The Commencement of My Davis Line as I Know It: Corporal John F. Davis, 1810-1863

"While a battle is raging, one can see his enemy mowed down by the thousand, or the ten thousand, with great composure; but after the battle these scenes are distressing, and one is naturally disposed to alleviate the sufferings of an enemy as a friend." ~ General Ulysses S. Grant

Everyone has a few ancestral family lines that don't go back very far. Information becomes harder to find after a certain time period. The farthest back I can go on my DAVIS line is John F. DAVIS. So for this week's theme (“commencement”- and actually it's one of the May themes that I missed) I'm going to talk about John, the beginning (commencement) of my DAVIS line as I know it right now.

John F. DAVIS was born in 1810. Most researchers say he was born in Onondaga County, New York. However, the 1860 census and his Civil War Draft Registration state he was born in Kentucky. The earliest record I can find about him is his marriage to Rachel CHENOWETH on 15 January 1835 in Perry, Pike County, Illinois. The 1840 census only shows the name of the Head of Household which, in this family, was John. The rest of the family members only show up as tic marks on the form. The 1840 census shows three John DAVIS families living in Perry, Pike County, Illinois in 1840. Only one is going by John F. In John F.'s household there were two adults (one male and one female) in the age “20 & under 30” category and two girls in the “under 5” category. The two young daughters were Sarah C. (my great-great grandmother and wife of Nicholas W. REITER whom I wrote about in this blog post and Chloe Jane.

In 1850, John and Rachel are still living in Perry, Pike County, Illinois. In addition to Sarah and Chloe, they had Jonathan, John, Nancy, and James in 1850. John's occupation was “laborer”. Sarah, Chloe, Jonathan, and John were attended school that year. Three-year-old Nancy and 5-month-old James stayed at home with Rachel.

In 1860, John, Rachel and children- Jonathan, John, James, Nancy, Charles, Alpheus, Harvey, Horace, and Susan- were living in Perry, Pike County, Illinois. John was a farmer. Sarah had married Nicholas REITER 8 years prior to the census. Chloe had married John REEDER 2 years prior to the census. All the children from Jonathan down to Alpheus had attended school the year of the census. Harvey, Horace, and Susan stayed at home with Rachel. In this census there are a few details that are changed from the previous census. Those details are that John's birthplace was listed as Kentucky and that children Nancy and James have been reversed in the order of children AND so have their ages. This census lists James as being the older (and being the age Nancy should have been) and Nancy being the younger (and being the age James should have been).

Don't You Know There's a War Going on Here?!

Dear Brother & Sister I write these few lines to you to let you know that I am still alive…” ~ Letter from Thomas Barnett, Alton, Illinois

Kurz and Allison Siege of Vicksburg color lithograph.  Found at

In July of 1863, John completed his Civil War Draft Registration. He listed his birthplace as Kentucky. He stated he was 51 years of age and was a farmer. He gave his physical description as: 6 feet 10 ½ inches high, fair complexion, grey eyes, and light hair. He listed his former military service as Company F, 99th Regiment, Illinois Volunteers, Civil War. He listed his residence as Perry Township, Pike County, Illinois. He was a Corporal in Captain Eli R. SMITH's Company F of the 99th Regiment of United States Volunteers (Infantry). He was enlisted by Lemuel PARKES at Perry, Pike County, Illinois on 2 August 1862 to serve three years. He mustered in on 23 August 1862 at Florence, Illinois.

The timeline leading up to his death:

Battle of Port Gibson- I Hope God Will Remember Us In Mercy

Such a day I never saw before. It made it so very Horrible to us because we had to go in and fight in the same place all the time, where the ground was already soaked with the blood of our comrades. But I hope God will remember us in Mersy.” ~Diary of Job H. Yaggy, Plainfield, Illinois

1 May 1863
Battle of Port Gibson (Mississippi).
Despite Union forces losing more men than Confederates, the Union won this battle. General GRANT had an elaborate plan to take Grand Gulf and deceive enemy troops in Vicksburg but had to make a change in plans when he was unable to gain a decisive victory over the Confederates on the first attempt. In the end, however, he was victorious. Wirt ADAMS' cavalry (CSA) was the only one in the area. Major General John S. BOWEN (CSA) decided to perform a reconnaissance. BOWEN moved south from Grand Gulf and positioned troops just southwest of Port Gibson near Magnolia Church. The terrain the Confederates were in consisted of “one-hundred-foot-tall (30 m) hills separated by nearly vertical ravines choked with canebrakes and underbrush”. Just after midnight on 1 May 1863, the first shots were fired in the battle. You can read more about this battle at or for a more detailed account: You can also read more here and see photos of the Schaifer House and the Old Magnolia Church site: Still interested? This blog has an article about the battle. Scroll down not quite halfway. For some great book recommendations, look at this site:

