in the cigar factory. Emma and Charles divorce by 1920. Emma continues to work in the cigar factory and live in her mother's home on Newton Street until she dies on May 18, 1940 at the age of 66.

Ella Louise Knowles marries George Freeman Pierce at age 22 on Nov. 28, 1896. George was a cigarmaker. They have one child in 1911, Camille. Ella dies on July 31, 1934. In 1935, George is listed as a carpenter. Camille lives with him. He dies in 1940. Camille dies in 2005 and is buried next to her parents.

Lula Mayfield Knowles marries Antonio Cruz on May 30, 1896 at the age of 18. Tony is 22. They will become my great-great grandparents, so a whole post will be devoted to them later. Here's a quick overview:

Lula is the most fertile out of all Oscar and Sarah's children. Together, she and Tony have 7 children: Oscar, Florine, Albert, Hubert, Frank, Doris, and Jack. Tony is a fireman. They never own a home and move around quite a bit. Lula dies of an infection in her heart at age 53.

Winnifred Knowles marries Tony Cruz's brother, John Cruz on July 29, 1899. She is 19; John is 21. They have one son together, Louis Bernard Cruz, born in 1900. Before their son is born, they live on Margaret Street with John's mother, my g3 grandma Mary Concepcion Perez Cruz. John is a cigarmaker. Winifred dies on October 25, 1918 of pneumonia at the age of 38. John and her son Louis will be swept away in the Labor Day hurricane of 1935.

A month before her older sister, Winnifred, marries John, Catherine Knowles (who went by Katie,) marries Hezekiah Carey on June 18, 1899 at the age of 18. They have three children: Henry Lee (1906), (in memory of her younger brother who had died the previous year), Mary (1909), and Miriam (1911). Hezekiah builds houses. In 1930, they live in Miami when Katie's mother dies. They must move back to Key West at some point, as Katie herself dies a decade later in Key West on May 20, 1940.

Henry Lee Knowles only lived 20 years. In 1900, at 16, he worked as a clerk in a fur store. By 20, he was dead. He never married or had any children.

It's safe to say Sarah's life was filled with much loss and hardship, but from that we can see she was resilient. It's obvious she always pressed on and even bought her own home at a time when most women didn't own property. As her obituary read, even though she lost her husband early on, and many children went before her, she was instrumental in proliferating future generations, as she left 17 grandchildren, 16 great-grandchildren, and 3 great-great-grandchildren at the time of her death. And many more since then...

Untangling the Russell Knots: William H. Russell, Sr. (1811-?) & Catherine Albury

William H. Russell, Sr. & Catherine Albury

Not much is known about g4 grandfather, William H. Russell, except that he was born on April 15, 1811 in Great Guana Cay, Marsh Habour, Bahamas. The only thing known about his father is that his first initial was A. This information was received from other researchers on and it can only be confirmed by researching the National Archives in the Bahamas. (If anyone wants to be my financier for that research trip, I'll happily accept.)

On Jan. 12, 1836, at the age of 24, William married sixteen year old Catherine Albury, also a native of the Bahamas. Her parents' names are not known. There is a William Russell on a passenger list from the Bahamas to Key West in 1837. The birthdate for their first child and only son William, Jr. changes often, but he was born in Florida some time after that.
from Key West Images of the Past

Next, came a daughter Maria Elizabeth, in 1844. Third, Sarah Ann in 1848, who will become my g3 grandmother. Two more daughters will be born to them, Ann (1850) and Caroline (1852). Though the family appears to have immigrated in 1837, and all children were born in Florida, this Russell family doesn't appear in a census until 1860.

from Key West Images of the Past
In 1860, William and his family live in Key West near a few other Russells. William was a mariner and Catherine a seamstress. Their house was worth $200, and William's peronal property was worth $50.

In 1870, Catherine and William live alone on Cudjoe Key. William is farming, Catherine keeping house. None of their children live with them. Their second youngest daughter Ann, lived with her sister Maria and her family. It is not know where Caroline lives. Why the youngest unmarried girls didn't live with them isn't known. My guess is that there were schools in Key West and not on Cudjoe, as well as society. Perhaps it was even safer and more comfortable to live in town rather than the outlying islands. Only a few families lived on Cudjoe with the Russell couple, most notably Justin Everett Knowles and his family, son of g4 grandfather John Thomas Knowles.

There is no other proof William and Catherine were alive after 1870. There were so many Russells, often with the same names and even same wives' names, finding much info about them at all is nearly impossible. Their children, however, are a bit easier to come to understand, as record-keeping modernizes in Key West. With each decade, the kind of information gathered broadens and therefore a more complete story can be fashioned.

William and Catherine's children:

William H. Russell, Jr: born approximately between 1837 and 1843, marries a Julia A. between 1861-1863. They have their first daughter Melvina in 1864. Then Ida in 1870, Ethel in 1879 and Raymond in 1882. William is a seaman all his life. There is no proof he lived after 1885. He was not named as living in his sister, Sarah's, obituary in 1930.

