Friday, June 27, 2014

Mother Seth

My great great Grandmother, Versanoy Smith Rowell has it on her grave marker, "Mother Seth," I'm not sure what it means. Her father's name was Seth and she named her son, my great Grandfather Seth.

I can't find any records that list her name as Seth, other than the grave marker.

Versanoy Smith was born in June 1836 in Thomas County, Georgia to Seth Dykes and Eleanor Ann Adams Smith. She married Joseph Ruell Rowell on January 9, 1851 in Jefferson County Florida.

She filed for a Civil War Widow's Pension after her husband died so there are several documents with her signature, always shown as Versanoy.

A coincidence is that my gg grandfather on the other side of the family, James Henderson Hogan was the Chairman of the Taylor County Commissioners in 1900 and signed an affidavit supporting her pension application.This was five years before his grandson Millard Fillmore Green married her granddaughter Ila Rowell.

When the State didn't process the application as quickly as she thought reasonable, she sent several letters to Florida Attorney General David Lang, a former Confederate Army General.

She also had the County Judge and County Court Clerk write letters on her behalf. I am sure she would have gone to see the General in person if needed. Her tenacity to do whatever necessary, prompting the government to action, definitely got passed down to later generations in her family.

Versanoy died sometime between 1910 and 1920 in Shady Grove, Taylor County Florida. She was buried in the Fellowship Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery.

There weren't written records of deaths kept at this time in most parts of rural Florida so there is no certificate to explain why her name is Mother Seth on the marker.
I've never found an old bible for the Rowell family but maybe one will turn up one day and explain the name.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Looking for Bill Ireland

Doing family history research usually means looking for traces of an ancestor's life in old records, census, land, wills, etc. In this case I have been looking for someone and I really didn't know who he was.

I mentioned Bill Ireland in another story, about the net camp my Grandpa Tink Fulford had near his house. Tink let several fishermen live in it when they needed a place.

Bill Ireland
Bill Ireland was one of them, but has been a mystery as to where he came from, where he went and how he ended up befriended by Tink.

He was old enough to be Tink's father and maybe he was originally a friend of Tink's father and that is why Tink looked out for him.

My research uncovered a distant family connection. He was the fist cousin of the wife of the first cousin several times removed of Tink's mother Sallie Adams Fulford. I doubt that either Sallie or Tink knew of this at the time. He was from the same area of North Carolina as Tink's parents and had been fishing in Cortez since Tink was an infant, so maybe that familiarity had made Tink want to look out for him.

Twice over about 15 years Tink took off on road trips to find Ireland when he needed help and either move him back to Cortez or set him up fishing somewhere else where.

When you consider that Tink rarely drove a car or truck the stories of him taking off to look for Bill Ireland intrigued me. I can remember only one time being in a car with my grandpa driving. He always let his wife Edith drive. On that occasion we were going to St. Petersburg to visit relatives. He got behind the wheel and I was sitting shotgun. When grandma got out to the car she said under her breath "well I never" but got in the back seat without a fuss. She did have to point out the push buttons on the dash for the Dodge's transmission before he could back out of the driveway.

William Dill Ireland was born February 2, 1872 on Portsmouth Island in Carteret County, North Carolina to John Elze and Nancy Jane Simmons Ireland. He died while a patient at the State Hospital in Arcadia, Florida on July 15, 1957.

The first record I found of him in Florida was on the 1910 Census when he was living in Cortez, Florida. He was listed as single and living with several other single fishermen in one of the buildings on the waterfront that were used to store fish nets and provide shelter for single men. The buildings were called net camps but the cotton nets were usually kept outside on wooden frame structures called net spreads, to let them dry out. They didn't keep the nets inside for long or rats would make a home in them and tear them up.
Death Certificate

In 1918 Ireland registered for the WWI draft while in Cortez and listed his closest relative as his brother, David S. Ireland of Gum Neck, Terrell County, NC. He was in Cortez on the 1920 Census but moved away in 1933. He got into a confrontation with Major Hall, another single fisherman who lived in a net camp, over a woman. Ireland shot his rifle towards Hall's net camp. No one was hurt and no charges were filed but Ireland decided to leave.

On the 1935 Florida Census he was living in Sebastian, Florida, on the Atlantic coast. On the 1940 Census he was in Punta Rassa, near Fort Myers in Lee County Florida on the Gulf coast.

