Category Archives: Primary Sources: Letters, Documents, Diaries, Histories

1940’s Census Blog

Did you know that you can learn a lot of information about the 1940 Census from the 1940 Census Blog? The blog includes posts about famous people found in the census and how to find them, informative posts about the indexing project, and even great contests. You can keep up with news about the 1940 Census Community Project. The blog has an RSS feed that allows you to receive updates in your RSS feed reader, too.

I’ve been working on indexing the 1940 Census a little bit in my free time, and I even managed to find my great-grandparents, my grandfather, and the rest of their family in Lockney, TX—mainly because I knew exactly where the family would be in the 1940 Census. I don’t know where the rest of my family was (for certain, anyway) in 1940. The project needs volunteers willing to transcribe certain information on the census images so that a searchable database can be created to help us all find our relatives in 1940, even if we aren’t sure where they were.

I was really interested to discover the education level attained by my family members, and I was really intrigued to see my great-grandfather was still working for the WPA in 1940 and that my great-uncle Alvin was a shoe shine boy and shop cleaner at a barber shop. No one mentioned that job before to me, so likely the family didn’t consider it significant.

You can learn more about the project and how you can help at the 1940 Census Community Project.

As part of ambassador program this blog post enters me into a drawing for an iPad.

1940 Census

By this time tomorrow, the 1940 Census will have been released. This is exciting news for genealogists who need data from that census to get past brick walls. Personally, I’m hopeful the 1940 Census will help me answer some of the following burning questions I have:

  • Do I have the right Frank Chatman or Chapman as my great-grandfather? I think I found him, but I’m not certain, and a later census with a bit more information could help.
  • What happened to my great-grandmother Gertrude Nettie Perkins? She is missing from the 1930 Census, or at least, I can’t find her, but I know she lived until 1971. The 1930 Census was taken during a time of turmoil in her life when many of her children were adopted into different families. I also want to find all of them.
  • What do my mother’s parents’ families look like in 1940?
  • I’m also intrigued to find out more about my husband’s families on the 1940 Census.

What are you looking forward to learning? By the way, until it’s indexed, you might find this infographic for how to search the census helpful.

Civil War Pension Application of William Jones Bowling

William Jones BowlingWhat follows is a transcription of the Confederate pension application filed by my great-great-great-grandfather, William Jones Bowling (pictured) in 1911.  Underlined portions are written in either W. J. Bowling’s hand or that of the clerk in order to fill out the application.
Form A

For Use of Soldiers, Who are in Indigent Circumstances

The State of Texas

County of Donley

I, W. J. Bowling, do hereby make application to the Commissioner of Pensions for a pension to be granted me under the Act passed by the Thirty-first Legislature of the State of Texas, and approved March 26, A. D. 1909, on the following grounds:

I enlisted and served in the military service of the Confederate States during the war between the States of the United States, and that I did not desert the Confederate service, but during said war I was loyal and true to my duty, and never at any time voluntarily abandoned my post of duty in the said service; that I was honorably discharged or surrendered in Camp Douglass [sic] prison in Illinois when war ended.  Liberated about 1st of May 1865 (Give date and cause.) that I have been a bona fide citizen of this State since prior to January 1, A. D. 1880, and have been continuously since a citizen of the State of Texas.  I do further state that I do not hold any national, State, city or county office which pays me in salary or feeds one hundred and fifty dollars per annum, nor have I an income from any other employment or other source whatever which amounts to one hundred and fifty dollars per annum, nor do I receive from any source whatever money or other means of support amounting in value to the sum of one hundred and fifty dollars per annum, nor do I own in my own right, nor does any one hold in trust for my benefit or use, nor does my wife own, nor does any one hold in trust for my wife, estate or property, either real, personal or mixed, either in fee or for life, of the assessed value of over one thousand dollars; nor do I receive any aid or pension from any other State, or from the United States, or from any other source, and that I am not an inmate of the Confederate Home, and I do further state that the answers given to the following questions are true:

  1. What is your age? 71 years
  2. Where were you born? Haywood Co. Tenn.
  3. How long have you resided in Texas? about last of 1875 to present
  4. In what county do you reside? Donley
  5. How long have you resided in said county and what is your postoffice address[?] 3 years[,] Lelia Lake
  6. Have you applied for a pension under the Confederate pension law and been rejected?  If rejected, state when and where[.] never]
  7. What is your occupation, if able to engage in one? Minister of Gospel
  8. In what State was the command in which you served organized? Tenn and Miss
  9. How long did you serve?  Give, if possible, the date of enlistment and discharge[.] 8/1861 to discharge 1865
  10. What was the letter of your company, number or name of battalion, regiment or battery? 1st Ala. Tenn & Miss Regiment & Company K Inftry. surrendered under McCall Island no. 10
  11. If transferred from one command to another, give time of transfer, name of command and time of service[.] Exchanged at Vicksburg in 62 then to Miss [indecipherable]
  12. What branch of service did you enlist in — infantry, cavalry, artillery or navy?
  13. If commissioned direct by the President, what was your rank and line of duty? not comm
  14. If detailed for special service, under the law of conscription, what was the nature of your service and how long did you serve? was volunteer
  15. Have you transferred to others any property of any kind for the purpose of becoming a beneficiary under this law? no

