“A soldier of Texas has fallen”: George Creager Holcomb (1821-1902)

Last month’s blog focused on Narcissa Rutherford  (Are Samuel and Elizabeth parents of Narcissa?).  Today, I tell about her husband, George Creager Holcomb, my husband’s great-great-great grandfather.  George’s ancestors immigrated to Texas from Arkansas with family origins in Kentucky, Maryland and South Carolina.  

Creager_Holcomb_migration

George Creager Holcomb and his 2nd wife, Mary Ann Selman, are my husband’s great-great-great grandparents on his mother’s side.  George Creager Holcomb, born in 1821,  was the oldest of 11 children born to Joseph Holcomb (1796, South Carolina – 1881, Texas) and Sarah Creager (1799, Kentucky – 1870, Texas).  Both Joseph and Sarah are believed to be descended from Revolutionary War Patriots.  George’s birthplace is reported as Illinois in some online family trees and Arkansas in most census records.  The 1830 census for Washington county, Arkansas Territory lists Joseph Holcomb’s family as including one white male, aged 5 thru 9 . [1] Given preponderance of evidence, George was probably born in Arkansas.

Joseph Holcomb moved his family from Arkansas to Cherokee County, Texas between 1840[2] and  November, 1850. [3]  According to the 1850 census, only one of George’s siblings, Henderson H. Holcomb, age  7, was born in Texas.  Arkansas was the listed birthplace for all others.  Henderson’s reported birth date of 7 January 1844[4] suggests that the move occurred between 1840 and January 1844. This is consistent with other information that Joseph Holcomb followed George and his first wife, Narcissa Rutherford, to Cherokee county in the early 1840s. [5]

Narcissa Rutherford Holcomb died about 1851 leaving George with four children under the age of 10. George married his second wife, 17 year-old Mary Ann Selman, in May 1853. [6]  Children came rapidly – Joseph W. Holcomb in May 1854; Thomas Henry Holcomb in January 1856; Benjamin Franklin Holcomb in February 1858 (my husband’s great-great grandfather), and Julia A. Holcomb in July 1860. Children born during and after the Civil War were Beatrice Holcomb in February 1863, William Garrett Holcomb in October 1866, Jefferson Lee Holcomb in August 1869 and Martha Alice Holcomb in January 1872.[7]

According to information on his grave marker, George C. Holcomb served as Captain in the 10th Texas State Troops, Confederate States Army. [8]

George Creager Holcomb 5

Source: Find A Grave Memorial no. 32434400. Photo taken by  Denise.

G.C. Holcomb received an appointment as 2nd lieutenant in Company K, 1st Regiment, Texas Infantry, Confederate States Army on 9 September 1861.[9]  In July 1862, quartermaster records show the sale of “2 mouse colored mules, $500” by G. C. Holcomb.[10]  The First Texas Infantry joined Confederate forces in Virginia in August 1861 with the regiment later becoming part of John Bell Hood’s Texas Brigade and the Army of Northern Virginia.  “The regiment saw extensive combat throughout the war” including 32 major battles such as Antietam on 17 September 1862; Gettysburg on 1-3 July 1863, and the Petersburg siege from June 1864 to April 1865. “The regiment surrendered along with the rest of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.”[11]

After moving to Cherokee County, Texas in the 1840s, the family unit suffered losses and celebrated new lives. George and his 1st wife, Narcissa, lived in Cherokee county in 1850[12].  In 1860, Samuel and Elizabeth Rutherford, Narcissa’s parents, reported George W. Holcomb, age 8, as living with them. [13]  Census records for 1870[14], 1880[15] and 1900[16] show that George, Mary Ann and their children continued to live in the Cherokee county area.   

brick wallNow comes my brick wall –  finding George, Mary and their older children in 1860. Where were the older children of George and Narcissus– John Lewis, William Henry, and Sarah Elizabeth- in 1860?  This topic is for another post. For now,  the whereabouts of George and his family in 1860 remain hidden from me. George’s occupation as a farmer may present clues to solve this mystery. 

