The Lost Ervin Mine

[By Rob Roehm. Originally published in Onion Tops #65, Aug. 2015. A revised version was posted Sept. 26, 2015, at twogunraconteur.com. The current version has been expanded to include information from Onion Tops #76, Dec. 2018.]

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Despite an abundance of newspapers that are available online, there are still several collections that can only be accessed in the old-school fashion: ass-in-seat in front of a microfiche reader. [Update: The Lampasas Leader is now available online, here] As I prepared for Howard Days this year, I called around to the local libraries in the towns I was going to visit to see if they had any. Two libraries said they had what I was looking for, though when I actually showed up at the Mount Calm library, I learned that my phone contact had been mistaken. So, I wasn’t expecting much when I arrived at the second location: Lampasas.

Why Lampasas? Well, I’d already been there when researching Howard’s stay in the “old rock hotel” that was “as much fort as hotel” (REH to HPL, ca. May 1935; see my piece in The Cimmerian, vol. 5, no. 5, Oct. 2008), but that was before my slide into genealogy and minutia. In the same 1935 letter, Howard also says that Lampasas is “where my mother spent her girlhood.” And then there’s this, from his December 5, 1935 letter to HPL, “my grandfather had owned a sheep-ranch in the adjoining county of Lampasas in those days [post-Civil War].”

Add to the above the following bit from Howard’s family history, “The Wandering Years”:

A boom was on in Texas; cities were growing. The Colonel [Howard’s grandfather, G. W. Ervin] went into the real estate business [in Dallas], and was successful. But the low Trinity River lands were unhealthful, and, in 1884 [sic.], he moved again, this time southwestward to Lampasas, in the cattle country. Lampasas had been a frontier town in the early ’70s. It was still a cow town, as well, on account of its mineral springs, a health and pleasure resort, the foremost of its sort in the state, before the rise of Mineral Wells.

[. . .]

My grandfather possessed the restlessness of the age. He loaned money, dealt some in cattle; he bought a sheep ranch, but, in the midst of a cattle country, with hired men running it, it was not a success. He wandered over into western New Mexico and worked a silver mine not far from the Arizona line.

That last part about the silver mine has never been verified (until now), but Howard also mentions it in a couple of letters: circa December 1930, to Lovecraft, “Colonel George Ervin came into Texas when it was wild and raw, and he went into New Mexico, too, long before it was a state, and worked a silver mine—and once he rode like a bat out of Hell for the Texas line with old Geronimo’s turbaned Apaches on his trail”; and again in a circa January 1933 letter to August Derleth: “Geronimo once stole a bunch of my grandfather’s horses, and chased him away from the silver mine he was working; chased him with the aid of a mob of his turbaned warriors, of course, that being a job that took a goodly gang of men, whether red or white.” Most of which sounds like family legend, but the Lampasas connection definitely required a visit, especially since the local librarian indicated that they had copies of the Lampasas Leader from the 1880s—only available on-site.

The Roehm party arrived Monday afternoon and got to work. We hit the courthouse first and found several land documents; then we headed over to the library. I gathered the available fiche and parked in front of the reader. I was there until closing time and continued the search when they opened the next morning. What follows is a summary of the Ervins’ time in that fair city [supplemented with information found recently online].

The earliest document I found is dated January 9, 1886, when Robert E. Howard’s mother, Hester Jane Ervin, would have been 15-years-old. On that day, her father, G. W. Ervin, “of the County of Lampasas,” purchased three lots in that “portion of the town of Lampasas known as the Lampasas Springs Company’s first addition to the town of Lampasas.” He appears to have purchased these lots outright for the tidy sum of “fifteen hundred dollars to us in hand paid”—there is no indication of any installment payments due at a later time. The Ervins had arrived.

The next document is another land purchase, dated May 31, 1886. This one appears to be an investment, with $1,500 as down payment, another $1,000 due on June 1, 1887, and “the further sum of six hundred and fifty dollars to be paid on the first day of May A.D. 1892,” not including interest. For this, Ervin picked up “an individual one half interest” in “part of a three league survey” that included a pile of lots in Lampasas.

Next up is a December 23, 1886 document in which Ervin and a partner, L. J. Amos, sell part of the May 31 purchase for $2,156, in installments. That same day, Ervin purchased two more lots in the Lampasas Springs Company’s addition from the said Amos for $1,000, “in hand paid.”

Next on the timeline is an obituary found online from the Galveston Daily News:

MRS. JANE ERVIN

LAMPASAS, Tex., August 11.—Mrs. Jane Ervin, the mother of G. W. Ervin, died here yesterday and was buried today. Mrs. Ervin was born in North Carolina eighty-one years ago, and has been a resident of Texas for twenty-eight years. She was an exemplary Christian and lived an honored and happy life.

