52 Ancestors Week 40 – Wilford Thomas, Another Early Death

Jeremiah Daniel and Margaret Ann Grant THOMAS

Dan and Maggie Thomas (parents of Wilford and also my great-grandparents)

Wilford Myrle THOMAS was born 20 May 1891, the second child of Jeremiah Daniel THOMAS (1858-1946) and Margaret Ann GRANT THOMAS (1870-1948). Wilford was the older brother of my grandmother, Florrie Jane THOMAS MARTIN, making him my grand uncle.

Wilford was born in Chesterfield County, South Carolina as were all his siblings. His father was a turpentine distiller who owned his own farm free and clear in 1900, according to the census taken in July of that year. His mother was a busy farm wife and mother to their growing family. On the 1900 census, five children are listed.

Sadly, just two months later on 14 September 1900, Wilford died. He was 11 years old. I don’t know if there was an accident or if he was ill. I can’t find any newspaper clippings about it, and death certificates were not required in 1900 in South Carolina.

Wilford is buried at Mt. Olivet United Methodist Church Cemetery in Chesterfield County, along with his parents, his stillborn brother and many of his mother’s people.

Wilford Thomas-1

Front of envelope, in the hand of Florrie Thomas Martin, my grandmother

Wilford Thomas-2

Back of envelope, in the hand of Florrie Thomas Martin, my grandmother

Wilford Thomas-3

Wilford’s blond curl…from 115 years ago.

There are no photographs of Wilford, but I can tell you one thing for sure about him: he had dirty blonde hair. In my grandmother’s belongings I came across a small envelope that contained a curl from Wilford. My grandmother wrote on the e52ancestors-2015nvelope.


52 Ancestors Week 39 – Renatus Thomas, Jr., Accident Victim

Recently my cousin, Tommy, loaned me his stack of mismatched family history papers  to go through. I came across a note written by me to Tommy over 30 years ago. It was a story from my mom about one of the sons of Renatus THOMAS, Sr. that had fought in the Civil War. I had forgotten about this story until I saw it again in Tommy’s stack of papers.

Renatus THOMAS, Jr. was number four of the sixteen children born to Renatus THOMAS, Sr. (1799-about 1874) and Mary Mahala FAUST THOMAS (1808-1887). He was born on 30 July 1832. Renatus Jr. was my 3rd great uncle, his father being my 3rd great grandfather.

Renatus Jr. married Ann MILES sometime before 1860. Their son, Rufus Franklin THOMAS, was born in 1861.Soldiers on horses

The war broke out and six of Renatus Sr.’s sons volunteered for the Civil War, including Renatus, Jr. who was the only one to volunteer for the cavalry. He enlisted in the South Carolina 2nd Cavalry Regiment in February 1862 when he was 29 years old.


Gettysburg Battlefield

This regiment fought with the Army of Northern Virginia at Second Manassas (Bull Run). They also fought at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and several other battles.

According to Renatus’ Civil War service record, he died 16 August 1863. Another casualty of war, I figured. But now I think not. His service record doesn’t record him being injured in a battle or being sick in the hospital or that he was killed. It just said he died. And with more research I discovered his regiment wasn’t in any battles between July and October of 1863.


My mom’s story was ‘that while coming home on the train, one of the sons [of Renatus, Sr.] stuck his head out of the window and got killed when a mail pole struck him.’ I now believe this son was Renatus, Jr. He was 31 years old at the time of his death. He is buried at Spears Creek Baptist Church Cemetery in Pontiac, Richland County, South Carolina.52ancestors-2015

52 Ancestors Week 38 – John W. Lee, Elite Soldier & Turpentine Farmer

John Wesley LEE, Sr., was my 2nd great uncle. He was the son of Uriah Henry LEE (1813-1880), Sr., and Nancy DENT LEE (1815-1848).

Uriah and Nancy had six children together before Nancy passed away. Uriah married Ellen BURKETT (1812-?) and had one child with her before she passed away.

His third marriage was to Mary Jane CAMPBELL LEE (1841-?). Jane, as she was called, was my 2nd great-grandmother. Uriah and Jane’s daughter, Elizabeth Patience LEE MARTIN (1868-1937) was my great-grandmother, and half-sister to John Welsey LEE.

Conferderate Soldiers practicing shooting

Photo from Welcome to River Town facebook page. Click on photo for more info.

