Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Good Man: Eli Ransom Herrin

By all accounts that I have come across, Eli Ransom Herrin, from the North-Western corner of  Stanly County, in North Carolina, was a good man. He lived a long and fruitful life, making it nearly a millennium despite being wounded in the Civil War and losing part of a leg.

He was born on December 11, 1838 and died on March 23, 1933, this era of  great change. When he was small, Revolutionary War veterans were old men, yet some still about and the land was sparsely populated. By the time he died, there were movie theaters in town, and automobiles and telephones. What did this old fellow think of all the change? He was a frequent visitor to both Concord and Albemarle, well into his later years, and seemed eager to keep abreast of the news of the times.

Eli R Herrin Picture

This picture of Eli R. Herrin appears to have come from a book, but I found it on and there was no credit for the book it came from, but it is the only picture I have come across of him. He is shown with his cane and wooden leg, Bowie hat and glasses, sitting in an old handmade chair against a tree truck, an old level farmhouse in the background, with some ladies in long aprons and mule hats sitting around chatting, perhaps on a Sunday afternoon.

Eli was the son of Wiley Ephraim Herrin and Elizabeth "Betsy" Almond Herrin.
Wyley and Betsy Herrin Memorial
Memorial to Wiley and Betsy Herrin at Herrin's Grove

Wiley Herrin was the first person buried in the Herrin's Grove cemetery. Before there was a church, it was just a family cemetery and this is the area the Herrin family populated and grew around.

Eli Ransom Herrin was not the only Eli Herrin in the area. There was also Eli N Herrin ( ), known as "Little Eli" and they were cousins. Little Eli was the son of Julius Hezekiah Herrin, Wiley Ephraim Herrins brother. I have noticed that "Eli", "Ransom", "Wiley" and "Ephraim" were very popular names in this area of the county in the 19th century. I believe they hail back to earlier ancestors.

Eli N Herrin
Tombstone of Eli's cousin "Little Eli", not to be confused with Eli R. Herrin

Herrins Grove, the area, not just the church, is located in the Almond Township area of Stanly county, very near the Cabarrus County line. That is why many family members "overlapped" into Cabarrus county at times. Sometimes census takers would count families in the wrong county, when they were on the border, and the families had not relocated at all. 
This map can give a closer idea to where the family nest was, citing the communities of Mission and Bloomington, which were nearby. 

Eli Ransom Herrin, the subject of this post, was the oldest of 5 children, 3 sons and 2 daughter of Wiley and Betsy. His siblings were:

-Sarah (1842-1862) Died single
-John Franklin (1845-1911) Married Melinda Catherine Sides
John F Herrin Family
Photo from, not cited by persons adding it to trees. 

-Martha Jane (1849-1938) Married Hastings (or Hasten) Hatley

Martha Jane Herrin Hatley Photo

And youngest brother, Rufus "Bud" Herrin (1852-1830) Married Isabella Motley (1st) and Martha J "Mattie" Almond.

Eli R Herrin first appears in the 1850 census as a teenager. The age of 17 is a transcription error. It should have read "12", and as his birthday was in December, he was actually only 11 when the census taker came around.

Name:Eli Herring
[Eli Herrin
Birth Year:abt 1833
Birthplace:North Carolina
Home in 1850:Almonds, Stanly, North Carolina
Family Number:474
Household Members:
Wiley Herring31
Elizabeth Herring29
Eli Herring17
Sarah Herring9
Jno F Herring5
Martha J Herring0

They were more correct in the 1860 census. His father had passed away, and Eli was a young man helping his mother take care of the farm and his younger siblings.

Name:Eli Herren
Age in 1860:21
Birth Year:abt 1839
Home in 1860:Stanly, North Carolina
Post Office:Albemarle
Value of real estate:View image
Household Members:
Elizabeth Herren40
Eli Herren21
Sallie Herren18
John F Herren16
Martha Herren10
Rufus Herren8

But spring would come and love would be in the air. Nearby, also near the Cabarrus/Stanly line live the family of Ransom Motley (see, there is that name Ransom again). Mr. Motley had several daughters and the Herrin boys noticed.

Ransom Motley is believed to have been born in this area around 1807 and he married Elizabeth "Betsy" Barbee in 1842. His father Thomas E. Motley came from Essex County, Virginia and his mother, Keziah Barbee, from Wake County. Eli R. Herrin would marry 2 of his daughters and Eli's younger brother Rufus, would marry Isabella.

Eli R. Herrin and Sarah "Sallie" Motley were married on August 22, 1861.

War came in the form of the Civil War between the States and Eli R. Herrin served.

Name:Eli R Herrin
Residence:Stanly County, North Carolina, North Carolina
Age at Enlistment:23
Enlistment Date:7 Sep 1861
Rank at enlistment:Sergeant
Enlistment Place:Stanly County, North Carolina
State Served:North Carolina
Survived the War?:Yes
Service Record:Enlisted in Company K, North Carolina 28th Infantry Regiment on 07 Sep 1861.Mustered out on 15 Aug 1862.
Birth Date:abt 1838
Sources:North Carolina Troops 1861-65, A Roster

He enlisted on September 7, 1861 in Albemarle, Stanly County, NC by John A. Moody for the term of 1 year. At the time, he had a bride, but no children, and a widowed mother. He must have felt his family safe in the hands of his little brothers and his wife, perhaps, with her father. 

