Sunday, October 13, 2019

Henry’s Children, the Tapscotts of the Wabash Valley

For a couple of years now I have been working on the book I first intended to write back in the year 2000, when I first became involved with family history - Henry’s Children, the Tapscotts of the Wabash Valley. That Henry, of course is Henry Tapscott, The Traveler (Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois), who with his wife Susan (Bass) Tapscott founded the Wabash Valley Tapscotts. But other books kept getting in the way, including Henry The Immigrant, the First Tapscotts of Virginia. Henry The Immigrant was, of course, Henry The Traveler’s great great grandfather.

Writing the book, which I hoped to have had finished by this time, is going slow, SLOW, SLOW, SLOW. The problem is the number of people, even though I am limiting it to the first five generations. In addition to Henry and Susan the book names 575 descendants through generation five (1206 going through all generations), 539 spouses for those descendants (9033 spouses for all descendants), plus parents (and sometimes siblings) for nearly all those spouses. And every once in a while I stumble onto a new descendant or spouse or parent of a spouse. And the book attempts a history of each of the individuals and their spouses through generation four (generation five individuals are usually just named).
A major gridlock are the Sanders, descendants of Sarah Ann Tapscott – lots of marriages and lots of kids. That is where I am now, about half way through the Sanders, who are half way through Henry’s descendants.

Right now the half-finished book has 2,623 source references (with nary an undocumented tree), plus a few footnotes, and 258 pages. I expect both of these numbers to double. Henry The Immigrant, the First Tapscotts of Virginia has 2415 sources (with only one tree, which is pointed out as having no sources and thus, questionable) and 497 pages.

I turned eighty-one this year. I hope I see the book completed. And if you are a Wabash Valley Tapscott, you should too, since I plan to distribute free, rather than sell, most of the copies.

Friday, October 4, 2019


I’m still working on the descendants of Sarah Ann Tapscott, who married William M. Sanders. One of their children was Edward F. Sanders, who was born 22 Nov 1861, near Glenns Valley in Marion County, Indiana.

Edward’s story is intriguing, with most of the intrigues arising as a result of his first marriage, involving people other than Edward, and centered around the year 1899. It is said that Edward lived his entire life in Marion County, Indiana, where he was born. He did live most of his life there, but he lived a few years in rural Marshall, when his father moved there about 1877 after his mother, Sarah, had died. It was in Clark County that on 27 Dec 1887 he married Emma Lucy Tingley, the sister of Edward’s sister-in-law Alfaretta.

Emma and Edward’s marriage was short-lived. Around 23 Dec 1896 in Marshall, Emma was granted a divorce after Edward failed to appear for a hearing. He may have been back in Marion County, Indiana, where he would live most of the rest of his life.

And now we get to the intrigues.

On 8 Nov 1899 in Clark County, Emma married J. W. Smith. J. W. was  Jacob Warren Smith, a local homeopathic physician.  The doctor went by “J. W.” professionally, “Jacob W.” in his early life, and “J. Warren” in later years, making family history research difficult.

The year 1899 ended with Dr. Smith marrying Emma (Tingley) Sanders, but it began with being shot four times, later being tried in Kentucky for murder, and then being divorced from his first wife. What a year! The story was told by the Clark County Herald.

On 1 Jan 1887 in Clark County Jacob W. had married Rosanna (Ulery) Soward, the widow of Michael Soward. At the time J. W. was not a doctor, so Rosanna used the money she received from her late husband to send Smith through medical school. But Rosanna’s son Guy was not happy about his heritance being spent and he became increasingly angry at his step-dad. Then on New Year’s Eve, 31 Dec 1898 things came to a head. At his home in Martinsville, where he had his office at the time, Dr. Smith encountered Guy and the new year started with a bang. Five bangs in fact, as Guy emptied his revolver at his step-father. Dr. Smith was hit four times, in the hand, the arm, and twice in the back, but the injuries turned out to be minor.

Clark County Herald, 10 Aug 1899,
Guy was arrested. The Herald reported “Young Soward has been rather on the wild order for several years. It is related that he was very fond of riding his horse at breakneck speed when just outside the city limits, firing his revolver as he rode, cowboy fashion.” Eventually, Rosanna would also be indicted for attempted murder. The family situation forbad domesticity and Dr. Smith moved from Martinsville to Marshall, living at the Marshall House hotel and setting up his office first above Ferry's drug store and then over Beamer's grocery. Rosanna, threatened with a charge of attempted murder, developed a plan to turn the tables—transform the victim into an accused.

