Surveys and Deeds, Oh My!

 

As we know the history of America has many blemishes; whether it was the treatment of Native Americans, Japanese Americans, or slavery, they tend to haunt us from time to time in your genealogical research.  However, my father always told me that if you “own” the mistake and not justify it, you can learn from them.  So, it is in that spirit that I approach some of the dreadful things I encounter as I explore backwards.

You cannot think about the land in Georgia without realizing these lands came to be inhabited by Anglos due to the removal of the Cherokee Indians.  According to the Georgia Encyclopedia,

“In 1838 and 1839 U.S. troops, prompted by the state of Georgia expelled the Cherokee Indians….The removal of the Cherokees was a product of the demand for arable land during the rampant growth of cotton agriculture in the southeast (Garrison, 2017).”

What happened as a result was a number of land lotteries.  Between 1805 and 1833, Georgia directed eight land lotteries.  The reason this is important to my family is that my 2nd great-grandfather, George Wiley Whitehead, was the county surveyor for Oglethorpe County for several years (between 15-20 years).  It is likely he stepped down as surveyor and became county commissioner in 1885.

GWW 1866 County Surveyor

GWW 1885 County Commissioner

In the archives found at the Carlton Home are dozens of deeds and plats.  Some of them represent his purchases of land.  While others seem to be plats that he drew in his occupation.  Others predate his life and are family records for property we owned at one point in time.  I wish there was an easy way to align the dimensions of the plats with GPS coordinates.  However, since the plat was first drawn the rocks, the persimmon tree and other boundary items have been forever altered.  In this post, I have included a couple of examples and how we can use them to further our genealogical research.

 

Example 1 (plat of Charles O’Kelly land)

The first example of some of the documents uncovered is this plat of the Charles O’Kelly Land.  You can see that some of the boundaries listed are a dogwood tree, sweet gum and chestnut tree.  I doubt that this property could be relocated today.  However, since Charles O’Kelly was my 4th Great-grandfather, and I happen to know where he was buried, we might be able to infer the relative location of his land.  Charles O’Kelley was born about 1756 and died about 1810.

charles okelly plat

Example 2: (1785 Land Grant)

The oldest document that we uncovered is from 1785.  That is 232 years ago!  I am going to let that sink in for a minute….

This document is a Land Grant Warrant from Wilkes County for John McLeroy a tract of 400 acres.  Apparently the land grant did not go into effect until 1792.

The language on the deed gives it such special meaning.

“Given under my Hand, and the Great Seal of the said State, this ninth Day of April in the Year of our LORD One Thousand Seven Hundred and Ninety two, (unreadable) Sixteenth Year of American Independence.”  How cool is that?  This document was discovered in what I am calling the Whitehead Archives (AKA the Blue Rubbermaid Tub).

When I was in Georgia last, my cousin Charlie and I were going through this box while the others on our expedition were resting up.  I have to admit that Charlie and I got pretty excited about this document.  We made some assumptions that have not been proven.  I am not sure if we will ever be able to determine the relevance to the Whitehead lineage.  We have our ideas.  Is this the location of the original homeplace for the Whitehead’s?  Why was this document in this box?  In my family tree, I have a male ancestor, Anderson McElroy who married Nancy Whitehead in 1826.  I think the names Mcleroy and McElroy could easily been get mixed up.  So many questions.

 

Example 3: (1843 Deed Mary O’Kelly to Polly Crowder Whitehead)

I selected this document because it is more legible than some of the others but it also gives us lots of names.  This document was a Deed of Gift.  In it reads that Mary O’Kelly, the mother of Mary “Polly” Whitehead is giving to her and her children [Martha A Suddeth formerly Martha A. Whitehead wife of Seaborn M. Suddeth, Dilley Whitehead, Susan Whitehead, Samuel Whitehead, Sarah F. Whitehead, William F. Whitehead, George W. Whitehead, Mary L. Whitehead, Elijah D. Whitehead, James D Whitehead, Elizabeth E. Whitehead, Charles E Whitehead] the following property: One hundred acres of land, a slave named Sydda, 3 feather beds and all of her household stuff.  In addition she gifts, 8 heads of cattle with their future increase and upon her death to be equally divided amongst her children.

