52 Ancestors #20 Horace Pappy Crane


This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small,

and this week’s challenge is “Black Sheep.”

This topic made me laugh as the first person to come to mind was my great uncle Horace “Pappy” Crane. Uncle Horace was born 2 February 1905 to Amos Bolivar Crane and Mary Elizabeth “Minnie” White in Lauderdale County, Mississippi. He was the second of six children. In the following photograph, he is on the bottom far left. The boy on the far right is my grandfather Andrew Franklin Crane.

Amos Crane and Minnie White with Horace, Minnie Ellen, and Frank

Uncle Horace’s claim to fame was driving car #58 in Nascar and surviving a roll-over crash at Daytona in 1960.

This funny black sheep story about him has been pieced together from various relatives and may be a little fuzzy as I have no documentation of the events.

Uncle Horace lived in a modest home in Mississippi and sold off the acres of his property to a builder. The sale did not include his own home, of course. The builder constructed beautiful, expensive homes on the land and eventually came to Uncle Horace to ask when he was going to rebuild. Uncle Horace didn’t realize it at the time, but he had apparently signed a paper stating he would tear down his shack and build a larger, more expensive home in its place. Well, he didn’t have the money to build a new home, so he figured he could make it happen through insurance money and he burnt his own home down.

The arrest happened when the arson investigators found the home was set ablaze with the same mixture of fuel he used to race with. Ooops.

Fortunately for him, he only received probation for the arson, but a while later, he got into a drunken fight in a bar and had a pistol on him – which was against his probation. He spent time behind bars for violating probation.

Uncle Horace was the family character everyone has stories about, and the above tale is just the tip of the iceberg. He was very loved. He died 6 February 1985 and is laid to rest at Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Zero, Lauderdale County, Mississippi.

crane, horace t

52 Ancestors #19 Martha Ellen Rodgers


This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small,

and this week’s challenge is “There’s a Way” which I’ve translated into “travel.”

Years ago I came across a cousin born 4 April 1853. Her father and my 3rd great-grandma were siblings. She was the middle child of five born to James Rodgers and Martha Sanderford in Lauderdale County, Mississippi. When the Civil War began in ’62, her father was too old to serve, so he safely stayed home with her. Yet, things don’t always turn out for the best. The winter of ’62/63 saw a typhoid epidemic in the county and her parents died within days of each other. She was nine. Her name was Martha Ellen Rodgers, known simply as Ellen.

James daughter Martha Ellen Rodgers Meek

Due to all of her uncles fighting the war, she and her siblings moved in with her aunt Mary. Mary had four children of her own and her husband had just been killed in the war 31 December 1862. I can imagine how devastated the family was at that time, and probably hungry and scared.

When the war ended, Ellen was transferred to the custody of her only surviving uncle, Hays Rodgers, who packed up the family and moved to Alabama. The journey there would have been by ox-pulled wagons and would have taken a week. For someone who had never been more than a mile from her childhood home, this must have been quite an adventure. There was also another aunt living in Alabama at the time, Elizabeth, and at some point, Ellen moved in with her.

When I found Ellen had returned to Mississippi alone in 1875, I didn’t understand why, but soon found out that Aunt Elizabeth died that year at the young age of 36. I assume Ellen returned home to stay with her aunt Mary, as she was only 22 years old. The only way to travel from AL to MS at the time was by wagon train as most of the railroad lines were still under repair from their destruction by Sherman’s army. Traveling alone with a bunch of people in a wagon train must have been quite an experience.

The next record of Ellen is found ten years later in 1885. She appears in Texas and is married to Sam Houston Meek. How did she end up there? I found her two brothers had moved there at the end of the war with some other family members (apparently the children were separated), and she probably went out to visit them. One of her brothers was married to Sam’s sister, which explains how she met Sam. From my research, I found the travel from MS to TX would have involved three trains and about ten days. Imagine a young woman traveling alone on three different trains across the 1800s wild west.

