Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankful Thursday - Connections, Resources, and a Book

source: Museum Store Association website

When I started writing my blog it was just a way to share my research with family and others.  As I continue to write, I am thankful for the new connections this blog has enabled me to make.

I am thankful for the unexpected contacts I have made with other family members.  Some contacts have been with distant cousins living miles away, those with whom I have been able to swap family stories, photographs, family trees, and other information.  Sometimes the initial contact comes months after I write a post mentioning a family member.  This just shows the far reaching effects of posting on the internet.  Some of these contacts are just a few exchanges of e-mails, others continue, but each has provided new information about my family or my husband's.

All genealogy information isn't on the internet, and I'm thankful for that.  This year I've visited several smaller research centers where I've been amazing at the quantity and the quality of the information each contains.  The Bell Research Center in Cumming, GA and the T. Elmer Cox Library in Greeneville, TN were real gems.  Besides the information I found in books there, each visit introduced me to an individual working there who was a fount of local history information.  The internet can't quickly tell you the connection between your ancestor's property and present day roads or the backstory for a name witnessing a relative's document.  There is still no substitute for sometimes interacting with a real person in your research (and that's not just because I'm a former school library media specialist).

Earlier this year I became a member of The Organized Genealogist group on Facebook.  I have picked up a number of organization tips from the postings by group members.  It has been interesting and helpful to see have different people have such creative ways to address a common issue or to see different ways I can tweak things to work in my situation or work space.  Thanks to Susan Petersen for starting this group and for helping us as we try to maintain order in the midst of chaos.

Finally, I am so thankful that I purchased a download copy of Evidence Explained by Elizabeth Shown Mills.  Previously, my source citations were minimal so I made the purchase to help me in this area.  But her book isn't merely a book about how to correctly cite a fact.  It really gets into the evaluation of sources so that I have a better grasp of the reliability or accuracy of the information I come across.  Sure, my citations are more complete and better written, but her book has really opened my eyes to  consider the source as I am researching more stories to celebrate.

Monday, November 18, 2013

... and there was James Houston

Portrait of James Houston that hangs in the Blount County Courthouse
Presented by Mary Blount Chapter, DAR(1)
Although I have lived in Tennessee for a number of years, James Houston has turned out to be the person who has made the early history of Tennessee, especially that of East Tennessee, come alive for me.  Previously I had written about the various places James traveled as a Revolutionary War soldier.  As I looked at events over the next forty years of his life, he seemed to show up in some unexpected places as the western frontier was growing into the state of Tennessee.

Following the Battle of King's Mountain, James returned home to Washington County, Virginia.  True to form, he didn't stay there very long as he headed to Tennessee to begin a new chapter in his life.  Sometime after 1872 James and his family moved from southwest Virginia to Greene County, Tennessee with his name showing up on the 1873 Greene County Tax List.(2)  When the first court of pleas and quarter sessions met in April 1873, there was James Houston listed as one of the original six court magistrates.(3)

My eyes flew wide open when I came across a document signed in April 1785 by the Governor of the State of Franklin, John Sevier.  In it Sevier named Justices of the Peace for Greene County.(4)  Once again, there in the list of the new appointees was James Houston.

Justice of the Peace Appointments for
Greene County, State of Franklin, USA
signed by Gov. John Sevier 
For people with Tennessee roots, finding a document linking a relative with John Sevier is almost like finding a link to George Washington.  Sevier was, among other things, the first and only governor of the State of Franklin, a six-term Tennessee governor, and a congressman, all before his death in 1815.(5)  The number of things named for John Sevier in this part of the state - a county, a town, streets, schools, and even an old hotel - attest to the esteem with which John Sevier is held.  But I digress.

The next surprise came as I was looking through the Greene County, Tennessee, Minutes of the Court of Common Pleas, 1783-1795.  I saw James Houston listed for several years as an juror in the quarterly court held there four times each year.   According to the minutes, in Nov 1783 James was named as a Deputy Surveyor for the county, then among the entries for May 1785 was something new about James: "James Houston Esq is appointed Sheriff and enters into bond himself with Col. Geo Doherty and David Craig Esq in the sum of 5000 pounds for the faithful discharge of his duty in office." (6)  James served as the sheriff of Greene County until a new sheriff was named in Feb 1786.

