52 Ancestors 2018-6: John A Mize

John A Mize is my second great grandfather and the second or third great grandfather of most of my Mize cousins whom I know in person. There’s a reason for that, you’ll soon see.

We first meet John in the 1860 US Census as a six year old child in the household of his parents, Solomon Mize and Nancy (James) Dodd Mize. He is the third of their five known children. They are living in Unionville, Union County, South Carolina, where Solomon is a farmer.

In 1870, at the age of 16, John is still at home with his parents, in Jonesville, Union County, South Carolina where Solomon is still listed as a farmer.

In 1880, John is oddly missing from the household of his parents who are still in Jonesville. Solomon is now a farm laborer, implying that he does not own the land he works. Although John is absent from Solomon’s household, it does include “Desda”, listed along with Nancy as “wife”. None of Solomon’s children listed in the 1870 census are in this household, but, Charles F., age 8 is listed. Charles is my great grandfather; the strange second wife is my second great grandmother, Desdemona Fowler Mize. My great grandfather’s sister, Nettie,5; and brothers John,3; and Thomas Emsey, 1; are all listed in Solomon’s household. But, where is the absent John?

John is found in the Union County Jail. A prisoner, with occupation listed as carpenter. In articles posted in the Union Times and the Anderson Intelligencer, on about 1 Nov 1879 John Lipsey and John Mize were traveling from Jonesville in a wagon when a fight arose between them over spilled coffee. Both men being under the influence of alcohol, a fight broke out during which Lipsey’s repeated threats resulted in John Mize shooting him, the shot landing in the left side of Lipsey’s abdomen. Lipsey died of his wounds several days later, John was arrested and taken to jail.

On 20 Jun 1880, the court returned a verdict of not guilty of murder and John was freed.

We do not see Desdemona in another census, but we know she and John had four more known children: Monroe M Mize born in South Carolina 14 Feb 1883; Mattie, whose birthdate is given as 6 Jan 1886 in South Carolina; Albert Horace Mize, whose birthdate is given as  15 May 1886 in Georgia, and Virginia James Mize born 4 Jul 1888 in South Carolina.

In 1900 we find John in Cooks, Fulton County, Georgia with wife Maggie (Margaret Anna) Barnett, a daughter of Pyron Barnett, a native of North Carolina, and Emily Ward, of Greenville, South Carolina. John is now a machinist, most probably at a cotton mill, son John is now 23 and a day laborer; Virginia James “Virgie” is 18 and a spinner; Albert Horace is 15 and a doffer. John, Maggie, young John, Albert, and Virgie can all read and write. John and Maggie have been married 9 years; Desdemona must have died before after 1888 and before 1891, probably in South Carolina, but no mention or record has been found. Maggie and John have two children of their own, Annie, age 4, and Columbus, age 1. John’s older children, Charles F., Nettie, Thomas Emsey, and Monroe M. and Mattie have all left home and started their own independent lives.

While the 1910 census finds John back in Greenville, working as a shoemaker with his own shop, a 1909 mention in the Gaffney Ledger has him visiting his mother and brother in Cherokee County from his home in Selma, Alabama, and one of his two younger children with Maggie was born in Alabama in 1906, so he must have been living in Alabama at least part of the time between  1906 and 1909. John’s youngest child, Ruby, is born in Greenville, South Carolina in 1909.

Although John is a shoemaker with his own shop in 1910 (as his grandfather, James Mize, had been a shoemaker before him); he is found in the Greenville City Directory in 1912 working for Poe Mills as a machinist and married to Maggie.

On 29 Jun 1912, John dies at the age of 59 leaving Maggie a widow at 49  with young children aged 16, 14, 6 and 3. No details of his death are known. On 14 Sep 1917, Margaret Anna “Maggie” Barnett marries Robert Bluford Putman in Greenville County.

John is buried in the Old Brandon Mills Cemetery across the street from Graceland West Cemetery in Greenville. This cemetery is unmaintained although it has now been fenced and is owned privately. In a cemetery overgrown with nettles and periwinkle, and strewn with broken glass and other trash, where many graves can be recognized only by rectangular depressions in the ground, John’s is marked with a polished marker, engraved both front and back. Although we try to keep it cleared, and the owner of the property has had the cemetery itself cleared more than once, nature, and the nature of humans quickly takes over again and again leaving that low jungle of overgrowth and the detritus of life.

