Saturday, June 27, 2015

Spy School

I have a couple nephews who dreamed of being a Spy when they were younger, maybe they still do. It made it easy to find birthday and Christmas presents they would appreciate for several years.

I wrote a story a while back about a distant cousin, Emeline Pigott, who was a famous Confederate Spy in North Carolina.

I found this receipt in the estate file for my ggg grandfather, Thomas Fulford. It shows his daughter Susan was going to a school, taught by the future Confederate Spy in 1858.


Susan Fulford was born on August 15, 1850 to Thomas and Susannah Whitehurst Fulford in Carteret County, North Carolina. her brother David was my gg grandfather. Her father died when she was four so her oldest brother was her legal guardian until she married and had to keep receipts like this of the expenses he paid.

Susan Fulford married Russel Willis on January 16, 1873 and they had nine children. She died September 29, 1924, living in the Marshallberg community, after falling and breaking her hip. This was five years after her former teacher. Susan and her husband are buried in the Victoria Cemetery.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Grandfather's Champion Oak

Nathan Adams was my gggg grandfather. In genealogy speak, that is my fourth great grandfather. His great granddaughter, Sallie Adams, was my great grandmother.

Nathan Adam's Will -1820
Nathan Adams lived on the bank of the Newport River in Carteret County, North Carolina. I have been researching the family for a while, trying to find out what happened to his grandson, William H. Adams, who was Sallie's father.

Nathan Adams was born in 1760 in Carteret County and lived in what is now Morehead City. During the Revolutionary War he served at Fort Hancock on Cape Lookout in Captain Tillman's Company.

He first acquired land in 1783 when he leased 32 acres from his wife's step father Absalom Shepard. He continued to acquire land for farming and owned over 600 acres when he died.

All of it was near the Newport river and on Bogue Sound. He wrote his will on September 9, 1820 and it distributed his personal property and a Beaufort, NC town lot among his wife and seven daughters. In 1819 he had divided his farm and plantation house among his four sons.

When Nathan Adams died in 1830 he was buried in the family cemetery on the river. There is no marker for him now but at one time there were a number of wooden markers on the older graves. During the Depression, the WPA sent workers out to compile census records of graves in cemeteries. They did a census of Carteret County cemeteries in 1937 but missed this one, no doubt because it was small and on private property.

Nathan Adam's Will - 1820
Nathan Adam's oldest son Elijah Adams (1788-1854) was the father of William H. Adams and received  half of a 50 acre plot on the Newport river which was split with his brother Jesse.

William H. Adams was shown living with his father Elijah up through the 1850 census in the Bogue Sound area and after he died with his mother in the newly incorporated Carolina City, North Carolina. On October 4, 1868 he married Hope Jane Foreman and they were shown living in Newport on the 1870 census.

William H Adams doesn't appear on the 1880 census and his wife Hope is listed as a widow. She remarried a couple years later to Samuel Garner and moved to Perico Island in Manatee County, Florida. I assume William Adams died before 1880 in Newport but haven't found any records to prove it.

I was looking for him in the the Carteret County Wills and Probate records recently, page by page, since there is no index, and came across information about his grandfather Nathan and his land holdings. In checking the location of the properties I found that 175 years after he died he was recognized for having a Champion Live Oak tree on his farm.

Nathan Adam's Oak
In 2005 a local conservation group, the Carteret County Tree Awareness Group started a campaign to locate and identify the Champion Live Oak tree for the county.  They publicized the effort in the newspaper and TV and had over 50 trees nominated. The group then went out to look at all the trees, measured and estimated ages.

The winning tree, determined to be the largest and oldest was found on the former property of Nathan Adams, in the middle of the Adams Family Farm Cemetery.The cemetery is located on Crab Point Loop in Morehead City, North Carolina. At the time of the award a gggg granddaughter of Nathan Adams still owned the land around the cemetery.

The tree is estimated to be 310 years old with a date of planting in 1705. It is located very close to the bluff of the Newport River and it has survived an estimated 100 hurricanes over the last 300 years.  

The Champion Live Oak for North Carolina is located in Airlie Gardens in Wilmington, NC. It is estimated to be 470 years old.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Wild Ponies of Shackleford Banks

Sheckleford Banks
My wife and I have been to the Outer Banks of North Carolina several times on vacation and also for me to visit some dead relatives in the area.

One of the unique places is the Shackelford Banks, a barrier island just offshore from Beaufort, North Carolina. It is currently populated only by wild ponies.

