Cousin Reunion

When my husband invited me to attend a national home winemaking conference in Ithaca, New York, my initial reaction was negative. I reconsidered when I looked at a map and realized that Ithaca was only an hour from Auburn, New York. Suddenly flying nearly 3,000 miles across the country seemed like a very good idea. I immediately arranged to visit four second cousins I hadn’t seen in over 50 years.

Cousins 1
L-R: Candy Chandler, Gary Morrissett, Nancy Chandler, Vanessa Sykes. June 15, 1961

The Chandler siblings were born and raised in Auburn, but their mother, Anne, and grandmother, Kathleen, were native Virginians. Most summers they loaded the family station wagon and drove to Chesterfield County, Virginia to spend a few weeks among friends and family. They would stay with my grandparents, and my mother’s siblings would gather to visit with their cousin Ann and Aunt Kathleen. Cousins Candy, Nancy and I were roughly the same age and I anticipated their visits with great eagerness. New York cousins were quite exotic to this little Virginia girl! We shared cold watermelon and fresh corn from Papa’s garden, hunted for four leaf clovers, made daisy wreaths and whiled away the hours on a swing underneath the shelter of a towering tree. Our little fingers shelled pans of butterbeans, just picked in the garden. I was rarely allowed to help with the harvest as my mother feared the many snakes who resided among the tomatoes and beans. While the aunts and uncles lingered, chatting in the twilight, we filled mason jars with “lightening bugs”.

More than 50 years later I was delighted to spend an afternoon visiting with my Chandler cousins. We reminisced about muggy Virginia summer days, swapped photos and stories and talked about our shared Virginia heritage. Thank you Lou, Candy, Nancy and Cindy for such a warm and memorable visit.

L-R Standing: Cindy, Nancy, Lou and Vanessa. Seated: Candy. June 2, 2017





Writing History

Well, its been awhile since I wrote a blog post. A new grandchild was born, then the holidays, a little travel, a dreadful case of the flu-you know how it goes. Genealogy has been ever present on my mind, and my only new year’s resolution for 2017 was to finish the Taylor family history I began in 2008. The book is complete and almost ready to go to the printer. It covers five generations of Taylors who resided in Powhatan through the early 1900’s.

Have you ever picked up a genealogy book? Many are 500 pages of names and weigh about five pounds. Mine’s a slim book of essays about the life and times of six select ancestors. There’s still merit in publishing a book of names, but in this digital age the names and vital statistics of most of my ancestors can easily be found on my tree at I want my grandchildren to get to know the person, to walk in their shoes, and understand their lives. Here’s an excerpt about Robert Taylor (1738 – 1826), my fifth great-grandfather.


The American Revolution began in 1776, the year Ann Olive Taylor, third child of Robert and Frances was born. The Taylors certainly had little time to think about the powerful events happening around them, and indeed all remained peaceful and quiet on their farm. The British, led by Benedict Arnold,  ransacked Richmond, about thirty miles downriver in 1780, but never came near the Taylor farm where Frances was delivering a fifth child, George.  There is no record of military service for Robert.  He was nearly forty when the war began, and may have been considered too old for the hard life endured by the troops. Robert provided beef and wheat for the troops, an action that made him a traitor to the British, and indicated his support of the revolutionary cause. Robert spent 12 days “collecting beeves” and was reimbursed £208 for this service. Larkin Smith of Cumberland County described this service, “…going over the country in every direction collecting beef for the army. Thinks there was law in those days regarding every man who had beef cattle to give up such a portion of his stock according to numbers to provision the army & it was made his business to drive these cattle & bring them within reach of the camp.”1 Robert must have contributed some of his own cattle to the war effort, because he was reimbursed £1-8-4 for contributing 170 pounds of beef to the war effort. Robert also furnished thirteen bushels of wheat for the troops. Wheat was plentiful in Powhatan, and its residents furnished hundreds of bushels of wheat for the troops.  The wheat was ground into flour by local millers and sent along to the troops. Provisioning the troops did not always go smoothly. Richard Couture writes in Powhatan: A Bicentennial History,of local millers putting  the flour outside, causing it to be ruined, and adding that “Further, 40 or 50 thousand bushels of wheat could be gotten from the county, but there was no transportation.”2 Colonial logistics for moving goods were difficult in the best of times, and clearly chaos during war.

