I have decided to accept the challenge of Amy Johnson Crow over at No Story Too Small blog. Amy challenges us: 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks. I think this is an excellent challenge as I tend to focus on my brick walls, and this will force me to fan out in my tree and focus on other ancestors.
This is week 16, and my sixteenth post in the challenge. This week, I’m reporting on Howell Holley. Howell is my 4th great-grandfather. I didn’t even know about Howell until a couple of weeks ago, when cousin Harry Short (Hi Harry!) sent me an email telling me he had figured out the father of our 3rd great-grandmother, Jane Harriette (Holley) Higginbotham. It wasn’t until last week that I had time to sit and search out Howell and Wowza!!! What an interesting character this man is!!
Before I go into the fascinating court documents about Howell that I have since found, I have to share with you how I think we blew a long believed family tale out of the water when cousin Harry found Howell. MAYBE.
You see, I had always heard that my 3rd great-grandmother Jane was an Indian, and had been adopted by the Holley’s and raised as their own child. I had found all the Dawes Packet’s from her granddaughter’s family trying to prove they had Indian blood, which was denied.
I decided to look through my DNA matches on Ancestry.com and see if I could find any matches to Holley. I found a 4th cousin match to a sister of Jane’s.
This is what a DNA match looks like on Ancestry if you both have the shared ancestor in your tree.
So, if Jane was adopted how do I match her sister Mary Ann’s descendant? Cousin Harry said he had this same match, and some others. I didn’t look for any others yet as I ran out of time that day, but I imagine unless all of their children were adopted and had the same Indian parents, the story about Jane is just not true unless Howell or Elizabeth was an Indian and the story got distorted over time. Who knows! I know my DNA results do not show any Native American ancestry in them.
Court documents show Elizabeth filed for a divorce from Howell in 1848. Here is the abstract of the court documents:
In 1787, Elizabeth Holley married Howell Holley in Edgefield District, South Carolina. In 1827 or 1828, after forty years of marriage, Elizabeth charges that Howell began an illicit relationship with Nancy Hodge. She writes that it was then that he began to beat her “with various Instruments sometimes with his fists sometimes with a hickory at other times with a cowhide and very often threatened her life.” She claims that Howell left their domicile, taking Nancy with him to Georgia, and then to Alabama, and abandoning her and their nine children. Later, the couple reconciled, but in 1830 Howell again became violent and Elizabeth fled for her life. Elizabeth claims that Howell now lives with Nancy and their illegitimate offspring, six or seven in number. According to Elizabeth, Howell is old and senile; and he possesses a large estate, including a “valuable set of mills,” horses, cattle, hogs, sheep, “a large quantity of money,” and fifteen slaves, five men, four women, and six children. Elizabeth, too, is very old, and unable to support herself. She asks for a divorce and alimony. In his related answer, Howell denies all charges of violence against his wife and denies that Nancy Hodge lives in his house. He counter charges that Elizabeth was a difficult, dissatisfied, and jealous woman, who made his life unbearable.
This was reported by the Digital Library on American Slavery, which you can view here, Petition 20184802 Details.
What’s up with Howell? Deserting his family, beating my great-grandmother Elizabeth, how dare he! I think Elizabeth must have been very brave to bring the case against him in that day and time.
I’m not letting ole’ Nancy Hodge off the hook either, she has some explaining to do!
I’ve looked to see what Elizabeth’s maiden name is, and it’s different on every tree of course. I’ve seen McCoy, Hampton, Seaton, but I haven’t found a marriage record from 1787 in Edgefield, South Carolina for Elizabeth and Howell so that is on the ToDo List!
And, technically, I haven’t really found any definite piece of paper that says Jane is their daughter. Just the DNA test, but it’s a good starting place. I think I will try to see about getting a copy of those court records from Tallapoosa, Alabama. Maybe there are more details in there that might offer up some clues. Wouldn’t it be great if it listed Howell and Elizabeth’s children by name!
I found Howell Holley listed on the 1850 Mortality Schedule in the Western Division of Chickasaw County, Mississippi. He died in September 1849, after four months of consumption. It states he was 84 years old, so that puts him being born around 1765.
This is how I descend from Howell Holley: