Monday, February 24, 2014

Mappy Monday - Keeping Up With the Willbanks Family

Places associated with the Willbanks family.
A - Cherokee County, GA; B - Texas; C - Arkansas; D - Marshall County, AL;
E - Marion County, AR; F - Pontiac, MO
(map created using Google Maps Engine Lite)

Some members of my husband's Hillhouse relatives were born, raised, and died in Cherokee County, Georgia.  Others, like his Great Grand Aunt Sarah Hillhouse Wilbanks, moved to a number of different areas.  Just glance at the map above to see their travels.

A - Sarah, the daughter of my husband's GGGrandfather, Elijah Hillhouse, was born in Cherokee County, Georgia, in 1838 and married William Willbanks there in 1861.  Sarah and William stayed in Cherokee County through the 1870 census, having four of their eight children while in Cherokee County.

B, C, D, E - By 1874, according to William Willbanks' obituary, the family moved for a brief time to Texas before moving on to Arkansas in 1875.(1)  Somehow, the family and their now six children were in  Marshall County, Alabama at the time of the 1880 census although they had lived in Arkansas in the mid 1870s when their two youngest children were born.  Sometime between the 1880 and 1900 censuses, the family returned to Arkansas.  This time they remained in North Fork, Marion County, Arkansas for a number of years.

I was in for a real surprise when I looked at the 1900 census record for William and Sarah Hillhouse Willbanks.  Right next to their family entry were some familiar names, those of Sarah's brother William F Hillhouse and his son William H Hillhouse.  

1900 census, Arkansas, Marion, North Fork, sheet 11A

Thanks to a Marion County, Arkansas GenWeb Project, I found a listing of original landowners in the area formerly known as Van Buren County, Arkansas.  Even better was a colored map indicating the names and initial year of ownership of Marion County land.  It was clear that William F Hillhouse (blue area) had obtained his land grant in 1884 while William Willbanks (pink area) received his land in 1894.

Original Grantee's Land, Van Buren County, Arkansas, Township 21N, Range 15W (2)

Through the 1910 and 1920 census I learned that William Willbanks, now a widower, resided with several of his children in different parts of Marion County, Arkansas.  Then, by 1930 William could not be found in census records.'s Arkansas Death Index indicated that a William H Willbanks had died in Marion County, Arkansas on March 14, 1927; Sarah, however, wasn't listed in the index.  That meant that I needed to try and find where William and Sarah Hillhouse Willbanks had been buried and hopefully determine a death date for Sarah.

BillionGraves had no listing for either William or Sarah.  FindAGrave did list both a William Willbanks and a Sarah H Willbanks; however, both of the graves were in Pontiac, Missouri.  This was also the same town mentioned in the obituary that was part of my initial research.  

F - How did William and Sarah come to be buried in Missouri?  It took looking at Microsoft Streets and Trips to find an answer to that question.  It turns out that Marion County, Arkansas and Ozark County, Missouri are just across the state line from each other.  Even without knowing the exact location of the Willbanks farm in Arkansas and the cemetery in Missouri, it is less than a 10-mile drive between North Fork and Pontiac.  Their final journey was not one of a great distance after all.

Route from North Fork, AR to Pontiac, MO
source:  Microsoft Streets and Trips
Lessons learned:  
  • It was not that unusual for family members to move to new locations and live close to each other.
  • Thanks to wonderful volunteers, there are some great USGenWeb projects available to help in our research.
  • Streets and Trips or other present day mapping software can sometimes help answer questions about the past.

(1) "A Good Man Gone", obituary from unknown newspaper, unknown date, attached to Ancestry public member tree #9184625, person #1462549160.
(2)  Risener, Lynn. "Original Grantee's Land Map".  Marion County, Arkansas GenWeb,

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Those Places Thursday: Boones Creek, Tennessee

 Boones Creek Historical Trust.  Bountiful Boones Creek, c 2008.

