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Hang down your head Tom Dooley…

Life Story of James Martin Isbell

Colonel James Martin Isbell was a noted local historian and author. James Martin Isbell was the son of Thomas Isbell and Lucinda Petty.James Martin Isbell was a grandson of Thomas Isbell and Discretion Howard Isbell.

James Martin Isbell married Sarah Louise Horton, daughter of David Eagles Horton and Sarah Jane Dula Horton. Sarah Louise Horton was the granddaughter of Nathan and Elizabeth Eagles Horton on her paternal side. She was the granddaughter of William S. Dula and Theodosia Beasley Dula on her maternal side.

Sarah Louise Horton Isbell was a second cousin of Tom Dula (Dooley) who was tracked down and captured by Colonel James Martin Isbell for the murder of Laura Foster. Colonel James Martin Isbell had previously led the search which located the body of Laura Foster. The song about Tom Dooley has been revived a couple of times over the decades, the most famous version being sung by The Kingston Trio; it was entitled Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley. The ballad was number one for one week in 1958. It has been re-recorded by many singers since.

Colonel James Martin Isbell was a second cousin of Col. Thomas Charles Land (1828-1912), who wrote the Ballad of Tom Dula (also known as “Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley”), and his brother Linville Land who made the coffins of both Laura Foster and Tom Dula.

Tom Dula was a grand-nephew of the John Dula who got into a brawl with Thomas Isbell, grandfather of Colonel James Martin Isbell, on28 November28, 1796, during which Dula bit off Tom Isbell’s earlobe.

Ballad of Tom Dula by John Foster West: “Col. James M. Isbell, if we may believe the records, was more responsible for finding Laura Foster’s body…and…the prosecution of Tom Dula than any other individual. Col. Isbell was one of the aristocrats of Happy Valley. He was the great-grandson of Benjamin Howard…”

Colonel James Martin Isbell is cited as an authority in many local histories, pioneer North Carolina and Virginia accounts as well as several family histories. He is cited throughout records and newspaper articles of the Tom Dula murder trial, consistently referred to as Col. James M. Isbell.

“Col. James M. Isbell’s grandfather(sic), Martin, told him that Daniel Boone used to live six miles below James M. Isbell’s present home near the bank of the Yadkin river, on a little creek now known as Beaver Creek, one mile from where it flows into the Yadkin river, near Holman’s ford. The Boone house was in a little swamp and canebrake surrounding the point of a ridge, with but one approach—that by the ridge. The swamp was in the shape of a horse-shoe, with the point of the ridge projecting into it. The foundations of the chimney are still there, and the cabin itself has not been gone more than 52 years. Alfred Foster, who owned the land, showed Col. Isbell the cabin, which was still there during his boyhood, and he remembered how it looked. His grandmother, the wife of Benjamin Howard, knew Boone well as he often stayed with her father, Benjamin Howard, at the mouth of Elk creek, now Elkville.”[2]

“COL. JAMES M. ISBELL. According to the statement made by this gentleman in May 1909, Benjamin Howard, his (great)grandfather, owned land near the village of Boone and used to range his stock in the mountains surrounding that picturesque village. He built a cabin of logs in front of what is now the Boys’ Dormitory of the Appalachian Training School for the accommodation of himself and his herders whenever he or they should come from his home on the headwaters of the Yadkin, at Elkville. Among the herders was an African slave named Burrell. When Col. Isbell was a boy, say, about 1845, Burrell was still alive, but was said to have been over 100 years old. He told Col. Isbell that he had billoted Daniel Boone across the Blue Ridge to the Howard cabin in the first trip Boone ever took across the mountains.”[3]

Footnote 5: In the same book is the statement of James M. Isbell to J.P.A. in May, 1909, at latter’s home.[4]

Footnote 6: It [meaning the cabin of Benjamin Howard] “could still be seen, a few years ago, at the foot of a range of hills some seven and a half miles above Wilkesboro, in Wilkes county.” Thwaites’ “Daniel Boone,” p.78.

1885: The LENOIR TOPIC, 1(?) October 1885, p.4, printed a letter from W.E. White about Daniel Boone’s life in the Yadkin Valley area, which included, “Col. James Isbell, of King’s Creek township(,) could perhaps say something concerning Godfrey Isbell and Pendleton Isbell who were pioneers and also soldiers of Col. Cleveland’s command.” Godfrey Isbell had been bondsman at the marriage of Col. James Isbell’s grandfather Thomas Isbell to Discretion Howard.

Daniel Boone: Master of the Wilderness (1939), by John Bakeless, p. 438, footnote 32.2 gives a footnote citation as follows about the cabin and Burrell’s account of it: “Burrell, the old slave, told the story to Col. James Martin Isbell, of King’s Creek, N. C. Col. Isbell’s grandmother, Mrs. Jordan Councill, daughter of Burrell’s owner, verified the story. She had herself known Daniel Boone.[5]

Mrs. Jordan Councill was the former Sarah Howard, sister of James Martin Isbell’s grandmother. Mrs Sarah Howard Councill was Col.James Martin Isbell’s great-aunt.

Thomas Isbell and Lucinda Petty Isbell household is listed in the 1850 Federal Census record for Caldwell County, North Carolina. The census shows the parents of James Isbell, age 13. According to the census, the parents were Thomas Isbell, b. circa 1800 in N.C. and Luncinda Isbell, b. circa 1811 in N.C.

Name: Thomas Isbell
Age: 50
Estimated birth year: abt 1800
Birth Place: North Carolina
Gender: Male
Home in 1850 (City,County,State): Kings Creek, Caldwell, North Carolina
Household Members: Name Age
Thomas Isbell 50 *
Lucinda Isbell 39 *
James Isbell 13 *
Louisa Isbell 9
Cornelia Isbell 1[6]


Name: James M. Isbell
Event Type: Marriage
Event Date: 01 Mar 1857
Event Place: , Caldwell, North Carolina, United States
Gender: Male
Marital Status: Married
Spouse’s Name: Sarah Louisa Horton
Spouse’s Gender: Female
Reference ID: V. 1-5 p19
GS Film Number: 000590352
Digital Folder Number: 007613706[7]

Military Service during the War Between the States

James M. Isbell was Captain of Company A, 22nd N.C. Regiment. Three sons of John and Frances Knight Land (James, Thomas, & John) served under him until he was wounded and discharged. He was also a witness in Tom Land’s Confederate pension application, filed in east Tennessee.

Name: James M Isbell
Residence: Caldwell County, North Carolina
Age at Enlistment: 23
Enlistment Date: 30 Apr 1861
Rank at enlistment: 2nd Lieut
State Served: North Carolina
Survived the War?: Yes
Service Record: Commissioned an officer in Company A, North Carolina 22nd :Infantry Regiment on 30 Apr 1861.
Mustered out on 15 Jul 1861.
Enlisted in Company A, North Carolina 22nd Infantry
Regiment on 09 Aug 1861.
Promoted to Full Captain on 31 May 1862.
Promoted to Full 1st Lieutenant on 01 May 1862.
Mustered out on 13 Oct 1862.