Ellen and Sam were only married five years. She died in childbirth at the age of 37. She is buried at Pleasantville Cemetery in Nolanville, Bell County, Texas.

Her story is told in detail in my book An Orphan’s Heart.

rodgers martha ellen rodgers meek, dau of james rodgers

52 Ancestors #18 James Rodgers Sr.


This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small,

and this week’s challenge is “Where there’s a will.”

I find it interesting that in the case of wills left by men, they always contain land, money, and sometimes slaves. When we see a will left by a woman, it contains things more intimate in nature – books, sheets, dishes. The following are wills left by my 6th great-grandparents, James Rodgers Sr (1734 MA – 1794 TN) and his wife, Margaret Woods Rodgers (1746 VA – 1811 TN). I highlighted the items so you don’t have to read the whole things. 🙂


Will of James Rodgers

In the Name of God, Amen. I, James Rodgers Junr. of Green County and Western Territory south of the Ohio, being very sick and weak in body but of perfect mind and memory, thanks be given unto God, calling unto mind the mortality of my body and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die, do make and ordain this my last Will and Testament. That is to say, principally, and first of all, I give and recommend my soul into the hand of Almighty God that gave it, and my body I recommend to the Earth, to be buried in a decent Christian manner at the discretion of my Executors. And as touching such wordly estate wherewith it hath pleased God in bless me in this life, I give and dispose of the same in the following manner, Viz, after defraying funeral expenses and discharging all just debts, I will bequeath unto my dearly beloved wife Margaret, a Negro girl named Esther, one sorrel mare seven or eight years old with saddle and bridle, two cows, one bed and beddings, wit the third of all my movable property, to her, her heirs and assignees forever. I likewise will that she shall have the use of the Plantation I now live on during her widowhood, for the support of her and her children, with all necessary farming utensils. 

Item. I likewise will and bequeath to my son Joseph one hundred and fifty acres of land to be cut of the upper end of my Plantation with five pounds of Virginia currency to be paid in cash.

Item. I will and bequeath to my son John, and my son Samuel, the plantation I now live on in the following manner, and my son John to have upper end joining my son Joseph, and my son Samuel the lower end, to be divided equally betwixt them in quantity and quality, not withstanding should my son John, or my son Samuel, or either of them, come of age during my wife’s widowhood, that they then shall have liberty of improving the woodland belonging to their part as they think proper.

Item. I will and bequeath to my son James and Thomas, the sum of fifty pounds Virginia currency each, to be paid by my sons John and Samuel two years after full possession of their land each paying an equal part.

Item. I will and bequeath to my daughter Sarah one sorrel mare three or four years old with saddle and bridle.

Item. I will and bequeath to my daughter Margaret the sum of fifteen pounds Virginia currency to purchase a horse at her discretion with her saddle and bridle.

Item. I will and bequeath to my daughter Jean, one Negro girl named Hannah, to be her property during said Jean’s life and at her death my executors to sell said Negro and after paying the person who had the care of her during her life, what they think sufficient for their trouble, that then the remainder to be divided equally amongst my Legatees. I likewise constitute and appoint my loving wife Margaret my executrix and my Trusty Friends David Fleming and Samuel Froesure my executors to this my Last Will and Testament and I do hereby utterly disallow, revoke and dismal all and every other former Testaments, Wills, Legacies, Bequeasts and Executors by me, in any ways before named, willed and bequeathed; Ratifying and confirming this and no other to be my Last Will and Testament in witness whereof I have herein to set my hand and seal this fifth day of July, in this year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and ninety four.

Will of Margaret Rodgers

Margaret Rodgers dec’d (Min. 6 P. 155)
Tuesday 29th January 1811. This execution of the last will and testament of Margaret Rodgers dec’d was duly proven by the oath of Jacob Kilo and Margaret Campbell, late Margaret Rodgers Jr., their subscribing witnesses, and ordered to be recorded and is as follows. In the name of God Amen.

