Elisha Spence (1776-1835)–Part Nine: Daniel Spence (1806-1857) and Mary Ann “Polly” Pewitt (1810-1859)–The Pewitt and Inman Families

Pioneer Monument, Moss Springs Cemetery, Jasper County, Missouri

Pioneer Monument, Moss Springs Cemetery, Jasper County, Missouri


Daniel Spence was born in Randolph County, North Carolina in 1806 to Elisha and Susanna Spencer Spence, and he died in Jasper County, Missouri in 1857.  He was possibly named for the father of Lewis Jones–Daniel Jones–who had relocated to Tennessee before the Spences. The earliest Jasper County, Missouri pioneers are buried in the Moss Springs Cemetery, many of them without tombstones. Such is the case for Samuel and Elizabeth Inman Spence, Lewis and Milly Catherine Spence Jones, and Daniel and Mary Ann “Polly” Pewitt Spence.  Their names appear on the pioneer marker at the entrance of the cemetery, along with many others.

Daniel was around four years of age when his family moved from North Carolina to Davidson County, Tennessee in early 1810.  Unlike his older siblings who experienced moving from place to place–this was a completely new experience for young Daniel.  He undoubtedly imagined all sorts of things as they traveled through the woods. After the family settled in Tennessee, young Daniel became adjusted to his new environment.

To date I haven’t found the exact location where the Elisha Spence family settled in Davidson County, Tennessee.  Williamson County was carved from Davidson in 1799, and I believe the Elisha Spence family lived on the border between the two counties. Elisha and his family spent as much time in Williamson as they did in Davidson. Associated families all resided in the  Davidson and Williamson County area.

The move to Tennessee was not without sorrow and precipitated an event that occurred  late summer or early fall in 1810. Elisha and Susannah had a child every year or every other year. When they moved to Tennessee, Susannah had a set of twins born March 28, 1809, and she was pregnant again when they started their journey. The Spences had buried another child born in 1807 or 1808 in North Carolina. That child will be discussed Elisha Spence: Part 11. Susannah’s last child was born late August or early September 1810, and Susannah died in childbirth. The loss of their mother introduced a nanny into the household, a young woman by the name of Mary Jane Bell (1795-1842). She was the daughter of Capt. Robert Bell of Guilford County, North Carolina (1736-1816) and his first wife–Mary Jane Boyd (1754-1795). Jane’s mother had died in childbirth while giving birth to her!

On October 10, 1810, Elisha Spence and Jane Bell were married in Davidson County, Tennessee(1).  The following year, their first child arrived followed by three additional children through 1826. The house became quite crowded and by 1820, the three older children–Samuel, Milly Catherine, and Daniel–relocated to Perry County, Tennessee to live with John David Spencer, one of their mother’s brothers(2). Their other brother, Levi James Spence, had returned to North Carolina and was living in Lenoir County in 1820(3). Samuel became enamored with Elizabeth Inman 1808-1872), daughter of Samuel Inman (1772-1830) and Mary Williams (1774-1830).  They were married in Davidson County, Tennessee on May 10, 1824(4). Milly Catherine had already beaten them to the altar. On February 2, 1820, she married Lewis Jones (1795-1849) in Davidson County, Tennessee(5). Daniel divided his time between the Lewis Jones and Samuel Spence households and finally returned to Davidson County. He had his own conquest to make, and she lived in Williamson County!

The Pewitt Family

Road sign regarding early history of Leipers Fork, Williamson County, Tennessee

Road sign regarding early history of Leiper’s Fork, Williamson County, Tennessee. Sign lists the early pioneer families who settled there.

Two populated places in Williamson County, Tennessee are important to this narrative. The first is Leiper’s Fork, and the second is Fernvale, which was mentioned earlier in the Levi James Spence article. Both places are close to each other, and are also close to Franklin.

According to a Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee Wikipedia entry:

Leiper’s Fork is located along the Natchez Trace, which was an important travel route for Native Americans and early European-American settlers. The area was settled in the late 1700s by settlers from North Carolina and Virginia who had received land grants as payment for service in the American Revolution. Colonel Jesse Steed received a land grant of 2,504 acres (1,013 ha) that includes the site of the village. He sold the area to Jesse Benton, who established a homestead. His son, Thomas Hart Benton, who later was to become U.S. Senator from Missouri, moved the family there in 1801 after his father’s death. Natchez Trace travelers called the community around the Benton homestead Bentontown, but over time the area came to be called Hillsboro.

In 1818, a post office was established in the community. Apparently the Hillsboro name was already in use for a community in Coffee County, so the post office was given the name of Leiper’s Fork for the stream that runs through the village. The namesake of Leiper’s Fork creek was one of two brothers: Hugh Leiper, who completed an early land survey in the area, or Captain James Leiper, who died in the Battle of the Bluffs at Fort Nashborough in 1781.

Growth of the village was stimulated by traffic on the Natchez Trace. Largely as a result of its transportation access, Leiper’s Fork was historically the center of trade for western Williamson County and the center of religious and social activities in the area.

The Leiper’s Fork post office operated until 1918(6).

A highway sign (pictured here) identifies names of the earliest settlers in the area:

Situated on the Natchez Trace, the village and stream were named for pioneer surveyor Hugh Leiper. The Adams, Benton, Bond, Carl, Cummins, Davis, Dobbins, Hunter, Medows, Parham, Southall and Wilkens families were early settlers. Later, the Sweeney, Inman, Locke, Lunn, Mayberry, Martin, Jones and Burdette families lived here. Leipers Fork had a post office from 1818 until 1908, a bank from 1902 until 1932, and a station on the 41.5 mile long Middle Tennessee Railroad from 1909 until 1927. Hillsboro Academy (1890-1904), established by Professor Will Anderson, became a public school in 1905(7).

Fernvale is a populated place where the Harpeth Furnace is located.  There are also a number of cemeteries in the area: Inman Cemetery, which is two miles south of Fernvale,  Bryant Cemetery, which is eighteen miles to the south southwest of Fernvale, Buchanan Cemetery, which is fifteen miles to the East of Fernvale, and Childress cemetery, which is nineteen miles to the east of Fernvale (located in Maury County). There are three Gray Cemeteries: one that is 25 miles to the east of Fernvale (located in Davidson County); one that is seven miles east southeast of Fernvale; and, one (Gray’s Bend) that is located twenty-one miles to the west southwest of Fernvale (located in Hickman County.) A Graham Cemetery is located twenty-two miles to the west of Fernvale in Hickman County. Other names of importance to this narrative include Adams, Alexander (5 cemeteries), Hood, Hughes, Hunter, Jones (there are 10 of those!), Jordan, Martin (6 cemeteries), Moss (2 cemeteries), Russell (2 cemeteries), Smith (5 cemeteries), Taylor (3 cemeteries), Temple (2 cemeteries), Thornton (2 cemeteries), Wall (2 cemeteries), Williams (7 cemeteries), Wilson (4 cemeteries), and others(8).

Mary Ann “Polly” Pewitt was born in 1810 in Williamson County, Tennessee to Joel “Jack” Pewitt (1779-1823) and Susannah “Sukey” Adams (1786-1848). Her father’s family came from Lunenburg County, Virginia, while her mother’s family came from Chatham County, North Carolina.

Joel “Jack” Pewitt was born in Lunenburg County, Virginia in 1779, and he died August 13, 1823 in Franklin, Williamson County, Tennessee. He was the son of Joel Pewitt, Sr., who was born in Lunenburg County, Virginia in 1745 and who died in Williamson County, Tennessee in 1797, and Anne Blackwell (1743-1783).  The children of Joel Pewitt, Sr. and Anne Blackwell follow:

  1. Thomas Pewitt (1761/90-unknown). Thomas was born between 1761 and 1790 in Lunenburg, Virginia, and he died in Tennessee. The date of his death is unknown. He may have died young.
  2. John Pewitt (1761/90-1823). John was born between 1761 and 1790 in Lunenburg, Virginia, and he died there in 1823. His wife was Nancy Erskine Crenshaw (b. 1782). Their children were:
      1. Joel B. Pewitt (1814-1889). Joel was born in Virginia, and he died in Humphreys County, Tennessee.  His first wife was Emily Radford (1820-1854). Their children were: (a) William Pettus Pewitt (1841-1926); (b) Columbus A. Pewitt (1844-1922); (c) Thaddeus F. Pewitt (b. 1847); (d) Mary Elizabeth Pewitt (1849-1881); (e) Martha V. Pewitt (b. 1851); (f) Susan A. Pewitt (b. 1854).  His second wife was Mary Jane Coleman (1830-1895). Their children were: (a) Samuel W. Pewitt (b. 1863); (b) Robert Blackwell Pewitt (1865-1932);  (c) Thomas H. Pewitt (b. 1867); (d) Lou Ada Pewitt (1872-1944).
      2. Mary Elizabeth Pewitt (1816-1900). Mary was born March 1816 in Lunenberg, Virginia, and she died after 1900 in Humphreys County, Tennessee. Her husband was John James Russell (b. abt 1818). I haven’t proven this as yet, but I believe John connects with the same Russell family mentioned in the Levi James Spence article. Their children were: (a) Sarah E. Russell (b. 1842); (b) Nancy W. Russell (b. 1845); (c) John Henry Russell (1848-1914); (d) Mary C. Russell (b. 1849); (e) Tabitha Frances Russell (1853-1925); (f) Franklin Pierce Russell (1870-1935).
  3. Joel “Jack” Pewitt, Jr. (1779-1823). Under discussion here.
  4. Adam Jackson Pewitt (1803-1854). Adam was born in Williamson County, Tennessee in 1803, and he died January 15, 1854 in Haywood County, Tennessee. His wife was Barbary Smith (1797-1860). Their children were: (a) Andrew J. Pewitt (1833-1910). Andrew relocated to Arkansas and died in Pope County; (b) Wyatt Elliott Pewitt (b. 1839); (c) an unknown child.
  5. James Blackwell Pewitt (1780-1822). James was born in Lunenberg County, Virginia in 1780, and he died May 30, 1822 in Williamson County, Tennessee. He and his brother Joel “Jack” settled together in Williamson County, Tennessee.  His wife was Catherine Andes (1782-1822). Their children were:
    1. Adam Jackson Pewitt (1803-1854). Adam was born in Williamson County, Tennessee in 1803, and he died in Haywood County, Tennessee on January 15, 1854. His wife was Barbary Smith (1797-1860) Their children were: (a) Andrew J. Pewitt (1833-1910); (b) Wyatt Elliott Pewitt (b. 1839); (c) an unknown child.
    2. Lewis Pewitt (1805-1850). Lewis was born in 1805 in Williamson County, and he died after 1850 in Laclede County, Missouri. His wife was Martha Patsy Cook (b. 1814). Their children were: (a) Catherine Pewett (b. 1833); (b) Martha Jane Pewitt (1835-1916); (c) Adam Pewitt (1837-1840); (d) Nancy Pewitt (1839-1915); (e) Barbary E. Pewitt (b. 1847); (f) Joseph Andes Pewitt (1847-1904); (g) James Pewitt (b. 1850); (h) Lewis E. Pewett (b. 1850); (I) Mary Pewitt (b. 1851); (j) William G. Pewitt (no additional information).
    3. Henry Pewitt (1807-1881). Henry was born May 15, 1807 in Williamson County, Tennessee, and he died July 22, 1881 in Fulton County, Kentucky. His wife was Rebecca Williamson (1814-1864). Their children were: (a) Barbara L. Pewitt (1828-1856); (b) Hartwell Pewitt (1830-1917); (c) Rev. Malachi Pewitt (1832-1909); (d) Harvey S. “Harry” Pewitt (1834-1899); (e) Minerva (Mauriva) Pewitt (1838-1859); (f) Adam W. Pewitt (1839-1840); (g) William Adam Pewitt (1839-1910); (h) Polly P. Pewitt (1841-1842); (I) Mary Elizabeth Polly Pewitt (1841-1914); (j) James H. Pewitt (1844-1871); (k) Judy W. Pewitt (1846-1847); (l) Rebecca J. Pewitt (1848-1849); (m) Amanda Pewitt (1850-1860). His second wife was Elizabeth Parker (1813-1898)
    4. Anna  Mariah Mae Pewitt (1808-1885). She was born in Tennessee. I have no additional information about her.
    5. James Pewitt (1809-1854). James was born September 2, 1809 in Tennessee, and he died January 15, 1854 in Williamson County, Tennessee. His wife was Sarah Adams (1808-1866). They had a daughter: Sarah Jane Pewitt (1839-1890).
    6. John Andes Pewitt (1812-1890). John was born January 12, 1812 in Franklin, Williamson, Tennessee, and he died in 1890 in Sand Mountain, Bibb County, Alabama. His wife was Rebecca Elizabeth Givens (1817-1874). Their children were: (a) Mary Ann Polly Pewitt (1838-1889); (b) Adam Pewitt (1839-1910); (c) Thomas Pewitt (1842-1862); (d) Sarah Francis Pewitt (1843-1904); (e) George Martin Pewitt (1846-1910); (f) Judy A. Pewitt (1847-1923); (g) Jeremiah Samuel “Jerry” Pewitt (1851-1931); (h) James Martin Pewitt (1852-1933); (I) Nancy C. Pewitt (1858-1940).
    7. Barbara Pewitt (1814-1887). Barbara was born February 9, 1814 in Williamson County, Tennessee, and she died October 18, 1887 in Franklin, Williamson, Tennessee. Her first marriage was to her first cousin: Joseph Pewitt (1810-1840). Joseph was a son of Joel “Jack” Pewitt, Jr (1779-1823) and Susannah Suckey Adams (1786-1848) and a brother of Mary Ann Polly Pewitt (1810-1859)–the wife of Daniel Spence. Their children were: (a) Mary E. Pewitt (1826-1887); (b) Mary Ann Pewitt (1830-1887) [Note: there may have been two Marys, or this may be one person with different dates of birth]; (c) Joseph Pewitt (b. 1831); (d) Catherine Susan Pewitt (1831-1880); (e) Adeline Pewitt (b. 1833); (f) William Maxfield Pewitt (1835-1865); (g) Minerva B. Pewitt (1837-1860); (h) Cora Pewitt (b. 1840); (I) Fanny Pewitt (b. 1840). Barbara’s second marriage was to Granville Grantz Inman (1820-1902). He was the son of John Lazarus Inman (1793-1859) and Sarah Kirby (1795-1870); the grandson of  Lazarus Inman (1765-1850) and Susannah Stovall (1765-1850); and the great grandson of Meshach Inman (1749-1771) of the Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego Inman fame. [I’ve already discussed this Inman family in Part Three of the Elisha Spence series: The Burke County, North Carolina Inman Family.  This Inman family will reappear shortly.] The children of Barbara Pewitt and Granville Grantz Inman were: (a) James Wesley Inman (1843-1898); (b) Sarah J. Inman (1844-1914); (c) Nancy C. Inman (b. 1846); (d) Henry Clay Inman (b. 1846); (e) Barbara Ann (or Allen) Inman (1849-1908); (f) John T. Inman (1851-1934); (g) Adam A. Inman (1853-1929); (h) Minerva Inman (b. 1860); (I) Monroe S. Inman (1860-1897).  After Barbara’s death, Granville married Catherine Pyner (1818-1897).James Blackwell Pewitt (1780-1822). James settled in Williamson County, Tennessee with his brother, Joel “Jack.” He was born in Lunenberg, Virginia in 1780, and he died May 30, 1822 in Williamson County, Tennessee. (Before I go any further, I will be citing a document that can cause a problem if you don’t probe into it. It is called Tennessee Divorce and Other Records (1800-1965). It is actually a collection of many different types of records including divorce and probate. The records I needed were all probate records.  There is one divorce I will discuss later on in this article, but it is the only divorce I am aware of.)  James’ wife was Catherine Andes (1782-1822). Their children were:
      1. Hartwell Pewitt (1785-1843). Hartwell was born about 1785 in Lunenberg, Virginia, and he died in 1843 in Monroe County, Arkansas. His wife was Edney/Edna Halstead Gray (1785-1835).  Their children were: (a) Ephraim Pewitt (b. 1817); (b) Calvin Pewitt (b. 1819); (c) Rebecca Pewitt (b. 1821); (d) Amanda Pewitt (1824-1855); (e) Eveline/Evaline Pewitt (1829-1852); (f) Mary Elizabeth Pewitt (1835-1878). [Note: Edna Gray was from the same Gray line depicted in the Levi James Spence article. She was a sister of Daniel Gray, who is discussed in the next section.)
      2. Nancy Pewitt (1788-1874). Nancy was born in Lunenberg, Virginia in 1788, and she died in Bastrop, Texas in 1874. Her husband was Daniel Gray (1787-1848). [Note: This is the same Gray family depicted in the Levi James Spence article. Daniel was a brother of Edna Gray, who married Hartwell Pewitt (see previous section). Daniel and Edna Gray were children of Deliverance Gray (1767-1840) and Palmer Tamer Koen Halstead (1760-1788). Deliverance was a son of Anthony Gray (1750-1803/4) and Polly Jordan 1754-1804), and a grandson of Nathaniel Dwight Gray (1744-1777) and Mary Jane Parker (1744-1799).] The children of Nancy Pewitt and Daniel Gray were: (a) John Wesley Gray (1812-1854); (b) Joshua Gray (1814-1836); (c) Ann Blackwell Gray (b. 1818); (d) Rebecca Gray (1822-1850); (e) Joseph Leonard Gray (1824-1863); (f) Sarah W. Gray (b. 1827); (g) Mary Jane Gray (1832-1855).

Joel “Jack” Pewitt, Jr. (1779-1823), Susannah “Suckey” Adams (1786-1848) and the Inman Family

In the early-to-mid 1990s, I traveled back and forth to Denver aboard a local bus. This was during the period of time prior to the availability of Echo Passes for the Express and Regional busses. I didn’t mind the locals. The trip took much longer than the Express, but it was during this period of time when I did a lot of reading. One book I remember in particular was called The Civil War in Missouri (1861-1865) or something similar to that title.  After finding the surname Inman in the index, I checked out the book from the campus library and focused on the entry.

According to the footnote, an incident took place outside Houston in Texas, County, Missouri concerning a bushwhacker by the name of John Inman. The Union Army wanted to capture him and eventually caught him near Houston. That night, John Inman escaped, and Union soldiers shot and killed him.

Well, of course the name intrigued me. And during my next trip to the library, I discovered a number of Inmans resided in Texas and in Dent Counties, Missouri . I thought they may have been related to my third great grandmother, Elizabeth Inman (1808-1872), wife of Samuel Perry Spence (1800-1859). But if so, how?

Only recently did I discover my answer!

Joel “Jack” Pewitt, Jr. (1779-1823) was born in Lunenberg County, Virginia in 1779, and he died August 13, 1823 in Franklin, Williamson County, Tennessee. As already noted, he was a son of Joel Pewitt (1745-1797) and Anne Blackwell (1743-1797). His wife was Susannah Suckey Adams (1786-1848). She was the daughter of Thomas A. Adams (1755-1823) and Sarah Anna Vaughn (1755-1806). The children of Joel and Susannah Adams Pewitt follow:

  1. Winna Pewitt (b. 1804). Winna was born in 1804 in Williamson County, Tennessee. She died at an unknown date in Williamson County.
  2. Thomas Pewitt (1806-1847). Thomas was born in 1806 in Franklin, Williamson County, Tennessee, and he died in 1847 in Lawrence County, Arkansas. His wife was Tryphenia Thania Smith (1805-1832). Their children were: (a) John Smith Pewitt (1831-1864); (b) Elizabeth S. Pewitt (b. 1833); (c) Mary Ann Pewitt (b. 1834); (d) Nancy M. Pewett (b. 1838); (e) Tryphenia I Pewitt (b. 1840); (f) Thomas I. Pewitt (b. 1843); (g) Permilia Pewitt (1846-1938).
  3. James Pewitt (1809-1854). James was born in Tennessee September 2, 1809, and he died In Williamson County, Tennessee January 15, 1854. His wife was Sarah Adams (1808-1866). They had one known daughter:  Sarah Jane Pewitt (1839-1890).
  4. Joseph Pewitt (1810-1840). He was discussed in the James Blackwell Pewitt section since he married James’ daughter, Barbara.
  5. Mary Ann “Polly” Pewitt (1810-1859). (If the birth dates are correct, she and her brother, Joseph, were twins.) Wife of Daniel Spence (1806-1857). They will be discussed in Part 10.
  6. Nancy M. Pewitt (1814-1869). Nancy was born in 1814 in Williamson County, Tennessee, and she died about 1869 in Dent County, Missouri. Her husband was Henry C. Duke (1812-1870). Their children were: (a) Malachi Duke (b. 1833); (b) Emily Duke (b. 1837); (c) Robert Duke (b. 1839); (d) Susannah Duke (b. 1842); (e) William Duke (b. 1844); (f) Lavinia Duke (b. 1848).
  7. Malachi Pewitt (1816-1882). Malachi was born in Williamson County, Tennessee July 12, 1816, and he died October 25, 1882 in Dry Fork, Dent County, Missouri. His wife was Mary “Polly” Elizabeth Inman (1820-1854). She was a daughter of Ezekiel Inman (1796-1862) and Lillis Hester Edgar (1798-1873), a granddaughter of Lazarus Inman (1765-1850) and Susannah Stovall (1765-1850),  a great granddaughter of Meshach Inman (1749-1771), and a sister of Annis (Annas) Inman (1832-1855), who married Laban Pewitt (1821-1869). The children of Malachi Inman and Mary “Polly” Elizabeth Inman were: (a) William Washington Pewitt (1837-1919); (b) Sousanah  Malinda Pewitt (1839-1871); (c) Nancy Jane Pewitt (1842-1935); (d) Joel Pewitt (b. 1845). Malachi’s second wife was Juretta Catherine Medlock (1833-1900). Their children were: (a) David Pewitt, born 1856; (b) Mary Albertine “Tina” Pewitt (1866-1941); (c) James H. Pewitt (1868-1928); (d) Lillian Amberzine Pewitt (1870-1930); (e) John S. Pewitt (b. 1873); (f) Silas Luther Pewitt (1875-1929); (g) Josaphine I. Pewitt (1879-1935); (h) Laborn (Laban) Pewitt–nothing else is known; (I) Martha Pewitt–nothing else is known.
  8. Laban Pewitt (1821-1869). Laban was born about 1821 in Williamson County, Tennessee, and he died in September 1869 in Dent County, Missouri. His first wife was Annis (Annas) Inman (1832-1855)–mentioned in the previous entry. They had one son: Wiley Pewitt, born 1849. Laban’s second wife was Sarah Jane Wolford (1832-1864).
  9. Wiley W. Pewitt (1822-1864). Wiley was born in 1822 in Franklin, Williamson County, Tennessee, and he died November 1864. He is buried in the Mount Hermon Vet Memorial Cemetery, Dent County, Missouri. His wife was Mary Elizabeth Birchlew (1826-1887). Their children were: (a) Laban Pewitt (1844-1862)–he died during the Civil War while serving in the Confederate Army; (b) Susannah “Susan” E. Pewitt (1847-1895); (c) Thomas J. Pewitt, born 1849; (d) Virginia A. Pewitt (1851-1924); (e) Lorenzo Dow Pewitt (1853-1891); (f) Amberzine Tennessee “Ammie” Pewitt (1855-1939); (g) James B. Pewitt (1857-1944); (h) Joel Price Pewitt (1862-1920); (I) William Wiley “Will” Pewitt (1864-1892).