Civic Duty

1864 – James Martin Isbell was a member of the North Carolina Senate for the 46th Senatorial District

1870 Federal Census:

Name: James M Isbell
Event Type: Census
Event Year: 1870
Event Place: North Carolina, United States
Gender: Male
Age: 32
Race: White
Race (Original): W
Birth Year (Estimated): 1837-1838
Birthplace: North Carolina
Page Number: 2
Household ID: 16
Line Number: 17[8]
Household Role Sex Age Birthplace
James M Isbell M 32 North Carolina
Sarah L Isbell F 31 North Carolina
John Isbell M 10 North Carolina
Mary V Isbell F 8 North Carolina
Thomas Isbell M 6 North Carolina[9]

Death of Mary Virginia Isbell:

Name: Mary Virginia Isbell
Event Type: Death
Event Date: 07 Feb 1940
Event Place: Lenoir, Caldwell, North Carolina
Birth Year: 1861
Burial Date: 08 Feb 1940
Cemetery: Isbell
Residence Place: Lenoir, NC
Gender: Female
Age: 78
Marital Status: Single
Race (Original): White
Occupation: None
Birth Date: 06 Oct 1861
Birthplace: Nc
Father’s Name: J M Isbell
Father’s Birthplace: Nc
Mother’s Name: Sarah Horton
Mother’s Birthplace: Nc
Reference ID: fn 2164 cn 279
GS Film number: 1943179[10]

Death of daughter Sarah Louise Isbell:

Name: Sarah Louise Setzer
Event Type: Death
Event Date: 18 Aug 1955
Event Place: Morganton, Burke, N. C.
Birth Year: 1875
Burial Date: 20 Aug 1955
Burial Place: Caldwell Co., N. C.
Cemetery: Grandin Bapt.
Gender: Female
Age: 80
Marital Status: Married
Race (Original): White
Occupation: Seamstress
Birth Date: 10 May 1875
Birthplace: Caldwell Co., N. C.
Father’s Name: James Martin Isbell
Mother’s Name: Sarah Louisa Horton
Reference ID: v 18A cn 18416
GS Film number: 1927217[11]

Death of daughter Sarah Frances Isbell:

Name: Sarah Frances Thomas
Event Type: Death
Event Date: 28 Sep 1964
Event Place: Lenoir, Caldwell, North Carolina
Birth Year: 1873
Burial Date: 29 Sep 1964
Burial Place: Caldwell County, North Carolina
Cemetery: Grandin Baptist Cemetery
Residence Place: Lenoir, Caldwell, North Carolina
Address: 208 Vance Street
Gender: Female
Age: 91
Marital Status: Widowed
Race (Original): white
Occupation: Housewife, Ret.Teacher
Birth Date: 03 Feb 1873
Birthplace: Caldwell County, North Carolina
Father’s Name: James M. Isbell
Mother’s Name: Sarah Louise Horton
Spouse’s Name: J. W. Thomas
Reference ID: v 27A cn 27083
GS Film number: 1953510[12]

James M. Isbell and Sarah Louise Horton Isbell are still head of household in the 1910 Census for Kings Creek, Caldwell County, North Carolina. They still have some children residing with them.[13]

His wife, Sarah Horton Isbell, died in Jan. 1919 and the death certificate stated she was a widow.

The original memorial created by Autumn on Find-A-Grave states:

James Martin Isbell
Isbell Cemetery (uncertain as to the location)
  • His wife’s death certificate stated burial at Isbell Cemetery.

(Location of the Isbell Cemetery was probably at the site of the Isbell plantation.)

The joint tombstone of Colonel James Martin Isbell and wife Saray Horton Isbell’s grave is at Grandin Baptist Church Cemetery.

Biography written by Carolyn Murray Greer 13 Sep 2017


  1. Find A Grave Memorial# 52594193
  2. Western North Carolina: A History (1730-1913) By John Preston Arthur,1914), p.81
  3. Western North Carolina: A History (1730-1913) By John Preston Arthur,1914), p.82
  4. Western North Carolina: A History (1730-1913) By John Preston Arthur,1914), p.95
  5. “Trail of Daniel Boone,” Skyland Magazine, by John P Arthur, 1:652 (S 1914)
  6. 1850 United States Federal Census Record, Kings Creek, Caldwell, North Carolina
  7. Citing this Record: “North Carolina, County Marriages, 1762-1979 ,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 22 December 2016), James M. Isbell and Sarah Louisa Horton, 01 Mar 1857; citing , Caldwell, North Carolina, United States, p. V. 1-5 p19, Office of Archives and History, Division of Archives and Records. State Archive of North Carolina and various county Register of Deeds; FHL microfilm 590,352
  8. The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Publication Number: M593, GS Film number: 000552626, Digital Folder Number: 004277203, Image Number: 00052
  9. Citing this Record: “United States Census, 1870,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 12 April 2016), James M Isbell, North Carolina, United States; citing p. 2, family 16, NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 552,626
  10. Citing this Record: “North Carolina Deaths, 1931-1994,” database, FamilySearch ( : 17 July 2017), J M Isbell in entry for Mary Virginia Isbell, 07 Feb 1940; citing Lenoir, Caldwell, North Carolina, fn 2164 cn 279, State Department of Archives and History, Raleigh; FHL microfilm 1,943,179
  11. Citing this Record: “North Carolina Deaths, 1931-1994,” database, FamilySearch ( : 17 July 2017), James Martin Isbell in entry for Sarah Louise Setzer, 18 Aug 1955; citing Morganton, Burke, N. C., v 18A cn 18416, State Department of Archives and History, Raleigh; FHL microfilm 1,927,217
  12. Citing this Record: “North Carolina Deaths, 1931-1994,” database, FamilySearch ( : 18 July 2017), James M. Isbell in entry for Sarah Frances Thomas, 28 Sep 1964; citing Lenoir, Caldwell, North Carolina, v 27A cn 27083, State Department of Archives and History, Raleigh; FHL microfilm 1,953,510
  13. 1910 United States Federal Census, Kings Creek, Caldwell County, North Carolina

Would these patriots approve of what we…

have allowed to happen to this country they bled for? So many Shoals area citizens can trace their history far back into the annals of time. So is the Sledge family that finds roots in the Shoals area from about its very beginning – even back to when it was a territory.

The first Sledge to immigrate to America was from Shropshire, England. That part of England is lush green with rolling hills, tudor houses, and huge castles. It is also the birthplace of Charles Darwin who is the father of Darwinism -Survival of the fittest. Darwin was born in Shrewsberry near the center of Shropshire. There is still a question of which Sledge was the first immigrant; but without doubt Charles Sledge is documented and the Sledge lines flow from him. He was born circa 1650 and died in Surry County, Virginia on 16 Feb 1726.  Many researchers report that the lineage goes like this:

Thomas Sledge born 1565 in England

> Richard Thomas Sledge 1585-1606

>>Richard Thomas Sledge 1607-1699

>>>Richard Sledge 1638-1725. He was born in England and died in Surry County, Virginia

>>>>Charles Sledge named above

Richard was imported as a headright into the colony by John Longworth as an indentured servant for five years. Charles arrived in Virginia in 1681 under an indenture, Richard 8 Sep 1684, and Ann 8 Oct 1684. These three along with the John Sledge who arrived about 1677 imported by Richard Kennon, give us a total of four Sledges to reach Virginia. Some researchers have stated that Charles Sledge born 1650 in Shropshire. The arrival dates documented by others give some researchers second thoughts about whether  Richard and Ann are Charles Sledge’s parents. Charles Sledge was granted land as early as 1710 and  a land grant in 1716 as follows:


There is something that looks like a seal that reads: Geo. Sledge New Land to the side of the text of the document. George, and all, know ye that for divers good reasons and considerations but more especially for and in consideration of the importation of two persons to dwell within that our colony of Virginia where names are Hugh Price and John Taylor, we have given granted and confirmed and by here presents for us our heirs and henceforth do give grant and confirm unto Charles Sledge of Surry County one certain tract or parcel of land containing one hundred acres lying and being in the county aforesaid and bounded as followeth, to wit, beginning at a hickory on the north side of a small branch and near Eliza Carlisle’s cornfield and some of a corner of the said Sledge’s old land thence west by south one hundred poles to a red oak, thence south by east one hundred and sixteen poles to two liverys hence south forty-four poles to a black oak, thence east by north one hundred poles to a lightwood post in Samuel Chappell’s line thence by Chappell’s line north fifty poles to a red oak, a corner of the above named Sledge’s old land by his old line north by west one hundred and ten poles to the beginning, with all and to have and to hold and to be held and yielding and paying and provided and in witness and witness our  trusty and well-beloved Alexander Spotswood, our Lt. Governor and at Williamsburg under the seal of our said colony, the fourteenth day of August, one thousand seven hundred and sixteen in the third year of our reign.

A. Spotswood

Charles Sledge and his father, Richard Sledge are the first in the proven line of Sledges in the United States. This is likely true, but requires more research.

