I do not know exactly what day I first noticed the huge, beautiful, scary spider in her huge, beautiful, scary web in the frame of the door I use to go in and out of my home. Maybe it was a day or two before I decided to take a photograph or two of her and post it on Facebook, asking if anyone knew what kind of spider I was now living with.

My first instinct was to kill her, although I do not make a habit of killing spiders. I actually happily co-exist with many species of spiders, unless I think one may harm me, or especially my small animals. Brown Recluse and Black Widows are not my friends. I have recently begun relocating rather than stepping on the wolf spiders who cross my path. Other spiders, I just let them live.

I chose to learn more about the spider in my doorway. Every night she wove a very large, silk web in the doorframe. She hung upside down, suspended in the middle of the web, waiting for unsuspecting moths and other insects to make the last and largest mistake of their short lives.

When I needed to go outside, I had to stoop down and navigate around her so that I did not disturb her or her glorious silk home. I found out that she was an Argiope aurantia spider, aka a yellow garden spider, aka a writing spider, aka many other names depending on what part of the country you are from.

I discovered that she was harmless to me and my animals; not so much to the meals on wings who flew into her trap. I also discovered that she spun her web every night, being a spider of nocturnal inclination, and that she ingested her web every morning and hid nearby until the night time came again.

I was very happy that I had decided to live and let live when I was told that she was a relative of Charlotte, the spider immortalized in the E.B. White children’s book published in 1952. The book was Charlotte’s Web. I had read it, and I had seen the movie. I named my door frame visitor Charlotte after her ancestor.

I saw Charlotte every night. I did not bother her, and she did not bother me. Only once did I forget to duck in time, and I ran into her beautiful web, bringing a lot of it with me into the house and hoping that Charlotte had not come along for the ride as well.

For the past two weeks, I have seen her, appreciated her artistic talent, wondered if I should relocate her to the barn, left her alone, and wondered how long she would grace my home with her presence.

Tonight, I saw her web in the doorway. It was only half-made, and Charlotte was nowhere to be seen. As the evening passed by, I peeked outside my door many times, staring into the partial web and wondered why she had not finished building her home and why I was worrying about a spider.

I finally got on my laptop and searched for reasons a happy spider would begin her web, then just abandon it. Did a predator get her? Had she fallen out of the web and had I stepped on her? Where was Charlotte? Why did I care?

If what I was reading was true, the lifespan of a writing spider is only 12 months. Charlotte had been born during last year’s autumn, and had matured into an adult spider this past summer. She was on track to mate, lay egg sacks in her web, and die with the first frost. Her twelve months were up any day.

I grabbed a flashlight and headed to the door. The web was still there, still half finished. Charlotte was not. I shined my light around the top of the web, and I saw something. I used my camera with the flash on and zoomed in; I took several photographs.

When I examined the photographs moments later, I recognized Charlotte, crumpled up and still. Her lifeless body surrounded two tiny and one larger cocoons of white silk. She had laid her eggs, and then she had woven a protective shelter around her soon-to-be spiderlings. And then she had died. And her last moment in the doorframe, on this earth, was to use her body to protect the life that she left behind.

It has been only two weeks since I took the first photos of Charlotte. Our friendship was short. I cried at the end of Charlotte’s Web — the movie and the book. I cried at the end of Charlotte’s life. When I saw her final resting place, the realization hit me hard: the half-made, gossamer web gently blowing in my doorframe tonight will blow away in a day or two, and Charlotte is gone forever more.

WYMAC MATTHEW FOWLER (1836–1862) Son of Womack Fowler

Wymac Matthew Fowler was born September 27, 1836. He was the fourteenth child –the last child — born to Womack Fowler and Susannah Moseley.

Womack, Womach, Wymac, Wymack, Wymach. I am using “Womack” for the father and “Wymac” for the son. I have never seen or heard anyone refer to the son as “Mac” but I believe this may have been true. I have seen his name written as Mc Fowler in at least two records.

1860 Union County SC Agriculture Schedule

His birth was handwritten in the family bible. The next time his name was written was in the 1849 Last Will and Testament of his father.

“my youngest son Wymac my rifle gun”

Susannah Moseley Fowler was head of household when the 1850 census taker wrote down her son Wymac’s name.

1850 Union County SC Census

Widow Susannah Fowler was head of a household that contained her sons Rufus, Felix, James, and Wymac. Daughter Susannah lived with her mother, as did two young girls, Harriet and Jane, whom I suspect to have been granddaughters of Susannah and Womack Fowler.

Wymac Matthew Fowler had married a young woman named Jane before 1860. He, his wife Jane, and two year old James were counted in the 1860 census in Union County, SC.

1860 Union County SC Census

Wymac Fowler’s wife Jane may have been Jane Worthy (b. 1839), daughter of George Worthy (b. 1804) and Rebecca Burrell. George Worthy was the son of James Worthy (1760- bef. 1850) and another Jane.

Circumstantial evidence follows:

James Worthy (b. 1760) was the father of James Worthy (1809-1880) who married Winnifred Fowler (b. 1822), daughter of Ellis Fowler (b. 1770), son of Henry Ellis Fowler.

James Worthy (b. 1760) also was the father of William Worthy (1813-1880) who married Fanny Fowler (b. 1825), another daughter of Ellis Fowler (b. 1770).

After the death of his wife Fanny Fowler, James Worthy (b. 1809) married Sarah Floyd (b. 1833).

Jane (Worthy?) married a Floyd after the death of her first husband, Wymac Matthew Fowler.