The Missouri Inman Bushwhacker vs. The Tennessee Inman Scoundrel

 In  May 2002, Howard and I were returning to Colorado after a trip to the Midwest. We stopped in the town of Houston in Texas County, Missouri where I took front and rear pictures of a pioneer sign. I was still seeking the identity of a bushwhacker by the name of John Inman who was killed near Houston while trying to escape federal forces. Shortly after that, I discontinued my search–an interest that only rekindled during the writing of this article.  I began wondering whether anyone else had searched for  this John Inman and ran across an article I wrote in an old issue of Inman Innings. At that time, I was also looking for information on my husband’s Grogan line:

Just the other day, I received a query on-line. I am publishing it with the writer’s permission. I had put out an announcement on Tennessee Roots, North & South Carolina Roots, and Mid-Plains Roots on the Internet concerning my forthcoming Spence book. The writer saw my maiden name and sent this message, hoping that someone could provide an answer:

“When I first started researching, I thought Grogan was going to be my easiest family to trace but I found it more difficult than I thought. I have sent for a copy of my grandfather’s death certificate, and I am hoping it will have his mother’s first name on it. That will help with the Inman side and hopefully we will be able to make a connection.
I also heard from someone in Texas County, Missouri who told me where to write for information on the Grogans there. I hope I can find T. J. (Jeff) Grogan”s parents. I did find a Thomas Jefferson Grogan at the family History Center at the LDS Church, but I’m not sure it is the right one or if his name is Thomas Jefferson.
About Inman as a bushwhacker: it could be my great grandmother’s family. J. T. Jeff Grogan was married twice. His first marriage may have been to Cynthia Stephens 07 Mar 1872 in Clay County, Tennessee, but I haven’t confirmed that. He had two children from that first marriage–John Tom and Martha, I believe. His second marriage was to _______ Inman, and they had four children, including my grandfather, born in 1881, Charles Henry Grogan in Grogan, Cass Township, Texas County, Missouri. So he could have married the Inman there in Texas County. At least that makes the family history a little exciting.”
An earlier message from this correspondent reads:
“I don’t have any Spence families, but in reading your query, I noticed your maiden name and thought since you were a genealogist as well as an Inman, I might hit it lucky. Please forgive the length of this query.
My great-grandfather, Cleo Patrick ‘Tobe” Aaron (b. 1863 AL), married my great-grandmother, Margaret Wood Tomlinson in 1888 in Dunklin County, Missouri. The Aaron family were making their way to Texas and stopped in Dunklin county long enough “to make a crop” and–as it turned out–long enough for Tobe to meet and marry Margaret. The marriage didn’t last. Shortly after my grandmother was born (December 1889), the Aarons were divorced. Tobe moved on to northeastern Texas to rejoin his family. In October 1896 in Fannin County, Texas he married Lula Morris. He died there in 1959. Except for his name, I knew nothing about Cleo Patrick “Tobe” Aaron until I started searching two years ago. I found him in the Mormon Ancestral File. Three marriages were listed for him–the two I have mentioned AND a marriage to someone named D. INMAN. There is absolutely no other information. I located Tobe’s present-day family and asked them. Apparently Tobe had kept his marriages to my great-grandmother and to this D. Inman a secret for many years. And because his wife was so upset when she found out, his other marriages were never discussed.
Now his granddaughter is as curious as I am about who D. Inman is. My guess is that she was living either in Texas or in the Indian Territory, although it is also possible that she lived in Colorado (one of Tobe’s brothers had checked out the Mormon settlement in Manassa in the early 1890s). The marriage would have taken place between 1890 and 1896.”

I will explain the John Inman–bushwhacker question since it was an issue that I originally raised.

Last fall, I was doing a considerable amount of research concerning the border wars between Missouri and Kansas during the Civil War. I ran across an account (source misplaced at the moment) describing the execution of a “notorious” bushwhacker named John Inman by Union forces in Texas County, Missouri. As I recall, John Inman and another bushwhacker were first captured by the Union Army and were being held prisoner.  Inman and the other bushwhacker attempted to escape and were killed while running. Since discovering that information, I have been trying to discover the identity of John Inman and his possible connection to the Tennessee Inman families, from whom I descend. Texas County, Missouri is some distance from Jasper County, but location does not decide relationship as far as families are concerned.

A trip to the local library disclosed a John Inman living in Texas County on the 1850 Census. However, I don’t know whether this was the same John Inman–alleged bushwhacker. So I placed a query on the Internet, and the response was really surprising–not concerning John Inman, but another relative. I heard from a man who had done a considerable amount of research concerning Missouri bushwhackers who rode with Quantrill, Bloody Bill Anderson, and some of the others. He said that he would check his research and get back in touch with me. A few days later, he sent me a complete listing of all the known bushwhackers in Missouri, including the leader under whom they served. As I recall, his comment went something like this: “Couldn’t find your John Inman, but I’m sure you’ll find another name you mentioned (chuckle): ‘The other name: James Bunch–my ggg uncle who married Milly Catherine Spence, my ggg aunt, in Jasper County, Missouri.’ Allegedly, he rode with Quantrill!” (I knew that my James Bunch was head of a Confederate Home Guard Unit in Jasper County, and I remember my grandfather describing him as “a Confederate guerilla fighter,” but until I saw this list, I didn’t know how extensively he was involved. No doubt, that is the reason the Bunch family and my ggg grandmother, Elizabeth Inman Spence, fled Missouri after the Civil War and went down into Texas).

I am still in a quandary about John Inman, however. As I recall, the source suggested that many men were falsely accused of bushwhacking as an excuse for killing them simply because their sympathies remained with the South. This may have been true of John Inman.

Hopefully, someone will have the answer to this question(9).

The Inman Innings article was written in 1996. Since then I learned Quantrill’s  James Bunch lived in Northern Missouri and was not the James Bunch who headed the Confederate Home Guard Unit in Jasper County, Missouri.  And I believe I have identified John Inman the bushwhacker’s family. He did not come from the Dent County Inmans who intermarried with the Pewitts. He was part of the Texas County Inmans who descended from the South Carolina Inmans. Their Inman line was in Charleston at an early date. They moved up through the Carolina back country and settled in Tennessee.  My southern Inman line and their cousins in Dent County originally settled in Maryland and moved to North Carolina. From there, they moved to Williamson County, Tennessee. I do not believe the Dent County Inmans or the Houston County Inmans were directly related.

Mary Ann “Polly” Pewitt and Daniel Spence settled in Jasper County, Missouri with Spence and Jones relatives. Some of Polly’s siblings intermarried with Elizabeth Inman Spence’s cousins and settled in Dent County, Missouri. The Dent County people supported the South during the Civil War. Daniel Spence and Mary Ann “Polly” Pewitt’s family supported the North. There does not appear to be any interaction between the two groups. As will be shown in the next article (Elisha Spence, Part 10), some of Daniel and Polly’s children fled to Kansas during the Civil War, and several of them stayed there.

A mystery resolved for the moment concerning the identity of a Missouri Inman bushwhacker! Now for the Tennessee Inman scoundrel!

Hezekiah W. Inman (a/k/a Hezekiah Haney) (1770-1847).

Hezekiah W. Inman was a brother of my fourth great grandfather, Samuel Inman (1772-1830)–therefore, my fifth great uncle, and an uncle of my third great grandmother, Elizabeth Inman Spence (1808-1872)–wife of Samuel Perry Spence (1800-1859). I didn’t mention his extra-curricular activities in The Burke County, North Carolina Inman Family, but I am doing so here since they tie in indirectly with the Spences and the Pewitts.

Hezekiah had two families at the same time. His first wife was Christiana/Christina Spears (1774-1840), whom he married in 1793 in Halifax County, North Carolina and by whom he had five children. Approximately two years after the marriage, Hezekiah began an affair with Nancy “Blancy” Devine a/k/a Christiana/Christina Spears Haney Murphree (1780-1845), by whom he had five additional children. He moved to Williamson County, Tennessee with his first family and then traveled back and forth between Tennessee and North Carolina.  According to a note on my tree:

In 1805, Hezekiah left his family and moved to Anson, North Carolina, where he lived under the name Hezekiah Haney. He was living with Nancy Devine, who used the name Christina/Christiana Spears(10).

His legal wife Christiana divorced  him in 1814 after she discovered his double life. She also learned he was scheming to get his hands on a parcel of real estate her father had left her in his will. The court ruled in Christiana’s favor following testimony from one of Hezekiah’s cousins, Lazarus Inman, per the following:

1C. Inman   v.   H. Inman______________ Petition for a Divorce______________ Filed 6th October 1814

 2 To the Honorable the Judge of the Fourth Judicial Court the petition of Christina Inman who is and for several years has been a citizen of Tennessee by her next friend Lazarus Inman respectfully represents that about twenty years ago she intermarried with a certain Hezikiah Inman in the State of North Carolina, by whom she had five children, four of whom are still living. Your petitioner further shows that, about seven years ago the said Hezikiah Inman who is made defendant hereto, entirely abandoned your petitioner and her children, in Williamson County in this state and has ever since lived in open adultery with another woman named Nancy Divine by whom he has several children. Your petitioner has not since the Defendant abandoned her received any real assistance from him towards supporting herself and her children, but has been obliged to rely on her own labor for that purpose. Our petitioner represents, that her father has lately in about three months past departed this life leaving a small property to a part of which your petitioner is entitled. The defendant is endeavoring to get possession thereof and convert it to his own use. Your petitioner states that the defendant is in possession and owner of considerable property, a part of which ought to be allowed as alimony to her but he refused to make any such provision. Your petitioner therefore prays that she may be by order of this Court be divorced entirely from said defendant and may afford such

 3 alimony be allowed to your petitioner as to this Honorable Court may appear reasonable and just and in the mean time may the defendant be injoined from receiving or recovering any parts of her late deceased fathers estate and may also such other further relief be granted in the premises as is just.             /s/ Grundy Schulse (?)  State of Tenneessee to wit:This day personally appeared before me Thomas Stuart one of the Judges of the Circuit courts for the State of Tennessee Christina Inman the petitioner in the above petition and made oath that the facts stated in the above petition are true to the best of her knowledge and belief and that she does not pray this divorce out of ___ity nor is the application made by collusion between her and her said husband, for the mere purpose of being free and separated from each other, but is made by her in sincerity and truth for the causes stated in the above petitioner. Sworn to and subscribed before me this 4th day of October  

her/s/ Thos. Stuart                                                                                 Christina    X    Inman                                                                                                                            mark The Clerk of the Circuit court of Williamson County. Let a subpoena under seal of the court be issued to summon the above named Hezekiah Inman to appear at next Circuit court to be held in Williamson County, and answer the above petition. Also let a writ of Injunction be issued agreeably to the prayer of the above petition. Given under my hand to seal this 4th day of October 1814. Thos Stuart one of the Judged of the Circuit Court.{seal}

 3 (sic) C Inman                                                                                     }v.         }           subp                                                                                    }           to answerH. Inman___________ 9th October 1814 ___________ Came to hand10th October 1814 Not found /s/ Wm Hu___________(11).

