Friday, March 16, 2012

The Grahams Along the Greenbrier

      James Graham, from Scotland by way of Ireland, was one of the earliest white settlers along the Greenbrier River in West Virginia.  He had two brothers, John and Robert. Robert Graham, according to The History of the Graham Family (published in 1899), settled in Fort Chiswell, Virginia, about 1774.
       The home of Colonel James Graham at various times sat in Greenbrier County, Monroe County, and Summers County.  Of course, it never left the banks of the Greenbrier River at Lowell.  Colonel Graham built the three-story log home between 1770 and 1772, fought Indian attackers, and raised a family along the placid banks of the Greenbrier River.

       My great-great-grandfather, Arch Ballengee, was born to Isaac and Polly Ballengee on 3 November 1819 in Greenbrier County and was the grandson of Isaac Ballengee, Sr., another early settler of what is now Summers County, West Virginia.  He lived with his parents until he married Elizabeth Graham 22 June 1844 in Monroe County; Elizabeth Graham was the daughter of Joseph and Rebecca Graham and the granddaughter of Colonel James Graham, the settler and old Indian fighter.  Joseph Graham, Elizabeth's father, is the Monroe County resident who entertained the balloonist, Richard Clayton, in 1836 after his balloon crashed.  Clayton is the person for whom Clayton, WV, is named.  But that's another story.
            Arch and Elizabeth lived in Monroe County in 1850 with three children according to the census of that year.  The three children were Cynthia J. (8), Martha (3), and Herndon (1)  On 5 May 1854, a most trying year for the Graham family, Elizabeth Ballengee gave birth to a stillborn female child.[1] 
            Elizabeth Graham came from a family of nine children.  In David Graham's History of the Graham Family, a little history of each of Joseph's children is described.  However, Elizabeth's sister, Jane, has only the under-statement that she died unmarried. Mr. Graham was the kind of family historian who skims over the dramatic, albeit somewhat embarrassing, family events.  That's too bad, because Jane Graham, my great-great aunt, lived quite an interesting life and died in a most public manner.   
            For some reason Jane was motivated to write her will 16 February 1854.  Probated in the September term 1854 of the Monroe County Court, her will directed:  1) all of her property left with Archibald Ballengee be divided by his wife, Elizabeth, between Archibald and Rebecca Ballengee’s children (Rebecca was the sister of Elizabeth and Jane.  She married Archibald's first cousin, John R. Ballengee); 2) Florence Nowlan  give Cynthia Jane Ballengee a bed and cover from her property; 3) her daughter, Rebecca M., be given the use of bonds that were left with Archibald Ballengee, without any control by Rebecca’s husband; 4) if Rebecca M. and her husband have no children, the bonds are to go to her sister’s children; 5) all of the rest of her property is to go to her daughter, Rebecca M., to use as she thinks best without control of her husband, and at Rebecca’s death to go to Jane’s sisters' children. Obviously from her will, Jane trusted Arch and Elizabeth Ballengee more than her immediate family.   The will of Jane Graham stands as proof of the declining relationship with her family as early as February of the year in which she was murdered. 
Important in this will is the omission of any of her immediate family, including her parents and her brothers.  Jane's daughter, Rebecca, was born out-of-wedlock; her father lived in Missouri, according to newspaper articles, and at his death, he left $3000 to Rebecca.  This sizeable amount of money may have aroused jealousy in her family that motivated the sending of a letter to Rebecca’s husband, and ultimately, to Jane’s death. 
  Rebecca Graham, was married to a Mr. Miller and lived in Nicholas County.  Someone sent letters of a nasty intent to Rebecca’s husband, who then left her.  After Jane visited her daughter and found out about the letters, she returned home where her parents sided with their son, James, during a horrible quarrel.  They kicked Jane out of the house, and she went to her brother-in-law's house (the Nolans).
Jane was baby-sitting the Nolans' children on the evening of 27 July 1854.  About 9:00 p.m. she dressed and went out, leaving the children alone and taking a bonnet and pair of stockings with her.  Around 10:00 p.m. the families were awakened when Joseph Graham's barn caught fire.  Jane was known to be vindictive, so the first assumptions were that she had set her father's barn on fire.
Neighbors became concerned about Jane's disappearance after the fire.  They approached Joseph Graham about searching for her on his farm, and he said, "Go look in the ashes of the barn -- if her bones ain't there, they are in hell!"  The neighbors pursued a trail on the property, which indicated a struggle, then seemed to be a trail of someone dragging a body, with the trail ending at a stream where it seemed from the tracks that the body had been lifted.  Noticing an unusual number of flies, the trackers found Jane Graham's body in a tree near an old sugar camp.  The bonnet and stockings were found near her body.  Rather than being distressed by this discovery, the Graham family felt that their neighbors were meddling in things that weren't any of their business.  
The Greenbrier Era of  12 August 1854 reported an inquest was held on 7 August in which the jury found that Jane had burned the barn.  One witness stated that on the morning after the fire, he had seen a Negro "owned by the family" coming from the direction where the body was eventually found.  The jury ruled that when Jane set the barn on fire, she aroused a "fierce" dog that belonged to the family, and the dog had pursued her.  Some of the family had followed, thus making the marks of a scuffle on the trail, but that Jane escaped, and "came to her death by some unknown means".  A member of the jury later told an acquaintance of the reporter that the jury dared not rule otherwise because "the Grahams were such a desperate set that the whole neighborhood feared them".  
On 24 August The Lewisburg Chronicle reported that "one or more" of the Grahams' Negro men were in the Monroe County jail awaiting trial for the murder of Jane Graham.  The Daily Dispatch of Richmond reported that the Negroes were brought to court on the 21st, but when the prisoners were brought in, the Commonwealth's Attorney requested the trial be postponed until the next court session.
James Graham was charged with the murder of his sister on 20 November 1854.  On 19 April 1855 The Daily Dispatch wrote that James Graham, brother of Jane Graham, was tried for her murder in Giles County.  Testimony was given concerning the finding of Jane's body and the condition of her body.  The testimony states that Jane weighed about 200 pounds; other testimony stated that tracks were found of a "small" dog and that the Grahams owned a "small hound slut called Music".  The defense proposed that Jane had burned the barn and then either killed herself or was killed by the dogs.  Amazingly James Graham was acquitted.