George Creager Holcomb died on 19 September 1902 in Alto, Cherokee county, Texas. [17] , [18] Mary Ann Selman Holcomb, his 2nd wife, outlived him by more than a decade, dying on 5 June 1913 in Cherokee County. They are buried in Shiloh Cemetery near Alto. [19].  His obituary sums up his life– “A soldier in Texas has fallen. . . . nobility of character and his stainless integrity. . . . pleasant and genial in manner. . . . possessed a buoyancy of spirit that made him everybody’s friend. . . . He lived and died a consistent Christian. . . . He was the oldest member of a very large connection in Texas. . . . ” 

The Holcomb tradition continues as many descendants still live in this area of east Texas. 

reflection-swirl-green-color-hi

REFLECTION

Some states recognize April as Confederate History month. First drafts of this post began with that fact and included information about controversies surrounding the holiday. I removed that introduction because I commented last year on those who seem to want to remove images and references to the Confederacy from the public view. I re-read part of my journal entry / reflection from that post.  I still do not believe that we should judge the past according to today’s standards.

As usual, writing this post revealed gaps. One gap has now turned into a brick wall that seems impenetrable. I spent hours reviewing 1860 census records page by page and haven’t yet found George and Mary.  I only found one of George and Narcissa’ s children, George W. Holcomb, who was living with Samuel and Elizabeth Rutherford, Narcissa’s parents. I saw an article about the use of plat maps and tried that approach with no result. I now add this item to my “To-Do” list.

I am just beginning to apply Genealogy Do-Over principles to this family tree, in essence starting over.  Colored folders contain hard copies of records, individual record sheets and family group sheets. Story writing helps with digital file cleanup. Checking data and rewriting citations seem less tedious when done in relatively small chunks like this.     

What I learned:  Sometimes, it’s best to just put something aside. Continue to use research logs of parents as base for creating logs for children.  

What helped: access to multiple online and print resources.  Met goal of less than 1500 words for content of post. Keeping genealogy standards in mind.

What didn’t help: increasing frustration when I couldn’t readily find 1860 census record for George and Mary Ann. I spent more time than expected on this post. 

TO-DO:  Death certificate for Mary Ann Selman Holcomb. Add following items as BSOs (bright shiny objects that detract from main objective) — Find George C Holcomb, Mary Ann Holcomb and their children in 1860. Follow lives of John Lewis, William Henry, Sarah Elizabeth and George Washington Holcomb, children of George and his 1st wife, Narcissa. Fill in research logs for each person as I discover information.  Report on blog or write article for publication in genealogy journal. 

SOURCES

[1] 1830 U.S. Census, Washington county, Arkansas Territory, population schedule, , page 193, line 7, Joseph Holcomb, ; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com    : accessed,printed,downloaded 17 Jan 2015 ); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M19-5.

[2] 1840 U.S. Census, Washington County, Arkansas, population schedule, Mountain, p. 261, line, Joseph Hanleen [Holcomb]; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : viewed & downloaded 20 March 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration,Washington, D. C. microfilm publication M704. No date recorded on census image.

[3] 1850 U.S. Census, Cherokee county, Texas, population schedule, , p. 881B, dwelling 527, family 527, Joseph Holcomb; digital images, Ancestry  (http://www.ancestry.com   :  accessed, printed, downloaded 15 April 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M432_909.

[4] Find A Grave, database and images  (http://www.findagrave.com  : viewed & printed 14 April 2019), memorial page for Pvt Henderson H. Holcomb, Find A Grave Memorial # 9791625, citing Holcomb Cemetery (Cherokee county, Texas), memorial created by Bev, photograph by Denise Brown Biard Ercole.

[5] Hannah Elizabeth Weir McPherson, The Holcombes. Nation Builders.: A Family Having as Great a Part as Any in the Making of All North American Civilization (Washington, D.C.: Elizabeth Weir McPherson, 1947), 500.