Lazarus Inman (1765-1850) was a son of Meshach Inman (1749-1771) and the husband of Susannah Stovall (1765-1850). As already noted, some of their children and grandchildren intermarried with the Pewitts and resettled in Dent County, Missouri. No doubt the Inman descendants from Lazarus Inman knew about Hezekiah’s antics–a person they probably discussed from time to time. These stories would also pass down through the Spence and Pewitt lines until reaching the “Well-we-don’t-talk-about-that!” Stage!)

In 1824, Hezekiah married Eliza A. Branch (1803-1897) in Williamson County, Tennessee, and he had two additional children by her. His first wife wasn’t about to take him back, and his situation with Nancy Devine undoubtedly ended when he couldn’t get his way about Christiana’s property. He lived in Wayne County, Tennessee in 1830(12) and in 1836(13) and by 1840, he and his family relocated to Marshall, Mississippi(14).

Hezekiah died in Marshall County, Mississippi before September 1847.

(To Be Continued in  Elisha Spence: Part 10–The Children of Daniel Spence and Mary Ann “Polly” Pewitt)




(1) Tennessee State Marriages about Elisha Spence and Jane Bell. Ancestry.com, Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: 20 Aug 2015. Available online at http://www.ancestry.com

(2) 1820 Census for Perry ,Tennessee about John Spencer, Ancestry.com, Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: 20 Aug 2015. Available online at http://www.ancestry.com

(3) 1820 Census for Lenoir County, North Carolina about Levi Spence, Ancestry.com, Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: 20 Aug 2015. Available online at http://www.ancestry.com

(4) Tennessee State Marriages about Samuel Spence and Elizabeth Inman. Ancestry.com, Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: 20 Aug 2015. Available online at http://www.ancestry.com

(5) Tennessee State Marriages about Lewis Jones and Milly Catherine Spence. Ancestry.com, Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: 20 Aug 2015. Available online at http://www.ancestry.com

(6) “Leiper’s Fork” from the Wikipedia site. Article last updated 1 Oct 2014. Date Accessed: 20 Aug 2015. Available online at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leiper%27s_Fork,_Tennessee

(7) Inscription on the Leiper’s Fork Historical Road Sign, Williamson County, Tennessee.

(8) Roadside Thoughts Website: Fernvale, Tennessee. Page Last Modified by John Hall: 9 Aug 2015. Date Accessed: 20 Aug 2015. Available online at http://roadsidethoughts.com/tn/fernvale-xx-williamson-cemeteries.htm

(9) Barbara Inman Beall, Editor. “A Grogan-Inman Problem”, Inman Innings, Vol. 2, No. 2. Spring 1996.

(10) Inman-Spence-Beall-Warfield Family Branches, Ancestry.com, Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: 28 Aug 2015. Available online at http://www.ancestry.com

(11) Tennessee Divorce and Other Papers (1800-1965), Ancestry.com, Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: 28 Aug 2015. Available online at http://www.ancestry.com

(12) 1830 Census for Wayne County, Tennessee about Hezekiah Inman. Ancestry.com, Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: 28 Aug 2015. Available online at http://www.ancestry.com

(13) Early Tennessee Tax Records about Hezekiah Inman, Ancestry.com, Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: 28 Aug 2015. Available online at http://www.ancestry.com

(14) 1840 Census for Marshall County, Mississippi about Hezekiah Inman. Ancestry.com, Provo, Utah. Date Accessed: 28 Aug 2015. Available online at http://www.ancestry.com



Pirates of the—What???!!!

4 Supposed Pirate graves in the Thyatira Presbyterian Church Cemetery near Salisbury, Rowan County, North Carolina. Owner/Source: Katherine Benbow, The Benbow Family Website

Four presumed pirate graves in the Thyatira Presbyterian Church Cemetery near Salisbury, Rowan County, North Carolina. Owner/Source: Katherine Benbow, The Benbow Family Website(1)

These four stones, three of which bear skulls and crossbones, and the fourth bearing only crossbones, are a source of great interest to the children in the church.

“According to legend, the pirates were executed, and court allowed their burial only if their stones carried the pirate symbol, and bore no names.”

Due to the distance from the coast, some have speculated that these men may have been highwaymen instead. Some have said that the men were former pirates who moved to the area, and that they were found out, and hung for their past crimes. Also, some say that the elders of the church were the ones forbidding the names on the stones. It would be interesting to find the court records for this case, if this is the truth. Yet others have said that the images actually indicate deaths from an epidemic disease. Without the dates for the deaths, it is difficult to verify the information(2).

When I first began searching for my Spence ancestors, I had no idea where they originated. My grandfather, William Franklin Spence (1884-1973), once sent me off on a wild journey into Kentucky. He thought his grandfather, William David Spence (1827-1907), was born in Kentucky. He was actually born in Tennessee, but it would take me a while to find that. So back in those early days, I searched the old county history books in for the Spence surname. When I finally discovered the Spences were in North Carolina prior to Tennessee, I followed the same procedure there.  All the North Carolina  county histories were piled on my table while I searched through the Index of each volume. It was on such an occasion when I encountered an interesting story in an old Rowan County History concerning the fate of three condemned pirates who were executed and then buried in the Thyatira Presbyterian Churchyard Cemetery near the town of Salisbury.


Of course, I had to read about it! Since I made no copy of the story, I am forced to recall it from memory.

As I remember, three dangerous pirates had been operating off the North Carolina coast, robbing, killing–doing all the dangerous things that pirates desire to do. Finally, these three pirates grew tired of their way of life and decided to settle down. They were afraid of being recognized if they settled on the coast, so they went inland to Rowan County. They became farmers and even married, raising families. And they lived their new lifestyle for some period of time. Then as fate would have it, someone recognized them. They were arrested, tried and convicted of piracy, and the three were sentenced to death by hanging.  Another problem arose after the three were executed: What should be done with the bodies? Murderers and thieves were not to be buried in church cemeteries with the righteous people. Apparently, the families of these pirates did a lot of begging and pleading. They wanted them buried in the Thyatira Presbyterian Church Cemetery. After much begging and pleading, it was finally ruled that yes, they could be buried in the cemetery. Their stones would not bear their names or dates. And so the pirates were buried in the cemetery with only skull and crossbone symbols on their gravestones(3).

I returned home with a story to tell Howard later that day, and he asked his usual question:

“How are they related to you?”

“They’re not related to me!” I told him. “I just thought it was a neat story!”

I remembered that neat story for a while and then forgot it when all the school projects and educational projects descended on me. And I didn’t recall it until a few short months ago while working on my fifth great-grandfather, William Spence and while noting the fact that he was in Rowan County in the early 1760s.

What was that story I read about Rowan? I wondered. That pirate story! Where did that happen in Rowan? Some Presbyterian Church?

William Spence was a Methodist, so I dismissed that idea. And I forgot about the pirate story again until just the other day.

I should write about that in my Cemetery Capers! I decided. I wonder whether those gravestones are still there.

Good chance, they weren’t. Well, after all–the old county history was written over a century ago–or so I thought–and the incident probably happened a century before that.

What was the name of that town?

I don’t know how I happened to recall Salisbury, but searching under that name brought me no satisfaction whatsoever! I had already realized I wasn’t going to have the Daniel Spence article ready this week since I had so many interruptions with more on the horizon next week.  In addition, I discovered more information than I thought I would find about Daniel–so that article will be in two parts when I finish it.  A portion of the first part is written, but it won’t be ready for release until late next week. And the more I thought about those three pirate graves, the more I was determined to find out more about them.


I have no idea where that came from. I remember getting up yesterday morning and heading across the bedroom when that name sprang into my mind.

Thyatira Presbyterian Church!


Now, I believe it is fair to say that the church does not talk about the pirates on their website. Yes, they are still very much in operation! Yes, they are the oldest church and were the first church in the area dating back to the 1750s. And if they were the only church in the area in the early 1760s–yes, there is a chance William Spence was there!

Now, for the pirates!

My question led me to the Benbow Family site and to the following notation:

Notes: Thyatira is located in western Rowan County at 220 White Road. The mailing address is Salisbury NC, but the church is situated out in the county ten miles west of Salisbury, between Salisbury and Mooresville, just off Highway 150.

From the church’s website:
“Thyatira is believed to be the oldest Presbyterian Church west of the Yadkin River. In fact, it is one of the oldest Presbyterian churches in North Carolina, and is known as the ‘Mother of Presbyterianism’ in North Carolina….”

“A land entry dated 1750 in Anson County records reveals that a ‘meeting House and burial ground’ were in existence here by that date. This means the meeting house was probably in existence as early as 1747. For many years it was known as Cathey’s Meeting House. The name was changed to Thyatira Church during the pastorate of Dr. Samuel McCorkle, in the late eighteenth century….”

“Thyatira’s historical cemetery dates back to the mid-1700s. The oldest known stone is that of a settler who died in 1755….”


See also:

My search for “pirates buried in a church cemetery” led me to a newspaper clipping from the Salisbury Post posted on the Treasurenet.com discussion board. I will set it out in full here:

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” just might be biggest movie blockbuster of the summer. But who needs Johnny Depp when we have pirates right here in Rowan County? Maybe.

For years, the legend has been told and retold about the pirates that are buried at Thyatira Presbyterian Church in Mount Ulla. It’s just a story, insists Susan Waller, a retired educator. But it’s one she’s told groups of schoolchildren who visited the cemetery over the years.

The story she tells is this: These four pirates decided they couldn’t live their lives the way they were, so they made their way inland, to Millbridge and Thyatira Church. They married and lived respectable lives. But one day, they were found out. They were tried and hanged. The families begged the church to let them be buried inside the cemetery walls. In those days, thieves weren’t allowed to be buried on sacred ground. The church relented, but chiseled only skulls and crossbones in the four small markers.

“There’s not a name and there’s not a date, so that’s the mystery,” Waller says. The pirates got a one-line sentence in James Brawley’s history of Rowan County. When discussing the Thyatira cemetery, Brawley wrote: “There are two markers said to represent the burying places of pirates.”

Over the years, there have been stories written about two or three markers. There are actually four there today.

The late Heath Thomas wrote a slightly different version of the pirate story in a 1961 Post article. Thomas wrote: “Her Majesty’s Navy captured a crew of pirates on North Carolina’s wild, lonely coast. They were brought ashore, tried before His Majesty’s judge and sentenced to the scaffold. “Three made their escape and headed to the frontier West — of which then Rowan was the last outpost. “They settled here, married and begot progeny. “One died before the settlers knew about his past and he was given a Christian burial here at old Thyatira where the Scots organized the church about 1753. “Later the other two of the pirate trio died, both within the year. But the whispers had come up from the coast. “They had pillaged and murdered along the Outer Banks and the Spanish Main. They were fugitives from the scaffold. “The dour Scots didn’t want the pirates to contaminate their sacred burial ground. “But a dead man must be buried somewhere. The congregation agreed to the burials, but on the condition that the markers carry an awful warning to the un-Godly.”

Poppycock, says Gary Freeze.

(OK, maybe he didn’t actually say the word “poppycock,” but don’t you think it sounds kinda pirate-ish?)

“Where’s the ocean? Where are the waterways?” asks Freeze, a history professor at Catawba College who specializes in North Carolina history. It’s illogical that pirates would be buried in those graves, Freeze asserts. “Piracy ended in the Atlantic in the 1720s,” he says. “There’s no record of anyone accused of being a pirate.”

