Monday, July 01, 2019

Zeb Vance found his value in Reems Creek

Zebulon Baird Vance
"Zeb Vance found his value in Reems Creek" by Rob Neufeld (Asheville Citizen-Times, 1 July 2019)

When David Vance, grandfather of future governor Zebulon Vance, moved to Reems Creek in the late 1780s, he was one of several settlers with Revolutionary War pasts who were looking to be part of what he considered an ideal community. That involved a large family, a working farm, a nearby church, a water powered mill, and some kind of school and slaves.

The condition of slaves lives and of the lives of freedmen, before and after Emancipation, varied greatly. The Vances perpetrated a big family model, which involved kindness and love as well as paternalism and bondage.

When David Vance was dying in 1813 he expressed in his will the desire that his two families of slaves, headed by Richard and Aggy and Jo and Leah, be given "full liberty." "Full liberty" meant, in that time and place, freedom to choose their households, to travel, and to not worry about losing their children. The State slave code required approval by a county court for emancipating the slaves. It also required that freedmen carry and present documents when they were away from their homes. The Vance's "liberated" slaves had to have tickets from their owners as permission to travel. All slaves and freedmen had to fear white men who were given license to shoot runaways.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Smith-McDowell House: "Twists and Turns"

c.1875 Click for Larger Image
"Twists and Turns"

In 1881, Alexander Garrett and wife Elizabeth purchased the Smith-McDowell House (purportedly then called "Buck House") from William Wallace McDowell and wife Sarah Lucinda Smith McDowell (daughter of James McConnell Smith, who built the house).

The Garretts, along with their son Robert Urey Garrett, his wife Mary Frances Tarr Garrett, and six-year-old granddaughter Alexandra, moved from St. Louis to Asheville. The family had emigrated from Ireland in 1847. Alexander Garrett had amassed a sizable fortune as a businessman in the Midwest. He retired to Asheville to enjoy the climate and to engage in land speculation. The elder Garrett sold the Buck House for $1 to his son Robert Urey Garrett (who owned the property until 1898).

The first wife of son Robert Urey Garrett, Mary Frances Tarr Garrett, died in 1884. A few years later the widower remarried (1887): Myra Adeline Gash, daughter of Leander Sams Gash and Margaret Adeline McClain. Her grandmother, Nancy Cordelia Gudger (1777-1851) is a sister of Joseph Henry Gudger (1826-1859), who married Elizabeth Adaline Smith (1829-1912), sister of Sarah Lucinda Smith (1826-1905) -- wife of William Wallace McDowell. After the death of James McConnell Smith in 1856, Joseph Henry Gudger purchased the Buck Hotel in Asheville.

Thus, a Gudger owned the Buck Hotel and a Gudger descendant owned (or at least was married to the owner of) the Buck House (now called the Smith-McDowell House).

And, it gets better, even if more confusing:

The first child of Robert Urey Garrett (by his first wife, Mary Frances Tarr Garrett), Alexandra Garrett, married Robert Pulliam Johnston (1870-1924), who apparently is referenced in the following --

"Johnston Estate is Given to Smith Heirs: Superior Court Verdict for Mrs. Miller and Others -- Construction of Ante-Bellum Will Recalls Interesting Facts of Asheville's Early History"

By virtue of the fact that the jury answered all issues in favor of the plaintiffs in Superior court yesterday morning in the case of Lula R. Miller and others against Robert P. Johnston and others, property located on Broadway, Spruce and Walnut streets valued at $100,000 is awarded to Lulu R. Miller, Jacob F. Weaver and the heirs of [Joseph] Henry Gudger. The plaintiffs in the foregoing suit are the heirs of Mrs. Elizabeth A. Smith [Gudger], daughter of James M. Smith, the construction of whose will made in 1856, was one of the chief points at issue in the case. In the course of the trial of the case, which was hotly contested by counsel on both sides and took up more than two days of the court's time, much interesting data relating to distinguished citizens of Asheville before and after the Civil war was unearthed.

The property which is now the site of many of the most valuable and important businesses in the city, in 1856, the date of Mr. Smith's will, was entirely given over to the use of the Buck hotel, one of the most noted of the ante-bellum taverns and frequented as a resort by the famous and distinguished men of the Civil war period.

As the will was made before the war and the testator willed slaves to his children, the reading thereof awakened many interesting memories in the minds of the older men in the court room.

It was the contention of the plaintiffs that this famous property was __________ Elizabeth A. Smith, the daughter of James M. Smith, the jury so held.

The Johnstons came into possession of the property under the provisions of a deed made by E Sluder [possibly wealthy Asheville banker/businessman Erwin Sluder who often went by E. Sluder], who had come into the possession of it in 1860.

It is an interesting fact that one of the corners called for in the Smith will was the old law office of Senator Zebulon Vance. One of the deeds in the chain proving title in the property was executed by Henry Grady, grandfather of Henry W. Grady, the famous orator. One of the executors named in the will was David L. Swain, at one time governor of the state and for thirty years president of the university, while a witness to the instrument was Nicholas W. Woodfin, one of the most prominent lawyers of his day in Western Carolina.

