Category Archives: New Found Line

HELP! Virginia Hill Mimms Escaped!

Help is needed. Virginia Hill Mimms escaped. Do you know where she is?

The front page of the Santa Cruz Sentinel in Santa Cruz, California reported Virginia’s child burglary ring on June 20, 1940:

Burglary Ring Arrest of two young women, one the mother of two children, arrest of a third juvenile boy and ‘cracking’ of four additional theft cases, were reported yesterday by the police department as they believed a local theft ring had been broken. Ten burglaries and petty theft cases were marked ‘solved’ as the prisoners confessed their activities… Mrs. Virginia Mimms, 21, of 131 Sycamore Street, was formally charged with first-degree burglary.”

Virginia Hill Mimms was identified as the mother of two children. The two juveniles in the gang implicated the second woman as Betty Sages, age 16, who then was arrested. A total of five juveniles were identified in the gang.

A week later, the Sentinel reported:

Woman Burglar Asks Probation pleading guilty to burglary. Mrs. Virginia Mimms, a 21-year-old mother of two children yesterday asked Superior Judge James L. Atteridge for probation. The court referred her case to the probation officer who will report his findings July 17.”

After June 28, 1940, Virginia Hill Mimms disappeared. Her two children disappeared with her. Since then, nothing more is known of Virginia Hill Mimms.


Virginia Hill Mimms Dropped Out of Sight

Virginia Hill Mimms is the second of the several wives of Wyatt Leon Mimms. Mimms and Hill were married in August of 1938 in the neighborhood of Naglee Park in San Jose, California.

Wyatt Mimms is a third cousin of Frank and Jesse James. Virginia Hill also is a half 15th cousin of Frank & Jesse James herself. The common ancestor shared by the distant-cousin couple reaches back numerous generations into the royalty period with Edward I, King of England. Very likely, this remote fact of distant kinship went entirely unrecognized by Wyatt and Virginia at the time.

Virginia’s full maiden name is Virginia Helen Hill. She was born to Richard Taylor Hill 1882-1934 of Kansas and Mary “Mae” Freeman, born in California in 1880. While much has been learned about her parents and her only brother, the research does not reveal anything new about Virginia.

The brief marriage of Wyatt and Virginia produced two children. Wanda Mimms was born in 1939. Another child was born in 1940. Both children still may be living.

Virginia apparently formed the burglary gang with neighborhood children of other parents. Her own children were too young to act on their own. Wyatt abandoned Virginia. She and her children were left penniless and desperate.


A Relative in Syria Won’t Let Virginia Flee

Lilly Martin Sahiounie has lived in Syria for forty years since she married her Syrian husband. Her son, Steve Sahiounie, is a writer and political analyst. Lilly is the granddaughter of Henrietta Keller, the second wife of Eddie Bernard Mimms, the father of Wyatt Leon Mimms by a prior marriage.

Lilly Martin Sahiounie
Lilly’s son, Steven Sahiounie

For almost a generation, Lilly has sought her Mimms relatives. Her research has produced a large amount of information. At the heart of her research, Lilly wants to learn more about the missing Virginia Helen Hill Mimms.

Researching deeply into the Mimms genealogy, Lilly has assembled the following Mimms history. Information about this Mimms line never has been compiled before.


The Trail Takes Off with Drury Shadrach Woodson Mimms

Lilly’s research begins in Goochland County, Virginia, the seedbed of the Mimms family. Lilly’s focus is Drury Shadrach Woodson Mimms, the son of Robert Mimms and Lucy Poor, both migrants to Logan County, Kentucky from Goochland.

This family is well known to the Jesse James family. Drury S.W. Mimms, as he was called, is a brother of Rev. John Wilson Mimms who married Mary James, the eldest of the orphans of John M. James and Mary “Polly” Poor, the grandparents of Frank and Jesse James. The marriage was arranged by Drury Woodson Poor.

Marriage bond for John James and Mary “Polly” Poor, witnessed by William Hodges Jr.


Drury S.W. Mimms operated a mill on Whippoorwill Creek. He did so with the help of two slaves. One was 53 years old. The second was only 17. Drury also farmed 112 acres on the Logan County border with Robertson County, Tennessee.

In 1857 when Drury S.W. Mimms died, his widow Elizabeth M. Rose Mimms asked her brother James B. Rose, the executor of Drury’s estate, to sell Drury’s mill. With no immediate prospects of a second marriage in sight, the widowed mother was desperate to receive the income from the sale to provide for her children Gideon M. and Virginia R. Mimms, as well as for herself.


Gideon Mason Mimms in Logan County, Ky.

Gideon Mason Mimms was only a year and a half when his father died. For almost a decade, his mother struggled to provide for Gideon and his sister. When Gideon was eleven, his mother married John Joseph Pope of Robertson County, Tennessee. Gideon acquired an instant family of six step-brothers and sisters. He also gained some family stability. Unlike his distressful early childhood that followed his father’s passing, the few years left in his childhood were relatively comfortable.

When Gideon was twenty-two in 1876, he married Lou Ella Riley of Lickskillet. Gideon’s new father-in-law, James Albert Riley, had a harsh reputation for extreme cruelty and frugality that was downright stingy.