 On 22 October 1856 another daughter, Mary Elizabeth, was born to Elizabeth and Arch Ballengee[3],  but Elizabeth died only a few months afterwards on 12 January 1857 of dropsy.[4]  She died at Keeny’s Knob in Monroe County at the age of 41 years 5 months and 30 days.  Arch was left with a three-month old infant and three other small children.  
Elizabeth’s father, Joseph Graham, died soon after his daughters on 8 December 1857 at Keeny’s Knob of inflammation of the liver.[5]  He had written his will 26 September 1854, around the time that his murdered daughter's (Jane) will was probated and before the trial of his son, James, who was charged with her murder in November. 
Joseph's will was probated at the May term of the Monroe Circuit Court in 1859.  He left his wife, Rebecca, one-third of his personal property and the use of any of his lands during her life.  He left to his daughter, Betsey (Elizabeth) Ballenger, 100 acres of land where she now lived, not to be included in the 286 survey left in her grandfather’s will to her mother, Rebecca.  His daughter, Florence Nowlen, received $10 of property; daughter, Jane, and her daughter, Martha, each received one dollar, and the rest of the estate was to be divided equally among his four sons and the children of his daughter, Rebecca Ballengee.  Since Elizabeth (Betsey) had already died, the children of Arch and Elizabeth (Cynthia J., Martha, and Herndon Ballengee) were represented at the probate hearing of Joseph’s will by John Echols.  The will was contested by John Nowlin and his wife, Florence (Graham), and Lanty Graham and Martha Miller, who were all represented by attorneys.[6]
After the will of Joseph Graham was settled in May 1859, Arch married for the second time to Margaret Honaker on 3 November 1859.[7]  Margaret was the daughter of John and Margaret A. Sams Honaker and was born in Greenbrier County 23 January 1826. 
In 1859 Arch Ballengee’s children attended the school of Joseph Wheeler in Monroe County.[8]  Syntha, age 12; Herndon, age 9; and Martha F., age 11, all children of Archibald Ballengee, were in school in 1859.  The History of Clayton Community by C. H. Graham (1923) states that in the years 1858, 1859, and 1860 there were three schools under the teaching of Anderson Wheeler, who, while somewhat limited in his facilities, was a good teacher.  These schools were good at maintaining order even if the teachers were not always well-versed academically.  The schools continued up until the outbreak of the Civil War when “all schools or hope of schools for the long period of four years had to be abandoned.”[9]
  Arch and Margaret appear on the 1860 Monroe County census in the Rollinsburg District, with Arch’s four children (Synthia, 13; Martha, 12; Herndon, 10; Mary E., 3) and Margaret’s mother, Margaret Honaker, age 63.  At last Arch seemed to be restoring some order to his life and the lives of his children.  The census says that he was a farmer and owned real estate valued at $500.  His personal property was valued at $340. 
On the horizon, though, was one of the worst episodes in American history, the Civil War.  Monroe County generally sided with the Confederacy, although the county was included in the new state of West Virginia when it was created in 1863.  In April 1861 Virginia seceded from the Union, and by September of that year, action occurred at Carnifex Ferry in Nicholas County, when Confederate generals Floyd and Wise were driven back to Greenbrier County.[10]  Militia units composed of local men provided defense of communities in many instances, and sometimes the local militias were commissioned into regular army units. 
Archibald Ballengee, who in 1861 was 42 years old, enlisted in Company A of the 166th Virginia Militia.  His name appears on the muster rolls from August 4 to 11, 1861.  This muster card says that William B. Suttle enlisted Archibald on August 4 at Centreville, VA (Fairfax County), the site of the Battle of Bull Run.  There were many Confederate troops camped at Centreville, and it was the scene of much activity, but records do not indicate that Archibald was there at the time of either Battle of Bull Run (21 July 1861 and 28 August 1862).  He was also on the 166th Militia’s muster roll for August 20-October 11, 1861.  The second card says that Archibald enlisted at Red Sulphur Springs on August 20 by William B. Suttle on August 20. 
Before the end of the war, Martha Florence, Arch’s second daughter, married John A. Harra, son of Washington and Jane Harra, 22 September 1864 at Arch’s house in Monroe County.[11]  John was 21 years old and was born in Greenbrier County.  Martha was 16 years of age. 
The youngest child, Herndon, married Delilah Melvina Deboys, daughter of Christopher and Margaret Deboys, on 20 August 1868 at Lanty Graham’s house.[12]  Delilah was 21 years old, and Herndon was 18 years old.
No marriage records have been found for Cynthia Jane, although researchers report that she married J. H. Bowden.  Mary Elizabeth married Marion F. Hicks as documented by her death certificate, but no marriage record has been found to document the date of her marriage.
In 1870 Arch, age 50, and Margaret, age 44, appear on the Monroe County census, in the district of the Palestine Post Office, with all of Arch’s children grown and married.  Arch has real estate valued at $800 and personal property valued at $216.  In his home are also Melvina Deboys Ballengee (wife of Herndon Ballengee), age 22; Charles A. Ballengee (Melvina and Herndon’s son), age 9 months; Floyd S. Ayres, age 11; and Margaret Honaker, age 73 (Arch’s mother-in-law). 
Arch and Margaret live alone in the 1880 census in the Talcott District of Summers County.  Arch is 60 years old, and Margaret is age 52.  On 2 December 1893 Margaret died of cancer at age 64.[13]  She was the consort of Archie Ballengee, and the information about her death was provided by J. W. Ballengee, her grandson.  Three months later Arch died on 14 March 1894.[14]
Poor Arch.  I believe he must have done the best he could for his family, but the misfortunes of the Graham family made it difficult.  When he married Margaret in 1859, it seemed as though he was putting the Graham troubles behind him and starting anew.  And as for Jane Graham, throughout her tumultuous life, it can be said she was a good aunt to her sisters' children.  