In 1685 the King of England, Charles II, son of James I, died, leaving no legitimate heirs to the throne. However, he had an illegitimate son named the Duke of Monmouth who King Charles II recognized, honored, and endowed with certain entitlements throughout his life. The Duke of Monmouth felt that the throne should be his upon the death of his father. However, the title was taken by James II, a brother of Charles II, and an uncle of the Duke.

The Duke of Monmouth gathered about him a group of supporters and invaded from the West of England, which was the stronghold of Protestant dissent. He and his followers seized Axminster and Taunton. Parliament retaliated by making it an act of treason to support him. The Duke retreated through Frome, and was defeated nearby, at the Battle of Sedgemoor on July 5, 1685. Over 300 of his followers were beheaded, and their heads placed on long pikes for all to see. Today in Frome, this passageway is known as Gore Hedge. The Duke of Monmouth was captured and beheaded a short time later.

It was told to Jim Hicks, by Henry Sledge of Frome that Charles Sledge was a follower of the Duke of Monmouth, and upon sensing the certain defeat of the Duke, made his way on the fastest horse he could find to the nearest Port, which was nearby Bristol. He and his parents, Richard and Ann, then took passage on the first boat, Alithea, leaving for the Colonies. his arrival date is estimated at 1685-86 and confirmed by certain land grants from the Colony of Virginia. He entered this country as an indentured servant to pay for his passage. Other information on Charles Sledge states this: Charles Sledge came from England to the Jamestown Colony in Virginia in 1686. Charles received a land grant 7 November 7 1710 for 50 acres of land for importation of himself into this colony. Surrey County order book 1691-1713, page 353. Charles received two land grants on August 1716, one for one hundred acres  another for one hundred fifty acres, south of the Blackwater River, now Sussex county: recorded in Surrey County, Land Grant Book, 10.

It took him around a quarter of a century to become a landowner in 1710. In 1690, Charles Sledge married Mary Clarke, daughter of Robert Clarke of Isle of Wight County, Virginia. The Charles and Mary Sledge Plantation was in the part of Surry County that became Sussex County in 1753, along part of the Black Water River. Charles and Mary’s holdings were quite extensive, and from the number of recorded land transactions, they were buying and selling as well as working the land.

Charles Sledge and Mary Rebecca Clarke married 1960 in Surry County, Virginia. Their children were: Judith Sledge, 1693 – 1787 who  married John Ellison; Rebecca Sledge, 1696 – 1718 who married Thomas Ivey; John Sledge, 1698 – 1750  in Surry County Virginia which is now Sussex County; and Martha Sledge, 1700-1760 who married Peter Hayes and died in Halifax County, North Carolina.

A copy of John Sledge’s Will is on  file from Surry County Virginia will book 9 – page 674 and “Wills and Admons Surry county, VA, 1671-1750” in the DAR Library.  The devisees in the will were sons Charles, Daniel, and Amos Sledge as well as daughters Ann Griffin or Griffis, Sarah, and Rebecca. Witnesses were Hugh and Thomas Ivey. The will states: To my son, Daniel Sledge, part of a tract of 200 acres in Brunswick County, also pewter dishes, etc. [snip]   The remainder of estate to be divided between, Charles, Daniel, Sarah, John, and Amos. He made his wife the Exerx. The will was made 27 December, 1749 and Probated 18 Dec. 1750.  Book 9 – Page 674.

A small remembrance of Charles Sledge is a smokehouse belonging to Charles Sledge (the father of John Sledge) was erected about 1700 and later moved in 1928. It was still standing at Chester Plantation in Sussex County VA until 1973.

Map of Virginia highlighting Surry County

Map of Virginia highlighting Surry County. Surry County later  became Sussex County. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Portions of the original residence of Charles Sledge that had been erected about 1700 and was later destroyed by fire, was seen there for some 40 years but nothing remains today. The land was sold by relatives in 1786 to Captain William Harrison and a new house was built on it in 1793. The present owner may still be Gary M. Williams, County Court Clerk of Sussex County Virginia.  Gary M. Williams is a descendant of the Harrisons, who were his maternal ancestors. It is his belief that John Sledge was the first person to live on this land because this territory beyond the Blackwater River was not open to settlement until after 1700. This area became part of Sussex County VA in 1753.

Charles Sledge’s wife’s, Mary Sledge, will was quite different. Mary Rebecca Ivey Sledge died 1752 in Surry County, Virginia and her will is in Will Book 9, page 694 and is documented in the Wills and Admons of Surry County, Virginia 1671-1750, by Eliza Timberlake Davis, DAR Library. The will states: Sledge, Mary: Leg. – Makes small bequests to son. John Sledge; daughter Rebecka Ivie, granddaughter, Judith Ellison, when the latter is 21 years old. He gives daughter, Martha Hay, all the rest of the estate; makes son-in-law, Peter Hay Exer. Made: 8 Jan. 1726/7. Prob., 17 July, 1728. Wit: Edward Prince, Eliza, Prince, Thos. Hay. Bk 7, p 826.

Children of John Sledge and Mary Rebecca Ivey Sledge are: Sarah Sledge who married Amos Morton Martin, Rebecca Sledge, Charles Sledge born 1722, Surrey County, Virginia and died 1770, Sussex County, Virginia; Daniel Sledge born 1731, Surrey County, Virginia and died 10 January 1793, Warren County, North Carolina; Amos Sledge born 1732, Surrey County, Virginia and died 1780, Surrey County, Virginia.; Ann Sledge born 1734 – 1828 who married Peter Hayes and together they had twelve children; and John Sledge born 1730, Surrey County, Virginia and died 11 October 1798, Hancock County, Georgia. Daughter Rebecca Sledge’s birth and death date of 1718 – 1827  provided only in family histories indicate that she lived to be 102; there is no further documentation of her at present. Surry County, Virginia, on  the James River, is one of the oldest regions settled by Englishmen in America,and  lies only a brief ferry ride from Jamestown.

It is noted that John Sledge was the only known son of Charles Sledge and is credited with establishing the Sledge surname in America. All the descendants of that name go back to one of John Sledge’s four sons: Charles, John, Daniel, and Amos. Each one of these sons had large families with many sons.

Charles and Mary Rebecca Ivey Sledge’s son Charles married Elizabeth Sammons. They had nine known children, seven sons and two daughters. Records in Sussex County Virginia tell us a story of a family line with strong ties and love of this country; this is evident through their service to gain our independence from the heavy-handed monarch, King George.  In Sussex County Administrations Book # E, page 283, bond dated 10 October 1770, Larry Dale Sledge states that all seven sons of Charles (2) Sledge served in the Revolutionary War. He also states that every able-bodied male between the ages of 14 and 50 was required to serve in the Virginia Militia, except those already in the Continental Army. Boys 12 and 13 years old also served in the Virginia Militia. The records of the Militia were county records and many were destroyed – so no one will ever know just how many served!

Charles and Elizabeth Sammons Sledge’s sons were John Sledge 1746-1793, Henry Sledge 1749-1794 , Thomas Sledge 1751-1800 , Augustine Austin Sledge 1756-1733 , Charles Allen Sledge 1758-1848, Jesse Sledge 1760-1850 , and Noah Sledge 1769-1815. The daughters were Susanna Sledge 1753 – 1847 and Sarah Ann Sledge 1769 – 1853.  It seems that Sarah Ann Sledge married first to Amos Horton in 1789 in Virginia and had three children; then married Grover Hardy Sammons in Virginia in 1791 and went on to have a large family of Sammons children. Nothing further is known about Susanna, although I somehow doubt the death date to be accurate.

Charles Sledge who was husband of Elizabeth  Sammons was born in Surry County Virginia about 1722. He lived and died in an area located about eighteen miles from the current Sussex County Court House. This area beyond the Black Water River became part of Sussex County Virginia in 1753. Charles Sledge inherited 150 acres in 1750 from his father, John Sledge. He sold this land on 21 July 1758 to Edward Weaver (Sussex County Virginia Deed Book # A, page 308) and bought 130 acres, on the Great Swamp, from James Bass and wife for 25 pounds on 14 November 1758. This is documented in Sussex County Virginia  Deed Book # A, page 337. This couple had seven of their seven sons all serving in the Revolutionary War; can you phantom that? It would be interesting to know if their sons-in-law also served.

