Monthly Archives: February 2011

William Payton Atwood and the Sam Bass Gang

William Payton Atwood is my husband’s great great grandfather.  He was born 25 July 1849 in Laclede County, Missouri – the oldest son of Thomas Jefferson Atwood and Matilda Hough. 

William Payton Atwood

By the time William was 11 years old the family had relocated to Texas and can be found there in the 1860 census living in Erath County, near Stephenville.  William lost his mother early in life.  He was only 15 years old when Matilda died in 1864.  After the death of his mother, William can be found in the 1870 census with his father and his brothers in Hays County, near San Marcos indexed as a “stock dealer.” 

On 28 Aug 1873 William Payton Atwood married Ellen Elizabeth West in Williamson County, Texas – we presume somewhere near Round Rock.  I find it simply amazing that these things transpired in Round Rock 138 years ago – and here we are living our lives in the exact location where they lived theirs.  Ellen West was the daughter of Willis D. West and Delania Johnson – born on 22 Dec 1850 in Calcasieu County, Louisiana.  She was one of ten children.  The West family genealogy is very interesting.  Ellen can be traced back to Governor West – Governor of Colonial Virginia.  Her particular family line can be traced back to William the Conqueror through The House of Plantagenet.

Ellen Elizabeth West Atwood

The couple lived in the Round Rock area for about ten years before relocating and settling in Cross Plains, Callahan County, Texas. They had eight children: John Ashford in 1874; Rosa Lee in 1877; William Riley in 1879; Minnie Hannah Viola in 1882 (all of these children born in Williamson County) and Laney Bell in 1885; Manda Elizabeth in 1888; Columbus Eugene in 1890; and Edgar Claude in 1893 (all of these children born in Callahan County).  

For those of you familiar with Texas history, you will enjoy this:  In 1878 William Payton Atwood and his oldest son, John Ashford, were in town (Round Rock) to buy new boots on the day that the outlaw Sam Bass was killed in a shoot-out with local lawmen and Texas Rangers. Killed in the shoot-out was gunslinger Sam Bass and Williamson County Deputy Sheriff, A. W. Grimes

In an article written in The Lubbock Morning Avalanche on 20 Aug 1954 in honor of John Ashford Atwood’s 80th birthday, this was written:  Atwood says he saw the posse go in after Bass, but didn’t see the actual killing because he ran. There was some speculation that he was celebrating his 80th birthday because he did run !   William Payton Atwood’s father, Thomas Jefferson Atwood, is buried in the Round Rock Cemetery – very near to the outlaw Sam Bass. 

John Ashford Atwood went on to state that his father, William Payton Atwood, was friends with Kit Carson.  Kit grew up in Franklin, Missouri in the same general area that William Atwood was born. Christopher Houston “Kit” Carson was an American frontiersman. How his path may have crossed with our William Payton Atwood is unknown.

William Payton Atwood died in Callahan County on 17 Oct. 1917 at the age of 68. He is laid to rest in Cross Plains Memorial Park. His wife, Ellen Elizabeth West Atwood died in October of 1925 and is buried with him in Cross Plains Memorial Park.

Cross Plains Cemetery


Posted by on February 27, 2011 in Atwood


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William F. Curbow – Son of Tilman Curbow

William F. Curbow was the fifth child born to Tilman P. Curbow and Elizabeth Box.  It is likely that he was named after Elizabeth’s father, William Bolton Box.  His middle name is unknown; however, Franklin seems to be a family name – and a possibility for William’s middle name.  His older brother, Oliver, named one of his sons Charles “Franklin” and his younger sister Isabell named one of her sons William “Franklin.”  Perhaps these siblings were honoring their brother who died young? 

William Curbow’s year of birth is only an estimate based on the census records – he was born sometime around 1853 in Mississippi – most likely in Itawamba County.  He was with his family in the 1860 census when they were present in Ouachita County, Arkansas (where he was 7 years old).  During the Civil War, in 1864, he was present with his mother and siblings in Bowie County, Texas (where he was 11 years old).  After the war, when the family had settled in McLennan County, he is again present in the 1870 census (where he is 17 years old).  He was present in McLennan County, Texas in 1874 and 1875 because he can be found there in the tax rolls.  He was indexed as W. F. Curbough both times.  He was taxed for the value of one horse. 

I cannot locate William F. Curbow in any record after the 1875 McLennan County Tax Roll where he was about 22 years old.  Unless another record surfaces, I am working under the assumption that William may have died early in life.  I do not know where William Curbow is laid to rest.

Any McLennan County researchers out there that want to take a second look for me?  Any help appreciated!   

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Posted by on February 27, 2011 in Brick Walls, Curbow


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Harmonizing Ham Family

If ever there was a family that had musical talents, it surely is the Ham family. 

My father-in-law fondly remembers his Uncle Mack and Aunt Ruby beautifully singing in the church quartet at the Nazarene Church in Brownwood.  Uncle Mack was Samuel David “Mack” Ham (1891-1976 – son of Robert Montgomery Ham and Tabitha Clementine Kenady), and he was the Pastor of the Nazarene Church in Brownwood, Texas.   Aunt Ruby was Ruby Dora Barnett (1898-1989 – daughter of Berry Alexander Barnett and Elizabeth Martin). 