For his part in the conundrum, Freeze asked a psychic who she thought was in the graves. She told him she thought that children were buried there. The skull and crossbones symbol has been used as a sign of disease.

But why no names, no dates?

That is a mystery, Freeze admits.

Pirates may or may not at Thyatira, but those who definitely rest inside the stone walls include Elizabeth Maxwell Steele, who gave gold and silver to Nathaniel Greene during the Revolutionary War; John and Jean Knox, great-grandparents of President John Knox Polk; Francis and Mathew Locke, early patriots; and Samuel McCorkle, Thyatira’s first pastor and a founder of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. And befitting the area of the county, there are scads of Halls and Knoxes and Grahams and Steeles and Sloans. But maybe no pirates.

“If you wanna meet pirates, go see Johnny Depp,” Freeze says.

Interestingly enough, Freeze notes that the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie was fairly accurate in its interpretation of costumes and pirate life in general.


Go and visit Thyatira on a summer evening, when the air is cool and the sun is slowly sinking below the tall trees. Look and listen and take in the peaceful scene. Study those mysterious grave markers. You might conclude that this just may be the resting place of two, three, four pirates. Maybe.

Contact Susan Shinn at 704-797-4289 or sshinn@salisburypost.com(5)


Okay, so the “old county history” was originally published in 1976 instead of a century ago, as I originally thought. I may have hauled some additional Rowan County histories from the shelf to read more about the pirates. I can’t remember.

Someone responded to a question about the skull and crossbones on tombstones on Yahoo Answers, their response being listed as the best answer:

 It can relate to piracy but only if the crossed bones pass behind the skull IE the jolly roger.
If the crossed bones are underneath the skull, there are several possible theories: 

Relating to the Knights Templar, as they used the insignia to deter enemies. On crucifixes, sometimes the crossed bones are under the cross to denote Golgotha or the place of skulls where the crucifixion took place. Connected to some European churches, where the S&C displayed at entrances.

In 1700’s the southern Scots used the S&C on their headstones denoting death.
My thoughts are that the grave possible contains the remains of a Freemason, and the Fremasons used this symbol to denote a Master Mason. The grave looks significant for its time, even though you cannot read the inscription and date, I guess it could have been someone important and Freemasonary was common in officials and wealthy folk(6).

I must admit I find it strange that apparently these four are the only skull and crossbones gravestones in the Thyatira Cemetery. They probably belonged to some very young children who had not been named as  yet. I believe the fourth grave belonged to a child who died at later time.

However, I must also admit that the pirate story has a definite appeal.

Now, about William Spence and his presence in Rowan County in the early 1760s–



(1) Katherine Benbow, Owner, Source. The Benbow Family of the United Kingdom and Selected Allied Families Website. 30 October 2009. Date Accessed: 22 Aug 2015. Available online at: http://www.benbowfamily.com/showmedia.php?mediaID=343

(2) Katherine Benbow, Owner, Source. The Benbow Family of the United Kingdom and Selected Allied Families Website. 30 October 2009. Date Accessed: 22 Aug 2015. Available online at: http://www.benbowfamily.com/showmedia.php?mediaID=343

(3) James F. Brawley, Rowan County: A Brief History. Rowan County Free Press. Archive.com/Rowan County Public Library. Posted September 13, 2014. Originally Published: North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Division of Archives and History, 1974 – Rowan County (N.C.)178 pages

(4) Katherine Benbow, Owner, Source. The Benbow Family of the United Kingdom and Selected Allied Families Website. 30 October 2009. Date Accessed: 22 Aug 2015. Available online at: http://www.benbowfamily.com/showmedia.php?mediaID=343

(5) Susan Shinn,  Publication: Salisbury Post.  Date July 03, 2006 Section(s). Lifestyle Section(s) Lifestyle Page 0. Posted to the Treasurenet Website Discussion Board. Date Accessed: 22 Aug 2015. Available online at http://www.treasurenet.com/forums/general-discussion/274122-pirate-headstone-cemetary-photos-added-2.html

 (6) Scarlet. Yahoo Answers. (2008). “What Does a Skull and Cross Bones Mean When on a Grave?” Date Accessed: 22 Aug 2015. Available online at https://uk.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080716115929AAdXMMR

Chasing the “Wild Bunch”–One Woman’s Journey

Chasing the Wild Bunch: One Woman's Journey

Chasing the Wild Bunch: One Woman’s Journey


Mary Margaret Dean-Inghram Stillians (1795-1866) was my third-great grandmother. For years, the family knew very little about her, other than her first name. Some family members thought she came from England, while others thought she was of Spanish heritage. Some even thought she was a Gypsy. Intrigued with the mystery surrounding her, I embarked upon a search for her and for her family over twenty years ago. My questions took me to court records and to cemeteries in Greene County, Pennsylvania and in Washington County, Pennsylvania, in addition to the state archives of Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky–but not without a number of minor and major setbacks.

I was about to give up on ever finding her until my mother’s death in 2003. My father’s treasures were hidden inside cupboards in my parents’ garage in Cedar Rapids, Iowa–old photo albums and a large grocery sack full of pictures his mother had given him years before. He thought no one else would be interested in them, so he hid them inside the garage and passed away in 1974 without telling anyone they were there. I remembered those albums in our old house when I was growing up and would often tag along with him to the basement with my “Who’s this?” — “Who’s that?” questions that were never-ending. With my interest rekindled in family history in the early 1990s, I asked my mother about them. She told me Dad had thrown them away–they had no room for them in their new house when they moved to the northwest side of town. A flood in Summer 1993 revealed the sack of old pictures. Happily, I hauled those back to Colorado. Eventually, Mom discovered an album she found in another cupboard, and she gave that to me the following summer when we stopped to visit her while on our way to Pennsylvania. Since those were the only items she could find, I presumed the rest of the albums had been destroyed, but they were waiting to be discovered after her death on the highest shelves in various cupboards in the garage and were sent to me by my sister via a number of UPS shipments. The final one was found shortly after my sister and I had sold the house and after the new people took possession. This was the one I had been hoping to find! Information gleaned from those albums and memories of discussions with my father about his mother’s maternal great-grandmother rekindled my interest and enabled me to complete my study.

This is Mary’s story–who was searching for her own identity as well!

For more information, check out Books by Beall

Rebel From Back Creek: James Byron Dean (1931-1955)

Rebel from Back Creek: James Byron Dean (1931-1955)

Rebel from Back Creek: James Byron Dean (1931-1955)

James Dean was one of the most mesmerizing and controversial actors of all time who died in a car crash September 30, 1955 at the age of twenty-four. Yet since his death, he has maintained a word-wide following. This book is the result of a ten-year search by the author into the genealogical background of the actor. Extending her thesis from her previous work that we are all the sum total of our ancestors, she provides an in depth look at some of his ancestors, and the way or ways they influenced him. A child of the 1950s, Barbara Inman Beall remembered the actor, James Dean, from his early television dramas and his movies. In 1955, she was listening to a news account of his death when her father entered the room and asked her what happened. When she told him that James Dean died, he responded by saying, “Well, he was related to your grandmother!”

To purchase the book from Amazon or Barnes & Noble and for more information about the book–go to Books by Beall


The Sum Total–A Search for Levi Clay (1843-1917) and Jesse James (1847-1882)

The Sum Total: The Search for Levi Clay (1843-1917) and Jesse James (1847-1882)

The Sum Total: The Search for Levi Clay (1843-1917) and Jesse James (1847-1882)


The great-granddaughter of Levi Clay (1843-1917), Barbara Inman Beall, Ph.D., published a book about the July 21, 1873 train robbery in Adair Iowa committed by the Jesse James gang. Titled “The Sum Total: A Search for Levi Clay (1843-1917) and Jesse James (1847-1882)”, the book was published in November 2010 by Aventine Press.

Dr. Beall first heard the story of the train robbery from her father in 1955. She began her research 22 years ago, and completed the book this fall. An employee of the railroad, Levi Clay was aboard the train that night, and slipped off in the darkness for Casey to send out the alarm. There is a great deal of genealogical information that is incorporated in the book, as well as actual newspaper accounts of the robbery. The author has also included actual photographs from her grandmother, Adelia Clay Inman’s collection.

No longer available on Barnes and Noble; available on Amazon on a limited basis from private sellers. I no longer have copies available for sale.

For more information, check out Books By Beall


Dr. Rex Swett (1939-2015)

Dr. Rex Swett (1938-2015

Dr. Rex Swett (1939-2015)

Dr. Rex Swett, passed away on Sunday August 2, 2015 in Denver, Colorado battling bone cancer at the age of 76.  He was born in Brookings, SD, March 4, 1939.  He loved growing up and attending school in the Huron, SD community.  His senior year, Rex helped the 1958 Huron Tigers Basketball team to a 22-0 undefeated season and a State Championship.  He made the all-state basketball team in both 1957 and 1958.  South Dakota Sportswriters Association named him High School Athlete of the Year in 1958.  He was also named National High School Basketball All-American that same year.  As of 2015 he still holds the South Dakota Region 4 High School record in the long jump of 22’9”.Rex attended the University of Nebraska where he pledged Phi Delta Theta.  He started all three eligible years as a dual-athlete in basketball, playing point guard and in baseball, playing shortstop.  He spent his summers playing amateur baseball in the Basin League for the Huron Indians batting .438 and winning a State Championship in 1960.  Rex went on to Graduate from the University of Nebraska  College of Dentistry and opened his practice in Huron, S D in 1967.  He was a two-time South Dakota State Champion in 8-ball pool 1968 and 1969.  He moved his dental practice to Evergreen, CO in 1971 where he lived and practiced till he retired in 1998.  He has lived in Denver the past 15 years.  In the 1980’s he won eight tennis Championships in the 6 State Inter-Mountain Region in his age group.   In 2004, Rex won the APA National 9-ball pool Championship in Las Vegas winning a beautiful trophy and $10,000.  Dr. Swett won 15 State Championships in 4 different sports, (basketball, baseball, 8-ball pool and tennis) and 1 National 9-ball pool Championship. Rex was inducted into the Huron High School Hall of Fame, the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame and was a charter inductee into the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame.  Also, the 1958 South Dakota State Champion Huron Tiger Basketball Team has been selected to be inducted into the SDHSB Hall of Fame in 2016.  Rex will be represented by his family at the ceremony and will surely be there in spirit.  Rex mentored and coached youth basketball.  He was an avid skier and volunteered as a member of the Colorado Ski Patrol in Copper Mountain.  He loved to dance and won a Gold Medal dancing in the Rocky Mountain Senior Olympics.  He loved to listen and dance to Elvis’s music.  He visited Graceland in Memphis.  He went to all 4 major tennis championships, the Australia Open in Melbourne, Wimbledon in London, the French Open in Paris and the U S Open in New York City.  He absolutely loved to travel.  Rex was a long time member of Mile High Church in Lakewood, Colorado.