Charles Sledge died in 1770 in Sussex County Virginia according to the Sussex County Administrations Book # E, page 283, bond dated 10 October 1770). He was but forty-eight years old at the moment of his death. Below are the items Charles Sledge died possessed of:

An Inventory and Appraisement of the Estate of Charles Sledge deceased, take this 8th of December 1770

one feather bed & furniture… L 3 10 –
1 ditto do. .l
1 ditto do. ..3 10 –
2 chests 12/.6 old chairs 9/…1 1 –
2 iron wedges 5/. a parcel of tools 8/.71/2. 13 7 1/2
a set of cart wheel boxes ..- 3 –
1 horse bell & a jointing iron…- 2 –
a parcel of Pewter…1 1 –
Sunday wearing apparel..3 2 6
a parcel of knives & forks…- 4 –
a parcel of crookery ware ..- 12 –
1 jug, 1 butter pot and 2 bottles..- 4 –
2 tables 2/6, two washing tubs 5/…- 7 6
2 water pales & 3 piggins ..- 7 6
4 old meal tubs ..- 11 –
1 meal sieve & 2 trays..- 2 3
2 iron pots, 2 do hooks, 1 skillet & frying pan..- 18 3
1 pocket bottle & rasor ..- 1 –
a parcel of old hoes & axes…- 15 –
1 spinning wheel spindle &cards..- 7 6
6 baskets…- 7 6
a parcel of feathers…- 8 –
a gunn, a sword and bayonet…- 12 6
a reap hook and some old lasts.. – 2 6
a small looking glass…- 2 –
2 horse bells & some horse harnesses ..- 6 –
1 cow hide and 2 sheep skins ..- 7 6
24 barrels corn at 8/.p barrel…9 12 –
a parcel Ditto short about 4 barrels at 5/.p barrel.9 12 –
a parcel nubbins 5. …- 5 –
a stack of tops shorks & blades..1 12 6
16 geese at 1/3 ..1 – –
4 shoats ..- 17 –
4 sheep ..- 17 –
1 bay mare and colt .. 7 – –
1 gray Ditto .. 8 – –
1 mans saddle, 1 woman do., 2 bridles & 1 halter.1 5 –
1 p cart wheels & a carry logg .. 1 – –
2 sons & 16 pigs ..1 5 –
9 young hoggs ..5 8 –
7 dead of cattle ..8 5 –
a second stack of tops blades & a few nubbins . – 18 –
a parcel of books 2/. ..- 2 –
1 box iron and heater ..- 3 –
2 Ornabrugs shirts …- 3 9
1 pair of stockings & a pair of leggins..- 4 –
a parcel of wool .. – 6 –
1 hatt & a padlock …- 2 6
a parcel of cotton .. 1 5 –
a parcel of old shoes & some toe..- 3 6
a parcel of shoemakers tools …- 3 –
L 74 17 10 1/2
Eliza. Sledge – Admr.
Nathan Northington )
Thomas Avent ) Appraisers

At a Court held Sussex County the 21st day of March 1771.
This Inventory and Appraisement of the Estate of Charles Sledge deceased was returned into Court, and by the Court ordered to be recorded.

Exd. Teste
/s/ A. Claoborne CSC

Will Book B, page 293 Sussex County, Virginia verified on 8-19-98 by Ronald E. Sledge
William Seaborn )

An attempt to find a description or photo or drawing of a osnaburg shirt (this is the correct spelling) was not successful. There were innumerable ads in the 1700s in reference to run away slaves, however, and it seems that most of them were described as wearing an osnaburg shirt. The best match was a frock or a hunting shirt. Those were long rough-hewn shirts that came to about the knees, some were split collar while others were not, they had long sleeves and a belt was usually worn around the waist. These were worn over the clothes to save the clothes when a messy job was to be carried out, or when hunting. They also provided just the right amount of warmth when a jacket would have been too heavy.

One of the heroes of the Revolutionary War and son of Charles and Elizabeth Sammons Sledge was Augustine Austin Sledge. There is a noteworthy historical fact related to the land that Austin Sledge owned. It is documented that Sir Francis Henry Drake who was born about 21 August 1701 in Fairway, Devon, England and died about 1794 at the age of 93 in Edgecombe County, Virginia (now Nash County). Francis with two of his brothers, Joseph and Bampfield, his wife Mary and their son, James, then six years old (1733) came to America from England in 1733 and first settled in Surry County, Virginia. His brothers Joseph and Bamphylde, Jr. were scalped by native americans; they left no issue upon their deaths. At the same time James, son of Francis, was captured by the native americans. He was delivered to his father by friendly native americans; but for a large reward.

Later, while prospecting in Austin Sledges in the woods near where his brothers had been killed, Francis was shot at by native americans. Being disgusted with this section of the country, he moved his family to Edgecombe County, now Nash County, North Carolina. There he was granted a tract of land – 2000 acres of which was in Swift County.This Francis Drake is not to be confused with Francis Drake, son of Richard who owned land in Orange and Chatham Counties in NC.

John and Mary Rebecca Ivey Sledge’s second son was Daniel Sledge. He was born 1731 in Albemarle Parish, Surry County, Virginia and he died in 10 January 1793 [date also given as 17 March 1793 by some researchers] in Littleton, Warren County, North Carolina. He moved to North Carolina in 1762; and served as a Captain in1777 during the Revolutionary War. In 1771 Daniel Sledge was appointed Lieutenant for County Militia in Warren County, North Carolina. In 1777 Governor Richard Oaswell appointed him Captain in the State Militia, Captain in the Navy. Daniel and Winnifred Isham House Sledge had 5 sons, four served in Revolutionary War. Their descendants are in North Carolina, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Texas. 

Winnifred Isham House Sledge was born 1734 and died in 1777. Daniel and Winnifred Isham House Sledge’s children were: James Sledge 1753 – 1834, Arthur Archibald Sledge 1754 – 1805, Isham Sledge 1759 – 1793, Joel N Sledge 1763 – 1837, Delilah “Dilley” Sledge born 1766 and married Robert B Waller, Winnifred Sledge born 1767 married Larkin Dawson and died in Alabama, Sherwood Sledge 1769 – 1842, and Lucretia Sledge born 1776.

The following tells a little more of Daniel Sledge’s service during the Revolutionary War.

Service: NORTH CAROLINA    Rank(s): CAPTAIN, Civil Service

Birth: (ANTE) 1731    ENGLAND

Death: 2- -1793     WARREN CO NORTH CAROLINA

Service Source:


Service Description:


Residence 1) County: Bute County – State: NORTH CAROLINA

Daniel Sledge’s service include that he served in the American Revolution from Bute County,North Carolina. He was appointed a captain in February 1775 by

Photo of Captain Daniel Sledge

Captain Daniel Sledge was a patriot who served during the Revolutionary War along with two of his sons and seven nephews among numerous other relatives. The seven sons were all the sons of his brother John Sledge.

Captain Daniel Sledge a Revolutionary War patriot

the Committee of Safety in that county. In June 1775 he was elected to be a member of the Commitee, and in July 1775 he was one of the signers of a resolution to uphold the acts of the Congress at Philadelphia, he executed the preceding in November. On 5 August 1775 Daniel Sledge was one of the Bute County citizens to pledge to fight for and defend the rights of the colonists. In November he, with others, issued a resolution to resist taxes imposed on the colonists and to support the Continental Congress.By February 1776 Bute County had actively entered the war. (Bute County Committee of Safety Minutes, 1775-1776-Publication of Warren Co., NC.Bicentennial Committee, 1977), The history of the counties in North Carolina that Daniel Sledge lived in informs us that he did not necessarily relocate,but rather that the counties and county boundaries changed. Warren County, North Carolina was formed from a part of Bute County.

A copy of Daniel Sledge’s will is in file from Warren County North Carolina,
C.R. 100.046 Vol, V. Page 2 – 3 Folios 2,3.

Daniel Sledge — Warren County, N.C. – 1791

In the name of God Amen; I Daniel Sledge of Warren County, State of North Carolina, do make and ordain this my last will and testament in manner and form following.

