Wednesday, July 27, 2011


© Kathy Duncan, 2011

Early in our relationship my husband often wondered if we might be related to each other. After all, his great-grandfather was named Rev. Duncan Hyder Selph, and my last name is Duncan. Decades later, I can still say that not only we do not have any ancestors in common, which is almost a mathematical oddity at this point since our ancestors frequently lived in the same counties at the same time, but that I can not account for the source of Duncan Hyder Selph’s name.

Here is what is known to date about Rev. Duncan Hyder Selph. In the records he is referred to as Duncan H. Selph, Duncan Hyder Selph, at least once as Duncan Hyde Selph, but usually as D.H. Selph. According to his tombstone in Oak Grove Cemetery in Oak Grove, Jackson County, Missouri, he was born on October 22, 1825. His tombstone can be viewed on According to census records, he was born in North Carolina. Family tradition narrows his place of birth to Chatham Co., NC where Peter Self can be located on the 1830 census .

Peter Self is believed to be Duncan Hyder Selph’s father primarily because of the similarity of naming patterns among Peter’s grandchildren. Peter Self who was in Benton County, Tennessee by 1850 had a son named Iley Nunn Selph, who became a physician. Dr. Iley Nunn Selph named his own son Duncan Hyder Selph. Meanwhile, Rev. Duncan Hyder Selph named two of his sons Duncan Hyder Selph and Iley Nunn Selph. It is this repetition of unique names that links Rev. Duncan Hyder Selph to Peter Self with the assumption that they are father and son.

Regrettably, Duncan Hyder Selph was not enumerated in Peter Self’s 1850 Benton County household. To date, Duncan Hyder has not been found on the 1850 census. There is, however, a third otherwise unaccounted for male in Peter Self’s 1840 Benton County household who is the correct age to be Rev. Duncan Hyder Selph.

The shift in spelling from Self to Selph seems to have happened in Rev. Duncan Hyder and Dr. Iley Nunn Selph’s generation.

Duncan Hyder Selph’s first appearance in the records was as a student in the junior class at Union University, Murfreesboro, Tennessee during 1849-1850 term. The school catalogue stated that he was from “Lexington, Tenn.” He appeared again in the 1850 - 1851 catalogue as a senior. While a student at Union College, Duncan Hyder was a member of Phi Gamma Delta.

Also appearing in the Union University catalogue was Paul W. Dodson, Professor of Mathematics and Dean. Paul W. Dodson was Duncan Hyder’s future brother-in-law. In 1850, P.W. Dodson was a boarder in the household of Lavinia (Murfree) Burton. He married her daughter Sarah M. Burton on July 23, 1850 in Rutherford County, Tennessee. Their wedding was a little more than month after the marriage of Sarah’s sister Lavinia E. Burton to Joseph Henry Stewart on June 4, 1850, also in Rutherford County, Tennessee. Duncan Hyder would become Lavinia’s second husband. It seems probable that they became acquainted with each other during Duncan Hyder’s years at Union University.

Whereas Duncan Hyder Selph is missing from the 1850 census, his future wife Lavinia was enumerated twice. In 1850 the enumerator was to record each person living in a household as of June 1, 1850. Since Lavinia Burton did not marry until June 4, it can be assumed that she was still living in her mother’s household and should have been enumerated there as, indeed, she was when the enumerator arrived on November 13, 1852 to take the census. However, Lavinia was enumerated prior to that on October 23, 1850 in Madison County, Tennessee while living with her new husband Joseph Stewart in the household of her widowed, elder sister Mary A. Goodwin. Lavinia Emily (Burton) Stewart was widowed on March 12, 1851. She had only been married for nine months when her young husband died or was killed. There were no surviving children from their union. Lavinia apparently continued to live with her sister rather than returning to her mother in Murfreesboro.

During his senior year at Union University, 1850 - 1851, Duncan Hyder Selph was also the pastor at Bradley’s Creek Baptist Church in Lascassas, Rutherford County. Lascassas is fourteen miles from Murfreesboro. He graduated from Union University in 1852 and was ordained in Lincoln County, Tennessee. Rev. William Shelton, a professor of Greek and Hebrew at Union College [University] preached a sermon for Duncan Hyder’s ordination at the Mulberry Church in Lincoln County, Tennessee. This sermon was published in The Baptist Preacher in 1852 at the request of the church. The sermon is lengthy and contains no personal information about Duncan Hyder Selph.

The Baptist Register for 1852 by John Lansing Burrows lists Duncan Hyder Selph’s residence as Cainsville. By the latter part of 1852, Duncan Hyder was in Madison County, Tennessee where he served as a delegate to the West Tennessee Baptist Convention. At the end of the year, he married Lavinia (Burton) Stewart on December 21, 1852 in Madison County, Tennessee. Lavinia had been widowed for twenty-one months, but Duncan Hyder could only have been in Spring Valley for a few months before their marriage. The speed of their courtship suggests that they were acquainted with each other previously in Murfreesboro.

Duncan Hyder Selph’s career as a minister can be traced until his death in 1874. Many dates and places overlap, and at this point I do not have precise transfer dates for him.

From 1852 to 1858, Duncan Hyder Selph was the president of the Baptist Male Institute in Spring Creek, Madison County, Tennessee. In 1854 the school’s name was changed to West Tennessee Baptist Institute. In 1853, Duncan Hyder was again a delegate to the West Tennessee Baptist Convention which was held in Spring Valley that year. From 1855 to 1857, in addition to his duties as president of West Tennessee Baptist Institute, Duncan Hyder was preaching a sermon once a month at the First Baptist Church of Jackson in Madison County.

On January 15, 1854, their first son Hardy B. Selph was born.

In February of 1856, Lavinia E. Selph received three slaves as a gift from her mother Lavinia B. Burton. Later that year, on June 19, Washington Selph, the infant son of D.H. and Lavinia Selph, was buried in the Utley Cemetery, now called the Spring Valley Cemetery, in Madison County. He had only survived one day. Washington Selph’s tombstone may be viewed on

Probably feeling the need to provide roots for his young family, that same month Duncan Selph purchased a three acre lot on the west side of Main Street in Spring Valley for $475 and built a “substantial” dwelling there. Later in 1857, West Tennessee Baptist Male Institute once again changed its name and became known as Madison College with D.H. Selph continuing as its president.

Daughter Sallie B. Selph was born on 5 May 1857.

By March 1858, Duncan Hyder Selph had accepted a new position as president of Eaton College for Women in Murfreeboro, Tennessee. The new house and lot on Main Street were sold for $3,000 to Lemuel Day. The move to Murfreesboro, would locate the growing young Selph family near Lavinia’s mother, Lavinia B. (Murfree) Burton.

Daughter Priscilla "Dee" Selph was born in December of 1859, probably in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Duncan Hyder only served as president of Eaton College for a short time. While the Selphs were on the Rutherford County, Tennessee census on June 6, 1860, later in the year D.H. Selph accepted a position as president of the Danville Female Academy in Danville, Boyle County, Kentucky, and the young family was moving again.

The Danville Female Academy was brand spanking new in 1860. It was an imposing structure with grounds landscaped with magnolia japonica, mountain ash, maple and tulip trees, hawthorn, white pine and fir. The school stressed an education in science, humanities, and had a teacher preparation program. At the end of four years, its attendees received a Mistress of Arts degree. It was attended by daughters of prominent families in Boyle County. In addition to serving as its president, Duncan Hyder Selph was a professor of mathematics, moral philosophy, and ancient languages. He was assisted by his wife Lavinia E. Selph.

While at Danville, three more children were born to the Selphs: Duncan Hyder Selph, Jr. in 1861; Elizabeth “Bettie” Vicks Selph on December 9, 1863; and John Williams Selph in December of 1865. According to the 1870 census, son Frank B. Selph was born on February 1, 1866 in Tennessee. Either this is an error, or it suggests that Lavinia was at her mother’s home in Murfreesboro when Frank was born.

By June of 1861, the Danville Female Academy may have already been experiencing financial problems. The Civil War had just begun, but things may have already been thrown into chaos. On June 17, 1861, at the end of the term, little Sallie Scott, a student at Danville Female Academy, was delivered to her home by Mr. Cooper along with a note from President Duncan Hyder Selph, asking that her father send remittance to the school for her expenses. As the war drug on, Duncan Hyder allowed daughters of destitute ministers to attend Danville Female Academy on “scholarship.” This action along with other financial difficulties experienced during the war years is credited with plunging Danville Female Academy into financial ruin.

