The Strange Romance of William Batchelor Denmark

It’s Valentine’s Week, and I wanted a romance story to share for my weekly 52 Ancestors posts. Several weeks ago, I began digging around in my family tree, hoping to come across a sweet romantic story to share.

Sometimes, when you go rummaging around in your family tree, you come up with a family skeleton … a story you wish could remain buried and hidden away. That’s what happened when I went hunting for a family romance story among my ancestors.

You see, instead of finding an inspiring or thrilling romance, what I found was a rather bawdy story sordid enough to make you blush!

Lest you fear, trust me … I’m not about to get X-rated or share any raunchy details. However, this strange tale is sure to make you scratch your head at the indecorous behavior of my 7th great-grandfather.

William Batchelor Denmark was born in 1740 in North Carolina to William Denmark and his wife Mourning Moye Denmark. Records indicate that during his adult life, he was known as WB and fought during the American Revolution. He died in 1821 at the age of 81 in Georgia. During his life, he married three times and had 17 children.

So far, nothing seems to be out of the ordinary. But hang on … William Batchelor Denmark was anything but ordinary.

In 1765, WB married his first wife, a lady by the name of Mary Moye (1745-1793).

Wait? Wasn’t WB’s mother a Moye?

She was, but it wasn’t unusual for families to intermarry during colonial times. This probably wasn’t a shocking situation, even at the time.

What might be shocking, however, is that census records show WB and Mary’s first child, Eleanor, was born in 1759, a full six years prior to their marriage. Mary was just 14 years old at the time of the birth.

Having a child out of wedlock isn’t exactly unheard of, even back in the mid-18th century. I mean, it could be a source of gossip, but this sort of thing does happen quite often. And while I do think that in 18th century American society most respectable men would have married their lover prior to the child’s birth, I’m sure WB wasn’t the only man who waited six years to do so either.

A quick look at WB and Mary’s remaining children shows that they were all born after their 1765 marriage. So far, WB and Mary seem to be on the up and up.

Keep reading. I promise you, this tale grows more salacious the further you dig around.

You see, two years after Mary’s death, WB married for a second time. This wife was a woman named Anna Moye (1742-1806).

Wait a minute. Wasn’t Mary’s last name Moye, too?

Yes, it was. In fact, Mary Moye was the younger sister of Anna Moye. (I’m still not sure how these two sisters tie into William’s mother, Mourning Moye. Obviously, there is bound to be a connection.)

Perhaps now you are thinking this situation certainly is a bit odd … yet, marrying sisters (even if they were your relatives) probably wasn’t totally unheard of back in pre-Revolutionary America. History is filled with stories of families that intermarried.

If you are looking for the shocking stuff, just stay with me … because the tale of WB and the Moye sisters is far stranger than just a story about man who happened to marry two sisters who were probably already related to him in some way or another.

The first odd thing I noticed was that Anna had two children with WB prior to his marriage to Mary.

That’s right. WB fathered two children with Anna BEFORE he married Mary. In fact, Anna was the mother of WB’s first-born child, a daughter named Sarah Margaret born in 1757 when Anna was only 15 years old. Anna also gave birth to Stephen in 1763, which was a full two years before WB and Mary said their wedding vows.

All told, WB and Anna had nine children, all of whom were born either before or during WB’s marriage to Mary. By the time WB actually marries Anna, their youngest child is approximately 6 years old!

According to several other researchers on the Denmark-Moye marriages, it seems that there were some discrepancies about which children belonged to which mother. Even the kids, later in their lives, couldn’t sort themselves out consistently.

I know that I saw several different versions of which children went with which mother. However, I attempted to piece together a list of William Batchelor Denmark’s 17 children, along with the years of their births and their assumed mothers based on the most reliable sources I could find on the internet. (Again, this is my best guess and I’m sure if you google William Batchelor Denmark, you will find plenty of genealogical researchers who match the children and the mothers up differently. Researchers even disagree on the names of some of these kids. It’s not easy to figure out who is who in this mixed-up family tree!)

