Henry Wesley Sprouse and His Children

Henry Wesley Sprouse and all his children
Front Row from left: Frank, Mary and Jane. Second row from left: Martha, Peggy (second wife), Edmund, Henry Wesley Sprouse, Fitzhugh and William. Back row from left: Thomas, Pocahontas, Nannie Belle, Charles, James, Elbon Booney, and John Josiah.

This cherished family portrait features Henry Wesley Sprouse, his second wife, Peggy Jane Taylor and Henry’s fourteen children. Henry was born in Virginia in 1826 and probably lived his entire life in Buckingham County,  where he died February 11, 1901. His obituary in the Richmond Dispatch reads:

Mr. H. W. Sprouce, an old and respected citizen, was buried at his home yesterday.

The photo is undated, but was probably taken circa 1891. Henry was about 65 years old. Fitzhugh, the youngest child was born in 1886 and here he appears to be about five years old. Nannie Belle died  in 1898. Thomas and James died in 1899, followed by Mary in 1900, so the gathering of the family for this portrait is especially poignant.

Thank you to the Sprouse cousins who preserved and shared this photo.

Henry Wesley Sprouse is the 2x great-grandfather of Jesse Crews. Henry’s daughter Nannie Bell is Jesse’s great-grandmother.

 

 

Elizabeth Collie Sykes

screen-shot-2016-09-25-at-7-43-06-pmI think this photo of my great-grandmother, Elizabeth Collie, is beautiful. She has lovely eyes and there’s just a hint of a smile. Thank you to cousin Wendy for preserving this photo and doing the research on Lizzie.

Little is known of Lizzie’s brief life. Lizzie was born in King and Queen County, Virginia on February 22, 1873; one of eight children born to Mary Jane Carlton and James Collie. She’s found in the 1880 census living on a small farm with her parents and siblings in Petsworth in Gloucester County, Virginia. Lizzie may have moved to Richmond around 1892 with her brother James. Her death certificate reported that she had lived in Richmond for ten years. James Collie sent this letter to his nephew, Raymond, in 1939. I found the letter tucked behind a drawer in an old desk that had belonged to my grandmother. James was a minister and lived in New York City by 1900.

Letter from James Collie to Raymond Sykes

Lizzie married Thomas Leonard Sykes on July 8, 1896 in Richmond, Virginia. My grandfather, Raymond, was born just a year later in Richmond, on August 6, 1897. Thomas was born in Richmond on August 9. 1899. He was always known as Brother Tommy.

Screen Shot 2017-04-11 at 7.32.21 PM.pngThe Sykes family lived at 319 North 29th Street on Richmond’s Church Hill. They may have moved here shortly after the house was built in 1900. The house still stands and you can tour it on Zillow.

Lizzie didn’t get to see her children grow into fine young men. She died at home of tuberculosis on April 30, 1902, at the age of 29. Lizzie’s brother Earnest died in 1898 and her sister Eunice died in 1899. Although I have not seen their death certificates, it is likely they died of the same disease. Tuberculosis is highly contagious and it is possible Lizzie contracted the disease from her siblings.  Her obituary refers to a “long and painful illness” and Lizzie may never have had the strength to care for her boys.

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The Richmond Dispatch, May 1, 1902, page 7. Chronicling America.

The University of Virginia digital tuberculosis exhibit explains, “Formerly called “consumption,” tuberculosis is characterized externally by fatigue, night sweats, and a general “wasting away” of the victim. Typically but not exclusively a disease of the lungs, TB is also marked by a persistent coughing-up of thick white phlegm, sometimes blood.” There was no cure and Lizzie would have suffered greatly.

Raymond and Thomas were raised by their paternal aunt, Evy Sykes, and her husband, Robert Davis. The boys’ father, Thomas, traveled for work and moved to Pennsylvania.

Sykes Ianson HeadstoneLizzie is buried at Oakwood Cemetery and shares a headstone with her husband and his mother.

