Author Archives: 8families

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Are We Cherokee?

martha

Martha White Johnson

My grandmother’s mother, Martha White Johnson, told her children and grandchildren that she was part Indian. Many of us have this kind of anecdotal evidence of Native American ancestry, and with access to DNA tests, we are starting to find out the truth. So far, no relative known to me has had Native DNA results. However, the matter is still not settled.

What I did find in historical records are applications made by three of Martha’s siblings, around 1907, for benefits based on Cherokee kinship.

An act of Congress in 1906 appropriated over a million dollars to pay claims of the Cherokee Nation against the U. S. government, having to do with the Cherokee Removal of the 1830’s. A man named Guion Miller headed a commission to evaluate those claims. The commission received applications representing about 90,000 people, and they approved only about a third. Only 3,203 of them lived east of the Mississippi River; the majority lived in Oklahoma.

In the White family’s applications for benefits, they attempted to prove that they were descendants of a person who was a member of the Cherokee Nation.

Joseph Bill White of Mt. Airy, N. C., Martha’s brother, applied on behalf of his seven minor children. In a deposition taken in 1909, he swore that his grandfather, Pryor May (who lived about 1801-1879,) was the son of John May, whose father, name unknown, was a full blooded Cherokee. Joseph said that his mother, Mary Ann May White was one eighth Cherokee Indian blood, and that his great-grandmother was a Cherokee Indian squaw whose name he did not know. Joseph had always heard that Pryor May was kin to the Cherokee Indians. He further said that he had seen Pryor May, and that he was a tall, slim man, with a very dark complexion and black hair.

Joseph and Martha’s brother, John W. White of Round Peak, N.C., claimed that John May, father of Pryor and husband of Rachel May, “was said to be one half Indian.” In a deposition at Pilot Mountain, N. C., in 1908, John said that Pryor May got his Indian blood from his paternal grandmother, and that Pryor told him many times that his grandmother was Cherokee.

Martha’s sister, Mary White Chandler, of Round Peak, N.C., also applied, corroborating what her brothers said, that their grandfather, Pryor May, was a full blooded Cherokee.

A man named J. F. Edwards, also an applicant, affirmed that he knew Pryor May in Patrick County, Va., where they both lived until May’s death in 1879. He said that Pryor May claimed to be part Cherokee and that his appearance “showed his Indian blood,” as did that of Pryor’s son, William May. Edwards stated in a deposition that the May family consistently claimed Cherokee heritage.

Joseph’s application was rejected because it did “not appear that any ancestor was ever enrolled or that any ancestor was party to the treaties” of the 1830’s. “His ancestors did not live in the Cherokee domain.” He failed to prove any “connection whatever with the Eastern Cherokees.” John and Mary were also rejected, as their statements were not sufficiently backed with written records and they “never lived in Cherokee Country and kn[ew] nothing definite of alleged Cherokee ancestors.”

There is another, as yet unproved, family rumor that the wife of Pryor May, Susanna Puckett, came from the Powhatan reservation in Virginia. The Powhatan were the people who greeted the Jamestown settlers in the early 1600’s, and were the tribe of the famous Pocahontas. The Whites, Mays, Johnsons, and other English families sailed to the coast of Virginia and gradually made their way westward and southward to settle along the Virginia/North Carolina border.

The White family seem to have been convinced of their ancestry and were not solely motivated by possible financial benefits. My mother told a story about her White relatives approaching her parents for documentation of their ancestry. This would have happened decades after the Guion Miller applications. Apparently my grandmother had nothing to offer them, and my grandfather was annoyed with them. In a time when non-white ancestry could bring mistreatment, many people preferred to forget their origins. Now, when we have nothing to fear from knowing the truth, my generation would really like to know about our ancestry. We’re still looking.