  • Sarah Margaret born in 1757 to Anna
  • Eleanor born in 1759 to Mary
  • Stephen born in 1763 to Anna
  • Seaborn born in 1765 to Mary
  • Susannah born in 1765 to Anna
  • Jemima born in 1767 to Mary
  • Louisa (AKA Lavina) born in 1768 to Anna
  • Elizabeth born in 1771 to Mary
  • Redden born in 1773 to Anna
  • James born in 1774 to Anna
  • Margaret born in 1775 to Mary
  • Clarissa born in 1775 to Anna
  • Martha born in 1777 to Anna
  • John James born in 1780 to Mary
  • James Thomas born in 1782 to Mary
  • William Batchelor Jr. born in 1884 to Mary
  • Malachi born in 1787 to Anna

After Anna and WB married, they moved to Georgia, apparently following their children who were headed westward. It is said that while traveling through Georgia, Governor Mitchell gave W.B. and his party “passports” which attested to their “character and honor.” These passports then convinced the Indian Chiefs to allow WB and Anna to travel through the newly-acquired Creek Indian lands, in order that they could visit W.B.’s sister Abigail and their daughter Susannah.

After Anna’s death is 1806, WB married for a third time in 1813. This wife’s name was Mary Cochram, and it appears that she is not connected in any way to the Moye family. No children came from this marriage.

For the record, I am descended from William and Anna’s daughter, Susannah. She married a man by the name of Reverend Adam Jones. From all appearances, Susannah and her preacher husband seemed to live a much more honorable lifestyle. Thank goodness!

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Last week I missed my weekly 52 Ancestors post. But that’s okay … it gives me the chance to write two posts this week. On Thursday, I’ll be sharing about my great-grandmother on what would be her 117th birthday. Can’t wait to share more about this amazing lady and her influence on my life and faith.

A Yankee Drummer for Dinner

I don’t know exactly when my mother started researching our family tree, but I must have been rather young. My childhood memories include walking around old, abandoned cemeteries, hours upon hours spent in the library while my mother scanned unreadable censuses taken long ago, and stacks of papers lying around with strange names and dates scribbled on them.

Early on, I was fascinated by the names I heard my mother repeating as she told my father about the ancestors she discovered … and this was especially true about the name of my great-great-great-grandfather, George Washington Allbritton.

Back when I was about 8 or 9 years old and first heard that name, I felt absolutely certain it meant we were somehow related to the real George Washington. After all, why else would his mother have named him that?

Sadly, George Washington isn’t even remotely anywhere along my family tree … but George Washington Allbritton and his wife Sarah are still worth talking about. In fact, there’s a great little story about this family.

Photo of George Washington Allbritton and his wife Sarah during their later years of life.
 Photo of George Washington Allbritton and his wife Sarah during their later years of life.

My son Joel wrote this version of the story for a narrative speech he gave way back in the 9th grade. He’s a college sophomore today, but I still feel pretty proud that he chose to retell this family tale all those years ago.

~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~

BANG! BANG! BANG! 

BANG! BANG! BANG!

The steady beating rang out across the rural countryside.

The year was 1863. My great-great-great-great grandparents lived deep in the heart of the Confederacy, somewhere in the piney hills of Catahoula Parish in northern Louisiana. They were dirt poor, just simple farmers trying to work hard just to get by, certainly not wealthy land and slave owners.

The man of the house, George Washington Allbritton, had gone off to fight in the Civil War. He left his wife, Sarah, behind to care for their 12 children.

Early on this cold December morning, Sarah awoke to a steady drumming noise.

BANG! BANG! BANG!

Over and over, the sound continued, steady as a heartbeat. And the one thought racing in Sarah’s mind was that this must surely be the sound of Yankee drums.

Sarah quickly woke the children.

Hurry with your chores! Milk the cow and gather the eggs, and come right back inside!

Sarah tried not to panic, but the drumming continued as she cooked their biscuits and bacon for breakfast. As they bowed their heads over the meal, Sarah silently added an additional prayer that the Yankees wouldn’t come by their house today.

By mid-morning the drumming sounded louder. Sarah instructed her children to hide their meager possessions.

Wrap the family Bible in the quilt made by my mother, Maggie. Then you take it and bury it in the garden, Tom. Take all our corn meal, flour and dried salt pork, and hide it in the barn underneath the wagon and cover it with some hay, Ben. Hurry children! We don’t want the Yankees to take our things!

