Friday, November 17, 2023

Old Aunt Polly


In February of 1890, kindly storekeeper, Lindsey F. Austin of the Burnsville Community took in old "Aunt Polly" Ramsey. Was he a relative? Furthermore, who exactly was Aunt Polly?

Having been peeking back into my Ramsey family, I found this mention of an "Old Aunt Polly" in the Anson County newspaper and wondered who she was. The cognomen, 'Polly', was often used in place of  Mary. Every family had a Mary. It was so overused generation after generation, that they had to come up with variances and nicknames. There were more than one Mary Ramsey in the modest little town of Burnsville, so which one was she/

The first clue was to find out who L. F. Austin was. Did he have an actual Aunt named Polly Ramsey, or perhaps, his wife's Aunt?

The shoe fit one Lindsey Franklin Austin, Sr. Lindsey was born on February 22, 1840, in Union County, NC. He was the son of Jonathan and Elizabeth Efird Austin. He grew up along the Rocky River in the Morgan Mill area and his family had Stanly County roots, 

L. F. Austin

For Polly to have been Lindsey's actual Aunt, she would have been a sibling of one of his parents. Did either Jonathan or Elizabeth have a sister named Mary? As a matter of fact, they did. Jonathan had a sister Mary "Polly" Austin, but this Polly was born in 1812 and married Thomas Jefferson Griffin and died in 1853, being buried in the Griffin Cemetery in Wingate, Union County, NC. 

How about Lindsey's wife Elizabeth? Elizabeth, the daughter of Jacob Efired and Elizabeth Dove, (whose surnames began as 'Ifert' and 'Taub' and were anglicized to 'Efird' and 'Dove'), also had a sister named Mary. Almost everyone did if they had sisters and they were not themselves named Mary. This Mary was born in 1795 and married Jacob Shoffner. She died in 1872 and was buried at St. Martin's Lutheran Church in Stanly County. So it doesn't look like Polly Ramsey was Lindsey's actual Aunt.

Could "Old Aunt Polly" have been the Aunt of Lindsey's wife, Nancy Caroline Stewart Austin? Nancy was the daughter of  Coleman Stewart and wife Melinda Jane Ross Stewart. Did Coleman or Melinda have a sister named Mary or Polly? Coleman, son of  Joseph and Keziah Brewer Stewart, did not. His siblings were John William, Nancy, Martha, Culpepper and Jemima. His wife, Melinda, aka "Mindy", did have a sister named Mary. Daughters of Thomas Griffin Ross and wife Ola Rebecca Maness, Mary C. Ross was born in 1826 and married Russell Helms. She died in 1879 and was buried at the Emmaunel Cemetery in Union County, NC.

So it appears that Polly was not an actual biological aunt to the Austin family, but the title was often gifted kindly to older women about the community and the neighborhood in those days. So next, my quest was to see who among the Ramsey family lived near Lindsey Austin and would have been welcomed neighbors of the family, and if there was a Mary who would fit the bill. For the year 1890, due to the loss of the 1890 census, I first went back to 1880 to see if a Polly Ramsey lived near.

NameL. F. Austin
Birth DateAbt 1840
BirthplaceNorth Carolina
Home in 1880New Salem, Union, North Carolina, USA
Dwelling Number103
Relation to Head of HouseSelf (Head)
Marital StatusMarried
Spouse's NameCaroline Austin
Father's BirthplaceNorth Carolina
Mother's BirthplaceNorth Carolina
NeighborsView others on page
Household members
L. F. Austin40
Caroline Austin30
Sarah E. Austin11
Mary Ann Austin9
Nancy J. Austin6
Thomas C. Austin3
Lou E. Austin1

This is the young family of Lindsey Austin in 1880, working as a merchant in the New Salem community. New Salem was a neighboring community of Burnsville and Anson, right across the county line. This portion of Union County had been a part of Anson until 1842, when Union was created from parts of Anson and Mecklenburg.

There was a Ramsey family who would have been close enough to the Austins to have been frequent and welcome customers. This would have been one Clement Ramsey and his wife, Mary "Polly" Ramsey. 

