Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Meanest Man in Moore County — and the Nicest

My uncle and I went visiting, Saturday. Sort of a genealogical mission, except that we had contacted these people before to get information and we just wanted to talk to them face to face. We're in search of a brick wall ancestor, and he's so "brick wall" that even our family members that lived back then didn't know where he was — he disappeared.

Thomas S. MANESS, 25, married my great-great-grandmother, Sarah Pandora WALL, when she was 14, almost 15, years old, in 1874. Before their son was born in 1875, Thomas left to go look for work in Virginia, and Pandora never heard from him again. Her son, my great-grandfather, carried around a tintype picture of Thomas and searched for his father, but never found out anything.

Fast-forward to the present. I'm the fourth generation looking for Thomas, and I feel like we're finally hot on his trail. We suspect he may be Thomas McSwain "Swain" Maness, who lived in Moore County and died in 1903. Last weekend, Lacy Garner in Carthage called Swain the meanest man in Moore County. He carried a gun and even the sheriff was scared of him. Local folks said he had five wives, one of them as far away as Randolph County (where my family lived).

Lacy said he was glad to meet us. He had written down stories about Swain in a book, Stories of Upper Moore County. He got the stories from one of the nicest men in Moore County, Thurman Maness, whom we also went to visit. Thurman turned 101 today, July 27 — Happy Birthday! He is a treasure trove of oral history, a longtime genealogist and, on top of that, his grandfather was Swain's first cousin.

Swain's last wife was Sarah BRADY, death date unknown but probably before 1903. They had daughters, two of whom lived near Raleigh in the 1970s or 1980s. My next step is to try to find them, or their children, to see if we can compare pictures. I'm not posting Thomas' picture because we're not sure which one it is — the tintype was unlabeled, but we've narrowed it down to a few photos.

My uncle has also sent off his DNA to be tested against Thurman's. The results won't necessarily tell us if Swain is our ancestor, but it should tell us if we're in the same branch of the Maness family.

From gunshop to pharmacy to retirement home, we met people and had a great time talking about the Maness family. If our two branches turn out to be from the same tree, we will solve an old, old mystery.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Benjamin and Ann

(Spoiler Alert! for my novel in progress)

I feel sorry for Benjamin Parvin and Ann English, who had a long and rocky courtship.

In my historical novel-in-progress, the courtship was especially long because of a big argument and an estrangement that went on for several years. I made all of that up, to add conflict and make for an interesting plot. But something happened in real life, and I have no idea what it was.

Quaker engagements had to be long, because the couple went through an approval process that involved their local, "monthly" meeting and the regional, or "province" meeting that only met every three months. No matter what their age, they had to have permission from parents (or relations, if the parents weren't living) and everybody in their meeting (church congregation). Benjamin and Ann were in their late twenties, which was fairly common for 17th-century marriages in that community.

Benjamin, who had grown up as a second-generation Quaker in Ireland, did something wrong in those procedures and the meeting gave him a "paper of Condemnation," which means he was on the verge of being disowned for whatever it was he did. They said he had "proceeded in relation to marriage with Ann English Contrary to the order of truth" — the word "truth" being used at that time for both belief in Christ and for all of the Quaker rules and culture.

No, I don't think they were pregnant. The meeting had no qualms about writing that in their records, and Ann's first child was born in 1698. Since Ann was an orphan and Benjamin's father had died, I suspect they broke some rule about getting permission, or perhaps they set a date or started making plans before they had the meeting's approval.

In the 12th month 1696 (February 1697), Benjamin wrote an apology, which was accepted, and he and Ann started making the required rounds of meetings to get their approval to marry. They presented themselves to the men's meeting, then the women's meeting, that month, then went to the province meeting in 1st month (March), back to the monthly meeting in Moate in 2nd month (April), which sent a certificate to the next province meeting. They finally married in 3rd month (May) 1697.

It took a lot of persistence for a couple to get married back then, but Ann and Benjamin had it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Village Fair

Saturday I went to the eighth annual Village Fair at Mendenhall Plantation in Jamestown, N.C. The early 19th-century house and barn belonged to Richard Mendenhall, a Quaker. It is now a museum about that family's everyday life and the "Other South" - people who kept up plantations and homes by themselves because they did not believe in slavery.

The Village Fair featured crafts - kids making Quaker bonnets, a lady spinning wool, a metal detecting club showing the artifacts they've found, vendors and musicians.

Left, The Good News Boys. Below, Triad Scottish Fiddlers and Friends.

They had a blacksmith working at his trade, and a few people in costume.

I didn't get to see it this year, but across the street at the old meetinghouse they re-enacted a traditional Quaker wedding.

The false-bottom wagon, now at Mendenhall, was used to transport runaway slaves on the underground railroad. Read more about the wagon here. They rolled it under this tent just before a big rainstorm.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - Camden, S.C.

As I finished going through the cemetery files (see previous posts), I did hit paydirt. One of the files contains a spiral-bound notebook where Ted had written down the names in a cemetery (original work), then gone back and annotated where he found full dates or family members' names. Another file had similar work, scribbled onto the backs of re-used paper.

While my goal was to see if we could publish any of Ted's work, I was excited about some of his copied material because it pertains to cemeteries where my Quaker ancestors lived - Bush River and Camden (Fredericksburgh), S.C.

I've never been to Bush River. A descendant in Georgia, with Ted's help, organized a group of people that has done a lot of work to clean up the cemetery. The Haworth family has a couple of photos on their website. I'd like to go there someday, in the next two years.

The Old Quaker Cemetery at Camden, which has grown as it is still in use by the current town, started as a small burying ground used by the Fredericksburgh Monthly Meeting (the old name of Camden, also called Wateree and Pine Tree Hill). Here are some photos I took during a visit in 2007. The brick-covered graves, with no inscription, are purported to be old Quaker graves. Which means that one of them could possibly belong to my ancestor, Joshua English, who immigrated from Ireland in 1753. I don't know. I just know that the 18th-century Quakers didn't believe in marking their names onto headstones.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Cemetery files

I spent most of Saturday - from lunch to 10pm - going through Ted's cemetery files. And I'm not done, yet. I didn't think it would take so long, but then, I find myself looking at every sheet of paper instead of skimming.

The files were donated to the cemetery committee in keeping with his wishes. Word of mouth has it that he visited every Quaker cemetery in N.C. and some in neighboring states, and wrote down many of the names on the tombstones. My job, for which I enthusiastically volunteered, is to answer the question, can we publish his work?

So far, the answer is not looking good. The information in the files is wonderful, but most of it is copies from already published sources - not original material. Think of your own genealogy files: copies from books, a few printouts of deeds from microfilm, a few scribbled notes on scraps of paper, letters from other genealogy enthusiasts. What's all that going to mean when you're gone? When I'm gone?

Oh, it's all definitely worth keeping! He did a lot of legwork, and some of the books that he copied from may be hard to find. But as far as publishable work... I wonder if he had more, that he kept somewhere else?

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Hoping to break through...

I am so excited - my uncle and I just sent off for a DNA test! I am the fourth generation looking for our brick-wall ancestor, Thomas S. MANESS, who disappeared before his son was born. We think he might be a man who lived in Moore County and eventually married several women. If he is the same man, we'll be connected to a long family line from Scotland that a wonderful genealogist from Moore County, Thurman Maness, has already researched. And Thurman has put his own DNA in the registry, so we have a baseline.