Thursday, November 21, 2019

The Grave of a Child

Sometimes one small thing, or one small person, in this case, can be the key to opening up a door that leads to a wealth of understanding.

This was the case of little Rueben Thomas Axom.

The Cemetery. All of these photos are my own, taken with my cell phone. 

He lies at peace in an overgrown, and nearly forgotten cemetery near the intersection of two country roads, just outside of the small town of Wingate, in Union County, North Carolina. Wingate lies upon Hwy 74 between Monroe and Wadesboro in Anson County. The two counties both border the NC/SC state line. Several small towns lie upon this course in a rural area still covered in old farm houses and cotton fields.

Old Farm House in a cotton field, Anson County. 

The story of how this infant ended up in this cemetery, and his family tree, actually, is a key part in deciphering some links and leads in my Turner family search.

I first came in contact with the name "Axum" (or Axom or Exum) in the will of my Fifth Great Grandfather, James Turner, dated 1845. More research revealed that Axum Turner was the oldest son, born about 1795, of James Turner and his wife, Susan (I just recently learned her name). Axum was the son-in-law of Barnaby Porter, as listed with sons and other sons-in-law in legal papers. He served in the War of 1812, and in the late 1830's, moved with his sizeable family to Sumter County, Alabama. He was not alone in that area, as there were persons he knew that also lived there, some may have arrived with him, from Anson County, in Sumter and nearby counties of Choctaw and Marengo. Axum died not very long after his arrival in Sumter.

Tombstone of Andrew M. Helms
My second encounter with the name Axom was in my study of other early settlers along Jack's Branch in Anson County, near Red Hill Church, in which my ancestors, George Washinton Turner, a grandson of James Turner, and Rev. Samuel Parsons Morton, his father-in-law, were founding members. Jack's Branch is a rather small and insignificant body of water, as creeks and branches go. There was not a long list of people who settled upon it in those early days, my James Turner, John Martin, Joshua Hull Threadgill, William Carpenter, John Drew and sons,  and among a few others, two brothers, who I would discover came from Edgecomb County in eastern North Carolina, William and Micajah Axum, Jr. And a little later, a Thomas Axom, whom may have been their brother, as they had a brother named Thomas, or possibly the son of either of them. 

Marker for Benjamin Franklin "Bud" Phifer and wife Frances Ann Trull Phifer

The third time I came across the name Axom, was in the home of a son-in-law of James Turner. In his will, Grandpa James seemed most concerned with the security and well-being of his two single (and presumably youngest), daughters, Martha and Mary. Mary had a child, my Third Great Grandfather, called Washington in his youth, making Martha the more marriageable of the two. Reddick Drew, a neighbor, and son of the above mentioned John Drew, had become recently single. He had been married once or twice, or possibly more, already. As Martha now possessed property, the opportunistic and finacially insecure Reddick Drew married her up. Reddick Drew always seemed to have a house full of children, which some appeared to be his, but after much research, I discovered, were not. In fact, I can't tell that he had any biological children. He had step-children, boarders, and wards. Among those Wards were Axoms.

As I was searching for any information on Axoms in the area, which they were a small family, and they were not many, but they did streach out prettty far, one also being in Alabama with Axom Turner and Reuben Hildreth, who along with Reddick Drew, is another KEY, I found the grave of little Reuben Thomas Axom.

Reuben Thomas Axom was born and died in the same year, 1875. He was born March 16 and died September 3, not quite 6 months old. I do not know what took the poor infant. His family kept a Family Bible, which recorded the exact dates, and his full name.

Infant tombstone in the Trull-Stegall-Helms Cemetery

The Trull-Stegall-Helms Cemetery is located just outside of Wingate, in Union County. On a grey day in early fall, I decided to find it, and then trace a path back to Jack's Branch, to see just how far away it was. And it was not far at all, less than a 20 minute drive by today's standards, and through several small Union and Anson County towns. It's located in a woodsy, overgrown area near the Sycamore Grove and Old Monroe-Marshville Road. Like many old cemeteries, it's covered in ivy. 