Rex is survived by his wife, Nancy and his sister and brother-in-law Frankie and Don Shultz, a nephew Jay Shultz and nieces Joni Chambers and Jan Shultz, great-nephews  Jay Shultz and Donald  Borchert all of Rapid City, great- nieces Loren Shultz of Castle Rock, CO and  Caroline Chambers of Phoenix, AZ.  Step- daughters  Shelly Fischer of La Crosse, WI, Kerri Livermore and her husband Luke of Denver and Kim Grove of Frederick, CO.  Rex was preceded in death by his loving parents Charles and Pansy Swett.
 Following Rex’s wishes, his body was donated through Science Care, to advance medicine through research and education.
A Memorial Service will be held Saturday 1 pm August 15, at Mile High Church 9077 W Alameda Ave.  Lakewood, Colorado 80230
A Celebration of his life will be held Friday 1 pm August 21, at Emmanuel Episcopal Church 717 Quincy St.  Rapid City, South Dakota 57701
Memorial contributions may be made in Rex’s honor to South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame 2210 W. Pentagon Place Sioux Falls, SD 57107(1)
* * *
Howard and I first met Rex Swett at the Exempla Cancer Center in Lafayette, Colorado.  Howard spent five days a week Monday through Friday for thirty-nine radiation treatments for prostate cancer the months of February and March 2015. It was something he dreaded doing, but he fell into the routine after deciding it wasn’t all that bad.  Sometime during his first or second week, he met Rex Swett.
I remember the day when Rex arrived in his wheel chair. The attendant parked him at the end of a row of chairs, but he faced us. Howard was busily engaged in a conversation with a lady concerning public education–a topic that caught Rex’s attention. And the part that really captured his interest?
“My grandfather was class valedictorian when he graduated from high school in the late 1800s!” Howard told the lady. “He delivered his address in Latin!
Rex’s mouth flew open and a smile spread across his face.
“Push me over there!” he told the attendant. “I’ve got to meet this fellow!”
And that’s how Rex Swett entered our lives.
Rex and Howard kept the patients entertained over the next ten weeks with their stories and excited manner of telling them!  Valentine’s Day was no exception. Rex arrived on the scene with boxes of Valentine candy–one for everyone!  I still have our boxes–minus the candy, of course.  I see them each time I enter my office. And I always think of Rex.
Yes, he loved to travel. Howard was taken back for his treatment one day, so Rex and I sat talking. I told him about a train ride we took in Southern Colorado after my retirement in June 2009. We caught the train at LaVeta and took it to the Sand Dunes.
“A train ride!” His eyes really brightened. “Well, do you know what I would like to do? I’ve always wanted to take a train ride all the way across Canada. We could start in the east and end up in the west! We could go to Vancouver and Seattle. Want to go?”
Then he discovered my interest in genealogy.
He would like to know something about his family, he told me. He gave me the names and locations he knew about and the two key places: South Dakota and Iowa. So I did some searching for him. Rex’s ancestors came from New England. From there they went to Illinois. His mother’s family went to Iowa. And finally–they all ended up together in South Dakota. He was thrilled with the results, but I am puzzling over one discovery. Some of his Swett ancestors lived in Rockingham County, New Hampshire at the same time when my Bachiller and Wing ancestors lived there! I wonder whether there is some connection!
The last time I saw Rex and his wife Nancy was June 9, 2015. They wanted to take us out to eat at our favorite diner (Great Scott’s Eatery). Rex liked that place. He liked Elvis Presley–and Elvis Presley’s picture is everywhere there along with James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and others. He brought along a letter he had received from Tom Brokaw, who is also from South Dakota.  They played against one another in basketball. Yes–Tom Brokaw remembered him well along with the trouncing his (Brokaw’s) team received. He wished Rex the best in his fight against cancer.
Rex liked to go to the cancer meetings at various locations. He talked Howard into attending one at the Exempla Center. Howard arrived late, and the leader was going to place him on the far side of the room.
“Oh no, you’re not! That’s Howard, and he’s my friend, and he’s going to sit here right beside me!” Rex announced.
They were scheduled to attend another meeting together August 6, only Rex passed away on the 2nd.
“You know what makes me angry?” Rex told Howard the last time they spoke together. “That prisoner who escaped in New York has the same last name as mine!”
Spelled the same way, but pronounced differently!  Rex pronounced his name with a long e (Sweet) and the New York prisoner used the short e in his name.
Rex had ten treatments during the time when Howard was there, and the Center was not the same after Rex left.
“Oh, I had ten more treatments in April!” he told us at Great Scott’s.
He apparently traveled to South Dakota for his basketball Hall of Fame alumni banquet, and then he went to Las Vegas for a pool tournament. Nancy told us he often stayed up late at night watching basketball. He could not get enough of the game!
He was wheel-chair bound when we first met him. The treatments enabled him to walk. I believe he used only a cane when we went out to dinner.
Rex Swett was one of a kind!
Someone tossed away the mold after he was made!
* * *
The Exempla Cancer Center is part of the huge hospital complex where our Kaiser clinic is located. Each time we drive in there, I think about Rex and generally mention something about him on those occasions. This morning, something unexpected happened.
Howard had an appointment in the Kaiser GI Department. He has been experiencing difficulty swallowing, so he had to go in for a scoping procedure. The procedure turned out well–no evidence of any cancer or anything like that. But as we drove up the road, I suddenly said: “Look at that!”
Five hot air balloons were still in the air and were slowly descending near the hospital.
“That gave the patients a treat this morning!” I said, and then thought about. “Rex would like to do something like that! Can’t you just see him?”
The balloons continued to descend as we approached the hospital. A smile spread across my face.
“Thank you, Rex!”
(1) Rex Swett Obituary, written by Nancy Brubaker (Swett). Received August 12, 2015.

The Search for Moss Springs Cemetery

Entrance to Moss Springs Cemetery, Jasper County, Missouri. Taken May 2001

Entrance to Moss Springs Cemetery, Jasper County, Missouri. Taken May 2001


When I was seven years old,  I visited Jasper and Newton Counties, Missouri where my mother grew up. I remember Mom’s Aunt May and Uncle Jim in Pittsburg, Kansas, Uncle Ivan and Aunt Laura in Webb City, Missouri, and Uncle Walter and Aunt Dolly in Carthage, Missouri. May Spence Cooper, Ivan Spence and Walter Spence were my Grandfather Spence’s younger siblings. Two brothers had passed away in the early part of the century. Grandpa was the oldest.  We spent about a week in the area, with my fondest memory centering upon the huge ice cream social we had with all the local relatives. It was the first time I ever tasted homemade ice cream!

That was Summer 1950.

Fast forward to 1991 and my developing interest in genealogy!

When I was growing up in Iowa, my mother mentioned Moss Springs Cemetery from time to time.

“People worried about the creek rising,” she once told me, “and it was under water sometimes. Grandpa’s family are all buried there.”

Moss Springs!

Because I heard Moss Springs and Carthage, Missouri mentioned in the same breath, I thought the cemetery was located inside the town of Carthage. And that’s where I started looking when I first started my genealogical research.  When I couldn’t find it located there, I asked my mother about it our following visit to  Cedar Rapids.

“It’s out in the country,” she told me.

Then she mentioned another name that provided a clue.

“Near Fidelity.”


After locating Fidelity Crossroads on a map, I sat back and stared in amazement.

How many times have we driven through that area, probably passing the cemetery? I wondered.

In the late 1970s, Howard and I lived in the Ozarks with our children for approximately three years. I remember sliding down I-44 to Joplin one winter and slipping past the exit to Carthage. From there, we skated the rest of the way to Oklahoma City, determined to get there one way or another. I also remember a previous trip after our move to Kansas City. We piled into a car with several relatives and drove down to Arkansas. Our trip home took us through Fidelity Crossroads and straight up the road  through Carthage. I remember thinking about Moss Springs–but our time was short and we were anxious to get home safely.  On both occasions, I had no idea about the names of any of my ancestors buried there!

“When were you last in Moss Springs?” I asked my mother.

“Your Dad and I went down there shortly after we were married. That was the last time I ever drove a car. I took the wheel and let him sleep. It was raining, and I couldn’t see where we were going. We ended up in Springfield. So Dad woke up, and we drove back to where we were supposed to be.”

1938! I thought as I began my search in the Denver Public Library. Roads have changed and place names have changed since then!

Spring 1994 launched a new announcement from me as Howard and I planned our annual May jaunt to Pennsylvania. We would only be there five weeks that summer, my residency requirement having been fulfilled the previous year. We would travel to Pennsylvania by way of Jasper County, Missouri, where I planned to visit two cemeteries: Fullerton–an experience I already described in a previous article in this section–and Moss Springs.

“Moss Who?” someone asked when we stopped to inquire.

“A cemetery called Moss Springs!” Howard responded.

“Sorry. Can’t help ya! Never heard of it.”

We had already experienced our adventure with Fullerton.

“Mom’s going to have a fit if we’re late for supper!” Howard reminded me.

“It’s near Fidelity Crossroads–just down the road a short distance,” I pleaded. “Let’s try for a little while.”

“All right! But if we’re late for supper, I’ll let you listen to her!”

We headed south a short distance–crossed over the interstate–and noticed a sign: Fidelity Cemetery.

“Is that it?” Howard asked.

“It’s supposed to say Moss Springs!” I responded.

“Well, maybe they changed the name.”

After walking around the cemetery a short time, I realized this was not Moss Springs. But I did find several collateral graves: two Kesslers and one Triplett.  I took pictures of those graves as well as one of the cemetery sign. Perhaps we should suspend Moss Springs for another year! I decided.

“Did you say this place was on a side road?” Howard asked.

“A side road that runs beside the interstate.”

“This road runs beside 44,” Howard suggested. “Let’s try it.”

By now it was mid-afternoon. We were to be in Harrison, Arkansas by 6:00 P.M. We couldn’t spend too much time looking because so much of our time had already been spent dealing with Fullerton. However, since we were in the area, we could spend a little time looking.

We had only gone a short distance when I noticed a huge mound in a field beside the road. At first glance, I thought it was a large, volcanic rock.

Then it moved!

“Have you ever heard of an elephant in Missouri?” I asked.

“Are you kidding?” Howard responded.

I pointed, and he stopped the car.

The mound rose and raised its trunk in the air.  It changed positions, shook its head and then settled down again–no doubt a circus elephant now in someone’s possession.

“Who’s going to believe this story!” I asked.

“You can tell it and see!” Howard answered.

A school bus  stopped in front of us, and several elementary children tumbled out of it.

“Maybe one of these kids will know,” Howard suggested.

A boy approximately ten years old headed past our car.

“Say, could you help us?” Howard called out to him.

The boy and a small girl beside him approached the car.

“We’re looking for Moss Springs Cemetery,” Howard told him.

The boy’s face brightened.

“Oh yeah!” he exclaimed. “I know where that is! You turn around here and you go back down the road!”

He gestured with his hands.

“Then you go ’round like this–”

Still gesturing.

“And around–”

He swooped his hands.

“And over–”

“And across–”

“And around–”

“And straight down the road!”

“Okay, thank you!” Howard told him. “We’ll find it.”

We sat quietly until the bus pulled ahead.

“You know what he was doing?” I said. “He was visualizing the road!”

“Well, let’s go down this road and see what’s here. We could find your cemetery. Then we need to head out for Harrison.”

Yes, we did find a cemetery, but not Moss Springs. We found Center Cemetery which was right beside the road. I would later learn this cemetery was the sequel to Moss Springs–but when I saw the number of Spence stones there, I wasted no time in taking pictures. Only recently I learned that most of those Spence stones belong to the descendants of Daniel Spence (1806-1857)–brother of my third great grandfather, Samuel Spence (1800-1859).

We spent time taking pictures of the graves and of the old Evangelical Christian Church at the corner of the yard. Then we were back in the car and on our way down I-44 in the direction of Springfield.

We needed to arrive in Harrison, Arkansas by 6:00.

Moss Springs would wait until the following year.






Team Brian

Our Clan: Front Row: L-R--Debbie, Brian, Mandy, Dallas. Back Row: Jason, Dee, LuAn, Josh

Our Clan: Front Row: L-R–Debbie, Brian, Mandy, Dallas. Back Row: Jason, Dee, LuAn, Josh

Meet Team Brian!

