A Wink and a Nod From My Ancestors: Flyin’ Over the Old Home Place – 52 Ancestors #343

Have you ever ever been busy doing one thing to find that one in every of your ancestors simply gave you a extremely, REALLY surprising, utterly out-of-the-blue wink and a nod?

In fact, instantly you suppose that’s completely foolish.

I imply, that’s not doable. Proper?

But, there you might be…and no matter it was simply occurred.

An Unplanned Detour

I knew I used to be flying to a specific vacation spot. I’ve flown there earlier than. No massive deal.

However this time, nothing appeared to go proper. Flights that used to exist evaporated into skinny air. Inexplicably, the flights that did exist had been full – not less than the day I wanted to fly.

I might get a beautiful, direct, flight right into a metropolis about 90 minutes distant from my vacation spot. That was very complicated as a result of usually it’s THAT metropolis whose flights are sometimes full.


I couldn’t get there through the trail one would usually journey, however I might get there, so I booked the flight.


You recognize the butterflies you get in your abdomen while you head off for an enormous life change? Even when you already know it’s the best path?

A marriage perhaps?


Transferring away from anybody or something acquainted?

New job?

Profession shift?


Any main life transfer.

Generally the butterflies begin hatching a couple of days prematurely and by the point you’re on the way in which, you could have a whole kaleidoscope in residence.

Everybody’s coping methodology is totally different.

Some folks get insomnia.





On this explicit flight, I selected distraction as a result of these butterflies had been uncontrolled.

I couldn’t focus sufficient to learn, so I opted to look at an in-flight film.

Besides…I didn’t like both film I began to look at, and by that point, If I had began to look at a special film, the flight would have ended earlier than the film.

I flipped to the airplane’s flight-tracker, and that’s when it occurred.

The place Am I?

My window shade was closed. It was darkish within the cabin. Most individuals had been both watching one thing or sleeping.

I didn’t actually suppose a lot about the way to get from level A, my departure location, to level B.

Nevertheless, I seen on the flight tracker that the airplane was typically over part of the nation that appeared like it might go close to the place my ancestors lived in Virginia and Tennessee, close to the Cumberland Hole.

I enlarged the map to view the airplane’s path.

Wow, it’s touring east of Knoxville, close to Claiborne County, Tennessee.

The map had an higher restrict to how giant one could make the map, and solely the cities and bigger cities had been proven. Belief me, not one in every of my ancestors is from anywhere even resembling “giant.” Not even medium.

I pulled my shade up, not that I anticipated to see something that I’d even remotely acknowledge from 30,000 ft within the air.

I used to be in for fairly a shock.

Goin’ House

I can’t inform you what number of occasions through the years I’ve pushed these ribbon-looking roads house.

The place is house?

House is the place my ancestors lived. The place my Dad was born, and so had been his dad and mom and their kin for generations. House was the place I went to search out them. After I first started that journey, I solely knew one phrase – Tazewell. A city in Tennessee. Based on my Mother, that’s the place my Dad was from. I knew nothing else. Nothing about his dad and mom or siblings. Nothing about his grandparents.

Nothing. Not one factor.

That was in 1978.

Oh my, what a great distance we’ve come – me and my ancestors. I’ve been pushed, guided, and cajoled. I’ve had many fortuitous “accidents” and met probably the most wonderful folks. I discovered household I had no thought existed, and I’m very near a lot of these cousins as we speak.

I cherish these mesmerizing, life-changing journeys the place an expensive cousin took me to face the place my ancestors stood, lived, and sure, had been buried.

Uncle George was the primary, and he’s been gone for nearly 25 years now. We climbed within the cattle grate of his pickup truck for the journey up the mountainside in Estes Holler the place our ancestors homesteaded.

After a number of years, the folks you met many years in the past have handed over, and the youthful technology isn’t essentially . Moreover, you’ve discovered the ancestors who lived in that area and pushed the brick wall additional again to a time earlier than they settled there. On this case, again into Virginia and North Carolina.

Stated one other approach that genealogists will perceive, there simply doesn’t appear to be any compelling cause to return once more – particularly if it’s an extended distance with nobody left.

I haven’t been again to the Cumberland Hole space in additional than a decade.

That’s, till as we speak.

The Window

I seemed out and noticed the primary of the mountain ridges rising within the distance, like pleats within the material of earth, or perhaps ripples within the sea of time.

