On This Day – 1 May 1857

This is the first in a series of “On this day” posts.  Today is 1 May 2016.  And today, we are going to meet Sallie Vincent Cason, born today in 1857.

I think I have mentioned the Rev. Jeremiah H. Cason and his wife Bettie Cooper Cason before.  And I am sure that I will mention them again.  They are a big part of my research and of the family stories that were passed down.

Rev. J.H. Cason and his wife Bettie were very early Baptist missionaries to Africa.  In September 1856, they and three other missionary couples set out for the Yoruba country, which today is a part of Nigeria.  This was one of the very first groups from the Baptist church to go into Africa.

They married 3 July 1856 and spent the summer raising funds for their missionary efforts.  They sailed from New York to Africa on a trading vessel, the cheapest and slowest way to get there, and arrived early in January in 1857.

That spring, Jere Cason wrote the following letter to his supervising pastor, Brother Poindexter.

jhcason-05-15-1857-p001-v02

 Ijoye, Yoruba, May the 15th 1857

Dear Bro Poindexter
Your kind favor came to hand May 5th. It was a comforting letter and manifested much interest on your part in our mission. We were sorry to learn that Bro Taylor was unwell and hope he has long since been permitted to engage in his duties.

On the 1st day of May we were delighted by the birth of a fine daughter. It grew and
promised well to be raised. On the 12th it died and I followed it to the grave in a small band of Africans. Mrs Cason is doing pretty well and we hope she will be up in a few days.

That little girl was Sallie Vincent Cason, named for Jere’s mother.  How sad.  But, how matter of fact about things, too.  Jere doted on his children and grandchildren.  He wrote letters to each grandchild on they day it was born, welcoming that baby to the world.  So, you now that he and Bettie were devastated by the death of their daughter.  But, they also felt a duty to their call and their mission.  I can hardly imagine.

I found this letter through the Baptist Foreign Missions Board archive in Nashville, Tennessee.  They sent me copies of all of Jere’s letters.  I went to visit them and made copies for myself of the letters from the other missionaries serving with them.  It’s such an amazing thing for the archivist to bring a box of letters that are 160 years old, that were mailed back to the US from Yoruba, Africa.

All I can say is just “Wow.”

A Tale of Two Otways – Part 2

In Part 1 of this, we learned that there were two men, both named Otway Licepious Bailey, born nearly the same time, residing in Arkansas and Texas at about the same time and we set out to unravel them.  We discovered who “My” Otway, born 1831, was, where he was when, and a little bit about his story.

In this episode of our story, we will meet and get to know the “Other” Otway.

“The Other” Otway – Otway Licepious Bailey, born 1829, North Carolina

Bailey, Otway, 1829, Civil War Service
Civil War Service Record for Ottway L. Bailey

The first hint that something weird might going on comes when my researcher friend, Jane, asks me about the Confederate service record I found for Ottway L. Bailey. 1

According to this record, Ottway enlisted in the 26th Arkansas Infantry (also called the 3rd Trans-Mississippi Infantry) in June, 1862 at Tulip, Arkansas.  Tulip is in Dallas County, Arkansas.  Initially, I thought nothing strange about this record, but when Jane asked about it, I began to wonder.

Grandmother always said her ancestors had not served in the Confederacy.  More importantly, Tulip, Dallas County, Arkansas is not part of any of the family migrations.

Tulip, Smith Township, is located southwest of Little Rock, Arkansas, near the town of Carthage.  All of the Bailey families in our line had been pretty much on a path across what is today Interstate 40 – moving from Pope County toward Sebastian County, before heading to Texas.  While this is only a few counties north of Tulip, none of our Baileys have been found in the area of Dallas County, Arkansas.

In particular, at the time in question, the summer of 1862, “my” Otway had been a long-time resident of Dallas County, TEXAS.  What else could we figure out to separate these men? 2

So, we start from the start.  What do we know about “the other” Otway and what more can we find out?

Starting with the service record, it appears that Otway enlisted in a unit that was part of what was called the “Trans-Mississippi”.  It covered units from Arkansas, Texas, and the southwest of the Confederacy.  These units designations seem to change from time to time, sometimes being listed as Texas units and sometimes as Arkansas.  But his original unit was an Arkansas infantry unit, organized in Dallas County, Arkansas.  Shortly after enlisting, he was detached to an artillery battery.  He may have been given a surgeon’s discharge, but the records are fuzzy on this.  In any event, he enlisted in August 1862 for three years or the duration of the war.  It’s not really clear how long he actually served.