On December 3, 1887, over in Temple, Texas, the Temple Daily Times (also found online) had the following item: “G. W. Ervin, of Lampasas is in the city.” What his business there was is a mystery. I guess I’ll have to go back to Temple at some point and have another look.

Another land document was filed in Lampasas on March 6, 1888. In this one, G. W. and wife Alice, “for and in consideration of an individual half interest in six hundred and forty acres of land” in Palo Pinto County, sell the two lots he had purchased from Amos on December 23, 1886.

The library’s collection of newspapers is full of holes, as far as dates are concerned, so there may have been notices concerning the Ervins before this November 24, 1888 item from the Lampasas Leader: “Col. G. W. Ervin left Monday on a business trip to Dallas, Denton and other points in North Texas.”

The Leader for December 29, 1888, confirms the mining claim:

1888 12-29 Lampasas Leader NEW

The April 20, 1889, paper has more: “Col. G. W. Ervin left here Tuesday for Stein’s Pass, New Mexico, to look after his mining interests at that point.” The May 25, 1889 paper announced his return: “Col. Ervin returned Wednesday from Stein’s Pass, New Mexico, where he has been for the past six weeks looking after his mining interests and brings good reports of the mines.”

1889 is also the year that Ervin’s children begin appearing in Lampasas society, starting with Robert E. Howard’s future mother, Hester Ervin, in that same April 20 paper:

1889 04-20 Lampasas Leader-sm

And again on May 25, this time with sister (Georgia) Alice Ervin:

1889 05-25 Lampasas Leader

The July 6, 1889 edition has more news: “Col. G. W. Ervin left here Thursday on a business trip to North Texas and will go on to Oklahoma before returning.” Several of Ervin’s children by his first wife lived or had lived in the Indian Territory at that time. The July 13 paper announces his return: “Col. Ervin returned Wednesday from Oklahoma and reports the boom in that country as about ‘busted.'”

Later that month, as reported on July 27, 1889, some of Ervin’s grown sons were in town and attended a social with their younger sisters:

1889 07-27 Lampasas Leader

And there are other appearances throughout the year. But business also continued. A Mr. Amos, who is listed as being from Oklahoma City, sold G. W. Ervin more land in Lampasas on December 7, 1889.

A month later—January 16, 1890—G. W. sells a bunch of land for $2,000, “in hand paid by my wife Alice Ervin, the same having been paid out of the separate estate of my said wife received by her from her father.” Said father, Joel Echols Wynn, had died on January 1, 1885, in Arkansas. I’ve got a copy of his will around here somewhere.

That fall, it appears that G. W. had had enough of Lampasas. On October 20, 1890, he sold his original land purchase to a lady from Ohio for the sum of $2,500, to be paid in installments. Here ends the Lampasas paper trail, but I wasn’t quite finished with this mine business. After all, I had to drive through New Mexico to get home.

But before the road trip home, I did a little digging online and found an article in the El Paso Times that had somehow escaped my frequent searches. Dated July 17, 1888, it provided a helpful date for the upcoming courthouse dig:

1888 07-17 GWE in ElPasoTimes p1b

With all of this information in hand, the Roehm party stopped in Lordsburg, New Mexico, on the return trip. We visited the site of Stein’s Pass (now a ghost town called, simply, Steins) and the courthouse, where the following document was discovered.

1888 06-05 GWE in NMa

1888 06-05 GWE in NMb

I have been unable to confirm the “chased by Geronimo” claim.

The First Isaac M. Howard

[by Rob Roehm; originally posted March 3, 2013 at twogunraconteur.com. This version updated and lightly edited.]

1st IMHa

In [18]49 three brothers started for California. On the Arkansas River they split up, one went on to California where he lived the rest of his life, one went back to Georgia and one, William Benjamin Howard, went to Mississippi . . .

—Robert E. Howard to H.P. Lovecraft, ca. October 1930

Those three brothers were all sons of Henry Howard; William Benjamin was Robert E. Howard’s grandfather, Isaac Mordecai Howard’s father. We all know that story, but what about the Howard who came to California? In a December 1930 letter to Lovecraft, Robert Howard elaborated a bit, saying that his grand-uncle “settled in Sonora,” as good a starting place as any.

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Using various online genealogy websites, I found the names of Henry Howard’s other children; the oldest son was Charles Henry Howard (1821-1864), who appears to have lived most of his life in Georgia, but died in Virginia. Perhaps he is the brother who returned to Georgia from the Arkansas River. In other letters, Robert Howard explains the reason for the group splitting up: cholera:

Had not cholera struck the camp of William Benjamin Howard and his band of ’49ers on the Arkansas River, reducing their number from nineteen to seven, and weakening their leader so he was forced to turn back, I, his grandson, would have undoubtedly been born in California instead of Texas (REH to HPL, ca. June 1931).

Whether or not William Benjamin was the “leader” of the group is arguable, but Robert Howard clearly believed that at least one of the brothers made it all the way to California; if not the oldest brother, perhaps it was the second oldest, one Isaac Mordecai Howard.

