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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.