Wednesday, January 10, 2018


I just heard from Gregory Tapscott, that Selby William Tapscott passed away Tuesday, 9 Jan 2018. Born 27 Jun 1930 to Samuel Selby and Daisy (Lofty) Tapscott, “Pickles” was the GGG grandson of James E. and Elizabeth (Percifull) Tapscott, and thus, the GGGG grandson of Ezekiel Tapscott.

With a deep interest in and love for friends and family, he was heavily involved in family history, which he enjoyed immensely. As the unofficial switchboard for Fauquier County Tapscott news, "Pickles" put himself in charge of distributing, receiving, compiling, and digesting items of interest to the family. In the words of Greg,

“One major family historian has gone on to be an ancestor.”

Friday, December 29, 2017

A Brick Wall Demolished

Remember Wesley Tabscott/Tapscott? He was that illiterate fellow who lived in Clark County, Illinois, the last half of the 19th century and whose origins were completely unknown (postings 6/7/2015 and 8/6/2015). We knew his birth date and place, death date and place, military record, land holdings, varied name spellings, all sorts of things. Most everything, in fact, except who his parents were. Was he an unknown child of Henry Tapscott, the Traveler, who founded the Wabash Valley Tapscotts? Or a child of Henry's father, William the Preacher? Or perhaps a descendant of William's second cousin Raleigh Tapscott, who lived in Kentucky near William, a descendant who tagged along with Henry when he traveled to Clark County. Perhaps he was really James W. Tapscott, a son of Henry about whom we knew little, though this seemed highly unlikely. James was believed to be literate. Or perhaps he was was not a Tapscott at all, a product of an NPE, non-paternal event - a name change, an illegitimate birth, an adoption. But the brick wall remained ... until Wed 27 Dec 2017, at precisely 2 PM, when it fell with a resounding crash.

At that date and time, while visiting my son, Michael, in Phoenix, and looking through copies of old Clark County deeds, I saw something surprising. On 19 Feb 1877 for $600 Wesley Tapscott had purchased Lots 2, 3, 8, 9, Block 19, in the town of Auburn (today, Clark Center). A few months shy of three years later, on 2 Dec 1879, those exact lots at that same price were sold to Susan Tapscott (presumably, Samuel Tapscott’s wife) by James W. Tapscott, son of Henry the Traveler and Susan (Bass) Tapscott. Between the two sales dates, no record is found showing the sale of land by Wesley to James. Moreover, the latter deed of sale was signed with a mark. Like Wesley, James was illiterate! Suddenly, everything fell into place. James W. Tapscott and Wesley Tabscott were one and the same, presumably James Wesley Tapscott.

The 1850 and 1870 Clark County, Illinois, censuses showed the name “James W.” or just "James," because that is how his family knew him and he was living with his mother and father (Henry and Susan Tapscott) at the time. The name “James W. Tapscott” was entered for his mark in the deed of sale to Susan Tapscott because the justice of the peace acknowledging the signature was James’s brother William Tapscott, who, like the rest of his immediate family, used that name. The occupation “at home” shown for James in the 1870 census is that which was often shown in censuses for nonworking invalids or near-invalids, as Wesley certainly was. Early records, 1852 and 1853 Federal land purchase documents, show the name "James W.," but he became "Wesley" in the military and continued using his middle name throughout his life. At last, the mystery of Wesley is solved. And from knowing little of James W. Tapscott, we now know a lot.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Esther Smith Gaddis O'Farrell Tapscott Mallory

Esther Gaddis Tapscott deed of sale.
During our trip to Illinois last summer Mary Frances and I picked up copies of 35 deeds for Clark County land sales involving Tapscotts. (If you would like scans drop me an email and I’ll send them to you.) We already had a large number from past trips, but these were newly uncovered.

A large number of the deeds involved mystery man Wesley Tapscott (posts of 7 Jun 2015 and 6 Aug 2015), and perhaps they will help unravel his origins.

But the deeds provided a new mystery, a mystery woman. On 17 Oct 1944 Frank Cole sold a block of land in Marshall for $1.00 to “Esther Gaddis Tapscott.” Frank was involved in real estate, abstracts, and brokering and his name appears on records for a huge number of Clark county real estate transactions. The $1.00 was undoubtedly a “nominal consideration,” widely used to keep actual considerations private. But who was Esther Gaddis Tapscott? There were very few Esthers among the Clark County Tapscotts or their spouses, and none with the middle name “Gaddis.” With a lot of labor and little luck I found who Esther Tapscott was. She was, for a short while, the wife of Omer Frank Tapscott (posting of 7 Sep 2014). I never knew that Omer had been married, but he had, briefly.