Sources consulted:

Ancestry.com. U.S., Records Related to Enrollment of Eastern Cherokee by Guion Miller, 1908-1910 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: M685, microfilm, 12 rolls. Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, 1793-1999, Record Group 75. National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

“Guion Miller Roll, 1906-1911,” The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, October 4, 2016, accessed 27 Dec. 2020 at https://www.archives.gov/research/native-americans/rolls/guion-miller-rolls.html.

Census, marriage, and birth records in the North Carolina Dept. of History and Archives, Raleigh, N. C.

Victim of a Pandemic

 

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Grave stone of Neill Abner Curtis Hicks, 1897-1918

There is an old Scottish cemetery in the Sandhills of North Carolina, where the oldest grave is dated 1796. Many people buried there were from the Western Isles of Scotland, including Jura and Skye. They spoke Gaelic.  Most of the graves have the names Ferguson and McDonald on them. The last monument was a tribute to a soldier who fell in World War I, not from an enemy bullet, but from a virus, during the 1918 Influenza Pandemic.

My aunt, Willie Alexander Carr, told me of walking to the cemetery with her mother, Loula Richardson Alexander, when Willie was seven years old. They went down a lane and through the woods near the Alexanders’ farm, balancing on a log to cross the creek. They were visiting the grave of Loula’s first cousin, Curtis Hicks.

The Hicks family lived in the township of Greenwood, in Moore County, North Carolina. Abner Hicks and Margaret McDonald married in 1890, and by 1902, they had five children. Then they lost their sixth child as an infant, and two years later, after the birth of twins, Margaret died. Her babies, a boy and a girl, died soon after. Their graves were all placed beside Margaret’s parents in the old cemetery.

In 1911, Abner remarried, to Flora Ann Yow, a neighbor. My father remembered her as “Aunt Flora Ann,” beloved by the family for her kindness to her step-children.

The fourth child of Abner and Margaret, Curtis, was twenty-one when young men were drafted for the Great War. His draft card described him as dark haired and blue eyed. He worked for a local farmer, Angus Cameron, who owned a saw mill. Curtis registered in June of 1918 and left his home for Fort Jackson in August.

Curtis was assigned to Camp Sevier, built in 1917 near Greenville, S. C., to train soldiers for the war. By the Armistice in November 1918, 80,000 soldiers had passed through the large camp. In September of 1918, the first influenza case appeared in the camp hospital, and it opened a floodgate.

The epidemic developed so rapidly that facilities and staff were expanded and taxed to the limit. When the hospital filled up, the Red Cross and Y. M. C. A. buildings, the schoolhouse, a theater, mess halls, and tents became hospital wards. Medical officers were joined by civilian, professional, and practical nurses in tending to a total of 6,000 patients.

Personnel used many precautions, isolating patients with hanging sheets and screens. Doctors, nurses, and attendants wore masks and gowns. Patients with pneumonia were placed in separate wards. Disposable cups and plates were used and burned afterward.

Curtis Hicks was one of the unfortunate soldiers who developed pneumonia, which caused his lungs to hemorrhage and quickly caused his death. Three hundred and forty soldiers died, a death rate over 5% in the camp. He died on October 4, only a few months after his induction into the Army. By November 11, the epidemic, as well as the war, was effectively over.

Curtis was buried near his mother and his grandfather, John Finlayson McDonald. Willie and Loula visited the grave when fresh soil was still mounded over it. Woods now cover the acre of old family graves, and real estate development has slowly surrounded it.

Copyright 2020 by Glenda Alexander. All rights reserved.

Sources:

wwI_soldier

Willie D. Richardson, cousin of Curtis Hicks, WWI

1900 U. S. Census, McNeill’s Tshp., Moore County, N. C., p. 169; NARA Microfilm T623-1207; 1910 U. S. Census, McNeill’s Tshp., Moore County, N. C., p. 193; NARA Microfilm T624-1119; 1920 U. S. Census, Vass, Moore County, N. C., E. D. 92, p. 21B; NARA Microfilm T625-1300; accessed on Ancestry.com.

