Friday, May 29, 2015

52 Ancestors – no. 38: Mary Lou Barnhart (week 22)

Mary Lou Barnhart (1929)
The 52 Ancestors theme this week is “Commencement” and when I sat down to think about who I could blog about, Mary Lou Barnhart immediately came to mind. Several years ago I found a lovely photo of her graduating class from Greensboro High School so I figured why not share it. There may be other researchers looking for one of the students in her class.

Mary Lou Barnhart, daughter of Seaborn Brice Barnhart and Jessica Corinne Lankford, was born March 16, 1909 in Georgia (most likely Greene County). She was an only child.

On April 20, 1910, one year old Mary Lou lived with her parents on Watson Spring Road in the Branch division of Greene County, Georgia. Her father was an overseer on a farm. There were two servants living in the home, John Jorden and Willie Cosby, both farm laborers.

On January 20, 1920, Mary Lou and her family lived in Penfield, Greene County, Georgia. Her Uncle Vincent Thomas Langford, his first wife Maude, and their five children lived four doors from them.

Jessie (Lankford) Barnhart, Mary Lou Barnhart, and Seaborn Brice Barnhart

Mary Lou graduated from Greensboro High School in Greensboro, Greene County, Georgia in 1927. She then attended Georgia State College for Women in Milledgeville, Baldwin County, Georgia, graduating in 1931. The photo at the beginning of this blog entry appeared in the college yearbook in 1929, her sophomore year.

Photo from Vanishing Georgia, Georgia Division of Archives and History, Office of Secretary of State. Greensboro High School graduating class, Greensboro, Greene County, Georgia. Members of the 1927 graduating class at Greensboro High School. They are holding their diplomas and the girls are also holding flower bouquets. Bottom row, left to right: Mildred Powell, Mildred Royal, Martha Morgan, Mary Lou Barnhart, Mary Royal, Katie Moore, Catherine Hall, Fannie Slaton. Middle row: Winston Reynolds, Frances Hall, William Brown, Norenne Holcombe, Horace Brook, Pauline English, John Patton, Evelyn Overton, Emory Campbell, Katherine Taylor, Claude Wills, Anita Boswell, Edwin Arnold, Carolyn Scott. Top row: James Bryan, Robert O’Kelley, Harold Cawthon, Thomas Johnston, Raymond O’Neal, Fred Barry, Tom McGibony, James Brown, Robert Hackney, William Merritt.

On April 23, 1930, Mary Lou and her family still lived in Penfield. Her widowed great-aunt, Nannie Lankford, aged 77, lived with them.

Mary Lou and son Grady Jr. (1941)
Mary Lou married Grady Overton Jackson, Sr., son of William F. Jackson and Mattie Lay. Together they had one son, Grady Overton Jackson, Jr.

On April 11, 1940, Mary Lou and Grady lived on South Street in Greensboro. Mary Lou was a grammar school teacher. Their son Grady Jr. was born in Greene County on September 19, 1940.

Mary Lou’s mother, Jessie Lankford Barnhart, died in Greensboro on August 1, 1951. Mary Lou’s father Brice Barnhart died in Greene County on October 3, 1961. Mary Lou’s husband Grady Sr. died in Greensboro on March 28, 1978. Mary Lou died in Austell, Cobb County, Georgia on April 6, 1997. All four were buried side by side at Penfield Cemetery in Penfield.

I’m glad I decided to blog about Mary Lou. After finding her college photo/information, I realized I had posted incorrect information for her son, Grady Jr. Mary Lou was still in college when I had her giving birth to Grady Jr. I’m sure she wouldn’t appreciate me portraying her as an unwed mother when that wasn’t the case!

Penfield Cemetery

Thursday, May 21, 2015

52 Ancestors – no. 37: Roy Holland – (week 21)

Roy Holland, son of Elijah Jeffers Holland and Cornelia Jane (Janie) Dove, was born July 12, 1897 in Deep Springs, Whitfield County, Georgia. He was the first child of four—Roy, Nellie, and Samuel Jackson Holland. There was a fourth child, born and died before June 14, 1900 according to census records for that year. The enumerator recorded Janie as the mother of three children, two of which were living. This census record entry is the only proof I have found of Elijah and Janie having had four children. The fourth child, Sam, wasn’t born until 1904.

