..."the men ever born are also my brothers, and the women my sisters..."

Still feeling the Spirit of '76 from a previous post, this time I'm going to focus on another maternal fifth great-grandfather and Revolutionary War ancestor, Jesse Toliver (1756 - 4 Mar 1838), although his career is not quite as stellar as Capt Samuel Cherry's.

Jesse Toliver began his career as a volunteer Private, under (then) Capt William Lenoir, going after the Cherokee Indians in the North Carolina region who were allied with the British. In his own words, "we burnt and destroyed the Indian towns & huts that we found … had no fighting as the Indians fled when we came into the nation." What a pity.

Once the war against the British began in earnest, Jesse Toliver, under now-General Lenoir, marched to Catawba, North Carolina, where, according to his Revolutionary War pension request, "[W]e saw the dead lying on the field the torys was defeated and we were marched home after being out in service two months." On the next campaign, "We pursued the Torys as they retreated until they joined the British Army near Kings Mountain under one [Major Patrick] Ferguson. The time that I served in this trip was one month and a half. We were then marched back home."

Jesse's third tour of duty was at the Battle of King's Mountain, North Carolina. Once again, he missed the fighting. "[W]e marched from Wilkes County up the Yadkin River to Johns River … all that had horses went on & left the foot men … The Battle was fought before the foot men arrived as I was one of them." They met the army coming back from the battle, and Jesse accompanied the prisoners to Salem as a guard. There he "stayed until my three months was out and then returned home." While at Kings Mountain Nat'l Military Park last summer, I saw a list of the names of the participants of the battle. Jesse's name (along with that of his brother, Moses) was mentioned in a footnote indicating names of those who arrived the day after the historic battle of 7 October 1780.

Smiling, before I learned my ancestor was a day late for the battle.

During his final tour of duty, Private Toliver marched with Lenoir's company to the Haw River in Orange County, North Carolina, where they spied on British General Charles Cornwallis' army, then after five months "we marched home." At the very end of the war, Jesse finally saw some action "pursuing small portions of Torys." Apparently, he also collected livestock from draft-dodgers.

Jesse Toliver's war record, while not terribly illustrious, is not the most interesting thing about him, at least according to me. (Although, in April 1834, he was able to secure an annual veteran's pension of fifty-five dollars for his military service, a nice stipend for time spent primarily in marching.) What is interesting--again, and perhaps, uniquely to me--is that I am also descended from his sister Lucy Toliver (23 May 1768 - 1832), making me that most unusual thing, a Double Toliver. Which brought me (and brings me) to the 9th Annual Toliver Family Reunion, held in the hills of Morehead Kentucky in 2011. 

Here's a little story that should make you sigh
About two ancestral folk:
Let us call them Lucy "X" and Jesse "Y,"
Though their last name is no joke.

About two years ago, when I was just beginning to delve seriously into  genealogy, I found (in notes from my Grandmother Brown that she had sent me over thirty-five years earlier) that I had an ancestor named Rebecca Tolliver, who married David Conway, or possibly Conley, believed to be from Ireland. Though well-intentioned, Grandma's information was mostly inaccurate. Using Ancestry.com, I found Rebecca Tolliver and her husband, a Conley from Indiana, not the Emerald Isle (although, to be fair, his Conley great-grandparents had emigrated from Ireland, probably of Scottish or English descent). And although I was able to discover more about Rebecca Tolliver's ancestors, I was stuck on David Conway/ley. Using Google, I discovered the Tolliver Family website, which had some useful information, and contacted the undisputed doyenne of all things Tolliver, Emma Lee T, who, with her husband (ironically, the actual Tolliver descendant), live just a few hours from me. She gave me some useful hints, and from her I was able to learn that David's father had the alliterative, unlikely, and--I believed--unusual name of Constantine Conley. So that was settled.

Until, Ancestry-ing away until nearly dawn, becoming more and more baffled but determined, I discovered that there were two, contemporaneous Constantine Conleys, both circling each other geographically, but only one being a forebear of mine. Of course, this was further complicated by the fact that--having already firmly established Conley and not -way, mind you--the last name was spelled alternately as Conley, Connelly, Conelly, Connely, and, occasionally, [illegible]. And my Constantine Conley married one of the daughters of Lucy Toliver, Jesse's sister.