Esther May was born 17 May 1899, probably in Clark County, to Andrew Johnson and Minnie Bell (Lynn) Smith. She married four times, her last two times to Omer Tapscott and his cousin Elzia William Mallory. Since Esther had four children from her first marriage, to Robert Gaddis, she often used “Gaddis” as her middle name or, between marriages, as a surname. The details and sources are presented in my book on the Wabash Valley Tapscotts (still being written), but the marriages are synopsized in the following diagram.

Elzia Mallory and Omer Tapscott, husband number three and four, were cousins, not through the Tapscott line since Elzia was not a Tapscott by blood, but through the Mundy line. Elzia’s mother, Martha Mundy, and Omer’s mother, Sabra Mundy, were sisters.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Ellen Tapscott; Lottie Tapscott

These pages often contain the phrase “trees citing trees,”  family trees giving other family trees as sources. And those trees giving other trees as sources. Ad infinitum. Here are two more cases, two of thousands found on that wonderful, but terribly flawed internet. has 59 family trees showing a marriage between an Ellen Tapscott (1729 – 1807) and Martin George of Lancaster County, Virginia. Unfortunately the only sources cited for this marriage are other Ancestry Family Trees and a questionable DAR application, which does not give the name “Tapscott.” The Martin George in these trees is a child of William George and Rebecca Martin and a first cousin once removed of Benjamin George Jr., who married Ann (Edney) Tapscott. Martin is named in reliable contemporary records. But I know of no contemporary (18th, early 19th-century) record or document naming an “Ellen Tapscott” who lived in Lancaster County during this time period. Does anyone know of any contemporary or even a reliable secondary source with her name or showing a marriage with Martin? To head people off at the pass, an unsourced tree is not a reliable source. (Caution, the Martin George claimed to have married Ellen Tapscott had a second cousin once removed also named Martin George, born around 1770. Do not confuse the two.)

And on we find 32 trees showing a Lottie Tapscott, born around 1740 in Virginia, marrying Walker Gilmer Snead. Other trees provide the only source for either Lottie Tapscott or her marriage.

Why am I interested in this? Descendants of Lottie and Ellen Tapscott (according to the attached trees) show up in some of the DNA matches I am studying. Nonexistent people cause terrible confusion, and I am certain that Lottie and Ellen are nonexistent. Please prove me wrong.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Austin Sweet Jr.

Austin Sweet Sr. (post of 9 Sep 2017) and his wife, Mary Ellen Johnson, had fourteen children. One of those, Richard Morgan Sweet, married Cora Isabelle Tapscott (post of 21 Nov 2016). Another, Austin Sweet Jr., was a protagonist in a tragic episode.

Austin Jr. received degrees from Westfield College and in 1898 from Northern Illinois Law School, Dixon, Illinois. After working for a year in Marshall for the law firm of Golden and Tibbs, he moved to Terre Haute, Indiana, where he practiced law from 1899 to 1929, primarily defending criminals, even those who had little or no funds.

On 28 Aug 1901, in Hartsville, Indiana, Austin married Mary E. Beck. The marriage was brief. A 12 Oct 1904 newspaper article stated “Austin Sweet, who has instituted more divorce suits than any other local attorney, was defendant today in a divorce suit brought by his wife.” A Terre Haute divorce was granted the same day. There were no known children.

A little over two months later, on 22 Dec 1904, Austin married Goldie B. Fulghum in Terre Haute. The marriage was cut short by Goldie's 31 Jul 1907 death, but there was a child, Nina. Born 23 Oct 1906, Nina married Claude Lameer, and in 1927, was working as a stenographer in her father's Terre Haute law firm of Sweet and Edmonds.

On 6 Nov 1909 Austin was married for the third and final time, to Alma Elva Shook, in Marshall, Illinois, allowing the couple to “trot through life in double harness,” according to the Marshall Republican. The “harnessed” couple had two children, Dixon Holmes, born 5 Jul 1911,  and Ellen Jean, born 7 May 1914.

Things were going well for Alma and Austin, who was acquiring legal fame and fortune in Terre Haute, a fortune admittedly limited by Austin's policy of defending low-income individuals. But those halcyon days would soon end.

Big Raccoon Creek, spanned by Bridgeton Bridge (2001).
On Sunday, 7 Apr 1929, Austin, his son Dixon, and his office janitor, Howard Franklin, went fishing at Big Raccoon Creek in Parke County, Indiana. Unfortunately Austin had no Parke County fishing license and was spotted by game wardens. Sweet, known for argumentative outbursts, claimed that he had a permit, but the wardens found none. He then claimed he had not yet put his line in the water and was therefore innocent. Nevertheless, the wardens obtained a warrant and served it to Sweet in Terre Haute the following Thursday, 11 April. A member of the arresting party was Constable John Van Hook, with whom Sweet had been quarreling for years. The feud had undoubtedly increased in 1927 when Austin defended James Caldwell accused of murdering another Vigo County Constable, H. P. Dalton. (Particularly damaging to Van Hook's opinion of Austin was that Austin's law partner, William B. Edmonds, may have attempted to hide Caldwell from the law.)

