Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Closer Look at John Randle Howell

To evaluate the family of John Randle (or Randall) Howell, son of Jordan Howell (Sr.) and Martha Randle Howell, of early Stanly County, North Carolina, I need to begin at the end. His will.

August 24, 1860

Testator: John R. Howell

Sound of mind & memory but considering the uncertainty of my earthly existance.

1st: Decent Burial; just debts to be paid

To my Beloved wife, Elizabeth M. : 100 acres of land to include my Mansion House, all outhouses and improvements to be set out where she thinks proper; 1 negro man, Buck, 1 negro woman Eliza, 1 young sorrel horse 5/6 years old, my buggy & harness, all household & kitchen furniture, farming tools for 2 hands, $40.00 cash to buy a one-horse wagon, 2 cows and calf her choice, half of all my hogs, corn, wheat for support of family and herself one year, 250 lbs sugar, 200 lbs coffee, 1 barrel molasses, 2 sacks salt t be furnished by executors to said Elizabeth M. Howell during her widowhood in lieu of her dower. 

To my daughter Sarah A. J. McSwain wife of Martin M. McSwain: use of interest on $300.00; use of the tract of land on which Martin McSwain now lives during her lifetime, then to her bodily heirs. 

To my daughter Martha C. Earnhardt wife of James A. Earnhardt: a negro girl Harriet about 12 years old to be hers for life; then to belong to her bodily heirs. 

To my grandson William J. Earnhardt: 1 pided colt about 5/6 months old which James A. Earnhardt his father is to raise & use, in fee simple.

To my son, Lemuel M. my daughters Mary J. wife of Benjamin F. Thompson, my son Griffin G., my daughter Margaret A., wife of James W. Britt, my son James W., my daughters Tirzah W. and Samantha E. : an equal portion in remainder of my land, & Amy, a negro woman about 50 years old, Freeman, about 34 years old and Freeman about 18 years old, George about 40 and also, my two thirds of a negro man Mack, now in my possession to them and their heirs in fee simple. 

The above negros, except Buck and Eliza, willed to my wife Elizabeth M., and Harriett, willed to my daughter Martha C. Earnhardt, to be hired out until my youngest child becomes 21 years old. 

Edy, a negro woman about 48 & all residue of my estate after devises above mentioned to be sold, debts to me collected and surplus over debt payment & legacies to be loaned out until youngest child comes of age, then divided equally among them, viz: Lemuel M. Howell, Mary J Thompson, wife of B. F. Thompson, Griffin G. Howell, Margaret A. wife of James W. Britt, James W. Howell, Tirzah W. Howell, Samantha E. Howell.

Whereas my son James W. Howell is a minor about 17 and will be 21 on 17 July 1864, &  my daughter Tirzah W. Howell will be 21 on 28 July 1868 & my youngest daughter Samantha E. Howell will be 21 on 24 November 1870, Albert F. Nash is appointed guardian of these, my 3 children to hold guardianship of their persons until  each reaches 21 years of age. 

Executor: E. W. Davis

Witnesses: Henry W. Blalock, J. R. Livingston,

Signed J. R. Howell

Codicil: To my daughter, Sarah A J McSwain, wife of Martin M. McSwain, all cattle she has in her possession belonging to me; my ball horse about 17 years old, if she outlives Martin M. McSwain, she is to have full power to sell any property mentioned in will or codicil in fee simple. Property deeded wife to be divided equally among my heirs at her death or marriage, Martin M. McSwain and wife, Sarah A. J. McSwain excepted. 

Whereas, I am lawful guardian of my mother, Martha Howell, she is to be allowed to select a home & be provided the necessaries  of life for life. August 26, 1860

Note: Both Albert F. Nash and E. W. Davis were cousins of his wife, Elizabeth M. Nash Howell.

John R. Howell left a very thorough and informative will. Not only did he name all of his children, including middle initials, he named the spouses of his married daughters, and gave the exact birth dates of his youngest three children.

I've seen other persons try to hook him up with additional children, and as well he and Betsy may have had additional children that passed away young, as most families did, medical care and lack of cures for common childhood illnesses being what it was in those days. However, he did not have any other children who lived to adulthood, or past the date of his will.

