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Friday, September 30, 2011

A Spinster – Not What You Think!

Exactly, who is a spinster?  I thought I knew but found out today that I really didn’t know the full meaning.  I thought that the term was used in earlier days, perhaps, in those of our grandparents’ time, to label an unmarried lady who was usually a little older in age, one who was past what one would assume was “the marrying age.” 
In my previous blog I mentioned that Nancy Land, the wife of Alexander Balus West, was listed erroneously as a spinster in the 1860 census.  I knew that Nancy was married and had one son; therefore, she just couldn’t be labeled a spinster.
Recently, I have been in contact with a genealogy librarian at the Library of North Carolina in Raleigh.  I enlisted her assistance to help me locate the grave of Alexander Balus West who was killed in action in the Civil War at Winchester, Virginia.  During the course of our e-mail conversations, she learned that I had thought the 1860 census was inaccurate in labeling Nancy as a spinster.  Today, this gracious and most helpful librarian clarified the meaning of the term, spinster.  According to the librarian, “The word, spinster, has a dual meaning.  In the most common usage in the 1900s, it’s to describe an older childless (and often unmarried) woman, but in the 1800s, ‘spinster’ was often used as an occupation for a woman who spins cloth such as wool or cotton.” 
As I read her definition, a bright light came on in my head!  I immediately thought of the coverlet that Nancy Land had made.  According to my 1st cousin 1X removed, CALT, who has the coverlet, Nancy Land had grown the flax, had spun the thread from the flax, and had woven the cloth into the coverlet.  Therefore, not only was Nancy listed accurately in the 1860 census as the spouse of Alexander Balus West, but she was also listed accurately as having the “occupation” of a “spinster”– one who spins cloth.  She evidently wanted to be known for her skill as a spinner and weaver in addition to being a wife and mother.  Even in the 1860s, wasn’t she a liberated woman!
In 2009 CALT placed Nancy Land’s coverlet in the Banner Elk Heritage Days’ quilt display of local Banner Elk quilts at the Banner House Museum in Banner Elk, North Carolina, during the Banner Elk Heritage Days.  I have quoted below the description, which was most likely written by CALT, of the coverlet as the description was printed in a guide for visitors.
This woven coverlet is over 100 years old and was made by Nancy Land West
who grew the flax, spun the thread, and wove it into this coverlet when she
lived in Wilkes County on a farm in the Stony Fork area.  Nancy, who married
Alexander Balus West in 1851, became a widow in 1864 and moved to Banner
Elk by wagon with her only son, Thomas Harvey West.  She died the following
year and is buried in the Banner Elk Cemetery in the West-Lowe plot.[i]

Nancy Land West's Coverlet
 What a privilege it was for me to see, touch, and photograph this coverlet while it was on display!

[i] Exhibit of Local Antique Quilts, Banner House Museum, Banner Elk, North Carolina,  September 2009

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The West Patriarchs: 4th in a Series, Alexander Balus West

