The final Sift and the year-end roundup of 2018 have produced some surprises. Then again, Stray Leaves never fails to produce surprises. To receive future Sift surprises as they happen, LIKE Stray Leaves on Facebook.
December 7 is the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. On that fateful day, Wyatt Leon Mimms was stationed in Pearl Harbor, serving the US Navy.
Wyatt is a 3rd cousin, one generation removed of Frank and Jesse James.
After the war, Wyatt remained for some time in Hawaii, working as a police officer and later a special agent with GTE Telephone. He was married six times in his lifetime. He returned to the States and died in Placerville, California.
Wyatt’s father, Eddie Bernard Mimms, brought his family to Salinas, California from Crawford County, Kansas, and Oklahoma where Wyatt was born.
Archibald Bernard Pence Sr. served onboard the USS Oklahoma in the US Navy as Chief Petty Officer. The Oklahoma was docked in Pearl Harbor on that fateful day. Arch was blown overboard. Later, he was picked up by another serviceman in a small boat. They proceeded to pull fellow servicemen from the water.
Archibald Bernard Pence Sr. is a third cousin, two generations removed of Bud and Donnie Pence of the James gang.
Buy the Russellville Bank
The Russellville Bank with its stately attached residence of bank cashier Nimrod Long is back on the market. This time it can be purchased directly from the owner and retired attorney Joe Clark.
Joe and his wife gave me a tour of this beautiful home in 2016 when I spoke before the Southern Kentucky Pastfinders inside the old Logan County Courthouse. Locally, it was claimed, my appearance was the first and only time a James was brought to court and held accountable for the assault on Nimrod long and the James gang’s robbery of the Russellville Bank.
The Carters have executed a wonderful restoration of the historic building. Located in the Russellville Historic District, the restored property combines historical authenticity and preservation with a modern sensibility for high style and luxury Southern comfort.
Anyone interested in an investment partnership with yours truly to turn this into an Airbnb tourism destination?
New Photos of Rhoda James-Hattler
Courtesy of James descendant Gearld Willis, we now have several new images of Rhoda Ann James & spouse Charles Colfax Hattler and their children Glee Estes and Jewell Irene Hatler. Rhoda Ann is a daughter of Cyrenius Waite James and the youngest sister of John James of Alvarado.
Marriage Announcement for Francis Marion James Jr. & Anna Emelian Knaff
Look what showed up on Facebook, thanks to cousin Tom Walden who is the administrator of the THOLL family group on Facebook. This is the 1908 wedding announcement of my grandparents.
New information from this is Anna’s residence address, plus her middle name of Emelian,. Formerly she was documented by their family as Emalia. It turns out the name Emelian is Norwegian in origin, and Emalia is the male version of the name. Anna was not Norwegian. Her Knaff family immigrated in 1848 to Wisconsin from the Duchy of Luxembourg, where Knaff cousins still are influential in the state government. Em-ELL-ee-ah is the pronunciation of the name. I’m still looking for the meaning behind the name.
The Early Death of Reno Conley Herrin
RENO CONLEY HERRIN 1919-1940 is a great-grandson of the “talented, but erratic” Rev. Joseph Martin James & Rhoda May. His grandparents are Susan Harriet James & Joseph Allen Herrin, pictured here.
From Terry Joseph White, a 3rd great-grandson of Joseph Martin James, to Eric F. James, May 14, 2011:“I just came across the photo booklet that Aunt Virgie (Reno’s sister Virgie Lucille Herrin Fuller) did a few years ago of the Herrin family. Here’s a summary of what she wrote about Reno: ‘Reno had lung problems all of his life and missed a lot of school due to health issues. He was an excellent basketball player, even tho doctors warned him not to play. Reno refused to go to school unless he could play. Reno collapsed on the ball court two months before he was to graduate. When the doctors inserted a needle to draw fluid from his lungs, the needle punctured his heart, which was enlarged, and caused his death’.”
The eldest sibling of Reno also died too early and tragically. Leslie Raymond Herrin 1902-1930 died by drowning at the age of 28.
Obituary of Maj. George Burns Hite
Maj. George Burns Hite 1825-1891 is the husband of Nancy Gardner James, an aunt of Frank & Jesse James.
Two of their sons, Robert Woodson & Clarence Jeff Hite, associated with Quantrill’s guerrillas and the James Gang.
