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WILLIAM CONIVER PEARSALL

By Morris Pearsall

William was the last child of Thomas Henry and Catherine Pearsall and was born on Long Island in the Jamaica-Hempstead area on April 12, 1820. His father, Thomas, was 73 years old when he was born. At the age of nine, after William's parents died, he was a "bound boy"; bound out to his oldest brother Thomas who was 14 years older. This was the custom at the time in order to provide a home and proper training in a skill or trade.

William became a wheelwright by trade and worked in a large carriage factory in New York City. The carriage was characterized by its light weight, flexibility, and elegant design. The running gear on the vehicle was usually made of strong sprigy wood as oak, ash, or hickory. Wrought iron brackets and fittings braced the slender wooden parts. William also made the fashionable carriages used by people of wealth and social standing. He was also a gunsmith and a story handed down by his children tells about him repairing guns for the Civil War soldiers in his shop in McMinnville, Tennessee.

William married at the age of 19 to Marietta Conklin. She was from a fine family and a college graduate. They had four children; Frances, who died when she was six months old. Conklin was given to Foster and Kate Davenport of Far Rockaway, Long Island, New York. They were no relation and they adopted the baby later on. Will went to live with his mother's people and Tom stayed with his father.

William's second marriage was to Catherine (last name unknown) and they had one child, a girl whose name was Eva. Eva lived to be married and had two sons. On August 13, 1855, William and Catherine, of Brooklyn County, New York, purchased 400 1/2 acres of land for the sume of $800.00 from Alma Slack of Brooklyn County, New York. The deed was signed in New York. Slack is believed to have purchased the land in 1851. This land was located in Bledsoe County, Tennessee north of Pikeville on the Cumberland Mountain to the northwest of Highway 30 toward Spencer along the edge or back some from the cliff. There is no record or family story of William ever going to Tennessee to view the land before he made the purchase. William divorced Catherine when Eva was a small child. Family stories indicate he was very unhappy in is marriage to Catherine.

Sometime between 1855 and 1857 William, along with his son Tom, traveled by horse and wagon from New York, through the Cumberland Gap, to Pikeville, Tennessee. Tom was a lad of about 9 to 11 years old and he broke his arm during the journey. That must have been quite an interesting trip for father and son as they had been living on Long Island, a highly populated and civilized area compared to most of the country they traveled through.

I have often asked the question, "Why did William leave New York and move to a wild, mountainous area in Tennessee?" He was a successful wheelwright, owned property in New York and all his family lived in that area. Long Island had been the home of the Pearsall family for over 200 years. Pikeville, Tennessee was a small town of a few hundred people in the mid 1850's and was a big, big change from the New York City area. One family story is that after he divorced Catherine, he wanted to get away from the unhappy surroundings and start life over in a new place. However, this does not explain why he purchased the Tennessee land when he was still married to Catherine.

I have been told he bought the land believing it to be rich in coal and timber. Perhaps he purchased the land as an investment, hoping to sell later on for a profit. He may have been approached by a smooth talking land agent promoting the sale of the Tennessee property with its so called "rich reserves" of coal and timber. The land did have good timber but the coal lay several feet underground. In those days, before the availability of heavy machinery for strip mining, most coal mines were small horizontal shafts with the openings on the mountain side. We will probably never know for sure why he came to Tennessee or what his plans were for the future. The memory of his first wife's (Marietta) death and the experience of a disastrous second marriage might have caused him to seek a new life in a faraway new place. He already owned the land in Tenessee so that would have been a logical place to start a new life.

One family story is about the cook stove William had in his new home. It seems people would come from miles around to eat biscuits baked in the stove as they had never seen a cook stove before. The only other thing known about William's stay in the Pikeville area is his third marriage.