I am slowly researching and eliminating all of the “Janes” born around 1839 in Union County. It is only my theory that Jane wife of Wymac was Jane Worthy, daughter of George. End of circumstantial evidence and speculation… for now.

A daughter, Lulu Fowler, was born to Wymac Fowler and Jane in 1861. One must pray that this daughter was born before the thirty-first of August, 1861, when Wymac Fowler enlisted in Company F of the 15th Regiment of the South Carolina Infantry, for — like three of his brothers — he would not return home from the War Between the States.

Wymac Matthew Fowler died of Typhoid Fever at Camp Elliott in Beaufort County, SC on May 18, 1862. Some accounts inaccurately state that the year of his death was 1861.

From the estate settlement of Susannah Moseley Fowler

The widow Jane married James Morgan Floyd (1844-after 1880), son of Lanta Foster (b. 1818), daughter of George Foster (1792-after 1860) and Cynthia (b. 1800).

The newly formed family lived in the Pinckney area of Union County SC in 1870. Morgan Floyd was listed as head of household, with wife Jane. Although James and Lura (Lula) were given the surname of “Floyd” in this record, they were the children of Wymac Fowler. By this time, three children had been born to Morgan Floyd and Jane: Ida, Anna, and William Thomas Floyd.

1870 Union County SC Census

Lulu Fowler died in 1877. Her death was mentioned in the estate settlement of her grandmother Susannah Moseley Fowler. The surname of Feaster was attached to her first name of Lulu. Did she marry before her death? Did she die in childbirth? I can find no reasonable possible Feaster husband, but I have not searched far and wide… yet. It was stated that she died without heirs so if she died in childbirth, her baby died as well.

1880 Union County SC Census

By 1880, the James Morgan Floyd family had moved to Goudeysville, Union County, SC — a part of the county which would soon be taken away from Union and used to form Cherokee County, SC. The James Morgan Floyd family lived beside Dorcas Moseley Fowler. Dorcas was the war widow of Rufus Marion Fowler, brother of Wymac Matthew Fowler. Rufus had joined Company F, 15th Regiment of the SC Infantry, as did Wymac, on August 31, 1861.

Rufus Marion Fowler died May 6, 1864 after the Battle of the Wilderness in Spotslyvania County, Virginia when he was hit by friendly fire; a gun in the hands of James Spencer exploded, and another of Womack Fowler’s sons would not return home.

Wymack Matthew Fowler died far away from home, as did thousands upon thousands of soldiers in the Civil War. He left behind a widow and two young children. There are descendants living today, many who may not even know the noble and respected line from which they descend.

The Descendants of Wymac Matthew Fowler and Jane

  • Henry Ellis Fowler
    • Womack Fowler (1785-1849)
      • Wymac Matthew Fowler (1836-1862) m. Jane (1839 – after 1880)
        • James Madison Fowler (1858- after 1900) m. Mary Ann Polly Maddox (1872–1950)
          • Thomas William Fowler (1890–1940) m. Ruth R. Hill (1900-1981)
            • Thomas H. Fowler (1924-1924)
            • Ruth May Fowler (b. 1925)
              • Son Fowler (b. 1953)
            • Thomas Harvey Fowler (1930–1930)
            • Elsie Adeline Fowler (1931–2005) m. Hudgins
              • Son Hudgins
              • Daughter Hudgins
            • Francis Etheleen Fowler (1935–2005) m. Floyd Stevenson Gregory (1934–2018)
              • Shirley Gregory (1959–2011)
              • Wanda Gregory (1961–2005)
          • Clara Bell Fowler (1893–1915) m. George Washington Mitchem (1895–1953)
            • Henry Lee Fowler (1912–2001) m. Pansy Richardson (1914–2008)
              • Henry Lee Fowler Jr. (1934–1975) m. Beckham
              • Daughter Fowler ( b. 1936)
              • Son Fowler
              • Son Fowler
          • Mary E Fowler (b. 1895)
          • James Mack Fowler (1897–1956) m. Lucille Brice (1902–1958)
            • Robert Glenn Fowler (1924–2010) m. Betty Louise Morgan (1927-1999)
              • Daughter Fowler
              • Daughter Fowler
            • Mary Louise Fowler (b. 1932) m. Bassinger
            • Alice Maxine Fowler (1935–2009) m. Bryant
              • Son Bryant
              • Son Bryant
              • Son Bryant
          • Charles Fowler (aka Freeman) (b. 1902)

Jane’s family with James Morgan Floyd

  • Jane (b. 1844) m. James Morgan Floyd (1844- after 1880)
    • Ida Floyd (1865–1937) m. Henry Bascomb Hughes (1857–1927)
      • Arthur Vernon Hughes (1883–1966)
      • Alfred Luther Hughes (1885–1925)
      • William Crowder Hughes (1888–1918)
      • Richard Lester Hughes (1891–1893)
      • Charles Bolin Hughes (1895–1981)
      • Beulah Mae Hughes (1897–1977)
      • Henry Buford Hughes (1900–1963)
      • Lillian Idalene Hughes (1902–1997)
    • Anna Floyd (b. 1868)
    • William Thomas Floyd (1870–1904)
    • Janie Floyd (1874–1898)
    • Charlie Floyd (1877–1928)
    • Emma Floyd (b. 1879)

REUBEN ROOF (1799–1885) of Lexington SC — and — REUBEN RUFF (1805-1874) of Noxubee County, Mississippi

Two Reubens born about the same time in South Carolina. A surname that was interchangeably Roof, Ruff, Reuff, and Reiff, and sometimes Rough. (I will use Roof for the remainder of this article to simplify things; specifically Lexington Reuben Roof and Mississippi Reuben Roof).