A third son, John William Hite, associated with Morgan’s Men in the company of John Hunt Morgan, and David Hunt James and his brother Richard Skinner James who were captured and sent to Camp Douglas in Chicago where Richard died.
There is another group of people who knew Harold Dellinger on a much different level. Harold was known to them as a pop-historian. That is, Harold was one who appreciated history so much that he rose to a level of authority although he was not trained officially as a historian. For many, Harold was their introduction to the popular history of Jesse James and the Civil War. Only those close to Harold knew his interest in Jesse James began simply enough when Harold was a young parole officer in Kansas City.
In recent years, Harold produced some YouTube videos, as the Quantrill Society visited obscure historic sites connected to Jesse James and the Civil War.
Harold’s visit with the Quantrill Society to the historic residence of Judge Luther Mason prompted Stray Leaves to initiate an inquiry into the ancestry and kinship of Judge Luther Mason. Not surprisingly, the research revealed Judge Mason is kin to Frank and Jesse James, as well as to other notables of the Civil War era. While their kinship as half 5th cousins is somewhat distant and indistinguishable in the period, the tug and pull of their shared genetics now remains known and unmistakable, revealing new history to come.
The James-Younger Gang issued the following condolence:
“We are saddened to hear of the sudden passing of Harold Dellinger and send our heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, and associates. Our historical community has lost a valued member. Harold will be remembered fondly for his kindness and willingness to help fellow historians.
“We had the pleasure of having Harold as a guest speaker at our 2015 conference in Kearney, Missouri. He gave us a wonderful presentation on Jim Cummins then joined us for our banquet where he mingled with new and old acquaintances.
“He will be greatly missed.”
On behalf of the Quantrill Society, President Cyndy Taylor had this to say:
“The William Clarke Quantrill Society is still reeling from this blow–Harold was fine one day, before Higginsville, and gone the next.
His daughter, Laura, told me today that there would be a visitation on June 14 from 4-7pm with a eulogy at 6 pm during that time, at Passantino Funeral Home in Kansas City, Missouri. The obituary will be coming any day now, as the family is still putting it together. He will be buried at Lancaster, Missouri where his parents are buried.
“Harold was president of the WCQS for 10 yrs. or more, and good friend /assistant to Don Hale. He belonged to a number of historical organizations.
“To say ‘We miss him’ is the understatement! He was on our ‘frequent contact’ list; all of us, especially the board members, talked to him and asked questions of him sometimes weekly.
On Saturday, June 2, 2018, Harold was scheduled to participate in Confederate Memorial Day events in Higginsville, Missouri. When he failed to appear, members of the Quantrill Society checked his residence, where Harold was found deceased.
The following letter of apology written by Thelma Duncan Barr to Joan Malley Beamis is transcribed as written. No editing has been applied.
Thelma Duncan Barr is the spouse of Henry Lafayette Barr, a grandson of Jesse Woodson James. Joan Malley Beamis is the great-granddaughter of Drury Woodson James, an uncle of Jesse Woodson James, America’s iconic outlaw.
Overland Park, Kansas
Oct. 26, 1970
Mrs. John F. Beamis
7 Hamilton Street
Somersworth, N.H., 03878
Dear Mrs. Beamis.
My name is Thelma Duncan Barr. My husband is Lawrence H. Barr.
We were in Los Angeles, Calif. In Oct. on our way home from Hawaii. We visited several days with our cousins, the daughters of Aunt Stella James. Ethel Rose Owens gave me your letter, Sept. 1970, to read. I wanted to write you and offer an explanation for my husband not answering your letter of several years ago?
I am sorry he did not see fit to answer your letter. You have no idea how many inquiries he gets through the mails. He simply didn’t want to be bothered. I told him at the time he should have answered your letter.
However, he does not know very much about the historical facts of the family. Mother Barr would not let it be “talked about” in her home. Now Forster has always been interested in the “James Stories” and got into his possession all he could find about Jesse James. He has all the keepsakes, historical data, pictures (what there are) etc. Lawrence has very, very little about his grandfather! Only in the past few years has he become interested. If all I recall correctly you were asking for a picture of Drury Woodson James.
He did not have it and has only very few pictures of his mother. What we do have is in books we have had to buy and newspaper clippings. Forster was always the one who answered people’s letters. Now that is the best excuse I can give him, which is true, believe me.