In July of 1863, D. H. Selph was required to enlist for the draft. Since he was married, he was registered as a Class II individual subject to military duty from Boyle County, Kentucky. Younger men and unmarried men were registered as Class I individuals. For that record he stated that he was 38 years old and had been born in North Carolina.

For the 1864-1865 term, Danville Female Academy published a catalogue that listed Rev. Duncan H. Selph as President and his wife Lavinia as Assistant Principal. In attendance were the older Selph children: [Hardy] M.B. Selph and Sallie B. Selph. The cover of the catalogue featured a block print of the school with students and faculty on the lawn. Both the catalogue and photograph from which the block print was made are in the online archives for Centre College. They date the photograph to c. 1865, but it must have been made earlier in order for it to be used as the cover of the 1864-1865 catalogue. The photograph was probably taken in early 1864 or perhaps in 1863. Somewhere in the photograph are Duncan Hyder, Lavinia, and their children.

The 1865 commencement exercises of the Danville Female Academy were described in detail in a newspaper article that appeared in the Cincinnati Daily Enquirer on June 29, 1865. In it, the school and Rev. D. H. Selph are lauded. Duncan Hyder is referred to as “the learned and persevering Principal of the Academy.”

In 1866 or 1868, the First Baptist Church in Danville, Kentucky sent a letter to Rev. Broadus asking for him to recommend a woman to assist at the Female Academy. Broadus approached a young Lottie Moon. Within a week she was on her way to Danville and her first teaching job. Lottie Moon was the famous Baptist missionary to China. She taught at the Danville Female Academy until 1871.

In 1868, Rev. Duncan Hyder Selph was the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Danville in addition to his duties as president of the Danville Female Academy. At some point in 1868 Rev. D.H. Selph was once again the pastor of Bradley’s Creek Baptist Church back in Lacassas, Rutherford County, Tennessee. His son Washington B. Selph was born in Tennessee on May 14, 1868, so the Selphs were probably in residence in Tennessee by then. More than likely they moved in with Lavnina’s mother Lavinia Burton since they were enumerated with her on July 29, 1870.

Duncan Hyder Selph’s old alma mater Union University had suffered so greatly during the Civil War that it closed its doors from 1861 to 1868. It’s first president after it reopened in 1868 was D.H. Selph. His acceptance of that position was seen as a positive sign of the school’s potential to endure.

Next, Duncan Hyder Selph followed Dr. Durbin as president of the Baptist Female College in Lexington, Lafayette County, Missouri, supposedly in 1869. Certainly, he was still in Murfreesboro when he mailed a letter to Nashville on 28 August 1869. In reality, he probably did not begin at Baptist Female College until late in 1870. He resigned from First Baptist in August of 1870. He and Lavinia joined the First Baptist Church of Lexington, Missouri in October of 1870. Duncan Hyder was the pastor of that church from 1871 to 1872.

Iley Nunn Selph, the youngest child of D.H. and Lavinia, was born in Lexington, Missouri on February 9, 1872.

Sometime in late 1872, Duncan Hyder Selph’s health began to fail him. He was ill for more than a year prior to his death. In a letter written from Lavinia’s cousin Mary M.M. Hardeman to Lavinia’s mother, Lavinia (Murfree) Burton, Hardeman wrote, “When did you last hear from him [D.H. Selph?] and my dear cousin Lillie and their 9 children? I cannot realize that she has so many, yet it has been a long time since I had the happiness of meeting her. How is Mr. Selph and how are they all? I hope his restoration may be perfected so that he may dwell in safety with his loved ones and his lovely wife in bringing those dear children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. That in their home tenderness, the soft dews of the heart may cause good seed to opening up and bring forth fruit abundantly, I am of the opinion, when the heart is full of love, the world is full of beauty--it elevates and ennobles mankind, and I think we should cultivate a generous flow of kindliest feelings towards all mankind. It will reclaim the vicious and set their hearts and affecting right toward God and fill them with easy temper that is tender and affectionate towards men.”

Duncan Hyder and Lavinia were dismissed by letter from First Baptist Church of Lexington, Missouri on June 18, 1873. This was probably about the time he resigned as president of the Baptist Female College.

Duncan Hyder Selph spent the latter part of 1873 as president of D.D. William Jewel College in Liberty, Missouri. It is doubtful that he was able to carry out his duties very effectively since his health was in rapid decline.

Rev. Duncan Hyder Selph died January 9, 1874 and was buried in Oak Grove Cemetery in Oak Grove, Jackson County, Missouri. His obituary ran in a Lexington, Missouri newspaper:

“SELPH--Near Oak Grove, Jackson County, Jan. 8, after a long and painful illness of more than a year, Rev. Duncan H. Selph, D.D., formerly President of the Baptist Female College in this city.”

Lavinia E. Selph and children probably returned to Murfreesboro, Tennessee shortly afterward.

Above, children of Duncan H. and Lavinia (Burton) Selph from left to right: Sallie B. (Selph) McLean, "Dee" (Selph) Harding, Hardy Selph, and Bettie V. (Selph) Burton. Below, youngest child: Illey Nunn Selph.

Rev. D.H. Selph Graduates and Gets His First Teaching Job

Peter Self's Wife

Peter Self vs. Peter Smith Self

Page last updated on 4 November 2017

Monday, July 18, 2011


© Kathy Duncan, 2011

Mrs. Turner pointed over my shoulder, “You can see it from here. The cemetery is under that stand of trees on the hill.” Her tone seemed meant to discourage me. As I turned and followed her finger, I was instantly a bit taken aback. The little grove of trees appeared to be at least half a mile away with no road to it in sight.

I turned back to her and asked, “Is there a road over there?” Again, her response was discouraging, “Not really.” I took another look at the cemetery. If I stuck to the fence line until I got to the top of the hill, I would not get lost. It was drizzly and a little muddy, but I did not care. “Can I walk through this pasture?” She just looked at me silently. “Is there a bull in that pasture?” That could be deal breaker. I was starting to waiver. Mrs. Turner remained silent, looking me up and down. Finally, I blurted out, “I’ve come all the way from Dallas, and I don’t know when I’ll ever be able to come back!” She sighed heavily, “Come on. I’ll take you.” I protested, but she assured me that she needed to go over there to check on her husband any way. Without a second thought, I left my mother and kids sitting in the car and happily jumped into a pick-up truck with a total stranger.

I hadn’t just come all the way from Dallas to get to that moment. I had traveled through the last twenty-two years searching futilely for the parents of my great-great-grandmother, Rebecca (Walker) Nevill. The pieces to the puzzle had fallen together only a few days earlier through the kindness of another stranger, Shirley Denney.

Early on a June day in 1997, I was preparing to leave on a long anticipated trip to Mansfield Arkansas. That morning I sat down with a cuppa coffee to check my email. Meanwhile, Shirley answered a roll call on the Scott County, Arkansas email list, hosted by Rootsweb, with a post detailing the family of one John Walker. A little girl named Rebecca L. was included among the list of his children. She was the right age to be my Rebecca, and I had long suspected, but could not prove, that she might be one of John’s children.

My grandfather Duncan told me that his grandmother Rebecca Nevill’s maiden name was Walker and that she had been born in Neosho, Missouri. There is no Texas death certificate for her, which would have the answers to the questions about her parentage easier to find. In 1870 Rebecca and husband Grandison Nevill were living in Titus County, Texas. On that census her name appeared as, “Louisa R Nevill,“ age 26, born in Missouri. On her tombstone, her name appears as simply “L.R. Nevill.” I concluded that her name must have been Louisa Rebecca. I scrolled the entire 1870 Titus County census looking for a Walker family from Missouri, but did not find any likely candidates. Next I scrolled the entire Newton County, Missouri censuses for both 1860 and 1850 and did not find a Walker household with a daughter named either Lousia or Rebecca in the correct age group. For many years I was at a standstill.

