Friday, 3 January 2014

My Family History of Sorts

It was about property....the ownership and status attained with property....that my family is what it is.

I've spent a number of hours digging through family history to piece together the historical impact and stories related to the Hammond family.  So this is the basic tale.

The Hammond who made the decision to leave the "isle" (Great Britain)....was Francis Hammond, from Kirby Bedon.  Born in 1590, Francis was one of a very small number of folks living in Kirby Bedon, where ownership of the property was left to a few of the more privileged folks.  You are miles away from any real civilized area, with Kirby Bedon on the south eastern chunk of land in England.

Over the years, nothing much changed.  You were born into a status, and you stayed at that status.  In a rural village like Kirby were mostly nothing.  Today?  The last pub in the village has closed in the last decade, and the population of the village rests at around 186 folks (2001 local census).

Six buses a day leave Kirby Bedon today.  The most remarkable piece of local history?  A B-24 bomber crashed trying to land at the local US Army-Air Force base in WW II, and there's a memorial of sorts to the four crew members who died.

Otherwise, nothing much of a famous nature ever occurred there, except some Hammond guy left.

You can imagine Francis making this decision of sorts.  Staying just means more of the same.  No possibility of anything better in life.

Francis will have a son, John Hammond....born in 1610.  John will settle in London.....a thousand times better than Kirby Bedon.  But in this remarkable period of the 1630s.....there are vast issues at hand in England.

The King has issues with Parliament.  There are religious conflicts underway since the Catholic Church got the boot.  Taxation is forever a topic on the mind of the King in dealing with Parliament and the political figures of the day.  And there's this pesky radical religious figures.....the Puritan crowd....who are making waves throughout the topics of the day in England.

John Hammond will make this decision in 1666....strangely enough...the year of the Great London board a vessel at the age of fifty-six with his son Ambrose who is twenty years old at the time (1646 is listed for the birth-year).

The move?  Well, there are several events going on in 1666....the London Fire will occur by year's end, religious turmoil, and this plague business.  It's generally believed that John had some wealth and removed his family from London because of the plague and the continuing threat to society.  The family would arrive arrive in Virginia in 1666.  It's generally accepted that fifteen percent of the London population ceased to exist after this two-year bout of the plague....totalling near 100,000 deaths.

One has to imagine a relative or two there.  The Hammonds would have done what they typically would do....visit a while and feast on some home cooking.

John Hammond would pass on in 1700 in Cumberland County, Virginia.  He would make it to the remarkable age of ninety....which was more unusual than typical in those days.  His son, Ambrose?  He'd end up marrying some local gal from Virginia...a Miss Elizabeth King (1650 born in Virginia).  Ambrose would continue living in the Cumberland area until 1739 (dying at the remarkable age of   ninety-three).

Ambrose would have two kids.  My descendent from him is John Hammon Hammond Sr (born in 1685 in Rappahannock county, Virginia).

John lives onto age of seventy-two, dying in 1758.  John ended up with nine kids between two wives.  Yeah, he was an active guy.  His second wife was thirty-five years younger than him upon marriage.

From the nine kids, there's the youngest one that is my connection....Joseph.  Born in 1753 in Cumberland County, Virginia.

Joseph ends up pulling Revolutionary War a Private. He was a member of the 14th VA Regiment, Col. Davidson, Capt. Boll's Company.  Records tend to indicate he was discharged honorably in March of 1779. He ends up passing away in April of 1829, at the age of 76, in Surry County, North Carolina.  Surry familiar?  Well, it's where Mount Airey and the Mayberry legend kinda comes from.

The marriage between Joseph Hammond and Martha Landrum?  It produces four kids.  Strangely, all four kids survive to be adults, and all leave North Carolina.  My connection? James, born  in 1784. There are couple of birth-years swapped on "Jim", so you never can be sure of absolute dates.

Jim will turn out to be an oddball character.  He will marry in 1807, to Miss Maggie Savage (born in 1788), from North Carolina.

In this time....barely twenty years after the Revolutionary War....the arrangement for ownership of property has quietly changed.

Before the war, you basically paid the royal crown some fee, and acquired property.  The thirteen colonies....functioned more as thirteen independent companies.  Each had an agreement with the king, and had to pay him a fee for property sold.  The king's ability to cover year-to-year budgets?  It really depended on property sales.  The Parliament up until the Revolutionary War....really wasn't keen on helping new taxes onto people.  While Americans in 1776 will get all hyper about taxes....what they really complained about was that they paid taxes, and didn't really see the pay-back (as we see today).

After the Revolutionary War, the US federal government came to quickly realize that there were only a couple of methods of taxing people.  Mostly around whiskey, tea, coffee, import taxes, and the sale of property.

So as 1800 rolled around, Americans are keen on avoiding any discussion of paying for property.  Why not just go and settle where there's no government ownership.  You can imagine a couple of guys....sitting around a fire in the midst of December....all hyped up on free property.  You go.....settle, and if the government comes later, you just talk of your ownership and avoid any fees or sales cost.

It is this way with Jim, and his brothers.

They will make this decision around 1810, and journey to the "new frontier" (Indiana).  Yeah, it may sound pretty silly in today's world....but Indiana was raw, pure, and complete frontier.  Yes, with Indians too.  There was probably some discussion, and some dissent prior to this move.