 

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The first I. M. Howard was born in Georgia on October 3, 1825. If Robert Howard’s family legend is true, he headed west with his brothers in 1849. California voter registration documents found online have an “Isaac Mordecai Howard” living in Blanket Creek, Tuolumne County, California, in 1866. Blanket Creek is fewer than five miles southeast of Sonora and in the same county. He is listed as a 40-year-old farmer, born in Georgia. The California connection was more than I could stand, so I convinced my father and partner-in-research, to load up the Lincoln and make the six-hour trek to Gold Rush Country.

1869 10-18 Quartz Claim

At the Tuolumne County courthouse, we uncovered a few documents that tell a bit of Isaac Howard’s story. While listed as a farmer on the 1866 voter registration document, that clearly wasn’t all he was interested in. An October 18, 1869 Quartz Claim indicates that he was at least trying to strike it rich. His claim, the “Howard Vein,” was shared with eight others—including three with the last name of Berger— and was located “about 1½ miles North East of Ward’s Ferry.” A bridge has taken the place of the ferry today, and can only be reached via a treacherous, one-lane road that zigzags down a steep mountain face. Must have been fun on a horse or mule, and it appears that the claim didn’t pan out (pun intended).

 

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At the time of the 1870 U.S. Census, those same Bergers mentioned above are running a farm. Right below the Bergers, the Census has Isaac Howard, unmarried, working as a farm laborer in Tuolumne County. The post office listed is Sonora. Ten years later, the 1880 Census of “Sonora Precinct” has Isaac M. Howard as a single Farmer, age 54. Schedule 2 of that Census, “Productions of Agriculture” in Blanket Creek, gives more detail: Isaac is the owner of 160 acres, 30 “improved” and 130 “Woodland and Forest”; he valued his land at 800, his equipment at 30, and his livestock at 100; he spent 50 on building and repairing in 1879; the value of “all farm productions” for 1879 is listed as 30; and he had three horses. Just up the road is a John Hawkins; remember that name.

And now, a history lesson (note that Howard had 160 acres in 1880):

In 1862, the Homestead Act was passed and signed into law. The new law established a three-fold homestead acquisition process: filing an application, improving the land, and filing for deed of title. Any U.S. citizen, or intended citizen, who had never borne arms against the U.S. Government could file an application and lay claim to 160 acres of surveyed Government land. For the next 5 years, the homesteader had to live on the land and improve it by building a 12-by-14 dwelling and growing crops. After 5 years, the homesteader could file for his patent (or deed of title) by submitting proof of residency and the required improvements to a local land office.*

* Potter, Lee Ann and Wynell Schamel. “The Homestead Act of 1862.” Social Education 61, 6 (October 1997): 361.

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It is unclear exactly when Isaac Howard settled on his 160 acres, but it was sometime between 1870 and 1880 (the year his mother, Elizabeth Howard, died back home in Georgia). An 1881 county directory lists Howard as a “farmer,” and by February 1, 1882, he had met all of the Homestead requirements and his patent was approved. Part of his land is seen below.

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Late in 1882, back in Georgia, a chunk of his mother’s land was sold for $505. The transaction was finalized on January 19, 1883. After court fees, a total of $479.75 was divided up between her heirs, including Isaac M. Howard, who received $50.

Later that year, on September 22, 1883, Howard appeared at the Tuolumne County courthouse. His first order of business was to enter the deed to his land into the record; his second was to sell that land. “For the consideration of five hundred and seventy five dollars,” I. M. Howard sold his 160 acres in section 24 to one J. Hawkins, perhaps his 1870 neighbor. A 1948 topographical map shows a “Hawkins Ranch” east of where Isaac Howard’s property was located, about seven miles southeast of Sonora proper.

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With all of the above information in hand, we took the evening off and went downtown to meet up with Barbara Barrett, who had driven in for a visit. In the morning, we hit the genealogy library. We quickly added the 1881 listing from the city directory to our stack of documents, but we were unable to find the one piece of information that still eluded us: Isaac Mordecai Howard’s death date.

So, where did he go? The 1890 Census was destroyed by fire, so no help there, but California’s voter registrations for 1890 have been transcribed and are available in The California 1890 Great Register of Voters Index; unfortunately, Isaac M. Howard either didn’t register that year, had moved out of state, or was dead. Robert E. Howard said that Isaac “lived the rest of his life in California,” but where? At the end of September 1883 he was 58, living near Sonora, a single man with no property, but his wallet bulged with what would today be about $14,000. What would you have done?

Family Legend

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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.

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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.”

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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.

Upson County, GA

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

The Howard Family Tree, Part 4

In 1849, Henry Howard, my great-grandfather, a planter and a school teacher, was living on a farm in Oglethorpe County, in what I would describe as the middle northeastern part of the state, no great distance from the Savannah River. As far as I know, my grandfather, William Benjamin Howard, was born on that plantation.