James and his family next moved to Blount County, Tennessee sometime after the late 1780s.  Again, he proved to be involved in the growth of the area and its politics.  Goodspeed's History of Tennessee From the Earliest Times to the Present had a list of early Blount County officials.  Once again, there was James Houston, listed as Clerk of the County Court from 1796-1818.(7)

Life wasn't entirely peaceful in the Tennessee territory in the late 1780s.  James was still living in the frontier, and the area of his home became known as Houston Station, identifying it as a populated area.  Following the Indian War of 1788, James actually filed a claim with the territorial government to be repaid for "ammunition and supplies procured by him to protect Houston Station during Indian War of 1788 by order of Colonel Daniel Kennedy".(8)

By 1795 there was movement around the territory to petition the US Congress for statehood.  Pat Aldridge, in her book The Overmountain Men,  wrote of some of the early events moving toward statehood, telling how "members of the first election, held by counties, met in Knoxville on Jan 11, 1796.  The following elected members assembled in Knoxville, presented their credentials, and took their seats ... [from] Blount County:  David Craig, James Greenaway, Joseph Black, Samuel Glass, James Houston."(9)  The group spend  the next three weeks writing a Constitution for the new state.  Among this mixture of former Virginians, Carolinians, aristocrats, and frontiersmen, James Houston was considered to be a moderate.(10)  By 6 Feb 1796, the new constitution had been written and approved.  The fifth person signing the Tennessee Constitution of 1796 was familiar; there was James Houston's signature on the new constitution.

Tennessee Constitution of 1796 (11)
In 1806, the US Congress allowed Tennessee to charter a number of academies.  Porter Academy in Maryville was one of those chartered in Blount County.  The present day Porter Elementary School in Maryville has a history of Porter Academy on the school's website as well as the historical marker shown below.   A few weeks ago I spent time looking through the Blount County, Tennessee, Deed Book 1, 1795-1819, abstracted by Jane Kizer Thomas.  I must have found close to 20 entries for James Houston, many of which involved buying, selling, or receiving property for Porter Academy.  Each transaction included a list of trustees for Porter Academy, and there would be James Houston listed as a trustee of the school.

Porter Academy Historical Marker
Maryville, Tennessee
James Houston turned out to be one of those distant relatives who I've hate to let go.  To me, he had been like one of those late-night infomercials, claiming " ... but wait, there's more!"  And there has been.  In addition to serving our country through a number of military enlistments, in peace time James served as an early court magistrate and sheriff, was an early appointee in the short-lived State of Franklin, served as  Clerk of the Court in Blount County for many years, was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1796, signed the Tennessee Constitution of 1796, and was involved in the direction of education in Blount County.  Thanks for the history lesson, James.

(1)  James Houston, portrait. Blount County Courthouse, Maryville, Tennessee,

(2) C. Hammett, extractor, from "1783 Greene County, TN Tax List" by Mrs. Louise Wilson Reynolds, published April 1919, D.A.R. Magazine, reprinted in The Overmountain Men by Pat Alderman, Johnson City, TN :  Overmountain Press, 1970, pp. 239 and 242. All [bracketed] words are additions by C. Hammett; extraction accessed on

(3) Ray, Worth S, Tennessee Cousins : a History of Tennessee People, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc, 1950. 

(4) John Sevier, Justice of the Peace Commissions, 14 Apr 1785; Volunteer Voices,

(5)  "John Sevier", The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, version 2.0

(6) Burgner, Goldene Fillers.  Greene County, Tennessee Minutes of the Court of Common Pleas, 1783-1795.  Ensley, SC : Southern Historical Press, 1982.

(7) The Goodspeed History of Tennessee from the Earliest Times to the Present, Nashville, TN:  Goodspeed, 1886-1887.

(8) "Tennessee Petition, 1822-1823", database, Tennessee State Library and Archives,

(9) Alderman, Pat, The Overmountain Men, Johnson City, TN :  Overmountain Press, 1970.

