Photo Identified – William Thomas & Mary Monroe ‘Mollie’ Sanford Welch

In February 2010, my daughter and I began trying to identify a photo; I sent the photo with a request for help to the Fayette County, Alabama rootsweb site and Kay posted a blog request. Part of the problem was the way we [I] had identified the picture [the handwriting appears to be mine] – I wrote on the back of it: “Ms. B. H. Willis, Rt. 1, Winfield – Grandparents of John H. Willis.” After several years of languishing in a miscellaneous photo box, that identification is really silly. I have an uncle (my father’s brother) named John H. Willis and you’d think, if I’d understood that John H. Willis to be my uncle, I might have noted the photograph as ‘Daddy’s grandparents”. But I didn’t. Additionally, we have no idea who Ms. B. H. Willis might be [or if those are the woman’s initials or her husband’s] and we have no known links of either Welch or Willis family to Winfield, even though it is near Fayette County. It’s been several months now and we’ve not discovered anything else about the photo.

During the summer, I made several contacts through Facebook,, FindAGrave websites with several Willis and Welch descendents. A little over a week ago, one of those 2nd cousins posted a copy of that photo on her Internet family tree with the identification that it is a picture of William Thomas and Mary Monroe “Mollie” Welch – my daddy’s maternal grandparents. Unfortunately, when I asked who identified it as such, the answer was pretty weak, “It appears to have been written recently and when I asked my cousin, she said, ‘it looks like my handwriting so it must have been either something mother told me or something I thought I’d heard.'” Although I felt moderately at ease with this identification, I would like to have had a more certain identification.

This morning I got the same photo emailed to me from another 2nd cousin noting it as Tom and Mollie Welch; however, this time she said it is a scan of an original 8×10 photo she owns of her great-grandparents. I am so excited to know for sure these are my great-grandparents. William Thomas Welch (1860-1939, son of Robert and Sarah Farquhar Welch) and Mary Monroe “Mollie” Sanford Welch (1857-1931, daughter of Asa and Martha Jean Sanford).

Eady Caroline Willis Ballenger – Happy 171st Birthday

Eady Caroline Willis was the fifth (known) child of William J. and Judah Collins Willis. She was born August 19, 1839 in Fayette County, Alabama. Her parents were both born in South Carolina and had moved to Alabama between the birth of her brother, Jabez, about 1830 in South Carolina and her sister, Martha, born in Alabama in 1833, along with her grandparents, John M. and Edith McCarter Collins, and several other Spartanburg neighbors.

Caroline’s mother, Judah, died in about 1842, possibly in childbirth, and her father married his sister-in-law, Amy Edith Collins, in about 1850. William and Amy Collins Willis are my great-great-grandparents and Eady Caroline was my half-great-grandaunt.

Caroline married James Hamilton Ballenger on April 24, 1859. In the book written by her great-grandson, Conley Linton Ballinger, he writes, “Eady Caroline Willis Ballenger related to her grandson, James Hamilton Ballinger, on numerous occasions that she and her girl friends were sitting in one of these church services (which church is unknown but was in the area between where Jabez Willis lived near the Mt. Lebanon old cemetery area and where John Ballenger lived at the Yellow Creek area), when Hamilton and some other men entered the church for the service. She told her girl friends immediately after seeing him that she was going to marry that man. She never related how she accomplished this sudden prediction, but she was successful.” [p. 99]

An interesting, but unexplained [to me], note for anyone who may have noticed the variation in spelling on the Ballenger last name – although James Hamilton and David Jasper Ballenger maintained the spelling with the center ‘e,’ James William and his descendants use the center ‘i’ making their name Ballinger. The Fayette County road named for the family and on which several of them still live is the Ballinger Road.

Conley states Hamilton was both a farmer and a stonemason and Caroline and Hamilton set up housekeeping in the general area where their parents lived. They had two sons fairly soon after their marriage: James William (Jimmy) born on January 8, 1860 and David Jasper (Buddy) born March 10, 1861.