That puts him in Dallas County, Arkansas in 1862, so the natural next step is to search the census before and after.  An extensive search has yet to turn up an 1860 census record for Otway (b. 1829).  In 1870, however, we find him in Tulip with a young family – a wife, Laura, and three young children, Pinck, Fannie, Otway Licepious Jr. 3

1870 US Census - Bailey, OL
1870 US Federal Census, Tulip, Dallas County, Arkansas

This is where we begin to make some headway and where things get really pretty interesting.  We see that Otway is 41 years old in 1870, giving us a birth year of 1829.  He is from North Carolina.  His wife, Laura V., is 27 years old and born in Mississippi.

Typically, one wants to work backward from the most recent facts.  In this case, there are certainly facts to find coming forward and going back that will help us.  So, we will do a bit of research in both directions at once.

First, who is Laura?  We find a record of a marriage between Otway L. Bailey and Laura V. Stokes on 22 November 1865. 4  But we also find one for a marriage between Otway L. Bailey and Mattie A. Stokes on 19 Feb 1874. 5  Based on the ages of the children, it appears that Otway and his young wife, Laura have a family fairly quickly and then something happens.

Searching further in Find-A-Grave, we find three interesting tombstones in the Tulip Cemetery.  First, we find a grave for Laura V. Stokes Bailey giving her birth as 29 December 1842 and her death as January 1873 with an inscription that says she was the wife of O.L. Bailey. 6  We also find a grave for Mattie A. Stokes, born 12 December 1838, died 21 May 1874, inscribed “wife of O.L. Bailey.” 7  But, we also find a third grave for Bettie F. Saunders Bailey, born 29 Jan 1838, died 14 September 1865, “wife of O.L. Bailey.” 8

From this, there can be no question that Otway was married at least three times.  Each wife died quite young, but based on the ages of the children, all of them were born to Laura V. Stokes Bailey.  First he married Bettie F. Saunders, where, we are not yet sure.  But, we know that he married Laura Stokes, and after she died, he married her older sister.  The 1860 Census for the Stokes family shows us this. 9

So, what happened next to Otway?  He does not appear in the 1880 Arkansas census.  I have not been able to example land or tax records in Arkansas to any great extent, so I have not been able to identify when he bought and sold land, indicating that he was coming or going from the state.  But a broader search in the 1880 census finds a single match that appears to be him.  Otway L. Bailey, born 1829, is living in Danville, Pittsylvania County, Virginia, working in a warehouse.  He is alone, living as a boarder. 10  What of his family ?  Has he married again?  The children should not be old enough to be on their own yet.  They wold be at most 13 years old in 1880.

1880 US Census - Bailey, GP
1880 US Federal Census, Oregonville, Rockingham County, North Carolina, Dr. Giles P. Bailey

Searching for the children finds them in the home of Dr. Giles P. Bailey in Rockingham County, North Carolina.  He lists them as his nephews.  Fannie is missing, but a young Robert W. has been added, born in 1872. 11  At this point, we have to backtrack a bit to figure this part out.

Searching in 1850, we find what appears to be Otway listed in the household with an older woman, Nancy Stubblefield.  It is not clear the relationship to Nancy, but it seems likely that she is an older relative of some sort. This is an area that needs to be pursued.  We will come back to this shortly. 12

The Census at this point has mostly  run out as a source for us.  But, Ancestry has recently published a lot of will and probate records.  Searching that, we find a huge cache of helpful documents.  First, we find a will for Giles P. Bailey 13 that names all of his siblings, including his brother Otway.  It also names his nieces and nephews.  Giles must have been close to his nephews Robert, or at least seen some potential in him.  Giles provided funds for Robert to pursue a liberal education preparing him for a profession.  Giles, himself, had attended the University of Pennsylvania and graduated with a degree in medicine, 14 just as his father had. 15

Using Giles’ will, along with his father’s 16 and his mother’s 17 wills, we can get a clear enough picture of the family to see that Dr. Otway Licepious Bailey, born 12 Sept 1793, married Sena Bethell, born 1795, in 1821 in Rockingham County, North Carolina.  They had at least five children: Nancy B. “Fannie”, Giles Pinkney, Sarah Jane, Otway Licepious, and Eliza Virginia.  When Otway Sr. and Sena died, they distributed their property, but kept it locked up in life estates or undivided until all of the children had come of age.