When Smith was a boy of sixteen, he had killed a seventeen-year old boy, Henry Craig, in Bath County, Kentucky. Though there are differing tales about how it occurred and what happened afterwards, it appears that, under indictment for murder, Smith left Kentucky, going to Ohio, Kansas, Missouri, and his original home in Seymour, Indiana, before ending up in Martinsville, where he met and married a well-to-do widow who paid for his education, Rosanna. Unfortunately Dr. Smith told his wife about what happened in Kentucky, providing Rosanna a way to distract her accusers. In August 1899 Rosanna traveled to Kentucky and told her story. But officials there were not eager to spend money traveling to Illinois to bring Smith back for trial. So Rosanna actually paid for their travel, twice since two trips were needed owing to a problem with the original warrant. On 9 Sept 1899, a warrant for Smith’s arrest was delivered to the Marshall sheriff, and Smith was conveyed to the city jail in Owingsville, Kentucky, the seat of Bath County.

In a nutshell, Smith was tried, beat the charges, and returned to Marshall, where both Roseanna and Guy had now been indicted for his attempted murder. On 7 Nov 1899, Guy Soward was allowed to enter a plea of guilty to the charge of assault and to that of carrying concealed weapons. He was fined $50 on the first charge and $25 on the second. It was at Dr. Smith's request that this leniency was shown. At the same court Dr. Smith was granted a divorce from Roseanna. Less than twenty-four hours later, he married Emma (Tingley) Sanders, apparently the woman with whom he had “conducted himself improperly” according to charges related by the Herald.

Friday, September 6, 2019

A Tapscott Family Reunion

This blog has often talked about Tapscotts of Fauquier County, Virginia (search for the word “Fauquier” and you will see what I mean).

Each year since 1983, with one exception, the Fauquier Tapscotts have held a reunion in Fauquier County the last weekend of July. Until recently the gathering was held in a rural field in the Cedar Run District, where many Tapscotts once lived. The creek that runs through the field, Cedar Run, was used for baptisms by Poplar Forks Church, two miles distant, where many Tapscotts are buried. In the earlier years, when the reunion was a two-day event, multiple tents were set up, allowing overnight camping to keep the party going. Since its initiation the reunion was only canceled once, in 2017 due to the threat of heavy rain, which never occurred. The event is now limited to one day and is held in a more convenient and comfortable site than the field, despite the field’s sentimental value. (Thanks to Mark Porter for this information.)
The earlier reunions were held near Poplar Forks
Church and Cemetery, where many Tapscotts rest.

On Saturday, 27 July, the 2019 reunion the was held at Northern Fauquier Community Park, Virginia.. And Mary Frances and I drove 1852 miles one way from Albuquerque to attend this 36th gathering. We actually drove much further because the trip was not only to meet the Tapscotts, but to collect information on Mary Frances’s family, the Summers. (But that is another subject and a different blog,

We had attended the Tapscott reunion once before, in 2015, and had a great time. Then we had met sixth and seventh cousins, their spouses, their children. But this time was even better. Mark Porter did a superb job planning and coordinating the function, with help from funds manager, Bridget Harris. Mark’s dad, Conway, worked continuously grilling hamburgers and hot dogs. Greg and Daron Tapscott provided splendid live entertainment. But perhaps the best entertainer was “Duke” Bland, who did an outstanding job auctioning off donated items to pay for next year’s reunion.

And in addition to renewing old acquaintances and making new ones (including folks I had corresponded with for years but had never met), I met a descendant of Robert “King” Carter, who in 1723 had hired Henry Tapscott, “The Immigrant,” my 6th great grandfather, to do carpentry for him. And I met a descendant of Bishop Enoch George Jr., whose grandmother was Ann Edney, whose first husband was Henry the Immigrant. Wow!

