Meredith – Graham Wedding

William and Mary Graham are pleased to announce the marriage of their daughter Damey Catherine Graham to James Thomas Ross, son of James Meredith and Nancy Shepherd.  James and Damey were married 9 August 1887 in Snowville, Pulaski, Virginia.

I am stepping into a bit of a minefield in writing this biography because there is such a wide variety of opinions on the history of this family.  The stories I have were handed down and cannot be verified.  Some claim to have documents but I have been unable to obtain copies of these documents for various reasons.  These purported documents are family records and the public records I cannot find.  Therefore, hopefully documentation will come forward and this post will be altered as that information presents itself.  Poor Damey, not much conversation is available about her because there is so little controversy.

The picture above is of James Ross Meredith, or I assume he was called that at that time.  James Thomas Meredith was born to Nancy Adeline Shepherd 22 September 1869 in Snowville, Virginia.

In 1951, a few months before his death, James was interviewed by his granddaughter, Donna Beachell.  She indicated his mind was very clear.  He indicated to Donna that he was born out of wedlock and that his real father was James Meredith.  He said he was born in Snowville, Virginia.   He also said this James Meredith adopted him when he was about 4 years old and raised him.  He said the courts gave him the name James Thomas Ross Meredith.

The records of Pulaski County indicate this:

“Order Book 5, page 25
September 2, 1873
On the motion of Anderson Linkous, Overseer of the Poor for High Wassie Township for an order to bind James Ross aged 3 years son of Nancy Ross who has become a county charge and it appearing to the Court that said James Ross is now a county charge.  It is ordered that said Overseer of the Poor bind out according to Law to James Meredith the said James Ross son of Nancy Ross aged 3 years until he attains the age of 21 years and besides teaching him reading, writing and arithmetic said Meredith shall be required to pay the said James Ross upon his attaining the age of 21 years the sum of 100 dollars.”

The courts recognized him as James Ross, probably after his mother’s married name.  I have been unable to locate a birth record for him under either name.

He was almost 5 years old when Nancy Ross went into the poorhouse, or at least when the county gave little James to old James Meredith.  I am not sure why they thought he was 3.  Although some records have him born in 1869, and if this was correct, he was just shy of his 4th birthday.  But I will stick with the birthday that he gave during his life.

The county placed James Ross into the charge of James Meredith until he was 21 years of age.  Unfortunately, nobody seemed to ask when this James Meredith was born.  We also do not know when this old James Meredith died, or if he raised him until he was 21 (and paid the $100).  After James and Damey married, John Phibbs (brother-in-law to Fanny Ross) remembered visiting the family in West Virginia and that James’ mother, Nancy lived with her son and daughter-in-law, James and Damey, for much of the time the family lived in West Virginia.    Apparently Nancy was strong enough to carry in heavy sacks of coal and potatoes by herself.  This probably would have been the turn of the 20th century since they were in West Virginia.  No mention is made of old James Meredith who was the father and supposedly raised him.  Nancy must have kept contact through the years, lived close enough, or even got little James back.   We have so many holes to fill with information that we will likely never have.

Clarita Morgan, a researcher in Pulaski County in the 1970’s wrote to Donna and told her it was not uncommon for ladies to be placed in the poorhouse for having a child out of wedlock.  These women were considered a menace and a burden to the community.  At any rate, Nancy Shepherd Ross lived an especially hard life.  It is hard to put ourselves into their scene or time without many more facts.

When James married Damey, the marriage certificate has J. R. Mearideth.  Yet, when all the children were born, James and Damey gave them each the Ross name (or so it seems).  Damey died under the Ross name and no records indicate she ever went by the Meredith name.  James is listed as a farmer.

When James went to the LDS temple on 20 June 1935, he gave his name as James Thomas Ross born 22 September at Snowville, Pulaski, Virginia.  He gave his father as James Thomas Ross and mother as Nancy Shepard.  He also gave his baptismal date as 17 April 1898.  Nothing in any of the records provide any evidence of a James Thomas Ross to be his father, and either the recorder at the Temple put the wrong last name, or James made a mistake because he seems to have clearly known his father was James Meredith (was his father’s middle name really Thomas?).  When Fanny went to the LDS temple on 20 June 1923 she said her parents were James F Ross (misread?) and Damy C Graham.

Now, having said all that, one of the difficulties is that there are tons of James Merediths who lived in Pulaski County, Virginia.  In the 1880 Census, little James Meredith is living with elder James Meredith who was born in 1804 and the family lived in Hiwassie.  It is not uncommon for a 65 year old man to have a child.  However, elder James Meredith has a family of 10 children with his wife.  In that census, only elder and little James are shown as living together.  Elder James’ wife, Sarah (Sallie) Jane Bell Meredith, is “ill” and living with their daughter Sarah Jane Meredith Elkins.  I want to speculate but will not.

For years it was thought that James and Sarah Meredith’s son, James Anderson Meredith, was the father of our James Thomas Meredith.  But this was easily resolved in that James Anderson Meredith died in 1864 in a battle at Lexington, Lexington, Virginia, four or five years before little James Meredith was born.  Others thought that James Meredith, the son of Hugh Meredith Jr elder James Meredith’s brother, was the father.  He is four years older than Nancy and their ages seem more conducive to a relationship.  But, we are unable to track him down and prove anything for certain.  But one thing is sure, elder James Meredith told the census taker in 1880 that little James Meredith was his son.  I guess we have to move forward with that record as the basis for our assumptions.  Would the Uncle (elder James Meredith) of James Meredith (Hugh Jr’s son) ruin his good name by claiming little James Meredith as his own to save the name of his nephew?  I just do not know, but the census gives documentation of a relationship (we all know how terrible the census records are for accuracy other than names of family members and location of living).  (Some of my original research and ruminating on these issues can be found here.)