In the meantime, Otway appears to have decided to move west for one reason or another.  While searching for him in North Carolina and Virginia, we find his marriage record where he marries Betty F. Saunders on 31 May 1856 in Wythe County, Virginia. 18  That means that he and Bettie must have moved west together; they were married prior to the move and she lived until he returned from the War.

But, why go to Arkansas?  The answer isn’t completely clear, but here’s what seems likely:  Remember Nancy Stubblefield?  Remember that Otway’s mother was Sena Bethell and that she was named Watt when she died?  Well, in searching the 1860 Census for Dallas County, Arkansas, those names – Bethell, Stubblefield, Watt – all occur pretty frequently for a small county, and they occur among people born in North Carolina.  I am pretty sure that a little research would show a migration pattern.

But, it’s more interesting than that.  Otway’s second wife, Laura, the mother of their children was the daughter of Dudley G. Stokes of Caswell County, North Carolina and his wife … wait for it … Frances W. Bethell of Rockingham County, North Carolina. 19 20  It’s pretty clear to me, though by no means proven, that Laura’s mother was in some way kin to Otway’s mother and that Otway moved west with a group of people that he had at least passing familiarity.  This just proves how important it is to follow the “FAN Club” in genealogical research.  That’s Friends, Associates, and Neighbors.

So, how do “my” Otway, b. 1831, and the “other” Otway, b. 1829, connect?  Turns out that they are first cousins.  Otway, b. 1829’s father was Otway, b. 1793.  Otway, b. 1831’s, father was Francis Baker Bailey.  Francis Baker Bailey and Otway, b. 1793, where two of the several sons of Revolutionary War veteran Peter Cock Bailey.  But that’s a story for another day.

In the end, there really were two Otways living in Arkansas about the same time and sorting them out was really a pretty interesting exercise.


  1. “Civil War Service,” digital images, NARA, Fold3.com (http://fold3.com : accessed 31 March 2016), Ottway L. Bailey. 
  2. History of Texas together with a Biographical History of Tarrant and Parker Counties, p. 623. 
  3. 1870 U.S. Federal Census, Dallas County, Arkansas, pop. sch., Tulip, Smith Township, Page 26, Dwelling 181, Family 179, Otway L Bailey. 
  4. FamilySearch.org, “Arkansas Marriages, 1837-1944,” database, FamilySearch.org (http://familysearch.org : accessed 9 April 2016), Otway L Bailey and Laura V Stokes, 22 Nov 1865; citing Dallas, Arkansas FHL microfim 985, 892. 
  5. “Arkansas Marriages, 1837-1944,” database Otway L Bailey and Mattie H Stokes, 10 Feb 1874; citing FHL Microfilm 985,892. 
  6. Find A Grave, Inc., Find A Grave, digital images (http:/findagrave.com : accessed 10 April 2016), Laura V. Stokes Bailey, Memorial no. 6611271, created by Pat Hall, Laura V. Stokes Bailey. 
  7. Find A Grave, Inc., Find A Grave, Martha A. Stokes Bailey, Memorial no. 6611274, created by Pat Hall, Martha A. Stokes Bailey. 
  8. Find A Grave, Inc., Find A Grave, Bettie F. Sanders Bailey, Memorial no. 6610491, created by Pat Hall, Bettie F. Sanders Bailey. 
  9. 1860 U.S. Federal Census, Dallas County, Arkansas, pop. sch., Princeton Township, Page 103, Dwelling 650, Family 650, Fannie W. Stokes. 
  10. 1880 US Federal Census, Pittsylvania County, North Carolina, pop. sch., Danville, ED 181, Page 36, Dwelling 316, Family 489, Otway Bailey. 
  11. 1880 US Federal Census, Rockingham County, North Carolina, pop. sch., Oregon Township, ED 318, Page 15, Dwelling 115, Family 134, Dr. Giles P Bailey. 
  12. 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Rockingham County, North Carolina, pop. sch., Eastern District, Page 61, Dwelling 438, Family 447, O.L. Bailey. 
  13. Ancestry.com, “North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998,” database, Ancestry.com (http://ancestry.com : accessed 2 April 2016), Rockingham County, Wills, 1804-1864, Giles P Bailey. 
  14. General Catalogue of the Medical Graduates of the University of Pennsylvania: with an Historical Sketch of the Origin, Progress, and Present State of the Medical Department (Philadelphia: Medical Faculty of the University, 1845), p. 162. 
  15. The American Medical Recorder of Original Papers and Intelligence in Medicine and Surgery (Philadelphia: James Webster, 1820), p. 315. 
  16. “North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998,” database Rockingham County, Wills, 1804-1864, Otway L Bailey. 
  17. “North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998,” database Rockingham County, Wills, 1804-1864, Sena B Watt. 
  18. Ancestry.com, “Virginia, Select Marriages, 1785-1940,” database, Ancestry.com (http://ancestry.com : accessed 10 April 2016), Wythe County, 31 May 1856, Otaway Bailey to Betty F. Saunders. 
  19. 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Dallas County, Arkansas, pop. sch., Princeton Township, Page 81, Dwelling 548, Family 548, Dudley G. Stokes. 
  20. “North Carolina, Marriage Index, 1741-2004,” database Rockingham County, Dudley G. Stokes to Frances W. Bethell. 

