My Name Is Earl

Earl Lee Comer was one of Robert E. Howard’s first cousins. When his mother died in 1915, he left his home in Big Spring, Texas, to live with the Howard family in Cross Cut. Just 17, he attended the Cross Cut school for at least one year, earning a spot on the basketball team. Whether he was a “big brother” or a “big bother” is not known, but there are a couple of “cousins” mentioned in Howard’s correspondence that could refer to Comer. In 1918, the Howards moved to the nearby town of Burkett (where Robert tried out for the basketball team). Whether or not Comer accompanied them on this move is not known: he may have returned to Big Spring before joining the military on May 25, 1918. Comer visited the Howards many times over the years and may have corresponded with his Cousin Robert. Most of this was not known in 1983 when Comer was introduced, as follows, in L. Sprague de Camp’s biography of Howard, Dark Valley Destiny:

Robert Howard was thirteen years old when his family bought their home in Cross Plains. Although Robert had not outgrown the Burkett school system, which lacked high-school facilities, we surmise that Mrs. Howard’s nephew, Earl Lee Comer, who had come to live with them, had already reached high school age. Very little is known about this nephew, except that he shared the Howards’ house for several years. Robert, in his later letters to Lovecraft, never once mentions the slightly older lad whose presence must have affected him in one way or another. Since the two boys shared the sleeping porch, ate at the same table, and even attended the same high school, it is indeed curious that no mention of him appears in the correspondence of either Robert or his father.

Queries to former teachers at the Cross Plains school and to others who lived in the neighborhood have revealed nothing. All we know is that after completing his high-school courses, Lee Comer left Cross Plains to work for one of the oil companies in Dallas. Perhaps no one will ever know what Robert thought of this interloper in his home or what this orphaned youth thought of his thirteen-year-old cousin. [pg. 133-34]

The second edition of Mark Finn’s Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard (2011) corrects the timing above (which was inaccurate in the first edition), but doesn’t add anything new:

It was at this time [while living in Cross Cut] that Robert had to endure the first of many boarders. His orphaned cousin, Earl Lee Comer, was staying at the Howard house, and attended the Cross Cut High School. Robert was forced to share the sleeping porch with this older boy, who came to them though Hester’s side of the family. Comer stayed for at least a year, presumably until he graduated, and then enlisted in the military. Robert never discussed his cousin to anyone. [pg. 37-8]

I’m not sure how I feel about calling an orphaned cousin “a boarder,” but I’ll leave that alone. What both of these biographies suggest is that Comer’s stay with the Howards was less than ideal, and that Robert E. Howard didn’t talk about it later. So, which is it? Was Comer’s presence in the house something to be endured, or was it welcomed? Did Robert Howard never talk about this cousin, or simply not use his name? Besides the fact that Earl Lee Comer lived with the Howards, what do we really know about him? His story begins in Tennessee . . .

Hester Ann Perry was born in Tennessee in March 1835. Around 1854 she married a gentleman named Good. That union produced three children and ended in 1860—cause unknown. Only Sarah, the youngest child, accompanied Hester when she moved to Illinois. Shortly thereafter, Illinois native John Fletcher Comer came calling. Born in 1837, he too had a child from a previous entanglement, but that son was living with his mother, so John Fletcher wooed and married Hester Ann in 1862. In September 1865, they had their first child together: John Frank Comer. At the time of the 1870 Census, the Comers were living in Massac County, in southern Illinois, and had been joined by another son: James A. Comer. John Fletcher was a farmer; his wife kept house.

By 1880, the family had moved north to the tiny town of Leef, in Madison County. John Fletcher still farmed, but he had a lot of new help: his first child, Jacob W, had returned to live with his father’s family, and one of Hester’s other sons, Thomas S. Good, had come to live with his mother; both boys were in their early twenties. The family laid down its roots in Madison County and had ties there into the mid-20th century.

Between 1880 and 1887, information is scarce, but by the end of 1888 the family had packed up and moved to Missouri—Saint Louis, to be precise. There are several Comers listed in the city directory starting at least as early as 1867, so perhaps they moved to be closer to family. Whatever the reason, in 1889 the Comer men are all listed: “John F” Senior, is an “agent” of some kind; his sons “James K” and “John F, Jr.” are carpenters. The information in the 1890 directory is the same, except that John Sr. is now listed as a salesman, and John Jr. is now going by his middle name, Frank.

The 1891 directory has Frank Comer listed as a collector for the Moffitt-West Insurance Company; in 1893, he is listed as a solicitor. The 1894 and ’95 city directories have the whole Comer clan living together, presumably at John F’s home, with one exception: Frank. During this period Frank had moved south to Commerce and become a reverend. The October 12, 1895 edition of The News Boy (Benton, Scott Co., MO) announced his arrival:

FROM COMMERCE
Quite a crowd was out Sunday night to hear the new preacher, Rev. J. F. Comer, for the first time.

The same paper mentions a few weddings that Rev. J. F. Comer officiated at Commerce later in 1895, but after a January 25, 1896 mention, Rev. Comer drops out of sight. His next appearance is on March 4, 1896, over in Exeter, Barry County, where he married Alice Ervin. The March 12, 1896 Muskogee Phoenix has a few more details:

The friends of Miss Alice Ervin, formerly a resident of Muskogee, and a sister of Mrs. J. 0. Cobb [aka Christena Ervin], will be interested in learning that Miss Ervin was married on Wednesday of last week to Rev. J. Frank Comer, of St. Louis, Mo., at the home of the bride’s parents at Commerce [sic: they lived at Exeter], Mo. The many friends of Miss Ervin in Muskogee join the friends at her home in wishing the wedded couple all the peace, joy and contentment that life affords.

