Tag Archives: Stilley

A Glimpse of Hyde County

Three years ago, my husband and I were in our final year of graduate school and in search of something to do over spring break. We lived in Northern Virginia at the time, so my husband suggested exploring the Outer Banks – about a five hour drive south. As soon as I determined that the Outer Banks were only a stone’s throw from mainland Hyde County, North Carolina, I was on board.

Why the fuss about Hyde County? I knew that this was the place from which my Stilley ancestors – who settled on the Illinois frontier in the early nineteenth century – had likely hailed. And for me, the ideal vacation includes at least some genealogical or historical element, paired, of course, with beautiful scenery, good local food, plenty of photo ops, and a travel companion willing to humor me.

P1050418My direct ancestor Nancy Stilley, born in 1819 in Franklin County, Illinois, can almost certainly be linked to the other Stilleys scattered throughout southern Illinois who had roots in Hyde County, North Carolina. Nancy is believed to have been a granddaughter of the Hezekiah Stilley who was a resident of Hyde County as late as 1800 and whose numerous children – later residents of southern Illinois – are named in a family Bible.1 In the interests of full disclosure (I’m looking at you, Ben Affleck), I will add that Hezekiah Stilley likely married the daughter of Hyde County landowner and slaveholder William Davis, who died there circa 1803.2 His will named eight slaves, Jemima, Gabrel, Joseph, Moses, Kesiah, Cate, Judith, and Silard, all of who were to remain with his wife and selected children after his death.3

P1050417We had only a couple of hours to spend driving through the Inner Banks of Hyde County, but while this was not an in-depth research venture, it was still incredible to get a feel for the landscape that would have been familiar to my ancestors. I was glad to find that the county is still very rural; according to the 2010 census, the population is under six thousand people, comparable to its size two centuries ago. I believe we drove for an hour through the swamps and marshes without seeing another human being, and the only signs of civilization for much of our drive were an untended boat and an abandoned but well-kept ghost town.

P1050422

Hyde County, North Carolina also encompasses Ocracoke Island, a popular tourist destination on the Outer Banks that we visited via ferry. The island boasts quaint shops, stunning herds of wild horses, and locals who speak a distinct Ocracoke brogue that traces back to the dialect of the early colonists. It’s a must-see along the Outer Banks. The Inner Banks, in sharp contrast, are on the road less traveled – but one I would most definitely like to travel again.

Copyright © 2015 Melanie Frick. All Rights Reserved.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Tombstone Tuesday: Nancy Stilley

Nancy Stilley was raised on the Illinois frontier, and died a pioneer in Kansas. From what little I know about her life, she’s a perfect example of a “Fearless Female” whose story should be shared in honor of National Women’s History Month.

nancy_stilley_hall

Grave of Nancy (Stilley) Holman Edwards Hall (1819-1898), Gypsum Cemetery, Gypsum, Saline County, Kansas, image date unknown, privately held by V.S.H. [personal information withheld], 2014.

According to her obituary, Nancy Stilley was born 19 June 1819 in Franklin County, Illinois.1 It’s likely that she never attended school,2 although she was said to have joined the Baptist church at the age of thirteen.3 Records suggest that she may have married as many as three times. Her first marriage took place in 1836; she married Thomas Holman of Hamilton County, Illinois.4 Her second marriage took place in 1843; she married Joseph Edwards of Washington County, Illinois.5 Her third and final marriage took place in 1847; she married Elithan Hall of Washington County, Illinois.6 This marriage, too, was short-lived. After her husband’s death in May of 1860,7 Nancy, still just forty years old, was left a widow with nine children at home.8 This time, she did not remarry.