Over that brick wall, I further learned from Emma Lee that there was a Tolliver family cemetery in Allegheny County, North Carolina, and since S and I were already planning a Road Trip to South Carolina to see a living (!) relative of his, this seemed the perfect opportunity. The cemetery was really just a family plot on private property, on the Virginia/North Carolina border; Emma Lee recommended we call ahead, which we tried, to no avail. Nonetheless, we persevered, wending our way through tiny mountain roads, and after passing it twice, we finally found the turn off. Once there, we declined to drive across the rickety-looking wooden bridge over a deep ravine, and cautiously walked across.

On the other side, we looked about briefly, but were not able to find the cemetery. An ominous-looking dog on a neighboring property hastened our search. That and the fact that we were clearly trespassing in a region where I'm sure gun ownership was a non-issue. Subsequently I found out that although the site has been restored and cleaned up in the last few years by fellow Tolliver descendants, there are still many unknown graves, and that it was unlikely my direct ancestors were buried there.

A few months later I received an email from Emma Lee letting me know about an upcoming Tolliver family reunion, to be held just a couple hours south of us. Why not! The reunion was a well-attended annual affair, over a long weekend, and included--beyond the meeting of distant relatives--lectures, a driving tour of local sites of family relevance, silent auction, and talent show. Not having an abundance of stories or photos to share, I felt that at the very least, I could come up with something for the talent show: perhaps a sophisticated little cabaret number to Stephen Sondheim's "The Story of Lucy and Jessie" (how conveniently apt, no?), from Follies, with new lyrics of my own devising. Words in hand, I was unable to find a karaoke recording of the tune, nor sheet music, although admittedly, I did not look that hard, although one could hardly consider stage fright to be the cause. Why push myself forward, I said to myself; be an observer. Consider this trip a case of cultural anthropology.

Now Lucy had fertility
Along with the ability:
To raise fourteen young kiddies was her fate…
Jesse and his brother Mose
Put on their redcoat-fighting clothes,
But somehow always got there a day late!

My creative impulses dammed (dimmed? damned?) in that direction, I decided to at least make myself a t-shirt with my Double Toliverhood family tree emblazoned on it. If nothing else, it might be a nice ice-breaker. We also took some bags of home-made dog treats for the silent auction.

Arriving at the hotel, nestled in the Kentucky hills, we were almost instantly greeted by the gracious Emma Lee ("everyone in the south has two names") herself, who began tracing my lineage down the front of my shirt with her forefinger, from nipple to--nearly--navel, her daughter calling her off just in  time: "Mom, there is someone in that shirt!" After getting settled in our room, it was off across the parking lot to the Ponderosa Steakhouse, where it was soon apparent why the all-you-can-eat buffet was the clear favorite. We sat with two of Emma Lee's daughters, who were extremely witty, and had just the right amount of perspective to find the whole thing fun.

Next we headed to the Carl Perkins Community Center (named after a former member of the House of Representatives, not the rockabilly genius one might suspect being honored in this neck of the woods), as Emma Lee was taking the stage to make introductions ("Where is Robert? Robert, would you please stand up and show everyone your marvellous shirt?" So much for the anonymous observer....) and outline the weekend's events. Then followed the Talent Show.

Two Tolliver tots tunelessly sang "Jesus Loves Me," a Tolliver teen with an electric guitar fumbled through "Jailhouse Rock" (perhaps he had not gotten the word on which Perkins was sheltering us...), and an elderly toothless Tolliver ended his set with an encore, putting aside his guitar to sing an "acapulco" version of his most-requested hymn. One can only imagine what kind of reaction my snappy showtune would have provoked.

Afterward, we perused the Silent Auction tables (crocheted dish towels, religious plaques, Avon products, and two bags of peaches) before a guest speaker (who would be leaving us shortly, as his Masonic Lodge was having an election this same weekend) gave a brief talk about the (in)famous Rowan County War, also known as the Tolliver-Martin (or Martin-Tolliver, depending on which side you favor) Feud, the bloodiest in Kentucky history, with at least 22 confirmed casualties. Thus ended the first day.

