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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Are You Related to a Famous North Carolina Author?

Did you know that you may be related to one or more famous North Carolina authors?  That’s right!  If you are a descendant of the William Thomas Land family, the Larkin McNeil family, or the Alexander West I family of North Carolina, you need to read this blog.  In the next few posts, I plan to explore with my readers those authors with whom I am familiar. 
Originally, I planned to write in one blog post about the four that I have specifically identified. Those of you who follow me know how “long-winded” I am.   My husband and daughter tell me that I need to make my posts shorter!  As I began to write about these men, I realized that such a blog post would be entirely too long, even according to my standards.   Therefore, I have decided to write about them in separate posts. 
Just to give you a “heads-up,” I will be writing about Thomas Charles Land, the author of “The Ballad of Tom Dula,” James Larkin Pearson, the second Poet Laureate of North Carolina, John Foster West, the author and college professor, and George Franklin McNeil, the compiler and publisher of abstracts and indexes of North Carolina documents.
So...stay tuned!
(P.S. Thanks to all of you who are following this blog.  Since June 30 when I began the blog, I have had 1000 hits!  Again, I would like to hear from you.)

Monday, November 21, 2011

John Foster’s Letter

Last week I received a very nice letter from John Foster, 3rd cousin 1X removed, who lives in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.  His letter was in response to my request for information from the Mount Zion Baptist Church regarding the Wests of Stony Fork.  In his letter he provided some interesting and revealing information.
In regard to the Triplett-Mt. Zion Cemetery, I was aware that Franklin West (son of John Balus West/Mary Ann “Polly” Swanson) and his wife, Cynthia Holder, and Mary Ann West (daughter of John Balus and Mary Ann West) and her husband, William Hamilton Barnett, are buried in that cemetery.  In addition, he indicated that John Balus West and Mary Ann Swanson West are buried there, also.  I have never been able to determine where they had been laid to rest and feared that their graves had been destroyed.  When I was at Triplett-Mt. Zion Cemetery in September, I must have overlooked them.  John Foster said that Franklin and Cynthia West’s daughters, Martha Caroline West and her husband, Tom Watson, and Sarah E. West, are buried in that cemetery, also.  In fact, he stated that all of these graves are in the same row.  John West mentioned that Carolyn West had planted the bush that appears to be a “snowball” bush near her parents’ tombstones.
According to Foster, a young man, Hamilton Barnett, was living with Alexander Balus and Nancy Land West and was “bonded” to them.  When Alexander Balus left for the Civil War, Hamilton Barnett, at the age of 15, went with him.  His military records indicate that he was 16 when he enlisted.  He survived the war and returned to marry Alexander Balus’ sister, Mary Ann West.  According to documentation Mary Ann was about 16 years older than Hamilton.  William Hamilton Barnett and Mary Ann West were the great grandparents of John Foster.  Their son, Gaither Barnett, was his grandfather.
According to my 1st cousin 1X removed, FL, who is the grandson of Thomas Harvey and America McNeil West, Thomas Harvey and America traded farms with the Wellborn family.  According to Mr. Foster, they traded homes with the Norman family who were “timber men.”  The Normans moved into the log house where the Wests had lived, and the Wests moved to Banner Elk.  Mr. Foster said that the Normans later sold the property to John and Ellen Barnett Eller and that the Eller grandchildren still own the land.
In his letter, John Foster stated that the Lands sold their property to Green and Nell Cowr/Couers Wilborn.  [I could not decipher Nell’s maiden name.]  Mrs. Nell Wilborn was from Banner Elk.  According to Foster, Green and Nell Wilborn lived in the Land house until they died.  It burned after their deaths.
A little on-line research in enabled me to find the Wellborns whom John Foster mentioned in his letter.  Most likely, they were Green Dixson Wellborn and Nellie May Culver.  He was born in 1882 in North Carolina and died in 1960.  She was born in 1889 in Watauga County, North Carolina.  Banner Elk was in Watauga County at that time.  She died in 1986 in Wilkes County.  They were married in 1907 which was five years after the Wests traded farms and moved from Stony Fork to Banner Elk.  According to this data, perhaps, the Wests did not trade homes with the Wellborns but with another family.    
John Foster listed the children of John Balus West and Mary Ann Swanson.  Most of this information I already had and have included in my blog “The West Patriarchs:  3rd in a Series, John Balus West” which was posted on September 1, 2011.  However, I learned from his letter that Elizabeth West’s husband was Henry Hamby.  Foster also said that John Balus and Mary Ann had a son named Lowery who, in addition to two other sons, was killed in the Civil War.  I had previously seen Lowery’s name in the 1860 Census. He was 16 years old and was listed as a farm laborer.  Since he had not been counted with the family in the 1850 Census, I assumed that he was a hired worker.  Foster did not mention their daughter, Lucy, in his letter.
I assume that Mr. Foster must be quite elderly but with excellent memory.  I truly appreciate his taking the time and effort to pen his note to me.  He indicated that he couldn’t write which, I assume, means that writing was difficult for him.  He is one individual I would certainly like to visit.  If only winter weather weren’t upon us, my husband and I would make that two-hour trip back on those winding mountain roads through the “high country” to Stony Fork!
Mr. Foster has certainly given me “food for thought” and questions to resolve. I want to know more about the family with whom the Wests traded their Stony Fork land for the Banner Elk land.  Was it the Wellborns, or was it the Normans? I want to know who really lived on that home site across from the old Mount Zion Post Office just east of where Mt. Zion Road forks into Stony Fork Road and Lee Mountain Road.  Was it the Thomas Harvey West family, or was it the William Thomas Land family?  I want to know where the log house is that, Foster said, the Wests lived in and the Eller grandchildren currently own.
If anyone of my readers has answers to these questions, please help me!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

