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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

In Pursuit of Edy

Oh, Edy, are you REALLY my 4th great aunt – the daughter of Alexander West I?
For the past few days, I have been chasing someone named Edith Fowler who may have been one of the daughters of Alexander West I, and a sister of my 4th great grandfather, John West.  This Internet chase has led me down many roads of message boards and family trees that are published, not in, but on the Internet.  Even though I have been aware for quite some time that Edy Fowler may have been one of Alexander’s daughters, I didn’t place much credence in the possibility.    However, recently, I have found information that appears to be credible.  Also, with so many references now appearing on line about Edith “Edy” West Fowler, one begins to place some reliability in them.
Please remember that the story that unfolds is speculation in that I have not documented the data.  Supposedly, Edith West, born about 1761, was the daughter of my Alexander West I.  Even though many on-line family researchers indicated that her mother was Sarah Hawkins, the data do not support those notions.  My Alexander West I was born between 1720 and 1730 and likely died after 1790 but before 1800.  Sarah Hawkins, who was, indeed, married to an Alexander West, was born in 1773 and died in 1839.  She was married to another Alexander West.  Remember, I have indicated that many Alexander Wests lived during these time frames.  Sarah Hawkins married Alexander West (1776-1860) who was the son of Solomon West (1726-1830) and Isabella Boyd.  At this point in my research, I have no clue as to who the wife of my Alexander West may have been.
I believe that my Alexander West was a brother of Solomon West.  Solomon West has been linked in family lore to my Alexander, and he named one of his sons, Alexander (the one who married Sarah Hawkins).  Naming patterns indicate that families had a tendency to name their offspring after their fathers, grandparents, brothers, and sisters. Who knows?  Perhaps, one day I will discover that a connection with the Solomon West family does exist!
Let’s continue with the story.  Edith West married Archibald “Archie” Fowler about 1799.  Confusion exists concerning the names of their children.  Supposedly, they had eleven children which included three sets of twins:  Jesse “Jessify” Fowler, Mary Fowler, John Wesley Fowler, Leah Fowler, Rachael (aka Jessify) Fowler, Lavina “Vina” Fowler, Louisa Fowler, Lucy (Luna?) Fowler, West I. Fowler, Lovey Fowler, and Alexander W. Fowler.  Louise and Lucy (Luna?) were twins who married twin brothers, Edmund and Tilman S. Miller.  Mary and John Wesley were twins, and Leah and Rachael were twins.  Rachael may have had the nickname “Jessify” as opposed to another daughter being named Jesse “Jessify.”  Lovey may have been Lucy’s daughter, Lovey Ann Miller, rather than Lucy’s sister.  As I have mentioned, a great amount of confusion abounds regarding the names and spouses of these offsprings.
Interestingly, Edy and Archie named a son West and one Alexander!  Another son was given the middle name of Westley.  Did Edy give two of her sons her maiden name (West) and one the name of her father (Alexander)?  Also, their daughter Rachael, who married John J. Pike, named one of her sons Balus.  Is it possible that she named him for her first cousin, John Balus West, or did she name him for John Baylis Earle,[i] who was a prominent figure at that time in Greenville, South Carolina?
Also, West I. Fowler, who married Margaret Hall, named one of his sons Alexander, continuing the pattern of naming children after relatives.
Archibald “Archie” Fowler died in Greenville District, South Carolina, in 1839.  Edith “Edy” West Fowler passed away on July 19, 1855 in Benton County, Alabama.  Presumably, she was living with her daughter Rachael Fowler Pike in Benton County at the time of her death.
Much of the information that I have provided has been documented by census, land, court, and probate records and church minutes which were researched and reported by others.  When information from different sources conflicted, I have selected the information that appeared the most often or appeared to be the most likely.  Therefore, I solicit any information and corrections that others may have concerning this family.
However, I do want to emphasize that no documentation supports Sarah Hawkins as being the wife of Alexander West I.  In fact, the opposite is true.  She was born in 1773, which was a number of years after the births of three of Alexander’s children:  22 years after the birth of Alexander West II in 1751, 13 years after the birth of John West in 1760, and 14 years after the birth of Edith “Edy” West in 1761. Therefore, she could not have been the mother of these children.
By following this Fowler family, I am searching for clues which may help me identify my 5th great grandfather, Alexander West I and his spouse.


[i] For additional information about a trend that was in vogue in the Greenville area at that time of naming infants after John Baylis Earle, please see blog posting, “The West Patriarchs: 3rd in a Series, John Balus West,” September 1, 2011.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The West Patriarchs: 6th in a Series, William Charles West, Sr.

Here we go on a journey I have been reluctant to take!  I am beginning my last two posts on the West patriarchs.  I have been “putting off” writing these two because they are particularly difficult for me to recall emotionally and to write.  They are about my grandfather and my father.

