Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Elizabeth Hayden Matthews

Sometimes all one has to go on in looking back at the life of an ancestor are census records, and if you're lucky, another document such as a marriage certificate or death record. I am looking for more information on my second-great-grandmother, Elizabeth Hayden Matthews. She was born in the area around the borders of Barren County, Warren County and Edmonson County, Kentucky on 28 September 1869. I know she was the daughter of William Matthews and Martha Jane Free. I have census records, her death record, and some vague stories.

Last month, I wrote about her daughter, my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Lois Whitley.

Elizabeth in the Census

In the 1870 US Census, taken on 7 July 1870, Elizabeth appears in the household of William and Martha in Glasgow Precinct, Barren County, Kentucky.
By the 1880 US Census, the family was in the Village of Slick Rock, Barren County, Kentucky.

Around 1885 or 1886, Elizabeth married Thomas Whitley, son of Robert Jackson Wheatley and Melissa Catherine Grinstead. They had at least the following 12 children:
1. Martha Belle "Mattie" Whitley - born 3 December 1886
2. Minnie Catherine Whitley - born September 1888
3. Thomas B "Tommy" Whitley - born February 1890
4. William F "Willie" Whitley - born July 1891
5. Grover Cleveland Whitley - born 9 February 1893, died 20 March 1983 in Indianapolis
6. Omer Dural Whitley - born 24 July 1895
7. Bryan Whitley - born October 1898
8. Elizabeth Lois Whitley - born 15 March 1901
9. George C. Whitley - born 1903
10. Margaret M. "Maggie" Whitley - born 1907
11. Earl Bennie Whitley - born February 1909
12. Nellie Ruth Whitley - born 20 May 1912

In the 1900 US Census, the family appears in Elk Springs, Warren County, Kentucky:
By 1910, the family was in Rocky Hill, Barren County, Kentucky.
Elizabeth died on breast cancer on 14 August 1915, at the age of 45 years old. Her death certificate was signed by her mother, Martha Free of Rocky Hill, Kentucky. She was buried in Pleasant Grove Cemetery, which is on the edge of Warren County, in the Smiths Grove zip code area.

Vague Stories

About a year or so ago I communicated with a woman on Ancestry's Messages feature about Elizabeth Hayden Matthews and her parents. When I asked about Elizabeth and the origin of her middle name Hayden, she replied

"...These families crossed county lines, married cousins, divorced, and then remarried. However, they all claim not to be related. If I'm not mistaken, Hayden was Nancy's father's first name. There were some quirky naming conventions back then. Children were often named for one or both of their parents, an earlier sibling that had died, a son that they had hoped for, someone they admired, or someone they learned about in school. The majority of the families in this area had early connections and moved into the state either by river boat or wagon using the major tributaries coming from Virginia on the northern side of the state or through Tennessee on the Southern side using the Pennington Gap..."

I replied, and the next day she wrote:

"There was some shame in the families and everyone was always tight-lipped about whatever it was. I just view things as facts of life. I fondly remember visiting my grandparents on their farm in Smiths Grove. They had me hitch up the buckboard they had and we rode out [to] Grandma [Martha Jane] Mathews' two room log cabin. She cooked in a spider on an open fireplace and slept on a tester bed. If you stayed overnight you had to climb up a log ladder to a sleeping loft where you slept on handsewn quilts on a bed of straw. Her marriage certificate was on a sheepskin. I don't know where that ever ended up. She kept a long rifle over the fireplace and she didn't hesitate to use it. I don't know where that went either. She loved children and I still have a little basket she bought from the tinker for twenty-five cents almost 70 years ago. If we could only go back and ask the questions we have now. Take care and I will be back in touch with you."

From correspondence with another person researching the Matthews family, the impression is that Elizabeth's parents fought and ultimately separated. This is something that comes up when looking back at family history, sometimes you find things that are not pleasant or people would rather be forgotten.

I have read that Rocky Hill in Edmonson County, Kentucky was hit with a devastating fire, which burned half the town including the Matthews' home. I have not yet been able to find information on the fire, so this is something I will try to track down through one of the area libraries or the helpful folks at Western Kentucky University.

With six siblings, 12 children of her own and a number of grandchildren, I am interested to know if there are other descendants of Elizabeth out there who may have more information and are willing to share.

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