This photo, taken in the early 1930s shows the building out over the water that was Ireland's net camp. He built the camp in the late 1920s. I don't know if one of the men in the photo is him but you can see them mending holes in the nets, which was a daily job. Ireland sold the camp to my mother's cousin Grey Fulford in 1933 who moved it to the shore, renovated and lived in it until he died in 1988. It is still there on the waterfront in Cortez.
Ireland's Fish Camp

Sometime around 1939 my mother, who was in high school at the time, made a trip with Tink to find Ireland south of Sebastian, in Fort Pierce, Florida. Tink heard he wasn't doing well over there and wanted to bring him closer to home. They brought Ireland to Cortez in the old truck, and then Tink took him to Punta Rassa and set him up with a job at a friend's Fish house.
Mary Frances, looking for Bill Ireland in Ft. Pierce

In the late 40s Tink heard that Ireland was sick and went down to Punta Rassa and brought him back to Cortez again. He lived in the net camp in front of Tink's house and fished in Cortez until about 1955 when he was too sick to stay alone and went to the hospital.

Both my mother and her cousin Doris Adams Green have fond memories of Ireland. Doris wrote in her book, "Fog's Comin In" that he would make fish hooks for her out of straight pins and gather snails for bait from the net spread pilings, so she could fish on the waterfront. My mother said he was considered part of the family.

My uncle Ralph and my mother's cousin Blue Fulford were younger and didn't know Ireland until he came back to Cortez in the late 1940s. He was just an old man to them at that time and they never knew where he came from or how he ended up in Cortez. Ralph said when Ireland was living in Tink's net camp in front of the family house he would cook most of his own meals on a small propane stove. He often invited Ralph to eat lunch with him and was a pretty good cook.

Marker on grave
Ireland had a small fishing boat, the size of a skiff, with a 9 hp air cooled engine that he fished by himself. He used a gill net, fishing for mullet in The Kitchen near Cortez and Sarasota Bay. Blue ended up with the boat after Ireland died. It was Blue's first boat after fishing with Tink since he was 10. He told the story of catching 3-400 lbs of mullet once in The Kitchen which was all the small boat could hold. When he got back to the dock, Tink was standing there with some visitors. Tink pointed to the fish and said, see that's my nephew Blue, he comes in every morning with a load like that.

As far as I know Bill Ireland never married or had children of his own. By the time he died in 1957 he was the last of his family and was buried in the Oak Ridge Cemetery in Arcadia.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Abraham's Cousins

I have been organizing the Fulford family DNA project for 9 years now and one of the first test matches was between my uncle and a descendant of Abraham Fulford who lived in Stratford, Connecticut.

Abraham was born about 1675 and died in 1730. His son Gershom Fulford was born in 1701 and died January 7, 1790 in Waterbury, Connecticut. Gershom served as a Lieutenant in the Waterbury Regiment during the French and Indian War.

Fulford Pioneer Cemetery
By the time the next war came around in 1776 his son Jonathan decided to follow his father's lead and enlisted in the King's Loyalist Rangers. Jonathan was born December 9, 1737 in Waterbury, Connecticut.

At the time he must have thought it a good idea as most would not have expected the gang of rebels outside Boston would have ever won a battle against the British Army. But being on the losing side meant he had to move to Canada during the later part of the Revolutionary War.

In 1784 he was allowed to return to Connecticut and escort his wife and children to St. Johns in Lower Canada.

His family eventually settled in Elizabethtown Township, Leeds County, Ontario, Canada. Jonathan obtained property in several land grants and when he died about 1830 he was buried in the Fulford Pioneer Cemetery he had established in 1786 when his infant son died.

Fulford Pioneer Cemetery
Follow this Canada Fulford family six generations from Jonathan and you get to the Fulford male in Brighton, Ontario, Canada who matched my uncle's Y chromosome. This means they share a common Fulford ancestor.

He had researched his family back to Abraham but wasn't able to determine which Fulford family Abraham came from in England or Scotland. I have the same problem with my earliest known grandfather, John Fulford who settled on the coast of  North Carolina in the early 1600s. So we are cousins and friends on Facebook but it will take some more work to figure out who our common grandfather was.