 
From: Freedom, a Documentary History of Emancipation, Series II the Black Military Experience, Ira Berlin, Editor, Cambridge University Press, p.706

On the eve of the Civil War, a slave woman who had acquired her freedom through the Freedman’s Bureau escaped with a child slave who James Riley claimed to still own. Riley overtook the woman, beat her senseless with a club, and took the child back to Lickskillet. When searched for, Riley disappeared. He did so, he later stated, “to put the child out of reach of the damned Yankees.” Shortly afterward, Riley shot a Negro soldier. Once more, Riley disappeared to escape arrest. In due time, Riley was apprehended in Tennessee. He was tried for having “maltreated” Catherine Riley and found guilty. He was fined $100, almost half of which went to the freedwoman Catherine.

 

Gideon Mason Mimms and youngest son Eddie Bernard Mimms

In time, James Albert Riley returned to Lickskillet to operate his mill. When the Bethany Church sought him out to acquire land for their house of worship, Riley sold the church one acre plus precisely an additional twenty-nine hundredths of an acre. Riley attached a caveat to the transfer that should the church convert the building to some other purpose or relocate, the land would revert to Riley.

 

Lou Ella Riley-Mimms Returns to Logan County

A pregnant Lou Ella was visiting her brother in Kansas Territory in Crawford County in the town of Girard. Although Lou Ella suspected she would give birth to twins, she was pregnant in fact with triplets. Around midnight between September 9 and 10 in 1892, Lou Ella gave birth to three children. The last of the three to be born was named Eddie Bernard Mimms. 

The first and second-born of Lou Ella and Gideon’s triplets were two females named Addie and Ettie Belle Mimms. As a child, Eddie Bernard Mimms chose to call himself Bill, so there would be no confusion among the three siblings Addie, Ettie, and Eddie Mimms. The name Bill Mimms stuck with Eddie Bernard Mimms for the rest of his life.

 

Eddie Bernard “Bill” Mimms Hightails to California

Eddie Bernard “Bill” Mimms 1892-1967

Events in Girard, Crawford County, Kansas, where his uncle lived, eventually impacted the life of Bill Mimms.

The strip mines of Carbon Creek offered the only employment around Girard. The need for miners was so great, word was sent to Eastern Europe to recruit young immigrant men to come to Kansas. Girard was flooded by a wave of immigration from Balkan countries.

With the arriving immigrants came a rising tide of socialist politics. Girard attracted the luminaries of the socialist movement – Percy Daniels, the novelist Upton Sinclair, the founder of Chicago’s Hull House Jane Adams, presidential candidate Eugene V. Debs, and publisher Emanuel Haldeman-Julius.

Ambitious Bill Mimms associated with the Brotherhood of Local Fireman and the American Railway Union founded by Eugene V. Debs. Bill got a job with a railroad as a fireman. Working on trains, Bill hightailed from Logan County, Kentucky to the fields of the California Gold Rush. Bill was too late, though, to strike any gold. Instead, Bill found steady work on the trains pulling logs out of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

In his late teens, Bill found himself a wife, too. He married Pearl Myone Rogers. Within a year, Wyatt Leon Mimms was born to the couple. For whatever misfortune, the marriage did not last long. Young Wyatt soon was living with his mother in San Luis Obispo, California, not too far from the town of Paso Robles, founded by Drury Woodson James. Later, Wyatt and his mother relocated to Santa Cruz, where his mother remarried.

“I know that Grandpa Bill did not like Jesse James, because of the outlaw reputation. My grandpa did have a Rebel flag always hanging in the house, and he identified with that.” – Lilly Martin Sahiounie

Six years of single life had passed before Bill met and married Henrietta Keller. Like Bill, Etta also had been married before. She brought a one-year-old child to their marriage. The child’s name was Billy Joe Martin.

The couple moved to Sultana, California. There, Bill bought a new home for Etta, paying $1,000 with his cash savings. In this house, Etta bore Bill two children of his own. The couple raised their combined three children as one family.

Visiting Mimms cousins in Russellville, Kentucky

Bill worked as an equipment operator, maintaining the county roads of Tulare County. For 32 years, Etta worked in tandem with the fruit pickers of the field worker’s movement. Etta was a fruit packer around Dinuba. With their joint income, Bill and Etta visited Kentucky in the ‘30s and later in the ‘50s, to maintain ties with Bill’s relatives among the Mimms.

Bill died in 1967. Etta followed in 1985. Etta occupied their home for all of 51 years. Today, Bill and Etta’s two children who lived in Fresno, California are deceased now. One daughter survives. She lives in Montgomery County, Alabama. Lilly Martin Sahiounie maintains contact with her on a daily basis.

Wayne Homer Mimms, son of Bill & Etta Mimms (L) & Billy Joe Martin, Etta’s first child by Joe Alfred Martin (R)

Etta’s first child Billy Joe Martin also grew up and married. The couple gave birth to Lilly Martin who is now Lilly Martin Sahiounie, living in Syria.

Bill Mimms is the only father and grandfather Billy and Lilly Martin ever knew. If you ask them, Bill Mimms is not just their biological ancestor. They continue to speak of Bill Mimms as their father and grandfather and consider him so.