Uncle Mack and Aunt Ruby – on their wedding day – 1915

Uncle Mack and Aunt Ruby passed their musical talents on to their children.  Their son Norman Neely Ham (1923-1997) and wife Martha Eunice Sparkman (born 1928 – daughter of William Travis Sparkman and Alice Head) were very involved in the Texas gospel music scene, and in fact, were inducted into the Texas Gospel Music Hall of Fame.  

Family of Norman Neely Ham

Norman Neely Ham and Martha Eunice Sparkman produced some talented boys!  Their son Warren Lee Ham was born in Tarrant County in 1952.  Warren is a gifted musician who has played along side of Cher, Donna Summer, Amy Grant, Neil Diamond, Diana Ross and Olivia Newton-John, just to name a few!  He plays the saxophones, harmonica, flute, keyboards – and as is the family tradition – he has a great voice!  During the early 1970s, Warren and his brother William Mack “Bill” Ham formed The Ham Brothers Band.  When Kerry Livgren left the rock band Kansas to form his own Christian rock band (AD), Warren went with him as the new band’s lead singer.

The attached video from YouTube is rather silly; however, it is Warren Ham singing with Olivia Newton-John – and he has a fantastic voice.  Listen for yourself:




Posted by on February 26, 2011 in Blair, Ham


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Lenora Adelina Ham

Lenora Adelina Ham was the second daughter born to Joel Ham and Mary Emily Montgomery.  She was born in Mississippi on 31 July 1846, probably Yalobusha County.  She came to Texas with her family some time around 1858 – and we can find her there in the 1860 census residing in Titus County.  

Blair Family – Photo from the collection of Lucy Echels Blair

(This photograph is from a book entitled, John Blair of Guilford County, North Carolina, written by Lucy Echels Blair.  It states that on the back row are:  Helen Blair, James Hester Blair, Nora (Lenora Adelina Ham).  In front are:  Effie Calidonia and Garrett Blair.  I believe the picture is mislabeled – Effie Calidonia was the older of the two girls.  Consequently, Effie is on the back row and Helen is on the front row.  The family looks very relaxed and comfortable together, don’t you think?)

On the 28th of December 1878, when Adelina was 32 years old, she married James Hester Blair in Johnson County, Texas.  James was the son of John Dickey Blair and Clarissa Fineta Leach, born 18 Feb 1843 in Gibson County, Tennessee.  John Blair was a Confederate soldier who enlisted into the CSA on 19 Mar 1862 out of Hill County, Texas.  He served with Company H of the 12th Texas Infantry (Young’s Regiment). 

Some time around 1903 the Blair family left Texas and relocated to Texico, Curry County, New Mexico which is about 15 miles southeast of Clovis, New Mexico.  Curry County borders the State of Texas.  We drove through Texico last year on our way to Santa Fe – and I have to ask – what were they thinking?!  It’s very un-lovely out that way 🙂

Curry County, New Mexico

James Hester Blair died there shortly after the move on 28 November 1906.  Lenora can be found living with her daughter Helen Norris and family in 1910 census and is listed as head of house and a widow.

Lenora Adelina Ham Blair was 71 years old when she died on 15 Jan 1918 in Texico, Curry County, New Mexico.  She is laid to rest in the Texico Cemetery with her husband.

Lenora Ham Blair - Texico Cemetery






Lenora and James had three children:

  • Effie Caledonia Blair was born 6 November 1879 in Johnson County, Texas.  (I am not 100% sure of the spelling of her middle name.)  Effie was only 20 years old when she died of measles on 12 Feb 1900.  She is laid to rest in Pleasant Hill Cemetery in Franklin County, Texas.  It is unknown whether Effie married before her death.  Some members of the family maintain that she married to “Unknown” Rodgers, and had a son named “Jesse Rodgers,” the “radio singer.”   
  • Ethan Garrett Blair was born 16 Feb 1881 in Johnson County. Texas.  In 1911 he married Nettie Ola Balch.  The couple had three children:  Doris, Joseph and Helyn.  Ethan was the vice-president of Curry County National Farm Loan Association.  Ethan Garrett Blair died 14 March 1955 in Texico, Curry County, New Mexico.  He is laid to rest there with his family in the Texico Cemetery.  
  • Helen Blair was born in Quitman, Hill County, Texas on 11 Aug 1882.  She married John Calvin Norris on 29 Mar 1906 – he was about 24 years her senior.  This couple had two children:  James Henry Norris in 1907 and Beulah Beatrice Norris in 1910.  After the death of her husband in 1920, she married John E. Bingham in 1925.  Helen is also buried in the Texico Cemetery. 
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Posted by on February 26, 2011 in Blair, Ham


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Lydia Alveretta Spencer

Lydia Alveretta Spencer was the fifth child born to John Henry Spencer and Lucy Lodica Elmer, and she was my great grand aunt.  Lydia was born in Payson, Utah on 21 May 1873.  Sometime around the time that Lydia turned four years old, the family relocated to Sanpete County, where she spent her childhood.  On 1 Jan 1899, at the age of 25, Lydia married John Wesley Tidwell. 