However, in the past three years I have been doing a Genealogy of “my” family. I started with my mother’s family and then my father’s family. They both came from the early day settlers of Mo. They came from Virginia to Kentucky, to Mo. About 1820 & 1825. This, to me, has been most interesting. I am not finding very many stories or historical events. It is mostly lineage.
A long time ago, when on a trip to Calif., we went to see Lutie Mimms. She gave me, to bring home with me a Genealogy of the Mimms family. She & Mother Barr were double cousins. At that time it was all in a gig-saw puzzle to me. I read, read, & read it before I could begin to understand it. When I finished copying it I found a “gap” in it that directly linked the Mimms & the James families together. She (Lutie) said he niece had it. I never did get it from Lutie, her niece, or Aunt Stella.
We went to the nursing home to see Aunt Stella & she did know us!
In the research of some of the related families to my direct lines I came across a James family in the “Germanna Records” of Richmond, Va. But Dr. B. C. Holtzclaw said he did not think there was a connection with the Rev. Robert Sallee James.
In Ethel Rose’s letter you spoke of a book, or pamphlet, that you and your co-author Mr. William E. Pulliam, were going to publish! Has it been published yet? You said you were going to give them away to historical societies, libraries, D.A.R. of Washington D.A.C. of Texas.
I belong to the Clay Co. (Historical) Museum Ass. They are endeavoring to write a new history of Clay Co. of some of their earlier families. Of course they have not asked the Barr boys for the James Family because many, many books have been written about them. (There is a Jesse James Museum in Liberty. He makes money at it and seems to think he’ s an authority.)
Each month they have a resume of a family on their monthly letter. I wrote one on my Duncan family fr Jan. 1969 (I believe) it was. I also belong to Smithville Historical Society. They are compiling a lot of families. I have given them the Thomas Fry family; the McCullough Family; Capt. James Duncan; John Duncan and have a great deal on related families (which others are working on, too.) I don’t type so mine is all handwritten. It has been work. I know how to appreciate your labors, believe me!
I am interested in where you got your information on the exact connection of Mimms or (Mims) & James line. I “think” I have it figured out, but am not sure I am correct!
Do you get all the brothers & sisters that you can of each family or – do you just get direct lineage?
The only data we have on Drury Woodson James was that he was the youngest of 8 children (of John James who married Mary Polly Poor.) He was born Nov. 17, 1825 (also have another date from another source as Nov. 14, 1826.) Which is correct?
You no doubt have more authentic data than I do. What I have has been from books others have written. A Mr. Ed Knowles who in 1908 was at Topeka, Ks. on the “Topeka Capitol Journal”. He is no longer with them. He sent my husband a “copy” of a talk he gave at Clay Co. Museum meeting in Liberty. That is where I got my little on “Lindsay” and “Cole” family.
All I have on James Family is
I. Martin James married?
II. John James married Mary Polly Poore their ch.
1. Mary; 2. William; 3. John 4. Elizabeth; 5. Robert Sallee James; 6. Nancy; 7. Thomas and; 8. Drury Woodson.
III. Gen. Robert Sallee James married Zerelda Cole
Their children & on down to present day
Do you have any data back older than Martin James?
We have Carl Breihan’s book but didn’t think much of it. I couldn’t find the entire Genealogical history of Lindsay-Cole line in it. Has he written more than one book?
We thought “Jesse James was His Name” was a good book (as far as we know) that is.
If I have any data you don’t have I’d be willing to exchange with you. I would like for you to verify my connection between the Mimms & James family. It isn’t in too good an order right now, but I could re-write it for you.
You see I have written so much these past three years that I have about ruined my right hand. I hurt a tendon in it over 3 yrs. ago. When I write too much it gets very sore.
I am corresponding with a Mrs. Sale on Ind. In respect to some mutual family connections. Also a woman in El Centro, Calif on a connection with a branch in my mother’s line. It seems to never end.
This week I had a request for some Barr data. It don’t have any to speak of so now I have to search for it. I think Forster has the Barr family Bible too.
I must quit for tonight.
If you are going to give out copies of your “James Family” I’d love to have one.
If you contact the Clay Co. Historical or Museum Ass. Don’t contact a Mrs. Eldridge. She is a “professional”. She gets her material
“free” then sells it. This woman in deed paid her $20.00 for research & got very little” for it.