Lilly’s immediate motivation for studying this Mimms family line of ancestors is to understand the relationship between Wayne Homer Mimms, a half-brother of Wyatt Leon Mimms, and her father Billy Joe Martin. The two were lifelong friends, as well as cousins. They also link Lilly and her family to the Mimms family.

It was Lilly’s father, Billy Joe Martin, who re-discovered Wyatt Leon Mimms. In Honolulu, Hawaii in 1945, Billy Joe Martin looked inside a bar-room telephone book. There, he found Wyatt listed!


The Restless Flight of Wyatt Leon Mimms

Young Wyatt Leon Mimms

Little is known about the childhood of Wyatt Leon Mimms. The boy grew up in the household of his mother Pearl Myone Rogers Mimms and his step-father. He visited his biological father Billy Mimms often. That is about all that can be said, other than, Wyatt must have been a restless person. When he grew to adulthood, Wyatt took flight.

The research of Lilly Martin Sahiounie is voluminous. It would compose a small book quite nicely. For purposes here of clarity and brevity, the story of Wyatt Leon Mimms might best be represented in the following timeline.

Wyatt Leon Mimms in Hawaii
  • 1917: born in Hooker, Oklahoma
  • 1920: living with his mother in Santa Cruz, California
  • 1930: living in Santa Cruz with his mother and step-father
  • 1936: issued a marriage license in Reno, Nevada to marry his first wife, Catherine Chilcote of Powder River, Montana, on November 10th
  • 1936: arrested on December 20th, following his marriage, in Reno for disorderly conduct
  • 1938: when he was an office clerk at the Pasatiempo Country Club in Santa Cruz, California, Wyatt married a second time to Virginia Helen Hill. He later is employed as an usher at the Santa Cruz Theater
  • 1939: a first child is born to Virginia and Wyatt. The child’s name is not known
  • 1940: their second child, Wanda Mimms, is born. Later in the years when the U.S. Census is taken, Virginia and Wanda are each identified as a “lodger,” living in San Jose, California
  • 1941: Wyatt, while on duty in Hawaii as a police officer, is witness to the attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan
  • 1942: Wyatt arrives in Honolulu aboard the K.V. Japara from the Canton Island of Kiribati in Micronesia on March 20 to work with the Hawaiian Construction Company on development of the Maryknoll School in Honolulu
  • 1942: On December 31 Wyatt is mustered into the U.S. Armed Services
  • 1943: Wyatt marries his third wife, Lila Kananioehowa Lee in the Hawaii Court of Domestic Relations on May 23rd
  • 1947: Wyatt arrives in Honolulu aboard the S.S. Matsonia from Los Angeles and San Francisco
  • 1948: On the 4th of July Wyatt marries his fourth wife Josephine Ruby West of Boise, Idaho in the Central Union Church
  • 1949: Wyatt arrives in Hawaii aboard the S.S. Lurline with Josephine. Again he is employed as a police officer
  • About 1952: Wyatt marries his fifth wife Jeanne June.
  • 1953: Rodney Mimms is born to Jeanne June and Wyatt
  • 1955: Wyatt is working as an agent for the GTE telephone company, a job he will hold until at least 1970. Josephine is a clerk for Standard Oil
  • 1956: Josephine departed Nandi, Hawaii to travel to the mainland United States alone on January 23rd
  • 1957: While still working for the GTE telephone company, now as a chief special agent, Wyatt flies aboard Pan American World Airways on March 22 to San Francisco alone
  • 1976: Wyatt sells property in Hawaii that was held in the name of Wyatt and Margaret L. Mimms. The precise relationship between Wyatt and Margaret is unknown
  • 1981: Wyatt’s granddaughter, Taryn D. Brewer, is born in California
  • 1982: Wyatt obtains a divorce on May 26th from Virginia Helen Mimms in Alameda County Court in California
  • 1982: Wyatt marries Margie Belle Hunnicutt on June 6th in Las Vegas, Nevada. The couple establish their home in Visalia, California, but travel extensively “living life to the fullest.” The marriage will last 26 years. This represents the most settled and stable period of Wyatt’s life
  • 1994: Virginia Hill Mimms is recorded living in Berkeley, California, with a former residence in Sylacauga, Talladega County, Alabama
  • 2000: On October 1st, Virginia is last recorded living in Paris, Texas.
  • 2005: Margie Hunnicutt Mimms dies in a rest home on April 14th in Visalia, California
  • 2005: Margaret R. Mimms paid taxes in Hawaii on May 16th
  • 2005: Wyatt dies in a rest home on August 18th in Placerville, California
Wyatt Leon Mimms and Margie Hunnicutt Mimms in London, England, 1987

Do You Know Where Virginia Hill Mimms Is?

Nothing would be known about this Mimms family line were it not for Virginia Hill Mimms gone missing and the research of Lilly Martin Sahiounie. Virginia is last identified in 1949, living in Berkeley, California. Somewhere in the world of Mimms family genealogy, the rest of this story is waiting to be discovered.

The Other Woman in the Life of Mack Henry James

The pursuit began in 1999. What happened to Mack Henry James, following his abandonment of his wife and children? Following Mac from his home in Kentucky to Bloomington in McLean County, Illinois, the chase has continued since.