Battle of Port Gibson drawing from

Champion Hill, Hinds County, Mississippi – Grant's Crown of Immortality

… for a while the bullets came like hail stones but we soon got down onto the rebs and drove them up, took meney of them prisoners and left a great meney laying, killed and wounded…. This is called the ‘BATTLE OF CHAMPIONS HILL’ ” ~ Diary, Job H. Yaggy, Plainfield, Illinois

"Grant's crown of immortality was won, and the jewel that shone most brightly in it was set there by the blood of the men of Champion Hills …… Six thousand blue and gray-coated men were lying there in the woods, dead or wounded, when the last gun of Champion Hills was fired.” ~ Major S. H. M. Byers, Fifth Iowa Infantry

16 May 1863
Battle of Champion Hill (Hinds County, Mississippi).
Wikipedia describes this battle as “the pivotal battle in the Vicksburg Campaign”. It began about 7:00 a.m. on the “beautiful and cool” morning of 16 May 1863. To give you some idea of the number of men present, the Confederates alone had a defensive battle line of men that ran about 3 miles long. The defensive line was along a crest of a ridge above Jackson Creek. At 1:00 p.m. Union forces took the crest. Confederate reinforcements showed up and the Confederate men trapped on the ridge utilized the one escape route that was left open to them. (; An excellent website to learn more about this battle is: Among other things it includes diary accounts.

Battle of Champion Hill drawing found at

Map of Champion Hill battlefield area.  Found at

Aerial view of Champion Hill,

Battle of Big Black River Bridge – My Army is Starving

I have been up to see the Congress and they do not seem to be able to do anything except to eat peanuts and chew tobacco, while my army is starving.”~ General Robert E. Lee

The Confederates who were able to retreat only made it to Big Black River. They spent the night there at the bridge and the following day fighting began again in what would be the “final battle before the Siege of Vicksburg”. ( In front of the battle line, they placed trees with the trunks formed into sharp points as obstacles. The points were facing outward toward oncoming Union troops and the branches were facing inward. Typically the tree branches were interwoven with wire and/or other obstacles. ( However, once engaged by Union troops, Confederates began withdrawing via the railroad bridge and a steamboat. To delay Union troops, the Confederates burned the bridge and steamboat after they crossed. Later that day, the Confederate soldiers arrived in Vicksburg, Mississippi. “Fewer than half of the Confederates who had fought at Champion Hill made it into the defenses at Vicksburg. This battle sealed Vicksburg's fate: the Confederate force was bottled up at Vicksburg.” (Wikipedia, see link above.)

Photo of Big Black River Bridge after it was burned.  Found at

Siege of Vicksburg – The Key in His Pocket

"Vicksburg is the key. The war can never be brought to a close until the key is in our pocket." ~ Union President Abraham Lincoln

"Vicksburg is the nail head that holds the South's two halves together." ~ Confederate President Jefferson Davis

Vicksburg is taken Glorious more Glorious most Glorious…. I may live a thousand years and not see a more glorious 4th.” ~ Letter from Francis W. Tupper, Minooka, Illinois

Corporal DAVIS most likely fought during the first part of the Siege of Vicksburg as his illness did not commence until about 25 May 1863 and the Siege of Vicksburg began on 18 May. The Siege was the final major action of the Vicksburg Campaign. After being aggressively pushed back by Confederates, General GRANT decided to besiege the city of Vicksburg on the day Corporal DAVIS became ill. Corporal John DAVIS was honorably discharged at a hospital in Vicksburg, Mississippi on 4 June 1863- one month before the Confederates surrendered at Vicksburg. ( You can find a much more detailed account of the history of the 99th Illinois Infantry here: or here:

Corporal DAVIS was discharged due to chronic bronchitis and diarrhea. These conditions were contracted during his military service and in the line of duty. Military records state that he suffered from chronic diarrhea until the time of his death and that this was the cause of his death. He was able to make it back home to Perry where he died on 17 November 1863.

Rest in Peace – Then the Cries for Water Ceased; We Could Not Help Them.

