The Howard Family Tree, Part 3
My branch of the Howards came to America with Oglethorpe 1733 and lived in various parts of Georgia for over a hundred years.
–Robert E. Howard to H. P. Lovecraft, ca. October 1930
As we have seen, Robert E. Howard’s belief that his family landed with Oglethorpe in 1733 was a mistake. By all indications, the Howard line had deep roots in Virginia, possibly stretching back to the early 1600s; it is not until the early 1800s that the family arrived in Georgia. On June 29, 1808, Nancy Howard married Solomon A. Hopkins in Oglethorpe County. Nancy was a daughter of Robert E. Howard’s great-great grandfather, Mordecai Howard. There are indications that the family arrived in Georgia around 1805, but this marriage is the earliest instance that I can verify; unfortunately, the marriage didn’t last long.
On October 12, 1812, Solomon A. Hopkins entered his last will and testament into the record of Pulaski County, naming his wife and father-in-law as executors. He was dead before December 4th of that year; that is when notices started appearing in newspapers that announced the auctioning off of his assets. Ads like the following, from the Augusta Chronicle for December 12, 1812, appeared sporadically for years.
[NOTE: I have always been a student of history and have studied the Civil War in some depth. Coming from Georgia in the early 1800s, I obviously expected some mention of slavery while researching the Howards, but discovering the notices that follow, and the cavalier manner in which they discuss the purchase and sale of human beings, is disturbing nonetheless.]
The last mention of Solomon Hopkins that I’ve found is this November 7, 1820 notice from The Georgia Journal for November 7, 1820:
Other than these notices, Mordecai Howard next appears on an 1813 land grant in Oglethorpe County, Georgia. He picked up 17 acres in the county. In 1818 he picked up 15 more (Index to Oglethorpe County Land Grants). [UPDATE (July 15, 2021): On a recent trip to Lexington, the county seat of Oglethorpe County, I found two more of Mordecai’s land transactions. On January 17, 1814, he sold Benjamin Collier seven acres, “more or less,” for one dollar. The sale was witnessed by Isaac Collier and recorded on March 26, 1814. The second is from December 24, 1818, when he sells Dudley Dunn nine acres, “more or less,” for “four dollars and 10 cents.” This was recorded on January 9, 1819, by county clerk Isaac Collier.]
It seems pretty sure that Mordecai and at least one of his children had gone to Georgia, but what about Henry Howard, Robert E. Howard’s great-grandfather? Whenever it happened, by January 27, 1820, Henry Howard had also arrived in Georgia. According to Georgia Marriages, 1699-1944, on that day he married Elizabeth “Betsy” Ann Collier in Oglethorpe Co., Georgia.
The Howards and Colliers might have known each other back in the Virginia days. In Virginia Military Records, “Brunswick County,” there is a list of “Persons who gave aid to the American Revolution.” Under “Court. 4 April 1782” is listed Vines Collier, Betsy’s father. Under “Court. 23 April 1782” are listed George, Charles and Vines Collier, as well as Isaac Anderton, Mordecai Howard’s father-in-law. See also footnote #6 here. But I digress.
Both Mordecai and Henry show up on the 1820 Census for Oglethorpe County. Mordecai is listed as a Free White Male age 45+. In the household with him are a Free White Female, presumably his wife, also aged 45+. There are two other free males, aged 10-15; and one other female, 26-44. Mordecai has seven male and ten female slaves. Eight people in the household are engaged in Agriculture. In Henry’s household are two “free whites” (presumably Henry and his wife) aged 16-25, and two slaves 16-24, one man and one woman. Three people are “Engaged in agriculture.”
And then Henry and Betsy started having kids. 1821 June 27, son Charles Henry born in Oglethorpe; 1823 August 14, daughter Rebecca Jane born; 1825 October 3, son Isaac Mordecai born (REH’s grand uncle, not father); 1827 July 23, son William Benjamin (REH’s grandfather) born. (The Howard Historian Vol. 28, spring 1995).
And there’s one other mention of Henry Howard in the 1820s: He was present at the November 12, 1822 Estate sale of Pashal Smith. He purchased an ax ($3) and a clock ($10) in Oglethorpe Co.; a few Colliers were there as well.
By the end of the decade, Mordecai Howard was in decline. On June 2, 1828, “being weak & infirm in body but of perfect mind & memory,” he prepared his will (above). He leaves some of his sons–Henry, Thomas, and Isaac A.–various tracts of land, and one–Mordecai, jr.–one hundred dollars. The females in his family received the following:
I give to my Daughter Nancy Hoptkins one Negro boy named Lucius one feather Bed & furniture & one Chest & Drawers
I lend my daughter Sally One Negro girl named Dinah & her increase her life time and after her death to be eaqualy divided between her two Daughters Julia Ann Thomas & Lucy Jane Paschall Murphy or their heirs.
I give to my grand Daughters Susan, Nancy, & Elizabeth Newsom One Dollar Each.
The above was recorded 13th April 1830, presumably following Mordecai’s death. As early as October 30, 1830, notices start appearing in newspapers auctioning off his property, including at least seven slaves.
On February 20, 1831 (as recorded in History of Upson County), “Thos. Howard, Jr., Ex. Mordecai Howard, of Oglethorpe Co. Ga. To Robert Collier, 1. In 10D.” Which I assume means that Mordecai’s brother Thomas (or Thomas’s son) has sold some of Mordecai’s land to Betsy Howard’s uncle, Robert Collier.
And there appears to have been some problem with Mordecai’s will. As early as January 15, 1831, a “Bill for Discovery, Relief, etc.” mentioning defendants from Virginia was filed. I have not looked into this any further, but here is one of the notices, from The Federal Union for April 7, 1831:
Whatever was happening, everything appears to have been resolved by the following year. This notice appeared on May 10, 1832, in The Southern Recorder:
Following the 1830 death of his father, there is little mention of Henry Howard in Oglethorpe County. At the end of the year, December 9, 1830, he is witness to the signing of a Nathaniel Smith land document in Oglethorpe County. And that’s about it, probably because he no longer lived there.
[UPDATE (July 15, 2021): On a recent trip to Lexington, the county seat of Oglethorpe County, I found a land transaction in which Henry Howard sells to his sister (Nancy Hopkins) for $300 a parcel of land “on the waters of Long Creek containing one hundred acres more or less.” The land “is that left by Mordecai Howard, Dec’d, to said Henry Howard as specified in his last will.” Witnesses to the signing were William H. Hopkins and one Thomas Howard. The document was recorded October 26, 1838.]