This photo was taken last fall before Brian’s cancer surgery. He thought the disease was over and gone, and he had even been cleared to return to work. Well, guess what happened? Some of those nasty little cancer microbes hid from the treatments and returned with a vengeance. He is now back to Stage 4 Terminal again. The doctor told him he wasn’t giving up on him. Neither are we!

Brian begins his treatments again this week. He is not going to be able to return to work, and he has another big battle on his hands.

Please support him with your prayers. There is also another way to help, and I am posting the link here:

Help Brian Through Cancer

Our daughter Debbie set up a GoFundMe Project to help her brother. Anything you can do will be sincerely appreciated.

Meanwhile, keep Brian and LuAn in your thoughts and prayers.

Thank you


Praying For Our Son

Brian, Howard, Barbara Beall, taken July 2014

Brian, Howard, Barbara Beall, taken July 2014

We just learned that Brian’s cancer has returned with a vengeance and are asking for prayers for him. He underwent surgery for esophageal/stomach cancer last October. They were able to get all the cancer they could see. Then he underwent chemotherapy treatments for five months (January-May). That worked as well. They found some cancer cells that were trying to come back and the chemo destroyed them. All looked good.  And now it is back again and he is back at Stage 4 Terminal (where he was last summer).

This is a particularly aggressive cancer–but God is more powerful than the disease. Howard and I believe that God has a special plan for Brian. This is a part of the plan, and I believe this disease can be defeated. Therefore, we are asking for prayers.

He was in the hospital all last week–something we didn’t know about. (Our kids have a habit of keeping things secret from us.) Then he needed a ride home on Friday. He had a mass in his kidney–something related to scar tissue from his surgery. They also had to drain off two pounds of liquid from his lung–and they found cancer cells in that.  He was really glad to see me when I opened the door to his room.

So now he is back on the prayer list. He said he as going to need tons of prayers.

Howard’s treatments for prostate cancer proved fruitful this spring. He underwent radiation treatments; the cancer is gone. He just lost a good friend to the dreadful disease this week, but his friend was diagnosed five years ago and did nothing about it. He was a dentist! (What is the old saying that doctors and dentists make the worst patients?) He did nothing about it for five years until he couldn’t walk. Howard met him at the cancer center. Two of a kind, they bonded immediately and their friendship remained strong until the friend passed the other evening. Now, we aren’t prepared to lose our son!

There is a cancer gene in the family–something that was determined when our daughter had breast cancer several years ago. She had a double mastectomy and is on anti-cancer drugs and is doing great.  And now the horrible disease is plaguing our son.

Please keep him in your prayers. We thank you!



For the Love of a Tree: Nathrop, Colorado

Old Schoolhouse and Cottonwood Tree, Nathrop, Colorado. Taken from Highway 285 August 2001

Old Schoolhouse and Cottonwood Tree, Nathrop, Colorado. Taken from Highway 285 August 2002


My first trip north on Highway 285 through Chaffee Co., Colorado happened during our south Colorado trip in August 2002. Howard wanted to go into that area to look at some properties, and I went along for the ride. School would not start for a couple of weeks and after teaching a heavy load in summer school, I was ready for a break as well as for a change of scenery. We selected Highway 285 for our return trip home versus the interstate since Howard wanted to stop at the Rock Doc near Nathrop. He had been there before and planned to stop there again. My interest in rocks was only in the beginning stages at that time, so I mused myself with the Beanie Babies and similar items in the store while Howard inspected the rocks. We were there probably a half hour before heading back to the car and driving up the road. And we had traveled only a short distance when something captured our interest, causing us to stop once again.

“Look at that old schoolhouse over there!” Howard exclaimed. “It is old!”

“Let’s take some pictures of it!” I suggested. “I wonder how old it is!”

The traffic on 285 was light at the moment, so we pulled off the edge of the pavement and took frontal views of the school. It was then we noticed a narrow road running beside the school. Within moments, we were inside the car and driving to a safer location to park.

Old Schoolhouse at Nathrop, Colorado. Photo taken March 2007

Old Schoolhouse at Nathrop, Colorado. Photo taken March 2007

“1880s–maybe 1890s–” I remember suggesting as we stood there.

There was an old sign above the front windows, but the weather had rendered it unreadable. I enlarged this 2007 picture in an attempt to read the date and have not been able to decide whether it reads ‘1881‘ or ‘1891’ School. We have visited this site several times since 2002 and have noticed little change.

The school is undoubtedly on private property, and it is probably used for storage. A swing set is located at the side of the property and some farm equipment items were present on the grounds for several years. We speculated whether someone lived there, but in the end decided the building was mainly used for storage. The doors on the front of the building bear a reminder to the time when girls and boys entered and exited the building through separate doors. There is also an outhouse behind the school, which shows up in the frontal picture taken from the highway.

Since no one was around to answer any questions, we decided to return to the car and head up the road. That’s when something else caught my attention.

Old cottonwood tree near schoolhouse, Nathrop, Colorado. Photo taken Summer 2001

Old cottonwood tree near schoolhouse, Nathrop, Colorado. Photo taken August 2002


The Twigs Tree

In 2002, I hosted a website called Twigs of Inman & Spence. The site remained in existence from the late 1990s until 2004 or 2005 and because of the word “Twigs” in the name, I had been looking for the perfect tree to place on the site home page. The minute I saw the old cottonwood standing on the small creek near the road, I knew I had found my tree.

“Now, that is old!” I told Howard as we stood there looking at it. “How old do you think it is?”

“A hundred–maybe a hundred fifty,” he responded.

“Do cottonwoods live to be that old?” I asked.

“That one certainly has!”

“Well, what’s going on in the middle?” I asked, noticing the efforts of some unknown creature who had been working on the trunk of the tree.

We didn’t debate the issue for very long because we wanted to reach home before dark, and Howard planned to stop at Fairplay. I did use this photo on the home page of my “Twigs” site and kept it there until the site ended.

Four years passed before visiting this location again. We were on another trip to south Colorado in March 2007 (spring break) and elected to return home by way of Highway 285. The tree had not leafed out as yet, so I was able to see more of its structure. I was doing a travel episode for the doll site I maintained at that period, and I wanted to photograph my dolls in front of that tree.

Dolls posing in front of the tree. Photo taken March 2007

Dolls posing in front of the tree. Photo taken March 2007

The appearance of the tree hadn’t changed in four years. It was still intact, and I could see where some of the branches had been removed, probably because they were hanging over the road. Some areas of the tree suggested the location of a large treehouse at one time. I could see evidence of that on the sagging side. No doubt, that structure weakened the tree, causing one side to sag. We stopped at the site again in May 2007. Very little change had taken place.

Old cottonwood tree, Nathrop, Colorado, May 2007

Old cottonwood tree, Nathrop, Colorado, May 2007

Two additional years passed before visiting that location again. I thought about the old tree, however, and remembered the question I asked in 2002: “Is it possible for a cottonwood to live one hundred fifty years?” This was something I decided to find out!

Approaching Nathrop, Colorado on Highway 285

Approaching Nathrop, Colorado on Highway 285

A Brief Sketch of Chaffee Co., Colorado History

As a child growing up in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, I lived next door to a cottonwood tree. It sat right beside the house and provided us with shade in the summer. Summers were horribly hot and humid, and the tree served an excellent purpose. It was a tall tree and was probably planted about the time the house was built in the 1890s. And that tree never missed a beat! Spring would bring the abundance of “wormlike seeds” that covered our yard and stuck to our feet. Fall provided tons of leaves that required raking and burning. And summer would bring the hoot owl who would sit in the branches and hoot while spying out a meal for the night. My mother said the only reason the tree remained was because of the shade. She would have preferred a maple, which would take too long to grow. I didn’t mind the cottonwood at all and acquired quite an imagination about it.

We bought our first television set in 1954 and it wasn’t long before my sister and I discovered the quantity of old western films available–something we could not get enough of! The stories always followed the same format: good guys wore white hats; bad guys wore black hats; good always won over evil; and bad guys were often lynched from cottonwood trees. I remember playing on the swing set in our backyard, speculating whether a bad guy ever swung from the branches of our old cottonwood. And later on, this type of speculation fuelded my interest in the old tree south of Nathrop. I wondered about the exact age of the tree, and I also wondered about the history of the area surrounding Nathrop. Curiosity sent me on a search for information.

According to the Colorado History–Nathrop website:

Nathrop is an unincorporated town located at the intersection of State Highway 285 and Chalk Creek in central Chaffee County. Points west of Nathrop on Chaffee County Road 162 include the Mt. Princeton Riding Stables, the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs, Agnes Vaille Falls, the trail to Mt. Antero, Tincup Pass and the “ghost towns” of St. Elmo, Romley and Hancock.

Founded approximately in 1880, Nathrop served as a transportation terminal for two railroads: the Denver South Park & Pacific and the Denver & Rio Grande. The historic and well-preserved Nathrop schoolhouse was built in 1881. In its heyday, Nathrop had a stone depot, a large hotel and two saloons (1).

Reference to the schoolhouse fueled my interest until I saw the picture of the old school mentioned in the article. It was not my old building beside the road!  So I resumed my search once again, hoping to find something of value. And what I found, was quite interesting–this, from the Nathrop, Colorado History website:

Charles Nachtrieb I, was the founder of the town of Nathrop, Colorado. Early settlers could not pronounce the German name of Nachtrieb easily, so the name of the hamlet was Americanized to Nathrop. The original site of Nathrop was about one and one half miles north of the present townsite and served as a stagecoach station between Bale’s station near Cleora and Leadville.

Nathrop was moved about 1880 to surround the South Park Railroad’s stone depot. At that time, the village boasted of a population of about 200, Nachtrieb’s elegant hotel as well as others, several saloons, stores, and a weekly newspaper, “The Press”.

Nachtrieb was born in Germany in 1833. His parents and family members immigrated to Baltimore, MD when Charles was young. By the age of 29, in 1859, Nachtrieb was in Denver CO with a load of goods to sell. A year later found him in California Gulch near the present town of Leadville, CO engaged in merchandizing.

Charles Nachtrieb owned his Chalk Creek ranch by 1865, and in 1868, he built the first area grist mill to grind flour and grains for the locals. Later, he built a saw mill near the mill. He eventually built up his land holdings to over 1000 acres, a barn, outbuildings, blacksmith shop, storehouse, warehouse and a 8-room dwelling that still stands in 1996. In 1870, he built a toll road over Poncha Pass, which he later sold to Colorado Pathfinder Otto Mears. In 1871, he married Margaret Tull Anderson. She had five children by her first marriage: Horace G, age 13, Louis, age 11, Alice, age 7, Belle and Fred Anderson. Charles and Margaret had five children of their own: a infant son and daughter who died by 1879; Charles II, Chris, and “Doc” Josephine.

In 1874, the grist mill was used as a headquarters for the vigilante committee during the Lake County Wars. Nachtrieb and other settlers took sides against Elijah Gibbs, believing he was responsible for the murder of George Harrington June 17, 1874 and later, the deaths of the Boone brothers and Finley Kane of Poncha Springs when the mob tried to burn Gibbs and his family out of their small log cabin and hang Gibbs. Outrages and physical abuses were committed by the mob against locals who sided with Gibbs and his claim of innocence. When the son of Father Dyer, Judge Elias E. Dyer was assassinated in his Granite courtroom by members of the mob on July 3, 1875, witnesses became fearfully silent as to the identity of the killers.