John’s Legacy

Desdemona Fowler 1854-@1888: Charles Frederick Mize 1873-1945 m Mary Ann Adcock: Miles Vernon Mize, Calvin Mize, Desta F Mize, Alfred Guinn Mize, Horace Mize, Bowden Malachi Mize, Lillie Mize, Leona Mize

Nettie M. Mize 1876-1911 m Marion William Moore: John Clyde Moore, Bright Moore, Lois Virginia Moore, Howard L Moore, Charles W Moore, Marion Iva Moore

“Young John” b 1877 last appears in the 1900 census age 23; I am unable to account for him past that.

Thomas Emsey Mize 1880-1972 m Myrtle Barnett

Monroe M Mize 1883-1945 never marries

Mattie Mize 1886-1862 m 1) Charlie Smith: Lillie Ann Smith m 2) Philip C Debrabant: Douglas Philip Debrabant

Albert Horace Mize 1886-1964 m Mary Jane Ballard

Virginia James Mize 1888-1955 m Hiram E Styer: Virginia Valentine Styer

Margaret Anna “Maggie” Barnett 1872-1968: Annie Mize 1896-1989 m Ernest Alfred Ward: Jasper Jack Ward, Mary Othelia Ward, Mattie Ruth Ward, Robert Ward

 Christopher Columbus Mize 1898-1967 m Connie Lee Barker: Margie Lee Mize, Armetta Mize

 Bessie Glenn Mize 1906-1994 m Albert Augustin Justice: Edward Glenn Justice, Charles Curtis Justice, Sadie Beatrice Justice, Nadine Bernice Justice, Calvin Eugene Justice, Yvonne Genell Justice

 Ruby Estelle Mize 1909-1989 m James Lester Summerall: Margaret Vivian Summerall, Vera Lee Summerall, Dorthula Louise Summerall, James Thomas Summerall, Ann Summerall

The last of John Mize’s children to die was Bessie Glenn Mize Justice 1906-1994

 

John A Mize

12 Sep 1953- 29 Jul 1912

He has gone to the mansions above

Asleep in Jesus blessed sleep from which one never wakes forever

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52 Relatives 2018-5: Luther Martin Durboraw; Lest We Forget

According to his death certificate, Luther Durboraw was the born 5 May 1886 in Greenville, South Carolina. He was the third of my great great grandparents, Sarah Vaughn Durboraw Turner and John Frederick Durboraw’s  five known children.

While most of us have ancestors or relatives who served in the armed forces during wartime, Luther enlisted in the US Army on Jan 6, 1906 at Charlotte, North Carolina as a private in the Army Hospital Corps first at Fort Ethan Allen, Vermont, then at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He is enumerated in the 1910 US Census at the United States Military Prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he is serving in the Army Hospital Corps, is honorably discharged for reason of disability on November 22, 1910 at Fort Logan, Colorado and returns home to Greenville.

On November 10, 1912, Luther marries Nancy Bailey, daughter of William Bailey and Ella Dill in Greenville.

On July 16, 1914, a baby girl, Sarah Durboraw, is born to Luther and Nancy.

On February 27, 1915, baby Sarah dies of whooping cough complicated by pneumonia.

On March 16, 1916, Luther adopts eighteen month old John Thomas Durboraw, the natural son of one Mattie Bagwell, who states before the South Carolina State Court of Greenville County on that day that the child’s natural father has deserted her and she cannot care for the child.

On September 25, 1919, Luther himself dies of tuberculous meningitis in Liberty, Pickens County, South Carolina; the informant being my grandmother, his sister, at the time Mrs, W. M. Stevenson, then living in Gaffney, South Carolina.

Both Luther and baby Sarah Durboraw are buried at Graceland West, Greenville, neither grave is marked.

John Thomas Durboraw is last seen in the home of Nancy Bailey’s parents, William and Ella Bailey in the 1920 census listed as age six. Nancy Bailey has remarried on February 16, 1920, in Greenville, to Ernest Medlin. Nancy and Ernest have one child, John Earle Medlin, born 1923, who dies of pneumonia at the age of eight. Ernest is murdered in 1939 and Nancy later marries William R Singleton.