Perhaps, thus far, this is the most heart-wrenching post to write.  It describes the life of a young man who gave his life either for the protection of his family or for a cause, the Confederate cause, in which he deeply believed.  It is the story of a young husband and father who apparently deeply loved his wife and son.  It is a story which exemplifies the great waste of human lives on both sides of the conflict.  It is a story without closure.
Alexander Balus West was the second son of John Balus West and Mary Ann “Polly” Swanson.  He was born in Mt. Zion, Wilkes County, North Carolina, in 1828 and died on Sept. 19, 1864, in Winchester, Virginia, where he was killed in action fighting for the Confederate States of America in the Civil War.
Alexander Balus and Nancy Land West
Apparently, he used the nickname, “Alex,” since that name is found in the early census data.  In the 1850 census Alex West was recorded as a farmer at the age of 22 and was living in his father’s household at the time of the enumeration on Nov. 7, 1850.  On February 4, 1851, he married Nancy E. Land, the daughter of William Thomas Land and Nancy Jane Carlton, of Wilkes County.  From land records, I assume that the two were neighbors.  Alexander Balus and Nancy Land West had only one child, a son, Thomas Harvey West who was born in 1858. 
He began acquiring land shortly after his marriage to Nancy Land.  In November 1852 he received a land grant for 95 acres on the south fork of Stony Fork for which he paid 5 cents an acre.  In March 1855 he received a land grant for 86 acres joining the property of William Tugman and that of his brother, Franklin West, on the “waters” of Stony Fork.  His brothers, John [Witherspoon] West and William [Thomas Jefferson] West, were the chain carriers.  In March 1855 he received yet another land grant for 16 acres on the land near Bull Branch, the “waters” of Naked Creek.  In 1857 he purchased about 230 acres on the “waters” of Stony Fork from his father, John Balus West, for the sum of $300. In 1859, he sold 200 acres on banks Stony Fork to his brother, Franklin West, for $500.  At one point in time, he owned approximately 427 acres in the Stony Fork area.
In the 1860 census Alexander Balus West’s land was valued at $900 and his personal estate at $500. Since these amounts were considerably more than most of those assessed in the same area, one may assume that he, too, like his father, was relatively “well-off.”  Also, in this census, other than his wife, who was mistakenly identified as a spinster, and Thomas Harvey, their one-year-old son, two additional persons were living in his household:  Susan Walker, age 19, who was identified as a domestic laborer, and Hamilton Barnet, age 13, who was listed as a domestic. 
Hamilton Barnett later married Mary Ann West, the sister of Alexander.  Ironically, Mary Ann and Hamilton Barnett’s great grandson was the same farmer I happened to meet on my September 9, 2011, trip to Stony Fork.  I am finding coincidents such as this one to be phenomenal!
As “the war” approached, Alexander Balus West at the age of 34 for unknown reasons, other than that of patriotic sympathies, felt the call of duty and enlisted as a private in the Confederation States Army on April 30, 1862. He was in K Company of the 53rd North Carolina Infantry.  His military records provide an interesting fact that he was 5’8” tall. 
Interestingly, the military records of his brother, Franklin West, indicate that Franklin also was of short stature with a height of 5’8”.  As I think back on my father, William Charles West, Jr., and grandfather, William Charles West, Sr., they were not tall.  From photographs I have seen of my great grandfather, Thomas Harvey West was likewise short of stature.
On August 1, 1862, Alexander Balus West was promoted to the rank of corporal.  He was wounded in the Battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863, and was hospitalized through August 1863 in the Wayside Hospital or General Hospital No. 9 in Richmond, Virginia.  He later saw action in Winchester, Virginia, where, at first, he was listed on the muster rolls for September/October and November/December of 1864 as a prisoner of war.  However, the muster roll for January/February 1865 recorded that he was killed in action at Winchester on September 19, 1864.
So many questions come to mind:  Why did so much time lapse before the army knew of his fate?  Was communication so poor or nonexistent that word could not be relayed to the authorities and to his family?  How much time passed before his wife, his son, and his parents learned of his death?  Where is he buried?  No answers.  No closure.  How sad.
I have discovered, however, that Alexander Balus was granted a leave of absence during January and February of 1864. One may only hope that he was able to return home for one last visit during this leave.   Because he must have had a premonition of his imminent death, Alexander Balus West wrote a letter to his young son, who would have been 5 years old at the time.  In his letter dated March 17, 1864, he wrote “these lines for your instruction” in case he should “see you no more.”  He instructed young Thomas’ mother to “keep this for you til you can read it” and if he saw him no more to “receive this as my earnest and prairful advice to you.”    Most likely, he never saw young Thomas again since Alexander was killed six months later at Winchester.  This letter was kept throughout Thomas Harvey West’s life.  One of Thomas’ daughters, Martha Alice West, saved it from his personal belongings.  Before her death, she gave the letter to one of her nieces, Alexander’s great granddaughter.
Alexander Balus West was certainly “a man of faith” and was active in the Lewis Fork Baptist Association in which he served as a delegate.  According to an article by Irene Hendrix Basey[i], he was a licensed Baptist preacher.  I have not completed researching the various documents related to the churches in the Mt. Zion area.  Undoubtedly, I will find additional documentation regarding his religious participation.
One of my many goals as I work through my West family is to find the final resting place of Alexander Balus West.  I only hope that he has not been buried in an unmarked and/or mass grave somewhere in the countryside of Winchester, Virginia.  However, the location of his final resting place may remain unknown.

[i] Basey, Irene Hendrix, “West Family,” Heritage of Wilkes County, 1982.  Mrs. W. O. Absher, ed., Wilkesboro, NC: Wilkes County Genealogical Society, Inc., 1982.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

New Information Added to Sept. 1, 2011, Post

As frequently occurs in research, new information is discovered which lends new “light” to the story.  This past weekend I attended a genealogy workshop.  As I was examining some Wilkes County land abstract books that were for sale at the event, I discovered evidence of another land grant which John Balus West had received in 1835.  The grant was for 100 acres on the Yadkin River.  During my next visit to the court house in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, I plan to locate and copy this land grant.  I have added this additional information to the 4th paragraph of the post, “The West Patriarch:  3rd in a Series, John Balus West.” 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The W. Scott Kerr Dam, Other Wilkes Cemeteries, and the Thomas Clingman West Home Site

