Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sometimes…you just get lucky – George A. and Mary E. Marks Thomas of Chatham County, NC

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Researching the Marks family of Chatham County, North Carolina is akin to chaos with all the William’s, James’, and Abner’s to try and sort out. It wasn’t enough that every male child was named William, James or Abner but the females grew up and married William’s, James’, and Abner’s; then suddenly changed their names to Sallie (for Sarah), Polly (for Mary), Dolly (for Dorothy) and Molly (for Margaret). So, it is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack – but blindfolded. It is a long, tedious, and slow effort that only leaves you frustrated and scratching your head in the end because you can’t determine which William, James or Abner belongs to which generation or which Sally/Sarah, Mary/Polly, Dolly/Dorothy, or Molly/Margaret belongs to which William, James, or Abner. It’s just a tangled mess!

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That’s why I was so relieved when I came across Mary E. Marks and George A. Thomas. These two were like a breath of fresh air in a hot, muggy land. Every click of the mouse button obediently brought forth accurate and relevant information. Why can’t all our ancestors be so studious? To my knowledge, Mary remained a Mary throughout her entire life and never changed her name to Polly. After so many entanglements with William’s, Abner’s and James’, I am happy to search for the name George. Need I say more?

I don't yet know how George and Mary are related to me but someday I hope to find the connection between the Montgomery County, Stanly County and Chatham County Marks.

Mary is the daughter of William M. (1807-1880) and Sarah Gunter Marks (1811-1895). Mary was born abt. 1847 in Chatham County, North Carolina. I firmly believe that my William ‘Buck’ Marks is probably an uncle of Mary E. and belongs to the same generation as her father, William M. and perhaps one day I’ll find proof of it. But for now, let’s focus on George and Mary.

Little Mary E. Marks first appears at age 3 on the 1850 Census for Chatham, North Carolina, pg. 38. She is way down the list of brothers and sisters so I imagine she has to be quite demanding for any attention – especially now that a new little brother (named William, would we expect any less?) has been added to the family. Mary is 7th after big brother Abner (18) and 2nd after big brother James (9). This family wanted to make sure they had all the William's, James' and Abner's covered!

1850 Census Chatham, NC

Life looks to be going well for the Marks' family in 1850. William’s occupation is listed as farmer and his real estate value is $1100 ($33,150); this family is definitely middle class.

Personal and estate value - 1850 Census
By 1860, it looks like Mary’s big brother, Abner, has escaped parental oversight and is probably married and off making little William’s, James’ and Abner’s of his own for me to have to sort out. Or, perhaps he has joined the military as the Civil War (1861-1865) is nearly upon us. Malvina has also ‘flown the nest’ as she would be of a marriageable age by now too. It is surprising to see that younger brother William is missing. He should be sitting there between Mary E and Susan M at age 11. I will have to do some research to find out what happened to him. A younger sister has been added to the family, Susan, at age 7. With all the men preparing for war I am not surprised to see Louisa (26) and Lettitia (24) still at home. Malvina looks to have snatched up the last marriageable man. Mary is 12 and a pre-teen. She is just entering that awkward stage of wanting to be ‘grown up’ but still playing with dolls.

1860 Census
The 1870 Census gives us new information that the Marks family is located in New Hope, Chatham, North Carolina. New Hope is in the northern part of Chatham County, and right on the Haw River, which is a tributary of the Cape Fear River. Farming would have been the culture of the day and the land fertile. New Hope is still a rural area and farming and agriculture are still the main sources of income.

By 1870 the Civil War has ended and the country is in what will become known as the Reconstruction era – a rebuilding and reorganizing phase. A lot of men have died and the USA is struggling to enter into a new era of industrialization. Mary E. is still living with her parents and she is 23 years of age. Don’t let the new name of Martha throw you. This is probably Lettitia now going by her middle name or perhaps the wife of Thadeous. At any rate, it is 1870 and Mary E. is 3 years from her wedding day!

1870 Census New Hope, Chatham, NC, pg. 12
On a side note: the Census taker messed up Mary's name and wrote in ‘Mark’ rather than Mary. I always wonder what was going on for the Census taker to make a mistake. Did the dog start barking and distract him or perhaps the family was caught in the middle of a meal or on their way out the door and was in a rush? Yes, I actually do think like that!

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Like Mary, George A. Thomas is also awaiting his wedding day – he just doesn’t know it yet.