I have found no other mention of J. Frank Comer or his bride in 1896. There is an 1897 Land Ownership map of Richmond, Missouri (Ray County) that has a “J. F. Comer” owning a lot next to a cemetery (below). This could be our man, but the 1897 Saint Louis directory has another candidate, a “John F” Comer listed as a teacher. All the other familiar Comers are sharing a house on Marceau Avenue, but this John F. has “bds” at 3922 N. 20th Street. Whatever the case, by July 13, 1898, both Mr. and Mrs. John Frank Comer were in Saint Louis attending the birth of their only child, Earl Lee. They were not together for long.

The 1899 Saint Louis directory lists “Comer, John F. Jr. Rev” at home with his father at 3113 N. 20th. As wives are not listed in the directories, it is not known if Alice and Earl were living with the Comers, but by 1900, the answer is clear. On June 6, 1900, in the city of Saint Louis, John A. Casserly arrived at the Comer home to enumerate the U.S. Census. He recorded the following: Comer, John F, head of household, age 62, born June 1837, salesman; Comer, Hester A, wife, age 65, born March 1835; and Comer, John F, son, age 34, born September 1865, collector, insurance. In the box for Jr.’s marital status, Mr. Casserly marked “widowed.” Where Alice Comer and her son had gone is a mystery. They do not appear to have been recorded on the 1900 Census.

As for Frank, life went on. He is listed as Rev. John F. Comer, Jr., living with his father, in the 1901 and 1903 Saint Louis directories. He does not appear in the 1904 directory, probably because he was elsewhere, meeting his next wife, Sarah R. They were married in 1905 and were back in Saint Louis by 1908, where Frank is listed in the directory as a clerk at the Saint Louis Times. The 1910 Census shows Frank and Sarah in Saint Louis. Frank is a salesman at a retail store. This second marriage doesn’t appear to have lasted long, either, as the 1920 Census has Comer as a single lodger in the home of Edward McCaslin and family. The 55-year-old Frank Comer reported his profession as Life Insurance Agent. In 1928, John Frank Comer was hit by a car and died. He was buried back at the Comer plot in Edwardsville, Madison County, Illinois.

Following the breakup of the Comer marriage circa 1899, Alice and Earl Lee appear to have sought out the comfort of family in Big Spring, Howard County, Texas, where Alice’s older brother, W.V. Ervin, ran the local newspaper and raised a family. The Comers may have been in Big Spring when the Howards visited there for several weeks around the turn of the New Year in January 1908. The Comers appear on the 1910 Census, there in Big Spring, with Alice listed as a widowed dressmaker (18 years before the death of Frank Comer). In 1911, Earl Lee took part in the formation of Texas’s Troop No. 1, the so-called “oldest Boy Scout troop in Texas,” which began in Big Spring that year. How long he was involved with the Boy Scouts is unknown. On July 14, 1915—the day after his seventeenth birthday—Earl’s mother died, cause unknown. He was shuffled off to a tiny town in Brown County to finish up his schooling. He moved in with his mother’s sister—his aunt Hester Howard—and her family, Uncle Isaac (or perhaps Uncle Cue) and a cousin, one Robert E. Howard, who was just nine years old.

Comer was almost eight years older than his cousin, but the two young men appear to have engaged in behavior typical of teenage boys. Comer joined the basketball squad at the Cross Cut school and was described in a December 10, 1915 Cross Plains Review item as a “goal thrower.” In a May 24, 1932 letter to H.P. Lovecraft, Howard described a scene that seems to include Comer, a known Boy Scout:

Another thing that discourages me is the absolute unreliability of human senses. If a hunting hound’s nose fooled him as often as a human’s faculties betray him, the hound wouldn’t be worth a damn. The first time this fact was brought to my mind was when I was quite small, and hearing a cousin relate the details of a camping trip, on which one Boy Scout shot another through the heart with a .22 calibre target rifle. I was never a Boy Scout, but I understand that they are trained to be keen observers. Well, there were about twenty looking on, and no two of them told the same story in court. And each insisted that his version was the correct one, and stuck to it. And I understand that this is common among all witnesses.

More shenanigans are described in Howard’s circa December 1933 letter to August Derleth:

One of the damndest falls I ever got in my life was on a frozen pool—or tank, as we call them in these parts. I was just a kid, and wrestling with my cousin who was much older and larger. Eventually our feet went from under us, and we both came down on my head.

Both of the incidents that Howard describes could be remembrances of his time in Cross Cut, when his cousin Earl lived with them. Of course, this is just speculation; perhaps Earl’s stay was as bad as de Camp thought it was. Either way, by May 25, 1918, Comer was gone.

Sometime before his departure, Earl had enlisted in the United States Navy, probably at Abilene. His start date was May 25, 1918. Perhaps as part of his enlistment, he ended up in Milwaukie, Wisconsin. At the time of the 1920 Census, enumerated on January 23, he was recorded as a lodger (on a page full of lodgers). A 1920 city directory has “Earl Comer” living at the YMCA. But he was “home” for the holidays that December:

E. L. Comer of Big Spring is here to spend the holidays with his aunt, Mrs. I. M. Howard. He is helping W. E. Butler, grocerman, during the holiday rush.

