Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Brush With Abe

It's Abraham Lincoln's Bicentennial year, so here's the only thing I know about how Lincoln's life intersected with our family's (not counting that whole Civil War that he won). It's not much, but, you know, it's Lincoln.

Cal Jones's great-grandmother (father's mother's mother) was a woman named Salina Hash (you just have to say it with an Arkansas accent), who married Ambrose Clark. Salina was born in Warren County, Tennessee, to Alvin (Josh) Hash and Esther Drake Hash in 1823; family legend holds that her parents moved to Illinois in 1825 so that they might free the slaves that they owned. Whatever the reason, we know from the census that in 1830 the family was living on a farm in Sangamon County, Illinois—the same county to which the young Abraham Lincoln came in 1830. The Hashes lived there until 1836, when they moved to Washington County, Arkansas, where Salina met Ambrose Clark.

I heard the Hashes' Lincoln story from Marian Carter Ledgerwood, a Jones/Shumate cousin who is a well-published family historian. The details of the story vary with the teller, but it was set down in writing by Alvin and Esther's youngest son, Benjamin Franklin Hash. He wrote of his parents: "Abraham Lincoln surveyed their land. He made a mark in the door of the cabin so as to tell when it was twelve o'clock." Others fill in details by explaining that Lincoln was helping out after Esther complained to him that she didn't have a clock.

It is well documented that Lincoln worked as a surveyor in Sangamon County starting in 1833, so this tale is certainly plausible. Too bad the Hashes didn't know what was to become of Lincoln--they might have taken that door with them when they moved to Arkansas.

For what it's worth, Salina and her husband Ambrose Clark ended up being Union sympathizers when the Civil War broke out nearly 30 years later. They took in a wounded Union soldier named Charles Matthew (Matt) Jones after a battle near Fayetteville, and the story goes that Matt fell in love with their raven-haired daughter, Esther Clark. He came back and married her, and they became the parents of Silas Jones and the grandparents of Cal Jones. So I guess some of us have Lincoln's war to thank for our existence!


charles said...

I just read your comment about how Matt Jones met his future wife. My father (Matt's grandson) told me that he was wounded in a skirmish on Lee's Creek (probably in Crawford County or southern Washington County) and crawled to his grandfather's home(Matthew (Matthan?) Riddle. I know he was reported as MIA for a short while.

charles said...

The Clarks were probably living near Durham which is at least 30 miles from the closest point to Lee's Creek.

Heinz 57 said...

Hello Charles -- nice to hear from a cousin! The story I mentioned is described as a "tradition" -- i.e. a family story that hasn't been verified -- in Marian Ledgerwood's book on the descendants of William Jones and Grizzie Riddle. I should stress that I don't know anything on the subject beyond what I've read in her books, as few family stories followed our piece of the family into Oklahoma. Marian does say that on Matt's pension application, he says he was injured in August 1863 -- shot in the leg, side, and arm -- and that at the time his company was in action 12 miles north of Fayetteville. I'm not great at Wash. Co. geography but that still sounds like a long way from Durham. So who knows?

If you'd like to introduce yourself and tell me who your grandfather was, send me an e-mail at familyhistorybites@gmail.com. I'm always glad to be in touch with someone else from the family, and I'm interested to hear the story about him going to the Riddles'.