Wherefore your petitioner prays that his application be approved and such other proceedings be had in the premises as required by law.

(Signature of Applicant) W. J. Bowling

Sworn to and subscribed before me, this 25 day of March, A. D. 1911

J. H. O'[name indecipherable]

County Judge Donley County, Texas.

Affidavit of Witnesses

[Note: There must be at least two credible witnesses.]

The State of Texas

County of Donley

Before me J. H. O'[name indecipherable], County Judge of Donley County, State of Texas, on this day personally appeared J. B. Cope, who are [sic] personally known to me to be credible citizens, who, being by me duly sworn, on oath state that they personally know W. J. Bowling the above named applicant for a pension, and that they personally know the said W. J. Bowling has been a bona fide resident citizen of the State of Texas since prior to January 1, A. D. 1880, an that they have no interest in this claim.

(Signature of Witness) J. B. Cope

Jemmie Ray Campbell

Jemmie Ray Campbell was my grandmother’s brother. She gave my father the middle name “Ray” in his honor. The 71st anniversary of his death was yesterday: July 8, 1939. Poverty was not uncommon during the Depression, and Appalachia was particularly hard hit. At the time of Jemmie Ray’s birth on June 17 and his death only 21 days later, my great-grandmother, Martha Trusty, and her husband Osa Campbell were living in Vicco, Perry County, Kentucky. Even in the year 2000, the most recent year for which statistics are available, almost 50% of the residents of Vicco lived below the poverty line1. My grandmother was nine years old when her little brother died—old enough to have helped her mother take care of the little baby, perhaps changing his diapers. Old enough to hold him in her arms. Old enough to be sad about his death.

Jemmie Ray is a little bit of an enigma. My grandfather spells his name Jimmy Ray, and his birth record on says his name is Donnie R. Campbell. I haven’t ordered a physical copy of his birth certificate, so I’m not sure why there is a discrepancy. His birthdate is also listed as Jan. 17 rather than June. I have a suspicion that it’s a transcription error. I could see an archivist easily mistaking Jun. for Jan. Depending on the legibility of the handwriting, Jemmie and Donnie could look a great deal alike as well.

Birth record for Donnie R. Campbell

I believe this to be the same child for which this death certificate was recorded:

Jemmie Ray Campbell death certificate

When I found the death record, I was struck by the tragedy of a small, three-week-old baby dying of dysentery and malnutrition. It’s something that shouldn’t happen in what we consider to be modern times—we associate such deaths with the most poverty-stricken parts of the world. I think many people forget about the poverty right here in our own country. This area of Kentucky still suffers.

I honored poor little Jemmie Ray after a fashion in a novel I wrote called Quicksand. It’s loosely based on family stories. My protagonist Imogen has a little brother named George, the infant son of her mother and stepfather, who dies under similar circumstances. Imogen is profoundly affected by his death. I remember crying the first time I saw Jemmie Ray’s death certificate. For my grandmother to use his middle name in my father’s name showed me how important this poor little baby, who survived only three weeks, must be to his older sister.


  1. Wikipedia entry on Vicco, Kentucky

Letter from Johnson Franklin Cunningham

Johnson Franklin Cunningham, pictured below with my great-great grandfather Amos Blakey Cunningham, sent the letter that follows to Amos’s daughter Dessie Cunningham Gray. I think it could mean a great deal to an African-American family if I only knew how to get the information to that family. If anyone knows of a good place to send this letter that might help it get into the right hands, please let me know. I have written about Johnson Franklin Cunningham in previous posts:

Johnson Franklin Cunningham and Amos Blakey Cunningham

Lexington, Georgia

Rte. 2 Box 8

Sept. 13, 1952

Mrs. John R. Gray

Pampa, Texas

Dear Mrs. Gray:

Your letter has been received. I was happy to know that you all arrived safe and that your father made the trip just fine.

I too was sorry I did not get to see you all again before you left for Texas, however, I am hoping that you can make a trip back to Georgia again soon.

Thanks very much for sending the pictures. I have enjoyed looking at them. I shall pray continually for your boy and all others that are in Korea.