Cross Plains Review, December 17, 1920

It appears that his discharge from the Navy was completed on September 30, 1921, but given his arrangements in 1920, it seems he was out of the service before then. A January 7, 1921 note from the Big Spring Herald seems to confirm this:

Earl Lee Comer who recently returned from Milwaukee, Wis., where he had been to take a course in mechanical drawing, after spending the holidays with friends and relatives in this city left for Cross Plains where he will make his home.

Earl didn’t stay long in Cross Plains the second time, certainly not long enough to cause the family much trouble. He arrived sometime after January 7, 1921, and was off to Dallas in time to be included in the 1922 city directory. His profession is listed as “draftsman.” He would remain in Dallas until at least mid-1924, possibly into 1925, but by the summer of that year he was way out west. California! He shows up in the 1925 Los Angeles city directory as a draftsman. And, while living in the Golden State, he kept in touch with his relatives in Cross Plains.

In Howard’s Post Oaks and Sand Roughs, his semi-autobiographical novel, the character that represents Howard says that a letter “boosting” his first-published story appeared in Bizarre Stories (aka Weird Tales), and that the “letter had been written by a cousin in California, at [his] special request.” For a couple of cousins who supposedly didn’t get along, a request like that would be unusual. Comer’s letter appeared in the September 1925 issue of Weird Tales and said, in part, “I ran across ‘Spear and Fang’ by Robert E. Howard—a good story of our remote ancestors before the dawn of civilization and intelligence, when man’s reasoning powers were in the formative state. Your July issue affords thrilling entertainment for those who enjoy the unusual. And if you continue to publish such appealing stories, then the well-deserved popularity of Weird Tales is certain to grow.” The addressee’s name was transcribed as “Earl C. Comer of Los Angeles.” But Earl wouldn’t stay there for long.

The September 10, 1926 edition of the Big Spring Herald told of Comer’s return to Texas:

Earl Comer, en route from Los Angeles to Dallas, where he has accepted a position, visited friends in this city this week, leaving Thursday morning for Dallas.

Once he was back in Dallas, Earl Comer’s trips to visit his family and friends in Big Spring and Cross Plains resumed. The November 23, 1928 edition of the Cross Plains Review informed its readers that “E. L. Comer of Dallas, nephew of Dr. and Mrs. Howard, spent past weekend here.” It is shortly after this visit that Robert Howard probably prepared two strange documents. One is just a list of three names: Truett Vinson, Clyde Smith, and Earl Lee Comer; toward the bottom of that page, the word “life” has been added. The other sheet has the same names, with Booth Mooney added after Smith; this sheet includes the cities where these people lived (except for Mooney, who lived in Decatur, not Brownwood) and a few couplets of verse—more indication that relations between Comer and Howard were not strained.

From 1929 to 1933, Comer appears as a draftsman in the Dallas city directories. On April 3, 1930, he was enumerated on the U.S. Census as a draftsman lodger in the city of Dallas. And then things start to get spotty. There is an Earl Comer living in Dennison, Texas, in 1934, but this probably isn’t our man as Lindsey Tyson remembered Comer attending the Howards’ funeral in 1936 and thought that he lived in Dallas.* A 1938 city directory has him still in Dallas. Also in 1938, on December 10 Earl got married to Ruby Nell Poe. His wife accompanied him on at least two visits to Big Spring, one during Christmas 1938 and another in 1939, but after that she disappears. Earl’s 1941 visit to Howard County was taken alone and his death certificate indicates that he was divorced.

[* Here’s what Tyson told de Camp in an October 10, 1977 letter:

There was one relative of the Howards that no one seems to remember much about. His name was Earl Lee Comer. Earl Lee was a nephew of Mrs. Howard’s, he came to live with the Howards while they were still in Burkett. He was an orphan.

Earl Lee left here in the early twenties, went to Dallas, and Bob told me went to work for the Mobile Oil Co. Earl Lee was I think four or five years older than Bob. He came back here to the funeral service and I talked to him for a few minutes before the services, but I did not get to ask some things I was interested in. I was one of the pall bearers, thought I would talk to him some more later, but he left as soon as the service was over and I have never seen him again.]

The few Dallas directories I’ve seen from the 1940s and ’50s all have the same old thing: Comer as a draftsman. After the 1960 directory, which has Earl working for the U.S. Geological Survey, the record goes blank. There is an Earl Comer being brought up on charges of child desertion in Rusk, Texas, in 1963; whether or not this Earl is our Earl, we’ll probably never know. The earliest mention of a Mrs. Earl Lee is December 1938. It seems odd that the couple would have a child young enough to be “deserted” in 1963. I’m guessing this was someone else.

The last definitive sighting of Earl is from the Galveston Daily News for Sept. 16, 1970:

Earl Lee Comer, 72, a retired Galveston draftsman, was found dead in his room at Moody House Tuesday. Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Brookside Memorial Park in Houston, the Rev. William C. Webb Jr. officiating. Cremation will follow under the director of J. Levy and Bro. Funeral Home of Galveston. Born in St. Louis, Mo., Comer worked as a draftsman for the U.S. Bureau of Mines prior to his retirement. No survivors were reported.

His death certificate indicates that he was a retired draftsman from the U.S. Bureau of Mines. Cause of death was acute myocardial failure. He is honored as a veteran at the Houston National Cemetery in Texas.

Thanks to Damon Sasser for the photo of Earl’s grave.

