Saturday, July 4, 2015

Gasper Smith, War of 1812 Veteran

In Monday's visit at the US National Archives, I viewed two pension files. This week I covered the file for Thomas W. Thornhill. The second pension file in the set was for Gasper Smith, husband of Rachel Hampton. Back in February 2015 I wrote about Gasper and Rachel, and how they acquired the farm of my 6th-great-grandfather Samuel Hampton in Sullivan County, Tennessee. Gasper served in the 32nd Regiment, Maryland Militia during the War of 1812.

In the closing stages of the war with England, Gasper served for 60 days (from 1 August to 27 September 1814) before he was discharged in Baltimore. While I cannot yet confirm this, it looks like Gasper's regiment may have fought in the famous Battle of Baltimore, where Francis Scott Key wrote the "Star-Spangled Banner".

Source: US National Archives.
The document above includes the signature of Rachel Hampton Smith.

At the time of his enlistment, Gasper was 17 years old, 6 feet 1 inch in height, with black hair and a fair complexion. He was trained as a blacksmith. Gasper lived in Maryland for 4 years after his discharge, and then moved to Sullivan County, Tennessee. There he met Rachel Hampton. According to the file, Gasper and Rachel were married on 24 March 1825. They lived in Sullivan County for the rest of his life.

They had a large family, at least 10 children. Gasper died on 30 November 1858. Rachel filed for a widow's pension, which was granted in April 1879. Rachel was awarded a pension for the remaining years of her life. She died on 5 July 1886 in Sullivan County, Tennessee.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Street art for the 4th of July

The two murals below are from my Miami layover on 16 June, en route to Buenos Aires, Argentina (see Miami Layover Street Art tour part 1 and 2). Have a great 4th everyone.
Photos by Patrick Jones. Wynwood Walls, Miami. 16 Jun 2015.
Photo by Patrick Jones. Wynwood Walls, Miami. 16 Jun 2015.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Another in the web of family

Another supporter of Thomas W. Thornhill in his application for a pension from service in the 1st Tennessee Cavalry during the Civil War was Benjamin Hickey. He provided an affidavit on 29 October 1890, testifying that he had known Thomas for 30 years and that he was aware of Thomas' disability following the War. Benjamin's affidavit was also witnessed by Thomas' sister, Margaret Emily Thornhill Bowers and her husband William A. Bowers.

Benjamin Hickey was born in February 1824, and like Thomas, he served in Company C, 1st Tennessee Cavalry during the Civil War. Benjamin also has a tangled connection to my family tree. He was a younger brother of Sarah Sally Hickey (my 4th-great-grandmother), mother of Mary Catherine Green (my 3rd-great-grandmother and first wife of Joseph Thomas Jones). Benjamin's second wife was Louise Paralee Thornhill, a daughter of Alexander C. Thornhill and Minerva B. Preston. Alexander C. was a son of Joseph Thornhill and Sarah Westall, my 5th-great-grandparents.

Benjamin has a long file in his Civil War service record, and I am interested to go back to the National Archives to view his pension file in the hopes that there may be affidavits from others in the Jones and Thornhill families. A copy of his discharge papers from is below:
Source:, Civil War Service Records.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Leah Hart Thornhill

The Civil War pension file of Thomas W. Thornhill included the widow's pension application for Leah Hart Thornhill. Leah was 24 years younger than Thomas, born on 19 July 1853 in Jefferson County, Tennessee. The couple were married on 15 November 1893 in Hamblen County. A copy of the marriage certificate was in the pension file.
Photo by Patrick Jones. Copy found at US National Archives. 29 Jun 2015.
They appear together in the 1900 US Census in Jefferson County.

Thomas died on 10 June 1909, and Leah began to receive a widow's pension after her application was approved.

The file contained a handwritten note from Leah to the Bureau of Pensions, asking that the monthly payments be increased in line with a Widow's Pension bill approved by Congress. This increased her monthly payment from $30 to $40.

The monthly widow's pension was later increased to $50.

Leah and Thomas never had children. After his death, Leah worked in the homes of her nieces and nephews, assisting them with raising their children. Leah Hart Thornhill passed away on 21 February 1932 in Jefferson County.

Monday, June 29, 2015

In support of his kin

Today's visit to the US National Archives uncovered some new finds on my Jones and Thornhill sides of the tree. I took advantage of a post-meeting staycation day to view the Civil War pension file of Thomas W. Thornhill, son of Joseph Thornhill and Mary Polly Gass, a nephew of my 4th-great-grandmother Elizabeth Thornhill Jones. Thomas Thornhill and Joseph Jones, my 3rd-great-grandfather, were as close as brothers, so it was not a surprise to see Joseph appear as a witness for Thomas in his Civil War pension application. The file yielded several other gems, including a note handwritten by Joseph.
Photo by Patrick Jones. From US National Archives, 30 Jun 2015.
Thomas served on the Union side in Company C and L of the 1st Tennessee Cavalry during the Civil War. According to the surgeon's report in the pension file, Thomas was about 5 foot 5, with black hair (later turning grey), and dark blue eyes.

Both Thomas and Joseph Jones lost their fathers at a young age. The Thornhill and Jones families were very close and stuck together in support of each other throughout the Civil War. I have covered much of this previously in reviewing the various files on Captain John Thornhill. Thomas married Leah Warren Hart in Hamblen County, Tennessee on 15 November 1893. A copy of their marriage certificate was in the pension file. Leah was a sister of Martha Cordelia Hart, Joseph Jones' third wife.

On 29 October 1888, Joseph Jones wrote an affidavit for Thomas from Marysville, Blount County, Tennessee. He stated that Thomas became disabled in April 1863. Joseph and Thomas served in the same company.
Photo by Patrick Jones. US National Archives.
Photo by Patrick Jones. US National Archives.
The letter of 23 April 1889 provided additional testimony in support of Thomas' pension claim, along with a signature for Joseph.
Photo by Patrick Jones. Affidavit of Joseph Jones.
I believe this is the first time I have seen a handwritten letter by Joseph. It was quite cool to hold this letter, written by my 3rd-great-grandfather 126 years ago. There were more items in the file. In tomorrow's post I will write about Leah Hart Thornhill, Thomas' wife.

Additional item: While at the National Archives, a camera crew was filming with a celebrity for an upcoming episode of Who Do You Think You Are. It was pretty cool to see them use the 2nd Floor research room for a portion of this actor's story. I am looking forward to the episode later in July.