The property now has located on it the residence of Mark W. Brown, which faces Spruce street; the Annandale creamery, the large boarding house formerly used by the Elks as a temporary home and the building occupied by the Shaw Motor company.

The plaintiffs in the foregoing case were represented by Jones and Williams, while Mark W. Brown, W. R. Whitson and J. Sneed Adams appeared for the defendants.
. . . .

Source: The Asheville Citizen (Asheville, North Carolina), Friday, 29 October 1915.

Source: Some of the foregoing comes from the history of the Smith-McDowell House assembled by the Western North Carolina Historical Association.
_______________

When his father-in-law, James McConnell Smith, died in 1856, Joseph Henry Gudger purchased the Buck Hotel in Asheville (also called the Smith Hotel). Gudger acquired the hotel furniture from Smith's estate for $595.29. He quickly refitted the building and advertised it in the April 9, 1857, issue of the Asheville News (newspaper) as having "Good rooms, attentive servants, table supplied with luxury -- Sulphur and Chalybeate Water has been discovered within two or three minutes walk of the Hotel." By October, 1858, the Southern, Eastern, and Murphy stages were stopping at Gudger's Hotel, as it came to be called, and business was flourishing. Unfortunately, Gudger died at the age of 38 in October, 1859, as a result of "whiskey." The hotel soon passed out of the Smith family. However, Elizabeth Adaline Smith and her second husband, Winslow W. Smith, did operate the hotel for a time.

Source: The Smith-McDowell House: A History, Dr. Richard W. Iobst (1998) at 13.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Jesse Siler Smith (1821-1870): "Left Behind"

Jesse Siler Smith (1821-1870): "Left Behind"

Click Photo to See Larger Image
This photograph of my second-great grandfather, Jesse Siler Smith, was kindly was provided by cousin Jesse Gerald Smith, Jr., also a second-great grandson of Jesse Siler Smith.

I asked cousin Jesse if he knew where our second-great grandfather was buried. Here is his sad answer:

Good question. We have agonized over this for many years. Here is the long version. Jesse died in 1870 under less than ideal circumstances.

First, the war had wiped out most of the family's means. I believe (by conjecture) that even though the McDowell family (i.e. Jesse's sister with WW McDowell) was living in the brick house [Smith-McDowell House], they like everyone were under financial duress. It is inconceivable to me that Jesse would not have been buried with the family up at the original graveyard where present day Fernihurst stands [on the A-B Tech campus behind the Smith-McDowell House].

I believe Jesse was buried "on the cheap" meaning there was no money at the time for a nice headstone. Maybe owing to the manner in which he died also might have played a part in his "unnoticed" passing. But lack of financial resource is the most likely reason.

Secondly, there may have been a plan to eventually place a headstone when it was feasible, however the sale of the [Fernihurst] property with the graveyard in 1875 and subsequent moving of the family remains to Newton Academy Cemetery left it undone.

Putting it simply, Jesse is still up at the old site near Daniel Smith's original cabin. I recently discussed with a local historian in Asheville that she was told that during the construction of Fernihurst, after the removal of the remains of the Smith family, that it was reported that the remains of at least two other bodies were unearthed at the site of the old graveyard. These remains were quietly put back in the ground and not commonly referred to, for various reasons, not the least that they did not know who they were for sure. This analysis is the only rational one I can come up with.

Jesse was "left behind."

Posted By: Richmond Stanfield Frederick, Jr.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Elijah Johnson Moorefield Family (c. 1910)

Elijah Johnson Moorefield Family (c. 1910 and c. 1940)

Click Photo to See a Larger Image
Location and exact date unknown. Only the parents and the younger male are identified: Elijah Johnson Moorefield (1868-1937) (father); Ada Belle James Moorefield (1870-1955) (mother); and son Arthur William Moorefield (1893-1976).

The older-appearing daughter (to Arthur William Moorefield's right) may be Minnie B. Moorefield (1891-1987). Other daughters may include: Leona; Lula; Virginia; Violet; Esther; and Verna. The younger daughters probably not born are: Alice; and Naomi.

As Verna was born in 1908 and Alice in 1911, these years may bracket the date of the photo. Here is the 1910 census record (when the family was living in Person County, North Carolina):

1910 US Census
Name: Eliza J Moorefield [Elijah J Moorefield]
Age in 1910: 43
Estimated birth year: abt 1867
Birthplace: North Carolina
Home in 1910: Olive Hill, Person, North Carolina
Race: White
Gender: Male
Marital Status: Married
Relation to Head of House: Head
Occupation: Farmer (General Farming), Employee
Mother's Birth Place: North Carolina [Virginia]
Father's Birth Place: North Carolina [Virginia]
Household Members: Name Age
Eliza J Moorefield 43 [Elijah J. Moorefield]
Ada B Moorefield 40
Minnie B Moorefield 18
Arther [Arthur] W Moorefield 16
Leoner [Leona] Moorefield 15
Lula M Moorefield 12
Jennie [Virginia] L [I] Moorefield 8
Violet B Moorefield 6
Ester [Esther] L [T] Moorefield 4
Sadie Moorefield 2 [nickname for Verna or census taker error]

Photograph courtesy Jesse Gerald Smith, Jr.
_______________

Compare the above family photograph from c. 1910 to the following, which was take c. 1940:

Click Photograph to See a Larger Image
Elijah Johnson Moorefield Family at Purley, Caswell County, North Carolina (c.1940). Left-to-Right:

Back Row: Alice Velma Moorefield, Lula May Moorefield, Elijah Johnson Moorefield (father), Ada Belle James Moorefield (mother), Minnie B. Moorefield, Leona Moorefield, Verna Brent Moorefield.

