Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday – Nancy Maness

My great-great-grandfather's third wife, Nancy Pool Maness, had a bit of mystery about her. Her son-in-law, the informant on her death certificate, didn't know her date of birth and she's missing in the 1900 and 1910 censuses. Despite her dramatic death — having been killed by a train — I couldn't find any mention of the accident or an obituary in the regional papers. Perhaps her tombstone would at least fill in a date.

Nancy's death certificate clearly states that she was buried in Brown Cemetery. I found modern transcriptions online through Find A Grave and RootsWeb, but no Nancy. Although there are several hundred graves listed, I couldn't find a management office for the cemetery. So I added the cemetery to my Virginia itinerary, hoping it wouldn't be so large that I couldn't find anything.

Directions and GPS led me north of Radford, along a winding road in the low mountains with glimpses of a parallel railroad track.

As I turned into a steep drive, I laughed at myself, realizing why I hadn't been able to find an "office." Brown was a family cemetery that grew into a community cemetery. On top of a hill in the countryside, the stones stand out in dramatic outline against the evening sky. The cemetery looks down on the railroad track to the east and a large pasture with cows to the west.

The sun cast a burst of rays through the clouds as I walked, row after row, reading the names. I never found Nancy, or Fannie (who was also buried there), or Nancy's parents. A few stones were completely obscured by a black mold. Patterns in the grass told me there are many unmarked graves. Sadly, I saw a few from this century that still have temporary markers – future unmarked graves for those either too poor or too alone to afford a permanent gravestone.

At least I saw the cemetery, in some way paying my respects. Perhaps there's a book or a file somewhere that has an older list, including stones that aren't there anymore.

After a good dinner and a night's rest in Radford, I returned to the courthouse in Pulaski to finish looking through the chancery file. Before heading back to North Carolina, I stopped in the old courthouse and then the Ratcliffe Transportation Museum. The latter has a scaled model of the town of Pulaski in the 1950s, as well as a museum of local history.


Friday, November 04, 2016

Nancy Pool Maness – part 2

Since finding my great-great-grandfather's third wife, Nancy Pool Maness, who had a daughter (Fannie B. Maness Sifford) and later died in a tragic accident, I wanted to know more about her life. I don't find Nancy until the 1920 census, which leaves a huge gap since 1880. I've never found Thomas in any census, except 1870 with his first wife and children. Did he stick around a few years, or did his wanderlust take him away before Fannie ever knew him (like in his second marriage)?

The 1920 census gave me a clue: Nancy owned her own home in the Dublin Magisterial District, Pulaski County, Va. Perhaps a deed or a will would mention Thomas. So I traveled to Virginia a few weeks ago for a short research vacation.

I started looking in the Pulaski County Courthouse in the town of Pulaski. The only index reference I found listed Nancy Poole Manes [sic] estate as grantor.

Nancy actually lived in Belspring, not the city of Dublin. The deed book mentioned property sold in a case of Mrs. Agnes Maness, plaintiff, against Charles P. Sifford. I recognized Charles as Nancy's son-in-law, Fannie's husband. There were no details.

More information was in the Chancery Court records, those large tomes similar to deed books. Entries spanned several years in the 1920s. The court ordered Nancy's house to be sold at auction. "Infant defendants" — minors — were mentioned without names. Were they Charles' and Fannie's children, or others? Who was this Agnes Maness?

The answers were in the Chancery Court files. All of the papers related to the case, from the initial complaint around 1924, were tied together and filed under the case closing date of 1932. And what treasure they contained!

Agnes Manes had been married to Thomas Cleveland Manes (this branch of the family dropped an "s"). As the complaint states: "the said Cleveland Manes and Mrs. Nannie Sifford were the only two children of Mrs. Nancy Manes who died at Belspring, in said county, several years ago, intestate, and leaving the said Cleveland Manes and Nannie Sifford as her [sole] heirs at law." Both children died soon after their mother, and this case was between in-laws.

After the house was sold in 1926 and the assigned commissioner and guardians agreed on distribution, each grandchild received $16 to $25 dollars, with a larger amounts of $105 going to Charles and $36 to Agnes.

I can imagine the situation from my own experience: Charles, who still lived in the vicinity and had grown children with one boy at home, was in no hurry to clean out and sell his mother-in-law's house. Perhaps he thought one of the grandchildren would live in it, someday. Agnes, who lived in Pennsylvania and had no sentimental ties to the home, and whose coal-miner husband's death left her with six small children and no income, needed whatever she could get to survive. The case doesn't seem too contentious, as Agnes did not require anyone to be bonded and Charles signed a paper agreeing to sell the house. But I imagine these two families, living in different states, did not remain close. Both spouses eventually remarried.

The more I find, the more questions arise. Cleveland was born in 1886, nine years after his sister. Does that mean that my Thomas Maness stayed in one place for a decade, fathering that second child? Did he wander off, but come back to Nancy later? Or did Nancy meet some other man after Thomas left? With her husband missing, she would not have been able to remarry.

Cleveland's obituary doesn't mention his parents, and I haven't yet found a death certificate or any other record that does.

Thomas' next known whereabouts was in 1895, when he married wife number four in Moore County, N.C.

Next time: Searching for Nancy's grave

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Searching for wife number three – part 1

In trying to fill in the life of my colorful ancestor, Thomas Swain Maness, I found out his third marriage was in Virginia, to Nancy Pool in 1876. They married in Giles County, which is right next to Pulaski County, which seemed to confirm our family's oral history that he left home to find a job at the Bertha Zinc Mine.

The 1880 census lists Nancy by her maiden name, living with her parents. Thinking that she might have found out about Thomas' other marriages and considered herself single, and not finding her in a later census (1890 missing), I'd stopped looking.

Then last year I ran across Nancy's death record. Her name had been horribly mistranscribed in Ancestry as Nannie Mares, but it popped up while researching her father, Moses Pool. Like Thomas' other wives who never knew what happened to him, she considered herself a widow. It's a sad record, as the informant didn't know her birthdate or much about her, and she was "Accidentally killed by train."


Not only did Nancy keep her married name, but the informant's name led me to a child. Fannie B. Maness, daughter of Nancy and Thomas Maness, married railroad engineer Charles P. Sifford. I have more cousins in Virginia!

Next time: Finding a surprise in the Virginia court records!