Sunday, December 6, 2015

William Stover (1795 – 1864) My Third Great-Grandfather on My Father’s Side

William Stover's headstone in Drakes Cliff Cemetery, Carter TN
William Stover was the eldest child of Daniel Stover and Phoebe Ward Stover. He was born on June 23rd of 1795 in what was then known as Washington County in the Southwest Territory and what is now Carter County, Tennessee. His siblings include seven sisters and three brothers. In order of birth their names were Mary, Jemima, Isaac, Thurzy, Susannah, Lavisa, Solomon, Delilah, Sarah and Daniel.

When William was 44 his mother Phoebe died on August 6, 1839. His brother Daniel had died the year before. His father Daniel Sr. married a second time to Antoinette Williams on July 19, 1840. They were married in Carter County. Daniel and Antoinette had six more children – five daughters and one son named Lorena, Rhoda, Samuel, Eliza, Elizabeth and Margaret.

When William was a young man – I don’t have an exact date – he was sent to live with his Mother’s aunt Mary and her husband Isaac Lincoln. The Lincoln’s only child – a son had drowned during a rain storm. Mary and Isaac needed help running their farm and William was sent to fill that role.  Isaac was the great-uncle of Abraham Lincoln.
Carter County Courthouse and war monument
Land Ownership
On July 15, 1819 William bought his first piece of property when he was 24. It was a 76 acre and 51 poles parcel on the lot adjacent to his father’s farm. He paid $230. A “pole” is equal to 5 ½ yards and was a commonly used unit of measurement. Two years later on May 10, 1822 he purchased a second parcel. This piece was 154 acres located in the Sinking Creek area of Carter. He paid $1200 and bought the land from Garret Reasoner. The area got the name Sinking Creek because the creek terminated into a hole where the water flowed underground.

William married Sarah Murray Drake in 1819 on September 23rd.  See my blog post dated July 24, 2015 for a biography of Sarah.  Information about their children and the places they lived is described in that post.

Five years later, William bought 94 acres from John Nave for $840. This parcel shared boundaries with Godfrey Nave and Indian Creek. The Naves were another pioneer family in Carter County. In 2012 when I visited Tennessee I was fortunate to meet with Robert Nave, a descendant of the original family. Robert was an avid genealogist and an archivist by profession. He shared a lot of material with me and took me to see many sites associated with our ancestors.

On February 10, 1823 William sold 76 acres of his land to his brother Isaac Stover for $400. The parcel shared borders with land owned by his father Daniel Stover and with Landon Carter – another prominent citizen for whom the county was named. This was the same parcel of land he purchased from George Gillespie just two years earlier when he had been 21.

William & Sarah lived north of the Watauga River in
Elizabethton, Carter County, Tennessee
Next he acquired a tract on the north side of the Watauga River. He paid $200 for this parcel but the record I found did not give the size. Two years later in 1835 William purchased a 110 acre parcel of land from Godfrey Nave. This parcel was also on the Watauga River and included “all appurtenances”. This probably means there was a house and some number of farm buildings on the property. He paid $1000 for this lot.

William used the land for farming. In his will he made a note about his blacksmith tools. He may have augmented his farm income by doing blacksmith work.

On April 14, 1852 he executed another contract in which he sold a portion of the land he inherited from Mary Lincoln to each of this three sons – David, Daniel and Samuel. In a separate contract dated April 19, 1852 he sold 195 acres to his son Daniel for $100. This parcel was on the north side of the Watauga River on Green Mountain in Carter County. The deed stipulated that William and his wife Sarah would retain the right to live on the land for the remainder of their lives.

1850 & 1860 Censuses
Studying the Carter County 1850 census tells us a lot about William Stover and his family. There are 42 individuals listed on the page representing 9 families. Five men are identified as farmers, four as laborers and one, William’s son Samuel is a physician. The value of the real estate owned is shown for 6 of the 9 households. William’s property is valued at $6000. His son’s land is worth $1000. Other property ranges in value from $200, $375, $1100 and John Grindstaff, another farmer, $1200.  This same year the Slave Schedule shows that William owned 22 slaves ranging in ages from 1 to 65. His son David owned 7 Negroes and his stepmother Antoinette owned 4. Robert Crow owned 8 Negroes but everyone else on the page owned far fewer, i.e. from 1-3.