As private soldiers we considered that the day was lost but Grant said 'No!' As we had no Breakfast, dinner, or supper on Sunday, and were on guard Sunday night, we were about all in. Never-the-less we went after them on Monday morning. That Sunday night was the longest I ever experienced. I will never forget the cries of distress of the wounded who lay on the battle-field that night. They called for mother, sister, wife, sweetheart, but the most piteous plea was for water. One would be praying and another singing. Some one started the old hymn, ‘Jesus Lover of my Soul’, singing the first verse. Another sang the second, another the third, and still another the fourth. This continued until sometime during the night when it began to rain; then the cries for water seased. We hoped that many were refreshed. As the wounded lay between the battle lines we could not help them.

We were promised medals of honor for our service on this special work but we never received them…. I suppose that the order never reached head quarters.” ~ Memoir of George O. Smith, Monmouth, Illinois.

When Rachel filed for a widow's pension the information listed in that packet stated John was born Onondaga County, New York, although he gave his birthplace as Kentucky on his draft registration. It took Rachel a year to get the pension approved and it amounted to $8 per month. The only children that Rachel listed on the pension documents as belonging to she and John were James T., Charles D., Alpheus B., and Harvey D. Since there were only a few of the children listed, I made some preliminary theories about why all the children weren't listed. I hypothesized that the form listed the children still living at home with Rachel. Sarah and Chloe had already married and moved out. Jonathan and John were over age 18 and likely had already moved out of the home as well. Nancy was young but still old enough to have possibly been married and out of the home at the time of the pension process. Horace and Susan, the youngest two children, were also not named. Either they were deceased at the time of the pension application, or Rachel had been forced to give them up after the death of John in order to keep the rest of the family together and support them all. As I continued reading through the file, I found out why only certain children were listed. The only children that Rachel was supposed to list on the application were those children living at home AND under the age of 16 as of a certain date. She also had to sign a sworn affidavit that she had not given up any children for adoption nor had she abandoned the care of any of the children. So it stands to reason that Horace and Susan were deceased by the time Rachel filed the pension application.

Nicholas REITER (my great-great-grandfather, listed as 'Nicholas RYDER' in the pension file), who was then 36 years old, gave a statement in support of his mother-in-law, Rachel, in the pension documents. Nicholas apparently could not write as he had to make his mark in lieu of a signature. Sarah REITER (my great-great-grandmother, listed as 'Sarah RITER' in the pension file) also gave a statement in regard to the legitimacy of Charles being John and Rachel's biological child. Sarah was 29 years old at the time of her sworn statement. In regard to his disability, the military records showed that he was first unable to perform his duties at Houston, Indiana in January of 1863 and was unable to perform duty at any point after that time although it appears that he stayed with his unit up until the Siege of Vicksburg. John himself attributed his illness to old age and exposure during the winter, according to the military's statement. At the time he became ill, he was stationed at a camp near Vicksburg. He was described as being debilitated and emaciated at the time of the onset of his illness.

Life Lessons in Tenacity and Courage

Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I'll try again tomorrow.” ~ Mary Anne Radmacher

I can't imagine what it would have been like to be 50+ years old, intermittently deprived of food, exposed to the elements, people dying violent and painful deaths all around me, marching from Indiana to Mississippi- ill, dehydrated, in pain, emaciated. I admire him for his tenacity. I am so glad for him (and for Rachel and the children) that he made it home before his death.

One year after burying her husband, Rachel lost her two youngest children. Seven years later she would bury another daughter (Sarah) and eight years after that, another daughter (Nancy). Rachel did not marry again. I am certain she was well taken care of in her final years because as late as 1880, four of her adult sons were still living with her and (presumably) taking care of her. Living with her at that time were Jonathan (a laborer), James (an engineer), Alpheus (a blacksmith), and Harvey (a blacksmith). She passed away in 1883.

I am thankful to have such incredible examples of tenacity and courage in the face of difficult life circumstances. Have an attitude of thankfulness this week for the privilege of coming from a long line of strong, courageous people!  

Until next week,

Lisa @ Days of Our Lives

There’s a Way

Today you're going to get a small glimpse of how my crazy mind works. I'm going back to the second week of May to make up that week's blog post. The theme was “there's a way”. In my mind I kept thinking “the way”. Do you remember playing a game where someone says a word and you're supposed to say the first word that comes to your mind (no filtering)? Well this is how that worked for me on this blog post. My mind said “the way” and then responded with “the truth and the life”. (The Holy Bible~ John 4:16, Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.) So that thought led to Christianity, which led to church, which led to preachers, which led to Reverend Charles SEELY. So I present to you today, my Baptist minister ancestor- Charles SEELY.

