Wednesday, June 9, 2010


JOHN BAYLESS of Knox Co., TN, 1830-1920

John Bayless enlisted into the US Army, March 22, 1865, at Camp Morton, IN. Shortly after that he was detached to Ft. Leavenworth, KS. In his absence, his family became destitute. The following letters were found in his Civil War service record which is available at I have transcribed these letters to the best of my ability. I have not corrected spelling or punctuation. The letter written from John Bayless to his Headquarters and the letter written by Sarah Bayless to HQ, Ft. Sedgwick, are both beautifully written and may have been written by an agent. The letter written by Sarah Bayless to her husband has different handwriting and grammar which reinforces my belief that an agent wrote the other letter for her.

The images of these letters from the National Archives and provided at as Union records of the Civil War are very faint and some words or phrases were difficult to make out. I chose not to guess as to the words and have used blanks and question marks instead.

March the 16th 1866
Benton Co. Clover Trail po

Dear husband I seat myself this eavning to answer your kind letters which I have dilaid answering. I just received a short letter from you I was glad to hear from you and would be a grait deal glader to hear that you was a cuming home for I don’t sea how we can get along much longer without you I would ____? Rote sooner vut I have bin at a grait deal of Trouble to get me a house with the willow ____? And we can stay hear til the oaner of the house comes back from ill her people is a looking for her every day and what will become of us then god only nose foridrant? Billy and Siney? W well Mary Jane is away from here she is working to get money to buy her a pair of shoes I worked out last week to get my self a pair of shoes I don’t feel very well this morning it is all I can do to sit up to have my letter rote I received the five dollars and the five stamps which you sent me John you must not think hard of me for not riting oftener for you know I cannot rite I want you to rite soon and often don’t wait for me I will rite as often as I can wee cut and carry ____? Would and sit by our oan fire and sleep in our oan beds wee eat out oan bread and meet and when we get sick we doe our oan grunting and wait on out selves till wee get well it looks like every fellow is for him self and the ____? For all the men hear has the least respect for the widows and fatherless (End of this part of the letter.)

The letter continues:

March the 17th 1866

I will finish my letter this morning well John I was very sick all night but I feal sum better this morning I was taken with a puking and purging which lasted nearly all night John I doe wish you could come home to stay or send for me and the children to come to you Mary Jane started a letter to you I doant expect you will ever get it and if you doe I expect you can read it if you get it let me now it so no oar at present but remines your affection wife an till death

Sarah S. Bayless and children
To John Bayless

Letter from John Bayless:

Head Qrts. US Forces
Kansas and Territories
Fort Leavenworth Mar. 24
Major J. P. Sherburne
Asst. Adjt. General
Dept. of Missouri
Saint Louis, Mo.

Sir, I have the honor most respectfully to request a furlough of thirty days (30) to allow me to attend to my private business and family who are sick and need my presence very much as will be seen by letter hereto attached.

I am Sir
Very Respectfully
Your Obd. Servt.
John Bayless
Pvt. Co “C” 6th US Vols.
Messenger at these Head Qtrs.

Letter from Sarah S. Bayless:

Fort Leavenworth, Kansas
July 23rd 1866

Col. Potter
Comdg 6th US Vol Infantry

Sir I hope that your kindness will excuse me for the liberty I assumed by adresing you. I am so situated that I have no other means than to afily? To those in power. My husband is a member of your Regiment of Co “C” and by some misfortune preventing him from drawing pay, is unable to support his family, which consists of small and helpless children. I myself being feeble in physical activities and therefore unable to procure a livelihood by hard labor. I am living at this Garrison unable to draw any support from the Persinit? Having no evidence of my husband belonging to any Command on the Frontier. My husband John Bayless has ever to my knowledge sustained a soldiers reputation in your Regiment and in his company. I would therefore respectfully ask your influence and hurry to the resue from suffering a family in great need. By endorsing a application to the secretary of War to have my husband mustered out of the service, or should you deem it impossible, have the kindness and yourself use a Laundress certificate to inable me to draw rations.

I hope kind sir this my request will meet your due consideration, assuring you that nothing but actual need would cause me to make this request.

I am most respectfully

Sarah S. Bayless

Letters of response to this request all contained on one folded sheet of paper:

Fort Leavenworth Kas.
July 28, 1866
Bayless Sarah S.

Asks for the discharge of her husband John Bayless, Private Co. C. 6th Regm. US Vols to aid in the support of his family now in a destitute and suffering condition.

Head Quo 6 Regm. US Vols
Fort Dedgwick ____?