When her husband, Hamilton, enlisted in the Confederate army May 3, 1862 Caroline was left to take care of the home, farm, and their sons during his absence. Hamilton wrote a number of letters to her, which she kept in a trunk at her home for the rest of her life. Both copies and transcriptions of his letters have been printed in the book written by her great-grandson. The letters indicate he offered both advice on how to manage in his absence, and commendations for the way she handled her responsibilities.

In a letter written by T.K. Godfrey on April 27, 1863, Caroline received word that Hamilton had died on April 25 from pneumonia in Strawberry Plains, Tennessee and had been buried there. That letter is also copied and transcribed in the Ballenger family book (pages 94-96) ; it is a wonderfully written and compassionate account of Hamilton’s passing, aimed at easing the pain of loss for his family.

Following Hamilton’s death, Caroline and two other widows – her step-mother, Amy Collins Willis, and her sister, Sarah Collins Graham, lived together for many years in order to provide for their sons. The location of their shared farm  land was approximately at the intersection of Old Gin Road and Ballinger Road.  As the boys grew, they took over a large share of the labor involved in making a farm equal to the charge of providing for their families.

Caroline’s sons married two Bobo sisters, Sally Trophesie and Judy Della. Bobo. Jimmy and Sally had six daughters and one son, while Jasper (Buddy) and Judy had two daughters and one son, though only their daughter, Hassie, lived to adulthood.

On our recent trip to Fayette County, Kay scanned a photo of Caroline with her sons, their wives and children [prior to the birth of her only grandson that survived] and her half-brother, James Franklin Willis taken approximately in 1900.

Back: Tory, Betty Sally, Lucy, J. F. Judy Front: Eady, Connie, Jim, Caroline, Carrie, Jasper and Hassie

Conley Ballinger also reported in his book, “An interesting side note about Caroline is that after the night meal she would sit in her little rocking chair next to the open wood heated fireplace and smoke her pipe. A burning splinter from the wood would be used to light the pipe. In early days the tobacco she used was grown in their vegetable garden. It is interesting to note that neither her sons, and only one of her grandchildren, Tory, followed her in using tobacco.” (p.102)

Her sons and daughters-in-laws lived in separate homes on the land the boys bought on credit while they were still in their teens. Caroline lived in the home of her older son, Jimmy, for the remainder of her life. She died December 9, 1930 and was buried in the Old Mount Lebanon Cemetery where her father and perhaps her mother, her step-mother, and her son David Jasper were buried. Her other son and both daughers-in-law are also buried there, as is her half-brother, James Franklin.

In an 1978 article in the Fayette County Broadcaster entitled “The Ballenger Family” by Sharlene McGee Foster, [even though the first name is in error]: “Sarah Caroline, both sons, their wives and their wives’ parents are buried in the Old Mt. Lebanon Cemetery. This old deserted cemetery is located on a dirt road off of Highway 107 which is the road going to Bluff. Part of the ‘Ballenger Road’ runs nearby. This Ballenger Road is the road which leads from Highway 107 to Highway 18 coming out just below Mt. Vernon Church. It passes through the original farm that Sarah and her sons struggled for nearly 100 years ago. Think of the old Ballinger, Willis and Bobo families who settled this land. Most of all think of it as Sarah Caroline’s land. She’s a fine example of an early Fayette County pioneer.”

Update to A Noble Life – Mount Lebanon Baptist Church

In April 2009, I wrote a blog about my great-grandfather James Franklin Willis’ service to his community as a Baptist preacher. On our recent [July 2010] trip to Fayette County, Alabama, my daughter Kay and I got a little more information.

“The Ballenger Family of Fayette County Alabama” was written in 1998 by Conley Linton Ballenger who, along with his whole family, has been a lifelong member of Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church. Page 163-4 of his book lists the pastors beginning in 1895. In addition to what we found at Samford University showing J. F. Willis to have been the Mt. Lebanon pastor from 1888-1892 and 1895-1897, Ballenger’s church history lists the months of his 1895-1897 service as Jan 1895 – Aug 1897. Additionally it lists him as pastor from Dec 1901 to Sept 1905 and Sept 1908 to Sept 1922 – a total service to that church of about 27 years. The pastor who replaced him for the next ten years was J.F.’s son’s father-in-law, W. F. Gilpin.