Great event, great people, great memories. We’ll be back next year.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Sebastin C. Fox

Rebecca Fox’s marker in Fox Cemetery.
Photo by Chris Childs.
I earlier wrote about Joseph R. Tapscott and his wife Mary Emma Sanders (“Joseph R. Tapscott," blog of 30 Nov 2015). Mary Emma’s maternal grandfather was Sebastin C. Fox, a most interesting character. “Sebastin” is the name on his grave marker in Fox Cemetery and in his daughter Elizabeth’s death record and obituary, but his name was usually given as “Sebastian.” I choose to use “Sebastin” because his wife, Rebecca (Presser) Fox, was living when he died and presumably when the grave marker was carved. She should have caught any error. On the other hand, her Fox Cemetery grave marker gives the name “Rebbecca,” but I choose to use “Rebecca,” the usual spelling and the name found in other records. Sebastin’s middle name is said to be “Capital,” but no reliable source is known. 
Sebastin and Wife, Rebecca
(Collection of Penny Skinnger).
Sebastin, who in 1838 was the first school teacher in Anderson Twp, was known for his deep belief in “spare the rod and spoil the child.” It has been reported that “He kept in the school room a green, tough switch, about six feet long, and he invariably took off his coat and threw it on the one of the joists overhead, before administering his punishment. He whipped not only for violations of school rules, but he whipped for laziness and natural dullness.” That Sebastin was also a Church of Christ minister makes one wonder about his actions in the pulpit.

Sebastin’s marker in Fox Cemetery.
Photo by Chris Childs.
But it is his death that gives Sebastin celebrity. On 5 Jun 1855, he died after falling from his horse and being dragged home. But the cause of the fall is disputed. A newspaper article reported that he fell or was thrown from his horse while liquored up from celebrating the 4 Jun 1855 rejection of prohibition in Illinois. But others claim he fell and was dragged after being shot by a gunman, specifically by a member of the Birch gang (preceding blog). While it makes a good story, the latter scenario is unlikely, since the Birches had left the state by 1855. 

It is claimed that Anderson Township’s Fox Road, along which lies Fox Cemetery, where Sebastin and Rebecca rest, was named after Sebastin. It is said that on stormy nights, around midnight, his ghost returns to ride the road on his white horse.

Today the stones for Sebastin and his wife, Rebecca can no longer be found in Fox cemetery, probably the result of vandalization and theft. Luckily, before their disappearance, the stones had been photographed.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Birch Gang

Terry Bullock, a cornucopia of information, photos, and newspaper articles about the Wabash Valley Sanders and their Tapscott connections, often distracts me with interesting stories that refuse to release me from their grip until I research them and commit the findings to paper. Once again she has pulled me away from family history grunt work with her tale of Sebastin (also “Sebastian”) Fox and his possible encounter with the “Birch Gang.” In this blog, let’s first take a look at the Birches.

Anderson Township
Rough, hilly, and once heavily wooded, much of Clark County's Anderson Twp, where the Wabash Valley Tapscotts finally settled, was poor for tillage. And some of the worse land was in the northwest, the area of the Tapscott homelands. The township is divided by Mill Creek, whose tributaries (Hurricane Creek, Haw Branch, Blackburn Branch, Auburn Branch) disrupt what should be unbroken prairie land.

Robert and his cohorts burying loot
(The Banditti of the Prairie, D. H. Cook
and Co, Publishers, Chicago, 1856).
Anderson Twp was once known for being wild and untamed, a reputation that may have been due as much to gossip as fact. Nevertheless, in the second quarter of the 1800s it was the home of Robert H. Birch, claimed to be a robber and murderer, though that was never proven in court. Known as “three-fingered” Birch, with a number of other aliases, Robert had arrived around 1831 in Anderson Twp as a child with his father, John, and brother Timothy. In 1832 John Birch owned property in Section 4 just north of what would be Henry’s Land.

As a youth, Robert became involved with a group of criminals who were terrorizing central Illinois. In Clark County, the group was  known as the “Birch Gang,” though little indicates that Robert was the leader. On 4 Jul 1845 near Rock Island, Illinois, Colonel George Davenport was murdered and Robert, William Fox, brothers John and Aaron Long, and Granville Young were accused of being participants. The Longs and Young were hung for the crime; William Fox and Robert Birch escaped. In later years Birch reformed and led a reputable life.

This lays the groundwork for Sebastin's tale, the subject of our next blog.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Marshall Illinois Marriage Announcements

Early village newspapers were really literary magazines. Front pages were filled with stories, poetry, advice, aphorisms, and what some took for humor—“How to Make a Cannon…Take a long hole and pour brass or iron about it.” What little news crept into front pages was from major cities, taken from other papers. Inside pages had local news, which for marriages was often poetic, gossip-filled, and sometimes scandalous (e.g., Samuel Tapscott and Susan Tingley, 14 Sep 2015 blog). The following marriage notices are from the Marshall Republican:

23 Apr 1909: In order to keep their friends from finding out the great secret Mrs. Lucy Swope and James Obrist went to Effingham Wednesday of last week and were married in that city returning home Thursday morning. This is the bride’s third adventure on the sea of matrimony and the groom’s first attempt at steering the matrimonial craft o’er life’s tempestuous sea.