Never Forget

 

52 Relatives 2018-4:Wyatt Griffin Vaughn; O Brother Where Art Thou?

Wyatt Griffin Vaughn was my gr grandmother’s youngest sibling, son of Branch Vaughn and “Preshes” Chapman. He was born in Greenville County, South Carolina on September 25, 1859.

After 1880 Wyatt Griffin marries Margery Frances Jones; their son, Lewis Jones Vaughn is born 10 May 1882 in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Before 1889, Wyatt Griffin Vaughn, it is said, gets up from the breakfast table and heads out to work. He is never seen or heard from again. And, until about 2010 none of Griffin’s South Carolina descendants knew where he had gone, or if he had been dead or alive at the time of his seeming disappearance.

Sometime during 2010, as the Family Search Pilot Project was being merged into the New Family Search website, I was testing it out and entered my second great grandfather’s name, Branch Vaughn, into the search field. I got quite a surprise when this search yielded a Louisiana Death Certificate for one Wyatt Griffin Vaughn, born September 25, 1859 in Greenville, South Carolina and died September 6, 1950, only a week shy of his ninety first birthday, in Slidell, St. Tammany, Louisiana. His parents listed on the certificate are Branch W Vaughn and “Patricia” Chatmon. Too close to comfort I thought, and sent off a copy of Wyatt Griffin Vaughn’s death certificate to my cousin Helene, his direct descendant. The informant was one Shirley Pichon, a daughter with whom, according to the certificate, Griffin had lived for 11 years prior to his death. He is widowed at the time of death, but his wife’s name is listed on his death certificate as Lillie Glover.

So, the story of what in the world happened to Wyatt Griffin Vaughn shifts quickly out of South Carolina to Slidell, St. Tammany, Louisiana, where Griffin Vaughn had lived out his life after leaving a wife and son in South Carolina.

On September 25, 1889, Griffin had married Lillie Glover in Lauderdale, Mississippi. He is absent from the 1900 US Census but in 1910 he is in New Orleans, married to Lillie, who is 36 to Wyatt’s 51, with children: Gertrude, 19; Bonnie, 17;  Annie, 15; Jefferson, 10; Shirley, 7; and Samuel, 4. We know there is a detour in there somewhere because although Bonnie, Anna, Jefferson, Shirley, Samuel, and Leola all have Louisiana birth records, Gertrude was born in Fort Worth, Texas.

In 1920, Griffin, now widowed, is living in St. Tammany  with daughters Annie, and Shirley, their  respective spouses and families, daughter Leola, sons Jefferson and Sam. No record is found for Lillie’s death.

In the  1930  US census, a 70 year old Griffin Vaughn is living in the household of daughter Shirley and her family; in 1940  an 81 year old Griffin is living in St. Tammany with son Sam and wife Annie May.

So it happens that we find that a man who went missing from South Carolina, leaving behind his wife and child, goes on to build a completely new life in Louisiana with a new wife, leaving, in addition to Lewis Jones Vaughn in South Carolina,  seven more  known children:

Gertrude Isabella Vaughn 1890-1981 m George Henry Brisbi

Bonnie Lora Vaughn 1893-1950 m 1)Robert Gustave Dubuc; 2)unknown Williams; 3)Hans Olsen

Annie Christina Vaughn 1895-1978 m 1)John William Berrigan; and 2) Alonzo “Lonnie” Gauley

Jefferson Roland Vaughn 1899-1973 m Rosemary Swenson

Shirley Camille Vaughn 1904-1972 m 1)William Williams; 2)August Pichon; 3) John Bennett

Samuel Vaughn 1906-1984 m) Anna Mae Womack

Leola Agnes Vaughn 1913-1973 m Pascal John Quarella

So, Wyatt Griffin may have escaped his life and wife in South Carolina, but he couldn’t escape the diligence of determined genealogists, both of Griffin’s South Carolina and his New Orleans families some  120 years later.