We also learned from some journal pages written by J.F.’s granddaughter, Margie Agnes Willis [daughter of John William Willis, and granddaughter of W.F. Gilpin as well) “… Grandpaw Willis. He lived with us most of the time; he was a Baptist preacher, after he got older, he gave up the church we attended and my Grandpaw Gilpin was the pastor of Mt. Lebanon Church and Grandpa [Willis] visited and preached at other churches and helped out in the Baptist Conference that others met together for special meeting. I remember how my two younger brothers Delma & Albert and me would run out to meet him. He was traveling in a one-horse buggy; he would stop and we would hang on. There was only one seat, as he drove the horse up to the barn Delma & Albert would, as he would say, take care of the horse for me. So I would walk the path from the barn to the front door and carry his little bag that had his Bible and other books and lots of paper with writing.And soon he would go away for a while.” While in Fayette County, we scanned a picture of the house where J.F. lived with John William, and Margie; the house was located on the west side of Ballenger Road not far after you turn north from Old Gin Road. During our visit to the Old Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church Cemetery, I took a photo of the location of the original church, which was organized in 1842. There is nothing still remaining at the location other than the cemetery.The photo below was taken from the edge of the cemetery looking back toward Old Gin Road; the original church was on the left hand side and the road, which now dead ends at the edge of the cemetery, originally was a road that ran from Gin Road, by the church, and then continued on to the next country road.

The Mount Lebanon church remained on Old Gin Road from 1842 until about 1900 and the congregation has moved twice since that original location. Charles and Mammie Burns told us they first moved for a brief time to what is now 1807 Ward Road before moving to its current destination at about 1000 Mt. Lebanon Road. I put those locations on a map and made a .jpg for a visual representation.According to the Ballenger family book, the congregation erected a church building at the third location in 1944, presumably replacing whatever had been there since 1900; the current building was erected in 1988. J.F. would have served the congregation as pastor at the first and last of their locations; Silas M. Waldrop was listed in the Ballenger book as pastor during the time of both moves.

In a post on my grandfather, Zedic Hamilton Willis, I mentioned he enjoyed Sacred Harp singing throughout his life. That activity (also mentioned in Margie Agnes’ journal) continues to the present day. I found a video online of the annual Sacred Harp singing held on the fourth Sunday in June – this video was from June 28, 2009.

Charles Burns told us every member of the church is related to them – except the pastor -Jimmy Davis who has served the congregation since October 1959. … and the impact of a noble life continues …

Basheba Jane Welch Anderson

Each family history clue can be helpful in finding the next discovery. In searching for my great-grandfather, William Thomas Welch, an 1860 census, although originally only a potential match, provided a number of clues that helped in the search to find him and his whole family. That census listed Robert and Sarah Welch and their four children: Bashuba J (8), James A (6), Mary E (2) and Wm T (4 of 12 months). The only clue I had to go on in that census was the abbreviation for his full name and the age being approximately accurate. I was, unfortunately, unable to find any later documents on either Robert and Sarah Welch, or any of their children other than for William Thomas after he married Mary Monroe “Mollie” Sanford.

This past July [2010], on our visit to the Fayette County Courthouse, Kay and I found estate administration documents for Robert Welch that confirmed what had before been only his suspected death before the 1870 census, gave an approximate date of death [“Robert Welch Departed this Life more than Forty Days Since” – January 27, 1862 was the date of the document], and gave additional or clarifying information on names: we learned Bashuba’s middle name was Jane; James’ middle name was Alexander, Mary E’s middle name was actually Isabella rather than something that started with an ‘e’, William’s middle name was Thomas, and the administrator’s name was James Farquhar.

