Monday, January 25, 2010

Madness Monday - The Father of James Arton Hopkins

Lum, Landon (a cousin) and Jim Hopkins

Oral family history tells us that James Arton "Jim" Hopkins and his brother, William Columbus "Lum" Hopkins were the sons of Stephen Wolfenbarger and Eliza Hopkins. “The story” passed down through the family is that Eliza and Stephen got married and had two boys, Stephen went off to fight for the Confederacy in the Civil War and was killed in battle, Eliza re-married and moved away leaving the boys to be raised by her parents, Jim and Lum went by Hopkins because they were raised by their Hopkins grandparents. The problem is that story doesn’t exactly hold up when the limited available records are examined.

It is a fact that Eliza was the mother of Jim and Lum, that her parents (Stephen and Rachel Hopkins) raised them and that they always went by Hopkins. The 1st indicator of at least a discrepancy in “the story” is the 1860 census in Hancock County, Tennessee. Eliza and Lum were listed with her parents in Mulberry Gap as Elisa Hopkins (age 23) and William Hopkins (age 5 months). Twenty-seven dwellings away was Stephen Wolfenbarger (age 22) living with Margaret Wolfenbarger (age 18). Well, isn’t that interesting? Of course, the Hancock County courthouse burned in 1880 and again in 1930 so there are virtually no records available from the 1860’s. If Stephen was married to someone named Margaret, their marriage record isn’t going to be found.

It is a fact that Stephen died during the Civil War. Muster rolls for Company K of the 19th Regiment, Tennessee Infantry show he joined on 22 May 1861 [before Jim was born in Dec 1861]. “Killed in battle” is noted in the remarks on his muster roll dated 14 May 1863.

It is a fact that Eliza got married, moved away and left the boys with her parents. Sometime in the mid 1860’s, the Hopkins family moved to Harlan County, Kentucky. In 1866, Eliza married Ephram Simpson and moved to Indiana then later to Missouri. Their marriage record is another little nick in “the story”. Eliza HOPKINS, not Eliza WOLFENBARGER, married Ephram Simpson. Hmmm – in 1866 why would a widow with 2 children revert to her maiden name?

There was a Margaret Wolfenbarger listed in the 1870 census in Lee County, Virginia (which borders Hancock County, Tennessee). She was 27 and had two sons, Peter (9) and Richard (3). Even though Richard would have been too young to be Stephen’s son, this is possibly the Margaret listed with Stephen in 1860. The 1870 Lee County census not only lists Tennessee as the birth place for all three, it lists Hancock County. [I wish more of my ancestors had lived in this census taker’s district.]

So was Stephen Wolfenbarger the really father of Jim and Lum? Did they even have the same father? I certainly don’t know but I am convinced that Stephen and Eliza were never married which opens the possibility that he was he was just a convenient answer to give the boys since he died long before they were old enough to ask questions. Probably the only way this question will ever be answered is with Y DNA testing. I should be looking for a willing candidate.

James Arton Hopkins was my great grandfather.

1 comment:

  1. And you found your willing candidate! This is going to be good!! Hope you get the results soon!