Extract from will of Jacob Bunn, Northampton County, NC, 1790
Most American genealogies justifiably celebrate the accomplishments and deeds of ancestors, recalling how they experienced or participated in the historical events of their times. However, genealogies of white southerners often omit reference to a group of household members that contributed significantly to their family enterprises: that is, those household members held in slavery prior to the Civil War. Yet much as slavery was impossible to ignore in antebellum southern society, it is impossible to ignore within the primary documents of the era. Particularly disturbing is reading wills, where “Negroes” are parceled out to heirs along with livestock and household furnishings. One common formulation reads like that in the 1790 will of Nelson ancestor Jacob Bunn, of Northampton County, NC: “I give unto my grandson Elias Lewter one Negro woman by the name of Edy and all her issue to him and his heirs forever.” Thus does one man expect to condemn a woman and all her descendants to slavery in perpetuity.
No one in the family handed down stories of slavery, but a few, usually tragic glimpses remain in the historical record. Continue reading →
Nowhere does the family tree encounter more uncertainty than in the branches of the Indiana family of Mollie Caldwell, Lizzie Fohl’s mother.
Mollie married John R. Fohl in Henry County, Indiana, in 1867, just after the conclusion of the Civil War. Her parents were Hannah Canutt and Franklin Caldwell; Hannah’s parents in turn were John Canutt and Mary Magdalina Landis while Franklin’s were Mary Loder and someone completely unknown and – at this distant date – perhaps unknowable.
If there is an archetypal image for an Irishman in the rural south before the Civil War, it would have to be Gerald O’Hara. He is a fictional character, of course, depicted as a colorful, hard-drinking owner of a Georgia plantation worked by slaves, married to an American wife, and father of three American-born daughters. His eldest daughter is much more famous than he: Scarlett, the fiery protagonist of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind.
The Tenery family has its own Gerald and Scarlett. John Hockshaw and his wife Catherine emigrated from Ireland to the United States in the years prior to 1827 when their two eldest daughters – Isabella Jane and Mary Margaret – were born in South Carolina. John and Catherine had two more daughters born in 1830 and 1832; sometime between the two births the family moved to Giles County, Tennessee. Continue reading →
Unlike many of the family’s 19th century Tennessee ancestors, when William Harrison Thompson left the family home near Maryville, TN and headed west, he did not simply find some untilled land and set up a farm. Instead, when he arrived in Henry County, Tennessee sometime between 1830 and 1838 he went into business. According to the book Tennessee and Tennesseans, William bought goods in Philadelphia and shipped them over the Pennsylvania canal to Pittsburgh where they were loaded on steamboats and flatboats to travel down the Ohio River and up the Tennessee River. Unloaded at Paris Landing, he then took the merchandise to Paris, Jackson, Trenton, or Dresden for sale. He was apparently very successful, as he invested the proceeds from this trade in land both in the city of Paris as well as in the farming community of Mansfield where William eventually established a plantation and factories for producing cotton yarn and chewing tobacco.
The U.S. Civil War had terrible impacts on the family in Tennessee, but of all the branches it was the Paysingers who perhaps suffered the most.
Thomas Alexander Paysinger, his wife Mary Adaline McRee Paysinger (grandparents of Charles Paysinger), and their 12 children were living in Lincoln County, Tennessee, in 1860. According to one family recollection, the family tried to avoid the war by heading west – a strategy employed by many Tennesseans who moved to Arkansas or elsewhere in a foresightful but often unsuccessful bid to dodge the hostilities. The Paysingers either didn’t go far enough or moved too slowly and the war caught up to them in Mississippi. Continue reading →