G.D. Nevill, Born Dec. 22, 1841, Died Oct. 4, 1924
L.R. Nevill Born Nov. 8, 1844, Died Mar. 23, 1912

Then I ordered Granderson D. Neville’s Arkansas homestead papers. From them, I learned that he and Rebecca had removed from Titus County, Texas to Scott County, Arkansas, settling on their homestead on 5 August 1871. There did not seem to be any one there related to Granville. That meant that maybe Rebecca was. On the 1870 Scott County, Arkansas census there was a family headed by John Walker with children born in Missouri. John Walker, age 48, and wife Hannah, age 46, were old enough to be my Rebecca‘s parents. Armed with this new information I spent a long day at the National Archives Branch in Ft. Worth examining every John Walker household in Missouri in 1850 and 1860. When that got me no where, I looked at Johnson Walker and then at every household hold in which the head of household’s given name started with the initial J. When the day was over, I had ruled out every John Walker household in Missouri. No one had a little girl named Louisa, Rebecca, Louisa Rebecca, Rebecca Louisa, L R or R L or R or L of the correct age. I had hit a brick wall, and it seemed immovable. I gave up on the Walkers.

In the intervening years, the internet blossomed. I joined the recently created Rootsweb email list for Scott Co., Ark and monitored it. Then Shirley Denney posted her message and shed light on the mystery; the indexing services had overlooked John Walker’s household for both census years. He was, in fact, on the McDonald County, Missouri census in both 1850 and 1860, and my Rebecca was in his household in both years. In 1850, she is “Louiza” age 6, born in Missouri. In 1860 , she is “Rebecca L.” age 16, born in Missouri.

Shirley and I spent the rest of the day swapping emails and multitasking. I told Shirley that I was packing to leave that very day on a trip to Mansfield, Ark, where I was planning a research trip on my Duncans and Nevills. She took mercy on me and shared her research with me even though she had a busy day planned, which included mowing her lawn. Between laps around her yard, Shirley was checking her emails and digging through her own research in order to respond to my questions . I was doing the same while pulling loads of laundry out of the dryer and packing. I delayed my departure until late in the day so that I would be armed with as much information as possible. By the time I hit the road, thanks to Shirley’s generosity, I knew that Rebecca’s parents were John C. and Hannah (Holcomb) Walker, that Hannah was the daughter of Azariah and Susan Holcomb, and that best of all--John and Hannah were buried in the old Marshall field cemetery now located in Bobby Joe Turner’s pasture in Ione, Arkansas.

Ione, Arkansas was only a short detour off of Highway 71. Just six miles. My mother and I decided on the morning of our return trip to Texas that we had enough time go to Ione. On the way, we found ourselves in a convoy of chicken manure trucks. While discussing strategies for finding Bobby Joe Turner’s pasture, my mother laughingly suggested that we just follow the chicken manure trucks. “I’m sure they are headed to Bobby Joe’s pasture,” she kidded. At least, I think she was kidding. We stopped at a house on the highway into Ione and asked if they knew where Bobby Joe Turner lived. We were pointed up a dirt road. Within a few minutes, I was standing on the Turners’ porch explaining that I was looking for the graves of my great-great-great grandparents and that I had been told they were buried in an old family cemetery located in the Turners’ pasture.

Once we were in the truck, Mrs. Turner said that she also does genealogy. That explained why she had taken mercy on me. On the way she apologized for the condition of the cemetery. They had fenced it to keep the cows from dong any further damage, but it was now overgrown. She assured me that we would be able to see the Walker stones, though.

When we reached the pasture, Mrs. Turner’s husband, Bobby Joe, was sitting in his truck, overseeing the delivery of his chicken manure! Mrs. Turner waited patiently while I looked at the stones and took pictures.

I was fortunate that Mrs. Turner took time out from her busy day to help because to date I have not been able to return to Arkansas. Over the years I have also been fortunate to be able to continue exchanging information and research with Shirley Denney, who I count as one of my dear friends even though we have never met. Whenever I find even the tiniest bit of information on the Walkers or Holcombs, Shirley is the first person I contact.

The moral here is that no matter how much research we do on our own, we are always dependent on the kindness of strangers. There is always another researcher out there who holds the key to a problem that we can not solve ourselves. I wish that over the years, I had not been too bashful to knock on more doors and chat up more strangers.

Hannah M. Walker, Born Mar. 25, 1824, Died Feb. 26, 1901

John C. Walker, Born 1821, Died Nov. 1874

Saturday, May 28, 2011


© Kathy Duncan, 2011

Two researchers contacted me within the last week asking about the deaths of Martha (Sales) Duncan and her son William who apparently died on the same day. Their deaths on the same day suggests illness or an accident. Either would make for an interesting story. Maybe they died in a house fire or overturned wagon? Maybe they died in an epidemic? After sifting through my information, I’ve come to the conclusion that they did not die on the same day. No interesting story.

According to find-a-grave, both Martha and her son died on October 9th, Martha in 1869 and William in 1865. Both years are incorrect.

First, let’s look at the records of Martha (Sales) Duncan. Her tombstone in Coop Prairie Cemetery in Scott County, Arkansas was broken before this picture was taken in the late 1970s to early 1980s. The damage runs right through her year of death. In Cemeteries of Sebastian County, Arkansas, Wanda Gray transcribed Martha’s date of death as 1865. Larry Duncan who lived in Waldron and was a frequent visitor to Coop Prairie also transcribed Martha’s date of death as 1865. Since Martha’s husband Isaac Duncan married Susan P. (Reese) Hodges in 1867, Martha’s year of death would need to be well before 1869. Therefore, 1865 seems like an acceptable date of death for Martha. We can guess that the death years for Martha and her son William may have been transposed on find-a-grave.

Next, let’s consider what is known of William Duncan. His records are more problematic, and an easy conclusion can not be drawn at this time. Currently, find-a-grave links a tombstone for a William W. Duncan as the son of Martha (Sales) and Isaac Duncan. The entry states that William Duncan was born 6 Jan 1859 and died 9 Oct 1865. However the photograph of the tombstone clearly shows a death date of 2 Dec 1875. We could chalk that up to an recording error, but it is still not easy to link this William Duncan to Martha (Sales) and Isaac Duncan. The birth date on the tombstone is in conflict with two other records. The first conflict is with the birth date for William’s older sister Sarah Ann Duncan. Her tombstone states that she was born 7 Jan 1859. Were they twins born one day apart? No. Sarah’s birth date is consistent with the 1860 census which states that she is a one year old. This leads us to the second conflict. William’s age on the same census is 5/12 months; his age is off by one year from the birth date on the tombstone. In order for the tombstone to be William’s, the year on the stone should be 1860 not 1859. Granted, the tombstone could be William’s if the stone was carved incorrectly. Was Isaac Duncan too overcome with grief to remember the exact year of his 15 year old son’s birth? Did he write the date incorrectly or eligibly so that the tombstone mason refused to correct the error?

In order for the tombstone to belong to Martha’s William, we also need to be able to prove the he was still living in 1870. The 1870 Sebastian County, Arkansas census lists a ten year old William living with his father Isaac and step-mother Susan Duncan, so the stone could be William’s.

Note that neither census provides a middle initial for William Duncan while the tombstone provides a “W.” as a middle initial. If William were still living in his father’s household in 1880, it would be easy to decide if the tombstone belonged to him. Indeed, the 1880 census does not list a son William living with Isaac. That might suggest that William was deceased before 1880 except that there is 20 year old William Duncan, born in Arkansas, boarding with George Taylor in Palarma, Faulkner County, Arkansas. No birth place for parents is provided with this William Duncan’s entry, so it is impossible to rule him out as Martha (Sales) Duncan’s son.

We are left with questions. Is William Duncan’s tombstone in error? Did he die shortly before his 16th birthday? Or did he live well beyond 1875?

Saturday, March 26, 2011


© Kathy Duncan, 2011

In early 1898, young Iley N. Selph was stationed at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma. Geronimo was a prisoner at Ft. Sill at the same time. Iley purchased from Geronimo a beaded cane made from a deer leg. Geronimo had supposedly killed the deer from which the cane was crafted. The deer’s foot was the handle of the cane, and the angle of the cane was formed by the deer’s ankle. Three inches below the crook of the cane, Geronimo’s wife beaded the cane with red, white, black, and yellow glass beads. Midway down the cane was a beaded fringe. The deer’s hair was left on the leg between the beading and the ankle. The wife who beaded the cane was reportedly Chee-Ki-Vour, Geronimo’s eighth and favorite wife. I have not been able to find out any more about her, and I’m not sure that Iley reported her name correctly.