Item – I give to my son James Sledge the following negroes, VIZ: Tom, old Phillis, Stephney, and Young Phillis, the daughter of Beck. Also one walnut desk, to him and his heirs. All which he has in his possession except young Phillis.

Item – I give an bequeath unto my son Archibald Sledge, the following negroes; Grace, David, and young Dick, as also one walnut desk to him and his heirs, all which he has in his possession except young Dick, and the desk

Item – I give and bequeath to my son Isham Sledge, the following negroes. John, Ben and old Jenney, as also one bed & furniture, four cows & calves, four sheep, and one walnut chest, to him and his heirs.

Item – I give and bequeath to my son Joel Sledge, the following negroes, Grant, Dick & Phillis his wife, Charity, the daughter of Beck & Kate, as also one bed & furniture, four cows & calves, four sheep. One folding table, one iron pot, one woolen wheel, one saddle & bridle, one axe, and two broad and two narrow hoes, to him and his heirs. All which he has in his possession except the negroe’s and sheep.

Item – I give and bequeath to my daugher, Deliah Waller, the following negroes; Judy and Violet, also four couws and calves, four sheep. One bed & furniture, one woman’s saddle and bridle, one linen wheel, and one young mare called Fly, to her and her heirs. All which she has in her possession.

Item – I give and bequeath to my daughter Winnifret Dawson the following negroes; yellow Jenny, the daughter of Pall & Nell, also one mare called Gray, four cows & calves, four sheep, one bed & furniture, one woman’s saddle & bridle, to her and her heirs.

Item – I give and bequeath to my son Sherwood Sledge, all that tract of land whereon I now live, including the land I purchased of George Kirk, and the following negroes, Simon, Pall Sarah, Geoge, Doll, Anneky & Cenha. As also one mare called Frower, one bed & furniture, four cows & calves, four sheep, one side saddle, one bridle, one safe, one frying pay, one large iron pot, one box iron & heaters, one looking glass, one square walnut table, all my carpenter tools, one narrow axe, two iron wedges, one pair large steelyards, one can of bottles, two broad & two narrow hoes, to him and his heirs.

Item – I give and bequeath to my daughter Lucretia Sledge, the following negroes, Bess, Ester, Sane & Aaron. As also one young mare called Tiny, one bed & furniture, four cows & calves, four sheep, one woolen wheel, one side saddle and bridle, to her and her heirs.

Item – It is my will and desire that the residue of my estate of what kind or nature, shall be equally divided between my children, without being sold, VIZ; James Sledge, Archibald Sledge, Isham Sledge, Joel Sledge, Deliah Waller, Winnifret Dawson, Sherwood Sledge and Lucretia Sledge, share and share alike, as nigh as possible. After paying my just debts, which division is to be made by James Sledge, Col. James Paine, Thomas Miller, and John Faulior or either three of them. I do hereby constitute ordain and appoint.

My sons, James Sledge, Archibald Sledge & John Faulior executors of this my last will and testament, in witness whereof I have here unto set my hand and affixed my seal, this 26th day of November
Anno Domini, 1791       Daniel Sledge (seal)
signed, sealed published and declared to be the last will and testament of Daniel Sledge, in the presence of us.
Lucretia Laulcon, Lewis Ballard, J. Fauleon Jural.
Copy from Warren County, NC wills C.R. 100.046 Vol., V. Page 2-3 Folios 2,3. Daniel Sledge

To be continued…

Would you help?

Flag of the 16th Regiment of Alabama Infantry

We continue our research of the War Between the States. We will publish a series of books, and will start with another book on the men who served in the 16th Regiment of Alabama Infantry, CSA and their families. Most of this regimentconsisted of men across north Alabama. Many familiar names served in the 16th. Any photos or information would be helpful if you have an ancestor who served. Please identify yourself so that you may be credited with whatyou provide. Please forward photos and text to our email at:

Flag of the 16th Regiment of Alabama Infantry

This flag of the 16th Alabama Infantry Regiment is one of 87 housed at the Alabama Archives. It was captured by Pvt. Abraham Greenwalt of the 104th Ohio Infantry on Nov. 30, 1864 at the Battle of Franklin, Tennessee for which he was awarded the Medal of Honor by the U.S. The Color Bearer for the 16th was Drury Bowen from Franklin County.

Photos should be at least 300 dpi. Copy machine copies are the least desirable for print; but if that is all that exist we may choose to use them. Photos can be copied cheaply at Rite Aid and other places as well as placed on dvds for upload to email.

We are also working on books for: Roddy’s and Russell’s 4th Cavalry, 8th Tennessee, 1st AL & TN Independent Vidette Cavalry USA, 27th Alabama Infantry, 19th Alabama Infantry, and possibly others in the future.

A View of War…

“Lest We Forget.”

Buddy helping a wounded soldier during World War I

Buddy helping a wounded soldier - World War I

Hon. George H Latimer of the Saturday Evening Post writes as follows in the wildly popular journal:

“The statesmen of the world pledged themselves to the end of war; the common people of all nations fought and died to end it. That was an open covenant openly made. Shall it be nullified in secret?  If one thousandth part of the brain power that is applied to planning for war, were applied to make it more ‘efficient,’ more deadly were applied to planning for peace, the thing would be done.

Today the world needs nothing so much as a course in a good memory system, a system whereby the mention of war would immediately bring up in the minds of speaker and listener a definite picture of a trench half filled with foul water, rotting corpses unburied in the field before it, or half buried in the ground underfoot, men stuck through like pigs, torn by shells, crying out in agony, men with gas seared lungs gasping for a last breath, bullets whinnying low and shells shrieking high overhead, and all over a stench of powder and gas, and putrefying human flesh.

If the mention of war clearly called up  this picture for every man, and he could see himself as the one in the trench, instead of the safe and warm stay-at-homes, there would be no more war. If the kings, the leaders, the men who get near enough to the battles to get their thrill and stay far enough away to feel safe, if the greasy ghouls who profiteer from death could see themselves in this trench there would be no more war. But it is precisely these men who cannot call up this picture.”

The great mass of our common humanity have been looking with unutterable longing for our statesmen to bring peace to the world – and they have been woefully disappointed. Later on history will blacken its pages with eternal disgrace to some men now in high authority.

The above newspaper article was published 4 March 1921 in the Florence Times. It is just as àpropos today, is it not?  Let’s do the math,:2011 minus 1921 equals 90 years. Add seven days and it is precise the length of time that has elapsed since this article. And, further, this article was published a couple of years after the War to End All Wars. So now you know how long  – the bare minimum – this has been going on. This bears the question of just how much longer the American citizens are going to allow it to continue. This is the question, and the answer is what I want to know.

Bon Accord…

or Bonnie Accord, David Peebles‘ plantation or a part of it, is now known as Aberdeen and is on the National Register of Historical Places. Why, bless their  hearts, the Peebles name is not even listed as one of the former owners. Some of the information about the history seems erroneous to those who may be familiar with the David Peebles family of Prince George County in Virginia.Aberdeen - part of original plantation of David Peebles named Bon Accord

The two-story brick home, a temple  style building, rectangular in shape was built circa 1790. Perhaps James Cooke did build Aberdeen, however, as it was David Peebles who originally owned the property and as some descendants believe still owns it. The once pristine plantation is located on what would seem an isolated and lonely stretch of highway nine miles east of Hopewell on Route 10. It’s physical address is 15301 James River Drive in Disputanta, Prince George County, Virginia in the 23842 zip code. Given as primary owners are: James Cooke family, Thomas Proctor, and the Charles Marks  family.

Aberdeen, originally part of the Bonaccord estate,  the records of the Historical Register state that it was given to Elizabeth Bonaccord [Peebles] upon her marriage to James Cooke. It is named after Cooke’s birthplace, Aberdeen, Scotland.  The write-up about ‘Aberdeen’ is part of a Virginia W.P.A. Historical inventory Project sponsored by the Virginia Conservation Commission under the direction of its Division of History.