Maria Elizabeth Russell married g4 grandfather John T. Knowles's son, James Alexander, on Aug. 28, 1862. They have three children before the 1870 census comes knocking: Maria (1864), James Alexander, Jr., (1867), and Mary Elizabeth (1869). In 1870, Maria's 15yo sister, Ann, is living with them. James is a seaman. They live down the street from her brother William and his family. The next decade brings another son, William (1873). In 1880, the family lives on Margaret Street. James is still a seaman. Their son, John, has just been born. Their last child, Annie Louise, will be born in 1883. In 1885, they're still on Margaret Street. Their oldest son, James, is 18 and a cigarmaker. Their daughter Maria is no longer living at home, but rather with her husband James Pinder. Mama Maria's husband James dies on May 22, 1888. Their youngest child, Annie, is five years old. She carries on, raising her children somehow, without ever having to sell her house. No occupation is listed on any subsequent census record. She dies in 1926 at the age of 81.

Sarah Ann Russell would become my g3 grandmother. Born in 1848, she married her sister Maria's husband's brother, Oscar Washington Knowles, when she was 17. Oscar was 22. Since they will receive their own post, just a quick overview follows. They have 8 children together: Sarah Golden, William Edward, Emma E, Ella Louise, Lula Mayfield (my g2 grandmother), Winifred, Catherine (Katie), and Henry Lee. She and Oscar will only be married 20 years, as he died in 1885. More about them later.

Lorena Mayfield Sweeting

Ann Russell's first husband was William H. Knowles, Jr, who is the son of my g4 grandfather on another branch of the family. They are married long enough to have one son together, Charles Edward, in 1874. They divorce and Ann marries a man with the last name Elm. They have two children together: Charity and Richard. They either divorce or Elm dies. Ann marries her last husband, Richard Boldick Sweeting and they have three children: Alonzo, Daniel, and Lorena Mayfield Sweeting.  

In 1920, Ann and Richard live on Francis Street near the cemetery. Richard is a watchman on a ditch, Alonzo is a fisherman and Daniel is a laborer for a hotel. Ann dies on June 18, 1933. She's buried near her husband, who died three years before her.

Caroline Russell is the only smart one in the bunch as she never marries. At least, I don't think she did. There are some Caroline's about her age, one married to a Pinder, one to Watkins, the owner of an ice cream parlour, but I don't think it's our Caroline, especially because Sarah's obit states she outlived her and though they mistake her last name for Knowles in that article, they use Miss and her first name, which wasn't done unless the woman was unmarried.

As stated earlier, figuring out this particular family line was difficult. This information is the best as I understand at this time.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Bahamians Arrive in Key West: G4 John Thomas Knowles: (1803-?) & Hannah Elizabeth Prance (1814-1866)

John Thomas Knowles: (1803-?) & Hannah Elizabeth Prance (1814-1866)

John Thoms Knowles is my 4th great-grandfather on my mother's paternal side, grandfather to Lula Mayfield Knowles, who married Antonio "Tony" Cruz (and also grandfather to Winifred Knowles who married Antonio's brother, John, who died in the hurricane of 1935.) The line has been traced back further from John Thomas Knowles, but as documentation is lacking at this point for earlier generations, we'll start with John, or Thomas as he went by in census records.

Another researcher claims Thomas's parents, seen from baptism records in Nassau, were Alexander George Knowles (1782-1825) and Nancy (1783-?) (last name unknown). Alexander was born and buried in The Bahamas. It is assumed Nancy did as well. Alexander comes from a long line of British loyalists who were given land during and after the American Revolution for their fidelity to the crown. While this line of men were planters, presumably wealthy landowners with slaves, almost all eventually had to leave the Bahamas because the soil was becoming thin. John Thomas Knowles was one of many hundreds of Bahamians who uprooted his family and brought them to the Keys.

Life prior to Key West:

Alexander dies in 1825 at the age of 43. The cause is not known at this time. It looks like John stayed on for at least ten years to look after his father's affairs. Whether he had any siblings isn't known. On January 16, 1836, he marries Hannah Elizabeth Prance at St. Matthews Church in Nassau. Hannah is the daughter of Bahamians John William Prance (1780-bef. 1837) and Sarah Elizabeth (1790-1837). Sarah has two brothers, Louis and William. At the time of their marriage, Hannah is 21 and John Thomas is 32.

The church where they married is the oldest in the Bahamas.

St. Matthews was opened for divine service on July 18th, 1802. The church’s steeple along with its clock was erected in 1816. For a long time, the clock was one of only two reliable time pieces on The Island. The windows and the interior were painted a light sage green and they remain this color to this day. Through the years there have been many renovations to improve the interior of the building; the exterior however, remains unchanged. The church’s historical import is magnified by an extensive burial ground that surrounds it.

Information courtesy of the Department of Archives.

Hannah and Thomas would begin their family shortly thereafter, with the birth of their first child in 1838, Sarah Ann, then James Alexander the next year. Sophia Lavinia is born in 1842, then my g3 grandfather, Oscar Washington Knowles, in 1843. Their last child, Justin Everett, would be born four years later in 1847. All of these children lived and prospered. Whether Hannah and Thomas had any children who didn't survive isn't known at this time.

Here's an example of what their house may have looked like in Nassau.