Commentary from various family researchers over Maggie....indicates that she really wasn't happy.  This move....a fairly dramatic moment in the mind of a young woman.....just didn't work.

There are countless stories of young women who ventured with the family out to the new frontier region (Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana), and how miserable life was.  History lays out a pretty woeful tale of how the initial years were.  Letters would be mailed back east (to Virginia and the Carolinas....telling of a pretty bad deal).

The drive up into Indiana? wagon, pulled by oxen, you can imagine this trip taking a minimum of two months, across the hilly country of Kentucky.  Roads are non-existent, and if luck follows might cover fifteen miles on a good day with creeks and streams to cross.

Jim and "the team" would spend two winters in Indiana.  History will tell the story of it being awful bad winters with a fair amount of snow.  Toss in the threat of Indians, and there just wasn't much to be thankful about.

So Jim and one brother make the decision to leave, and head south.  It's never clear about plan "A", and being a Hammond....there might not have been an exact and clear plan "A".

As they neared Lawrence County, Tennessee.....Maggie would pass from this Earth.  Some suggestions, I suspect from those who read letters from Maggie....suggest that she was at her wit's end....and committed suicide.  It's hard to say from what little facts exist.  She was buried around 13 Apr 1813.

Jim would end up stopping the trip for himself at Whitehead, Alabama....about twenty miles from Lawrence County where he buried Maggie.  One brother would continue Wetumpka, Alabama and make that his home.

Jim stayed.

From what is written, Jim marries Maggies younger sister Sarah Savage around January of 1819.  Sarah was two years younger than Maggie (Sarah was born in 1790).  She would have been 29, fairly old by the standards of the time.

Sarah and Jim end up having five kids between them.

What is generally known and accepted about Jim....was that he was an awful friendly guy.  After settling up in Bama in 1813 (the region became a state in 1819)....Jim had a farm operation, and was kind of friendly with the local Indians.

What is written about Jim his  Jim ends up discovering that the local Indians enjoy the hobby as well, and they all figure out eventually that they enjoy distilled spirits....whiskey.

From 1813 to 1850....Jim lives a pretty good life....enjoys good relations with the local Indians, and probably did an awful lot of fox-hunting.

In the age of sixty-six....Jim went off on a fox-hunt alone, with a blind-mule (or blind-horse, depending on who is telling the story).  Somewhere around Second Creek, which is just a couple of miles down the road from Whitehead...Jim and his blind-mule end up on a cliff.  Nothing much is spoken over darkness or whiskey....but Jim and the blind-mule end up going off the cliff.

Nightfall comes, and Jim's wife (Sarah)....calls upon the local Indians to help find Jim.  They find his body and the dead mule.  They recover Jim, and deliver him back to the family.

From Jim's family, my connection is Franklin, born in 4 March 1823. He would end up staying in the local area and marrying Mary Cox (born in 1831).  They would have twelve kids.  He would pass away 24 June 1889.  Other than running a farm, there's not much to note except he bought the current family farm and homestead around 1873.

From Franklin's family, there are two wives.  From the first one (Francis Howard), there were four kids born, but only two would make it to adulthood.  From the second wife (Mollie Kerbo), there would be eight kids, and my connection comes from Mister "Van" (one of the eight).

Mister Van would be born in 1887.  At some point around 1904, my grandfather follows onto an idea of going "out west" to his grandmother's (Kerbo) location in Ardmore, Oklahoma.  The chief reason?  A business college.  It was....Selvidge Business College.  It'd later change it's name to Ardmore Business College.  And even later, after became a magnet for guys returning from WW II and using their GI bill deal to attend college.

The chief teachings of the university?  Well, I looked it up and they mostly advertised bookkeeping, stenography, and accounting.  He graduates around a year later.  Then for several years in Ardmore, he resides and works locally.  Somewhere around 1914, roughly nine years later....he returns to Bama.

It's hard to say the reasoning for returning.  He would return and marry Belle Sewell in 1914.  He would end up with....was a piece of the old Franklin Hammond's farm.  Franklin bought the farm in 1873 for $500 (500 acres).  Some deal was worked out and Mister Van ended up with roughly 200 acres of the farm.  An eight room house was built on this property shortly after the marriage.  One would assume, that he came back from Ardmore with a fair amount of money made off his work there, but it's never really told to any degree.

Miss Belle?  Well, she was a teacher of sorts (probably more knowledge than most of the time).  My grandfather was a business school educated he was fairly educated.  Up until this point, no one had ever gone off to university or such.

What is generally known from 1914 my grandfather was one of the few Republicans of the region.  It's hard to say if the business school did it to him, or just plain common sense.

From their kids, one went onto a teacher's college, and another used the GI bill from WW II to attend college.

From today's circle of family....both my brother and I went be educated to some degree. The 200 acre farm least in family hands....from 1873 on.  And the rest of the story is mostly local stuff.

So, a guy left some podunk village on the western coast of England and made his fortune in London, and at the height of the plague.....he left out with his family for the new world.  The later descendents often came to the same conclusion.....gotta move on, check out new places, make new friends or associates wherever we go, see a bold new world, and always accept a plan "B" somewhere in the mix.

For better or worse, we haven't changed much in four hundred years.  Maybe that says something.