Charles SEELY and wife, Synthia Arrena FOSTER

Charles SEELY was born in 1826 in Missouri. I don't know anything of his childhood and I don't know anything about his parents, siblings, or any of his family. The first time he shows up in any record that I can find is on 15 October 1845 when he married Synthia Arrena FOSTER in Lawrence County, Missouri.

The marriage record started on one page and ended on the next, thus the reason for two photos to show one record.

Synthia was born in 1824 in South Carolina to Frederick FOSTER and Mary (BURNETT) FOSTER. Her family moved from South Carolina to Tennessee sometime between 1830 and 1840. Sometime between 1840 and 1860 they moved to Lawrence County, Missouri.

Finding Their Way from Missouri to Arkansas

Both SEELYs and FOSTERs were present in the area at the time Lawrence County was created. There is an annual “pioneer families” reunion each year in September. The reunion is a big deal complete with printed t-shirts, a day for genealogical information exchanges, etc. See these two websites for information about previous years' reunions: (2013 gathering and includes a contact name and email address) and (2014 gathering). Although neither of our families are listed as pioneer families that are included in the reunion, another SEELY researcher said that she went one year and she seemed to feel it was profitable to her research.

Charles and Synthia had eight children together- Fifth Sergeant Elijah SEELY, blacksmith William, blacksmith James (who went by Frank), farmer John, baby George who only lived 8 months, Mary Ann (my great-grandmother and wife of George BATES), Elzora (who went by Josephine and married a HARRELL), and farmer Charles. They resided in Lawrence County, Missouri until the late 1860's. Charles owned land there as evidenced by a land patent issued in 1860 and a deed dated 1867. You can view the land patent at this link along with a map of where the property was located-

Around 1868, Charles packed up his family and left Lawrence County, Missouri for Benton County, Arkansas. On 7 April 1869, Charles was licensed as a Minister of the Gospel in Benton County, Arkansas. He was the first preacher at Mount Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church located in Gravette, Benton County, Arkansas.

The Way, The Truth, The Life

The recording of his credentials:

I've transcribed it here the best I can, leaving any misspellings as they appear in the record:

      Credentials of Seely: Credentials of Charles Seely- Benton County Arkansas This is to certify that we being duly called as a
          presbytary have examined into the carcter, call qualifications of our beloved brother Charles Seely and with the consent of the
          Church of Christ at New Sili (?) to which he belongs have by prayer and imposition of hands set him apart to the great work of
          the gospel ministry and he is hereby authorized to excrise himself in the several parts of the ministerial functions where he may
          be called whether occasionally or Slated by Given under our hands this the 26 day of October 1868

          E. T. Willingham, J. Dungan, Presbytary
          Filed and recorded the 7 day of April 1869
          J. R. Rutherford recorder

The Mount Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church was organized in a log school house above Cash Springs in the Gravette, Benton County, Arkansas area on 28 May 1870. The church moved to it's present location in 1880. The story I read was that Charles was an elder in the church and moderator of the organization committee when he was chosen as the first pastor. I have contacted the church and am waiting on a response. Maybe soon I'll have an update with new information if the church has any.  I wasn't able to find Cash Springs on any map but I found Cash Springs Road in Gravette so I'm going on the assumption that Cash Springs is nearby.  Here is a map showing the distance from Cash Springs Road (Where the arrow and pinned spot is) to the current church location:

I know Charles performed marriages while he was licensed. He was the minister who performed the wedding ceremony for Greenberry BATES and Eliza PENDERGRAFT in 1872. (Greenberry was one of the sons of John C. BATES. You can read about John BATES in a previous blog post found here: Charles SEELY's daughter, Mary Ann, married George BATES- another of John C. BATES' sons). Later in Charles' life (after the death of Synthia), Charles himself married a PENDERGRAFT. Two years after Synthia's death, Charles married Mary Ann (PENDERGRAFT) SEAMSTER. She was the widow of Williamson SEAMSTER who was also a Baptist minister.

Rock Island…Haven't We Been This Way Before?

One interesting story I found while researching for this blog post was the story of why Charles' son William packed up his family and moved to Texas and what happened along the way. The story goes that William and his family were living near Gravette, Benton County, Arkansas. He was a blacksmith there. His house and shop were next to each other. Crews were blasting out a path for the Rock Island Railroad nearby (that is possibly the same railroad company that ran the train that hit my great-great-grandfather Samuel WILLIAMS whom you can read about in the blog post at The crews were having to blast through a hillside to make a deep cut for a section of the railroad and the rocks from all the blasting were falling on William's house and blacksmith shop. William said he wasn't going to live where they were tearing up everything so he packed up his family and set out for Texas in a wagon. Somewhere along the way Indians started to attack the family. William's sons were big boys and they scared the Indians away with their guns.  That's all of the story I know.  I have to believe they made it to Texas alright since there is now a large branch of distantly-related SEELYs in Texas.