I Margaret Rodgers Senior of the County of Green and State of Tennessee, being weak and indisposed in body, but of sound, mind and judgemen, do make and ordain this to be my last will and testament. First I will that my funeral expenses be paid by me executors hereafter named and that all lawful debts be paid. Likewise I will and bequeath to my three daughter (viz) Sarah, Margaret, and Jane all four sheets and table linen, to be equally divided between them. Likewise I will and bequeath to my two daughters Sarah and Margaret, my two dishes and puter plates to be equally divided between them. Likewise, I will and bequeath to my daughter Margaret on three year old heifer spotted red and white, and one young sow. Likewise, I will and bequeath to my daughter Jane one new twilled feather bed, two good sheets, three good blankets, one rug, one red, blue and white coverlid, one calico and a linen quilt, one bolster, two pillows with proper cases and bedstead. And likewise all my new seven hundred linen. Also one hundred and fifty dollars to be let to intrust for her use, and if she the said Jane should decease before said money is for her lawful maintenance, then and in that case the money all or in part (as the case may be) shall be divided equally amongst the rest of my heirs. Also one good hog one cow and calf, one set of bed hanglings. It is likewise my earnest request that my daughter, Sarah Kelly, shall keep and nurse my said daughter Jane and it is my will that said Sarah get all the said Jane’s clothes, bed and furniture at her decease. I likewise bequeath to my daughter Margaret, one blue and white coverlid. Likewise I wil and bequeath my fowls of all kinds to my son John Rodgers’ wife, Jane, my daughters Sarah and Margaret. Likewise I will and bequeath one margin Bible to my son James Rodgers. Likewise I give to my daughter Margaret one pocket Bible. Likewise I will and bequeath to my sons Thomas John and Samuel Rodgers and likewise my daughter Sarah each one school Bible. The rest of my estate to be sold and divided equally amongst all my heirs. Likewise or ordain and appoint my son John Rodgers and William Kelly executors of this my last will and testament. Witness my hand and seal this first day of September one thousand eight hundred and nine. 
Signed and acknowledged in presence of
Jacob (his mark) Kilo

Margaret (her mark) Rodgers 

Coddicil to this will. Whereas my son Samuel Rodgers hath some time past purchased a horse from me for which he was to pay me the sum of twenty pounds Virginia currency and have never paid the same, this is therefore to will that the said twenty pounds be added to the dividend of my estate and be reducted out of his part.

52 Ancestors #17 John B Rice


This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small, and this week’s theme is “Prosper.”

downloadMy 5th great grandpa was John B. Rice. I’m sure the B is for Benjamin as that was one of his son’s names. John was born in 1755 in Red Bud Creek, Bute County, North Carolina. In 1779 Bute County was divided into Franklin and Warren Counties and ceased to exist. John was born to Jared Rice and Lettie Potts. (My 2nd great grandmother’s name was Martha Lettie Carpenter. I always wondered where Lettie came from. Turns out it was her great grandmother’s name.) John signed up to serve in the American Revolution in 1776 at the age of 21 as a private and sergeant, and received a pension according to the North Carolinians list of pensioners as reported by the Secretary of State to Congress in 1835. He married Elizabeth Hopkins a year into the war and they had a total of eight children. By age 27, the family had moved to Nash County, NC, where John lived a long life and died on 29 April 1836, at the age of eighty-one.

last-will-and-testamentJohn’s will contains info as follows:

Probated August 1837. Page 443, Will Book I. Nash Co, NC. It names wife Elizabeth and son John. Daughter Nancy and her husband Benjamin Carpenter (my 4th great grandparents). Daughter Elizabeth and her husband William Richardson. Son Hopkins Rice. Two people I can’t place Reden Richardson and William Earppe. Grandson: Richardson Rice, son of William Rice. Children of son Benjamin Rice: John B. Rice, Nicholson Rice, Boykin Rice, heirs of Jincy Strickland. Legatee: John Leonard. Exec: Benjamin Merritt, John Rice. Witnesses: William M.B. Anndell, Boykin Denton.

The above named daughter Nancy Rice Carpenter was my fourth great-grandmother who married Benjamin Carpenter. They moved to Lauderdale County, Mississippi in 1821 when Indian land was being sold by the U.S. Gov’t for cheap. She lived as a pioneer woman, raising ten children in near squalor. After reading the following story, I’m under the impression she either must have been rebelling against her family or she really, really loved Benjamin Carpenter. But I found in John Rice’s will that he left items to Benjamin and Nancy and their children, so if she did rebel, they must have made up before John’s death.

I found the following somewhere on line:


Nash County, North Carolina 1787.

A black woman by the name of Chaney was born. Little is known about her background, but it is believed she was the daughter of an African. She and her sister were slaves of the Hopkins Family.

Peter Hopkins, born in 1730, was the first in his family to move to Edgecombe County, North Carolina. He married Wilmoth Fowler who was born in Wake County, North Carolina in 1747 to Joseph and Anne Fowler. The couple had the following children:

  1. William Hopkins
  2. John Hopkins
  3. David Hopkins
  4. Elizabeth Hopkins-Rice (the above wife of John Rice)
  5. Susannah Hopkins-Russell

Elizabeth married a Revolutionary War Hero named John Rice. The two purchased about 800 acres of land on Lee’s Creek. They had eight children as follows:

  1. John Rice Jr
  2. William Rice
  3. Elizabeth Rice-Richardson
  4. Nancy Rice-Carpenter (my 4th great-grandmother)
  5. Mary Rice-Marriott
  6. James M. Rice
  7. Benjamin Rice
  8. Hopkins Rice

Chaney was brought to this 800 acre plantation of John Rice and Elizabeth Hopkins Rice. Most of her children were born here. She had at least five children. In the early 1800’s, John Rice deeded Chaney and her children to his youngest son Hopkins Rice and his wife Jane.

In the early 1820’s Hopkins Rice and his family migrated to Greene County, Alabama and in 1828, they purchased land in the Clinton and Pleasant Ridge areas. Over the years, some of the slaves were sold to various plantations in the area. One of Chaney’s sons, Anderson, was sold to Eldred Pippen. Jesse was sold to Gaston Wilder of Pickens County, Alabama. Richard was sold to William Gilmore of Mantua. The last son, whose name is unknown, was sold to a Mr. Harkness. Her grandsons were also sold.


Nancy Rice-Carpenter is my 4th great-grandmother. Her parents, Elizabeth and John Rice are my 5th great-grandparents. Elizabeth’s parents Peter and Wilmoth Hopkins are my 6th. Though Nancy, being a girl, probably didn’t stand to inherit much of the family’s wealth, I still think it strange that she moved away from her obviously prosperous family.

52 Ancestors #16 John Culpepper of Wigsell


This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small, and this week’s theme is “Live Long.”

Strangely enough, my parents and my maternal grandmother all died in their 50s, so I’ve always had this notion that I would probably die in my 50s also. Not really a morbid thought, just a weird likelihood. When I started looking at the ages of my ancestors for this blog, I was surprised to find a majority of my ancestors lived into their 80s. Maybe I’ll get a few more years out of this life than I thought.

One of my ancestors lived to be 82…back in 1612. I think that is a considerable age for the time. According to early English records, an infant had a 30% chance of dying before the age of 15, 60% for working-class children in the city. As people had no concept of immunity, many died of childhood diseases, and as they grew, they were likely to die of food-borne illnesses or communal diseases like the plague and typhus. In 1665, 80,000 people died of the plague in London, 45,000 were children. Sanitary practices weren’t invented, and medicine wasn’t even a factor. Most thought one survived only because of luck, and many families named their children with identical names, knowing only one had a chance of surviving into adulthood.

book 1 different angleSo, in 1530, my 12th great-grandfather John Culpepper of Wigsell was born in Salehurst, Sussex, England. He had at least two brothers who also lived to a considerable age, all breaking the above mortality rates. He married Elizabeth Sedley at the age of thirty, had seven children who all survived, and remained in his childhood home of Wigsell Manor until his death 20 October 1612 at the age of 82. The home is still standing today and is privately owned. Mostly, John lived a quiet life in the country, but records show him an active Justice of the Peace in public testimonies and an involvement in Queen Elizabeth’s Privy Council from 1558 to 1592.

