Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Joneses' Civil War

At left: Charles Matthew "Matt" Jones at age 19. You can't tell from this reproduction, but he is wearing four pistols.

When I started looking into my family history, all that I knew about our family and the Civil War was that Cal Jones's grandfathers in Arkansas had fought on opposite sides. The idea of a Union soldier from Arkansas sounded so unusual that I imagined he must have been very brave or quite contrary. But the more I've read both about our family's history and the nation's, the more I've learned that the Civil War was not simply a binary, black-and-white (or Blue-and-Gray) conflict. In the mountain regions that Cal's family came from—Appalachian Virginia, Alabama, and Kentucky, Ozark Arkansas—the locals tended to be caught in the middle: possessed of none of the abolitionist zeal of the North, and yet not culturally or economically invested in the institution of slavery. (Put more plainly: Cal's people did not for the most part have slaves, but that was mostly because they couldn't afford them.)

Sherman Calaway Jones was born in 1895 near Durham, a town in Washington County, Arkansas, near Fayetteville. The area began to be settled in the 1830s by white farmers from Tennessee and Kentucky. Cal had a large extended family in the area: his four grandparents, his eight great-grandparents, and 11 of his 16 great-great-grandparents had lived in Washington County or in an adjacent county. In the 1900 census for Durham, about a third of the 700 or so residents were apparently his relatives.

Though the national origin of Cal's ancestors was varied, including England, Ireland, The Netherlands, France, Sweden, and Germany, they had assimilated into the "Scotch-Irish" culture of 18th-century immigrants from Northern Ireland and Scotland. (Some people prefer the terms "Scots-Irish" or "Ulster Scots" to "Scotch-Irish," but I use the last just because it's the most common.) The Scotch-Irish had a long history of life on the border: they had lived on the frontier between the English and the Highland Scots for centuries, their homes frequently destroyed as borders moved according to the fortunes of conflict. They learned to work both sides to their advantage and became a violent warrior culture of family clans that shifted alliances and fought among themselves. (Family feuds like the Hatfields and McCoys weren't an American invention; the Scotch-Irish brought such behavior with them.)

So when the Civil War broke out, sentiment in these mountainous border regions was divided. Although slavery was not widespread in Washington County, we are told that Cal's great-grandfather, William Shumate, had slaves that worked his 300-acre farm. (The Shumates had come from Harlan County, Kentucky, in 1837; William’s father Balis came three years later, bringing slaves with him.) Not coincidentally, it was William's son Bennett Shumate who was Cal's Confederate grandfather: he served in a Confederate Cavalry unit from 1862 to 1865. Two of Bennett’s brothers, James and William Jr., died in the war.

Cal's other grandfather, Charles Matthew (Matt) Jones, fought for the Union as a Private in Company B of the First Arkansas Cavalry Volunteers, as we know from his Civil War pension file. He enlisted on October 1, 1862, near Springfield, Missouri. He was injured in August 1863,: his horse was shot out from under him, and he himself was shot in the right side, the arm, and the right leg, probably in action north of Fayetteville.

A family legend holds that when Matt was wounded, he was brought to the home of Ambrose Clark to recover. While there, he met Ambrose's raven-haired daughter Esther, whom he would later come back and marry in May 1865, a few months before his discharge. Ambrose Clark was a native of Ohio, and his parents came from Vermont. He later identified himself as a Republican, so it is likely that he was a Union supporter.

Matt’s own family appear to have been Union supporters. He and his parents had come from the hills of northern Alabama in the 1840s. Matt’s brother John, who also fought for the Union, was killed while trying to escape after having been captured in battle. Their father, William Jones, must have at least been a strong Union supporter after the fact: his second marriage, nearly 20 years after the war, broke up because his wife was a Confederate sympathizer.

But Matt may not have been as ideologically motivated as we’d like to think: Another family legend holds that he first signed on with the Confederates and then, when the tide of the war was turning in Arkansas, he switched sides.

The guerilla violence that swept through the border regions throughout the war did not just affect soldiers. One victim, Seth Mills, an 80-year-old Quaker great-great-grandfather of Cal's, was assaulted in his home by Southern "bushwhackers" who demanded his money. When he refused, they tortured him by burning and breaking his feet. (He survived the ordeal and lived to the age of 94.)

Bennett Shumate died in 1884; it has been said that he never fully recovered from war injuries. Matt Jones lived until 1922.

For years after the war, old resentments continued, and the Union-Confederacy dispute was played out in the political arena by Republicans and Democrats. So when Bennett Shumate's daughter Nancy (known as Nannie) married Matt Jones's son Silas in 1892, the Shumates, at least, were not happy about it. As Cal Jones would later write:

“Now picture if you can a family of robust young Republican boys (the Jones boys) growing up in a predominantly Democratic community where just about all the fathers had fought on the losing side, the Confederacy. . . . I can tell you now that Dad and his brother Will [Matt Jones’s sons], both excellent boxers and rough-and-tumble fighters, fought their way out back to back many a time. . . . To cap this all off, Dad went and married a girl out of a Democratic family, which spelled more trouble. . . . By that time Dad and his brother had pretty well established themselves and didn’t have to fight too much, but the old hatreds continued and the first year of married life he had to lick two of Mama’s brothers, Johnny and George. After that they more or less left him alone, but he was still quite a minority on the community.”

Those resentments would later lead to Silas and his family leaving Arkansas after a dispute with some of Nannie's relatives over a dead dog—but that's a subject for another post. [UPDATE, 8/30/07: The story of the dog and the exodus from Arkansas is told here, here, and here.]

A word on my sources: A history of Washington County published by the Shiloh Museum in 1989 has lots of details about people in Cal's extended family. The letter of Cal's that I quote above gave me the basics of the story. And a cousin who is related on both the Shumate and Jones sides has worked for decades on family history; her impressive work filled in a lot of details and color. Finally, I learned about the cultural history of the Scotch-Irish from a terrific book called "Albion's Seed" by David Hackett Fischer. Fischer breaks down the immigration from the British Isles to America into four distinct cultural groups and paints a detailed portrait of each group, providing a lens for understanding American history. It's helped me understand our family history better, too.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Ask and ye shall receive

A Paxton cousin has kindly sent me a picture of George Bailey Paxton. This appeared in a Paxton family history called "We Are One," published in 1903 by William McClung Paxton. Anybody see a family resemblance?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Lancelot Branch, 1836-1907

Having a name like Branch in your family tree—well, I've made my point already. There are only so many "tree-branch" jokes you can handle. Anyway, for this second blog piece, I'm going to talk about what I know about Lancelot Branch, the immigrant ancestor of the Branch line of our ancestors.

I was told about Lancelot years ago, but didn't have anything on paper about his existence. I had begun to despair when I discovered online, at about the same time, a relative who had information from his death certificate in Pennsylvania and a baptism record from an English church that appeared to be the same person. Since then, largely thanks to the efforts of more diligent relatives in the U.S. and England who have tracked down old documents, I've learned enough to make the barest sketch of Lancelot's life.

The story starts in the village of Staindrop, County Durham, in the north of England, where Lancelot Branch was born to George and Sarah Branch on March 22, 1836. He was baptized on April 17 of that year, according to parish records. (At left is the parish church in Staindrop.) We as yet know little about his parents. His father was listed in parish records as a "husbandman" and sometimes as a "laborer." George Branch's family appears to have come from nearby Yorkshire, and there are other Lancelot Branches in previous generations that we might assume are relatives.

For some reason, Lancelot doesn't show up with his parents and siblings in the 1841 census, when he would have been five years old. Nor does he ten years later, but the 1851 census also tells us why: at the age of 15, Lancelot was working as a farm laborer in Morton Palms, some 20 miles away. This confirms something his granddaughter Sarah Ball once told me—that Lancelot had a "falling out" with his father and left home at an early age.

The next we know of Lancelot is not until December 1866, when his marriage to Elizabeth Charlton—a coal miner's daughter—was recorded in Tynemouth, near Newcastle. Lancelot's occupation is also listed as coal miner, the job that would soon take him and his family to America.

Lancelot and Elizabeth's first child, Sarah Jane, was born just under nine months later and recorded in Tynemouth. She may have been named for Lancelot's mother. We know he was fond of the name—when his eldest son John George Branch had a daughter many years later, Lancelot came to the house, put a five-dollar bill in the infant's hand, and told her parents "Her name is going to be Sarah Jane." (And it was—the aforementioned Sarah Ball.)