I love this postcard found at depicting a railroad cut similar to the one being done (maybe the actual one being done??) near William's home that made him decide to move.  I also love how Rock Island crept into my stories again.  If you'll remember, Rock Island was where John BATES (referenced above) was imprisoned during the Civil War.  Also every day on my way to work during the school year, I pass a Rock Island caboose that's been restored.  I don't have a photo of it but here is another Rock Island caboose for you to look at:

I also found this great picture of the old depot in Gravette, Benton County, Arkansas at

And I couldn't help but post this 1901 depot sign:

Finding His Way to His (Heavenly) Home

In addition to being a preacher, Charles was a farmer. He died on 29 June 1891. He had a very short obituary which reads:

      Rev. Charles Seeley died on the 29th of June and was buried on the day following at Gamble's
          grave yard. Mr. Seeley had lived here a number of years and had lots of warm friends to mourn
          his death.

The obituary appeared in The Bentonville Sun on 11 July 1891.

I hope you've enjoyed learning about Charles SEELY and "the way" he lived his life.  Here's hoping you find your way to a safe and happy weekend spent with loved ones.

Until next week,

Lisa @ Days of Our Lives

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way to Find More Information About an Ancestor

I'm going all the way back to the first week in May to a blog theme that I missed. The theme was “Where there's a will”. I decided to focus on my dad's family again this week. The focus will be on Aquilla GREER Sr.- my 7th great-grandfather.  Follow the DRAKE line back through Eugene, then Mark, Alonzo, William, Ervin, and Braxton.  Braxton married Martha Patsy GREER.  Martha's grandfather was Aquilla GREER Sr.

Above photo is of the falls on Gunpowder River in Baltimore County, Maryland.  Photo found at

Aquilla GREER Sr. was born in 1716 at Gunpowder River,Baltimore County, Maryland. In 1740, he married Elizabeth LOWE in Maryland. Together they had 8 or 9 children- James, Mary Sarah, Aquilla (my 6th great-grandfather), Elizabeth, William, Moses (possibly the same person as Vinson or could be Vinson's twin), Vinson, Asa, and Delila. Aquilla passed away on 8 April 1790. His will was recorded on 30 October 1790 in Greene County, Georgia. The will reads:

In the name of God, Amen. I Aquila Greer of Green County being of sound sense and memory thanks be to God, for the same, but calling to mind the uncertainty of this sublenary world and that all flesh must yield when it pleaseth God of his mercy to call do therefore make and constitute this my last will and testament, and desire it may be received as such.

First, I resign my soul to God from whence it came and my body to the earth to be buried at the discretion of wife and others executors hereafter named: and as touching my worldly estate, I dispose of it as followeth.

First my will and desire is that all my just debts be paid.

Item: I lend to my wife Elizabeth Greer all my Negroes and all my stock of horses, hogs and cattle together with all my household goods and furniture, during her life, and after her decease to be sold at the highest bidder.

Item: I give to my grandchildren, heirs of my son Aquila Greer, deceased. Five pounds apiece and no more and the rest of the money divided equally amongst all my children here name'd: Sary Haynes, James Greer, William Greer, Elizabeth Starkey, Vinson Greer, Delia Haynes, Asel Greer: and my will & desire is that my two sons James and William Greer be my executors of this my last Will & Testament.

In Witness hereof I hereunto do set my hand & seal this eighth day of April one thousand seven hundred and ninety. Aquila Greer (L.S.)

Signed, sealed in presence of us John Aikens – Thomas Cane – Will. Greer

The above is a true copy of the Original which was proven & approved the 30th Octr. 1790 in the presence of the legatees who acknowledged the same. Letters Testamentary granted & a warrant of appraizment directed unto messrs. P. Hunter ) Jas Thomson ) Jas. Jackson )

Recorded the 6 th Noven: 1790 by. Will. Phillips R. Pro.