–Robert E. Howard, “The Wandering Years”

While William Benjamin Howard was, in fact, born in Oglethorpe County, as we have seen, by 1849 Henry Howard had relocated to Upson County, following the 1830 death of his father, Mordecai Howard. The 1830 US Census for Oglethorpe County, Captain Lumpkin’s District, lists Henry (aged 30-40) in a household with two boys aged five years or less (Isaac M. and William B.); one boy between 5 and 10 (Charles H.); one girl between 5 and 10 (Rebecca J.); one woman between 30 and 40 (Betsy); and one female slave between 10 and 24 years old. Later that year, July 6, his son, John Hubbard Howard was born.

Following the move to Upson County, Henry and Betsy continued to produce children: 1833 October 1, Marquis De LaFayette born; 1836 October 4, Nathaniel Hutson born; 1838 September 30, daughter Susan Ann born (The Howard Historian Vol. 28, spring 1995).

An 1838 Upson Co. Tax Digest, for “Captain Brown’s District,” lists Henry Howard. The whole family (minus Charles H., 19, who was back in Oglethorpe Co.) appears on the 1840 Upson County Census. Household of Henry Howard: 1 male 40-50 [Henry]. 3 males 10-15 [Isaac is 15, William is 13 or so, John Hubbard is 10]. 1 male 5-10 [Marquis]. 1 male 0-5 [Nathaniel]. 1 female 40-50 [wife Betsy]. 1 female 15-20 [Rebecca]. 1 female 0-5 [Susan]. 1 male slave 55-100. 3 in family are engaged in agriculture. On November 3, 1841 Henry’s last child, Alfonse Cuthbert Howard, was born (The Howard Historian Vol. 28, spring 1995).

While he was certainly good at producing children, our man Henry doesn’t appear to have been very good with his finances. In early 1845, he filled out a stack of notices to more than a dozen people, including his brother-in-law Charles V. Collier, proclaiming his intent to “avail myself of the benefit of the Act entitled an Act for the Relief of Honest Debtors” in court that April.

1845 04-22 HH to CVCollier

As early as July 2, Howard began liquidating assets to pay off his debts, as this notice in the July 24, 1845 Georgia Messenger (Ft. Hawkins) shows:

1845 07-24 Georgia Messenger (Ft Hawkins) p4

All of these financial difficulties didn’t sit well with Henry’s father-in-law. On September 1, 1845, Isaac Collier prepared his will, which includes the following:

[. . .] Item 2nd Henry Howard the husband of my daughter Elizabeth Ann Howard, has received Six hundred dollars, in the sale of a negro woman named Mary, over and above what the rest of my children have received from me, therefore I wish my daughter Elizabeth Ann Howard not to receive any more of my estate, both real and personal, until each of my other children do receive the sum of Five Hundred dollars, then if there should be a surplus of my Estate, I then give unto my son Charles V. Collier, as trustee for the [illegible] of my daughter Elizabeth Ann Howard, the Ninth part thereof, the said share, if any there should be Not to be subject to the control of the said Henry Howard, nor to be subject to pay his debts or Contracts, but to be laid out for the use of my daughter, Elizabeth Ann Howard, at the discretion of the said Charles V. Collier, trustee as aforesaid. [. . .] Item 5th. For that whereas I am of the Opinion, that slaves & negroes should be treated with humanity therefore, my will and desire is that none of my negroes, should fall into the hands of Henry Howard, or into the hands of M.D.F. Beall, when sold or divided and that my executor hereafter named shall see and attend to this Item and carry it into effect.

Robert E. Howard was apparently not aware of this when he told Lovecraft, “Thank God the slaves on my ancestors’ plantations were never so misused” (REH to HPL, circa September 1930).

Collier died three years later, September 4, 1848. And, if Robert Howard’s letters can be trusted, three of Henry Howard’s sons headed west the following year, excited by news of the gold found in California. There doesn’t appear to be any Howards in Upson County for the 1850 Census, but a list compiled as a supplemental census entitled “Tax Payers of Upson Co., GA Not Listed on 1850 Census” does have a Henry Howard, none of his adult sons are present.

[Note: Charles Henry Howard, the oldest of Henry Howard’s sons (born 1821), would have been better off heading west with his brothers in 1849. Charles is the only adult son of Henry’s to appear on the 1850 Census, over in Baldwin County, with his wife and family. As early as September 1863 he was part of Company B in the Georgia Infantry. A notation in his file says that he was “killed in action near Wathal Junction, VA, May 20, 1864.”]

Henry Howard is also listed on the 1852 Upson Co. Tax Digest for District 537: “Henry Howard / Do[?] Agt John H. Howard / C. V. Collier Trustee for / Elizabeth A. Howard.” Elizabeth has 202 ½ acres of pine land, number 176, district 15 (whatever that means); Aggregate value of land is 400; amount of money and solvent debts: 100.00; aggregate value of all other property: 90.00; aggregate value of whole property: 590.00; 390.00.

An 1854 “poor school” record for Upson County lists Henry Howard as a parent of two school-age children, but only one, “A. C. Howard,” is listed as a student. That would be Alfonse Cuthbert Howard. One didn’t have to be poor to attend.

A January 30, 1855, “Indenture Made in Upson County, Georgia” has the trustee of Isaac Collier’s will (his son Charles V.) giving to two of the Howard brothers (Charles and William B.) some land and farm animals, so long as “Henry Howard husband of said Elizabeth A. Howard shall have no title right or interest in the same, in any manner whatever, nor shall not be subject to his debts or contracts.”—William B. Howard is said to be “of the State of Mississippi.”

William Benjamin Howard is, of course, Robert E. Howard’s grandfather. He married Loisa Elizabeth Henry in Mississippi on December 6, 1856. Their first child was born there as well, Mary Elizabeth, on November 27, 1857. In 1858, according to an REH letter, the Mississippi Howards and Henrys moved to southwestern Arkansas. And it is there, on December 18, 1858, that William’s first son, James H. “Jim” Howard, was born.

Meanwhile, back in Georgia, Henry Howard appears in the Upson County “poor school” records. In 1855 he is listed in the 537th District as the father of one school-age child. He is listed as a teacher as early as 1856, and continues into 1860. In 1859, according to History of Upson County, Henry Howard was “examined and passed” by the local school board. “At first the public school term was only three months of the year. It was usually taught at a convenient season for the farmer ‘after the crops had been laid by.’”

The 1860 US Census, Georgia Militia District 537, Upson Co., GA, June 20, has the Howards’ Post Office at Double Bridges with the following in the household: Henry Howard, 65, M, School Teacher, Real Estate $1,000, Personal $300, b. VA; E. A. [Betsy], 62, F, b. GA; S. A. [Susan], 20, F, Seamstress, b. GA; and A. C. C. [Alfonse], 18, M, Farm hand, b. GA.

1861 03-30 Upson Pilot (Thomaston) p3

History of Upson County states that in 1861 Henry Howard received 256 votes as “tax receiver.” Also on the list were Wm. H. Brown, 165 votes, Jesse Williams, 130, and a scattering of others. Notices like the above, from March 30, 1861, started appearing in the Upson Pilot not long after he was sworn in. He was reelected in 1862, as this notice from the Upson Pilot for January 4, 1862, shows:

1862 01-04 Upson Pilot (Thomaston) p2

It’s unclear (again) what Henry Howard was doing during the Civil War, but there is a Henry Howard of Upson County who receives $4.00 from the Confederate Army on April 29, 1863; there is also a note from a James Russell saying that he owes Howard for a mule: “the above account is correct and just; that I purchased the above articles of the said Henry Howard at the price therein charged amounting to one thousand dollars and that I have not paid the account for want of money.”

Whether Howard was actually involved in the fighting is not known, but he swore he wasn’t on July 4, 1867, when he filled out a form in the Returns of Qualified Voters and Reconstruction Oath Books, 1867-1869 where he registered to vote in the Flint District of Upson County.

1867 07-04-p

An 1869 Property Tax Digest has Howard, Henry, “Agt for wife: 202 acres, number 176, district 15, Upson Co.; Aggregate Value: 405; All other property” valued at 30. Son A. C. is listed below him.

The June 8, 1870 US Census Schedule 3 “Productions of Agriculture” has Henry Howard listed, but is so faded that I can’t read the information. The 1870 US Census for Upson Co., July 12, has their Post Office at Thomaston and lists the following: Henry Howard, 75, M, Farmer, Real Estate $500, Personal $300, b. VA; Elizabeth, 72, F, Keeping House, b. GA; Alphonso, 27, M, Farm hand, b. GA; and Susan, 30, F, At Home, b. GA.

The 1871 Property Tax Digest has Henry Howard, Agt for wife, 202 acres valued at 400; other property valued at 25. Five years later, April 27, 1876, Henry Howard died. The May 6, 1876 edition of Thomaston Herald ran the following:

DEAD On Thursday, the 27th of April, Mr. Henry Howard, age 81 years, died at his home in this county. He has been a good and useful citizen and served his country as a faithful officer in a few instances. He died from old age after having been a member of Bethel Church a number of years.

Notices also appeared in other papers, like this one, from The Georgia Weekly Telegraph (Macon) for May 9, 1876:

1876 05-09 The Georgia Weekly Telegraph (Macon) p2

On June 14, 1880, Henry’s widow was recorded on the US Census in the home of her son, Alfonse. On July 24, The Middle Georgia Times ran this:

[Column 1] We are called on to announce the death of Mrs. Elizabeth Howard, an aged widow lady living near Blackville in this county, who departed this life on the 20th Inst. See obituary notice.