Iley shipped the cane to Col. William Campbell Preston Breckinridge, the editor of the Lexington Herald in Lexington, Kentucky. Breckinridge published a description of the cane and Iley’s accompanying letter in his newspaper on February 12, 1898:

Fort Sill, O.T., Feb. 4, 1898
Col. W.C.P. Breckinridge
Lexington, Ky.

My Dear Colonel--I send you by today’s express an Indian beaded cane. It was made and mounted by Geronimo, the famous White Mountain Apache chief, who was captured while on the war-path here.

The deer foot is one take from a deer which he killed and adds to its curiosity. The cane was beaded by his eighth or favorite wife, Chee-Ki-Vour, who alone, is said, took over fifty scalps during their outbreak.

Trust, you are enjoying the best of health, and that you will accept of this a token of esteem which I bear you, I am, my dear Colonel,
Yours most respectfully,
Iley N. Self

It is unknown at present how a friendship between Iley N. Selph and Col. W. C.P. Breckinridge developed. Breckinridge was a graduate of Centre College in Danville, Kentucky in the early 1870s. Iley’s father, Rev. Duncan Hyder Selph was the president of the Danville Female Academy in Danville throughout the 1860s. It is probable that D.H. Selph knew Breckinridge’s father Rev. Robert J. Breckinridge, who was the founder of the Danville Theological Seminary and a prominent professor there during the same time period. However, Rev. Breckinridge died in 1871 after the Selphs had moved to Lexington, Mo, where Iley was born in 1872. Rev. Duncan H. Selph died there in 1874. More than likely, the two families moved in the same circle at a later date, when Iley’s guardian was his uncle Dr. George W. Burton, a former missionary and resident of Lexington, Kentucky.

Geronimo had by 1898 turned himself into a cottage industry. He was willing to sell almost anything, most notably his own signature. Other Indians came to him and had him sign bows, arrows, and other items they had crafted because Geronimo’s signature would help fetch a higher price for the items. During 1897 and 1898 Geronimo sat for the painter E.A. Burbank for $2.50 a painting. In late 1898 Geronimo attended the Trans-Mississippi Exposition in Omaha, where he sold pictures of himself for a dollar. After the Exposition, Geronimo realized that he had charged too little for his sittings and demanded $2.50 a day from Burbank, which Burbank refused to pay.

It is doubtful that Geronimo actually crafted the cane that he sold to Iley. Regrettably, nothing is known of Iley’s meeting with Geronimo since the story does not seem to have passed down in the family. Sadly, Iley did not seem to have acquired any other artifacts from Geronimo. Additionally, I have not been able to locate the cane today. I am hoping that it is in the Breckinridge family or in a museum. This is where the help of a History Detective would come in handy.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


© Kathy Duncan, 2011

The quilt blogs that I follow reminded me in the most charming way possible (lots of beautiful pink and brown quilts) that this year marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. They set me to thinking about my own Civil War generation of ancestors, those who came of age during the war. In that group, I have eight couples. Of them, three of my great-great grandmothers became Civil War widows. However, not one of my great-great grandfathers was killed in the war. All three of them are second husbands.

Of these three widows, my great-great grandmother Duncan was the most elusive for the longest period of time. However, when her identity was finally revealed, hers was the most compelling story.

For nearly two decades, my great-great grandmother was only known to me as Susan P. Hodges, a widow woman with a son, Sam Hodges, who had married my great-great grandfather Isaac Duncan and proceeded to have a houseful of little Duncans with him. No one could remember her maiden name or where she came from. The census only revealed that she was born in Tennessee.

On the day I unraveled her identity, the big pieces fell into place in under twenty minutes. I had ordered a microfilmed copy of tombstone transcriptions for the Coop Prairie Cemetery in Scott County, Arkansas, which is located on the outskirts of Mansfield, Arkansas in Sebastian County, Arkansas. My goal was to locate all of the Duncan burials there. As luck would have it, that particular transcription was arranged by plots and not in alphabetical order. Smack in the middle of the Duncans, near Susan and Isaac Duncan’s graves, was an elderly couple named Reese. I almost passed over them, but duly noted them since they were old enough to be Susan’s parents. Now at an impasse, I paused to go back through my Duncan file in hopes that there was something there I’d overlooked. I read back over an entry from the 1903 Atlas of Sebastian County, Arkansas which described Isaac Duncan’s wife as “Mrs. Susan P. Hodges, born in Tennessee, and raised in Washington County, Arkansas.”

Raised in Washington County, Arkansas! Why hadn’t that ever registered before? Within a few minutes I had located a book of Washington Co., Arkansas marriages and found an entry for Anson Hodges who had married Susan Reese . Reese! I pounced on my cemetery notes. What was the Reece couple’s names and dates? W.W. Reece, 1816 - May 24, 1896 and Frances J. Reece, 1816 - Feb 10, 1896. Armed with their names I pulled out the 1850 census index for Arkansas and located William W. Reese in the index. Within a few minutes I was spinning microfilm. There in William Reese’s household, page 359, was a nine year old girl named Susan with three younger siblings: John, Eliza, and Margaret My next stop was Goodspeed’s biographies, where I located a biography for Susan’s brother John Reese. John’s biography revealed that “William W. Reese and Frances J. (Halbert) Reese, were born on Duck River, Maury County, Middle Tenn., and Madison County, Ala, respectively, and were married and made their home in the former State until 1839, at which time they immigrated to Arkansas, locating on a tract of land in Cove Creek Township, Washington County…”

Susan’s identity and family were finally revealed. Her personal story, however, was uncovered in other documents obtained later: her remarried widow’s pension; a Southern Commission Claim filed on behalf of Sam Hodges by John Reese; an oral interview conducted by Alfred Duncan with his father Warren Duncan, a grandson of Susan‘s; and finally, a family story passed to me through a cousin.

Here, then, is Susan P. Reese’s story:

Susan P. Reese was born June 13, 1839, presumably in Lincoln County, Tennessee, prior to her parents move to Cove Creek in Washington County, Arkansas. No documentation for her middle name has been located yet, but my best guess is that she was named after her maternal grandmother: Susan Poindexter, wife of Martin Halbert. Susan married Anson L. Hodges on January 7, 1861 in Washington County. Their wedding was conducted by Samuel Cox, a Methodist minister. They both stated they were 21 years old.

In January 1861, a few states had already seceded from the union. The first shots were fired in April at Ft. Sumner, SC, and the Civil War was officially underway. Arkansas seceded on May 6, 1861. The Reese and Hodges families, however, were Union sympathizers. Many union sympathizers fled to Missouri in 1861, but the Reeses and Hodges remained on Cove Creek.

Susan gave birth to Samuel A. Hodges on February 22, 1862, slightly more than nine months after Arkansas entered the war. Mary Wilhite, a midwife living on Cove Creek was called to attend the birth.

By August of 1862, Susan’s brother John Reese left his parents house and was hiding in the “brush” to avoid the Confederate conscription law. Learning in late October that the Union army was within reach, John Reese along with his brother-in-law Anson L. Hodges, and Anson’s brother Roland E. Hodges traveled to the nearest military post at Elk Horn Tavern in Benton County, Arkansas where they joined Company D of the First Regiment, Arkansas Cavalry. They enlisted on November 4, 1862. Ira Mannon of Sebastian County was also a member of this regiment; he was Isaac Duncan’s future son-in-law.

Within a month Anson Hodges was back in his old neighborhood, fighting in his first and last major battle: The Battle of Prairie Grove. Both the union and confederate armies charged through Cove Creek. John Reese, Anson and Roland Hodges were cut off from their unit on December 7 and taken prisoner by the rebels.

The Confederate army took about 100 prisoners from the Battle of Prairie Grove in a group to Ft. Smith. Nearly a month later the decision was made to march them to Cane Hill for an exchange. However, just 19 miles north of Ft. Smith, Anson L. Hodges and three or four others were taken aside. Anson’s brother Roland assumed that it was for the purpose of killing them. He never saw Anson again. Anson and the others were taken to Little Rock instead. Why weren’t they included in the exchange? Were they of some other value to the Confederates? If so, what? Subsequent reports vary, but Anson attempted to escape either 25 or 50 miles above Little Rock and was shot. His official date of death is January 10, 1863. His place of burial has not been located.