BANG! BANG! BANG!

Shortly after noon, Sarah was feeling frazzled from the constant pounding of the drums. Hardly a minute passed without hearing the beat reverberating throughout the hills surrounding their home. She sent the older boys to turn the old milk cow and the chickens loose.

We will not give the Yankees any of our hens for their supper tonight!

Later in the afternoon the sounds of a wagon could be heard, coming over the road. Swiftly, Sarah rushed all the children, from the youngest to the oldest indoors. She stood just inside the doorway of their small log home. Finally, after an eternity, a horse and wagon came into view.

What a relief! It was just her brother Martin. Perhaps he was on his way over to warn her or maybe he wanted to ensure that she and the children were safe from a Yankee raid. Sarah ran outside and flagged him down.

“Martin! Do you have any news of the Yankees?”

But to Sarah’s astonishment, Martin was unaware of any Yankees marching in the area. In fact, he hadn’t heard any drumming noises all day, though he could certainly hear the steady beat now!

BANG! BANG! BANG!

Martin listened closely for several long minutes. Finally he said, “Sarah, has that drumming sounded just like this all day?”

“Why, yes, it has. There might be an occasional small pause, but mostly it’s been steady since early this morning.”

“Well, it’s not getting any closer. I don’t think you need to worry about Yankees, but we do need to find the source.”

So Sarah and Martin took a walk around the farm, and there behind the barn they found an overturned barrel. Trapped underneath was Sarah’s Yankee drummer a old chicken trying to peck its way out.

As the sun sank low, Sarah sighed a sigh of relief as she stood in front of the stove to cook their supper. She sent the girls up to the garden to retrieve the family Bible, wrapped in her mother’s quilt, and the boys went out to find the old milk cow.

And later that evening, they bowed their heads and with thankful hearts said grace … before they ate their Yankee drummer for dinner!

~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~ ~~~

Joel’s rendition of this story mostly accurate, however he did use some writer’s liberties and changed or added a few details in order to make the story easier to tell for his speech class.

For example, when George Washington Allbritton left his wife Sarah to go fight in the war, only 2 of their children had been born. The remaining 10 were born after the Civil War had ended.

George Washington Allbritton and his wife Sarah with 11 of their 12 children.
George Washington Allbritton and his wife Sarah with 11 of their 12 children. We descend from their daughter Minnie, who is the last woman on the right on the back row.

Additionally, we don’t know if Sarah’s brother Martin came by to help her figure out it was a chicken under a barrel instead of a regiment of Yankee soldiers … but we do know that she did have a brother named Martin Van Buren Cassells. (Sidenote: I was pretty fascinated to discover a second presidential name in the family tree, even if I am not directly descended from him. There also happens to be a man by the name of Benjamin Franklin McGuffee in my family tree, who is a direct ancestor. Obviously, my ancestors were extremely impressed by certain historical figures.)

Other than those two details, the story is a true: Sarah did hear a steady beating and hid much of the family’s treasured items thinking that the Yankees were marching through the area. Later, she discovered the sound she heard was just a chicken trying to peck its way out from beneath an overturned wooden barrel.

Urilla Xerena Lampton

When I was about 11 years old, I decided I no longer liked the name Paige.

I had a whole list of reasons why this was a terrible name for my parents to have chosen:

  1. No one else had the name Paige … at least, no one I knew.
  2. All of my friends had nicknames. There was no nickname for Paige.
  3. Someone (maybe a teacher or another adult) once told me that the name Paige used to be a boy name spelled and was more commonly spelled PAGE. I asked my mother and this unfortunately turned out to be true.
  4. My mother said she decided to name me Paige because it was one syllable and sounded like a last name. She did this because my last name, Terry, was two syllables and sounded like a first name. People outside of my normal circle of acquaintances often switched around my names. It was annoying.
  5. And maybe the final nail in the coffin … my mom said she first saw the name Paige on the sign at a vet clinic. The vet was named Dr. Paige. It was absolutely mortifying to my 11- year-old ego.

Thus began an earnest attempt to get my mother to agree to legally change my name.

Now you must understand … my mother was not at all sympathetic. Apparently, as difficult as it was for me to understand, my parents both happened to like the name Paige quite a bit and were very fond of having a daughter named Paige.