However, where it gets interesting it says “To remain in the possession of the said, Polly C Whitehead and be under her sole and separate control and is in no event to be subject in any manner to the contracts, debts and liabilities of her husband Joel Whitehead.  Now I haven’t explored this part of the tree as much but I do know that Mary O’Kelly’s husband (Charles O’Kelly) died in 1810.  Additionally, I know that Polly had siblings.  So, I wonder if other property was given to them.  I do know that historically married women were not entitled to own and manage property until later unless their spouse of incapacitated.  I will have to do more research on the specifics, but a cursory internet search stated that Connecticut was the first state in 1809 and it wasn’t until 1866 that Georgia women were legal allowed to own property.   Regardless, this document is over 170 years old.

1843 Deed Mary Okelly to Polly C Whitehead

 

Well, there are more deeds to explore.  Until later, I will be exploring backwards.

 

Source:

Garrison, Tim A. “Cherokee Removal.” New Georgia Encyclopedia. 06 June 2017. Web. 08 June 2017.

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Fertilizer of all things.

He that maketh two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to

grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before deserves

better of mankind and does more essential service to his country

than the whole race of politicians put together.” Dean Swift

 

Researching your family history leads you down many interesting rabbit holes.  I recently found a few receipts for fertilizer.  I guess there were a couple of reasons why it got my attention.

First, the dates of the receipts are 8 July 1890 and 25 July 1890 how do we still have this little paper.  Second, it is signed by my great-great grandfather, George Wiley Whitehead.  Lastly, the name of the fertilizer was Davy Crockett.  How fun is that!

gww 7-25-1890 fertilzer

gww 8-7-1890 fertilizer

So, I did a little digging.  While I did not find the publication for 1890, I did find a publication for Commercial Fertilizers and Chemicals for Season 1909-1910 for the State of Georgia.  Essentially, there were laws “to regulate the registration, sale, inspection and analysis of commercial fertilizer (Georgia,1910, p3).”

So, as I hopped down the trail, I learned that my great-grandfather purchased his Davy Crockett Fertilizer from Smithonia Oil Mills, Smithsonia, Georgia.   James Smith was one of the largest land owners in Oglethorpe County.  He had over 20,000 acres.  The locals all know about Smithonia.

George Wiley Whitehead bought several acres of land after he returned from the war.  According to the Georgia Property Tax Digest from 1878-1882 George’s acreage varied from as little as 163 to 1254 acres (Georgia, Property Tax, 2011).  Unfortunately the document does not make it easy to determine what year each record is from.


Fast Forward to 1946, when George’s son Walter received the Selective Service Medal, Hubert Tiller, a local farmer, friend and customer added his own byline to the picture that was in the newspaper.  He said, “Mr. Whitehead is asking President Truman, ‘Have you bought your fertilizer for this year, Mr. President?’”

 

Walter Whitehead and Truman

WEW Receives Award quip about fertilizer

See, Fertilizer of all things.

Source:

Ancestry.com. Georgia, Property Tax Digests, 1793-1892 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

State of Georgia, Commercial Fertilizers and Chemicals, 1910, p3

The Spectrum of Emotion

I have been full of emotions since coming back from Georgia.  As I am putting together the life and times of my ancestors, I have found a series of events that are heart wrenching.

One of the many treasures that I have gathered was some of his personal papers from his life.  It seems that there was this large blue plastic tub that was wrapped up that held some records that Sara’s mother or grandmother thought was important.  It has turned into a treasure trove.  It is in this collection that the story emerged.  I have pieced together a time line for you.

As discussed previously, my great-grandfather was a very patriotic man.  He found ways to serve his country even when his age and physical limitations prohibited it.  Here is a snippet that he wrote for the Selective Service Medal Ceremony in 1946 when he was 77 years old.