[By Rob Roehm. Originally published in Onion Tops #40, REHupa mailing #229, June 2011, and expanded for posting online at the now defunct Two-Gun Raconteur blog, July 8, 2012, where it won the second place Cimmerian Award for online articles from the Robert E Howard Foundation. The current version incorporates all of the information acquired since then, some of which appeared in “An Earl Addendum” (July 21, 2012) and “Another Earl Addendum” (November 18, 2012) posted at the Two-Gun Raconteur blog, and “The Comer Connection” in Onion Tops #51, REHupa mailing #240, April 2013. With any luck, this will be my last word on Earl Lee Comer.]

Squire James Henry

According to family legend, James Henry, Sr., was born on a ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. He married Anna Terrell Grimes in South Carolina in 1796 and died in Bibb County, Alabama, in 1845, having produced eight offspring. His youngest son, James Jr., was the great grandfather of Robert E. Howard.

I don’t know just what year my people moved into the state of Alabama, but it was long ago. My great-grandfather, Squire James Henry, was born in South Carolina in 1811, and he was a small boy when they went into Alabama, so you see it was pretty far back, anyway. The Henrys and a family named Walser from Georgia settled in what is now the counties of Bibb and Tuscaloosa, near the Black Warrior River. James Henry married a Walser woman and most of their children were born in Alabama. In 1847 they moved to Choctaw County, Mississippi [William H. Henry was born in Oktibbeha County, Mississippi, in 1850], and settled near the upper reaches of the Big Black River, immortalized in the legends of John Henry, the mythical black giant. Both the Henrys and the Walsers made the move. The Walsers remained in Mississippi until a year or so after the Civil War, and then moved to Texas and settled on what was then the western frontier. But the Henrys moved to southwestern Arkansas [. . .]

Robert E. Howard to H. P. Lovecraft, circa January 1935

Unlike the Howard line, the Henrys appear to have been financially stable. The 1850 census lists Henry’s real estate vale at “800”; the slave schedule lists five enslaved people aged 31 down to 2. The Walsers are next on the slave schedule with two slaves. It seems unlikely, though, that the Henrys were as well off as REH says they were, below. Sometime after the census was taken, one William B. Howard arrived at the Henry farm seeking employment. He secured a job and later married Henry’s oldest daughter and started producing children. And, it appears, when James Henry grew restless, the young Howard family hit the trail with him and the rest of the Henry family.

When my great-grandfather Squire Jim Henry started west he traveled in a regular caravan of great wagons, loaded with supplies, implements and furnishings, and negro slaves, and he took with him herds of oxen, steers, cows and horses, and a buckskin bag plump with gold coins. He was no broken man, seeking a place to hide. He was an adventurous soul, looking for new, unbroken and uncrowded land, because the wilds had more attraction for him than the teeming countries of men. And there were thousands and thousands like him.

Robert E. Howard to H. P. Lovecraft, circa July 1933

On September 20, 1860 the United States Census crew hit south-central Arkansas. There they enumerated the townsfolk of Carrol, Union, and Freeo townships in Ouachita County. One of the residents, James Henry, had only recently arrived, moving there in 1858 with his wife and nine children from Mississippi. Born in South Carolina, married in Alabama, a Mississippi resident for ten years, James Henry had been around. The Howard clan settled just over the Ouachita County line in Holly Springs, Dallas County, about three miles away.

Squire Henry was a typical pioneer. When the country about him began to settle up and grow tame, he grew restless and moved on. He was a man of great natural abilities, and managed to acquire considerable education. In his old age he had what was probably the most extensive private library in southern Arkansas, and would have been considered a well-read man, even in this day and age. In hewing homes out of the wilderness, he hewed out a fortune for himself that was considered large in those days. He had not even the proverbial shoe-string to start on, in the beginning, but he was well fixed financially even before he left Alabama. But he had recognized what few today realize; that the ever westward-receding frontier offered unparalleled resources, and that any man of guts and intelligence had the best chance in the world of building a successful career, or making a fortune.

Robert E. Howard to H. P. Lovecraft, circa January 1935

The 1860 Census reports that Henry’s assets had grown from “800” in real estate in 1850 to “3000” in 1860, with a “personal estate” estimated at “9350.” In 1860 he had seven slaves. While some might have been content watching their grandchildren grow up around them, not James Henry. After the Confederate Army seized weapons in Little Rock early in 1861, both the 50-year-old and his 23-year-old son, David T., enlisted that summer. [Side note: David T. Henry was promoted to Corporal, and even Lieutenant, before being killed in action in 1864, perhaps in Tennessee. I am tempted to say that the “T” stands for Terrell, after his mother, Anna Terrell Grimes, and that Louisa Henry Howard named her second son—David Terrell Howard, born in 1866—after this fallen brother.]

James was discharged on November 24—no reason is given on his paperwork, but in a short, 1890 biography of another of his sons, William Harrison, it is attributed to “ill health”:

Here [in Holly Springs, Arkansas] the father passed the remainder of his days, with the exception of two years during the war that he spent in Texas [. . .]. He was formerly a farmer, but the latter part of his days was spent in merchandising, at Holly Springs. He was justice of the peace for many years, and, during the late war, was in the Confederate army a short time, but was discharged, on account of ill health. He was in the Third Arkansas Cavalry.

Biographies & Historical Memoirs of Southern Arkansas (Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1890)

What Henry did in Texas is unknown, but his great-grandson Robert E. Howard thought that he went to raise cotton:

[James Henry’s] last venture was to the Texas frontier. Having been forced to retire from the Confederate Army in 1862 because of a wound, he took his slaves and went to Texas where he raised cotton until the end of the war, hiding the bales so cleverly that even the carpet-baggers couldn’t find them. Then he hauled them to Jefferson by ox-wagon and sold them at a tidy price — he was the only Southerner I ever heard of who had more money at the close of the Civil War than he had at the beginning. But he earned it, by three years of hard work, constantly threatened on one hand by a revolt of the slaves, and on the other by Indian attack.