Boones Creek can sometimes be hard to find on a Tennessee map.  The brief entry in Wikipedia primarily provides the GPS coordinates along with a few sentences about this area just north of Johnson City, Tennessee.  But it is an area steeped in history, as one might expect of a place named after Daniel Boone, the frontier explorer.

Recently I spied this book at our local library and ended up buying a copy.  The book, published by the Boones Creek Historical Trust, presents the histories of 45 houses and buildings in the area.  Some of the houses are still inhabited by relatives of the original owners, some by newcomers attracted to a picturesque old home, while others stand empty and show the effects of time.  I've lived in this area for over 30 years and have driven past many of the old homes pictured in this book.  The problem was I never knew the story behind some of these old relics. Thanks to Bountiful Boones Creek I know so much more about the history of this part of East Tennessee and some of its founding families, along with some new recipes to try.

The Bowers / Kirkpatrick House, p 14

Whenever I head over to the interstate I drive past this old, boarded up house.  I would frequently speculate about its history or wonder about those who had lived there.  Now I know that it is the Bowers/ Kirkpatrick House as well as something about its past on land which can be traced back to a Revolutionary War grant.

Each two-page spread in the book features one of 45 homes or buildings.  The spread includes a brief history of the building as well as information about previous, and in some cases, present owners.  Topping off the spread are a few recipes submitted by family members or those associated with the Boones Creek Historical Trust.

The Bowers / Kirkpatrick House, p 15

The book will be a focus of springtime drives in the area since the book also includes a map with the houses and buildings noted.  I'll also look at homes where friends have lived or buildings where I sometimes shop with a new eye, knowing more of the history of these places.

I appreciate the efforts of the Boones Creek Historical Trust of Gray, Tennessee in publishing this book.  What a great way for a local historical or genealogical society to share information about homes, families and the area.  After all, homes, like people, have their stories, stories that are celebrated so wonderfully in this book.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Military Monday : James S Roach, His Final Weeks

"Battle of Champion Hill", sketch by Lt. Henry Otis Dwight, 20th Ohio

Frank Herbert, author of The Dune Chronicles, was right when he wrote “war is the most readily available form of chaos”.(1)  The longer I research ancestors involved in the Civil War and other conflicts, the truer this statement becomes for me. 

Take the case of James S Roach, the GGGrand Uncle of my husband.  Using data from his Combined Records Packet on and his wife’s applications for a Confederate Widow’s Pension, I was able to learn a lot about the last two months of his life.

James had enlisted in Company B of the 43rd Georgia Infantry CSA  on 7 May 1862.(2)  According to Wikipedia, the 43rd had been formed in the Spring of 1862 and soon began to see action in skirmishes leading up to the Vicksburg Campaign.  The men of the 43rd, including James, were involved in both the Battle of Chickasaw Bayou and the Battle of Champion Hill.(3)
According to James’ packet of military records, he was among the group of 1697 Confederate soldiers captured at the Battle of Champion Hill.(4)  The American Civil War 150 Years Ago Today provides an interesting account of this battle and its results for the South.  His capture began the final weeks for James, a period that took seeing in a timeline for me to fully grasp.

16 May 1863             Captured at the Battle of Champion Hill (Mississippi)
25 May 1863             Send with other prisoners to Memphis (Tennessee)
undated                      Listed as a POW at Camp Morton (Indiana)
9 Jun 1863                Transferred to Fort Delaware (Delaware)
3 Jul 1863                  Paroled at Fort Delaware
6 Jul 1863                  Arrived at the City Port of Richmond (Virginia)
Undated                     Listed on the Report of Sick or Wounded, Camp Lee (Virginia)
19 Jul 1863                Died of pneumonia at Camp Lee Hospital

In two months, James had been captured, sent to three different incarceration / prison facilities, paroled, became ill somewhere along the way, hospitalized, and then died.  His widow, Mary Hillhouse Roach, later said on her initial pension application, that she learned some of what happened to her husband from friends, those who had been there with him. According to final military records, James was buried in Hollywood Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia, in an unknown location.(5)

Chaos, seen through one man's final days.