In memoriam, Vera Williams James 1955-2013, great grand daughter of Wyatt Griffin Vaughn

 

 

 

 

52 Relatives 2018-2: Stover Wells Green; His Enduring Mystery

Stover Wells Green, my mother’s elder half brother, was born in 1907 to my grandmother, Nora Durboraw Green Stevenson Mize (whew) in Chick Springs, Greenville County, South Carolina. His father, Isaac Furman Green passed away September 30 of that same year. Since birth certificates were not required until 1915 in South Carolina, it is not known by anyone now living if Wells was born before or after the death of his father although it is a certainty that he did not know his biological father. Wells was the third of three children born to Nora and Isaac.

We first meet Wells at the age of 3 when, at the time of the 1910 US Census, he is living with his widowed mother; her mother, also widowed,Sarah Vaughn Durboraw, and his two full siblings, Edward Green b 1903 and Edith Karen Green b 1905.

A glimpse of things to come is seen in court records in March 1919 when a 12 year old Wells, is sentenced to a year in the reformatory in Florence, South Carolina for housebreaking and larceny.

By 1920 Wells is living in Gaffney,Limestone Twp., Cherokee County, South Carolina. His mother is now married to Ward Stevenson and has three more children: James Stevenson,7; Charlotte Stevenson,5; and Rosemund Stevenson, 2. I have not been able to find a marriage record, but it seems Nora must have remarried about 1913.

On Jan 29, 1925, a Friday night, Wells Green, now described as a student at Gaffney High School, and three friends, traveled over the border separating South from North Carolina, to Morganton, North Carolina to steal “a load of liquor” from moonshiner Frank Butler. This was clearly meant to be an act of theft, the boys did not have money to purchase the ten gallons of liquor from Butler and planned to take off as soon as their one gallon jugs were filled without paying the bootlegger once he had filled those jugs.

The liquor was stored in a location about half a mile from Butler’s house. Butler rode in the car with the boys to fill their jugs, then they returned to Butler’s home, turning the engine off while Butler went into the house accompanied by Wells Green, to get canning jars into which to put a gallon of liquor for which the boys had not had a jug. But, rather than going with Butler into the house, Wells jumped into the restarted car with the intention of taking off, leaving Butler unpaid. Quick on his feet, Butler ran to the driver’s door, opened it and attempted to turn the engine off as Wells sprang from the car and shot him three times with a 32 caliber pistol. Two of the three shots hit Butler; one in the heart inflicting a fatal wound.  But Frank Butler did not die without first telling his wife that “those fools shot me”.

The boys took off in the car, returning to their repective homes in South Carolina.

The following Tuesday, the sheriff of Burke County, North Carolina issued a warrant for one of the four boys involved in the escapade and called for an investigation in South Carolina to determine who else was involved. The initial suspect arrested by the Burke County sheriff identified the other three young men, including Wells Green, who, it was concluded in a hearing in Morganton on February 4, 1926 was eligible for a charge of first degree murder, an offense that could lead to the death penalty.

Well’s mother,my grandmother, who thought Wells had been “at the movies” the night of the crime, sought to hire legal council to defend Wells, who at first denied he had committed the crime. Wells’ father, Isaac Green, had been a member of a prominant and prosperous local family. Upon Isaac’s death in 1907, Nora and the three children she had had with Isaac Green had been granted a trust to provide for her and the three Green children until they reached majority, and a significant legacy for each when that time arrived. Newspaper accounts from the time note that Wells’ mother and the Green family were financially well prepared to hire such legal counsel as it would take to defend Wells from a possible sentence of death. Family scuttlebut was that my grandmother blew through the trust, including money meant to support her and the three children until adulthood in the attempt to rescue Wells from a death sentience. Since I am in possession of a copy of that trust, and the claims made to the adminstrators and the court as the children grew, I can say that it is definitely not the case that my grandmother “blew through” that money for Wells’ legal defense.

On February 9, 1926, one of the stranger claims in this case is made as the widow of the slain bootlegger testifies she has received death threats from a “South Carolina bootleg ring” if she testifies against the four young men charged with the death of her husband. In her testimony, ten gallons of liquor has grown to twenty five, and “fools” have become “devils”. She ultimately retreats to the home of her father, a former North Carolina deputy sheriff. The February 9 hearing results in a continuance to allow for the accused teens to obtain legal council and the state contemplating filing charges of conspiracy to commit murder against all four boys.

By February 11, 1926, a Shelby, Cleveland County, North Carolina attorney has been retained to represent Wells. On February 20,Wells and one other of the youths are determined to be held without bond in Morganton pending first degree murder charges while two are determined to have been accomplices and are freed on a bond of $1000 each.