It’s known that a third woman was involved with Mack Henry James. First, there was Dorinda “Dora” Phelps-James, the wife he abandoned around 1916. The death of Millie Mae Scanlon, his second wife or partner, from cerebral syphilis occurred in 1934. Flora Audra Spencer is the third. She is the other woman in the life of Mack Henry James. They married in 1935, a year after Millie Mae died. Mac then died tragically in 1945. Flora followed, dying in 1968. Like Millie Mae, Flora died of a severe brain disease. The implication beneath these facts is that Mac may have been the source of infection.

In January of 2016, contact was made with Rebecca Spencer-Landis. As Becky writes in the following, she is a granddaughter of Flora and the partner whom Flora never would identify. With some minor editing, Becky offers the following particulars about her grandmother and her relationship with Mack Henry James.


Email from Rebecca Spencer-Landis to Eric F. James

Hello. It’s nice to meet you. So many questions! Questions are good. I will try to answer them for you as best I can.

First – Flora Audra Spencer was my grandmother. I am the youngest of her son Olin’s four children.

About Flora

The other woman, Flora Audra Spencer
Flora Audra Spencer 1889-1968

She was a school teacher most of the year, which must have been difficult when she was pregnant. During the summer months, she was the housekeeper on a farm (not her parents’ farm) She had my father at her parents’ farm outside Stanford, IL. They cared for him during the week when she was teaching and she returned each weekend when she would take over the childcare and – from everything I was told – pretty much the running of the farm. She died when I was 2 years old so I don’t have any direct memories of her.

From what I was told, she was very strict – to the point that her parents allowed her to run everything when she came home. (According to my father, they hated to see her come home and could not wait for her to leave.)

The Father of Flora’s Son Olin B. Spencer 1921-1994

She never revealed the man who got her pregnant, although according to her sister Alta, the family believed it to be the hired hand who worked at the farm she worked on during the summer. We had always heard he was married with children. Census records list my father’s birth father to have been from Ohio, but no one knows for certain.

Olin B. Spencer, the son of the other woman
Olin B. Spencer 1921-1994 circa 1992 with his second wife Geraldine Pearl Schofield 1926-2001

While no one ever knew who my father’s birth father was, one thing was maintained by everyone – Mac James was not the man who fathered Olin Spencer. I asked – numerous times. I asked my father, his aunt, some of his cousins, all said the same – Mac and my father were not related by blood. (To be 100% honest, I still kind of have my questions on that.) I had thought they were blood related when I was small because I saw a picture of Mac’s son Omar (sic) in an army uniform and thought it was my father in his army uniform. When I got older, I could tell the difference, but they looked very alike when I was young. I don’t know where the photo is now.

Olin, Mac, and Omer

My father told a few stories about going fishing with Mac. I know that Dad and Omar sometimes visited each other, and Dad always spoke fondly of Omar. Don’t recall hearing much of anything about other children Mac had, or even why he was no longer married to their mother. I didn’t even know until now that Flora was his third wife. Either my father didn’t know or it wasn’t talked about. My father usually referred to Mac as “My old man” a phrase he used when talking about his grandfather as well.

The Marriage of Flora and Mac

I am not sure how Flora and Mac met, but my father did work for a time at Tick’s Junk Yard but I don’t know if that was before WWII or after. I would guess – and it’s just a guess – that if Mac was working for Tick’s at the right time, he could well have met her while handling something for the farmer she worked for or for her father’s farm. Tick’s was, and still is, a place most people in McLean County go to get rid of scrap or junk. They may even have met at church.

Flora left teaching after she married Mac. They were married Feb 20, 1935 in Carlock, McLean County, IL. Rev. E. Troyer was listed as the man who married them. They lived outside of Bloomington in an area known as Bloomington Heights. The house as far as I know is still there.

For all accounts Flora was truly happy for the first time in her life after she married Mac. She supposedly became a different person. He ran the house more than she did. She cared for him after he lost his legs and was horribly upset when he died.

She had lost her mother in 1936 and her father in 1944. My father who had been in the army was discharged to help her care for her father and for Mac, as both were ill at the same time and she was trying to take care of both. My father was just as upset at Mac’s death as his mother, perhaps a bit more as he had been the only real ‘father’ he had known outside of his grandfather.

After Mac’s Death

After Mac’s death…I think she did laundry, sewing, odd job types of things. When my parents bought a very small farm outside of Danvers, IL in Dec 1966 and moved in, they had both grandmothers move in as well.

I was told Flora began acting differently in the last few years of her life; sometimes forgetting things like she had experienced a stroke. This is why Dad wanted her living with us. My mother said – a few months after moving in – she began to forget who my father was and simply called him “that man.” She sometimes acted like she was a child, and sometimes as if I – the baby – was a dolly to play with. Many years later my mother would realize that she had what we now know as Alzheimer’s, which was not very well researched in the 1960’s.

The last few months of her life, Flora would hide from my father and only respond to my mother, telling my mother in a childlike voice “That man was here. He was looking for me. He hates me.” She died in Jan 1969 and was buried on my sister’s birthday.

I have seen a picture or two of Flora and Mac but it has been a long time. I will have to see if I have any or if my sister does. She may be able to provide more information too. She and my oldest brother live in Kentucky in the Cambridge Shores Subdivision on Kentucky Lake. It may take some time to do some digging but I promise I will get anything I find to you. I hope that what I have put into this has helped somewhat.

