Saturday, August 14, 2021


When I began blogging, several years ago now, I was not only chronicling my research journey, but also, my literal, physical journey. As my net was cast wider, it spread out to other states both north and south, and I stopped counting the courthouses, history centers and libraries I had visited.

But yesterday I visited a new county I just have to blog about.

Smithfield is located in Johnston County, North Carolina. A small town beautifully located along the Neuse River, my fifth Great Grandfather, Rev. John Lambert, once lived here. 

A quintessential old Carolina town, Smithfield boasts it's historic section, with handsomely maintained Victorian era houses, balanced with it's mandatory hustle and bustle side along the outskirts, with the repetitive retail outlets of every other burg. 

There's beautiful marshy creeks, backwash from the river, weaving around and among the hotels and retail strips, remenicent of the Intracoastal waterways of South Carolina beaches.
I met some of the truly, truly, nicest people you'd ever want to meet, from the polite librarians, to the knowledgeable and helpful staff at the History Center, to the wonderful biker couple at the picturesque bar perched above the river, who gave me directions on how to access the riverwalk, to the friendly employees of the pizza 🍕 place across the street from the Ava Gardner Museum.

Ava Gardner is the town's local celebrity and claim to fame. 

She grew up there and is buried there. Great nieces and degrees of cousins of hers still live there.

Yearly plays and programs on her life are proudly held there. They are not ashamed to boast this famed Hollywood beauty of yesteryear as their hometown girl.

I wasn't able to visit the Ava Gardner Museum while it was open, because my goal was to gather as much genealogical information as possible in the time given before everything closed at 5. 

Copying everything  pertaining to my targeted search, I've brought home a large packet of information to sort through. With limited time, I didn't peruse it all, just copied the names, hoping to piece together the puzzle this is the early years of the life of Rev. John Lambert.

One thing that struck me is the number of names of people who you find in the early records of Stanly and Montgomery Counties, identical to the names of people in the Johnston and Franklin County records. Some, like Seth Mabry, I believe, is the self-same person. Others, may be a predecessor of their Stanly County namesake. Still others, like Needham Whitley, you find a cornhusk full of, as son's, and grandsons, nephews and siblings, all named children after an original Needham. This family line DID come from Johnston County and migrate to Stanly.

One could probably stop any individual on the street of Smithfield and ask them, "Were you born here?", and "Were any of your grandparents or great grandparents from here?" If the answer was 'Yes', and you get an affirmative to someone you met at the Dollar General in Red Cross, Stanly County, NC, you would probably be able to DNA test the two people and get a match.
So many families from Piedmont North Carolina,  had either drifted down from Virginia, or west from the coast, and eventually ended up right here, sloughing along the way. By that, I mean, in each place where the family paused for a generation or two, or even a decade or so, one or two would be left behind.

The older brother might take over the business, or farm, maybe the two oldest brothers. Or perhaps it was the youngest brother or sister who stayed behind to look after dear old Mom. Or maybe a married sister had a husband who was nicely situated where they were. But others trekked westward and southward.

This was the story of my Solomon line. Their names are in the records of Franklin and Johnston counties. William Solomon Sr., who married Diana Gordon, died there, his will is on record there. Three of his son's came and settled near the Pee Dee River in what is now Stanly County. Still, they seem to have taken all of their legal business to Cabarrus County, to avoid crossing the river. 

William Jr., Goodwin, and Bennett Solomon settled here. Most of the next generation would remove to Tennessee. But they left a few behind. Bennett left his oldest son, William, behind to maintain the church and ministry, as both were Baptist Preachers.
He also left a married daughter, who married into the Russell family. And thus went the sloughing of genes through the westward march.
Rev. John Lambert left his oldest son, William in Johnston County. William settled in Johnston, swung into Wake and Cumberland Counties for a spell, but returned to the home of his son, William H. Lambert, back in Johnston, to live out his last days.

William's son, Thomas, an attorney, is the ribbon 🎀 that ties the Johnston County Lambert's and the Stanly County Lambert's together. He traveled around in his early years, having his younger brother, William H. Lambert, also an attorney, living with him at one point. 
He finally settled in Stanly County, near his aunts and uncles. It was Thomas Lambert who gathered together some of the scattered family land transactions and deeds, many predating the creation of the County, and had them proved in court, during the 1880's. He didn't get them all, because there's not a deed of Rev. John Lambert receiving or purchasing any land
in or near Stanly County, however, he did own some, and paid taxes on it.