Later there was an appraisal of the property Aquilla owned at the time of his death. It reads:

A Record of the Inventory & Appraizments of Aquilla Greer's, deceased Estate L# S D

Missan 60 – –

Susanna 35 – –

Cloe 35 – –

Richard 40 – –

Leonard 40 – –

Peter 75 – –

6 head of horses 60 – –

17 head of Cattle 23 – –

1 Rifle gun #3.10. one smoothe con D. w/- 4 – –

1 Chest 20/- one small trunk 5/- 1 – –

1 Case of bottles 12/- One silver watch #400 4 – –

1 Pair of money scales & weights 15/-Cash #2507 26 2 –

2 Beds & furniture 18 – –

6 Hoes 15/- 6 Axes 31/- 2 6 –

1 X Cut saw 10/- One Bever Trap 7/6- – 17 6

3 Trowel hoes 20/- One Barrshear 40/- 3 – –

1 Frs. 2/6 One pair wedges 2/6- – – – 5 –

1 Dozen pewter plates – 18 –

3 Dishes 10/6. Eleven spoons 2/6 – 13 –

3 Basons 7/- Two Ds. 5/-One Candlestick 2- – 14 –

1 wagon, four sets of geer, cloth & Lock chain 25 – –

1 Pair of stealyards 11-/- One foot adze 5/- – 19 –

1 Pair of spoon moulds, nippers & ladle – 12 6

3 Augers 7/- One handsaw 2/6 — – 9 6

1 Round Shave & Padlock — – 4 6

1 Howell 2/6. One drawing knife l/6 – 4 0

1 Hammer l/8 Taper bit & Chisel 2/6 – 4 2

1 Gauge 1/- Case Knives & forks 7/- – 8 –

2 Mens Saddles 26/ One Womans Do. 15/ 2 1 –

1 Jointer 2/6 One Inkstand 2/6— – 5 – #461 .. 0 .. 2

1 Spur l/6. One spice mortar 7/- – 8 6

1 Sugar box 10/- One tin Jack 2/6 – 12 6

1 Razor & hone 3/- Sundry Books 10/- – 13 –

Teapot, Cups & saucers 6/ small trunk 2/ – 8 – 2 .. 2 .. 2 –

#463 .. 2 .. 2 –

1 Pair chards 5/. sheep shears 2/- – 7 –

1 Pair sheers & Looking glass 2/- – 2 –

2 Chares 5/- Pan & Skillet 4/- – 9 –

1 Pair tongs 3/- Six Bells 20/- 1 3 –

2 Potts, 1 oven 42/- Smith's tools 10/ 2 12 – –

Leather 10/- 40 head of Hoggs 120/- 6 10 –

1 Pair Saddle bags 8/- – 8 –

1 Bond of Twelve wt. Tobacco #6..0.. 6 – – # 17.. 11 .. 0 ====

Amts. #480.. 13.. 2 A just & True Appraizment of the Estate of Aquilla Greer, decea'sed Phillip Hunter ) James Thomson ) Sworn Appraisers James Jackson )

A true copy of the Original, Recorded within the limits of the time prescribed by law. By – Wm. Phillips R. Pro.

You may have wondered back at the beginning of Aquilla's will how many servants he had and what might be learned about them. If you'll remember, the first few lines of the appraisal of his property named them. I missed that the first time around. I knew there were names in the will but didn't realize that the appraisal was naming Aquilla's servants and assigning them value. I guess that indicates the difference in my view of people as property versus the 18th century view of people as property. In case you missed it, the slaves were:

Missan (or Massaw)






Aquilla was a Revolutionary War Patriot. He took the Oath of Allegiance in 1777.  He provided food and beef for soldiers in 1781.

I learned a little more about Aquilla from reading his will and associated papers. I learned that he had the tools he needed to care for his livestock. He also had a few blacksmithing and woodworking tools on the list.  He considered himself a Christian. Please note that we cannot judge an 18th century ancestor by 21st century norms and culture. Obviously today, we would not even consider having slaves but in Aquilla's time, that was the norm for someone with a lot of land and livestock. I do wish that his slaves had been set free instead of sold, but again- that wasn't the norm and had he set them free it might possibly have been a death sentence to them since they would probably not have been able to find work to support themselves as free people. Aquilla's life began and ended well in advance of emancipation. Last week I said I didn't have any rich ancestors but from the looks of Aquilla's documents and what is recorded about him, he had quite a bit of property.

I like that he provided for the payment of all his debts and the support of his wife for the duration of her life.  I love that he included his deceased son, Aquilla GREER Jr., by including Aquilla Jr.'s children in the will. This is an issue that I have had to grapple with in my own life.