NameClem Ramsey
Birth Yearabt 1820
Birth PlaceNorth Carolina
Home in 1860Diamond Hill, Anson, North Carolina
Post OfficeAnsonville
Dwelling Number125
Family Number125
Personal Estate Value15
Cannot Read, WriteY
Inferred SpouseMary Ramsey
Household members
Clem Ramsey40
Mary Ramsey38

Clement Ramsey and his wife, Polly, were both born in the early 1820's. They were a childless couple and Mary's maiden name is unknown, as no marriage certificate remains, and there were no children to reveal their mother's maiden name in their records. There is a possibility that she may have been born a Lee, from indirect interpretations in some existing church records. The above census record shows "Clem" and Mary as farmers in Diamnd Hill Township. 

The above Anson County map, circa 1900, shows the location of Diamond Hill in the upperwestern quadrant of the County. 

This matching map of Union County shows New Salem Township in the Upper Eastern Quadrant of Union County, so you can see the two areas were close. 

NameClem Ramsay
Age in 187056
Birth Dateabt 1814
BirthplaceNorth Carolina
Dwelling Number24
Home in 1870Burnsville, Anson, North Carolina
Post OfficeWadesboro
OccupationFarm Laborer
Cannot ReadYes
Cannot WriteYes
Male Citizen Over 21Yes
Inferred SpousePolly Ramsay
Household members
Clem Ramsay56
Polly Ramsay51

In 1870, Clem and Polly are in Burnsville, working as farm labor and still childless. 

NameClemual Ramsay
Birth DateAbt 1819
BirthplaceNorth Carolina
Home in 1880Big Lick, Stanly, North Carolina, USA
Dwelling Number245
Relation to Head of HouseSelf (Head)
Marital StatusMarried
Spouse's NameMary Ramsay
Father's BirthplaceNorth Carolina
Mother's BirthplaceNorth Carolina
OccupationFarm Laborer
Cannot ReadYes
Cannot WriteYes
NeighborsView others on page
Household members
Clemual Ramsay61
Mary Ramsay60

And lastly, in 1880, they have relocated to the Big Lick Community of Stanly County, still just across the border from Burnsville, still working as farm labor, and both now over 60. Here, Clem is seen as 'Clemuel'. 

Why do I refer to him as Clement? Because he joined the Rocky River Baptist Church in 1843 and was baptised under the name "Clement Ramsey". 

The Ramsey's were Baptists and this was their church. Rocky River was named for the substant creek it was built near that provided for the people who lived near it. I have many family ties to this church. 

In the above section from "The History of Rocky River Baptist Church", by E. M. Brooks and John Culpepper, 1928, we see mention of James Broadway, an ancestor, Stark Ramsey, Clements father and another direct ancestor and "Mason" W. Winfield, a cousin several tiimes removed (actually Milton W. Winfield, son of Edward Winfeild who married Mary Ann Pickler). 

Clement was married to Polly by February 13th, 1845, when she, herself, was Baptized into the church. 

There is no mention or knowledge of Clement, Clem or Clemuel past 1880. It is my belief that he did not make it to 1890. In 1890, Old Aunt Polly would have been nearing 70, which was a physical accomplishment in those days.She was a childless widow and perhaps without family of any kind.  It appears the Austin family took the old lady in, whom they may have known since childhood, out of the kindness of their hearts. 

Lindsey F. Austin lost his longtime wife, Caroline, in 1896. In 1898, Lindsey, now 58, married Almetta "Mittie" Little, to spend his waning years with. Mittie was only 37, and gave him two more children to add to his already full house. 

NameLinzy F Austin
Birth DateFeb 1840
BirthplaceNorth Carolina, USA
Home in 1900Burnsville, Anson, North Carolina
Sheet Number17
Number of Dwelling in Order of Visitation303
Family Number304
Relation to Head of HouseHead
Marital StatusMarried
Spouse's NameAlmetta Austin
Marriage Year1898
Years Married2
Father's BirthplaceNorth Carolina, USA
Mother's BirthplaceNorth Carolina, USA
Months Not Employed0
Can ReadY
Can WriteY
Can Speak EnglishY
House Owned or RentedOwn
Home Free or MortgagedF
Farm or HouseF
NeighborsView others on page
Household members
Linzy F Austin60
Almetta Austin39
Chiron Austin23
Elizabeth Austin19
William Eudy19
Fannie Austin16
Lydie E Austin14
Linzy Austin12
Daisy B Austin7
Jodie Austin6

In 1900, the Austins were living in Burnsville, where we know they were in 1890. Aunt Polly Ramsey was not with them, nor could I find her anywhere else. She must have passed away between 1890 and 1900. Her gravesite is unknown, but mostly likely near Burnsville and perhaps at the Old Rocky River Baptist Church Cemetery, where many stone markers have returned to their earthly origins. 