By 1860 William had sold many of his slaves to his son Samuel who then owned 15 Negroes and William and Sarah owned only 8. Their home was valued at $3000 plus he listed $11,000 worth of personal property. So, he was a wealthy man.
1850 Slave census

Civic Life
Throughout his adult life William had a variety of encounters with the court system. At 21 he witnessed the sale of Lot #34 in Carter to Godfrey Carriger. In 1821, when he was 26, he served on a jury in two cases. Court of Pleas records show that he was also appointed to serve on the March session in 1823. In February of 1824, when he was 29, he served on 4 cases as a juror. One of the cases was a Grand Jury. In another case John Wright filed a petition on behalf of David Gaines requesting that a jury be charged with reviewing the layout of a proposed road and to assess whether or not the route of the road could be altered to do less damage to Gaines’ property. The jury was asked to report back at the following session of court.

The court records show that William was again appointed to the jury for the January 1826 court session. In 1826 he was a witness for the sale of three Negroes by James P. Taylor to Thomas Johnston in Carter. At the age of 39 William was a witness at the marriage of Isaac L. Carriger and Phoebe Nave.
Robert Nave took me to this old home that was once owned
by a member of the Carriger family

Like many of his neighbors William was called upon to help build public roads. When he was 27 he was appointed as the overseer and put in charge of building a segment of a road that passed through Edward Hendry’s property.

In1824 one of these roads was to be built across land owned by William. The court asked him to provide laborers to help with the construction.  John C. Helm was appointed overseer. William was again asked to provide labor to help build another road in 1826. John Coon was the overseer. The road was to extend from Archibald William’s farm to the Sinking Creek Meeting House. The court ordered that hands from each of the farms that the road crossed through should provide labor to help with building the road.

Speedwell Bloomery Forge
Several years before the Civil War William and his business partner Robert Cass bought the Speedwell Bloomery Forge on Stoney Creek. This was the first forge constructed on Stoney Creek. It was built in 1806 by John Nave and Christian Carriger. The Stoney Creek area was the county's largest industrial area for a century starting in 1796. The iron industry was the second largest industry after agriculture. There were some 80 forges in Eastern Tennessee and several in and near Elizabethton in Carter County. The forge had 2 fires and 1 hammer driven by water. In 1856, it produced about 40 tons of bars from ore mined 2 miles away. To learn more about forges and iron production search Google for "Iron Manufacturer's Guide, Furnaces, Forges and Rolling Mills." William is mentioned in this reference book. Most of these small privately-owned companies went bankrupt during the Civil War.

Civil War
In are article “Early History of Carter County” published by Watauga Association of Genealogists William was identified as a confederate supporter and advocate for succession. The secessionist felt the southern slave-owning states should secede from the United States and form a separate country. Several states did succeed during the Civil War but rejoined the union once the war ended. William was too old to serve in the Civil War but he did support the confederates by contributing 1000 pounds of hay needed to feed the soldiers' horses. William's stance in support of the Confederate cause was contrary to the majority of citizens of East Tennessee who support the Union Army. William’s middle son Daniel served as a Colonel in the Union Army. This division among family members was not uncommon at that time.

Mary Lincoln, who had raised William as her “son”, died on August 27, 1831 when William was 36. In her will Mary left most of her estate to William. This included 32 of her 38 slaves, all her horses, cattle, hogs and sheep, a wagon, all her farm utensils, her household and kitchen furniture and all the grain she owned at the time of her death. The 1830 census listed Mary Lincoln as the largest slave owner in Carter County. By 1840 that distinction went to William Stover.

A great-granddaughter of Mary’s sister Louise Ward Carriger contributed to an article in the Lincoln Family Magazine. She tells that Thomas Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s father, worked for his uncle Isaac as a farm hand. She muses, “In her will Mary Ward Lincoln gave ten Negro slaves to my great-grandfather Christian Carriger, who was well to do, and did not need them. She gave all her remaining property to her nephew (should be great-nephew), William Stover (son of her sister (should be niece), Phoebe Ward) and Daniel Stover, when poor "Abe" was so very poor and needy. Would it not have changed the history of these United States if Abraham Lincoln had only received what was bequeathed to William Stover? Perhaps Abraham Lincoln was predestined to be poor as was his father before him. Had he been made the heir of Aunt Mary Lincoln, perhaps the illustrious Abraham would not have struggled in poverty, and would never have amounted to 'a row of pins,' Had Thomas Lincoln remained in the employ of his uncle Isaac - how different his life would have been."