Two years later, in 1869, Lancelot arrived in the United States without his wife and child, according to a ship manifest. In the 1870 census, he was found in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, living in what must have been a rooming house for coal miners.

In my experience, most such migrations in families in the 19th-century were part of larger family moves, accompanied by parents, siblings, and/or in-laws. But Lancelot seems to have moved on his own; none of his siblings or their familes moved to America. So although the name Branch is not all that uncommon in the U.S., it is not likely that most Branches you meet are closely related to our line.

In March, 1871, the same year that Lancelot filed his request for U.S. citizenship, Elizabeth and Sarah Jane arrived at the Port of New York aboard the S.S. Minnesota. (This was before Ellis Island, so they would have been processed at Castle Garden at the tip of Manhattan.) A year later, Lancelot and Sarah had their second child, John George Branch. He was presumably named for his two grandfathers, John Charlton and George Branch, but he was always known as George.

It would appear that Lancelot and Elizabeth spent all of their American years in Pennsylvania, except for one quirky fact: in four successive censuses (1900—1930), John George Branch's state of birth is listed as Indiana. Other sources, including his death certificate, say he was born in Pennsylvania, but someone in his household insisted otherwise. So it's possible that the family moved briefly to Indiana after Elizabeth and Sarah arrived in America. (There was coal mining in that state by the 1870s.)

[UPDATE 11/16/07: By the way, I have considered the possibility that George was in fact born in the town or county of Indiana, Pennsylvania, which is in the coal mining region, but it's hard to imagine the same misunderstanding happening between householder and census taker four decades in a row.]

Lancelot became an American citizen in Somerset Co., Pennsylvania in the centennial year of 1876.

Lancelot and Elizabeth had at least four more children: Thomas James, born in 1875, Elizabeth, born about 1876, Maggie, born about 1879, and Joseph, born about 1883.

By 1880, the family was living in Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, where Lancelot bought a farm in an area called Horatio, not far from Punxsutawney. Elizabeth died some time in the 1880s, and Lancelot married again, to a woman named Rachel, in about 1887.

Lancelot died of pneumonia on December 7, 1907 at the age of 71. He was buried on his farm.

About Lancelot's children: I know that John George Branch—possessed of none of his father's wanderlust—stayed on in Horatio, took over his father's farm, and lived there until he died in 1940. He and his wife, the former Margaret Jehu, had seven children and fourteen grandchildren. Thomas James Branch married Annie Haddick; they had 12 children. Thomas was a mining superintendent in southwest Pennsylvania. I am in contact with some of Thomas's descendants, but I have yet to find out any more about the three daughters or about Joseph. (If you know something, contact me via the comments.)

I don't know much about England in Lancelot's time, but it strikes me that he achieved the American Dream that many immigrants sought at the time. He did not become rich, but after years in the mines, he was able to get a piece of property for himself and his family—something that perhaps wouldn't have been possible in England for the uneducated son of a farm laborer. With so little to go on in terms of information about Lancelot, it's kind of touching that after so many years of hard work, the occupation on his death certificate said "farmer."

Sunday, March 25, 2007

George Bailey Paxton, 1862-1910

I'm going to start this new blog with a short biography of George Bailey Paxton. He had kind of an interesting life, as my forebears go, and it's possible to piece together a little bit about his life from family sources, census, old newspapers, and other surprising sources (a book on the history of zinc mining, a 1912 history of New Mexico). So here goes. I recognize that some of these pieces will be a little long for blog entries, but I mainly just want to get them out there for family to see and for others to find via Google.

George Bailey Paxton was born on September 12, 1862, presumably on his parents' farm in Deepwater Township in Henry County, Missouri. He entered the world at a tumultuous time, both locally and nationally. The Civil War had been on for more than a year, and guerilla fighting in Kansas and Missouri was bloody. His mother, Amanda Bailey Paxton, had lost her father and a brother at the start of the war, when a band of "Southern guerillas" (as a later family history referred to them) took them from their home and shot them because of their Union sympathies. His father, Samuel, would soon join the local militia, which later became part of the Missouri State Militia Cavalry. The war disrupted the lives of both the Bailey and Paxton families. (I learned about this from a paper by historian Toby Terrar--a Bailey cousin--that focused on the Baileys in the pre-war and war years.)