This begs the question of why 27 year old Nancy would have intimate relations with 65 year old and married elder James.  Ms. Morgan above said it was not uncommon for servants living in the home to be taken advantage of by the homeowner.  But we have no evidence that Nancy was a servant in their home.  If he did this and kicked her out, it could account for her being in the poorhouse and his reclaiming the child in court.  But we have nothing to support the notion Ms. Morgan suggests.

Well, if this is not enough to confuse the matter, lets jump back in time before James was born to where Nancy married Harvy D Ross 7 June 1860 in Pulaski, Pulaski, Virginia.  She married Harvy at 19 years old. On 9 September 1861, Harvy enlisted in Company F, 54th Infantry Regiment Virginia for the Confederacy.  He left for military service and we have few details of when he returned.  She bore James Meredith in 1868 and as far as we know, Harvy had not yet returned from the war.   By 1870 Harvy was back living in Alum Ridge, Floyd, Virginia after the Civil War. We do not know when he left Virginia for the “west”.  William Andrew Ross was born on 10 October 1873 in Snowville.  The birth index for Pulaski County lists William as a bastard, but his death certificate lists Harvy Ross as the father!  (Death certificates are highly unreliable for parental information.)  But why they were not back living together in 1870, we do not know.  He was back in the area and could very well be the father of William.  I just wish we had more information.  He supposedly moved to Tennessee or Kentucky and passed away there, never having anything to do with his son William, if he really is the father.  William was raised by Nancy and was told by her that Harvy was his father.  William never had a memory of meeting his father.

Now that I have given more history of Nancy Adeline Shepherd in this biography of her son and daughter-in-law, we can move on.  Our documentation is weak of who little James Meredith’s father is and where he was until he married Damey.  Although, I should mention that a cousin who claims he is in possession of the journals of James Meredith (or Ross) indicates that he was raised by elder James Meredith to believe that elder James was actually his father.  Well, rephrased, he never had any doubt elder James Meredith was his father.  Therefore, we move forward on that assumption even though I have only hearsay from a cousin (as I cannot get a copy of the book) and an 1880 census record.

Damey Catherine Graham was born 25 November 1874 in Pulaski, Pulaski, Virginia to William and Mary Graham.  William, her father, was a laborer on farms who moved to the mines.  As a miner he moved where the best paying jobs for mining were located.  In Virginia, the family worked in the iron mines.  Damey met James and probably knew him and his family growing up.  Hiwassie appears to be a very small town, even today.  I cannot imagine that James and Damey did not know each other growing up.    The two married in 1887 and began to raise their family.  All four children were born in Virginia.

Robert Leonard Ross was born 25 April 1888 in Draper, Pulaski, Virginia.

John “Jack” William Ross was born 2 September 1890 in Pulaski, Pulaski, Virginia.  Read more about John at this link: Ross-Sharp Wedding

Fanny Elizabeth Ross was born 18 November 1893 in Reed Island, Pulaski, Virginia.  Read more about Fanny at this link: Calvin and Fanny Phibbs

James Thomas Ross was born 19 October 1895 in Radford, Montgomery, Virginia.

Damey chose to be baptized into the LDS faith 27 February 1898 (a few months before James).  Family tradition holds it was in West Virginia but does not seem to hold up with the rest of the story.  James and Damey were supposed to have followed her family to West Virginia to the mines.  James and Damey do not seem to appear on the 1900 Census but Damey’s family were still in Hiwassie on the 15 June 1900.  Damey’s family moved shortly after 1900 to West Virginia to work in the coal mines of McDowell County.  James and Damey (and James’ brother, William) followed and were living in McDowell County, West Virginia for sure in 1906 when Fanny married Calvin Dickerson Phibbs in Welch, McDowell, West Virginia.  The first three children all married in McDowell County.  James Jr returned to Mayberry, Carroll, Virginia in 1913 to marry his wife.  On 10 May 1910, James and Damey were living in Big Creek, McDowell, West Virginia.

James and Damey Ross left Pulaski County about 1913 or 1914 and headed to settle in Rupert, Minidoka, Idaho.  James confirmed his brother a member of the LDS church 26 October 1913, so it had to be after that date.  As mentioned above, Fanny had married Calvin Phibbs and most of the Phibbs family of Virginia had moved out to Rupert in 1912.  The opening of the new farm land in Minidoka and Cassia Counties, a new sugar factory at Burley, Cassia, Idaho, and an economic downturn in McDowell County propelled the move for both families. Robert, John, and James Jr followed later as it does not appear any of the children went with James and Damey when they left.

James & Damey Ross

James & Damey Ross

James and Damey set up house in Rupert for a time probably living with Calvin and Fanny until they could find and afford a suitable place to live.  We do not know exactly where James and Damey lived for much of their time in Idaho because they appear to have rented.  Robert listed his parents as living in Idahome, Cassia, Idaho when he registered for the World War I draft in 1918.  That fall, James and Damey apparently moved to Paul, Minidoka, Idaho to work on the first sugar beet campaign of the newly built sugar factory in Paul.  They remained there until about 1926.  Robert married Rose Sanders (nee Clawson?) in Burley, Cassia, Idaho in 1919.  John met Ethel Sharp Streeter in Paul while visiting his parents in 1919 and married her in early 1920.  James and Damey somehow fail to appear on the 1920 Census, or their names are transcribed incorrectly.  James settled in Vernal, Uintah, Utah and attempted a short move to Rupert in 1922-23 to be closer to family before moving back to Vernal.  Milo Ross, James and Damey’s grandson, remembers his grandparents living on the north side of the tracks in Paul when he lived there 1925-1926.

In 1925, James and Damey’s daughter-in-law, Ethel Sharp Ross passed away.  John, their son, sought work and James and Damey took in all four of the children of Ethel.  The baby, Earnest Jackson Ross, died in September in Rupert, where he was being tended by the Phibbs.  By the spring of 1926, James and Damey were impoverished enough that they asked Ethel’s family to come get the children from Paul.  Apparently shortly after, the family moved again.