Best regards,

Becky Landis

Becky Landis
Rebecca “Becky” Spencer-Landis
The family of Flora Audra Spencer-James: Siblings standing L-R: Roy Augustus Spencer 1894-1923, Alta E. Spencer 1893-1983, Ross Hamilton Spencer 1891-1976, Flora Audra Spencer 1889-1968. Not shown is deceased infant Harris Edwin Spencer 1899-1900. Parents seated: Mary Catherine Ranes 1865-1936, John Hamilton Spencer 1863-1944

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Stanley D. Smith Prompts An Odyssey of Surprise

John Lightfoot James
The New Found Line of John LIghtfoot James, as it first appeared on Stray Leaves circa 2001. A closer look at the ancestry of Stanley D. Smith now links these two families.

When I first read Dennis Smith’s story “My Loveable but Unrestrainable Grandfather, Stanley D. Smith”  the ancestry of Stanley D. Smith seemed entirely incidental to our James heritage. Except for his wife, Stanley’s ancestry easily could have been dismissed. After all, Stanley’s wife Geneva Josephine Curry relates more evidently to our James through her Harper ancestry at Nantura Farm in Woodford County, Kentucky. Nantura is adjacent to the Black Horse Inn, where Frank and Jesse James’ mother Zerelda Elizabeth Cole was born. Had I ignored Stanley’s antecedents out of habit and not looked more closely into Stanley’s origins out of instinct, I might not have uncovered the delightful odyssey of surprise that lay hidden.

Stanley’s hidden ancestry proved to be as unrestrainable as Stanley’s character. To my surprise, out of Stanley’s past appeared a variety of multiple spontaneous relationships. These surprises would have been unrecognizable before. Now, they assembled progressively to attach Stanley as a New Found Line relation of our James. At my odyssey’s end, Stanley D. Smith’s unrestrained ancestry links Stanley to another New Found Line of our James family that was first discovered almost twenty years ago. What a surprise to learn that our James family was in the past of Stanley’s wife, and Stanley, too!

THE DEMAREST SURPRISE

Not even Dennis Smith expected this new surprise. The genealogy Dennis provided to Stray Leaves for Stanley did not reach farther back than Stanley’s grandparents. When I spotted the surprisingly familiar “Thiebaud” surname of Stanley’s grandmother, my curiosity was piqued. I had to dig back further into Stanley D. Smith’s past.

The first surprise sprang up when I discovered Stanley’s ancestors reached back from Stanley’s grandmother, Emily Jane Thiebaud 1842-1919, to David Demarest 1620-1693. This immigrant Huguenot family of the Demarest came to America from the Picardy region of France through Baden-Wurtemburgh, Germany.  Their “des Marest” family name was transformed in America to DeMarest or sometimes to Demaree. David’s brother Jean Demarest was the founder of the French patent that settled the northern part of New Jersey. Today this region is called Bergen County.

425 Piermont Rd, Cresskill, NJ
425 Piermont Rd, Cresskill, NJ, newly built in 1953. Eric F. James with mother Elaine James and sister Mary Lee James

The DeMarest name is very familiar to me. When growing up in Chicago, I often spent my summers living with my aunt and uncle in Cresskill, a small town in north Bergen County. I wrote about this in a photo album I posted on Facebook, titled “My Summer Mother.” Six doors away from my aunt and uncle’s home at 425 Piermont Road was the borderline between Cresskill and the borough of Demarest. This town was named after the Jean Demarest family. Ralph E. Demarest built the small railroad that ran behind my aunt and uncle’s home, linking the developing small towns of Tenafly, Closter, and Demarest. Below Tenafly, the railroad line of Ralph E. Demarest linked to a connecting line in north Hudson County. From there, passengers rode the connector down to the ferry at Weehawken that crossed the Hudson River from New Jersey into New York City.

The depot at Demarest, Bergen County, New Jersey, built by Ralph Demarest. Along this rail line, passengers rode from upper New Jersey to a connecting railroad line at Fort Lee. The connecting line then took riders to the Weehawken Ferry where they crossed the Hudson River into New York City.

The Old French Burying Ground is situated upon Lot #3 in the French Patent, encompassing 200 acres, surveyed for Samuel Demarest on January 13, 1695. This is the resting place of Samuel and Jean Demarest and many of the early Demarest family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE RANDOLPH SURPRISE

J.C. Randolph House
Historic James C. Randolph House, Lexington Avenue, Danville, Kentucky

Here in Danville, Kentucky, where I live now, I formerly owned an historic Italianate home built by Rev. James C. Randolph. He was a Presbyterian minister who came to Kentucky from New Jersey’s Bergen County.

J.C. Randolph
Rev. James C. Randolph

When I bought the home and began to research its history, I learned that in the early 1830’s a large exodus of veterans from the Revolutionary War departed upper New Jersey to claim lands in Kentucky for their military service.

I was especially surprised to learn that the home’s original owner and builder, James C. Randolph, came from Bergen County to teach at Centre College in Danville. Presbyterians were not the only group to come to Kentucky from New Jersey. Dutch families came, too. They settled in Harrodsburg and Mercer County,  just north of and adjacent to Danville.