John was born 9 Jan 1841 in South Carolina, most likely Richland County. His mother, Nancy, died when John was about seven years old. His father married again, but I don’t know much about the second wife. Uriah married his third wife, Jane, about 1860.

John volunteered right at the start of the Civil War. John was 20. He and at least one brother were in the 2nd SC Infantry. One website I visited said ‘the 2nd South Carolina Volunteers participated in as many, if not more battles, than any other regiment on either side of the war. The 2nd South Carolina Infantry became one of the elite units of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.’  Read more here:  2nd SC Infantry

John fought at the First Battle of Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, Cold Harbor and many more until he was captured 19 Oct 1864. As a POW, he was sent first to Harper’s Ferry and then to Point Lookout, the same camp at which Phillip MARTIN, John’s brother-in-law, was a POW. John was part of a prisoner exchange in 28 March 1865. John was only hospitalized one time while in the war, and it was for sickness not for an injury.

A tree scraped for turpentine farming

Tree scraped for turpentine farming. From Welcome to River Town facebook page. Click on photo for more info.

John probably came right back home after the exchange. He married Sarah Jane Cunningham LEE in 1868. John was 27, and Sarah was 17. Between 1869 and 1891, John and Sarah had 10 children – 5 boys and 5 girls.

I couldn’t find him in the 1870 census, but he was counted in the 1880 census. In 1880 he and Sarah were living in Appling, Georgia where John was working as an overseer on a turpentine farm.

In 1900, 59-year old John and 49-year old Sarah and family were living in Lexington County, South Carolina. John was still working in turpentine. They continued to live in the Lexington/Columbia area from them on.  In 1912 he was a mill operator, and in 1915 he was a cooper (barrel maker). John retired in 1916 at 75.

In 1920, John and Sarah were living next door to (or with) their son, Henry, and his family. John died on 23 April 1922 from a stroke at 81. Sarah passed in 1925; she was 74.LEE John Wesley Sr CSA cross at footstone

John and Sarah are both buried at Batesburg Cemetery in Batesburg, Lexington County, South Carolina. Four of their children are buried there, too.52ancestors-2015

52 Ancestors Week 37 – Stewart Heiser, Man vs. Train

My 2nd great uncle, William Stewart HEISER, was born around 1871 in Franklin, Carroll County, Maryland. His parents were Daniel Christopher HEISER (1830-1908) and Susan Matilda CUSHING HEISER (1835-1880).Maryland sign

Stewart, as he was called, was one of seven children born to Dan and Susan. Only 5 children lived to adulthood. One of his brothers, James, I have written about here: James HEISER. Another of his brothers, Joseph, was my great-grandfather.

I don’t much about Stewart’s life. In the 1880 census, Stewart’s family was living in Franklin. His father was a stone mason, his mother kept house as did his oldest sister, Georgianna. His brother, Joseph, was a laborer. Stewart and brother James appear to be in school. The other children were younger still.

Susan died sometime around 1880, but I don’t know what happened to her. I cannot locate any information about it. Dan married Emma Annie PALMER (1857-1916). He was much older than her, as often happened then because of the need for a wife or a husband. Annie, as she was called, had two sons with Dan, born in 1882 and 1884.

The 1890 census is mostly lost due to a fire long ago, so I can’t say anything about Stewart’s life at that time. I imagine that he was a laborer or stone mason, though, and living in the Mt Airy area.

One evening in late January or early February of 1891, Stewart left Watersville about sundown in an intoxicated condition and started up the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad track towards home.Train tracks

According to the The News, ‘he had not proceeded more than few hundred yards before a passing train struck him. All the trains during the night ran over his body.’

The News also said his body was ‘in a horribly mangled condition. Both his legs and arms were cut off, his head severed from the body and the body cut in twain. His remains had to be taken up with a shovel.’

Stewart was buried at Linganore Cemetery in Unionville, Frederick County, Maryland. As far as I know there is no stone for him.


Linganore United Methodist Church and cemetery. Photo from findagrave.com. Click on photo for link.

Stewart was loved by his family so much that his two brothers, Joseph and James, each named a son after him in his memory.52ancestors-2015

52 Ancestors Week 36 – Thornwell Grant, war casualty

Henry Thornwell Grant, who went by Thornwell, was born 26 Mar 1890 in Chesterfield County, South Carolina. His parents were Malachi T. GRANT (1860-1940) and Bandelia PARKER (1860-1939). They went by Mallie and Babe. Mallie’s father, Duncan Daniel GRANT, and my 3rd great-grandfather, Jeremiah GRANT, were brothers. This makes Thornwell my 2nd cousin thrice removed.