They arrive in Key West sometime in early 1850. The 1850 census, taken on Aug. 13th, 1850, is very light, almost unreadable, but it can be made out that all the children are there and confirms they were all born in the Bahamas. It also states that Thomas was a mariner. It does not state whether they lived in Key West proper or the keys.

The 1860 census records them as living on Cudjoe Key. Thomas is 56, Hannah 40. Their oldest daughter Sarah is married to Robert Johnson. She and Robert live next door with their first two daughters, Adela and Rebecca. (Incidentally Adela would marry one of g4 grandfather Sylvester Perez's sons Joseph, making the later ancestors, Lula Knowles and Tony Cruz, cousins by marriage.)

Living with Hannah and Thomas are the rest of their children. James was 21, Sophia 17, Washingon 15 and Justin 12. James and Thomas are both mariners, as is Sarah's husband. None of the children attended school. Hannah and Thomas could not read or write.

6 years later, Hannah will die at age 51 in 1866. The cause of death isn't known. Thomas's children leave home. What happends to Thomas isn't exactly known. Some theories based on census records:

He moves to No Name Key, and in 1870 he's recorded as a farmer. He cannot read or write, but he is a US citizen. A fellow researcher says family lore states this Thomas died in a hurricane.

In 1880, there's a Thomas Knowles living with a daughter, a widow, Harietta Lounce. One problem, though, our Thomas didn't have a daughter named Harietta, unless Harietta is from a previous relationship before Hannah. Other researchers do not give this theory credence.

What can be known is what happened to Hannah and Thomas's children:

Sarah Ann Knowles, as mentioned earlier, married Robert William Johnson of Florida. What wasn't mentioned was that she was 13 when she married. She was 16 when she had her first living child, Adela, in 1854. (The 1900 census will claim that she had 8 children, but only 6 lived.) Adela would marry Joseph Perez (my g4 grandfather's oldest son). They would not have any children.

Sarah and Robert's other living children are: Rebecca (1857), Sarah Eliza (1860), Robert Thomas (1862), Joseph Alexander (1866), and Elizabeth (1869.) Sarah's husband Robert dies in 1877. Sarah doesn't surface again until 1900 when she's living with her son Joseph and his family. One researcher has her death date of January 16, 1924, but the Florida Death Index does not list her.

James Alexander Knowles married Maria Elizabeth Russell. They had 6 children: Maria (1864), James, Jr. (1867), Mary Ellen (1869), William Edward (1873), John Thomas (1880), and Annie Louise (1883). James was a seamen. He died in 1887 at the age of 48, cause unkown.

Sophia's husband

Sophia Lavinia Knowles also married a Johnson, a John Verta Johnson, (unsure at this time if he was related to Sarah's husband Robert). When they first married, John was a clerk in a grocery store, but by 1880 he was a wealthy sponge merchant.

Together they had 10 children:

JW Johnson and family, with mother-in-law

John William Johnson (1863-1918), who would do very well in the real estate market.

Thurston Ellsworth Johnson (1865-1910).

Louis Marrington Johnson (1868-1947).

Clauderly Clarence Johnson (1870-1875).

Albert Victor Johnson (1872-1973).

Eugene O. Johnson (1873-1904).

Clara Belle Johnson (1876-1878).

Walter Otto Johnson (1878-1931).

Jeanette Bertha Johnson (1879-1973).

                                                             Rosetta May Johnson (1886-1947).

Sohpia dies in 1912, two years after her husband.

Oscar Washington Knowles (1843-1885). Oscar was my 3rd great-grandfather. In 1865, he marries Sarah Ann Curry Russell, sister to his brother James's wife Maria. They have 8 children together:

Sarah Golden Knowles (1864-?)
William Edward Knowles (1871-1940)
Emma Knowles (1873-1940)
Ella Louise (1874-1934)
Lula Mayfield Knowles (1877-1930), who would marry Tony Cruz and become my g2 grandmother.
Winifred Knowles (1880-1918) who would marry Tony's brother John and die of pneumonia young.
Catherine Knowles (1881-1940)
Henry Lee Knowles (1884-1905).

Oscar was a seaman. He died when he was 43 of marasmus, which is severe malnutrition. (More on Oscar later.)

Justin Everett Knowles (1847-1900), the baby of Hannah and Thomas. He marries Georgia native Jane Ann Hopkins, they move to Knock 'em Down Key and begin their family.  They have 8 children:

George (1865-1949), Silas (1866-1938), Hannah Elizabeth (1869-1943), James Everett (1872-1905), Clara Denna (189-1961) , Alfred (1882-1960) Leonora (1884-1967), and Belle Corrine (1889-1962). Justin was also a seaman and a sponger. The 1900 census records them as living on Virginia Street in Key West. He died in 1900 at the age of 53, cause unknown. 

Jane with some of she and Justin's children and grandchildren

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Bachelor and a Spinster: Sylvester Perez (1822-1905) and Juana Arias (1836-?)

Growing up, I heard a lot of talk in backyards, around kitchen and picnic tables. I used to love the stories told over and over, though I never really understood the plots, nor do I remember what was told. Mostly I loved the stories for the sake of telling, for the familial togetherness and the inevitable roar of genuine laughter after the punchline. Today, many of our storytellers have passed; less and less we get together to reminisce, and because of that many of the stories are no longer told.

