Alvy Dortch left Mecklenburg for economic reasons

Alvin (Alvy) Dortch endured many tragedies and hardships. He was one of five children. His mother Sarah Poythress died when he was only age 9. His father and two other siblings died by the time he was age 14. He also suffered from severe depression. I assume Alvin’s older sister Martha was like a mother figure to him. Martha married John Vaughan and died about the time Alvy was being sued for debt. Maybe after she died, Alvy didn’t think there was any reason to stay in the area. Since he couldn’t farm, it was hard to remain in a predominately farming area and survive economically.

After his parent’s death, Alvy lived with Rebecca Stanley, who I believe was his aunt. (Rebecca’s maiden name was Poythress). His brother, Oliver Jasper Dortch (known as “O.J.”) was living with Dr. Riggan, who was a dentist. Dr. Riggan had three marriages without any children. I’ve been wondering if there’s any family relationship with Dr. Riggan or his second wife Eliza Hart. Or perhaps Dr. Riggan was simply generous and tried to help his neighbors out of financial difficulties.

Alvy was conscripted into the Confederate Army at about age 18, while he was visiting Petersburg. He was first made a guard at a hospital. After getting sick several times, he put in a request to be transferred to serve with a troop of men who he knew. He ended up being a prisoner, yet survivor, of Point Lookout.

His oldest daughter, Theresa, had a seizure by the fireplace. Her dress caught fire and she died in front of her two young children, Fanne and Maude (ages 5 & 2). This happened while the men of the area were out harvesting tobacco. That same day, Alvy took his granddaughters Fannie and Maude Gray home with him. He raised them as his own children. His youngest child, Millard Dortch, was two years younger than his granddaughter Maude Gray and four years older than his other granddaughter Fannie Gray.

Part of Sally Vick’s 1951 letter. Sally was daughter of Alvy & Tennessee Dortch

With his war wounds, Alvy was unable to farm.  So, he created a wagon train business carting goods from the farmers in Mecklenburg, Virginia, to markets in Petersburg. Virginia’s economy was in tatters for decades after the war. There was catastrophic economic damage from the economic “Panic of 1893”. 15,000 businesses and 500 banks in the U.S. failed. No one had money. Farms were failing from drought and farmers lost their lands.  During the country’s economic crisis, Alvy struggled to provide for his wife, eleven children and two grandchildren. He applied for a military pension but received a rejection letter. He borrowed money from Dr. Riggan, but couldn’t earn enough to pay back the last $120 of the loan before Dr. Riggan died. As executor, Dr. Riggan’s (third) wife called in his debts.  Alvy became insolvent.

During times of trial, we often want to be with someone who understands us. I believe that’s what led Alvy to move to Southampton County, Virginia. There, he lived near his friend,  Samuel J. Glover. I haven’t been able to figure out yet, if Alvy’s wife, Tennessee Glover, was related to his friend. Samuel and Alvy had been in the same military unit. After the war, Samuel Glover lived with a ‘Hart’ family that is possibly related to Eliza Hart, second wife of Dr. Riggan. After leaving Mecklenburg, all of Alvy’s adult children were working, trying to earn money where they could. His wife, Tennessee, and a few children temporarily moved to Petersburg to get jobs, while Alvy worked at various odd jobs. The whole family moved to Kankakee, IL (just south of Chicago) about 1903. The family worked in factories there, including the Paramount Knitting Company. Tennessee and Alvy ran a boarding house.  It was big enough to house their young adult children, 4 grandchildren and 3 boarders.  One boarder married Alvin’s daughter Martha.

Fannie Gray married George Stowe, had eleven children and remained in the Kankakee area most of her adult life. When Fannie was much older, her daughter Catherine started asking about where she was from, interested in knowing more about her family in Virginia. Fannie didn’t really remember or know. Catherine started writing letters, which were given to me when I started asking the same questions.

1942 Fannie Gray

James B. Jones adopted Tennessee Glover (1859)

I was looking through a Virginia marriage record collection on FamilySearch.org. I found this record which completely stunned me! I had no idea! I immediately began reviewing my sources, and here’s what I discovered:

This record is of James B. Jones giving his permission for Tennessee to marry Alvin Dortch. That he adopted her into his family 7 years earlier. (Typed transcription at end of post). My puzzlement and surprise is because Tennessee’s father was still alive when James said he adopter her. On the 1860 Census, Tennessee is listed as living with her father, not James B. Jones.

1860 Census: Should say “Granderson Glover” not George.

My grandma Catherine Sanetra wrote a memo note about 1960. She was writing notes about her letters from her uncle Jasper Dortch, notating things she wanted to follow up on. The note said, “Uncle Jimmy Jones raised Tennessee J. Glover in Burk County.  Write to Burk County in VA.” She later wrote a correction note that it was Burk TN, not Virginia. I knew that James Jones wasn’t her uncle and lived his whole life in Mecklenburg County, Virginia. I also have never seen the Glovers in Burk, Tennessee. They were in Obion County, then Smith County, Tennessee. Granderson was in Gibson County, Tennessee in 1850, while the rest of his siblings and parents remained in Smith County, Tennessee. Granderson was widowed young (1850-1853), left Tennessee and moved to Mecklenburg, Virginia with his daughters. (Opposite of the typical migration pattern). I believe Granderson was born in Warren County, North Carolina and knew cousins in Mecklenburg, Virginia before he moved to Tennessee with his parents. I also knew Granderson Glover lived until his daughter Tennessee was 16, so why did/would someone else raise her? I discounted all of this information from Jasper, thinking he was probably confused. But I did wonder, because he was telling what he thought was true about his mother, who had lived with him for several years.