In 1840 a great celebration took place at ‘Aberdeen’ in the form of a wedding for the groom Nathaniel Cooke. Cooke had served in the Confederates States Army in Company F, 5th Virginia Cavalry. Evidently it was a grand and great event, as it has become part of the history of the home. Nathaniel Cooke died in 1862. The write-up suggests that James Cooke was the progenitor of the Cooke family.

The photos of ‘Aberdeen’ were taken 1 Dec 1937 by Jennie Harrison as part of a survey and documentation that was included in files with the W.P.A. program and associated with the record of review to determine the buildings’ qualifications for historical register status. Elizabeth Cooke Hurt was given as informant. The official name of the property is given as ‘Aberdeen’ and the site number is given as VDHR file no. 74-0001. The recommendation process was complete in 2001 on November 20th by the Virginia Department of Historical Resources.

The one building is given as privately owned. It is a single dwelling with agricultural fields that is currently functioning as a single dwelling for the purpose of agriculture that matches the given historic function as a single dwelling in the Domestic category with agricultural fields in the category of Agriculture.

The building is architecturally classified as Early Republic and Early Classical Revival. The property is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to te broad patterns of our history and embodies the distinctive characteristics of type, period, or method of construction or represents the work of a master, or possesses high artistic values, or represents a significant and distinguishable entity whose components lack individual distinction. There are 378 acres associated with the dwelling. The period of significance for the building is 1840. That date would coincide with the marriage of Nathaniel Cooke that was held at ‘Aberdeen.’ The information given is that the dwelling is owned by Aberdeen Farm Properties, LLC at Aberdeen Farm, 15301 James River Drive, Disputana, Virginia 23842.

The lengthy descriptions of the property as contained in the paperwork seeking placement in the National Register of Historic Places follow:


Aberdeen is an imposing brick temple-form house. The main façade features an imposing pediment finished with horizontal flush sheathing. The walls are laid in Flemish bond with flat arches over the openings. A diminutive portico with Doric columns is the central feature. It and the main roof have cornices with block modillion. A lateral hall runs across the entire front of the house, which is reflected in the side elevations that each have a door and two windows on the first floor below three windows on the second floor. Aberdeen is one of a group of houses that have this plan and front elevation. They occur over a long period and are scattered randomly across the state. Aberdeen also features important Federal interior woodwork in remarkably undisturbed condition. The house sits in a picturesque grove in front of woodland and wetlands. Between the fenced yard and the main road are flat fields typical of Tidewater Virginia still in cultivation, as they have been for at least three centuries. On these and other fields Thomas Cocke and his friend Edmund Ruffin conducted experiments in fertilization that led to Ruffin’s publications that revolutionized farming.

Exterior: The house at Aberdeen is a large plantation house built with the overall proportions of a classical temple. The walls feature Flemish bond brickwork with simple flat arches of the openings. The pediment is covered with flush sheathing and is outlined by a cornice featuring block modillion. This cornice continues around the house. The first-floor windows feature 9-over-9 sash and the second floor 6-over-9. The window frames are set flush with the brick walls and are not recessed, as is usually the case. The windows are fitted with louvered shutters. The house sits on a high basement lit by small rectangular windows.

The front (east) elevation is three bays wide. A diminutive 3-bay Doric portico shelters the central double door. It has the same cornice as the main roof. The porch has wide steps between stepped brick plinths (of 20th century vintage). In the center of the pediment is a round-arched window framed by arched blinds.

The 3-bay side elevations are identical with double doors at the front ends with two windows beyond on the first floor. On the second level windows occur above each lower opening. These elevations reflect the interior plan – a lateral front hall opening into two rooms behind.

In the rear wall brick continues to the top of the gable. There is a pair of slightly projecting chimneys. A one-story frame wing is attached which now houses a bathroom and kitchen. This wing contains work from different periods and probably has been rebuilt several times. Happily it is so subordinate to the great mass of the house that it does not compromise the classical proportions. It provides modern conveniences and leaves the original interior spaces unchanged.

Interior:  The front door opens in to the hall that runs the width of the front of the house. At each end are double doors. All three exterior doors feature transoms and leaves in which the panels have been replaced with panes of glass. Across the hall, interior doors lead to the two rooms beyond the hall. These single doors are robust 6-panel ones set in handsome double architrave frames. The splayed door and window reveals and soffits are reeded. In the northeast corner, the stair rises in a long initial run to a landing, a transverse run, another landing, and a final reverse run. The stair features a simple newel, square in section, and a handrail, oval in section, set on a recessed rectangular base. Simple balusters, square in section, support the rail. The treads rest on delicate curvilinear brackets. The hall like all the downstairs rooms, has pedestal wainscot with flush panels. There is a delicately molded cornice at the ceiling and a flat picture molding set in the wall about three feet below the cornice.

Behind he hall are the parlor (the southeast room) and the dining room (the northeast room). The large rooms are of equal size. They have similar pedestal wainscots and dentil cornices with slight variations in detail. The windows in the dining room have reeded reveals and soffits; those in the parlor are flat paneled. Each has a fireplace in its end (west) wall.

In the parlor, bookshelves have been built to the right of the fireplace. the fireplace probably retains its original large brick firebox, topped by a thin jack arch. The brick surround is framed by a delicate molding which is, in turn, bordered by a band of reeded blocks set flush with each other. Very narrow fluted  pilasters frame the opening and support and entablature of probably unique design. The cap molding of the pilasters continues across the top of the fluted band. The entablature breaks out over the pilasters and a central block. Between the three projections is a band of concave recesses. Above it is an intricate molding that breaks and carries over the projections. Above the molding a punch-and-dentil band occurs between the blocks. The cornice shelf features complex moldings.

In the dining room there is a closet to the left of the mantel and a door to the right that gives access to the one-story rear wing. While the doorcases to these openings appear to be original, the doors are not, and the present arrangement may not be the original one. The mantel is a simpler version of the one in the parlor. It repeats the fluted pilasters and three-part architrave but has a simpler entablature with a continuous band of modified wall-of-troy ornament. Above each pilaster cap is found a curious element that resembles an enlarged section of bead-and-reel ornament.

On the second floor, a winding stair to the third floor is located beside the main stair. There is a small hall room in the southeast corner. There are rooms of equal size over the parlor and dining rooms. These have wainscot and mantels with cornice shelves ornamented with dentils over openings framed with two-part architraves. The corners adjacent to the mantels (next to the common dividing wall) have been enclosed with angled walls to create a bathroom accessible to each bedroom.

The third floor has several rooms of differing sizes. Only two have windows – a small one served by the arched pediment window and a large one utilizing the window between the chimneys on the rear wall. There is a storage room under the roof on the south side.

There are photographic and other records of outbuildings that once stood near the house. A smokehouse was recently dismantled, but has been stored on the site for future rebuilding. The yard consists of mature trees and shrubs typical of rural Virginia. There are informal flowerbeds in the side yard north of the house. The yard is surrounded by trees in the fence rows on the front and sides and woodland  at the rear. In fornt of the house are broad open fields divided by an axial driveway that runs out to State Route 10. These fields and adjacent ones are planted today with seasonal crops. The deep cut where the road enters the gate to the front yard attests to the great age of the lane. Behind the house and fields are stands of pine timber, mixed woodlands, and designated wetlands. Except for a few small houses in the distance, view is of the flat fields that cover most of Prince George County. The land is still used as much of it was in the 19th century and some of the present crops may well still benefit from the marling done by Cocke and Ruffin almost two centuries ago.

Significance Summary

Aberdeen in Prince George County, Virginia, is significant at the state level under Criterion C for its architectural merit and under Criterion A for the unsung contribution of Thomas Cocke to the agricultural research done by his close friend, Edmund Ruffin. The house that Cocke built on his inherited land is one of a small group of houses built with lateral front halls serving pairs of large rooms. It contains distinguished Federal woodwork whose idiosyncrasies may well be linked to other houses through additional study. The house is remarkably well-preserved, with few changes, and sympathetic modernizations. Its sits surrounded by woodland, wetlands, and flat fields still being farmed. Thomas Cocke’s role as Ruffin’s guardian and later as confidant and friend has been overshadowed by Ruffin’s strong personality. Though Cocke did not publish his experiments on soil renewal, his debates with Ruffin and their mutual investigations were significant part of Ruffin’s research. In the fields still under cultivation at Aberdeen and on their lands nearby they experimented and cogitated. Ruffin’s published works reformed a significant segment of American agriculture.