By her second wedding anniversary, Susan was a widow and mother of an infant son nearly one year old. The war would last three more long years. Where was Susan during the Battle of Prairie Creek? Was she back in her parent‘s household? Had they stayed on Cove Creek? The Morrow family spent part of the Battle of Prairie Grove in their basement on Cove Creek while the bullets flew overhead. Had the Reeses done the same? In July of 1864, Susan Hodges was still in Washington County when she filed for a pension as Anson's widow, signing with her name. However, a year later, in September of 1865 she and her siblings, John and Margaret Reese were in Dallas County, Missouri. Their mother, Frances J. (Halbert) Reese had a brother, David P. Halbert in Dallas County. That may account for their presence there. It is assumed that William and Frances Reese were also in Dallas County at this time.

Whether Susan spent the war years on Cove Creek or in southern Missouri, times were harsh. Cove Creek was ravaged by both armies during the Battle of Prairie Creek. On one single night, thousands of men camped along the small Cove Creek area. Both armies plundered every farm they came across. There could not have been much left at William Reese’s farm. It is impossible at this point to document his losses. He filed a claim before the Southern Commission, but the papers are not available. Either they are misfiled or were skipped during the microfilming of those records.

Family legend has it that they were starving during the war. Susan supposedly boiled the dirt from the floor of the smokehouse for the salt and then salted food with the murky water. There was precious little food to salt. At one point, she was reduced to eating rats. Warren Duncan speculated that they would have tried to catch rabbits to eat. At the close of the war, William W. Reese and family returned to Cove Creek to start over.

Meanwhile, in Sebastian County, 36 year old Isaac Duncan made his mark on an Oath of Allegiance on January 20, 1864. He was 5’ 8” tall, with black eyes and auburn hair. Arkansas needed ten percent of the men who voted in 1860 to sign an oath of allegiance to pave their way back into the union. It’s hard to know if Isaac was a Confederate seeking to live peacefully in Union controlled territory or a loyal Unionist hoping to help Arkansas return to the Union. According to Warren Duncan, Isaac Duncan hid in the mountains for long periods of time to avoid the bushwackers. Both during the war and afterward, Arkansas was in a state of chaos. Bushwackers preyed on the civilian population, killing, raping, plundering, and burning out farms.

A descendent of Sam Hodges related that Susan Hodges came to Sebastian County, Arkansas specifically to be Isaac Duncan’s housekeeper. His wife, Martha Sales, died October 9, 1865, leaving him with small children. Living near Isaac was Susan’s uncle Mark Halbert; her grandfather Martin Halbert was in Uncle Mark‘s household. No doubt Mark Halbert mentioned to Isaac that he had a widowed niece who could keep house for him and tend his children. Her move to Sebastian County would also relieve the Reese household of two mouths to feed..

John Reese’s Southern Commission Claim on behalf of Samuel A. Hodges dates Susan P. Hodges and Isaac Duncan’s marriage to 1867. Given the location of Isaac’s farm, they probably filed their marriage record in the Greenwood Courthouse, which burned.

Isaac Duncan had eight children by Martha Sale. Only two of them survived to adulthood: Rebecca (Duncan) Mannon and Sarah (Duncan) Knight. By Susan, Isaac had five more children: John, Thomas M., Dora, Richard Elick, and an unnamed infant.

Decades after the Civil War, Susan’s parents William and Frances Reese moved to Sebastian County, Arkansas, traveling by train. Their grandson Samuel A. Hodges had built a brand new house. He moved his grandparents into his old house, where they lived out the rest of their days When they both died in 1896, they were buried in the Coop Prairie Cemetery in plot that the Duncans were already using.

Susan P. (Reese) Hodges Duncan died on January 21, 1919. She outlived Isaac Duncan by eight years. They are both buried in Coop Prairie Cemetery, Scott County, Arkansas near Mansfield. Coop Prairie is the only cemetery in the United States to be bisected by a federal highway.

This photograph of Susan P. (Reese) Hodges Duncan with her grand daughter Nydia (Duncan) Price, daughter of John Duncan, was probably taken after Isaac’s death in June 19, 1910. In 1911, Susan P. Duncan filed for a pension as Anson L. Hodges' widow, which she could do as a "remarried widow" after Isaac's death. This time she signed with her mark, stating that she could no longer sign her name due to nerves.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


© Kathy Duncan, 2011

They say that once something is on the internet it never really goes away. Fortunately, for genealogists that statement is true.

We all know the disappointment of finding a promising link on the internet only to find that the page can no longer be displayed. When that happens, the page can be quickly accessed by selecting the "cached" link on google. Eventually, though, the page will not appear in cached and will disappear from search engine listings. Once upon a time, that meant it was gone for good.

Enter The Way Back Machine to the rescue. If you have an old url for an internet page that no longer exists, the pages can be recovered through the Way Back Machine. Just enter the old url into the search engine, and like magic links to it will appear.

The Way Back Machine can be accessed at

If you would like to play with an old, dead internet page to see how it works, you can enter my old family site, featuring my Duncan and Nevill ancestors:

It works like magic. The old page springs back to life: the old background and graphics are still there in living color. Most of the old internal links still work. There are snapshots of my old site, that date from 1999 - 2001.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


© Kathy Duncan, 2011

Iley Nunn SELPH,
husband of Carolina SANDOVAL

1872 - 1935
Duncan Hyder SELPH
1826 - 1874
Lavinia Emily BURTON
1829 - 1899
Francis Nash Williams BURTON
1779 - 1843
Col Robert BURTON
Lavinia Bembury MURFREE
1795 - 1881
Col. Hardy MURFREE
Sarah Brickell
Pedigree generated by


© Kathy Duncan, 2011

Walter Ballard GRAHAM,
husband of Beulah GALT

1891 - 1959
Thomas Jefferson GRAHAM
1855 - 1942
Henderson GRAHAM
1820 - 1864
1821 - 1861
Elizabeth BULLS
Margaret Enola BYRUM
1860 - 1930
Ralph Henderson BYRUM
1836 - 1906
Nancy Evelyn TURNER
1841 - 1882
Lavinia CHISM
Pedigree generated by

Saturday, February 5, 2011


© Kathy Duncan, 2011

The “Old Home Place” is my mother’s birth place and her childhood home, the place of her most cherished memories. It is located on the first piece of land that my grandparents ever owned. Its previous owner was the notorious Jack Pope.

When I was a child, we always took a drive out to see the house every time we visited my grandparents. In those days, the old house still had its windows and doors. My grandfather stored hay in it, stacked from floor to ceiling. It was a rare treat to be there when it was empty, and we could go inside. Visiting The Old Hone Place is a family tradition that continued through my own children’s childhood. In recent years, however, vandals have broken out the windows and stolen the screen door. In its declining years, the house looks more and more haunted. Certainly, the old house has a grisly history, but haunted….

On one trip to visit The Old Home Place, my son unexpectedly began channeling the voices of my mother’s childhood friends, who loved to ask, “Are Jack Pope’s bloody handprints really on your fireplace?”

“..And there are bloody hand prints above the fireplace from the killer’s hands…” My son was just beginning to get started. He had his little sister squealing in delighted, terror as we pulled into the yard of the old house. I have no idea where his sudden inspiration came from. We had always been careful not to reveal the old house’s history around the kids. My mother and I shot a look over their heads; the same thought on both our minds: How did he know? She shook her head slightly at me in warning. I was no fool. Now was not the time to tell the kids the truth about the old house. My daughter was far too young. The immediate problem was to shut my son up…he was continuing to spin a story that was remarkably close to the truth.

The truth began long before Jack Pope murdered his family. His first wife had been home alone, raking and burning leaves in the yard. The hem of her dress caught fire. She must have resembled a human torch out there in the yard. Did she run? Certainly, she did not think to drop and roll because her burns were too severe. Somehow, she managed to get back to the house, removed her shoes, leaving them on the step, and crawled into bed.
A passerby spotted her smoking, burned shoes on the steps and investigated.

