A Bicentennial Overview Of Our Riddle Family
My dear cousins, relatives and friends:
This is the 44th annual reunion of descendants of Andrew Jackson Riddle and Elizabeth Ellen Byrom Riddle held since WW2. How many of you attended the first one on 4 July 1946 at the home of cousin Betty Goerte in Arlington, Texas? In 1947, the reunion was held in Clarence and Glennie's pasture in Italy. During the 1950s, these reunions were moved to Gatzendanner Park in Waxahachie. In the 1970s, the Waxahachie Optimist Club Hall became the reunion meeting place.
Perhaps we should say that the first AJ Riddle family reunion was held on Christmas in 1928 just after AJ moved back to Ellis County from Bryan County, Oklahoma. On that occasion, the families met in Fort Worth at the home of Charles Riddle. I attended that reunion with my parents. How many of you attended? Other reunions were held in Italy, Texas at Christmas during the 1930s. So, you see that we have been a close extended family group for over 60 years. Today, July 4, 1989, the grandchildren and great grandchildren of AJ and Bettie Riddle gather in Italy, Texas with kin and friends to continue this great tradition.
In this overview today, I will briefly trace our Riddle family from 1789 forward to 1989 telling of Randolph I of Stokes County, NC; then of his son, William Stephen; of WS's son Randolph; and of his son Andrew Jackson Riddle. Please hold your questions for the Q&A time following. Time will not permit covering the fifth generation, that is the children of AJ and Bettie. I am recommending to the Reunion Committee that at coming meetings, volunteers present 15 minute sketches of their family, two AJ children per Reunion, beginning with the oldest.
Randolph Riddle I, our first now known American ancestor, was born about 1762 in VA or NC. The name Randolph has been carried down through at least six generations of our Riddles. The year 1789 was a good one for the first Randolph Riddle family, there in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Stokes County, NC. The climate of the Carolina Piedmont was healthful and the land was still fertile and rich for farming. Two wagon roads were open nearby for commerce with Virginia, especially tobacco markets in Danvillle, VA.
Politically, great changes were taking place around the Randolph Riddle family in 1789. Early that year the Constitution of the in United States of America was ratified by the required 9 states plus two, Congress convened and George Washington was inaugurated as the first President. As you know, NC and RI at first refused to ratify the Constitution until a Bill of Rights amendment was included. NC became the 12th state in Nov. 1789.
Just as we are meeting together this July 4, imagine that the Randolph and Jemima Hawkins Riddle family met with his brothers John and Tyre Riddle and their families to celebrate Independence Day 1789. John was a close neighbor on Raccoon Creek, while Tyre and his wife Clara, had to travel east some twenty miles by wagon from their farm on Bigg Creek.
After a hearty lunch, Randolph and his brothers walked along Buffalo Creek looking for Indian relics, smoking or chewing tobacco from his drying shed and talking about the brand new nation. They wondered what it was like in the southwestern territory of Tennessee.
Families were large in those days; Randolph's consisted of at least 13 children, six boys and 7 girls including Wm Stephen, our ancestor. First child was a daughter, born about 1784, and the last was a boy named Tyre, born about 1803 in NC or TN. About this time Randolph sold his land in Stokes County and headed west to Tennessee.
Randolph's family was in Franklin County, TN by 1811. As it happened, their arrival coincided with the earth tremors radiating from the New Madrid, Missouri earthquake in Dec. 1811. WOW, what a welcome! Randolph found many similarities between Franklin Co., TN and his beloved Stokes County, NC. The valley elevation was 900 to 1,000 ft., Cumberland Mountains to the east and south peaked 1,000 ft. higher, timber was abundant on the mountain slopes, the climate was moderate, the population sparse and soil fertile.
During the War of 1812, Randolph was in the Home Guard. The family lived in the vicinity of Winchester, Franklin Co. TN, for more than 16 more years, acquired several hundred acres of land and prospered. Most of them lived along the valley of the Elk River near the mouth of Big Hurricane Creek. Indians had named the creek, not after the storm, but after the tall cane in dense cane-brakes that covered the valleys and having a hair-like growth on its stalk; thus, Hairy-cane Creek. In the fertile creek bottom land, this cane grew to a height of 16 to 20 ft. On the ridges and higher land with thin soil, the cane grew to a height of 5 to 8 ft.