WEW Biography by WEW

On 21 January 1946, my great-grandfather, Walter Everett Whitehead appeared in the East Room of the White House to receive the Selective Service Medal from President Harry Truman.   What an incredible honor for a Patriot such as Walter, or Papa.  He took his middle son, Walter “Joe” as his guest.  The event commemorated draft board members that served their country in faithful service during the “emergency” (WWII).

WEW_1946_with_President_Truman

WEW news clip about medal

One day later on 22 January 1946, at 12:46 PM a telegram from Bay Pines Veterans Hospital was sent to the Stevens Martin Company in care of Joe (he was the executor of George Steven’s Estate), stating that his condition is considered critical.  Joe and his father Walter were still in Washington DC.   Later that same day, a telegram was sent from the Stevens Martin Company to Joe or Walter in Washington DC stating the same.  George died two days later.

We can only speculate what thoughts were going through Walter and Joe’s minds as they boarded the train back to Georgia with these heavy thoughts.  He had suffered complications due to surgery he had.  You can read more about him here:

https://exploringbackwards.wordpress.com/2014/11/11/george-stevens-whitehead-part-2/

On 27 January 1946, George Stevens Whitehead, WWI veteran was laid to rest in the family cemetery.  He was only 49 years old.

The very next day, Walter stood in honor at the Atlanta Municipal Auditorium being honored with the Selective Service Medal and Certificate of Merit at the State Ceremony.

WEW 1946-letter

One can only imagine what emotions the family would be feeling.  On one hand, being so proud of the well-deserved recognition for a true Patriot and on the other hand, mourning the loss of a Rhodes Scholar Brilliant man cut short in his life.  What a week that must have been.

Until later, I will be exploring backwards.

Exploring Georgia Roots II

What a wonderful trip back to Georgia, Cousin Sarah and Charlie were the most gracious of guides.  My Cousin Susan picked me up from the Atlanta airport to conduct round two of Exploring Georgia Roots.  She was my faithful companion and photographer.  It is amazing how we can just pick up and not miss a beat.  We made our way to Lexington to the old court house.  My great-great grandfather, George Wiley Whitehead, was the surveyor of the county when this historic building was built.  The clerks office was a bit of a bust.  The County Clerk’s Office wanted fifty cents per copy.  I had brought my scanner, but they said I would still have to pay.  We counted over 38 pages in one deed book alone and their copy machine would not handle the size so we abandoned the project as futile.  We would go broke first.  We were blessed with Deeds later in the trip.  I will discuss that another time.  Stay Tuned!
Oglethorpe Court House 1

Cousin Sara and David have moved into the Carlton home full time.  David cleaned out the front office and now uses it as his office.  While touring the front office that Coco and Betty both employed for many years, I noticed a painting of the Carlton Place that was done in the style of my father.  Upon closer inspection, I found my father’s mark (LWW) and knew for certain that his painting had found it’s place on this office wall for at least the last 20 years.  It is a beautiful representation of the  home in Carlton.  David offered it to me immediately knowing how special it would be for me to own this painting.  Sarah of course quickly agreed.  There might have even a little tear in my eyes knowing that this beautiful painting had adorn the walls of his grandfather ‘s home for many years.  Now this beautiful painting is hanging in my home.

 

LWW Painting Carlton

 

While sifting through an old box, I came across a letter from my father to his Uncle Joe (Walter Joe Whitehead) and his wife Chloe.  It was a letter/wedding invitation dated 4 April 1963.  Here is my favorite line:

“I am going to be married on the 20th of April to one of your southern girls.”  Of course he was talking about my mother.  I know they did not have a large wedding; so it was nice that his Uncle Joe was able to attend.

Another treasure found was a letter from my Dad’s mother to Chloe and Joe, indicating how happy it was that Joe was able to attend (the wedding).  Margaret’s letter indicates that it was probably her and my Aunt Annette’s first airplane ride.  She wrote, “We had a much more smoother trip back…We found out that if you sit over the wings you do not notice the motion too much.”

All in all, it was a great trip and I will have much more to write about as I explore backwards.

