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.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The First Tennesseeans: Noah Sellers (1819-1894) & Timmie Ellen Parsons (1817-1899)

My great-great-great-grandfather, Noah Sellers, is mostly a mystery. No photos of him exist, that I know of, just a grainy, spooky photo of his headstone.

Noah Sellers was born on September 2nd, 1819 in Chesterfield County, South Carolina (birthday not confirmed) to  William "Old Frozen Bill" Sellers (1800-1844) and Gilly Eddins (dates unknown). Both his parents were natives of Chesterfield County, the Sellers clan having populated that area of South Carolina for generations, particularly since the late 1700's when the earliest known Sellers ancestor, Hardy Sellers, settled there from North Carolina between 1780-1799.

When Noah was a boy growing up in South Carolina, his father owned one slave, a female between the age of 14 and 26. They were a farming family, and must have been relatively modest in their crops. Eventually their farm grew, proven by the fact that in 1830 they had 4 slaves total: 2 males 10-23, 1 girl under the age of 10, and 1 female over the age of 55. Painful and embarrassing to know this.

According to the 1830 census, William, Noah's father, had 10 white people living in the house, so they must have had more than 3 children. Also in Chesterfield in 1830, there were 10 Sellers' homesteads, all related--proving the early families were close-knit.

By 1840, Noah's father was down to 3 slaves, all females of various ages. William had 7 children living in the house with he and Gilly. Besides Sarah, William, and Noah, the other names are not known at this time. Unlike later censuses, names of spouses and children were not listed, which is both sad and frustrating.


Timmie Ellen Parsons was born on 2 September, 1817, exactly 2 years to the day younger than her future husband. She was born in Anson, North Carolina to William Abington Parsons (1790-1826) and Sally Mary Cupp (1800-?). They didn't live in North Carolina long, as the 1820 census finds them in Chesterfield, South Carolina, 16 miles south.

Not much is known about William Abington Parsons at this time. He died very young, leaving his wife Mary with 5 children at the age of 26. They owned 1 slave at the time.

Timmie marries Noah about 1840 in Anson. She was 19.

Their life together:

1841 Timmie and Noah have their first child, James Calhoun while still living in Anson. A year later, William A.
1844,  July, Noah's father William dies at the age of 54.
In October, my great-great grandfather Thomas E. Sellers was born.
1846 Andrew Jackson Sellers was born

At some point during these next years, they move to Carroll County, Tennessee, a distance of nearly 600 miles, making them some of the first pioneers of the Sellers family in generations. They might have chosen Carroll County because Noah's uncle, John Sellers (1772-1844), had moved out there prior to 1830. It is also possible Timmie had an uncle and a cousin who had moved to Carroll County as well. It's possible Noah had cousins living in the area.

Going with Noah and Timmie were their children, of course, and also Noah's brother William, and his wife Elizabeth Parsons, the younger sister of Timmie. Timmie and Elizabeth had married Sellers brothers.

According to an interview with William and Elizabeth's son, Andrew Washington Sellers, conducted by Nellie Bristow and published in the Florence Morning News on April 7th, 1932,  several families moved from South Carolina to Carroll County, Tennessee at that time. So far, I've found evidence of the following families making the move:

Noah and Timmie (Parsons) Sellers, with their first four children
William and Elizabeth (Parsons) Sellers, with their three boys
Abraham and Mary Sellers, with their six children
Raymond and Alice Parsons, with their two children
Perhaps Thomas Parsons also went, but he was not yet married
And Frances Sellers and his wife Zilpha

All of these are proven to be living in Carroll County, Tennessee by the 1850 census.

In Carroll County, they were farmers. Between 1850-1860, they had more children: Susannah, Mary, Josiah. In 1854, Noah's brother, William, dies while raising the roof of a church (family lore). Elizabeth moves with her children back to South Carolina.

In the same interview, Andrew Washington Sellers confirms that his father died in Carroll County, and that when an uncle came out from South Carolina to visit them, his mother Elizabeth and her children went back with him to Chesterfield to work the Sellers farm run by Gilly Eddins Sellers.

In 1855, George Washington was born to Noah and Timmie. He would die in 1859 at the age of 4.

Before 1860, Noah and Timmie migrate 25 miles south to Henderson County. In the 1860 census, Noah was listed as a farmer and a mechanic. Susannah, Mary, and Josiah were healthy and living. After 1860, it's unknown what happened to them. It's possible there were two more daughters born. In the 1880 census, it shows there was a Susan Ann born 1858 and a Mary born 1860, but they are not listed in the 1860 census. I bet that it is Susannah and Mary in the 1880 census, their ages are just wrong.

The 1870 census isn't available.

I do know through other researchers that Noah and Timmie's eldest son James Calhoun Sellers went west to Texas with Sam Manley, his third wife's brother. They worked for the railroad and raised cotton in Ellis County.

In 1880, Noah and Timney now lived further west in Madison County, with just their daughters Susannah and Mary, as well as a granddaughter, 8-year-old Lillia, who must have been Noah and Timney's first son's daughter (James Calhoun Sellers). His second wife Ainsley would die before 1880, and Lillia would have gone to live with her grandparents to be raised by her aunts. James was still living in Texas. Timney and Noah were still farming, Susannah and Mary working on the farm.

1894, Noah dies at the age of 75. He is buried in Cotton Grove Cemetery in Madison County, Tennessee. After his death, Timmie must have gone West to live with their son William and his wife Eppie. She died on Christmas Eve, 1899 in Ellis County, Texas, only an hour's drive from where I am currently living.