Sarah Bridges Wren Letter

“I was born in Green County Ga the 19th of April 1813.”

Sarah Bridges, my great-great-great-grandmother, was born 19 April 1813 in Greene County, Georgia.  Her parents were Herod Flourney Wren and Margaret “Peggy” Ware.  When she was fifteen, Sarah married George Washington Wren in Putnam County, Georgia, where she lived until the early 1850s when several branches of the family moved from Georgia to Bienville Parish, Louisiana.

Sarah and G.W. Wren had nine children, including my great-great-grandfather, Alonzo Dossey Wren.  Dr. A.D. Wren, born in 1841, married Georgia Frances Vickers shortly after the Civil War in Minden, Webster Parish, Louisiana.  Georgia and A.D. Wren had ten children of their own.  When Georgia and A.D. Wren became grandparents, they were faced with the age-old question of what to call the grandparents.  Sarah Bridges Wren was called “Great” while Georgia Vickers Wren was called “Little Grannie”.

Late in Sarah Bridges’ life, her daughter-in-law asked her to write down a little bit of her life so that the family would have it.  After all, Sarah Bridges Wren had seen a lot of history.  I have that letter in my possession.  It’s at the top of this post.  The following is a transcript of that letter.  As near as I can tell from what the letter talks about, it must have been written in the fall of 1903.  I’m including it just as it’s written.

To Mrs. Georgia Wren

Dear Daughter I send you this little history of my life which I have hastily writen, it is short and meager but I don’t supose that any one would be interested in much that I could tell, although I have seen a good deal of this world.

With love I remain your mother Sarah Wren

I was born in Green County Ga the 19th of April 1813.

Went over into Morgan Co where we lived until I was 6 years old, when I was caried to Putnam Co wher I grew to womanhood.

Was converted and joined the Methodist church in July 1828. was maried the 4th sept the same year to GW Wren of South Carolina. We settled in Ga where we remained until 1850 when we removed to Louisiana in Jan 51 where Mr Wren died in Augt 29th 1884 and were 5 of  our 8 children have died. I was Gloriously sanctified at the Rock Springs camp meeting in  Putnam Co, Ga in 1849 which bless the good Lord I still claim and hold on to t[his] [day] [He] has always been very merciful and good to me and has given me many special answers to prayer.

My blessed Lord has watched over me now for 90 years & 6 months and nere denied me one blessing that was best for me to have. He has given me good friends every where and never permited any serious harm to befall me. I feel that his abiding care has always been with me and in me to bless and comfort me and now in my old age and infirmities he has not forsaken me, but gives me the abiding witness of his Holy Spirit to comfort and sustain me. Glory to his name.

 

A Tale of Two Otways – Part 1

Who the heck would name their son Otway Licepious Bailey?  Apparently, several people.

My great-great grandfather, Hume Field Bailey, had a brother named Otway Licepious Bailey.  And Hume had an uncle named Otway Licepious Bailey.  But, who would think that there would be two Otway Licepious Baileys living in fairly close proximity to each other, born about the same time, and not obviously connected?  Well, it happened.  And here’s how we untangled them.

