Saturday, February 3, 2024



During my investigation of the family of Elijah C. Townsend of Anson County, North Carolina, who migrated south and west after the Civil War, leaving his daughter, Henrietta Rose Townsend, with her mother's family and then willing his estate to her two young daughters upon his death in Texas, I was left with an unanswered question. Did Elijah's father, Sherwood, (also seen as Sherod) die, leaving his bride, Elizabeth Covington Townsend, a widow, or did he also escape west, an act that his son. Elijah woud emulate?

Elijah's story can be found in this post: Two Little Girls .

Sherod's story begins here. 

In the early deeds of Anson County, North Carolina I discovered this transaction in Book 13, and Page 554, titled;

Elijah Covington to Susan and Belinda Townsend

"This Indenture made this (day excepted) day of August AD 1851 Between Elijah Covington of the first part and Susan and Belinda Townsend of the other part all of the County of Anson and State of North Carolina."

To understand the deed, and its pertinence to the story, first one needs to know who the people mentioned in the deed are and how they related to each other. Elijah Covington (1794-1859), was the father of Elizabeth Covington Townsend and father-in-las of Sherwood Townsend. 'Belinda' Townsend was actually Malinda Townsend Williams (1824-1886) and Susan her sister, daughters of David Townsend and sisters of Sherwood Townsend. Malinda is seen with an "M" in all her other records. There wasn't a "Belinda". 

"Witnesseth that whereas by virtue of a deed of Trust to me executed by Sherwood recorded December 4th, 1843 conveying his undivided interest in the lands of David Townsend, dec'd lying and being in the county aforesaid, and being thereby authorized to sell the said Sherwood Townsends interest in the Lands of the said David Townsend after.....public sale to highest bidder'

David Townsend, father of Sherwood, Susan and Malinda, passed away in July of 1843. On December 4th, 1843, Sherwood had signed his interest in his inheritance of his father's land to his father-in-law, Elijah Covington and Elijah was authorized to sell it. For more context, by 1850, there was no sign of Sherwood or his wife, Elizabeth, in Anson County. The couple had four sons, Elijah C., obviously named for his maternal grandfather, was the eldest, born in 1838.  There was also William Hampton born about 1841, James S. b 1841 and Benjamin, born in 1845. All four fought in the Civil War, only Elijah and William came back alive. Both are mentioned in their Grandfather Elijah Covington's property settlement in lieu of their mother, Elizabeth, who was deceased. It is assumed Elizabeth died shortly after the birth of Benjamin. The boys were raised afterwards by Elijah Covington and his wife, Hannah, his second wife and not Sherwood's mother. As the grandparents grew older, the younger boys stayed with other of their mother's family, her siblings, and especially her single brother, Benjamin Covington. 

The deed goes on to reiterate that Elijah Covington, through the rights endowed to him in the deed of trust, had the right to sell the land and that it was purchased by Sherod's young sisters for $90. Malinda would marry afterwards, but Susan would not, and their shared lands would be split again.

But what about Sherwood? We know of Sherwood from his father's estate records, but don't know the year of his birth from anywhere in Anson County. Elizabeth Covington was the oldest child of Elijah C. Covington and wife, Margaret Bailey. Their second born child was James Melton Covington, who was born in 1817. Serena was third, followed by Elijah Jr., Benjamin D., Margaret, Emmaline, William T., Risdon B., Ann Adeline, Abijah Andrew, John W. and Nancy Hooker Covington. By second wife Hannah Hooker, were born sons Lemeul Hardy and Gaston J. Covington. Elizabeth's year of birth is estimated at 1815, placing two years between she and her brother James, which was average. 

Sherwood and Elizabeth would have four known sons, Elijah C. Townsend, the oldest, was born in 1838 or 1839. This would have placed Elizabeth in her early 20's at his birth. He was followed by James S, William H.and Benjamin F. Benjamin is listed in the census records as 5 in 1850, 15 in 1860 and 18 when he enlisted in the Confederate army in 1863, all giving him a year of birth of 1845. So, Elizabeth was alive at least until his birth. She passed away before 1850, however, all else points to her decease shortly after the birth of Benjamin. So why did Sherwood sign a Deed of Trust over to his father-in-law in 1843, before the birth of all of his children?

NameElija Covington
Marital StatusMarried
Estimated Birth Yearabt 1794
Birth PlaceNorth Carolina, USA
Death DateSep 1859
Cause of DeathTyphoid Fever
Census year1860
Census PlaceAnson, North Carolina, USA

Elijah C. Covington died of Thyphoid Fever in 1859. The grandsons he had custody of were either old enough to be on their own at that time, or were living with other family members. Fifteen year old Benjamin was living with the newly married Daniel and Margaret Covington Gatewood, his aunt and her husband.

NameWilliam Townsend
Birth Yearabt 1841
Birth PlaceNorth Carolina
Home in 1860Smiths, Anson, North Carolina
Post OfficeWadesboro
Dwelling Number875
Family Number838
Personal Estate Value600
Household members
Benjamin Covington35
Risden Covington26
James Townsend21
William Townsend19
Lavinia Covington35
Benjamin Covington5

James and William were living with their uncles Benjamin and Risden. Risden had married and began his own family by then. Elijah was 21 and working as a Farm Laborer for the Winfree family. 