On June 14, 1900, Roy lived with his family in Hart County, Georgia. His father was a farmer. There was an 18 year old boarder named Charley Williams living in the home. The family lived seven houses from Sallie Dove Bowers, his aunt. Roy’s grandmother Amanda Holland Dove lived with Aunt Sallie.

Sometime between 1900 and 1910, the family moved back to Whitfield County. My aunt remembers hearing the story of Elijah and his family traveling to Dalton in a covered wagon.

On May 4, 1910, Roy lived with his family in Whitfield County, Georgia. Roy was enumerated with an occupation of farm laborer.

Roy’s father died in Dalton, Whitfield County, Georgia on March 4, 1915. He was buried at Deep Springs Baptist Church Cemetery in Dalton.

New Year’s Day was devastating for the Holland family when Roy died on January 1, 1919 in Deep Springs. He was buried at Deep Springs Baptist Church Cemetery in Dalton. Roy’s obituary ran in the North Georgia Citizen on January 2, 1919: 
Roy Holland, aged 21 years, a popular young resident of Deep Spring section, died Wednesday. The funeral services were conducted by Rev. C. C. Maples, interment being in Deep Spring cemetery. 
The following news article was published in The Dalton Citizen on January 16, 1919:
On January 1, 1919, the angel of death entered the home of Mrs. E. J. Holland and took away her darling boy, Roy.
She loved her boy, but God loved him best.

Death came to the humble home and spread darkness and sorrow there. We often feel that we cannot go on in the remainder of life after a beloved one has been taken—such has been the experience of human hearts all down through the ages.

Death is no respecter of persons—the high, the low, the great, the small, the good, the bad, the young, the old. Roy was in the bloom of life. He was only twenty-one years of age.

How little it appeared that in so short a time he would be cold in death! Surely we are in the midst of death, and none are beyond its reach. To the broken-hearted mother, sister and brother we say, “weep not for your boy and loving brother, for he has just gone on before to wait for us on the other side. He is walking on streets of gold, waving his hand for our coming. We would say he is still in the hands of the same loving Father and He will deal with him the best that love can suggest.”

We miss thy kind and willing hand,
     Thy fond and earnest care;
Our home is dark without thee—
     We miss thee everywhere.
Written by his cousin who loved him, Sula Ledford, Ringgold, Ga.
Ursula G. Bowers Ledford, or Sula as she was apparently called, was the daughter of Sallie M. Dove. Sallie was Janie Dove Holland’s sister making Roy and Sula cousins.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

52 Ancestors – no. 36: Daisy Lee Shields – (week 20)

Daisy Lee Shields
Last fall during a visit with my Mother, I took the time to interview her about her Mother, my Granny. This blog post is based on that interview and on my personal memories and research.

Daisy Lee Shields, the daughter of James Stewart Shields and Hattie Jane Rhinehart, was born on June 24, 1910 in Sevierville, Sevier County, Tennessee. She was the oldest child of 11—Daisy Lee, Willie Mae, James B., Betty Ann, Paul Sam, Bessie Lucille, Mary Nell, Dorothy Joline, Bobbie Jean, Charles Dewayne, and Loyal Mack Shields. It’s believed that Hattie had a 12th child, possibly stillborn before Daisy was born. I can’t say for certain, but Daisy was possibly named for two of her Mother’s sisters, Daisy Rhinehart and Georgia Lee Rhinehart. Daisy was my maternal grandmother, or rather I should say my Granny.

On January 6, 1920, Daisy (age 9) lived with her family in the Lower Tenth Militia District of Whitfield County, Georgia. Although attending school, the enumerator (or census taker—the person collecting the census data) didn’t note whether she could read or write. Her 54 year old widowed grandmother, Roda Elizabeth “Betty” (Sneed) Rhinehart, lived with them.

Betty (Sneed) Rhinehart
and Daisy
On April 19, 1930, Daisy (age 20) still lived with her family in the vicinity of Prater Mill and Deep Springs Roads in the Lower Tenth Militia District of Whitfield County. The enumerator didn’t list an occupation for Daisy. Perhaps she was too busy helping her Mother raise her seven siblings to work outside of the home. They lived next door to her grandparents, Samuel Cas and Martha (Ogle) Shields. Her uncle Blaine Shields lived with Cas and Martha.

