Hope that caught your eye! No, I’m not convinced that one of my ancestors was an alien from another world. After last week’s entry about my most frustrating brick wall, William A. W. DEMPSEY, I had to do something to lighten things up before I go on with his wife Sarah’s story.
This is my 9th contribution to Amy Johnson Crow’s challenge 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.
52 Ancestors: #9 Sarah Ann WOOD 1827-1887
In 1885 Elijah WOOD named his nine living children in order of birth in his last will and testament. Sarah was named third after Allen Alexander and Amanda Jane; Mary Salina was named fourth. Allen, Amanda, Sarah, and Mary were born between 1825-1830 per the 1830 census when the family was living in Greenbrier County, (West) Virginia. Allen was their first child born nine months after the marriage in October 1825 per the 1900 census. The 1840 census numbers are consistent with the 1830. There are no birth records for this time period so I have to trust the census for an estimate of when the children were born.
I am puzzled by the fact that the family was enumerated in Greenbrier County in 1830 as the area that they lived in was part of Nicholas County at that time. Or did they move out of that area for a short time? Sarah’s great-grandfather Bailey WOOD first settled in Woodville (also known as New Haven, Westlake and now Ansted) in the 1790’s when the area was part of Greenbrier County. Due to the changing county lines it fell to Nicholas County in 1818 and then Fayette County in 1831.
[See this nifty interactive map on the formation of the Virginia counties.]
I’m multi-lingual and sometimes the right term in English just doesn’t want to come to me when I need it. There is a wonderful German word to describe the vital records for the time period that my Sarah lived in: lückenhaft (incomplete, sketchy, fragmentary, scrappy, gappy). When documentation is “lückenhaft” and your ancestor fits into the gaps found between the records it’s disappointing. Looking on the bright side, it is encouraging to find records for siblings and other relatives to put things into perspective.
Sarah marries and begins having children
When Sarah was about 16 years old her sister Amanda Jane married Joshua J. PARRISH on 1 June 1843 in Fayette County. The marriage record [right page, entry 8] was found at West Virginia Vital Research Records (my #1 favorite free site).
Sarah was most likely the next of Elijah and Rachel’s children to marry. She married William A. W. DEMPSEY about 1846 as we see Wm. A. W. age 28 and Sarah A. age 22 in the 1850 census with their oldest child Elizabeth Rachel age 3 and James Alexander age 1. The young family was living in HH#85, in the immediate area of Sarah’s parents in HH#94, in Fayette County.
In the 1850’s Sarah gave birth to three more children: Mary Virginia in June 1854, Eunice J. on 1 May 1855, and John Henry on 7 November 1857. The closeness of these births makes me wonder if she may have had more pregnancies between 1849-1854, children who did not survive.
In 1860 the family was living in the household of the widower John A. McGRAW and his three motherless children. John’s deceased wife Nancy M. McGRAW (maiden name McGRAW) was Sarah’s double first cousin once removed. I would like to think that the families were living together because Sarah was helping with the care of the widower’s children who had lost their mother in 1855. I believe that the families may have been living together for several years. Both families had sons named James. Sarah’s son James was seen with only his middle name, Alexander, possibly an attempt to avoid confusion as the boys were close in age. That same year Sarah gave birth to her sixth child, my great-grandfather, William Henderson DEMPSEY, born on 14 September 1860.
Sarah’s husband is arrested as a rebel
During the Civil War while pregnant with her youngest child Elijah Lewis (b. 19 October 1862), Sarah’s husband William A. W. DEMPSEY, a farmer and citizen residing on Dogwood Ridge, was arrested as a rebel by the Union army. He had left home on the 18th of May 1862 to get work in the valley when he heard firing at the Court House. He gave the names of his brothers-in-law Simpson Wood, Styris Wood, and G. W. McVay of the Oil Works as references as well as saying he knew Hamilton of Hawks Nest. James B. Hamilton was well known and his marriage linked him to the large WOOD family. He had married Sarah’s first cousin Matilda Wood in 1853.
The Difficult Years Following The Civil War
Times were hard for Sarah and her family following the Civil War. Sarah’s mother Rachel died in the 1860’s and her father Elijah remarried. About 1867 Sarah’s husband William was killed in a logging accident leaving her with a passel of children aged between twenty-one and five. Her oldest child Elizabeth Rachel “Lizzie” DEMPSEY married Robert HUGHES, a widower, in 1868.