But back to Sherwood, again, we know he was alive in 1843, when he assigned the Deed of Trust to Elijah Covington. He was necessarily alive in 1845, for the birth of his son, Benjamin, but he was at least alive 9 to 10 months prior to that. 

Sherwood or Sherod Townsend was the son of David and Tabitha Thomas Townsend.  David signed his Will on July 15, 1816. It was proved in July Sessions of Court in 1843. One of his two executors, Benjamin Williams, would go on to marry his youngest daughter, Malinda, afterwards.  Sherwood had siblings Naomi, Solomon R., David Jr., Richmond, Gilbert, Alice Charity, Hampton or Hamilton (seen both ways), and of course, Susannah (Susan) and Malinda (Belinda). Sherod (Sherwood) is thought to have been the youngest son. All of these siblings were born and mentioned in the Will, so before July 15, 1816, even though Malinda is shown in records with a birth year several years younger. She was young enough to have given birth to a child in 1864. One thing I've discovered while doing genealogy, women have been lying about their age for a very long time. 

Above is from a paragraph on David in a Townsend family history. 

David last shows up in census records in 1820, as a father of 12, he and his wife both over 45. He was also a slave owner, with one adult female and four chldren in his home. He had two sons under 10, one of them would have been Sherwood. 

NameDavid Townend
Enumeration Date7 Aug 1820
Home in 1820 (City, County, State)Mays, Anson, North Carolina, USA
Free White Persons - Males - Under 102
Free White Persons - Males - 10 thru 151
Free White Persons - Males - 16 thru 181
Free White Persons - Males - 16 thru 253
Free White Persons - Males - 45 and over1
Free White Persons - Females - Under 101
Free White Persons - Females - 10 thru 152
Free White Persons - Females - 16 thru 251
Free White Persons - Females - 45 and over1
Slaves - Males - Under 143
Slaves - Females - Under 141
Slaves - Females - 26 thru 441
Number of Persons - Engaged in Agriculture6
Free White Persons - Under 166
Free White Persons - Over 252
Total Free White Persons12
Total Slaves5
Total All Persons - White, Slaves, Colored, Other17

By 1830, only son Solomon R. Townsend, who will later be found in Richmond County, NC, is found in Anson. Where was Sherwood at this time? Who could he have been living with? 

NameSolomon Townsend
Home in 1830 (City, County, State)Anson, North Carolina
Free White Persons - Males - Under 51
Free White Persons - Males - 30 thru 391
Free White Persons - Females - 15 thru 191
Slaves - Males - Under 101
Slaves - Males - 10 thru 231
Slaves - Females - Under 102
Slaves - Females - 10 thru 231
Free White Persons - Under 202
Free White Persons - 20 thru 491
Total Free White Persons3
Total Slaves5
Total - All Persons (Free White, Slaves, Free Colored)8

Solomon, in his thirties appears to have had a wife still in her teens and a young son. He, like his father, was also a slave holder, having a total of 5 persons in his household enslaved. These seem to have been the same five people his father listed a decade earlier. 

NameS C Townsend
Home in 1840 (City, County, State)Anson, North Carolina
Free White Persons - Males - Under 52
Free White Persons - Males - 20 thru 291
Free White Persons - Females - 20 thru 291
Free Colored Persons - Females - 24 thru 351
Slaves - Females - Under 101
Persons Employed in Agriculture4
No. White Persons over 20 Who Cannot Read and Write2
Free White Persons - Under 202
Free White Persons - 20 thru 492
Total Free White Persons4
Total Free Colored Persons1
Total Slaves1
Total All Persons - Free White, Free Colored, Slaves6

Sherwood C. Townsend shows up 10 years later in 1840. He is in his 20's, as is Elizabeth. He has two sons under five, which would have been Elijah and James. A free female of color lives in his household, a young woman, between 24 and 35. An enslaved little girl, a child under ten, lives with them as well. I wonder who they were?

In this version, one can see he is living near Benjamin Williams, one of his father's executors, and a "Matilda" Townsend. I now believe this was Malinda Townsend. Bailey's, a family name, also lives near him, and Rueben and William Hildreth. This helps place the general area in which they lived.

We know by 1850, Elizabeth is deceased and her sons are either working as teens or living with her family.

Where is Sherod? There is a theory circulating online

NameSherod Tawnsend
Birth Yearabt 1824
BirthplaceNorth Carolina
Home in 1850Peach Creek, Gonzales, Texas, USA
Line Number37
Dwelling Number17
Family Number17
Inferred SpouseMartha Tawnsend
Household members
Sherod Tawnsend26
Martha Tawnsend19
Arabella S Tawnsend7

Sherod Townsend from North Carolina, is living in Peach Creek, Gonzalez County, Texas. This is a lowland, flat, but green area, not so different from his North Carolina home, except minus the rolling hills.