However, I can be very persistent. I pled my case often. After several long months of asking, my mother finally agreed to allow me to change my name.

I was elated! After a short moment of celebration, I moved on to part two of my plan and gave my mother a short list of new names that were more suitable. At the top of the list was Diana. After all, I was a HUGE Princess Diana fan and followed the British Royal Family with enthusiasm. I thought Diana Elizabeth (after the beautiful princess and the reigning queen) would be a perfect and lovely name for me. It was certainly much better than plain old Paige.

My mother, however, told me (using her most no-nonsense, elementary school teacher voice), “I don’t need a list. I’ve already picked out your new name. I’m going to name you after your great-great-grandmother.”

Oh?” I tried to act like I wasn’t too disappointed I wouldn’t be named Diana after all. “What was her name?

“Urilla Xerena,” my mother said. She didn’t make eye contact with me. She just kept chopping vegetables for our salad.

Urilla Xerena? What an awful name! Surely my mom was joking!

Turns out, she was not joking. She was completely serious.

In fact, my mother said that since I needed my parents to to pay the fees to make my name change all legal, then they would be choosing my next name too. Furthermore, my parents were in total agreement about my new name. She ended the conversation saying that if I didn’t like this arrangement, then I would need to wait until such a time as I could afford to legally change my own name.

That night, three things suddenly became crystal clear to my 11-year-old brain:

  1. My mother wasn’t very good at naming people.
  2. She was getting worse, instead of better, at this skill as time went by.
  3. On second thought, Angela Paige really wasn’t such a bad name after all.

Naturally, by the time I was old enough and rich enough to legally change my name, I no longer felt nearly as strongly about the name Paige as I had during middle school.

I suppose that being threatened with a name like Urilla Xerena had an affect on me because all these years later and I still think of my poor great-great-grandmother, who was stuck for her entire life with an awful name. As soon as I started this project, I knew old Urilla would have to be one of my 52 ancestor stories.

Recently my mother and I talked about information she had on Urilla, and as it turns out, she happens to have an interesting life story.

Urilla Xerena Lampton Joyce with her husband Marion J. H. Joyce

Urilla was born March 2, 1857 to Edmund and Mary Jane (Neafus) Lampton. They lived in Hardin, Kentucky.

Interestingly, Urilla’s Lampton family was connected to the same Lamptons that Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) descended from. Not only is Urilla’s family and Twain’s family from the same area of Kentucky, but they share a lot of the same unusual names. As a side note, Mark Twain is known for stating that the L in his given name stood for Langhorne. However, Twain’s sister Permelia once quoted her mother (Jane Lampton Clemens) saying, “My son Sam was named Samuel Lampton Clemens after my uncle in Kentucky, one of the best men I ever knew.”

Back to Urilla and her life’s story …

Urilla married Marion J. H. Joyce, a doctor, in 1877. The two of them relocated to southern Arkansas. They were the parents of ten children, the first five of which were boys. Their fourth son, John Jefferson Joyce, was my great-grandfather. I never knew him as he died about three or four years before I was born. However, my dad loved his grandfather and told me some great stories about him. I’ll write a blog post about him soon.

While I still don’t find the name Urilla Xerena to be attractive, I am partial to the name Rilla. Of course, I became enchanted with this name after reading Anne from Green Gables when I was in high school. My beloved Anne, who does marry Gilbert, names one of her daughters Rilla in honor of Marilla Cuthbert, who adopted her from the orphanage. Ever since, I’ve thought the name Rilla would be a really sweet name.

I’ve never gotten to name a daughter Rilla, though I tried really hard to get it on a short list every time I was expecting a baby. At this point, I’m hoping one of my kids will fall in love with the name Rilla so that someday old Urilla Xerena will be a namesake yet!

Penelope Goodson Daniel

Last week, I introduced Theophilus Daniel and shared a photo of a square of homespun fabric he made for his granddaughter sometime in the mid-1800’s. It’s said that he owned a flock of sheep, as well as a spinning wheel and a loom. The details of the fabric have long been lost to history, but our family assumes that Theo used wool from his sheep to spin thread and then weave the fabric.

After I wrote the story of Theo, I began to wonder about his wife, Penelope, and if there were any interesting tales from her life.