In this post I would like to describe more of the places we saw on our trip to Stony Fork and the Mt. Zion Community on Sept. 9, 2011.  In addition, to my husband, Doug, I was with two 4th cousins, JJL and JP, and BL, the husband of JJL.
While we were cruising around the mountain roads in BL’s white pickup truck, our attention was captured by several interesting sites.  First, BL took us to the W. Scott Kerr Dam and Reservoir on the Yadkin River.  The dam is located in the area of Lewis Fork.  Its construction had been opposed by many residents because they feared the loss of land and the changes that would occur in the environment.  However, over the past years the dam has provided important advantages for the area.  It has, first of all, prevented many homes and farms from being flooded.  Furthermore, the lake and the area surrounding the dam are quite beautiful and provide opportunities for recreation for the residents and tourists. The Yadkin River begins from a source in Blowing Rock, North Carolina, and winds its way east for about 100 miles.  It then turns south at East Bend with its name changing to the Pee Dee and continues for about 225 miles where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean.  Stony Fork Creek empties into the Yadkin River and makes it journey to the Atlantic, also. The following multimedia website superbly presents the Yadkin River Story: 
The Yadkin River and Lewis Fork areas are significant to those of us who are descendants of Alexander West I and Alexander Balus West.   Alexander West I lived on the “lower end of bottoms on north side of the Yadkin River” in 1778.  Alexander Balus West and Nancy Land apparently lived in the Lewis Fork area in 1860 since Lewis Fork is given in census documents as their post office.

JJL at Her Parents' Tombstone
Arvil Robert Johnson and Hazel Walker
Walker Family Cemetery

Driving back across the spill-way of the W. Kerr Scott Dam, observing the reservoir on one side with the river valley on the other, we continued our road trip.   Next we stopped at the Walker Family Cemetery at Beaver Creek.  The cemetery is owned and maintained by my 4th cousin, JJL and her husband, BL.  The setting of this cemetery in a private wooded area provides a quiet place for one to reflect as he sits on the concrete bench near the woods.  JJL’s parents, Arvil Robert Johnson and Hazel Walker, and her grandparents, George Hayes Walker and Dicia Albertha “Bertha” West, are buried in the cemetery.  George and Bertha West Walker were also the grandparents of 4th cousin, JP.  Bertha West Walker was the daughter of Thomas Clingman West and Bethania Triplett, and the granddaughter of Franklin W. West and Cynthia Adeline Holder.  Bertha lived to be over 91 years old.  According to her granddaughters, JJL and JP, she remained

JP at the Tombstone of the Grandparents of JP and JJL
George Hayes Walker and Dicia Albertha West
Walker Family Cemetery

active with a good mind until her death.  Many other Walkers are buried in this cemetery.  While I was walking among the tombstones, I recognized other familiar names such as Barlow, Triplett, and McNeil.  Certainly, I must research these individuals to determine if any relationship exists with anyone in my West family.

Tombstone of Thomas Clingman West and
Bethania Triplett
Beaver Creek Baptist Church Cemetery

From this stop, we continued to Beaver Creek Baptist Church where Thomas Clingman West and his wife Bethania Triplett, the great grandparents of JJL and JP, are buried.  JP showed me a photograph of their great grandfather, Thomas Clingman West.  I was astonished to see how much he resembled photographs I have of his 1st cousin, my great grandfather, Thomas Harvey West.  Eventually, in a future blog, I hope to post photographs of both Thomas Clingman West and my great grandfather, Thomas Harvey West. 
From the Beaver Creek Baptist Cemetery, we went to the Triplett-Mt. Zion Cemetery where we found the one and only grave and tombstone of Franklin W. West along with that of his wife Cynthia Adeline Holder.  If you missed the resolution to this mystery of the two tombstones, please see my blog of Sept. 10, “Eating Humble Pie.” 
At some point in this route, we visited the home site of Thomas Clingman West and Bethania Triplett.  The house burned some years ago, and the property appears to be used by its current owners for storing equipment and other items.  I can envision a visitor passing between those two boxwoods and climbing a few steps to the front porch to sit "for a spell" and enjoy a glass of lemonade with the Wests!  In its time, the home and setting must have been beautiful and peaceful with trees and shrubbery adorning the lawn.  In fact, many very large boxwoods and trees remain on the property today as a testimony to those by-gone days.