North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: North Carolina County Registers of Deeds. Microfilm. Record Group 048. North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, NC.

U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005.;

South Carolina Death Records, 1821-1955 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: South Carolina. South Carolina death records. Columbia, SC, USA: South Carolina Department of Archives and History.

Influenza Outbreak of 1918-1919, by Steve Case, revised by Lisa Gregory, 2010, NC Government and Heritage Library, NCPedia.com. Accessed 7 March 2020.

U.S., Lists of Men Ordered to Report to Local Board for Military Duty, 1917–1918 [database on-line]. Original data: War Department, Office of the Provost Marshal General, Selective Service System, 1917– 07/15/1919. National Archives at College Park. College Park, Maryland.

Office of Medical History: Office of the Surgeon General, “Extracts from Reports Relative to Influenza, Pneumonia, and Respiratory Diseases,” April 4, 2003, http://history.amedd.army.mil/booksdocs/wwi/1918flu/ARSG1919/ARSG1919Extractsflu.htm#U1. (continued)%20CAMP%20SEVIER%20BASE%20HOSPITAL%20REPORT, accessed March 9, 2020.

Grave monument in McDonald-Ferguson family cemetery, off County Road 1825, approx. .4 mile from Highway 1, just north of Crains Creek, Moore County. Visit to cemetery and photographs taken March 29, 2002.

Interviews with Willie Alexander Carr and Lewey G. Alexander, Sr., by the author, April 1, 2002.

“Stay in Mt. Airy and Work with Us.”

The fashionable young women posing here about 1930 are Reba Oakley (right,) her cousin, Ethel Mae Atkinson (left,) and another friend or relative in Surry County, N. C.

In 1929, when Reba was seventeen years old, she was employed at Argonne Hosiery Mill in Mount Airy. She was described as a button machine operator in the 1930 census. During the years of the Great Depression, many people started to work in the mills at ages as young as thirteen. They could expect to work until they were about sixty years old.

An ad from the Mt. Airy News in 1920 advertised for female workers, promising good wages, ideal working conditions, and the advantage of staying in your home town.

At the Spencer knitting mill of Mt. Airy, in 1930, female employees made 75 cents a day. They worked shifts of up to twelve hours, as many as 6 days a week. A full week at that rate would net $4.50. Men were paid a higher wage. However, half of all textile workers were female.

Statistics from the 1920 census show that North Carolina had become the second-most industrialized state in the South, with an output of a billion dollars per year in textiles, tobacco products, and furniture. By 1930, North Carolina was first in the nation in producing cotton textiles and first of the southern states in knitted textiles.

Copyright 2020 by Glenda Alexander. All rights reserved.

Sources:

Ad, Mt. Airy News, Mt. Airy, N. C., Feb. 26, 1920.

North Carolina Museum of History, “History Highlights/Twentieth-Century North Carolina,” August 25, 2006, http://ncmuseumofhistory.org/nchh/twentieth.html, accessed Aug. 29, 2006.

“The History of International Working Women’s Day: Ella Mae Wiggins,” no date, http://www.mltranslations.org/US/Rpo/women/iwwd1.htm, accessed August 29, 2006.

Ernest H. Miller, Miller’s Mount Airy, N.C. City Directory, Vol. 1, 1928-1929 (Asheville NC: Southern Directory Co., 1929), p. 198.

Alice B. Hatcher, Spencers, (Dobson NC: published by the authors, 1988) p. 11.

1930 U.S. Census, North Carolina, Surry County, Franklin Township; sheet 2-B, line 65.

“He is a good preacher.  Come and hear him.”

George Washington Oakley (1879-1957) was the oldest son of Robert T. Oakley and Margaret Jane Willey of Surry County, N. C.  He married Etta May Sparks in 1901 at Mitchells River Church in Surry.  They had three children. 