A trial is set for March 15, 1926 with Wells being charged with second degree murder. But, on that day, Wells suprisingly pleads guilty to that charge and is sentenced to not less than 8 and not more than 10 years in the North Carolina State Prison in Raleigh. Wells left to begin this sentence on March 18, 1926 the same day a damning editorial is published in the Gaffney Ledger, hometown paper for Wells and his mother, blaming his criminal act on the early death of his father and his mother’s subsequent two marriages, claiming this led to “little or no moral training”.

On 13 January 1927, less than a year after beginning his sentence, Wells is described in the prison newspaper as a model prisoner; in February 1928, while still a prisoner, he wins second prize in a national essay contest. Meanwhile, the other young man sentenced directly for the murder escapes from the state prison in a laundry van and one charged only as an accomplice and who had served only a short term goes on to rob a bank in Edgefield, South Carolina.

So, if Wells Green pled guilty and went to prison for second degree murder in March 1926 with a minimum sentence of 8 years, I have no idea how he appears in the 1930 census, back in Chick Springs, Greenville County, South Carolina, with my grandmother, his one full brother, the three half sibling Stevenson children and his other half siblings, my mother, Freddie Mae Mize, and her brother, Charles Mize. My grandfather is strangely missing, but, that is another tale for another snowy day. Perhaps Wells was such an exemplary prisoner he shaved four years off his minimum sentence with good behavior? Perhaps placing second in a national essay contest counts as good behavior? At the time of this 1930 census, Wells is gainfully employed as a clerk in a dry goods store.

In November, 1933, Wells is shot in the chest on the street in Greenville by Ezell Gosnell, son of Reuben Gosnell, a “revenue agent”. He  is taken to the hospital for his injury but refuses to file charges against Ezell who spent the night in jail and was released when no charges were filed. The motive or motives here are completly mysterious; Ezell Gosnell marries and leads a seemingly normal life. Other than the reference to his father as a “revenue agent” neither I nor anyone else, including Ezell Gosnell’s family can imagine the motive behind this shooting, a connection between the two men, or for Wells’ refusal to press charges against a man who shot him, in a public place, with a number of  witnesses.

The rest of the known story of (Stover)Wells Green consists of two 1941 charges, one in March and one in November of “violating the liquor laws”. Something tells me that prison time didn’t fully rehabilitate him.

No one knows what happened to Wells after 1941. My grandmother never knew what happened to Wells after 1941 and it haunted her the rest of her life. He has been a romantic family legend for all of my life. Family rumor had it that he shot a man in a lover’s quarrel and went to prison; I guess that’s more romantic than he shot a man while trying to avoid paying for moonshine. It’s not impossible that he was shot by a man in a lover’s quarrel, if, perhaps we are referring to the shooting by Ezell Gosnell, but, since Wells would not press charges, that is a question that will never be answered.

One of the wilder tales told in the family about “what ever happened to Wells Green” was that he went to Washington, DC, got in with “the mob” and ended up being weighted with cement and thrown into the Potomac to drown, or killed by “the mob” and disposed of by being thrown into the Potomac with those “cement boots”. There’s no evidence to even suggest this, I think it’s the product of a creative imagination.

Years of research have not solved the fate of Wells Green, we just know he disappeared. I won’t stop looking, because, you know what they say:

The Truth Is Out There

 

 

 

The Missing Parents of Steady Fowler Sr.: The Role of Serendipity in Genealogy

About two years ago I did the Ancestry.com DNA test in hopes that it would help me with a few of those brick wall ancestors that plague every genealogist, and it did. It also presented me with some new cousins and the task of fitting them into the tangled, circular, braided branches of my family tree.

A few months ago a third cousin match popped up on Ancestry DNA with a small tree, but that tree included a Fowler. This new cousin match, whom  I’ll call “Tommy” to preserve his anonymity, was the grandson of Albert Dewey Fowler and the great grandson of Steadman L. “Steady” Fowler Sr. and his first wife Fannie Mize.