Hello Soldier, I am your brother…

Hillard and this is our little sister Alice.

Somehow it was always Alice who got into trouble, perhaps it was because Hillard just wouldn’t agree to punishment. Alice was in charge of seeing that her young brother got home in a timely manner from school – and herself for that matter. That must not have been an easy task because so much seemed to peak his interest. That particular afternoon the  trek home from the schools across town seemed particularly harrowing for Alice.

Hillard MurrayShe recounted the story of that afternoon and it seemed a movie was playing in her head as she relived the events of that unforgettable day. It was a day in early September of 1945. She was but nine years old, or almost for her birthday was in December. She was exasperated with her brother because she was sure that he would get her into trouble with his lollygagging.  After all the past is prologue.

Something had caught her brother’s attention further down the sidewalk in downtown Sheffield that particular day. He hurried to the store down the street.  I am sure she must have tapped those little feet and let out a few breaths of aggravation as she insisted that they go on down the road toward home; he refused to budge. Hillard later said it was a soldier with an Army duffel bag going down the street and then into the store.

When they reached the grocery store just a few blocks before the train tracks, Hillard stopped dead in his tracks. His little nose was pressed against the windowpane of the storefront window. Alice must have thought aloud and asked, what now?

World War II had just ended. Then, Alice noticed there was a soldier in there. The soldier was drinking a Coke. Alice noticed Hillard’s gaze go up to the soldier’s mouth  (and his little nose go up on the windowpane) as the soldier lifted the Coke bottle to his mouth, and then down as he lowered the bottle and its precious contents to the table again. Again. Again. And again. Alice nagged at him to come on,  let’s go home; but to him she was all but  invisible. All that mattered was that Coke bottle and the path it took from table to mouth, from mouth to table.

But then, she noticed something else. Maybe it was the soldier’s gold tooth that had her brother in awe of the young man in uniform. Not that the little boy and girl were not patriotic, but a Coke was a rare and precious commodity, and so was a gold tooth – a real genuine gold tooth. Gasp.

Of a sudden the little boy bounded forward and entered the store. She was caught unaware. She fumed as she considered that Hillard might have a nickel in his pocket. A nickel would buy a Coke, but just one.  She steamed that, dern, she didn’t know where he would get them but it seemed that Hillard always had a nickel in his pocket. A child with a nickel was exceedingly rare in those hard times that came on the heels of the Great Depression and a world war that had just ended. So, she drug her feet and went in after him hoping that he would just come on home with her and before she was to get into trouble because of his precociousness.

After entering the store, her brother continued to watch every move that the soldier made; every breath the soldier took. I insert here that I can all but tell you what happened next. That soldier asked the little boy, “What are you doing, Jabbo?”  The little boy was watching the soldier’s every breath; the sister was watching what would without a doubt be the little brother’s last breath. That was a certainty and an all but done deal.

Her brother made a query of the object of his intense study. He asked, “What is your name soldier?” The soldier answered, “James Murray.” The little boy said, “Soldier, I am your brother Hillard and this is our little sister, Alice.” Now, anyone with one eye and half-sense could predict what was to happen next.

Little brother and sister remembered for a lifetime the thrill of that day. Their mother had died when Alice was just a little girl and Hillard not much older. James Murray was but fifteen and the oldest child when his mother died. There was another brother, Ed Lee, who was the second oldest child.

Hillard and Alice recalled that their brother got them a taxi cab and they went shopping. Hillard and Alice recounted that, “He bought us everything.” Hillard stated about the day and the length of time it took to get home from that point that James must have known everybody in the town. It must have seemed like the whole entire town talked to and welcomed their big brother back home.  I don’t think anyone got in trouble that day for getting home late from school. To this day Hillard states that James was his hero. Much too late to ever tell him, I discover he is my hero, too.

Boxes and boxes of Boxes…

Artistic interpretation of the Battle of San J...

Battle of San Jacinto painting

brought us to an interesting article on the Box brothers who went to Texas and their story. Are any Boxes in the area related to these Box brothers’ ancestors? They were once in Alabama.

   In 1834 ten heads of household named Box arrived in Nacogdoches, Cohiulia y Tejas, Republica de Mexico and applied for Mexican land grants in the Burnet grant. The group consisted of two brothers, John Morris and Stephan Box, and their sons. All were Methodists from Tennessee who had been in Blount County, Alabama for about a decade. In order to qualify for Mexican land they had to pledge allegiance to Mexico and embrace the Roman Catholic Church. Preaching, or even practicing, a protestant religion was a crime.

    Most of the Boxes received title to their land in 1835. In 1836 most of the men were in either the Army of the Republic of Texas or the Texas Militia. Four of the boys were in the Battle of San Jacinto where Texas won its independence.

   By 1838 Box’s Fort had been constructed on John Morris Box’s land in what is now Cherokee County, Texas.  John Asbury Box, a nephew of John Morris, is credited as preaching the first sermon, a funeral service for a man killed by Indians. The Rev. Littleton Fowler, Methodist Missionary to the Republic of Texas ordained and licensed the first Texas Methodist pastor, Henderson D. Palmer at Box’s Fort on 7 July 1838.

   During the time Texas was a Republic, 1836-1846, members of the original Box immigrants established numerous Methodist churches in what is now Houston, Anderson and Cherokee Counties. Many of the Box men became local pastors and established new churches as they moved west after the Civil War.


 Vernon, W.N., Sledge, R. W., Monk, R. C. and Spellman, N. W. 1986. The Methodist Excitement in Texas, A History. The Texas United Methodist Historical Society, SMU, Dallas, Texas.

 Houston County Historical Commission. 1987. History of Houston County, Texas 1687-1979. Heritage Publishing Company, Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Coleman Sparks and Elizabeth Louisa Goins Sparks, part 1

COLEMAN SPARKS, was born about 1826 in South Carolina and he died on June 24, 1663 while in the military service of the United States. He married Louisa E. Goings (or Goins) on April 1, 1849 in Calhoun County, Georgia. He served in Co. D, 1st Regt. Alabama Cavalry. File Designations: Wid. Cert. No. 162,128; Minor Cert. No. 260,670.

On February 3, 1871, Louisa E. Sparks, age 38, a resident of Tuscumbia, Alabama, made application for a widow’s pension. She stated that she was the widow of Coleman Sparks who was a private in Company D, 1st Regiment Alabama Cavalry Volunteers and who had died on April 25, 1863, at Glendale, Mississippi, of chronic diarrhea. She and Coleman Sparks had been married on April 1, 1849, at Calhoun, Georgia, by Esquire Collier, a justice of the peace. Her maiden name was Louisa E. Goings. Children of this marriage who were under the age of sixteen were: Joseph Monroe Sparks, born October 11, 1855; Sarah Delia Sparks, born November 20, 1857; Sue Anna Sparks, born April 11, 1860; and Arty Missa and Julia Ann Sparks, twins, born February 15, 1862. A. L. Moody and William Dillard witnessed her make her mark and the application was sworn to before S. S. Anderson, Judge of the Franklin County Probate Court.

The military service of Coleman Sparks was confirmed by the War Department on July 11, 1871. He had enrolled on March 13, 1863, at Glendale, Mississippi., in Company D, 1st Regiment Alabama Cavalry for a period of three years. He was present for duty until he died in the hospital at Glendale on June 24, 1863, of chronic diarrhea.

On July 13, 1871, Louisa Sparks brought her family Bible to W. L. Gray, a justice of the peace, to prove the birth dates of her children. The Bible entries were as follows:

Joseph Sparks was born Jan. the 8th, 1850 died at about 9 months of age
General Washington Sparks was born Oct. 20, 1851
William Thomas Sparks was born Dec. 6, 1853
Joseph Monroe Sparks was born Oct. 17, 1855                                                                                                                Sarah Deliar Sparks was born Nov. 20, 1857
Suanner Sparks was born Apr. 17, 1860
Arty Misser Sparks
Julia Ann Sparks twins were born Feb. 15, 1862

James Osborn and Calvin Dillard witnessed Louisa Sparks make her mark and Abner J. Ligom, Judge of the Colbert County, Alabama, Probate Court, certified that J. L. Gray was a justice of the peace.

