Thursday, March 5, 2015

William Wellington "A." Ashby - 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks - Week 9, "Close to Home"

Almost 16 years ago, I moved from the southeastern part of the United States, where I was born and raised and where all of my family still lives, to Colorado.  Not many of my ancestors ventured westward, so no one came to mind right away for this week's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks prompt of "Close to Home."  Then, I remembered that a group of my mom's ancestors moved from North Carolina to Texas, which is almost next door to Colorado since Oklahoma's panhandle is all that separates our two states.  These ancestors and I lived in close locations when I lived in North Carolina, as they did growing up, as well as after we moved to different locations out west.

William Wellington "A." Ashby, circa 1925 in Kaufman County, Texas.
William Wellington "A." Ashby is my maternal 3rd great grand uncle
through my maternal grandmother's side.  My grandmother (living), my mom (living),
and I would be listed below Sgt. Murl Sanders Litaker.

This week, my maternal 3rd great grand uncle, William Wellington "A." Ashby (1854-1927), will be the focus of my 52 Ancestors "Close to Home" post.  According to Vaydene Hamm, one of William's granddaughters, he did not like his given middle name of "Wellington" and, as an adult, chose to go by William A. Ashby instead.  Confirming his given name, he appears in Rowan County, North Carolina, in the 12 Sept 1860 U.S. Census as W. W. Ashby, age 5, male.

W. W. Ashby, male aged 5, in the 12 Sept 1860 U.S. Census for Rowan County, NC.
However, the 1900 U.S. Census and late documents record his name as "William A. Ashby" or "W. A. Ashby."

William was born on 19 May 1854 in North Carolina (likely in Rowan County) to William J. Ashby (1804-before 10 Aug 1870) and Mary C. Ashby (1814-after 05 Jun 1900).  His mother's maiden name is not known.  He had two siblings - an older sister, Mary, born in June 1843, and a younger brother names James, born in March 1859.

In the 1860 U.S. Census record shown above, the area being documented and where he lived is described as "County North of the NC R Road in the County of Rowan State of N Carolina."

The 1870 U.S. Census records him as residing in Attwell Township, Rowan County, North Carolina, and living with only his mother, Mary.  It lists Mary's occupations as "Farming."  William J. Ashby, his father, does not appear in this or later censuses, so one must assume he passed away sometime prior to the date - 10 Aug 1870 - of the U.S. census being recorded in Atwell Township.  (The 1870 Census did not capture data on whether a person was single, married, or widowed.)  William's sister, Mary, wed Alexander Corriher in 1866 and, thus, was no longer living at home.  To date, I have not been able to locate his brother, James, in the 1870 U.S. Census, so it is unknown where he was residing.

On 17 January 1875, William marries Elizabeth "Betty" Rosena Rodgers (1853-1945) in Rowan County, North Carolina.

William Ashby and Elizabeth Rodgers marriage from page 14 of Rowan County Marriage Bonds.
(Image courtesy of Sue Ashby - member SueAshby39 on - and edited by Amy W. Kelly.)
William Ashby and Rosena Rodgers marriage from the
North Carolina Marriage Index, 1741-2004, on
William Ashby and Elizabeth "Betty" Rosena Rodgers Ashby, circa 1925 in Texas.

Between 1876 and 1894, William and Betty grew their family by having seven children as follows:

  1. David Franklin "Frank"
  2. James Edward
  3. Margaret Alice Ashby
  4. Charles "Charley" Backman
  5. Landa Genavia (often seen as "Lander" or "Landers" with various spellings of his middle name)
  6. Vester Lee
  7. Mary Carrie Bell

Page from the Ashby Family Bible showing the names and birthdates of William and Betty's children.
(Image courtesy of Sue Ashby and edited by Amy W. Kelly.)

The 1880 U.S. Census finds William living in Colebrooks Township (shown as "Brewers" in some documents), Cabarrus, North Carolina, in a household that included his wife, eldest son, a nephew named William, and his mother, Mary.  A notation on this census indicates that Mary is now widowed.