THE COLE SURPRISE

I also learned that a Cole family resided in northern New Jersey. To my surprise, a couple of these Cole turn up in the genealogy of the DeMarest family.

This New Jersey family of the Cole originated in Connecticut. They had a different immigrant progenitor than our Cole family in Kentucky, belonging to Zerelda Elizabeth Cole, Frank and Jesse James’ mother. The progenitor of the Cole family of Frank and Jesse James was John Cole. He came from England to Culpeper County in Virginia. From there, this Cole line migrated through the Dutch region of Pennsylvania into Kentucky.

Since the Connecticut-New Jersey Cole line appeared to me not to have any overt connection to the Cole ancestry of Jesse and Frank James,  I never investigated this Connecticut Cole line any further.  After the surprise I found now by looking more closely into Stanely’s past, I am beginning to think that maybe I should research more deeply into both of these Cole families, focusing precisely on the timeline prior to their arrival in America. The probability of these two Cole families being one now appears to be significantly increased.

THE POOR SURPRISE

Brigadier General Enoch Poor 1736-1780

During the American Revolution, Brigadier General Enoch Poor also was active in this region around the settlement patent of the Demarest family.

As the son of Thomas Poor growing up in Andover, Massachusettes, young Enoch enlisted to fight in the French and Indian War. Enoch’s family were supporters of the separatists against the Stamp Act of King George.  In his mid-teens, Enoch entered the campaign to invade Canada against the British.

Later Enoch became a general in George Washington’s Continental Army, spending a winter at Valley Forge. Afterward, Gen. Enoch Poor was assigned to protect the Marquis de Lafayette. Some history says Enoch Poor died when he was shot in a duel. He is buried in the yard of the Dutch Reformed Church in Hackensack, New Jersey.

Although not yet proven,  there is a very high probability that Enoch Poor, born and raised in Andover, Massachusettes, shared a kinship with Frank & Jesse James’ second great-grandfather Abraham Poor also of Andover, Essex County, Massachusettes.  Both Enoch and Abraham Poor have progenitors named Thomas Poor.

Valley Forge winter
Geb. George Washington and troops en route to Valley Forge

While too old for military service himself, Abraham Poor was a supplier to Gen. Washington in the Revolution. Enoch Poor was specifically found at Valley Forge. So, too, was John M. James who married Abraham’s granddaughter Mary “Polly” Poor, born of Robert Poor a Coronet in the Revolution and Elizabeth Woodson Mimms. Also at Valley Forge with Poor and James was Joshua Logan Younger, another supplier to Washington’s army who became the great-grandfather of the brothers of the Younger gang.

The evident synergy shared by these two families of Enoch and Abraham Poor significantly increases the likelihood that, like the two Cole lines, these two lines of the Poor family also are directly related.

THE VAN ARSDALL  SURPRISE

Returning to the irrepressible ancestry of Stanley D. Smith, I reached back through the ancestry of Stanley’s mother Della Belle Malcomson. There I discovered Stanley’s third great-grandfather to be Capt. Simon Van Arsdall 1750-1820 of Somerset County in New Jersey.

Simon’s Van Arsdall family was long established in its day among the Dutch of New Amsterdam (New York City), and from northern New Jersey through central New Jersey and down to Pennsylvania. During the Revolution, some Van Arsdall joined the Conewago settlement in Pennsylvania. Three generations of Simon Van Arsdall’s family reached back to their immigrant Sijmon Jansz van Arsdalen. Leaving the Netherlands, he came to the New Amsterdam of New York City. Like the Demarest, the Van Arsdalen surname transformed itself over time to Van Arsdale and Van Arsdale, and on occasion VanOsdol.

Henry D. Banta-Eleanor Van Arsdall
Rev. Henry D. Banta 1785-1867 & Eleanor Van Arsdall 1786-1879. Second great-grandparents of Stanley D. Smith. Eleanor Van Arsdall is the daughter of Capt. Simon Van Arsdall & Rachel Banta.

In Pennsylvania’s York County, Capt. Simon lead a militia group consisting of Dutchman. The militia included Abraham Banta, an uncle of Rachel Banta who was born in Bergen County. Surprisingly, Rachel Banta is a granddaughter of David Demarest. When Rachel’s first husband died, she married Capt. Simon.

Fort Harrod
Fort Harrod, Kentucky established by James Harrod of Bedford County, Pennsylvania in 1775

Following the Revolution, Capt. Simon and Rachel Banta Van Arsdall joined a large group of “low Dutch,” many of them from Capt. Simon’s militia. Following the lead of another migrant from Pennsylvania, Col. James Harrod in 1775, they migrated in 1779 down the Ohio River and overland to Fort Harrod in Kentucky, later to become the town of Harrodsburg.

Rob Bonta-Warren Bonta
California State Representative Rob Bonta with his father Warren Bonta

I was well acquainted with the Banta family in Harrodsburg. In 2012, I was visited by Warren Bonta who came to Kentucky in search of his Banta ancestry. Warren was a former right-hand man for civil rights leader Ceasar Chavez in California.  Warren’s son Rob Bonta is a California State Representative.  Warren and I traveled all over Harrodsburg, visiting Banta cemeteries and sites.