[6]   “Texas Marriage Collection, 1814-1909 and 1966 – 2002”, database, Ancestry  (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 2 Apr 2011), entry for George C. Holcomb and Mary Ann Sellman.  Record Book:  Marriage Records of Cherokee County, Texas (1846-1880), Vol. 1. Compiled by Ogreta Wilson Huttash, Jacksonville, TX 75766, 1976. Repository: Dallas Public Library.  P. 34. “As recorded in Book B, p. 142”.

[7] Sources for the children’s birth information include census records, death certificates and gravestones. Will share details per request.

[8] Find A Grave, database and images (http://www.findagrave.com   : viewed, printed 22 April 2019), memorial page for George C. Holcomb, Find A Grave Memorial # 32434400, citing Shiloh Cemetery (Cherokee county, Texas), memorial created by Susan Harnish, photograph by Denise.

[9] “Unfiled papers and slips belonging to Confederate Compiled Service Records,” digital images, Fold3 (http://www.fold3.com  : viewed, downloaded, printed 17 April 2019), entry for G.C. Holcomb (confederate, Texas); citing Confed. Arch. Chap. 1, File No. 92, page 1; National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M347, roll 0189.

[10]  “Confederate Papers relating to Citizens or Business Firms, compiled 1874-1899, documenting the period 1861-1865,” digital images, Fold3  (http://www.fold3.com  : viewed, printed, downloaded 17 April 2019), entry for G.C. Holcomb, sale of 2 mules; citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication M346, roll 0455; document 260.

[11] James A. Hathcock, “First Texas Infantry,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qkf13   : 17 April 2019).

[12] 1850 U.S. Census, Cherokee county, Texas, population schedule, , p. 927B, household 847, family 847, Narcissa Holcomb age 23; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : downloaded ); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M432_909.

[13] 1860 U.S. Census, Cherokee county, Texas, population schedule, Beat 2, p. 431, dwelling 268, family 268, Samuel Rutherford; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed & downloaded 20 March 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication M653_1290.

[14] 1870 U.S. Census, Cherokee county, Texas, population schedule, Beat 1, Alto Post office, p. 9 (ink pen), dwelling 60, family 60, Halcomb George C, 49; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed & downloaded 16 April 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. , microfilm publication M593.

[15] 1880 U.S. Census, Houston county, Texas, population schedule, Precinct 2, enumeration district (ED) 24, p. 32 D (ink pen), dwelling 264, family 276, Holcomb G C age 59; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : accessed, printed, downloaded 18 April 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T9, roll 1312.

[16] 1900 U.S. Census, Cherokee county, Texas, population schedule, Alto, enumeration district (ED) 20, p. 13A, dwelling 221, family 227, George Holcomb father, age 79; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com  : viewed, downloaded 15 April 2019); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T623_1619.

[17] Obituary for George Craiger Holcomb, typewritten “copied from the Alto Herald”, no date, in documentation file supporting Membership Application of Otha Holcomb Harrison (National no. M670197) on John Holcomb, approved February 1983; National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, Office of the Registrar General, Washington, D.C.

[18] Find A Grave, George C. Holcomb, Find A Grave Memorial # 32434400.

[19] Find A Grave, database and images (http://www.findagrave.com  : viewed & printed 22 April 2019), memorial page for Mary Ann Selman Holcomb, Find A Grave Memorial # 101196611, citing Shiloh Cemetery (Alto, Cherokee, Texas), memorial created by Judy Murphy, photograph by Judy Murphy.

©Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots, 2019

A Genealogist is . . .

How would you complete the statement “A genealogist is . . . . “ ? Start with the word itself.  Genealogy  comes from two Greek words – “genea,” or descent and “logos,” or discourse.[1]

Books

Follow with a standard dictionary definition, from Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language[2]:

Page 944:  “1: an account or history of the descent of a person, family or group from an ancestor or ancestors or from older forms; an enumeration of ancestors and their descendants in the national order of succession.  2: regular descent of a person, family, or group of organisms from a progenitor or older form. 3: a study of family pedigrees and the methods of investigation of them.”

Page 1315: “Lineage. 1.a. descent in a line from a common progenitor.”

