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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!

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