When writing an article about my ancestor Simeon Godfrey Jacob Roof, my research quickly identified two Reuben Roofs. That is not an issue for me. What became a bump in the road was the number of family trees on-line mixing up the two Reubens. This article will hopefully separate and clarify the two men.

Both Roof families came from Hesse, Germany to mid-state South Carolina. The Roof families populated Lexington, Newberry, and Saluda Counties. Were they all related? Probably. It is more than likely that both Reubens descend from Johann Rueff (born 1690 in Germany; died 1718 in the Netherlands).

I’ve well researched my Lexington Reuben Roof and the line of descent is Johann Rueff (1690-1718) > Johann Sebastian Rueff (171501788) > Johan Melchoir Rueff 1750-1801 > Godfrey Roof 1770-1825 > Reuben Roof 1799-1885.

I’ve not well researched the Mississippi Reuben Roof line, but the line of descent appears to be Johann Rueff 1690-1718 > George Jacob Reuff 1718-1751 > Christian Reuff 1736-1797 > John Roof 1765-1819 > Reuben Roof 1805-1874.

My ancestor Lexington Reuben Roof was born ca. 1799 in Lexington County, South Carolina. His parents were Godfrey Roof (1770–1825) and Barbara Monts (1780–1812). My Lexington Reuben Roof married Jemimah Catherine Areheart (1800–1875) and they had the following children:

  • Harriett Dratha Ruff (1824–1888)
  • Simeon Godfrey Jacob Ruff (1827–1922)
  • son Ruff (b. 1830)
  • Martha Elizabeth Ruff (1833–1902)
  • Rhoda A C Ruff (1838–1904)
  • Jemima Catherine Ruff (1843–1868)
Simeon Godfrey Jacob Roof

My Lexington Reuben Roof stayed in the county of his birth –Lexington — until his death. He was a shingle-maker (a real Roofer) in a family of carpenters. His nineteenth century presence is easy to follow as he was counted in census records 1830 to 1880.

Mississippi Reuben Roof was born in Newberry County, South Carolina on March 18, 1805 and he died in Noxubee County, Mississippi on April 19, 1874. His parents were John Ruff (1765–1819) and Frances Haynie (1767–1843). He was an attorney and Probate Judge. He moved to Macon, Noxubee County, Mississippi before 1845 and married Rebecca Longstreet (1824–1881). They had no children.

He was recorded in three census records in Mississippi (1850 to 1870), proving the existence of two separate Reuben Roofs, who may have been third cousins after all.

WILLIAM M. FOWLER (1812-1872) Son of Womack Fowler

Womack Fowler and his wife Susannah Moseley, had fourteen children if one takes as truth the entries made in the Womack Fowler Family Bible. Seven sons and seven daughters were born between the years 1809 to 1836. Two sons and three daughters did not survive childhood, and if not for the entries in the family bible, their brief existence on earth would not have been known to us. They, no doubt, lie in eternal rest in the Womack Fowler family graveyard near Jonesville.

Nine children — five sons and four daughters — did survive and thanks to extensive paper research and DNA testing, much is known about them and their descendants.

  • Martha Patsy Fowler (1809–1872)
  • Tempa Fowler (1810–1862)
  • William M. Fowler (1812–1872)
  • Henry Fowler (1814–1816)
  • Marinda Lucinda “Cinda” “Missinda” Fowler (1816–1879)
  • Melinda Fowler (1818–1819)
  • Susannah Fowler (1821–1866)
  • Rhoda Fowler (1823–1825)
  • Rufus Marion Fowler (1825–1864)
  • Maryan Catherine Fowler (1827– before 1830)
  • Felix Parham Fowler (1829–186x)
  • James Hervey Fowler (1832–1863)
  • Josephus Fincher Fowler (1833–1842)
  • Womack Matthew Fowler (1836–1862)

Womack Fowler sent all five of his sons to fight in the War Between the States. Only one returned home. That son was William M. Fowler.

William M. Fowler was born in Union County, South Carolina on December 17, 1812. He was the third child and first son born to twenty-eight year old Womack and twenty year old Susannah Moseley Fowler. I have never seen in any document what the middle initial “M” stands for, but I suspect that it is Mark.

William M. Fowler’s date of birth was recorded in the family bible, he was mentioned in his father’s Last Will and Testament, he was counted in two census records, he penned his own Last Will and Testament leaving his worldly possessions to his widow Martha and his son Morgan Reaves, and his death was mentioned when his mother’s estate was settled after her death in 1878.

He may have fought in the Civil War alongside his brothers Rufus Marion and Wymac Matthew in the South Carolina 15th Infantry. There was a William Fowler in the battalion but I have no proof that it was William, son of Womack.

William M. Fowler married a woman named Martha, born ca. 1821. They had no children although in 1860, a young man named James Lenon lived with them; and in 1870, a young woman named Susan Fowler (and listed as idiotic) lived in the household. I have been unable to document either of the two.

1860 Union County SC Census
1870 Union County SC Census

William M. Fowler had an out-of-wedlock son in 1841 with Millie Reaves (b. 1827). Millie Reaves (Reevis/Reeves) may have been the daughter of Zachariah Reaves or Asa Reaves. More research is needed.

The son’s name was Morgan Reaves (1841-1928).

Morgan Reaves

Morgan Reaves and his mother Millie are conspicuously absent in census records until 1870, but so is William M. Fowler until 1860. Millie Reaves married William Pierce before 1870, and they were recorded together with her son Morgan Reaves, his wife Elizabeth and their daughter Adeline.