By 2 April1930, James and Damey had moved to Bend, Deschutes, Oregon.  Robert apparently lived in the area and Robert’s son, Orson Lee Ross, was also living with James and Damey.  Robert is in Portland but appears to not live there, so this home in Bend may have been Robert’s or James and Damey were tending Orson, who was 9.  Robert later died in Bend in 1944.

James’ journals indicate they lived in Merced, Merced, California for most of the 1930’s.  Damey passed away in Marysville, Yuba, California 3 February 1933 of colon cancer.  Her death notice in Rupert indicates she died after an operation for cancer of the stomach.  She had been in the hospital for five months previous to that.  The obituary also mentions that John lived in Manteca, San Joaquin, California, James in Lapoint, Uintah, Utah, and Robert in Marysville.  Fanny was still living in Rupert.

James returned to Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah and on 20 June 1935 he was endowed, saw Damey’s proxy ordinance work was completed, and was sealed to her.

By about 1936, James was back visiting family in the east.  He spoke at a Conference of the LDS church that had met in Grundy County, Tennessee.  James spoke that morning to the assembled crowd.  That same day, James’ nephew, Howard Ross was baptized.  These conferences were a big deal because it was an all day event for James’ brother’s family to travel all the way from Gary, West Virginia to Tennessee, spend the day in meetings, and then go home.  Howard remembers meeting “Uncle Jim” for the first time that day.  Many people enjoyed the sermon he gave and came up to give their commendation to William and Sarah on his fine speech.  William’s wife, Sarah, had to set them right, that it was William’s brother, James who delivered the sermon.  Howard did not hear the sermon because in those days unbaptized children were not allowed into the meetings and even though he was to be baptized that day, he was not baptized yet.

“Uncle Jim” returned with the family to West Virginia and stayed for a couple of weeks.  James was so disappointed that the family did not have a cow for milk that he went out and purchased one for the family while he was there.  When James left, he took and sold the cow too.  The family recalled how rare it was for them to have milk, and it was many years before they would have it again.  James was also noted by the family for his girth and the sheer capacity to each large amounts of food.  Howard thought he must have pushed to near 300 pounds.  Howard also remembers that Uncle Jim was missing a finger and upon asking, James indicated that he had been bit by a spider and that the Dr. took off the finger to save his life because the finger had started to rot.

The story goes that James married while he was visiting the family in West Virginia.  Family history records have James marrying Etta on 6 June 1936 in Snowville, Virginia.  However, later information indicates this was Henrietta Fountain who was born in Sacramento, Sacramento, California and died in Phoenix, Maricopa, Arizona.  How she met James and why they would have married in Virginia does not add up, especially where she was from the west.  A cousin has the marriage in Sacramento which seems much more accurate.  A death certificate at some point will rest the case.  Her full maiden name was Henrietta Fountain and she was a widow of Charles Henry Lowell in 1925.  She died in 1946 according to the memories of Milo Ross and he is accurate.

James and Etta relocated to Lakeport, Lake, California after their marriage.  Lakeport was a town for the wealthy and Ms. Etta must have brought the money into the marriage.  It was here that James applied for Social Security 4 November 1937.  Due to the requirements he use his legal name, James went by James Ross Meredith the remainder of his life.  He began receiving his benefits 6 January 1938.  On 21 April 1938 he received a letter indicating he would have to have been a resident of California 15 years to receive the payments and no further payments were made.

James then married a widow by the name of Nora Brewer.  Her full maiden name was Martha Elnora Cackler and her late husband, Daniel Gordon Brewer, had passed away in 1943.  James and Martha were married in Fresno, Fresno, California 14 July 1947.  She had been born in 1877 in Iowa and died in Fresno in 1974, just short of 100 years old.

James lived until 13 April 1951 when he passed away in Fresno.  He was buried in Belmont Memorial in Fresno.  The last few years of his life, he took back the Meredith name.  Milo Ross, his grandson, indicates this was for Social Security benefits which had to be claimed under the birth name.  Either way, his tombstone reads James R Meredith.  His last letter to Donna Beachell was signed James Ross Meredith.

When he passed away in 1951, he was living at 344 Theta Street in Fresno the home of his widow.  One last thing, apparently while living in Fresno, he served as a Bishop of the LDS church.  We do not know when or where, but several lines of the family were all aware of this.  More information will be needed to share more.  The fact he was called upon to speak at a conference of the church in Tennessee seems to show he held some position but we don’t know anything more.

Calvin Sheppard

This is more self explanatory. This is from Calvin Sheppard who is the
brother to my Nancy Adeline Shepherd. She would be my great, great great
grandmother. He spelled his name differently.

Between 1914 and 1915 a questionnaire form was sent to all known living
Tennessee Civil War Veterans. All were returned by 1922. I will type up
the questions and insert Calvin Sheppard’s response after the question from
the following pages.

The Tennessee Civil War Veterans Questionnaires
Volume 5, Confederate Soldiers, pg 1946-1947

1. State your full name and present Post Office address:

Calvin Sheppard, Dandridge, Jefferson Co., Tenn.

2. State your age now:

Seventy Nine 14th of May

3. In what State and county were you born?

Pulaski County, Va.

4. In what State and county were you living when you enlisted in the service
of the Confederacy, or of the Federal Government?

Newbern (Pulaski county, Va.?) Confederacy.

5. What was your occupation before the war?

Farmer

6. What was the occupation of your father?

Farmer

7. If you owned land or other property at the opening of the war, state what
kind of property you owned, and state the value of your property as near as
you can.

—-

8. Did you or your parents own slaves? If so, how many?

No

9. If your parents owned land, state about how many acres.

My father owned 75 acres.

10. State as near as you can the value of all the property owned by your
parents, including land, when the war opened.

$1500.00

11. What kind of house did your parents occupy? State whether it was a log
house or frame house or built of other materials, and state the number of
rooms it had.

Log house, six rooms, good barn, well wattered and layed.

12. As a boy and young man, state what kind of work you did. If you worked
on a farm, state to what extent you plowed, worked with a hoe, and did other
kinds of similar work.