(2)  Georgia. "Confederate Pension Applications, Georgia Confederate Pension Office, RG 58-1-1" Georgia Archives.
(3)  "43rd Georgia Volunteer Infantry" Wikipedia,
(4)  "Civil War Records, James S Roach," (citing National Archives Catalog ID 589657, Record Group 109 Georgia roll 0463.
(5)  Hollywood Cemetery,

Monday, February 3, 2014

Amanuensis Monday: Confederate Pension Application for Thomas Nelson

Pension affidavit, page 1 of 2, Thomas Nelson
source: Georgia's Virtual Vault

When Thomas Nelson first applied for an indigent veterans' pension, his request was denied.  About a year later, he reapplied, making the following sworn statement.  This 2-page document is part of the Confederate Pension Files, State of Georgia, accessed online through Georgia's Virtual Vault.(1)

Georgia, Bartow County
In person appeared before me, Thomas Nelson and for amendment to his former application, on oath says that he was left in charge of Pinkney Hasty and Billie Murphy, two comrades who were wounded in The Battle of Jonesboro GA fought Aug 31st 1864; that Major Jackson ordered him to take charge of said comrades and care for them until they got well or died.  In a few minutes afterward Major Jackson was killed; that he took charge of the wound men, carried them to a private house in the country; staid (sic) with them and waited on them about one month when they got so they could ride on the train and he sent them to the hospital in Augusta that by this time or rather before this time Gen. Hood was on his march back to Nashville; that he started on his way following Hood’s Army with the intention of rejoining his company; that when he reached Atlanta Major Proctor advised him to fall in with his command, as it would be imposs’le to reach his (Nelsons) command; that he told Major Proctor that if it was all right he would do so, and he then was put in charge of a commissary in Atlanta by Major Proctor.  This was as he now remember in October 1864.  In the meantime Gen W T Wofford came to Atlanta with his command and took charge of all the command that was stationed in Atlanta; that he remained in this command under Gen W T Wofford till the close of the war.  That he surrendered at Kingston, GA May 12th 1865.  Applicant states that all those who knew him who could testify to the foregoing facts are dead so far as he can learn.  Both of the wounded comrades with whom he was left have long since died; that applicant served faithfully in the army for three years with the exception of a furlow of eight days; that he is now old, poor, weak – no means of support – all gone but his old woman.  Has to live hard with no comforts but the presence of his old woman who is old and feeble but who shares his poverty and want.
Sworn to and subscribed before me. Sep 4th 1907
G W Hendricks Ordinary
Bartow County Ga
[signature] Thomas Nelson

This affidavit contained some interesting information
  • Although he had signed an oath in 1863  to no longer take up arms for the Confederate cause, Thomas indicated he was part of Company B, 34th Georgia Infantry for at least another year and did not surrender until 12 May 1865.
  • Pinkney Hasty and Billie Murphy, the soldiers he stated he cared for, were also members of Company B, 34th Georgia Infantry.(2)
  • Gen W T Wofford was William Tatum Wofford of the Georgia 18th.  "Wofford's Confederate soldiers were the last significant troops east of the Mississippi River to surrender to the union." Their surrender took place 12 May 1865 at Kingston, GA.(3)
Thomas' statement was apparently enough to secure his Confederate Pension and the subsequent Confederate Widow's Pension received for a number of years by Hannah Hillhouse Nelson.  

My favorite part, though, is Thomas' references to Hannah.  Thomas stated that he had "no means of support – all gone but his old woman (Hannah).  Has to live hard with no comforts but the presence of his old woman who is old and feeble but who shares his poverty and want."  Hard not to smile at these words.

(1)  "Confederate Pension Applications." Database and images.  Georgia's Virtual Vault.  Georgia Archives.
(2) Henderson, Lillian.  Roster of Confederate Soldiers of Georgia , vol. 3.
(3) "W. T. Wofford", New Georgia Encyclopedia,