Monday, May 29, 2006

How to Find Skeletons In the Closet

The reason I got involved in genealogy was that I wanted to tell my newly born son someday about his family history. I couldn’t very well tell him something I didn’t know myself, so I begin asking questions.

I knew my great grandfather William A. Hunter fought in the Civil War on nearby Kennesaw Mountain and I knew he and his wife Emaline Ray were from Franklin, North Carolina. And I knew their living dates, when they were born and when they died.

My grandfather, Frank Hunter, told me that William’s real last name was not Hunter. He often wondered what his last name really was. He said William was raised by someone other than his parents.

I found out Franklin, North Carolina, was in Macon County. After asking around about what to do to find out his parents, someone suggested I look at the census in Macon County the year divided by 10, after his birth. I knew from his tombstone, at a little country church not far from here he was born in 1842. So, I needed to look at the 1850 census. I went to the local library. They had the censuses on microfilm, and slowly went through the 1850 Census of Macon County.

I was looking for an 8 year old boy by the name of William Hunter. I looked at every name on that census. There was only one family with the name of Hunter in Macon County in 1850, the head of the household was a Jason Henderson Hunter. He did not have a son named William, 8 years old. However, he did have a son named William, several years younger.

I did not think this William, of Jason Hunter was the William I was looking for.

My neighbor at that time, worked as an accountant for Bell South. The head of his department was my first cousin’s husband. I asked him did he think he could get the Franklin, NC, telephone book for me and he did.

With the Franklin telephone book to use for the addresses, I wrote every household with the surname of Ray (Emeline’s maiden name) and Hunter I included a SASE (self-addressed stamp envelope). I think I sent between 30 and 40, ten a pay day. After all, my pay was feeding a family of three at the time.

I got two replies back. One Ray man said he didn’t know, but he wished me luck. I guess he just hated to see that stamp and envelope go to waste. The other reply was on a letter head with a logo saying Ray’s Finest Cured Hams. He said he didn’t know much about the Ray genealogy but his cousin did, but he knew I didn’t send his cousin a letter because his cousin didn’t have a telephone, so wouldn’t be in the telephone book. He gave me his cousin’s address, in Otto, NC, just south of Franklin.

I sent his cousin an inquiry.

He wrote be back and said he hated to tell me this but my g-great grandfather name was not William Hunter. It was William Trammell. He went on to say that William and his brother Van Trammell killed a man over a horse and they both were wanted for murder. William escaped to Texas and Van to Arkansas.


Then, I looked up the Trammell family on the Macon County 1850. Jacob and his wife Polly, listed as a Cherokee Indian, had a household full of kids. William Trammell, age 8 was listed as a son. Van Buren Trammell, age 10 was listed.

So! Probably many people thought William and Van were brothers because they had the same last name and lived in the same house, but actually William was Van’s nephew.

And, I found the marriage license for William Trammell and Emaline Ray. They married just a few weeks before the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. He went of furlough to get married.

And then I started going through the Macon County court records on Microfilm and saw in 1842 Rebecca Trammell sued Jason H. Hunter for Bastardy. She won. Jason was to pay her $100 a year for child support.

Jason also were sued for bastardy three other times. Another time by Rebecca and twice by a woman named Catherine Davis. He didn’t learn his lesson.

That is the secret. That is why Lois Hunter Calloway pitched a shit-fit. She knew all along, that William was a bastard and killed a man and fled Macon County as a wanted man.

Why she was so defensive of William was her father died of a rare disease when Lois was about 3 years old. William and Emaline took in her father’s wife and gave them a home. She grew up in William’s house and eventually was the sole owner of it. I visited her often to copy old pictures and have her tell me family stories.

William was the only father she could relate to. She was defensive over William’s reputation…. And I if I had a different moral look, I might have been defensive too, under the same circumstances.

But if Lois had lived another ten years I could have told her the real story, which wasn’t as bad as the bottom line made it look.

In 1865, months after the war was over Van, in Lambert’s Cove, in Macon County, was having a heated argument with a man with the last name of Lambert. Lambert fought for the Yankees. Of course, there was some post war bitterness towards the men who were “turncoats”. Van hit the Lambert man with a rifle or a large stick, more than once and killed him.