Lizzie C Sykes death certificate

The Juicy Details of a Household Inventory

Look around your home and take a mental inventory of all of your possessions. Imagine listing every dish, piece of silverware, pot, or tool you own. What would that list reveal about you? Would we learn your occupation, financial status, hobbies and more?

The inventory prepared for Peter Ogilby’s bankruptcy is an interesting document, full of juicy little details for descendants and curious genealogists. Most of our ancestors do not leave diaries or letters to provide first hand accounts of their lives. Instead we turn to documents like Peter Ogilby’s inventory. Studied together with other documents such as census records and chancery causes, it is possible to enrich our understanding of Peter and Harriett’s life together.

In 1825, when this inventory was taken, Peter Ogilby was 33 and in the prime of his life. Harriett Ball Ogilby (my 4x great-aunt) was 25. This is a relatively small number of household goods, but the items therein reflect a comfortable life. Note many of the items are domestic household items. As a married woman, Harriett owned nothing. By law, everything belonged to Peter and was part of the inventory.

Legatee of Mrs. Hendrick’s Estate
Had I not already known that Harriett’s mother was a Hendrick, this item would have sent me on a search for the Hendrick link. Harriett’s mother, Sally Hendrick, died before 1808. Harriett was named in her grandfather’s (John Hendrick) will of 1814. However, John Hendrick had married late in life, a second time, to her father’s (Isham Ball) sister, Martha, who died in 1816, leaving several minor children. The estate would not be settled until 1831. Meanwhile, desperate for cash, Peter Ogilby had already sold his wife’s inheritance to J. W. Nash.

One Cradle and Furniture
Did this cradle hold a baby in 1825?  Harriett and Peter had a daughter, Sarah, about 1820. The next recorded child is Peter, born about 1830. Most couples of this time frame had a child every other year. The 1830 census records five children living in Peter’s household, so the unfortunate couple must have lost three children between 1820 and 1830. It is likely an unknown Ogilby baby was sleeping in the cradle in 1825.  The cradle furniture is the mattress, linens, blankets and perhaps a canopy or tester.

Two Cows and One Calf, Churn, Three Butter Pots
Butter-making was a routine household task requiring some skill. Virginia’s hot summers could sour the milk or spoil the cream and any contamination could prevent the curdle necessary for butter. Churning the cream takes about an hour and then the butter had to be kneaded to release moisture. It was placed in a ceramic butter pot and covered with gauze. Two cows would barely provide the milk for the household’s dairy needs.

Two Feather Beds and Furniture
These were a real luxury and considered family heirlooms. Poorer households did not possess one feather bed, much less two. Once again, furniture here means the blankets, pillows, linens and draperies as the bed may have been canopied. Heavy drapes provided privacy and warmth in winter. Come summer the bed was draped with a lighter fabric to keep out flying insects.

Spinning Wheel and Cotton Cards
These implements indicate Harriett was spinning cotton into thread. Milled fabrics were available by this time, so it is possible these implements were already family heirlooms. Harriett may also have been practicing thrift by spinning and weaving some of her own fabrics. Note there is no loom mentioned here.

Tea Board with Its Contents, One Tea Kettle, Coffee Mill, Coffee Pot, Salt Cellar, Pepper Box
A tea board was a large tray, sometimes on a stand, where hot beverages like coffee and tea were served. Coffee, tea and pepper were imported to Virginia and were considered little luxuries, available only to those with the cash to purchase them.

Grid Iron, Tribbet, Iron Pot, Iron Pot Rack
The cooking in this household was done over an open fire. A grid iron supported pots over the fire. A tribbet or trivet was generally a three-legged stand to support a kettle near an open fire.

One Bay Mare
Peter had one horse, and it had a debt against it.

Two Trunks
Chancery causes prior to 1825 refer to Peter living out of state or in Georgia. Perhaps the trunks were a part of Peter’s wandering life.

One Looking Glass, One Dressing Box, Clothes Brush, Wash Bowl, One Chamber, Pair Flat Irons
A looking glass (mirror) and dressing box imply status and luxury. A woman may have kept cosmetics, combs and brushes in a dressing box. Harriett may have brought these items to the marriage. Flat irons were heated in a fire and used to press clothes. Chamber here may refer to a pot used to collect overnight urine and avoid a trip outside in the night.