Steady Sr. proved a bit of a problem, as, prior to his adulthood, he appears only in one census, in 1900, as the fifteen year old grandson of Bryant Fowler and Elizabeth Wright Fowler, Draytonville, Cherokee County, South Carolina.

stead1900census

As most who do genealogy know, the 1890 US Census was essentially entirely destroyed in a 1921 fire, so the information it contained is not available and there is a twenty year gap in census records, 1880-1900. A lot can happen in twenty years: children can be born, grow to adulthood, and leave their parents’ homes, never to be recorded in a US census with their parents and birth family.

In this case, the good part was that I knew Bryant Fowler and Elizabeth Wright Fowler and the more than one way they fit into my tangled tree:  Bryant descends from my fifth great grandfather, and, Bryant and Elizabeth’s daughter, Harriet, married (James) Monroe Mize, a brother to my second great grandfather, John A. Mize.

So, we know that Steady Sr. was a grandson of Bryant Fowler and Elizabeth Wright Fowler, but do not know which of their children was his father. Here, we are making an assumption that the child of Bryant and Elizabeth’s who is Steady’s parent is a son, because Steady carries the Fowler surname. As it happens, this is an assumption that will come back to haunt me.

We do have a hint as to Steady’s parentage, because we have his January 2,1972 obituary:

steady obit

In this obituary it states that Steady’s parents are the late Joseph Bryant Fowler and Emma Wilkins. We know from the 1870 and 1880 US Census, Gowdysville, Union County, South Carolina and  Draytonville, Union County, South Carolina respectively, that Bryant and Elizabeth Fowler did have a son, Joseph (Bryant), along with two other sons and two daughters.

Bryant HH 1870Bryant HH 1880

So, we have a list of Bryant and Elizabeth’s known children that looks like this. But, remember that there is a 20 year census gap between 1880 and 1900 during which we have no idea who is living in the  household of Bryant Fowler and Elizabeth Wright Fowler.

Fowler children I set about going down this list of known children of Bryant and Elizabeth with the intent of showing that Steady’s father was their son Joseph Bryant Fowler as stated in his obituary.

I’m able to sketch a “life” for all the children using only online resources except for the one I think is the most probable father for Steady, Joseph Bryant Fowler. In fact, I can find nothing on Joseph Bryant Fowler, he seems to just disappear after 1880, never to reappear. I’m able to track all the other children with census records, death certificates, burial and cemetery records, and obituaries: “cradle to grave”.

Before I began I did know the fate of two of the children, daughters Harriett and Emma. I know that Harriett had married, and lived a long and crazy life with my great great grand uncle James Monroe Mize, and, I knew that Emma had married Goodman O. Wilkins and produced two children, grandchildren to Bryant and Elizabeth, who seem to be, simply put, nothing but trouble. In fact, Emma’s marriage to Goodman O. Wilkins seems doomed in itself. Goodman’s 1908 obituary paints a sad picture of mental illness and an early death.

Goodman Death

An article published in the Gaffney Ledger, May 14, 1909, tells of Albert Horace Wilkins, son of Emma Fowler Wilkins and grandson of Bryant and Elizabeth, injuring a very elderly Elizabeth by throwing her out a door and down some steps and describes him, in the vernacular of the day, as “an idiot”.

Albert Horace injures Lizzie

Before this incident Bryant has died, and as noted in his obituary,published in the Gaffney Ledger, Aug 28, 1906, is living , at the time of his death, with Mrs. G.O. Wilkins, his daughter Emma.

Death of Bryant Fowler Gaffney Ledger 28 Aug 1906

In the 1910 US Census, White Plains, Draytonville Township, Cherokee County, South Carolina, Elizabeth Wright Fowler is found living with her daughter, Emma Fowler Wilkins, and her two, now grown, children. The family did not move, Cherokee county was created out of part of what has previously been Union County.

Lizzie 1910

And, in the 25 Sep 1914 edition of the Gaffney Ledger we find the sad announcement of the death of  Elizabeth Wright Fowler, at the home of her daughter, Mrs. G.O. Wilkins.

death Lizzie

By this time I think I’ve sufficiently established the context that Emma Wright Fowler and Mrs. G.O. Wilkins are one and the same and that Emma is the daughter of Bryant and Elizabeth Wright Fowler, her children, Bessie and Albert Horace, their grandchildren. In 1927, Emma Wright Fowler Wilkins herself dies. She has no obituary published, but her death certificate indicates she is the daughter of Bryant Fowler (mysteriously, her mother is listed as unknown); the informant is Emma’s sister, Harriet Fowler Mize.

emma deth

Even I think that I have established the relationship between Bryant Fowler and Elizabeth Wright Fowler and Emma Wright Fowler Wilkins to the point of overkill. I’ve done essentially the same with Emma’s known siblings and all except Joseph Bryant Fowler are duly accounted for, born, tracked through their lives in the census, married, died, buried, obituaried. Not a sign of, nor a hint of, a possible Fowler father for the errant and troublesome Steady Sr.