In 1898, William and his family moved from the Piedmont of North Carolina to Texas.  After much searching in an attempt to determine when this move occurred, I had almost given up on finding a date.  Then, I came across the handwritten notation shown below, which was on the left-hand side of the same page of the Rowan County Marriage Bond book that recorded William and Betty's marriage!  (The marriage of his brother, James, to Angeline Poteet - the daughter of Thomas Jefferson Poteet, Jr., the subject of one of my prior posts - was recorded on the same page also.)  William's mother and sister, both widowed, also moved to Texas with William's family.

Notation from page 14 of the Rowan County Marriage Bond book
showing that William moved to Texas from North Carolina in 1898.
(Image courtesy of Sue Ashby and edited by Amy W. Kelly.)

The 1900 U.S. Census, recorded on 05 June 1900, documents William, Betty, their children, and William's mother and sister as residents of "Justice Precinct 3 (north part excluding Willis Point town), Van Zandt County, Texas."

Location of Van Zandt County within Texas.
Van Zandt County shown in red.  Note Wills Point that was excluded  from
"Justice Precinct 3," where the Ashby family lived, in the 1900 U.S. Census.

The ability to to travel by railroad from the eastern seaboard of the United States to Texas was a relatively new development when the Ashbys moved west in 1898.  I do not know how they traveled from North Carolina to Van Zandt County.  However, my research uncovered that the town of Wills Point, right by where the Ashbys lived in Van Zandt County, was a true Texas railroad town at that time.  The City of Wills Point website states, "The Texas and Pacific Railroad has been located in Wills Point since 1873.  The town was built around the railroad.  Many businesses relocated here from the Cedar Grove Community when they heard the railroad would run through here."  Perhaps this new ease of traveling to a place with plentiful farm land made their decision to head west easier?

Additionally, I have speculated that maybe the promise of inexpensive or free land lured the Ashbys to move almost 1000 miles away from their North Carolina home.  I searched the Texas General Land Office ("GLO") database, and I found several land grant documents with grantees and/or petitioners by the name of William Ashby.  So far, however, I have not been able to verify any of the William Ashbys in that database to be the same as "my" William.  The land grants I located are not associated with either of the counties in which he was documented as a resident.  And, so, that search continues!  (When researching Texas,  it is important to note that Texas was not part of the federal 1862 Homestead Act.  Rather, Texas maintained all ownership and control over its lands and their distribution even after it became a state.)

In early May 1910, the U.S. Census for that year finds William and a group of direct and extended relatives living in Elmo, Kaufman, Texas.  Kaufman County is located about 30 minutes west of and next door to Van Zandt County.  The census indicates that William still worked as a farmer.  I have not been able to determine what prompted the move from Van Zandt County to Kaufman County, though my guess, again, is land availability.  The Ashbys and the Carters, daughter Mary Alice Ashby Carter's family, settled into Kaufman County and made it their home.  William lived there the rest of his life.

William A. Ashby and family members living in Elmo, Kaufman, Texas, in May 1910.
(Image courtesy of
Image courtesy of the Elmo, Texas, entry on

At 3:00pm on Christmas Eve 1927, William Wellington "A." Ashby passed away at home from a cerebral hemorrhage.  Ten days earlier, one of his blood vessels ruptured, thus leading to the fatal hemorrhage.  His son, Landa, reported his death to officials.  W. A. Ashby's death certificate notes that he was married and a farmer.  Additionally, it cofirms his 19 May 1854 birth date, and it records burial date and location as Christmas Day 1927 at Cedar Grove Cemetery.

W. A. Ashby's death certificate from the Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982 database.
William's final resting place is a historic cemetery located about seven miles northeast of Elmo on County Road 346 in present day Terrell, Kaufman, Texas.  On 16 June 1945, one day shy of her 92nd birthday, William and Betty's children laid her to rest beside her husband at Cedar Grove.

Cedar Grove Cemetery Main Gate
(Photo added to on 27 Dec 2010 by Frank Everett, FindAGrave Member # 2353053.)

Headstone of William A. Ashby and Elizabeth Rodgers Ashby
(Photo added to on 12 Oct 2010 by Frank Everett, FindAGrave Member # 2353053.)

©Amy Wood Kelly, 2015 - I am happy to share my genealogical research and writing with others, as well as to help others with their research efforts.  However, please do not reprint this post in full or in part or use excerpts from this post without giving full credit to me, Amy Wood Kelly, as the researcher and author as well as providing the permalink to this post.  Thank you, in advance, for showing respect for my request and the work I put into creating this post.