I am inclosing a copy from those papers in this letter that you want.

Best wishes to your father.


J.F. Cunningham

The pages that follow appear to be a record of slave and free births in his family and are not in an order that was discernible to me, but may make sense to someone who knows more about the family.


Isabel child of Tillis was born on the 8th day of July 1856

Alford child of Tillis was born on the 29th of June 1858

Eliza Ann child of Charlotty was born on the 5th day of April 1859

George Alexander child of Charlotty was born on Monday the 12th of November 1860

Louisa child of Charlotty was born the 7th of December 1862

Hal child of Tillis was born on the [blank space] of June 1860

Green child of Conelia was born on the 14th day of August 1862

Lucy child of Elizabeth was born on the 23rd day of April 1862

Isaah child of Tillis was born on the 4th October 1862

Warren child of Conelia was born on the [missing word] of Jan. 1864

John Washington child of Thena [unsure if that is the correct name; handwriting difficult to decipher] was born on the 1st day of March 1865

Green Terrel of Franklin County was born on the 19th day of October 1829

Correy Isibel child of Kidy was born 1st day of September 1872

Mandy child of Kidy was born the 15th September 1874

Dewit Clinton child of Kidy was born on the 1st day of Oct. 1877

Samuel Terrel Sherman child of Green T. Conelser [handwriting difficult to read] Terrel was was born on 31st day of January 1871

Thomas child of Tom T. Julian was born on Tuesday the 8th day of Oct. 1867

John Henry child of Tom T. Julian was born on the 16th October 1869

Susan Anna child of Latty was born on the 22nd day of March 1874

William Robertson child of Julian Anna Tom was born on 30th day of June 1874

Clarinda Allin child of Latty T. Tom was born 26th day of April 1878

Mandy child of Charlotty was born on the 13th day of September 1864

Martha child of Henrietta was born on the 25 day of April 1865

Johnson Franklin child of Charlotty was born on Saturday the 17th day of July 1868

S. Elizabeth child of Sarah T. Robert was born on Monday night the 7th of December 1868

James William Rufus child of Henrietta was born on the 14th of January 1867

John Terrel child of Conelia Ann Warren was born on the 27th of January 1868

Eddy child of Sarah T. Robert was born on the 25 day of June 1865

Rolley James Franklin child of Sara T. Robert was born on the 25th December 1866

Charlotty (or Charlotte), Henrietta, and Elizabeth are sisters, the daughter of a woman named Louiza, and all are mentioned in the will of Barbara Williams, November 5, 1850, along with their brother Robert. Barbara Williams owned them and left them to her niece Mary Anne Penelope Anthony in her will. Later, Mary Anne Penelope Anthony would marry Johnson Franklin Cunningham, for whom the writer of the letter quote above was presumably named. Thus, the slaves passed from the Williams to the Anthony to the Cunningham family. Johnson Franklin Cunningham concludes his letter as follows:

My father was a bought slave from Toll Goolsby. His name is James Tolbert Cunningham. You’ll know my family by the name of my mother’s name Charlotty.

My name Johnson Franklin child of Charlotty was born on Saturday the 17th day of July 1868

I was able to discover a great deal about Johnson Franklin Cunningham with some detective work (see the posts I linked at the beginning of this one). I had narrowed his birthdate down to some time between June 11 and October 13, 1868. Also, I was able to deduce his mother was Charlotte and that his father, James, might not have been owned by the Cunninghams. However, I think J. F. Cunningham could be indicating here that his father was bought by the Cunninghams from a man named Toll Goolsby and thus not part of the existing Cunningham family. I believe Toll Goolsby may be Toliver B. Goolsby, who is listed in the 1860 Slave Schedules for Oglethorpe County, Georgia.

Vital Records: A Case Study in Error

My grandfather Udell Cunningham is fond of telling the story about how his birth was erroneously recorded, causing a great deal of trouble for him later on.

My grandfather was born 3 May 1925 in Tulia, Swisher County, Texas.  The Texas Birth Index, 1903-1997 (available on lists his birthday as 3 March 1925. The way my grandfather tells the story, the clerk in charge of recording births on the ledger was “too lazy” to turn the page to May. His memory is that he was recorded with an April birthdate; however, the record says March.

At some point, it became necessary for him to have the error corrected, but making the change proved to be difficult, as vital records employees refused to make the change without evidence. Ultimately, my grandfather had to bring his parents to the record office to swear as to the date of his birth before he was able to get a corrected birth certificate. The date in the Texas Birth Index is still incorrect.

