Tuesday 25 March 2014

Old Homes and Homesteads – Part 6 – Virginia, USA

My maternal grandmother, Martha Alwilda Jane (McDaniel) Miller, was born in a small cabin in Lee County, Virginia, USA, on February 6, 1875. My aunt, Doris Marguerite (Miller) Schnur, did a great deal of research on Mattie’s (Martha) and my grandfather Edwin Miller’s families in the 1950s to 1970s. Most of what we know about those ancestors came from her work, much of which has been widely used and quoted by many genealogists.

Martha’s parents were Asa Harvey McDaniel and Margaret Eleanor Debusk. Both of them were born in Washington County, Virginia. They were married there on September 15, 1851. The family moved to Lee County in 1860. Aunt Doris wrote that “It was a distance of only about 100 miles, but over rutted dirt roads, rushing streams, and mountain ridges. Very likely other families made this move at the same time for even such a short distance would have held many difficulties for one family alone.

Asa must have rented a farm during his first years in Lee County, but he did buy a place near Beech Spring eventually. On 12 September 1876, he had his Deed recorded at Jonesville, the county seat of Lee County. He had purchased 97 acres in the Cedar Hills Section, for which he paid $600, from Andrew A. Dennison and his wife Mary E. Dennison. On this property, Asa built a substantial two-storey log house. He built a spiral staircase from the front room to the upper storey, and a porch the full width of the front of the house. Nearby was a good spring, Over this, he built a springhouse in which icy waters could curl around crocks of dairy products and other perishable foods, and furnish sparkling clear water for household use.”

My aunt sent me a photo of what she believed was the house. I am not sure when the picture was taken or who took it but I think it may have been obtained sometime in the 1920s. The photo is not of great quality but it does appear to be the two-story, log home reference in her story. The logs appear to have been squared off to make a tight fit in the walls. Part of the exterior is of board and batten construction. This may have been a later addition as the roof over the right hand side also appears to be newer.

Former residence of Asa and Margaret McDaniel at Beech Spring, Lee County, Virginia
I do know that Asa’s parents came from Maryland. They were married in Frederick County,Maryland, in 1801. But tracing them back further has been difficult. So far we only have assumptions and undocumented relationships from other researchers. I’ll get to looking for information about them soon, I hope.

Margaret Debusk’s parents were from Washington County. There apparently are two generations further back that originated in the USA, or the American Colonies to be more precise. Beyond that we are guessing.

The Debusk family farmed in Washington County and owned and operated a number of mills over the years as well. Margaret’s grandfather, Elijah Debusk, owned one such mill. According to Doris, “The first record found regarding our ancestor, Elijah, is in the Washington County Court Records. Dated 15 June 1792, Deed Book 1, page 400, Elijah obtained 200 acres, the sheepskin deed signed by Governor Robert Brooks. This original deed is now [1971] in the possession of Miss Mildred Widener of Glade Spring, Virginia. Her grandfather purchased the last of Elijah's holdings in 1872 from Elijah's grandson, Christopher DeBusk. This included the grist mill Elijah had built on Rush Creek in the first decade of the 19th century. In 1822, Elijah and his wife Caty gave parcels of land to their sons Isaac and Paulser. One of the lines dividing their properties ran directly through the middle of the grist mill.”

I believe the photo below, taken in 1927 (part of the Widener family collection) is of the mill on Rush Creek owned first by Elijah and later by his sons.

Mill on Rush Creek formerly owned by the Debusk family.
Unfortunately we know very little about the farms and mills as many records have not been preserved or found yet. I have not had the time yet to investigate the area further although I have been in contact with a few cousins from different branches; so maybe in the future we will be able to piece together more of the history of the family in Virginia.

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He serves as the Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.