Timmie and Noah's legacy:

James Calhoun Sellers (1841-1901) was married 4 times and had a total of 13 children. Settled and died in Texas.
William A. Sellers (1842-1932) was married twice. He had a total of 7 children. Settled and died in Texas.
Thomas E. Sellers (1844-1918) was married to Mary Emiline Bradford. They had 11 children.
Andrew Jackson Sellers (1846-1905) was married to Sara Amanda Alexander. They had 7 children. Settled and died in Oklahoma.
Susannah (1850-?) Never married. Was mentally ill (family lore).
Mary Annettie (1851-?) Unknown if she married. She was forced to sell the 48 acres she purchased with her sister and niece in 1899 in Fannin, TX. It is not known what happened to her after that.
George Washington Sellers (1855-1859) died at age 4.
Josiah Sellers (1857-?) No sign of Josiah in the 1880 census, but he could have been off on his own by then. There is a Josiah Sellers found in Monterey, California around this time period, but there is no way to tell if this is the same person at this point.


Besides the hard facts, it is always most interesting to me to wonder what these people were like. Through the generosity of a cousin and fellow researcher, Linda, we have this small gem. In a 1975 interview conducted with Charles Sellers, one of James Calhoun Sellers' sons, he had this to say about his grandmother Timmie:

 "She had come to Texas with the family after granddad (Noah) died in Tennessee. She was a sickly woman, don't recall her ever being well. I remember seeing her in bed crying when Will (he probably meant Jody, since he was James Calhoun Sellers' infant son who died in 1897. Will died after she did.) Dad (James Calhoun) and Uncle Andrew (Jackson) took her to Ellis county to Uncle Will (William A Sellers). (This must have been from Fannin to Ellis County, which is further south.) Lillie May Sellers couldn't take care of her, and Aunt Mary couldn't care for her. Aunt Susanne was
mentally ill and couldn't care for her. Grandma Sellers died in Ellis County."
Keep in mind, Charles Sellers would have been 5 years old when his grandmother died, so his memories of her might have been distorted through the eyes of a young child, but he would have been close to the source of information.

Susannah's mental illness is illuminating. It is also important to note that Noah's sons broke up and sold off the Sellers' homestead after his death, which is why Timmie and her spinster daughters and granddaughter Lillie moved down to Texas. It appears perhaps Susannah and Mary bought a house on 48 acres with the money they might have received from their inheritance, but lost that 5 years later. As Timmie grew more ill and frail, she was moved to her son William's house, where she died and is buried. A trip to visit the cemetery and town is in the works.

Much thanks to Charlie Purvis, Linda Berford, and Sheila Sellers Murley for their help with this information.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Big Muddy: A meditation on The Mississippi River

The Mississippi River is cresting its banks again. I say again because this has been a natural occurrence since the pre-historic ages. While there are no specific oral histories relating flooding and my ancestors, it can be imagined that since they farmed the land near the banks of the river on the Missouri side for generations, they were at one time or another severely affected.

If you're a reader of this blog, you know that the majority of my ancestors on my father's side settled and thrived in Pemiscot County, Missouri, a thin strip of land between the River and the state of Arkansas. Shortly after a significant flood in 1849 and 1850, Pemiscot County was formed officially in 1851, and was named the Native American word for "liquid mud." A fertile land for growing cotton and vegetables to be sure, but also one at the mercy of a beastly and unpredictable great river.

My father and his mother were born in this county. Great-grandfather Emory Brooks, great-great-grandfathers Charles Anthony Patrick, Mexico Cole, James Franklin Brooks, and great-great-great-grandfather Midget Brooks farmed this land until they died. And the generations of grandmothers Ollie Jordan, Susie Jane Patrick, Juliette Chilcutt, Nancy Melinda Cole, and Sarah Richardson, who kept houses going, and the houses of others when circumstances called for it, who cared for churches, and sick community members, and tended the graves of their early-dead husbands and children. All the lives lived here because the river made it possible to thrive on the land. A river gives but it also takes away.

If you live in this part of the country, as I do, only a little over a hundred miles from Pemiscot, you know that a flood of historic proportions is imminent. From what  research I've done, it appears that the River floods in various areas, upper or lower, about every 10-30 years, the last great and devastating flood of the lower banks was in 1927 and 37. Below is a short film of the flood of '37 as it affected Cairo, Illinois--famous frontier town, one in which Mark Twain spent much time, and which is just north and acrossriver from Pemiscot:

Pemiscot is located entirely within the 100-year flood plain, which means that every 100 years or so, the county should expect to be completely inundated with river water. A dangerous gamble, to enjoy the fertile land, but to also live at its mercy. With the decline in farming, and perhaps with the growing threat of flood, the population of Pemiscot has spilled from the county's borders steadily in the last 30 years. If I do still have family here, they are very distant.

Modern-day residents are preparing for the flood as I write this, bagging sand, building walls, leaving their homes behind. Animal rescues are happening, but imagine all those beyond help already. In the Daily Dunklin Democrat, there are reports of abandoned dogs now roaming in packs, cresting levees, looking for higher ground. As the water rises higher, it follows, close on their heels.

A commendable, though some may say futile, effort is being made on both sides of the river, in several states, to quiet it--to hold it back, though its mind is set on spilling over. And when it does spill over into the land my ancestors worked and loved, there's nothing to hope for, except that their bones and crumbling grave markers stay put. Or that maybe the old homes, now in the care of strangers, will keep their foundations. Funny how futile and fertile are such similar words.