Site of the Home of Thomas Clingman and Bethania Triplett West

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Thomas Land Family Cemetery

So much to share about our wonderful trip to Stony Fork last week with the cousins!  In this post I want to share some additional information about the Thomas Land Family Cemetery and our encounter with a newly found cousin.
Last September, 2010, I first visited this beautiful valley where so many of my relatives lived and still live from the early beginnings of Wilkes County in 1752 to the present.  At that time I came with two 1st cousins 1X removed and a 2nd cousin.  The elder of these cousins remembered visiting where Thomas Harvey and America Ann McNeil West, his grandparents, had lived on Stony Fork before moving to Banner Elk in 1902.  These cousins helped get me started on this road to discovery that I am currently traveling.
For my most recent visit, on Friday, Sept. 9, 2011, two 4th cousins, who had grown up in the nearby community of Beaver Creek, and I arranged to meet in Wilkesboro.  We toured the countryside together with one cousin’s spouse driving us in his truck.  As we drove along those narrow, winding, country roads, I listened to JJL and JP talk about our mutual ancestors and point out the various locations where they had lived and were buried.  I tried to absorb as much as I could but now realize that I had missed or have forgotten a great deal of what I had heard since I didn’t have the prior knowledge to make that permanent connection.  
I greatly appreciate the hospitality and friendship of all of these cousins.  Without them, I would not have known where to go or how to find answers to my questions as I travel my personal road seeking knowledge of the past.
While searching for the West family grave plot on that first visit in September 2010, one of my 1st cousins 1X removed and I talked with a man who was parking his tractor in an abandoned chicken barn.  He was able to point out the cemetery which was on a small knoll down the road behind a barn and corral west of the chicken barn.  During this recent visit last week with my 4th cousins, we noticed a man working on the farm across the road from the Mt. Zion Baptist Church.  We drove down the driveway toward the house to inquire about another cemetery which BL thought was nearby.
The man acknowledged the existence of another nearby cemetery which was adjacent to the property on which he was working and across the road from Mt. Zion Baptist Church. He indicated that the stones in the cemetery had deteriorated to mere rocks with only one name, that being the name White, visible on a stone.  A small grove of trees overshadowed those forgotten graves where a church had once stood.  Supposedly, a group of worshippers separated from the Advent Baptist Church where the Triplett-Mt. Zion Cemetery is located and built a church on land the where this forgotten cemetery lies.  Later, after the church burned, the “new” Mt. Zion Baptist Church on Mt. Zion Road was erected diagonally across the road.
Surprisingly, this man with whom we spoke was the same one with whom my 1st cousin 1X removed and I had spoken on my 2010 visit.  Initially, I didn’t recognize him, but he remembered me and the conversation my cousin and I had with him a year ago.   As we talked, another surprising fact emerged:  he is a grandson, perhaps the 2nd great grandson, of William Hamilton Barnett and our 2nd great grand aunt, Mary Ann West.  For those of you following the genealogy, Mary Ann West was the daughter of John Balus West and Mary Ann “Polly” Swanson and a sister of Alexander Balus West and Franklin West.  According to my calculations, Mr. Barnett would a 3rd cousin 1X removed to my 4th cousins and me.  I regret that I did not ask his first name.  He appeared to have some knowledge of and interest in his ancestors.  I left my contact information; hopefully, he will contact me.  My belief that I am related to many people in Wilkes County continues to be reinforced as I have had and continue to have many encounters with them in person or through e-mail.

Thomas Land Family Cemetery
The Way It Looks Now

And now back to my topic, the Thomas Land Cemetery.  In my last post, I discussed my meeting with the man operating the Tuscarora Ranch where the cemetery is located.  Through research and mostly though contact with another cousin, George F. McNeil, a 5th cousin 1X removed, I learned that the cemetery is known as the Thomas Land Family Cemetery.  When Mr. McNeil and his wife verified the cemetery, which, I think, must have been in 1989, they identified 8 marked graves and about 10 unmarked graves in the 75X50 foot plot.  At that time the land was owned by the G. W. Wellborn heirs.  The McNeils commented in their report that “Cattle have turned over all stones.  Cemetery is overgrown with high grass.  Additional markers may be found by probing.”   They also indicated that the plot was not easily identifiable.  George F. and Joyce D. McNeil identified the following graves:
·         Jane Carlton Land (15 Apr 1793 – 15 Mar 1865), spouse of Thomas Land
·         T. C. “Tommy” Land (18 Mar 1828 – 30 Nov 1912)
·         Thomas Land (13 Sep 1788 – 9 Jul 1871), spouse of Jane Carlton
·         Jim Pennell
·         A 1y 8m Robinett infant (28 Dec 1909 – 31 Dec 1909), child of R. Zeb  Robinett and Molly E. Land
·         A. J. West (29 Jan 1884  - 3 Apr 1884), child of Thomas Harvey West and America Anne McNeill
·         Willard A. West (13 Feb 1889 – date of death gone, tombstone broken), child of Thomas Harvey West and America Anne McNeill[i]
The McNeils also listed Molly Land Robinett as being buried in the plot.  However, they did not find a grave/tombstone but had been told by family members that she was buried in the plot near her infant child.  Molly was the daughter of J. C. and Nannie Land and the wife of R. Zeb Robinett.[ii]

Thomas Land Family Cemetery
The Way It Looked Years Ago
(Thanks to G. Land for the Photograph)

At this point, I would like to recognize the work of George F. McNeil and his late wife, Joyce D. McNeil. They have done extensive work compiling abstracts of documents and data bases of cemeteries in the Wilkes County area.  Their works are widely published and found in many libraries.  Mr. and Mrs. McNeil have provided an outstanding service to those of us who are searching for information about our past.
As I related in my post of July 27, 2011, “The Cemetery,” according to my 1st cousin 1X removed, CALT, her mother, who was my grand aunt, Flora West Lowe, along with Flora’s niece, Edna Triplett Coder, cleaned up the cemetery and installed the split rail fence around it.  They did this sometime before Aunt Flora’s death in 1993.
My desire is that this ancestral cemetery, which dates back to the first burial in 1865, be preserved and maintained. 
Again, may I express my thanks to those cousins and spouse (FL, CALT, NLS, and AML) who took me on that first journey to Stony Fork and to those 4th cousins and spouse (JJL, JP, and BL) for our recent excursion there.  Thanks to George F. McNeil for his assistance and information.  Lastly, but not least, I must thank my patient husband, Doug, who endures those long hours he spends with me in court houses and libraries and the many jaunts he takes with me across the mountains and through the valleys of western North Carolina as we make these trips.