(10) Barnhart, John D. "The Tennessee Constitution of 1796: a Product of the Old West"  Journal of Southern History, vol. 9, no. 4, Nov 1943,

(11) Tennessee Constitution, 1796, Tennesse Virtual Archive of the Tennessee State Library and Archives,

Monday, November 11, 2013

Military Monday: James Houston's Travels in Revolutionary Times

Map of Military Travels of James Houston, 1776-1780

Every once in a while, I stumble upon someone who turns out to be one interesting individual.  That has been the case with researching James Houston, the brother of Margaret Peggy Houston, my husband's third Great Grand Aunt.  I have been trying to learn more about Margaret and her family, and I kept coming across information about brother James when I was really just seeking more about Margaret.  Now I'm glad he kept popping up.

The areas where James traveled are taken from the original Revolutionary War Pension Application filed by James Houston in 1832.(1)  In his application he described his travels as a soldier during those years; I saw the names of many familiar places.  If you look at the map, my hometown of Johnson City, TN, is about in its center.  It turns out that James and his travels took him all around the area where I live and have visited for many years.  

Veterans Day seems an appropriate time to look at James and his service with the colonial forces.  His pension application provides sufficient details for me to be able to make the map above as well as locate the photographs below.  All quotes below regarding a specific place or area are taken from his application using the transcription found on the Southern Campaign Revolutionary War Pension Statements & Rosters web site.

Point A  Spring, 1776, Augusta County, Virginia -- "He entered the service in the spring season ... in the year 1776 under Captain William Buchanan as a volunteer in a patrolling Company, -- [he] resided in the County of Augusta in the State of Virginia at the time he entered the service."

Point B  September, 1777, Washington County, Virginia -- "Declarant removed from Augusta County ... to Washington County in Western Virginia in the month of September 1777, and in the month of February 1778 again entered the Service in said County of Washington, Virginia ... in a volunteer Company commanded by Captain Aaron Lewis.

Point C  February, 1778, Long Island on the Holston River, Tennessee, present day Kingsport, TN -- "Said Company belonged to a Regiment of Infantry who embodied at Long Island on Holston River commanded by Colonel Evan Shelby.

South Long Island, Kingsport, TN

Point D  1778, Holston River at its junction with the Tennessee, present day Knoxville, TN -- "From Long Island on Holston the Army proceeded in canoes down Holston River to its junction with the Tennessee ... "

Holston and French Broad Rivers join in Knoxville to form the Tennessee River

Point E 1778, Mouth of Chickamauga Creek, present day Chattanooga, TN -- " ... then down the Tennessee River to the Mouth of Chickamauga Creek, where we proceeded to destroy the encampments and provisions of a part of the Cherokee Indians, called Chickamaugas, but had no encounter with the Indians."

Chickamauga Creek, Chattanooga, TN
photo source:

Point F and Point G October, 1778 to January, 1779, Powell Valley [There is a present day Powell Valley, TN and a Powell Valley, KY.  The state line between Tennessee and Kentucky may not have been widely known at the time of James' application] -- "About the first day of October 1778 again entered the service as a volunteer in the Company commanded by Captain Nathaniel Williams being a Company of Guards to reconnoiter the frontiers, and marched to Powels [sic Powell's] Valley in Kentucky and continued in service on the frontiers of Kentucky protecting the interior from the incursions of the hostile Indians until the month of January 1779."

Point H  April 1779 to October 1779, head of the New River, VA -- "Entered the service in Washington County, Virginia as Ensign in the Volunteer Company commanded by Captain William Edmondson.  ... said company reconnoitered as a company of discovery and guards on the frontiers of Washington, Virginia and on the head of New River, for the purpose of suppressing the disaffected and Tories."
New River in southwest Virginia
photo source:

Point I  October, 1779 [sic, 1780] at Watauga River, Carter County, Tennessee, present day site of Sycamore Shoals State Park -- " ... said Company joined the Regiment of volunteers commanded by Colonel William Campbell at Watauga River in what is now Carter or Sullivan County in the State of Tennessee ... "
Overmountain Men reenactment at Sycamore Shoals State Park, Elizabethton, TN
photo source:

Point J  1780, Battle of King's Mountain, NC / SC -- " ... from thence the Army were marched under the command of Colonel Campbell into the State of South Carolina [for] the defeat of the British and Tories at King's Mountain. ... from King's Mountain said Regiment returned home to Washington County and were discharged."