Robert E. Howard to H. P. Lovecraft, circa January 1935

By the end of the war, James Henry was back in Arkansas. The 1870 U. S. Census has him farming in Freeo Township, with four of his children still living at home. Contrary to Robert E. Howard’s claims, Henry’s assets appear to have taken a hit after the war with his real estate value dropping from 3000 to 2000, and his personal estate from 9350 to 4000.

The Howards appear to have had some money problems later in the decade. On February 2, 1877, William Howard was in a pickle and had to borrow money from his brother-in-law, W. H. Henry. Howard owed M. A. Hairston $115 and convinced his brother-in-law to pay it off, in return for “three bales of cotton weighing 500 lbs each.” And this wasn’t just a gentleman’s agreement, the whole thing was written up in a Deed of Conveyance and filed for record at the county courthouse. A month later, March 9, 1877, Howard is back at it with another Deed of Conveyance. This time he owes $50 to Block & Feibleman and agrees to hand over “one spotted horse about ten years old and four head of cattle and ten head of hogs and marked as follows smooth crop and over bit in each ear.”

By the time of the 1880 Census, James Henry’s daughter Martha was the widowed mother of Lucy Chandler and was living back home with her parents. Daughter Mary had married a merchant, William J. Proctor, and lived nearby. Another daughter, Georgia, had married Cadmus Patterson, a clerk, and lived next to the Proctors. Just across town, daughter Caroline was married to Silas Drake, and daughter Missouri was married to William Elliot, all farmers. The youngest offspring, Ellen, had married physician John Hodge and moved over to Jackson, still in Dallas County.

While James Henry had moved to Holly Springs from Freeo, his oldest daughter, Louisa Elizabeth, did the opposite, moving with husband William B. Howard from Holly Springs down to Freeo. Of James’ remaining sons, William Harrison Henry was a successful merchant in Holly Springs, Dallas County; and James T. Henry was a doctor over in Union, Ouachita County. The family was flourishing and sticking pretty closely together. All of that changed on June 26, 1884.

James Henry’s death, and the terms of his 1877 will, appears to have provided the impetus for several changes in the family structure. When the dust had settled, by 1885 William Henry and his sister Georgia’s husband, Cadmus Patterson, had used their inheritance to go into the mercantile trade “with annual sales that equal about $10,000”; other Henrys and in-laws included in Biographies & Historical Memoirs of Southern Arkansas have similar good fortune. But what of the Howards?

They went to Texas.

[Originally published in Onion Tops #82, REHupa mailing #285, October 2020.]

Training Dr. Howard

IMH in 1908 web

[by Rob Roehm. Originally posted May 14, 2015 at rehtwogunraconteur.com. This version updated and expanded.]

When researching Robert E. Howard’s father, Doctor Isaac Mordecai Howard (seen above circa 1908), the devil is in the details. He almost always used only his initials when registering somewhere: Dr. I. M. Howard. The problem here is that his handwriting was terrible. His “I. M.” was often transcribed as “J. M.” or “S. M.” or some other scribble. And, there were a lot of Doctor Howards practicing medicine in the late 1800s and early 1900s. There was a D. M. Howard in Mineral Wells at the same time I. M. Howard was in the county, and another Dr. Howard in Cornish, Indian Territory, around the same time that our man was registered in Petersburg, Indian Territory, just to name two.

I am not the only researcher to follow the wrong Dr. Howard down a rabbit hole:

When Isaac Howard decided to study medicine, he was following a family precedent. His uncle J. T. Henry, a great favorite of Isaac’s mother, Eliza Howard, was a distinguished physician who was graduated from the University of Nashville in Tennessee in 1883 [sic: 1873]. In practice near the Arkansas-Missouri line, Dr. Henry became a role model for his nephew Isaac, who doubtless sought Dr. Henry’s advice and may have studied under him.

Physicians of that day often welcomed their kin as medical students. Such associations with older physicians afforded young would-be doctors opportunities for observation, access to medical books, and such didactic sessions as the preceptor thought necessary in exchange for the apprentice’s help in maintaining the dispensary, cleaning the office, and tending the horse and buggy if there was one. After a few years, when the older man deemed his candidate worthy, he would issue him a certificate to practice medicine. For an ethical man with strong family ties, the certification by a kinsman would be a real throwing of the torch.

Polk’s Medical and Surgical Register gives its first listing of “I. Howard” in 1896 as practicing in Forsyth, Missouri, in Taney County, just over the Missouri line, a short distance from his uncle’s home in Bentonville, Arkansas. It is unclear whether Isaac Howard apprenticed himself to his uncle or whether Dr. Henry had passed him on to another doctor in Forsyth. The dates suggest the former. If Isaac Howard had left Texas in the early nineties, when he turned twenty-one, he could have finished his training and been ready to set up his own practice by 1896.

The young physician did not long remain in Missouri. Perhaps he was homesick. Whatever his reasons, on April 19, 1899, Isaac M. Howard of Limestone County, Texas, was examined by the State Board of Medical Examiners in Texarkana, Texas, and awarded a certificate of qualification to practice medicine. Then he went home.