As I was searching for more source documents by using those clues, I noticed a family listed on an 1880 census with the wife/mother’s name of Basheba. That is such an unsual name [I assume it, and Jane’s, to be a misspelling of the biblical name of Bathsheba] that I decided to invest the time to track that family backward to see if they had a daughter named Sarah of a similar age to William Thomas’ mother. There was likely only one option to find that information – the 1850 census; the reason for that was that prior to 1850, the censuses only listed the name of the head of household and after that Sarah was married and would be identified only with her new name and family. When I found the 1850 census, sure enough, they had a daughter named Sarah the approximate same age as William Thomas’ mother. During that whole search, I was only tracking the name Basheba and had not even noticed the last name; however, upon looking at all my documentation, I realized the last name was Farquhar – the name of the administrator on the Robert Welch estate and a name/clue I might not have gotten around to following for a long time since I was unaware of any family connection.

In observing the neighbors on the 1870 census page that listed the Farquhars, listed right below them were James and Sarah Jackson and their four children, Jane (18), James (16), Isabel (12) and Thomas (10) – that’s obviously Sarah A. Farquhar Welch Jackson and her four children [even though the census enumerator listed them with the name of Jackson].

I then found a marriage for Jane Welch and Hesikiah Anderson on January 18, 1883 as well as a 1900 census with Hesikiah and Jane Anderson and their daughter, Lucy J, born about 1886. Then I found the 1880 census listing Jane Welch living as a boarder with Hesikiah and Nancy Anderson; she was also living next door to her brother William Thomas’ wife’s brother, Rufus Sanford, his wife, and two children.

As I stated at the beginning, each clue can be helpful in finding the next discovery. Had I not had the 1860 census that listed the oldest child’s name as Bashuba, I would never had been aware of the similarity of that unusual name in a presumably unrelated family on the 1880 census. Had I not had the clarification of Jane as her middle name on the estate document, I would not have had confidence it was her on the 1870 census when her name was erroneously listed as Jane Jackson – her stepfather’s name, and I would not have known to accept the clue of a marriage between Jane Welch and Hesikiah Anderson, nor to have found her living as a boarder in his home in 1880. Without tracking the siblings of extended family, I also would not have known  the extra validation that she was living next door to her sister-in-law’s brother and thus further connecting her to her family.

This morning, I was looking through some photos posted on a second cousin’s website [Sarah Clayton Hood who received them by way of her cousin, Cecelia Sue Leigh, daughter of Susie May Clayton Leigh]; there was a photo identified as Jane Anderson. Without all the research listed above, I would not have understood who she was.

So here I present the photo of Basheba Jane Welch Anderson, sister of William Thomas Welch and my great-grandaunt. Although I do not have a date for the photo, it is evident from her clothing, hairstyle and necklace watch that it is a photo from somewhere around the turn of the century.

Happy 185th Birthday Asa L. Sanford

My great-great-grandfather, Asa L. Sanford, was born in Alabama on August 7, 1825 as the oldest child of Jacob T. and Sarah “Sally” White Sanford. His first wife was Sarah Gean, according to the marriage license and certificate, with the marriage taking place in Lincoln County, Tennessee on May 20, 1846. They had one known child, a son, William Rufus, born January 19, 1847. Sarah died sometime before 1850.

Asa then married Martha Ann Jean; family tradition states that Sarah Gean and Martha Ann Jean were sisters. The marriage license and certificate list the second marriage as occurring in Lincoln County, Tennessee on April 30, 1850. They soon moved to Tuscaloosa county where Asa and Martha Ann had seven children: Sarah Emeline, Joseph Larkin, Mary Monroe “Mollie” [my great-grandmother], John Wiley “Tippy”, James A., Jessee, and John.

Family tradition also states Asa concurrently maintained a long-term relationship with Ruhama Oswalt with whom he bore three children: John Thomas Oswalt, Celia Ann Oswalt and Sarah Jane Oswalt. Ruhama is buried in the same cemetery as Asa and Martha Ann.