Daisy’s uncle, Milas Shields, lived less than 10 miles from Daisy and her family in April of 1930. Living next door to Milas was Samuel Jackson Holland and his family—wife (Mary) Opal (Stone) Holland, their son William Luther Holland (AKA W.L.), and Sam’s mother Cornelia Janie (Dove) Holland. It’s important to note this because a year later, Daisy would marry Sam. Perhaps they met when Daisy and her family visited her Uncle Milas. Maybe not, but it’s a possibility. On April 23, 1930, the enumerator recorded Sam and Opal, both 25, living next door to Milas. The census record shows that they married at age 18. W.L. was 6 years old at the time. A year later on April 26, 1931, Opal died in Whitfield County. Two months after Opal’s death, Daisy married Sam Holland, the son of Elijah Jeffers Holland and Janie Dove in Whitfield County. He called her Lee while the rest of the family called her Daisy.

Daisy and Sam didn’t rush to have children. Sam had a lot of outstanding funeral expenses for his wife and mother—Opal from April 1931 and his mother, who died on September 19, 1930. Sam was the sole surviving member of his family. His father died in 1915; his brother Roy died in 1919; and his sister Nellie died in 1921. All of the financial debts fell to him which must have been a tremendous burden, not to mention the emotional stress of losing his entire family in such a short time and at such a young age. Daisy helped him pay off the funeral debts by making quilts. She would drive around town in their old model A or T car selling her quilts.

James Stewart Shields, Daisy Shields,
Hattie (Rhinehart) Shields, and
Willie Mae Shields
In 1933, Daisy gave birth at home to her only child, a daughter she named Juanita Fay. After Daisy went into labor, Sam drove to Ringgold to get the doctor but they didn’t make it back in time. Instead, a neighbor helped Daisy deliver Fay herself. When Sam returned, Daisy told Sam “there won’t be any more children.” And there weren’t!

On April 15, 1940, Daisy, Sam, W.L., and Fay lived on East 14th Street in Chattanooga, Hamilton County, Tennessee. The census record shows that Daisy had attended school, completing at least the 8th grade. Sam was a truck driver for the Motor Express Company. Sometime after this census was taken, Daisy left the family and got a room on her own in Chattanooga. She kept in touch with Fay during this time.

It’s believed that Daisy went to beauty school sometime after 1940, became a beautician, and then opened a beauty shop in Chattanooga. In the early 1950’s, Daisy opened a beauty shop in Ringgold that she named Bonita’s Beauty Den (named for her first granddaughter). She later opened a beauty shop in Dalton.

About 1941, Daisy and Sam divorced leaving Sam alone to take care of W.L. and Fay. In 1942, W.L. turned 18 and was drafted into the Army. Sam and Fay rode the bus to Fort Oglethorpe to see W.L. off to Colorado where he stayed the rest of his duty, guarding prisoners of war. Sam and Fay lived alone in Chattanooga for a few months. Sam had help from Arlie Mack Rhinehart (Hattie [Rhinehart] Shields’ brother) and his wife Martha. After Arlie returned to Catoosa County, Georgia, Sam hired a housekeeper to help out. Since Sam was required to drive the trucks overnight, Fay would stay with a neighbor next door as she was too young to be left by herself.

After the divorce, Daisy had several turbulent years moving from marriage to marriage. She married Billy L. Saylors, then Edward F. Steward, and then Harry E. Casbohm, a New Yorker. The marriage to Harry was a short one. Daisy stayed with Harry a little while in New York but then returned home and divorced him. Daisy’s daughter Fay had little contact with Daisy from 1941 to 1948.

Daisy and her daughter Fay
During the time of Daisy’s many marriages, Sam met and married Patsy Reba Seibers, daughter of William L. Seibers and Missie Belle Boles, on September 18, 1943 in Rossville, Walker County, Georgia. Sometime in the next year, Sam decided to move the family to Atlanta so he drove a truck there to look for an apartment for himself, Patsy, and Fay. Daisy accused Sam of taking Fay across state lines (which he had not) and had him arrested. W.L. eventually testified in court that he was with Patsy and Fay at home while Sam went to Atlanta and the case was dropped.

