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.

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