I found a copy of William M. Fowler’s Last Will and Testament in the SC State Archives in Columbia, SC. In my great haste, I cut off the page just before the date that the will was signed. I will go back for this information. It was mentioned in the estate settlement of the will that his mother (Susannah Moseley Fowler), a sister (Marinda Lucinda Fowler Long) and a son (Morgan Reaves) survived him. HIs son Morgan Reaves was mentioned several times, and there was a dispute between him and the widow Martha Fowler. It was also mentioned that William M. Fowler died in Columbia SC. What was he doing so far away from home?

In the meantime:

Like his father, Morgan Reaves served in the Infantry during the Civil War. He was in the SC 13th Regiment Infantry, having enlisted on September 3, 1861. He was discharged March 17, 1865. He and his wife Elizabeth Thomas had five children before her death in 1912. Morgan Reaves died February 8, 1928 and was buried in the Glendale Cemetery.

Millie Reaves Pierce possibly died March 13, 1939 in Glendale, Spartanburg County, SC, although I have not been able to find documentation for her beyond the 1880 census. There is a Millie Piece buried in the Glendale Cemetery; the dates indexed for her grave in the cemetery may be incorrect — something I intend to look into very soon.

I do not know when or where widow Martha Fowler died. She was living in 1878 when the estate of William’s mother Susannah Moseley Fowler was settled. I do not know if she remained a widow or if she remarried.

  • Henry Ellis Fowler (1746-1808)
    • Womack Fowler (1785-1849) married Susannah Moseley
      • William M. Fowler (1812-1872) and Millie Reaves (1827-1939)
        • Morgan Reaves (1841-1928) m. Elizabeth Thomas 1844–1912
          • Adelaide Bolivar Reaves 1870–1953
          • Mary Reaves 1873–1965
          • James Robert Reaves 1875–1942
          • Carrie Reaves 1877–
          • Walter Dickson Reaves 1883–1950

The FOWLER Family and The Balloon Landing of 1861

The year was 1861; the place, Pea Ridge, Union County, South Carolina. A spectacular and frightening event happened in the back-country of the county and people still talk about it one hundred and sixty years later


In 1983, the United States Postal Service released a set of four beautiful hot air balloon stamps to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the first hot air balloon flight. The balloon on the left named The Intrepid was owned and used to spy on Confederate forces in the Civil War by Professor Thaddeus Sobieski Constance Lowe (1832-1913).

Thaddeus Lowe was born August 20, 1832 in Jefferson Mills, New Hampshire. He was the second child born into a respectable family of former soldiers, merchants, and politicians. Although his formal education was somewhat limited, he made up for the lack of schooling by constantly reading. His drive to succeed and his above average intelligence led him to great adventures, great inventions, fortune and fame.

Thaddeus Lowe became interested in aviation, as in hot air balloons, and he studied the art and science of balloon building. He also became interested in Leontine Augustine Gaschon, a 19 year old actress from Paris whom he married in 1855. His newly-wed wife supported his balloon building endeavors and he built his first balloon in 1857, His second balloon, The Enterprise, was finished in 1858.

Thaddeus Lowe had a dream — an ambition, really — to fly across the Atlantic Ocean in one of his hot air balloons. He studied high altitude winds and he was confident that he would succeed in this journey. The scientific community was confident as well, and he had their backing.

On April 12, 1861, the first shot of the American Civil War was fired just before sunrise at Fort Sumter, South Carolina. In the early morning, pre-dawn hours of April 19, 1861, Professor Thaddeus Lowe left Cincinnati Ohio in his hot air balloon, The Enterprise, on a test flight bound for Washington, D.C. After traveling nine hours and eight hundred miles, he landed “slightly” off course in the Kelton farmlands of Union County, South Carolina.

Pea Ridge is not on the coast of South Carolina but the map is interesting, if inaccurate.

There was no photographer present to preserve Professor Lowe’s arrival. Instead, we are fortunate to have a visual “snapshot”—his observations of the locals: “the gun toting men who met him in the field with mostly reddish long hair and beards…their rotund stomachs covered with blue jean clothing and their heads with slouch hats”.

Stephen Fowler was the third son born to Ephraim Fowler and Nancy Moseley. He was born circa 1800 in Union County, and he was married twice–his first wife being Sarah, and his second, Letticia.

In my search for records of Stephen Fowler, his mention in the Balloon Landing saga is an extraordinary glimpse into a day in his life. It is most fortunate for us that he and the two brave female members of his family were involved with the events on April 20, 1861, and even more so that their names were recorded for posterity.

While many of the men cowered behind bushes, two brave women, Theresa Hames and Susie Palmer, took hold of the rope that Professor Lowe dropped to the earth, and pulled him out of the sky. Once he had convinced the frightened spectators who had witnessed the balloon’s descent that he was neither a Yankee spy nor the devil, he was taken into a small cabin and fed a lunch of cornbread. Afterwards, he and his hot air balloon were loaded upon a large, lumbering wagon pulled by six mules and driven by Stephen Fowler to Unionville.

One of the rope-pulling women, Susie Palmer, — born Mary Susan Fowler in 1834 — was a daughter of Stephen Fowler and his first wife Sarah. She married Jackson Palmer. She died June 30, 1918 and was buried in the Haney graveyard in Kelton, not so very far from the site of the Balloon Landing.

Theresa Hames, the other rope-pulling woman, was the daughter of Stephen’s sister, Lydia Fowler Hames and husband Charles Hames. Theresa Hames was recorded in the 1860 Union County census living at Mount Joy……the present site of the Balloon Landing historical marker.