DNA Tests – Great Discounts Currently Available

Presently, Family Tree DNA is offering discounted prices on its DNA test for males and females. The offer is available through the end of the year.  If you are a male or female West descendant, you may log into the site for the West Project at and learn about these tests and the discounted costs for them.

DNA tests for males and females provide different information.  For genealogical purposes, the Y-DNA37 test is recommended for males.  Matches among males in the Y-DNA test are highly likely to be related within the past 8 generations.  The test provides genealogically relevant matches and recent ancestral origins and helps to confirm a genealogical relationship with another male.  Unfortunately, females do not possess the “Y” chromosome and cannot participate in the Y-DNA37 test. 

However, both males and females can be evaluated with the Family Finder DNA test which is the one most often recommended for females.  Even though the information obtained by the Family Finder test is different from that obtained with the male Y-DNA37, the results will reveal matches that are related within about the last 5 generations.  In addition, Family Finder will provide percentages of the ancestral make-up including Native American and will help confirm close relationships regardless of gender.

A male with the West surname (who is the biological son of a male with the West surname) participating in the Y-DNA37 test can trace his West male lineage back about 8 generations.  The results from this DNA assessment will connect his paternal line.  This is the reason that the Y-DNA37 test is so significant for males.

A need exists for West males and females to participate in DNA studies in order to provide Wests from our lineage for comparative purposes.  If you are a male or female descendant of Alexander West II or John West, please consider participating in the West DNA Project through Family Tree DNA.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The West Patriarchs: 5th in a Series, Thomas Harvey West