The Clay Co. Museum told me about 2 yrs. ago they didn’t want mine because they at that time did not have a facility for handling them. No file system or anything. Of course mine was hand written and not printed. A book might be different. Mr. Donald Pharris is the Pres. He is rather up in years tho. He re-wrote some of my sketch & misspelled so many names it made me sick. He botches up nearly every one. He wanted another sketch but I wouldn’t give him another.
Are you a member of D.A.R. or D.O.C.? I can’t find proof of Dr. James Duncan in the Rev. War. He was; but I haven’t found the proof yet. They sent my money back twice. I’ll have to find another source. There were dozens of James Duncans, one in every generation!
It has been nice visiting with you. Please don’t think too harshly about my husband. He just doesn’t see the importance of our work. He thinks I’m wasting my time!
Thelma Duncan Barr
9519 El Monte
Overland Park, Kansas 66207
Next Day – Oct. 27, 1970
My husband finally dug out of his files, this morning, your letter that I asked him several times to hunt up for me.
You wrote him March 1, 1966/ He ans. You Aug. 21, 1966. Then you sent him an air mail card Sept. 23, 1966 & a Xmas greeting. You said you were going to send him copies of your research but we did not received them.
So he didn’t ignore your letter completely. He has an office in the basement. I never know who he writes to or anything about it.
He is retired now but “sits a lot.” Not me, I have to be up and doing things! This Genealogical work I have done on my family has been done by correspondence mostly. We do have a good library down town Kansas City; but it is hard for me to get there. It costs about $1.50 to park car. I always get so interested I forget to eat lunch. I stay so long I get caught in heavy traffic. Some trips you don’t find a thing you want – other times more than you can copy.
In re-reading your letter I see you do belong to D.A.R. I am eligible for D.O.C. but have not found proof yet on Duncan line for D.A.R. Duncan Tavern in Paris, Ky. Has it but can’t get it unless I go there.
(final unmarked page)
Do you have cousin Luties’nleice’s address?
Do you have the Mimms line back to Thomas Mimms who came to Lancaster Co., Va. In May, 1657?
In the boxing ring, the reach of Muhammad Ali spanned seventy-eight inches, longer at better striking than any of his opponents. In his genetic makeup, the heavyweight ancestry of Muhammad Ali stretched from Roman era enslavement toward Civil War emancipation, For Ali, that never was enfranchisement enough.
Prompted by a conversion from the Baptist faith to the Muslim religion, during which he changed his name, Muhammad Ali seized upon his deliverance. “Why should I keep my white slavemaster’s name visible and my black ancestors invisible, unknown, and unhonored?”
Moved by faith, Ali’s adopted persona infused every corner of his being. In the end, his fight redefined and symbolized his every oddity and eccentricity as authentically American. Ali claimed personal freedom, executed individual accomplishment, spread loving care and humanitarianism, and promoted social justice. Recognized in his time as “The Greatest,” Muhammad Ali became a legend, not too unlike the legendary cousin in his shadowy ancestry whom Ali never knew, America’s favorite outcast Jesse James.
Muhammad Ali was born Cassius Marcellus Clay, named for his father who bore the same name. Although his father’s nickname was Cash, Ali’s full name came from a notable emancipationist, Cassius Marcellus Clay, a second cousin of famed Kentucky statesman Henry Clay. Five members of Henry Clay’s family bore the name of Cassius Marcellus Clay.
The Clay family naming practice, although trendy in the period for its classical allusion, derived from the naming practices of ancient Rome. Romans attached a three-part structure to naming. The given name was a praenomen. The family name was the nomen. Finally, the nickname was the cognomen, the common name by which one was recognized.
The family name Cassia was taken from the Latin “cassus,” meaning empty, void, hollow, or vain. In the Roman era, vanity was respected as a positive force by which one might rise in status out of nothing. As a class, the Cassii advanced to the patrician level, the name dating back to the 6th century B.C. Back then, Spurius Cassius Viscellinus vainly addressed land ownership issues between the patrician and plebeian classes. Patricians considered the laws too friendly to plebeians. Cassius was tried. Then he was violently executed. The Cassius name arose from a lack of estimability to transfix itself as a representation of honor. In Roman time, Gaius Cassius Longinus conspired vainly to assassinate the tyrant Julius Caesar. In the Middles Ages, four Saints held the Cassius name, most all were persecuted, martyred and then honored.