Sometime before June 1944, Sam, Patsy, and Fay moved to Atlanta where they rented a house from a man named Mr. Speilberger on Washington Street. The house had two apartments and one bathroom on the first floor. Mr. Speilberger lived in one room in the front of the house. They all shared the bathroom. Another family lived upstairs. They had the whole upstairs, including their own bathroom. After the Hollands moved to Atlanta, Daisy made the trip three times to visit with Fay.

About 1949, Daisy married Edward Steward a second time and they built a house in Tunnel Hill, Whitfield County, Georgia. As was Daisy’s history, the second marriage to Edward didn’t work out and they divorced sometime after 1951. Daisy kept the Tunnel Hill house after she and Edward divorced.

Daisy’s father Stewart died on September 7, 1962 in Tunnel Hill. He was buried at Nellie Head Baptist Church Cemetery in Tunnel Hill.

Daisy’s last husband was William Hoyt Vest, the son of Andrew Jackson Vest and Bessie Elliott. Daisy and Hoyt lived together in the Tunnel Hill house for several years before they married, presumably there in Tunnel Hill. To me, Hoyt was her only husband as he was the only man I knew her to be with. Hoyt was a tall, gentle man. We didn’t call him Grandpa or anything like that. We just called him Hoyt.

Daisy was still living in the Tunnel Hill house on August 8, 1968 as she received a letter from the Social Security Administration informing her that she was not entitled to disability insurance benefits. The address on the letter was R. R. 1, Tunnel Hill, Georgia.

At some point, Daisy and Hoyt moved to Calhoun when he got a job in the carpet mills. They lived in Calhoun for four or five years and then moved to Cleveland, Bradley County, Tennessee. Hoyt developed diabetes and lost both legs. Daisy and Hoyt eventually divorced and he moved to California to live with his son.

Daisy’s brother James died on September 26, 1972 in Talladega County, Alabama. He was buried at Nellie Head Baptist Church Cemetery in Tunnel Hill. Her sister Betty died on February 16, 1975 in Birmingham, Jefferson County, Alabama. She was buried at West Hill Cemetery in Dalton, Whitfield County, Georgia.

Daisy applied for a Tennessee driver’s license in March 1977 so I’m assuming she had recently moved from Georgia to Tennessee. The address on her application was 783 10th Street, Cleveland, Tennessee.

On October 23, 1978, Daisy filed a Multiyear Property Tax Relief Application with the State of Tennessee listing her address as 1040 Hardwick Street, Cleveland, Tennessee. In December 1981, Daisy applied for and received fuel assistance in the amount of $200 from the Bradley Cleveland Community Services Agency. In April 1982, an application for home weatherization was approved for the Hardwick Street house.

Daisy’s mother Hattie died in Chattanooga on April 11, 1982. She was buried at Nellie Head Baptist Church Cemetery in Tunnel Hill.

Daisy lived in the Hardwick Street house until July 1986. By that time, her health had declined and her daughter Fay made many trips to Cleveland to check on her mother. But with a full time job, the strain was too much for Fay so Daisy sold her house for $20,000 and moved to Riverdale, Clayton County, Georgia to live with Fay. Daisy’s health continued to decline and she eventually moved into a nursing home in Riverdale. The nursing home was minutes from Fay’s house and she visited her mother every day.

Hoyt died in San Diego, California on April, 30 1987. Daisy drew Social Security benefits from his account the last few months of her life.

On October 3, 1987, Fay visited Daisy on her way to work. While there, Fay told Daisy that her monthly social security check had arrived. Daisy told her to hold onto the check—to not put it in the bank yet. Daisy told Fay she didn’t feel good and then went on to say she wanted to be buried in a white dress in a white coffin. Fay called Vanessa, her youngest daughter, later that day and asked her to go to the nursing home and check on Daisy. When Vanessa arrived, Daisy asked her to write a few things down for her and then proceeded to tell Vanessa how and where she wanted to be buried, what she wanted to wear, and that she wanted to be buried in a white casket on a hill back home. She told Vanessa what preacher she wanted for her funeral and who she wanted to sing at the service, including naming the songs. Later that afternoon, the nursing home called Fay to inform her that Daisy had died in her sleep. She didn’t seem sick but Vanessa felt that she knew she was going to die that day.