While vital records are excellent proof, and genealogists should always cite sources, we should always remember that even vital records can be incorrect. It’s better, if you can, to check information against several sources. Worse errors than birthdate mistranscription have occurred, and we can save ourselves a lot of time in correcting erroneous files if we use multiple sources.

This post was written in response to the Geneabloggers Weekly Genealogy Blogging Prompt.

Letter from Gertrude Perkins Gearhart Lightle to Daughter Bessie, April 6, 1940

My cousin Dara sent scans of the following letter from my great-grandmother, Gertrude Nettie Perkins Gearhart Lightle.  I have discussed her story previously on this blog.

Kiona, WA

April 6, 1940

Dear Bessie,

I was sure glad to hear from you again. I looked in vain for a letter all winter.

I have been sick so much but did not go to bed as I had too much to do.

Alice and her baby were here after she left the hospital [Gertrude’s daughter Alice]. She was too weak to do anything for quite a while, then the baby got sick, too. He just began to get better when Tom came home from PWA camp sick with the “flu.” He took that & was a very sick baby. They went home with him so they took care of him, but I took it too.

I  was in bed off and on for a month, then I began to be bothered with my eyes & they are bad yet. I wear glasses to read or sew, but I couldn’t do either one for several weeks. Now I can only read a few minutes at a time.

I am glad you [sic] Mother Zeiglar is better. I think of her so often.

Now for your questions.

  1. You were born in Metaline, Pend O’Reile Co. Washington [Pend Oreille County] March the 26-27 or maybe 28th 1924. I have forgotten the exact day, but you have that already.
  2. My maiden name was Gertrude Nettie Perkins.
  3. I was born at Hector, Minnesota September 13, 1887.
  4. Your fathers [sic] name was Omar Alfred Gearhart born in Iowa (I don’t know what town) February 29, 1884.
  5. [Omar Alfred Gearhart] Died in Spokane, Washington December 29, 1930 age 46.

I never had a birth certificate for you.

Your father was Holland Dutch decent [sic] [actually Pennsylvania Dutch, or German] and his ancestors settled in the Ohio Valley. If you will write to Grandma Gearhart she can tell you more than I can. Mrs G.D. Gearhart Box 196- Maxwell, Iowa.

I am English on my fathers [sic] side. His folks settled in Virginia shortly after the Revolutionary War and were English Quakers. My mother’s folks were Scotch & Irish & one Great-great-grandmother on her fathers [sic] side was English, named Smith.

Granny’s father came to this country before the Civil War & settled in Wisconsin. His name was Montgomery & his wife’s name was MacGregor, both scotch [sic]. My uncle Sherm Young at 1320 So. 7th Street in Yakima can tell you about them.

You had mumps and chicken-pox and no real accidents & was never inside of a hospital while I had you.

I had 13 children, one was still-born (dead) and one premature as far as I know [word missing] are 11 living.

The one[s?] born dead were never named. The others are:–

John Douglas Dec 25, 1911
Ruth Isabelle Apr 9 1913
Eva Marie Aug 13 1914
Jessie Nadine, Apr 6, 1916
Alice Gertrude, Nov 23, 1918
Donald Omar, July 11, 1920
Edwin Guy, Dec 29, 1921 [my grandfather]
Frank Manley, July 12, 1923
Bessie Louise, Mar 27, 1924
Margery Feb 2 1927
Alfred Aug 5 1929

Do you know whether Margery is adopted or not? I forgot to ask them when I was up there.

Lots of love & kisses,

Your [missing word]

It’s important to know the family background in order to put this letter in context, and the story I linked at the beginning of this post is the best place to start. Until this week, I had never seen a photo of my great-grandmother. Within the space of two days, I have received two different photos from two cousins and an additional photo of Omar Alfred Gearhart, my great-grandfather.

This first image depicts Omar Gearhart with his brothers John and Earl:

Omar, John, and Earl Gearhart

This image is of Omar Gearhart and his wife Gertrude Nettie Perkins with their oldest child John Douglas (circa 1912):

Omar Gearhart, Gertrude Nettie Perkins Gearhart, and John Douglas Gearhart

This final picture is of Gertrude Nettie Perkins Gearhart, her mother Isabell Lowe (sometimes listed as Mary Isabell, Mary Isabelle, or Isabell M. on the census; Lowe is the surname of her second husband, Guy Lowe), and Isabell’s mother Ophelia McKilrick (name unverified) with John Douglas Gearhart in 1912:

Gertrude Nettie Perkins Gearhart, Isabell Lowe, and Ophelia McKilrick with John Douglas Gearhart

Herman Cunningham’s WWI Diary

Herman Cunningham, WWIMy great-grandfather Herman Cunningham, kept a diary of sorts during his tenure in the U.S. Army in World War I. My Aunt Carolyn, Herman Cunningham’s youngest daughter, sent me the following. Note: I’m not sure if this is the entire diary or an excerpt.