On July 1, 1857, at the age of 37, William married Susan Wesley Jones, age 17. Susan was born January 12, 1840 in Morristown, New Jersey. Her parents were Rev. James Edward Jones, a Methodist Minister, and Susan Knox Jones. Susan's mother had died and her father had remarried. Rev. Jones was a Lay Preacher and did a lot of traveling preaching the Gospel. A period of revivalism took place during the mid-1800's. The Baptists and Methodists were the chief denominations that used revivalistic methods and it was associated with frontier camp meetings, outdoor religious services, and fervent, emotional preaching. Most likely, Rev. Jones was involved in this nationwide revival movement.

Rev. Jones had been to Missouri preaching and was going to New York after a visit with his family in Pikesville. My Grandmother Pearsall wrote for me once that "her (Susan) father and the younger children had also moved to Pikeville, Tennessee".

On his train ride to New York, Rev. Jones was walking from one car to another and he fell between the cars and was decapitated by the train wheels. This happened someplace in New Jersey during the year 1854. Apparently he was traveling alone as the authorities requested help from the local citizens in identifying the body. Some man went to the morgue and made the positive identification. After this tragic accident, Susan's stepmother, along with the younger children, moved back north. Since Susan never did get along with her stepmother, she elected to remain in Pikeville at the home of some friends.

Sometime between 1857 and 1860, William and Susan moved about 45 miles west of Pikeville, across to Cumberland Plateau, to McMinnville, Tennessee. The 1850 U.S. Census listed 10,179 people living in Warren County and less than 500 people in McMinnville.

There is no family story concerning why William moved to McMinnville. I would venture to guess he became dissatisfied with the wilderness type of living plus the fact he had a young new bride who, being a preacher's daughter from New Jersey, was not used to such rugged country living. Also I would assume the need of a steady income was a top priority and that would mean applying his trade in a growing town and county needing the service of an experienced wheelwright. McMinnville became their home for the rest of their lives, and for many years William operated a buggy shop on East Main Street, across the street from where the old Brown Hotel building is located today.

We know that William was living in McMinnville as early as 1860 as on August 3, 1860, William C. Pearsall of McMinnville, Tennessee, sold to Foster Davenport 100 acres of land for the sum of $200.00. This was from the 400 1/2 acre tract near Pikeville. Foster Davenport lived in Far Rockaway, Long Island, New York and was the man that had adopted William's son, Conklin.

One family story tells about the accident William had on a journey from Pikeville to McMinnville. It seems that he was traveling by wagon or buggy and his vehicle went off the steep and narrow road as he was going down the west side of the mountain. The mishap left him with a compound fracture on one leg. He laid there helpless and after a while a man came by on horseback. William yelled out for help but the rider detected a Northern accent and rode on without offering aid. Finally a man came along driving a horse and wagon. He loaded William in the wagon and took him on down the mountain and left him at the first home. The lady of the house set his leg, put a splint on it and made him as comfortable as possible. However, after a few days, the wound did not look very good so she went out in the yard and dug up some redworms. She fried the worms in a skillet and the put them on William's leg wound and covered it with a bandage. I bet that brought back memories of "Old Moll" and her mole tea.

We do not know if the mole tea cured little Willie, but in this case his leg healed fine. However, he always walked with a limp as one leg was now shorter than the other. After the Civil War was over in 1865, McMinnville would have parades and William would join with others and march down the street. There were many Confederate veterans in McMinnville and being a Yankee in a former Confederate town did not make any difference to him. He would limp along, head held high, easily passing as a former officer in the C.S.A. William was a very proud man with an outstanding family history of service to our country.

Concering William's son Tom, Aunt Florence wrote that "he was smart, really gifted. Wrote a beautiful hand and I have pen sketches that he drew when in his teens. Papa locked Tom in his room upstairs at the old Houchins place at night. He had a rope hidden and he let himself down and ran off to the camp where the soldiers were." Tom didn't have far to go for his visits as the soldiers camped near the railroad in what was called "Depot Bottom", within sight of his upstairs window. After the war, Tom went back to live in New York and made his home there. Years later, his daughter Helen went to McMinnville two different times to visit her grandfather.