27 Aug. 1866

Respectfully referred to Capt. D. J. Ezekiel Commdg Co “C” 6 US Vols for his information and remarks.

These papers to be returned.

Col. C. H. Potter
Head Qrs. “C” Co 6th USV
La Porte ____? 16th Sept. ‘66

Respectufully returned to Lieut. Cye E. Sowes Adjt. 6th USV.

Private John Bayless, of this company was, when detached, furnished with a “Descriptive List” which was in possession of the a. a. a. G. of the US Forces Kansas and the Territories on the 10th of May last – I having received a letter of that date from said officer notifying me of a stoppage on the Descriptive List of said Bayless. If Bayless is to be mustered out on the plea set forth in this letter I have several other men in my company who should be included in the application to the Hon. Secty. Of War.

I have no objections to her being assigned to the Co. as a Laundress, if you see fit to appoint her as such.

D. J. Ezekiel
Capt. 6th USV
Company “C” Co.

I have reviewed the cards in this file. John Bayless enlisted March 22 (on some cards) or March 20 (on one Descriptive List) in 1865.

He was on Detached service or duty from Aug. 1865 to Sept. (or Oct.) 1866. Just prior to that his duty was Company cook starting in July 1865. His detached service was at HQ, Ft. Leavenworth, KS and the Territories where he was a messenger by Special Field Order No. 1, HQ, US Forces, KS and the Territories.

A list of papers in the file shows that John Bayless did receive a furlough, no date given in the list. I did not see a card regarding this furlough.

Card (image 24) states: "Not credited to any locality. Not entitled to any local or US Bounty."

He seems to have been in debt more often than paid. The May/June 1865 Muster Roll shows that he owed the "sutler" $3.00. A card (image No. 22) shows that in his clothing account he had drawn $18.87 and had returned from Detached Service on Oct 12, 1866. It also shows that he was overpaid $45.45.

Card (image 16) has a large section of remarks which cover the front and back of the card and explain the over payment to John Bayless:

"This soldier was paid by Maj. Shreve to include the 30th June 1865 on the 17th day of Feb. 1866. Notification was received that he again had been paid in full from Enlistment to include the 31st Dec. 1865. The mistake was no fault of the Co. Comdr. (over)"

(Continued on the back of the card)
"For at the time the Des. List was forwarded him he had not drawn his pay, but had signed the rolls. Some 15 days after the Captain comdg. the Company drew his pay and sent it to him, at the same time his notifying the officer to whom he reported of said payment, that the same could be put on his Des. List. Application has been made for the old Des. List, that a new one could be furnished with corrections. The Paymaster General of the Army has been notified of the error with a full explanation of the facts in this case."

(Image 2)


John Bayless, PVT, Co. C., 6 Reg’t U. S. Vols., Inf.
Roll dated Camp Morton Ind, Mar 22, 1865
Where born: Knoc Co., Tenn.
Age: 35 y’rs; Occupation: Farmer
When Enlisted: Mar 20, 1865
Where Enlisted: Camp Morton Ind.
For what period enlisted: 3 years
Eyes: blue; Hair: black
Complexion: dark; Height: 5 ft., 8 in.
When Mustered in: Mar 22, 1865
Muster-in to date: Mar 22, 1865
Where mustered in: Camp Morton Ind.
(Image 3)


Company C, 6 Reg’t, U. S. Vol. Inf.
Age: 35; Height: 5 feet 8 inches
Complexion: dark
Eyes: black; Hair: black
Where born: Knoxville, Tenn.
Occupation: Farmer

When: Mch 20, 1865
Where: Camp Morton, Ind.
By whom: A. J. Hearn; Term: 3 y’rs

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Sadly, I have discovered at least three murders and two possible suicides while researching my ancestors. I am sorry to say that these sad events do occur and if you research your history long enough and go far enough into the past you are bound to discover one or more murders.

My Mother’s grand-aunt Mary (Wise) Davenport, sister to her grandmother Harriet (Wise) Bayless, married a young man in Cherokee Co., AL. This young man was John W. Davenport. John W. Davenport went on to become a physician. The Davenports moved west as many families did in the early part of the 19th century. They went from AL to possibly AR and, I believe, settled for a short time in TX. They eventually made their home in Oakman, Indian Territory (IT), in what is now the state of OK.

The Hon. James Sanford Davenport was the doctor’s brother. James S. Davenport was an attorney for the Cherokee Nation, 1901-1907. He lived in Vinita where he had served as Mayor 1903-1904. At the time of the crime he was serving as a Democratic Representative for the future state of OK. He was elected a U. S, Congressman the following September and served in that capacity from Statehood, Nov. 16, 1907, until March 3, 1909. The Hon. James S. Davenport later became a Judge of the Criminal Court of Appeals.