The Trull -Stegall-Helms cemetery is mostly known for two reasons, and important to me for more than one. 

The area is very beautiful, covered in woods and farms and rolling hills, now planted in grains and cotton, fescue, soybeans and the like.  This was probably the area in which little Reuben was born and his siblings grew up playing in. But how did they end up there and who, exactly, were they?

Little Reuben was the third child of William Thomas Axom and Mary Frances Helms Axom. And the following story is why there aren't thousands of Axoms left in the area, like there are Helms. In fact, I'd never heard of the surname, and now, I believe its one that belongs in my family tree. 

William Thomas Axom, Reuben's father, was born on April 6, 1851 in Anson County. In fact, he was probably born on Jack's Branch. 

Name:Thomas Axom
Birth Year:abt 1851
Birth Place:North Carolina
Home in 1860:Diamond Hill, Anson, North Carolina
Post Office:Ansonville
Dwelling Number:179
Family Number:179
Household Members:
Reddick Drew59
Mary Drew55
Jonas Axom13
Thomas Axom9
Ruth Shepherd18

He shows up first in the 1860 census of Anson County, in the home of Reddick Drew, and wife, which says Mary, but I believe should be Martha, as land records show he most definately married Martha Turner, daughter of James Turner, in about 1851. In the very next household, 180, was the family of my 3rd Great Grandfather, Washington Turner, nephew of Martha, and grandson of James, his mother Mary, age given as 60, his wife, Wincy and their 3 oldsest boys, Sam (George Samuel), Jim (James Stevenson) and Robert. In household 181 is the John Martin family, 182 is the John Martin Jr family and 183 is the Lemuel Martin family, the latter two being sons of John Sr. and all residents of Jack's Branch. 

With Thomas is his older brother (I believe), Jonas Axom and another boarder, Ruth Shepherd, daughter of a neighbor. 

Just 10 years earlier, Thomas was not yet born, but Jonas was shown as age 4, in the home of Reddick Drew, but there were some errors in transcription, possibly due to Reddick being the guardian of some minors.

1860 census clipping from Diamond Hill, Anson County, NC from

In 1850, Reddick is shown living in what was called the Diamond Hill District, near Uriah Staton and David High, who wear known to have lived in what we now call the Burnsville area. A 21 year old Julia and a 17 year old Cornelius live with him. Also, there is Jonas Axum, without the Axum name attached, age 4. Yet the 3 Watkins boys, William 15, Ennis 12 and Jeremiah, 10, sons of the widow Catherine Watkins, next door, are named as Watkins. Also note that Ruth Shepherd, shown as an 18 year old living in his house in 1860, was a 7 year old living with her parents William and Nancy A. Shepherd in 1850.

To transcribers, and to myself, originally, Julia, Cornelius and Jonah look like they could have been the children of Reddick Drew. I know now that they were Axoms. No relationships are given and it appeared even, that Julia could have even had been Reddick's wife, but I don't believe she was. Reddick wife, Elizabeth, whom he had married in 1832, had been a widow Grissom, or Gresham, as this name is also seen spelled in multiple ways, and was a lady of means with property, and with children and had died in February of that same year with pleuresy.  She was 11 years Reddick's senior. He was in dire straits, financially, so the marriage had came in handy. This census had been taken on September 25th of 1850.

Name:Elizabeth Drew
Estimated birth year:abt 1790
Birth Place:North Carolina, USA
Death Date:Feb 1850
Cause of Death:Pleurisy
Census Year:1850
Census Place:Anson, North Carolina, USA

I knew the record from the Mortality Scheudules had to be his wife Elizabeth, because there was only one Drew family in Anson County. His brother, Thomas, had already headed south. His parents names were John and Phereby (or Phoebe). He had a sister named Elizabeth, but she had married Jonathan Boggan and passed away in 1861, so very much alive and no longer a Drew. It was she who gave the infamous Norfleet Drew Boggan of Anson County, the 'Drew' in his name, as she was his mother.  His sister Absilla had died in 1845 and his sister, Sarah, had married Theophilus Hopgood and had also migrated away.