[i] McNeil, George F. and Joyce D. McNeil. “Wilkes County Database.” Wilkesboro, NC, 2009.
[ii] McNeil, George F. Letter to Charlotte West Dade, July 27, 2011.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Tuscarora Ranch: A New Beginning for the Ancestral Land

Buildings, Barns, and Silos
on the Ranch
Sept. 2011

During my trips to the Stony Fork/Mt. Zion Community of Wilkes County, I have been stunned with the beauty of the countryside which is nestled between two mountain ridges in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  As we have driven along Mt. Zion Road, the county road that parallels Stony Fork Creek, I have noticed the handsome brown rail fences along parts of the land and indeed, even around the location where my great grandparents lived for many years before moving to Banner Elk.  In addition, to these fences, various barns, sheds, pavilions, silos, and the like are scattered among the fields.  All of the structures have a commonality, a common personality, which gives the impression that they are part of something bigger.

Of course, I have been aware that much of the land was purchased from the local landowners as they or their heirs sold off their farms.  As I have mentioned in a previous blog, the Mingo Tribal Preservation Trust, which owns about 5,000 acres in the area, apparently purchased much of the land as it became available. 
Land Family Cemetery
Upper Right of Fence
Sept. 2010
Also, in previous blogs I have cited the family cemetery plot, the Thomas Land Family Cemetery, on the land owned by this trust.  I definitely have an interest in this cemetery, since, in addition to having West ancestors who lived on the land, I have Land, Carlton, McNeil, and Barlow ancestors who lived and farmed there.  My 3rd great grandparents, William Thomas Land and Nancy Jane Carlton Land along with two grand uncles, A. Judson West and Willard A. West, who died at young ages, are buried in this plot.   These young children were the great grandchildren of William Thomas and Nancy Land.  My desire is to provide some maintenance of the cemetery on a yearly basis and repair the fence around it. I live too far away (over 100 miles) to do much more.

On my recent visit this past week on Friday, September 9, with the help of BL, the husband of my 4th cousin, who was transporting us in his truck, I was able to meet someone at the Tuscarora Ranch.  Initially, BL drove down the drive from Mt. Zion Road toward the barn so that we could visit the family plot which is located just behind the barn on a small knoll.  As he was driving toward the barn, he noticed a couple of men working in the corral area.  Therefore, he continued through the gates of the corral so that I could speak with the men. 
As I was getting out of the truck, a young man who was working in the barn immediately came out to meet me.  He greeted us in a most friendly manner and introduced himself as Nathan Winebarger.  Mr. Winebarger, as it turned out, is leasing the land where the family plot is located and operating the Tuscarora Ranch.  My husband, Doug, and I found him to be very friendly, gracious, and courteous.  He listened with interest as I explained my mission and indicated that he, as the leasee, had no problem with our cleaning up the plot and repairing the fence.  We enjoyed meeting Nathan, and both of us left with a very positive impression of him and what he is doing with the land.
JJL Walking Along the Front
of the Cemetery Inspecting
Its Overgrowth
Sept. 2011

During a brief visit to the family plot, we continued to be amazed at the thickness of the overgrowth and the deteriorating condition of the fence around the plot.  The crushed grass pathways within the enclosure indicate that animals, more than likely wild animals, are grazing there.  My cousins, JJL, BL, and JP, whom we met for the first time on Friday, hiked up the knoll to the plot with us and helped us evaluate the situation.  They have volunteered to help with cleaning up the plot when we do it in the spring.  We have been told to wait until the snakes are hibernating and the spiders are gone or at least, inactive before we venture into that thick growth.  Also, by March, the growth will be beaten down by the winter weather.  Hopefully, I can enlist other West and Land relatives to help with this project.
Old Mt. Zion Post Office
Sept. 2011
As we drove away in BL’s truck, I felt a sense of comfort knowing that the current use of the land as a rural attraction and the maintenance of it in a natural state of farm and pasture land will be most beneficial to the area and to the preservation of the beautiful pastoral setting.  The buildings and fences that have been erected enhance the pastoral setting.   In fact, the old post office is on Mt. Zion Road across from the land where the West “home place” had been.  I don’t know if the post office has always been in that location or if it has been moved.  I am inclined to believe that it is in its original location.  The sign over the door, a remnant of its past, indicates that it had been the Mt. Zion Post Office.  According to the Tuscarora website, this old post office is now used as the bunk house.  From its appearance, the building is in good repair and still retains its original character. 
I encourage you to look at the web site ( and see the natural beauty of the land as it is presented by the Tuscarora Ranch.  Indeed, this ancestral land of those early settlers, the forbearers of many of us descendants, is experiencing a new beginning.