At about this point, and for no good reason, I go searching the Gaffney Ledger on Newspapers.com for an unexpected, and not found, obituary for Emma’s handicapped son, Horace Albert Wilkins, who apparently never left home, never married, and was cared for during his entire life by his mother and then by his sister, Bessie. Since I do have a death certificate for Albert Horace Wilkins and know he died in March 1947, I search the Gaffney Ledger for that month and I don’t find Albert Horace’s obituary anywhere, but I notice the name “Fowler” out of the corner of my eye and click to view that article, published 4 Mar 1947. Here is where the fickle finger of fate, or, perhaps, the angel on my shoulder, come into play and my search for the father of Steady L. Fowler, Sr. takes a quick and unexpected turn. I find by this simple click of my mouse, the obituary for one John Bryant Fowler, and, in it, the parentage of Steady Sr., who, it seems, along with his two full siblings, is not technically a “Fowler” at all.

john bryant fowler obit

John Bryant Fowler, born 1881, has two full siblings: Steady L. born 1885, and “Mrs. W. E. Osteen”, and two half siblings: Bessie Wilkins born 1892 and (Albert) Horace Wilkins born 1897. It is only at this point that it occurs to me that the Emma Wilkins, wife of G.O. Wilkins and daughter to Bryant Fowler and Elizabeth Wright Fowler and “Emma Wilkins” in Steady Sr.’s obituary are the same person. Wilkins is a common name in my family tree and there are several Emmas.

So, John Bryant Fowler, Steady L. Fowler Sr., Bessie Wilkins, and Albert Horace Wilkins all have one thing in common: their mother was Emma Wright FOWLER Wilkins.

I then look for a death certificate on Ancestry for John Bryant Fowler. Does one come up in any kind of search using any kind of search parameters? Of course not. So, I go to Family Search and find…….an index, poorly transcribed, no image available (what’s this, Family Search? No more photoduplication services because you are doing so well at getting actual record images online? Sorry, you can’t fool me). I am, at this point, having frightening thoughts of a weeks long wait for the appropriate microfilm to get to my local Family History Center. Yes, I am spoiled, we all are in the digital age.

The index on Family Search tells me this:

john index

To say I was shocked is an understatement. We have a father, Clem “Mabey”; I’m thinking it is Mabry because my family tree is rife with Mabrys and devoid of “Mabeys”, and “Cuna” Wilkins? Pretty sure I know who that is: Emma Fowler Wilkins.

In a last ditch effort to satisfy my craving for instant death certificate gratification, I go back to Ancestry where I can browse the South Carolina Death Certificate Collection. I’ve found this to be seldom helpful, but that angel was on my shoulder yet again, I went to 1947, Spartanburg County, and found the errant image in the first two hundred while I missed the evening news and my dinner dehydrated.

jond DC

No, it isn’t clear as day, but it looks like Clem Mabry and Emma Wilkins to me.

It seems that in that black hole between the 1880 census and the 1900 census, Emma Wright Fowler married or had some other relationship, possibly with a  “Clem Mabry” that produced three full siblings: John Bryant Fowler, “Mrs. W. E. Osteen”, and Steady L Fowler, Sr., who were most probably raised in the household of Bryant and Elizabeth Wright Fowler as Fowlers. It’s apparent that at least John Bryant Fowler knew his correct or probable parentage; at least that his father was not a son of Bryant Fowler and Elizabeth Wright Fowler. Both John Bryant Fowler’s death certificate and Steady L Fowler Sr.’s obituary both clearly refer to their mother as maiden name “Emma Wilkins” when she would have been Emma Fowler or perhaps  Emma Mabry during most, if not all of the time in question, since she did not marry Goodman O. Wilkins until about 1900. In fact, since the 1900 census, in which Emma and Goodman first appear as married, with children: Eva A. Wilkins, 11, Bessie, 9 and Horace, 4; they are also listed as newlyweds, married “0” years and Emma is recorded as having had 8 children total with 5 still living. So, we know, from John Bryant Fowler’s obituary that he, “Mrs. W. E. Osteen” , and Steady Sr. are full siblings but, we do not actually know the biological father of Bessie and Horace, just that that father is not Clem Mabry.