William was not there, so did not participate in ending Lambert’s life.

However, he was Van’s alibi. Van told the sheriff that he didn’t kill Lambert, he was no place near the place Lambert was killed, he was with his nephew William at that time.

And William backed him up, which changed his life.

Through some investigated work the sheriff proved that William was not telling the truth and a warrant was put out for their arrest. Their solution: Get the hell away! They fled.

Interesting little fact that may or may not have a connection. I told you William, as a child, lived with Jacob and Polly Trammell on the 1850 census. On the census they also had nine children living in the household.

The oldest child was Mahala Trammell. In about a ten year period between 1850 and 1860 Mahala married three times. The first was a person with the last name Lambert. Is it the Lambert that was killed by Van? Or related?

William changed his surname to his rightful paternal name, which most people take at birth. William had to wait about 25 years. There are letters between Jason Henderson Hunter and William as grown men, each recognizing each other as father and son.

Not that this has anything to do with, but Jason had another son, named William, born about 1849 and later, about 1870, another son named William.

I am only speculating, but I think probably his first legitimate son named William died early, maybe from the war. The second son he named William was named after his illegitimate son named William, because that was about the time they were communicating.

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Blogger Bird said...

Interesting story, Ed. You are quite the detective. I wish I could find info. on my family but never had any luck.

4:06 AM  
Blogger ET said...

You just need to be consisitant and try all possibilities.
Have you looked at the census for your grandparents' area? That seems to usually be the first step.

4:35 AM  
Blogger kenju said...

It is just like detective work, isn't it?

2:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lots of things going on here, let me talk about them.

1.) Bird and I used to live in Franklin, NC with our son Eric. We were there for close to four years before we crossed the state line into North GA. That’s just FYI. We went through Otto EVERY SINGLE DAY.
2.) Lots of these folks up here in the hills stayed loyal to the Yankees. Franklin gave men to both sides. Lots of deserters came up here too- the secesh kind. One of my old pals from the past- a preacher- his family has been up here forever and ever and he has three Yanks in his bloodline and 3 rebs.
3.) When we get together for our meeting this Summer I am going to tell you one that is very similar from my own family tree.
4.) My dads side of the family is LOADED with rays- they originated- as far as I can tell in Alabama, and there are still tons in Attala County, Mississippi- Daddy’s oldest traceable ancestor was from Buncombe County, NC.
5.) Great post as always. I love the whole genealogy thing!

4:04 PM  
Blogger ET said...

Sorry I haven't responded sooner. We have been to Atlanta to a doctor and also a doctor here, also we saw Da Vinci Code movie. Great! And generally have been on the go all day.
You are right, it is just like detective work, searching out clues and hunches. I love it this kind of detecive work, providing no one shoots at me... wait, I had that happen to me to in a family grave yard on somebody's land, I'll tell of that some day.
I lv

5:27 PM  
Blogger ET said...

As you can tell, as I was typing you a note I was rudley interupted by the system.
What I was about to say, I love Franklin and have since my genealogy started, have just about been in every part of the county. And mostly centering in downtown on the hill and out in the Burningtown Community.
gotta run, I promised Anna we would watch a Stephen King I taped on TV a couple of weeks ago.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

Families are soooo complicated. It's exciting that you found out all that info though.

1:17 PM  
Blogger ET said...

Families are complicated.
We rented the movie "TransAmerica" last night, wow, talking about complicated familly relationships!

5:06 PM  
Blogger Suzanne said...

Yes, my mentor once said that we need families, but they f*ck you up. I thought that was fairly wise.

8:29 PM  
Blogger ET said...

You are right... they fuc* you up - but if anybody is going to do it, I prefer to keep it in the family.

10:49 AM  
Blogger ET said...

You are right... they fuc* you up - but if anybody is going to do it, I prefer to keep it in the family.

10:50 AM  
Blogger CamilaJW said...

I'm from Franklin and facinated by its history. Thanks for the very interesting post.

8:53 PM  

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