We must assume that the elderly Stephen Fowler lived near the landing site since he furnished the wagon. If one looks at the names and ages of the families who lived near Stephen Fowler in the 1860 census, we can get an idea of the audience who witnessed the balloon landing, taking into consideration that many of the men had already gone to war.

After Stephen Fowler’s death in 1866, his estate was appraised and sold at auction. Among his many possessions were a wagon and several mules, perhaps the very wagon and mules that he used to transport Professor Lowe and his deflated hot air balloon to Unionville in 1861!

left to right: Sarah Francis Bevis Holcomb and her granddaughter Rachel Holcomb; Thesis Fowler and her great grandmother Melissa Swann Aycock

The photograph above was taken seventy years after the Balloon Landing, on April 20, 1931, when a monument was placed on the site to commemorate the momentous occasion. Sarah Frances “Fannie” Bevis Holcomb (1842-1936) and Melissa Swann Aycock (1944-1937) were present the day Thaddeus Lowe landed in Union County in 1861 and also present the day in 1931 that the monument was put into place.

Fannie Bevis was 19 years old when the balloon came to earth. She was the daughter of William Bevis and Zilla Hames (1812-1883). Zilla Hames was the daughter of Sarah Fowler and John Hames. Sarah Fowler was the daughter of Ephraim Fowler and the sister of Stephen Fowler who was the wagon master of the day.

Melissa Swann was 17 years old on Balloon Day. She was the wife of Jasper Aycock (1829-1899) and they were the parents of States Rights Aycock (1860-1926) who married Ella Rice Rogers (1867-1947). Their daughter Mamie Aycock (1886-1972) provided the connection to the Ephraim Fowler family by marrying Richard Franklin Fowler (1878-1961), son of Henry Richard Fowler, son of Ellis Fowler, son of Ephraim Fowler. Thesis Fowler (in the photo with her grandmother Melissa Swann Aycock) was the daughter of Richard Franklin Fowler and Mamie Aycock.

Thaddeus Lowe’s balloon, The Enterprise, did not just land in Union County. It landed solidly down on — likely — Fowler owned land! There were other neighbors nearby not related to the Fowler family who witnessed and participated in the most unusual event, but when one takes a look at the descendants of Ephraim Fowler who were present and involved, it is a a day of much genealogical significance for the Fowler family!

We know that these descendants of Ephraim Fowler were there:

  • Theresa Hames (daughter of Lydia Fowler) pulled the rope to bring Professor Lowe to earth
  • Mary Susan Fowler Palmer (daughter of Stephen Fowler) also pulled the rope
  • Stephen Fowler (son of Ephraim) took Professor Lowe and the ballon to Unionville in his wagon
  • Sarah Francis “Fannie” Bevis Holcomb (granddaughter of Sarah Fowler) witnessed the event
  • Melissa Swann Aycock (future ancestor of Thesis Fowler) also witnessed the landing.

One has to wonder whose cabin Professor Lowe was taken to for his meager lunch? My guess is a Fowler cabin. There were at least two slave children in the cabin sitting by the fire.

I do not know if the monument of 1931 still stands in the field. I shall look for it next time I am there. In 2009, the Union County Historical Society erected a sign near Mount Joy Church. The location of the sign is not on the exact spot of the actual landing but it does bring to the attention of the local residents that something of historical importance happened nearby.

The 1931 Monument on the left and the 2009 Historical Marker of the right.

Professor Thaddeus Lowe was an intelligent man, and he landed in the midst of an honest but uneducated people. Afterwards, he wrote of his journey and his balloon’s descent into the backwoods of South Carolina. His description of the people that he encountered — my people- was demeaning and unkind

These Fowlers and their Pea Ridge neighbors could not read and write. They perhaps acted out of fear never having seen a balloon descend out of the heavens. It was 1861 and war had begun. Their uneasiness and suspicions of their unexpected guest who dropped out of the sky were justified.

In spite of their fears and doubts about him, they puled him to earth. They fed him and they gave him a wagon ride to Unionville to catch a train. They were rewarded with callous remarks and descriptions printed in newspapers all over the country portraying them as backwood hillbillies. Even the letter (excerpt below) from Professor Lowe’s daughter that was sent after the 1931 monument dedication did not align with the previous remarks of the Professor himself.

The people who witnessed the balloon landing wanted to shoot him, pulled him to earth, thought him to be Yankee spy, still wanted to shoot him, fed him, wanted to arrest him, and took him to Union over bumpy roads in a lumbering wagon. Professor Lowe never felt any cordial reception. I am sure he felt fear and regret– deep regret that he had ever landed in such a place. I am especially sure that the words “True Southern Hospitality” never crossed his educated mind.

Ironically, in July 1861, only three months after he landed in Union County, Professor Thaddeus Lowe, bringing along his ballon The Enterprise, met with President Abraham Lincoln. He never made his transatlantic flight, but he did become a Yankee spy. Did this idea form in his mind after the people of Pea Ridge had accused him of being a Yankee spy? His first flight for the Union Army was at the Battle of Bull Run at Manassas, where Thomas W. “Bunker” Fowler (1834-1861) became the first man from Union County to be killed in the War.

Professor Thaddeus Lowe was an aviation expert, Army spy, inventor, scientist, owner of a railroad, father of ten children. He became very wealthy and built a 24,000 square foot home in Pasadena, California. He lived a long life of eighty years. His accomplishments were many and great. His life is worth an internet search; there has been much written about him.

His greatest gift to me, no doubt in my mind, is the day he spent with my family in the backwoods of Pea Ridge. In spite of the bad reviews that he left behind of my people, he gave me a glimpse into the lives that they led, even if only for a brief moment in time. Thank you, Professor Lowe.