 

The Miracle in Savannah

I have a friend at work who is retired Navy and now working as a homicide detective.  He and I have bonded over genealogy and the military.  I know, I have never been truly a military buff, but as I have delved into my genealogy and realize what a presence the military has in my family, I have grown more familiar.  With this in mind, I began thinking about George Wiley Whitehead and the miracle that happened in Savannah, Georgia.

I wrote about him in 2013.  You can read about him here:

https://exploringbackwards.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/george-wiley-whitehead/

 

What I didn’t know at the time was how his company, The Echols Artillery, was a part of a book that recalled their involvement in the War of Northern Aggression, or The War Between the States.

The book, This They Remembered,  written by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Oglethorpe County Chapter, documents four companies who fought in that war.  I have two relatives that are documented in this book, Columbus Augustus Stevens and George Wiley Whitehead both which whom served in the Echols Artillery, and both of whom are my second great grandfathers.

Below is a short timeline as described in the book.

Timeline:

1 March 1862               Echols Artillery organized and mustered in.

19 August 1862            Company ordered to Atlanta, Georgia

6 January 1863             Company received orders to report to General Howell Cobb at Quincy, Florida.

Mid March 1863           Company left Quincy, marching through Tallahassee to Camp Leon then to                                          Brokaw.  (Comprised of a six-gun battery; G.W. Whitehead, 1st Gunner),  Private                                          C.A. Stevens among many soldiers).

27 May 1863                 Company ordered to Ft. Gadsden and Battery Cobbs, both on the Apalachicola                                         River. Conditions here were poor, due to swamp conditions.

January 1864                Company reunited back at Camp Leon.

“In the short space of six months the company had been transformed from the finest and robust body in the service to a company of weak and sallow invalids.  Twelve had already died and many more were stricken never to recover (page 122).”

9 February 1864            One section ordered to Mosely Hall.  Glanders disease, is a contagious, acute or                                           chronic, usually fatal disease of Equidae broke out among the horses.

1 June 1864                    Company ordered to Tallahassee.  The enemy was in Jacksonville.

Late November 1864     Ordered to Savannah, Georgia

“Sherman was approaching Milledgeville on his famous march to the sea (p. 123).”

17 December 1864        G.W. Wounded in Action (G.W. Whitehead Pension Papers)

George Wiley Whitehead

George Wiley Whitehead

“The Echols Artillery was in charge of a siege battery on the Augusta road, where, during the ten days siege they were engaged in firing shot and shell and in return received close attention from the enemy’s sharp-shooters, but so well protected was the battery that the casualties were few, G. W. Whitehead seriously wounded (p. 123).  It is unknown what happened to G.W. Whitehead after he was wounded.  Family lore suggests he was captured by the Union.

This is what Chloe Adams Whitehead wrote for the North Georgia Life in 1965:

“Wounded and left for dead on the battlefield, George regained consciousness to find a Yankee officer standing over him.  He gave the Masonic sign which the office returned.  The Blue Coat carried his wounded Masonic brother to his own camp where he was given medical attention and as soon as George was able to travel, he was exchanged for a Yankee prisoner.  George returned to Oglethorpe and married Cena in 1866 (North Georgia Life, 1965, p.6)”

21 December 1864        Company was withdrawn from Savannah.  The company boarded a train to                                           Pocataligo, Georgia.  For those unfamiliar, this is located very close to                                            Oglethorpe County, where the Echols Artillery formed.

1 January 1865             Company ordered to James Island, Fort Jackson (near Charleston, SC).

17 February 1865          “All the works around Charleston were evacuated, the Echols Artillery going out                                              with the rest, marching all night and encamping at Monk’s Corner (p. 124)”.

Unknown 1865             Company marched from Monk’s Corner to Kingstree to Cheraw, they faced the                                          enemy there, and had to withdraw and marched via Rockingham to Fayettsville,                                          NC.  They then marched in the direction of Raleigh.

16 March 1865              Company along with General Hardee made a stand; however losing a few.

19 March 1865              Company joined General Johnson’s forces at the Battle of Bentonville.  The                                          Union won this battle.

21 March 1865              Company along with General Johnson moved to Smithfield, NC.  The Echols                                          Artillery had been reduced to 43 men.  The effects of two years in Florida made                                          them weak and frail.