As I continue to write about the West Patriarchs, I am getting closer to “home” in regard to my most recent ancestors.  Thomas Harvey West, my great grandfather, was born in Wilkes County, most likely at Stony Fork, in 1858. He was the only son of Alexander Balus West and Nancy Land West and was born to them 7½ years after they were married.  According to census records, he was apparently called “Harvey.”
Concerning census records—I find them very revealing.  According to the 1900 Census, Nancy Land was recorded as having nine children with only one living. I have carefully scrutinized the original document and compared the way in which the enumerator wrote his figures.  The numeral indicating Nancy’s children definitely appears to be a nine. The number for those living is a one.  After researching the questions that were asked for this census, she would have been asked how many children she had and how many were still living.  Therefore, this data would indicate that she had nine actual births with only one living child. Nancy and Alexander Balus were married 13 years before his death.
Thomas Harvey’s father joined the Confederate Army when Thomas Harvey was 3½ years old and was killed in action just before young Thomas Harvey celebrated his sixth birthday.  Therefore, one may speculate that Thomas Harvey hardly knew his father.  In a previous posting I described the poignant letter penned by Alexander Balus in March of 1864 prior to his death in September.  The letter was addressed to his son, Thomas Harvey.  From that letter one can easily discern the apprehensions and fears that Alexander Balus was experiencing.   His sense of urgency in providing his son with some fatherly guidance, some written advice for his life, was quite clear. 
At the time of Alexander Balus’ death, Nancy and Thomas Harvey lived in the Upper Division of Wilkes County in the Lewis Fork area where they had lived since 1851.  Their property was near that of Alexander Balus’ father, John Balus West.  In fact, Alexander Balus had purchased land from his father in 1857.  According to census records, Alexander Balus and Nancy were living on the south fork of Stony Fork in 1851 which was most likely in the Lewis Fork area and which was most likely the same land on which they lived when they were first married.  I have discovered that areas remain the same but the names designating them change.  When Alexander Balus was killed, he and Nancy owned approximately 135 acres of land in the area.
Not only did they live near Alexander Balus’ parents, John Balus and Mary Ann Swanson West, and his brothers, William Thomas Jefferson West and John Witherspoon West, but also they lived near Nancy’s family, the Lands and the Carltons, all of whom lived in the Upper Division of Wilkes County.  In addition, Swanson families, who may have been relatives of Alexander Balus’ mother, Mary Ann “Polly” Swanson, lived in the Upper Division.  Therefore, family members who could lend support and comfort to Nancy and Thomas Harvey were abundant.
In fact, CALT, my 1st cousin 1X removed, said that Nancy Land West’s brothers were significant role models for young Thomas Harvey as he was growing up.  The 1870 Census indicates that Nancy and Thomas Harvey were living in the household of her brother, James C. Land, in Elk Township of Wilkes, North Carolina, which was designated as the Upper Division in earlier records.  In addition to Nancy and Thomas Harvey’s living with James C. Land, Nancy’s father, Thomas Land, was living in the household during that same enumeration period.  
Twelve years after her husband’s death, Nancy Land West began purchasing property in the Stony Fork area.  In February of 1876, she bought 120 acres adjacent to the Lands’ line and Franklin West’s line.  In August of 1876, she purchased 24 acres on Buck Branch which ran up Stony Fork Creek to Thomas Land’s line.  In July of 1879, James C. Land and wife Nannie, and Thomas C. Land sold 56 acres on Stony Creek to Nancy Land.  In February of 1884 she purchased 50 additional acres in the area.  By 1884 Nancy Land West owned approximately 385 acres on Stony Fork.  Even though North Carolina began issuing pensions for widows of Confederate soldiers from its state in 1857, I can find no records indicating that Nancy West received a widow’s pension.  How did she fund these land purchases?  Certainly not as a widow who was living off the farm.  Perhaps, instead of inheriting land, she received a monetary inheritance from the estate of her father who died in 1871 and used this money to buy land.  She was surely thinking about an inheritance for her son, Thomas Harvey.   
In the 1880 Census, Nancy Land West is listed as the head of the household in Elk Township of Wilkes County with Thomas Harvey living with her.  Again, they were residing near relatives.  Her brother, James C. Land, lived two dwellings away; her brother-in-law, Franklin West, lived eight dwellings away; and her first cousin-in-law, Thomas Clingman West, lived nine dwellings away. 
In May 1885 she sold 120 acres on Buck Branch of Stony Fork to Thomas Harvey, her son.  The land was adjacent to property belonging to the Lands, the Waters, Franklin West, and the Tripletts.
Unfortunately, the 1890 Federal Census records were destroyed in a fire in 1921.  Therefore, I do not have that source for “reading between the lines” in the lives of Nancy and Thomas Harvey during the ten-year period which was included in that census.
On January 5, 1882, Thomas Harvey West and America Ann McNeil were married in Wilkes County.  She was 18, and he was 23.  In all likelihood, they had known each other all of their lives since the McNeils and Wests lived in Upper Wilkes County. 
Furthermore, they likely attended Mount Zion Baptist Church while they were growing up.  Many of my Wilkes County ancestors including the Wests, the Lands, the McNeils, and the Carltons are cited multiple times in the church’s records between 1849 and 1896.  T. H. West and A. A. West were elected deacon and co-sponsors.  In 1889, T. H. West was elected trustee.
Thomas Harvey and America continued to live on their Stony Fork farm until 1902.  They had 13 children, 12 of whom were born, presumably, on the farm at Stony Fork.  The thirteenth child, Viola N. West, was born after they moved to Banner Elk, North Carolina. 
The descendants of Thomas Harvey and America Ann McNeil West are many.  I have included in the table below the information that I currently have in my files regarding their descendants.  All of their children are deceased.  I have not provided names of any grandchildren who are still living in order to protect their privacy.  I would certainly appreciate any additional information that anyone may have and any corrections that should be made.  Please contact me through this blog or my personal e-mail if any of my readers wish to add information or make corrections.
Descendants of Thomas Harvey West and America Ann McNeil