Although it must have been difficult, Nancy seems to have managed her household and farm through the tumultuous years of the Civil War. Following the settlement of her husband’s estate in 1868,9 she relocated to Kansas with her children, including those who now had families of their own.10

By 1870, Nancy had settled in Solomon, Saline County, Kansas, where she held a respectable amount of real estate worth $1100 and personal property worth $600.11 Four children, between the ages of twelve and sixteen, were at home.12 Nancy was to remain in Kansas for the remainder of her life, eventually joining the household of her eldest son.13 She lived to the age of seventy-nine, her death the result of an unfortunate accident during what was likely a routine visit to her children and grandchildren:

“Last Friday morning, October 21, 1898, Mrs. T. G. McCance hitched a team to a buggy for the purpose of driving her mother, Mrs. Nancy Hall, to the residence of her son, E. L. McCance. Just as the ladies started the team suddenly turned the vehicle enough to throw the occupants to the ground. Mrs. Hall struck the ground with sufficient force to tear the flesh from one side of the face, break the cheek bone and inflict internal injuries, from which she died in a few hours.”14

Nancy was buried two days later, her burial attended “by a large number of friends and relatives,” in the Gypsum Cemetery in Gypsum, Saline County, Kansas.15

Continue reading

The Citizens of the Big Creek Settlement: From Reconstructed Census Records to a Legislative Petition

In September, I attended the Illinois State Genealogical Society’s free webinar, “’To the Honorable, the General Assembly’ – The Treasure Trove in Legislative Petitions,” presented by the always informative Judy G. Russell of The Legal Genealogist.1

Judy’s advice about how and where to find legislative petitions was helpful, as was her point that one won’t often find an indexed list of the names of all of the signers of a given petition (darn!). Instead, she suggested, look specifically for petitions that were created where your ancestor lived, and that concerned a cause that your ancestor was likely to have cared about.2

It was also emphasized how handy petitions can be when they fall between a census year.3 In fact, the names of the signers on some petitions have also been used to reconstruct early census records. I recently noticed an instance of this when searching for my Stilley ancestors of southern Illinois on Ancestry.com. My search brought me to “U.S. Census Reconstructed Records, 1660-1820.”4

In one example, several men with the surname Stilley are listed as having resided at the Big Creek Settlement, Illinois Territory, in 1810. However, a closer look at the entry shows that the men were named on a petition dated 6 December 1812.5 This petition concerned the desire of the “poor Industrious Inhabitants, faithful Citizens of the United States” to acquire land west of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, and a proposition for the sale of no more than 200 acres of said land to each male citizen over the age of eighteen, or each female head of household, for a cost of twelve and a half cents per acre. Allowing the inhabitants to acquire land, the petitioners continued, would further serve to “prevent Rebellions, remove animosities, Cement an union, and promote happiness” throughout the United States.6

Although, to my knowledge, none of these particular Stilleys were my direct ancestors, the presence of these names on the petition suggests to me that, at the very least, some of the extended family had started to settle in this western territory as early as 1812, perhaps paving the way for other members of the Stilley family to follow.



SOURCES
1 Judy G. Russell, “’To the Honorable, the General Assembly’ – The Treasure Trove in Legislative Petitions,” Illinois State Genealogical Society: ISGS Webinars, 2013.
2 Judy G. Russell, “’To the Honorable, the General Assembly’ – The Treasure Trove in Legislative Petitions.”
3 Judy G. Russell, “’To the Honorable, the General Assembly’ – The Treasure Trove in Legislative Petitions.”
4 “U.S. Census Reconstructed Records, 1660-1820,” database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 3 December 2013); citing Territorial Papers of the United States, vol. 16, p. 274.
5 “U.S. Census Reconstructed Records, 1660-1820,” database, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 3 December 2013), entries for David Stilley, John Stilley, and Stephen Stilley, 1810, Big Creek Settlement, Illinois Territory; citing Territorial Papers of the United States, vol. 16, p. 274.
6 “To James Madison from the Citizens of the Big Creek Settlement, 6 December 1812 (Abstract),” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Madison/03-05-02-0396 : accessed 3 December 2013); The Papers of James Madison, Presidential Series, vol. 5, 10 July 1812–7 February 1813, ed. J. C. A. Stagg, Martha J. King, Ellen J. Barber, Anne Mandeville Colony, Angela Kreider, and Jewel L. Spangler (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2004), pp. 485–486.