Elizabeth A. Rust relates the following story about the rector of the Peterville Church, attended by Robert Taylor and his family, “ In 1772 Reverend Alexander MacRae was rector. He was a Scotchman and did not enter into the spirit of the times of the American Revolution and was warned to leave. He disregarded the warning so one night a messenger told him that a dying neighbor wanted to see him. He was waylaid and led to a tree where he was whipped. The tree has long been cut down, but was known as the “Parson’s Pine.”3 Robert Taylor’s community clearly supported the American Revolution.

1 “Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files.” Larkin B Smith, Pension Number S. 6114, Service Va. Database and Images. Web. 29 Oct. 2015.
2 Couture, Richard T. Powhatan: A Bicentennial History. Richmond: Dietz, 1980.
p. 84. Print.
3 Rust, Elizabeth A. “Survey Report Peterville Church.” Virginia W.P.A. Historical Inventory Project. Library of Virginia, 29 July 1937. Web. 28 Oct. 2015.

Elusive Family Photos

arlinetaylor-1939October 6 marks the 88th birthday of my mother, Arline Mae Taylor Sykes. I pulled out a book I made of our old family photos to reminisce about Mom, and I realize that I only have three photos of my mother as a child. Just like my father, there is not much material to document her childhood. I would only have two photos, but when Marilyn Sanderson Farmer learned of Mom’s death in 2010, she found an old photo of our mothers as girls. They went to the old Broad Rock Elementary School together and and were playmates.


screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-5-39-03-pmMarilyn’s shared photo is more than a treasured early photo of Mom, it is a lesson for all of us on preserving memories. If you have a box of old family photos now is the time to bring the box down from the attic and spend time with a family elder identifying the photos. Then please share them! Scan them and send them to the cousins. Use Facebook to reach out to friends like Marilyn did. You could have someone else’s elusive family photo. Mom is bottom left in this picture.

The photo below is among my favorite family photos. It’s held by Mom’s youngest sister, Florence Ann. Her daughter, Debbie, put all of the old family pictures in a book years ago and when I began my genealogy quest in 2005, they kindly allowed me to borrow the album and photograph all of the pictures. Mom and Aunt Florence Ann helped me identify everyone and then I posted the photos to my account.

Aunt Florence Ann is the baby in her grandmother, Martha Blanche Pinchbeck Taylor’s lap. Mom is first on the left in the middle row. This is the only known photo of all the Taylor siblings together as children, along with some cousins too. It was probably taken at the family home in Chesterfield County in July 1938.


William Bernard Taylor’s Accidental 1900 Death

This is the last in my Labor Day series on the occupational deaths of family members.

It was cloudy and cold in Richmond on Monday, February 19, 1900. William Bernard Taylor (my first cousin 3x removed) was still at work at 5 pm. He worked for a wholesale grocery store, Christian & Winfree, at 15 South 14th Street in the Shockoe Slip area of Richmond. His parents, Joseph and Betty Taylor, had moved to Richmond from Powhatan County around 1883, along with most of William’s many siblings. Like many others after the Civil War, they left the land their families had been farming for over 150 years and moved to Richmond hoping for more economic opportunities. And things did seem to be working out for the family. The girls made successful marriages, and their two sons had good steady jobs.

William may have felt lucky to have his job. The president of his firm, H.L. Denoon, was also a Taylor cousin with ties to Powhatan County. William would be 35 years old in March and had never married. He needed his earnings to help support his widowed mother and planned to move in with her shortly.

Around 5 o’clock that February 19, cousin William got into an elevator at work. screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-6-23-31-pmHe rode to the fourth floor where a terrible tragedy ended his life. The cable carrying the elevator snapped and William plunged four floors to his death. You can read the gruesome details in the accompanying articles below. Christian & Winfree were exonerated, but it appears William’s death prompted Richmond to enact elevator safety regulations. The firm paid for William’s burial and he is among my few relatives buried in Richmond’s famed Hollywood Cemetery. Rest in Peace, cousin William.

I learned the story of William’s untimely death (and even the weather that day) using a totally free website sponsored by the Library of Congress, Chronicling America. Millions of pages of local newspapers are digitized and searchable at Chronicling America. Give it a try with your family members and see what you can learn.