During the time William had his buggy shop on Main Street, he would have a regular morning visit from one of the local town loafers. This man had a favorite place to sit on William's workbench and from his lofty perch, would talk, talk and talk. He soon became a nuisance as William didn't have time to spend with him. Finally William had all he could take from his daily pest. So he fixed a spring operated apparatus that would push a sharp tack up between the workbench boards whenever he flipped a hidden trigger. He could then lower the tack so that it could not be seen. The next morning the loafer came in, sat on the workbench in his favorite place, and proceeded with his daily disruptive chatter. William, paying no attention to him as usual, touched the hidden trigger and the tack hit the intended mark. "Ouch", cried the man as he jumped down. "Pearsall", he said, "you must have some bees or wasps in here!" It took a few more "bee stings" before the unwanted guest started to by-pass the buggy shop on his morning rounds.

William and Susan had eight children, all being born in McMinville. They were as follows in the order of their birth.

Fanny and Eddie Pearsall, twins, died in infancy.

Emma Mae Pearsall: Emma was born in 1866 and when she was a young girl in her teens, she went to New York and stayed for quite a while with her half-brother Tom. She also spent some time with her mother's sister who had married a man by the name of Van Roden. Emma returned to McMinnville and later married a widower with two sons. His name was Christian Larson and they were married June 27, 1887. They moved to Florida and later they were divorced. Emma's second marriage was to a man by the name of Leecer, Leeser or Leaser, and they had one child, a daughter named Frankie who was born in January of 1904. They moved to Missouri and after Emma died, Frankie's father sent her to live with his sister in the state of Arkansas. Frankie died at the age of 14 from surgery. Emma died in the town of Lonoke, Arkansas in September of 1913.

Emma also had another daughter named Katherine who went by the name of Katie. When she was about 12 or 14 years old, Emma left her with William and Susan to raise. This must have been about the time of Emma's second marriage. Emma was born May 29, 1866.

Katie married Bruce Powell and they had eight children, seven boys and one girl named Louise. Bruce was a brother to Eliza Ann Powell, the first wife of Truman Pearsall. Although Katie was a first cousin to the children of Truman and Eliza (Oliver, Louie and Mamie), she also became the children's aunt by marriage and they always called her "Aunt Katie".

Annie Belle Pearsall: Annie was born August 17, 1869. She married Buford Summerhill and their children were Joe Wesley, Buford Price and Dorothy Gladys. They moved from McMinnville to Texas and made the area around Hillsboro, Texas their home. About 1916 Susan, Annie's mother, went to visit Annie in Texas and stayed for one year. Some man in McMinnville was going to Texas and he offered to look out for Susan, who was 76 years old. They traveled by train and the gentleman friend made most of the journey with her, departing the train before her destination. Annie is buried in the Ridge Park Cemetery, Hillsboro, Texas.

Francis Fletcher Pearsall: Fletcher was born December 23, 1870. He married Maggie Lee Phelps on September 13, 1891. They had four sons; Marlin, Fred, Eugene and Carl. Fletcer lived near McMinnville in the area called Tanyard Springs, just a short distance from his father. At one time he operated a factory which produced wooden barrels. At that time wooden barrels were in great demand as they were used not only for liquids, but for other items such as nails, flour, crackers, pickles, salted fish, and apples.

His home, a large two story house, was a beautiful country dwelling. I remember going there when I was a small boy and being impressed by the concrete sidewalks around the house, the fish pond in the front yard, his workshop fullof woodworking tools (many of which belonged to his father), and most of all, the butting ram down by the spring. I had never seen a butting ram before but they were very common before gasoline and electric pumps became available. It was a metal pump, fed by a flow of running water, that would pump water uphill to a storage tank. The only power needed to run the pump was the moving flow of water from the spring. It would make the same sounds, over and over, day and night as it pumped the water.

Sometimes my mother and I would spend the day at Aunt Maggie and Uncle Fletcher's house. Aunt Maggie always had iced tea for lunch and Uncle Fletcher would say, "People must be going crazy! First they heat water to make it hot, then they put ice in it to make it cold, then they put sugar in it to make it sweet, then they put lemon in it to make it sour!".