Some of these Banta and Van Arsdall who did not remain in Harrodsburg moved on to Switzerland County in Indiana, where Stanley D. Smith was born.

THE FINAL JAMES SURPRISE

Margaret Lightfoot James
Margaret Lightfoot “Maggie” James 1859-1889, wife of Dwight Van Arsdall 1856-1905, granddaughter of John Lightfoot James & Margaret T. Brown

My odyssey of surprise findings, seemingly circuitous and disconnected, finally pulled together. My litany of families – the Demarest, Cole, Poor, Banta and Van Arsdall – altogether brought me to a final surprise destination. Stanley D. Smith is, in fact, linked to the James family. The final connection between the James and Stanley’s Van Arsdall families occurred in Harrodsburg, Kentucky when Margaret Lightfoot James married Dwight Van Arsdall on October 27, of 1880.

Stacy Lynn Foster Bennett-Casey Bennett
Stacy Lynn Foster-Bennet circa 1999 with daughter Casey – 4th and 5th great-granddaughter of John Lightfoot James & Margaret T. Brown

Around 1999, Stacy Lynn Foster-Bennett contacted me. She had discovered our Stray Leaves website. Stacy is a fourth great-granddaughter of John LIghtfoot James and Margaret T. Brown, progenitors of the James family line in Harrodsburg. Stacy arranged a reunion of her line of James descendants. She provided historic photos and family bible documents with personal introductions to living descendants. Through Stacy’s generous contributions, the New Found Lines of

Stacy arranged a reunion of her line of James descendants. She provided historic photos and family bible documents with personal introductions to living descendants. Through Stacy’s generous contributions, the New Found Lines of John Lightfoot James and of Henry Field James then were published on Stray Leaves.

Since then, research has continued to advance. New lines of other related family have been found. In another stunner, four generations of men descend from Dwight Van Arsdall and Margaret Lightfoot James. All four generations carry the name of Clyde James Van Arsdall. Their middle name of James honors their James ancestry. They also wear some genetic physical characteristics of the James. See this FREE DOWNLOAD of their ancestry.

Clyde Van Arsdall-2 generations
L-R: Rear Admiral Clyde James Van Arsdall Jr. 1913-2000; Capt. Clyde James Van Arsdall III 1941-2015, Clyde Van Arsdall IV with daughter Josie – grandson, great-grandson, second great-grandson, and third great-granddaughter of Dwight Van Arsdall & Margaret Lightfoot James. The name of James appearing among them all is attributed to the James kinship of Margaret Lightfoot James and her ancestors.

BONUS SURPRISES

Margaret Lightfoot James-Van Arsdall tombstone
Margaret Lightfoot James-Van Arsdall died at the age of thirty, giving childbirth. Her child did not survive. The James family was devastated by her loss. She was buried next to her parents. When her husband Dwight Van Arsdall died in 1905 in Joplin, Missouri, while onh business, his body was returned to be buried next to her.

As if this long journey of research and findings did not produce enough stunning surprises, additional bonus surprises can be added to the mix. Besides his kinship with the James family, Dwight Van Arsdall has two other significant kinships.

Because Dwight Van Arsdall is a half-third cousin of President Thomas Jefferson,  Dwight and his descendants also inherit kinship with all of the descendants of President Jefferson and Sally Hemmings who carry the Woodson surname.

Furthermore, because of Dwight’s marriage with Margaret Lightfoot James, Dwight Van Arsdall inherits Margie’s kinship with Cole, Dick, and Jim Younger of the Younger Gang. Not to mention, he also inherits half-cousins in the Dalton Gang. See FREE DOWNLOAD.

Finally, within a short distance from the burial sites of Dwight and Margaret Lightfoot James-VanArsdall reside the burial plots of John Pendleton “Black Jack” Chinn. Frank James and Chinn were wartime cohorts and close peacetime friends for the rest of their days.

Still riding through Kentucky with Quantrill at the end of the Civil War, they were confronted in the winter of 1864 by Maj. James H. Bridgewater, a Unionist but also a Pence family relation.  Bridgewater’s bloody assault occurred at the farmhouse of Sallie Van Arsdall, east of Harrodsburg.  Four members of Quantrill’s band were killed. When Springhill Cemetery was founded as a memorial to fallen Confederate dead,  Frank James and Chinn disinterred their fallen friends and reinterred them at Springhill.

The burial plot of John Pendleton “Black Jack” Chinn and his family lies within sight of the James family plot, where rests Dwight Van Arsdall & Margaret Lightfoot James, her parents Henry Field James Sr. & Margaret Janes Ransdall, with Maggie’s brothers Franklin Pierce James & John H. James, The James plot is in Section F. The Chinn plot is in Section G.

Stanley Smith
Stanley D. Smith 1902-1961

THANK YOU, STANLEY

Would any of these surprise findings be made if the story of Stanley D. Smith remained untold and restrained? No one can tell.