27 Aug 1909: Monday morning the train on the Vandalia from the west due at 7:04 brought Mr. Jeff Walters and Goldia Mae Jacobs of Vevay Park Cumberland county to the County clerk’s office where they secured the papers authorizing them to trot in double harness and hied themselves to Judge Martin’s matrimonial parlors where they were soon made one. This was a runaway match but as soon as the knot was tied they turned right around and ran back again.

10 Sep 1909: Benton Willey, age 36 and Myrtle Gudgeon age 29, both of Terre Haute were married by Esquire Benson Martin in his matrimonial parlors at noon Wednesday. The groom was a former resident of this city and it is his first marriage. The bride is a bashful young creature, but has managed to survive the shock of two former marriages and seemed to enjoy the thought of a third matrimonial alliance.

12 Nov 1909: Saturday Austin Sweet, an attorney of Terre Haute met Miss Alma Shook of Yale, in this city. They secured a permit from County Clerk J.W. Fredenberger to trot through life in double harness. They then hunted up Elder John A. Sweet who tied the knot matrimonial for them. They had attempted to keep the marriage a secret from their Terre Haute friends, but on their arrival at their Terre Haute home Sunday they were greatly surprised at the reception given them by a number of friends who met them at the station.

26 Nov 1909: Grover Hybarger, son of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Hybarger of Paris, who formerly lived here and Miss Bertha Sidenstricker also of Paris, were married secretly at New Castle, Ind., in July last. Mr. Hybarger was working at the time for the American Express company at Indianapolis and Miss Sidenstricker was visiting her brother there when they slipped away to New Castle where they were married. They revealed the fact to her brother, James Sidenstricker at Indianapolis but concealed it from their parents until recently when Grover was transferred by the American Express company to Paris when they divulged the secret and decided to set up house keeping.

20 May 20 1910: Sunday Abel Bennett, bachelor, and Mrs. Minnie Bennett, both of Orange township, were married at the home of Richard Keller of Orange township by Rev. T.C. Bailiff. The brides maiden name was Cox and we understand was the widow of a brother of the man of her second choice.

21 Jan 1910: A romance culminated here Tuesday when Oscar Mason of Mayfield, Kentucky, applied for a license to marry Miss Minnie Robinson of Parker township. Seven years ago Dr. John F. Kirksey of Mayfield, met and woed and won Miss Amanda Robinson, a sister of Mr. Mason’s bride and in a visit to her sister at Mayfield, Miss Minnie became a victim of cupids darts and capitulated to her southern wooer.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Henny Penny

 I just heard yesterday of the death on 23 Jun 2019 of another Tapscott cousin, the gregarious Charles Henry Colvin, known to most of the family as “Henny Penny.”

Charles was a member of the Fauquier County, Virginia, Tapscotts, the only son of Henry L. and Viola (Tapscott) Colvin, and a great great grandson of Harriet Tapscott. Harriet, the progenitor of many of the Fauquier Tapscotts, is believed to be a granddaughter of Ezekiel Tapscott, via James and Elizabeth (Percifull) Tapscott (see blogs of 1/13/2013, 1/15/2013). That would make Charles and me sixth cousins.

Omitting passages naming some still living relatives, let’s let Henny Penny tell his own story (from a work in progress on Tapscott, Colvin & Nickens Ancestors by Nakia Lorice Long):

Hello family, This is Charles Henry Colvin, Nickname “Henny Penny,” My life started on 17 February 1934 at 1722 Montello Ave. N.E. Washington D.C. I attended Crummell Elementary School, Brown Junior High School, and Phelps Vocational High School for one and a half years, I transferred to Armstrong Technical High School where I graduated. While in High School I earned my Varsity Letter for playing baseball.

Upon graduating from High School I was employed by the Defense Department of the U.S. government from which I retired after 37 years of service. On December 1956, I was drafted into the U.S. army and served 2 years active duty, 2 years active reserve, and 2 years standby reserve duty before receiving my discharge. On 4 September 1960 I married Audrey Mae Whiting of Prince George Va. We had two children. . . . I retired in 1989 and moved to LaPlata, Md. Where I have been living since my retirement.

Charles’s death comes exactly five weeks before the 2019 Tapscott Reunion in Fauquier County (Mary Frances and I will be attending). We will miss you, Henny Penny.