Fletcher had a dog named Jip who would go to the woodpile and carry a stick of stove wood in his mouth to the kitchen door. After receiving his reward of a cold biscuit, Jip would be ready to fetch another stick.

One day Fletcher was out on his farm cutting down a tree. Jip appeared at the kitchen door barking and acting unusual. Aunt Maggie knew something was wrong so she sent their son Fred to follow the dog. Jip led the way to his master who had been killed by a falling tree. Fletcher died May 21, 1942 at the age of 71 and is buried in the Riverside Cemetery, McMinnville, Tennessee.

Claude Wesley Pearsall: Claude (my grandfather) was born September 1, 1874. On July 4, 1900 he married Ada Arvilla Hamley. Their children were:

  1. -Willard Franklin Pearsall, born May 12, 1902 and died October 19, 1980
  2. -Arlouine Pearsall, born January 22, 1904; died August 27, 1996
  3. -Leland Jones Pearsall, born October 11, 1906; died November 4, 1993
  4. -Fletcher Clark Pearsall (my father) who went by the name of F.C., born May 2, 1910 and died August 29, 1981;
  5. -Roy Edwin Pearsall, born March 18, 1917.

After Claude and Ada married, they lived in a house close to his father. This house is still standing. After the birth of F.C., they moved to a farm near the Mt. Leo Community, just outside McMinnville.

Additions were made to the house and it became a beautiful country home. There were tall oak trees around the front of the house, a large garden, apple trees, plum trees, cherry trees, peach trees, tame blackberries, blue and white grapevines and a strawberry patch.

Claude had worked as a plumber in town and at one time he was manager for the local power plant. He had a well equipped home shop which included a forge or smith's hearth. He also had some of his father's tools. Claude lived there the rest of his life. He died December 26, 1951 at the age of 7 and is buried in the Riverside Cemetery, McMinnville, Tenessee.

Florence Myrtle Pearsall: The correct year of her birth is not known. However, family stories indicate she was born in the year 1880, on April 8th. Florence went to Indiana with a family from McMinnville to take care of their children and do the housework. Later she worked at a plant in Indiana that made flat silver serving pieces and other such items.

She married George Wharton and later they were divorced. Her second marriage was to Ralph Bryant. Ralph and Florence operated a grocery store in the small town of Milton, Indiana for several years. Florence died July 18, 1955 at the age of 75 and is buried in Indiana. She didn't have any children from either of her two marriages.

Truman Langdon Pearsall: Truman was born December 21, 1881. He married Eliza Ann Powell on December 23, 1901. Their children were:

  1. -Oliver Langdon Pearsall, born Septemer 23, 1902; died May 25-1995; Spokane, WA.
    Oliver's children were born of his first wife, Agnes Ovedia Meyer (8-25-1910/ 5-08-1968).
    Children:
    1-John Meyer Pearsall - Born on October 5th, 1939 - Home birth - Newport, Idaho
    2-Mamie Jeanine Pearsall Sanders - Born on July 11th, 1941- Hospital birth - Newport, Washington
    3-David Oliver Pearsall - Born on July 16th, 1942 - Hospital birth - Newport, Washington.
    Contributed by John Meyer Pearsall e-mail: johnpears@comcast.net
  2. - Louie Sargent Pearsall, born November 11, 1904; died May 27, 1970
  3. -Mamie Florence Pearsall, born December 15, 1906.

Eliza died November 25, 1912 from infection caused from the birth of a still-born child. Truman's second marriage was to Ada Kirby in 1913 and they had three sons:

  1. -James Larimore Pearsall, born May 23, 1914
  2. -Edward Tallman Pearsall, born August 30 1915
  3. -Howard Ramsey Pearsall, born April 14, 1917

Truman's final home was in Montrose, Colorado where he died September 23, 1950. He is buried in the Cedar Cemetery, Montrose, Colorado. All the children of his two brother, Fletcher and Claude, made Tennessee their home. All six of Truman's children made the western states of Idaho, California, Colorado and Washington their homes.

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