Registered for army: June 5, 1917
was examined: March 9, 1918
drafted: July 15, 1918

Camp McArthur, D Co. 4th bn Inf. repl Camp Waco, Texas.

Left Camp McArthur left Sep 16, 1918 A. Co. 5th bn Inf. repl Camp Waco, Texas. My rifle No. 216021.

Started across sea from U.S.A. Monday 23 of September 1918. Landed in France October 6, 1918 Sun. (Note from Carolyn: He didn’t write down the name of the ship…but, I have heard him talk about going over on the Princess Patowka …I don’t know how it is spelled, but he pronounced it the Princess Pa-toe-ka).

Came to the hospital Oct 12, 1918 [this might refer to his hospitalization for meningitis]

Left out hospital #11 BS #1 November 19, 1918

Loaded on the boat at St Nazaire Jan 26, 1919

Sailed Jan 27, 1919 1:15 PM

Come by the Azors Islands, Name this ship U.S.S. RIJNDAM, Bunk No. is 515 Troop space F 4 (decks are named from upper deck down, A,B,C,D,E and F. Troop spaces are lettered and numbered; the letter means the deck. and the number the troop space on the deck, counting from forward.)

Landed in Newport News Virginia from France on February 9, 1919 Sunday.

Left camp Hill Newport News, VA Feb, 16, 1919.

Towns went through:

  • Richmond VA
  • Petersburg VA
  • Raleigh NC
  • Abbeville SC
  • Athens GA
  • Atlanta GA
  • Fairburn GA
  • Longbeech Miss
  • Bay St Louis Miss
  • New Orleans LA
  • Donalds Vill LA
  • Bunky LA

(Some friends names were)

  • Frank Dankert, Clarence, MO
  • Joseph Stern, Route 1 box 48, Clayton S.D.
  • Willie Brown, St. Charles, Ark
  • John L. Moore, Pickrell, Nebr R#1
  • [Miss] Sadie F. Smith, R.R. # 8 Box 85, Waco Texas

Pay from U S Army

July 1918 $15.00
August 1918 $23.50
Casual pay January 11, 1919 $62 1/2 franks

payed in full in France January 25, 1919 $92.50

payed in U.S.A. February 12, 1919 $26.50

this is what I drawed

15.00 26.50
23.50 26.50
11.50 23.50
92.50 23.50
26.50 15.00
$160.00 168.00

Note from Carolyn: He also said “took a hike in Suedalia [most likely Sedalia] Missouri. Cleveland Ohio. I seen the lake Erie.” This must have been before he went to France.

I have to say that my great-greatgrandfather’s diary reminds me of his mother’s [pdf] in many respects, notably that both recorded what you and I might deem the minutiae of existence (purchases, cost, money earned, places the train went through) rather than thoughts and feelings (though my great-great-grandmother’s diary does get into that somewhat more than my great-grandfather’s does).

Roscoe M. Payne

In researching my great-great-grandmother’s former beau, John William Tolleson, I was most interested to discover some of his family members living today are genealogists. My grandfather’s cousin Mary had some letters that she believed were from John William Tolleson; however, once she took them out of storage, she realized they were actually from Roscoe M. Payne. It turns out that my great-great-grandmother Stella was popular!

After reading the letters, I can verify that Stella was, indeed, engaged to Roscoe M. Payne. It seems that their falling out had something to do with his running a pool hall, which was associated with other vices such as alcohol; however, it is not clear (and he vehemently denies) that Roscoe M. Payne himself had a drinking problem.

As with John William Tolleson, I was able to discover at least one genealogist related to Roscoe M. Payne, with a Family Tree Maker website. It was last updated two years ago, but I will try to contact the page’s owner, Ora Mae Byers. If you are descended from Roscoe Payne or related to him, I would love to hear from you.

I located Roscoe M. Payne in a One-World Tree family tree. A caveat: information in these trees varies from the precisely accurate to the totally inaccurate, depending upon the genealogist compiling the information. It would appear that the genealogist(s) concerned with this branch of the Payne family descend from Roscoe’s sisters Terry Alberta Payne and Belle Payne.

According to this family tree, Roscoe Miller Payne was born January 20, 1864 in Texas. His father was Jones William Payne, who was born August 6, 1830 in Bridgeport, Jackson County, Alabama, and his mother was Harriet Smith, who was born July 19, 1834 in Smithfield, Henry County, Kentucky. They married in Rockwall County, Texas on April 29, 1855. I verified this information through‘s U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900.