He was a beautiful boy, Walter Ellis Burton, and later, a handsome young man. His life was far too short, but he never saw the ravages of time mar his features. There is no one left on earth who knew him; no one who remembers the beautiful boy.

Walter Ellis Burton was the firstborn son (1898) of Ira O. Burton (1875–1938) and Ruth Frances Langford (1880–1953). Ira O. Burton was the son of Tolliver Joseph Burton (1840–1905) and Jane Jennie Murphy (b. 1844). Ruth Frances Langford was the daughter of Joshua Marion Langford (1859–1927) and Mary B Rivers (1859–1889).

Four daughters followed in succession. There was not to be another son born into the family.

The girls:

  • Mary Etta Burton (1901–1983)
  • Edna Lois Burton (1904–1972)
  • Margaret Frances Burton (1914–1998)
  • Louise Burton (1917–1921)

The name “Walter” does not seem to have any personal meaning, although it is possible, even likely, that I’ve missed a namesake somewhere. “Ellis” is no doubt after the Ellis family of Due West; in particular, Robert Ellis, who took in Tolliver Joseph Burton after the death of his parents, and provided for him even after the death of Robert Ellis by way of inheritance.

When he was seventeen years of age, Walter’s father, Ira O. Burton, shot and killed a man on Main Street in Newberry, SC. The tragic event, the arrest of his father, the trials … all would have had tremendous effect on a young man in the prime of his life. This story will be told later in the chapter of the life and times of Ira O. Burton.

What does have big –yes, monumental — personal significance to me is that Walter Ellis Burton met and married the woman who would become my great grandmother, Laura Belle Ruff (1899-1996). A daughter was born to them on June 26, 1917, but the infant girl did not survive long enough to be counted in a census, nor can I find her name or date of death. This was the first of many heartbreaks to come.

Another daughter was born in 1918. She survived and was given the name Mary Ellen. She lived a very long life surrounded by a loving family before she was called to her heavenly home in 2008.

Named “Walter” after his father and “Darold” after my great grandmother’s teenaged crush, my grandfather, Walter Darold Burton, was born August 24, 1920. He was called Billy and he, too, was a beautiful boy. I was always grateful that God had chosen him to be my grandfather. We had to write a paper in school about someone who was a hero in our lives, and I chose him. We lost him in 1998 and I miss him every single day.

With a wife and two small children to raise, it was more than tragic when Walter Ellis Burton became ill, and died on November 26, 1924 in a hospital near Columbia, SC. He left behind his young wife who never married again. Laura Belle Ruff Burton worked hard her entire life to provide for her son and daughter. I am lucky beyond measure that these beautiful people with beautiful souls are my family.

Walter Ellis Burton, and his two sisters Mary Etta and Edna Lois. (Photo taken ca. 1909)

I love the watch fob. It’s a very nice touch.

I am also fascinated by the shoes……..

Walter Ellis Burton as a young man. (year unknown)


Leila Alma Vaughan was my father’s first cousin. Her mother, Florence Imogene Mabry and my father’s mother, Lois Ellen Mabry were sisters.

  • Benjamin Franklin Mabry (1847–1925) m. Delilah Josephine Foster (1860–1935)
  • Florence Imogene Mabry (1882–1974) m. Luther Lafayette Vaughan (1881–1936)
  • Leila Alma Vaughan (1905–2002) m. Leonard Lewis Smith (1892–1949)

I met Leila Alma Vaughn Smith when she was in her nineties. My dad called her Aunt Alma even though they were cousins. She was a wonderful lady. She was kind and patient with me and didn’t mind the many questions I asked her about our family history.

She gave me a photograph of her grandmother Delilah Josephine Foster, who was my great grandmother. I had too few visits with cousin Alma before her final illness and death. One of the things that she gave to me that I will always treasure was her story of her recollections of her childhood. My brother posted it on his website and I include it below:

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #14 Simeon Godfrey Jacob Roof (1827-1922)

Simeon Godfrey Jacob Roof. He’s the elderly man with the gray beard standing on the back row to the far left. He is my great great great grandfather. This photograph was taken circa 1904/1905. This image is more valuable to me than a pot of gold. It is a family treasure.

Simeon Godfrey Jacob Roof’s wife, Martha Matilda McCarty, is the second woman from the right sitting on the bottom row. The little girl standing beside her is my great grandmother, Laura Belle Roof, who was born 1900/1901. Laura Belle’s mother, Nora McCarty, married to Simeon Moultrie Roof, is sitting on the bottom row center holding her daughter Nettie and flanked by her young son John.

The Simeon Godfrey Jacob Roof Family

Simeon Godfrey Jacob Roof was the son of Reuben Roof (1799–1885) and Jemimah Catherine Earhart (1800–1875).

Reuben Roof was the son of Godfrey Roof (1770–1825) and Barbara Monts (1780–1812). This family line — Roof — was a German family line, sometimes spelled Ruff, Reuff, Reiff, and less frequently, Rough. The Roof family hailed from Hesse Germany and populated Lexington, Newberry, Saluda, and Edgefield Counties in South Carolina.

One only has to look at early census records to see that there was a large wave of German immigration to South Carolina in the 1700s; so much, in fact, that an entire region in Lexington, Newberry, and Richland Counties was named Dutch Fork. The Germans settled there en masse between 1730 to 1766.

Ask anyone on the street, and you may be told that the “fork” — the area between the Saluda and Broad Rivers — was named Dutch Fork after the people from Holland who immigrated and settled there. Good assumption but totally wrong: the name Dutch Fork came from the Anglicized version of the word “Deutsch” which translates to “German” in their language. Other than their Germanic last names and the abundance of Lutheran churches in the area, there is little left of their German heritage.

