52 Ancestors Week 13 – Vera Luana Crouch, Pretty Young Thing

Vera Luana CROUCH was born on 18 Oct 1904 to Risden Tyler CROUCH and his wife, Pennie GRANT CROUCH. The family was in Chesterfield County, South Carolina at that time.

Penelopy Grant Lawhorn

Pennie, Vera’s mother

Vera, daughter of Penelope Grant Crouch Lawhorn cropped

Vera Crouch, appears to be about 10 years old

Vera was a beautiful girl. She had her mother’s dark hair and thin frame, but her face was rounder and less angular than her mother’s. Perhaps the round face came from her father.

When Vera was 10, she was diagnosed with mitral regurgitation which meant that the mitral valve in her heart didn’t close tightly.  This allowed for blood to flow backward in her heart. Mitral regurgitation can be caused by several things including rheumatic heart disease, mitral valve prolapse or an infection in the heart. Any of those things could have caused Vera’s heart problem.

Vera Crouch (on leftt), dau of Aunt Penny per Agnes Jacobs cropped

Vera on the left, looking to be 13 or 14 years of age

My grandma, Florrie THOMAS MARTIN, told me about a cousin of hers who “had a hole in the heart and you could hear the blood wooshing around just being in the same room with her.”  It must have been Vera she was talking about since a severe mitral regurgitation can be heard without a stethoscope. Pennie and Florrie’s mother, Margaret GRANT THOMAS, were sisters making Florrie and Vera cousins.

As you can guess, Vera died young. At 15, her heart was no longer strong enough to  keep her alive. According to her death certificate, she suffered for 5 days with ‘acute congestion of the lungs’ until she finally passed on 24 June 1919.

Vera’s father passed away when Vera was eight, and her mother married a second time to a man named George Lawhon. Vera,her mother and her stepfather were living in McFarlan, North Carolina at the time of her death. She was buried at Pleasant Hill Cemetery in McFarlan. The following poem can be found on her gravestone:

We loved her, yes we loved her,

But Jesus loved her more,

And he has sweetly called her,

To yonder shining shore.


The golden gates were opened,

A gentle voice said come,

And she with a farewell unspoken,

Calmly entered home.


52 Ancestors Week 12 – Murder at the Mill

John Henry WISE was one of the many people who lived on the Fort Jackson property before it was Fort Jackson. Wise was a saw miller and a logger. On this particular day in February 1877, Wise hired several relatives and neighbors for log piling.52ancestors-2015

The neighbors included brothers John Henry MILES (who went by Henry) and William MILES; and their brother-in-law Jesse GATES who was married to Henry and William’s sister, Fannie.

Henry, William and Fannie were all siblings of my 2nd great-grandmother, Margaret FUTRELL MARTIN.  For whatever reason, Henry and William sometimes used Miles, their mother’s maiden name, instead of Futrell.

After finishing with the logs many of the men who worked that day, if not all, started drinking. And as you can guess, no good came of it.

William Miles started arguing with Jesse Gates after William made a comment about Fannie. After exchanging a few words William struck Jesse with his fist. Jesse stepped back, drew a pocket knife and stabbed William.

John Henry Miles or Futrell

John Henry Miles, witness to the murder of his brother William

Henry saw his brother collapsing and grabbed him, lowering him to the ground. William looked up at Henry and said, “Brother, Gates has drained the life from me,” and died. He was 30 years old. Gates threatened the other men that he would cut them also if they bothered him.

Murder charges were brought against Gates, and a coroner’s jury was named to view the body to determine how William died. The results were that he died from being stabbed by Gates.

Even though Gates was indicted for murder, the charges were dropped. Was it decided he acted in self-defense? Or was it ruled a domestic family affair? We don’t know and never will.

Fannie and Jesse split up at some point. Not surprising. After all, Jesse did murder Fannie’s brother. Even if it was self-defense, how do you get past that?

Fannie married a man named Thomas Davis. Thomas and Fanny (along with her only child with Jesse Gates) left South Carolina for Alabama and eventually moved to Florida. Thomas and Fanny went on to have several children of their own. Fanny died in 1903.

This story was told to me by John Howell, another Fort Jackson family descendant (and probably a distant cousin, too, since we seem to be related to every Fort Jackson family!)  John’s great-grandfather was John Henry Wise, the man who hired all the workers that day.   Portions of the above story are John’s words, not mine.  I appreciate him allowing me to use his words for this blogpost.