This will end up as maybe several posts.  Ol’ Myrt, one of the premier genealogists around, pointed out that a blog post should answer a single question.  This one will focus on the “my” Otway.  We’ll see where he was when.  Then, we will look at the “other” Otway and his story.  Finally, we will connect the dots between them.

I had always known of “my” Otway and had a little bit of information on him.  I had his birth, death, marriage, list of his children, but that was about all since he wasn’t in my direct line.  I also had found what I thought was a Confederate service record for him.  It was for Otway L. Bailey from Arkansas. Got to be this guy, right?  I was young and impatient back then.  So I added it and moved on, years ago before I became quite as suspicious as I am today.

Years pass and I get an email from another researcher, Jane.  She is working on an application for the United Daughters of the Confederacy and thinks this might be the ticket in.  Could I help with some more information?  See, she had found the “other” Otway living in a nearby county.  Are they really the same person or are they different?  And the more I started to think about it, the Confederate service seemed so unlikely to me, based on the rest of the family.  This was my grandmother Susan Louise Bailey’s family and she was always pleased with the fact that none of her Bailey ancestors had served in the Confederacy.  (I guess she didn’t know about her Deshazo ancestors service or all those Bailey slaves back in the day.  Other stories for other days.)

“My” Otway – Otway Licepious Bailey, born 1831, Virginia

“My” Otway Licepious Bailey was born 25 Mar 1831 in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. 1  His parents were Francis Baker Bailey and Evalina Belmont Hill.  The family moved around quite a bit.  They started in Virginia, moved on to Kentucky, through Tennessee, and on to Arkansas.  Otway’s biography says that his father even made a prospecting trip to Texas in 1848.  It appears that the family was in central Arkansas just prior to Arkansas statehood. 2 That’s another research topic for another day.

Francis and Evalina had twelve children and eventually settled in Missouri.  I’ve got a number of letters back and forth between the children, their parents and the cousins on both sides that pretty well nail down who was where when, at least after they settled in Arkansas and Missouri.

Otway was no stationary target, himself.  By the time he was a teenager, the family had settled in Pope County, Arkansas around Gally Rock (Galla Rock).  In his later years, a biography of Otway was published in a history of Tarrant County, Texas. 3  It tells a lot about his migrations.  Every few years, there was a move a little farther west.  Otway took an apprenticeship as a gunsmith and blacksmith in Clarksville, Johnson County, Arkansas.  Then he moved to Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas to work as a gunsmith.  In the 1850 census, we find him back with the family in Gally Rock. 4 By 1853, he had moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas to work as a gunsmith and married Amanda G. Colvin there.

Amanda was a native of Illinois, having moved south with her family, possibly after a stint in the Republic of Texas.  That’s another research topic for another day.

In May 1856, Otway and Amanda moved to Austin, Travis County, Texas and then moved to Dallas County a year after that.  They remained in Dallas County for some eighteen years, more or less, before moving to Tarrant County, just one county west.  In 1902, they moved north to Edmond, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, presumably to be closer to their daughter’s family.  This is all born out by letters from Otway and Amanda, census records, and county histories. 5 6 7 8 9

According to his obituary in the Edmond (Oklahoma) Sun, though Otway never served in the military during the Civil War, the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy awarded him the Southern Cross of Valor for his service overseeing an armory in Lancaster, Dallas County Texas, owing to his experience as a gunsmith and blacksmith.

There was certainly an armory in Lancaster and the pistols it produced are some of the most sought after by Civil War gun collectors today.  But to date, nothing indicates that he was in any way in charge of the armory or in a management position.  We have not even found a record that he worked there, though it certainly seems plausible.

Otway and Amanda had twelve children, according to the 1910 census, with only five of them still alive in 1910.  It appears from a family record that there could have been several children born late in their marriage that did not survive young childhood. 10

Otway died 8 Oct 1914 in Edmond, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, where he and Amanda had moved some years earlier to be near their daughter, Lucy. 11

In the next chapter of this saga, we will meet “the other” Otway.