—L. Sprague de Camp, Dark Valley Destiny

I did a little digging and found an Isaac Howard on the 1860 US Census in Webster County, Missouri. He’s 41, married to Esther, born in Rhode Island, and has “M.D.” listed under “Profession.” After the Civil War, the 1870 Census has the same Isaac as a “Farmer” in Swan Township, Taney County; the post office is listed as Forsyth and Isaac Howard appears to have been the enumerator—his name is signed at the top of the document as “Ass’t Marshal.” In 1880, he’s listed as a “Physician” in Oliver Township, Taney County. He’s 62 years old here. The 1886 edition of Polk’s Medical and Surgical Register shows him in Forsyth, Taney Co. Most of the 1890 Census was destroyed in a fire, so no help there. All this would make Isaac 78 at the time of the 1896 edition of Polk’s Medical and Surgical Register. Seems pretty clear that the “I. Howard” de Camp found in that early edition of Polk’s is not our man.

With the only piece of evidence that might place our Isaac M. Howard near his Uncle J. T. Henry at that time removed, his actual whereabouts are a complete mystery. It’s still possible that he received his medical training there; in fact, this has pretty much become an accepted part of the biography. To wit:

By 1891, Isaac Howard had decided that he was not cut out to be a farmer. He left the family farm, sold his share in the property to his brother, and decided to practice frontier medicine.

Isaac’s medical education, a combination of on-the-job training, apprenticeship to his uncle, himself a doctor, and attendance at a variety of schools, lectures, and courses, would spread out over the next four decades. His initial training took four or five years, and allowed him to practice medicine as early as 1896. From that time on, Dr. Isaac Howard moved frequently from place to place, venturing as far out as Missouri and back to the family farm in Limestone County again.

—Mark Finn, Blood and Thunder

JTHenry web

That J. T. Henry (above) was a doctor is well established; that Isaac M. Howard apprenticed under him, not so much. While I am not a fan of speculation, I recently ran across not one but two doctors who, in my opinion, make more sense as possible trainers of Dr. Howard. So, as long as there’s no proof either way, I’ll throw my speculations out there too.

Robert E. Howard said that his family moved to Texas in 1885. The earliest I can place them there is 1889. According to a “Widow’s Application for Pension” filled out by Isaac’s mother in 1910, Isaac’s father, William B., died “near Mt. Calm, Texas, on 3rd day of August in year of 1889” [possibly 1888]. While William’s death in Texas contradicts de Camp’s version, it agrees with Robert E. Howard’s account in an October 1930 letter to Lovecraft:

My branch of the Howards came to America with Oglethorpe 1733 and lived in various parts of Georgia for over a hundred years. 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, one went back to Georgia and one, William Benjamin Howard, went to Mississippi where he became an overseer on the plantations of Squire James Harrison Henry, whose daughter he married. In 1858 he moved, with the Henry’s, to southwestern Arkansas where he lived until 1885, when he moved to Texas. He was my grandfather.

There is a document dated 1885, but it wasn’t recorded until 1898, so I’m a tad skeptical. The document is basically a contract between Isaac Howard and his brother David Terrell Howard of Prairie Hill, Texas, in Limestone County. Dave agrees to purchase Isaac’s land in the county and has ten years to pay for it, starting in 1885. How a 13-year-old Isaac managed to possess that land is a mystery. De Camp speculates that it was Grandpa James Henry’s originally, and James did die in 1884, a fairly prosperous guy, so that’s reasonable, but there’s no mention of Texas land in his Arkansas will.

On November 6, 1893, Isaac’s sister Willie married William Oscar McClung in Limestone County. They moved to Indian Territory shortly thereafter, but probably not before attending brother Dave’s wedding on November 12 (or possibly December 12). This is where things get interesting.

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Dave’s bride was Fannie Elizabeth Wortham (seen above quite some time after her marriage). From 1894 to 1919, the couple would produce 12 children. This isn’t so unusual when you figure that Dave had eight siblings and Fannie had seven. We’ll get back to one of Fannie’s siblings in a minute, but first, let’s look at her dad, Mortier (or Mortimer) LaFayette Wortham.
Born in Tennessee in 1822, Wortham moved to Texas while in his early 20s. He shows up on an 1846 tax list in Harrison County, east Texas. He appears to have hooked up with an unknown lady and had at least one child, John, before she died or left. The 1850 Census has an “L. M. Wortham” who is farming with the Martin family in Harrison County. He has with him “J. Wortham,” who is 2 years old. No wife is mentioned.

The 1860 Census of Anderson County has the now 12-year-old John, with father “L. Wortham,” joined by wife “E. Wortham” (the former Elizabeth Chaffin). The senior Wortham’s profession is listed as “Doctor.” On a pension application, Elizabeth says that she married Mortier in 1855. Her family had been in Texas since at least 1843, in Anderson County, which is two counties east of Limestone, with Freestone County in-between.

On March 6, 1862, “M. L. Wortham,” of Palestine, Anderson County, reported for infantry duty in the Confederate Army, Company K, 22nd Regiment, under Colonel R. B. Hubbard. It looks like he served all over the place, doing some time in Louisiana and Arkansas, before returning to Anderson County. He shows up on an 1868 voter registration list there.