Thomas is buried in the old Bear Creek Primitive Baptist Church cemetery alongside his people, many Lamberts and other associated families. Why did he come here? I believe someone in the family asked him to, possibly his Uncles. As an attorney, they needed his legal expertise. And here he stayed. 
The rest of William Lambert's family, son of Rev. John,  stayed east. As luck would have it, I found a Lambert Family tree in the Family files at the Johnston County History Center, from William, through his son, William H. ( it is thought the H stood for Henry), down the tree to a gentleman born the exact same year as I. 

Not only that, but as providence would have it, the historian tasked that day with running the third floor records lab, was familiar with this distant cousin of mine. I left my information and family connection, in case any of the Johnston County Lambert's wanted to share information. What was cool about this lineage was a long generation of surveyors, perhaps 6 or 7 generations of them.

Today, it's not only the presence and actions of Thomas in Stanly County that anchor the two branches of Lamberts to the same tree, we now have DNA proof.

A few years ago, when my brother took the Y-DNA test that links father's and sons genetically for generations, we discovered that we (he, but we as we share the same father,) are descended from Richard Pace and wife, Isabella Smythe Pace, who had migrated from England to Jamestown, Virginia and settled a section of land across the bay from the village called 'Paces Paines'. 
Autosomally, from my own DNA, I had discovered we are related to the Southside Virginia Lamberts, specifically, three brothers named John, William and Hugh.
So, our Rev. John was genetically descended from the Lamberts of Brunswick County, Virginia, most probably.

However, down the father's line, he was of Pace descent. This is the brunt of my research and the reason for my journey. The Pace DNA research, which has been carried on for a very long time by a group of very competent people, break the Pace descendants further down into smaller, more closely related subgroups. The subgroup my brother fell in are descended from a William Pace who married a Ruth Lambert.
There were more than one Lambert in this group, and one Lambeth. By contacting the individuals managing the DNA by email, I was able to discover that one was descended from Frederick Lambert of Mississippi. Frederick can be found in land, census and court records of Montgomery/ Stanly County, NC. He was a son of Rev. John Lambert.
One was a descendant of William Lambert of Johnston County, the oldest son Rev. John had left off. 

The Lambeth branch was descended from a George of Iredell County. George Lambert, son of Rev. John, is also found here in Stanly in early records. He's seen as Lambert in the earliest records of his arrival in Iredell, and as Lambert and Lambeth interchangeably after that. As there was an existing Lambeth family in Iredell County before he arrived, descendants of an early Rowan County family, his name was altered, locally,to Lambeth, but some of his descendants had already figured out he was George Lambert of Montgomery/Stanly County.
The one that I was not able to get ahold of was a gentleman who had listed as his oldest known paternal ancestor, John Lambert, Jr., my own line, another son of Rev. John. One of the administrators of the DNA study informed they believe this Mr.  Lambert had passed away. But he's ours, from the same son.

Since that time, another Stanly County Lambert who actually doubted me, took the Y-DNA test. Guess where he ended up at? In the same group of Pace descendants with the rest of the descendants of Rev. John Lambert.

So the reason for my trip, and the focus of my research, was to find anything I could on John, his son William, on the Paces in these two counties, Johnston and Franklin, and also on the early Lamberts.
John Lambert first appears in Franklin County. I believe he was probably born there. We do know he was born in North Carolina, and not Virginia. This area was part of Bute County the year John was born. 

John later appears in Johnston County, where his oldest son stayed, while he and the rest of the family migrated to Bear Creek, Stanly County, in the early 1820's.
Before I left, the Historian let it slip that he knew exactly where the Lambert family homestead had been, near the intersection of Hwy 210 and I 40, near Benson and the Pine Level area.

He kindly drew me a map and the area  was west of Smithfield, on my path home. The old Rehoboth church marks the spot, as the Lamberts, ( later than John), had some involvement with the Byrd family.
Tobacco fields and Pecan trees abound, pecan groves marking places homesteads once existed. I saw the biggest magnolia tree I believe I have ever seen.
 Sadly, everywhere, everywhere, rows of personality-less Ticky-tack houses were popping up in the sandy soil in place of and among the soybean fields.
I stood on the old family property and breathed in the air of heritage. I choked, it didn't smell too good. Then I looked further and saw I was being watched by a pair of bay mares. Blaming the foul odor on them, I returned to my car to bid ado to Johnston County. Just a short jaunt down the road, a warning sign informed that I was in the vicinity of the largest hog farm in the state. I offered my apologies to the mares.

Street signs and business signs still reflect the names in the 1700 and 1800 deeds and court records. Whitley welding, Lambert Auction Center, Honeycutt Farms. One might think they were back in Stanly County. 

No comments:

Post a Comment