(With two "Ls" if you prefer)
But never Taliaferro, "T" then "A,"
We know that's wrong, due to the DNA.

An odd combination of walkers and laptops, the Tolliver matriarchs (for they mostly seem to be eager elderly women dragging along grudging husbands) may be half-deaf, but they are completely fluent in terms like "mitochondrial" and "haplogroups," and can parse the difference between a sixth cousin and a mere fifth cousin once removed faster than most of us can remember our own birthday. We met up with them back at the Perkins Center the next afternoon, after spending the morning on a driving/walking tour of many of the Tolliver sites around the area.

Note the Double Toliver t-shirt.

(A perhaps coincidental side note: my mother's first, short-lived marriage was to a Martin. Did the feud perhaps live on?)

Everyone having gotten settled in, Emma Lee once again took the stage for greetings ("Is Robert here? Did everyone have a chance to see his wonderful shirt? Robert, stand up for a minute"), announcements (apparently, a sixth Tolliver brother was recently discovered), and to break us up into smaller groups, based on which Tolliver we were descended from. Interestingly, I was the only one present representing either Lucy (despite the fourteen children) or Jesse (who merely fathered ten), so I got to sit with the children of Moses. So to speak. A continuing point of discussion in every group was just from whom all these Tolliver clans were descended; like Capt Samuel Cherry, the identity of the Tolliver's parents were another long-time brick wall that has defeated many researchers.

If Lucy and Jesse would just name their dad,
I could show you some folk who would finally feel real gla-ad!

No new evidence being found, the silent auction results tallied (our dog treats did well), and the day drawing to a close, it was time for the reunion--for this year, at least--to come to an end. All in all, I couldn't have enjoyed myself more.

1. Jesse Toliver married Frances "Frankie"                1. Lucy Toliver (23 May 1768 - 1832) mar-
Stamper (14 Feb 1767 - 6 Jan 1854), daughter           ried William Maxwell (1765 -1832), son
of Jonathan Brooks Stamper and Rachel                     of John Maxwell and Eleanor Marcus, in
Parks, on 8 October 1782, in Wilkes County,             1786, in North Carolina.
North Carolina.  

2. Jacob Tolliver (26 Jul 1799 - bef Oct 1854)            2. Elizabeth "Betsy" Maxwell (1801 - 25 Sep
married Susannah Isom (abt 1804 - aft 1860),           1850) married Constantine Connelly (4 Sep
daughter of John Isom and Rebecca Cole, on             1800 - abt 1844), son of John Conley and
27 Dec 1821 in Grayson County, Virginia.                  Catherine Miller, on 12 Jul 1823, in Lawrence
                                                                              County, Indiana.

3. Rebecca Toliver (abt 1823 - 1869)   married       3. David Conley (abt 1822 - aft 1880) on 5 Mar 1846, in Clay County, Illinois. Sharing the same great-grandparents (the unknown parents of Lucy and Jesse), they are second cousins.

4. Sarah Jane Conley (Nov 1857 - 13 Mar 1936) married William Edwin Kinman (Mar 1858 - 13 Jun 1925), son of William Kinman and Sarah R Moore, on 13 Nov 1875, in Redwood County, Minnesota.

5. Cora Mabel Kinman (4 Sep 1876 - 22 Aug 1958) married Clarence Edgar Brown (1 Dec 1878 - 21 Aug 1937), son of Silas W Brown and Malinda J Carter, on 16 Sep 1903.

6. Dana Earl Brown (26 Jan 1910 - 10 Sep 1984) married Myrna Margaret Severin (6 Nov 1907 - 12 Jun 1997), daughter of John Jacob "Jack" Severin and Isabelle "Belle" Runser, on 21 Oct 1933, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

7 Beverly Alane Brown (8 Aug 1934 - 7 Mar 2010) married [Living] Burnett, son of Leroy Stanley Burnett and Hazel Lucille Erickson, on 4 Mar 1961, in Long Beach, California.

8. Your humble blogger.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic!!!!! Descendant of Jesse through the Fenders. Would love to correspond with you.