This was Mrs. Reddick Drew. Julia, Cornelius and Jonas Axum were wards, or boarders. There is even the possibility that Reddick had married an Axom at some point, and was an Uncle to the Axom children. This, I do not know.

Beautiful old Anson County farmhouse

Riddick Drew
Home in 1840 (City, County, State)
Anson, North Carolina
Free White Persons - Males - Under 5
1 Unknown child
Free White Persons - Males - 10 thru 14
1 Cornelius ?
Free White Persons - Males - 40 thru 49
1 Reddick
Free White Persons - Females - 10 thru 14
1 Julia ?
Free White Persons - Females - 50 thru 59
1 Elizabeth
Slaves - Males - 55 thru 99
Slaves - Females - 55 thru 99
Persons Employed in Agriculture
No. White Persons over 20 Who Cannot Read and Write
Free White Persons - Under 20
Free White Persons - 20 thru 49
Total Free White Persons
Total Slaves

Right next to them was Archibald Grissom, whom I know from deeds was Elizabeth's son. Next to him was Lazarus Turner, a son of James Turner and brother of his future wife, Martha. Next was a Richard Treadaway, and next to him a Mary Drew, 70 to 80 years old. His grandmother? And next to her, William Carpenter of Jack's Branch. 

Ten years prior to that, even, in 1850, Reddick Drew would have been 8 years into his marriage with Elizabeth, the former widow Grissom.

There were even other members of my family in the neighborhood on that page in 1840, my ancestor, Stark Ramsey and Griffin Nash, brother-in-law of my Fourth Great Grandmother, Sarah Winfield Davis, and two of her nephews, John and Milton Winfield, sons of her brother, Edward. My DNA runs deep in that area. 

But back to William Thomas Axom. Just 9 in the 1860 census, he would marry in January of 1850. 

He married Mary Francis Helms, who was just 17, daughter of William Alverson Helms and Elizabeth Ann Stegall, and that explains how little Reuben ended up in the Trull-Stegall-Helms Cemetery. 

But the marriage license also gave one very important clue. 'Wm T. Axum' named his parents as "Thos. Threadgill" and   'Julia A Axiom'. The 21 year old Julia in the home of Reddick Drew in 1850 had to be Julia A. Axom, mother of William Thomas and, most likely, Jonas, too, as he was named as an Axom in 1860. She was probably expecting William Thomas when  the 1850 census was taken. 

But now, who was Thomas Threadgill? Threadgills abounded in that area of Anson County. 

In Cedar Hill, in 1850, about the time Julia A. Axom got pregnant with William Thomas, there were two Thomas Threadgills living very near to each other. 

There was a Thomas Threadgill, 54, with a wife Temperance and a large family. Above him was Henry Marshall, 39, and above him was the family of  Joshua Hull Threadgill, with a 29 year old, single, Thomas H. Threadgill, in Household 610. To be noted, Alexander  'Grisham' (also seen as Grissom), son-in-law of Reddick Drew via his marriage to Elizabeth, was in Household 604, Alexander Creps and wife Jane, daughter of Joshua Hull Threadgill, was in Household 605, and a 42 year old Shoemaker named Samuel Axom was found in Household 606. His was the only household headed by and Axom (Exum, Axum, Axiom) in 1850. As he had 5 children and a 35 year old wife, Elizabeth, I don't believe Julia and Cornelius were his children, but I do not doubt they were closely related. Perhaps cousins, perhaps a niece and nephew. 

Without proof, I would wager that the Thomas Threadgill William Thomas Axom named in his marriage license would be the 29 year old single man, as Julia was only 21, and not the 54 year old married man. 