Morgan (2012) [3] defines genealogy as the “study of a family’s line of descent from its ancestors.” (p. 3).  He differentiates this from a family history, defined as “the study of a family’s history and traditions over an extended period of time and may involve documenting some or all of the facts.” (Morgan, p. 3).  A genealogist “place[s] family members and ancestors into geographical, historical, and social context.” (p. 4).

Genealogical research includes concepts and strategies from multiple disciplines such as anthropology, geography, history, psychology and sociology.  Williams (1960) included  biography, law, medicine and linguistics.  [4] What do each of these disciplines contribute to genealogy?  Here’s a summary with my personal definitions:

  • Anthropology is the study of groups of people within their natural environment. Focus is the group’s culture, physical environment, and interpersonal / family/ group dynamics.  To better understand the person and family from a genealogy perspective, explore their physical address (urban vs. rural, neighborhood),  geographical  location (country,  county or parish, town), family traditions, and personal accounts of events in the lives of individuals.  Consider people’s behavior within the context of the place and time in which they lived. Anthropology also seeks to understand the perspective of the people being studied.  In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a hospital was viewed as a place to die; today, a hospital is generally viewed as a place to regain health.
  • Biography is a person’s life history. Genealogy “adds background” [5] to the person’s story. A biographical profile for an ancestor records a chronological history of that person.  For some of my female ancestors, the frequency of births and deaths of their children seemed overwhelming when I placed all of those birth and death dates on the woman’s biographical profile.  I did not realize that James D. Posten’s mother died when he was only 12 years old until I filled in James’ biographical profile.
  • Geography is the study of the physical environment in which we live. The effects of drought, such as the 1930s Dust Bowl, is one example.  Dramatic changes in the land itself resulted in many families leaving the Midwest during that time.  Boundary changes reflect the study of geography.  How many of your ancestors lived in the same town for decades but are recorded as living in three (or more) different counties?  A major flood changes the course of a river and subsequently results in an entire town being destroyed.  A town with the same name develops 5-10 miles away from the original site.  Trace family migrations with geographical maps.
  • Historical events profoundly affected the lives of our ancestors. Consider the decision of men and women to fight (or not) in a particular war.  The experience of Black families in the South during the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s was different than the experience of White families who lived in the same place. Was an ancestor part of the Women’s Suffrage movement?  When did the women in your family tree first register to vote?
  • Law may be used to establish relationships. Legal documents and processes are often primary sources of information.  Probate records may include an actual death date and the names of heirs.  Birth, marriage and death records can hold treasures or  no new information.  A court case involving a land dispute gives insight into family relationships.
  • Linguistics is the study of language. Terms used by our ancestors provide clues to national origin. Surnames were often derived from a particular location, occupation or relationship.   Johnson originally referred to the  “son of John”.
  • Medicine studies disease and how to cure, prevent, and treat them. Today, we focus more on genetics, a specific branch of medicine.  Look at the causes of death for your ancestors. Relate the cause of death to specific outbreaks of disease or natural causes in the locality.  Compare photographs of your ancestors with your family today. What physical characteristics do they have in common?
  • Psychology is the study of the human mind including mental processes and behavior. In general, the individual is the focus of study although ‘group think’ also falls under the purview of psychology. We often ask, “What was my ancestor thinking when that decision was made?”  or “What did my ancestor think about . . . ?”  Personal diaries, journals and letters provide insight into their perceptions of events and people.  Other documents such as newspaper articles and legal proceedings give clues about the person’s state of mind.  Membership in a particular group shows a glimpse of our ancestor’s values and beliefs.  This aspect of genealogy is most evident when we begin to write our ancestor’s story.
  • Sociology is the study of the structure, interactions, and behaviors of groups of people or, broadly, the study of human society. Families are the often the focus. Sociology and anthropology overlap in that each studies groups of people.  Anthropology focuses on culture while sociology focuses on society.  Placing families within their social context is one tool used by genealogists.  A family’s religion or ethnic background or nationality often influenced where they lived in a particular community.  Values and belief systems change as society changes.