Are these the linear ridges that comprise the Cumberland Mountains, forming a 100-mile group of NE to SW ridges inside the Appalachian Vary that features the Cumberland Hole?

Why sure, sure, I imagine it’s.

We will see these identical ridges on this 1795 map that the early settlers would have used. We will see the Kentucky street and the Indian boundary line, simply to the left of the street the place the purple coloration begins. That Indian boundary line ran proper by my ancestor’s land.

Just a few different steep, treacherous, however satisfactory gaps happen between the ridges, however not many.

Click on pictures to enlarge

I seemed again on the airplane’s path on the display which was at present east of Knoxville and sure, certain sufficient, these mountains out the window are the start of the Cumberland Vary of the Appalachian Mountains.

My household was from throughout, down there.

Every particular person ancestor’s journey ultimately coalesced in Estes Holler, alongside Little Sycamore Highway which follows Little Sycamore Creek, in fact. To get there, it’s important to comply with the valleys, alongside the Ol’ Kentucky Highway, south out of Tazewell, then flip north once more while you attain the crossroads known as Springdale. You’ll know you’re there while you see the college, the fuel station that serves pizza by the slice, and the church. Estes Holler is up yonder a bit.

It’s about 7 miles from Tazewell, until you’re a crow, then it’s perhaps 3. In fact, you might take the unpaved two-tracks throughout the ridges, however that’s not really useful until you already know the place you’re going and what you’re doing.

If I used to be proper, then out my window I used to be seeing Barbourville, the place my Vannoy ancestor, John Vannoy’s son, Francis Vannoy (1746-1822) – Daniel Vannoy’s brother and Elijah Vannoy’s uncle resided. For years, we had no thought fairly how Francis Vannoy was associated to my ancestor, Elijah Vannoy who lived not terribly far away along Mulberry Creek in Claiborne County, the half that may in the future break up off to kind Hancock County.

Francis Vannoy lived about 60 miles distant in Barbourville, Kentucky, over tough mountain trails. Regardless, we knew the households retained shut ties as a result of they intermarried. The Vannoy household, together with the McNiels and several other others lived on what would ultimately be known as Again Valley Highway. Again Valley, which can be known as Insurgent Holler in some locations, and is reportedly haunted by the ghosts of Civil Battle troopers, follows a holler slightly below the state line between Virginia and Tennessee.

Pineville and Middlesboro, Kentucky needs to be seen out the window quickly.

When my grandfather, William George Estes, moved again to Appalachia after tenant farming in Indiana, he ultimately settled on the very best a part of Black Mountain in Harlan County, simply 60 miles however nearly two hours east of Pineville on hopelessly winding roads with lethal switchbacks. His grandson would die a tragic demise on these roads in the future.

My grandfather didn’t drive, though I do not know why not. He rode a horse initially, after which rode as a passenger with others. Automobiles had been scarce within the 19-teens and Nineteen Twenties when he moved again.

By the Nineteen Fifties, he would catch a trip right down to Pineville, Kentucky, then take the bus by Middlesboro, Kentucky, throughout Cumberland Gap, and thru Tazewell, Tennessee.

At present, there’s a tunnel, however again then, the one street went throughout Cumberland Hole. You may take a look here, though the street is deserted as we speak, and listen to a number of the nation music of the hills too. In fact, the earliest pioneers walked the trail alongside the Wilderness Highway, which you’ll be able to view here in a beautiful, brief historic documentary.

The bus or some kindhearted soul would drop my grandfather south of Tazewell at Springdale the place he would catch a trip with somebody headed down Little Sycamore Highway to Estes Holler. No trip – no downside – he would stroll.

His dad and mom and household lived in Estes Holler, as had three earlier generations. Nevertheless, my grandmother, Ollie Bolton’s dad and mom, and household lived on up Little Sycamore into Hancock County, on Wallen Ridge, alongside the Powell River the place the one approach throughout the vary is throughout the river and thru Mulberry Hole.

Michael McDowell settled Slanting Miserly and lived close to William Herrell, James Lee Claxton, and Joseph Bolton when Joseph arrived from Giles County, Virginia within the 1840s. By that point, these different households had been established for 30 or 40 years – some longer.

Lazarus Dodson, a Revolutionary Battle veteran, lived near Middlesboro, on the Tennessee aspect, simply beneath the precise Cumberland Hole.

Civil Battle troopers camped in his discipline, marked on a army map, which is how we situated his unique land. Lazarus Dodson’s land was offered to David Cottrell, and this map reveals the placement of the homestead.