Wingate Sign

This Thomas Threadgill was Thomas Hull Threadgill, son of Joshua Hull Threadgill, whose property adjoined that of my ancestor, James Turner and whose other son, William, married his granddaughter, Charlotte Turner, daughter of Axom Turner, in Sumter County, Alabama and then followed the other surviving children of Axom Turner to Porter Springs, Texas.

Thomas Hull Threadgill remained in Anson County, and died on May 18, 1889. He lived with his parents until he died, but acquired, and cultivated, his own property and had accumulated quite a bit of property before he died.

He left a very neat, ordered, and precise will. In it, he requested a decent burial, that his debts be paid, and that a marble tombstone be purchased by his executor out of his estate, to be placed on the grave of his sister Mary.

He left most of his property to his younger brother, George Washington Threadgill, including a gold watch and chain, a mare and a mule, wagons, farm tools and implements, household and kitchen furnishings and utensils, profit from crops, rent from tenants, etc. He also mentioned the lands including the Hull Threadgill property, "and his wife's maiden lands on the Pee Dee River.
"these lands were known as the home place  and have been used and cultivated by my father, myself and other members of the family". 

He also mentions his brother John H. Threadgill, Susan McRae, his 'sister's child', and interest in his deceased sister Mary's share of their father's estate. To his sister, "Jane Creps who lives in the West, in Arkansas last I heard from here", he left $300. This was Jane who married Alexander Creps. Their daugther, Mollie, would become the second wife of William P. Turner, son of Axom Turner, and reside in Porter Springs, Texas. The family had first migrated to Tennesee and kept migrating south.

He also left $300 to his brother "William in Texas".  This was the William Threadgill who migrated first to Alabama and married Charlotte Turner (sister to William P. Turner), and then later to Porter Springs, Texas. He also mentions his brother Gideon B. Threadgill. Joseph W. Allen was his executor.

In the probate papers, Joseph W. Allen names his heirs as George W. Threadgill, Gideon B. Threadgill, Sophronia H. Threadgill, Sallie Dula wife of George T. Dula, Mrs Fannie Morgan, Mrs. E. J. Creps of Arkansas, William Threadgill of Texas. Also added is, "the others live in Anson  except Mrs. Miller whose residence is unknown."  These were siblings and nieces, daughters of deceased siblings.

View Image
Tombstone of Thomas H. Threadgill

Whether this is the right Thomas Threadgill or not, it only makes sense. Can you see a pattern of these families being intertwined arising?

Name:Thomas Axum
Age in 1870:19
Birth Year:abt 1851
Birthplace:North Carolina
Dwelling Number:295
Home in 1870:Monroe, Union, North Carolina
Post Office:Monroe
Inferred Spouse:Mary Axum
Household Members:
Thomas Axum19
Mary Axum17

In the 1870 census, a 19 year old Thomas and 17 year old Mary are newlyweds living near Monroe, and not near any apparent relatieves.

Name:William T. Axum
Birth Date:Abt 1851
Birthplace:North Carolina
Home in 1880:Lanes Creek, Union, North Carolina, USA
Dwelling Number:153
Relation to Head of House:Self (Head)
Marital status:Married
Spouse's name:Francies Axum
Father's Birthplace:North Carolina
Mother's Birthplace:North Carolina
Household Members:
William T. Axum29
Francies Axum26
Edga Axum9
Glennie Axum7
James R. Axum4
Ritic B. Axum1
                                            From ancestry. com

Ten years later, in 1880, they appear to be living in the area where their 3rd born child would be buried, leaving this clue to follow, as their neighbors were Helms, Trulls and Phifers, names seen in the cemetery.

"Edga" was their oldest son, William Edgar, born a year after the marriage. As both Mary's father and William Thomas, were both named William, this made sense.

"Glennie" was Julia Glendora Axum, born in 1873, obviously named for his mother, Julia. Glendora seems more of a 'trendy' name than an inherited name.

Reuben Thomas, was obviously named for his father, but was the Reuben for Reuben Hildreth? Was there a familial connection? More on Reuben Hildreth later.

Then there was James Richard Axum, born in 1876. I know no family connection to his name, but it is not uncommon.