The original owner of the property was John Shackleford who acquired it in 1713. The Island was always sparsely populated, mostly by fisherman who lived there to be closer to the fish. The last community, Diamond City, was disbanded in 1902.

My Fulford family ancestors owned land on the coast facing the Island.
Thomas Fulford grave marker

The story of the ponies on Shackleford Banks is that they can be traced to Spanish explorers who somehow got off the ships as they passed the coast and swam to shore.

I don't know how they got there but there have been wild ponies on the Island for several centuries.

In the 1800s folks from the mainland would hold round ups to collect horses, they could then use on their farms and plantations.

I found this inventory record in the estate file of my gg grandfather Colonel Thomas Fulford.

Thomas Fulford died on April 20, 1854 and is buried in the Fulford cemetery on Piper Lane in Gloucester, NC.

NC Estate Files - Thomas Fulford
Stephen F. Fulford, his oldest son, was handling the estate and acting as guardian to three minor siblings. He had to provide regular accounting of expenses and inventories of assets.

One of the items he listed in May 1861 was three ponies on the Core Banks, valued at $526.93.

Thomas Fulford's estate inventory listed him as the owner of a 200 acre tract of land on Shackleford Banks.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Summer Vacation Post Card

Like many folks in the South in the 1970s, my grandpa Green had a picture of Martin Luther King on his living room wall. His actually had been there for several more years than those that were sold after the 1968 murder in Memphis.

I have often thought about the photo and just recently came across it in a box that contained old letters, rental house journals and other papers. When he died in 1973 I guess my Dad packed them all up and they stayed out of sight until my sister found them a couple years ago.

This week as I was reading the old letters I found the photo. It supposedly was taken in 1957 and shows MLK sitting next to several men who were supposed to be members of the Communist Party in America,


The post card was produced by the "American Opinion" organization in Belmont, Massachusetts. It is known today as the John Birch Society.

I'm not sure how my grandpa got it because as far as I know there wasn't a local branch of the John Birch Society in Perry, Florida. He read the news and undoubtedly saw it advertised somewhere and sent off  for it, or one of his friends gave it to him.

Looking at this card today and especially considering he had it up on his wall for five years after King was murdered it would be easy to criticize him. When you consider he was born 15 years after the end of the Civil War and both his parents lost family members in the war, I can at least understand how he came to have such deep opinions about integration. I have other family members who feel the same way and don't have an excuse for it.

Abner W. Berry was born in Texas and died in June 1987 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina at the age of 85, after suffering a stroke. He had been a community organizer for the Communist party in Harlem in 1934.

Aubrey W. Williams was born in Alabama and died on March 15, 1965 of stomach cancer, in Washington, DC. He had worked for the WPA during the New Deal and later became head of the Southern Conference Education Fund. In the 1950s he became a target of the Senate Subcommittee on Internal Security investigating Communist Party membership.

Myles Horton was born in Savannah, Tennessee and died in January 19, 1990 at the age of 84. He founded the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee in 1932. The post card calls it a Training School for Communist.

The school did serve as a training ground in a way. Rosa Parks visited it shortly before her decision to refuse to give up her seat on the bus. She credited the school for giving her courage. The school was integrated which was illegal when it was started in Tennessee.

Horton was also investigated by the Senate for Communist Party affiliation and denied being a member. One of his friends, a communist organizer, testified before the Senate that Horton was not a member but agreed to have a communist party member work at the school to recruit the students for membership. The school was shut down in February 1960 by the Tennessee Supreme Court based on the fact that integrated classes were still a violation of State law.



Saturday, May 30, 2015

Trolling the Colonel

Sometimes you find really strange stuff about your family in the newspapers.

Captain Carl William Bahrt was a distant relative by marriage. His son Carl William Jr. married Luddie Garner in 1903. She was the sister of my great grandmother, Sallie Adams Fulford.

Manatee River Journal November 21, 1889
Capt. Bahrt has an unusual story that I still haven't figured out. I've been doing research on him, assisting his grandson and great granddaughter, trying to sort out some of the family stories to determine which ones are true.

I came across this newspaper clipping from the Manatee River Journal dated November 21, 1889 and was again amazed at the things you find over a hundred years later. I'm sure no living relative had ever seen it or heard of his chicken raising exploits.

It tells that he had a chicken with four wings. It was actually published two months after Capt. Bahrt died, which tells you something about the competency of the newspaper editors.