I wonder what I would feel like if I knew that after my passing all my worldly possessions would be itemized, assigned an appraised value, and published for the world to see. I'm a pretty private person. I don't think I would like that at all. Many of the things I own have purely personal, emotional value and would not be worth anything to most people. It reminds me that I need to get my video inventory done sooner rather than later. I have family treasures and if I don't label them, no one will know they were important. I'm attaching some photographs of items that are dated around 1790 that showed up on Aquilla's appraisal list. Please note: these are not, to my knowledge, the actual things Aquilla owned. These are just photographs of similar items. One of the items that left me wondering was the “tin jack”. If anyone knows what a tin jack is- let me know!

Inkstand, circa 1790

Pewter Plate, circa 1790

Rifle, circa 1790

Spoon mold,circa 1790

Silver sugar box, circa 1790

Sugar nippers, circa 1790

Steelyards, circa 1790

I hope you've enjoyed learning a little about Aquilla through his will. Take some time this week to inventory your family treasures so that after your passing they will continue to be handed down and loved for generations to come.

Until next week,

Lisa @ Days of Our Lives

Prosperity- Different Strokes for Different Folks

This week I'm going back to the last April blog theme that I missed. The theme was 'prosper'. This one was hard. I didn't have rich ancestors so I had to think a long time about what it can mean to prosper. I thought about telling you a couple of stories about my 2nd great grandfather, William Larkin, who owned a mine in Aurora, Missouri, in 1900 but I didn't feel like I had enough information and facts to do him justice yet so instead I started to think about what the Bible considers prosperous.

Deuteronomy 30:9-10 says, “The Lord your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your cattle and in the fruit of your ground. For the Lord will again take delight in prospering you, as he took delight in your fathers, when you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep his commandments and his statutes that are written in this Book of the Law, when you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.”

So that got me thinking about children and how the Bible says they are a blessing from God- a “heritage from the Lord”, “a reward”, they are “like arrows in the hand of a warrior”, and “blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them”. (Psalm 127:3-5) Also, grandchildren “are the crown of the aged”. (Proverbs 17:6) There are many verses but these are the first couple that really hit me and helped get me started down this path. So I looked at my father's family and narrowed the list down to the 6 couples who had the most children. Out of those 6 couples, I decided to tell you about Samuel Morris and Emeline Eliza (BELL) WILLIAMS. I hope I can do them justice.

I don't have a lot of information about Samuel's early life. There is some confusion about who his mother really is. In trying to figure it out, I decided finally to look only at men named John Williams who were married in Illinois between the years of 1853 and 1869 because I felt like that narrowed it down pretty well. Well, let me tell you- I “narrowed” it down to 178 (!!!) John Williams' who were married in Illinois between 1853 and 1869. (Are you beginning to understand why it's June and I'm not done with an April blog post??) So rather than make you wait any longer…I'm just presenting you with what I have. They are one of my “brick walls” so I don't have a lot of information but maybe I can tell a little of their story.


Samuel was born in April, 1864 in Illinois. His dad was John W. WILLIAMS. Prior to writing this blog I believed his mother was Nancy (WALLS) WILLIAMS. However during the course of preparing for this blog, I located another researcher who has information that suggests John was married to someone before he married Nancy. I am still trying to sort it out, as is the other researcher- Annie Blanchard. (As a researcher I try to always prove everything I'm told rather than accept what I'm told without question. If you want to do your own research you are welcome to review Annie Blanchard's post about John Williams at her blog at The link takes you to part 2 of a 3-part blog series about John and his last wife, Armazinda.

By the time Samuel was six years old his family had moved to Licking, Texas County, Missouri, where his brother Charles was born in February, 1870. By 1872, Nancy had passed away and John married Armazinda Frances WALLACE. In 1880, the family was still living in Texas County, Missouri, and included Samuel, his dad John and stepmother Armazinda, his brother Charles, and half-siblings Walter, Alice and Edgar. Other siblings born later included Mabel, Frank, Martin, Elizabeth, and Bertie Frances. Throughout his life, Samuel was a farmer.


Eliza was born in July of 1871 in Roubidoux, Texas County, Missouri. Her parents were Quincy and Elizabeth (STEPHENSON) BELL. Eliza had 6 known siblings- two half-sisters named Mary and Cordova, and four siblings named John, Surrena, Josephus, and Samuel. Like Samuel's dad, Eliza's dad was married more than once. Eliza's mother was Quincy's last known wife. Whereas Samuel was (as far as I know) the first child, Eliza was the fifth child of her father and the third child of her mother.