Both families were new arrivals to Henry County. George's grandfather William Paxton had left the family home in Virginia, first going to what is now West Virginia, where Samuel Paxton was born in 1834, then to Cooper County, Missouri. Samuel acquired 320 acres in Henry County in 1857. He was one of the first settlers of Deepwater Township. George's other grandfather, George Bailey (the Civil War casualty for whom he was named), came from Kentucky to Illinois, where Amanda was born in 1840. They came to Henry County in 1856.

We don't know much about George's early life on his family's farm, but by the time he was a young man, the family must have been at least moderately comfortable. A railroad was laid near the farm just after the war, and the town of Montrose was laid out adjacent to the farm in 1871. A biography of Samuel from 1883 describes a prosperous farmer/businessman:

"Soon after Montrose was laid out Mr. Paxton built the Montrose Steam Elevator, and has since been engaged in buying and handling grain. This elevator has a capacity of 2,000 bushels per day, with a corn sheller and a corn grinding burr. He is doing a large shipping business which will compare favorably with any in Henry County. He still owns his fine farm adjacent to the town, which consists of 115 acres, all in good cultivation with comfortable out buildings, etc., and an orchard of 400 bearing apple trees of select varieties."

The biography also identifies Samuel, Amanda, and their daughter Mary as members of the local Baptist church. The Paxtons must have taken their religion seriously: George's younger brother, Frank Lawler Paxton, was named for a long-time Baptist preacher in the area. (Frank, who went on to be a miner and one of Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders in the Spanish American War, would later complain that he had been "churched to death" as a child.)

The census for 1880 finds George, at age 17, living with his parents; the note for occupation says "works on farm."

That fall, George entered William Jewell College, a Baptist institution in Liberty, Missouri. The school has no record of his graduation, but he was enrolled in a liberal arts curriculum there for at least two years, 1880-81 and 1881-82.

After that, I lose track of him for a while. There is an item in a biography of a doctor in Montrose, Richard B. Fewel, that may refer to him. It says the doctor “had the first telephone line in Montrose running from his drug store to his residence, over a quarter of a mile, put up by George Paxton in 1884.” Although we can't know for sure that it was our George, I like to think it was the kind of thing a young engineering-minded man (who later would promote the first electric line in Joplin) might have done with his free time.

What else he did is a subject for speculation. I will assume that it didn't take him long to get into the mining business, because by the turn of the century he was a highly regarded authority on zinc mining in the Joplin area, which was one of the world's major suppliers of zinc at the time. It was probably while working in that area that he met Grace Overholser, whom he married in St. Louis on November 30, 1893. (I don't know why they were married in St. Louis; it suggests a possible elopement.)

Grace, born in 1869, was the daughter of Levi and Mary (Young) Overholser, who had come from Palestine, Illinois, to Baxter Springs, Kansas, in the 1880s. (Baxter Springs was just across the line from Missouri in southeast Kansas; the mining district was known as the "tri-state area" encompassing parts of Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma.) Levi Overholser, also known as Lee, was a dry goods merchant in Illinois and presumably engaged in some sort of business in Baxter Springs until the family moved to Oklahoma City in 1893. Levi's brother Henry had arrived in Oklahoma City on the day of the great 1889 Oklahoma Land Run and established himself in real estate and other businesses, and Levi joined him soon after. But the family must have stayed in Baxter Springs long enough for George and Grace to meet.

[UPDATE, 8/30/07: See this post, and these two, for more about Levi Overholser and his family.]

George and Grace had two children: George Burton Paxton, born February 22, 1896, in Oklahoma City (It's not clear whether the Paxtons might have lived there at the time, or if Grace went to be with her parents while she had the baby. George apparently traveled a lot in the West for his mining work.) and Clara Paxton, born October 9, 1899, in Joplin.