In fact, much of what could have been known about our ancestors is gone forever. Trying to discover, save, and record what can be known now is what drives me to spend so much time on this project.

Many of the names I've researched are familiar, but two names I never remember hearing was that of my 4th great-grandparents on my mother's paternal side, Sylvester Perez and Juana Arias. On this branch, they are the earliest ancestors who can be known at this time, and their children are the first conchs in our lineage. Here's what I know:

Sylvester was born in the Canary Islands in about 1822. At some point, he settled in Key West. It is unknown whether he came by himself or family members made the trip with him.

Juana Arias was born about 1836 also in the Canaries. A fellow researcher, a descendant of her brother Blas, has traced them to the town of San Sebastian, capitol city of the island of La Gomera.

Why she left this beautiful island is still a mystery. Blas was 5 years old when he arrived in the States, and he lived with Juana for the first several of his years in Key West. Since he didn't live with his parents in Key West, it is safe to say they did not make the voyage. They may have died before Juana and Blas left, or died on the voyage over.

In any case, Juana made it to Key West at age 15. Blas was 5. When she was 17 and Sylvester was 31, they married. Another researcher was able to share their marriage certificate with me, crude as it is.

Because it may be difficult to read, here it is transcribed best as I can read it:

In the name and by the authority of the state of Florida....judge of the circuit probate court or justice of the peace within said county: Greetings: Sylvester Perez, bachelor, having applied for license to be united in matrimony to Juana Arias, spinster, of Key West, approved for marriage on this 12th day of March 1853 at Key West.
Two years after the wedding, g-3 grandmother Mary Concepcion arrives in May 1855. In 1857, Joseph was born. Two year later, another son was born, Antonio. The first record of their lives together is the 1860 census, which states that Sylvester was a mariner, Juana kept house, and her brother Blas, then age 12, was living with them.

It must have been a stressful time to live in Key West. Because it was a major port, disease was always a fear. This is an interesting excerpt from an article in The New York Times, dated September 1863:

KEY WEST, Monday, Sept. 14, 1863.

Our island has for the last two weeks undergone a period of unusual quietness and repose, resulting mainly from apprehension felt abroad concerning the health of the town, and more particularly as to yellow fever. Steamers pass by us both ways with no more of ceremony or notice than occasionally to stop at Sand Key and leave us a mail. And yet for all this apprehension there has not thus far this season been the slightest real cause, for our town never was more healthy at any season than it is now, and has been all Summer. In fact, we never have the fever here two successive years for palpable reasons. During the season of scourge, every person becomes sensitive on the matter, and the ensuing season every precaution is taken to ward it off. The police of the city is made thorough and complete. Quarantine regulations are rigidly enforced, and observed with willingness, and generally care is taken in all ways to do or avoid doing those things that are calculated to contribute to its introduction.

Regardless of this fear, the next decade would bring 3 more children for Juana and Sylvester: Lena, Amado, and Rafael. In 1870, Blas was no longer living with them, but nearby with a woman named Petrona Armas (also from the Canary Islands) and her young daughter Dominga. At 24, he was a fisherman. Juana was raising her children, and her last child, Blanca, was about to be born. Sylvester was a seaman.

In 1880, Sylvester and Juana had a full house, as their oldest daughter Mary and her husband Antonio (my g3 grandparents) lived with them, along with the first five of their children. How confusing it must have been to have 3 Antonios in the house! Perhaps this is when my g2 grandfather received his nickname, Tony.

Sylvester is still working on the water, Juana and Mary keep house. The most interesting thing about this census is that it says Juana and Sylvester's son Antonio, then 20 years old, had chronic syphillis which is why he was not able to work. Some info about chronic syphillis:

A skin rash, with brown sores about the size of a penny, often marks this chronic stage of syphilis. The rash appears anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks after the chancre appears. While the rash may cover the whole body or appear only in a few areas, it is almost always on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

Because active bacteria are present in the sores, any physical contact-sexual or nonsexual-with the broken skin of an infected person may spread the infection at this stage. The rash usually heals within several weeks or months.

Other symptoms also may occur, such as mild fever, fatigue, headache, sore throat, patchy hair loss, and swollen lymph glands throughout the body. These symptoms may be very mild and, like the chancre of primary syphilis, will disappear without treatment. The signs of secondary syphilis may come and go over the next 1 to 2 years of the disease.

In 1887, Sylvester is listed in Bensel's Key West Directory as a seaman living on the corner of Julia and Whitehead St.

When Juana died is unknown at this time, as there are no more records for her. The cemetery did not have a burial record for her, which doesn't mean that she isn't there, she just wasn't recorded.

Sylvester's 1900 census can't be found, but his burial record was found at the cemetery. Though it's barely legible, it says that he died in 1905 of heart disease. The Florida Death Index confirms this information. He was 83. The cemetery does not have a record of where his grave is located.

Juana nor Sylvester ever learned to read or write, and it's probable neither spoke English fluently, if at all.

Juana & Sylvester's legacy, in birth order:

Mary Concepcion, g3 grandma, married Canary Islander Antonio Cruz and they had 11 children together. (See earlier post The Earliest Known Cruz.)

