Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Once in a Blue Moon

     By now you've probably heard that Friday's full moon is popularly called a "blue moon" because it's the second full moon in a calendar month. The technical definition of a blue moon is much more complicated, but since it's mostly just for fun, what difference does it make?
      It should look about like any other full moon -- beautiful. But since it is rare, and it happens to fall on a Friday to boot, I decided to celebrate by offering my latest mystery, Full Moon Friday, free on kindle. All day July 31. Just go to Amazon, download and enjoy.  Even it you don't have a kindle, you can download a free Kindle App so you can read Full Moon Friday on your phone or tablet.
      Such a deal!
      Now my writer friends may be wondering, what's the advantage of giving books away?  Word of mouth is the best advertising you can get, and I expect the people who read this book for free are going to like it so much they will tell their friends. Many of my readers have been spreading the word. Who knows, they might like it so much they will suggest it to their book club. It's happened before. In fact a book club in Angola, Indiana, is reading Full Moon Friday right now on the suggestion of a fan. And a book club in Jenison, Mi., came to the Full Moon Friday release party last summer.
      So don't miss your chance to read this fast-paced, whacko mystery.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Family cemetery roundabout

         As my regular readers know, all last week was throwback Thursday for me as I visited sites in South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia that relate to my genealogy.
         The biggest surprise was the Merrell burial ground at the old home place on Old Mountain Road in Randolph County. This photograph of the 1813 marker for my ggggggreat grandmother was taken there thirty years ago by family historian C. Phelps Merrell. The mountain top area was described as beautiful and covered with periwinkle.
         Other family members reported that the stones were pretty much gone now. The old cemetery was supposedly in a woods behind a home. I checked Google earth for that address and found a trailer.
         I was expecting to find this trailer all alone on a country road. When I got there, I could see where the trailer had been, but the lot is vacant now. I was able to roam to my heart's content but I didn't find anything that resembled a family cemetery, just a lot of refuse and downed trees.
         Although the neighboring lots had trailers or ramshackle homes, fancy subdivisions came within a half mile of the old homeplace. Just a mile away, Old Mountain Road meets Finch Farm Road in one of those fancy new roundabouts. It's easy to see that the fancy subdivisions are moving up the mountain and it won't be long until a beautiful home is on that site.
           When Daniel Merrell buried his mother there, he no doubt imagined the farm would be in the family forever. But his sons moved on and the stones crumbled with time. Hopefully the periwinkle will bloom again.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Genealogy Tour

This week's Throwback Thursday is a visit to Abbeville, S.C.  I've never been here before but I'm counting it as a throwback because my Tullock ancestors on my mother's side lived in Abbeville County before the revolution. I'm here on a Genealogy Tour.
        I was able to find an 1810 document this afternoon in the County Administration Center.  Samuel Tullock, 51, had died without a will, leaving a 33-year-old widow and six young sons. The yellowed, crumbling pages list the inventory of a life -- from cups and saucers to hogs and cows.
         From the leather and shoemaking tools in the inventory, I can surmise that Samuel was a cobbler.
          I paid $2.25 to make copies of the nine pages, which is about what two sows and four pigs brought at the sale of Samuel's "estate."

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Women at the Well

Polly Hawkins Craig was my age —66 —when she risked her life to save a fort full of settlers from an Indian attack. And I’ll bet she didn’t hesitate. After all, she’d just finished hiking across the Appalachian Mountains from Virginia to Kentucky.
 Some of my son’s ancestors on his father’s side were known as the Traveling Church. One of Polly’s sons, Lewis Craig, was a Baptist minister in Virginia where it was against the law to be anything but Anglican. In 1781 Lewis decided to move to Kentucky, and 400 church members followed him. The group started out with wagons, but at Ft. Chiswell the road became too narrow and steep. They had to walk; the horses carried their stuff.  They walked from September to December.
In addition to Lewis, Polly had 10 more grown children. Many of them and their kids and grandkids were part of this Exodus to Kentucky. When the Traveling Church reached Kentucky, they built Craig’s Station near Boonesborough  and spent the winter. In the spring, some of the group moved into an abandoned fort called Bryan Station near Lexington. 
In August, 1782 --  almost a year after Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown and the official battles with the British were over -- about 300 Indians and Canadian soldiers crossed the Ohio River into Kentucky to attack Bryan Station in one of the final battles of the American Revolution.
About 150 settlers, including 64 children, took refuge in the fort. Most of them were part of the extended Craig family. But there was one little problem. The only water source was a spring about half a mile away.   They couldn't survive a siege without water. And the fort could burn down if the Indians used flaming arrows and they didn't have water to put the fire out. 
But they didn't want to send a wagon of armed men to get water, because the Indians would surely attack. If they sent women and children, as usual, the Indians might believe their warriors were unnoticed.
Early on the morning of August 16, Polly led a group of about 20 women and girls down to the spring. They carried one musket and a lot of buckets. The spring was so close to the woods that they had to pretend they didn’t see the Indians lurking there. No matter how much their knees were shaking, they had to walk back up that hill without spilling their valuable water.
They made the trek and returned without incident. A few hours later the attack began. Flaming arrows set some of the roofs on fire, but the precious water put out the blazes. The attackers destroyed the crops outside the fort and killed the livestock, but the people inside the fort were unharmed. A scout told the attackers that the local militia was on the way to help the settlers, so the Indians and Canadian soldiers left before dawn .
           Daniel Boone was among the militia that arrived to help Bryan Station. The next day about 180 militia followed the Indians right into an ambush at Blue Licks. About half of the militiamen, including Daniel Boone's son Israel, were killed.
            Many years later the DAR erected a monument to Polly Hawkins and the women who went for water and saved the fort.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