The Clay family vanity is well earned. Green Clay was a patriot of the American Revolution. He served in the Continental Army and the Virginia Legislature. After moving his family from Virginia to Kentucky, Clay served in both houses of the Kentucky Legislature. In his private life, he was a surveyor, retaining half of everything he surveyed. He also operated Clay’s Ferry at Boonesborough. Although a slave owner and planter, his wealth accumulated more via his industry and labor, owning warehouses, distilleries, and taverns. He was not so reliant upon plantation enslavement, common in the era, for building his fortune. Called upon by Gov. Isaac Shelby. Green Clay went the War of 1812 with the rank of General. Those who followed him were militia volunteers. Documents show he expressed concern over the treatment of “friendly Indians.” Clay County in Kentucky was named for Green Clay, and not for Henry Clay as some may think
CASSIUS MARCELLUS CLAY – THE LION OF WHITE HALL
Vanity affixed almost naturally to Green Clay’s son, Cassius Marcellus Clay. As a Major General for the Union in the Civil War, Clay was recognized widely as “The Lion of White Hall.” The family estate is located in Richmond in Kentucky’s Madison County. Twenty years before the Civil War, Cassius freed White Hall’s enslaved people. He then published an anti-slavery, abolitionist newspaper, The True American. While Cassius recovered from typhoid fever, his printing office was attacked and pillaged. Cassius removed his printing office across the Ohio River to Cincinnati, though he continued to edit from Lexington in Kentucky.
Following the Mexican War in which Clay was imprisoned in Mexico City, Clay returned to run for the office of Kentucky Governor. His anti-slavery platform defeated him. He then provided land and underwriting to found Berea College. The new institution of learning accepted women as well as men, Moreover, it welcomed people of color as students and educators. Cassius furthermore took a role in founding the Republican Party. His anti-slavery sentiments befriended him to Abraham Lincoln.
At the onset of the Civil War, Clay’s Battalion protected Washington D.C. A biographer described the battalion leader in personal terms as conceited and somewhat ridiculous. “With three pistols strapped to his waist, and an elegant sword hanging at his side, he talked to anyone who would listen about his Mexican War exploits and his political battles.” Lincoln thought Clay “had a great deal of conceit and very little sense,” Lincoln “did not know what to do with him, for he could not give him a command—he was not fit for it.” Lincoln appointed Clay Minister to Russia. Upon Emancipation by Lincoln, Cassius Marcellus Clay believed his influence upon the Emancipation Proclamation was “the culminating act of my life’s aspirations.”
While in Russia, Clay’s wife Mary Jane Warfield administered to White Hall flawlessly. However, upon Clay’s returned to White Hall bringing a son she never knew, Mary Jane divorced Cassius Marcellus Clay. He married again to fifteen-year-old Dora Richardson but divorced her quickly, and never remarried again.
Despite the controversy surrounding him, the social contribution of Cassius Marcellus Clay was indelible and genuine. On his death, the comment was made, “Never was a more striking scene witnessed on the way to Richmond, where the funeral services were to be held. From every humble negro cottage along the roadside and at every crossroads, the mothers and large children carrying those who were too little to walk, the negroes were lined up to pay their last respects to the man whom they honored as the Abraham Lincoln of Kentucky.”
THE CLAY ANCESTRY MUHAMMAD ALI KNEW
Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr. aka Muhammad Ali
Cassius Marcellus “Cash” Clay Sr. & Odessa Lee Grady
Herman Heaton Clay & Edith Edelen Greathouse
John Clay & Sallie Ann Fry
History does not record if Muhammad Ali’s great-grandparents, John Clay and Sallie Ann Fry were part of the enslaved family at White Hall. Nor can history confirm if John Clay was an actual descendant of Cassius Marcellus Clay. History may never solve the former, but DNA testing still can resolve the latter.
The possibility also exists that the Clay family of Muhammad Ali may not attach to the family of Cassius Marcellus Clay at all. Ali’s family might connect to some other Clay line of the Henry Clay family.
Regardless, the persistence of genetic behavior, character, and motivations between Muhammad Ali, today recognized as “The Greatest,” and Cassius Marcellus Clay the Lion of White Hall are compelling, as is Muhammad Ali’s apparent acceptance of his high probability of kinship. One cannot listen to Muhammad Ali speak about all he found in his world that was white without the Lion of White Hall appearing ghostly behind him. Ali is not an imitation of the former. Ali is an authentic reflection.
