Notes and Sources are presented as end notes. To read them as you proceed, click on note numbers within the text.
When I was small, we moved frequently. My parents lived in a rented house outside of Wendell, North Carolina when I was born in Rex Hospital in Raleigh. Dad was a power shovel and crane operator at various rock quarries. I don't remember when we lived in Henderson in Vance County. I do remember being back in Wendell later, as well as a time in Burlington in a boarding house and my first experience with a real bathtub with hot and cold running water. Everywhere else we bathed in a galvanized wash tub in water heated on the coal-fired stove. I have happy memories of living in Guilford County near the community of Bessemer on the eastern edge of Greensboro. I remember traveling to downtown Greensboro on the electric trolley, and I enjoyed having lunch at the dime store lunch counter. World War II was in progress and I can still smell the lacquered wooden toys, also from the dime store, as well as warm roasted spanish peanuts weighed in a little pan on a scale and put in a paper sack. There was an Army camp near where we lived. Soldiers marched by my front door often, and once they halted right in front of the house, knelt on one knee, and put on their gas masks. I remember going to the Bessemer School to get my smallpox vaccination in preparation for beginning first grade; (there was no kindergarten) but before school started we had moved to Bailey in Nash County. Although we moved to several different houses, we stayed in Bailey for almost six years. I consider Bailey my early childhood home town, where I learned to ride a bicycle, where I enjoyed Saturday afternoon Westerns at the movie theater, or picture show as we called it, climbing on rail cars on the siding, and all the other things a little boy does. The photo is of my mother and me in 1948 at our last house in Bailey.
I was quite surprised, some six decades later when I delved into my origins, to learn how deep my Nash County heritage was. Nash has not given up her secrets easily; and the adventure of digging out those facts is the point of these essays. But first let's look at some facts about Nash County herself. The county was named for Revolutionary hero General Francis Nash, and was formed in 1777 from Edgecombe County.Note 1 Nash County has pretty extensive records with land records dating from 1739, probate records from 1770, and court records from 1751, although the very earliest are not always complete.Note 2 The difficulties that I have encountered during my search have arisen from my own lack of knowledge of eighteenth and nineteenth century customs and practices. There is a tendency, I think, when you are researching your own family, to be too subjective in your approach, to overlook clues that might not fit what is preconceived.
I have no evidence of any native American ancestry, so therefore, all of my lines must have arrived in the Western Hemisphere on one of these. I know the name, for sure, of only one immigrant whose descendants came to Nash County. Thomas Finch arrived in the Parish of St. Peter and St. Paul, New Kent County, Virginia some time prior to 1664Note 3 when his son Edward was born. Edward's grandson William migrated to North Carolina in the middle 18th Century and settled in what would become Nash County, where his son Claiborn was born about 1769. Claiborn's daughter Martha married Benjamin Glover, their daughter Martha married Gillham Eure, their daughter Pattie married William Liles, their daughter Elva married Amos Carter, their daughter Margaret married Max Rhodes -- my parents, to show the connections. Some of the other families in my line will be presented on the other pages of this series.
My methodology for researching my family lines through the federal censuses was to begin with the year nearest the person's death and work backward in time. In Nash County 1930, 1920, 1910, 1900, and 1880 had consistent township names; but then 1870 had almost entirely different names:Note 4 My sketchy knowledge of American history kicked in; because events since 1860 included the entire War Between the States and the beginning of radical Reconstruction. I smelled a Carpetbagger plot — punish these Rebels by imposing unfamiliar and maybe even insulting names upon them. The names that aroused my suspicions:
My conspiracy theory held that when Reconstruction ended about 1877, the new county officials would have redesignated the township names. Unfortunately for conspiracy theorists everywhere, it did not happen that way. North Carolina's rural divisions from colonial days forward were based upon frontier defense, were called companies, and were later called districts. Not long after the war, the State Legislature enacted a law requiring all counties to determine the boundaries of more or less equal divisions to be called townships for the purpose of elections and other county business. On 5 April 1869, the County Commissioners decided on the boundaries of the six townships listed above; and their names were assigned on the basis of recognized place names within the localities. Apparently, after the county election of 1869 and the 1870 federal census, further division was needed; and instead of assigning precincts within townships, the Commissioners decided upon eleven new townships, dropping all of the original names because they were liable to be confused with existing locales with the same names in other counties. (There is a Chesterfield in Burke County, Liberty in Randolph County, Middletown in Hyde County, Springfields in Scotland and Wilkes Counties, Unions in Hertford and Macon Counties, and Washington is the seat of Beaufort County.)Note 5 This action was taken on 6 September 1871 — by the same governing body, and while Reconstruction was still in effect.Note 6 Maybe if we keep digging, we'll find the real dirt.
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