I did all kinds of work on the farm, plowed, hoed, cradled, —ed and did
any and everything that was to do on a farm.

13. State clearly what kind of work your father did, and what the duties of
your mother were. State all the kinds of work done in the house as well as
you can remember – that is, cooking, spinning, weaving, ect.

We had sheep and raised flax, had two good looms and two wheels my Mother
raised her own flax and spun wove and made clothes for the familydid her own
cooking.

14. Did your parents keep any servants? If so, how many?

They did not keep servants.

15. How was honest toil – as plowing, hauling and other sorts of honest work
of this class – regarded in your community? Was such work considered
respectable and honorable?

All honest work and toil was considered honorable in those days.

16. Did the white men in your community generally engage in such work?

Yes

17. To what extent were there white men in your community leading lives of
idleness and having others do their work for them?

Every body except a few rich men that owned slaves did their own work,
nearly everybody worked in those days.

18. Did the men who owned slaves mingle freely with those who did not own
slaves, or did slaveholders in any way show by their actions that they felt
themselves better than respectable, honorable men who did not own slaves?

—-

19. At the churches, at the schools, at public gatherings in general, did
slaveholders and non-slaveholders mingle on a footing of equality?

No

20. Was there a friendly feeling between slaveholders and non-slaveholders in
your community, or were they antagonistic towards each other?

Most always friendly

21. In a political contest in which one candidate owned slaves and the other
did not, did the fact that one candidate owned slaves help him in winning
the contest?

Not very much

22. Were the opportunities good in your community for a poor young man -
honest and industrious – to save up enough to buy a small farm or go in
business for himself?

Not much, wages was low and the rich men owned the land in those days.

23. Were poor, honest, industrious young men, who were ambitious to make
something of themselves, encouraged or discouraged by slaveholders?

No

24. What kind of school or schools did you attend?

We did not have any free schools in those days we had to pay for what we
got.

25. About how long did you go to school altogether?

—-

26. How far was it to the nearest school?

about four miles

27. What school or schools were in operation in your neighborhood?

—-

28. Was the school in your community private or public?

Privet I suppose we had to pay for it.

29. About how many months in the year did it run?

Three months

30. Did the boys and girls in your community attend school pretty regularly?

Yes

31. Was the teacher of the school you attended a man or a woman?

Mostly men

32. In what year and month and at what place did you enlist in the
Confederate or of the Federal Government?

Oct. 1_, 1862 Pulaski County, Va

33. State the name of your regiment, and state the names of as many members
of your company as you remember.

Company C. Jim Marton, Jack Duncan and myself I enlisted in a home guard
company and was on duty for 15 months at Dublin Va. then went in to regular
servis in company C. Horton command Brecanridge brigade.

34. After enlistment, where was your company sent first?

We went to the Saultville we was in a fight there then we went from one
place to another we was in the Clands? Valley.

35. How long after your enlistment before your company engaged in battle?

about 12 months

36. What was the first battle you engaged in?

Cla_ds? Valley

37. State in your own way your experience in the war from this time on until
the close. State where you went after the first battle – what you did, what
other battles you engaged in, how long they lasted, what the results were;
state how you lived in camp, how you were clothed, how you slept, what you
had to eat, how you were exposed to cold, hunger, and disease. If you were
in the hospital or in prison, state your experience here.

We went to Withville and was there one winter on duty we were very poorly
clothed had one blanket no matter how cold it was and very little to eat.

38. When and where were you discharged?

Christianburg, April 15?, 1865 we did not have telephones then and did not
know that Jen. Lee had surrendered.

39. Tell something of your trip home.

I walked home.

40. What kind of work did you take up when you came back home?

I worked by the day just when I could get work.

41. Give a sketch of your life since the close of the Civil War, stating
what kind of business you have engaged in, where you have lived, your church
relations, etc. If you have held an office or offices, state what it was.
You may state here any other facts connected with your life and experience
which has not been brought out by the questions.

I have worked hard all my life, farmed mostly.

42. Give the full name of your father. Born, at, in the county of, state
of? He lived at? Give also any particulars concerning him, as official
position, war services, etc. Books written by, etc.

William Shepard; —-, Pulaski co., va, —

43. Maiden name in full of your mother. She was the daughter of (full name)
and his wife (full name) who lived at?

Nancie Marton, William Marton, —-

44. Remarks on ancestry. Give here any and all facts possible in reference
to your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, ect., not including in
the foregoing, as where they lived, office held, Revolutionary or other war
services; what country the family came from to America; where first settled,
county and state; always giving full names (if possible) and never referring
to an ancestor simply as such without giving the name. It is desirable to
include every fact possible and to that end the full and exact record from
old Bibles should be appended on separate sheets of this size, thus
preserving the facts from loss.

My grandfather Marton ____ came from Irland and him and one son were in the
War of 1812. My grandfather Shepard was dead before I was born so I know
very little about them but they were Virginian.

 

California Ross Letter

Donna is the granddaughter of Fanny Elizabeth Ross (married Phibbs).  This is my Great Grandfather’s sister.  Quite an interesting find.  Amanda and I were planning on going to out see Howard Ross in Bluefield, West Virginia.  Howard thought after the shootings at Blacksburg we better wait since Montgomery County would be too busy to go sightseeing and visiting.  But prior to going I e-mailed his nephew John Ross who is a doctor in Beckley, West Virginia.  I told him we were coming out and I would like to see him.  I knew Howard Ross had given John all his research papers and I was very interested in a copy of them.  John is a busy Dr and said he would just mail them to me.  So I received a stack of papers about 6 inches high of research letters, notes, and other various things.  This letter was in that stack.  Most of the stack is on Howard’s Adams lines which doesn’t interest me.  So some of the stack is quick moving.  I am glad when I find those things related to my bloodline.