John and Mary Davenport settled in Oakman near Ada. They raised three children while John practiced medicine. In 1907, Dr. J.W. Davenport ran for County Coroner in Ada. The Ada newspaper had several ads promoting the doctor for this position in the Spring of 1907. We will never know if he would have been elected because he was murdered during the campaign.

On March 18, 1907, the shocking headlines of the Ada newspaper announced that Dr. Davenport had been “FOULLY ASSASSINATED”. The same paper that announced the murder continued to run the ads for Davenport’s campaign for Coroner, a rather macabre comment on the tragedy. The Hon. James S. Davenport rushed to Ada to assist in the investigation of the crime.

The information about the crime and investigation has been taken from “The Evening News”, Ada, OK, March and May, 1907.

On the evening of Saturday, March 16, according to Mrs. Davenport, the doctor left home to answer a medical call. The exact events that followed are unknown but I will relate what was determined by the evidence.

Dr. Davenport had attended a patient on the south side of Francis and was preparing to return home. This was surmised from the fact that one rein of his two-horse buggy was hanging down and the other had been put up apparently in preparation to drive away from the scene. At this point, someone approached the doctor from behind, placed a gun barrel against the back of his head and shot him. The Coroner found powder burns around the wound. A shot was heard by neighbors at about 1 AM Sunday morning.

The body was found at 8 AM, Sunday morning. A large crown of onlookers soon gathered making it difficult to investigate the scene. The Hon. James S. Davenport, of Vinita, rushed to the scene and provided investigation by a noted team of bloodhounds. Two sets of footprints were found leading to the scene of the crime. These appeared to be those of a man and a woman. The smaller set led away again. This indicated that the doctor and a woman had come to the buggy from a nearby house, the doctor was shot and the woman returned to the house. The woman’s footprints then proceeded to a neighbor’s house. In the woman’s house was found a Colt pistol. The 32 calibre ball in the recently fired pistol matched that taken from the doctor’s wound.

On Monday, March 18, U. S. Deputy Marshal Cummings arrested Mrs. Mary E. Brooks in whose house the Colt pistol was found. Mrs. Brooks, a patient of Dr. Davenport, was described as “a handsome, clear-eyed, young woman” who sat “composedly” in the courtroom on Monday. Mr. Brooks was in Bates, AR, at the time of the crime. Mrs. Brooks was 31 years old and the mother of two children. She denied any knowledge of the crime.

Three witnesses took the stand on Monday to give evidence. Otis W. Tittle, the keeper of Vinita’s famous bloodhounds, gave evidence about the trailing of the suspect from the crime scene to first her own home and then to her neighbor’s home. The Hon. James S. Davenport, brother to the deceased, testified as to his observations at the scene and to the work of the bloodhounds which he had hired. R. J. Skinner, City Marshal of Francis also testified. Mrs. Brooks was held over for trial and sent to Ardmore.

In May a Grand Jury convened in Ardmore to hear evidence against Mrs. Mary E. Brooks. They deliberated and failed to return an indictment in spite of the evidence. Mrs. Brooks was freed and the murder remains unsolved.

PHOTO: Dr. John W. Davenport and his wife Mary Wise.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Looking for Lincoln Part II: The Todd Connection

I found a second connection between the family of President Lincoln and the BAYLES family (Mother’s surname was BAYLES long ago). Actually, this connection is to Mary Ann Todd, his wife. There is a line of descendants of the immigrant BAYLES ancestors, John and wife Rebecca, that ends in a marriage connecting the BAYLES and TODD families.

I have found this an exciting line to trace and the BAYLESes of this line were very active in war and politics. They are not my ancestors. We do, however, share our nearest ancestors John Bayles, Jr. (b. 1642) and his wife Ruth Rusco.

Sources for this line of descent include The Bayles Families of Long Island and New Jersey, by Howard Green Bayles, Houston, 1944; Revolutionary War records; census records; newspaper articles; various state and county records; the letters of Gov. Ninian Edwards of Illinois; state and national legislature records, etc.

Among the descendants of John and Ruth is Platt Bayles who was an officer in the American Army during the Revolutionary War. His final rank is unproven but he reached the rank of Major and probably Colonel. He has also been reported to have been a General but I find no records of that. He died in 1778 at Valley Forge.