1850 finds George 9 years old and living with his parents, William C (1813-1900) and Sarah (Sally) Brewer (1818-1890) Thomas. George A. is second to the oldest and I am sure his wedding day is the farthest thing from his mind. The Thomas family lives in Lower Regiment, Chatham and I wonder if William Thomas and William Marks might know one another. Both men are listed as farmers and William Marks is just a few years older than William Thomas. Maybe they have done business together? Or met at the court house for some legal transaction? The families may have attended church together. I see Dolly (Dorothy), William C’s mother, is living with them.

William C’s real estate value is listed at $110 (about $3400) so this makes the family a lower class and I wonder if they are new to town, perhaps a part of the never ending Scots-Irish migrations from Pennsylvania and Virginia during that time period or just starting over after a bumpy road in life?

1850 Census Lower Regiment, Chatham, North Carolina, USA

Ten years have passed and 1860 finds George a young man at 19. He doesn’t have much life experience but is old enough to go to war. I am sure the family is worried as the Civil War is just about upon them. Grandma Dolly has passed away and William H who was 11 in 1850 would be 21 by now. He most likely has married and moved out on his own or may have joined the military. Since my focus is on George and Mary I will have to save that research for another time. Three more children have joined the family ranks, Wesley (8), Martha (5) and William D (4).

Just as a note, I do find it interesting that another child would be named the same as his older brother so, perhaps some unfortunate event has taken place and the older child, William H. has passed away and the younger child, William D. has been named in memory of his older brother.

1860 Census Middle Division, Chatham, North Carolina
The Thomas family has improved their standard of living by 1860 as father, William C, lists his real estate value at $600 ($16,900) and his personal worth at $525 ($14,800) and the boys, including 8 year old Wesley, are attending school and can read and write. Papa William C. understands the value of an education.

Personal and estate value
Three years have passed and Jan 22, 1873 finally arrives and with it the wedding of George A. Thomas and Mary E. Marks. The couple is united in matrimony at the home of William Marks with C.A. Boon, Minister, performing the wedding ceremony.

Marriage register for 1873
Marriage register for 1873

While doing the research on George A. Thomas I found the below photo of his parents, William C. and Sarah Brewer Thomas. There was no date on the photo but I wonder if it might have been taken at the wedding of George and Mary. I suppose we will never know.

William C and Sarah Brewer Thomas date unknown
(Shared by Ruth Thomas, Pittsboro, North Carolina, USA)

1880 brings us the happy news that George and Mary Marks Thomas have expanded their family to include two daughters, Ella, (6) and Minnie L., (3). George is listed as a farmer but the Census takers have stopped including personal income so I do not know what ‘class’ George and Mary are in. The Census does list where they live (Center, Chatham) so they have migrated west of the New Hope area; on the other side of the river, probably for work reasons.

1880 also brings with it the sad news that Mary’s father, William M, has passed away, so there is a funeral to attend this year.

1880 Census, Center, Chatham County, North Carolina
The 1890 Census records were destroyed by fire so I am not able to see where the Thomas family is at this time; we do know, however, that the next several years will be a very depressing time for George and Mary as they will each lose their parents. Double tragedy strikes as Ella, their oldest daughter, will die in Sep 1890 at the age of 16. George’s mother, Sarah Brewer Thomas, will pass away in 1890 as well and 5 years later in 1895, Mary will lose her mother, Sarah Gunter Marks.

Ella Thomas
Sarah Brewer Thomas

As if things could not get worse, the year 1900 brings the death of George’s father, William C.

William C Thomas
1900 also shows that George and Mary are still living in Chatham County. Minnie (23) is still living at home with her parents.

1900 Census, Chatham County, North Carolina

In 1902, just two years after the death of his father, George A. Thomas dies and is buried in the cemetery at Gum Springs Baptist Church, Chatham County. Sixteen years later his wife, Mary E. will join him.

George A Thomas

Mary E Marks Thomas

The Census of 1910 not only shows us that Minnie, youngest daughter of George and Mary, has married but it also shows us that she has three children of her own. She has been married for 6 years and she still continues to live on the Haw River, where she grew up.

1910 Census

Minnie lived to be 80 years old and is buried alongside her husband, parents and sister in Chatham County, NC.

Minnie L Thomas and husband Joseph Ray

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