John Randall Howell appeared in three census records.

1840. John R. Howell first appears as a Head of Household.

NameJohn Howell
Home in 1840 (City, County, State)West Pee Dee River, Montgomery, North Carolina
Free White Persons - Males - Under 51  Griffin G. Howell b 1835
Free White Persons - Males - 10 thru 141  Lemuel M. Howell b 1831 (closer to 9)
Free White Persons - Males - 30 thru 391  John Randall Howell
Free White Persons - Females - Under 51  Martha Catherine H. Earnhardt b 1938
Free White Persons - Females - 5 thru 91 Sarah Ann J Howell McSwain b 1833
Free White Persons - Females - 10 thru 141 Mary Jane Howell Thompson b 1830
Free White Persons - Females - 30 thru 391 Betsy Nash Howell
Slaves - Males - 36 thru 541
Persons Employed in Agriculture3
Free White Persons - Under 205
Free White Persons - 20 thru 492
Total Free White Persons7
Total Slaves1
Total All Persons - Free White, Free Colored, Slaves8

His homestead was in West Pee Dee, or the Stanly County side of the river. His neighbors were Isham Randle, John Duke, Howell Upchurch, George Blaylock, names and neighbors that were reflected in the earlier censuses his father, Jordan Howell appeared in.

1850 By 1850, all of the children had been born and one of them was already married.

NameJohn R Howell
Birth Yearabt 1805
BirthplaceNorth Carolina
Home in 1850Centre, Stanly, North Carolina
Family Number85
Household Members
John R Howell45
Elizabeth Howell4
Lemuel Howell22
Mary Howell20
Griffin Howell14
Catharine Howell12
Margaret Howell9
James Howell6
Turzy Howell3
Temantha Howell0
Martha Howell66
John's year of birth is given as 1805 and he is listed as a farmer with neighbors as William Allen, Merritt Blalock, Charles McSwain, and William H. Randle. His mother Martha, of whom he was guardian, is living with them.

1860 John, at 56, has established himself and even had young Dr. Richard Anderson living with him.

NameJ R Howell
Birth Yearabt 1804
Birth PlaceNorth Carolina
Home in 1860Stanly, North Carolina
Post OfficeAlbemarle
Family Number903
Household Members
J R Howell56
Elizabeth Howell52
James Howell17
Tirzy Howell12
Semantha Howell10
R Anderson27
It was to be his last census.

Stanly County came into existence in 1842. In the circuit court records of the new county, John Randle Howell's name appears 9 times.

1) In September of 1842, he served as a juror.

2) November 2, 1843  "Mrs. Martha Howell, declared by jury summoned by sherriff to declare state of her mind, is non compos mentis and incapable of attending to her affairs. John R. Howell appointed guardian of Martha Howell. gave bond of $6000 with John H. Treadwell, George Shankle and William Allen as securites.

3) November 1845, served again as a juror.

4) November 1846, Again, appointed guardian of Martha Howell, This time with Eben Hearne and James Harward as securities.

5) May 1847, served as Grand Juror.

6) November 1848, two conveyances of property from James G. Howell to John R. Howell, proved by E. H. Lilly

7) February 1849, appointed patrol for District 9.

8) James Harward appointed administrator of Joseph Farmer. gave bond of $400 with Edward Winfield Davis and John Randall Howell.

9) John R. Howell, guardian of Martha Howell, renewed his bond of $2000 with William H. Randle and Andrew Huneycutt as securities.

Land Records

Prior to his death, only 3 documents list the name of John R Howell in the Stanly County records. Others involve his widow, Elizabeth and his children, after his death, but only the following three named John R. Howell. His acquisitions likely were in the Montgomery County records and inheritance after his father, Jordan died, would have been destroyed in one or more of the Montgomery Courthouse fires.

Nov 7, 1843  Martha Howell to John R. Howell, bought a girl named "Lincy" for $450.00

Nov 22, 1848 James G. Howell receipt. Recieved of John R. Howell, Guardian of Martha Howell, $650 dollars in full, my distributive share of my father's estate, with the exception of my interest in one negro man named Mack, left with said John R. Howell to support and maintain my mother aforesaid.