Help was sent for and arrived in the form of my grandmother, Bertha Chapman, who frequently helped to nurse the sick in the area. Mrs. Pope lingered for three agonizing days. She was literally roasted. Nothing could save her or ease her pain.

Jack Pope had a life insurance policy on his first wife and received a small sum of money as a result of Mrs. Pope’s sudden and unexpected death. The money, however, was a considerable amount to an East Texas dirt farmer. Collecting more insurance money was Jack Pope’s motivation for the murder of his second wife, Lydia.

When Lydia B. Pope left Jack, she took their baby Hubert with her to her parents, Mr. and Mrs. T.H. Hansell near Haworth, Oklahoma. Whether on her own or with the encouragement of her family, she filed for divorce from Jack. A week before the murder, Aaron “Red” Harvey, Jack’s partner-in-crime killed the Hansells’ dogs. Jack promised to pay him $500 dollar for helping with the murders. Later, Red Harvey claimed that he had only agreed to killed the dogs.

On the night of April 26, 1923, Jack Pope and Red Harvey burst through the doors of the Hansell home, guns blazing. They fired, point blank at the sleeping family. Killed instantly were Mr. and Mrs. Tom H. Hansell, their four year old son Aubrey, Lydia Pope and baby Hubert. The only survivor was a younger brother of Lydia’s. He rolled, wounded, between the bed and wall, Lydia’s body shielding him from the view of the killers. During the murders, Jack Pope Jr. stayed with the horses outside and claimed later that he knew nothing of his father’s intentions.

The two killers and their accomplice crossed back over the Red River. Jack Pope Jr. returned to the Old Home Place, where he was later arrested. Jack Pope Sr. was arrested in Clarksville. Harvey was also arrested, and the three of them were taken to Paris, TX to await their return to Oklahoma to stand trial for the murders. Figuratively speaking, Pope had the blood of his victims on his hands, but he left no bloody handprints on his fireplace at The Old Home Place.

Jack Pope admitted killing his wife for $2,000 in insurance money. According to him, the others were murdered to conceal his identity. He led the authorities to a place near the Hansells’ home, where he had hidden the three guns used in the murders. When the murder trial began, spectators were searched for weapons before they were allowed to enter the courthouse. Mob violence against Jack Pope had been a concern since his arrest.

Jack Pope and Aaron “Red” Harvey were sentenced to death. Jack Pope, Jr. received a life sentence in prison. Jack Pope and Red Harvey were electrocuted in McAlester, OK in January 1924. Pope went calmly to his death. Red Harvey, however, sobbed hysterically underneath his hood. They are both buried in the Department of Corrections Cemetery at McAlester, Oklahoma. Ironically, on, they each have a floral tribute while the graves of their victims are not even listed.

March 22, 2015 Update:

Tlhe situation at findagrave has changed. There are now memorials for the Hansells and Lydia Pope, who were buried in a mass grave without a marker. Below is the only funeral notice that I've found for them:

The old home place, circa 1930s - 1040s, viewed from the back of the house:

The page last updated on October 23, 2015.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


© Kathy Duncan, 2011

I first set eyes on Little Grandma’s piano in the spring of 1972 when I was fourteen years old. Little Grandma was my husband’s grandmother, Beulah (Galt) Graham Kinsey…

…Even as a fourteen year old teenager, I loved magazines. Fortunately, so did my mother and her mother, Bertha Chapman. I could always count on finding a stack of magazines at my grandmother’s house in East Texas, and since she subscribed to different magazines than my mother, there would be plenty of reading material in the event that I underestimated how many novels I needed to bring along. Sometimes there was not time to pack a book for our trips there.

In April of 1972, my grandmother Chapman was dying of breast cancer. My mother, brother, and I were traveling from Brownwood, TX to Avery, TX almost every weekend to be with her. Often my mother picked us up at school on Friday, and we headed straight to East Texas. On one trip that April mother had a fresh stack of magazines on the front seat of the car. I skimmed through them quickly.

“Any thing interesting?” my mother asked.

“Only this Maytag ad. There’s an antique organ in it, but people are in front of it, and you can’t see it. From what I can see it must be really neat. I wish I could see it.” I tossed the magazine down and went on to something else.

Truth be told, I loved the Maytag advertisements of the 70s. Women wrote letters to Maytag, detailing the exploits of their ancient Maytag washers. Their letters were little short stories about children, husbands, diapers and dirt. Wholesome American tales. Nowadays advertisers subscribe to the belief that if a girl can be hooked on a brand name by the age of 17, she will use that product for life. Probably. By the age of fourteen, I knew I was going to own a Maytag Washer…

…When I married my husband, I was already on my second Maytag washer. The first was a mistake. I bought it used, and it did not last long. The second one had been brand new out of the box. When we moved from Las Cruces, NM into a second floor apartment in the Dallas area, my husband and his nephew lost their hold on my Maytag while they were taking it up the stairs. It slid on its belly all the way to the bottom and was left with a long scar down the front to show for it. It took a licking but kept on ticking (whatever happened to Timex?). That washer was 18 years old when it finally conked out. It washed my son’s diapers for six months (before I gave up and bought disposables) and baby clothes, and six and half years later it washed my daughter’s baby clothes while also washing my husband’s restaurant linens, and it kept on running for several more years after that…

My husband and I had probably been married for at least 15 years when I learned the story of Little Grandma’s piano. I was visiting my mother-in-law in Albuquerque when she announced that she wanted to take me over to her brother “Chick’s” house because she wanted me to see her mother’s old piano. Thomas R. Galt had given the piano to his daughter, Beulah Galt for her 16th birthday. It had fallen into disrepair over the years, and “Chick” and his wife Jean Graham had restored it.

There was nothing to prepare me for how beautiful the old upright piano is. The wood literally glowed. It was the fanciest upright I’d ever seen. It looked like an organ, but was in fact a piano. As we sat at Chick and Jean’s admiring it, my mother-in-law and Jean started laughing about a letter Jean had written to Maytag about her old Maytag washing machine. The letter had been published in a Maytag ad. When the Maytag people came to the house, they insisted on taking the family’s picture with the old piano and not the old Maytag Washer.

I was dumbstruck. I had seen that old Maytag ad! It was a piano! Not an organ…

…The piano would have been given to Beulah after her parent’s house burned. When their house burned, there was so much confusion and pandemonium that the whole family ran out of the house and left the baby behind in its crib. A neighbor came in the back the door of the house to warn the family that the house was on fire, scooped the baby out of its bed, and emerged with it outside at about the same time that the family realized that no one had thought to grab the baby. Most of the Galt family heirlooms were lost in the fire.

When Thomas R. Galt gave the piano to Beulah in 1907, he was a poor man who moved his family once a year in search of work and of better land to farm. Given the piano’s size, it was not the most practical gift. It speaks, though, of a poor man’s dream to settle down, to plant roots, to gather his family around in harmony, to own something beautiful. When the Galts moved from Wichita Falls to Floydada, TX in 1910, the piano would have been roped inside one of the two wagons that moved the family. Its young mistress drove one wagon. The chickens swung in crates under the wagons while the cow walked along beside. Three years later the Galts picked up and moved from Floydada to Hale Center, TX, where they finally settled down. Their journey had originated in Farmingdale, IL where Beulah had been born, through Nebraska and Missouri into Texas. They were living the American dream, moving ever westward in search of a better life that was always just over the next hill. Hale Center, Texas was just over the last hill…

…Neither my mother-in-law nor her sister-in-law Jean remembered the year the Maytag ad appeared. I spent many years hunting it, and eventually found one for sale on the internet.

Jean Graham’s letter to Maytag in 1972 was another Wholesome American tale of family and endurance:

“Now going on 13, that washer still faithfully turns out 10 or 12 loads a week.

For almost thirteen years now, her Maytag Washer has performed above and beyond the call of duty, reports Mrs. Jean Graham, Whittier, California.

'She has raised three boys with all their dirt and grime, and one husband with all his grease and oil,' says Mrs. Graham. 'Still, on Monday morning, she is ready to make my sheets and pillowcases put the neighbors’ to shame.'

According to Mrs. Graham, her Maytag has done it with few complaints. Just 3 repairs in all these years, and her hsuband made them himself.