This is a chart showing the only connection I knew of James B. Jones & Tennessee Glover, highlighting in red the people in this post. They’re both great grandparents of Fannie Gray. I now suppose that Tennessee called James B. Jones “uncle” as a family title of respect.

I looked more closely to see what was happening to Tennessee Glover in 1859. Her father Granderson Glover was married to Arimenta Kidd. (daughter of John B. Kidd) Granderson and Arimenta’s third child was born, Oliver Glover. Tennessee later had a son she named after her two brothers: Richard Oliver Dortch. Tennessee’s family was attending Rehoboth Methodist Church in the Blackridge area. In 1855, there were two classes in Rehoboth Church. Granderson Glover was the leader of class #1. John Cole was the leader of class #2.

Granderson and Arimenta lived on Nellie Jones Rd, on land Arimenta inherited from her father. (about where Cannon Cemetery is today.) James Jones was around the corner, further north on Blackridge Rd. I checked the map, and the distance between where Granderson and James lived, is about 2.5 miles. (East on Nellie Jones Rd, then north on Blackridge Rd). So they lived near each other and probably saw each other at church and community events.

1860 Census for James B. Jones

The 1860 Census shows 4 children of James B. Jones living at home. I assume all those children were also living at home the previous year. Age wise, Tennessee would have been just younger than Anna Jones and just older than the youngest child: James Newman Jones. I have a transcribed copy of the James B. Jones family Bible. Tennessee is not mentioned as adopted, or anywhere on this Bible record. However, Alginon Gray, (the man who married 2 of Tennesee’s daughters) is in the Bible, because his mother was a daughter of James B. Jones. All of Sarah Jones Gray’s children’s birth dates are noted in the James B. Jones family Bible.

I also checked guardian records for a 5 year time period. Tennessee is not in guardian records. Although that isn’t surprising because I don’t think there were any assets or finances to be recorded. Granderson Glover did not own land in Mecklenburg and he was listed as a carpenter on the Census.

Tabitha Glover Marriage Consent

Tennessee’s sister Tabitha does not have a similar notation about where she was raised on her marriage consent. Tabitha was 22, old enough to not need consent. Instead she gives her own consent. I love seeing she wrote her name as “Tabithy”. Tabitha married Edward Kidd, (sibling of Arimenta Kidd). They were married at “Mrs. Cannon’s house.” I am assuming that would be Rebecca Kidd, married to Archie Cannon. I’m also guessing this was the Cannon property with Nellie Jones Rd on the north, Great Creek (or “Cannon Creek”) to the west, and Arimenta Kidd Glover to the east. I think it’s neat to see that they married on Kidd land, where all the neighbors were the groom’s siblings!

Tabitha Glover & Edward Kidd marriage record

The term orphan in this time period technically meant that one parent died. Tennessee’s mother died between 1850-1853. At the time of Tennessee’s marriage, her father Granderson had also died. The Census enumerator typically wrote down who was in the house that day in Apr 1860. Maybe Tennessee was visiting her father for a few days when the Census was recorded? Granderson had remarried, had 3 young children (& 4th child in 1861). We have no idea whether Arimenta and Tennessee (age 12) didn’t get along, or if a household full of children (Jones) sounded fun and were her friends. But we do now know that Jasper Dortch was correct after all. Tennessee did live with James Jones, he just got the location wrong, Mecklenburg, not Burk. I’m happy to now own a paragraph in my great… Grandfather’s handwriting and see his signature. I love the way he writes his letter “J” with a nice point at the top. I write my J’s very rounded at the top. I also love seeing the marriage was at James’ house, where I think she considered was home.

Marriage record of Tennessee & Alvin Dortch. Note: this says married at the home of James Jones.

For more information: There are currently 2,733 images of consents, bonds, and ministers returns in this collection. Mecklenburg is not listed as counties included, but I did find quite a few of my Mecklenburg ancestors in this collection, including the images in this post. If you would like to search this collection, or learn more here’s the link: https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/2134304


Transcription of Tennessee’s Marriage Consent:

To the clerk of Mecklenburg County, VA

                                                    March 24th 1866

Mr R F Clack sir,

Some seven years ago I adopted into my family Tennessee J Glover an orphaned child, who has since remained a member of my family, & has grown up under my guardian care & control, and being now of marriageable age, you have my full consent to issue a marriage license for the union of, Alvin N Dortch & Miss Tennessee J Glover.

Respectfully yours,

James B Jones