wilkins 1910

There will always be more mysteries, in this case we have the third full sibling, “Mrs. W. E. Osteen ” who share both her father and her mother with  John Bryant Fowler, and Steady L Fowler, Sr.. It dawned on me to explore the possibility that the Eva A Wilkins who appears as an eleven year old in the 1900 census, White Plains, Cherokee County with mother Emma Fowler Wilkins, her new husband, Goodman Wilkins and younger siblings Bessie and Horace might be the mysterious “Mrs. W. E. Osteen” mentioned in John Bryant Fowler’s obituary. If I add “W. E. Osteen” as husband to “Eva” I get an instant answer. Eva, who is really Era Avalona, appears in the 1910, 1920 and 1940 census married to William E Osteen and living first Greenville then in  Spartanburg with their growing family. William E Osteen and wife Era Avalona Wilkins Osteen are buried together at Pacolet Memorial Gardens, Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Bessie Wilkins, Emma’s younger daughter, first seen in the 1900 census as a “Wilkins”, presumably the daughter of Goodman (but unlikely)  rates another blog post of her own since she managed to produce seven children between the years of 1912 and 1931, apparently by immaculate conception.

 Many thanks to my cousin “Tommy” for sharing my DNA and allowing me to take this adventure, to my cousin Dave DuBose for assistance accessing obituaries,to my cousin Dan Searing for his unfailing support and constant encouragement, and to my cat, BeBe for staying out of my hair for a few hours.

Update 12/30/15: Via Ancestry DNA a second descendant of Steady L. Fowler has been found. She is a descendant of Steady Sr.’s son Clyde Landrum Fowler, brother to Tommy’s grandfather, Albert Dewey Fowler. They are second cousins to each other.

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Year: 1900; Census Place: Draytonville, Cherokee, South Carolina; Roll: 1522; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 0003; FHL microfilm: 1241522

Year: 1870; Census Place: Gowdysville, Union, South Carolina; Roll: M593_1510; Page: 437A; Image: 229; Family History Library Film: 553009

Year: 1880; Census Place: Braytonville, Union, South Carolina; Roll: 1242; Family History Film: 1255242; Page: 471C; Enumeration District: 153

Year: 1900; Census Place: White Plains, Cherokee, South Carolina; Roll: 1522; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 0013; FHL microfilm: 1241522

Year: 1910; Census Place: Greenville, Greenville, South Carolina; Roll: T624_1461; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0019; FHL microfilm: 1375474

Year: 1910; Census Place: White Plains, Cherokee, South Carolina; Roll: T624_1454; Page: 16B; Enumeration District: 0014; FHL microfilm: 1375467

Year: 1920; Census Place: Greenville, Greenville, South Carolina; Roll: T625_1698; Page: 29B; Enumeration District: 19; Image: 68

Year: 1940; Census Place: Pacolet Cotton Mills, Spartanburg, South Carolina; Roll: T627_3838; Page: 33B; Enumeration District: 42-41

Ancestry.com. South Carolina, Death Records, 1821-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008.

“South Carolina Deaths, 1944-1955,” index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/FPMJ-9R1 : accessed 19 February 2015), John Bryant Fowler, 28 Feb 1947; citing Spartanburg, Spartanburg, South Carolina, cn 3607, Department of Health and Environmental Control, Columbia; FHL microfilm 2,394,778.

Ancestry.com. South Carolina, Death Records, 1821-1960 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008.
Original data: South Carolina. South Carolina death records. Columbia, SC, USA: South Carolina Department of Archives and History.

Ancestry.com. U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.

Newspapers.com, Gaffney Ledger: 28 Aug 1906, 1 May 1908, 14 May 1909,

28 Aug 1906, 25 Sep 1914, 4 Mar 1907