At the time they wrote they story, he was living in Manatee County Florida in a community called Fogartyville, that is now only a historic marker. He had retired as the Captain of a two masted Sloop, based in Fogartyville, he used to carry cargo and passengers across the Gulf of Mexico and as far as New York City.

In 1895 he was appointed the Lighthouse Keeper at Mullet Key in Tampa Bay with an annual salary of $550. He was also the Federal Quarantine Officer for the area,which was actually a pretty important job, inspecting ships as they came into port to make sure the passengers and crew did not have any disease. Yellow Fever was a regular visitor to the area, usually brought in via a ship.

So when I googled four winged chickens to find out how rare this was I discovered there is a story circulating that Colonel Sanders and his folks have been trying to create mutated chickens with not only four wings but four legs.

Something about the popularity and high prices of the football viewing staple of hot wings.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

He Could See the Music

I've found some old newspaper articles that mentioned my grandmother Edith's first cousin, William Jasper Wilson. I had never heard of him which is understandable since the Wilson family was so large.


My great grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Wilson had at least 24 siblings so keeping up with the next generation is pretty daunting.
Tampa Tribune Sept 10, 1916


The first newspaper article from 1916 mentioned he was visiting his sister, Mattie Wilson Kight in Cortez, Florida. Two of his sisters had married Fishermen in Cortez.


This was eight years before my grandmother left the farm to marry a fisherman and moved there herself. The article called him the "blind pianist."


William Jasper Wilson was born on January 24, 1884 in Dade City, Florida, the first child of Jasper Peter and Georgia Catherine Tate Wilson. The family moved to Oneco, Florida in Manatee County in the late 1890s.
Manatee River Journal - January 18, 1917



His father's farm was pretty close to his brother Ben's and several other Wilson relatives.


On the 1910 Census Willie Wilson was listed as a Piano and Organ Tuner. Since he was living at home on the farm, I assume he had already gone blind. If he was able he would have been helping on the farm like his brothers.


I found several other articles that mentioned him playing music at parties and other events in Oneco and Bradenton.


My great uncle Walt told me his father Ben Wilson left the Baptist church because the preacher accused him of dancing at a party in Oneco. He denied dancing and was pretty straight lace according to Walt, so was probably telling the truth. I wonder if he was just listening to his nephew play the piano.
WWI Draft Registration


When Willie filled out his WWI draft card on September 12, 1918 he was shown as blind and his occupation as Piano Tuner.


Two years later, on the 1920 Census, still living at home, he was listed as a Musician,

Tampa Tribune Sept 10, 1929

My uncle Alton Green made a living as a full time Musician for a while during this same time in Sarasota, Florida just a few miles from Oneco. He played the trombone in swing bands so I don't know if he ever met Willie Wilson. Sarasota was still part of Manatee County for the 1920 census and didn't become a separate county until the next year.


I don't know how much success Willie had in his music career. He was almost always called the blind piano player in the paper so he must have been well known.


He died fairly young, on September 8, 1929 and was buried in the Braden River Cemetery next to his father who had died a few months earlier and his mother, who died in 1906.
Braden River Cemetery













Saturday, May 16, 2015

They Were Expendable

This was the name of a book and a John Wayne movie from 1945. I don't remember seeing the movie or reading the book before, but did pick up the book this week to check it out. That was after I found out it told a story that involved a distant relative.

William Henry "Sonny" Posey was the first cousin of the wife of my 2nd cousin. He was born in 1920 in Cortez, Florida to William George and Ruth Richards Posey. His father was a commercial fisherman in Cortez so Sonny grew up on the water.

Guadalupe AO-32 with PT Sq 3 boats aboard
In 1938 he joined the Navy and was trained as a cook. He volunteered for duty aboard a 77 foot Patrol Torpedo Boat and was in the Philippians when Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941.

A couple months later as part of Patrol Torpedo Squadron Three he helped rescue General Douglas MacArthur and the top US Military officers from the invading Japanese. From what I can determine looking at crew lists, Sonny was the cook on PT boat 41, the flagship of the Squadron, which was commanded by Lt John Bulkeley.



PT Squadron Three arrived in Manila in September 1941 aboard the USS Guadalupe. There were six boats in the squadron and they transported them from the US lashed to the deck of the Guadalupe. At the time there were only 29 PT boats in the entire US Navy.

