"Let me see generation times, will we hear children singing rhymes? Sweet memories gone by..."

23 June 2013

Exploring Southwest Virginia

Bhuail uaigneas m'intinn
Loneliness strikes my spirit
'S mé ag amharc ar an reilig
As I look at the cemetery
'S mé ag meadhradh ar dhaoine
And I'm thinking about the people
Istigh ann ina luí
In there sleeping
Fir a's mná óga
Men and young women
Seandaoine 's páistí
Old people and children
Muintir mo mhuintir
People of my people
'S cairde mo chroí
And friends of my heart
--"Thíos Chois Na Trá Domh" (Traditional)

It seems I can't take a vacation without researching the family tree somehow.  This year, we made the long drive down to southwest Virginia, where my grandfather's family hails from.

Day 1:

A day spent mostly in the car, a l-o-n-g drive finally arriving in Coeburn, Virginia.

Our first stop was the Edwards Family Cemetery in Herald, on the border of Wise and Dickenson Counties.  Buried here are the two grandfathers of my great-grandmother, Savannah Edwards Ramey.  Both served on the Confederate side of the Civil War.  First we found her maternal grandfather, John Wesley Hamon.  He has a new Confederate marker that uses the spelling Hammonds.  Then we found John Friel Edwards, her paternal grandfather.

Pvt John Wesley Hammonds
Co C E 25 VA Inf CSA
1844 - 1919

John Wesley Hamon

John Friel Edwards
Pvt Co A 51 VA Inf
1844 - 1913

John Friel Edwards

Day 2:

This was our only full day in the area.  With some help, we located the Dotson Cemetery on the top of a mountain in Pound in Wise County.  It's located off a private driveway up to a house, where other descendants of the Dotsons still live today.  Here we found my great-great-grandfather Nathan Alexander "Alec" Dotson, and his parents, William and Celia Dotson.  As a side note, the date of birth on Alec's stone is incorrect; the birth register for Russell County shows that he was born on December 13th, not November 13th.

Up the steep road

Made it to the top!

N. A. Dotson
Born Nov. 13, 1854
Died Feb. 27, 1921
Resting in the hope of a glorious resurrection

William Dotson
Born Aug. 6, 1803
Died Sept. 26, 1893
Age 90Y.1M.20D.
Celia, wife of William Dotson
Born Jan. 6, 1821
Died Mar. 19, 1888
Age 67Y.2M.13D.

Next stop:  the Hibbitts Cemetery in Dickenson County, up another steep drive.  I knew from death certificates that my great-grandfather Walter Dotson and his mother (Alec's wife) Lucy Jane Dotson were buried here, but I wasn't sure if they had markers or not.  Happily, it turns out that they do, located fairly close together in the cemetery's northwest corner.  Walter's stone is also incorrect;  per his death certificate from Kentucky, he died on February 11th, not November 25th.

(Note the sloping ground beyond the cemetery gates)

Walter Dotson
Born Nov. 4, 1896
Died Nov. 25, 1939
The gift of God is eternal life

Jane Dotson
Nov. 29, 1857
Dec. 17, 1949
Faithful to her trust even unto death

Continuing north through Dickenson County, we visited a few small cemeteries where Swindall relatives are buried.  Our last cemetery to visit was the Swindall Cemetery, very close to the Kentucky border, where my 3rd-great-grandparents, John Wesley & Mary "Polly" Swindall rest.  They're the parents of Jane Dotson.  (Confused yet?)  I wrote a blog post about John for Memorial Day last year, as he served in the Union Army during the Civil War, hence his military stone.

John W Swindal
Serg Co K 39 KY Mtd Inf
Jun 13 1826
Sep 17 1900

Polly Swindall
Sep 15 1834
May 12 1907
Asleep in Jesus blessed sleep
From which none ever wake to weep

John & Polly Swindall

Afterward, we took a side trip over to Jenkins, Kentucky, where my great-grandfather Walter Dotson died from his injuries after being struck by a car.  One of my goals is to find some account of the accident.  The library there was small and had few historical records for the area, so we journeyed back into Virginia to visit the Wise County library.  I went through a few rolls of microfilmed newspapers, but wasn't able to find anything, not even any obituaries for other ancestors.

Day 3:

After mostly nice weather on Monday, Tuesday was pouring rain all day long.  Venturing back into Dickenson County, we visited their library.  Newspapers were limited here, so nothing about Walter, but I was able to find an obituary for Lucy Jane Dotson in The Dickensonian from December 23, 1949:

"Aunt Jane" Dotson

Mrs. Jane Dotson, widow of the late Alec Dotson, of this county, died at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Mary Hibbitts, at Jenkins on Saturday of last week.  She was one of the oldest women in this section of the state, having reached the age of 94 at her passing.  Her death was attributed to pneumonia.

She is survived by the following children:  J. B. Dotson, member of the Board of Supervisors now residing at Coeburn;  Mrs. Mary Hibbitts, Jenkins;  Mrs. Fronie Buchanan, Jenkins;  Mrs. Bessie Buchanan, Darwin;  Noah Dotson, Darwin;  and William Dotson of Pound.

Funeral services were held at the home of Noah Dotson at Darwin on last Sunday, with the Rev. Mr. Adair of West Virginia in charge.  Burial was in the family cemetery at Hibbitts' Gap.

Our last stop was the Wise County courthouse and historical society, but we were running out of time, and couldn't dig too far into the records.  I did buy a copy of Between Brothers at the historical society, as it includes John Friel Edwards, John Wesley Hamon, and John Wesley Swindall in it.

There are so many more stories to tell, but everyone in southwest Virginia was friendly and welcoming.  From talking to folks we met (either by getting lost and needing directions, or by visiting the local Mountain Rose Vineyards), it seemed all the people we spoke to were distant relatives or knew of people in the family tree.  We were even told of an upcoming Dotson family reunion! If only Wise County were closer...

For some of the more entertaining tales of our trip (and we have some good ones!), you'll have to talk to Dad.  He tells them better than I do.