Rough Draft of a Fine Family

It's not a book and doubtless won't ever be. Tracing this family suggested that there are stories inherent in their details that can be saved. Let's not lose any more of them. The family lines started out of sight somewhere. Many branched, crossed and intersected. Some stopped. When they did, only their memory can keep them going.

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Grandma to some, mom to others.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Norval Douglass

Norval Douglass was born December 15, 1822, the third child of Dr. Elmore Douglass and Elizabeth Savin Fulton, in Gallatin, Sumner County, Tennessee, joining brothers Edward Douglass, who was 3 years old, and David Fulton Douglass, almost 2. He was just twelve when his mother, sheltered from a tunderstorm with many of her children, was struck by lightning and killed while sitting in their home. This was the fourth time the one-story brick house had been hit.

Only days earlier, brother Edward, 16, had drowned, and brother John J. White Douglass died the following autumn before his 4th birthday. These would not be the last of the misfortunes that beset this family and this young boy, but he would go on to live a long and adventurous life.

(Norval Douglass with daughter Anna Elizabeth Gill, granddaughter Mary Alma Gill Morrill and great-granddaughter Eulilla "Joy" Morrill, 1899)

Norval's father, Elmore Douglass, finally married again 4 years later to Sam Houston's first wife, Eliza Allen. Eliza had moved home to help taker care of her siblings, and then later moved in with one or the other of her married sisters. Her mother had died following childbirth in 1832 (baby also died, two days later). The next oldest girl, Margaret, was retarded, and was cared for by Eliza and Elmore till she died in 1863. At any rate, Eliza raised her siblings and her step children, and had 4 more of her own, only one of whom survived to marry, and that one and the daughter both later died.

But Norval and two others were already out of the house before their father remarried, and he soon himself married into another well established family, to Mourning Shelton Miller on November 16, 1844, in Sumner County, Tennessee. How and when they left Tennessee and settled in Huntsville, Madison County, Alabama, I don't know, but they were there with her mother by the 1850 census, with two little girls. The oldest was my great-grandmother, Anna Elizabeth (4), and baby sister Mary Catherine (1).

Mourning was a widow with a three year old boy (only a babe when his father died) when they married, so her life hadn't been easy, either. But Mourning died in July, 1850, after the census, and Norval decided to drive his cattle to relatives in Mississippi and sell out.

Next we know, the little girls are living with their grandma Anna Woods Miller in Bastrop, Texas, where their aunts were married to ranchers. And Norval headed to New Orleans with cousin Grandison Saunders Douglass, to catch a ferry to California via Panama, where he's met by his brother General David Fulton Douglass and cousin Jesse Douglass Carr in December.

Luther Burbank

Some in our lives are just like family even when they are not related. Luther Burbank made himself part of my grandmother's Swanson clan and would like to have joined it officially. His house in Santa Rosa was next door to my great aunt Minnie Swanson Wells, oldest sister of my grandmother, Dora. Younger sister Marie worked at the Burbanks' in many capacities, including taking care of his mother, Olive Ross Burbank, shown here (1906) with Minnie's daughter Irene "Bunnie" Wells.

He was so enamoured of Marie Swanson he proposed, but she, in her wisdom, turned him down over the age difference, observing how her youthful exuberance and playful energies were not a good match for his quiet life. But she continued to work for him until she later married, and the families remained close.

It was Marie to whom he dedicated the Shasta Daisy. I can't help but think it was really Marie he was eluding to, writing his future father-in-law when he later married Elizabeth Jane Waters (1916), "... I have had some success in a small way with the Daisy, but my feeble efforts melt into insignificance compared to the wonderful girl you raised."

It must have been a wonderful sight, having these young women frequenting the fields and gardens, performing little tasks and staying for tea. Here's my grandmother examining some of the blooms.

Luther Burbank gave Marie a cabin on the Russian River, providing for family get-aways in all weather. It had no plumbing, not surprisingly--they hiked the railroad tracks to the river below for water. An early snow covered a tent pitched on the grounds for Dora and her girls awakening one morning. Of the many gatherings at the cabin, this one includes most of the Swanson Family, Luther Burbank, his sister Emma and husband William Beeson, and purportedly guest and close friend John Muir.