 


  1. Family data, Otway L. Bailey Family Bible, The Holy Bible containing the Old and New Testaments: translated from the Original Tongues and with the Former Translations Diligently Compared and Revised, (New York: American Bible Society, 1866); original owned by [address for private use], copies received from Susan Louise Bailey. 
  2. History of Texas together with a Biographical History of Tarrant and Parker Counties: Containing a concise history of the state, with portraits and biographies of prominent citizens of the above named counties, and personal histories of many of the early settlers and leading families (Chicago, Illinois: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1895), p. 623. 
  3. History of Texas 
  4. 1850 U.S. Federal Census, Pope County, Arkansas, pop. sch., , p. 276, dwelling 502, family 502, Francis P. Bailey. 
  5. 1860 U.S. Federal Census, Dallas County, Texas, pop. sch., Farmers Branch, Precinct No. 21, Page 66, Dwelling 445, Family 445, O.S. Bailey. 
  6. Ancestry.com, “Texas, Voter Registration Lists, 1867-1869,” database, Ancestry.com (http://ancestry.com : accessed 20 March 2016), O.L. Bailey, No. 684. 
  7. 1870 U.S. Federal Census, Dallas County, Texas, pop. sch., Precinct 1, Dallas, Page 220, Dwelling 1402, Family 1395, Barley, Otway L. 
  8. 1880 US Federal Census, Tarrant County, Texas, pop. sch., Oak Grove, Precinct 7, ED 98, Page 1, Household 4, O.L. Bailey. 
  9. 1900 US Federal Census, Tarrant County, Texas, pop. sch., Precinct 7, ED 120, Sheet 5, Household 66, Family 66, O.L. Bailey. 
  10. 1910 US Federal Census, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, pop. sch., Edmond City, ED 190, Sheet 17B, Dwelling 392, Family 399, 575 South Broadway, Otway L. Bailey. 
  11. Otway Lysuipous Bailey, Edmond Sun, Edmond, Oklahoma Co., Oklahoma, 15 October 1914. 

Feed Sacks and Embroidery Floss

This past Sunday, I sat behind my friend Kristin Heiden at church. She’s our Associate Minister for Adult Discipleship at Roswell United Methodist Church.  She was wearing her robe and stole to assist in serving Communion and I particularly noticed her stole.  It was a simple, white, coarse cloth, with simple embroidery on it.  She told me that she got it when she was in Jerusalem.

wren-0703-f-v00-WrenKids-1968
Front: Pearl Hudson Wren (Grannie), Norvelle Wren; Back: Hudson Wren, Mildred Wren Whitten, 1968

But, it reminded me of some other coarse, embroidered cloth that I had seen.  My great-grandmother, Pearl Hudson Wren (Grannie to us), and my great-aunt, Mildred Wren Whitten, made tea towels forever.  They lived out in the country, in Nevada County, Arkansas and learned to be thrifty and not waste things.  They would take old feed sacks and bleach and iron them smooth and clean.  Then, they would embroider simple patterns on them.  Rather than doing this by hand, since you need lots of tea towels, they used the old treadle Singer sewing machine.  They would wind embroidery floss around the bobbin instead of the spool and do things upside down, since they wanted the stitching to end up on top of the towel so you could see it.  Just wanted to add a little splash of color and care to something very mundane and ordinary.

I have a bunch of these towels. I don’t use them any more, but I don’t see any reason not to.  Grannie and Mildred certainly didn’t view this as making a keepsake.  But, I like to keep them to remember them and remember being with them.  Grannie was already sick by the time I came along and not able to be up and around much.  But I never saw Mildred without a big smile.  She kept close track of her family and friends, recording births, deaths, anniversaries, birthdays, who was sick and who was traveling in her diary.  She ministered and looked after all of her folks.

So, Kristen’s stole reminded me of Mildred and Grannie and their tea towels. And Mildred reminded me of another towel: the one that Jesus used to wash and wipe the Apostle’s feet at the last supper.  That big circle made me realize how appropriate it was for someone who had committed her life to the helping ministries by being ordained a deacon to have a simple, coarse stole, like Jesus’ towel, to signify her role and mission.  Thanks, Kristin for the memory and reminder!

Chipping Away at a Dickson Brick Wall – Part 1

On the very first day that I ever went to a library to actually do genealogical research, way back in 1989, I found the name of my great-great-grandfather, John H. Dickson.  Until the spring of 2015, that was the last confirmed, documented link I could find going back on that line. Now, I am beginning to be able to chip away at that wall.  My goal has been to find the next links in the chain on my Dickson lineage.  This post will start to summarize what I know to date and where I want to go next.

