In a recent post, I presented my recent discovery (thanks to cousin Sharon Black) that my adoptive great-great-grandmother Ruth Jane (Tucker) Black was a southern girl who fell in love with a wounded Yankee soldier (Lewis Black) and then ran away from her childhood plantation to elope with Lewis and start a new life in the north. Since writing that post, I’ve been wondering about the location of the plantation and the identity of the family that she left behind, never to be reunited with either.
While it may seem like an impossible task, there are enough clues to make the attempt to find her family and her plantation worthwhile.
Another of the finds that my cousin Sharon Black sent along to me earlier this week is a newspaper account of Ruth Black’s old sod house. I had heard tales of the old sod house from my grandparents, Vernon and Dorothy Black, and I have several artifacts from the sod house that they brought back with them from various trips to Kansas in the 1950s through 1970s.
It’s always been a hope of mine to one day see the old sod house, but as I don’t know of any living person who’s been inside the old sod house, or even knows where the sod house is, l figured that the old family house has long since returned to the earth. The following transcription of a 1932 newspaper article that Sharon sent to me appears to support this unfortunate conclusion.
In part 1 of this series, I explored the available evidence for clues as to where William McMurry and his family settled on the Cow Pasture River in what is now western Virginia in the late 1750s to early 1770s (and probably beyond). I ended that post with an uncertainty as to how to interpret the surveyors’ bearings on three of William McMurry’s land patents.
The surveyors used the metes and bounds method of describing parcels of land, in which the perimeter of the parcel is described using distances and directions. To express direction, the surveyors had used statements such as “south eighty eight degrees west,” and every way I interpreted those bearings resulted in an unclosed polygon. To proceed, I had to first figure out how the surveyors had intended those bearings to be read.
In looking for insight, I found a great body of research called Genealogy of the Berry and Associated Families, by Jim Jackson and Carol Vass (last revised November 11, 2013). In it, they show how such bearings should be interpreted, and they present several worked examples of parcel reconstruction. With this help, I learned that bearings such as “south eighty eight degrees west” were meant to be read as 88° west of due south. Below is an illustration I made to help make these older style of bearings more understandable: Continue reading