On 18 March 1888, Samuel married Eliza Emeline BELL in Roubidoux, Texas County, Missouri. Samuel was 23 years old and Eliza was 16. (NOTE: In the 1930 census, Eliza stated she first married at age 17. However based on date of birth and date of marriage, she had not yet turned 17 when she married Samuel. Memory is a tricky thing sometimes.)

I'm going to present Samuel's and Eliza's life together as a series of gains and losses. Plus signs for the positives (or gains, marked in green) and minus signs for the negatives (or losses, marked in red). I think this is a good way of showing what their life was like up to the crescendo-point in 1905.

++++ Between 1889 and 1896, they had their first four children- Sarah Ann (Aunt Sadie), Jahu, Hosea (or Hose as Mam always called him), and Ida.

– Then the first in a series of tragedies struck the family. Eliza's mom died in January of 1897.

++ In 1898 and 1899, Samuel and Eliza had Quincy (who sometimes went by Bennie) and Ivy (Aunt Tack).

+/– In 1900, Eliza had another set of twin boys neither of whom survived. This was the second in the series of tragedies for the family.

+ In 1901 my great-grandmother Bessie was born.

– In 1902, Eliza's dad (her last living parent) passed away.

+ In 1903 Eula (Aunt Ule) was born.

– Also in 1903 Samuel's stepmother, Armazinda, passed away. Armazinda was Samuel's stepmother from the time he was 8 years old so surely he felt some loss (if not significant loss) when she passed.

– Then in 1904 Samuel's dad (his last living parent) passed away.

After all of these losses, 1905 was an excruciating year for the already hard-hit family.

+ In February, 1905 Martin (Uncle Mart) was born.

– That same year Samuel was killed by a train somewhere near either Cabool, Texas County, Missouri or Mountain Grove, Texas County, Missouri. Sources conflict about the location of his death and no official records or newspaper articles have ever been found to verify this. There was speculation that it was suicide. Some family members believe perhaps it was suicide and others believe that it definitely was not.

I know that Uncle Mart must surely have kept Eliza going on many days when she didn't want to live anymore. In the space of a decade she had lost both parents, her father-in-law and stepmother, and two children. (Averaging it out, that would be almost one lost loved one PER 1 ½ YEARS!!) I can't even imagine what it would be like to have that many close personal losses in that period of time. Knowing about all of these losses, it makes me think perhaps Samuel might really have committed suicide. Maybe while walking home he had time to think about all of these losses and simply couldn't see a reason for living and in one brief moment while he was feeling hopeless, a train appeared and he saw that as a way out. I don't know. It just makes me wonder.


Sometimes we survive even when we don't want to. I'm glad that Eliza made it through this difficult period of her life. In 1908 Eliza married John Charles SNEARY. Everyone I've talked to said he was a good man. He was good to Eliza and good to her children and grandchildren. I love him simply because of this. She needed someone good in her life. After marrying, Eliza and John (who sometimes went by Charles) moved to Enid, Garfield County, Oklahoma. In the 1915 Kansas Territorial Census, John and Eliza show up in Iola, Allen County, Kansas. In the household is a 2 year old male child named Rural WILLIAMS. In 1920 the family is living in Commerce, Ottawa County, Oklahoma and Rural is gone. I don't know Rural's relationship to the family- nor do I know anything else about him. If he belonged to Eliza and John, why wasn't his last name SNEARY? I never heard anyone talk of Eliza and John having any children together and Rural came along too late to belong to Samuel. I have not yet found any answers about Rural. I vaguely remember my grandma mentioning a Rural but sadly, I can't remember what she said. When she said his name it sounded more like 'Ruel'.

Eliza would see several of her sons go into the military and be sent into battle during World War I but it appears from records that they all came back home. I hope that she enjoyed many wonderful years with her children and grandchildren.

By 1930, Eliza and John were back in Upton Township, Texas County, Missouri living out their final years together. Eliza passed away there in February of 1934. She was buried in Oakland Cemetery in Success, Texas County, Missouri. John passed away two years later in August of 1936. John and Eliza were buried next to each other.

Every time I tell you a story about one of our ancestors, I'm always amazed at how much they lived through and yet still were able to make a decent life for themselves. These are the stories I want our children and grandchildren to see. I want them to know that they come from a long line of strong people and good-hearted people. I want them to know that they have it within themselves to overcome whatever struggles they are facing and whatever trouble they find themselves in. I hope this is what they get from the stories about our people. Pass these stories on to them!

Don't forget to check out Becky's blog at, Theresa's blog at, and Rochelle's blog at for more great reading.  🙂

"Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?"  ~  King David

Until next week,

Lisa @ Days of Our Lives blog