What’s Missing?
A household inventory in rural Powhatan in the early nineteenth century would have included many more tools and farm implements. It would also have included a number of slaves to assist with the household tasks and farming. The 1830 census for Peter Ogilby includes several slaves, indicating that perhaps Harriett’s father, Isham Ball, “loaned” a few of his slaves to the couple. This provided help for Harriett and insured they wouldn’t be sold to pay Peter’s debts. Truly luxurious items like silver, crystal, clocks and even a buggy are also missing.

Summary
Harriet and Peter lived a comfortable life above their means. Peter did not farm on a big scale; there was probably only a kitchen garden to supply the family’s needs. Peter was a minister later in life, and he may have already been preaching by the time of this inventory in 1825. The inventory is available online at the Library of Virginia, Amelia County, 1839-010, John O. Hundley, etc vs Heirs of Richard Ogilby.

Peter Ogilby Estate

A Mystery Solved

When my ancestor Isham Ball died in 1860 in Powhatan County, Virginia, his will made very specific provisions regarding the inheritance of his daughter, Harriett Ball Ogilby.  Isham wrote, “The Share of my daughter, Harriett Ogilby, wife of Peter F. Ogilby under this item, I do hereby direct shall be held in Trust by Wm C. Netherland of Powhatan County for the use and benefit of my said daughter Harriett during her life and that of her children in such manner that the said Peter F. Ogilby shall have no control over the property or the profits thereof in any way whatsoever.”1

I wondered, in a prior blog post, why Isham directed that his son-in-law have no control over Harriett’s inheritance. I found the answer in the online chancery files at the Library of Virginia.2

Peter incurred a debt of $124.00 on 4 March 1820. When Peter failed to pay the debt as ordered in a judgment against him, he was arrested on 27 August 1825. There had been other financial challenges and Peter apparently could not raise the cash and declared insolvency. The Sheriff put all of Peter and Harriett’s unencumbered possessions up for sale and Isham Ball bought them and paid Peter’s debt. In exchange Peter granted Isham all of his interest in the estates of his brother Patrick, and parents Judith and Richard Ogilby of Amelia County, Virginia. When the estates were settled in Amelia County in 1838, Isham Ball presented the agreement to the Court and received the share of his son-in-law, Peter Ogilby.

Isham Ball notably stepped in to protect his daughter and grandchildren from Peter’s financial difficulties and Peter was released from the Amelia County jail. Certainly Isham Ball considered this episode and others when he wrote his will. He was prudent to protect Harriett’s interests.

Peter and Harriett’s assets were listed as part of his insolvency declaration. I can only imagine Harriett’s dismay at seeing her child’s cradle, her pots and pans, spinning wheel and coffee pot auctioned off to pay her husband’s debts. Fortunately they were purchased by her father and the couple retained possession of their belongings.

The list of items provides a snapshot of how Peter and Harriett were living in 1825.3 A copy was included in the 1838 division of Judith, Richard and Patrick Ogilsby’s estates. The young couple didn’t own a lot, and the belongings indicate a middle class life. A looking glass and books indicate someone who could read and who cared about appearances. Feather beds were coveted household possessions. There were a few tools but not enough for serious farming. Perhaps Peter had already started preaching.

And do take note of the clerk’s beautiful penmanship.

Peter Ogilby Estate


  1. Isham Ball’s Will, 1 Oct 1860, Powhatan County, Virginia, Will Book 15, pages 467 – 468. County Clerk’s’s Office, Powhatan, Virginia.
  2. “Virginia Memory: Chancery Records Index.” Amelia County (Va.) Chancery Causes. John O Hundley ETC vs HEIR(S) OF Richard Ogilby BY ETC, 1839-010. Local Government Records Collection, Amelia Court Records. The Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia. Web. 2 April 2017.
  3. Hundley vs Ogilby, page 22