Friday, November 10, 2023

West of the Sunrise

Oftentimes, old records can't be taken at face value. Possibilities and probabilities are just that. 

The Drury Allen Family Cemetery is ancient to say the least. Located northeast of the relic of the town of Burnsville, south of the Rocky River, and west of Cribs Creek, the old, abandoned collection of crumbling fieldstones and one modern monument to the Virginia pioneer by Allen descendants, sits quietly in a wooded lot, surrounded by verdant meadows and softly rolling hills in the Anson County, NC countryside. Many of the graves hold unknown Allen family members, but among the few that are preserved are that of Drury Allen Sr., who was born in Lunenburg County, Virginia and moved with many others of the massive Allen family to an area along the Rocky River in the years after the Revolutionary War. He died in 1823 in Anson County, NC, and was buried on the Allen Plantation in this cemetery that still grasps for existence. His wife, Elenor Jarrett Allen (1750-1845), is also buried there, along with son John Allen, (1788-1857). Among the crooked rows of bent and chipped stones and sunken tombs is the grave of  'Elviny' Ramsey, who holds the key to a Ramsey mystery that, once you sit down and pull it apart and look at objectively, was not a mystery at all. 

Allen Cemetery photo taken by Rick Philemon from Find-A-Grave

John Allen, son of Drury, was born around 1788 and first appears in the 1820 census of Anson County in the area called 'Staton'. The Staton family was known to live in the northern part of the county around Burnsville.

NameJohn Allen
Enumeration Date7 Aug 1820
Home in 1820 (City, County, State)Staton, Anson, North Carolina, USA
Free White Persons - Males - 16 thru 251
Free White Persons - Males - 45 and over1
Free White Persons - Females - 16 thru 251
Foreigners not Naturalized1
Free White Persons - Over 251
Total Free White Persons3
Total All Persons - White, Slaves, Colored, Other3
He was the head of a family of 3 people, one man over 45, one man between 16 and 25 and a female of the same age. Oddly, John would have been 32, so which one he was is indetectable.

NameJohn Allen
Home in 1830 (City, County, State)Anson, North Carolina
Free White Persons - Males - Under 51 Drury
Free White Persons - Males - 40 thru 491 John
Free White Persons - Females - Under 51 Frances
Free White Persons - Females - 5 thru 9Nelly &  Polly jr.
Free White Persons - Females - 10 thru 142 Nancy, Sarah
Free White Persons - Females - 15 thru 192 Elizabeth, Judith
Free White Persons - Females - 40 thru 491 Polly
Free White Persons - Under 208
Free White Persons - 20 thru 492
Total Free White Persons10
Total - All Persons (Free White, Slaves, Free Colored)10

In 10 years, his household had increased to that of 10 people. John's wife was named Mary and called Polly. Her surname is also given as Allen before and after marriage. I've not studied the Allen family, or this branch of it close enough to give an opinion as to the validity of that. I am a descendant of Mark Allen of Allenton in near the forks of the Pee Dee and Rocky Rivers. He was living near Robert Allen, William Broadway and George Turner.

John and Polly became the parents of a wealth of daughters. It appears not all of them lived to grow up, even though they have seven daughters showing here in 1820.

NameJohn Allen
Home in 1840 (City, County, State)Anson, North Carolina
Free White Persons - Males - 10 thru 141 James
Free White Persons - Males - 15 thru 192 Drury 
Free White Persons - Males - 40 thru 491 John
Free White Persons - Females - Under 52 Unknown
Free White Persons - Females - 5 thru 91 Elvina
Free White Persons - Females - 10 thru 141 Nelly
Free White Persons - Females - 30 thru 391
Slaves - Males - 10 thru 231
Persons Employed in Agriculture4
No. White Persons over 20 Who Cannot Read and Write2
Free White Persons - Under 207
Free White Persons - 20 thru 492
Total Free White Persons9
Total Slaves1
Total All Persons - Free White, Free Colored, Slaves10

In 1840, his household stands at 10, but the dynamics have changed. Some of his older children are on their own and he has added another son, James. He also has among his household an enslaved young man, between 10 and 23 years old, something he had not done until this point.

