Family Legend

FamLeg01

As we have seen, the Howard branch of Robert E. Howard’s family tree passed through Virginia and became intertwined with the Henry family tree in Mississippi. Not much is known about this line of Henrys, especially the earliest arrivals to the United States. In Goodspeed’s 1890 Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Southern Arkansas, a short biography of Robert E. Howard’s great uncle, Dr. J. T. Henry, says only that his grandfather, James Henry, “was of Irish descent, a farmer by occupation, and died in Bibb County, Ala.” (pg. 674). Other family members’ biographies in the tome provide little else.

The Howard family Bible, in the possession of David Terrell Howard’s family (Robert E. Howard’s uncle), has only one mention of James Henry, Sr.: “James Henry, Sr. and Anna Henry was married Jan. the 4th 1796.” The Bible also lists all of the couple’s children.

There are a lot of James Henrys running around in the early 1800s, but I did find ones in Bibb County for the 1830 and 1840 Censuses. Unfortunately, those early Census documents only name the head of the household; all others are only listed by their gender, age, and race. The family members on the 1840 form are the wrong ages, so I believe this to be a different line of Henrys; the James Henry on the 1830 Census of Bibb County, though, has the numbers I have come to expect, so I think that one is the correct family. In 1830, the household of our James Henry has one “Free White” male between 15 and 19 and one between 60 and 69. There are three “Free White” females: one aged 10 to 14, one 20-29, and one 50-59. No slaves are present.

FamLeg02

Robert E. Howard himself had little knowledge of the earliest Henrys in his tree. What he did know at first, probably came from his father and consisted of little but family legend. Howard told H. P. Lovecraft ca. October 1930:

The Henry’s were the last of my various lines to arrive in the New World, being deported from Ireland a few years before the Revolutionary War because of rebellious actions against the English government. My great-greatgrandfather, James Henry, was born on the Atlantic Ocean on the way over.

In a July 1932 letter to Wilfred Blanch Talman, he filled in a few details:

Noting that the Holland society is made up of people whose ancestors came to America before 1675 makes me feel almost like a recent immigrant. The Howards didn’t come till 1733 — with Oglethorpe to Georgia — and one branch, the MacHenrys, didn’t come until about 1770; although the Eiarbhins, or Ervins, to Anglicize it, were well established in the Carolinas in the latter part of the 17th century. The MacHenrys, incidentally, landed in New York, but they didn’t stay there long; they dropped the Mac, and drifted southwestward. I said landed; I should have said, thrown off the boat by the English.

By the time he wrote his unfinished genealogical essay “The Wandering Years” (ca. 1933) he had little to add:

Of all the branches of my line, the pioneer flame burned in none so brightly as in the Henrys. Shamus McHenry was born in a ship on the Atlantic Ocean. His family landed in New York, but without pause moved southward. The name was Americanized, and it was as plain Jim Henry that my great-great-grandfather grew to manhood on the western borders of South Carolina, and married Anna O’Tyrrell, fresh from the hills of Connaught. There his son, James Henry, was born.

The echoes of the War of 1812 were scarcely done reverberating when Jim Henry was pushing westward. Before Alabama was a state, he came there. It was a southern frontier—sparsely settled, thickly timbered, swarming with game; Indians still dwelt there.

I have been unable to find any documentary evidenceactual government documents, newspaper items, etc.for any of this. There is, however, a family tree posted at Ancestry.com that features one Séamus MacEnruig who died in Bibb County on May 1, 1845. He was born on May 7, 1765 and, it is noted, was born “Aboard ship to America from Ireland to SC.” He was married to Anna Terrell Grimes in South Carolina in 1796. They are listed as the parents of all the same Henry children that appear in the Howard family Bible; unfortunately, there are no documents provided or source citationsmore family legends. And the tree’s branches do not go far enough to include any Howards.

Similarly, a genealogy report submitted by members of the Henry family to the Daughters of the American Revolution has the same birth and death dates for their James Henry as the MacEnruig, above, and mentions that his birth was “shipboard.” Several descendants of Dr. J. T. Henry filed D.A.R. applications with James Henry born “at sea” and married to either Anna or Anne, but, other than a transcription of Dr. Henry’s family Bible, there are no documents provided. And, while there was a James Henry involved in the Revolutionary War, it appears that it wasn’t our James Henry; the proof of service used to establish him as serving in the war “belongs to another person of the same name.”

FamLeg03

Another source with no citations comes from Our East Tennessee Kinsmen by Aurelia Cate Dawson (1962). This volume lists the same birth and death information, the same wife and offspring, but adds James Henry’s marriage location: “Married in S. C. Jan. 4, 1796 to Anna or Anne.”

While most of these “sources” don’t have a last name for James’s wife, Robert E. Howard’s “O’Tyrrell” and Ancestry.com’s “Terrell Grimes” seem to support the fact. This would help to explain where Howard’s uncle, David Terrell Howard’s, middle name originated.

So, using the scant reference material and what appears to be family knowledge we’ll say that James Henry Sr. was born on May 7, 1765 on board a ship bound for the Colonies. On January 4, 1796, in South Carolina, James married Ann, Anne, or Anna, maiden name something like O’Tyrrell or Terrell Grimes. In 1811, the year “Squire James Henry” was born, the family was still living in South Carolina, according to the Goodspeed biography mentioned above. At some point between then and the 1830 Census, the family moved to Bibb County, Alabama. And, apparently, James Henry died there on May 7, 1845.

More to come.

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