St_Mary_the_Virgin_Church,_Salehurst_(Geograph_Image_2366571_3456e22f)He was buried at St. Mary the Virgin Church in Salehurst on 21 October 1612 as “Johanes Colepeper, armiger, etatis 82.” Armiger means having the right to a coat of arms, and etatis means age. If there was a monument, it was destroyed during the Commonwealth’s desecration of the local churches in the mid 1600s.

52 Ancestors #15 Colepeper/Culpeper/Culpepper


This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small,

and this week’s challenge is “How do you spell that?”

choctawMost of my family comes from England and Ireland, so the names are very pronounceable. I have a maternal Choctaw Indian great-grandmother in my history, but in 1801, the Treat of Fort Adams was signed, giving 2.6 million acre of Choctaw land in Mississippi to the U.S. Government. By 1830 and the signing of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, a total of 23 million acres had been ceded to the government. The Indians were relocated to Oklahoma, but the ones who didn’t go assimilated into the white European culture and gave up their Indian names. I’m sure her father or grandfather had an unusual name, but I will never find out what it was as the Choctaw people didn’t keep good records like the Cherokees did.

So, that leaves me with two choices for this blog. 1) A host of men in my family who have the name Bluett/Bluitt in their lines, or 2) the explanation for Colepeper/Culpeper/Culpepper.

I think I’ll go with #2.

The name began as “de Culpeper.” The French translation of “de” means “of” referring to a place, and “cul” means “the bottom.” Hopefully, it means the bottom of a hill or a road, and not the bottom of your rear end. 🙂 One of the first family manors sat at the dead end of Pepenbury, and we assume Peper is a slang/shortened translation. Eventually, the “de” fell out of fashion, and the name became simply “Culpeper.”

There is some suggestion that the name had something to do with peppers, either farming them or selling them, but the first known Culpeper in 1170 held an office, so he was probably Norman as the Normans were in control politically at that time. This leads us to believe the name had nothing to do with any Anglo-Saxon practice of selling vegetables.

From 1400s to 1600s, many members of the family used “Colepeper” interchangeably with “Culpeper” though I have no idea why, except for the fact that spelling wasn’t standard.

There are a few ancestors who traveled to America and left their mark:

80516215Mid 1600s – My 10th great-grandpa, John Culpeper, and his sons and nephews ran a merchant route between England, Virginia, and Barbados, and there is an island off the coast of Barbados called “Culpepper Island” which is pretty much an uninhabited rock.

Late 1600s – Lord Thomas Culpeper 2nd baron of Thoresway (the above guy’s cousin) was a governor of colonial Virginia, and there is a town and a county named after him—Culpeper, Virginia and Culpeper County, Virginia. That’s better.


52 Ancestors #10 Thomas Culpepper


This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small, and this week’s theme is “Stormy Weather.”

No one weathered storms like my 10th great uncle Thomas Culpepper, and he was literally caught in “Stormy Weather” during one of his greatest moment.

Thomas was the eldest son of John Culpepper of Feckenham and his wife Ursula Woodcock. He was followed by two sisters, Cicely and Frances, and a brother, John, whom we refer to as John Culpepper the Merchant.

Thomas was born into a life of privilege as his family held vast estates and had worked in the king’s service for generations. When Thomas was born in 1602 in Kent, England, the Culpepper family boasted sixteen living barons and earls.

GreenwayCourtAt the age of nineteen, Thomas entered Middle Temple which was a law school. He was soon called to the bar and became a successful lawyer. He married Katherine St. Leger, moved into the family home of Greenway Court (photo) in Kent, and they started their family.