Joseph (1857-1918) married local Key West girl Adela Ann Johnson (1854-1919) in 1882. They never had any children. Joseph worked as a cigarmaker.

Antonio is a confusing one. What happened to him after 1880 is unsure. There is an Antonio Perez, born the same year, 1859 in Florida, living in New Orleans married to a woman named Sophia with 4 children: Josephine, Frances, Mattie, and Raul, but that 1900 census claims his parents were born in Cuba. Considering he had syphilis, it is unlikely he married and had healthy children. It is also unlikely he would have gone to New Orleans, but perhaps this is what happened. The Canary Islands has a long history of sending Spanish to Louisiana, so there may have been some family in that state. No other record of Antonio can be found in Key West.

What happened to Lena, born in 1862, is also a mystery. When she came of age she still lived at home. After 1880, she disappears.

Amado was 7 years old during the 1870 census, but he is not present in the 1880 when he would have been 16. It's possible he left home early, seeing as it was rather crowded with Mary's family in the house, but it's more likely that he didn't survive his childhood as no other records of him can be found.

Rafael is also a bit confusing. The 1900 census says that he had a wife name Letha who was from the Bahamas. They have a daughter, Maria, who was born in 1890 yet it also states that Letha and Rafael have only been married 1 year and that Letha has no children. This leads me to believe Maria was Rafael's daughter from a previous relationship and that Letha was her step-mother, as given the dates Letha would have only been 12 when Maria was born. What happened to Maria's mother is unknown. Rafael was the proprietor of a coffee house. They lived on Flemming Street. In 1910, Letha has claimed Maria as her only daughter. Maria, age 20 still lives at home. Rafael is the janitor for the opera house. What happened to them after 1910 is also a mystery.

Blanca, born in 1870, also disappears after the 1880 census. She would have been 20 during the 1890 census. Had that record survived, perhaps we could know if she married, or even if she lived to see her 20th birthday.

Some information on Blas Arias, Juana's younger brother who just so happens to be my Aunt Diane (Knight) Cruz's great-grandfather on her father's side of the family:

Blas married Josephine Thrift in 1875. He was naturalized as a citizen in 1876. He and Josephine had 11 children together, 8 of whom lived, and 1 daughter who died in childbirth at the age of 25.

Blas worked as a fisherman and a cigarmaker his entire life. After a long illness which caused him to go blind, he died in Key West in 1935 at the age of 89.

I plan to continue working with Blas's descendent to find further information on Juana and Blas's parents, which includes writing a letter to the priest of the Catholic Church in San Sebastian requesting he look up their birth records. Much information exists for Blas's family, including photos of almost all of his children. Hopefully some photos and documentation will surface for Juana and Sylvester.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Earliest Known Cruz: G3 Grandfather Antonio Cruz (1842-1900-10)

Antonio Cruz was my third great-grandfather on my mother's paternal side. Gone are anyone who knows his stories, but here's what can be known from census records:

In 1842, he was born in the Canary Islands, a string of islands off the coast of Africa owned then by Spain. When he came to Key West is undocumented, as many arrivals were. The historian at the Key West Library surmised that he most likely came to Key West from the Canaries by way of Cuba. The only information I found of an Antonio Cruz arriving in the US from Spain was a ship's record from Spain to New Orleans. Whether this is our Antonio remains a mystery. Whether he came with his family is also unknown. There are no records for his parents, so I'm assuming they were either dead or he left them behind. Cenus records prove that his parents were also born in the Canary Islands, so it's safe to say our family history dates back to those islands from at least the early part of the 19th century. I do know that his future father-in-law Sylvestre Perez was also from the Canary Islands. Whether they knew each other before they lived in Key West can't be known.

The next event we can know for sure: In 1871, Antonio, age 29, marries Mary Concepcion "Concha" Perez, age 16. Mary is the daughter of Sylvester Perez and Juana Arias. She was born in Key West, though her parents were from the Canary Islands. Together, she and Antonio would have 11 children together. Their first child, a daughter Carmen, was born two years after they married in 1873. Their second child would become my great-great grandfather, Antonio "Tony" Cruz, Jr. He was born in 1874. Antonio and Mary would have three more sons before the 1880 census was taken: Sylvester, John, and Enrique.

The 1880 census records them as living with Mary's parents on Eaton Street. At age 38, Antonio was a seamen. Mary, age 24, worked at home. Carmen, 7, was in school, and the four boys, ages 5-infant, were at home. Because they were all living together, it can be deduced that it was a struggle for everyone just to get by. Even if the house was fairly large, which I'm sure it wasn't, I imagine it was very tight quarters. By 1887, they may have gotten their own home. According to Bensel's City Directory, there was a Antonio Cruz, cigarmaker, living on Whitehead Street. (While census records show Antonio as a seamen, it is known that his sons were cigarmakers, and he may have been a cigarmaker also.)

Due to a fire in Washington D.C., almost all of the 1890 census records (recording nearly 63 million Americans) were destroyed.

The next information available for Mary is the 1900 census, which shows her as being married but the head of the house. It is perplexing why Antonio wasn't named as head of the house, and the only reason I can come up with was that since he was a mariner, he was at sea during the time the census was taken. In 1900, they were renting a house at 604 Margaret Street. Carmen, her oldest child, is not listed in the census. It is assumed she married and left home.

