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.
Dan James gave Charlie Chaplin the unique American verbiage the British actor required when Dan co-wrote The Great Dictator with Chaplin. His story is featured in the chapter “All For the Underdog” in Volume I of Jesse James Soul Liberty.
Each time I must enter the passing of another James family member into the master genealogy database for Stray Leaves, I do so with a measure of sadness. On rare occasion, such as in recent minutes, I do so with difficulty.
Barbara Pierce Bush was not of James blood. She is an in-law to her Bush family who is our blood. Like many in-laws of our family, Barbara Bush was a stellar influence whose impact never will be under-measured but celebrated instead.
For those among our family who found themselves at odds with Bush politics, none that I know ever found themselves at odds with the political understanding and insights that Barbara provided. She connected the dots with effective savvy and sometimes necessary glue.
Barbara Bush is a unique American treasure. Prayers will be left for those she left behind. For each tear, there will be a smile, followed by the music of laughter. She is a person well worth remembering and celebrating.
Smith denies he is a third great-grandson of Susan Prudence James & John Wesley Smith, despite bearing all the customary genetic physical features of James descendants, including the telltale ear formation.
Smith is not the first to deny his kinship. Nor will he probably be the last. His art is rather ironic since it is constructed around the use of mirrors and reflective imagery. On the other hand, outside of Stray Leaves research into Smith’s ancestry, his art may be his only reflection of his self-constructed identity.
Beware Minnesota Historical Society & Good Riddance as Executive Director of Kentucky Historical Society Departs
Former Executive-Director Kent Whitworth is the fool who bamboozled the Board of Directors of the Kentucky Historical Society into filing a lawsuit against its own members! He charged me and other members with trying to create a shadow government. Really! After filing his frivolous lawsuit, he then failed to prosecute it.
This week Mark Griffin queried me. Mark is the reference specialist at the Logan County Public Library in Russellville, Kentucky. Mark questioned, “Have you come across any information saying Gov. Thomas Crittenden of Missouri ever met with Gov. Luke Blackburn of Kentucky in Louisville to discuss the matter of Jesse James?”
My answer was as follows:
“I don’t know of any specific meeting, however, the following is known. Thomas T. Crittenden was a close ally and supporter of the James family, the family relationship stretching back at least a couple of generations and closer, following the killing of Jesse James. Crittenden had put out the $10,000 reward for Jesse’s capture, not for his murder.
“Dr. Luke Pryor Blackburn, born in Woodford County, Kentucky, contained two epidemics in Natchez, Mississippi in 1848 and in1854, one of yellow fever and another pf cholera. He also was a physician to Gen. John Anthony Quitman. Next to Quitman’s plantation on St. Catherine St. was the Forks of the Road slave market, operated by three brothers of the James family – Thomas Green, David Daniel, & John Duke James. The father of the James brothers, Thomas James, was a charge d’affaires to the Spanish government. Later he retired to Hyde’s Landing in Nashville, Tennessee where Frank and Jesse visited and lived periodically. Blackburn and the James surely would have known one another in this period.
“During the Civil War, Blackburn served with Sterling Price together with A.J. James. A.J. was attorney general under Gov. Beriah Magoffin when Magoffin refused to send four regiments to Lincoln for the war. During the war, Magoffin’s descendants are a first cousin of Blackburn. A.J. James served under Preston Leslie, and it is said under Gen. Joseph Orville “Jo” Shelby, who is Blackburn’s nephew. After the war, James would become Secretary of State. In retirement, A.J. James was president of the Farmers Bank of Frankfort, with Blackburn’s cousin Edmund Haynes Taylor on its Board of Directors.
“In the Civil War period, Blackburn shipped infected clothing to the North and to Lincoln, in particular, intending to kill him. Months after the war ended, Quantrill and the James brothers rode through Kentucky en route to Washington. It is said they intended to assassinate Lincoln. They were halted by Maj. James Bridgewater. Quantrill was killed. Frank James surrendered. Blackburn’s nephew Jo Shelby testified at Frank’s trial and Frank was exonerated.
“Blackburn is related to a small number of James. He also is kin to Presidents George Washington, James Madison, and the Lee family of Virginia of Gen. Robert E. Lee, as well as V.P. Richard Mentor Johnson. He also is related to my second wife through her grandfather R. J. Reynolds. Most of these kinships are in the third to fifth cousin categories.
“Given all of these relationships, it is entirely possible that Dr. Luke Pryor Blackburn talked with Gov. Crittenden.”
I referred Mark Griffin to Dr. Thomas J. Sabetta of the University of Kentucky, who recently was a panelist at the 2017 James-Younger Gang & Family conference. Dr. Sabetta currently is writing two books, one about Capt. Delos T. “Yankee” Bligh who pursued the James Gang, and another on “Dynamite” Dick Mitchel, a rider with John Hunt Morgan, Basil Duke, Sue Munday, and Sam Berry.
In this historic home in Paris, Kentucky grew up Elizabeth “Betsy” Wright, the spouse of Justice John Thomas James, a son of Capt. John James & Dinah Allen. Their long line of James descendants includes living family today. Notable among them is Richard “Dick” Overgard, who first contributed the data on this line to Stray Leaves almost 20 years ago.
Other notables in this line also include Sheriff John Payne Kelly Sr. of Kelly’s Ford in Culpeper County, VA., made famous in the Civil War. The Sheriff married Betsy’s daughter Margaret Wright James. Their son Granville James Kelly Sr. was postmaster at Kelly’ Ford and the father of Alexander Doniphan Kelly. At Kelly’s Ford, this family essentially knew everyone personally in and around Kelly’s Ford, including those associated with the escape of John Wilkes Booth, Abraham Lincon’s assassin.
From this citadel, the Hite-Bowman family entered the frontier of Kentucky to inform, direct, and protect Frank & Jesse James’ pioneer grandfather John M. James in the wilderness. The keynote speaker is Richard Hite, whose book Sustainable Genealogywe have reviewed and recommended.
Matrilineal Ancestry Key to Choctaw & Chickasaw Descendants of the James Family
Our new and most recent research at Stray Leaves has taken a decided turn towards our James descendants of Choctaw & Chickasaw blood. Recently, we mounted a new searchable genealogy database, devoted to these two lines of unique James descendants.
A key thing to know when learning about the Choctaw and Chickasaw is how they differ fundamentally from our Anglo bloodlines.
In traditional Anglo bloodlines, power, family, and identity flow through the male paternal side of ancestry. Among those of Choctaw & Chickasaw blood, just the opposite is true. These Native-American tribes take their power, family, and identity from their female ancestry.
You can learn more about this matriarchal structure below where you will find a number of links and videos.
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.
Official website for the family of Frank & Jesse James – Living lives, telling the story. Knowing self.
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