After King James I died in 1625, King Charles took over, and Thomas was promoted to a colonel in the king’s army. This was one hundred years after the Tudor reign where people had been beheaded for their religious beliefs, but King Charles was making everyone nervous with his religious antics. He married a Catholic princess, appointed a Catholic supporter to the office of archbishop of Canterbury, and demanded the Scots begin using the Catholic Book of Prayer. The people of Scotland, Ireland, and England refused to go back to the age of being charged with heresy. They began meeting behind closed doors and discussing what to do about this tyrannical king.

Parliament rallied an army against the king and in 1642 the English Civil War began. As with the Culpeppers before him, Thomas was a royalist and took the side of the king. Thomas and his friend George Goring, the earl of Norwich, fought bravely against Parliament’s army.

General_Thomas_Fairfax_(1612-1671In May 1648, Thomas and George raised 10,000 men around Kent to fight against Parliament. This was a significant number considering by this time Parliament’s army had split into two factions. The larger was holding down an uprising in South Wales, leaving the smaller group of 6,000 men to defend all of London and its surrounding towns. The royalists were holding the town of Maidstone (Thomas’s hometown located south of London) with a force of 2,000 men. Under the leadership of General Thomas Fairfax (photo), 4,000 parliamentarians marched south to Maidstone to recapture it.

culpepper book 1 cover ideaOn June 1, 1648, in the midst of a terrible storm, Fairfax attacked Maidstone. Fairfax’s men took over a bridge and crossed the Medway River and effectively divided Thomas’s men into two groups. Thomas’s diminished army fought in the heavy rains throughout the night and were backed up by Fairfax’s men, street by street, inch by inch. They moved up Weeks Street and finally retreated into St. Faith’s Churchyard where they fought until well after midnight through the raging thunderstorm. At the first light of dawn, out of ammunition and having nowhere else to go, 1,000 royalists emerged from the church and surrendered to Fairfax’s army.

In return for promising to lay down their arms, the soldiers were released and allowed to return to their homes, but in typical Thomas/George fashion, they didn’t. They regrouped and headed north to seize London, but they found the city’s gates closed, so they moved further north to George’s hometown of Colchester. Fairfax’s men pursued them and another battle ensued. Colchester held its ground for eleven weeks, but in August 1648, they were forced to surrender.

Throughout these battles, the king was being held prisoner by Parliament, and for the last two years, the royalists suffered defeat after defeat trying to save him and turn the tide of the war. They began realizing their cause was lost, and across the country, the royalists began surrendering left and right.

In January of 1649, King Charles was charged with treason, found guilty, and was beheaded. Following the king’s execution, all of the royalists, including Thomas Culpepper and George Goring, had their property seized by Parliament and many were beheaded or hung.

In March 1649, George Goring, being held prisoner since his loss at Colchester, was charged with treason and found guilty. Facing beheading, his family petitioned for leniency and the deciding vote, cast by the speaker of the house, granted George his freedom. He joined the exiled court of the prince in the Netherlands and became the captain of the king’s guard. When the prince reclaimed the English throne in May 1660 as King Charles II, George was by his side. George Goring died in 1663 in Brentford, just west of London.

Fortunately for Thomas, his brother John was a merchant who owned a ship. John smuggled Thomas, his wife Katherine, and their four children out of England in 1650 and took them to Virginia. Thomas escaped probable beheading in England, but sadly, he died in Virginia in 1652 at the age of fifty.

His son-in-law, Sir William Berkeley the governor of Virginia, wrote about him, “He lost all his estate, life, and liberty in the king’s service.”

*This story is told in detail in my coming book, “John Culpepper the Merchant,” which is the second book in the Culpepper Saga and will be released May 2015.

52 Ancestors #9 Howell Joel “Hobby” Wedgeworth


This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small, and this week’s theme is “Close to home.”