ALI’S KINSHIP TO JESSE JAMES
If Muhammad Ali’s ancestry on his paternal side is indefinite concerning his kinship to the family of Henry Clay, his mother’s ancestry points decisively to ancestry just as complicated and white but with a clear path to his relationship with America’s iconic outlaw for social justice, Jesse James.
Muhammad Ali, aka Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr.
Odessa Lee Grady & Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr.
John Lewis Grady & Birdie Belle Morehead
Thomas Morehead & Elizabeth “Lizzie” Bibb
Armistead S. Morehead & (1) Adeline R. Perkins & (2) Dinah Unknown, illicit partner, & (3) Henrietta Elizabeth Frances Poor
Drury Woodson Poor & Elizabeth Ellen Britt
Robert (Cornet) Poor & Elizabeth Woodson Mimms 6. Mary “Polly” Poor & John M. James 5. Robert Sallee James & Zerelda Elizabeth Cole 4. Jesse Woodson James & Zerelda Amanda Mimms
Ireland claims it is the source of Muhammad Ali’s pugilistic genes. Odessa Lee Grady’s grandfather Abe Grady was an immigrant from Ennis, County Clare in Ireland. He immigrated to America in the Civil War era. Abe married an emancipated African-American daughter of Louis and Amanda J. Walker. Abe bought and farmed land on Duck Lick Creek in Logan County, about ten miles from Russellville. Their son, John Lewis Grady found employment with the St. Bernard Mining Company as a coal miner in Earlington. His registration card for World War I lists John as Ethiopian by race.
When Odessa Lee Grady married Ali’s father, Cash Clay, the couple removed from Earlington to Louisville. Cash Clay was an abusive husband and an alcoholic. Ali later affirmed of his mother, “She is afraid of him.” The couple separated when Ali was nine. When Ali’s bicycle was stolen when he was twelve, Ali turned to boxing. Odessa supported Ali in the recreation that became his profession.
Odessa inherited her Baptist faith from Ali’s great-grandparents Thomas Morehead and Elizabeth Bibb. Baptist tradition in Ali’s family originated in their Old Union Church in Russellville in Logan County. (Old Union is sometimes identified as the New Union or as the First Baptist Church of Russellville. The church is not to be confused with the Old Union Missionary Church of Bowling Green.)
The Old Union Church was founded in the early 1800s when the Russellville region was called Rogue’s Harbor. Migrants with few resources, little financial support, and no military land to claim in Kentucky following the American Revolution populated the area among a scattering of lawless miscreants and ne’er-do-wells. Among the founding members of Old Union Church were Spencer Curd with his father-in-law Col. John Curd. Joined with the Curds was Ali’s fourth great-grandfather Drury Woodson Poor.
Settling at Lickskillet on Whippoorwill Creek among founders of Old Union Church was John M. James who married Drury Woodson Poor’s sister, Mary “Polly” Poor. The couple became the grandparents of Frank and Jesse James. When John and Polly died within months of one another, Drury Woodson Poor was entrusted with the couple’s eight orphans. Col. William Grubbs of Old Union purchased the slaves of John M. James upon his demise. William Perkins acquired land from Spencer Curd’s brother Samuel with a house on Whippoorwill Creek formerly occupied by their father, William Curd. Thereby, Perkins became neighbors with John M. James. Later, Spencer Curd was instrumental in finding Thomas Martin James, one of the James orphans, a teaching position at Bethel College, before T.M. James departed Kentucky to become a millionaire merchant in Kansas City. Spencer Curd also was the father-in-law of Nimrod Long whom the James Gang shot in the robbery of the Russellville Bank much later in 1868.
William Perkins’ daughter Adeline R. Perkins married Muhammad Ali’s third great-grandfather Armistead S. Morehead. Sometime after their third child was born, Armistead had an illicit liaison with a girl named Dinah. She is presumed to be a slave. Sometime between June and December in 1839, Dinah gave birth to Thomas Armistead, Ali’s great-grandfather. Armistead and Adeline had one last child before Adeline died. In Old Union Church, Thomas Armistead married Lizzie Bibb, who bore Ali’s grandmother Birdie Belle Morehead-Grady. Birdie made her home in Louisville.