November Session 1848, James G. to John R. Howell "This indenture made the 5th day of January, 1847 between John R. Howell of the County of Stanly and the State of North Carolina and James G. Howell of the State of Mississippi and the County of Carroll, interest to an in the lands which descended to me from my father Jordan Howell lying in the county of Stanly.....signed James G. Howell. Witnesses: E F Lilly, William Allen.

Road Orders
 Stanly County Road Orders issued during the May Session of Court in 1841.

"Ordered by the Court that  John R. Howell be appointed overseer of the road from the Anson line to Center (now Norwood, NC) and that Benj. Lilly's hands, Richmond Blalock, Martha Howells hands, George Blalock, John Thompson & hands, Thomas C. Howell, Hardy S. Watkins, Elisha Thompson, Jeremiah Watkins, Nathan Wimble, David Blalock, Jr. , James Thompson, Enoch Watkins, Joseph Farmer, Wm J Thompson, Alex. Thompson, Geo. Thompson, Richard Howell, Henderson Hendley, Wm. Thompson, Jr. , Jas. Harward, D. K. Thompson, Jordan Blalock work as hands on said road. 

This one record leads to a great mystery. The list are neighbors and relatives of John R. Howell. Richmond Blalock was married to his sister Catherine, George and Jordan Blalock were his nephews, Martha Howell was his mother and the Watkins were related to his brother-in-law, Thomas Watkins. Richard Howell was his brother....but who was Thomas C. Howell? This is the first time I've ever seen this name. Was he an unbeknownst brother or a teenaged son who died before 1850? Many times workers and "chain carriers" mentioned in land records were minors under 21, mere teenagers sometimes. Or was this a transcription error? Maybe it said "James G. Howell?". At any rate, I've never came across this Thomas C. Howell before. The older Thomas Howell, if he were still alive at this juncture, as he was 70 to 80 years old in the 1840 census, would have been too elderly to work on a road.

Tax Record

An early tax record for Stanly County taken just before the Civil War shows;

Mrs. Elizabeth Howell as owner of  100 improved acres,  300 unimproved acres, 2 slaves. $1534 in personal property. "PC" worth $75. Two evaluations of $808 and $ 1175 (perhaps crops and livestock) and a total tax liability of $19.83.

Below is listed:

James Harwood, Guardian of Mrs. Howell (this being John R. Howells mother, Martha).

300 300 on acres developed and undeveloped. 4 slaves. $1300 in personal property. $ 1177 in debts. A tax liability of 27.76

Guardian records.

Guardian records recorded payments made to individuals who were taking care of persons for the county who were unable to take care of themselves due to health, condition, disability or age.

John R. Howell was paid as the guardian of his mother Martha, who had been declared an "idiot" by the court. This condition arrived as she aged, as she was clearly not mentally incapacitated in earlier times. She may have suffered an injury or illness that rendered her so, or may have had a form of dementia. Returns were dated Feb. 1844 and Aug. 1845.

After the decline in health and eventual death of John R. Howell, a James Harwood or Harward became the guardian of Martha R. Howell. She must have lived until 1865 as returns were given in Feb. 1861, Feb. 1862, Feb. 1863, Feb. 1864, and lastly, Feb. 1865.

I looked into the possibility that James Harward may have been a relative, but found no connections. He seems to have been a neighbor and a Good Samaritan, as he performed other good deeds for persons in the community. He and his wife were childless and this may have afforded him the availability to care for the unwell.

A James M. Howell is mentioned in the records for bringing Jane Williams from Cabarrus County in 1851, and he may have been a Cabarrus County Howell.

Also, David Howell is recorded as the guardian for a William Woods, who passed away in 1850.