John's last census will be the 1850 one, and in this one, we get to see the full view of his current household. John and wife Mary are both 58. Very few of their daughters have married. Still in the home are Sarah,37, Elizabeth, 35, Milly 32, Judith 30, Fanny 28, and Elvina 23. All, except possibly the youngest would be considered "Old Maids" by then. The next three households are those of his married children, probably living on John's property. Lucinda, 22, married James Mills. Drury, his oldest son married Rowena    . Daughter Nancy, 32, married Thomas Avitt.

John would pass away on March 26, 1857. He was buried in his father's family cemetery. He left no will, but there exists a probate file on the dispersion of his property, with James Broadway as his administrator, dated May of 1857. Most of the property was retained, or purchased by, his widow, Mary, his three sons, Drury, Robert H. and James Allen, his son-in-laws, his many single daughters and a few neighbors.. My 4th Great Uncle, John E. Davis, and his father-in-law, Uriah Staton, also helped with the division as they were among the neighboring citizens of Burnsville.

A few odd land records survived documenting the further division of the property, although some were obviously missing. There were so many Allens, many of them with the same first names, in Anson, Stanly, Union and Montgomery Counties, that John is sometimes seen as "John of Cribbs Creek". This may have occured after the death of his father by means of a particular deed from Anson County, found in Book X Page 449, dated December 29th, 1830, between Elenor Allen, mother of John and widow of Drury Sr., and John of Cribs Creek. 

"Eleanor Allen and others to John Allen"

"Nelly Allen the widow of Drury Allen deceased and Julius Allen   Thomas Allen  Jeremiah Smith and Susanna his wife David Allen  Benjamin Allen Phillip Kiker and Nancy his wife John Edwards and Sarah his wife and William Allen" all sold their shares to a property on Cribs Creek that crossed Jonathans Branch and bordered the properties of Robert Allen and Darling Allen, brothers of Drury, if I am not mistaken, and that of the Brantleys, containing 236 acres, and witnessed by James Smith and George Turner, and signed by Nelly Allen, widow, and all of John's siblings and his sisters husbands, as was the tradition, or law, in those days; David, Benjamin, Julius, Thomas and William Allen, Nancy Allen Kiker and Phillip, Sarah Allen Edwards and John and Susannah Allen Smith and Jeremiah.

Three years later, Mary Allen Allen, widow of John, is shown in the 1860 census as Proprietress of the farm, with her two younger sons, Robert H. and William James. 25 and 20, respectively, helping her, and all of her single daughters, Sarah, 40, Elizabeth, 38, Nelly, 36, Fanny, 34 and Elvina, 30. Daughter Judith, named for Mary's mother, Judith Nance Allen, died young and her tombstone is partially still standing in her grandfather's family cemetery. This is a good spot to mention that John and Mary were cousins, which may partially explain all of the unmarried children. It was a very insular family.

In Anson County Deed Book 17, Page 262, the 11th of December 1869, Thomas Avitt and his wife, Nancy Allen Avitt, sells to her oldest brother, Drury, their properties in Anson County, including Nancy's share of her parents properties. Mary Allen Allen has now passed away, on April 15, 1869, and was buried with John.

Also in the interim between John's death in 1857 and Mary's in 1869, occurred the Civil War, which left no family unharmed, and had resultd in the deaths of both of the younger Allen sons.

Robert H. Allen had enlisted at age 31 on May 9, 1862 in Wadesoboro, as a Private in Company I, 43 Infantry. He was imprisoned in Petersburg, Virginia in April of 1865, having fought and surviving for 3 years, and died in prison on Hart's Island, New York, on June 12, 1865 of disease, so close to being released to go home.

James Allen, the youngest child, enlisted at the same time and in the same company as his brother, Robert. He was 26 at the time and was wounded in June of 1864 at Farmville, Virginia. He died of his wounds and is buried in Winchester, Virginia.

In Anson County, NC,  Deed Book 7, Page 696, on March 26, 1873, a deed is incorrectly headed, "Drury Edwards and wife to Sarah Allen, Fanny Allen and Elendar Allen". However, in the body of the document, it names Durwery Allen and wife Roena of Stanly County to Sarah Allen, Fanny Allen and Elendar Allen of Anson County, his share of the undivided interest of his (their) father's estate on Cribs Creek.

Drury had married Rowena (Roena) Baucom and they had four children together. He was shown in the 1860 census as a Miller and living in Stanly County, on the other side of the Rocky River. In 1870, he is still shown as a Miller, but in Anson County again. He passes away in 1877 and was buried at Rocky Mount Church in Anson. Rowena outlived him by several decades and died in 1900.