Along with the Dodson homeplace, you possibly can see the corresponding roads as we speak.

Lazarus Dodson Jr.’s spouse was Elizabeth Campbell. Her dad and mom, John Campbell and Jenny Dobkins, and grandparents, Jacob Dobkins and Dorcas Johnson lived on the Powell River, close to the place the river bends again on itself close to the Hancock County border. In fact, there’s a family cemetery, as there may be in lots of places.

It’s troublesome to see from this attitude, however I do know my ancestors are all down there inside view.

John Campbell who married Jacob Dobkins’ daughter lived proper above Liberty Baptist Church. In truth, Liberty was constructed on what had as soon as been his land.

Earlier than the Campbell boys moved to Claiborne County, the Campbell family and the Dodsons lived on the outdated Warrior Path crossing on the Holston River close to Rogersville the place the TVA plant is situated as we speak, close to Dru Hanes Highway. Jacob Dobkins lived about 8 miles away, as much as Bull’s Hole, close to the Hawkins/Hamblen County line.

About 1795, two of Jacob’s daughters married Campbell brothers. About 1801, all three of these households, together with Lazarus Dodson and his family, moved to Claiborne County. Their son, Lazarus Dodson Jr. married Elizabeth Campbell, daughter of John Campbell and Jenny Dobkins.

Technology after technology of carefully allied households had been born in these hills.

The Crumley family migrated with the Brown family from Frederick County, Virginia to Greene County, Tennessee about 1797, selecting what’s now Crumley Highway close to Greeneville.

Twenty years later, William Crumley moved on from Greeneville to Blackwater Creek on the border between what’s now Hancock County, Tennessee, and Lee County, Virginia, alongside along with his adult son William, who had married Lydia Brown. The youthful William’s daughter, Phebe Crumley would in the future marry Joel Vannoy in Hancock County, Tennessee and they might transfer down Little Sycamore to Vannoy Holler, named after Joel, proper throughout the ridge from Estes Holler.

You recognize the place that is headed, proper?

Certainly, Lazarus Estes, son of Rutha Dodson and John Y. Estes went courtin’ throughout the ridge and married Elizabeth Vannoy in 1867.

Rutha and John’s marriage was rudely interrupted by the Civil Battle, and by no means actually recovered. She lived out her life in Estes Holler, however he walked on to Texas, establishing a brand new department of the household there.

You recognize, I all the time puzzled how Rutha Dodson, daughter of Lazarus Dodson and Elizabeth Campbell who lived plumb as much as Cumberland Hole met John Y. Estes.

John Y. Estes lived in Estes Holler after his parents settled there once they arrived from Halifax County, Virginia, following his father’s service in the Battle of 1812. I figured it out after we realized Rutha’s mom died younger and he or she was being raised by her grandparents, John Campbell and Jenny Dobkins who owned land proper close to Estes Holler, the place Liberty Baptist Church is as we speak.

You may’t marry who you don’t see – so two folks should be shut sufficient to court docket.

One other department of the household, the Reverend Nicholas Speaks and his spouse, Sarah Faires left Washington County Virginia close to Glade Springs about 1820 to discovered the Speaks Methodist Church in Lee County, Virginia.

The church is barely 6 or 7 miles because the crow flies from Mulberry Hole. In fact, it’s 18 or 20 miles because the horse travels, by Mulberry Hole after which fording the Powell River at a low place – assuming there’s a low place to be discovered.

Nicholas’s granddaughter, Elizabeth Speaks, married Samuel Claxton who fought for the North throughout the Civil Battle and died quickly after. They lived on the Tennessee aspect of the Powell River.

Attending to church was not for the fainthearted.

Many of those households lived alongside or close to the Powell River.

James Lee Claxton and his spouse Sarah Cook left Russell County, Virginia close to Honaker on the Clinch River round 1800 and settled on Claxton Bend close to Slanting Distress on the Powell River the place Michael McDowell tried to plow land that was extra vertical than horizontal.

Samuel Muncy and Anne Workman adopted the advancing Virginia frontier too and settled in Lee County, close to the Powell River that shaped the border with Claiborne County, Tennessee.

The Muncy males served within the forts in Russell County, Virginia throughout the Revolutionary Battle.

Agnes Muncy married Fairwick Claxton about 1814 within the a part of Claiborne County that may turn out to be Hancock within the 1840s. They too lived on the Powell River on Claxton Bend, close to what’s as we speak Camp Jubilee the place they’re buried on the outdated homeplace.