Now,  you are probably asking,  “What does all of this have to do with my genealogical research?”  questionAll of these disciplines follow similar research methods.  Research in each discipline involves the careful, systematic review of documents and information.  Information may be obtained first hand or through other sources.  Research occurs in the field, in buildings and online.  Specific methodologies and analyses involved in each discipline are beyond the scope of this blog.  Genealogy also requires the careful, systematic review and evaluation of documents and information.

To summarize, a genealogist is anthropologist, biographer, geographer, historian, legal analyst,  linguist, medical scientist,  psychologist and sociologist as well as detective.  These perspectives broaden your view as you copy facts and develop a more comprehensive analysis of those facts and the sources from which the facts are drawn.  So, dust off your school text books and add more perspective to your genealogical research!

Other sources consulted for this post:

Desmond Walls Allen, “Family history detective,”  Family Tree Magazine, 28 October 2011 (https://www.familytreemagazine.com/premium/family-history-detective/   :  accessed 11 March 2019.)

Michael Erben, “Genealogy and sociology:  A preliminary set of statements and speculations,” Sociology,  25(2), 275-292, 1991. Abstract . Sage Publications (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0038038591025002008   :  accessed 11 March 2019).

Emily Garber. “Genealogy is anthropology.” (going) The Extra Yad, 26 April 2013 (http://extrayad.blogspot.com/2013/04/genealogy-is-anthropology.html  :     accessed 11 March 2019).

Jeanne Kay Guelke and Dallen J. Timothy (editor), Geography and Genealogy: Locating Personal Pasts, E-book edition (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2008.  Chapter 1:  Locating personal pasts:  An introduction by Jeanne Kay Guelke and Dallen J. Timothy.  (https://zodml.org/sites/default/files/%5BDallen_J._Timothy_and_Jeanne_Kay_Guelke%5D_Geograph.pdf   :   accessed 11 March 2019)

Arnon Herskovitz, “A suggested taxonomy of genealogy as a multidisciplinary academic research field,” Journal of Multidisciplinary Research, volume 4, no. 3 (Fall 2012): 5-21; image copy, JMR  (http://www.jmrpublication.org/portals/jmr/issues/JMR4-3.pdf  :   accessed 11 March 2019).

Sheila O’Hare. “Genealogy and history.”  Common-Place, Vol. 2, No. 3 (April 2002), (http://www.common-place-archives.org/vol-02/no-03/ohare    :     accessed 11 March 2019.). 4 parts.

Need lighter views?  Read these two blog posts:

Alona.  “Are you a genealogist or a family historian?”  Lonetester, 21 March 2017 (https://www.lonetester.com/2017/03/are-you-a-genealogist-or-a-family-historian/   :   accessed 11 March 2019.

Lorine  McGinnis Schulze, “What kind of genealogist are you?”  Legacy Family Tree News, 30 October 2015 (https://news.legacyfamilytree.com/legacy_news/2015/10/what-kind-of-genealogist-are-you.html  :  accessed 11 March 2019).

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REFLECTION:

I am still in kind of a fog after the death of my husband’s father last month.  Even genealogy doesn’t interest me much. I can’t seem to stay focused.  So, here is an article that I started last year.  Yes, I rechecked all of my sources.  For my next post, I plan to tell a story about a female ancestor in honor of Women’s History Month.

What I learned:  Start articles when I think about a topic.  Keep adding to these articles.

What helped:   Having an almost complete draft of this article on my computer.  Re-discovering an old genealogy ‘how-to’ book on my bookshelf.  I bought this book about 2 years at an estate auction.

What didn’t help:  Anxiety about what to write. Wanting to stay on track with posts every 2 weeks.

To-do:  Pick a female ancestor from husband’s family tree for next post.

©Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots blog, 2019

SOURCES

[1] Ethel W. Williams, Know your ancestors: A guide to genealogical research. Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1960.

[2] Philip Babcock Gove, editor-in-chief. Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, Inc, Publishers, 1993.

[3] George G. Morgan, How to do everything genealogy (3rd ed.) New York: McGraw Hill, 2012.

[4] Williams, Know your ancestors pages 11-13.

[5] Williams, Know your ancestors, page 12