Oglethorpe County, GA

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, 1810, 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.

More to come.

The Virginia Howards

1788 tax list brunswick h p09

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. As mentioned in part one, he may come from the line of the English poet, Henry Howard, but I can’t confirm that.

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 Powels 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 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.

More to come.

The Earliest Howards

00wbh01

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.

Stay tuned.