On September 30, 1871, Justice of the Peace‘ W. L. Gray made an affidavit that he had seen a family record of Louisa E. Sparks vrhich showed that she and Coleman Sparks were married on April 1, 1849.

A year later, on October 17, 1872, Sarah E. Goings went before Judge Abner W.  Ligon and testified that she was the mother of Louisa E. Goings and that she was present in Georgia when Coleman Sparks and Louisa E. were married. She stated: “They started from home to be married and returned in a short time as man & wife, and I know they lived together as man & wife until the death of Coleman Sparks, and had a family of children, and that she never married since. I have made efforts & Louisa E. Sparks to obtain record evidence of her marriage in Georgia, but none can be found.” O. G. Wingo and Charles Womble concurred in her statement, and the affidavit was witnessed by S. B. Thornton and S. W. McCloskey and was sworn to before A. W. Ligon, Judge of Colbert County Probate Court.

An undated document (probably written about 1873) in the pension file of Coleman Sparks tells the circumstances surrounding his enlistment in the Union Army. Here it is in its entirety:

“Case of Mrs. Louisa E. Sparks, Widow of Coleman Sparks, Decd., Late of Co. D, First Regt. Alabama Cavalry, Col. Geo. E. Spencer, Commanding Regt. No. 197,467. Special, Jas. H. Stoss, Tuscumbia, Alabama.Coleman Sparks resided in Colbert (late Franklin) Co., Ala., and as he was known to be an uncompromising Union man, no notice of his conscription was Served upon him, but he was Seized by the conscript officer, backed by a Squad of Cavalry, as Mr. Sparks was on his way to the Mill with grain for the use of his Family as Breadstuff. He was taken from his Team just as he was & hurried to the Rebel Headquarters from whence he made his Escape in a few days & made his way as best he could to the Federal Headquarters at Glendale, Miss., near Corinth where he Enlisted as above & was Mustered into the Service and Died from Fever resulting from Exposure & cold contracted in the Swamp in making his Escape from the Confederate Headquarters, as his Family was informed by his comrades, some of their Neighbors. His Family consisted of his wife, now widowed, and their Seven children, the younges [sic] being infant Twin Daughters of but a few months old.

The Family was plundered to some extent by the Confederates, but the Federal Troops belonging to the command of Genl. Wilson & known as Wilson’s Raid took her Team from the plow where her son was plowing in the Field & stripped her Premises of almost everything in the way of Supplies of all kind even to her Poultry. We made application more than two years since for her Pension, Back Pay, etc., and in due time made application for her property, taken by the Troops, to the Court of Claims, but as yet get nothing. Coleman Sparks & his wife & now his widow, have been members of the Sand Lick Church (Babtist) [sic] ever since they have Resided in Ala. They joining by Letter from their former Residence in Georgia. We long since filed all the Evidence that her (or rather our) attys. stated was necessary, yet get nothing. As to standing & respectability it good, so considered by all classes. Her children all make their Home with their mother on their littel Home Farm where by their Industry, they make an Honest living but during the War especily [sic] after they was Robbed of their Team & Property by the Federal Troops, it was with great difficulty indeed. The attys. in your city are Messrs. Charles C. Tucker & Co.”

Louisa E. Sparks was issued Widow’s Certificate No. 162,128 and she was placed upon the pension rolls. On September 27, 1876, she married Calvin Dillard which apparently stopped her pension, whereupon she made application for a pension for her minor children. This required her appointment as the guardian of her two youngest children: Artimissa Sparks and Julia Ann Sparks. Her appointment was granted on February 23, 1878, and Minor Certificate No. 260,670 was issued and the children were placed upon the pension roll.

The last record (in chronological order) sent from the pension file of Coleman Sparks is dated May 2, 1887. From the evidence presented, it appears that Louisa E. Dillard (formerly Louisa E. (Goings) Sparks) was trying to get retroactive pension benefits for her children prior to their sixteenth birthdays, for again she presented the family Bible with the dates of birth of her children in it. The Bible was printed in New York in 1853. A new entry had been made on August 15, 1877, when one of the children, Susa A. Sparks (called “Suanner” when her birth was recorded in the Bible) had died. Nothing was sent from the National Archives to indicate whether she was successful in getting retroactive benefits or not.

(Editor’s Note: Coleman and Louisa L. (Goings) Sparks were living in the 12th Division of Gordon County, Georgia, when the 1850 census was taken; the census taker called on them on December 7, 1850. They had been married the year before (in 1849) and they were the only members of their household – – their first born son, Joseph, born January 8, 1850, had died in October, 1850. Coleman Sparks was listed as 23 years old (thus born about 1827) while Louisa was 20 (born about 1830); both were listed as born in South Carolina. The only other Sparks family listed on the 1850 census of Gordon County, Georgia, also in the 12th District, was that of Drury Sparks, age 55 (thus born about 1795) and his wife, Nancy, of the same age. With them were living Nancy Sparks, age 20; Caswell (or Carwell) Sparks, age 23; James Sparks, age 13; Mary Sparks, age 11; and Eliza J. Sparks, age 9. All members of this family were listed as having been born in South Carolina. Considering the ages of Drury and Coleman Sparks, Drury Sparks may well have been Coleman’s father.

Drury Sparks belonged to the Union County, South Carolina, branch of the Sparks family; he was listed there on both the 1830 and the 1840 census. It may be logically conjectured that Drury Sparks, with his family, including Coleman Sparks, moved from Union County, South Carolina, to Gordon County, Georgia, between 1840 and 1850. He was probably the Drury Sparks who purchased land on Sugar Creek in Union County, South Carolina, on November 8, 1821, from Zachariah Nancy (Book T, page 121).

There was another Coleman Sparks (which is an unusual name in the Sparks Family) living in Union County, South Carolina, when the 1860 census was taken. He was then aged 23 and appears to have been a son of John and Unicy Sparks (ages 60 and 50 respectively). It is probably this Coleman Sparks whose grave is in the Padgett’s Creek Church cemetery in Union County; his stone gives his date of birth as April 9, 1831, and his death as 1861.

The History of Gordon County, Georgia by Lulie Pitts published in 1933 states (page 89 that Coleman Sparks served on a grand jury before the Civil War. It is also stated (page 170) that Ruth C. Sparks was a widow of Carwell Sparks who served in the Confederate Army, Company F of the 4th Georgia Infantry, Dole’s & Cooke’s Brigade (Toombs’s Volunteers) in which a Samuel Sparks also served. The author states (page 138) that W. D. Sparks and J. T. Sparks of Gordon County served in Company E of the 8th Georgia Batttalion, Gist’s Brigade (Freeman’s Volunteers). She gives three Sparks marriages recorded in Gordon County:

W. C. Sparks & Miss M. M. McCaul, December 9, 1868
Geo. W. Sparks & Miss S. J. Turner, January 16, 1868
Geo. W. Sparks & Louisa J. Clarda, January 4, 1880

We have found only one further item pertaining to the Coleman Sparks of this pension file. His son, General Washington Sparks, is buried in the Crooked Oak Cemetery at Crooked Oak in Colbert County, Alabama, located about 12 miles from Tuscumbia and about 9 miles from Russellville. Tombstone inscriptions there were copied by a local historian named R. L. James of Russellville about 1930. The tombstone for General Washington Sparks gives his name as General W. Sparks with the birth date October 20, 1851, and the death date as November 2, 1921. A note which Mr. James wrote in 1930 reads: “Mr. Sparks was of a different family from those buried in Sparks Cemetery. His mother was a daughter of Sarah A. Goins (wife of J. B. Goins) born April 30, 1813, died June 11, 1892. The Goins family came from Georgia and I think his father and mother married there.” (See the QUARTERLY of December 1959, Vol. VII, No. 4, Whole No. 28, pp.431-33, for a record of the Sparkses buried in the Sparks Cemetery located near Russellville, Alabama.