Site of Former Farm House
of the Thomas Harvey West Family
Sept. 2010 

Mailbox at the Edge
of the Lawn on
Mt. Zion Road
Sept. 2011

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Eating Humble Pie: The Resolution of the Franklin West Tombstone Mystery!

“Eating humble pie!”  That’s what I’m eating.  Well, I was wrong!  And, I admit that I was wrong and am, indeed, eating my humble pie.  Previously, I mentioned the “mystery” of the two tombstones belonging to Franklin West, each in separate cemeteries.  Now I must inform you that he has ONLY one tombstone which is in the cemetery called Triplett-Mt. Zion Cemetery just a few miles from the cemetery at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in the Ferguson-Stony Fork communities of Wilkes County.
Last September (2010), I made my first visit to the Stony Fork area of Wilkes County where my 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th great grandparents had lived.  During this fast-paced, whirl-wind trip with three of my cousins, we drove around the countryside and, as well as I could recall, had stopped at only two cemeteries, one of which was the Mt. Zion Baptist Church Cemetery.  The other one, which we thought was the private West Family Cemetery, I recently discovered was the private Land Family Cemetery.  I photographed my 2nd great grand uncle’s grave, Franklin West’s, at what I thought was Mt. Zion Baptist Church.  In order to document the location, with a separate photograph, I photographed the church. 
Recently, fourth cousin, JJL, visited the cemeteries and photographed her 3rd great grandfather’s (Franklin’s) grave at Triplett-Mt. Zion Cemetery.  When we compared the photographs in our e-mails, we realized that they looked exactly the same with the same cracks and discolorations even though they were supposedly taken at different cemeteries. 
Of course, I was convinced that I had photographed that tombstone at the Mt. Zion Baptist Church Cemetery, and I even had a photograph of the church to go with it. Also, I was convinced that we had not visited another public cemetery that day.  My husband, Doug, who accompanied me on the trip, remembers visiting only one public or church cemetery.  The fact that Franklin West is listed in the Internet website, Find-a-Grave, as being buried in the Mt. Zion Baptist Church Cemetery provided additional credence to my beliefs.
Throughout all of the confusion, which seemed to be a science fiction encounter, I never doubted JJL’s photograph or her findings. And, bless her heart, she never appeared to doubt mine.  I was ready to return to Stony Fork to try to solve this mystery.  JJL and I agreed to meet there and work on the solution together. 
Finally, we decided to make the trip to Stony Fork which was a 2 hour drive for her and a 2.5 hour drive for me.  Since we had become good Internet friends over the past couple of months, I was extremely excited to meet JJL, my 4th cousin, and spend time we her.  Yesterday, we met at McDonald’s in Wilkesboro and then drove to the Beaver Creek community and the Stony Fork area.
Charlotte and JJL at Franklin's Tombstone
Triplett-Mt. Zion Cemetery
First, we visited the Walker Family Cemetery and then drove farther down the road to the Triplett-Mt. Zion Cemetery where we did, indeed, find the graves and tombstones of Franklin West and his wife, Cynthia Holder West.  JJL and I purposely had our photographs taken together at Franklin’s tombstone since, of course, I was convinced that we would find another one for Franklin a short distance down the road at the Mt. Zion Baptist Church Cemetery where I thought we could again be photographed together at his second tombstone for documentation purposes.  
Our next stop was Mt. Zion Baptist Church Cemetery, where, to my dismay and chagrin, we did not find another tombstone for Franklin.  As I looked throughout this cemetery, searching for it, I became suddenly aware that it was not there.  How embarrassed I was, certainly, with “egg on my face.”
As I looked at the perimeter and terrain of the cemetery and the newer stones in it, and as I recalled the photographs that I had taken last year, I came to realize that I had visited the Triplett-Mt. Zion Cemetery on that day a year ago and had taken the photograph of Franklin’s tombstone at that location.
Thanks to those of you with whom I have shared this confusion and who were tolerant of my point of view.  For me, the mystery surrounding the possibility of two tombstones for Franklin was like a plot in a science fiction novel.  I was only confused and, as much as I dislike admitting, forgetful.
Yesterday, however, Doug and I had a wonderful day meeting two of my 4th cousins, JJL and JP who are descendants of Franklin West and Mary Ann “Polly” Swanson West and their son, Thomas Clingman West, and his wife, Bethania Triplett.  Touring the country side with them and JJL’s husband and learning more about our common ancestors were productive and enjoyable experiences.  Our delightful day ended with barbeque and gourmet ice cream at a locally-owned barbeque restaurant in Wilkesboro.  I was able to top off my “humble pie” with two scoops of delicious cherry ice cream, my favorite!  Thanks, JJL, BL, and JP.