When my grandmother, Agatha Deborah "Dora" Swanson Waltz, became ill, my mother spent time staying with Luther Burbank's new family, which now included his wife's niece, Mary Jane Elizabeth "Betty" Waters. Betty's and my mother's birthdays were so close, he held a joint birthday party for them (1923), stringing his favorite tree with paper lanterns. Attending, left to right in back are my family's cousin Cecile Smilie, Luther Burbank, my aunt Jewel Waltz, my mother Patricia Waltz; in front, Betty Waters and his favorite dog:

The John and Amalia Swanson family, c. 1891, with young Marie standing in the center, Ike and Dora behind her, Minnie on the far right. Four little brothers are Paul, John, William and baby Herman. Son Earl was born shortly after Minnie's son Irving.

Thomas Alexander Gill

Thomas A. Gill was born in Maury Co., Tennessee, October 1, 1838, the 4th child of Robert R. Gill and Sarah McClaran "Sallie" Johnson. Sometime after 1844 the family spent a couple of years in Mississippi and by the 1850 census were recorded in the Bastrop Co. Texas census where they had settled and became very active in the community. His father served as a Deputy Sheriff in the late 1850's, and Tom was still living at home in 1860, listed in the census at age 21 as a butcher.

At the start of the Civil War he enlisted as a private in Terry's Texas Rangers, Company D, later designated as the 8th Texas Cavalry even though it was the first unit organized. Almost immediately promoted to Sergeant, he served throughout the war, and the roster describes him as "one of the best soldiers in the regiment." In L. B. Giles' article "Terry's Texas Rangers," Chapter 11: East Tennessee Campaign, is an account of an incident where Colonel Harrison sent Tom Gill to investigate an alarm during a night watch.

Claiborne's History of Terry's Texas Rangers, Part 4 tells a graphic and chilling tale of river rescues with recruits being swept off their horses in swift water -- "We remember to have seen private Tom Gill with an Alabamian by the hair in each hand struggling to the shore, and he successfully accomplished landing them, and put back after others."

It is well recognized the great toll this war, and the extraordinary feats the Rangers endured, took on their lives. Indeed, while he survived to return to a full life and pioneering adventures, he never fully regained his health after the long deprivation his regiment suffered. Gill family oral history speaks of Tom Gill engaged in stalking the movements of Sherman during the latter part of the war, but his name does not appear among Shannon's Scouts. Some remember the twin Colt pistols he had carried, though it was the bible tucked under his arm that later best depicted him.

Younger brothers Joseph Gill (Aug 21, 1842- abt. 1919) and Robert Gill (Mar 24, 1844-Jun 15, 1918) also enlisted at that time. Joseph took a round in the thigh and was discharged, permanently disabled. Robert came home to marry British born Mary Jane Thompson, younger sister of notorious Ben and Billy Thompson. Billy Thompson is buried in the Gill family plot with Robert and Mary Jane Gill, in Fairview Cemetery, Bastrop. Little brother Peter J. Gill (born Oct 17, 1846 in Mississippi) enlisted at the tail of the conflict, too late to see any action.

Tom's sister, Eliza A. Gill, married another Ranger in their unit, Reuben Talley Stroud, also of Bastrop, who had transferred from 18th Texas Cavalry to 8th Texas Cavalry, March, 1863. Their older sister Nancy Gill had married Charles Baylis Stroud, Reuben's oldest brother. When Nancy died April 5, 1861, after the birth of their third child, Charlie married Adeline Louise Hart, older sister of yet another Ranger, Thomas A. Hart.

After the war, Pete and Bob apparently took over the butcher shop started by their older sibling Tom. Mrs. Robert (Mary Jane Thompson) Gill and Mrs. Peter (Mary Abigail Moore, cousin of Anna Elizabeth Douglass) Gill both received Confederate Widows pensions. Joe received a military land grant but sold it when it was clear he would be unable to work it.

Thomas A. Gill married Anna Elizabeth Douglass in 1866, in Bastrop, TX. Their first child, Joseph Woody Ashland Gill, was born in Bastrop in 1867. The family moved to Stockton, California, in the early '70's. Baby Joseph tumbled out of the wagon on the way out, and they had to turn around and go back to find him, unhurt, on the trail. Legend has it they were driving a herd of cattle, but the stock was all picked off by the Indians before they reached their destination. The remainder of their children were all born in Stockton: Thomas A. Jr., Mary Alma, Bettie "Bessie" Douglass, Norval Douglass, George Douglass and William Kleiber (twins) and Abbie Lou. With the exception of twin girls Minnie Lee and Laura Jackson who had died in infancy, these all settled and raised their families in Northern California.

Tom Gill died in Stockton, San Joaquin Co., CA, on December 24, 1902. His wife Anna followed on November 26, 1928, and they are buried in Stockton Rural Cemetery.