[Column 3] Elizabeth Howard, widow of Henry Howard, died in Upson county on July 19, 1880. This simple statement would be sufficient to assure her distant friends, children and relatives that she has entered into eternal rest.
A life of nearly eighty years, blameless and bright in virtue has prepared her for that “Rest that remaineth for the people of God.”
“Aunt Betsey” (as she was best known) was born in Oglethorpe Co., Ga. Lived in Upson since 1832. The memory of such is blessed upon earth.
More than this might properly be said—less would not satisfy bereaved hearts and speak only a part of the truth.

—A neighbor

And that about does it for the Georgia Howards. There are still stories to tell, but they are tangential to the story of Robert E. Howard, at best, only of interest to fanatical Howard biographers. No, the real story picks up with William Benjamin Howard over in Arkansas, but I’ll save all of that for another time.

Back to Part 1.

Oglethorpe County, GA

Part 1
Part 2

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.

1812 12-18 Augusta Chronicle p6

[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:

1820 11-07 The Georgia Journal (Milledgeville) p4

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).

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.

1828 06-02 Will

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.

1830 10-30 The Federal Union (Milledgeville) p3

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:

1831 04-07 The Federal Union (Milledgeville) p4

Whatever was happening, everything appears to have been resolved by the following year. This notice appeared on May 10, 1832, in The Southern Recorder:

1832 05-10 Southern Recorder (Milledgeville) p4

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.

Part 4.

The Virginia Howards

Part 1 is here.

1788 tax list brunswick h p09

The Howard Family Tree, Part 2

Robert E. Howard’s statements notwithstanding (see Part 1), his earliest Howard ancestors appear to have landed in Virginia, not Georgia. For it is in Virginia that we pick up the trail of three brothers with the surname of Howard: Richard, Thomas, and Mordecai. Mordecai was Robert E. Howard’s great-great grandfather. Some online genealogies claim that he comes from the line of the English poet, Henry Howard, but they provide no documentary evidence so I can’t confirm it (but wouldn’t that be cool?).

The earliest Mordecai Howard I’ve found is from a February 1763 list of court cases in Augusta County, Virginia. There is no information about what the case was, it only says “William Crow vs. Mordecai Howard” (Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish Settlement in Virginia). Augusta was a huge county on the western border of Virginia back then. It has since been carved into several counties and states. But this is probably not our guy; most of the sources say he was born in 1751, though no document verifying that claim has been found.

What the Howards did during the Revolution is uncertain, but years afterwards, on October 22, 1832, one William Wilkinson testified “before the Justices of the County Court of Brunswick” in regard to his pension. He swore that he enlisted “as a substitute and served a term of three months for Mordecai Howard in the year 1779.” Then there’s the June 2, 1781 sighting of a Mordecai Howard up in Caroline County (central-eastern part of the state). On that date, a Mordecai Howard signed a petition calling for the punishment of Tories (Selected Virginia Revolutionary War Records, Vol. 1). I’m inclined to believe that the Brunswick Co. Howard is our man, but not the one in Caroline.

The next sighting is on the extreme southwestern border of the state, on the Tennessee line. Transcriptions of the Washington County, VA Survey records abstracts 1781-1797 (available from the fine folks at the USGenWeb Project) has several Howard mentions from the early 1780s. An asignee of Thomas Howard’s had a land transaction in “Turkey Cove” somewhere in the Powells Valley. His brother Mordecai was also interested in the area; there are a few descriptions of his land near “Indian Creek,” also in Powells Valley. The last reference is a “Preemption Warrant” (whatever that is) dated November 3, 1783.

These references might be our man as they appear to mention two of the brothers, Thomas and Mordecai. Whether or not that is the case, the next item is definitely him. On February 23, 1784, Mordecai Howard married Jane Anderton in Brunswick County, as recorded in Virginia Marriages, 1660-1800. The same book has this mention for November 22, 1784, “Mordecai Howard surety for marriage of John Anderton and Clarissa Durham.”

At this time, marriage bonds were given to the court by the intended groom prior to his marriage. It affirmed that there was no moral or legal reason why the couple could not be married and it also guaranteed that the groom would not change his mind about getting married. If he did change his mind, he would forfeit the bond. The bondsman, or surety, was usually a brother or uncle to the bride, not necessarily a parent. The bondsman could also be related to the groom, or even be a neighbor or friend, but those situations occurred less often.

Brunswick County is about midway on the state’s southern border with North Carolina. Another tome, Marriage Records of Brunswick County, Virginia, 1730-1852, has some interesting additions. It also records Mordecai’s marriage, but it provides this extra item regarding Jane Anderton: “dau. of Isaac.” It also lists the other Howard brothers who were married around the same time, with Mordecai providing the surety for each: Thomas Howard married Betsy Ledbetter (“dau. of Jean”) in December 1789 and Richard Howard married Elizabeth Anderton in January 1791. Elizabeth has the following notation: “John Rose Williams sec.”