PO Box 1894
Burney, Ca  96013
Aug. 13, 1985

Dear Howard,

Your letter arrived in the mail yesterday.  I have also wondered about Nancy Adeline’s life but it is very hard to understand from our perspective.  It’s hard for us to really understand  the hard life they had.  I find people today do not very often understand what I tell of my life as a child in a small town farming community in Idaho.  And that was only 50 years ago and I’m still here to tell about it.  We lived on a small two acre place with no running water and we had an outhouse.  All drinking water had to be carried from the neighboring farm where they had a well.  And all water for washing or bathing was carried from an irrigation ditch that ran along one side and down one portion of another side before it went through a culvert under a road to the farm across the road.  We did have electricity and we had electrically run appliances such as a wringer type washing machine and a refrigerator.  Also, living here in Burney which is about 250 miles from San Francisco I find people who think of San Francisco as “Sin City”, but I grew up there and love it.  There are somethings I don’t like about the city and it is always changing, but I have many good friends who still live there and also many cherished memories of my life there.  There are murders and drugs and everything that I abhor and do not want in my life right here in this small remote mountain town of Burney.

I say all this as I think its very hard to put ourselves into the scene or time and place that Nancy Adeline lived.  My mother’s father’s mother was
also born out of wedlock in Carroll County Virginia.  Her maiden name was BOLT and I had heard she was born out of wedlock before from her own son.  I didn’t think to question him I knew him to be a good man and honest.  He had served as a Missionary for the church and prior to that when I was about twelve years old had lived with us in San Francisco.  He was divorced from his first wife who came to our home and raised a ruckus one night while he was there.  After he came home from his Mission he married again.  This time to the divorced wife of his own brother.  His brother had a problem with drinking.  Aunt Bertie’s children, and she had fifteen, can’t seem to accept her decision.  I was told when we were visiting Carroll County in 1972 the following “The Bold women were beautiful blue eyed blonde women and considered the most beautiful women in the area.”  I was also told my great grandmothers mother was never married.  But the census records indicate she had four children.  She also had at least one or two sisters who never married but had some children.  I recently asked John Perry Alderman, is a Federal Judge at Roanoke.  But he was District Attorney of Carroll County and had his law offices with his father also John Alderman when we were visiting there in 1972.

Life certainly can get complicated can’t it?  While someone in the future may be able to construct some of my life from a few legal documents I know they would not be able to know all about me.  My life has been full of things that are not written down.  It’s also true of the Bible and that is
why there are so many religions with each on interpreting according to their own interpretation right?  I hope all this makes sense to you.  At any rate I cannot judge Nancy Adeline (SHEPHERD) ROSS nor can I judge my other great grat grandmother Adeline BOLT.  I understand you are a little closer to the situation than I am in that Nancy was your father’s mother.  And your family name hinges on the truth.  I really have no answers except the few legal documents that we uncover.  I have no knowledge as to who is the older, your father or my great grandfather.  I only saw James Thomas Ross Meredith on the one occassion a few months before he died in Fresno, California in 1951. His mind was very clear and he told us a little about his life.  Such as he had been born out of wedlock and that his real father was James Meredith who had adopted him when he was about 4-6 years old.  He also said the courts gave him the name James Thomas Ross Meredith.  He said he was raised by his real father.  I do not recall his telling anything about his brother or even knowing that he had one until years later.  When he went to the temple for his Endowment and had an Endowment done for Damey Catherine Graham he gave his birthplace as Snowville.  The Temple Index Bureau tells me there was no sealing done.  He did tell us that he reverted to the name Ross in order to save his mother from embarrassment with the Missionaries.

When he was married his name was listed as J.R. Mearideth and his death certificate shows James Meredith with his father as James T Meredith.  But all of his children were brought up as Ross and his sons brought their children up as Ross.  He didn’t go back to the name Meredith until years
later.  Damey Catherine’s death certificate gives her last name as Ross and she died in 1933.  So it was after that time.  Evidently, Nancy Adeline also lived with James and Damey for sometime while they were living in West Virginia as my great uncle John Phibbs whose mind was also very clear when I interviewed him about 1958 remembered James Rosses mother.  Uncle John was a friend to the Ross boys Uncles Bob and John Ross in particular and said he lived with the Ross family for a time.  He thought she was about 90 years old and that couldn’t have been, but then many young people believe old people to be much older than they actually are, right?  He said she was a strong old lady and could carry heavy sacks of coal and or potatoes slung over her shoulders.  I’m convinced most of us are weaklings compared to our ancestors even if we are much larger in general.

Mrs. Clarita Morgan said, she believes Nancy had an incredibly hard life. She said women were put in jail for having children out of wedlock.  She
also said James was taken away from Nancy when he was bound out to James Meredith.  She got this from the Count Orders Book of Pulaski County.  She just stated that Nancy was in the poorhouse at that time.  Mrs. Morgan’s husband became critically ill last spring and she has promised me as soon as she can to get back into the records for me.  She has seen the original will of Frederick Shepherd and said while it mentioned his wife Elizabeth there was no mention of any children.  I have recently sent her more information regarding the marriages out of her own book showing the marriage of John Shepherd to Levica Martin naming his parents as Felty and Elizabeth Shepherd, as well as telling her that we believe that John was a brother to our William Shepherd as well as Levica Martin being a sister to Nancy Martin Shepherd.  I also sent her the copy of the records from the Tennessee Civil War Veterans on Calvin Sheppard.  You will note that it is copyrighted and not to be reproduced.  But it gives a good description of his family that we would find hard to get anywhere else.  I spoke to Mrs. Morgan after that and she said “Why that Shepherd/Sheppard Family is a very old one here”.  She then said “It is hard to imagine that he treated Nancy like he did.  Meaning that he took her son but didn’t marry her.”  She also told me she has some more information for me but has not gotten back into the records yet.