Jemimah Catherine “Minnie” Earhart was the daughter of Godfrey Earhart (1745–1821) and Katherine Hannah Luther (1755–1816). This line was perhaps from Switzerland, adjacent to Germany. I am not completely sure of the origins, although Earhart is the Americanized spelling of the German Ehrhardt.

Simeon Godfrey Jacob Roof married Jane Elizabeth Harper (1829–1856) after 1850. It was a short lived marriage due to her untimely death, and if there were children born to the couple, their presence eludes me.

He married Martha Matilda McCarty (1842–1905), daughter of Jacob McCarty (1806–1883) and Matilda Wheeler (1806–1889). The McCarty line is Irish and traces back to a Michael McCarty (1720-1790) who immigrated from Cork, Ireland and landed in Edgefield County, SC.

Simeon Jacob Godfrey Roof and Martha Matilda McCarty had eight children:

  • Lawrence Hosia Roof (1861–1949)
  • Jacob Godfrey Roof (1866–1919)
  • John Reubin Roof (1869–1898)
  • Mary Jane Roof (1872–1902)
  • Simeon Moultrie Roof (1873–1958)
  • Henry Ashton Roof (1877–1954)
  • Oscar Olen Roof (1881–1963)
  • David Jenkins Roof (1884–1933)

Simeon Moultrie Roof married Nora McCarty and they were my great great grandparents. They were also related to each other, both descended from Michael McCarty of Ireland.

Simeon Godfrey Jacob Roof died Feb 2, 1922. He and Martha Matilda are buried at Salem Baptist Church Cemetery in Saluda County, SC. The Roof name was interchangeable in life and in death. His headstone reads Simeon G. J. ROOF; hers, Martha Matilda RUFF.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #13: FRED KIRBY (1910-1996)

When my brother and I were growing up in a small, southern town, one thing that we looked forward to each week was a TV show with a singing cowboy called Fred Kirby’s Little Rascals. We watched it on our small, black and white set topped by a rabbit ear antenna. The singing cowboy was Fred Kirby, his sidekick, Uncle Jim, and his paint horse was named Calico — I was enthralled.

When my grandfather told us that our family was related to the singing cowboy on TV, I could not believe what I was hearing. Fred Kirby was famous!

When my dad told us that we were going to meet our cousin Fred Kirby — the singing cowboy with the paint horse on TV every week — I thought all of my dreams had come true.

Fred Kirby was making an appearance at the local fairgrounds in the late 1960s. We did meet him. I remember very little of the event even though it meant the world to me at the time. I do remember my dad telling the singing cowboy that my brother and I were relatives of his. I cannot remember his reply, but I am sure he was not particularly impressed.

Joshua Marion Langford (1859–1927) and Mary B Rivers (1859–1889) are my genetic connection to fame. Joshua Langford was the son of John J. Langford (1818–1892) and Sarah Anne Langford (1833–1881), both descendants of the same Langford family. Mary B. Rivers was the daughter of James Robert Rivers (1835–1912) and Sybil Elizabeth “Sibby” Fikes (1843–1916).

Joshua Marion Langford was married twice, first to Mary B. Rivers with whom he had three children: Ruth Langford (1880–1953), Jacob Astor Langford (1884–1952) and Sybil Lavinia Langford (1886–1934). His second wife and mother of many children was Mattie Louella “Mittie” Hill (1873–1928).

Ruth Langford was my ancestor. She married Ira O. Burton (1875–1938) and their son Walter Ellis Burton (1899–1924) was my great grandfather.

Ruth’s sister Sybil Lavinia Langford married David Traxler Kirby (1885–1941) and they were the parents of the singing cowboy, Frederick Austin Kirby, known to children of all ages as Fred Kirby.

Fred Kirby was born near Charlotte, North Carolina. His father was a Pentecostal Holiness minister for the last 30 years of his life, born in Darlington County SC in 1886 to John Monroe Pilkington KIrby and Anna Martha Allen. Fred had many siblings — six brothers and three sisters.

Fred’s mother instilled into him a love of music, teaching him how to play the guitar and sing hymns. HIs first real job was at the radio station WIS in Columbia, SC when he was only seventeen years old. WIS (Wonderful Iodine State) was the very last station in the country to be granted a three-letter call sign.

A year later, Fred began working at WBT in Charlotte, NC. He sang alone as well as with others and spent ten years working there learning the business. He left Charlotte in 1939 and made stops in Cincinnati, Chicago, and St Louis. During World War II, he sold war bonds over the radio and was recognized for his work. He made his way back to Charlotte in 1943, still singing and entertaining anyone who would listen.

He composed and recorded a song after the United States obliterated Hiroshima in 1945. The song was called Atomic Power and it was a hit. Fred Kirby enjoyed much success in the 1940s. His musical career was on fire.

Fred Kirby hosted several children’s television shows beginning in the 1950s. He would continue in this phase of his career until well into the 1980s. He entertained untold numbers of children during these years. He was a household fixture on the small screens in the living rooms of many generations of the young. When not appearing on television, Fred could be found at Tweetsie Railroad in Boone, North Carolina. He was the cowboy hero who prevented the outlaws from robbing the train.

Yes, the man in the white cowboy hat was one of the good guys. Fred Kirby was my family.

Finding my FOWLER Ancestors: Left Out of the Census, or Counted Twice?

My ancestor Ellis Fowler (b. 1770) and his wife Mary made an appearance in the Union County SC census in the years 1800 to 1850, with one exception: they were not counted in 1810. This missing decade could have answered many questions regarding the number of sons and daughters born to the couple.