All available records add up to John Randle Howell and Elizabeth M. Nash Howell having 9 known children. They were:

1) Mary Jane Susan Howell 
    Born April 2, 1830
    Died May 23, 1883 Buried in the old Poplar Springs cemetery near Norwood, NC.
    Married: Benjamin Franklin Thompson
    Mother of 9 children: 1851- Devotion Hancock Thompson, 1855- William Monroe Thompson, 1856- Jones Henry Thompson, 1858 Vernon L. Thompson, 1860 Benjamin F. Thompson, Jr.,1865 Susan E. Thompson, 1868 David Bennett Thompson, 1872 Winnie E. Thompson 1875 Lucy C. Thompson

2) Lemuel M. Howell 
     Born about 1831
     Died on August 17, 1861  Suffolk, Nansemond, Virginia (Civil War )
     Married: Mary C. Williams daughter of John Amos Williams of Montgomery County
     - one unknown child mentioned in obituary.

3) Sarah Ann Jemima Howell
    Born about 1833
    Died January 26, 1901 Norwood, Stanly, NC
    Married: Martin Moore McSwain
    Mother of 9 children: 1850: Charles John McSwain, 1853 Rev. James E. McSwain, 1857 Luraner
    McSwain (died young)  1858 Williamette "Mattie"  McSwain Lisenby May 3 1862 Nicey Ellen
    McSwain Mauldin, 1866 Eldridge Tracy McSwain (died at 6 years 11 months old), June 6, 1869
    George David McSwain, July 20 1872 Gabriel Washburn McSwain, 1877 Nancy G. McSwain

4) George Griffin Howell
     Born August 9, 1835
     Died March 23, 1900 Norwood, Stanly County, NC
     Married: Mary Frances Britt, daughter of Culiver Jones Britt Jr.
     Father of 9 children: 1859 Francis E. "Fannie" Howell Lee, 1861 Thomas Henry Howell, 1863
     George Presley Howell, 1866 John Jones Howell, 1869 Acey Wilbert Howell, 1872 Mary E.
     Florence Howell Kimrey, 1876 Marshall Ballentine Howell, 1878 Martha Anna Howell Smith,
     1881 Charles Randle Howell

5) Martha Catherine Howell
    Born January 20, 1838
    Died April 2, 1866 in Georgia
    Married James Asa Earnhardt in Stanly county, NC in 1854
    Mother of 5 children: 1854  William John Earnhardt, 1857 Paul Adolphus Earnhardt, 1859
    Sarah A Earnhardt, 1860 Caroline Addeila "Carrie" Earnhardt, 1863 James Jackson Earnhardt.

6) Margaret Abella Howell
    Born September 11, 1840
    Died February 2, 1920 in Mississippi or Missouri. (Last residence in St. Louis, MO, buried in
    Corinth, Alcorn, Mississipi
    Married: 1st: James W. Britt, son of Culiver Jones Britt II in Stanly County.
    Child: John T. Britt (1859-1900) Buried in Mississippi
    Married: 2nd:  Jesse Potts from Tennessee. Married in Miss.
    Child: Edgar Eura Potts (1876-1937) Born in Tenn. Died in Kentucky

7) James W. Howell
    Born: 1843
    Died: Unknown. Served in Civil War March 1, 1862 to  April 9, 1865 Whereabouts unknown after     that. Assumed dead.

8) Turza W. "Turzy" Howell
    Born: July 28, 1847 in Stanly County, NC
    Died: Unknown. Followed mother, sister Margaret A. Howell Britt, younger sister Samantha and
    nephew John T. Britt to Mississippi via Tennessee to live with mother's Nash and Winfield family.     Appears in 1880 census, but is not buried with mother and siblings. May have married.

9) Samantha E. "Mandy" Howell
    Born: November 21, 1849 in Stanly County, NC
    Died: February 28, 1894 in Corinth, Alcorn, Mississippi.
    Never married: Buried with mother, nephews.

John Randle Howell is most likely buried in the old  abandoned Poplar Springs Cemetery near Cedar Creek, just outside of Norwood, North Carolina. He farmed the same land he grew up on and raised his family there. While many of his family moved west, he was one that stayed. His family ties are woven in to many of the existing families around Norwood today. Several of his daughters and grandchildren have marked graves at Poplar Springs.

Poplar Springs Cemetery
Photo of Poplar Springs Cemetery from Find-a-grave. Photo by Scott N. 

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