Saturday, October 3, 2015

Departed this Life (October 1915)

Between working full-time and raising 3 children, it's often difficult for me to find the time to write lengthy blog entries. As such, and in order to keep putting out information on Swain County, I've thought long and hard about what types of articles would be of interest to my readers, but take me a little less time (don't worry - the longer articles will still come!).  Today's blog is an example of one thought I had, that of profiling individuals who died in Swain County during the current month, any number of years ago.  For this particular entry, I chose 100 years.  I'd love some reader feedback at the bottom; is this article type one you'd like to see continue?

I hope you'll enjoy learning about some of the interesting Swain County individuals who departed this life in October 1915.

October 4th
William Franklin Garrett (born 1851), a 64 year-old lumber inspector at the time of his death, took his life by a shot to the head somewhere in the Oconlufty township.  He was born in the Jonathan Valley area of Haywood County, son of William Green Berry Garrett and Martha Jane Rodgers.  In 1877, he married Mollie Ophelia Thompson, and they had one known child: a daughter, Susan. He served as the postmaster of the Jonathan's Creek post office from1871 to 1877. He is buried in the Garrett Cemetery in Haywood County.  Click here for his memorial.

Champion Lumber Mill at Smokemont, date unknown (This may or may not have been the logging operation with which William Garrett was associated).  (Source: WCU Digital Collections.)

October 13th
Nancy (nee' Angel) Cunningham (born 1830), an 84 year-old widow, died of old age in the Almond area. She was born in Macon County and was the daughter of William Angel and Martha 'Pattie' Shepherd.  In 1856, she married James Mont Cunningham, with whom she had 4 known children:  William Avery, Robert Jefferson, Susannah, and Charles Thaddeus. Old deeds appear to indicate that the Cunninghams lived on the Little Tennessee River.  According to her death certificate, Nancy is buried in an unknown cemetery in the greater Ela area of Swain County.

Little Tennessee River in Swain County, 1937 - location unknown
(Source: WCU Digital Collections)
October 19th
Timmie Ross (both 17 Feb of the same year), a 7 month-old infant, died of 'pneumonia fever' at Stonery (near the location of the new Cherokee School on Big Cove Road).  He was born in Swain County and was the son of Adam 'Tewatley' Ross and Desdemonia Crowe.  At the time of his death, he had a sister, Katie.  Timmie is buried in an unmarked grave, in an unknown cemetery in the greater Big Cove area of Swain County.

Of tangential interest, Timmie's father was one of the Cherokee schooled for a time at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle Pennsylvania.  He ran away back to home in 1900, something he later came to regret as shown in the letter below.  Adam's file from the school may be viewed online here

Letter from Adam Ross to the Carlisle School (Source: Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center)

October 25th
Birch/Burch Messer (born 1893), a 22 year-old logger, died of bronchial pneumonia at Bushnell, attended by Dr. J.E.T. Welch, a prominent citizen of the area.  Birch was presumably born in the greater Dillsboro area of Jackson County and was the son of William Robert Messer and Nancy Avaline Parton.  He was single at the time of his death.  He is buried in the Locust Field Cemetery in Jackson County.  Click here for his memorial.
Coming into Bushnell, 1938 (Source: NARA)

October 25th
William 'Bill' Wildcat/Wild Cat (born in the early 1840s), a 75 year-old farmer, died of unknown causes somewhere in the Oconalufty township. As I am not a Cherokee historian, I cannot be certain of his lineage.  However, by matching US Census Records with Indian Census Rolls, he appears to have been the individual shown in the screen capture below from the 1899 Census for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. If my supposition is correct, he was married to a woman named Rebecca, and had 3 children living with him at the time: daughters Arline and Stetsey, and son Palneola (as best I can make out).  He is buried at a cemetery in the Birdtown area, presumably the Wildcat-Ben Cemetery, in an unmarked grave.

Source: 1899 Census - Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians on

 October 28th
Pansy E. (nee' Case) Crisp (born 1895), a 20 year-old housewife, died of tuberculosis at Bryson City. Pansy was born in Swain County and was the daughter of Fidelia Gaston 'Jack' Case and Kansas Mary Jane Stallcup.  She was orphaned in 1905 upon the death of her mother (her father died in 1896), and was taken in to live with her maternal grandparents, Lucius Harvey and Maude Almarine Elizabeth Stallcup.  In 1913, she married Frederick Ira Crisp.  They had no known children together during their brief marriage. Pansy is buried at the Bryson City Cemetery.  Click here for her memorial.

