Saturday, July 30, 2016

Sarah Mounts - Wife, mother and Cherokee Indian

1775 – 1869

Family lineage: 1 Sarah Mounts, 2 Delila Wilson, 3 Lewis Bartram, 4 Emarine Bartram, 5 Queen Rebecca Dickerson, 6 Edna Bethel Franklin, 7 Judith Ann Hayward

It's not uncommon these days to brag about having a “Native American” in one's DNA, but that wasn't the case just a few years ago when just a whisper that Indian blood ran through the family tree brought forth adamant denial.

The Wilson/Bartram/Dickerson/Franklin/Hayward family was no exception.  As late as the 20th Century, one's elders might have led their guests into a room with a door that locked in order to talk about the "family secret".
In the meantime, the children, who knew something "scandalous" was being discussed, usually had their ears firmly plastered against the door, hoping to discover what all the whispering was about.  It wasn't until they reached adulthood that they were finally entrusted with "THE SECRET” about Sarah (aka Sally) Mounts, the family's Cherokee Indian.

Sadly, although her secret was eventually revealed,  many of the details of her story remain unknown and questioned, such as whether: 
  1. Sarah and/or her mother were stolen by the Cherokees and held captive for seven years;
  2. Sarah was born in the “old country” (before it became Maryland);
  3. Sarah was one quarter Cherokee Indian;
  4. Sarah was a half blood Cherokee Indian;
  5. Sarah was a full blood Cherokee Indian;
  6. Sarah's father was an Indian carrying the “white” name “Old John Mountz” and/or the Indian name “Woodal”;
  7. Sarah's mother was an Indian woman named Raincrow;
  8. Sarah had at least one sister and brother named Polly and David Mounts (question: were they also the children of Raincrow?);
  9. When, where and how did Sarah's parents die?
  10. When was Sarah born (1775 or 1780)? 
  11. Was Sarah 15 or 20 years old when she married?
Adding to the confusion is the fact that modern-day DNA results of many of her direct descendants do not indicate Native American genes (which makes one wonder whether this could have come about because she lived so long ago and few - if any - of her descendants married Native Americans.) 
It was only after Sarah (aka Sally) was orphaned and made a ward of Robert and Agnes Givens in Bath County, Virginia that her life achieved some consistency and she met 27 year old James Parot Wilson, whose story also has many questions which include:
  • Where did his middle name, “Parot”, originate?
  • Was he born in North Carolina or Virginia?
  • Had he previously been married to a woman named Phoebe?
  •  Did he actually serve as a drummer boy with Washington's army during the Revolutionary War? 
The Givens obviously took the responsibility for the welfare of their ward or wards seriously!  After James had requested permission to marry Sarah, they demanded that he confirm his intentions by joining Robert Givens in posting a $150 promissory bond with the Bath County, Virginia court. (a large amount of money then and now).  This bond's wording may seem somewhat awkward by today's standards, which isn't surprising when considering that it was written in the late 1700s  It read: 
Know all men by these presents that we, James Wilson and Robert Givens, are held and firmly bound to the Commonwealth of Virginia in one hundred and fifty dollars, current money, to be paid to the Commonwealth – to the which payment well and truly to be made – we bind ourselves, our heirs, executors and administrators, jointly and severally firmly by these presents. Sealed with our seals and dated this 13th day of January 1795."
It goes on to define the terms of the bond:
The condition of the above obligation is that if there be no lawful cause to obstruct a marriage intended to be had and solemnized between the above bound James Wilson and Sally Mounts, then the above obligation be void, else to remain in full force. Signed, sealed and acknowledged in the presence of James Wilson and Robert Givens."
Then a handwritten entry was added to the court record saying:  “This is to certify that I am willing for saly (sic) Mounts to join the bonds of wedlock with James Wilson given under my hand this 11th day of January, 1795.   Witnesses – Robert Given and John Berry – signed with a mark by Agnes Given, her guardian.”
 They were married by a Baptist Minister on July 31 and the event was recorded in the official Bath County court records.  

Despite extensive research, there is still very little information about who the Givens were and how they happened to have been appointed guardians of the Mounts children. Some historians believe they were neighbors while others think they were connected by marriage. 

One has to believe that since James had enough resources to execute the $150 bond, he was not poor.  Even after the marriage, he proved himself capable of supporting his very large family, thanks to first being appointed surveyor of road construction and then serving as the Cabell County Prosecuting Attorney for eight years.  In addition, he was highly successful in buying and selling land parcels for over 50 years. 

A short time after their marriage, the couple was blessed with the first of 13 children,  Delila (aka Delily or Delilah), who was eventually followed by 6 sisters and 6 brothers. 

After their children had grown, tragedy struck when their youngest son, Allan, was killed by some Union “Home Guards” while sitting
on his front porch in 1863. According to a fine resource book on the family ("Bartram Branches", Violet W. Bartram and D. Kent Bartram, Jr.., Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, 1984), they were looking to steal livestock, but they didn't all escape! One of the participants was caught by local residents, tied to a tree, shot in both knees and left to be found by his cohorts or the buzzards.” (yikes!) 
During their marriage, James and Sarah lived in what is now Wayne County, West Virginia.  When they became too feeble to run their farm, they moved to Genoa, WV where they lived with their daughter, Elizabeth Wilson Lambert until their deaths.

James died first, in 1857. His will stated that his “beloved wife” Sarah was “to have one cow and all household and kitchen furniture and all the bedding and clothing with two hundred dollars out of the money that Calvin Wellman and James Wellman Jr. are owing to me”.  

Each of their living children were bequeathed $5.00 plus proceeds left after paying any debts and dividing the estate. His youngest son, Allen (who was murdered 5 years later) was named Executor of the will. 

Sarah remained a widow for 12 years before she too died at age 84, in the home of her daughter Elizabeth Lambert in Falls Tug in Wayne County. It is believed that both James and Sarah are buried on a family farm but, ironically, her story didn't end with their deaths. 

On May 24, 1894, 25 years after Sarah's death, her 42 year old twin grandsons, Hiram and Jackson Wilson, filed identical petitions on the same day in the Wayne County, West Virginia Circuit Court with the only difference between the documents being the names of their wives and children (which I am omitting in interests of brevity).  Their father was Allen, Sarah and James' youngest son, who had died violently. Although the petition at times had awkward  verbiage, it got across its point, stating;
"This is to certify that I, Hiram Wilson, do and always have claimed that I was and am a Cherokee Indian by blood, and I have never denied it at any time and not that I know anything about this, only that I have been taught by my parents who raised me from childhood.
"My grandmother's name was Sarah Mounts and her Indian relation is Old John Mounts and Woodal and Rain Crow.
"My grandmother was born in the "old country" (Maryland)  and I, Hiram Wilson, a grandson of Sarah Mounts, do claim the same Indian relation that is specified in the petition as my tribe of people and I, Hiram Wilson, was born in Wayne County, W.VA and was married in Wayne County, W.VA to Elizabeth J. Booth, a white woman, and I, Hiram Wilson, am willing to meet the Cherokee National Council at Talico whenever it convenes and testify all the above mentioned that is specified in my petition (his 7 children were named here).   Signed - Hiram Wilson.
"This is to certify that I, Hiram Wilson, do authorize and appoint J.J. Robinson, Cornelius Bootknot and Houston Bing to look after and seek out my rights, titles and citizenship which I claim in the Cherokee Nation by blood, according to treaty stipulations that were made between the five civilized tribes of Indians that all who claim or prove the sixteenth part of Indian blood are entitled to the Ninth and Eleventh Amendments.” Signed - Hiram Wilson
The Council turned down the Wilsons' claims (possibly making some wonder whether the legend that Sarah and her mother had been kidnapped and lived with the Indians for seven years was true!)  

One has to remember, however, that the twins were probably 8 or 9 years old before both their grandmother and father died.  How exciting it must have been for the little boys to hear the stories of their Indian heritage told by someone who had actually lived them!  Can't you imagine them whooping through the house and playing "cowboys and Indians" while their elders laughed?

However, those stories probably didn't exactly make life easier for the boys as they got older.  It's likely they were teased - or even taunted - by their peers  because they were "injuns".  However, when looking at their actions during their adult lives, it is obvious they were proud of their heritage

Despite the ruling of the Cherokee Nation over 100 years ago, we continue to believe that Hiram and Jackson's claims were rooted in truth.  Perhaps that ruling will be overturned some day when their claims can be reviewed in light of modern technology.  In the meantime, James and Sarah's descendants are grateful that those legends have been passed down from one generation to the next, and that we - the children with our ears pressed against the door - finally learned a "family secret" to be proud of!