Daisy’s funeral was held on October 5, 1987 at Wallis Funeral Home in Ringgold, Catoosa County, Georgia, with the Rev. Yules Simpson officiating. As requested, Daisy was buried in a white casket wearing a white gown. Her niece sang the songs she requested, and she was buried on a hill at Anderson Cemetery in Ringgold. Daisy, who was 77 years old at the time of her death, was survived by a daughter, five grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. Cause of death was listed as cardio respiratory arrest, atherosclerosis heart disease. Daisy had suffered from heart disease for some time, living with a pacemaker for many years.

Daisy has been described to me as the black sheep of the family. I don’t know, it may have been justified. I mean, she had all those marriages. She left a husband and their young daughter behind for another man. I know personally that she wasn’t supportive of her last husband, Hoyt, as he became an invalid after losing both legs to diabetes. But to me, she was just Granny and I loved her.

I remember visiting her in Tunnel Hill a lot when we were growing up. She had a statue of a black panther in the front window and an elephant statue elsewhere in her house. She said elephants were lucky. My great-grandparents, James Stewart and Hattie Jane [Rhinehart] Shields lived down the road from Granny. We’d walk the dirt road to visit them, picking blackberries on the way. We knew that meant a pie later that day. Granny was a beautician so she would often brush and pin curl our hair. She made the trip to our house in Atlanta as well. I mostly remember her visiting at Christmas time. She probably arrived on Christmas Eve because I remember her spending the night. She’d bring a cake. On Christmas morning, Mama and Granny would always cook a big breakfast and boy did they take their sweet time. Mama later told me they did that on purpose to drag things out. After we finished eating, my siblings and I headed to the living room where we hovered around the Christmas tree anxiously waiting to open our gifts. We weren’t allowed to open the gifts until the kitchen was clean. And again, Mama and Granny took their sweet time doing the dishes. Finally, the dishes would be done and the adults would head to the living room where we all waited. As Granny made her way in, it seems like she would always suddenly have the urge to “move my bowels” and head into the bathroom. Again, she took what seemed like forever in the bathroom. Oh the agony for us poor kids! Her Christmas gift to my three sisters and I would usually be “granny panties.” We’d open them, smile, and pass them over to Mama. During the summer, the grandchildren took turns spending a week at her house. She and I exchanged letters frequently during the 1960s. She still had mine when she died.

Granny didn’t have indoor plumbing in her Tunnel Hill house. She had an outhouse in the backyard instead. I remember one time she came running out of the outhouse pulling her underwear up as she ran. Turns out she had a visitor—a snake! That’s all it took for me. I was afraid of that outhouse from then on. She kept a big pot in the kitchen for us to “take care of business” at night so we didn’t have to go to the outhouse in the dark. Now that I think about it, I hope that’s the only thing she used that pot for! She also had a well in the backyard—the kind that had a bucket on a pulley with a ladle to drink from.

I don’t remember Granny cursing but I do remember her saying “Day Lord” all the time. And she drug it out—Daaaay Looorrrrrrd. I find myself using that expression every now and then (mostly to myself).

On one of her visits to Atlanta, we were in the car with Granny heading somewhere. The song “Just Dropped In” by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition came on the radio. She thought that was the funniest thing when Kenny sang “I just dropped in to see what condition my condition was in.” I don’t know why things like that stay in your head but it’s one of my memories of Granny and I smile thinking about it now.

Friday, May 8, 2015

52 Ancestors – no. 35: Lucinda Murphy – (week 19)

Robert Church holding grandson Earl Murphy,
Lucinda (Murphy) Church
Lucinda Murphy, daughter of John Murphy and Joanna Ullom, was born on March 18, 1858 in Littleton, Wetzel County, West Virginia. Lucinda had four siblings that I’m aware of—William H., Louisa, Milley, and Mary Ann. There could be others, but more work needs to be done to determine that. Both of her parents were from Pennsylvania.