Nancy Martin Shepherd, could have been married to her daughter Charlotte’s father Jackson Bryant.  Those records would evidently be in North Carolina. I’m trying to check the 1850 Census for Surrey County at least I have it on order.  I’m wondering if I can find William and Polly (Bayes) Martin there. Do you know?  I recall you also had Nancy Adeline as possibly born in Ashe County North Carolina.  Until I find them and a  marriage record for William Shepherd to Nancy Martin or Bryant, I don’t know too much.  It appears from earlier records that William was married in the 1840 Census with a family. But who can tell for sure perhaps they were both married before they married each other.  William Shepherd is listed in Pulaski Co., in 1850 with wife Nancy and two children older than our Nancy Adeline.  They are William Shepherd and Charlotte also listed as a Shepherd.  But we find from Charlotte’s marriage record while Nancy Shepherd was her mother her father was Jackson Bryant.  But William Shepherd the son disappears and we don’t know if he is also Nancy’s son or if he is William’s son from a former marriage.  Until we can find more evidence that remains a mystery.  But it is great that we have Calvin’s record telling us who his parents are and also mentioning his grandfather William Martin.  And it is apparent from that record that William Martin was married before he married Polly Bayes.
None of this is unusual there were some divorces in those days but lots of people died much younger and of all kinds of diseases in those days that we don’t have now.  And many people remarried.

I also believe that the Census Takers were not qualified to always know whether a person was “Idiotic or wahter.”  I have two adopted children and both have Cerebral Palsy.  People as well as Doctors have labeled them. Cerebral Palsy, therefore mentally retarded for years.  It isn’t necessarily so.  David will be 20 years old in October and he walks with a limp and is called Moderate Cerebral Palsy.  Since he was in an institution for mentally retarded from 3 years until 12 and 1/2 years he picked up some traits which appear to be those of a mentally retarded person.  Had he been in a home with a loving family all those years he would probably not have had those characteristics.  I’ve had a young woman who has Cerebral Palsy and lived with her family who was married and had a child and worked for the Cerebral Palsy Office in Oakland, California tell me, “Oh yes people always think we are mentally retarded.”  It’s obvious to me that is not so.  My daughter Noel (pronounced as Noelle) is called Mild Cerebral Palsy and it is not apparent to most people that she has any anything.  I think it is between that person and the Lord.  I am not angry at you for any of your thoughts and I understand it is normal to wonder about all of these people.  But it is also FASCINATING to find whatever information we may be able to find regarding our ancestors.

Charlotte’s last name was shown as Martin though and that does lead one to believe she was born out of wedlock.

The John Perry Alderman that I mentioned before has done a wonderful job of research spending over 25 years and is publishing books on the Carroll County people.  I have his book called, CARROLL 1765-1815 THE SETTLEMENTS. I have found several of my early lines in there the
SHOCKLEY’S-BOLT’S-FRANKLIN’S-WORRALL’S and the NEWMAN’S.  He did it from the Deed Books the Will Books the Census the Marriage records as well as documented information that has come to him from descendent sources.  It is all well documented.  My PHIBBS FAMILY didn’t come into Carroll until the 1840’s from Guilford County North Carolina and he doesn’t know much about them.  But I have some Guilford records on them and I belong to the Guilford County Genealogical Society.  In addition to all of this I am gathering information on my fathers lines.  His father’s is in Central Pennsylvania and his mother’s is a Vermont and New England Family.  As well as doing research on my hunsband’s family.  His Perry family came from Ohio after 1855 to Iowa from there to Kansas after 1882 to California by 1910.  His Warrren line from somewhere in Virginia (wife born Germany) to Ohio to Missouri to Washington to California.  Another Vliet from Virginia to Illinois to Kansa to Washington Territory, Mrs. Vliet’s – Wheeler Family, her father came from South Carolina and mother from North Carolina their older children were born in Tennessee but their daugher Louisa my husband’s children were born in Tennessee but their daughter Louisa my husband’s 2nd great grandmother was born in Illinois where she and Garrett Vliet married. And on his mothers side her father came from Sweden and luckily some
relatives over there have sent quite a lot of that information.  Then his mothers mothers line Beard came from New Jersey to Pennsylvania to  Ohio to Indiana to Iowa to Missouri and finally to California before 1880.  His third great grandfather Beard was born in Sept. 1799 in Pennsylvania and died in the 1890’s near Fresno California.  He is buried in an old Pioneer Cemetery at a place there called Academy, there had been a school there that was the Academy.  He also has ancestors who were married in Santa Clara County California in 1856, the husband was born in Ohio in the late 1820’s and his bride in Iowa in the 1830’s.  Well enough of that, but I am working on all of these lines.  Plus helping a few friends here and there.  That story you told me of the woman who killed her baby.  I have heard that before and the story was told by Grayson and Laura (Adams) Graham.  They said it was Mary (Graham) Deane.  I would have to do some digging to be sure of her married name.  It may have been Dean (this is correct).  They said she overlaid or rolled over her child in the night and it died.  That was a fairly common occurance, with babies sleeping in the same beds with their mothers.  Mary was a sister to Grayson and my great grandmother Damey Catherine Graham.  It was a tragic incident.

I hope this is of some help to you.  It appears Nancy Adeline was never married to anyone but Harve D. Ross.  I agree the marriage was undoubtedly commsumated.  After all they were listed as living together with her parents in 1860.  Obviously, Nancy was capable of having dhileren and could have born them.  Perhaps the trouble lies with Harve unless he is actually your father’s father and anything is possible including that not everyone gets pregnant right away.  It is possible Nancy Adeline worked as a domestic in the Meredith home and was forced into an uncompromising position.  Women were treated like chattel in those days and I don’t know if her parents were still living at that time or if they had left Pulaski County.  She was listed as you said with her Aunt Levica and what had become of John Shepherd.  Were these men in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.  It is said that Damey Catherine Graham’s father William Addison Graham was enlisted at age fifteen three days before the War ended.  I can find no record of him through the National Archives but then they can’t tell me about William’s father Robert A Graham either who also served from Pulaski County.  Mrs. Morgan says she has records of those from Pulaski County.  I have also checked with Richmond as they may have been in the local militia.