On a July 4, 2010 visit to Alabama, my daughter and I stopped by the cemetery where Asa and Martha are buried – El Bethel or Buncomb Cemetery near the border of Tuscaloosa and Fayette Counties and took photographs. A great-grandson, Bill Starnes, ordered a new headstone when he was unable to find one while visiting during a recent family reunion; that is the headstone in the photograph.

Our family has no photographs of Asa or Martha Ann or any of their children. If anyone has photographs, we would so love to see them. We’d also love to hear any family stories that would help us know something more personal about who they were. Much of the information on the Sanford family [other that what could be gleaned from census and marriage records] has been provided to me by Howard Hallman and Dennis Gurley – many thanks to them.

The Sanford family holds regular family reunions; there is one that will be held in Tuscaloosa tomorrow, August 8, at the Northport Community Center. The time is from 10:30 a.m. until … and instructions are to bring a covered dish and family photos and stories to share. I would love to be there to visit and learn more.

Asa died April 24, 1907; he had lived 81 years, 8 months and 17 days.

Update: William Thomas Welch’s Maternal Grandparents – Meet the Farquhars

It’s sometimes very difficult to discover the maiden name of a long ago ancestor – and accordingly, the names of her parents. Last night I serendipitously came across a clue and, upon following it, was rewarded with finding not only William Thomas Welch’s mother’s maiden name, but her parents and siblings, her new husband’s name and the 1870 census listing of William Thomas and his brother and sisters.

As mentioned in the previous post, Tom’s older sister’s first name was Bashuba [middle name Jane, as culled from other sources]- a probable misspelling of the biblical name Bathsheba. As many censuses as I’ve looked at, it’s not a name I remember seeing before. As I was looking for additional information on Tom’s brother and glancing  at the families on the pages before and after the page where James Alexander was living, I noted a family whose names were James and Basheba Farquhar.

In earlier time periods, families oftentimes used naming conventions for the names of their children, which generally included names of parents and grandparents. Since Sarah Welch’s first two children were named Bashuba and James, I thought that might not be a coincidence and started searching earlier censuses to see if I could determine if James and Basheba had a daughter of a similar age named Sarah. Due to the death of Robert in December 1861, the only census available for Robert and Sarah was the 1860 one, which meant there would be only one earlier census  to search that would contain any family members’ names other than the name of the head of household – the 1850 census. Fortunately, when I found them in the 1850 census, the first child listed was a Sarah who was born at the approximate time of  my great-great-grandmother.

At that point, I was pretty sure I’d discovered my great-great-grandparents’ names to be James and Basheba Farquhar. I moved forward to the 1860 census to locate any additional children they may have had and found eleven all total: Sarah, Polly, Andrew J., Martha, James, Elizabeth, America, Lavina, John Thomas, Amanda and Helen.

When I found them on the 1870 census, I discovered the family living next door to them was a James Jackson and his wife Sarah who just happened to have four children named Jane 18, James 16, Isabel 12 and Thomas 10 – my great-grandfather and his family! The reason I’d never been able to find Sarah and her four children was that she had remarried and the census taker had listed the children without adding their last names, which meant they would be interpreted to be Jacksons.

As further evidence that I was not just reading things into the census documents that were merely coincidental, the estate documents we found in the court records were about naming an administrator for the estate: the named administrator was James Farquhar – his unstated relationship being that of the widow’s father.

I then searched the Fayette County cemetery webpage and discovered, based on the unusualness of the name Basheba, that James and Basheba are buried at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church Cemetery in Fayette County. Although there is a grave for a James Farquhar, the birth dates are a little different from what the census data might lead me to expect and, consequently, uncertain as to the strength of such identification; but the burial of a Bashuby Farquhar offers a more substantial clue that is where they are buried. Two of Sarah’s brothers are also buried there, Andrew J., having died as a member of the 26th Alabama Infantry, Company A, and James J., having died as a member of the 41st Alabama Infantry, Company H.