One curious coincidence: Stella’s father was named William Jones Bowling and her beau Roscoe’s father was named Jones William Payne. Stella had an aunt named Panthea Kennedy who married a George Payne. I do not know if he is related to Jones William Payne, but according to the family tree I found, he does not have a brother named George. However, I must emphasize again that the accuracy of these trees varies widely, and often researchers do not include family members from whom they do not descend.

Stella does mention Roscoe in her diary:

  • November 28, 1893: In eve Uncle Jeff came by and brought me two letters, one from Rosco & one from Sadie & my Chautauquan
  • December 10, 1893: Wrote to Rosco.
  • January 19, 1894: At noon came up to house & had two letters one from Rosco other from Edna.
  • January 20, 1894: Rosco came down to Aunt P. and invited us to a party at Mr. Payne’s [this is probably Jones William Payne].
  • February 4, 1894: Finished my letters to Edna and Rosco and wrote one home.
  • February 14, 1894: Valentine’s Day, I received a letter from Rosco, one from Mary Hutton & one from Annie Price.
  • March 4, 1894: Wrote a letter home & one to Rosco.
  • March 28, 1894: Wrote to Rosco and told of my going to marry.
  • April 24, 1894: Wrote to Rosco and started to write to Mary but did not finish.
  • May 25, 1894: Got a letter from Rosco.
  • June 5, 1894: I got a letter from Sarah Buster & one from Rosco they [the letters] had been sent to Allen.

Though the spelling Stella uses is different from that used in records I found, I believe this is probably the same person. Stella was inconsistent with spelling (and, indeed, so are many official records of the era). I do find it interesting that Roscoe visited Stella’s aunt Panthea Kennedy Payne with an invitation to a family at Mr. Payne’s house. I do believe there may be a connection between Roscoe’s family and Panthea’s in-laws, but I do not know what it is just yet.

Let’s go backwards with the most recent census record I could find. This is Roscoe M. Payne and family in the 1920 census of Rockwall County, Texas (City of Rockwall):

R.M. Payne, 1920 Census, Rockwall County, Texas

From this census, we learn that Roscoe Payne was 54 years old, owned his home on Fannin St., and was a Real Estate Agent. His father was born in Alabama, and his mother was born in Kentucky, but he himself was born in Texas. This means that his family came to Texas relatively early.

Roscoe’s wife Lula was 48. She was born in North Carolina, as were both of her parents. Roscoe and Lula had two sons living with them — Frank, who was 17 and a clerk, but I cannot read the type of workplace, and Jimmie, who was 12. Both children were born in Texas.

In 1910, we find Roscoe Payne and family in the same town and county. He is not yet on Fannin St., but must be nearby, because Fannin St. families appear just before families on his street in the census. The name of Roscoe’s street is indecipherable, but starts with San–.

Roscoe M. Payne, 1910 Census, Rockwall County, Texas

From this census, we learn that Roscoe is 45. His birthplace and parents’ birthplaces are the same as on the 1920 census, but it appears the census-taker originally wrote “Pennsylvania” for his father’s birthplace and wrote “Alabama” on top of it. His occupation as listed on this census is Deputy Sheriff for Rockwall County.

Roscoe’s wife Lula E. Payne was 39 in this census, and her birthplace and parents’ birthplaces are the same. She and Roscoe have been married 15 years (which dates their marriage to about 1894), and she has given birth to five children, four of whom survive. In this census, we find two more sons that must have moved out and established their own homes by 1920. These are Roscoe and Lula Payne’s children in 1910:

  1. Roscoe B. Payne, age 14
  2. William L. Payne, age 12
  3. Frank C. Payne, age 8
  4. Jimmie S. Payne, age 2

All of the children were born in Texas. I think it is safe to assume that these four children are the four surviving children referred to on the census.

Interestingly, two prisoners were enumerated with Roscoe’s family: Dee Pipes, a black male, age 30, who was married, born in Texas, parents born in Texas; and Maynard Abe, a white male, age 65, single, born in Texas, parents born in Texas. Also interesting is that Roscoe Payne’s neighbor is a Real Estate Agent. Could his neighbor have convinced Roscoe to give this career a try after his tenure as Deputy Sheriff ended?

In 1900, we find Roscoe and family in the same town and county.

Roscoe M. Payne, 1900 Census, Rockwall County, Texas

In this census, Roscoe is said to have been born in Jan. 1865 (family researchers believed it to have been 1864, and I am not sure which year is correct). He is 35 years old and has been married for five years. His birthplace and that of his parents is the same. His occupation is “Jailor.”