1870 is where the big confusion came in that prompted me to create a post to straighten it out. The above excerpt shows Drury Allen, Miller, with his wife, Roena and three of his children, one already married. A 12 year old named Jackson Ramsey is living with them. The next house seems to be a 15 year old girl named Charlotte Bennett living alone. After that is the household of 21 year old William R. Ramsey with Melvina, 34, Adam, 16, Sarah, 52, Nella, 48, and Frances, 47, all under the heading of Ramsey. 

Before anymore commentary, let's jump ahead another decade, to 1880.

In the above excerpt from the 1880 census for Burnsville, Anson County, NC, we see William Ramsey again, now age given as 35. The advantage of the 1880 is that now, relationship to head of household is given for the first time. We see Melvina again, now 46, still a good deal older than William and relationship is given as wife. A teenager named Marshall is given as brother. There's Sarah, 66 and Fanny, 57, both given as sister-in-laws. 

The Ramsey family is in my family tree. I descend from Starkey Ramsey and so did William R. Ramsey. William Reuben Ramsey and his younger brothers Jackson Columbus Ramsey and Marshall Adam Ramsey were all three of the younger children of James and Obedience "Biddy" Ledbetter Ramsey, who also lived in the small Burnsville Township. In fact, below is the listing for their family in 1860.

James Ramsey was one of the younger sons of Stark Ramsey and brother to my third Great Grandfather Samuel Ramsey. 

Biddy isn't seen after 1860 and James served in the Civil War. Born about 1820, he was an older soldier. He was sick several times during his service and made it home on leave at least twice. It appears he may have made it back to Anson County after the war was over, but weak, ill, and suffering from rheumatism, passed away soon after the war. 

William R Ramsey would have been 20 in 1869, the year Elvina Allen inherited a little portion of land from her fathers considerable estate after the death of her mother, Mary. William seems to have been one of a number of young opportunists that I've seen from this era. There were 4 single Allen sisters after the death of Mary. We know Judith passed away already because of her tombstone. Elizabeth doesn't appear to have made it to 1870. That left Sarah, Frances, nicknamed Fanny, Eleanor, nicknamed Nelly or Nella and Elvina, whose name seems to have morphed into Melvina. 

William R Ramsey married the youngest of the single Allen sisters, Elvina aka Melvina, about 1869.  As he was born about 1849, and she about 1834, she was 15 years his senior. Still, he did his duty. In 1870, he was guardian of his little brother, Marshall Adam Ramsey, while Jackson worked for his brother-in-law, Drury. Jackson remained as a field hand helping Roena after Drurys death.

William also seems to have taken care of Melvina's older sisters. Sarah, Frances (Fanny), and Eleanor (Nelly), were not Ramseys, but Allens. Drury had transferred property to the three of them in 1873, but only Sarah and Fanny remained in 1880, so Eleanor must have died between 1873 and 1880.

Melvina Elvina Allen Ramsey, passed away, herself, on November 11, 1897. She was buried in the family plot with her parents and grandparents. Neither Sarah or Fanny appear to have to survived to see the new century, either. They, along with Nelly Allen, were probably buried in the family cemetery, too, but their graves are now unmarked.
William and Melvina had one child, Willie, born into her advancing age. We could not have known about him except for his tombstone, as he was born in 1880, after the census was taken. William R. Ramsey had joined Red Hill Baptist Church. The tombstone there in his family row declares Willie, born October 19,1880, and died October 22,1901, as the son of W. R. and Lucinda Ramsey, and certainly she raised him, but Willie would have had to have been Melvina's only child and was lost as he entered adulthood.

William R. Ramsey did remarry, to Lucinda Sykes about 1899.

The 1900 census tells us that they had been married for 1 year and the 1910, for 11.  The 1910 census shows that Lucinda gave William two daughters, Luzie and Hattie. The cemetery tells us they also had a son, Johnny Ray, born in 1900, who died as an infant. 
William R Ramsey died in 1914 of apoplexy at age 65. His widow remarried to Elijah Henry Chewning, who helped raise the two daughters. Lucinda lived until 1939. Luzie married Lonnie John Porter and lived until 1969. Hattie married her stepbrother, Charlie Chewning and lived until 1976.

Stark Ramsey only had one known daughter, Harriett, who married Jackson Trull of the New Salem community. The family trees who have Sarah, Frances and Nella as daughters of Stark and Lisha Ramsey are incorrect. They were the Allen sisters, sister-in -laws of William R. Ramsey, not his Aunt's.