On September 24, 1787, Mordecai is listed as a witness to the land deal between John Williams and Robert Bailey in Brunswick County (Deed Book 14 (1780-1790) Brunswick County, Virginia). I haven’t a clue what our man’s profession actually was, I assume a farmer, but he does appear to be fairly active in land deals. And then there are the Virginia tax lists found here. The 1788 list for Brunswick County has three Howards, all on the same page: Thomas and William, both with one horse or mule; and Mordecai, who claims “2 Blacks over 16,” “1 Black over 12 & under 16,” and 3 horses.

At one point, Mordecai appears to have loaned his wife’s uncle, John Anderton, some cash. The same Deed Book mentioned above (transcribed at USGenWeb), describes a transaction “for and in consideration of the sum of thirty six pounds eleven shillings specie” which Anderton owes Howard. To resolve the situation, and including the “further consideration of the sum of five shillings,” Anderton sold to Howard “one Negroe Woman called Anney her and her increase and one feather bed and furniture forever and all other rights claims interest and services relating to the same.” The document is dated June 22, 1789 in Brunswick County.

It seems John Anderton had other issues, too. Following the 1790 death of his brother Isaac, the Brunswick County Chancery Records Index has “John Anderton etc.” listed as the plaintiff in a case with “Exr of Isaac Anderton etc.” as defendants. There is at least one Howard associated with the case, and I haven’t ordered copies of the file, but it looks like someone was contesting the will.

On November 29, 1790, Zebulon Williams married Nancy Anderton, with Mordecai Howard again providing surity (Marriage Records of Brunswick County, Virginia, 1730-1852). Howard will later “prove by oath” Zebulon’s will.

On December 23, 1793, Mordecai purchased some Brunswick County land from his brother Thomas, who had moved to North Carolina (Deed Book 15, Brunswick County, Virginia). Warren Co. shares its northern border with two Virginia counties: Mecklenburg and Brunswick. Warren was created from Bute County when it was divided in 1779 to form Franklin County in the south and Warren in the north. It’s easy to assume that there may have been some back-and-forth between the two states.

Despite all this land activity, Mordecai managed to spend at least some time at home. On June 11, 1795, (according to his headstone) Henry Howard, Robert E. Howard’s grandfather, was born to Mordecai and Jane Howard nee Anderton at Brunswick, Lunenburg, Virginia (per The Howard Historian Vol. 28, spring 1995, and the 1860 U.S. Census).

The 1798 Tax List of Brunswick County shows Mordecai with “2 White Tithes,” “7 Negro Tithes,” and “5 Horses, Mares, Mules etc.”

On April 10, 1799, Mordecai “proved by oath” the will of Zebulon Williams in Brunswick County. Then there is a Mordecai Howard up north in Spotsylvania County in 1801. He is listed as a defendant in District Court records, but I have been unable to find out anything regarding the case. Whether or not this last man is our man, that’s the last Mordecai mention in Virginia before our guy shows up in Georgia, where Robert E. Howard thought it all began.

Part 3.

The Earliest Howards

00wbh01

The Howard Family Tree, Part 1

There hasn’t been a lot written about the Howard side of Robert E. Howard’s family. Despite its inaccuracies (the first of his American line appear to have landed in Virginia, not Georgia, for example), all we ever really had was the following, from Howard’s “The Wandering Years,” which all the biographies have used as their source for background information:

My father, Dr. Howard, was the son of William Benjamin Howard, of Georgia. The first of the American line came to America in 1733, with Oglethorpe’s colony, and helped build the settlement of Savannah, in southeast Georgia. As Georgia was itself a frontier state, the westward drift of the Howards was slow. In 1849, Henry Howard, my great-grandfather, a planter and a school teacher, was living on a farm in Oglethorpe County, in what I would describe as the middle northeastern part of the state, no great distance from the Savannah River. As far as I know, my grandfather, William Benjamin Howard, was born on that plantation.[1] In 1849 he started for California with two of his brothers. At Pine Bluff, Arkansas, cholera struck the party, wiped out most of them, and so weakened my grandfather that he was forced to turn back. One of his brothers went on to California and the other returned to Georgia. William Howard did neither. He turned southward, into Mississippi, and obtained the position of overseer on the plantations of Squire James Henry,[2] whose daughter, Louisa, he married in 18–.[3]

  1. The family Bible has his birth date as July 23, 1827; the 1830 U.S. Census for “Capt Lumpkins District,” in Oglethorpe County, Georgia, has a Henry Howard listed with four children, two of these were boys under five years of age, William Benjamin and his brother, Isaac.
  2. The 1850 Census for Oktibbeha County, Mississippi, lists James Henry, 39, born in South Carolina, as a farmer with real estate valued at “800”; his household includes wife Mary, 35, from Georgia; Louisa, 15, born in Alabama; and six other children.
  3. The last two digits are not provided in the typescript; the Howard family Bible records the wedding date as December 16, 1856.