The family is dispersed
Sarah still had six children to feed and raise. The extended WOOD family came to her rescue. The family was scattered at the time of the 1870 census. James was living with his Aunt Amanda Jane (WOOD) PARRISH:
Eunice and John were with their grandfather Elijah WOOD:
Elijah, the youngest, and his mother Sarah were with his aunt Turzey (WOOD) NEAL:
William, age 10 at the time and working as a farm laborer, was living with the Abraham “Abram” FORSYTHE family. Mr. FORSYTHE was first married to Sarah HENDRICK (d. 1859) and second to Mary WESTLAKE in 1862. Both Abram’s brother Samuel and Mary’s sister Mathilda were married into the large WOOD family.
Lizzie was with her husband, raising his two motherless boys from his first marriage and their own son.
Sarah’s daughter Mary Virginia, about 16 years old at the time, was not found. She was in the area as she was the next of Sarah’s children to marry. She married John A. SNELL (1850-1897) on 16 September 1872 in Fayette County.
Two marriage licenses found for Sarah
A few months later Sarah had an offer to marry as a marriage license was taken out on 27 November 1872 in Fayette County, West Virginia, for James B. REID born in Scotland, widowed, son of Wm & Mary, and Sarah Ann DEMPSEY, widowed, daughter of Elijah WOOD. Geraldine Dempsey Workman believed that this marriage did not take place as there was no minister’s return. This would make sense as several weeks later, on 14 January 1873, Sarah married John M. FOX. The marriage licenses were found on the same page of the marriage register. [Reid line 17; Fox line 32]
Sarah’s children were growing and coming of age to marry. Eunice J. DEMPSEY married John Isaac SCAGGS (1841-1903) on 11 May 1873 and James Alexander “Buck” DEMPSEY married Mary E. SADDLER (1855-1920) on 25 December 1874, both marriages in Fayette County. This left her with her three youngest sons still unmarried in 1880. John and Elijah were living with their grandfather Elijah WOOD:
and my great-grandfather William, adopted, was with the John CAMPBELL family. No record has been found to show that this was a legal adoption.
In earlier research some confusion was caused by the presence of a grandson named Charles A. DEMPSEY in the 1880 household of John Fox and his second wife Sarah. Since Sarah first marriage was to a Dempsey one could assume that the grandson was the son of one of her children. But he was not. This is a lesson to those who do not look at all the persons involved in their ancestors lives. Charles was the son of John Fox’s eldest daughter Mary and her husband Seton B. DEMPSEY. To date no relationship has been found between the families of Sarah’s first husband William DEMPSEY and Seton B. DEMPSEY.
Sarah’s son James Alexander was living next door to her in the above.
Sarah’s youngest sons marry in the early 1880’s
Following the 1880 census Sarah saw her youngest sons marry their life partners. John Henry DEMPSEY married Amanda Ann “Mandy” McCLUNG (1864-1938) on 22 February 1882; Elijah Lewis DEMPSEY married Octavia Dell INGRAM (1866-1923) on 19 October 1882; and my great-grandfather William Henderson DEMPSEY married my great-grandmother Laura Belle INGRAM (1868-1940) on 1 October 1884.
Sarah and her father Elijah die a year and half apart
In 1885 Sarah’s father Elijah WOOD passed away. Sarah followed him a year and a half later on 1 April 1887 [2nd entry]. It is believed that she is buried in Good Luck Cemetery also known as Fox-Wood Cemery on Chestnutburg, Ames Hgts Rd. 1.75 mi. off Rt. 19, Fayette County, West Virginia. She was survived by six or seven children, about 20 grandchildren, and her second husband John M. FOX who died 12 January 1896. Sarah’s seven children gave her a total at least fifty grandchildren, although about seven did not live to adulthood, and nearly 180 great-grandchildren.
Flat rock tombstone may be Sarah’s
Lyle LeMasters wrote in December 2000 that he believed that my great-great-grandmother Sarah Ann Wood Dempsey Fox is buried in the old cemetery on the old Chestnutburg Road now known as the Old Mill Creek Road. The Foxes are buried at the very top of the hill and different families are buried in lines coming down the hill. The Wood family graves are about the 3rd or 4th row down the hill. The graves are all facing east to meet the rising sun. He further said that her stone is like the old Fox stones, a rock tombstone in the ground and roughly carved initials and years in the stone. She is not buried with the Foxes but is buried down along the line of the Woods graves. The reason that he believes that this is her stone is that she was the only one that came close enough to fit. His aunt Becky Fox shared a photo of the marker with me.
© 2014 Cathy Meder-Dempsey