My great-great grandfather Antonio, who worked as a cigarmaker, was married to my great-great-grandmother Lula Mayfield Knowles. They lived next door with their children Oscar and Florine. Antonio and Mary's next oldest son, Sylvester, was married to Irene Russell. They lived with the Russell family a few streets away on Southard.

John, Joseph, and Henry still lived at home with Mary. They were all cigarmakers. John, age 20, is listed as married, and his wife Winifred Knowles (Lula's sister) lived with them. Joseph, age 18, and Henry, age 17, were single. Also living with Concha were the rest of she and Antonio's children: Rafaela (15), Frank (12), Alma (10), and Leno (4). Rafaela, Frank, and Alma were in school.

Antonio dies sometime between 1900-1910, as Mary is listed as widowed in the 1910 census. In 1918, Joseph's WWI draft card lists his mother as his nearest relative. There's a Concha Cruz listed in 1920, living with her are three sons, John (29) (widowed, his wife Winifred died in 1918), Joseph (22), and Edmund (19). But there's a problem, this Edmund is new to the scene. There's no earlier record of him. Leno, who would have been 14, was not listed at all. The three sons were still cigarmakers. The 1910 also states that Mary had 11 children, but only 9 living. Carmen and Enrique must have died young. Her daughter, Rafaela, lived next door with her husband and children.

Mary must have died before 1930 as she's not listed in that census. A burial card exists for her, so she is buried in the Key West Cemetary, but her grave is unmarked and the location isn't known. Her burial card only contains her name, no date.

Antonio & Mary's legacy:

Carmen Cruz: At some point before 1900, Carmen married Florendo Camero. They lived in Key West for a while, and had three daughters: Eulalia, Florinda, and Calmeline. They eventually moved to Havana, Cuba. Obviously, no records of Carmen can be obtained today, but she is mentioned in her brother Antonio's obituary in 1939 as still living in Havana. When she died is not known at this time.

Antonio, Jr. married Lula Knowles and they had 7 children: Oscar, Florine, Albert (my great-grandpa), Hubert, Frank, Doris, and Jack. Antonio was a cigarmaker turned fireman. He died in Lake City, FL.  (More about him later).

Sylvester married Irene Russell and they had 5 children, 3 boys and 2 girls: Helena, Guy, Bernard, Eddison, and Evangeline. In 1920, Helena was an assistant for a photographer, Guy worked at the US Naval Air Station, and Bernard was a printer. Sylvester worked as a cigarmaker. He died in 1931.
John married Winifred Knowles, sister to Antonio Jr.'s wife Lula. Winifred died very young of pneumonia. They only had one son together, Louis Bernard. John's WWI draft card says he was of medium height and build, and had brown eyes and black hair.

John mostly worked as in the cigar factory, but when work was needed on Lower Matecumbe Key for Flagler's railroad, he and his son followed. According to other family researchers,  John ran the restaurant at the ferry terminus in Matecumbe. His son Louis was the engineer on the ferry, Monroe County. Both John and Louis were killed during the Labor Day hurricane of 1935. John was swept away. Louis presumably left the ferry to find his father. Both were lost. John Cruz's body was found at Bouy Key, near the Everglades in Florida Bay, by the Coast Guard and is buried there. Burial place. Louis's body was never found. He was 35 when he died and left his wife Ruby and four children.

Enrique: Born in 1880, he was 2 months old when that census was taken. There are no other records for Enrique, but he was mentioned in Antonio's obituary as living in Key West in 1939.

Joseph remained single his entire life. He lived with his mother until she died. He worked as a cigarmaker. It is not known why he never married. His WWI draft card says he was short and slender with brown eyes and black hair. He died in 1963 at the age of 81.

Henry (born in 1884) and who must have been named after his older brother Enrique, married an English girl named Priscilla. They had 7 children together: Edward, Harold, Florida, Isabel, Mary, Leo, and Evonne. Henry did not follow the cigarmaking industry, but rather was a clerk in a restaurant. Prior to the Depression, he was the owner of a restaurant. In 1930, his son, Edward, was a laborer for the golf course. Son Harold was a seaman for the lighthouse. In 1945, he was a bartender. Henry died in 1959.

Rafaela married a German tailor, George Loessner. Together, they had three children: Alvina, Ernest, and Florence. Their travelled often, appearing on passenger lists from Cuba to New Orleans, and George would apply for a passport to travel alone for three months abroad in 1911. They would eventually settle in Lake City, Florida, which is where they are buried. Rafaela died in 1976.

In his WWI draft card, Frank's described as short and slender, with brown eyes and black hair. At some point, he married a Bahamian girl, Rowena. Together they had 5 children: Dorothy, Olitte, Rex, Carl, and Julia. Rowena was a seamstress at home. Frank was a cigarmaker. He died in 1940.

Alma was 10 during the 1900 census. No other record of her exists. It's possible she was married and not living at home when the 1910 census was taken.