Finally, I learned much more regarding the Thomas Land Family Cemetery about which I will share in another post. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Revisions, Additions, Etc., to My Posts

I am constantly discovering new information that I would like to add to previous posts or changes or corrections that I need to make in them.  Therefore, in order to keep you, my readers/followers, up-to-date and informed of these changes, I will post a note such as this to let you know of any changes I have made in previous posts.
This week I added another “Alexander” to the lists of those charted in my August 16, 2011, post, “Using Naming Patterns as a Discovery Tool.”
Also, with the upgrades being made to, the comment box was temporarily omitted.  I noticed today that the box has been reinstated.  Please use it to add your comments concerning my posts.  If you would rather not “go public” with your comments, please e-mail them to me.  Most of you who are following this blog have my personal e-mail address.  I look forward to hearing from you. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Puzzlin' Cuzins

Consanguinity!  What’s that?  Consanguinity refers to the state of all of us who are descended from a common ancestor and are, thusly, related by blood.
Who Are Those Lineal Cousins?
Lineal family members and in this case, cousins, include those who are in a direct, straight-line of descent.
1st cousins have at least one of the same grandparents.  They are children of one’s aunts and uncles.
2nd cousins share at least one of the same great grandparents.
3rd cousins share at least one of the same great, great grandparents.
4th cousins share at least one of the same great, great, great grandparents.
5th etc.

Who Are Those Collateral Cousins?
Collateral family members include brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, first cousins, second cousins, etc.  They also include those cousins who are labeled as “removed.”
Who are Those Removed Cousins?
The term “removed” indicates that the two cousins are from different generations.  Once removed indicates a difference of one generation. Twice removed indicates a difference of two generations, etc.

The child of a first cousin is one’s first cousin 1X removed or once removed because that child is one generation away from being a first cousin.  The grandchild of one’s first cousin is one’s first cousin 2X removed or twice removed because he is two generations away from being one’s first cousin.

Many confuse these labels.  A first cousin 1X removed or once removed is not the same relationship as a second cousin.

In other words, full cousins descend from a common ancestor and are of the same generation. Those cousins that are removed descend from a common ancestor but are not of the same generation or, in more common terms, are not on the same level of descent.

Half Cousins – Some individuals consider some “cousins” to be “half-cousins.”  Apparently, there is some disagreement among those who specialize in such genealogical terminology. Those who are proponents of the concept describe this “half-cousin” relationship as being when two individuals descend from a common ancestor but from a different spouse of that ancestor.
Dear followers, have I just confused you even more?  Various charts and tables are available on-line to help you easily sort out these consanguineous puzzlin’ cuzins.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The West Patriarchs: 3rd in a Series, John Balus West