Lula Payne’s birth month and year was listed as March 1871, and she is 29 years old. I believe her birthplace and that of her parents is the same, but it does appear that her birthplace could read “South Carolina.” The writing is difficult to read. In this census, she has two children, two of whom survive. Their names are Buford (age 4, born July 1895) and Leroy W. (age 2, born September 1897). Both boys were born in Texas. Though the names are different, I believe these children are Roscoe B. Payne and William L. Payne, listed in 1910. It is possible that the older son was “Roscoe Buford Payne” and the younger was “William Leroy Payne” or “Leroy William Payne.”

Once again the Paynes have a prisoner enumerated with their household: Will Woods, a black male, born unknown, married for 6 years, born in Texas, father born in Virginia (mother’s birthplace unknown).

The 1890 Census is unavailable.

In 1880, Roscoe is living in the village of Servisville (most likely this is Lewisville, but if so, the “L” looks a lot like an “S”) in Denton County, Texas with his parents, Jones W. (age 50) and Harriett (age 45). Jones Payne and his parents were born in Alabama. This is interesting to note, as Panthea Kennedy Payne’s family lived in Lauderdale County, Alabama for some time. It may be a clue as to a connection between Panthea’s in-laws and Roscoe’s family. Harriett Payne is said to have been born in Kentucky and her parents in Virginia. Jones W. Payne is a farmer. Jones and Harriett Payne have the following children, all born in Texas:

  1. M. Belle Payne, age 19 (daughter)
  2. Roscoe M. Payne, age 15 (son), assisting on farm
  3. Fannie Payne, age 10 (daughter)
  4. Jones M. Payne, age 8 (son)
  5. T. Alberta Payne, age 6 (daughter)

Enumerated with the family is also Frank McClure, age 22, Servant, born in Texas. Here is the image of that census record:

Roscoe M. Payne, 1880 Census, Denton County, Texas

Jones W. Payne and his family appear in the 1870 Census of Kaufman County, Texas. Jones W. Payne is 39 and a farmer. His real estate was valued at $1500 and his personal real estate was valued at $500. He was born in Alabama. His wife Harriet is 35 and born in Kentucky. A note about the different spellings of Harriet’s name: I am not sure whether it is correctly spelled with one “t” or two, but such errors are relatively common in historical records. I transcribed the spellings used in the records. I have learned not to be bothered by such inconsistencies in historical records.

Jones and Harriet had the following children, all born in Texas:

  1. Emily J. Payne, age 13
  2. Melissa B. Payne, age 9 [most likely the M. Belle Payne listed in the 1880 census; the age fits]
  3. Roscoe M. Payne, age 5
  4. Fannie Payne, age 1/12 (born in May)
  5. Mary Davis, age 14

Census image:

Roscoe M. Payne, 1870 Census, Kaufman County, Texas

I have seen some references in the One-World Family Tree files for this family that seem to indicate Harriet may have been married to a person with the surname Davis prior to marrying Jones. She is variously named “Harriet Davis,” “Harriet Smith” or “Harriet Smith Davis.” However, the marriage record I found for the Paynes was dated 1855. I discovered Jones and Harriet Payne in the home of their son-in-law David McCombs in 1910 in Kent County, Texas:

Jones W. Payne, 1900 Census, Kent County, Texas

According to this census record, Jones and Harriet Payne had been married 53 years. Their probable year of marriage according to this record was 1857. If the 1857 date is correct, it would seem that the dates on the other census records indicate a blended family, with Emily J. Payne possibly being their first child together. At any rate, the 1910 census does indicate that Harriet Payne’s marriage to Jones is her second, while it is his first. Harriet gave birth to 10 children, 5 of whom still survive in 1910.

According to Ora Mae Byers’ website, Roscoe Miller Payne died June 6, 1930 in Abilene, Taylor County, Texas, which may explain why I didn’t find him on the 1930 census. Byers believed his wife’s maiden name to be Lula Ellen Holt. I can find no reference to a Lula or anyone surnamed Holt in Stella’s diary.

I believe that I have identified all of my great-great-grandmother Stella’s fiancés at this point, and I must say, learning more about her life before my great-great-grandfather Amos Cunningham has been very interesting, and I want to thank my grandfather’s cousin Mary and fellow genealogists (not to mention for making my search so fruitful.

John William Tolleson

John William Tolleson, courtesy Nancy LewisJohn William Tolleson is not my ancestor. If my great-great-grandmother’s life had turned out a bit differently, however, I wouldn’t be here. She was once engaged to John William Tolleson.