Leno was the baby of the family. At some point, he married a local Key West girl, Camille Cook. They had 1 daughter together, Mary. Leno works as a chauffer. But Camille dies young in 1931. Poor Mary was just 8 years old.  Leno remarries soon after, to a woman named Jennie (maiden name unknown). They have 3 children together: Ondina, Betty Jean, and Gilbert. In the 1945 census, Leno works as a truck driver. He died in January, 1956.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The First Last of the Line: G6 Grandfather Hardy Sellers (1757-1835)

 My 6th great-grandfather Hardy Sellers is the first, or last, depending on how you look at it, in the line of Sellers men, who we can know at the moment. For some reason, no known records exist of his parents, though finding them is my top research goal. Surprisingly, much is known about Hardy.

The Story of Hardy Sellers:

Hardy was born on March 2, 1757 in Johnson County, North Carolina. Nothing is known about his childhood, but at some point, perhaps in the early 1770s before the Revolutionary War, Hardy moved  across the North Carolina border to Chesterfield County, South Carolina, where he met and married Mary Cook, daughter of Abraham Cook and Phoebe Mills, who lived nearby. Their first son, John Sellers, was born in 1772. My 5th great-grandfather Phillip would come along in 1774, 2 years before Hardy would join the war effort.

Hardy was a patriot, and a soldier in the war. Perhaps one of the greatest joys of my research so far is finding an account of his life as a soldier in his own words taken by a court when he requested a pension in 1835, shortly before his death at the age of 77. This is the account:

On this 12th day of August 1834 personally appeared before me, James Gordon, one of the acting
Justice of the Peace of Anson County - Hardy Sellers, a Soldier of the Revolution, he being very infirm, aged 77 years, who being first duly sworn according to law doth on his oath make the following Declaration in order to obtain the benefit of the Act of Congress passed June 7th, 1832

That he entered the service of the United States under the following named offices and served as herein stated he was a volunteer to serve in behalf of the United States in the year 1776 or 1777 as well as he recollects. The day or month he does not recollect. [These are Hardy's own words]:

I was a private in Capt. McMainer's Company called out by the authority of the State of South Carolina and marched to Hadley's Point [now, Haddrell's Point] near Charleston, South Carolina and from Haddrell’s Point to James Island and there remained until we were discharged. I served two months in actual service. 
Also in the year that Charleston was taken by the British I was a volunteer and served a tour of three months in actual service. I with a number of others marched under Capt. Griffy to Georgetown then to Lynches Crossway on the Santee River then back to Georgetown again, and from place to place until discharged. I think the troops was commanded by Col. McIntosh. Served three months and was discharged.

And in the same year that Gen. Gates was defeated I was a volunteer to serve three months. Marched under Capt. Stephen Jackson [AKA "Killing" Stephen Jackson] to Lynches Creek against the British and Tories then from place to place until discharged by our officers. Served three months in actual service.

After the above service, we were all laid off into divisions: first, second, third, and so on and each division was to serve as it come to his turn.

Santee River inland
The tours was to be a month at a time. I served two tours of division service with Capt. Griffy under Gen. Marion. Marched up and down Santee River after the British and Tories until discharged. Served two months and was discharged by our officers.

Also, I served two tours of a month each with Capt. Jackson under Gen. Marion in pursuit of British and Tories. Also two tours with Lieutenant Jones and two tours with Lieutenant Charles Jackson of Division Service under Gen. Marion, making in all my service so far as I can recollect a period of sixteen months for which I claim a pension. But it is far short of all my services rendered the United States during the Revolutionary War, as I was called out after the company was laid off in divisions to march under Gen. Marion [Mel Gibson's character model in The Patriot].

Gen. Marion

It is impossible for me to make any further statement at present. I have no papers to prove any services, nor do I know of any person now living by whom I could prove my services except one man and he turned a Tory after we had served together one tour. I could not think of making use of his testimony.

The interview by the Justice of the Peace:

Q1: Where and in what year were you born?

Ans: In Johnson County, NC, March 2, 1757

Q2: Have you any record of your age and if so, where is it?

Ans: No written record but my parents has told me I was born March 2, 1757

Q3: Where were you living when called into service and where have you lived ever since the
Revolutionary War and where do you now live?

Ans: I lived in South Carolina, Chesterfield District near the North Carolina line and has
continued to live there ever since.

Q4: How were you called into service, were you drafted, did you volunteer or were you a substitute and if a substitute, for whom?

Ans: A volunteer or division or classment service.

Q5: State the names of some of the regular officers who were with the troops where you served such continental and militia regiments as you can recollect and the general circumstances of your service.

Ans: Gen. Green though I was with him but a short time. Gen. Marion
Officers as I understood: Col. McIntosh, Col. Murphy, Capt. Griffy, Capt. Jackson and Capt.
McMannes, Lieutenants Jones and Jackson, these were militia officers at the time of my service.

Q6: Did you ever receive a discharge from the service and if so by whom, when was it given and what has become of it?

Ans: I received written discharges from my different officers but what has become of them I
know not.

Q7: State the names of persons to whom you are known in your present neighborhood and who can testify to your character for veracity and their belief of your service as a soldier of the Revolution.

Ans: John Phillips, Rev. Joel Gulledge, Col. Ratliff, Peter May Esq.