John Balus West was the first child and only son of John West and Margaret “Peggy” Witherspoon.  Various census records indicate that he was born between 1795 and 1798 in South Carolina. The only documentations found for the year and location of his birth are those given in the North Carolina census records.  Since his name was written on land records as “Balus” West, his friends and family must have called him by that name. I have always been puzzled by that name, Balus.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, the name is spelled several different ways.  I use the spelling, Balus, which is one spelling most commonly found on the latest court documents.  Where did the name come from?  Was it a surname of a maternal grandmother?  However, I have found no evidence that it was a maternal grandmother’s surname.  The best explanation is that provided by Irene Hendrix Basey.  Mrs. Basey indicated that he was probably named for a prominent figure, John Baylis Earle, in the Greenville District of South Carolina, which is now Greenville County, South Carolina.  Mrs. Basey said that John Baylis Earle’s “local popularity was such that numerous male infants were named for him.”  She continued that the name “still occurs with some frequency in that part of South Carolina.”[i]
John Balus West’s father, John West, died while the family was living in South Carolina.  His mother, Peggy, returned to Wilkes County, North Carolina, with her three young children.  Peggy West is found in the 1810 Wilkes County Census with these children: 1 FWM of 10 and under 16, 1 FWF of 10 and under 16, and 1 FWF under 10.  The head of the household was Peggy West (1 FWF of 45 and over).  Other than some of the census records listing John Balus West as born in South Carolina (1850 census) and his sister, Melinda, as born in South Carolina (1880 census), no other documentation for this family having lived in South Carolina has been discovered at this time.
John Balus West married Mary Ann “Polly” Swanson on August 21, 1818, in Wilkes County, North Carolina.  Mary Ann was the daughter of William Swanson and Elizabeth Stations.  She was born about 1799 in Mount Zion, Wilkes County and died after 1880 in Mt. Zion, Wilkes County.  She was noted in the 1880 census as living with her son Franklin West but was not listed again in the 1890 census.  John Balus West died on July 20, 1871 in Mount Zion, Wilkes County.  At this point in time, no burial site can be found for John Balus and Mary Ann.  Again, how sad, it is when no evidence exists of one’s remains.
According to John Foster West[ii] and Mrs. Basey, John Balus and Mary Ann Swanson West continued to live for several years in the same section between Elkville and Ferguson of Wilkes County where Balus had grown up.  According to land records that I have researched and documented, in 1835 John Balus purchased 200 acres of land from John B. Ferguson on the waters of Stony Fork and Mason’s Branch. In 1842 he received a land grant for 50 acres on the waters of Redy Branch.  His sons Franklin and A. B. West served as chain carriers – those who carried the heavy metal chains, which were about 66 feet or 4 poles, used to measure the land.  In 1847, he received another land grant for 30 acres on Stony Fork for which he paid $5.00 per hundred acres.  In 1855 with another land grant he received 86 acres on the waters of Stony Fork.  In 1860 he purchased 73 acres from A. M. Foster on the waters of Naked Creek.  Recently, I found an abstract which indicates that John Balus received a land grant for 100 acres on the Yadkins River as early as 1832.  This, perhaps, was in the vicinity of Lewis Fork. With about 560 acres of land, I would assume that John Balus West could be considered a somewhat, well-to-do farmer in his time.  He was relatively uneducated according to “schooling” as was evident by the “X” that he made for his name on legal documents.  The fact that he could not read or write may be the reason for the various spellings of his name.
In 1847 John Balus sold 230 acres on the waters of Stony Fork for $300 to his second son, Alexander Balus West.  Then in 1860, he sold 86 acres on Mason’s Branch for $86 to his eldest son, Franklin W. West.
John Balus and Mary Ann “Polly” had nine children:
·         Franklin W. West (born bet. 1818 and 1820- died 1897) who married Cynthia Adeline   Holder;
·         Margaret “Peggy” West (1828 -?) who married Wilson Hendrix;
·         Alexander Balus West (1828-1864) who married Nancy Land;
·         William Thomas Jefferson West (1830-1863) who married Nancy West, his third cousin, the daughter of Thomas Jefferson West and Elizabeth McCrary of Caldwell County[iii];
·         Melinda “Linda” West (1832-1919) who married Tom Cox;
·         Elizabeth West (1835- bef 1850);
·         Mary Ann “Ann” West (1837-1917) who married William Hamilton Barnett;
·         John Witherspoon West (1840-1915) who married Catherine West, his third cousin, the daughter of Thomas Jefferson West and Elizabeth McCrary of Caldwell County[iv]; and
·         Lucy West (1842-?).

Franklin West’s tombstone(s) reflect(s) the inscription of 1818 for his birth year.  However, census records indicate that he was probably born in 1819 or 1820.  His parents married on August 21, 1818. The mystery surrounding his tombstone(s) will be a saga for another post.

No records can be found for Elizabeth West. Her birth date is undocumented, and she is not found in any census records in which the names of the family members are provided.  The first census which included names of household members was the 1850 census; she was not listed in that census.  However, Lucy who was born in 1842 or 1843 was included in the 1850 census as being 7 years old.  No other evidence of Lucy exists; she would have been 17 by the 1860 census and might have been married by that time.

Sadly, for this family two of their sons were killed in the Civil War fighting with the Confederate States of America.  William Thomas Jefferson West was killed at Petersburg, Virginia, in 1863, and Alexander Balus West, my 2nd great grandfather, was killed at Winchester, Virginia, in 1864.  Franklin West, who would have been about 40 or 41 years old in 1861, too old to serve in the regular army, served in the North Carolina Senior Reserves.  John Witherspoon West was of an age to serve with his brothers but was not eligible because of a crippled hand.[v]
John Balus and Mary Ann “Polly” Swanson West left a quite a legacy with many descendants, many of whom still reside in Wilkes and neighboring North Carolina counties.  I have been so fortunate to have made contact with several of these cousins, my “Internet cousins,” descended from our common ancestors, Alexander West I, John West/Margaret “Peggy” Witherspoon, and John Balus West/Mary Ann “Polly” Swanson.  These Internet cousins are my second, third, fourth and sixth cousins with some being one or two times removed. I haven’t yet discovered any fifth Internet cousins. I have actually spoken with a few of them on the telephone but have never yet met any of them in person.  However, I am excited about meeting a fourth Internet cousin in the near future!  I truly appreciate and enjoy my contacts with them and thank them for the assistance that they have given me in my ancestral quest for our West ancestors.

[i] Dunn, Linda Basey, Nov. 2, 2010,        
[ii] West, John Foster, “History of the West Family,” Journal-Patriot of North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Nov. 8,
[iii] Thomas Jefferson West was the son of Alexander West II and Hannah Langley and the brother of John West who
   was John Balus West’s father.
[iv] Ibid.
[v] West, John Foster, “History of the West Family,” Journal-Patriot of North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. Nov. 8,