'For this I have moved her across the country with me, talked to her about her troubles, burped her through her cycles, and treated her like the lady she is. After all, don’t we all grow old? I just hope I do as well as my Maytag,' concludes Mrs. Graham.

Of course, today you can get New Generation Maytags with all the latest features. A washer with a giant capacity tub. A Maytag Halo-of-Heat Dryer with Electric Control. Both have Maytag’s special Permanent-Press Cycle.

We don’t say all Maytags will equal the record Mrs. Graham’s had. But dependability is what we try to build into every Maytag Washer and Dryer."

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


© Kathy Duncan, 2011

Beulah Frances (GALT) GRAHAM, wife of Walter Ballard GRAHAM

1891 - 1989
Thomas Resin GALT

1860 - 1953
James Junius GALT
1835 - 1923
Thomas GALT
Mary Ann BROWN
1838 -
Rezin D. BROWN
Florence May BROWN
1870 - 1934
John Deloss BROWN
1835 -
Catherine E. HAY
1838 -
Pedigree generated by


© Kathy Duncan, 2011

husband of L. Myrtle DENDY

1907 - 1989
Richard Elick DUNCAN
1873 - 1952
1828 - 1910
Browning DUNCAN
Rebecca W. PETTUS
Susan P. REESE
1839 - 1918
William Wheeler REESE
Frances J. HALBERT
Susan Gertrude NEVILL
1871 - 1940
Grandison D. NEVILL
1841 - 1924
Granderson D NEVILL
Martha E.
Louisa Rebecca WALKER
1844 - 1912
Jonathan Calvin WALKER
Pedigree generated by


© Kathy Duncan, 2011

Lydia Myrtle (DENDY) DUNCAN,
wife of Fred DUNCAN

1913 - 2006
Buford Watts DENDY
1869 - 1934
James Hogan DENDY
1837 - 1892
William C. DENDY
Lydia Ann PUGH
1842 - 1922
Burrell B. PUGH
Barbara C. SMITH
Louise DAVIS
1880 - 1918
Eli Van Buren DAVIS
1844 - 1913
William F. DAVIS
1843 - 1923
Thomas Newton YARBERRY
Elizabeth RENTFRO
Pedigree generated by


© Kathy Duncan, 2011

Willie Sargent CHAPMAN, husband of Bertha BROWN

1892 - 1987
William Sargent CHAPMAN
1868 - 1893
Abner Chapman
1832 - 1882
Martha Frances MEADOWS
1834 - 1909
Martha KING
Mary Charlotte CAWTHON
1858 - 1918
Rutherford Porter CAWTHON
1822 - 1880
Susan Jane MASON
1833 -
Wiliam MASON
Matilda LEWIS
Pedigree generated by


© Kathy Duncan, 2011

1899 - 1973
Toy Mansel BROWN
1875 - 1953
John Calhoun BROWN
died 1875
Mary Emma BARBER
1846 - 1919
1810 - aft 1880
Arcena MOORE?
1812 -
Henrietta Elizabeth KELLEY
1875 - 1971
Mansel Pinkney KELLEY
1843 - 1912
1786 - 1837
Nancy Missouri OWENS
1819 - 1912
Elizabeth Ann Rebecca THOMPSON
1845 - 193
1804 -
Pedigree generated by

Monday, January 17, 2011


© Kathy Duncan, 2011

In The Seven Daughters of Eve, Bryan Sykes explains that mitochondrial DNA passes unaltered from mother to daughter and has been doing so for generations. Remarkably, there are only seven different strains of mitochondrial DNA in the world. The world’s family of women is very small.

My own mitochondrial DNA can only be traced for a few generations beginning with my maternal grandmother, Bertha (Brown) Chapman, who was preceded by her mother, Henrietta Elizabeth “Bessie” (Kelley) Brown, who was preceded by her mother, Elizabeth “Eliza” Ann Rebecca (Thompson) Kelley, who was preceded by her mother, who was probably named Arcenia or Sarina (Williams) Thompson. Arcenia Williams is just one of my many brick walls.

While our mitochondrial DNA passes unaltered, we inherit traits from all our ancestors. Some of those traits are more persistent than others.

In 1987 I attended my grandfather W.S. “Bill” Chapman’s funeral. Afterward, we all gathered at the home of my Aunt and Uncle in Avery, TX. There were so many people that we spilled out into the front yard. I was standing with some of my first cousins when a woman approached us and waited patiently for a break in our conversation. I assumed that she was waiting to speak to one of my cousins. They had grown up in Avery while I was always an out-of-town visitor. They knew every one; I knew hardly any one.

As we turned to the woman, she addressed her comment to me. That alone was a surprise. What she said next was even more surprising: “I don’t know who you are, but I know that you are one of Bertha Brown’s grand daughters.” Caught totally off guard, I laughed and admitted that I was. My thoughts were racing. If my grandmother had not died, she would have been 88 years old. Instead she died in 1973 at the age of 73. Brown was her maiden name, so this woman had known my grandmother in her youth, before her marriage to my grandfather. However, she was obviously much younger than my grandmother would have been.

“You have her hands.” The woman continued. “I would know Bertha Brown’s hands any where. I always thought she had the most beautiful hands.”

I had never realized before that I have my grandmother’s hands. I had always gotten compliments on them because of my long fingers. Fingers my mother always hoped would belong to a piano player. Instead, they picked up a needle and thread and refused to practice the piano.

My daughter, who was not born until 1990, has incredibly long, thin fingers that are proportionally even longer than mine. My grandmother’s family would seem to be the source. Mitochondrial DNA in action?

In sifting through some of my files I came across a photocopy of a photograph of my great-great-great grandmother Nancy Missouri (Owens) Kelley, the mother-in-law of Eliza (Thompson) Kelley. It was taken some time before her death in 1912 at the age of 92. In it she is quite elderly, but her hands are prominently displayed. Hands with extremely long, thin fingers. My hands. My daughter’s hands. My grandmother’s hands.

We inherit traits from all our ancestors. We just rarely know which ones.

This is one of my favorite pictures of my grandmother: Bertha (Brown) Chapman.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


© Kathy Duncan, 2011

RULES ARE MADE TO BE BROKEN. One of the newer, cardinal “rules” of genealogy is to research one surname and one surname only until everything about that family can be discovered. The key is to avoid being distracted by other families even when they are found in the same geographical area. When researchers visit a library or courthouse, they are supposed to stick to a predetermined surname or list of individuals within a surname and ignore other family members when they pop up because those individuals can always be researched at a later time. That means if you are researching your paternal grandmother’s family, you don’t allow yourself to be distracted by your maternal grandfather’s family - even if you have traveled 300 miles to conduct your research. Instead, you return at a later date to focus on gandpa’s family. Whatever! I’ve always been too short of time and money to count on a second visit any where to do more research at a later date. Plus, I like to pursue whatever is interesting at the time. If I’d followed this “rule,” I would have spent the past 20 years futilely researching Granderson D. Nevill, and I would know nothing about any of my other family lines or my husband’s family.

Conducting successful research is often like a conversation. One topic often sparks another one and leads the participants into unexpected, but equally delightful subjects. There is spontaneity because conversations and memories do not follow rigid rules. I always tried, with varying degrees of success, to ask my grandparents questions that would spark a memory revealing new information. They must have often felt like I was grilling them under an harsh, bright interrogation light.

Once I asked my paternal grandmother Duncan if her Davis grandmother or aunt and uncle ever returned from West Texas to visit any family left behind in East Texas. My grandmother’s grandparents, Mary Lavinia (Yarberry) and Eli Van Buren Davis, left Bowie County, Texas in the early 1900s before my grandmother was born. They had settled near Hedley in Donley County. Her mother’s sister, Mary (Davis) Hardy and brother, “Bud” Davis had also removed to West Texas. Of their small family, only my great-grandmother Louise (Davis) Dendy was left behind.

My strategy worked on one occasion, and my grandmother immediately launched into a memory of her Aunt Mary and Uncle Bill Hardy stopping for a short visit on their way to “old” Jud Meadows’ place in Bowie County, Texas. My reaction time is sometimes a little slow, but in no time at all I jumped right in and interrupted her. You see, Judson Meadows was a younger brother of my great-great grandmother Martha Frances (Meadows) Chapman, who in turn was my maternal grandfather’s grandmother. I recalled in that moment that Judson Meadows had settled somewhere in Bowie County. The Meadows and Chapman families had mostly lived around Mt. Pleasant in Titus Co., TX. The upshot was that the Chapman and Meadows families on my mother’s side were in no way related to the Davises and Dendys on my father’s side. Yet here they were, interacting with each other.

