I write a genealogy column each month. This is the one I just sent in...it's an interesting story:
Carol Allen, firstname.lastname@example.org , 25911 S. 621 Lane, Grove OK 74344 posted the following query:
"I apologize for length but there is not a short version. I have a big problem. I am a 'died in the wool' genealogist with a database of over 8,000 people related to me or to each other. My problem is this: I have a great-great-grandfather that is just impossible for me to get information on.
"His name is William Thomas Blassingame, and he was born in South Carolina 18 December 1829. He only shows up on one census. In 1860 he and his wife Catherine are shown on the Palo Pinto County, Texas, census. They had children before that time, but no children are shown with them, no ages are shown, no birthplace, etc. It only has the names of William and Catherine and that they are male and female. These are things that a neighbor might have known.
"The only Palo Pinto census records that I can find for 1870 are the two pages that Ancestry.com has on their website. I have read in other locations on the web that there is no census for this county for 1870.
"Evidently Mr. Blassigame was not a great man. In the book, The Blassingame Families, there are several stories told about his gambling and other activities. The book also mentions that he was killed by a family member, and mentions two possibilities.
"I'm sure he isn't the only black sheep that I have, so that isn't the problem. I really need to know these things about him. Where, when, and how did he die? Where is he buried? One distant relative said that it was 1874 and that he is buried in Parker County, but no one seems to know.
"My great aunt (long ago deceased) said that his wife Catherine was born in England. I would love to know her age and verify the birthplace. No one in my family ever talked about this man, so I know nothing first hand except this info from my great aunt, his granddaughter.
"Did Catherine marry again? Was there a big scandal? One report says his brother-in-law killed him and one report says it was his son. Are there any newspapers that would have this story? Is there a marriage record for Catherine. Anything might help."
Well, Carol is certainly right. William Thomas Blassingame and his wife, Catherine, are found on the Palo Pinto County census of 1860, precinct 4, page 22, taken by John Whittson, assistant marshal, on 10 July 1860. Also, the 1870 census for Palo Pinto County is missing, except for two pages...does anyone know what happened?
I corresponded with Carol, and she provided more information about her ancestor as is found in The Blassingame Families, Vol. 1, by W. Doak Blassingame, M.D.:
William Thomas Blassingame ws born in Pickens County, South Carolina, on 19 December 1829, his mother being Malinda Ann Holder. William married first to a Miss Allgood and second to Catherine Alexander. Both marriages took place before 1860. William enlisted in the Confederate Army from Palo Pinto County, Texas, on 5 March 1861.
William's nephew, John William (Jack) Blassingame, when he was interviewed in 1952 has the following to say about his uncle:
"Uncle Bill was a great gambler but had his abdomen ripped open in Greenville, South Carolina, by an old man and had to walk half a mile holding his entrails in. The old man moved to Memphis, but Bill took an oath to kill his whole family, however yellow fever felled all before he could.
"In 1849 Bill went to San Francisco by way of Cape Horn and was blown six months off course, being reduced to rations of one cracker a day. (On board the ship "Oregon", arriving from Panama in San Francisco on 18 October 1850 was W. C. Blassingam, who may be this man, San Francisco Ship Passenger Lists, by Louis J. Rasmussen, Vol. II, page 56.) In Salt Lake City he fought a duel and allegedly killed a man. There is also a legend that he was once seen fighting one hundred Indians on horseback.
"Evidentially after the Civil War, Bill resumed gambling and later returned to Jacksboro, Texas, where he was allege killed by his own brother-in-law, leaving two sons and a daughter. Bob and Emma were raised by Uncle Sam Blassingame, while Tom was raised by John David Blassingame, my father."
Another relative alleges Bill was killed by his son, Tom, in 1874, and was buried in Parker County, Texas.
His children were William Thomas (Tom) Jr., born in Georgia in 1857. His mother was Catherine Alexander. Robert Carr (Bob) was born in Palo Pinto County, Texas, 18 August 1863 and died in Orofino, Clearwater County, Idaho, 13 February 1939. His mother was also Catherine Alexander. Emma was born in Texas in 1861. In the 1880 census of Grayson County, Texas, she was listed as a niece, living in the household of S. T. (Samuel Tipton) Blassingame. Emma married Ed Maulden and had three daughters, Leila, Lola, and Maude.
According to cousin Jack, Bob was highly intelligent but he struck the mayor of Van Alstyne, Texas, and was run out of town, going to Arizona where he may have gotten a job killing Mexican sheep hearders. Next he is supposed to have gone to Chicago where he became an inspector in the cattle yards. Later he reputedly went to the Klondike to the gold fields. Still later he was seen by a former friend in the lobby of a saloon in Tampico, Mexico, where he was said to be using another name, although he asked about his family. He was supposed to be very wealthy, owning several ranches in Mexico. According to his daughter he went to live with Bill's half-brother S. T. when was 12. His only child was Oasis Ellen, born in Woodruff, Arizona, on 8 July 1886. She married Mortimer P. Burrows.
Isn't that an interesting story Carol has told us! But, she really would like to find out more factual information about W. T. Blassingame, so if you have some information, please email or write her...and let us know, as well!
Also intriguingly, my husband Raf pointed out that there is a famous Tom Blasingame, definitely not the same one, about whom a song has been written. This other Tom is said to have, on 17 December 1989 after working for the JA Ranch for 73 years, climbed off his horse, Ruidosa, stretched out on the grass, folded his arms across his chest and died. He was buried in the ranch cemetery with cowboys who had worked the ranch since the 1870's. More information can be found about this Tom on the internet: http://www.ranches.org/tom_blasingame.htm .
Ian Tyson sang this song about this old Tom:
"Tom's the name
Eighty-five years in the saddle
Seen eighty-five years
Through a cow horse's ears
Whilst' a chasing the wild bovine
"So you thought they're all gone
There's still one a-hangin' on
Tied hard and fast to the memories
Might near the only one
Could tell us how she got done
Whilst' a chasing the wild bovine
"There's ten million cattle
On ten thousand hills
Guess no man can ride for 'em all
Still Tom lopes along
Through the rocks and the rills
Following the 'ol cattle call
"The Cross S's
The Five L's
The big Double O's
The Matadors in Texas
And God only knows
What a wonderful life
What a wonderful game
Hair on ya Tom Blasingame
"Now Tom he says that a man's true joy
Is in work that he likes to do
So if I understand
Tom's the right joyous man
Tom here's a-lookin' at you"
I have another request from Doreen West Boyd. Doreen was born in England and remembers being a member of a youth group called the Better Britain Brigade during World War II. She doesn't have a history of the group and would like to learn more about it. Please contact me if you have information.
If you would like to contribute information about your family or if you have queries, please contact me at (email change) email@example.com or P O Box 61, Mineral Wells TX 76068-0061. Be prepared in January to hear more about Noel Garland's family!
The portrait was drawn by James Whitley.