Grand Children
Great Grandchildren*
2nd  Great Grandchildren*
3rd  Great Grandchildren*
Nannie Lou West
Cornelius Mai Triplett
John H.Triplett,
Edna B. Triplett,
J. Fred Triplett
A. Judson West
Martha Alice West
Milton McNeil West
Myrtle Triplett
Maxine Triplett West,
Marie Doris West
1 granddaughter
1 grandson
William Charles West
Ada Beatrice McQueen
William Charles West,
Alzenia Helen West,
Living Female West
2 granddaughters
3 grandsons
4 gr. granddaughters
2 gr.  grandsons
1 2nd  granddaughter
7 2nd gr. grandsons
Rosa Belle West
David Sidney Jones,
Frank Butner
Sallie Jane West
Robert Leonard West
Margaret Clyde Lowrance
Robert Leonard West,
Herbert Milton West,
Living Male West,
Dorothy Jean West,
Max Kenneth West,
Living Male West
3 granddaughters
6 grandsons
Ethel Elizabeth West
Charles Durwood Graham
Living Male Graham,
Living Female Graham,
Living Male Graham
Willard A. West
1899-bef 1903
Flora Annie West
Leo Lawrence Lowe
June Lowe,
Living Male Lowe,
Living Female Lowe,
Living Male Lowe,
Living Male Lowe,
Living Male Lowe,
Living Female Lowe
5 granddaughters
5 grandsons
Guy Harvey West
Mary Ann Trivette
Guy Harvey West,
Living Male West,
Living Male West,
Living Male West,
Living Female West
Viola N. West