A Virginia Woman of Rare Resolve: Judith Anderson Taylor







Wednesday, November 9, 1803 Paper: Virginia Argus (Richmond, VA) Volume: XI Issue: 1094 Page: 1. Source:

Women had few legal rights in Virginia during the life of my 4th great-grandmother, Judith Anderson Taylor (1760-1835). They couldn’t engage in a contract, own property or vote. It was legal for a man to beat his wife, slaves or children for purposes of discipline. Divorce was extremely rare; between 1786 and 1851 only 583 divorce petitions were submitted to the Virginia legislature. 1 This does not mean that Virginians endorsed spousal abuse or that women had no rights. Thomas E. Buckley writes, “If a wife expected domestic violence she could ask a local justice to require her husband to offer public assurances of peaceable behavior.”2

Judith Anderson married Blagrave Taylor (also spelled Blackgrove or Blagrove) in Goochland County on July 18, 1796. He was about 26 and Judith was at least 10 years older according to Anderson family records. Judith was the daughter of the highly regarded Colonel Richard Anderson of  Louisa County and most likely brought a comfortable dowery to the marriage as she had already inherited property from her grandparents Pouncy and Elizabeth Holland Anderson.

This was probably  a marriage of convenience as Judith’s prospects were limited by her age and Blagrave was perhaps looking to “feather his nest” with a comfortable dowery. The marriage produced only one child, my third great-grandfather, Richard A. Taylor, who was born in Powhatan County about 1801.

Judith Anderson took her private marital troubles public at the October Court of 1803. Powhatan justices found Blagrave Taylor guilty of a breach of peace towards his wife, prompting Blagrave to declare his wife insane in the Virginia Argus on November 3, 1803. Society would have found this public discussion shameful and distasteful. Much like today, their private troubles probably created family divisions and was the subject of gossip in the local taverns. This was a situation both parties would normally go to great lengths to avoid.

Blagrave’s behavior towards Judith must have been unbearable and extreme for her to go to court. She probably feared for her life. I applaud her courage and resolve as she faced friends, family, neighbors and the court with what most women of her time considered their private shame. This was a rare act by a woman.

Here is the judgement the Court passed. A bond of $500 was considerable in 1803, further reinforcing the extreme and socially unacceptable nature of Blagrave’s behavior.

On the complaint of Judith Taylor stating that Blackgrove Taylor, her Husband, has been guilty of a breach of the peace towards her, who being called did appear, and on hearing the parties it is the opinion of the Court that the said Taylor has been guilty of a breach of the peace towards his Wife, as aforesaid, and that he be bound to give security for his good behavior for the space of Twelve Months towards all the Citizens of this Commonwealth, and particularly to her the said Judith Taylor, his Wife, – Himself in the sum of Five hundred dollars in two securities in the sum of Two hundred and fifty dollars each; whereupon the said Blackgrove Taylor with his securities William Pollock and Noah Price, acknowledged themselves indebted to the Commonwealth in the sums aforesaid; to be levied of their goods and Chattels, Lands and Tenements respectively; But on condition that the said Taylor keep the peace, as aforesaid, towards all the Citizens of this Commonwealth and particularly to the said Judith Taylor his Wife, then the above recognize to be void or else to remain in full force and virtue.3

I haven’t found any other record of marital discord for Judith and Blagrave. Census records indicate they shared the same household in 1810 and 1820.  Blagrave’s reputation does not appear to have suffered. He serves on a Coroner’s Jury in 1815 and in 1817 appraises an estray (stray) hog for the Court. However, his father, Robert Taylor, passes over Blagrave and chooses his younger sons to administer his sizeable estate, perhaps a nod to Blagrave’s poor health, judgment or lifestyle.

Blagrave died without a will in February, 1828 and Judith was named as one of the executors of his estate, another strong indication she was respected and trusted by her family and the Court. She lived with her son and his growing family until her death in 1836 at about the age of 75.


  1. Buckley, Thomas E. The Great Catastrophe of My Life Divorce in the Old Dominion. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina, 2002. 4. Print.
  2. Buckley, 154.
  3. Powhatan County, Virginia, Order Book 7 1803 -1803, page 347, Complaint of Judith Taylor stating that Blackgrove Taylor, her Husband, has been guilty of a breach of the peace towards her , October Court 1803; Court Clerk’s Office, Powhatan.


The Seven Daughters of Isham Ball

7 daughters isham ball_edited-1Isham Ball’s will and his obituary reveal Ball to be a man of strongly held religious beliefs who cared deeply about his daughters and their children. He was careful in the wording of his will, clearly stating that the husbands of his daughter, Harriett, and granddaughter, Elizabeth, were not to benefit from their inheritances. Why did Ball feel so strongly about this? Were there questions of character?

Harriet Ball and her husband, Peter Ogilby, moved west and by 1843 were living in Union County, Kentucky, where Ogilby was a leader of the Zion Church. A church history indicates that Ogilby had differences with another member and in 1844 this “finally resulted in the exclusion and publication of Peter F. Oglesby as an impostor.” The 1850 census lists Ogilby as a clergyman in Caldwell, Kentucky where he died in 1866. Like Isham Ball, Ogilby was a deeply religious man with strongly held beliefs, and it is likely the two clashed over theological differences, leading Ball to put Harriett’s inheritance into the care of a trustee.