Maude Almarine (Hall) Stallcup (left), grandmother of Pansy (Case) Crisp (right) on Pansy's wedding day.
Source: Larry Stallcup
These are the only individuals whose deaths were recorded via death certificates for October 1915 in Swain County.  However, as death certificates had been in use for a short time only, more often than not, deaths often went unrecorded.  There can be no doubt that there were many other Swain Countians who died in October 1915, some whom we can discover through their headstones, and others who lie in unmarked graves, their identity lost to history.

As always, I welcome and appreciate reader input.  Knowing of your interest in what I write enables me to remain enthusiastic about writing it!  Today, I'd love some reader feedback in the comments - is this article type one you'd like to see continue?

Carlisle Indian School Digital Resource Center
National Archives and Records Administration, TVA Files
Western Carolina University Digital Collections


  1. This is the kind of stuff that keeps me going. This is what I've been hoping for! These are my people.

    If I might be allowed to disagree on a few points; Charles Cunningham's middle name should be Thaddeus, Jeff and Robert Jefferson Cunningham are one and the same, Nancy Angel Cunningham was living with her daughter in the 1910 census and is shown as the mother 4 living children.

    I think Nancy might have been buried at McHan Cemetery but don't have any documentation to prove it. I also don't know where. Find A Grave has it listed but has no map or directions. There are only three graves listed there. Someone with a Swain County Cemetery could probably find more.

    Thanks Again!

    1. Of course you can disagree, Ed! I want my readers to clarify and correct as often as necessary. I have made the changes to the text - thank you! Nancy's place of burial is given as Ela on her death certificate. It makes little sense to me, unless she had a child living in the area. Nancy is not on Findagrave, and I looked at every Cunningham in the 'Cemeteries of Swain County' book with no luck - my supposition is that she must be buried in an unmarked grave.

  2. I think James Mont Cunningham might have been buried at the McHan Cemetery years earlier and she was taken to Ela to be be buried beside him.

  3. I find this site very interesting. Though I am not from Swain County I love history, especially local history and Haywood County is not that far away. I noticed one of the people mentioned was born and lived for awhile in Haywood County. Please keep up the good work! Paula Rhodarmer

    1. Hi Paula - thanks so much for dropping by the site and being a reader. I'm very glad that you are enjoying the blog - it matters not where you are from! (Hint - I'm not from here either....I moved to Swain County as a small child in 1974.).

  4. That view of the Little Tennessee looks to me like the Horseshoe Bend near the mouth on Sawmill Creek above the swinging bridge. In the upper right of the picture would be lower Sawmill Creek. Off to the lower left and up river a ways on the west side would be Tarkiln Branch. There are a lot of Horseshoe bends in the Little Tennessee but this picture reminds me of the view from the overlook way up on #28. If this is the case then the property in the scene would likely be owned by the descendants of Timothy Lindsay at the time the picture was taken. Most likely it was David Siler Lindsay or one of his children.
    Timothy Lindsay was the first husband of Mary Ann Boyd, my great great grandmother. When my Great Great grandfather Harley A Cunningham returned from his service in the Civil War he married the widow of Timothy Lindsay and helped raise her five Lindsay children . Together they created three more children, one of which was my great grandfather Julius Ervin Cunningham.
    Timothy Lindsay, his son David Siler Lindsay and Harley A Cunningham who adopted the Lindsay children were all Baptist Ministers

    1. Ed, I think you're correct about that location....that's a virtual certainty.

      Interestingly, when I was a young child, we lived for a time in a small house in which David Siler Lindsay's son Ernest raised his children.

  5. I enjoy seeing this type of posts--please continue! William Franklin Garrett was the 1st cousin 4x removed of my husband. His grandmother Elizabeth Harrison was the descendant of one of the signers of the Declaration of Indepence, and was a close relative of the Harrisons who were Presidents of the USA.

    1. How very interesting! Thank you for sharing this information and your enthusiasm for these types of posts. I greatly appreciate readers such as yourself.

  6. I think I have found the location of the McHan Cemetery. It is in Ela across US19 and up on the hill from Ela Campground. It is .13 acres surrounded by the property of John Vernon McHan Jr. and wife Jane. It looks like it is located behind a house owned by Jonathan and Rebekah Woodard who, I think, own the campground. I found this using Swain County GIS maps and Google Maps.

    1. That's great, Ed - can you perhaps get the coordinates? I'm trying to get the coordinates of all these cemeteries into a spreadsheet (and hope to upload to findagrave) so they aren't lost forever.

  7. I sent you a reply with pictures of the maps I used and the coordinates. I don't think it is going to go through. The coordinates are approximately 35.449516, -83.382561