[1] Monroe County Births, p. 13, line 173.
[3] Monroe County Births, p. 32, line 156.
[4] Monroe County Deaths, p. 13, line 41.
[5] Monroe County Deaths, p. 13, line 40.
[6] Monroe County Will Book 1, p. 150-152.
[7] Greenbrier County Marriages, p. 13, line 51.
[10] “The Civil War in West Virginia,” WV State Archives.

[11] Monroe County Marriage Licenses.
[12] Monroe County Marriage Licenses.
[13] Haga, Pauline, Summers County Deaths, 1891-1900, Vol. 2, 1996, p. 14.
[14] Summers Co., WV, Historical Society Cemetery Book, 1996, p. 28.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

To Conceive or Not to Conceive

That is not the question.  

The question is whether the federal government can dictate to any church, group, or individual whether their religious convictions are right or wrong.

I do not have any problem with contraceptives or those who use them.  They are free to citizens of Virginia, and I feel confident that this is true in most states.  Details of these services can be found at Virginia Department of Health.  Note that the services are available without regard to "race, age, citizenship status or income status".  You do not have to give a social security number, nor do you have to provide proof of citizenship.  Easey peasey.  

And yet, many people in this country have their knickers in a twist because Catholic agencies and schools do not want to pay for health insurance which provides contraceptives for their employees. The Catholic Church and I have an agreement: they don't tell me how to do communion, and I don't tell them whether women should use contraceptives.   I thought the Federal Government had the same agreement, but it seems that I have been mistaken about that.

I don't see conspiracies everywhere, but neither do I believe in coincidences.  If you have a short memory or maybe you just don't care so much about political debates, watch the video below which is from the Republican Presidential Debate on January 7 on ABC News in New Hampshire. 

As an important aside, someone should tell George Stephanopoulos, a whiz-bang lawyer, that the right to privacy is not guaranteed by the Constitution.  Not even mentioned.  The Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments to the Constitution) implies some right of privacy, but this concept is not specifically addressed in the Constitution.  Any right to privacy has been instituted by the Supreme Court.

 But on to the original question:  why on earth did both Santorum and Romney seem to be blind-sided by the question as to whether the states should have the right to ban contraceptives.  What?  Did you hear that correctly?  Yes, you did.  The reason they seemed perplexed by this question is because this has not been an issue for decades.  Now who among us does not believe that this debate question was  the precursor to the Catholic Church-birth control debate raging across our unfortunate country.  How unusual that the current administration chose this exact moment in history to require a religious entity to provide a service that is in direct opposition to that entity's conscience.  

If I may use an analogy, this is the same thing as the Federal Government telling CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) that they must purchase and distribute pork skins to all of their employees, whether the employees wanted to eat pork skins or not.  Think about it.   

Georgetown University is only a few minutes drive from the Commonwealth of Virginia.  I invite Ms. Sandra Fluke and any other Georgetown University law students to avail themselves of the free contraceptives in a county health department in Virginia.   Of course, there will be no television cameras or news interviews when she makes the trip to Virginia.  Bummer.