On July 6, 1860, two year old Lucinda lived with her family in the Knob Fork section of Wetzel County, Virginia. There was a 74 year old male living in the home named Elijah Ulom. Could Elijah be Lucinda’s grandfather? It’s possible. There was also a 27 year old woman named Lucinda Davis and an 18 year old woman named Martha Ulom living with the Murphy family. I have no clue who Lucinda Davis was but find it interesting that she also had the name Lucinda. Perhaps that was a common name in the 1860s or the Davis family was connected to the Murphy family and little Lucinda was named for big Lucinda. Martha Ulom was most likely a relative to Joanna, as was Elijah.

On August 4, 1870, Lucinda and her family lived in the Center Township of Wetzel County; the post office was Knob Fork. There was a William Davis, age 20, living in the home. His occupation was listed as farm laborer. I’m trying to figure out who the Davis’ are. Lucinda Davis lived with them in 1860 and William Davis lived with them in 1870. There must be a connection. Census records show that Lucinda was born in Virginia, which later became West Virginia when it was admitted to the Union on June 20, 1863.

On April 2, 1876, Lucinda married Robert Church, son of Henry Church and Rebecca Longwell, in Wetzel County. Lucinda was 18 years old, Robert was 25. Together they had 13 children—George, Samuel C., James Benton, Jennie F., Anna B., Dessie, Charles Cleveland, Martha, William Henry, Donald Roy, and Presley. Two children are unknown to me but enumerated in the 1910 census record. They most likely didn’t survive.

On June 5, 1880, Lucinda, Robert, and son George lived in the Church District of Wetzel County. Lucinda was keeping house and Robert was a farmer. They lived next door to Robert’s brother, Henry, and his wife Rebecca (Longwell) Church. I assume that Lucinda and Robert named their son after his uncle, or more likely, the string of Henry’s in the Church line, beginning with Henry “Old Hundred” Church. Robert’s oldest brother, William Henry Church, lived two doors down.

On June 9, 1900, Lucinda, Robert, and nine of their children lived in the Church District of Wetzel County. Lucinda has lost a child, George, as the census record shows that she was the mother of 11 children, 10 of which were living. Samuel, James, and Charles were helping work the farm.

Thomas Chapel M.E. Church and cemetery
On April 28, 1910, Lucinda, Robert, and five of their children lived in the Clay District of Wetzel County. Lucinda apparently had two children between 1900 and 1910 that did not survive. The census record shows that Lucinda was the mother of 13 children, 10 of which were living. Lucinda and Robert have been married for 32 years. Lucinda was able to read and write. Dessie, at age 21, was still at home but working as a servant for a private family. Son Henry was a farm laborer on the home farm.

On January 14, 1920, Lucinda, Robert, and Charles lived in the Clay District of Wetzel County. She was enumerated as Lucindy. Her daughter Dessie and her family lived next door. The family was still farming.

On April 2, 1930, Lucinda, Robert, Donald, Presley, and Charles lived in the Clay District of Wetzel County. The census record shows they lived on a farm.

Lucinda’s son, Samuel C. Church, died at age 50 on June 22, 1931 in the Church District of Wetzel County. Her husband Robert died on November 29, 1932 in Littleton. Both were buried at Thomas Chapel Church Cemetery in Wetzel County.

Lucinda died on January 13, 1933 in Littleton and was buried at Thomas Chapel Church Cemetery. The Wetzel Democrat of New Martinsville, West Virginia published her obituary on January 19, 1933: “Last rites for Mrs. Lucinda Church, aged 74 years, were held from the Thomas Chapel M. E. Church on Sunday afternoon with Rev. Eismon officiating. Interment was made in the Thomas Chapel Cemetery. Mrs. Church died Friday morning January 13th, following a serious illness of only three days. Mrs. Church was a lifelong resident of this county, being born near this city in 1858. Her husband, the late Robert Church, preceded her in death by only six weeks. The deceased was a daughter of John and Joanna Murphy, pioneers of Wetzel County. She was a member of the M. E. Church. Surviving are nine children: James Church of Hundred, W. Va.; Henry Church of Kodol, W. Va.; Charley Church, at home; Presley Church of Littleton, W. Va.; Donald Church of Clarksburg, W. Va.; Mrs. Dessie Murphy of Littleton; Mrs. Jennie Davis of Weston, W. Va.; Mrs. Martha McIntire and Mrs. Anna Evans, both of Clarksburg.