Front Row: Violet Bye Moorefield, Arthur William Moorefield, Virginia Inez Moorefield, Naomi Ethel Moorefield, Esther True Moorefield

Saturday, June 08, 2019

Jesse William James (1837-1901)

Jesse William James (1837-1901)

Ada Belle James (1870-1955) married Elijah Johnson Moorefield (1868-1937). Her father, Jesse William James (1837-1901), served as a Confederate soldier during the Civil War.

On December 15, 1861, in Orange County, North Carolina he enlisted as a private for a term of three years in Company A, 13th Battalion, North Carolina Infantry (called Wright's Battalion). On October 2, 1863, this unit was consolidated with others to become Company A ("Orange Boys"), 66th Regiment, North Carolina Infantry (State Troops). The unit was stationed in Wilmington, North Carolina, but moved to Virginia in May 1864. It fought at Cold Harbor, was placed in the trenches of Petersburg.

The details of his service between enlistment December 16, 1861, and May 20, 1864, are not known. However, on this latter date he was "[w]ounded in action at Howlett's Farm" and furloughed. He apparently never returned to active duty and mustered out as a private October 2, 1864.

Click map to see a larger image
The reference to Howlett's Farm is an area between Richmond and Petersburg, Virginia, that was involved in the Battle of Ware Bottom Church, a one day encounter on May 20, 1964. See the map. On that date eight Confederate brigades under General Beauregard attacked General Butler’s advance picket lines near Ware Bottom Church. Approximately 10,000 soldiers clashed near the church, resulting in 1,400 casualties. After the battle, the Confederates built the Howlett Line, a series of strong defensive works (including trenches) from the James River to the Appomattox River, effectively trapping Butler's army on the Bermuda Hundred peninsula.

Saturday, June 01, 2019

Caswell County Dog Catcher

Caswell County's First Dog Catcher

In 1956 the Caswell County Board of Commissioners approved the position of a full-time "dog warden" with a salary of $225 per month. The Board also voted $2,000 to erect a dog pound and $200 "for food, water and electricity and other needed supplies for operation of the dog pound." The Board also was to purchase a truck equipped for use by the dog warden in catching stray dogs and taking them to the pound.

Men who applied for the dog warden job: Vance Wrenn, John W. Newnam, Jr., F. A. Williamson, Nathaniel Willis, Jr., and J. H. Wilkins.

The Bee (Danville, Virginia), 24 May 1956, Thursday, Page 22.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Solomon Debow Land Sale 1812

Lands and Mills For Sale

The Subscriber, wishing to remove to his possessions in Danville, offers for sale his Lands, Mills and Distillery in Caswell county. His Lands consist of sundry tracts, adjoining or near to each other, containing in the whole about eleven hundred acres. They lie about 2 1/2 miles from Caswell Court-House, on the waters of Country-Line Creek. These Lands are well watered and well timbered; a great part consist of good Tobacco Land, and all well adapted to the culture of wheat and corn. The Plantation is in good repair and a considerable Crop of Wheat is sowed on it.

The Dwelling House is new, large and commodious; it is 58 feet long, 38 feet wide, contains ten rooms, besides two large apartments in the cellar; 7 of the rooms are neatly plaistered, and one elegantly papered. It is situated on an eminence which commands a view of the court house and the surrounding country. There is a good framed Kitchen and other convenient Out Houses.

The Mills are on Country Line Creek, which is the best stream in the county. The Grist Mills are double geared, running 3 pair of large stones; and one fixed with all the necessary machinery for manufacturing flour, and with excellent bolting cloths. The Flour Mills are equal to any in North Carolina. The Saw Mill is constructed upon the most appropriate plan, and the surrounding country abounds with good timber. These Mills have been lately built and are in perfect repair.

The Distillery contains 3 large Stills; the house is large and well fixed.

These Mills and the Distillery, exclusive of the Plantation and other Improvements, are now rented for $1000 per year -- Some idea of their value may be formed from the amount of their rent.

I will sell this property in whole or in part, to suit the purchaser. Good bargains will be given for Cash or for Negroes -- or for good Bonds, payable at some early period.

The Lands are situated in a wealthy, genteel and flourishing neighborhood.

Solomon Debow
Sept. 27, 1812

Weekly Raleigh Register (Raleigh, North Carolina), 23 October 1812, Friday, Page 1.