Phoebe Bayles, a daughter of Platt Bayles and his wife Phoebe Lewis, married Joseph Fairchild in 1791. The Fairchild’s had a daughter, Sarah Tennery Fairchild. Sarah married, Oct. 17, 1819, David Jewitt Baker, a Senator from Illinois who served in the United States Congress. David J. Baker filled a vacancy in the U.S. Senate in 1830 when John McLean died. Among the letters of Gov. Ninian Edwards of Illinois is one from Sarah T. (Fairchild) Baker suggesting that her husband could fill that seat in the Senate.

Sarah and David. J. Baker had several children including Edward Lewis Baker who served as U.S. Assessor until that position was abolished. He was then appointed by President Grant as the Counsel to Buenos Aires in 1873. In 1855, Edward Lewis Baker married Julia Cook Edwards, the daughter of Ninian W. Edwards, son of Gov. Ninian Edwards and his wife Elizabeth P. Todd, the sister of Mary Ann (Todd) Lincoln.

Thus, we have a long, eventful and winding path from John Bayles, British immigrant, to at last, a connection to President Lincoln by way of a marriage.

One last surprise. While working on this line I discovered that one of the descendants of Phoebe Bayles and Joseph Fairchild is comic actor Cornelius Crane “Chevy” Chase! That is another story.

I thank Harry Nelms for all of the additional research and help in tracing this line as together we searched for a Lincoln Connection.

Looking for Lincoln Part I: Anna Belle Lincoln

My Mother’s family (BAYLESS) has been in this country since the early 1600s. When you can trace your family history back even a few generations you are bound to find connections to well known personages. At the very least, you will find family traditions that connect your family to notables. Thus it was no surprise when I was asked by another BAYLES/BAYLESS researcher, “How are we connected to President Abraham Lincoln?” It is not surprising to hear the question. It was a puzzle though. I had already been researching the Bayless family for several years and had never come across a Lincoln connection.

The short answer is that descendants of Anna Belle Lincoln and Albert L. Bayless do seem to share some common ancestors with President Lincoln.

It took a little work for me to find out the connection. When I started I had not heard of Anna Belle Lincoln. Anna Belle’s family were from Rockingham Co., VA, as were the ancestors of the President. I found two newspaper articles concerning Anna Belle. One article was about her connection to President Lincoln and the other was an article about her 54th wedding anniversary that included reference to her Lincoln connection. Mrs. (Lincoln) Bayless claimed that Lincoln was her father’s cousin. I set out to see if I could prove it.

Anna Belle and Albert Bayless lived in Joplin, MO. Anna Belle’s family had long been settled in Rockingham Co., VA. Her parents were Mary Elizabeth Koontz (another old Rockingham family) and Albert Curtis Lincoln. The Parents of Albert Bayless came to MO from East TN where Albert was born at Telford, the son of Amanda Ann Haney and John Tabor Bayless. My Mother’s Bayless line connects with Albert’s ancestors in Washington Co., TN, where they settled at the end of the 18th century.

I found two interesting books about the ancestry of Abraham Lincoln: History of the Lincoln Family, An Account of the Descendants of Samuel Lincoln of Hingham Massachusetts 1637-1920; Compiled by Waldo Lincoln, A.B., Worcester, MA, 1923, and The Ancestry of Abraham Lincoln, by J. Henry Lea and H.R. Hutchinson, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston and New York, 1909. Of these two books, the first one by Waldo Lincoln includes Anna Belle (Lincoln) Bayless and her Lincoln ancestors. The book by Lea and Hutchinson traces the ancestry of the President. The first common ancestor of both the President and Anna Belle was John Lincoln, b. 1711. From John Lincoln back to the immigrant ancestor, Samuel Lincoln (who d, 1619). Both the President and Anna Belle’s ancestors are the same.

John Lincoln and his wife Rebecca had a son Jacob who was born 1751. Jacob Lincoln married Doris Robinson and had a son David. David’s son Preston Lincoln married Elizabeth Coffman and they were the parents of Albert Curtis Lincoln, the father of Anna Belle. I used Family Tree maker’s “Relationship Calculator” to determine how Anna Belle Lincoln Bayless was related to the President: second cousin, twice removed. If Mr. Walso Lincoln’s ancestry is correct, then Anna Belle was also correct about her father’s ancestry and through her, her Bayless descendants thus are “cousins” of the President.

Anna Belle also claimed a connection to the President through her mother Mary Elizabeth Koontz. I could not confirm that. The Koontz family (also Coonce, etc.) were early settlers of Rockingham Co., VA. It would not be surprising to find that they also have a second marital connection to the Lincolns but I have not yet found it.