My grandfather, William Charles West, Sr. was the fifth of the thirteen children and the third son of Thomas Harvey West and America Ann McNeil.  He was born on January 1, 1892, in Wilkes County, North Carolina.  I assume that he was born at their home on Stony Fork.  In 1902 the family moved from Stony Fork to Banner Elk, North Carolina.  In my blog about my great grandfather, Thomas Harvey West, on November 5, 2011, I talked about the family’s move from Wilkes County to Banner Elk.
My grandfather, who, at some point in his life, came to be known as Charlie, did not talk about himself or his past.  He was a “man of few words.”  In order to piece together a microcosm of his life, I have mainly garnered tidbits of information about him through comments from my dad or my aunt or from my collection of old photos.  I have used these sources to draw conclusions and make assumptions.  Since I noted this same characteristic, a reluctance to talk about personal things, in my father, I have come to realize that the West men must have been “men of few words.”
William Charles "Charlie" West
From photographs of Papaw, as we called him, he was a handsome young man from whom my father inherited his looks.  His hair was dark and definitely had some natural curl, but I remember it only as being gray, with curl but thinning.  Photographs of some of his brothers indicate that they, too, may have had curly hair. He was short of stature and as an older man, somewhat stocky.  This short stature was a characteristic inherited from his grandfather and father.  His grandfather, Alexander Balus West, was about 5 feet 8 inches according to his military records.  Likewise, in their photographs his father and mother appeared to be short.
A Game of Tennis


"Home, Sweet Home!"

Charlie apparently enjoyed good times.  Many of the photographs that I have of his early days depict him with friends, posing for humorous, tongue-in-cheek pictures, and playing games.  In some photos he and my grandmother are playing tennis with another couple, all dressed, of course, in their “Sunday” clothes.  In another photo, which was labeled with the title, “Home, Sweet Home,” he and my grandmother are posed in front of an old shack with my dad, an infant. 

He must have possessed some musical ability since he owned a guitar which he appears to be playing in one of the photographs.  This guitar was passed down to my father and then to my sister, Sandy.  She and I did not realize that this guitar had belonged to our grandfather until we recently recognized it in the photograph, nor did we know that he had played it. 

Good Times with Charlie on Left

My 90 year-old Aunt Jack, his only child living at this time, said that he was a good father.  I know that my dad was very much a sportsman.  He enjoyed hunting, fishing, and tennis, which he may have learned from his father.  I remember their fishing together at Watauga Lake near Elizabethton, Tennessee.

A Wedding Photo?
As a young man Charlie worked for Intermountain Telephone Company in North Carolina.  He met my grandmother, Ada Beatrice McQueen, at the telephone office in Newland or Cranberry, North Carolina, where she worked as a telephone operator.  Apparently, at some point, she had moved back home to Austin Springs in Johnson City, Tennessee.  During their courtship he traveled between Banner Elk, North Carolina, and Austin Springs in Johnson City to “court” her.  They were married on August 21, 1915, in Newland, North Carolina.  My dad, William Charles West, Jr., was born in Newland on July 10, 1916.  At that time, my grandfather was a telephone superintendent with Intermountain Telephone Company in Newland.

Home: 106 W. Poplar Street

Ada, Charles, Alzenia, Jack

From personal letters, I learned that for a short period of time, “Papaw” worked in Cincinnati.  His wife and young son, Charles, lived with him for a time but moved back to Austin Springs where my grandmother, apparently, lived with her parents.  Eventually, Charlie and Ada West moved to Johnson City where he continued to work with Intermountain Telephone Company. In Johnson City, they lived for a short time on Spring Street and later moved
to 106 West Popular Street where they lived until their deaths.  There they reared their three children, William Charles West, Jr., Alzenia Helen West, and Christine “Jack” West.  To date they have five grandchildren, six great grandchildren, and eight great, great grandchildren.  Two additional great, great grandchildren are due within a few months.

At the age of 28, Charlie joined the First Presbyterian Church in Johnson City, Tennessee.  After 40 years of service, he retired from Intermountain Telephone Company in Johnson City where, at that time, he worked as a lineman.  His wife, Ada, died of liver and pancreatic cancer on December 6, 1965, at the relatively young age of 70.  My grandfather Charlie passed away in Johnson City, Tennessee, on August 13, 1967 of throat cancer at the age of 75.  His abusive use of tobacco and alcohol may have contributed to his throat cancer.  In addition, to his three children and five grandchildren, at his death he was survived by five sisters:  Lou Triplett, Alice West, Belle Butner, Ethel Graham, and Flora Lowe; and three brothers: Mack West, Bob West, and Guy West.  He is buried beside his wife at Monte Vista Memorial Park in Johnson City, Tennessee.
Papaw and Charlotte
(age 1)
I most certainly cherish this photograph of me with him when I was one year old. 

