Thursday, January 16, 2014

Before Beginning the Basics

Cassie Davis of Erwin TN in the 1940sSometimes, we can jump right in to our family history research. Sometimes, we need to do some prep work before we can even start researching.

To begin the project ahead of us, I need to take that second route and provide some background information on the Davis family of Erwin, Tennessee.

I mentioned yesterday, now that I’ve shared what I know about Lummie Davis Moore and her husband Wallace, I want to introduce each of Lummie’s siblings. And, in a way, I’ve already done that. I’ve mentioned that Lummie had two sisters—Mabel and Chevis—and that her youngest sibling was a brother the family called, in his adult years, Jack.

That was not the complete family, though. As happened quite often in families of the 1800s and earlier, there were more births than there were, eventually, mouths to feed. Lummie’s mother, Martha Cassandra Boothe Davis, had claimed for the 1900 census record that she was the mother of six children, four of whom had survived—at least until the turn of that century.

Because my aunt had shared with me—years ago—the data from the Davis family Bible (which, at the time, was in her possession), I knew the names for those six children. It wasn’t a mystery for me, or the beginning of any fruitless chase for missing documentation. It was all recorded in that family Bible—which, now, my aunt has passed to me.

After Lummie’s sister Mabel was born in 1888, Will and Cassie Davis had another daughter, whom they named Georgia Cleo. She was born January 27, 1891. Though I don’t know exactly what happened to her, I know hers was a life that was all too brief. She was still a toddler when she passed on September 9, 1892.

A bit over a year after losing Georgia, Will and Cassie welcomed yet another daughter—Mary Chevis, whom I’ll begin discussing tomorrow.

Almost as an afterthought nearly four years later, the “caboose” of the family came with a surprise: twins. Jack Davis, my grandfather, had arrived October 31, 1897, with a companion. The family named the two Roby Jake and Rovy M. Davis. Rovy, however, was not a baby that thrived. Family stories were that there were stomach or intestinal problems—most likely of a kind that could easily have been remedied by modern medical techniques today. Back then, though, such a child was not likely to survive, and that became Rovy’s fate on October 17, 1898.

There they all were—all six names, neatly followed by dates of birth and, in some cases, dates of death in the family Bible. But that was all there was: just names and dates. Beyond that, and a few family stories my mother remembered to pass along to her children, there was not much more.

As I found out, even the family stories were not quite so accurate. The first place I realized that was in the search for the life story of Mary Chevis.


  1. There was a cholera epidemic in Tennessee in 1892

      This link works

    2. Far Side, thank you for posting that link. Fascinating--though gruesome--information. We have no idea how difficult survival was, even less than one hundred years ago, due to these many diseases listed.

      That would most likely explain a possible reason for the loss of the Davis' daughter Georgia, who died in the same year as that cholera epidemic.

  2. I can see it being Cholera, its symptoms are "intestinal" - like watery diarrhea and vomiting.

    1. Cholera would make sense, based on the symptoms. But for the twin that died, the date of death was several years later--1898. The way the family put it, the problem seemed to be more of a case of intestinal blockage or malfunction than disease. Obviously, my grandfather made it through ;)

      Hopefully, a bit more searching may reveal a possible answer. I wish the Erwin newspaper was available online. At some point, I may just have to make a trip back to explore this part of my roots.


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