Week 2: #52 Ancestors – Family Legend
By Eilene Lyon
My grandmother, Clare (Davis) Smith, left this typewritten note regarding her paternal ancestors. I want to learn more about the first one, but I’m going to address them all, beginning at the bottom. (Typos have been corrected.)“The Davis family moved from Missouri to Texas Ridge, Idaho. They chose that land because they wanted wood and water. They could have had Genesee land. The family was large enough to have a Davis threshing crew. The move was made via railroad, to Moscow, Idaho.”
Grandma’s father was part of this migration, and she wrote a bit more about it. The basic facts are true. The railroad did reach Moscow at the time they moved and they homesteaded on Texas Ridge. It was a large family, so the threshing crew is plausible. The property did have trees, and probably water, though the trees are gone now.
“Great grandfather, Hamilton Cunningham Davis, was a doctor in Pennsylvania.”
Hamilton C. Davis died in 1847, before the census began recording occupations.1 Local history books in Missouri call him Dr. Davis. He also owned a mill and a lot of property in western Missouri, and prior to that in North Carolina (including enslaved persons). He was born in North Carolina and I have no reason to believe he ever spent any time in Pennsylvania.
“Grandfather Davis, Melville Cox Davis, was a confederate soldier (drummer) in the Civil War and a drifter afterwards. He met Sarah Rebecca in North Carolina on the plantation. He probably learned carpentry there.”
Clare never met her grandfather, Melville, who died eight years before she was born, but she certainly knew her grandmother, Sarah Rebecca (Livengood) Davis. I suspect that the Davises, like many people, were tight-lipped about their wartime experiences. In the absence of facts, fantasy ran rampant.
Melville C. Davis did serve in the Confederate Army. None of his service records mention him being a drummer. His son, Elmer, was a musical prodigy, so it’s at least possible. Everything after that is demonstrably untrue.
Melville’s parents, Dr. Hamilton C. Davis and Christina Mock, moved to Lafayette County, Missouri, shortly after their marriage in North Carolina in 1834.2 Melville, their first child, was born in 1835 in Lafayette County.3 Sarah Livengood was born in North Carolina in 1840, and her parents joined the Davises in Missouri sometime before 1844.4 There is no possibility that this couple met in North Carolina.
And Melville certainly wasn’t a drifter after the war. He and Sarah already had two children before he enlisted. Sarah, and Melville’s step-father, petitioned the government to get him released from a Union prison, and he went home to his family. Sarah’s father could have taught Melville the carpentry trade.
“Grandmother Davis’s father, Andrew Livengood, was an overseer on a North Carolina plantation. She was an excellent housekeeper and seamstress.”
I love that second sentence. My grandmother obviously took after her grandmother. Her home was always spic-n-span, and she made many cute outfits for her two daughters. But what about Andrew Livengood being an overseer? The job title refers to a foreman who supervises workers, usually manual laborers.
I’ve always set aside researching my North Carolina ancestors. They are my only connection to the South and slavery. I also have a number of brick walls to contend with, but DNA is starting to chisel away at them. Many of the families on that branch are of German extraction.
Andrew’s grandfather, Hardtmann Leibengut/Hartman Livengood, immigrated from Germany in 1750 and settled in Pennsylvania, where Andrew’s father, John Livengood was born in 1766.5‘6 The Livengood family all moved to North Carolina by 1780.7 They belonged to Bethany Reformed (Lutheran) Church.8 So far, I’ve found no records to indicate they enslaved anyone.
The family owned property in northeastern Davidson County (originally part of Rowan County), an area where some families had large landholdings, mostly producing cotton and tobacco. The Davises lived in neighboring Guilford County, but might have been relatively close by. One possibility is that Andrew worked as an overseer for the Davis family. Given their connection in Missouri, it wouldn’t surprise me.
Andrew and his son, John M. Livengood, like Melville Davis, served the Confederacy from Missouri. Union soldiers arrested Andrew for aiding the enemy in March 1862, and he posted a $3,000 bond.9 Several months later, at about age 52, he enlisted for a three-year term of service.10 Unlike his son and son-in-law, he appears to have avoided imprisonment and punishment.
After the war, Andrew and his wife, Mary Taggart, moved to Bowensburg, Hancock County, Illinois, and remained there for life. Ancestry DNA recently led me to a match who had Mary Taggart’s father’s will attached to their tree. It named Andrew and Mary as heirs, as well as her mother and siblings – brick wall toppled.
At the Davis family reunion in Idaho in 2019, I photographed two letters that Andrew wrote to his daughter, Sarah Davis (still living in Missouri at the time). His spelling was atrocious, but he was literate. He’s very chatty about family and clearly cherishes the relationships. He’s no longer working as a carpenter, but just subsisting in his elder years. He relied on what he could raise on his town lot (including a cow and a couple pigs) and some lathe work, but stayed out of debt.
Earlier this week, I spoke with the director at Mendenhall Homeplace in Jamestown, Guilford County, NC. He passed along some possible plantation names in the area (and revealed the proper pronunciation of Livengood, with a long i, not short). One of those names was Lindsay, and Livengood deed records reveal a connection to that family. Google brought me a few other possibilities. Considering the number of records to sift through, I will not resolve this family legend today.
Feature image: The Holt plantation house outside of Lexington, Davidson County, North Carolina. The home was built in 1834, the same year Andrew Livengood and Mary Taggart married. (Wikimedia Commons)
Andrew Livengood on Ancestry.com
- Headstone in New Hope Cemetery, Lafayette County, MO. Personal visit. ↩
- Hamilton C. Davis and Christina Mock. Ancestry.com. North Carolina, U.S., Marriage Records, 1741-2011 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: North Carolina County Registers of Deeds. Microfilm. Record Group 048. North Carolina State Archives, Raleigh, NC. ↩
- Melville’s headstone gives his birth date and location. Census records consistently give his birthplace as Missouri. ↩
- Sarah’s headstone gives her birth date and location. Census records confirm these. AND Andrew Levengood. Year: 1850; Census Place: District 46, Lafayette, Missouri; Roll: 403; Page: 236a – via Ancestry.com. ↩
- Pennsylvania German Pioneers: A Publication of the Original Lists of Arrivals in the Port of Philadelphia from 1727 to 1808, Vol. I pp. 428-9 – via Ancestry.com. ↩
- https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/10077921/john-livengood AND Lineages, Inc., comp. Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, 1757-1885: Upper Milford Reformed Congregation [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2000. ↩
- Hartman Livingood. Document: Tax List – 1779 [NC State Archives]; Call Number: C.R. 085.701.5; Page Number: 28; Family Number: 26 – via Ancestry.com. ↩
- https://www.findagrave.com/cemetery/1984818/memorial-search?firstName=&lastName=Livengood&includeMaidenName=true&page=1#sr-194313288 ↩
- https://www.fold3.com/image/288336492 ↩
- https://www.fold3.com/image/88601252 ↩