10 April 1865                Company was sent in the direction of Raleigh however, they continued westward                                          to Greensboro where a surrender took place.

26 April 1865                Confederate Troops surrender.

27 April 1865                C.A. Stevens was present at last call, but G.W. Whitehead was not.

 

The important thing is that George came home from the war and married Cena Ann Mathews.  In 1889, he completed an application for pension due to his injury in the war.  He was granted $50 per month.  In 1990, the effects of his head injury had left him partially paralyzed and he reapplied for pension and received $100.  In the pension application, his physician wrote in part:

“I hereby certify that one George W. Whitehead was wounded in top of head during the war between the states and at the time he received said wound he complained of a numbness through his whole system.  Which has recurred periodically ever since until about a year ago when this numbness became permanent and brought about a partial paralysis.  He has since that time been entirely helpless and most of the time bedridden (Confederate Pension Applications).”

GWW Pension Papers

GWW Pension Papers

George Wiley Whitehead died 31 May 1891.  He was 62 years old.  He left behind his wife and 7 children.  The youngest child at the time of his death was Theordoric, who was only 8 years old.  If he hadn’t survived the war, I wouldn’t be here today.

CSA Marker for GWW

CSA Marker for GWW

When I write about my ancestors, I feel closer to them.  I believe in telling their stories, our lives are enriched.  Coming home from a war wounded he married a sweet girl, 16 years younger than him.  I wonder what Cena’s parents, Raleigh and Mary Mathews, thought.  Did they approve?  Did he prove to them that although he was wounded he was worthy of her hand in marriage? In addition to farming, George became a county surveyor, as well as a County Commissioner.  We do know that he ended up with lots of land.  In his will, he mentions 270 acres that the Home Place is on; as well as 450 acres that he and Obadiah Stevens; however, it also states some is to be sold to pay off some debts.  The Home Place is still owned by the family.  My Cousin Sara has taken on the huge responsibility of two of our families homes, one in Carlton and the Homeplace in Oglethorpe County.  To her, I am most grateful.

 

 

Sources:

United Daughters of the Confederacy. (1986). This they remembered: The history of the four companies and those in other companies, who went from Oglethorpe County to serve in the War Between the States : the Gilmer Blues, the Oglethorpe Rifles, the Tom Cobb Infantry, the Echols Artillery. Columbus, Ga: Brentwood University Press.

North Georgia Life, The Oglethorpe Echo, February 17, 1965, “The Whitehead Homeplace recalls Rural Life of Yesterday.”

Confederate Pension Applications. Ancestry.com. Georgia, Confederate Pension Applications, 1879-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009.

Thankful Thanksgiving Day Thursday

As I sit here in my home this Thanksgiving, I want to thank my ancestors.  I have been exploring backwards for several years now and every time I discover a new gem or connect with a distant cousin, I am thankful for those that have gone before me.  I just wanted to write a short bit about a few.

 

I am thankful for my great-grandfather Peter Kersten for embarking across the Atlantic Ocean to start a new life here in America.  He was 21-year-old, and in his native country of Germany, it was not the familial custom to acquire land from his parents, so he was left with little options.  He chose to come to the new land, America.  The year was 1893, it was known as the Progressive Era, a period of widespread social activism and political reform in the United States.  Support for prohibition was growing as was woman’s suffrage (source:  The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project).  The irony is Peter was a brewer by trade until Prohibition (1920-1933).  According to the 1930 US Census, he was an Elevator Operator.  The effect of prohibition was so profound that he had to change occupations.

Kersten Family

Kersten Family

I am also thankful for my grandfather, Lacy Luke Sublett, he was born in 1909, he was too young for World War I, but when the Second World War came along, he had incurred an injury to his leg that would keep him home.  This had to be difficult to see your other friends and neighbors go off to fight the Axis powers.  I consider him the family chameleon.  He was born in the country on a tobacco farm but made his way to the city of Lynchburg at a young age.  He started out on his own living in Lynchburg as a shipping clerk in 1921.  He married his first wife in 1931.  By 1934 he was working as a Life Insurance Agent for Provident Relief Association of Washington D.C.  He met and married my grandmother, Odelle.  They went on to have two children, my mom and my Aunt Carol.  He worked for a couple different Insurance Agencies until he went to work for Conner Produce Company.  He continued to work for them throughout the war.