In my great-great-grandmother’s diary (PDF download), she only mentions him six times:

  • December 2, 1893: “Wrote to J.W.T. and Mary Hutton.”
  • December 12, 1893: “Got a letter from J.W.T.”
  • December 16, 1893: “Helped clean up and wrote a letter to J.W.T.”
  • January 5, 1894: “Uncle Jeff came for me late and had two letters for me from Mr. Custis telling of the marriage of J.W. Tolleson & Minnie Mathis and the other from Mary.”
  • January 14, 1894: “Cleaned out my trunk and hunted up J.W.T.’s letters which were in No. [she left off the count].”
  • February 4, 1894: “After my usual prayer, I retired. Mr. A- and I burned my letters from J.W.T. 44 in No.

Even in her diary, Stella rarely vents her personal, private thoughts, but reading between the lines, it looks as if the engagement was already over or going sour by the time she began the diary. I did find it interesting that a little more than a week after she heard of his marriage, she pulled out J.W. Tolleson’s letters to her and re-read them. In a symbolic act to sever ties to the past, she and her fiancé Amos Cunningham burned some letters from J.W. Tolleson. However, I understand that some of these letters survived the purge.

I am not sure how long the engagement lasted or whether Stella and J.W. Tolleson kept in touch. On a lark, I decided to see if I could discover what happened to him. I was armed with a fair amount of information from Stella’s diary.

  1. I knew his initials and last name.
  2. He had married a woman named Minnie Mathis.
  3. Stella seemed to know Minnie.
  4. He was probably about the same age as Stella.

I searched and found him on the 1910 and 1920 censuses with his wife Minnie (click thumnails for larger images).

Tolleson, 1910 Census

Tolleson, 1920 Census

Based on information from these census records, I was able to learn his first name was John, and that he was born in about 1865, which made him about two years older than Stella. I also learned that he moved to Oklahoma. On the 1910 census, his occupation is “Superintendent” at the “City School” in Byars, McClain County, Oklahoma. In 1920, his occupation is listed as “Teacher.” Stella Bowling also taught school before she married my great-great-grandfather Amos, and I speculated that she may have met J.W. Tolleson when they were in school together.

My grandfather’s cousin recently sent me a photo of Stella at the Parker Institute in Whitt, Parker County, Texas in 1891 or 1892 (Click for larger version):

Parker Institute, 1891-1892

Stella is in the middle row, far left side. She has a dress with buttons that form a “V” across her chest. I decided to see what I could learn about this school. This is what I discovered (via Handbook of Texas Online):

Parker Institute, the first school to offer college-level classes in Parker County, was established by a Mr. and Mrs. Bales in 1881 at Whitt in northwestern Parker County. In 1884 the Northwest Texas Methodist Conference selected the institute to be its flagship college in North Texas. The conference appointed Amos Bennett, a graduate of DePauw University, to be director of the school. For nine years he served as the institute’s administrator and only full-time faculty member. Assisted by instructors who had been his students in Kentucky and Texas, Bennett developed a curriculum that stressed traditional classical subjects, including Greek and Latin. Parker Institute graduated three or four students during its twelve years of existence. The first was Beulah Sprueill, who became a member of Parker’s faculty for some time. Two later had distinguished careers in the field of education. Jefferson Davis Sandefer, who graduated in 1892, served as president of Hardin-Simmons University for thirty years (1909-40), and Charles Shirley Potts, who graduated in 1893, served as dean of the Southern Methodist University law school for twenty years. Parker Institute was not able to compete with the growing number of colleges that appeared in North Texas in the early 1890s. It surrendered its charter in 1893 and became a public school.

The first graduate mentioned, Beulah Sprueill, was a friend of Stella’s. She mentions writing letters to her or receiving letters from her several times in her diary.

At, I found a family tree that included John William Tolleson and Minnie Susan Mathis, so working on the hunch that the information about his middle name was correct, did a Google search for John William Tolleson. I found a post at the Tolleson Family Genealogy Forum ( written by Nancy Lewis who was looking for information about the Tolleson family. I replied to her post, and we have been conversing over e-mail today.

Nancy pointed me to her Family Tree Maker Genealogy Site. While perusing her site, I discovered the following photo of John William Tolleson and wife Minnie Mathis Tolleson with their children (click for a larger version):

Tolleson Family

After studying this photo and the school photo, I think J.W. Tolleson is in the Parker Institute photo. It is hard to tell with 100% certainty, given the differences in light and the age difference in the two photos, but I believe that he could be the tall man with a mustache in the top row. It is even harder to determine whether or not Minnie Mathis is in the photo, but she resembles the woman on the far right, front row.

I was very interested to connect with relatives of Stella’s former beau, and I invite any other Tolleson researchers to connect as well. I also want to thank Nancy for sharing her family with us. To me, one of the great things about genealogy is being able to make connections like these.

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