Although Randolph and his sons prospered, wander-lust struck them in about 1828. That urge for the family to stick together was still strong, and most of the family moved to Jackson County, Alabama, into that fertile valley of the great bend of the Tennessee River. The Riddles bought their Franklin County, Tennessee land for 12 1/2 cents per acre and must have made a handsome profit when they sold it. Randolph received a Federal land grant of 80 acres in Jackson County, AL, but he immediately sold it. Randolph died in about 1835 and the family soon dispersed; he was the glue that had held the family together those many years. He was buried near Scottsboro, Jackson County, Alabama. Jemima died there in 1842.
Let's pick up on our story on 4 Jul. 1839, fifty years after it began. Wm Stephen did not stay long in AL. He was soon back in Franklin County, TN, and by Independence Day 1839 was in Bedford County, TN. Earlier Wm Stephen, born 1794 in Stokes County, NC, married Sarah Weaver in about 1817. She was born in about 1801 in Pendleton Dist., and a daughter of Daniel Weaver.
In addition to rearing 14 children, one of which was our ancestor, Randolph (II), and providing five sons for the southern cause, Wm Stephen was active in church work until his death in April, 1870. A farmer, he also served as and Elder, Trustee and a charter member of the Little Hurricane Primitive Baptist Church, founded in 1858 in Franklin County, TN. After Sarah died in about 1875, she was buried beside Wm Stephen in the Church cemetery.
Randolph II was born 30 May 1833 in east Bedford County, TN, near Normandy. His family was in Franklin County, TN by 1850, but soon moved to that area of Lincoln County near Lynchburg that later became Moore County. On 12 Sep. 1858, Randolph married Miss Elizabeth Jane Hix. The couple bought land on East Mulberry Creek, just northwest of Lynchburg, and raised a family of nine children, including our ancestor, Andrew Jackson, born 7 Nov 1860.
Randolph was a farmer; his chief crop was corn which was sold to whiskey distilleries in the area. As an example of the market, the first distillery was established near Lynchburgh in 1825. The Jack Daniels Distillery was built in 1876 with a capacity of 50 bushels of corn and 300 gallons of whiskey per day. There were 15 distilleries in Moore County in 1885, with a capacity of 200,00 gallons of whiskey per year, selling for $2/gallon.
The Civil War had come to middle Tennessee, and Randolph II enlisted on 27 Nov 1862 at Normandy, TN. For 2 1/2 years Elizabeth Jane (Betsey), with three babies, struggled to run a farm and fight off malnutrition. At the beginning of the War Betsey was 23 years old, born 18 Sep 1837, and must have been a woman of great fortitude and strength. One of her problems was the foraging and confiscation of food stuff and stock by both armies. As you know, the Nashville to Chattanooga railroad via Tullahoma and Deshard was a major artery for troop movements.
Both armies had encampments close by to Betsey more than once during the see-saw campaigns to control middle Tennessee. She, as did other neighbors, helped to feed the armies of both North and South. In spite of hardships, Betsey and the children, Sarah, AJ, and little Billy made it through the War with the help of her father and kindly neighbors.
Of all the brothers, Randolph II served longest in the CSA Army, mainly because he was a prisoner of war. Randolph considered himself fortunate to have survived the Civil War as he boarded a train at Point Lookout, Maryland on 4 Jun 1865; a train headed south from the Union prison camp where he had been released. It had been 2 1/2 years since he left the beloved family and had enlisted. He reminisced that his unit, 2nd C Co.,34th TN Inf. had mobilized and trained at Chattanooga with General Bragg's 4th Confederate Reg. in 1862.
In Sep 1863, Gen. Bragg's retreat from Chattanooga started as the Federals captured that city on 9 Sep 1863 without firing a shot. Little did Randolph realize that the stage was being set for one of the greatest campaigns of the War on Sep 19 & 20, the Battle of Chickamauga in north Georgia. Both sides fought desperately, resulting in over 37,000 total casualties out of a total force of 128,000 officers and men. On the second day of the battle, Randolph was taken prisoner, thankful he wasn't slain. The POWs were marched to Chattanooga.
The prisoners were marched 300 miles to Louisville, Kentucky, arriving there in October. Randolph and hundreds of his fellow Southerners, not wounded, where then transported by train to Camp Douglas Federal Prison in Chicago, IL. Many died from disease and malnutrition, but Randolph beat the odds both there and at Point Lookout, Maryland, where he was moved in Mar 1865 as the War was winding down. His release and freedom came on 4 Jun 1865. By 4 Jul 1865 Randolph was back home, surrounded by wife and children, truly celebrating Independence Day both of the country and his new freedom from prison. Imagine the happiness and joy; but reality was to make this short lived. The economy of the South was in terrible condition, as was the neglected, fallow farm land. Many families were looking west for better land and opportunities. It was a question of when, not if, Randolph would sell the farm and head west to Texas. Randolph had discussed this with his good friend, neighbor and fellow CSA vet James Martin Byrom, who would be a great grandfather to some of us.
The Byroms and Riddles decided to move west, sold their land and in 1869 had enough money for the trip. Two more children had been born to Randolph and Betsey since the War, so now there were five. Can you imagine what a grueling trip this must have been by covered wagon; caring for the needs of small children, finding and cooking food, finding feed for the mules and yes, washing diapers and clothes. Ten year old AJ's job was feeding the team. How many of you have ever heard grandpa AJ tell of this?
Traveling with the Byroms was daughter Elizabeth Ellen, born 5 Jul 1867, who would become grandmother to some of us. She would not have had a personal recollection of the trip, but likely heard the story recounted by her parents. How many of you have ever hear grandma Bettie tell of this? As fate would have it, she would not reach Texas for another 32 years. While in Arkansas, the Byroms were set upon by bushwhackers and robbed. They went no farther and returned to TN two years later.
Randolph reached Dallas County, Texas and in 1870 bought 100 acres of land in Precinct 5 for $800 to become a cotton farmer. He had no experience in raising cotton, but struggled with the boll weevils and elements to make two crops. Disillusioned, Randolph sold the land in the fall of 1871 and the family back to Moore County, Tennessee on the train. This adventure left Randolph wiser, poorer and with a greater appreciation for the hollows and ridges of Moore County.
Now, let's move the story ahead to 4 Jul 1889, one hundred years after the story began. Imagine the Independence Day, being celebrated by the Randolph Riddle family at their home in East Mulberry Creek. AJ came with Elizabeth Ellen, his wife since their marriage on 6 Apr 1885, and their two sons Ed and Charlie. They lived nearby in Coon Hollow. The year 1889 was a good one for the Randolph Riddle family. Prices were up for corn, the area had recovered from the harsh Reconstruction Period and the first Democrat, Grover Cleveland, elected since the Civil War was serving as President. This pleased Randolph because he always voted for Democrats. Cleveland was elected because the people were ready for a change.
Randolph was ready for a change and was making plans to sell the farm and buy land in Owl Hollow in the neighboring Franklin County; the move was made a year later. AJ was ready for a change also, but he remained awhile in Moore County where on New Years Eve, 31 Dec 1889 an event very special to me happened; my father, Jas Lester was born.
It is a joy to believe that James Lester got to know his grandparents, Randolph and Betsey Riddle, and also the Byroms and the stories about the Civil War and the trip to Texas were related to him. Randolph died 4 Oct 1898. Betsey kept 60 acres of land and lived alone for some years. Grandkids loved to visit because she was noted for her tea-cake cookies. She smoked a corncob pipe in years later, when she could afford to buy tobacco. She drew a pension allowed for indigent widows of the Tennessee soldiers from 1905 until she died on 23 Aug 1922, a month before he 85th birthday. On the night that Betsey died, her daughter Sarah Riddle Byrom and Sarah's daughter-in-law Ruby Byrom worked through most of the night sewing a black dress for her burial. Betsey was laid to rest next to Randolph in the Little Hurricane Baptist churchyard cemetery.
The next 100 years of our Riddle family history story, 1890-1989, can be abbreviated I believe, because much of it is within the memory span of many of us, or because we have knowledge of events related to us by our parents. All of the remaining experiences of AJ and Bettie Riddle will happen in the next 50 years of story, some happy and some sad. Let it be said that both lived a long and useful Christian life, one for us to be proud of.
This will chronicle some of the important events 1890-1989
1. 1895 AJ back in Moore County, Tennessee
2. 1898 Randolph II dies 4 Oct
3. 1901 AJ moves back to Franklin County, Tennessee
4. 1902 AJ and family, except Wm Edw, moves to Ellis County, Texas and settle on Fort Farm
5. 1915 AJ buys 80 acres of land and moves to Collin County, Texas near Frisco; sells land in 1917.
6. 1917 AJ buys 135 acres, moves to near Bonham in Fannin County
7. 1920 AJ sells Texas land and moves to Bryan County, Oklahoma, near Ardmore 1922 AJ's mother Betsey dies 23 Aug and AJ and Bettie travel to Tennessee for funeral 1928 AJ sells Oklahoma land in June and returns to Italy, Texas 1936 AJ dies on 8 July; buried in Forreston Cemetery 1940 Elizabeth "Bettie" Ellen Byrom Riddle, w/o AJ dies; buried in Forreston Cemetery.