Lucinda was my husband’s great-grandmother.

Friday, May 1, 2015

52 Ancestors – no. 34: James Xenophon McIlwain (week 18)

James Xenophon McIlwain, son of John McIlwain and Jane Gordon, was born in 1831 in Apollo, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania. He was the second child of four born to John and Jane—Margaret, James Xenophon, Eva, and John S. McIlwain. James was born with red hair.

James’ father died in 1837 in Apollo. He was buried at Riverview Cemetery in Apollo. Three years later (about 1840), James’ mother, Jane, married a local innkeeper named John Thompson Smith in St. Clairsville, Belmont County, Ohio. Together they had six children—Electra Burnette, Erastus C., Eunice Alvira, Martha Jane, Minerva, and John Milton Smith.

James’ sister Minerva Smith died on May 17, 1850 in Apollo from cholera, four days before her first birthday. She was buried at Riverview Cemetery in Apollo.

On November 7, 1850, 19 year old James lived in the home of Robert O. and Margaret Hunter in Apollo. James’ occupation was saddler. There was another young man, 25 year old James P. Moore living in the home who was also a saddler.

James married Emaline Hildebrand, daughter of Henry Hildebrand and Julia Garvin, on October 12, 1858. Together they had nine children—Xenophon Whitlinger, Jennie, Frankie, Harry White, Georgia Anna, Charles K., John K., James Lawrence, and Margaret Chambers McIlwain.

James joined the Apollo Presbyterian Church on April 28, 1858 and was baptized as an adult.

James’ first child, a son, was born on June 23, 1859 in Apollo. He was given his father’s middle name, Xenophon.

The Civil War began and on June 8, 1861, James enlisted for a period of three years in Company G of the 11th Regiment Pennsylvania Reserve Infantry (40th Infantry Regiment Volunteers). On May 18, 1862, General Meade ordered that James be assigned extra duty as a brigade saddler. James wrote home frequently to his wife Emma. He often wrote of sending money home to her. He sent money home once but didn’t want to send more until he received a letter from her acknowledging receipt. Emma was illiterate and had to count on others to write her letters. Her sister-in-law, Electra Smith, often filled that role. Electra and James corresponded regularly as well. In 1862, James wrote to Emma about being tired of government feed and how he wanted a good meal of new beans, tomatoes, and cucumbers. James returned to his unit on June 8, 1864 and mustered out at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on June 13.

On May 14, 1865, James received a letter from Emma informing him of the death of their daughter Jennie. In the letter, she told him that Jennie had gone to join their little Frankie who had apparently died a short time before Jennie. Emma’s letter was full of grief, which she bore alone following the death of her two children, with James away due to the Civil War. Years later, Don Frost of Rolling Meadows, Illinois, most likely a descendant of James, wrote that James was not home from the war yet because he was “serving time in the stockade for being drunk on guard duty.” Mr. Frost was editing a collection of James McIlwain letters and apparently had a copy of the May 14 letter.

James’ brother John S. McIlwain died on August 9, 1865.

On June 23, 1870, James, his wife Emma, and three children, Xenophon, Harry, and Georgia Anna, lived in Apollo. The post office was Kellys Station. James’ occupation was saddlery. His sister Eunice Alvira (Smith) Jack, her husband Daniel Jack, and son Charles Stanley Jack lived four houses away.

On June 25, 1880, James and his family lived in Apollo. James still worked at the saddlery as a saddle and harness maker. His 20 year old son Xenophon still lived at home and worked as a plasterer.

James died on August 4, 1883 after falling from scaffolding on the job in Apollo. His heirs purchased a plot at Riverview Cemetery within sight of the John McIlwain, Jane Smith, and John T. Smith plot in Apollo.

Riverview Cemetery, Apollo, Pennsylvania

This family photo was taken ca. 1898 at the McIlwain homestead in Apollo, well after James’ death.

Front: Harry, James’ wife Emaline (Hildebrand), and Xenophon McIlwain
Back: Charles, Margaret, John, Georgia Anna, and Lawrence McIlwain