What the soldiers say

      As the Fourth of July approaches, my genealogy project is snagged at the American Revolution. One of the best resources I've found is the pension applications. Years later my ancestors who served in the Revolution went to a courthouse somewhere and told the story of their service so they could receive a pension. They described the war in their own words.
          Here's what an Benjamin Merrill said of a battle on Sept. 19, 1776, at a gorge on the Coweecho River in North Carolina called the Black Hole:  "A considerable battle with the Indians and Tories in which we lost 11 men."
            Here's how Magnus Tullock, a 14-year-old fifer from my mother's family, describes the siege of Augusta in 1779: We were stationed on the opposite side of the river where we torn up a battery. No officers higher in command than captains... We remained there until the British evacuated Augusta (February 14). We were then marched through the town and on down to Brier Creek and joined Gen. Lincoln.“. 
           Benjamin Merrill was at the battle of Brier Creek on March 3, 1779: We had an engagement with the British commanded by Major Turnbull in which we were defeated before General Rutherford could get his Army over the Savannah River to our assistance and a great number of our men were drowned endeavoring to cross the River and the most of us lost our horses, guns &c and were permitted to return home."
          Magnus Tullock reported on the Siege of  Savannah, Sept. 16-Oct. 18, 1779: The siege at that place continued three weeks. We lost hundreds of men and were defeated.”
          When I look at the fireworks this year, I'm going to be thinking of Benjamin and Magnus and all the others who fought in all the wars. Thank You.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015


As I am working on my narrative genealogy I love finding something solid, an actual building that one of my ancestors built. Something that survived the centuries.
        I found just such a building in South Carolina.
        Back during the revolution some of my ancestors lived in Old Ninety-Six. That's a village in South Carolina which was so named because it was estimated to be 96 miles from the Cherokee town of Keowee.
         It was a trading post in 1751. In November of 1772, workers completed a courthouse and a large brick jail at Ninety-Six. The symbols of civilization for backcountry South Carolina. The first Revolutionary battle outside New England was fought at Old Ninety Six in 1775.
          One of my ancestors, Andrew Logan, was a member of the Petit Jury and his family lived above the courthouse. Andrew listed the courthouse as his home on documents in 1778 and 1779. A reconstructed census for 1780 says Andrew's son Hendrick, also my direct ancestor, lived there, and it seems pretty likely that Hendrick's daughter Jemima, who married my ancestor Samuel Tullock, was born there in 1777.
           But in 1780 the British arrived to reclaim the town.It became a staging area for the British troops and a fortress. In May, 1781, a thousand patriots under General Nathaniel Green surrounded the fort. The month-long standoff became the longest siege of the Revolution. When the British left, they burned it down and the village never recovered.
           In the 1960s, Greenwood County created an historic site at the old fort. That's also about the time a log cabin was discovered when the siding was ripped off of a house in Greenwood.. Turns out, the well-preserved two-story cabin had been built by Andrew Logan after Ninety-Six was destroyed.
           The cabin was moved to Ninety-Six where it stands today. Old Ninety-Six became a National Park in 1976, and Andrew's cabin is open to the public.
            It's on my list of places I have to see.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Fanning the flames

Everybody needs a nemesis. Without the Joker, Batman would be suffering in that hot rubber mask for nothing. And Superman would have to go back to Kryptonite if it weren't for Lex Luthor.
       Working on my narrative genealogy I discovered that the nemesis makes the story work. I've been trying to figure out the puzzling death of William Merrell. No, not the William Merrell I wrote about before who was "killed with lightning." This is his son, the fourth William Merrell in a row. I just call him Bubba.
        According to his great grandson, Orson Merrill, who reported family history in his Personal Notes in 1886, Bubba was kidnapped from his home by "British Soldiers" one night in early 1782. My history books said the British surrendered at Yorktown in October of 1781. What were soldiers doing kidnapping people out of their beds six months later? Didn't they get the memo?
         That's when I heard about David Fanning. After the "regulars" marched out of North Carolina in 1781 and finished their fighting in Virginia, the Loyalist militia under Col. David Fanning continued fighting those dang patriots. Fanning was considered a military genius. During the revolution, he managed to kidnap the Governor of North Carolina and the whole state assembly.
      But by 1782 his Tory War was down to terrorizing the folks of Randolph County, North Carolina which happens to be where Bubba lived. In fact, when Randolph County was formed in 1779, Bubba was one of 15 county justices on the first county court.
      Reading up on Fanning and the Tory war, I came across an article in last month's issue of the Journal of the American Revolution about "Bloody Sunday" on March 10, 1782, when Fanning and his band killed two men in front of their families and burned several homes. The names of the victims sounded eerily familiar. Two of them sat on that same county board with Bubba. The names of the creeks and rivers where they lived sounded familiar too. This was Bubba's neighborhood.
      Two of Bubba's sons, John and Dan Merrell, were mentioned in the article as Revolutionary era soldiers. But the article doesn't say Bubba was one of the victims of that Sunday rampage. Yet North Carolina archives show that 10 days later, March 20, 1782, Bubba's oldest son Benjamin filed to become the executor of the estate of his father, "deceased."
      I don't know if Bubba was kidnapped on that "Bloody Sunday" or some other day about that time. But I know his strange disappearance wasn't an oddity in those times. And I am somehow pleased to read that when North Carolina pardoned the Loyalists after the war, Fanning was one of three men who were not pardoned and had to leave the country. He went to New Brunswick, Canada, until he was found guilty of raping a 15-year-old and was run out of New Brunswick to Nova Scotia.
       Wow, what a nemesis he turned out to be!