I expect that this will take several posts to summarize the research so far and to get to any sort of conclusions.  This follows my Dickson line – father to father to father to father.  That’s where my biggest gaps are.  And as I can figure out who the Dickson male ancestors are, I can then figure out more about their wives and the grandmothers, opening up whole new sections of the tree.

There are lots of stories and pictures about Granddad and his parents, but this thread is primarily focused on the research.  We’ll be back to fun stuff shortly.

When doing genealogical research, it is always important to start with what you know and work backward.  So, let’s start with a tiny piece of the tree as a picture.  This one already gives away some of the story, but that’s okay.

dickson-tree-01

Robert Harrison Dickson, Jr., my grandfather, was born 29 Nov 1919 in Fort Smith, Sebastian County, Arkansas.  His parents were Robert Harrison Dickson and Ethel Mildred Garner Dickson.  In April 1940, Robert married Susan Louise Bailey, from Hackett, also in Sebastian County, Arkansas.

Starting with the 1940 census and working backward, we find Robert in Fort Smith reliably.  In 1940, Robert and Susan, both age 20, are living with Robert’s parents at 2230 N. 29th St. in Fort Smith.  This would have been not too long after Robert and Susan married.  None of Robert’s siblings are living there with them; the household is only the four of them – Robert Sr, Ethel, Robert Jr, and Susan.

1940 US Census - Dickson.JPG
U.S. 1940 Federal Census, Population Schedule, Fort Smith, Sebastian County, Arkansas, ED 66-33, Sheet 22

In 1930, Robert is a child in his parents house, along with his brother Richard and sister Evelyn.  They are living at the same address as in 1940.  Robert Sr., age 51, reports that he was born in Mississippi, as was his father, and that his mother was born in Alabama.

1930 US Census - Dickson
U.S. 1930 Federal Census, Population Schedule, Fort Smith, Sebastian County, Arkansas, ED 66-33, Sheet 4A

In 1920, Robert Jr is an infant, just one month old, in the house with Robert Sr, Ethel, Richard, and Evelyn.  They are living this time at 2124 N. 14th St. in Forth Smith.  In this census, Robert Sr. is listed as 42 years old, born in Mississippi.  But his father is reported born in Alabama and mother born in Tennessee.  One of the keys to figuring out Robert Sr.’s family is going to be where the parents are born.

1920 US Census - Dickson
U.S. 1920 Federal Census, Population Schedule, Fort Smith, Sebastian County, Arkansas, ED 148, Sheet 4A

This is as far back in the census as we find Robert Jr, since he was born in 1919.  So, we turn our attention to Robert Sr. now.

Robert Harrison Dickson Sr. was born on 12 August 1878 in Coldwater, Tate County, Mississippi.  This is a fact found on his death certificate and one that Granddad repeated about his father often.  Robert moved with his family to Arkansas not long after he was born, settling first in Prairie County and then moving on to Rudy in Crawford County.

As I said previously, in my first experience with Census research, I found Robert’s father – John H. Dickson.  I believe his mother to be Martha A. Taylor, though I have less concrete reasons for this – she isn’t reliably and consistently reported.

It appears that not long after coming to Arkansas, Robert’s father, John, died and his mother remarried.  The story that Robert Jr told was that the second husband, Jack A. Jones, wasn’t well liked by the children, was mean, and never allowed the first husband to be mentioned.  So, Robert Sr. grew up not knowing a lot about his father.  Then, he left home early and didn’t have close contact with the family over the years.  So, a lot of the trail runs dry as a result.  That’s what I am trying to uncover.  I have heard from some other parts of the family that Jack’s children from his first marriage didn’t think much of their stepmother, either.  I suspect this wasn’t the model blended family.

In addition to the census, we rely on other documents to place Robert and then measure how well all of the documents agree or disagree.  For example, in his World War I draft registration, he reports his birth as 12 August 1877 rather than the 1878 we have though before.  His ages reported in 1940, 1930, and 1900 agree with an 1878 birthdate.  In 1920 and 1880, his reported age matches the 1877 birth.  1900 agrees with neither.