Terre Haute Tribune,
Fri 12 Apr 1929
During the arrest at the office of Sweet and Edmonds, Van Hook exchanged heated words with Austin, pulled a gun, and shot Sweet once in the head. Austin died the same day. On 13 April a Vigo County grand jury presented Van Hook with an indictment, charging that on April 11 he did “unlawfully and feloniously, purposely and with premeditated malice kill and murder Austin Sweet by shooting with a gun then and there loaded with leaden ball, from the effects of which shooting Sweet died.” Investigation determined, in fact, that John Van Hook was a Deputy Constable with no legal status. He had been present at the attempted arrest of Austin Sweet only by invitation. On 26 Oct 1929 Van Hook was found guilty of manslaughter and was sentenced to serve 2 to 21 years at the Michigan City state prison.

Indiana State Prison, Michigan City,
c1927 (Michigan City Public Library).
Van Hook's victim was laid to rest in Terre Haute’s Highland Lawn Cemetery. Alma, who married again (to J. Frank Meunier), lived another 43 years, dying 26 Sep 1972 in Brazil, Indiana. She also rests in Highland Lawn.

Austin Jr.'s three children have also passed on. Nina (Sweet) Lameer died 21 Dec 1997; Dixon Sweet, who never married, 3 Jan 1969; and Ellen Jean (Sweet) Moss, 1 Sep 2001. Only Ellen had children. One was named “Austin.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Austin Sweet Sr.

In these blogs, we have often seen the name of Austin Sweet Sr., father of Richard Morgan Sweet, who married Cora Isabelle Tapscott of Clark County, Illinois. Austin Sr., was a veterinarian and farm owner. Here is a story about Austin and two of his grandchildren, Carrie and Mary (“Merrie”) Lowry as told by Mary in her book, The Merry Cricket.

From The Merry Cricket.
As one of the most sought-after veterinarians in the entire countryside, [Grampa Sweet's] practice often took him to some spot near our farm, always to our delight. However, as he had a large farm of his own to work when not out taking care of sick livestock, he could seldom stay long.
Jauntily climbing down from the half-cart, half-buggy in which he made his professional calls, he greeted us all cheerily and gave mother a warm embrace.
This day grampa was in more of a hurry than usual to get back to his farm. His bull, a huge and vicious animal that he kept on a chain in the barn, had been acting up that morning. He was the only one who could do anything with it.
Reluctant to see him go, we all walked out to the road with him. Then, just as he was about to slap his horse with the reins as a signal for it to start rambling off, he suddenly sat up straight, looked at Carrie and me, rubbed his chin thoughtfully and asked if Carrie and I couldn’t go home with him and stay over. We clamored so eagerly mother smilingly consented.
This was a treat, and to make it still more of a treat, grampa let Carrie take the reins and drive us. In truth, the horse knew the way better than Carrie. But he was an amiable animal. Knowing that grampa must have turned the reins over to one of us girls, and sensing that it might be fun to step lively, he picked up his feet and whisked us home smartly.
There were always things to look forward to at grampa’s. There would be wonderful things to eat which pretty Gramma Sweet would prepare especially to delight us. There were strange books to browse over in grampa’s cluttered little office, treatises on animal husbandry with fascinating pictures of sick cows and spavined horses.
And there would be things which grampa would think up for us to do which were always exciting, as the expedition on which he took us that night after dinner.
“Come girls,” he said, when it was dark, “you can help me, I think. This is a good night for it. There’s been a lot of rain lately and the ponds are swollen. Then he filled his lantern, lit it, found a big corn knife, winked at us conspiratorially, and told us to follow him.
We trotted to keep up with him as he walked briskly to a marshy pond not too far from the house. It was a noisy night: the frogs were making such a din we could hardly hear ourselves think. When grampa reached the spot where their croaking was loudest and most distinct he held his lantern down close to the edge of the pond, flicked his knife back and forth and picked up one fat bullfrog after the other, dropping them into our bags. The light blinded them, he explained, and made it easy to stun them with the flat of the blade.
Since it didn’t take long to bag all we could carry, we got back to the house in time for him to cut off the hind legs of the biggest and fattest frogs to gramma to skin and wash them before we went to bed.
A heaping plate full of these was given us the next morning for breakfast. Fried in fresh-churned butter, they were the most deliciously-flavored, finely-textured, white meat anyone had ever tasted.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Visiting England

A few days ago I received a phone call from a fourth cousin once removed. She and some other Tapscott descendants are planning a trip to Tapscott country in England and asked if I had some suggestions. Indeed I do, and I thought others might be interested.