The photo of Anna Belle Lincoln and her husband Albert L. Bayless was taken in 1952 on the occasion of their 54th wedding anniversary.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

"Blondie" - My Hollywood Connection

As a child I loved watching old comedies on TV. My favorites included the serials “Our Gang”, “Henry Aldrich”, "Andy Hardy" and “Blondie”. One day I was surprised and thrilled when my father said, “I’m related to the ‘Blondie’ director Frank Strayer.” We had a Hollywood connection! I asked my Dad some questions and soon discovered that he had no idea how he was related. This was a story told to him by his father John Earl Ribling.

I did not grow up surrounded by relatives. My Dad had a career in the USAF. We moved every few years. We lived for about 6 years in Illinois at Chanute AFB in Rantoul. My father’s parents lived in Beardstown. We visited them only a few times when I was very young. I never really got to know my grandparents but I was very close to my paternal grandfather and have fond memories of him.

Many years later when I was much older and already researching my ancestry I decided to investigate my “Hollywood Connection”. Surely, T thought, it would be easy to learn a lot about a Hollywood director especially one who had directed such a popular comedy series. How wrong I was.

A search for information on Frank Strayer was mostly a dead end. I could find Filmographys. I even discovered that his parents were Reuben Strayer and Elizabeth Ribling. At last I knew what the Ribling connection was but, who was Elizabeth Ribling and how was she related to my father?

RIBLING is an uncommon name. I knew from my father that his family was from Johnstown, PA. I began to search genealogy sites and surname boards. I discovered that at least two men named Henry Ribling had been German immigrants. I even found a German immigrant named Henry Ribling who fought in the Civil War. He had been drafted into the Union Army near the end of the war. I could not connect any of these men to my grandfather. I met, online, others who were also researching RIBLING or REIBLING or other variations but none of them knew about my family.

My father told me that his grandfather had owned a funeral parlor and a furniture store in Pennsylvania. One day, online, I received an e-mail from a woman whose elderly relative owned furniture that had been purchased from Henry Ribling in Clearfield Co., PA. Sadly, this contact was reluctant to correspond further and I heard nothing more from her.

I subscribed to some online libraries and that led to a history of Clearfield Co. In the book I found a sketch of Henry Ribling who was a noted PA muralist. He had painted murals in many public buildings. When he retired from painting he opened a funeral parlor and furniture store in Clearfield. The sketch included the names of Henry’s wife Susan Harmick and all of his children including Elizabeth Ribling Strayer and George Ribling. George Ribling was my grandfather’s father! Here at last was the family connection to Hollywood! Elizabeth and Frank Strayer were my grandfather’s aunt and uncle. A Family Tradition proved! I was probably about 6 years old when I first heard the tale. I was 59 when I had the answer.

Now I have a subscription to a newspaper archive and have learned even more about Frank Strayer. He was born in Altoona, PA. He attended Wilkinsburg High School in Wilkinsburg, PA, and he was a graduate in Engineering at Carnegie Technical Institute. He worked as an engineer for a short time and then went to Hollywood where he acted in at least one film before directing his first film at Columbia. He directed at twelve of the “Blondie” comedies including the first one in 1938. In 1942 a newspaper article about Daisy the dog stated that according to Frank Strayer who had directed the dog in all 10 “Blondie” pictures at that time, Daisy had never “blown” a scene.

NOTE: The photo is of my Grt-grandparents Annie (Thomas) and George Ribling. It was taken for their 50th wedding anniversary. They were the Aunt and Uncle of Director Frank Strayer.


Who are these Strangers? I have been seeking information about my Ancestors and their kin for many years. They have become so familiar to me that I think of them as "Friends". In fact, I have never met most of them. Most of them had passed on long before I was born and yet, they seem so familiar, so close. I almost feel that I could call them up or visit them. I want to speak with them, to say, "Hi Grt-Grandpa Dan! Please tell me about your family."

While researching my family and others I have read stories about their lives, "Family Traditions". These stories are always more interesting than the Facts. I often wonder if I can find proof of traditions. I think I can. In some cases I have. That is always a thrill.

The main purpose of this Blog is to present some of these Traditions, to prove them if I can. I welcome any input here. Do you have a Family Tradition that is interesting or that you have found some proof for? If so, I hope that you will share these with me. My other purpose is to present the stories of families as a narrative. I have presented genealogical information on most of these families elsewhere. Here you can read the stories of the lives of these Ancestors.

My Ancestors begin with my parents and go back far into time. On my Mother's side some surnames are BAYLESS, HUDSON, BENNETT, WISE, TUNNELL, MONEY, etc. I know little about my Father's family but his ancestors include RIBLING, PETERSON and possibly OLSON.

My first Tale will be about a RIBLING tradition and how I proved the truth of it.