Maybe the census taker overlooked the household. I imagine that it would have been easy to miss a tiny log cabin buried deep in the woods down a long rutted, dirt road. Perhaps a gentle shower turned into a hard rain and the census taker decided that it would be easier to head home rather than continue his trudge deeper and deeper in the red clay mud. Maybe all of the family members were in the fields toiling in the hot sun, and the knock of the census taker went unanswered. It may even be possible that some of the Ellis Fowler family were ill with fever and the census taker bypassed the home so that he would not become ill also. Whatever the reason, it is a research tragedy — to me — that the family was not enumerated in 1810.

It was not uncommon for men, women, and children to be absent from the census. It happened often back then and it still happens today. It makes the job of a researcher a little more difficult but it is something that one just deals with and moves on. It also happens, a little less often, that a family, or individual, will be counted twice. I do not mind when this occurs as it can give us a better look at the lives of the ancestors being researched.

What follows will be in two parts. Part One will give two examples of Union County, SC Fowler families who were counted twice in the 1870 census. Part Two will be my attempt in understanding the 1820 Union County SC census in which some Fowler families (as well as others) appeared to have been counted twice with no rhyme or reason.


Example #1 Elijah Fowler and Family

  • Elijah T. Fowler (1830-1908)
  • Mary Jane Moseley Fowler (1835–1918)
  • Gassaway Josephine “Josie” Fowler (1861–1953)
  • Susan Bettie Fowler (1863–1923)
  • Frances “Fannie” Fowler ( b. 1868)

Elijah T. Fowler was the son of Thomas Gillman Fowler (1798-1880) and Susannah Hames (1804-1863). Thomas Gillman Fowler was the son of Godfrey Fowler (1773-1850) and Nannie Kelly (1775-1857). Elijah Fowler married his cousin Mary Jane Moseley, daughter of Daniel Moseley (1814–1894) and Biddy (1816–1870).

On June 23, 1870, the Elijah Fowler family was enumerated for the Union County SC Census by Mr. Going. The family lived in Draytonville which was located in Union County at that time; it is now part of Cherokee County, SC.

The Elijah Fowler family moved from Draytonville to Jonesville between June 23 and September 21, 1870, the day they were counted for the census by Mr. William A. Bolt. The oldest daughter was called Gassaway in one record and Josephine in the other; the middle daughter Susan had a birthday on September 7, and was recorded accurately as age 6 in June and age 7 in September; the youngest daughter Francis was called by her given name in one record and Fanny in the other.

It is fairly easy to see that the family of Elijah T. Fowler was counted twice in 1870, once in June and again in September. Draytonville and Jonesville are not a great distance from each other and the Fowler families moved back and forth between the two townships often. It is obvious that this was a case of a family moving from one location to another and census takers visiting both places.

Example #2 William Edward Fowler and James Monroe Fowler

  • James Fowler (1832–1862)
  • Caroline Hodge (1830-1912)
  • Desdamona Fowler (1854–1887)
  • William Edward Fowler (1856–1894)
  • James Monroe Fowler (1858–1931)

William Edward Fowler and his brother James Monroe Fowler were the sons of James Fowler and Caroline Hodge. James Fowler was the son of William Fowler (b. 1795) and Rhoda Moseley. Caroline Hodge was the daughter of John Jackson Hodge (1802-1882) and Martha Patsy Fowler (1809-1872), daughter of Womack Fowler (1785-1849) and Susannah Moseley (1792-1878).

While scanning the 1870 Union County census for the Draytonville township, I noticed the two Fowler boys wedged in-between a household headed by William Franklin Hodge (1837-1909), and another of Calvin Wister Hodge (1850-1928). I wondered why a fifteen year old boy would be listed as Head of Household in a census record. Knowing that the two Hodge men nest door were brothers of Caroline Hodge married to James Fowler, I looked a little closer.

It made perfect sense to me that Caroline Hodge Fowler would have sent her two sons to work on the farms of her brothers in nearby Draytonville. James Fowler had died and the male influence of the Hodge uncles would only benefit the young boys as they prepared for manhood.

Mr. Going, the census taker for that part of Union County, made his rounds on June 23, 1870 and counted the two Fowler boys in their own household next door to their uncles.

William Edward and James Monroe Fowler had moved back into the Jonesville township household of their mother, Caroline Hodge Fowler, in time to be counted again on September 21, this time by census taker Mr. William A.Bolt.

1870 Union County SC Census

This example of the two Fowler boys was not indicative of an entire family moving to a new home but that of the sons in a family being sent away to work and spend time with extended family. This would happen more and more often after the civil war when many fathers did not return home and women were raising young boys on their own.


Several years ago, I noticed that I often got “double” results when I looked up someone in the 1820 Union County, SC Census. It happened when I ran a search for Jasper Fowler (1785-bef 1850), son of Ephraim Fowler. I discovered that there were two Jasper Fowlers with almost the same numbers (ages and number of occupants) in each household. In other words, the households of the two Jasper Fowlers were almost identical.

I had never seen another Jasper Fowler in Union County, and I was a little confused trying to understand why an “extra” Jasper appeared in 1820, then disappeared never to be seen again.

And then, the “double” headcount happened again, this time with Mark Fowler. It happened over and over with others I researched. I eventually began to “unsee” the double results.

I did notice that the 1820 Union County census had two townships: Union and Not Stated. This was the first time since the beginning of the census that the county had been broken up into more than one township category. It would happen once more in 1850, then beginning in 1870, the county would be more accurately divided: