One of my highest brick walls has been my great-great-grandmother, Frances Jane Elliott. Most of what is known of her family came originally from her son, Columbus Joseph Johnson, as recorded by his daughter Ila in the 1940s, and compiled by his son-in-law Elmer W. Thomas in the 1960s. According to Columbus, “Jane Elliott” (as he calls her; she is also listed in the Crawford co. tax records as “Mrs. Jane Johnson” so apparently was ordinarily known by her middle name) married John Johnson in Franklin co. AR 11 Dec. 1851 (and this is confirmed by Franklin co. marriage records, where she is named as Frances Jane Elliott). She was born 8 Apr. 1833 and died 27 Feb. 1868 in Arkansas, and her children were subsequently brought to California by their paternal uncle, William Johnson. Columbus also made the following remarks:
(1) The Elliott family was of Welsh ancestry.
(2) Frances J. Elliott’s mother’s maiden name was Booker; she (the mother) died in 1863 and is buried “on her father’s plantation.”
(3) Frances J. Elliott’s grandfather Booker was a shoemaker, tanner and cotton farmer.
(4) Frances J. Elliott’s father’s name is not known, but he apparently died early.
(5) Frances J. Elliott had at least one brother, William Elliott [known to be William Thomas Cowan Elliott, b. ca 1829, settled in California ca. 1849 and is well known in records there].
Some additional information can be gleaned from U. S. census records, federal land patent records, and Franklin co. tax records. The 1840 census of Franklin co. shows an Elizabeth Elliott, age 30 to 40, with four young children in her household: a boy and a girl between 10 and 15, and a boy and a girl between 5 and 10.
In 1850 in Franklin co. AR we find:
Elizabeth Elliott 49 female b. VA
Francis J. Elliott 16 female b. TN
Francis Wright 13 female b. AR
William J. Wright 9 male b. AR
Johnana Ragsdale 55 female b. AR
And in 1860:
Eliz. Ellet 62 female b. VA
J. A. Ragsdale 14 female b. AR
Jn. Johnson 31 male b. MO
F. J. Johnson 27 female b. TN
William 7 male b. AR
Columbus 4 male b. AR
Alfred 1 male b. AR
Certainly the F. J. Johnson in the 1860 census is my great-great-grandmother, and it seems clear that she is also the “Francis J. Elliott” in the 1850 census, and therefore quite probable that Elizabeth Elliott is her mother. The 1850 and 1860 censuses indicate that Elizabeth was born in Virginia (confirmed by the 1900 census entry for W. T. C. Elliott, which claims his mother was born in VA, father in SC). The ages differ by a few years, with the 1850 record saying Elizabeth was b. ca. 1800/01, the 1860 indicating ca. 1797/98. The 1800/01 date is more consistent with the range noted in 1840.
The four children listed in the 1840 census would include W. T. C. Elliott (b. ca. 1829, so could plausibly be either the older boy, or the younger) and Frances Jane Elliott (the younger girl listed).
An Elizabeth Elliott received a federal land patent for land in Franklin co. (or possibly just over the border in Crawford co.) in 1843. This is likely she. An Elizabeth Elliott (variously spelled Eliott, Elliott, Elliot, Eliot) appears on Franklin co. tax records beginning in 1846; she last appears in 1861 (but that is the last extant record until 1866, when she does not appear). Columbus Johnson claimed she died in 1863; no contemporary records have been found to confirm this, but one whimsical record may support it: the Van Buren Press of 3 March 1866, which paper probably served the Franklin co. area (though located in neighboring Crawford co.), listed Elizabeth Elliott as among those for whom a letter was sitting unclaimed as of 28 Feb. at the Van Buren post office. [Evelyn Sue Williams, Abstracts from Crawford county, Ark., Newspapers (Nov. 1994)]
The hypothesis that emerges from all these records is that Elizabeth Booker, born in Virginia, married Mr. Elliott, and that they lived for the early part of their marriage in Tennessee (where the above records for Frances Jane, and consistent records for W. T. C. Elliott, indicate they both were born, he ca. 1829 and she ca. 1833). This Mr. Elliott apparently died either before Elizabeth came to Arkansas, or shortly after, and in any event was apparently dead by the time of the 1840 census. Elizabeth Elliott does not appear in the census records after 1860, and of course Columbus said that she died in1863.
Who are the females named “Ragsdale” in these census records? The family tradition doesn’t mention this name, but Columbus mentioned several sisters of his father—a list which, while essentially correct, conflates some names and includes one who was not a sister but a cousin. Included in the list is one who cannot be identified in conjunction with the Johnson family, a “Mrs. Raglyn” who, he said, “lived and died in the East” (which presumably just means she didn’t come to California). Is it possible that he had the name and relationship slightly wrong, and that her name was Ragsdale and she was a sister of his mother? Whether that rather speculative idea is true or not, the presence in two different census years of a Ragsdale female in Elizabeth Elliott’s household suggests a close connection. But who were they?
My guess is that the 1850 census listing for “Johnana Ragsdale” is mistaken in the age; it is highly unlikely that she could have been born in Arkansas in 1795. If she was not 55, but 5, she would be the same person enumerated in Elizabeth’s household in 1860, J. A. Ragsdale age 14.
A biographical sketch of one Wesley Hinson [Henson], a resident of Crawford co., in the Goodspeed Publishing Company’s 1889 History of Benton, Washington, Carroll, Madison, Crawford, Franklin, and Sebastian Counties, Arkansas states that he married a Johanna Ragsdale, daughter of George and Hester Ann Ragsdale. It also states that Johanna’s mother died when she was “but a girl.” My current theory is that Hester Ann Ragsdale was a daughter of Elizabeth Elliott, that she died not too long after the birth of her daughter Johanna/John Anna ca. 1846, and that the young girl then lived with Elizabeth. Her father, George Ragsdale, is apparently the man who appears in the 1850 census in the household of Luna and Susan Booth; Susan is apparently Susan Ragsdale, George’s sister. Their mother Matilda Ragsdale is also in the household. It is interesting to note that W. T. C. Elliott named one of his children Hester—perhaps after his deceased sister?
George Ragsdale then apparently married again, to a woman whose name is not known. In the 1860 census he appears again in Crawford county as an apparent widower, with two young sons, Peter and Enos (5 and 3 respectively). Some descendants of this family have assumed that these two were also the sons of Hester Ann, but that seems quite unlikely, since George appears unmarried in the 1850 census (and Hester Ann doesn’t appear at all). It is much more likely that she had died, leaving the one daughter, and that George subsequently married the mother of Peter and Enos. This wife apparently also died prior to 1860. In the 1870 census, George appears with a wife “N. C.,’ aged 19 (and he was then 48!), along with Enos (“E. B.”) and a young girl, “M. A.” In Peter’s household in 1880, the “N. C.” is named as “Nancy,” the “M. A.” is named as Martha, and there are two more children, George (age 9) and Maggie (age 2).
George Ragsdale apparently then moved to Cherokee co. KS, where he appears in the 1895 Kansas state census in the household of his son Peter. Apparently the third wife, Nancy, was dead by that time.
Wesley Henson died in Crawford co. AR in 1893, leaving a will in which he mentions “my wife John Anna Caroline Henson,” as his heir. He states that, following the death of his wife, his estate is to be divided between his brothers and sister “and my nephew James Wesley Ragsdale.” One would assume that this “nephew” was in fact his wife’s nephew (and apparently the son of her brother, Enos B. Ragsdale).
To summarize: It appears to me that the Hester Ann who was married to George Ragsdale was a daughter of Elizabeth (Booker) Elliott, one of the two young women in her household in 1840 (the other being my great-great-grandmother, Frances Jane). George and Hester had one daughter, Johanna/John Anna, who, after her mother’s death, went to live with her grandmother Elizabeth until her marriage to Wesley Henson. Her father, George Ragsdale, subsequently married an unknown woman, by whom he had two sons, Peter and Enos; and after their mother’s death, he married a third time a woman named Nancy, by whom he had three more children, Martha, George, and Maggie.