In 1910, he was farming in Carroll County, Va., but by 1918, when he registered for the WWI draft, he was working for a furniture factory in Mt. Airy.  His draft card described him as tall and slender, with blue eyes and medium dark hair.  He was able to read and write, although his father and five younger brothers were not.

He was a charter member of Calvary Baptist Church in Toast in 1913 and served as a trustee in 1920 when land was purchased for the building. 

George became a popular preacher in the Baptist churches of Surry County.  He served as pastor of Hills Grove, Piney Grove, and Ivy Green Baptist Churches in the 1920’s.  In 1930, he was the first pastor of Pinnacle View, near Pilot Mountain.  He also participated in the weeklong Revival services that local churches shared in the summertime.

In the 1930 census, his occupation was “minister, Baptist Church.”  At his death in 1957, he was pastor of a church in Baywood, Va.  His grave is at Pleasant Home Union Regular Baptist Church in Alleghany County, N. C.

The Siloam community column in the Mt. Airy News of the 1920’s frequently announced the titles of his sermons at Hills Grove and asserted that “He is a good preacher.  Come and hear him.”  The titles of his sermons were taken from Biblical texts.  The following sermons were preached between the two world wars, and may reflect the concerns of the times.

Some George Oakley Sermons, 1917-1929:

1.  ”Consider Your Ways.”  From Haggai 1:5-7, a lesson in prudent thinking and action.

2.  “The Unguarded Gate.”  Book of Ezekiel, chapter 38, in which many of the enemies of Israel were named and battles predicted.

3.  ”And With HIs Stripes We Are Healed.”  Isaiah 53:5; preached at a Revival service.

4.  “Handfulls [sic] of Honey”  Judges 14, a story of a riddle told by Samson, which he challenged his enemies to solve.

Copyright 2020 by Glenda Alexander.  All rights reserved.

Sources:

”Personal Mention of Siloam Residents,” Mt. Airy News, 4 June 1926, p. 1; and “Siloam News,” 5 July 1928 p. 4. 

I, Wright Johnson of the County of Surry

This is the will of Wright Johnson (1774-1866) transcribed from the document in the Surry County Register of Deeds, Dobson, N. C. Spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and line breaks have been reproduced as accurately as possible:

[page#] 86

Wright Johnson’s Last Will & Testament

I Wright Johnson of the County of Surry and State of North Carolina
being in sound mind and memory and calling to mind the certainty of death and the
uncertainty of life do make and ordain this my last
will and testament In manner and form as follows. First my will
and desire is that my Executors hereinafter named Shall provide for my body a decent burial
suitable to the wishes of my friends
Second that my executors shall out of my estate pay all funeral
expenses and my just debts to whomsoever owing. Thirdly, I give and devise to my Sons
Henderson Johnson* a tract of Land one hundred acres
more or lefs** lying in Stokes County North Carolina I also give him two
Volumes of Books Clarkes Commenter.* FourThly, I give and devise to my son Wesley Johnson* two volumes of Books Clarks Commentary. I have also previously deeded my son J. Wesley Johnson one hundred acres of Land on Which he now lives. Fifthly, I give and devise to my son James Johnson* two Volumes of Books Clarks Commentary I have also previously to [Third?] Deeded to him a tract of Land one hundred acres on which he now lives Sixthly, I give and devise to my* son John W Johnson* John Wesley’s notes on the New Testament.* Seventhly [marked over] I give to my beloved wife Nancy
Johnson* for her natural life or widowhood The remainder of all my
Estate both real and personal of every discription what soever.
Eightly at the death or Marriage of my wife my will and desire is
That all the property which I or the remainder of all the property that
I have given to her during her life or widowhood be Divided among
My Daughters as follows My Daughter Nancy* Isaac Norman’s* wife
is to have forty acres of Land Commenceing on the Stokes line extending
west West [sic] along the State line far enough to receive her number of acres
My Daughter Elizabeth McMillion* John McMillions wife is to have
Forty acres of Land So laid off as to have the old Dwelling in which
I now live to be on her part
My Daughter Mary* Joseph Whites* wife is to have Forty acres of Land
So layed off that her Dwelling will be on her part
My Daughter Jamima* Joel Snody’s* wife is to have the remainder
Forty acres of Land. Ninethly, also my will and desire is that
all my personal property after the Death of my wife is to be
Equally divided among my Daughters to wit Nancy
Isaac Normans wife Elizabeth McMillions wife Mary
Joseph Whites wife and Jamima Joel Snodys wife