“M. L. Wortham” appears on the Anderson County tax rolls for 1861, 1865, 1867, 1869, and 1870. While there are several Worthams on the lists throughout the 1880s, our guy doesn’t appear; this is probably because he had moved to Limestone County, where he and the family appear on the 1880 Census. His profession there is listed as “Farming.” The 1890 Census was mostly destroyed by fire, but in 1891 Mortier is back on the tax lists in Anderson County, appearing as “Dr. M. L. Wortham.” So, Dave Howard’s soon-to-be father-in-law went back to medicine (if he ever left) just before his daughter’s marriage. How convenient for Dave’s younger brother, who just happened to be interested in the medical profession.

[A quick, non-chronological note: On Fannie Wortham Howard’s 1960 death certificate, her father is identified as “Dr. W. M. Wortham”; on another daughter’s 1932 death certificate, he is identified simply as “Dr. Wortham.”]

And there’s more. When the Howards arrived in Texas they settled in around Mount Calm, which is in Hill County, but right on the line with Limestone County. They soon spread into Limestone, in the little community of Delia, which is close to Prairie Hill. The 1900 Census has Dave Howard’s growing clan listed with the Prairie Hill inhabitants. One of those was John C. Clark, who was married to another of Mortier Wortham’s daughters and happened to be, you guessed it, a doctor.

Born in 1847 in Jamaica to English parents, Clark was living in Texas by the end of the Civil War. He married Louisa E. Wortham in 1877 and was living in rural Limestone County at the time of the 1880 Census, where he is listed as a “Physician.” The 1890 edition of Polk’s Medical and Surgical Registry has him as the only doctor in Prairie Hill, with no report received in answer to their inquiry regarding his graduation from medical school. This probably means that he didn’t attend a school, but was trained by another doctor . . . perhaps his father-in-law?

So, in the early 1890s we’ve got a young Isaac Howard, purportedly not interested in the family business of farming. He’s got a doctor uncle in far-off Arkansas who seems to be doing pretty well for himself, and his older brother Dave marries into a family with at least two doctors, one of whom is practicing in the very town in which they live, the other in a nearby county. [I say “at least two” because one of Mortier’s sons, James Franklin Wortham, is identified as a doctor on an ancestry.com family tree, but there is no documentation provided to support that claim and I haven’t looked into it yet.] And right around this time, the mid-1890s, Dave is paying for Isaac’s land. Hmm, I wonder what Isaac was doing with the cash?

Meanwhile, brother Dave purchased some more land in 1897 from Gussbaum and Morris, whoever they were. Then, the 1885 document was filed for record on January 15, 1898, and on February 12, 1898, Isaac Howard filed a quit claim, closing the land deal with his brother. The next time Isaac M. Howard appears on paper it is as a doctor:

The Medical Board of Examiners, Fifth Judicial District, State of Texas, done at Texarkana, Texas, April 19, 1899, I.M. Howard of Limestone County received his Certificate of Qualification to Practice Medicine in any or all of its branches throughout the State of Texas.

The first place he appears is Freestone County, where he registered his new credentials on July 20, 1899. Right next door to Limestone, this makes sense, but, as long as I’m speculating, let me go a step further. On a recent trip to Groesbeck, the county seat of Limestone, I asked about their Medical Register—the book that lists the doctors who had registered their credentials in the county. Isaac M. Howard was not listed in that book, but the book only went back to 1907. Turns out the older records were destroyed by fire. So I’ll bet Isaac did indeed go home—right back to Limestone County, then to Freestone. But again, that’s just speculation.

Dr. Howard next appears up north near Indian Territory in Montague County, where his uncle, George Walser, was living. I have no idea if the two had any contact at this time, though I would think it odd if they didn’t. Dr. Howard registered in the county on May 30, 1901. This appears to be just before Isaac started practicing in Petersburg, just across the Red River in Indian Territory, and not far from where his sister Willie had moved after marrying Oscar McClung. The doctor couldn’t have spent too much time in Indian Territory, though, he had a date with destiny back in Texas, Palo Pinto County, where a certain lady named Hester was spending time with her siblings in Mineral Wells.

William Benjamin Howard

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”

Given the state of Henry Howard’s finances, it is doubtful that he owned a “plantation.” And, while William Benjamin Howard was, in fact, born in Oglethorpe County, by 1849 Henry Howard had relocated to Upson County. 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 (wife Betsy); and one female slave between 10 and 24 years old. Later that year, July 6, his son, John Hubbard Howard was born. By the time of the 1840 Census, the whole family, with additional children, were over in Upson County.

Henry Howard was down on his luck in 1845, when 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. And things don’t appear to get a whole lot better, which could account for his sons hitting the road a few years later:

In 1849 [W. B.] 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 [Isaac M.] and the other returned to Georgia [probably John Hubbard Howard]. William Howard did neither. He turned southward, into Mississippi, and obtained the position of overseer on the plantations of Squire James Henry, whose daughter, Louisa, he married in 18–.

Robert E. Howard, “The Wandering Years”

All of which sounds like family legend, passed along by word of mouth. We do know that W. B. was in Mississippi by January 1855 when he is said to be “of the State of Mississippi” in an “Indenture Made in Upson County, Georgia” between his family members. The family Bible says that W. B. married L. E. Henry on December 6 (possibly 16), 1856. From this point forward, William Howard’s fortunes were tied to the Henry family.

The newlyweds got to work and their first child, Mary Elizabeth, was born in Mississippi 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. Daughter Martha Rebecca came along in 1860 and son David N. in 1862, neither of whom lived longer than a few months.