Growing Up

Thornwell had an average upbringing in Chestefield County. He attended school and learned to read and write. He had an older sister named Lillie Belle. There had been another sister born before him, too, but she died before he was born. Also a brother and sister were born after him, but they both died as infants.

In the 1910 census, when he is 20 years old, he is farming for his father. I don’t know what they were growing, though. Thornwell joined a fraternal organization, the Woodmen of the World. I couldn’t find much on what this organization did in the time period when Thornwell was a member.Farm-1

War Comes Along

In 1917, Thornwell registered for the draft for World War 1. According to his draft registration, Thornwell was tall and slender with light brown eyes and black hair.

On 14 July 1918, he was called to report for duty. He was part of the A.E.F. – the American Expeditionary Forces. The A.E.F. fought in France alongside the French and British in the last year of the war. It was trench warfare.Eiffel Tower

A Life Lost

On 20 Dec 1918, Thornwell was killed in battle. His body was returned to his parents, and he was buried at Mount Olivet United Methodist Church Cemetery in Chesterfield County, South Carolina, were many of my Grant family is buried.

died in France

Thornwell’s gravestone

When researching Thornwell, I came to feel sad for Mallie and Babe. They’d had five children, lost three as babies or toddlers, and then lost Thornwell when he was only 28 years old. Lillie Belle married and had children, and outlived both her parents. Surely Mallie and Babe cherished Lillie Belle and her family.52ancestors-2015

52 Ancestors Week 35 – Eva Heiser: Runaway, Wife, Mother

Eva Marede HEISER was the youngest daughter of James E. HEISER (1871-1929) and Catherine S. (Katie) BALDWIN HEISER (1871-1928). Eva is my first cousin, twice removed. I have previously written about her father and one of her brothers, Harry.

You can read about them here: James and Harry

Eva was born 23 Jun 1907 in Pennsylvania. She was raised in Royalton and Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

Eva runs away

In April 1921, 13-year old Eva went missing. According the Lebanon Daily News, Eva was ‘of robust build and looks rather older than her 13 years.’ At first there was concern that she had been a victim of foul play, but then the police got word from the Children’s Society of New York that Eva was in their custody.Big Railroad Model-3

Eva had left home of her own free will with $37.50 which was worth a lot more than $37.50 now. She took the train to New York and had befriended a woman who was also traveling to New York. Once the two arrived in the city, the woman became concerned that Eva’s uncle from New Jersey, who was supposed to meet her at the train, didn’t show up. The woman turned Eva over to the Children’s Society who contacted the police in Lebanon, who in turn contacted her parents. Eva was missing for nearly two days.

Eva’s brother, Claude HEISER, went to New York to get her. Eva’s parents were dumbfounded and said that ‘her relations at home were of the most harmonious kind.’ Also, she had no uncle in New Jersey.

According to the paper, Eva ‘seemed to be in great fear of the wrath of her parents, and her remorse has taken such shape that she is said to be in hysterical condition.’ So hysterical in fact, that the police had to delay questioning her. It was believed that she had just gone on an adventure (a foolish escapade according to the paper). It was never explained in the paper exactly what led to her running away or where she got the money. She said her mother gave her the money which her mother flatly denied.

Eva settles down, eventually

Eva settled back into life at home after her New York adventure. She graduated from high school and was active in the Christian Endeavor society of Trinity United Brethren. She met Lester REED there, and they married in December 1926. Eva was 19, and Lester was 20. The two also worked for the Krause Hardware Co.

Here is a link to the home where Eva and Lester lived in 1930: 435 Spruce Street, Lebanon

In July 1929, Eva gave birth to a daughter, Carmelita. In the 1930 census, which was done in April, the family is intact. But not so in 1932.

In 1932, Lester and Carmelita are living with his parents, and Eva is living in Maryland married to someone else, Joel Isaac ROYER. She also had their first child that year, Robert J. ROYER. It’s hard to know what broke up Eva and Lester. Perhaps Eva had an adventure with Joel, or perhaps Lester had an adventure with someone.

Back to Lebanon

In 1937, Eva and Joel were back in Lebanon where their second son, Yateman, was born. Eventually a third child was born, a girl named Patricia. Eva still had a relationship of some kind with Carmelita, her daughter with Lester Reed, since Carmelita was named in Joel’s obituary many years later.