The National Archives also had nothing on Calvin Shepherd/Sheppard.  The problems which resulted in the Civil War was going on for years before and the effects lasted years after.

I lived in San Francisco during World War II and even though I was 11-15 years old I was aware of much of what was going on around me.  We moved from the small farming community in Twin Falls County Idaho (a dry state) to San Francisco California in early 1942.  I had spent two weeks in California in July of 1941 before I turned eleven.  I was aware alcohol was sold everywhere.  I had never seen anyone drunk until I came to California.

Talk about CULTURE SHOCK.  At any rate it was quite an experience and I will never forget it.  I had a very straight laced grandmother who had never smoked or drank in her life.  But I found out many years later she had been about six months pregnant when she was married.  I don’t love her anyless, she was special to me.  My grandfather her husband like to go to a place called the pool hall.  No respectable woman would be caught dead there. When we arrived in California and the first evening (this being July 1941 and I was 10 years old) and I heard my own grandmother (mother’s mother) Fannie Elizabeth (Ross) Phibbs, day she would go with them to buy liquor.  I was shocked!!!  Many of the family on that side consider me a snob to this day.  It was just CULTURE SHOCK.  My grandmother Fannie and two of her daughters died of Cirrhosis of the liver or alcohol related deaths.  Another who was only six months older than I committed suicide by shooting herself through the head as her father my grandfather did.  She had had an injury and was given some drug by prescription for it but she also drank some and as we know they don’t mix.  Aunt Florence as you will remember is the oldest and she turned 78 in June of this year and she looks better than my 73 year old mother and both of them are very clear.  Mother needs hearing aids for both ears (she was just checked out last week), but we have been aware that
she needs them for a while.  She fought the idea I think it was more the expense than anything.  They have one other sister who is younger who is
still living and she is in good health.  She is Viola and she just turned 67 last month.  There are three brothers also living Bill will be 65 in October
and he is okay.  He had some problems which resulted in his not being able to use sugar and it was not diabetes.  They said he was bad until they found what the problem was.  He dosn’t smoke or drink at all and hasn’t for years.

Then there is Orval, he is about 62/3 years of age, he is dying of cancer of the lung.  I haven’t seen him for years another brother Arthur died of
cancer of the lung two years ago he was only 57 year old at the time.  The youngest brother is Rick and he will be 58 on Dec. 25th, and he is not in
very good shape he is rather crippled up I don’t know what from.  Again I haven’t seen him for years.  But he writes every Christmas and sends a card to me.  The only other brother they had died in 1977 and he Jimmy was the eldest of the boys, he was born in 1916 and he died of the disease that the Baseball Player Lou Gehrig died of.  He was sick for quite a few years, he drank quite a lot and smoked besides.

I’m glad we have the principal of repentance and forgiveness or I’m sure none of us would ever make it.  We have all made mistakes and I’m told by church authorities once we make the proper repentance if need by through our Bishop, we don’t owe anyone an explanation.  It is between ourselves and our Heavenly Father.  So if the Lord can be that gracious to me or any other person who makes a mistke I’m sure he understands Nancy Adeline (Shepherd) Rosses and Adaline Bold’s and my grandmother Dorothy Ketcham (Balis) Beachell’s and my grandmother Fannie Elizabeth (Ross) Phibbs and anyone elses problems and I am glad to leave it up to him to decide since each case is different and individual.

When James Thomas Ross went to the temple in Salt Lake City to be endowed it was June 20, 1935.  He gave his name as James Thomas Ross, born 22 Sept. 1870 at Snowsville, Pulaski, Virginia.  Father was given as James Thomas Ross and mother as Nancy Shepard.  He also gave his baptism date as 17 Apr 1898 and Damie Catherine Graham as born 25 Nov. 1873 born Pulaski Va. died 3 Feb 1933.  Father Wm. Addison Graham mother Elizabeth Miles.  He didn’t give a marriage date but said she had been married to him.  He gave her baptism date as about 1897.  When my grandmother was sealed they took down her information as follows: Name in full Fanny Ross born 18 Nov. 1893 at Radford, Radford, Va.  Father Jas. F. Ross mother Damy C. Graham.  She was endowed 20 June 1923 and her baptism is given as 5 Jul 1906.  I have understood she and her brother James Thomas Ross were baptized the same day at Welch, McDowell, W. Va.  This brother was called Tom Ross, but I have his death certificate and it says James Thomas Meredith aka (also known as) James Thomas Ross born Oct 19, 1895 in Virginia died July 16, 1964 at Los
Angeles County General Hospital.  My grandmother was baptized the same year she was married.  She was married in Dec of 1906.  I have talked to someone in Salt Lake at the Genealogical Society and they said I should write it all down and send it in.  He probably didn’t realize in 1935 how important it would all be to be so accurate ect.  In a book of records kept by my grandfather he gives my grandmothers birthplace as Reed Island, Virginia.

I’ve also worked in hospitals doing nursing ect and I have personally seen people die of Cirrhosis of the Liver and know it isn’t any too pleasant,
I’ve often said I have no illusions.

I’ve certainly written a long letter here.  I hope it is of some help to you.  I’m waiting to hear from Mrs. Morgan again and I hope it won’t be too
long.  And I hope we will be able to gain further knowledge regarding these families.  Mrs. Morgan lives behind a Phibbs relative of mine in Pulaski
City.  They are good friends and she told me to come and stay with her if I get back there.  She also said you are going to write a book aren’t you?  I haven’t gotten to that point yet.  Anyway I had better stop here and get my family fed.

Happy Hunting,
Your Cousin
Donna (Beachell) Perry

Meredith’s revealing some secrets

Yesterday turned out to be a good day in relation to finding some roots.

In teaching the family history class, I feel like I need to know what I am doing before hand. On top of that, family history is never completed, so I was searching out some new lines. I thought I would have another go at the Meredith line.

