Hiram Wright and the Bowden Sisters

Sarah Elizabeth Wright was born October 6, 1846 to Hyram H. Wright and Sarah Bowden Wright in Harnett County, North Carolina.  Harnett didn’t exist until 1855, so, technically, it was Cumberland County.  According to her death record, her mother was also born in Harnett County, her father in Chatham. The informant was her husband, David Fields. However, Hiram’s Find a Grave page says he was born in Cumberland County, and the death certificate of his elder daughter, Charity Ann Wright Newell, says he was born in South Carolina. The informant, Ashford Newell, was her son.

Wherever it was, Hiram was born December 12, 1813, according to his tombstone. For some reason I don’t understand many places, including Find a Grave, give James and Dolley Southerland Bowden Wright as his parents. A clear case of adding 2 + 2 and getting 15.  More on that below.

I don’t know if this next bit is relevant, but I’m throwing it out there.  There was an adult Hiram Wright in Chatham County in 1814. Listed among these Chatham County Marriage Bonds is one dated May 24, 1814 where a Hiram Wright stands bondsman for James McMath and Polly Johnson. However, he may have been a visitor, because I can’t find a Hiram Wright in Chatham County in any census or on the 1815 Tax List.  There’s also a bond for an Ira Rosson to marry a Sarah Wright, dated January 9, 1813 with James Wright as bondsman and two bonds in 1817 for persons named Hiram Rosson to marry.  James and Ira are both in Captain Brantly’s District in 1815, and there’s a James Wright in the census records for this county from 1810 until 1850 when he’s 72 years old.  Any connection?  No clue!  Oh, and because I have an inquiring mind, I looked, and James McMath, Jr. was living in Captain Roger’s District in 1815, adjacent to Isaac Henderson on Tyrrell’s Creek.  There are no Wrights in that district and the only Rosson is Benoni Rossin.  James McMath, Sr. was in Captain Crutchfield’s District.  No Wrights there, either, and no Rossons.  In fact, the only other Wright I could find on the whole freaking list was Augustine Wright in Captain Brantly’s District with one white poll.

The first mention I can find of my Hiram Wright is in the October 10, 1840 issue of The North-Carolinian.  His name was on a list of letters remaining at the Post Office since the first of the month.  Apparently, he was habitually rather slow to pick up the mail, because this isn’t the only time his name appears on such a list:

  • The North-Carolinian, October 24 and 31, 1840
  • The Fayetteville Weekly Observer, April 7, 21, and 28, 1841
  • The Fayetteville Weekly Observer, October 13, 1841
  • The North-Carolinian, October 6, 13, and 20, 1849

Hiram Wright and Sarah Bowden were married May 13, 1842 in Cumberland County. David Barksdale was bondsman. They had four children together: Charity Ann, born in 1843, Dolly Jane in 1844, Sarah Elizabeth in 1846, and James Hiram in 1847. I think Sarah may have died in childbirth with James, because Hiram married again on February 5, 1850, to Elizabeth Bowden. Tradition says Elizabeth and Sarah were sisters. I see no reason to doubt this, although I’ve seen no actual proof.  A Major Bowden stood bondsman for Hiram and Elizabeth. Their brother, according to tradition, and, again, I have no reason to doubt it. However, those same traditions say their father was also a Major Bowden, and that I do doubt.  More on that below.  I have also seen mention of a brother named Colonel for whom Hiram Wright acted as bondsman. I have not seen this bond, so, again, no proof.  I’m starting to wonder if someone mis-read the Stephen Reeves/Charlotte Bowden marriage bond (see below).

In 1850, Hyram and Elizabeth Wright, aged 33 and 21, respectively, were living in the Northern Division of Cumberland County with daughters Charity, 7, and Sarah, 3.  He was a Cooper (aka barrel maker).

Hyram-Elizabeth_1850

Next door is a Moses Bowden, 26, wife Nancy, 24, and their one year old son, Daniel J.  I don’t know if there’s a connection there, just a point of interest.  Further on in the census we find James Bowden, 72, and wife Dolly, 65. Living with them are Major, 24, Dolly J. Wright, 6, and James H. Wright, 3.

James-Dolley_1850

There is a marriage bond in Duplin County for James Bourden and Dolley Southerland dated January 12, 1804 with Samuel Bourden as bondsman. Bourden is the original spelling of Bowden.  James and Dolly are a little old to be Sarah and Elizabeth’s parents, or so I thought, until I found this entered in the Spence Family Bible:

Bethsay Ann BOURDEN the darter of Jonas? BOURDEN and wife Dolly BOURDEN was born the 15 day of February 1830.
Bethsay Ann BOURDEN dec’d the 26 day of March 1835.

Bethsay Ann was close in age to Elizabeth, who being 21 in 1850, would have been born in 1829.

Note that James Bowden is still alive in 1850.  Would someone, please, explain to me how it is that Dolly Southerland Bowden was supposed to have married a James Wright and born him a son in 1813.  Unless you’re going to tell me she married two James Bowdens.

Elizabeth Bowden Wright gave Hiram three children: Nathan in 1851, Mary Catherine in 1855, and Charlotte in 1856. Either she died giving birth to Charlotte, or shortly thereafter, because she doesn’t show up in the 1860 census:

Hiram-Dolly

Who were Sarah and Martha Bowden? In 1850, in the household of Mitchell Bowden, we find:

Mitchell-Bowden_1850

I wonder what the connection is? Mitchell was born in about 1792, making him too old to be a son of James and Dolly. Although, I did find this one genealogy, Some Early Families of Eastern North Carolina, that does have Mitchell as their son. How that worked when Dolly was born between 1785 and 1790 and Mitchell in 1792, is not explained. James would have been about 14 in 1792, thus Mitchell being a product of a previous marriage of his would be, though not entirely impossible, highly unlikely.

There are other questions raised by that genealogy, but they’re for another post.  Back on topic…

On January 15, 1861, a summons was issued for Hiram Wright to testify in the case of Elizabeth Buie vs. Robert Wooten (everything I’ve underlined was handwritten):

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA

To the Sheriff of Cumberland Harnett County, Greetings:

YOU are hereby commanded to summon Hiram Wright
personally to appear before the Judge of the Superior Court of Law, at the next Court to be held for the County of Cumberland, at the Court House in Fayetteville, on the seventh Monday after the fourth First Monday in February next, then and there to testify and the truth to say, on behalf of Plff
in a certain matter of controversy in the said Court depending, between

Elizabeth Buie Plantiff and

Robert Wooten Defendant

Herein fail not, and have you then and there this Writ, with your doings thereon, to render to the said Court.  And this shall in no wise omit, under the penalty prescribed by act of Assembly.

Witness, JOHN W. BAKER, Clerk of our said Court, at Office, the seventh Monday after the fourth Monday in Septm — A. D. 1860

Issued the 15th day of January 1861.

J. W. Baker Clerk.

What’s with the “seventh Monday after the fourth Monday” crap?  Like legal documents aren’t difficult enough.

I don’t know exactly what Hiram testified to, but, from what I can understand of the legalese, John D. Buie, son of the Plaintiff, sold one of his slaves to his mother for $730. He owed a lot of money to several people and someone called in the debt and filed a suit.  Robert Wooten, the Defendant, a constable, in what I assume to have been a court ordered response, seized and sold this same slave as the property of James D. Buie in recompense.  The question before the court appears to have been:  Was the slave actually, truly, the property of Elizabeth Buie, bought in a legitimate transaction, or was some sort of fraud being perpetuated.  In other words, were they trying to pull a fast one?  The facts of the case were made murkier by the fact that the cardinal witnesses to the transaction were John’s sister, Jane Buie, and his brother-in-law, Thomas Murphy.  The Court would eventually rule in favor of the Plaintiff.  One feels sorry for the poor slave.

There is a note on the back of the summons that says “Not to be found in my County” and “in Cumberland Co. working with W. T. Rhodes.”  The date of the note is January 31, 1861.  W. T. stands for Wiley Trice.  According to the 1860 census, Mr. Rhodes was a Distiller.  This means he made booze.

Also in 1861, on July 4, and again on the 8th, this little tid-bit ran in The Fayetteville Semi-Weekly Observer:

STRAYED OR STOLEN,
From the subscriber on the 22d ult., a small Sorrel Roan HORSE, red mane and tail. A liberal reward will be paid for the delivery of said horse to me, or any information of said horse thankfully received.
HIRAM WRIGHT

From Fold3
From Fold3

September 2, 1863, at the age of 47 (according to this record), Hiram joined the 2nd Battalion, Local Defense Troops, Company D as a Private (this record).  A list of Cumberland Confederate Soldiers printed in the January 9, 1902 issue of The Fayetteville Weekly Observer, page 1, says Hiram’s unit was part of the Armory Guard.

After Elizabeth died, Hiram married again. To another Bowden. He and Nancy Ann Bowden married in Cumberland County on October 23, 1863. Stephen Reives was their bondsman. A couple of months later, on December 22, his daughter, Charity, married Edward Robert Newell. Stephen Reeves was their bondsman, too. On November 11, 1865, Stephen Reaves marrried Charlotte Bowden. Hiram Wright acted as bondsman. Stephen and his first wife, Isabella Guy, lived next door to Hiram in 1860.  The Isaac Guy in Hiram’s household was her brother.

Here’s a quick look at the relevant marriage bonds to refer to:

Bride Groom Date Bondsman
Sarah Bowden Hiram Wright May 13, 1842 David Barksdale
Elizabeth Bowden Hiram Wright February 5, 1850 Major Bowden
Isabella Guy Stephen Reeves October 30, 1850 John R. Cribbs
Mary Ballard Bryant Bowden April 28, 1853 Alexander Johnson
Sarah Autrey Major Bowden July 14, 1855 Alexander Johnson
Sarah Bowden James H. Marshall October 9, 1862 Robert M. Atkinson
Nancy Ann Bowden Hiram Wright October 29, 1863 Stephen Reeves
Charity Ann Wright Edward R. Newell December 22, 1863 Stephen Reeves
Jane Wright George Ely June 22, 1865 David Fields
Sarah Wright David Fields July 5, 1865 George Ely
Charlotte Bowden Stephen Reeves November 9, 1865 Hiram Wright
Sarah Jernigan Denning David Bowden September 12, 1872 n/a

Most genealogies say Nancy Ann Bowden Wright was a sister of Sarah and Elizabeth. I disagree. Look again at the family of Mitchell Bowden in 1850.  Notice Nancy A., aged 12, and Lotta, aged 8?  Further, look at this: on September 21, 1876, in Wake County, Charlotte Reives married Paschal Johnson.

…Charlotte Reivs of Wake County aged 35 years, color white, daughter of Mitchell Bowden and Lottie Bowden (nee Reves?) the father living, the mother dead, resident of Wake County…

Charlotte was definitely the daughter of Mitchell and Lottie Bowden. But it gets even more interesting.  There is another Wake County marriage license, dated January 4, 1880, for Ann Wright and William I. Rowland:

…Ann Wright of Wake County aged 42 years, color white, daughter of Mitchell Bowden and Rachel Bowden the father dead, the mother dead, were resident of Harnett County…

This begs the question: Was there a divorce? Or am I completely off base?  Cause Hiram ain’t dead in 1880.  He’s alive and, presumably, well, in Burnt Swamp Township, Robeson County.