*Inadequate information available
Two of these children, A. Judson West and Willard A. West, are buried across the road from the home place in the Thomas Land Family Cemetery on land that had once belonged, most likely, to the Land family.
Harvey and America West's two-story, white farmhouse
was likely located at this site. 
The home where Thomas Harvey and America lived must have been a lovely place.  The house has been described as a two story, white farmhouse.   It was located on the current Mt. Zion Road across from Stony Creek just a short distance east of the intersection of Stony Fork Road and Mt. Zion Road.  The old building which, at one time, housed the Mt. Zion Post Office, is across the road from the home site.  I am thankful to those who remember the house and have shared their descriptions with me.   My 1st cousins 1X removed, a former mail carrier, and a new blog follower have provided me with this description.  Neither the mail carrier nor the new blog follower knew the Wests but remember the Wellborn family who owned and lived in the house from 1902 until it burned sometime in the 1980s.  
In 1902 for an unknown reason, Thomas Harvey and America West decided to move to Banner Elk, North Carolina.  They traded farms including, of course, the house with all of its furnishings, with the Wellborn family, who owned the Banner Elk farm.  My research of land and census documents reveals that many Wellborns lived in the Stony Fork area prior to this exchange.  Again, I wonder what promoted this move.  Did the Banner Elk Wellborn family want to return to Stony Fork?  Did this Banner Elk Wellborn family represent a branch of the family that wanted to move to Stony Fork to be near other relatives?  Which family initiated the move?  I don’t suppose that I will ever know.
However, in 1902 according to CALT, the West family took their milk cows and the few possessions that they could transport in a wagon and set out with their eight children and Thomas Harvey’s mother, Nancy, on their journey to their new home.  The possibility exists that America had never seen the property in Banner Elk; hopefully, Thomas Harvey had visited it before “the trade” took place.  According to CALT, the children thought they were “going west,” which, indeed, they were, but only about 35 miles west!  Flora, the youngest child at that time, and likely, the two women rode in the wagon.  The other children walked as they traveled along the Daniel Boone Trail.  I wonder how many nights they spent on the trail as they made this trip by foot and wagon.  On each of the trips that I have made from Banner Elk to Boone and then on to Stony Fork, I am reminded of what a difficult journey that must have been.  Of course we were traveling in a car on US421 and not on the Daniel Boone Trail! Certainly, this West family demonstrated that same adventurous pioneer spirit of those early settlers who pressed westward seeking a better life. 
The next year, 1903, after Thomas Harvey and America moved to Banner Elk, Thomas Harvey’s mother, Nancy Land West, passed away.   In 1905, their last child, Viola N. West, was born.  CALT described this birth as being a difficult delivery for America.  Viola was a special child who was born with hydrocephalus, a condition which can be treated today with a shunt.  Of course in 1905, Viola did not have the benefit of such a medical technique that would have given her a normal live.  She never attended school and died at the age of 14. Another daughter, Sallie Jane West, died in Charlotte, North Carolina, at the relatively young age of 25.  Her death was due to complications from the flu which she contracted during the 1918 epidemic.
My father, William Charles West, Jr., as a young boy, visited his grandparents on a regular basis.  My 1st cousin 1X removed, FL, described my father’s summer visits during which he would stay several weeks at a time on the farm.  My father, who was about eight years older than FL, fished and hunted with his 1st cousin.  My dad always had fond memories of his cousin, FL, and seemingly, enjoyed those times he spent with him on their grandparents’ farm.  Today, I recognize characteristics in FL’s appearance, mannerisms, and speech which greatly resemble those of my grandfather and dad. 

Banner Elk Home
Photo taken by grandson,
William Charles West, Jr.

On the Foot-Bridge, 1949
Charlotte (front), my cousin CATL,
and my dad, William Charles West, Jr.,
holding my sister, Sandy

I regret that I never had many opportunities to visit my great grandparents in Banner Elk.  From the visits that I had, I remember the farmhouse, which was, also, a white frame two-story home that was located some distance from the main road.  I remember the creek that flowed through the farm which was at the foot of Sugar Mountain.  I remember the log foot-bridge that crossed over the creek. I remember the barn which was a short distance from the house.  And I remember my last visit in August of 1949, a last visit to see Thomas Harvey just before he died on August 24.  As an eight year-old at the time, I didn’t understand the poignancy of this visit. Sadly, this was the last time to see America, also, since she passed away in November of that same year.