I am going to first quote some paragraphs from my book Henry the Immigrant and then make some suggestions.

West Country
"In the autumn of 2002, to get a feel for our origins, my wife, Mary Frances, and I made a two-week trip to the Exmoor region—a large, rural, and isolated area of moor, forest, and farm. We stayed at a farmhouse inn on the outskirts of Selworthy, a Somerset hamlet of perhaps thirty souls and ten or so houses, most of them medieval, though extensively remodeled in the 1800s. A mile walk to the west was Allerford, a metropolis of fifty houses, or so it was claimed, though outlying farmhouses must have been included, and another mile led to Porlock, large enough to have two pubs and several restaurants, but no bank or ATM. Three miles in the other direction was Minehead, a sizeable town of 10,000, doubling in tourist season. Over a gorse-covered steep hill to the north of the inn, an hour’s climb allowed a view of Bristol Channel. To the south was the heart of Exmoor, which lies in both Devon and Somerset, though mainly in the latter."

"Selworthy looked exactly like the rural English hamlet one imagines as a child when reading Beatrix Potter or A. A. Milne—yellow, thatched-roof cottages, resembling Hobbit dwellings, surrounded by flower gardens and surmounted by large round chimneys. On the lawns were squirrels and pheasants, and the encircling grassy fields pastured sheep and horses. A hundred yards or so from our inn was a 14th-century tithe barn, and a few hundred yards further was the Church of All Saints, dating from the fifteenth century. At this parish church, Tapscotts were baptized, wed, and buried, starting at least as early as 1572 (the parish records only go to 1571). It is in Selworthy that we find some of the earliest Tapscotts recorded."

"I wish I could say that we found numerous stones and monuments with Tapscott names, but we did not, except at Minehead, where Tapscott markers in the St. Michaels Parish churchyard date from the late 1700s. The fact is that the Tapscotts originated more than 4½ centuries ago and most cemetery markers (assuming that they could have been afforded) do not last that long, or at least become totally unreadable. At the Somerset Studies Library, in Taunton, with the help of librarian David Bromwich, and from other sources, we did, however, find written records (or transcriptions) of Tapscotts who flourished around Exmoor in the 1500s, 1600s, and 1700s. The name then starts fading, particularly after 1850 or so, until today only three Tapscott households are found in all of Somerset and only fifty-eight,in all of England (based on phone listings)."

Now some suggestions
  1. Before you go, read Lorna Doone to get a feel for the countryside. Most of the villages named in this fictional book were Tapscott places.
  2. The early Tapscotts were all in the “West Country,” in the counties of Devon and Somerset. There is more than enough to see in those counties without going elsewhere in England. (Not that the rest of England is uninteresting.)
  3. An automobile is essential. Much of the area is rural without good transportation. You can learn to drive on the left. I did.
  4. Pick a place to stay for several days (or weeks) and then travel various destinations each day. A farmhouse B&B is best. Unfortunately that in Selworthy is no longer operating. A B&B in a small village is next best. In England, B&Bs are generally cheaper and have larger rooms than hotels. And you can get information from your hosts about history and geography of the area.
  5.           You must see:
    ·     Selsworthy: Location of many early Tapscotts. The Periwinkle Tea Room (though not a Tapscott site) should not be missed. And of course the local church is a must.
    ·       Porlock: A Tapscott site with great pub food (pub food is generally best).
    ·       Minehead: A more recent Tapscott site with Tapscott gravestones at the church. It is the largest town in the area and it has ATMs. Most small villages do not.
    ·    Stoke Pero: Very remote location of the earliest recorded Tapscott and an ancient church.
    ·       Oare: Location of another remote church, attended by Tapscotts.
    ·       Exmoor: Great for hiking and sightseeing (wild ponies). No towns.
  6. If you have time, the following towns, also occupied at one time or another by early Tapscotts are worthy of a visit: Stogumber, North Molten, High Ham, Bridgewater, Exeter, Culmstock. You can go to the Somerset Studies Library in Taunton and find lots of records with the Tapscott name, but Mary Frances and I did an extensive search when we were there and it is unlikely that anything new will appear. But who knows?
  7. Finally, if you visit the the West Country around September or October, be certain to go to a harvest festival. These are usually organized by churches and give you a chance to meet the locals. Mary Frances and I went to one in a small hamlet whose name I forget, and got a lecture on cutting meat by the local butcher. Sounds boring, but it wasn't. We had an absolutely outstanding time. Perhaps it was the wine and beer.
Have fun