The James family owes some debt of gratitude to Stanley and to his grandson, biographer Dennis Smith, for teaching us about Stanley’s unrestrainable character, and for their ancestry that also appears to be just as unrestrainable.
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My Loveable but Unrestrainable Grandfather, Stanley D. Smith

Stanley Smith
Stanley D. Smith 1902-1961

                        My Loveable but Unrestrainable Grandfather                    Stanley D. Smith

by Dennis Smith

Della Belle Malcomson
Della Belle Malcomson, 1868-1902, mother of Stanley D. Smith who died from complications of his birth

My great-grandmother Della Belle Malcomson-Smith died from complications when she gave birth to my grandfather Stanley D. Smith. My great-grandfather Arthur Kingsley Smith blamed Stanley for his wife’s death. He would not have much to do with Stanley until seven years later when he remarried and had a new wife.

Stanley’s grandparents, Oliver M. Smith and Elizabeth Shaw, raised Stanley. Oliver was a veteran of the Civil War. In Oliver’s household, Stanley’s four aunts spoiled him. They had a lot of influence on his upbringing.

Oliver M. Smith
Oliver M. Smith 1837-1906, grandfather of Stanley D. Smith

Elizabeth Shaw-Smith
Elizabeth Shaw-Smith 1844-1938, spouse of Oliver M. Smith and grandmother of Stanley D. Smith

Stanley Smith grew to manhood in Braytown in Switzerland County, Indiana. His maternal grandparents, John Shaw Malcomson and Emily Jane Thiebaud, were very prosperous farmers who farmed the historic Thiebaud farmstead.  When they died, Stanley received a large inheritance.

Stanley married Grace Barnes Adams and spent his entire inheritance on her. He took Grace to Europe, but when the money was gone, Grace was gone, too. For the rest of his life, Stanley never proved himself a good money manager.

In his broke status, Stanley married a second time to my grandmother, Geneva Curry. The Curry farm was not too far from where Stanley grew up. When Stanley’s father took Dollie Turner as his second wife, Arthur reconciled with his seven-year-old son. When Stanley married for his second time to Geneva, Arthur built them a small house on his land to live in. Having watched his son squander an inheritance making bad financial decisions, Arthur never deeded the land to Stanley. It was in this house where my father, Arthur William Smith, was born.

Arthur Kingsley Smith
Arthur Kingsley Smith 1868-1945, father of Stanley D. Smith who held Stanley responsible for the death of his wife Della Belle Malcomson

Next to this small house, Stanley built and ran a small gas station and store. He also, farmed and did custom butchering in the fall of the year. Occupied as he was, Stanley began drinking and going to bars in Vevay and Madison, Indiana. Sometimes he would take Geneva and the children, only to leave them outside in the car. My aunt Elizabeth remembered going into a tavern to get her father and the bartender giving her fresh fried potato chips.

When Stanley’s money would run out, he was known to pass a bad check, only to be arrested. Geneva would sell a cow to get Stanley out of jail. This went on for several years until Geneva had enough of it. Even though she was pregnant at the time, my mother Geneva filed for divorce from StStanley in 1939.

John Shaw Malcomson & Emily J. Thiebaud
John Shaw Malcomson 1842-1914 & wife Emily J. Thiebaud 1842-1919, grandparents of Stanley D. Smith who left Stanley an inheritance which he squandered.

Geneva’s divorce from Stanley was final in 1940 when my uncle, Paul Edward Smith, was born. Stanley was to pay child support for Paul. According to my Aunt Elizabeth, he never did.

Stanley D. Smith & Geneva Josephine Curry
Wedding photo of Stanley D. Smith & Geneva Josephine Curry, November 23, 1937, Switzerland County, Indiana, grandparents of author Dennis Smith

Stanley moved to Indianapolis, Indiana with his son Arthur, my father. They lived with a cousin, Harold Mains, who was working for the Indianapolis Street Car Company. Harold and Stanley were raised together in Switzerland County. They were lifelong friends. Stanley’s store and gas station reverted to Arthur and Dollie and Stanley’s half-sister Reba Smith. They continued to run it for several more years.

In Indianapolis, Stanley married for the third time to Laura Woolford, bringing my father Arthur together with his new step-sister Myrtle Woolford. Stanley managed a parking garage, and my father Arthur worked for him parking cars. Stanley continued to drink but more responsibly. He had a hobby wood shop in the basement of his home, where he cut off part of his fingers on his left hand. I remember watching his hand when I was a small boy, with amazement as he ate his breakfast with missing parts of his fingers.

Stanley D. Smith & Laura B. Woolford
Stanley D. Smith and his third wife Laura B. Woolford 2007-1983

As his grandsons, my brother Randy and I always were treated well by Stanley. We stayed many a night at his house with Laura. Myrtle babysat us. Myrtle always likes to tell the story of me at age five when I told Stanley that teenage Myrtle had begun smoking. I suggested she should be spanked. Stanley did not spank her, but he did tell Myrtle’s mother Laura. Ironically, Laura and Stanley were heavy smokers. I remember Laura, smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee and play solitaire. She was always, Grandma Smith to me.

Sadly, Stanley D. Smith brought on his own death. He got diabetes. Stanley would not stay on his diet, which caused him to have a stroke. I saw him at his home then. We hugged. He was slender and frail. The damage was done. He had a second stroke and then a heart attack killed him at his home in 1961. I went to his funeral and burial. No matter what flaws my grandparents had, I still loved them.

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FREE DOWNLOADThe Ancestry & Kinship of Stanley D. Smith