By 1900, Annie was a widow living in Middle Creek, Wake County, in the household of John Allen Johnson and wife Martha.  She also lived there in 1910 when her name was listed as Nancy A. Rowland.  She could neither read nor write and had born no children.  In both censuses, her relationship to Mr. Johnson is “sister-in-law.” Another sister-in-law living with them was Sallie Marshall.  Remember the Sarah, aged 11, and Martha, aged 6 in the household of Mitchell Bowden in 1850, then in Hiram’s own house in 1860?  However, just to confuse everything, according to Martha Bowden Johnson’s death certificate, she was the daughter of Moses Bowden, whereas Annie’s gives her parents as Mitchell Bowden and Charlotte Jones.  Sallie Marshall’s isn’t as specific.  It just says her father was “Bowden”.  Martha died of “cancer of the face”,  Annie suffered from dementia, and Sallie burned to death in a house fire.  John Allen Johnson also died in that fire.  His death certificate says Pascal Johnson was his father.  The twists and turns just keep getting weirder the more I go into this, I swear.

I have no idea where Hiram lived right after the war.  Nor do I know where he was in 1870. Charity and Sarah lived in Robeson County with their husbands and children.  Both men were coopers.  I wonder if Hiram taught them the trade.  As I said, in 1880 he was living in Burnt Swamp Township, Robeson County. Sarah and David Fields lived there as well. My great-grandfather’s just 2 years old.

I wonder if he was the Wright father-in-law, aged 86, next to Frank and Kate Harris in Burnt Swamp in 1900. The problem is, they are all listed as Indian.  Frank and Mary Catherine Harris had a son named Hiram Franklin.

Hyram H. Wright died May 27, 1907, Pembroke Township, Robeson County.

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Thar Be Yankees!: David Ernest Fields, Sr.

My great-great-grandfather, David Ernest Fields, Sr., was born October 2, 1842 in Pennsylvania. His parents were John Geary Fields, Sr., and Mary “Polly” West.  Geary was a coal miner, born between 1820 and 1825 in either Pennsylvania or Maryland.  Polly was born in about 1826.  All of this I’ve gleaned from census records and the death records of various of their children.  I have no information about either Geary’s or Polly’s parents.

There is one genealogy that notes for Polly, “I’ve seen Tweed as her maiden name.”  I’ve yet to find a record with that information.  I have found a Mary Fields living with Jane Tweed in 1850, 1860, and 1870 in Wayne Township, Mifflin County, but I think her husband was the George Fields living with them in 1850.  The only place I’ve seen the name Pauline associated with Polly is her daughter, Nancy’s, death certificate (click on Nancy Fields in that same genealogy).  I think she was confused by the nickname “Polly”.  Nancy may have been very young when Polly died.

Geary and Mary Fields were living in Quincy Township, Franklin County, in 1850:

Geary-Fields_1850

And, in 1860, they lived in Logan Township, Blair County:

Geary-Fields_1860

There was a George Fields living in Quincy Township, Franklin County, in 1840 with one free white male between 40 and 49 and another between 70 and 79.  Neither of these could have been Geary.  Also in Franklin County, in Guildford Township, there was a Henry Fields, presumably the gentleman aged 40-49, with 2 other free white males 15-19, one of whom could be Geary.  Probably not, but it’s an avenue of investigation.

These are the children I have for John Geary Fields, Sr. and Mary “Polly” West:

  • Mary Elizabeth Fields married John Coho in 1862 or 1863
  • David Ernest Fields married Sarah Elizabeth Wright July 5, 1865
  • John Geary Fields, Jr. married 1) Mary Etta Rider in about 1870, 2) Catherine Augusta Lessaman Myers August 11, 1914
  • George W. Fields
  • Margaret Fields
  • Nancy Ann Fields married Samuel H. Lego in about 1870
  • Isaac Fields
  • Susan Fields
  • Martha Belle Fields married John Jacob Wier March 17, 1884

Both David and John joined the Union Army.  David enlisted, 13th Cavalry, 117th Pennsylvania Volunteers, Company C, “The Irish Dragoons,” August 23, 1863, in Harrisburg, and mustered in as as Private September 2, 1863.  John’s Find a Grave page says he was in the 205th Regiment, Pennsylvania Infantry, Company F.  According to this regimental history, Company F was recruited from Mifflin County.  He enlisted August 22, 1864.  This unit served a pivotal role in the taking of Petersburg on April 2, 1865 and in the pursuit of General Lee that followed.  John mustered out with the rest of his company June 2.

As a curious aside, there was a John Fields, Corporal (Source: Search for Soldiers, John Fields) in the 13th, same Company.  This list of soldiers in the unit says John Fields mustered in September 8, 1862, but wasn’t on the muster out role.  I wonder, could this Corporal John Fields have been Geary?  If so, then he may have died in the war.  What I do know is that I’ve had no luck finding Geary and Polly in any census after 1860.  She may have died, or remarried.  I’ve yet to find a pension application if the latter.  There’s a book about the 13th Cavalry, One Good Regiment by Howard Hand, Jr., that I really need to get my hands on.  But, in the interim, here’s a history of the regiment.

David saw quite a bit of action during Grant’s Overland Campaign, including the Battle of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor.  On February 10, 1865, the 13th was ordered to Wilmington, after the fall of Fort Fisher. They arrived March 6.  From there, they advanced to Goldsboro, which was invested.  After it was taken, they marched to Fayetteville, meeting up with General Sherman.  This was embarrassing for a Southern girl to find lurking in her family tree.  There’s some pride, true, that he fought, even if it was for the Union, but then, there’s Sherman.  No matter how small an association, or for how short a time, this was a bitter pill.

This takes us to about the 21st of March.  He and Sarah Wright probably met shortly after that and embarked on what must have been a whirlwind courtship.  And they weren’t the only ones. George Ely, another soldier of the 13th, Company C, married Sarah’s sister, Jane, on June 27.  David was their bondsman.  George returned the favor a few weeks later when, on July 5, David married Sarah.

However, David did not remain in Fayetteville this entire time.  The 13th began to advance on Raleigh on April 10 and occupied it by the 13th.  After the surrender of General Johnston at Bennett Place, near what is now Durham, on April 26, thus ending the War, David and his unit were sent back to Fayetteville.  He mustered out with the Company, July 14, 1865 in Raleigh.  From there, the troops were sent, by train, to Philadelphia where they were discharged July 27.

David and Sarah moved to Robeson County after the War. In 1870 they lived in Burnt Swamp Township with their two daughters Jane and Minerva.  The ages of the girls are wrong by about 10 years.  Don’t know what’s up with that. David, you’ll notice, was a cooper (barrel maker).  I wonder if he’d learned the trade in Pennsylvania, or if Sarah’s father, Hiram, taught him.  Both he and Sarah could read and write.  Sarah’s sister, Charity, and her husband, Edward R. Newell, lived in Lumberton with their 2-year-old son, Ashford.  Edward was also a cooper.  He could read and write, Charity could not.  Jane had, apparently, died.  The following notice appeared in The Fayetteville Weekly Observer May 10, 1915, page 5:

INFARMATION WANTED BY A SOLDIER’S WIDOW.

J. R. Renshaw of Lykens, Penn., has written here, asking for information as to Jane Wright, daughter of Hiram Wright, who married George Ely about 1865.  Ely is now dead, and the second wife wants to get a pension, but must prove the death of the first wife.
If any can give the information it will be very gratefully received by an old widow, and the information sent to Messrs. Cook & Cook, this city, will be transmitted to her.

And this June 10, 1917, page 3:

Mayor McNeill gave us the following letter this morning, and it may be that some of the older residents can furnish the information desired:

Lykens, Pa., May 30, 1914.
Chief of Police, Fayetteville, N. C.