Elizabeth Vannoy’s grandparents, Joel Vannoy and Lois McNiel settled in Claborne County, the half that grew to become Hancock, after leaving Wilkes County, North Carolina about 1812 or so. They weren’t the one folks from Wilkes that settled amongst these valleys and mountain ridges alongside the Powell River. William Harrell, typically spelled Harrold in Wilkes County, and Michael McDowell, a Revolutionary Battle veteran got here too, together with their households. The Hickerson line married into these households in Wilkes County, as did the Shepherd and Rash strains.

Wilkes County was situated throughout the precise mountain vary itself, not alongside its ridges or valleys. There was no straightforward option to get from Wilkes County, North Carolina to Claiborne County, Tennessee. Have a look at these majestic, and tall, mountains!

These hearty ancestors settled on this rugged terrain, between the ridges, within the hollers, close to the tops of mountains, and alongside the cleanest a part of the streams the place their households would, hopefully, be protected.

Many households arrived in japanese Tennessee shortly after the Revolutionary Battle, and a few, like Jacob Dobkins, even earlier than. Numerous extra discovered their option to the westward frontier when the floodgates opened after the Battle of 1812.

Maybe they had been becoming a member of relations who had already staked a declare and constructed a small cabin.

No matter who they had been, how they arrived, or when, over a span of 100 years or so, 42 of my ancestors lived, beloved, and made their lives in these rugged mountains. They got here to like them and known as them house. Ultimately, these ancestors gave life to my father who handed that love of the mountains on to me.

Simply taking a look at them, from the valley flooring or from 30,000 ft within the air brings me peace.

I’m a product of those hardscrabble survivors. A few of them didn’t even have homes, not less than not at first – residing in buildings created from animal hides earlier than they constructed small one-room cabins for his or her giant households. Kitchens and bogs had been each outdoors. They fetched and carried water from a stream.

Some had been Native individuals who none too pleased to see the brand new settlers.

Many risked all the pieces, both to combat to defend their land, this fledgling nation and to make the trek to settle the damaging frontier.

Girls plowed, farmed, and carried out the work usually performed by each women and men. Generally solely when the menfolk had been gone, however all too typically that stretched into without end as a result of their husbands by no means returned.

At present, I noticed all of this within the span of some minutes. Sort of just like the panorama of my ancestors’ lives passing earlier than my eyes.

Greater than two centuries of my ancestors’ blood and DNA waters the land under. Journeys that took months of onerous work in muddy ruts, and value a few of them their very lives, slipped beneath my airplane window in only a few minutes.

What would my ancestors have thought?


This surprising birds-eye survey of my ancestors’ lives offered me with a tremendous perspective.

I used to be in a position to admire their journey in a approach they by no means might.

Observing their lives go earlier than my eyes spoke to my soul and buoyed my spirits.

I felt like my ancestors – all of them, so far as the attention might see – had been cheering and waving me on to my future. In fact, that’s the long run for the components of them that I carry in me, too. By advantage of that, they accompany me.

I’m doing my small half to look to the horizon as soon as once more. Carrying on the wanderlust custom.

I should be courageous. In comparison with what they confronted, and survived, that is nothing. I can all the time fly house, or again to go to. I can textual content instantly to somebody who lives distantly.

They couldn’t even depend on letters to reach. No notification if somebody handed away. Girls didn’t know if their husbands died in struggle, or looking, or not. Have been they a widow? Would they, might they, ought to they, remarry?

No fashionable drugs both. Childbirth was inherently dangerous, as was any contaminated minimize. Appendicitis? You’re toast. Dig the grave.

My ancestors unquestionably understood worry – for themselves and their relations. It was a part of their every day food plan.

But, it didn’t cease them. They pressed on and continued. That’s factor for me!

A Wink and a Nod

My surprising, unplanned Appalachian tour that consumed perhaps all of half-hour was certainly a wink and a nod from these ancestors. Quieted these butterflies proper down.

I had my very own private cheering squad.

Silently wishing me nicely.

I heard them in my coronary heart as I gazed down at their homelands. I can see the road of ancestors, their path extending again into Virginia, and past within the misty distance.

Frontiers have by no means been straightforward, however I see the horizon simply over that subsequent mountain. Identical to they did.

Thanks Ancestors. I wanted you as we speak!



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