Friday, January 20, 2006

The Malinda Phelps Story

Memories of Malinda Phelps, daughter of Isham Phelps, granddaughter of Reuben Phelps, great-granddaughter of James Phelps of Caswell County, N.C.

This story was sent to me by Anita Ferrell Avery, great-granddaughter of Malinda Phelps. It is a wonderful and touching story, beautifully written by Anita who knew her Great-Grandmother personally. Stories such as this are rare finds in genealogy as you could search courthouses and records for decades and never come across such wonderful first hand information told by someone who knew the subject of the story. Without people like Anita, who are willing to pass on these stories to future generations, they are lost forever.

Latham Mark Phelps---January 2006

Memories of my Great Grandmother, Malinda Ann Nichols, Wiles

Malinda Phelps,1857-1944, was the daughter of Isham Phelps and Betsy Moore

My grandmother, Lizzie Phelps Ball was the daughter of Malinda Phelps and James Nichols who lived near Milton N.C. I lived with my parents, Anne Ball and John Baxter Ferrell, just a few houses away from Lizzie in Danville Virginia. Because they lived so close I was almost a permanent fixture with her and my grandfather John Thomas Ball.

Several times a year during the warm months Granny Ball and I took the morning train to Milton to visit with our relatives who lived about a mile south of the train stop. We happily walked at a brisk pace to our "Milton relatives." After a long chatty afternoon that included a big country Sunday dinner, we walked back to the train stop to take the train back to Danville. Most of these visits occurred during the depression years when there were few cars so public transportation and walking was just the way one traveled, both within the city and to places further away. I was probably around 8 to 10 years of age when I first started going on our Sunday outings to Milton so walking was no problem for me.

Malinda lived about a hundred yards from my Granny Ball's half sister, Mary Lou and her family. Her unmarried daughter, Lucy looked after her until Lucy died of kidney failure. When I was older Granny Ball told me Malinda owned the land and her daughter, Mary Lou's family raised tobacco as a money crop on it. Malinda needed very little from the profit of the tobacco since her daughter's family looked after her worldly needs. This arrangement came about after Malinda's second husband died.

She and Lucy lived in a log cabin house that looked like a tobacco-curing barn converted to a house. There was one large room with an attached lean to sort of kitchen and an upstairs. The house was very old and drafty from the crumbling concrete between the logs. A makeshift door that didn't fit the opening well enough also provided air conditioning winter and summer. The door was especially intriguing for me as a child because it had no hardware on it. It was a homemade contraction that worked by pulling string, which raised and lowed a piece of wood to open and close the door. Someone in the family tried to alter the draft factor by pasting layer over layer of newspapers on the inside walls of the house. The room had one window and a fireplace

She and Lucy dressed as farmer's wives must have dressed in the late eighties. I can visualize her now sitting outside in the shade of a large, spreading oak tree dressed in a dark flowered dress that came to her ankles, high top black shoes, an apron and prairie bonnet. She liked to have her relatives around her on those lazy Sunday afternoons but she did little talking herself. 1, the child, had three sisters to compete with at home for talking time so I took advantage of the opportunity to ask her why, why, why about her style of living. For one bright moment, I asked her if her father had been in the Civil War. Of course, now we know he was a little old for battle, but she did tell me her brother fought in the war. Her husband James Y. Nichols died before reaching old age leaving her with young children. She remarried in a few years.

Later I was told her second husband, Andrew "Jack" Wiles was somewhat of a dandy who liked to riding about the countryside on his horse, also named Jack. My grandmother, who had enough energy for three people, thought him a lazy man who expected his wife and daughters to look after his welfare. Maybe this is why she often used the phrase "He would lay down beside work and go to sleep." Andrew also didn't live to old age so after he died they survived with the help of her nearby daughter, Mary Lou who shared their home canned food and what little meat they had from the pigs. My grandmother said she, Lucy and Melinda also helped picked fruit and vegetables for their neighbors, the Scotts, across the road. While the Scotts owned a large farm and hired help, Mrs. Scott and Malinda, who had nothing, were to be good friends as long as they lived. Later, I became acquainted with her son John Scott and his wife Jean. They have shared with me things that not even my grandmother told me. I learned that Malinda lost three children in one day to what they thought might be a deadly form of diphtheria. While that sounds unthinkable to us these days, one only has to go to an old church cemetery to see tombstones of too many small children who died in the early 1900s, if the family had the money to buy a tombstone.

John Scott may have revealed how Malinda felt about herself as he chatted about her. She was often invited to have lunch with Mrs. Scott during the fruit and vegetable picking sessions, but Malinda would not sit down at the table with her. She would take something home to eat if it was offered. As a child I was aware she wouldn't eat any other place except her own kitchen so her daughter's children would make up a plate and take it to her. One of Mary Lou's daughters never married and to the day Malinda died she took care of her food and clothing needs.

To my knowledge she never left her home to travel to Danville for supplies, preferring to send someone to the general store in Milton. But there finally did come a time when she fell and broke her hip in her very old age and made the trip to Danville in style lying in an ambulance. She never recovered from the trauma to her hip and eventually died of pneumonia. When her death was just hours away she asked for her long deceased daughter, Lucy, to hold her hand. Someone took her hand and she died peacefully and I feel sure with thoughts of being with Lucy again.

The Nichols had a long association with Connally Methodist church, so her remains are in the church cemetery just a few miles south of Milton. NC. She lies next to her beloved Lucy. Her first husband preceded her in death before the present Connelly church was built.

Submitted by Anita Ferrell Avery January 11th 2006

Sunday, January 15, 2006

NEW: Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files Microfilm

Tired of traveling? Washington crossing the Delaware
The State Library of North Carolina’s Genealogical Services is very pleased to announce that the microfilmed Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files are now available for research in the State Library.

This National Archives and Records Administration microfilm (series M804) records in their entireties 80,000 files of applications or other records pertaining to claims to the U.S. government for Revolutionary pensions and bounty-land warrants.

The 2670 reels constitute one of the richest sources of genealogical and historical information for the Revolutionary era. Although the subscription database HeritageQuest now offers the option to “Search Revolutionary War,” its source is NARA’s Selected Records from these application files, which in comparison number only 898 reels of microfilm.

The microfilm is available in the State Library Information Center on the First Floor of the Archives and History/State Library Building, Monday-Friday (10 a.m.-5 p.m.). On Saturdays (9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon; 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.) staff will retrieve it for use in Genealogical Services on the West Mezzanine.

North Carolina residents may also request this microfilm via interlibrary loan at their local public library. Researchers in North Carolina will no longer have to drive to find this resource, or wait for photocopies ordered from the National Archives to arrive.

For further information about the Revolutionary pension microfilm, please call Genealogical Services at 919-807-7460 or visit the State Library at 109 East Jones Street, Raleigh.