00wbh02

From there, Howard pivots to the Henry family and then peters out, leaving the document unfinished. Just one short paragraph is devoted to the Howard line, and this after pages on the Ervin clan, his mother’s side of the family. It seems that REH didn’t have much to say about his Howard ancestors. Unless I missed something in my quick search (entirely possible), there are only a couple of vague mentions in his correspondence:

Letter: REH to Harold Preece, circa early April 1930

A man has too many grand-parents to be pure blooded anything. One of my great-grandfathers was born somewhere on the Atlantic Ocean between the coast of Kerry and New York — I mean, my great-great-grandfather — he was of the old Gaelic family of the MacEnry. He married Anna O’Tyrrell, who was born in Connaught.[4] Another of my great-great-grandfathers was born in Georgia of Anglo-Irish parents.[5] Another was born in Virginia of Scotch-Irish parents.[6] Another was born in Denmark and he married an Irish-American woman in Mississippi.[7]

  1. In a short biography of Dr. J. T. Henry, Goodspeed’s Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Southern Arkansas mentions his grandfather: “James Henry, was of Irish descent, a farmer by occupation, and died in Bibb County, Alabama.” Another volume, 1962’s Our East Tennessee Kinsmen by Aurelia Cate Dawson, has James Henry’s offspring, but all it provides for him are the barebones: “born May 7, 1765, died May 1, 1845 in Bibb Co., Ala. Married in S.C. Jan. 4, 1796 to Anna or Ann.” There is a James Henry in Bibb County on the 1830 Census with a male and a female in the household who are the correct ages, but on the 1840 Census, the same household (apparently) no longer has either of them. If this is the correct household, where did they go?
  2. I assume, based on his comments elsewhere, that REH is referring here to his great-great grandfather Howard, but everything I’ve found points to a Virginia birth for Mordecai Howard, who appears to have moved to Georgia around 1805.
  3. Isaac Collier, father of Elizabeth Ann “Betsy” Howard nee Collier, was in fact born in Virginia. Here’s his information from a historical marker: “Isaac Collier, June 6, 1769 – Sept. 4, 1848. Pioneer settler of Upson County. Born in Brunswick Co., VA, removed from VA to Wilkes (now Oglethorpe) Co., GA with his father CA 1780. Served as Clerk of Court for Oglethorpe Co. Elected to Georgia Legislature 1830-1833. Brought his family to Upson County, GA about 1835. The large mound of stones marks his grave. Isaac was one of the thirteen children of Vines Collier, a veteran of the French & Indian War and a Patriot of the American Revolution, and Elizabeth Williamson Collier. The children of Vines & Elizabeth were pioneers and prominent citizens throughout Georgia.”
  4. Here Howard must be referring to the only great-great grandfather he has left on the Howard side, and that would be David Walser. Someone on Ancestry.com has done a fairly extensive Walser family tree, and it has Walser born not in Denmark, but in North Carolina. My minimal excursions into this have only verified that location. In fact, not only was David Walser not born in Denmark, neither was his father (Pennsylvania), nor his father (Switzerland).

Letter: REH to HPL, circa early October 1930

My branch of the Howards came to America with Oglethorpe 1733 and lived in various parts of Georgia for over a hundred years.[8] In ’49 three brothers started for California. On the Arkansas River they split up, one went on to California where he lived the rest of his life,[9] one went back to Georgia[10] and one, William Benjamin Howard, went to Mississippi[11] where he became an overseer on the plantations of Squire James Harrison [sic.] Henry, whose daughter he married. In 1858 he moved, with the Henrys, to southwestern Arkansas where he lived until 1885, when he moved to Texas. He was my grandfather.

  1. Again, as far as I can determine, REH’s line of Howards came to Georgia from Virginia in the early 1800s. His great-great grandfather (Mordecai Howard) appears on Georgia land auction records as early as 1813; and one of his daughters, Nancy Howard, was married there in 1808.
  2. Isaac Mordecai Howard (REH’s grand uncle, not father), is established in Sonora, California, by 1866.
  3. Most likely John Hubbard Howard, Henry Howard’s fourth oldest son.
  4. The earliest I can place him there is 1855; neither he, nor the brothers mentioned above, have been found on an 1850 Census. William B. is mentioned in an Upson County, Georgia, “Indenture,” dated January 30, 1855, as being “of the State of Mississippi.”

And that’s about it. Luckily, we no longer have to rely solely on what REH has to tell us. Thanks to court documents, transcriptions of records found online, scans of books at Google Books, and various records available on Ancesry.com and other genealogical websites, we can now paint a slightly fuller picture of those early Howards.

Part Two.