Eva Heiser Royer cropped

Eva Heiser Royer

Eva and Joel were members of the Heidelberg Church of the Brethren. Joel was also a member of the Prescott Fire Company, and Eva volunteered in the ladies’ auxiliary. Below is a 1960 photo of her from the Lebanon Daily News from when she was president of the auxiliary. She was 53 in this photo.

Eva on her own

Joel died in 1966. Eva was 59 years old. Carmelita, Robert and Patricia were all living away from Pennsylvania at the time of Joel’s death. Yateman was not mentioned.

In 1969, Eva sold her home. Perhaps she wanted something smaller. Eva continued living in Lebanon, though, and staying active in the ladies’ auxiliary at least through the 1970’s. After that I expect she continued living in Lebanon until she passed on 27 December 1997. She was 90 years old.

Eva is buried at the Heidelberg Church of the Brethren church cemetery, next to Joel.


52 Ancestors Week 34 – B.H. Hatcher, Officer Down

Burdine H. HATCHER, known as B.H., was the son of Rev. Simeon J. HATCHER (1828-1894) and Mary Jane GRANT HATCHER (1844-1920). Mary Jane was the sister of my 2nd great grandfather, Daniel B. GRANT, which makes B.H. my first cousin, thrice removed.

Rural Ohio Farm


Farming in the Carolinas

B.H. was born 14 Mar 1882 and raised in Smithville, Marlboro County, South Carolina.  He worked as a farm laborer. Also, B.H. could read and write.

In 1907, when he was about 25, B.H. married Sara Frances BRIGMAN, who went by Frances.

In 1910, B.H. and Frances were living and farming in Wolf Pit, Richmond County, North Carolina which is close to Marlboro County.  Two of their seven children had been born already.

By 1917, the family was back in Smithville and still farming according to B.H.’s World War 1 draft registration.  The registration also noted that B.H. was tall and stout.Police badge

Working for the Law

B.H. became a rural police officer for the Marlboro County Sheriff’s office.  I don’t know if this was full time work or on an as-needed basis, and I don’t know for sure when it happened.

On May 17, 1924, B.H. and fellow office J.H. DAUGHERTY encountered a dangerous situation that ended tragically.

HATCHER Burdine H circa 1920

B.H. Hatcher, believed to have been taken when he took the oath to become a rural policeman. Early 1920’s.

From The Gaffney Ledger newspaper:  B.H. and fellow office J.H. Daugherty went to the home of Tom Dupre ‘on a search for contraband liquor,  according to Mr. Daugherty. On being told of the officer’s business, Dupre secured a rifle and cracking the door fired upon the officers, one bullet slightly wounding Mr. Daugherty and another mortally wounding Mr. Hatcher.’

The Rest of the Story

B.H. was 42 years old at the time of his death.  He left Frances and their seven children, the youngest of which was only 4.

He was buried at Oak Grove United Methodist Church Cemetery in Wallace, Marlboro County, South Carolina.  A few years later, Frances went on to marry B.H.’s much older brother, Jimmy.  She had two children with him.

Tom Dupre was captured half a mile from his home about a week after the shooting. He was tried and found guilty and give a sentence of life in prison.  In 1926, Dupre was released because on appeal the search of his home was determined to have been illegal.


52 Ancestors Week 33 – Ed Grant, Statesman

Ed Grant, Ed's wife, Doug Grant, Doug's wife, 1956

L to R Ed Grant, his wife Anna, Doug Grant (Ed’s brother) and Doug’s wife

Edmund Griffin GRANT, who went by Ed, was the son of Jesse Lee GRANT (1873-1931) AND Mattie Lee PEELE GRANT (1886-1960). Ed had two older sisters, Mabel and Ella, and a younger brother named Doug.  Ed and my grandmother, Florrie THOMAS MARTIN, were first cousins making him my first cousin twice removed.

Ed was born in Chesterfield County, South Carolina on 2 Jan 1909. He spent his growing up years in McFarlan in Anson County, North Carolina, and in Darlington, South Carolina.Welcome to NC sign

In 1931, Ed married Anna Wilkinson BRUNSIN. He was 22 years old. Soon after he went to work as a salesman for the Franklin National Life Insurance Company.

In 1940, Ed and Anna and their two children, Adelyn and John, were living at 313 Augusta Street, West Columbia, Lexington County, South Carolina. Ed was still selling insurance.  Here is a link to the Augusta Street neighborhood where they lived.  Same houses, I’m sure.