Sarah Elizabeth Taylor was the daughter of Isham Ball’s deceased daughter, Martha. Martha had married Richard Taylor and lived just a few miles from her father. In 1850 Elizabeth married her cousin, Joseph Taylor, son of Daniel Taylor. They lived in Powhatan County and Isham would have known the couple well. There is no direct evidence to explain why Isham felt compelled to exclude Joseph in his will, but it is noteworthy that Daniel Taylor passed over Joseph and  chose his youngest son George as executor of his estate.

Joseph Taylor went to court in 1861 and 1868 to compel the trustee, his cousin, William D. Taylor, to release the inheritance to his family. Sadly, the funds were invested in Confederate dollars in a Richmond bank and by 1868 the Confederate money was worthless.

Ball’s daughter Susan is not mentioned in his will. Susan married a neighbor, Archer Stratton in 1827. The 1850 census shows Stratton in Rankin, Mississippi and married to Eliza. Presumably Susan Ball died without children as Ball does not list any Stratton grandchildren in his will.

Ball divided his land between his three youngest daughters. It is likely that he had already given the older girls property when they married. Julia died in 1856 of a brain inflammation. Her husband, John and their children lived next to Isham. Daughter Emmaline and her husband James Eggleston also lived in Ballsville.

Sarah Jane Ball’s husband, Samuel Drake, died quite young and the Drake family lived with Isham Ball. The Drakes were closely allied with the Taylor family in many ways, including marrying the daughters of Isham Ball. Samuel Drake’s grandmother was Martha Taylor, sister to Robert Taylor. The Drakes and Taylors were neighbors on Bell Road.

I’m reading The Home Place by Robert Drake, great-grandson of Sarah Jane Ball Drake, great-great grandson of Isham Ball and Taylor descendant. This branch of the family moved to Tennessee after the Civil War but never forgot their ties to Ballsville, Virginia. Robert Drake shares his family tales and memories with great style and charm. Look for the 1998 version on Amazon.

Thank you great-great-great-great grandfather Isham Ball for this interesting will and legacy. I’m glad I found you and your seven daughters.






Powhatan Road Trip: The Ball Tavern

The marriage of Martha Ball and Richard A. Taylor (my 3rd great-grandparents) on March 5, 1825 in Powhatan County, Virginia was surely viewed with great favor by both families. Richard was the only son of Blagrave and Judith Anderson Taylor. His parents had already given him land and slaves, and on their deaths he would inherit all of their property. Martha was one of seven daughters of Isham Ball (my 4th great-grandfather), a prosperous tavernkeeper in Powhatan County and she probably brought a comfortable dowry to the marriage.

Isham Ball’s tavern is documented in the Virginia W.P.A. Historical Inventory project. View the record online at the Library of Virginia. When Louise C. Palmore visited on January 25, 1937 she wrote,

“Typical of the 1700 period. The yard has several huge box-woods and many old garden shrubs. There is a fence around the yard. There is a square Colonial porch in front with nine steps and square columns. Long benches on either side of the porch with slat-like seats. The house from the exterior seems to have from seven to nine rooms; there are at least three or four on the fist floor. There is a dormer upstairs and several front dormer windows. There is a large basement partially above ground with several half size windows. It is a very interesting old place. Isham Ball was the first postmaster and this was the first post office in Powhatan County.”

0181A photograph taken by Elizabeth A. Rust accompanies the report but the pictured dwelling does not match the tavern described in the report- there are no porch, columns or dormer windows. Perhaps this is the back of the tavern, or it could even be of an entirely different dwelling. In most cases, the photographer and report writer are the same, not different as in this case. I could not find a Mutual Assurance record for a Ball property in Powhatan County.

I have not located Isham Ball’s tavern; it was probably torn down years ago. Palmore’s 1937 report located the property in the town of Ballsville on the north side of Route 13. Both the town of Ballsville and Old Ballsville are shown on the 1864 Gilmer map of Powhatan County and the 1880 Laprade map. Take a drive on the Old Buckingham Road (Route 13) between Ballsville and Tobaccoville (formerly Old Ballsville) and enjoy the beautiful countryside named for Isham Ball.

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 7.51.03 PM
Detail from 1880 Laprade map of Powhatan County located at the Library of Virginia.