In July of 1862, nearly a year after he joined the service, and within weeks of his release from duty, Sgt. Herrin suffered a wound to his thigh in the battle at Richmond, and lost most of his leg. He was admitted to the hospital in July, when his legs was amputated, and released to return home to Albemarle. 

Preview of document

In 1864, the first child would be born to Eli and Sallie, her name was Christena, but she was called "Tena". A second daughter would arrive 3 years later in 1867 named Eva Elizabeth. Then tragedy would strike again. Sallie Motley Herrin passed away on November 4, 1869. She is buried at Herrin's Grove. 

Eli is shown in the 1870 census with his two little girls. 
Name:E R Herrin
Age in 1870:31
Birth Year:abt 1839
Birthplace:North Carolina
Home in 1870:Almond, Stanly, North Carolina
Post Office:Albemarle
Value of real estate:View image
Household Members:
E R Herrin31
Tena Herrin6
Elizabeth Herrin3
Then something odd happened. 

On February 15, 1871, Eli Ransom Herrin married Pearlene M. Dry, daughter of Samuel Harrison Gray and Elizabeth Ingram Gray, in Cabarrus County. 

Then just two months later, on April 9, 1871, in Stanly County, Eli married his sister-in-law, Jemima Motley, also a daughter of Ransom Motley, and she became the mother of most of his children. 

But this has me buggered. What happened to Pearlene Gray Dry Herrin? Did she just pass away immediately after the wedding and Eli turn to his sister-in-law? Or was there a problem with the marriage and the couple separate, and the marriage annul?  Pearlene's parents are easy to find, but Pearlene is a mystery woman. 

There were lots of Dry's in the area, both in Cabarrus and Stanly, but which one did she marry? 
Name:Mary D Gray
Age in 1860:7
Birth Year:abt 1853
Birthplace:North Carolina
Home in 1860:Subdivision East of NC RR, Cabarrus, North Carolina
Post Office:Mount Pleasant
Value of real estate:View image
Household Members:
Saml H Gray46
Elizabeth Gray40
Elizabeth Gray11
Mary D Gray7
James Gray5
John Gray2

I believe she is the "Mary P" (transcribed as a 'D') in the 1860 census.The Elizabeth is her older sister Margaret Elizabeth Gray who married a Yankee in 1868 named Daniel Valentine, which is another mystery.  In the 1870 census, she is not to be found, but would presumably be married and living with the mysterious Mr. Dry. 

Eli and Jemima had five children:

1) Sarah Emma (1872-1944) Married 1) James T. Hathcock 2) Jacob Blackwelder
2) Joseph Marshall (alias Marshall E. Harwood) (1873-1929) Married 1) Daisy Starnes 2) Mary Catherine Rogers Pethel 3) Mary Ellen Thomas.
     Note: Joseph or Josephus Herrin was the subject of my earlier posts:The Name Thief ,  It's Never Really Over.

3) Mary Josephine (1876- 1925) Married Thomas Franklin Rowland
4) Martha Ann "Bedia" (1878-1959) Married Henry D. Crayton
5) Laura J (1880-1941) Married Caleb Pinkney Plott. Divorced and returned to maiden name. 

Jemima Motley Herrin died on January 1, 1889, at the age of 41. She was buried near her sister at Herrin's grove. 

Eli remained unmarried for a number of years. After 7 years, at the age of 57, Eli  married his 4th and last wife, a widow, Iva Lundy Eudy Biggers on November 5, 1896. Lundy was the daughter of Hiram Eudy and wife Caroline Catherine Barbee Eudy. She was the widow of Wiley E. Biggers Jr. (there's that name Wiley again). She came to the marriage with two young sons, Hiram Phylas and Wade Hampton Biggers.

Eli and Lundy would have only one child, a baby boy, Daniel F Herrin, who was born April 8, 1898 and died July 1st of the same year, not quite 3 months old. 

Lundy's Tombstone

Eli Herrin made the papers quite often, always in an affectionate way. At one time, they even gave a glimpse into his life.

Other mentions in the paper follow in sequence. He had several birthday parties that were large community events. 

The Stanly News-Herald5 May 1922, FriPage 3

The Enterprise  March 22, 1906

David Harwood was the husband of Eli's oldest daughter Christena. 

In this clipping from the May 3, 1923 edition of The Albemarle Press, Ethel Crayton was awarded a prize for a sketch on the life of her grandfather. This was mostly likely the sketch printed above. 

The Concord Times 1910

I always find it amazing how odd traits skip generations. How an apple can fall from a tree, but land no where near it, landing near the progenitor of the tree it fell from or in another orchard entirely. While Eli Ransom Herrin was from all accounts a hard-working, well-loved and respected Christian man, salt-of-the-earth kind, his son Joseph Marshall Herrin, who became Marshall E. Harwood, was wild as a buck, sneaky and lawless, until his latter years. I've seen this happen in may families. Like the Murrays.


  1. You have written a very detailed yet not at all monotonous article so well done on that. The article is very informative too and I like how you added relevant pictures and maps to support your post.

  2. My DNA matches this family. Edward of this county was a brother it seems of my Shadrack Herrin who were both in Rowan County before Edward moved south to what was then Montgomery. This was of great interest to me.