When they arrived they found all their fuel supplies had been sabotaged. There was both water and rust in the gas. Someone had also dissolved wax into the barrels so that it clogged the engine gas filters. There was no other 100 octane gasoline available so they had to use the contaminated fuel. They would regularly have to stop and clean the filters after an hours run. The wax coated the gas tank on the boats with a half inch of congealed wax.

PT Boat 41
They took part in a number of rescue and minor conflicts with the Japanese for several months before they received orders to pick up MacArthur, his family, top military brass and the President of the Philippines and transport them over 560 miles of open ocean that was controlled by the Japanese Navy. Two of the PT boats had been destroyed so there were only four available for the mission.

MacArthur was originally supposed to be evacuated aboard a US Submarine but there were too many Japanese ships in the area to risk bringing in a Sub.

The PT boats were smaller and could maneuver easier but also weren't able to put up much of a defense if discovered by the Jap Navy. They decision was MacArthur had a better chance of getting through on the PT boat.

Lt Bulkeley's Action report
The plan was for MacArthur to board PT 41 at dusk on March 11, 1942 and it would take the lead. If the convoy was discovered by the Japanese, the other boats, with other military brass were to act as decoys so PT 41 with the General aboard could get away.

The boats left Manila Bay on schedule but started having various mechanical problems as well as rough seas and high winds and they got separated. One of the boats broke down and another had to stop mid way to clean the clogged gas filters. Most of the passengers, including MacArthur were overcome with sea sickness.

PT 41 arrived at Cagayan on time the morning of March 13th but then had to wait several hours for the B-17 transport to arrive. The other boats and passengers arrived late but made it.

Four B-17s were part of the evacuation plan. One crashed on take off, two crashed into the Australian desert on the trip over and the one that made it had engine problems so MacArthur wouldn't chance flying on it. He and his entourage would not get off the island until March 18, 1942.

As he left MacArthur made a promise not as famous as his "I shall return." He told Bulkeley "If possible when I get to Melbourne I will get you and your key men out."

A biography of MacArthur, "American Caesar" recounting the trip mentions MacArthur's young son playing with a monkey owned by the cook of PT 41 while they were waiting to be picked up by the B-17s. Sonny Posey had named his pet monkey "General Tojo." According to the book "They Were Expendable," the cook on a PT Boat was also responsible for supervising the boat motors, manning a machine gun along with cooking on an electric hot plate.

On March 19 1942 PT 41, the only one still operational went back to pick up President Manual Quezon of the Philippines to evacuate him to Cagayan.

St Petersburg Times - July 4 1942
After the second transport they patched up the boats as best they could and tried to engage and harass the Japanese ships in the area. The crews remained together but eventually ran out of spare parts as well as torpedoes and ammunition.

By April 12, 1942 they had to abandon the boats and PT 41, the only one still operational was transferred to the US Army. The Army planned to take PT 41 to Lake Lano and use it to patrol and prevent Japanese float planes from landing on the lake. The trucks taking it to the lake never made it and since the Japanese were getting too close the boat was blown up to keep it out of their hands.

On April 13, 1942 General MacArthur sent a B 17 back for Lt. Bulkeley and another one later for the other four officers.

83 officers and crew members originally started the mission across Manila Bay. Five officers were evacuated out and five men had been killed in the patrols. The others were left on the islands to fend for themselves as were all the other US military and civilians. Several found passage on passing US ships or patrols.

Nineteen were known to have joined other US military left behind as Guerrilla forces on Mindanano. Many of these survived and were rescued when Allied forces took back the Philippines several years later.

Thirty eight of the crew, including William Henry Posey were captured by the Japanese and held as POWs. Officially Posey is listed as MIA with a date of death on December 17, 1945. That would seem to indicate the date he went MIA as December 1944.

Another member of PT Squadron Three, Earnest Earl Pierson is also listed as MIA with the same date of death. Pierson was born in Michigan and grew up in Indiana. His parents moved to Aripeka in Pasco County Florida after he enlisted in the Navy.

Bulkeley receives Medal of Honor from President Roosevelt
Eight of the crew members who were taken as POWs are known to have died in captivity. Nine who joined the Guerrilla forces on the islands are known to have died also. Forty six crew members survived, either taken out with Bulkeley or the other transports or surviving as POWs or part of  the Guerrilla force.

When Lt. Bulkeley arrived home he received the Medal of Honor from President Roosevelt  and MacArthur's praise, who said; "You have taken me out of the jaws of death. I shall never forget it".