He hereby relinquishes every claim whatever to a pension or annuity except the present and declare his name is not on the pension role of the agency of any State whatever the reasons for making application in North Carolina is he lives near the State line and is most convenient for him in his helpless situation.

Sworn to and subscribed the day and year above.
Test S/ J Gordan, JP S/ Hardy Sellers
We Joel Gulledge Clergyman residing in the same County and State and neighborhood and John
Phillips residing in the same, we hereby certify that we are well acquainted with Hardy Sellers the
applicant who has subscribed and sworn to the above declaration that we believe him to be of the age
therein stated that he is reputed and believed in the neighborhood where he resides to have been a
soldier in the Revolutionary War and that we concur in the opinion.

Sworn to and subscribed the day and year aforesaid.
Test J.; Gordan – JP S/ Joel Gulledge Sr.
S/ John Phillips
State of North Carolina, Anson County
This may certify that I knew Mr. Hardy Sellers in the Revolutionary War, we both belong and muster in Capt. Griffy's Company we were laid off into divisions or in classes each class served as it come to its turn. I belong to one class and Hardy Sellers to another and that he was a friend to his country and served as it come to his turn and that his statement as a Soldier of the Revolution is entitled to credit.

Also I have known him ever since the Revolutionary War and that he continues to be a man of veracity. 

November 14, 1834.
Test J. Gordan S/ Richard Graves,2 X his mark
2 Richard Graves S8598

This is preserved in the Revolutionary War Pension Files 1800-1900.

In 1784, he received a grant of land of 15 acres in what is now Ruby, South Carolina.
Location of Chesterfield County, SC
What his land might have looked like
Over the next three decades he received State Grants for over 650 acres of land around Ruby.  He owned the earliest mill, Sellers Mill, in that area.  

The earliest record of Hardy's daily life is of age 33. The 1790 census record states he and Mary lived in Chesterfield County, South Carolina, had 3 boys under the age of 16 and two daughters. No records of slaves were kept in the 1790 census.

Hardy and Mary actually had 7 children total: Jane, Phoebe, and Mary, and sons Richard, John, Abraham, and Phillip. At the 1790 census, Phillip was listed as living nearby with his own family already begun.

The 1800 census states they had one slave. The gender or age is not recorded.  Phillip and his family were still living nearby. But 1810, Hardy owned 7 slaves. Most of the children were grown and had begun their own families. Hardy's sons John, Abraham, and Phillip lived nearby, as well as Mary's father Abraham Cook. The 1820 census is the first really detailed census. It shows that Hardy now owned 8 slaves, 2 males and 6 females, and the family was engaged in farming.

Mary Cook dies in 1824. Since her birth year isn't known, the age at the time of her death is also not known. It can be imagined that since she had her first child in 1772, she was perhaps 65-70 when she died. A full, long life, if not a hard one, as I imagine life was mostly difficult, having dealt with the stress of war. But exciting, to witness the birth of the country, as well as the births of so many healthy children and grandchildren.

Four years after Mary's death, Hardy remarries, at the age of  71, young Lavinia Gulledge. 22-year-old Lavinia Gulledge. They had two children together, Hardy Huntley and Zilphia Ann. By 1830, Hardy had 20 slaves, and a young wife, and 2 small children at home. He grew infirm rapidly, and by 1834, when he came before the War Pension tribunal, he was described as "helpless". I would imagine Hardy was trying to get the money, not for himself, but for his young family.

On January 12th, 1835 Hardy died. He was 77.

Soon after his death, his application for a war pension was rejected.

Grave marker at the Hopewell Baptist Church cemetery in Chesterfield County, SC
Lavinia was left with her two small children to care for the plantation, slaves, and all that came with it, though I'm sure Hardy had a foreman to take care of the day to day activities. An 1840 census for Lavinia cannot be found. She died in 1849, at the age of 43, leaving her two children, ages 18 and 19, alone in the world, though with much property to their name.

Hardy's Legacy:

His sons:

Phillip, Hardy's son and my 5th great-grandfather, also died that same year as his father, 1835. The date of his death isn't known. The majority of his land was sold for taxes in 1837. Before Phillip died, he and his wife Mary had 11 children together, one of them being m 4th great-grandfather William.

John Sellers went west to Carroll County, Tennessee, where his family grew almost exponentially. He and his wife Henrietta Norwood, had 15 children together, and most of them lived to have families of their own.

Abraham also married a Norwood girl, Mary. They moved to Calhoun County, Mississippi, north of the Yalobusha River, (very close to where I live today), and had 7 children.

Richard also went west, though nothing else is known of him.

Hardy Huntley married Mary Eliza Sinclair. They stayed in Chesterfield County and had 7 children. 


Phoebe married Jeremiah Gulledge and had 8 children. Jane married Iverson. Briley and had 1 son. Mary married Thomas Gaddy. They had 7 children. Hardy's youngest, Zilphia Ann, was married twice. First to William Gaddy. They had 8 children together. Then she married Dixon Gordon, and together they had one son.

I would be hard-pressed to offer how many descendents there are of Hardy Sellers and Mary Cook, too many to know. Their legacy is varied and impressive. Now, to solve the mystery of their origins, and by extension, mine.