 

[Second page. Page#] 87

And Lastly I do hereby constitute and appoint my Son in-Law
Isaac Norman an Joel Snody my lawful Executors to all intent
and purposes to execute and carry out this my Last wll [sic] and
testament according to the true intent and meaning of the Same
and every part and clause hereof hereby revoking and declaring
utterly Void all other wills and testaments by me theretofore [word inserted] made Invoking
Whereof I the Said Wright Johnson do hereby Set my hand and Seal

[Left-hand column:]
In testmt [marked-out letters] signed Sealed published
and declared by the said Wright Johnson
to be his last will and testament in
presence of us who at his request
and with his presence do subscribe
our names as witnefs thereto
[signature] N Freeman
[signature] A Brim, Just

[Right-hand column:]
February 16th AD 1866
Wright (his X mark) Johnson, {Seal}

North Carolina } Court of pleas and quarter Sefsion

The Execution of the foregoing last will and testament
of Wright Johnson decd was produced in open court and
offered for probate and was duly proven by the oath
of Acaberry Brim one of the Subscribing witnefses thereto
and is ordered to be Recorded and filed
H C Hampton CCC

NOTES:
*Names underlined. Underlining looks lighter than the script and may have been added some time after the creation of the document.
**The original scribe of this document used the long s to write words with a double s, such as less, written as lefs, or witness, written as witnefs.
***Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Bible; John Wesley, Notes on the New Testament.

Transcribed by Glenda Alexander from Surry County, NC, Will Book 5: 1853-1868, pp. 86-87.

Copyright 2020 by Glenda Alexander. All rights reserved.

Indian Stories

My Grandma’s mother, Martha White Johnson, told her grandchildren that she had Indian ancestry. My mother said that after her parents moved to the Sandhills, some kin from the mountains came to visit, with the purpose of finding some proof of their Native ancestry. Her father refused to talk with them and made them leave. My sister told this story to someone with Native connections, who explained to her that people with non-white ancestry were often refused credit at the banks and stores. As a farmer, Grandpa would have depended on credit to keep him going until he took his tobacco to market and received whatever cash he was going to make for the year. Unfortunately, if he or Grandma had Native ancestry, it was not to their advantage to prove it.

Mama repeated a lot of stories that were told to her when she was a child. When one of us children was crying, she would tell us that the old folks used to say when the Indians were hiding from their enemies, they would stop the babies from crying by covering their noses and mouths so they couldn’t breathe. If anybody made noise and they were discovered, they’d all be killed. She teased that if we had been Indians, we wouldn’t have survived.

Now I wonder if this story came from the Indian Removal of the 1830’s, when Native Americans of many tribes were forced to leave their homes in the Southeastern states and move to reservation land in Oklahoma. Some people managed to hide deep in the mountains and woods long enough to stay behind. Martha White’s great-grandparents, John and Rachel May, could have done just that, as they lived in mountainous and sparsely populated Patrick County, Virginia.

Copyright 2020 by Glenda Alexander.  All rights reserved.

I, Wright Johnson of the County of Surry

 

 

 

This is the will of Wright Johnson (1774-1866) as transcribed from the document in the Surry County Register of Deeds, Dobson, N. C. Spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and line breaks have been reproduced as accurately as possible.