By the late 1890s, we begin to see references to George Paxton in newspapers related to his work. A Dallas Morning News item from 1897 lists him as a director of the newly formed Winifred Mining Company in Oklahoma City. An advertisement in the Chicago Tribune from 1899 touting the prospects of the Continental Zinc Co. (for which George was a consulting engineer) identifies him as secretary of the Missouri-Kansas Zinc Miners' Association and "one of the highest zinc authorities in America." Around this time, he also developed something called the Paxton Scale for determining the price of ore.

In June of 1900, the family was found by a census taker at 626 Wall Street in Joplin. His occupation was listed as “mining engineer.” His wife Grace is listed as having borne three children, two of whom are living. This was the only evidence I have found for a third child of George and Grace; he or she must have died in infancy.

While I think George had worked further west before, in September 1900 we hear from a Taos newspaper that he has been hired as superintendent for the Anaconda Copper Co. there. Eventually, George would move permanently to Red River, New Mexico, and the copper mining business.

On March 26, 1901, Grace died of pneumonia. Two years later, George married Susan Botsford, a 24-year-old native of Ohio. It's not clear just where Burton and Clara lived during the decade after their mother's death, but they probably spent most of their time with George's mother Amanda. The elder Paxtons had moved to Joplin in the 1890s, and Samuel died there in 1903. Amanda later moved to Independence, Missouri, where her daughter Mary Paxton Victor (she had married a Baptist preacher) was living.

George and Susan had a child of their own on October 24, 1908, a daughter they called Elizabeth. She was born in Red River.

George got increasingly involved in his New Mexico interests over the decade, as clips from the New Mexican indicate. He operated a property near Red River that was at various times referred to as the Anaconda mine, the Copper King Mine, and the Paxton Mine.

Somewhere along the way, he also got involved with the effort to secure statehood for New Mexico. I have found no documentation of just what his involvement was--his daughter Clara described him as a lobbyist--but it was significant enough for him to spend several months in Washington, D.C., in 1910 as the statehood bill was working its way through Congress. He apparently took up residence at the Riggs House Hotel there around January.

At some point around this time, his son Burton had found a golden eagle feather at Red River. His father took it to a jeweler in Kansas City (Clara remembered going with him) to have it made into a quill pen with a band of Taos County gold and the inscription "State of New Mexico." George had either been charged or had appointed himself with the task of supplying a ceremonial pen with which the President of the United States would sign the statehood act.

George must have known by this time that he was ill with Bright's Disease, a kidney ailment. He had suffered from the chronic form of the disease for 12 years, according to his death certificate. It finally killed him on June 17, 1910, the day that the House of Representatives passed the statehood bill. President Taft signed it into law three days later, using the eagle-quill pen. The essentials of this story are confirmed by a contemporary book called A Concise History of New Mexico (1912):

"The President said a few words of congratulation, and then proposed to affix his official signature. The postmaster general presented a gold pen with the request that it should be used, and Delegate Andrews produced the unique gold-banded quill taken from the great American eagle captured in Taos, and furnished for the occasion, in its beautiful case, as a patriotic service by George B. Paxton, when he had no thought that death would forbid his presence at the ceremony. The President wrote half of the signature with the former and the remainder with the latter, returning the pens to the donors as mementoes of this great historic occasion."

George was 47 years old. His body was returned to Joplin for burial. Among his other achievements, it turns out that he was, in the words of the local newspaper, "the father of Scottish Rite Masonry in the valley of Joplin." He had an elaborate funeral at the Scottish Rite cathedral.

This is about what I know at this point. I'd welcome any information, anecdotes, and especially pictures that anyone might have of George.

I've got a few other ideas for posts; let me know if you have any questions about family history. For those of you who don't count George as an ancestor, rest assured that I'll be posting about the Branches, Jehus, Vermillions, Jichas, Joneses, Shumates, and Overholsers as time wears on. . . .

UPDATE, 3/27/07: A cousin kindly sent me a photo of George. Thanks, cousin!

UPDATE, 4/19/07: Another cousin visited Montrose and sent along pictures of the old Paxton farm in Montrose.

UPDATE, 6/14/07: Cousin #1 saw something I missed in the 1910 census, in which George was recorded in April at the Riggs House in Washington. I had thought that he was there alone, but just below George on the census roll are his wife Susan and one-year-old daughter, listed as "Helen E." (Elizabeth must have been her middle name.) So it seems likely that they were with him in Washington when he died two months later.