Sunday, June 10, 2018

October 1833, Lawrenceville - the story of Benjamin Marks part one

Sign posted at historic Lawrenceville, photo by Uwharrie Roots

For updated research be sure to read the Blog, I found your daddy, William Buck Marks

My first encounter with Benjamin Marks was in Daniel Freeman’s store ledger for Lawrenceville, the fourth seat for Montgomery County, North Carolina, the original town plat dated July 2, 1817. Estimates average that the population of the town was about 500 people and a US Post Office established in 1818; the town had two General Stores, one belonging to Daniel Freeman, whose store ledger has miraculously survived the years.

Today, the 19th century town, found at the Uwharrie Trail trail-head, on NC 24/27, west of Troy, the fifth and last county seat of Montgomery County, in the Uwharrie National Forest, shows signs that life once lived there. Permanent depressions of old roads seen running through what was once the middle of town, stacks of rocks, undoubtedly, chimney falls, and the old town well sit silently in the forest now; but one hundred and eighty five years ago, Benjamin Marks stood on this very spot, and made a purchase from Daniel Freeman in his general store.

Photos by Uwharrie Roots

In October 1833, Benjamin made his purchase, some kind of bar skin, to which I have yet to figure out, and a cravats, a short, wide strip of fabric worn by men around the neck and tucked inside an open-necked shirt. The cravats was the forerunner to the modern man’s necktie and I cannot help but wonder if Benjamin had chosen to wear one to impress a young lady or perhaps it was used for church attire. Whatever the reason for the purchase, Benjamin, through his purchase, tells us that he can be a classy dresser when the occasion calls for it. Benjamin’s bill that October day in 1833, at the Lawrenceville store, amounted to $2.25, equivalent to $63.50 in today’s money. My next thought, of course, is where did he get the money to purchase something that most in that area probably thought was frivolous.
Daniel Freeman Store Ledger and google images

In Nov 1833, Benjamin is back at the general store making a purchase of more realistic clothing materials for the area in which he lived. He has decided jeans, leather, and canvas are more suitable to the climate and day-to-day work wear for a town where the majority of people work in the gold mines or farming. Of note, I find it interesting that Benjamin made a purchase for a hat for William Marks and a shoe purchase for ‘Buck,’ no last name noted, as if Daniel Freeman knew who ‘Buck’ was. My third great grandfather’s name is William Marks, but he was called Buck. Why did Daniel Freeman note both names down? Or was there another William Marks, perhaps a grandfather, whom the hat purchase was made for? The purchase for material to buy clothing came to a whopping $17.94, equivalent to $506.27 in the year 2018. Perhaps Ben was panning for gold in the creeks. I also find it ironic that Ben bought a pair of shoes for Buck. My third great grandfather was listed as a shoemaker in almost every Census, why did he not make his own shoes?

Daniel Freeman Store Ledger

In Nov 1833, Catharine Marks, believed to be the mother of Ben Marks, makes a purchase on behalf of Ben for a coffee pot, nails, and two shauls. A shaul is a wooden scooped farm tool used for winnowing (separating grain from chaff), it was mainly used in southern England ( A shaul can also be a tub used for kneading bread or for washing. My guess is that Catharine purchased tubs for washing, as was most practical. The total purchase came to $4.50 ($126.99) and I could not help but wonder where this Marks family had acquired so much money. In less than two months they have spent $24.69 ($696.75).

Daniel Freeman Store Ledger

In Dec 1833, Ben Marks and John Marks make another unusual purchase. Aside from the clothing choices, note that Ben purchases another cravat, a purchase is now made for Martingales and a saddle. Evidently, the Marks have acquired a horse. Martingales are used with saddled horses and not work horses. It is an instrument used to prevent the horse from throwing its head back. The cost if the items amount to about $13.00 ($366.00). With my head spinning at the amount of money this family has spent in three short months, I cannot help but wonder where did they get this kind of money?

Daniel Freeman Store Ledger

In Dec 1833, William Solomon, the husband of Tabitha Marks, Ben’s sister, makes a purchase on behalf of T. Marks. I believe this to be Thomas Marks, a brother to Ben and Tabitha. I recently visited Thomas Marks grave but he is a story for another day.

Daniel Freeman Store Ledger

In March 1834, Ben Marks and John Marks, are back in town to make another purchase of tobacco and, Ben, as his pattern has been, more material for clothing. Total charges, about $2.21 ($62.37)

Daniel Freeman Store Ledger

Sep 1834 brings Ben back into town for a purchase of a comb, homespun, thread and buttons. Ben either has an addiction to clothing or he is working at some job where he is wearing his clothes out faster than they can be made.

Daniel Freeman Store Ledger

Nov 1834 is the last purchase Ben makes in Daniel Freeman’s store ledger. Ben purchases a saddle blanket, most likely for the horse that was acquired in Dec of the previous year.

Daniel Freeman Store Ledger

Between Nov 1834 and Aug 1836, Benjamin, as is the Marks trait, disappears and is nowhere to be found. Another Marks cousin of mine assisted in tracking him to Giles County, Tennessee. There we found Benjamin Marks married to Avie MacGregor, the granddaughter of the Reverend William MacGregor, of Scotland, who came to America late in life and worked as a Baptist preacher. He settled in what is now Stanly County, North Carolina and is buried at what is now Morrow Mountain State Park. Ezekial MacGregor, son of William MacGregor, was born about 1784 in Montgomery County, North Carolina. He married Sarah Jane Ware and they migrated to Warren County, Tennessee where they settled down and raised a family, Avie MacGregor, being their daughter.

Why Benjamin Marks decided to migrate to Tennessee we will probably never know. However, by 1840, Benjamin Marks is found on the Census for Giles County, Tennessee, showing he is married with two sons. Benjamin and Avie did have two sons, James and Ezekiel, however, Ezekiel was not born until about 1844, thus the other male child listed with James Marks is either a son that died young or perhaps the son of the other male listed with Benjamin as being between 20 and 30 years of age.

Click for Part Two

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