[page#] 86

Wright Johnson’s Last Will & Testament

I Wright Johnson of the County of Surry and State of North Carolina
being in sound mind and memory and calling to mind the certainty of death and the
uncertainty of life do make and ordain this my last
will and testament In manner and form as follows. First my will
and desire is that my Executors hereinafter named Shall provide for my body a decent burial
suitable to the wishes of my friends
Second that my executors shall out of my estate pay all funeral
expenses and my just debts to whomsoever owing. Thirdly, I give and devise to my Sons
Henderson Johnson* a tract of Land one hundred acres
more or lefs** lying in Stokes County North Carolina I also give him two
Volumes of Books Clarkes Commenter.***
FourThly, I give and devise to my son Wesley Johnson* two volumes of Books
Clarks Commentary. I have also previously deeded my son J. Wesley Johnson
one hundred acres of Land on Which he now lives.
Fifthly, I give and devise to my son James Johnson* two Volumes
of Books Clarks Commentary I have also previously to [Third?] Deeded
to him a tract of Land one hundred acres on which he now lives
Sixthly, I give and devise to my* son John W Johnson* John Wesley’s notes
on the New Testament.*** Seventhly [marked over] I give to my beloved wife Nancy
Johnson* for her natural life or widowhood The remainder of all my
Estate both real and personal of every discription what soever.
Eightly at the death or Marriage of my wife my will and desire is
That all the property which I or the remainder of all the property that
I have given to her during her life or widowhood be Divided among
My Daughters as follows My Daughter Nancy* Isaac Norman’s* wife
is to have forty acres of Land Commenceing on the Stokes line extending
west West [sic] along the State line far enough to receive her number of acres
My Daughter Elizabeth McMillion* John McMillions wife is to have
Forty acres of Land So laid off as to have the old Dwelling in which
I now live to be on her part
My Daughter Mary* Joseph Whites* wife is to have Forty acres of Land
So layed off that her Dwelling will be on her part
My Daughter Jamima* Joel Snody’s* wife is to have the remainder
Forty acres of Land. Ninethly, also my will and desire is that
all my personal property after the Death of my wife is to be
Equally divided among my Daughters to wit Nancy
Isaac Normans wife Elizabeth McMillions wife Mary
Joseph Whites wife and Jamima Joel Snodys wife

[Second page. Page#] 87

And Lastly I do hereby constitute and appoint my Son in-Law
Isaac Norman an Joel Snody my lawful Executors to all intent
and purposes to execute and carry out this my Last wll [sic] and
testament according to the true intent and meaning of the Same
and every part and clause hereof hereby revoking and declaring
utterly Void all other wills and testaments by me theretofore [word inserted] made Invoking
Whereof I the Said Wright Johnson do hereby Set my hand and Seal

[Left-hand column:]
In testmt [marked-out letters] signed Sealed published
and declared by the said Wright Johnson
to be his last will and testament in
presence of us who at his request
and with his presence do subscribe
our names as witnefs thereto
[signature] N Freeman
[signature] A Brim, Just

[Right-hand column:]
February 16th AD 1866
Wright (his X mark) Johnson, {Seal}

North Carolina } Court of pleas and quarter Sefsion

The Execution of the foregoing last will and testament
of Wright Johnson decd was produced in open court and
offered for probate and was duly proven by the oath
of Acaberry Brim one of the Subscribing witnefses thereto
and is ordered to be Recorded and filed
H C Hampton CCC

NOTES:
*Names underlined. Underlining looks lighter than the script and may have been added some time after the creation of the document.
**The original scribe of this document used the long s to write words with a double s, such as less, written as lefs, or witness, written as witnefs.
***Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Bible; John Wesley, Notes on the New Testament.

Transcribed by Glenda Alexander from Surry County, NC, Will Book 5: 1853-1868, pp. 86-87.

Copyright 2020 by Glenda Alexander. All rights reserved.