Nachtrieb was mysteriously murdered in his Nathrop store on October 3, 1881. He was found by his wife, shot though the back of his head. It is said that the bullet had also shot off his thumb and went through a letter that he had been reading. His tombstone is the only one left in the county that has the word “Murdered” inscribed in the stone. Margaret Nachtrieb proved to be equal to efficiently run the ranch, businesses and raise and provide her children with excellent educational opportunities at the same time. She became a much admired and respected business woman in the community and Chaffee County.

Suggested Reading: Where the Bodies Are by June Shaputis 1995 (2)

The Lake County War is a blight on Chaffee County history. (Chaffee was originally part of Lake County until established as a separate county in February 1879 when Lake County was split in half.) According to Gayle Gresham in her article “The Lake County War” (posted on the Colorado Reflections Website):

Here’s the short version of the Lake County War:

George Harrington was shot in the back when he went out to extinguish a fire in an outbuilding on the night of June 17, 1874. Elijah Gibbs was the immediate suspect because he and Harrington had an argument a couple of days earlier. Gibbs was tried and acquitted for the murder in October in a Denver court. The venue was changed because of the inflammatory nature of the case. Gibbs returned to his farm in Lake County, but peace didn’t last.

15 men showed up at Gibbs’ cabin on January 22, 1875 to hang him. They threatened to burn him and his family out of the cabin if Gibbs didn‘t walk out the door. They piled up kindling by the door, then as one of the men lit a match, Gibbs shot him and then fired more shots at the other men. 3 men were killed. Gibbs turned himself into the Justice of Peace, who held a trial the next morning. Wilburn Christison acted as the defense for Gibbs. The court found that Gibbs acted in self-defense. Gibbs immediately left the area.

Denied their revenge, the men formed a vigilante group called “The Committee of Safety.” They rounded up friends and supporters of Gibbs and held a trial where a noose was hanging over the witness’ chair. This was placed around the witness’ neck and tightened when the committee found his testimony unsatisfactory. The line of questioning concerned whether the witness believed Gibbs had shot Harrington or not. Two of Wilburn’s sons, Leslie and Ernest, were questioned by the Committee of Safety.

The Lake County War culminated when Judge Elias Dyer, who had also been questioned by the Committee, swore out warrants for the arrest of 16 members of the Committee of Safety. Thirty armed men arrived in Granite on Friday, July 2, 1875. The next morning, Judge Dyer called court to order, but had to dismiss the case because the witnesses were too afraid to testify. After everyone left the courtroom, five men walked back in and assassinated Judge Dyer. No one was ever charged with the murder. The people of the county went on with their lives; the Lake County War died out, but the terror of the vigilante justice and secrecy of the conflict affected the people the rest of their lives(3).

As is noted on the Colorado History, Rich History of the Colorado Fourteener Country site:

Hugh Boon, one of the first postmasters and a school superintendent in Lake County, said:

“With a rapid influx of settlers, prospectors, and miners, and the rough element that came with the building of the railroads, things were considerably unsettled; and as in all newly organized territories, the machinery for law enforcement had considerable difficulty in functioning. More than one hundred homicides occurred during this period without a single conviction; it being almost impossible to get witnesses to swear to the killings” (4).

In addition to the Lake County War, problems with cattle thieves also existed in the area, as is noted by Gayle Gresham on the Colorado Reflections site:

The photograph in the header of Colorado Reflections is the view from the Rick Mountain Ranch in the Arkansas Hills east of Salida which was owned by my great-great-uncle, Ernest Christison in the early 1880’s. His story captured my attention in my childhood and I wrote a paper about him in high school. Today I am writing a book about him and the events that took place in 1883-1884. Here’s a short summary:

Ernest Christison and Ed Watkins had a partnership and owned cattle together. Christison took his share to sell over at Gunnison and Watkins kept his. While moving his cattle to Gunnison, Christison was arrested for having stolen cattle near St. Elmo. After Christison was arrested, the cattlemen went to Watkins’ ranch and drove away 21 head of cattle they claimed as their own and had Watkins arrested. While Watkins was in the custody of the sheriff, a mob captured him and hanged him from the 1st Street Bridge in Canon City.

Christison was released from jail on bond, but made the wrong move when he visited a dancehall with Frank Reed in October. Baxter Stingley, the Salida Marshall, showed up with a warrant for their arrest and Reed shot and killed Stingley. Christison was arrested again and jailed in Buena Vista.

Life was quiet for a while, then Christison was one of 11 prisoners who escaped from the jail on January 27, 1884. His freedom didn’t last long as he was captured the next morning. He changed his “not guilty” plea to “guilty” on the charge of grand larceny and on June 7, 1884 he boarded the train to Canon City to spend the next two years in the Colorado State Penitentiary (5).

The old schoolhouse south of Nathrop was probably built in the 1880s, during the time of tension. So it may have been a witness to some of the violence. I imagine the old tree was planted when the school was built. If so, then it is approximately 120 years old. My next search took me to cottonwood trees and their lifespan.

The Plains Cottonwood

In 1998, Stuart Wier wrote an article titled “The Plains Cottonwood of the Southern Rocky Mountains”, which appears on The Native Trees of the Southern Rocky Mountains website. According to Wier:

The Plains cottonwood is also the largest broadleaf tree of Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming. This tree grows from the eastern plains to 6500 feet in elevation, and possibly higher in canyons of the eastern slope of Colorado. Fairly young trees have a straight columnar trunk with a rounded crown; old trees are massive with heavy, wide-spreading branches. It can occasionally reach 6 feet in trunk diameter. The largest recorded Plains cottonwood grows a few miles north of Boulder, Colorado.

The cottonwood is short-lived; few exceed one hundred years by much. After a century or so limbs begin to die naturally. The thick bark sheds off over a period of a few years, leaving bare white limbs, the massive skeleton of the tree. The wood is fairly soft and weak. Sometimes the core of the tree completely rots away before the living tissue under the bark is destroyed, especially if the tree is damaged by fire or loss of a limb. Wind or decay will eventually bring the limbs, and sometimes the entire tree, to the ground. High winds blowing out of the mountains sometimes blow over live trees as well as dead ones, the weak shallow roots snapping off. When an entire tree is blown over the wreck is mighty indeed since the limbs shatter, scattering wood fragments of every size in all directions. Old-time westerners know not to hold a picnic under a cottonwood with dead limbs, wind or no wind (6).

Wier goes on to note that some cottonwoods do live for a long period of time:

Occasionally cottonwood trees can reach an age well over one hundred years. Paul Cutright, when preparing his book Lewis and Clark: Pioneering Naturalists , found two large and very old cottonwoods in an otherwise treeless location in Montana where Captain Clark had camped by two cottonwood trees. If they were the same trees, they were over 170 years old.(7).

And he provides this interesting commentary:

Though the wood of this tree is moderately weak, it was the only wood available to early settlers on the plains and was sometimes pressed into use as timber. The vegas — horizontal roof beams — of the adobe dwellings characteristic of the southwest are sometimes made of cottonwood. Fine examples are the vegas of the reconstructed Bent’s Fort near La Junta on the Arkansas River. Cottonwood is easy to carve and cottonwood root is the traditional material for the Kachina dolls of the Hopi of northern New Mexico, while drums are made of hollow logs. Cottonwood provides food for beavers (both bark and leaves) and stems for beaver dams and lodges. Deer and elk browse the twigs.(8).

I have an idea that beavers had been working on the center of my old tree, as is shown in the 2002 photo. It is located beside a small creek or stream. And as to location, Wier adds:

The Plains cottonwood is found only on the eastern side of the continental divide. The very similar cottonwood, in New Mexico, along the Rio Grande, and in western Colorado is the Rio Grande cottonwood. (9)

My old tree is on the eastern side of the divide!

The old Nathrop schoolhouse, taken the last time I saw it--June 15 2009

The old Nathrop schoolhouse, taken the last time I saw it–June 15 2009


In May 2009, I finally retired from teaching after over twenty years of college composition instruction. Howard and I wanted to do something special, so we took a train ride from LaVeta, Colorado to the Sand Dunes and back to LaVeta again. A friend went with us on the trip. He had never been to the Rock Doc or to Chaffee County, so he wanted to visit some of the places we had mentioned. And that led us up Highway 285 in search of adventure. After the Rock Doc, we stopped at the old school again.

The sign is still above the windows and is still unreadable, although it now looks more like “1881” instead of “1891”. The farm equipment is gone as is the picnic table that sat in front of one of the doors. The swings are still present, and the outhouse is still in back. Other than that, there is little change about the building.

Old Nathrop cottonwood. Taken June 15, 2009

Old Nathrop cottonwood. Taken June 15, 2009

The tree, however, was a different story. One side of the tree had completely splintered from the trunk and had fallen to the ground. A combination of factors may have caused this to happen. If children played in a tree house, they would have weakened the tree in the beginning. Later, beavers may have accessed the trunk, causing the tree to splinter. Weather was no doubt an additional factor, although between 2001-2005 or 2006, Colorado underwent a five-year drought with little precipitation during that period. Heavy blizzards between 2007 and 2009 would have weakened the structure further, causing part of the tree to fall. Since the fallen branches are still blooming in this picture, I believe that portion of the tree fell in the early spring.

The rest of the tree is intact. Passing visitors cannot see the fallen portion from Highway 285. This condition still existed in July 2010 when we took Highway 285 south on another trip to south Colorado. We didn’t stop this time, but I did snap a photo through the window of the car as we passed.

I still don’t know the story of the school–its age or the community that it served. I don’t know whether it existed during the Lake County War or subsequent wars with cattle thieves. Nor do I know the full story of the tree. Perhaps I will never know all the answers, but there is one thing of which I am certain. Both images exhude a great deal of mystery and character, two factors binding me to them. And until I learn their full stories, I will continue to wonder!

* * *


“Grow not too high, grow not too far from home, Green tree, whose roots are in the granite’s face! Taller than silver spire or golden dome A tree may grow above its earthy place, And taller than a cloud, but not so tall The root may not be mother to the stem, Lifting rich plenty, though the rivers fall, To the cold sunny leaves to nourish them. Have done with blossoms for a time, be bare; Split rock; plunge downward; take heroic soil, — Deeper than bones, no pasture for you there: Deeper than water, deeper than gold and oil: Earth’s fiery core alone can feed the bough That blooms between Orion and the Plough.”

–Edna St. Vincent Millay



(1) Colorado History Website–Nathrop. Available at http://nathrop-colorado.com/

(2) Shaputis, June. Where the Bodies Are. 1995. Summary available at http://www.stevegarufi.com/nathrop-colorado.htm

(3) Gresham, Gayle. The Lake County War. Available at http://coloradoreflections.blogspot.com/2006/11/lake-county-war.html

(4) The Lake County War. The Rich History of Colorado’s Fourteener Country. Colorado History: Buena Vista, Leadville, Salida. Available at http://www.fourteenernet.com/history/lakewars.htm

(5) Gresham, Gayle. Cattle Thieves. Available at http://coloradoreflections.blogspot.com/p/cattle-thieves.html

(6) Wier, Stuart. Plains Cottonwood. 1998. Available at http://www.westernexplorers.us/RkyMtnTrees.html

(7) Wier, Stuart. Plains Cottonwood. 1998. Available at http://www.westernexplorers.us/RkyMtnTrees.html

(8) Wier, Stuart. Plains Cottonwood. 1998. Available at http://www.westernexplorers.us/RkyMtnTrees.html

(9) Wier, Stuart. Plains Cottonwood. 1998. Available at http://www.westernexplorers.us/RkyMtnTrees.html