Dear Sir:–Would it be possible for you to furnish me with any information that will lead me to get the records of the death and burial of a certain lady who is supposed to have died and was interred in or near you city in the Fall of 1865 or Spring of 1866.
Her maiden name was Jane Wright, was married to one George Ely, who brought her to this place in the Summer of 1865, she however, did not remain here more than a few weeks and returned home again; shortly after she left here a letter was received by a relative of George Ely, stating that she had died, since which nothing has been heard about her.
The people who knew here here at the time have passed away as also has her husband and no information further than the above is known.  It is very necessary that we should have some proofs of her death or whereabouts, if living.
Hoping you can be able to put me on the track of getting the information and that I can reciprocate later on.
I remain
Yours truly,
W. S. Young.

We’ll talk more about Sarah’s family in future posts.  Of David’s siblings, Mary Elizabeth Fields married John Coho in about 1862 and in 1870 they lived in Altoona. Her sister, Nancy, aged 15, lived with them.  Shortly after this, Nancy would marry Samuel H. Lego.  Their first child, Charles M. Lego, was born June 28, 1871. John and his wife, Mary Etta Rider, lived in Ferguson Township, Centre County. They had a son, as yet unnamed, who was born in May.  He would be named John Franklin Fields.  I don’t know where Martha is at this point.  She doesn’t marry Mr. Wier until 1884, according to his Find a Grave page (linked to above).  I have yet to find anything about his other siblings after the 1860 census.

In 1880, Sarah and David were still living in Burnt Swamp Township, Robeson County.  My great-grandfather, John Edward Fields, was just 2.  He was born Christmas Day, 1877. In 1890, they’d moved, briefly, to Back Swamp, but were back in Burnt Swamp by 1900.  I can’t tell you how happy I was to finally find someone on the 1890 Veteran’s Schedule!  On July 21, 1900, David applied for a pension, then again August 8, 1908.  In 1910, they lived in Pembroke Township, Robeson County.

Fields-Pembroke_1910

This is a family page.  You have David and Sarah, then my great-grandparents, John and Janie.  Next to them are David Ernest, Jr. and wife Lillie then their sister Charity Ida and her husband Ashley Barber.  Ashley, by the way, is Janie’s brother.  After Ida and Ashley are two other sons of Sarah and David:  Hiram Gerry and wife Lizzie then George Randle and wife Edna.  On the text page is George and Edna’s small son, David C. Fields.

These are the children I have of David Ernest Fields and Sarah Elizabeth Wright:

  • Minerva “Minnie” Leslie Fields b. November 1867, d. March 28, 1936 married Jeff R. Patterson c. 1887
  • Mattie Jane Fields (may have actually been Martha) b. November 20, 1869, d. December 8, 1924 married Evander Pait c. 1896
  • Elizabeth A. “Lizzie” Fields b. April 1871, d. April 20, 1925 married James Harrison Terry c. 1898
  • David Ernest Fields, Jr. b. March 22, 1873, d. January 25, 1937 married Lillie Green Miller c. 1895
  • Sarah Margaret Fields b. February 16, 1876, d. August 22, 1941 married 1) Unknown McLean c. 1897, 2) James Richard Snipes c. 1901
  • John Edward Fields b. December 25, 1877, d. October 17, 1918 married Ruby Jane Barbour c. 1904
  • Mary Bell Fields b. November 20, 1878, d. May 20, 1966 married Walter Beasley c. 1898
  • Hiram Geary Fields b. March 27, 1882, d. July 14, 1956 married Elizabeth Joyce c. 1907
  • Charity Ida Fields b. April 1885, d. April 10, 1915 married Ashley B. Barbour February 5, 1905
  • George Randle Fields b. November 7, 1886, d. July 6, 1933 married Edna Unknown c. 1909

I’d love to hear from any of their descendants.

Sarah died June 7, 1915 of nephritis, which she’d apparently had for quite a while, aggravated by dysentery.  David himself died suddenly April 14, 1917.