Saturday, January 2, 2010

709 Walls St.

To the left is a picture of Grammy Kelley, Nelly Ethel Witherspoon taken in 1931. I believe this photo came originally from Aunt Fran (Francis Kelley Reeves).

I am still confused about the property at 709 Walls St., which appears below. According to the documents at the Clarendon Town Hall, the property the Tax Assessor directed us to, 709 Walls St. was owned by William Henry Witherspoon and Emily Catherine Broadwell Witherspoon until 1925. We weren't able to find any other property listed during the time we searched, from 1910-1927. This seemed to make sense, at least until I talked to the Smith's later that same day.
Property at 709 Walls St. owned by the Witherspoons in 1920I was puzzled that the property was sold in 1925, two years prior to their death, and there was no listing for another property purchased. It seemed clear that this must have been the family homestead.
Upon arrival at 709 Walls St., the owner's dog (I was later advised, "He'll definitely bite if you get too close!"), alerted the whole block to our picture taking party. The daughter came to the porch as I was taking photos in the front of the house. "I should introduce myself, since I'm taking photo's of your house," I said stepping forward. "Why yes," she said, without expression, "I expect that would be the polite thing to do." After the introduction, Mrs. Smith explained, "My husband is changing into his britches before he comes to the door. He just come in from duck hunting and was in nothing but his long johns when you come up."

Mrs. Smith had an abstract of the property which indicated that this property (not the house which was built in the 1960's by Mr. Smith) that the property was purchased from the bank in 1919 by WH and EC Witherspoon, and sold to the next owner in 1921. Mr. Smith, who was born in 1935, reported that there were several pieces of property adjoining this that might well have belonged to the Witherspoons at one time.

We left certain that we were in the right neighborhood, but hoping we could have have identified the property and determined if the original house was still standing.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Descending Upon Town Hall

Historic Clarendon AR Town Hall, built in 1911 It was about 11:30 AM when we entered the historic Clarendon Town Hall. Not a human in sight, our voices echoed off the black and white tile floor. We knew this building was inhabited because there was a large Christmas Tree gracing the center hallway. As we began peering in one office after another, we got the distinct feeling people were slipping past us, and exiting...

We caught one person in her office still seated, who looked at the clock when she saw Dad (Roger Kelley) file folders, maps, and camera in hand, "We're doing some research on my family, the Witherspoons, and we're looking for tax records, birth and death records, deeds..." Deeds had just left for lunch, birth and death notices were housed in Little Rock, where we had just traveled from, and tax records were on the 3rd floor.

Off to the 3rd floor we trooped. Tax records were handwritten in the 10's and 20's in large ledgers, and organized by the letter of the last name. "Wi" did not necessarily follow "Wa," so all the W's for each year needed to be reviewed.

It occurred to me after several years of records, with no listings for WH Witherspoon, that this family of 13 may not have been a household with much taxable property outside of real estate, which was not included in these records. Two records, were located for Weatherspoon, however. More sophisticated researchers would have noted these, we did not. We've since learned that spelling errors such as this were common, and on the next trip, we'll look into those a bit more.

When no one was looking, I slipped away. The Deed office was now opened, and everyone was smiling in that office, so that's where I moved. After a brief lesson on how the books worked, I began looking from 1927 earlier. Eureka! A reference for 1925. This record indicates a lot that was sold in 1925, which later completely confused us. Dad was off to secure the address from the Tax Assessor's office. For a larger image of this image click here.

According to the Tax Assessor, this piece of property was currently, ">709 Walls St.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Witherspoon Links

Random Links

Michael Witherspoons photo collection of Vintage Witherspoon photos

Michael Witherspoons Research Page on Tripod

Witherspoon History written by Roger Boyd Witherspoon

Beginning With The End

Road leading north of Shady Grove Cemetary, Clarendon AR This seems like as good a place as any to begin, with the road leading north past Shady Grove Cemetery in Clarendon Arkansas. We were told by the town historian, that this is the cemetery where William Henry Witherspoon and his wife Emily Catherine Witherspoon are buried. It was explained to us that while they are designated on the plot map as reposing here, there may be no markers.

As the sun was setting over Shady Grove, and our day was ending in Clarendon The Kelley branch of the Witherspoon clan was fanned out across the cemetery. Olive had the stick drawing prepared by the receptionist in the town hall while on the phone with the town's historian, "Go through the main entrance with the arch, to the intersection in the roadway. Park here. Go 7 rows to the west. Look for 'Henry Robinson' and they will be nearby."

Shady Grove Cemetary Clarendon ARAn hour and a half later, Roger was wandering down by the railroad tracks, Olive was taking a bearing on the setting sun and reviewing the map for secret messages, and I was pacing off rows for the umpteenth time. We found the Robinson marker in the first row, by the entrance without an arch--no Witherspoons. It was decided we would come back again, and try to meet with the historian on-site.

This was, however, a very Kelley outing, I thought to myself, as I watched the sun setting over the rice paddies--each of is moving in different directions, with our own private thoughts, yet connected somehow as a family. As if on cue, a freight train whistle blew as it passed at the western edge of the cemetery. No doubt, Grammy Kelley (Nelly Ethel Witherspoon) listened many evenings to a train whistle blowing as a young girl, growing up in town here, 80 years ago.