Younger Days: Charlie and Ada
Charlie at Home on Christmas

 You may double click on the photos to enlarge them.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

More about a Spinster: A Spinner of Cloth or an Unmarried Woman?

Thanks to one of my readers who inquired about the term spinster.  Anonymous asked, “Could a widow woman from the 1800 be described in a legal document as a spinster?  She would be unmarried at the time so is it possible that the clerk could label her as such?”  The question was posted on my September 30, 2011, post, “A Spinster—Not What You Think!”  The question motivated me to do more research on the term, spinster, as it was found in early documents.
In my post on September 30, I related how astounded I was when I found that my 2nd great grandmother, Nancy Land, who was married and whose husband was still living in 1860, was listed in the 1860 census as being a spinster.  The genealogy librarian at the State Library of North Carolina in Raleigh told me that ladies who spun cloth were often recorded as spinster in the census data.  She did not address its double usage—for occupation and for marital status.
Therefore, in this post, I am sharing some of the information that I have learned on the subject from my Internet research.
Public records, dating from 1800 to 1804 in the New Bern-Craven County Public Library provide examples of the term, spinster, when it is used as an occupation.[i]  I am listing a few examples below to show how various occupations, including that of spinster, were recorded.
10 Mar 1800—Samuel Willis, a free Negro aged 19 years, son of Dorcas Moore, bound to Francis Lowthrop, Esq., as a mariner.
8 September 1800—David Moore, a free Negro boy aged 11 years, bound to Ebenezer Slade as a cooper.
9 September 1800—Sally Pittman, daughter of Jourdan Pittman who is deserted by her father, bound to Nathan Tisdale as a spinster.
10 December 1800—William Jones, orphan aged 16 years next March, bound to Elijah Clark, of New Bern, as a chair maker and wheelwright.
14 December 1801—Nancy Carter, a free person of color aged 8 years, bound to Benjamin Mitchell as a spinster.
According to the 1856 edition of Bouvier’s Law Dictionary,[ii]  in wills and other legal documents, the term, widow, is used to identify a woman whose husband is dead and who has never remarried.  The term, spinster, is given to a woman who was never married.
The Oxford Dictionaries[iii]  traced the origin of the word, spinster, from the late Middle English period in history and determined that the term is taken from the verb, spin + ster, meaning one who spins.  This term was attached to the names of women to denote that their occupation was spinning.  Albeit, this occupation may not have been for remuneration but was work they performed for the family in the home.
Deborah J. Mustard,[iv]  in her on-line publication, provided an excellent explanation of how the word, spinster, likely evolved to describe “the old maid” in the family.  Mustard explained that “the word spinster came into common use during the early 19th century when the thankless task of spinning cloth had been pushed off to unmarried women as a way to earn their keep in the home.”  Over time, when the masculine form, spinner, began to be used for women as well as for men, the problem was solved to some degree.  However, Mustard indicated that because so many women were engaged in spinning during the 17th and 18th centuries, many of these spinners are probably not accurately identified by researchers today because they assume that those ladies identified as spinsters were the older, unmarried women, a common assumption of contemporary society.
According to Jacob Field and Amy Erickson,[v]  the enumerator in the first national census in England in 1801 distinguished occupations for different family members in 96 households.  In this census the term, spinster, was used both as an occupation and a marital designation.  The use of the word for occupation and for marital status was employed for approximately 300 years.  As field and Erickson stated, “Only where the enumerator identifies married women as spinsters is it possible to be certain that he was using the word in its occupational sense.”
From what I have been able to determine, no specific solution to the ambiguity exists.  Therefore, if a woman is identified as a spinster, the researcher will need to dig deeper to find out if she were married and assume that, if she were married, she was a spinner of cloth.  On the other hand, if she were not married, the researcher will assume that she was a spinster as we commonly use the word in today’s society.  However, one must, also, keep in mind that the lady may have been both, an unmarried woman and a spinner of cloth!
I wish I could provide a more definitive answer to my anonymous reader’s query.

[i] New Bern-Craven County Public Library, Records from 1800 to 1804. (
[ii]Oxford Dictionaries, Oxford University Press, 2012 (
[iii] Bouvier’s Law Dictionary, 1856 Edition, (
[iv]Mustard, Deborah J. “Spinster: An Evolving Stereotype Revealed through Film,” Journal of Media Psychology, on-line publication, January 20, 2000. (
[v] Field, Jacob and Amy Erickson, “Prospects and Preliminary Work on Female Occupational Structure in England from 1500 to the National Census,” (