The last child in the 1880 census, shown as "Ritic B." was Rederick Bartley "Bart" Axom. I believe this son was named for Reddick Drew and Rederick was a deviation of Reddick, whom these children probably never remembered, the man who had raised their father. Bartley could have very easily been a Drew family name, as his brother was called "Thomas B. Drew". I have not seen Reddick with a middle name. He was recently deceased upon this childs birth, so therefore a namesake.

William Thomas Axom ended up in Union County, NC from Anson due to the fact that Reddick Drew's last wife, Mary Levina Stegall, was from Union County. The couple married in 1864, and moved to Union County, no doubt to the area where William Thomas Axom lived. If you recall, his wife's mother was a Stegall. Reddick Drew died there, in Union County, NC, about 1890. His widow, Mary, or Polly, was 32 years his junior, and thus outlived him by a few decades, passing away in 1912. Her adopted son, William Thomas Axom, did not hang around. Like a million young men before him, he headed west, southwest.

Polkton Water Tower

The 20 year gap between the 1880 census and the 1900 census, which is the next one we find William Thomas and family in, is an enormous gap. In that space, Tom had chosen another Union County, this one in Arkansas.

Highway sign marking Jack's Branch. Who was Jack?

The birth of Reddick Drew's namesake was followed by the addition of 5 daughters to the Axom family. Judging by the birth places named for the daughters, the family moved to Arkansas between 1889 and 1891. The next to the youngest was born in Union County, North Carolina in 1889 and only the last child, Dovie, was born in Arkansas. 

Mural in Mount Gilead, North Carolina

The last 5 of the 10 children of Tom and Mary Frances Axom were:

1881 Martha Ann
1883 Mary Frances (Jr).She also died as an infant.
1885 Sallie Delorum
1889 Addie Elizabeth
1891 Katie Dove, known as Dovie

Mural commemorating Town Creek Indian Mound near Mount Gilead, NC

In 1897, William Thomas Axom was appointed Postmaster of Dilolo in Union County, Arkansas

Image result for dilolo, union county, arkansas

The above map shows Union County, Arkansas. Dilolo is just below El Dorado and El Dorado is where the Axom family took roots.

Image result for dilolo, union county, arkansas

Union County is located in the middle, southernmost part of the State of Arkansas, along its border with Louisiana. It's known for oil production and refining. The discovery of oil was decades after the Axom family moved there, so it is unknown why they chose that location to relocate. I do know that the family went with the family of Mary Frances. The Stegalls settled there, as well, and her parents died there.

By 1900, the Axoms had really settled in and made Arkansas their home. Upon first posting this, I had not found William Thomas in the 1900 census, but I did find James Richard "Rich" Axom, working as a clerk in a store, and not very far away in that listing, I found Tom, Mary Frances and their younger daughters, just again, a transcriber had the name, an uncommon one, very wrong.

Name:Thomas W
[Thomas W Aaron] 
Birth Date:Apr 1851
Birthplace:North Carolina
Home in 1900:Franklin, Union, Arkansas
Sheet Number:8
Number of Dwelling in Order of Visitation:142
Family Number:142
Relation to Head of House:Head
Marital status:Married
Spouse's name:Mary F Aaron
Marriage Year:1872
Father's Birthplace:North Carolina
Mother's Birthplace:North Carolina
Months Not Employed:0
Can Read:Yes
Can Write:Yes
Can Speak English:Yes
House Owned or Rented:O
Home Free or Mortgaged:M
Farm or House:F
Household Members:
Thomas W Aaron49
Mary F Aaron47
Mary Jane Aaron13
Addie L Aaron11
Davis K Aaron7

The girls were Mary Jane, Addie and Dovie, not "Davis".  Ten years later, Rich had moved back home.