We find Robert Sr, age 30, in the 1910 census in Fort Smith living as a lodger in a boarding house at 118 N. 6th St.  His occupation is listed as a machinist in a factory.  His parents and he are all listed as being born in Arkansas.  The discrepancy in both his age and all of the birth places makes me think that someone besides him provided the in formation to the census taker.  Remember from the 1920 census that Robert was 34 when he married for this first time so from a timeline perspective, this still makes sense.

1910 US Census - Dickson
U.S. 1910 Federal Census, Population Schedule, Fort Smith, Sebastian County, Arkansas, ED 153, Page 28

In 1900, Robert is not in Arkansas.  Instead, we find him, aged 21, living as a boarder with a minister and his family in the Creek Nation in pre-statehood Indian Territories.  He’s working there as a farm laborer.  In this case, Robert is listed as born in 1878 (correct), born in Mississippi (correct), with his father born in Georgia and mother born in Mississippi (not in line with other records).  So far, we have not landed with the same birthplaces for his parents more than once.  Again, as a lodger, it is likely that someone besides him reported his facts to the census taker.

1900 US Census - Dickson
U.S. 1900 Federal Census, Population Schedule, Creek Nation, Indian Territories, ED 50, Sheet 23

The 1890 Census for Arkansas is lost, so we have to jump all the way back to 1880.  In that case, we find Robert Sr. as a toddler in his parents home.  We find Robert in the home of John H. and Martha A. Dickson.  John is age 44, born in Alabama.  His father was born in Tennessee and his mother in Virginia.  John’s wife (presumably Robert’s mother) is Martha A. Dickson, age 23, from Alabama.  Nothing is recorded for her parents birth places.  They are living in 1880 in Bridge Bend Township, Prairie County, Arkansas.

Robert is 2 years old in this census.  Also listed in the house are his older brother Cecil Dickson, age 4, and his younger sister, Minnie Z. Dickson, age 8 months.

1880 US Census - Dickson
U.S. 1880 Federal Census, Population Schedule, Bridge Bend Township, Prairie County, Arkansas, ED 247, Page 31

This is a good place to pause.  We have traced backward in the census and found Robert Sr. as a child in his parents’ home and have identified his father and presumably his mother.  We have good clues where his parents were born.

Next steps will be:

  • Press farther back in the census to track John H. Dickson and possibly identify his family of origin.
  • Move forward tracing Robert Sr’s siblings and parents in order get a better picture of them to allow us to move back.
  • Investigate the minister with whom Robert Sr. was boarding in Indian Territories.  Was he connected to the family at all, or just someone who needed a farm hand?
  • Identify other documents and sources that might shed light on Robert’s family line.

 

I Wish My Iris Looked Like This

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Hudson Wren and Jennie Wren Johnson looking over the iris at Hudson & Mary Jim Wren’s home, Marie, Mississippi County, Arkansas

I wish my iris were as nice as Nannie’s.  My grandmother, Mary Higgs Wren (everyone but her sisters called her Mary Jim) grew and hybridized iris.  For a couple of weeks every year, all around her yard, there were hundreds and hundreds of them.  You see them in almost every picture of the house.

Nannie had all sorts of varieties.  Mom recently gave me her log book of what she had, where she got it, and when.  Also in the log were the results of her mixing and creating her own hybrid iris.

When Kathleen and I bought our house, I got a bunch of the iris.  I bought a bunch of other fancy varieties, too.  For a few years, they really looked good.  The spring was a burst of color.  But, the rest of the year, there were only a bunch of fronds that got overgrown and scraggly looking.  Then brown spot and borers and bunnies came.  Then travel came.  I never had the green thumb or patience that Nannie had, so my iris never looked, and still don’t look as good.

Iris are basically weeds.  They grow and make tons of babies.  Every four or five years, you have to dig them all up, split them, and plant no more than 1/4 of what you dug up.  Last summer was a digging time.  I actually took out a couple of beds and dug and split a couple of others.  I sent boxes and boxes of rhizomes to my family.  And my yard is still overgrown with iris.

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White Flag of Spring, 2016
But, every year about this time, I watch them carefully.  There are a couple of little patches of iris still in the yard that are special to me.  Nannie always called this little white one the White Flag of Spring.  It’s small, never more than about 14 inches high.  But, without fail, it blooms right a the end of March, or at the latest the first week of April.  And right on schedule, it bloomed this past week.  It always makes me think of Nannie’s house and all her iris.  And then I smile.