Monument at Kings Mountain National Military Park
photo source: Wikimedia Commons
Houston's return to Washington County apparently ended his military service.  His later life saw him playing various roles in the history of the young state of Tennessee, and that is definitely the subject for another post. 

(1)  "U.S., Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900," database and images.; citing Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files (NARA microfilm publication M804, 2,670 rolls). Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Amanuensis Monday: Helping the Widow Padgett*

* The Civil War records I downloaded from about my husband's Great Grandfather Jesse Padgett, provided a wealth of information about Jesse.  The records also included a number of papers pertaining to Jesse's widow and her efforts to secure a pension following his death.  Below I have transcribed two of the records involving Parthenia, the Widow Padgett.

Note from Confederate Records for Jesse Padgett

State of Georgia
Fulton Co
[no date]
I do hereby constitute and appoint Capt Thos E King my attorney to collect for me what is due to my deceased husband by Confederate States for services rendered and commutation for clothing and any pension that may be due me as his widow.
[signed] Partheny Padget X her mark
J. L. Wood [and] J Roswell King Witness

Letter from Confederate Records for Jesse Padgett

Office Ivy Woolen Mills
James Roswell King [and] Thomas E King
Roswell, Cobb Co., Ga, 10th Apr 1862

Mr. W A I Taylor, Auditor
Treasure Dept CSA 2nd Auditors Office
Richmond, VA

Dear Sir,

Enclose please find certificate marriage Parthany Padgett, widow of Jessee Padgett private Co H 7th Regt Ga Vol who enlisted as a recruit 22nd Aug 1861 and died at 2nd Ga Hospital Richmond Va 2nd Jany 62.  Also I send her power atty.  You will please send me certificate of amount due her as his widow and commutation for clothing and any dues that may be due her as I am under the impression that the pay of deceased soldiers was confirmed to their families.  I acknowleged rect of certificate for Mrs. Jno Gossett.  The claim of Mrs. Jas Burton which I have before you has not been attended to.  We rejoice with humility before God for the great victory over the vandal Yanks.  It makes me almost forget my wound.

Very truly yours
Thos E King, Capt
7th Regt Ga Vol.

Additional information pertaining to the note and letter:
  • The note names Thomas E King as her attorney to act on her behalf.  It is not dated but was probably written on or before the April 10th letter.
  • The letter seems to be the earliest correspondence seeking to obtain any death benefit due Parthenia Padgett by the Confederate States of America following the death of her husband Jesse Padgett.
  • Thomas E King was one of the owners of Ivy Woolen Mills, Roswell, GA.  The company was a manufacturer of the "Roswell Gray wool" used in the manufacturing of Confederate uniforms.(1)
  • Thomas E King was the captain of Company H, 7th Regiment, Georgia Infantry, Pvt.Jesse Padgett's unit at the time of his death, 2 Jan 1862.  Capt King was wounded at the Battle of 1st Manassas,  21 Jul 1861.(2)
  • Jno Gossett (John E Gossett), the 4th Sergeant of Co H, was wounded at the Battle of 1st Manassas and died from his wounds 14 Aug 1861.(2)
  • Jas Burton (James A Burton), private in Co H, was wounded at the Battle of 1st Manassas and died from his wounds 8 Aug 1861.(2)
For me it was interesting to see that the Confederate States already had a system in place in its early days for attending to pensions for their soldiers or their widows.  There is significance also in seeing that Capt Thomas King was the attorney seeking pensions for the widows of three soldiers from his company.  As I have hear before, a good officer always takes care of his troops.  Whether he was paid to do so or not isn't as important as seeing how Capt. King was continuing to care for his men and their families.

(1) Brown, Fred, et al.  The Riverkeeper's Guide to the Chattahoochee. University of Georgia Press, 1997. Digital images, accessed through Google Books.

(2) Henderson, Lillian.  Roster of Confederate Soldiers in Georgia, vol. 1.  Hapeville, GA : Longine & Porter, 1959-1964.  Digital images.  http// : 2013.