(Distinguish this Thomas A. Gill from another Confederate soldier of almost the same age, "Thomas A. Gill born 14 Feb 1837 in Green County AL, died 15 Nov 1916 Coleman County, TX," never married.)

Tom Gill's mother:

Tom's father:

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Anna Douglass & Tom Gill's Progeny

Thomas Alexander GILL was born 1 OCT 1838 in Maury County, Tennessee, and died 24 DEC 1902 in Stockton, San Joaquin County, California. He married Anna Elizabeth DOUGLASS on 24 OCT 1866 in Bastrop, Texas, daughter of Norval DOUGLASS and Mourning Shelton MILLER. She was born 27 FEB 1846 in Sumner Co., Tennessee, and died 26 NOV 1928 in Stockton, CA. Their children are:

1. Joseph Woody Ashland GILL was born 7 SEP 1867 in Bastrop, Texas, and died 28 DEC 1941 in San Joaquin Co., CA. He married Sally S. EATON 26 JUL 1894. Sally was the daughter of James E. EATON and Mary L. MENNER. She was born about 1871 in Pennsylvania, and died before 1900. He married Anna Frank DOWDEN about 1904. Anna was the daughter of John W. and Clara J. DOWDEN. She was born APR 1879 in Iowa, and died 29 MAR 1938 in San Joaquin Co., CA.

2. Minnie Lee GILL (twin) was born 15 JAN 1870 in Bastrop, TX, and died 21 OCT 1872 in San Joaquin Co., CA.
3. Laura Jackson GILL (twin) was born 15 JAN 1870 in Bastrop, TX, and died 15 JUN 1870, probably in San Joaquin Co., CA.

4. Thomas Alexander GILL , Jr. was born 21 APR 1873 in Stockton, San Joaquin Co., CA, and died 10 OCT 1957 in San Joaquin Co., CA. He married Dessa May HILDEBRAND on 22 NOV 1900. She was the daughter of Stephen Decatur HILDEBRAND and Elmira Jane "Ella" POWERS, was born 15 MAY 1874 in California, and died 24 DEC 1940 in San Joaquin Co., CA.

5. Mary Alma GILL was born 28 SEP 1876 in Stockton, San Joaquin Co., CA, and died 13 JUL 1941 in San Joaquin Co., CA. She married Wilbur Grant MORRILL on 18 FEB 1896. Wilbur was the son of Chandler MORRILL and Harriett E. MAHONEY. He was born 28 SEP 1867 in California, and died 22 APR 1917.

6. Bettie "Bessie" Douglass GILL was born 13 OCT 1878 in Stockton, San Joaquin Co., CA, and died 27 MAY 1962 in San Joaquin Co., CA. She married Charles WISEMAN.

7. Norval Douglass GILL was born 11 JUL 1881 in Stockton, San Joaquin Co., CA, and died 19 NOV 1946 in Stockton, San Joaquin Co., CA. He married Caroline E. "Carrie" FISK on 12 JUL 1904 in California. Carrie was the daughter of John Christian FISK and Anna Marie ORTMAN. She was born 4 DEC 1882 in Stockton, San Joaquin Co., CA, and died 3 DEC 1975 in Stockton, San Joaquin Co., CA.

8. George Douglass GILL (twin) was born 19 MAR 1883 in Stockton, San Joaquin Co., CA, and died 2 NOV 1945 in San Joaquin Co., CA. He married Elise Catherine METZLER on 14 JAN 1915. Elise was the daughter of Charles J. METZLER and Helen C. MARTENS. She was born 29 MAR 1890 in California, and died 17 DEC 1978 in San Joaquin Co., CA.

9. William Kleber GILL (twin) was born 19 MAR 1883 in Stockton, San Joaquin Co., CA, and died 29 MAR 1963 in San Joaquin Co., CA. He married Fay Louise DICKEY on 5 JUN 1907. Fay was the daughter of LaFayette DICKEY and Cora L. MCDONALD. She was born 2 SEP 1884 in California, and died 11 APR 1959 in San Joaquin Co., CA.

10. Abbie Lou GILL was born 10 APR 1886 in Stockton, San Joaquin Co., CA, and died 1 OCT 1938 in San Joaquin Co., CA. She married Glenn Dee PADDOCK on 20 DEC 1905. Glenn was the son of Charles Henry PADDOCK and Viola Althea "Ola" TOBEY. He was born 23 MAY 1883 in Michigan, and died 20 MAY 1962 in San Joaquin Co., CA.