According to the Columbia city directory, Ed and his family lived in Columbia through the 1940’s and 1950’s. They lived in several locations but eventually settled in a home on Lake Shore Drive in Columbia. Here is a link to Lake Shore Drive to give you an idea of where he and Anna lived.

Ed was promoted to state manager of sales for the Kansas City Life Insurance Company. I don’t know when he went to work for them.

In 1958, when Ed was 49, he was elected to represent Richland County in the South Carolina House of Representatives as a Democrat. He was re-elected six times and served a total of 14 years. He was a vocal member of the House and was named in the paper again and again concerning legislation he worked on.

The Aiken Standard reported in 1972 that Ed wouldn’t seek re-election because he wanted to devote more time to his family, especially his grandchildren. Ed was 63 years old.

Mattie Grant Lyles,Zack Grant,Arthur Grant,Jesse Grant,Margaret Ann Grant Thomas, sitting Flora Ann Griffin Grant

L to R Siblings Mattie Grant Lyles, Zack Grant, Arthur Grant, Jesse Grant (father of Ed and Doug), Margaret Grant Thomas (my great grandmother). Seated Flora Griffin Grant (mother of these siblings and my 2nd great grandmother)

Ed didn’t get much time with his grandchildren, though, because be passed away the next year on 9 Feb 1973. I couldn’t locate a death certificate for him, so I don’t know what he died from. I suspect it was either a heart attack or a stroke based on other deaths in the family.

I never met Ed, but I did meet his brother, Doug, when Doug was an old man. Doug was tall, probably 6′ 4″. I’m told by another relative who knew them both the Ed was taller than Doug. In the photo I posted with the two of them and their wives, Ed looks to be quite a bit taller than Doug. Their father, Jesse, was much taller than his siblings in the only photo I have of Jessie with his siblings, so Ed and Doug must have gotten that from him.


What to ask the older generation

This is a good set of questions I linked to below, and I like that Sharon Huneycutt Harris distinguishes that the list is for the older generation.  Society and families have changed so much that generic questions don’t work for all generations now.

Click here—>50 Questions You Can Ask The Older Generation In Your Family 



52 Ancestors Week 32 – T. J. Martin: Native Mississippian

Thomas Jefferson MARTIN, my first cousin 4th times removed, was one of the 20 or so children born to James MARTIN (1789-1851). James was married at least twice, maybe even 4 times. Thomas’ mother was Mary GILL (ca. 1800-1829).

Thomas was born in Brookhaven, Lincoln County, Mississippi on 7 Jan 1823. He married Feriby Ann BRISTER in 1845. As was common in those days, Thomas was a farmer, a prosperous one according to his obituary.Barn and farm equipment

33rd Mississippi Infantry Battle Flag

33rd Mississippi Infantry Battle Flag. Click on flag for more info about the 33rd.

He and Feriby have seven children before the Civil War began. Thomas enlisted in April 1862. He was a member of the 33rd regiment Mississippi infantry, Co. C. He enlisted for 3 years and was a lieutenant upon his enlistment.

Thomas was promoted to captain in July 1862. About a year later, in July 1863, Thomas deserted the army according to his service record. He’d participated in the Vicksburg Campaign, the Jackson Siege and other battles at this point.  Perhaps he was worn out and couldn’t do it anymore.

He and Feriby had no more children in July 1866, so it appears he didn’t go home until after the war ended.

Once back home, Thomas went back to farming and two children were born (1868 and 1869), bringing the total to 10.

In the 1870 and 1880 census, Thomas and family were living in the same area of Mississippi as he had lived all his life. In fact, except for the war years, and perhaps the time after he deserted the army, he appears to have lived and farmed his entire life within 15 miles of where he was born.

MARTIN Thomas Jefferson gravestone

Click on photo for find-a-grave listing for him

In the early 1880’s Thomas became ill. According to his obituary in the Early Brookhaven Newspaper, ‘He had been in bad health for a long time and was confined to his bed at the time.’ There is no mention of what he was ill with, but it was believed to have affected him mind.

The obituary said that on 30 July 1882, Thomas was missing from his room. A ‘search was made, and he was found a short distance in the woods, lying across a log with his throat cut from ear to ear.’ Thomas was buried at the Pleasant Hill Church Cemetery in Bogue Chitto, Mississippi. He was 57 years old.52ancestors-2015