The Two Remaining Chimneys

As I became an adult and my husband and I took trips to Florida, we often took the route through Banner Elk and Boone.  As we drove along NC Highway 105 on our way to Boone, I began looking for “the glove factory.”  I used the factory as my locator because the farm was on the land some distance behind that building.  For many years I could see the farmhouse just beyond the creek; then a few years later, I noticed that a trailer had been placed near the farmhouse; and finally, on one of the trips, I saw only two chimneys standing where the farm house had stood – the farmhouse had burned to the ground.  On the recent trips to Banner Elk, I found that a Lowes’ home store now occupies part of the land.  During these recent trips, I wasn’t able to locate the site of the house because of the growth of the trees and the buildings that are now along NC Highway 105.  Without my cousin, CALT, who took me to the site of the home place two years ago, I would never have been able to find it.  In September 2009, CALT and I walked the grounds through the weeds and poison ivy.  We saw what was left of the steps that led up to the front porch; we saw the two chimneys determinedly standing where they had once supported the sides of the farmhouse; we saw the thriving rose bushes, surrounded by overgrown grass, that America McNeil West had planted many years ago.  We walked toward the part of the farm where Lowes’ store is currently located to a clearing where we found a farm road leading to the highway, US105.  From this location CALT pointed out where her aunt and my great aunt, Rosa Belle, had lived in a house across the highway from the farm.  She also pointed out where her paternal grandparents and her parents had lived on a farm adjacent to the West farm.  Forlornly, as a sign of the passing of time, a “For Sale” sign stood at the edge of the property on the road that led from the highway to the driveway. 

"For Sale"

CALT grew up in Banner Elk and has the first-hand knowledge that I don’t have.  I greatly appreciate the time that she spent showing me the home site and the information that she has shared with me.
I have many fond memories of Great Aunt Alice (Martha Alice), an educated, sophisticated lady.  Aunt Alice had moved to Kent, Washington, but made frequent visits back to North Carolina and Tennessee to visit her family who remained in this part of the country.  Later, she returned from Kent to Banner Elk to care for her ailing parents until their deaths.    Aunt Alice was the administrator of the estate of Thomas Harvey and America West and sold the farm to the Von Cannon family who lived nearby.  My grandfather, Aunt Alice’s brother, wanted to purchase the farm, but evidently, Aunt Alice felt that selling the land to someone other than a family member was a better option.  My understanding is that the farm sold for about $10,000 in the early 1950s.  Today, this property, which is at the foot of Sugar Mountain, a famous ski resort in North Carolina, would be worth a great deal more.
Aunt Alice also told us about some of our relatives on the McNeil side of the family.  She sent me a photograph of my 2nd great grandfather, Rev. Milton McNeil, who was a minister, a politician, and one of the “best-known” figures in Wilkes County during his time.  She enabled me to contact George Larkin Pearson, my 1st cousin 3X removed, who was Poet Laureate of North Carolina from 1953 until his death in 1981.  His personal papers, books, and memorabilia may be found in the James Larkin Pearson Library at Wilkes Community College in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.
My great grandmother, America McNeil West, was Pearson’s first cousin.  Apparently, both shared a talent for writing.  According to CALT, America McNeil West was an artist and a writer.  Supposedly, she was writing a novel prior to her death, but sadly, according to CALT, no novel was found among her things after her death.
While I was in Bakersville, North Carolina a couple of years ago, researching my mother’s family, I experienced a most unusual event; I met a lady in the historical society office who had been a student of Aunt Alice at Cranberry High School.  When I told her I was also researching my West ancestors, she mentioned that a Miss West had taught her typing class at Cranberry High School.  As I described Aunt Alice and mentioned her first name, we realized that Aunt Alice had been the teacher.  The former student spoke fondly of Aunt Alice.
Indeed, Thomas Harvey West and America Ann McNeil most definitely left quite a legacy.

The West Family at Home in Banner Elk
L-R: Thomas Harvey, Mack, America, Lou, William Charles, Sr., Alice, Ethel, Robert, Flora

Thomas Harvey and America
His 90th Birthday, 1948