The 1860 US Census has William Howard (born GA, 33, farmer, value of personal estate: 600, no real estate), Louisa (born AL, 25), Mary E (3, born MISS), James H. (1, born ARK); all living at Holly Springs, Dallas Co., ARK. There appears to have been close contact between the Henrys and Howards in Arkansas. The two families lived close to each other, on either side of the Dallas-Ouachita County line. The Henrys prospered; the Howards not so much, though it does appear that W. B. was able to procure some public land due to an 1820 Act of Congress. And then the Civil War came calling.

In a letter to Lovecraft published as circa December 1930 (which should be circa November 1930), Howard says “both my grandfathers rode for four years with Bedford Forrest.” As with many things Howard says in letters, this is either the product of family legend or an exaggeration.

There is a 34-year-old William B. Howard in the 16th Arkansas Infantry from 1861 to June 1862 when he was “sent to hospital,” but I’m not sure that is our Howard as he was enlisted way up north in Fayetteville. On January 10, 1863, our W. B. Howard enlisted in Company G, 3rd Arkansas Cavalry much closer to home in Camden. The available documents have him present through 1863, but no mention is made again until he is paroled “at Chesterville, South Carolina, May 5, 1865.” His home is listed in “Remarks”: “Ouachita County, Ark.” If the birth of a daughter, Willie Price Howard, on June, 2, 1864, is any indication, he must have been home from time to time. Also in 1864, William’s brother, Charles H. Howard, died at Walthal Junction, Chesterfield, VA.

When L. Sprague de Camp interviewed Fanny McClung Adamson (one of REH’s first cousins), she claimed to have a relic of W. B.’s: “I have his billfold.  He carried it in the Civil War.”  She added that there was a message inside, “written in his own blood, you know, on the inside of course.  It’s so ragged and all.  There’s a message he wrote and it’s all dried.  It’s so dim.  I can’t read it.  Somebody might could with good eyes, a magnifying glass.” Where it is now is not known. Adamson also told de Camp that the family used to sing, “We’re gonna hang Abe Lincoln to a sour apple tree.”

In a September 9, 1978 telephone conversation with de Camp, another of Robert E. Howard’s cousins, Ollie Lorene Davis, commented on her grandfather, William Benjamin Howard. De Camp noted, “Her Howard grandfather fought on the Confederate side in the Civil War, was wounded, and was an invalid through the latter part of his life.”

Invalid or no, the Howards continued to reproduce upon William’s return from the war. David Terrell Howard was born in March 1866 and Alfonzo T. Howard in 1869. They all appear on the 1870 US Census for Ouachita Co., Freeo township. W.B. is 43, a farmer with real estate valued at 800, and personal estate at 100; under “Is the person [on the day of the Enumerator’s visit] sick or temporarily disabled, so as to be unable to ordinary business or duties? If so, what is the sickness or disability?” “chronic rheumatism” is written. I think. Isaac Mordecai Howard was born two years later, in 1872. His brother Alfonzo would die a year later at the age of four. In December that same year, 1873, Susan Aimee Howard was born.

[9/8/2020 Update] On February 2, 1877, it seems William Howard was in a pickle and had to borrow some cash from his brother-in-law, W. H. Henry. Howard owed M. A. Hairston $115 and convinced his brother-in-law to pay it off, in return for “three bales of cotton weighing 500 lbs each.” And this wasn’t just a gentleman’s agreement, the whole thing was written up in a Deed of Conveyance and filed for record at the county courthouse. A month later, March 9, 1877, Howard is back at it with another Deed of Conveyance. This time he owes $50 to Block & Feibleman and agrees to hand over “one spotted horse about ten years old and four head of cattle and ten head of hogs and marked as follows smooth crop and over bit in each ear.”

Few other details about William Howard survive. REH told Lovecraft in a 1931 letter that both of his grandfathers were “six feet two inches tall.” A little more information appears in Howard’s other correspondence:

The only one of my recent masculine ancestors I can think of who didn’t drink was my grandfather William Benjamin Howard. When I see some sappy youngster sneering at some one for not drinking, as if abstinence were unmanly, I think of my grandfather, who stood six feet two in his socks, and weighed two hundred pounds, was a pioneer, a ’49er, and a soldier, and who never drank. The others of the family, Ervins, Henrys, and the like, drank regularly but never got drunk.

Letter to August Derleth, circa October 1933

Beside these things, one must rely on official documents. The 1880 Census lists him as “maimed or crippled.” On January 19, 1883, he and his siblings picked up $50 each from a land sale in his mother’s estate. Two years later, he was dead—according to de Camp. Both of the Howard cousins mentioned above told de Camp that W. B. died in Arkansas in 1885. There are better sources.

 Robert E. Howard said that in 1885, far from dying, W. B. and family packed up and moved to Texas. This must have come from REH’s father, who would certainly know. The Howards landed in the nexus of Hill and Limestone Counties and it is there, in 1887, that William’s oldest son, Jim, died. His father didn’t last much longer: the family Bible says William Benjamin Howard died on August 2, 1888. A Civil War Pension application filed by his wife, Louisa, in 1910 states that William died in Texas on August 3, 1889, “near Mt. Calm.” I’d go with the Bible.

REH’s cousins agree that Jim and his mother are buried under an old cedar tree in Mount Antioch Cemetery, ” their grave is just a plain marker…. it don’t have a thing on it.” The tree is surrounded by other Howards and, it seems to me, is the most likely resting place for William B. Howard; after all, Mount Antioch is also “near Mt. Calm.”

[Originally published in Onion Tops #81, REHupa mailing #283, June 2020.]

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 rehtwogunraconteur.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.

1st IMHf

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.

IMH_0168a

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

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.

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.