Penelope Goodson

Penelope Goodson was born in 1874 to James and Jane Goodson of Darlington, SC.  Her father fought in the American Revolution.

In 1803, Penelope married Theophilus, a man two years her junior. They were living in South Carolina at the time. However, two years later in 1805, her first child was born in Washington, GA.

Over the next 25 years, Penelope seems to have spent a lot of time doing two things: giving birth and moving. Here’s a list of her children, along with the years and places of their birth:

Washington, Georgia

  • Ephraim Elias (1805)
  • Abel (1808)
  • Jane (1810)
  • William Eli (1811)

Rome, Georgia

  • James (1812)
  • Sarah Jane (1814)
  • Josiah Goodson “Squire” (1816)

Crenshaw, Alabama

  • Elizabeth “Betsy” (1817)
  • Leonard (1818)

Butler, Alabama

  • Theophilus Jackson (1822)
  • Martha (1822)
  • John Adams (1825)
  • Zachariah (1827)
  • Penelope Louisa (1830)

That’s 14 children and 4 moves!

According to the Alabama Department of Archives and History (Alabama Surname Files Expanded, page 55), Theo and Penny came to Alabama by way of the Old Federal Road. They settled in what was then Creek Indian Territory. This same source also noted that the first acreage they purchased is now located within the city of Montgomery, AL.

Theophilus and Penelope were married 62 years. She died in 1873 at the age of 89 years old. She had outlived her husband by 8 years.

Whenever I read about Theo and Penny, I can’t help but think of what an interesting lifespan they both had … born prior to the United States Constitution being ratified and dying after the end of the Civil War.

During that period of American history, our nation was growing and expanding across the continent. And even though Penelope and her husband didn’t manage to go all the way to the West Coast, they did joined thousands of others in settling across the middle areas of the South.

paige-signature

This post is part of a 52-week series on sharing the stories of my ancestors.Fifty-two Ancestors

 

 

Meet Theophilus Daniel

 Allow me to introduce you to Theophilus Daniel, my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather.

Theophilus Daniel (1786-1865)

Theophilus was born around 1786 in North Carolina to William and Elizabeth Daniel. During his life, Theo moved, first to Georgia and later to Alabama. He married Penelope Goodson, and is known to have supported his family by farming. Records seem to indicate that he had a small flock of sheep, as well as owned a spinning wheel and a loom. He also was reported to have made furniture. We also now that Theophilus Daniel was not a slave owner even though he lived in the south during the years when slavery was legal.

           

Church records indicate that in 1817 Theophilus was kicked out of church for “not filling his seat.” It is unclear why he skipped church services, but one must wonder if it might have been due to having moved away from the area. Later, in 1827, he was instrumental in the formation of Sweet Water Primitive Baptist church.

At the time of his death on October 2, 1865, Theo was living in Butler, Alabama. His life spanned 79 years, with his birth prior to the ratification of the United States Constitution and his death coming just at the end of the Civil War.

One of the first things I remember my mother having among her genealogical possessions was a very old piece of woven brown cloth.

This material, handed down now for six generations, was actually homespun by Theophilus himself. He made it for his granddaughter, Matilda Caroline Daniel, perhaps as a wedding gift for her marriage in 1851 (although the exact date the cloth was made is unknown). I wonder if the material was woven from thread spun from the wool sheared from Theophilus’ sheep.

Facts about Theophilus Daniel and his life are fairly sparse. His exact date of birth is unknown, and the truth is I have a lot more questions about him than answers:

  • Why was he skipping church in 1817? Was it due to a move or did he find himself feeling disconnected from the Lord?
  • What prompted him to form a church ten years later?
  • And what is that large growth on the side of his face?!

Yet, touching the cloth that he spun for his granddaughter suddenly makes this man leap off the old census records. A piece of cloth doesn’t get saved for 170+ years for no reason. It meant enough to his granddaughter that she passed it down to her children and grandchildren. It meant something to her because she loved her grandfather … probably, I’m imagining, because he loved her too.

Whatever the reason, Theophilus more than lived. He loved. And 155 years after his death, he is still remembered for it.

The memories of the righteous is a blessing … ~Proverbs 10:7