You can’t get more close to home than this story. I live just south of Franklin, TN and my great aunt’s father was captured in Franklin during the Civil War, nearly in my backyard.

wedgeworth howell joel hobby and martha morrow, par of ora wedgeworth culpepperHowell Joel “Hobby” Wedgeworth was born Nov. 26, 1837 in Greene County, Alabama to Rev. Joel Walker Wedgeworth and Margaret Jane Smith. In 1852, he married Elvira Hughens and had one daughter Margaret Jane in 1858. Sadly, his wife died in 1860. I don’t know the fate of his little girl, as he went off to fight in the Civil War as a bachelor.

During the war, Hobby served with 5th Mississippi Regiment Co K as a musician. He was wounded in December of 1862, but kept serving. On November 30, 1864, he was captured at the Battle of Franklin, TN and sent to Louisville, KY to military prison, then to Camp Douglas in Chicago. After the war ended, he was released on June 18, 1865. You can read more about the Franklin battle HERE.

It was told by his granddaughter that Rev. Joel Wedgeworth went to a designated meeting place to pick up his son after the war and didn’t even recognize him because he was so thin and worn.

When Hobby returned from the war, he immediately married Martha Morrow (pictured with Hobby) in 1865 and had eight children, the youngest being Ora Wedgeworth who married my great grandpa’s brother, Floyd Culpepper.

Hobby died Jan. 5, 1907 in Neshoba County, Mississippi at the age of 69. He is buried with his wife at Hester Cemetery in Neshoba.

IMG_20141115_150317159_HDRI attended the 150th anniversary muster of the Battle of Franklin November 2014 and witnessed the re-enactment as well as a memorial salute performed in the Confederate cemetery located at the site.IMG_20141115_150047367



52 Ancestors #7 Catherine Howard


This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small, and this week’s theme is “Love.”

One of the most interesting stories of “Love” in my ancestry comes from the journals of Tudor history.

howard2Catherine Howard was the fifth wife of King Henry VIII. She was also my cousin. Her father was Edmund Howard and her mother was Joyce Culpepper. Joyce’s father was Sir Richard Culpepper.

In the 1200s, the Culpepper’s were split into two definitive lines by brothers Walter and Thomas into the Preston Hall Culpeppers and Bayhall Culpeppers, respectively. In the 1400s, the Bayhall line split into two lines with brothers again, so instead of Preston Hall and Bayhall, we now have Preston Hall, Wigsell, and Bedgebury. Catherine’s maternal grandfather, Sir Richard Culpepper, was of the Preston Hall line. Catherine had many Culpepper cousins, one being my 12th great grandfather William Culpepper of the Wigsell line, and another being Thomas Culpepper of the Bedgebury line. Though distant, Catherine Howard and Thomas Culpepper were cousins.

Just to make history even more confusing…Catherine’s paternal grandfather was Thomas Howard Duke of Norfolk. This man was Anne Boleyn’s grandfather too. Catherine and Anne (Henry VIII’s second wife) were first cousins.

On 28 July 1540, sixteen-year-old Catherine married King Henry after he ended his politically motivated marriage to (fourth wife) Anne of Cleaves. Henry was nearly fifty years old. For fourteen months, the newlyweds were happy, but then the rumors began. Henry became convinced his young bride was having relations with a few men, the most painful being his trusted servant, Catherine’s cousin, Thomas Culpepper.

In my opinion, one can imagine Catherine at sixteen-years old being quite overwhelmed by all the attention she was receiving along with her new-found feelings of superiority and immortality simply because she was Henry’s wife. And it is possible that Thomas in his mid-twenties, was merely playing a game with a teenage girl. The excitement of this game would be hard to top, especially with a prize as valuable as the wife of the King. Then again, they may have actually loved each other.

Catherine and Thomas were charged with treason, tried, and convicted. Thomas was beheaded 10 Dec 1541. Catherine was stripped of her title of Queen, locked in her chambers, and her future remained in limbo until Parliament decided what to do with her. On 10 February 1542, she was taken to be executed. She traveled by boat to the Tower and undoubtedly passed under the bridge where Thomas’s head was impaled. I wonder if she looked up. Her execution was held Monday, 13 February 1542.

According to popular folklore, her final words were, “I die a Queen, but I would rather have died the wife of Culpepper”. Did she really die for love, or was she simply a young girl who didn’t realize the place next to the King was a fragile one?

The above portrait, which has always been reported to be that of Catherine Howard, is now in dispute by the National Portrait Gallery in London. Apparently the poor girl lost her head…and now her face. Below is a letter she sent to her cousin/lover Thomas Culpepper.


GW402H604Master Culpeper,

I heartily recommend me unto you, praying you to send me word how that you do. It was showed me that you was sick, the which thing troubled me very much till such time that I hear from you praying you to send me word how that you do, for I never longed so much for a thing as I do to see you and to speak with you, the which I trust shall be shortly now. That which doth comfortly me very much when I think of it, and when I think again that you shall depart from me again it makes my heart die to think what fortune I have that I cannot be always in your company. It my trust is always in you that you will be as you have promised me, and in that hope I trust upon still, praying you that you will come when my Lady Rochford is here for then I shall be best at leisure to be at your commandment, thanking you for that you have promised me to be so good unto that poor fellow my man which is one of the griefs that I do feel to depart from him for then I do know no one that I dare trust to send to you, and therefore I pray you take him to be with you that I may sometime hear from you one thing. I pray you to give me a horse for my man for I had much ado to get one and therefore I pray send me one by him and in so doing I am as I said afor, and thus I take my leave of you, trusting to see you shortly again and I would you was with me now that you might see what pain I take in writing to you.

Yours as long as life endures,

One thing I had forgotten and that is to instruct my man to tarry here with me still for he says whatsomever you bid him he will do it.


52 Ancestors #5 Mary Elizabeth Howington


This challenge is set forth by No Story Too Small, and this week’s theme is “Plowing through.”

There are a few ways to interpret this week’s theme, Plowing Through, and the first thing that comes to mind is a farmer, but I’ve decided to take a different perspective. Here is an ancestor that was so hard to trace, I had to Plow Through for a long time to find answers.

My great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Howington Burke.

Granny Burke was a million years old when I was a child, so I never paid her much mind. But as I grew older and began researching my ancestors, I thought back on those days and wished I would have sat down and talked to her about her family.

burke Mary Howington Burke headstoneShe came from poor roots, born in 1893 to John Thomas Howington and Florence Smith. She was followed by seven siblings, including a brother named Milton Howington whom we called “Uncle Sug”(as in sugar) while I was growing up. In 1914, she married John Patrick “Pat” Burke and had seven children, including my grandmother Ina Burke. Pat died in 1958 and Mary died in 1977. They are buried at Liberty Baptist Church Cemetery in Duffee, Mississippi. That’s all the information I had for years. She lived a quiet life in the country and did not leave a paper trail.

culpepper annie blanks culpepper obitOne day, I read an obituary for my other great grandmother, Annie Culpepper, one that I had read many, many times before, but something stuck out this time. It said Annie was survived by her children, including my grandfather, Earl Culpepper, and a daughter named Mae Howington. First of all, I was sure “Mae” was referring my grandfather’s little sister Zeffie Mae. Second of all, who was this Howington my great aunt Zeffie was married to? Could this Howington be related to Mary Howington? (Note: my grandfather Earl Culpepper was married to Mary Howington’s daughter, Ina Burke.)

As I plowed through documents, made phone calls to elderly family members, and lived inside the time-sucking monster we call Ancestry.com for a whole week, I found the answers about Mary Howington’s ancestry.

Zeffie Mae Culpepper Howington was married to Milton “Uncle Sug” Howington. My grandpa’s little sister was married to grandma’s uncle. By tracing Milton Howington, who left tons of records, I uncovered the whole Howington clan.

The hardest part was explaining to my aunt that her “Uncle Sug” was also her mother’s “Uncle Sug.”

Welcome to the South.