Name:William T Axum
Age in 1910:58
Birth Year:abt 1852
Birthplace:North Carolina
Home in 1910:Wilmington, Union, Arkansas
Street:Eldorado And New London
Relation to Head of House:Head
Marital status:Married
Spouse's name:Mary F Axum
Father's Birthplace:North Carolina
Mother's Birthplace:North Carolina
Native Tongue:English
Employer, Employee or Other:Wage Earner
Home Owned or Rented:Own
Home Free or Mortgaged:Free
Farm or House:House
Able to Read:Yes
Able to Write:Yes
Years Married:40
Out of Work:N
Number of weeks out of work:0
Household Members:
William T Axum58
Mary F Axum56
James R Axum33
Dovie Axum18

Most of the children had married and had homes of their own. Only the youngest, Dovie, and James Richard remained at home. Tom was working as a Carpenter.

He was still a Carpenter in 1920, and now, only James Richard was living with his parents. He never married.

Name:W T Axnin
[W T Axsim] 
Birth Year:abt 1856
Birthplace:North Carolina
Home in 1920:Wilmington, Union, Arkansas
Residence Date:1920
Relation to Head of House:Head
Marital status:Married
Spouse's name:Marie F Axnin
Father's Birthplace:North Carolina
Mother's Birthplace:North Carolina
Able to Speak English:Yes
Employment Field:Wage or Salary
Home Owned or Rented:Owned
Home Free or Mortgaged:Mortgaged
Able to Read:Yes
Able to Write:Yes
Household Members:
W T Axnin64
Marie F Axnin67
James R Axnin44

This would be the last census for Tom.

William Thomas Axom died on November 1, 1922. He was 71 years of age.

William T. Axum
William Thomas Axom from his profile

William Thomas was a key because he grew up in the home of Reddick Drew. Because Reddick Drew married Martha Turner, the daughter of James Turner. Because he named his parents, Julia Ann Axom and Thomas Threadgill on his marriage license. Because the small and mysterious Axom family lived near my Turner relatives on Jack's Branch in Anson County. Because James Turner named his oldest son Axom. And because I believe that the name Axom is much more relevant to my family tree than just that.

Mary Frances Helms Axom would follow her husband to the grave on October 26, 1926. They are buried at the Old Union Cemetery in Union County, Arkansas.

Mary Frances Helms Axum
Mary Frances Helms Axom

Most of the Axom family stayed centered in the El Dorado area. A google search of the name Axom in El Dorado led to an interesting discovery.

Name:Reddick B Axum
[Raddick B Axum] 
Age in 1910:30
Birth Year:abt 1880
Birthplace:North Carolina
Home in 1910:Wilmington, Union, Arkansas
Street:Eldorado And New London
Relation to Head of House:Head
Marital status:Married
Spouse's name:Cumma E Axum
Father's Birthplace:North Carolina
Mother's Birthplace:North Carolina
Native Tongue:English
Industry:General Farm
Employer, Employee or Other:Employer
Home Owned or Rented:Own
Home Free or Mortgaged:Free
Farm or House:Farm
Able to Read:Yes
Able to Write:Yes
Years Married:10
Household Members:
Reddick B Axum30
Cumma E Axum26
William G Axum6
Hurley B Axum2

Reddick Drew's namesake, Reddick Bartley "Bart" Axom (the first name of Bart took many forms and spellings), lived right next to his parents in 1910. Note the two year old, Hurley B. Hurley would grow up to have a daughter, a very beautiful daughter, named Donna.

Bart Axom and wife

Donna Axum would become Miss America in 1964. She was hailed as the first Miss America from Arkansas.

Image result for donna axum miss america 1964
Donna Axum in 1964 as Miss America

Donna was a public figure and known humanitarian. And a Great Granddaughter of that little 9 year old boy living in the home of Reddick Drew in 1860.

She died just a little over a year ago.  See below for two obituaries and biography of her amazing life.

Obituary for Donna Axom Whitworth

So, from the discovery of  the grave of a tiny child, less than 6 months old, I was able to piece together the identities of some of the children that lived in the home of Reddick Drew, and perhaps a piece of the puzzle of my Turner family mysteries.