Some inaccurate history argues that the mother of Thomas Morehead was Armistead’s second wife, Henrietta Elizabeth Frances Poor. Henrietta formerly was married to Armistead’s brother, James Duncan Morehead Sr. With James, Henrietta bore five children. Among them, Elizabeth Ann Morehead was born in April of 1836, followed by the birth of Presley Leland Morehead in February of 1838. These two dates leave an interval in which Thomas Morehead could have been born in July of 1837. More decisively, however, both Armistead S. Morehead and Henrietta were ethnically Anglo and white. The census of 1870 defines Thomas Morehead as being mulatto, confirming that his mother Dinah had to be African-American. Regardless, Henrietta Poor’s marriage to Armistead S. Morehead makes Henrietta a step-great-grandmother of Muhammad Ali. From her Poor family descendants comes Ali’s step-kinship to Jesse Woodson James.
ALI’S CORROBORATING VARDEMAN CONNECTION
Muhammad Ali had more than one path to his step-kinship with Jesse Woodson James.
Muhammad Ali, aka Cassius Marcellus Clay Jr.
Odessa Lee Grady & Cassius Marcellus Clay Sr.
John Lewis Grady & Birdie Belle Morehead
Thomas Morehead & Elizabeth “Lizzie” Bibb
Armistead S. Morehead & Henrietta Elizabeth Frances Poor
Presley M. Morehead & Mary “Polly” Duncan
James Duncan & Bathsheba Menefee
William Menefee Sr. & Elizabeth “Betsy” Vardeman
Johannes Vardeman, the Immigrant & Elizabeth Taylor Morgan 8. Rev. Jeremiah Vardeman & Elizabeth “Betsy” James 7. John M. James 6. Robert Sallee James 5. Jesse Woodson James
The sixth great-grandfather of Muhammad Ali is Johannes Vardeman, father of the eminent Baptist Devine Rev. Jeremiah Vardeman. Johannes is the Vardeman family’s immigrant to America from Sweden. The Vardeman family’s settlement in Kentucky was adjacent to the land of John M. James at Cedar Creek in Lincoln County. Next to them both lived the Kentucky’s famed Indian fight Col. William Whitley. Before their settlement, Johannes Vardeman was an ax man for Daniel Boone, blazing the Wilderness Road, which John M. James patrolled and protected.
When Jeremiah Vardeman eloped with Elizabeth “Betsy” James, John M. James arranged to bring Jerry into Baptist ministry. In his time, Jeremiah Vardeman baptized over 6,000 converts. He founded, pastored, and preached among many of the Baptist churches in central Kentucky. He also gave Jesse James’ father, Rev. Robert Sallee James, $20,000 and seven enslaved, sending him to Missouri to found William Jewell College, where Vardeman also founded a School of Theology.
Muhammad Ali’s connection to the Vardeman family gives him a confirmation line of kinship with the family of Jesse James.
OTHER ALI KINSHIP CONNECTIONS
Extending Muhammad Ali’s relationships further, other relatives appear to contribute to the genes of “The Greatest.” Among them are US Presidents John Tyler and Benjamin Harrison, Confederate President Jefferson Davis; several governors of Kentucky, Virginia, and North Carolina; plus celebrities Glenn Close, Hillary Duff, and Katie Couric. Several ancestors, like Robert (Coronet) Poor, make Ali and his descendants eligible for membership in the Sons or Daughters of the American Revolution as well as numerous other patriotic lineage societies.
“I ain’t draft dodging. I ain’t burning no flag. I ain’t running to Canada. I’m staying right here. You want to send me to jail? Fine, you go right ahead. I’ve been in jail for 400 years. I could be there for 4 or 5 more, but I ain’t going 10,000 miles to help murder and kill other people. If I want to die, I’ll die right here, right now, fighin’ you. You my enemy, not no Chinese, no Vietcong, no Japanese. You my opposer when I want freedom. You my opposer when I want justice.” – Muhammad Ali
Kinship alone did not predestine the life of Muhammad Ali. Almost entirely, it can be said, the life of Muhammad Ali was constructed by his choice and direction alone. Whether Ali knew his ancestry or not did not preclude him in his choices. Muhammad Ali, aka Cassius Marcellus Clay, fulfilled the destiny of his genes.