Up to this point I have been able to find several families of the Meredith line. Legend and family lore goes that my James Thomas Meredith’s father was James Meredith. That is all we know. He apparently was raised by his grandfather, but I still don’t know why he took the Ross name to become James Thomas Meredith Ross. He married as a Meredith, but gave all his children the Ross name.  (I have since written more about this with more information here.)

In the 1880 Census we find James Thomas Meredith Ross with James Ross who is 70, little James is 9. Now, little James was born in 1868, but where the census takes your age at time of the census, then he may have had his birthday soon, or who knows. Plus James the older was probably giving the information and may have just rambled off the latest number. Whatever the reason for the age issue, the real problem is he told the census taker that little James was his son. For what reason, I have no idea. (I could easily look up his age and the day of the census, but that would take getting off onto the other computer, which I don’t want to do.) If I remember right, Nancy is over in the next county working as a servant for her Aunt Lavincia, I think. I know that Nancy was poor, so that may have been why little James was with his father/grandfather.

I don’t have the actual marriage record yet, but somewhere I have been given a date for their marriage and a place. I am hoping that record will tell me James’ father’s information.

The interesting thing is that James the old man was born in 1805 or about there. His wife was Sarah J Bell. James and Sarah had a son named James who was only a few years older than Nancy. So it is very feasible that James, the son of James and Sarah was the real father.

The problem is multiplied. If old James was not the father, which I have my doubts, then I must ask who was the James Meredith’s in the area. Well, there turn out to be about 10 James Meredith’s within about 10 years of Nancy’s birth. So far I can account for most of them when Nancy had her son James. They were married, dead, or enough distance to probably be safely not the father of my James Thomas Meredith Ross.

However, there are three James Meredith’s which I cannot account for. I found old man James’ wife, Sarah J Bell Meredith in the 1870 census. Which means she was still alive, so in all likeliness old man James did not marry Nancy Adeline Sheperd (married before, Ross) in 1867. That casts a whole bunch more doubt on his father being the father. I guess he could have been, but I assume the actual James Meredith is the father.

As I said, there are three James Merediths that I cannot count for. This is where it gets hairy. One is the son of James and Sarah J Meredith. The other is the son of Hugh and Katherine Meredith and roughly the same age. Then there is the son of William and Octavia Meredith, also roughly the same age. All three of them just fall off the planet. I can find no records of anything of their lives. Death, nothing. I hope to find at least one of them died in the Civil War or something, but nothing as of yet. Just out of interest though, I thought I would pursue each of these three families. James, Hugh, and William were all born within about 5 years and roughly in the same area. So I started to wonder if they were related as well. I then found a history of Hugh Meredith saying his father was Hugh and Nancy Meredith. I then found Hugh Sr and Hugh Jr living side by side in the 1840 census. So following Hugh Sr back another 10 years, he had the right number of sons who were the right ages to be Hugh, James, and William. Going back into the census clear to 1820 he had about 8 children. Three boys were within about 5 years of each other, which is very likely to be these three boys. What is more, you get back into the 1830’s and 1840’s, these were the only Meredith’s in the area. When you get back to find these three men as boys, the numbers really shrink. So I am very sure these were brothers.

To top it off, Hugh and James Meredith both married women whose last names were Bell. Which narrows it down even more. Sadly, I doubt Katherine and Sarah were sisters, for if they were, their mother was 50 when she gave birth to Sarah, which is not likely. Plus all other family accounts have Katherine as the last child, not another one 8 years later. I have more hunting to do. Regardless, these are my ancestors, aunts and uncles. Old Man James is my relative, whether father or grandfather of James Meredith. Even if it is one of the other James’ in the mix, he is now an uncle. But why would the child go to live with James if he was not father or grandfather. Remember, we pretty much ruled him out as father. I am confident he is the grandfather.  (I have since been given information that Sarah was a sibling of Katherine born in 1806, not 1809.)

So linking these families together, and pulling together histories, I added another 4 generations to the family history. The Bell history, through Hugh’s wife added 4 generations. I am sure my Sarah is at least a neice to Katherine’s Bell family. So that line goes back to about 1705. Katherine’s mother, who was a Farmer, whose history takes me back into the late 1600’s. So I was thrilled to make these discoveries. I need to find some more information to tie it together more firmly. But the Bell and Farmer lines have wills and more for the lines I connected myself into.

It is the Meredith line now that is curious to me. Hugh Sr disappears mysteriously from the 1810, 1800, and 1790 census. Now it is possible that it was early enough to have missed Hugh in Southwest Virginia. However, I did find there are records from the area. What is more, Hugh was about 20 years older than his wife. So he just appears on the scene with Nancy Smallwood in Blacksburg, Virginia. But, in 1810, 1800, and 1790 there is a Hugh (1800 has David Hugh) Meredith living in Pennsylvania.  Which interestingly, is where all the other Meredith families live I keep contacting.  None of them can link to the Southwest Virginia Meredith’s.  However, if Hugh is a key, then perhaps…

One of the questions is Hugh has some older children in the 1820 census which means he could have brought some more with him.  The only problem with the American census before 1850 is they only listed the head of the household and then the other members of the house according to age group and sex.  So quite honestly, those could all be white servants (blacks or slaves were tallied under a separate area.  He didn’t have any).

My hypothesis thus far is that Hugh was married in Pennsylvania and raised a family there.  His wife died or something and he went to Virginia.  I don’t know where Nancy Smallwood comes into it as there is not any Smallwood families in the Southwest Virginia area.  So she could have come with him.  Perhaps they married in Pennsylvania and then moved to Virginia with his new wife and existing family.

I have to go back now and research all those old Meredith histories to see if I can find a Hugh in their histories.  I have always searched for James, Hugh Sr’s son.  If I can find a Hugh Meredith (Merideth in 1810, 1800, and 1790 census) born in 1767 up there, they may have something about his family.  Then he would disappear about the right time frame from their history.  Perhaps….  I will have to see what I can find.

Anyhow, I keep searching.  I am finding I am much more linked in revolutionary America than I ever thought.