Lydia Alveretta Spencer Tidwell - from the collection of Blaine Spencer

 John Tidwell was born 22 January 1861 in Pleasant Grove, Utah County, Utah to William Nelson Tidwell and Mary Elizabeth Reynolds.  John had previously been married to Mary Rosetta Gardner, another of my great grand aunts from the Gardner family line, who died in 1892. 

John Wesley Tidwell - from the collection of Blaine Spencer

By the time the 1900 census had been enumerated, both of Lydia’s parents were dead.  She was with her husband in Sanpete County, and their first daughter Bertha had been born.  Her younger brother Elmer Bert Spencer is living with the family.  Lydia’s father’s “other” wife, Jerusia Spencer is living nearby with her minor children. 

 When we find Lydia and John in the 1910 census, we see that they have relocated their family to Marysville, Freemont County, Idaho.  Lydia tells the enumerator that she has given birth five times and that three of the children are living: 

1.   Bertha Tidwell (1900-1989 – married Howard Lawson White Craven);
2.   Teresa (1906 – ?);
3.   Lydia Lodica (1909-1998 – did not marry);
4.   Thomas Elmer Tidwell was born 1903 in Utah and died 1909 in Idaho; and
5.   Vera Tidwell was born 16 Jan 1908 in Idaho and died that same day; and

By 1920 the couple has added another daughter, Effie (1911 – ?). 

Lydia and John owned their own farm – and we can always find John Tidwell listed as “farmer” on the census records.   

By the time the 1930 census rolls around – John Tidwell continues to have a house full of women!  The family is still present in Marysville, Idaho.  Lydia is 56 years old; John is 69.  They state that they own their own home worth $500 – and that it is not a farm.  John lists his occupation as farm laborer.  Also in the home are Bertha, age 30 and Teresa, age 25 – both state they are married – but no husbands are with them in the census.  Younger daughters Lydia Lodica,, 20 and Effie, 18 are also in the home. 

John Wesley Tidwell died seven years later at the age of 76.  He is laid to rest in the Pineview Cemetery in Ashton, Freemont County, Idaho. 

Lydia Alveretta Spencer Tidwell lived another 25 years.  She died at the age of 89 on 18 Dec. 1962 in Ashton, Freemont County, Idaho.   She is also laid to rest in Pineview Cemetery.

Lydia Alveretta Spencer Tidwell - Pineview Cemetery


Posted by on February 26, 2011 in Spencer


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Mystery Woman – Ham/Ballard Family Line


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Posted by on February 25, 2011 in Photographs - Unidentified



A Photo Really is Worth a 1000 Words!

The adage, a picture is worth a thousand words, rings true for every family history researcher on the prowl for old family photos!  You know who you are.  😉  I am very blessed – my family tree on now contains well in excess of 5,000 family photographs – gathered and collected over some period of time – and shared with me through the generosity of so many family members both near and far.

As a small child a favorite pastime of mine was to leaf through the family picture albums.  Over time the faces in those photographs came to be like old friends to me.  I cherished every one of them along with the stories that my parents told me about them.  Now as a family researcher, it helps me to put a face to a name.  It is a special thrill to come across a family photograph of someone that I have been learning about. 

Family photos – whether old or new – are a treasured part of each family’s history.  However, and unfortunately for us, most of them don’t come with neatly typed labels on the back detailing the names and dates and places!  Your unidentified vintage photograph will surely have a story to tell you and a mystery to solve – but about what?  And whom?! 

Getting to the bottom of your unidentified photograph may require some persistence, some knowledge of your family’s history and some good old-fashioned detective work.  These are some of the things we consider when trying to identify a photograph:

  • First, where did you get the photo?  Does that person have first hand knowledge of the photo’s history?  This fact will at least tell you which family line you are dealing with.
  • What type of photograph is it?  Daguerre type?  Tin type?  (This could pinpoint the time period of the photo.)
  • Who was the photographer? (This could pinpoint the location of where the photo was taken.)
  • Does the background or setting give you any hints?  
  • What types of clothes are the subjects wearing?  Hair styles? (Again, this could help you pinpoint the time period.)

Good luck !


Come look with me inside this drawer
In this box I’ve often seen,
at the pictures, black and white,
Faces proud, still and serene.

I wish I knew the people,
These strangers in the box,
Their names and all their memories,
Are lost among my socks.

I wonder what their lives were like,
How did they spend their days?
What about their special times?
I’ll never know their ways.

If only someone had taken time,
To tell, who, what, where and when.
These faces of my heritage,
Would come to life again.

Could this become the fate,
Of the pictures we take today,
The faces and the memories,
Someday to be passed away.

Take time to save your stories
Seize the opportunity when it knocks
Or someday You and Yours,
Could be Strangers in the Box

Author Unknown


Posted by on February 25, 2011 in Photographs - Unidentified


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