52 Ancestors Week 11 – Hallie and Dosia and Ellen

When I was growing up I often heard family speak of Hallie and Dosia and Ellen. I knew they had lived with my grandma, Florrie Thomas Martin, and her family when my grandma was a girl, but I didn’t know much more than that. I asked my cousin, Agnes, who is old enough to have known them all, and she told me the story.

Sisters Theodosia Marie (Dosia) Thomas Martin and Hallie Atan Thomas Felder ca mid 1900s-cropped

Sisters Dosia and Hallie Thomas, mid 1910’s



Hallie Atan Thomas (2 Nov 1898 – 9 Dec 1966) and Theodosia Marie Thomas (3 Aug 1893 – 21 Jan 1954) were the daughters of James Renatus ‘Ren’ Thomas and Laura B. Roberts. Ren was the brother of Jeremiah Daniel ‘Dan’ Thomas, my great grandfather. According to Agnes, Laura ran off with a neighbor, leaving the girls with Ren. Ren, who worked on the railroad, couldn’t take care of the girls.

Ren loaded the girls and their clothes into a horse-drawn wagon and took them to his brother, Dan, and Dan’s wife, Margaret Ann ‘Maggie” Grant Thomas. Dan and Maggie raised them from that point on. Agnes did not know exactly when this happened. According to the census, Dosia and Hallie were living with their mother and father in 1900, but living with Dan and Maggie in 1910. Do the math.

Hallie and Florrie cropped-1

Hallie Thomas and Florrie Thomas, cousins. Approx. 1911



Ren was still in their lives, and when he was older he lived with each daughter for a time. It’s just that they needed a two-parent home when they were young. My grandma had a brother named Herbert and a sister named Aggie. Poor Herbert must have felt overrun with these four girls in the house! It was actually five for a while when you include Ellen. I’ll tell you about her in a moment.

Hallie married Lamar Felder, and they had three children: Lamar, Jr., Mildred, and Ruth. Lamar Sr. died in 1939, and Hallie remarried to a man named Falls. I don’t know his first name.

Lamar and Hallie (Thomas) Felder, circa 1920, SC

Hallie and Lamar Felder, circa 1920



Dosia married Arthur Martin (no relation to the other Martin’s in my family). Dosia started going by Marie at some point; she is listed this way in some census records and on her death certificate. She and Arthur didn’t have any children.

Arthur and Theodosia Thomas Martin per Agnes Jacobs-1

Dosia and Arthur Martin



Now about Ellen. Dosia’s husband had an older brother named Duff Martin. Duff’s wife, Claire, gave birth to Ellen in 1906. Claire was very sick after the birth and she asked their friends Dan and Maggie to take Ellen to raise because Claire felt that she would die which she did not long after Ellen’s birth. Duff was a farmer and wouldn’t be able to take care of Ellen. Dan and Maggie took Ellen and raised her for a time. I’m sure Maggie had plenty of help from her daughters and nieces.

Gladys Martin and Ellen Martin Cooke, circa 1942,SC

Ellen Martin Cooke (L) with Gladys Martin Heiser, my mother. 1940’s


Eventually Ellen went back to live with her father and her older siblings. Duff was about 18 years older than his brother, Arthur (Dosia’s future husband), so all this with Ellen took place long before Dosia and Arthur married.

Ellen married a man named Cooke/Cook. When my grandma would visit in South Carolina, she would always go see Ellen Cooke. I knew she and Grandma were close, but I thought they were just good friends.


52 Ancestors Week 10 – The Short Life of Lizzie Martin Sturkie

Lizzie Martin Sturkie ca 1910

Lizzie Martin Sturkie about 1910

Lizzie MARTIN, born 12 June 1902, was the 10th child of Adolphus Burdine MARTIN and Elizabeth Patience LEE MARTIN. She was one of my maternal grandfather’s sisters. Lizzie was a beautiful girl and woman which you can see for yourself by looking at the photographs of her.

Lizzie Martin Sturkie ca 1915

Lizzie Martin Sturkie about 1915

Lizzie’s father, Adolphus, died in 1917 when Lizzie was almost 15 years old. I know she went to school, but I don’t know if she finished her education. I do know that in 1920, she was living with her husband, J. Grady STURKIE.


Grady was a mill operator; Lizzie was likely a homemaker. Lizzie and Grady lived at 104 1st Street in the Olympia area of Columbia according to the city directory for that year. Looking at googlemaps, I can say that is now an older residential/commercial area with paved streets but no curbs or sidewalks.

On November 13, 1921, Lizzie went into labor with her first child. Five days later on November 18th, still not having delivered the baby, Lizzie underwent a C-section at Baptist Hospital in Columbia. Tragically, she died later that day. It appears the baby didn’t survive either. There are no other details about her sad passing.

Lizzie Martin (18yrs) and fiance Grady Sturkie,SC

Lizzie Martin Sturkie and Grady Sturkie, before they were married


C-sections had been around for a while but were not often done prior to 1900. As surgeons’ confidence grew and techniques improved, though, the procedure was done more regularly after 1900. Still, in the early 1920’s, C-sections were often delayed so long that the mother was close to a state of collapse which contributed to maternal death afterwards. Perhaps that’s what happened to Lizzie.

Lizzie was buried at the Enon Church cemetery on Ft. Jackson on November 20, 1921 where her parents and other family members were also buried. Grady went on to marry again within a short time, and he had three children with this second wife.

52 Ancestors Week 9 – Finding John and Mary Davis

In short order, our little entourage (myself, Joyce, Katie, Tommy, Agnes and Agnes’ son Bobby) were piling into the van. Our mission: To find the missing Thomas cemetery.BrownsChapelChurch0001

Conversation buzzed as we made our way to Brown’s Chapel Methodist Church cemetery on Old Leesburg Rd. Agnes and Bobby both reminisced about how it used to be out this way. No shopping centers for one thing.

“Momma, is this where we want to turn?” Bobby asked Agnes.

“Yes, I believe so.” Soon after the turn, the pavement gave way to a dusty dirt road. The trees draping over the road, our slow speed and the rocking back and forth over the uneven pathway transported me back in time. It was 1900, and we were in a wagon, chattering and visiting as we made our way to a joyful family event.

We arrived at Brown’s Chapel church cemetery and split up, looking at stones and checking out the woods behind in hopes of finding the Thomas cemetery. Agnes knew the cemetery was near Brown’s Chapel, but we found nothing.

Back in the van, we slowly made our way up and down Old Leesburg Rd, hoping Agnes might see something familiar, but she didn’t. A woman was coming out the door of a house. She looked curiously at us, probably wondering who this van full of people was that had been driving up and down the road. “We should talk to her,” Joyce said. Joyce later told me that something told her this was someone we needed to talk to.

Tommy got out and approached her. After a few minutes, the woman came and spoke to Agnes who told her about looking for a lost cemetery and about a woman named Jannie Jones who used to live nearby. The woman had heard enough.

“We have a little cemetery back on the property,” the woman said. “It’s got some civil war soldiers in it. Did any of them fight in the war?” the woman asked. Everyone looked at me. I answered yes.

The woman’s daughter, Mary, had joined in the conversation by now and soon Katie, Tommy and Joyce were walking through the yard and into the woods with Mary and her mother. Bobby, Agnes and I sat in the car, admiring the redbirds in the nearby feeder.

James S Thomas headstone-1

James S Thomas headstone

My phone dinged with a text message: We found James S. THOMAS and his wife.


“Agnes, this is the right place!” I announced. Mary came back to carry Agnes, Bobby, and I to the cemetery since the 90+ year old Agnes could never make the walk. We pulled into a clearing and there on the right was Tommy, Joyce, and Katie and the cemetery. “This is the place,” Agnes said. “I remember it.”

John Davis headstone-1

John Davis headstone

Two stones off to the side caught my eye. My brain stopped, as I was trying to take in what I was seeing – stones for John DAVIS and his wife Mary A. C. DAVIS. “Oh my gosh,” was all I could say.

Mary A C Davis headstone-2

Mary A C Davis headstone

“What?” someone asked me from behind.

“John and Mary DAVIS are James’ in-laws. They’re Elizabeth’s parents.” I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

Cropped birth and death Dates of Davis' FJ Thomas Martin hand

John and Mary Davis info in the hand of Florrie Thomas Martin, my grandmother

“Are you sure?” I nodded in response as I continued to smile and stare at the stones that verified John and Mary were more than just names and dates my grandma had written down. I could feel their presence in the cemetery, like they were celebrating that we’d found them after all these years.

I came out of my stupor and looked around. The little cemetery was abuzz with busyness. Joyce and Katie were cleaning stones and taking pictures. Agnes and Bobby were talking to Mary’s mother, and Tommy was taking photos. I smiled broadly at Tommy, who smiled back. We both had worked on the family history off and on for decades and knew what a fantastic discovery this was.

We thanked Mary and her family for taking us back to the cemetery. Katie suggested calling this unnamed cemetery the Davis-Thomas Cemetery, which we did.

Raindrops started to fall as we drove away. We chattered about the find and how all the pieces fell into place for it to happen. Maybe it was all of us being together for the first time – all of us being descendants of Jeremiah Daniel THOMAS’ three children, Jeremiah being a son of James S. THOMAS and his wife Elizabeth Jane (Jane) DAVIS THOMAS. We all felt as if we were led to the right house at the right time.


John DAVIS (1 Oct 1773 – 17 Aug 1872) was my 3rd great-grandfather.  He was born in South Carolina according to several census records. I am not convinced he was always in Richland County, though, since I can’t conclusively find him there in the census records until 1840. John was a planter, and in his will he left about 150 acres to his wife, Mary A. C. DAVIS (1 June 1782 – 17 Dec 1882). Mary was always listed as ‘keeping house’ in the census records. John and Mary had several children: John A, Martha, Elizabeth Jane and Emeline; and many descendants from these children.

I know John and Mary were church going people because in the James S THOMAS family bible, it’s noted that some of James and Elizabeth’s children were baptized at the Davis’ church. I suspect the Davis’ church was Brown’s Chapel since some of the Davis’ children and grandchildren are buried there, and their property wasn’t far from Brown’s Chapel.

John and Mary must have been hard workers with all that land to plant.  And they lived a long time. There is no notation about either being blind or deaf as they aged, but I don’t know what either died of or if either was bedridden at the end of their life. That and other details about them will have to be left to the imagination.

52 Ancestors Week 8 – John Vincent Davis: MURDERED

John Vincent Davis (22 Sept 1850 – 28 May 1922), son of Thomas and Nancy Davis, was a farmer at the start of his adult life. In time, he began preaching locally for several Methodist churches, starting with his home church of Brown’s Chapel Methodist near Hopkins, South Carolina.


The church was torn down in the mid-1900’s.


John continued to farm and preach for about ten years before he was called to minister full time. For 15 years he served in various churches in South Carolina including churches in Darlington and Great Falls.

John Vincent Davis photo from newspapaer article

John Vincent Davis photo from newspaper




He married Rebecca Ellen Roberts (1855-1900) in 1876. John and Ellen had 12 children together, nine of who lived to maturity. After Ellen’s death in 1900, John married Sallie Ellen Lovin, and they had one daughter together.

John retired from preaching to become the superintendent of the Richland County Almshouse. Although John was a kind and godly man, one of the residents (or inmates as the newspaper called them) didn’t care for John…and murdered him.

According to the article from The State newspaper, Mr. Davis had asked Mr. John Watts Crocker to refrain from using bad language on the grounds of the almshouse about ten day before the murder. Crocker became angry and abused Mr. Davis.

Then on the day before the murder, Mr. Davis asked Mr. Crocker about letting his wife assist in the kitchen. Mr. Crocker again became angry and refused. Mr. Davis said he would have to report Mr. Crocker to the supervisor. According to a witness of this encounter Crocker shouted, “Look here, John Davis, you have been trying for the longest time to get me away from here, and I want to tell you that you are going to leave here before I do. You will be gone before sundown tomorrow.”

Was John Davis alarmed or scared by Mr. Crocker’s proclamation? I don’t know, but with him being the godly man he was reported to be I expect he took it to God and left it there.

The next morning when Mr. Davis and one of the cooks were handing out tobacco, Mr. Crocker shot Mr. Davis in the chest and killed him. Crocker was arrested. He claimed he didn’t do it.  His claim fell on deaf ears, though, since he was found with the recently fired gun in his hand, and shell casings were found in the room. Also the cook witnessed the shooting. Crocker’s wife said he did it because “he could not stand to be picked at.”

John Davis’ funeral was held at Shandon Methodist Church in Columbia, SC. According to the article, the funeral was one of the largest ever held in Columbia and the church was unable to accommodate the huge crowd attending. He was buried beside his first wife at his home church, Brown’s Chapel. The funeral procession from the church to Brown’s Chapel was about 400 cars.

John Vincent Davis headstone

John Vincent Davis headstone


I’ve been to the Brown’s Chapel churchyard. The church is no longer there, but the cemetery is mostly intact. It’s on a barely two-lane gravel road out in the country. I don’t know where those 400 cars parked, and I am sure people walked a long way to the churchyard.

Browns Chapel Cemetery-2

Brown’s Chapel Cemetery


The newspaper article about John Vincent Davis’ death was in my grandma’s belongings. I kept it for years, figuring he was a Davis and we have Davis ancestors so he would show up in the family history eventually. And he finally did a few years ago. I expect my grandma knew him and had heard him preach, and he was her cousin, too.

52 Ancestors Week 7 – Goldie, the grandmother I never knew

My dad’s mother, Goldie Isabel Price Heiser, was born in August 1893 to Montgomery Price (1859-1947) and Sarah Rebecca Pyles Price (1862-1940). She had three brothers, and a sister who passed away young.

Goldie Isabel Price Heiser, most likely, photo in locket belonging to Myrtle Hillard Burroughs

I believe this is a photo of Goldie


Goldie was born in Montgomery County, Maryland.  She married my grandfather, Daniel Wilbert Heiser, 16 July 1912 in Frederick, Maryland even though they were both residents of Montgomery County. I don’t know why they didn’t marry in Montgomery County, but it might be because Goldie’s parents had moved to Frederick recently.

Goldie and Dan lived in Dickerson, Maryland (Montgomery County) at the start of their marriage and moved to Washington, DC in 1915. They had three in a short order:  Charles Leroy in 1913, Dorothy V (Dot) in 1915, and Mary Helen in 1917.

Goldie died on New Year’s Day 1919 from the Spanish Flu. She was in the hospital for six days before she passed. Her burial didn’t happen for a week.There were so many victims of the flu that caskets couldn’t be made quick enough for earlier burials, and the ground so frozen they couldn’t dig the graves any faster. She was buried in an unmarked grave in Congressional Cemetery in Washington, DC.

My father’s only memory of his mother was seeing her dead, laid out on a couch at someone’s house. He remembered someone saying, “There’s your mother,” as they pointed to her. And he remembered that she had dark hair. He was only five when she died.

My dad had traveled to see his deceased mother with his maternal grandparents and he left with them, too. He told me he believed he had been staying with them before his mother passed, but he wasn’t sure about that.  The Spanish Flu was heavy in Washington, DC, so perhaps he had been sent to stay with his grandparents in Frederick to get him away from the flu. He never asked so we’ll never know.

Sarah Rebecca Pyles Price cropped

Sarah Rebecca Pyles Price, mother of Goldie


When going through the belongings of Goldie’s first cousin Myrtle Virginia Hillard Burroughs (1903-1977), I found a locket with a photo of a young woman with dark hair.  The face reminded me of Goldie’s mother and Goldie’s daughter, Dot.  Myrtle and Goldie were close even with the age gap, so I concluded the photo is of Goldie.

Dorothy Heiser Brown 1957 cropped

Dorothy Heiser Brown, daughter of Goldie


I never knew this grandmother, but I knew my dad’s sister, Dot, and I heard stories about Goldie’s mother. Both were tough, determined, spirited, and loving. I have to believe Goldie probably was, too.


52 Ancestors Week 6 – Mean Aunt Maggie

Maggie Martin Marshall (born 22 Sept 1889) was another one of my grandfather’s sisters.  She was the 3rd of the 14 children born to Adolphus Burdine Martin and Elizabeth Patience Lee Martin.

Margaret (Maggie) Martin Marshall

Maggie Martin Marshall, circa 1920’s


My mom always said Aunt Maggie was mean, but never told me any stories about her.   If you remember, a few weeks ago I wrote about Florrie Martin Duckett, sister of Maggie and my grandfather.  In a conversation a few years back, Florrie’s daughter, Lydia, confirmed that Aunt Maggie was indeed mean, and she had some stories to back that up:

Story #1  Lydia’s mother, Florrie Martin Duckett, told Lydia that one time Aunt Maggie put a cat on the top of one of those old wood-burning kitchen stoves when the stove was hot.  Florrie said that Aunt Maggie laughed about it because the cat was jumping all over the place, and Aunt Maggie thought it was funny.

Story #2  After Lydia was married, Aunt Florrie came to live with Lydia and her husband.  One time, Aunt Maggie came to visit for a while.  While visiting, Aunt Maggie locked herself in the bathroom and wouldn’t come out.  Lydia and her husband didn’t have a key for the door, so they had to call a locksmith to open the door.

Story #3  During that same visit, Aunt Maggie gathered up all the scissors in the house, including Lydia’s favorite pair of bandage scissors, and hid them.  Lydia said they never did find any of the scissors.

Aunt Maggie married Charlie L. Marshall around 1918. Lydia also told me that Aunt Maggie had at least 5 babies, and all of them died within a few months of being born. I remember that my mother, too, said that all of Aunt Maggie’s babies had died. It sounds like Aunt Maggie was mean before losing all those babies, and I’m sure that losing all those babies didn’t help her disposition any.

She wasn’t all mean, though.  When their mother died in 1937, Maggie sent the poem below to her brother, Joel Daniel Martin (my grandfather).

Poem sent to JD Martin from sister Maggie when their mother died cropped

Maggie Martin Marshall, circa 1950,SC

Maggie Martin Marshall, circa 1950

Aunt Maggie died 27 April 1961 from a stroke.  Her death certificate says she was a widow, but I don’t know when Charlie died.  One of Maggie’s other sisters, Annis Martin DeBruhl, provided the personal information for the death certificate.  Maggie is buried at Hermitage Baptist Church in Camden, South Carolina.



52 Ancestors Weeks 4 & 5 – The elusive Billy Thomas’s

I was able to find out a lot about my 3rd great-grandfather, Renatus/Rhenatus Thomas.  With a name like that, there weren’t that many records to sift through.  Plus my grandmother remembered his name and his wife’s name and all his children’s names.  Easy peasy.


Not so with Renatus’ father and grandfather, the elusive Billy Thomas, Jr. and Billy Thomas, Sr.

According to notes prepared by two of Renatus’ sons (George Washington Thomas and John Thomas) in February 1922:

Billy Thomas, Jr. was a carpenter and mill-wright by trade.  He set out on a western trip in quest of better business conditions, but when he reached the vicinity of Jackson Creek [Richland County, South Carolina] he had to strike camp for several weeks on account of the illness of his little son, Rhenatus. 

The lad did not improve in health sufficient to warrant his father in resuming his trip westward, so he began to do carpenter work in the neighborhood and as favorable were the conditions for employment, that he gave up all the thoughts of journeying westward and settled for life at the present site of the old Thomas cemetery.  However, Billy Thomas himself is buried in the old Medlin Cemetery, near an old oak tree (now dead).

He also built the old Joel Medlin house which is still in use as a dwelling.  Thus it was thru fate and disappointment of Billy Thomas, Jr. that the present Thomas generation became Southerners instead of Westerners. Rhenatus Thomas was born near Wilmington, NC.  [According to census records, though, Renatus was born in South Carolina circa 1799.]

The brothers also said:

Billy Thomas, Sr., father of Billy Thomas, Jr., who was the father of Rhenatus Thomas, who was the father of John Thomas, came direct from France and settle in Habana, Maryland. [There is not a place in Maryland called Habana…then or now]

Billy Thomas, Jr was married to Polly Ralston near Fayetteville, NC and reared the following children:  Rhenatus, Tempey, Betty, Dorcas and Polly.

You’d think with knowing all that would make it doable to find the Billys.  Not so. In fact several of my distant Thomas cousins and myself have looked for records in Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina and really can’t find much of anything about the Billys.

We don’t believe Billy Sr was French, but that he was on a ship that left from France. There is a Renatus Thomas in Maryland at the time that the Billys would have been there, and with an uncommon name like Renatus you might think they are related.  Still, none of us have found any connection between that Renatus and the Billys or our Renatus.

Thomas Cemetery-3

Thomas Cemetery in Columbia, South Carolina


I do know the location of the old Thomas Cemetery.  Some of the Thomas family is buried there.  Some broken stones exist, too, probably belonging to Renatus and his wife.




Thomas Cemetery-6

Broken headstone at Thomas Cemetery







I’m pretty sure of the location of the old Medlin Cemetery, too, but the area is densely wooded and the cousin who checked it out didn’t find any stones at all.

For now, the Billys remain elusive.  I am leaving that mystery for my descendants to solve.

52 Ancestors Week 3 – Florrie the Late Bloomer

Florrie Martin Duckett cropped

Florrie Martin circa 1920

My Aunt Florrie Martin Duckett (born 22 Feb 1894) was the sister of my maternal grandfather, Joel Daniel Martin.  Florrie was the 5th of 14 children born to Adolphus Burdine Martin and Elizabeth Patience Lee Martin. Aunt Florrie and my maternal grandmother, Florrie Jane Thomas Martin, were the same age and got along well.

Aunt Florrie is always easy to recognize in photographs because one of her eyes wandered – a problem easily fixed nowadays, but not so in the early 1900’s. From what I know and remember of Joel Daniel’s other sisters, only Florrie was soft-spoken. I have to wonder if self-consciousness about her eye made her timid.

At the time of Adolphus’ death in 1917, all of Florrie’s older siblings had married and started their own families except one who died as a child. Of the nine siblings younger than Florrie, five were married and/or on their own by about 1920 and two had passed away. Florrie and the remaining two siblings, Stella and Gary, continued living with their mother.

Back Stella Martin and Gary Martin, Front Lizzie Martin and Florrie Martin,circa 1927,SC

Stella and Gary in the back, Lizzie (mother) and Florrie in front, circa 1929


In the 1920 US Federal Census, Florrie was a spinner at a cotton mill in Winnsboro, SC (about 30 miles north of Columbia, SC). Her mother was the head of house on the census with Florrie, Stella, and Gary as her dependents.

In 1930, Florrie was the head of the household on the census with her mother, Stella, and Gary as the dependents. Florrie, Stella, and Gary all worked at a cotton mill, but now the family lived and worked in Camden, SC (about 36 miles NE of Columbia, SC). Florrie was about 35 now, Stella 24, and Gary 19.

Being single and 35 years old in 1930, Florrie had probably resigned herself to never having a family of her own and just being the old maid aunt to her many nieces and nephews. But that began to change the very next year.

I don’t know how Florrie met Hebron Sylvester Duckett (1861-1940) or what brought them to marry. He was a 69 year old widower with grown children and she was nearly 36. He had children, probably some even older than Florrie. Was he lonely? Did he love her? Did she think this was her last chance at having her own home and family? I’ll never know.

Florrie and Hebron were married on 17 Feb 1931. Their only child, a girl named Lydia after Hebron’s mother, was born on 13 Sept 1933. In just a few years’ time, Florrie went from ‘maiden aunt’ to ‘wife and mother’.

Lydia Duckett Fallin 1930's

Lydia Duckett Fallin, 1930’s


Hebron died 30 Sept 1940, leaving Florrie to raise Lydia by herself.  I know Florrie and Lydia stayed in the Columbia area for a while which is where the family was living in the 1940 census, but they also lived in Baltimore for a time. One of Florrie’s sisters lived in Baltimore, too.

Lydia came to settle down in Manassas, Virginia where she married, had children, and worked as a nurse. Florrie lived with them, probably helping take care of the children and working here and there, too. As Florrie aged, she eventually became so feeble that she had to live in a nursing home. Florrie died on 2 Feb 1997 at nearly 103 years old.

Hubert and Eva Martin 50th Anniv-Hubert and Florrie Martin Duckett

Florrie and one of her brothers, Hubert, in 1970


I saw Aunt Florrie many times at family get-togethers and when she would come and stay a few days at my house to visit with my maternal grandma. (My grandma lived with my family.) When Aunt Florrie was in her 70’s she still had long, long hair that she kept in a braid and wrapped in a bun on her head. It never looked that long all wound up on her head, but when she took it down I was always amazed at how long it was.

Aunt Florrie was sweet and soft-spoken and always kind. And she had a pretty smile. Agnes Jeffords Jacobs, one of my mother’s first cousins, remembers that ‘Florrie would come and visit at her house sometimes and bring her daughter, Lydia, with her.’ Agnes remembers that Florrie always talked sweet and was always positive.

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