He's living with Martha, 19, and Arabella, 7. Right off the bat, it appears that Martha is too young to have been Arabella's mother, and correctly so, because it appears that at the time of the 1850 census, Sherod and Martha had been married less than a year.

NameMartha A. Stevens
Marriage Date12 Sep 1849
Marriage PlaceCarroll, Mississippi, USA
SpouseTounsend Townsend

They married on September 12, 1849 in Carroll County, Mississippi. The documents of Martha's future children would show that she was indeed Martha A. Stevens. The actual document also says "Sherwood Townsend" not Townsend Townsend. 

NameSherod Tawnsend
Residence Date1850
Residence PlacePeach Creek, Gonzales, Texas, USA
Number of Enslaved People1
RoleSlave Owner
All Enslaved People
All Enslaved People
Sherod Tawnsend

The 1850 census also indicates that Sherwood Townsend had one enslaved person in his home. Was this the child from the 1840 census now grown?

NameSherod Townsend
Event Year1851
Event PlaceDewitt County, Texas, United States
FHL Film Number002282170

Just one year later, he is taxed in DeWitt County, Texas, which borders Gonzalez.

NameS Townsend
Birth Yearabt 1824
Birth PlaceNorth Carolina
Home in 1860Division, Hill, Texas
Post OfficeGreenwades Mills
Dwelling Number216
Family Number203
OccupationCredit Man
Personal Estate Value600
Inferred SpouseMartha Townsend
Inferred ChildSherad H Townsend; Susan Townsend; Frances Townsend; Theadore Townsend
Household members
S Townsend36
Martha Townsend27
Sherad H Townsend7
Susan Townsend5
Frances Townsend
Theadore Townsend1

By 1860, the family had added four more children, Sherod H. 7, Susan 5, Frances 3, and Theodore, 1. There is no more Arabella, possibly the girl was a victime to any number of maladies that struck children at that time. Sherod is working as a "Credit Man", or a lendor, or someone who investigated credit-worthiness for a lender. In an area under high-growth, this was a valued white collar career. 

Hill County is shown above in the white area. While not bordering Gonzalez, it was not too far west of it. 

Always on the move, 'Sherwood' was enumerated for taxes in Bosque County, Texas in 1868. There are no War records for Sherod or Sherwood Townsend, despite the fact the the Civil War had raged in between these two dates.

Also in 1868, Sherold took an Oath as Sheriff. This may have been the reason he did not get swept up in the War.

NameSherod Townsend
Age in 187047
Birth Dateabt 1823
BirthplaceNorth Carolina
Dwelling Number16
Home in 1870Precinct 4, Hill, Texas
Post OfficeHillsboro
OccupationHouse Carpenter
Male Citizen Over 21Yes
Inferred SpouseMartha Townsend
Inferred ChildrenHensley Townsend; Louisa Townsend; Frances Townsend; Eudora Townsend; James Townsend; John Townsend; Alick Townsend
Household members
Sherod Townsend47
Martha Townsend38
Hensley Townsend17
Louisa Townsend15
Frances Townsend13
Eudora Townsend11
James Townsend9
John Townsend7
Alick Townsend3

By 1870, three more children had joined the family, James, John and Alick. 'Hensely' is the age Sherod H. would be, Louisa the same age as Susan, Frances, then 3, now 13, didn't change, and Theodore is now Eudora. As Theodore in 1860 was a one year old female, Theodore was always Eudora. Sherod is now a House Carpenter, and still on the move.

Next up is Hamilton County, that borders Bosque, where he was Sheriff in the 1860's.

NameSherod Townsend
Birth DateAbt 1824
BirthplaceNorth Carolina
Home in 1880Precint 4, Hamilton, Texas, USA
Dwelling Number134
Relation to Head of HouseSelf (Head)
Marital StatusMarried
Spouse's NameMartha A. Townsend
Father's BirthplaceNorth Carolina
Mother's BirthplaceNorth Carolina
NeighborsView others on page
Household members
Sherod Townsend56
Martha A. Townsend48
James Townsend18
John H. Townsend14
Martha J. Townsend7
Emily Townsend24
Louisa Andrews24
Martha J. Andrews2
Jefferson Andrews1

He and Martha's last and final child, Martha Jr., has been born. Emily is a daughter-in-law and Louisa is their daughter, Susan Louisa Townsend Andrews and her two children.

Sherod Townsend died on August 12, 1890 in Bosque County, Texas. He was buried in Hamilton County, Texas. Martha outlived him by nearly three decades, joining him in rest in 1919.

They were the parents of: Sherod Hensley Townsend, Susan Louisa T. Gilbreath, Frances Melissa Thompson, Eudora Townsend, James Eli Townsend, John Henry Townsend, William Alexander Townsend, Thomas Green Townsend, and Martha Jane Anderson. Some of their children died as minors. Thomas never appeared in  census, but is noted in the cemetery.

James Eli Townsend

These North Carolina Townsends became part of the Texas milieu. Was this the same Sherod? Was Arabella the daughter of Elizabeth Covington Townsend? She was two years older than Benjamin, the youngest son. If so, why did he take his daughter and leave his sons? Perhaps one day, DNA can solve this mystery.

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