“Why on earth were they going to visit Jud Meadows,” I blurted out? My grandmother’s story, where ever it was headed, was squashed right there, and she was off on a new tangent. It seems her Uncle Bill Hardy’s sister Anna had married “old man” Jud Meadows. According to my grandmother, Anna’s step-daughters were so mean to her that when she died, they refused to bury her by their father. Instead, she was buried by herself in a far corner of New Hope Cemetery in Bowie County.

I convinced my mother that we really, really needed to visit New Hope Cemetery . Within a few days we had gotten the directions off of the internet and were on our way. However, as is often the case, the cemetery was not easy to find. We were twisting around one dirt road after another and were on the verge of giving up when we met a pick up truck. The driver was dressed in a crisp, white dress shirt worn under a starched pair of overalls. He sported a neatly trimmed white beard and a straw hat. He was the very definition of dapper. “I bet he’ll turn out to be a Meadows,” my mother mused hopefully. I said no way. A man that dapper had to be a Nevill of some sort. He was surely a descendant of old Granderson D. Nevill Sr., a man who had at least three or four wives and had been divorced from two or three of them by 1880, a man who must have been able to attract the ladies.

Mother hailed the truck, and the driver stopped beside us. He readily give us clear directions to cemetery. Then he asked mother who we had buried there. That gave her an opportunity to ask if he was related to the Meadows family. Turns out, no, he was a Davis. That prompted me to ask if he was related to any of my Davises. Again, no. His mother, however, was a Pool. Excited, I asked if he was related to a woman named Minnie Pool. Oh yes, indeed. His grandparents were Oliver and Minnie Pool. Minnie Lee (Nevill) Pool was a grand daughter of Granderson D. Nevill Sr. and a sister to my great-grandmother Susie Gertrude (Nevill) Duncan! HA!

Mr. Davis had just left his mother’s where there was a family reunion in full swing. He gave us directions to her house and invited us to drop right in. The road to New Hope Cemetery took us right by her place. Her yard was packed with cars. It was tempting to stop, but crashing a reunion seemed awkward. I’ve wished many times, though, that we had stopped. Since then, Mr. Davis and his mother have died and an opportunity to learn more about the Nevill family has been lost. Still, I have fond memories of the day I met Minne Pool's grandson in the middle of the road.

In the photograph, Minnie Lee (Nevill) Pool is seated with baby Bess Lee (Pool) Davis on her lap. Husband Oliver Green Pool sits on the right and her father-in-law John J. Pool sits on the left.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


© Kathy Duncan, 2011

SERENDIPITY. Serendipity is based solely on amazing coincidence. It is the book that falls from the library shelf face down and lands on the page that contains the information one has sought for years. Serendipity is not to be confused with intuition or gut instinct. Those are grounded in conclusions drawn from research and insight. While intuition arrives in a eureka moment that seems magical, it is not serendipity. Recently, I saw a book online about paranormal genealogy research, and serenity moments were included as if the ancestors stood at our elbows, knocking books off of shelves for us. Perhaps. Who am I to argue? I just know that some of my best “discoveries” have come through serendipity instead of methodical searching.

Take Duncan Hyder Selph and his wife Lavinia Burton, my husband Peter’s great-grandparents. Back in the pre-internet, pre-census indexes after 1860, days, this couple was beyond elusive. I could not successfully link them to their parents or locate a marriage record for them. I had no idea where in Tennessee to look for either one of them. I had met my future father-in-law, Hardy J. Selph, exactly once. He regaled me with a story of being descended from a Revolutionary War officer who was supposedly buried near Nashville. Somehow I confused the officer with the photograph of Duncan H. and Lavinia Selph that he was showing me. I knew the picture was from the Civil War era and that the man in it could not possibly be a Revolutionary War officer. I knew nothing about the Selph family, so I was not able to keep up with what I was being told. Since Peter and I were only dating at the time, it did not occur to me to do anything more than listen politely.

Years later I was in the Dallas Public Library, working on something that I have long since forgotten when I knocked a book off of the shelf. It was time for me to pack up and head home any way because the library was closing, but I turned the book over and looked at the page on which it landed. My eye caught on a couple of names: Hardy Someone Or Other and Mrs. Selph. I glanced at the book title - something to do with Williamson County, Tennessee - returned it to the shelf and headed home. When I told Peter about it, he could not believe that I had not photocopied those pages before I left. He pointed out the some one named “Hardy” mentioned on the same pages as someone named “Mrs. Selph” was bound to be his relative. He had a valid point. Methodical, backward moving research had not gotten me any where. I might as well look in a book that fell off the shelf.

I wrote down everything I remembered about the book and within the week I was back at the library to photograph those pages. Mrs. Selph turned out to be Lavinia (Burton) Selph, wife of Duncan H. Selph, and Hardy Someone Or Other turned out to be her grandfather Hardy Murfree, the Revolutionary War officer buried in Tennessee. Things started falling into place quickly after that. Lavinia (Burton) Selph, who was nicknamed “Lilly,” was the daughter of Francis Nash Williams Burton and Lavinia Bembury Murfree, a prominent, early family of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Lavinia (Murfree) Burton was also nicknamed Lilly. Her legacy continued among innumerable little Lavinias, Lillys, Lillians, and Lilly Anns in the family.

LEAVE NO STONE UNTURNED. Or as I think of it, look under every rock. Based on my successes with serendipity, I nose around in everything that presents itself now. My favorite place to look for odd information is in books about antiques, old houses, quilts, and samplers. I finally hit pay dirt in The Quilts of Tennessee: Images of Domestic Life Prior to 1930 by Bets Ramsey and Merikay Waldvogel.

Featured in this book is the Soule College Quilt, a crazy quilt made by classmates at Soule College in Murfreesboro, Tennessee c. 1891, as a gift to J.H. Holt, an itinerant Cumberland Presbyterian preacher in Rutherford County. F.N.W. Burton was one of the original 1825 trustees of Soule College. Smack in the center of the quilt is a block with three large white, embroidered lilies, and what is even more unusual, the block is signed by “Lizzie Burton.” I feel sure that the block was meant as a tribute to Lavinia “Lilly“ (Murfree) Burton who died in Kentucky in 1881, but who was returned to Murfreesboro to be interred next to her husband F. N. W. Burton in the Old City Cemetery. Lizzie Burton was most likely Lavinia (Burton) Selph’s daughter Betty Vick Selph who had married Erwin Burton by 1886 in Murfreesboro.

BE GUIDED BY YOUR GUT. When I have a strong, overwhelming feeling about something, I try to follow it. It does not really matter if it is serendipity or intuition; if the feeling is strong enough, I go with it. No questions asked. Several years ago I was driving through Eastland, Texas on my way to New Mexico when I felt an overwhelming to stop, stretch my legs, and get a cup of coffee. I recalled that there was an antique mall on the square, and noted that it should just about be opening time. I figured I was making good enough time to stop for a bit. A little reward for getting up early and getting on the road. Plus, I remembered seeing a guest book for an old dam that I had seen the year before. Apparently, in the early days of automobile travel, dams were a tourist destination and people signed a guest ledger, recording their visit. If the ledger was still there, I intended to buy it. Unfortunately, it was gone, but in another booth was an old store ledger that someone had turned into a scrapbook, gluing all manner of things on top of the old store entries. I remember thinking what a shame. I still do. One of the pages had a picture of a large while lily glued on it. And a poem about a lily. I thought of the Lillys in Peter’s family and started turning the pages more slowly and looking more carefully at them. Just a hodge-podge of whatever had interested its creator covered page after page. Then I came to a page where the name Lilly was written over and over. Obviously, the little girl who did this was named Lilly, and she had practiced writing her name. Then at the very back were some old store entries that were never glued over. One of them….the one that made my heart almost stop…was a record of bricks bought and delivered for Mr. Murfree’s chimney. SOLD! I’ve yet to figure out exactly who this little Lilly was or which Mr. Murfree built a new chimney, but I will eventually figure it out.