Lacy and his daughters

Lacy and his daughters

Lastly, I am thankful for Margaret Agnes Kersten, my paternal grandmother, whom I have never had a chance to meet.  She was a first generation German-American growing up on the south side of Chicago.  Her and her brother during prohibition and she came of age during the roaring 1920’s.  I often wonder how she introduced Fred Whitehead to her parents.  He was a Georgia born, Army man who was working in Chicago at the Army Recruiting Offices when they met.  He had been born and raised Baptist and Margaret was a devout Catholic.  They married and went on to have three children.

Margaret and her Parents

Margaret and her Parents

Although I often write about dead people, I am most thankful for my family that is living in my life today.  My parents are both so warm and loving.  I am so very blessed to have the best siblings and sibling in-laws, nieces and nephews.  So, take the time today to let the “family” in your life how thankful you are for them.  I am thankful for mine.

 

Source:

Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, retrieved 11/24/19 from https://www2.gwu.edu/~erpapers/teachinger/glossary/progressive-era.cfm

 

 

 

Martha’s Place

Martha Ann Whitehead Moore

During our Genealogical Visit to Georgia in May 2015, Cousin Sara and Charlie took us to go see Martha’s Place.  It is no longer owned by the family, but it was such a stately old home.  We enjoyed our visit there, imagining it in its peak.  I imagined the beautiful wrap around porch with a few rocking chairs, a hanging swing.  I could definitely drink some ice tea out there.

Martha was the fourth and last child born to Walter Everett Whitehead and Luna May Stevens.  Born on September 14, 1904 in Madison County.  According to the family history book compiled by Chloe Whitehead, May was bedridden after Martha’s birth.  May had terrible rheumatoid arthritis.  As a result, she went to live with her maiden aunts, Pellie and Cynnie Stevens and her grandfather, Gus (Whitehead: 1983).

I wonder how hard that must have been to have your mother alive, but you have to stay with your Aunts and Grandfather.  Also, how hard it is to be parents and to know that you cannot physically meet the demands of your child.  Nevertheless, it built a very strong bond in the Whitehead and Stevens families that existed for many years to come.  According to her daughter Anne, “She loved growing up with the two aunts and had many happy memories.”

Martha was educated at Shorter College, Rome Georgia.  In 1924, she became a teacher.  She taught in Oglethorpe County for almost two decades.   She also was chosen the Star Teacher of Oglethorpe County for 10 of 11 successive years (Stevens, 1973).  Her daughter, Anne, recently told me.

“Mama graduated from Shorter College in Rome Georgia in 1924.  She was 20.   She taught in Jefferson, GA, Marion, VA, Elberton, GA and Oglethorpe County GA (that last one was 1954-1969; I was there!)  During WW2 she was in Miami working for the government.”

She married William Austin Moore on 26 December 1946 and her first and only daughter Anne the next year.  Her husband was a Major League Baseball player having pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers and a couple of other organizations.

I think it is her genes that finally started allowing our Whitehead’s to grow older.  She outlived all her siblings.  She passed away September 21, 2001 at the age of 97.

 

Martha was also a story-teller.  I am so glad to be in possession of an electronic version of “Family Stories.”  Martha wrote down stories that had been told to her.  She saved them so that her grandchildren, Julie and Karen could understand the family history.  I will continue to share those, and they are a treasure in and of themselves.

Below are some pictures we took during our tour.

Martha Whitehead Moore Home

Martha Whitehead Moore Home

long side of porch

long side of porch

side of home

side of home

Charlie giving us the history of the home

Charlie giving us the history of the home

Source:

Whitehead, Emma Chloe Adams, The Adams Family, James Adams Line (1785-1982), 1983.

Stevens, Claude, The Stevens Family, John Stevens Line, 1973.

Vaught, Anne, Email correspondance, May 1, 2016.