William’s father-in-law Abraham Drake died in October of 1840. Records show that William and Abraham’s son Samuel Drake were both charged with doing an inventory of Abraham’s estate.
Driving the Blue Ridge Highway in the Blue Ridge Mountains
Eastern Tennessee

In 1842, when William was 47 he was appointed as a trustee of the Elizabethton Baptist Church. This is the year the church was founded. Its membership consisted of families from the Watauga, Laurel Fork and Sinking Creek areas of the town. An article in the Lincoln Family Magazine talks about how William’s father Daniel was a leader in the Baptist Church. In fact Daniel donated the land that the Sinking Creek Baptist Church was built on. At the end of this article there is a note that says, “Daniel Stover’s son, William, the heir of Mary Ward Lincoln, after his marriage with Miss Sarah Murray Drake, affiliated with the Presbyterians.” This suggests that Sarah was a Presbyterian and that William converted to her religion after he married her. Given how active his father was in the Baptist Church, I would imagine this may have been rather scandalous at the time and possibly have caused friction between William and his father.

William Stover signed his Last Will and Testament on June 25, 1864 when he was 69 years old. In the Will he left his estate to his wife and sons. Here is a transcription of the will.

I William Stover of Carter County, Tennessee being of sound mind and disposing memory, do publish this as my Last Will and Testament hereby revoking all former Wills made by me at any time.

First, my will is that I be buried in a decent and Christian-like manner and that my funeral expenses be first paid out of any estate.

Secondly, that the debts now due and owing to me or any debts that may be due me at my death shall be collected by my Executors herein after named and applied to the payment of any debts I may owe at that time.

Third, I give any bequeath to my beloved wife Sarah Stover all my household and kitchen furniture, also all my parts of the stock such as horses, cattle, sheep, hogs and mules and all my farming utensils which I may be possessed of at the time of death also my Black Smith tools absolutely to be dispersed of as she may see proper.

Fourth, I give and bequeath to my said wife my negroes Delilah, Sam, Dan and Jo to have and to hold said slaves in her separate will and solely for her own benefit and not to be subject to the control of any husband she may hereafter marry to be disposed of as she may wish by deed of gift or otherwise.  I also give and bequeath to my said wife during her natural life the tract of land I now own known as the Mill Tract and a tract of land containing one hundred acres purchased of S.M. Stover situated on the south side of Holston Mountain.

Fifth, I give and bequeath to my son Samuel M. Stover the above named Mill Tract and the one hundred acre tract after the termination of my wife’s life’s estate.  This bequeath is made to my son Samuel M. Stover from the fact that most of the property I gave him was …. and as that kind of property has greatly decreased in value I wish to make up in part that deficit by this gift.

Sixth, I have heretofore given to my son David L. Stover six thousand six hundred dollars.  To my son Daniel Stover six thousand two hundred dollars, and to my son Samuel M. Stover five thousand seven hundred dollars.  It is my wish that my wife in disposing of the property she receives under this will will do it in such a manner as to make it possible for portions for my sons Daniel and Samuel be will equal to that received by my son David L. Stover it being my object to make no difference among my children in point of property.

Lastly, I hereby nominate institute and appoint Samuel M. Stover and Daniel Stover my Executors and J.M. Stover widow of David L. Stover Executrix of this my last will and testament and authorize them to sell such personal property as can but be applied to pay any debt I may owe at my death but this I think will not be necessary as I own but very little.

In testimony whereof I have heretofore set my hand and seal this 25th day of July 1864.  Signed sealed and acknowledged in the presents (sic) of the testator and each other.
William Stover    Seal
Nathanial Taylor
J.S. Taylor
Drakes Cliff cemetery where William is buried along with
his son Daniel Stover

I have yet to find a record with the exact date of death but I do know that William was buried in the Drakes Cliff Cemetery in Carter. His headstone provides only the year of this death. This is the same cemetery where his son Daniel is buried as well as two of our Drake ancestors. I visited the cemetery in 2012. Unfortunately it was so overgrown by brambles that I was not able to find William’s headstone. The image here was found on the Find-A-Grave website. It was posted by Dale Jenkins, a descendant of Solomon Stover one of William’s brothers.

William Stover's signature from one of the documents
I've found doing research

Watauga Association of Genealogists (WAG) journal, material provide by Robert Nave and Dale Jenkins, Court of Pleas records, land deed records, 1840, 1850 and 1860 censuses, “Historical Reminiscences of Carter County” by Mildred Kozsuch, wills of Isaac and Mary Lincoln and of William Stover, an article written by James D. Jenkins and published August 1, 1915 in The Constitution, Atlanta, Georgia.

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