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WILLIAM CONIVER PEARSALL

It was common practice in times past to name children after their parents and grandparents. In our Pearsall family line, dating from 1485 to 1820, the most popular name for boys were Thomas, Henry and George. The names of Mary, Elizabeth and Martha are listed most often for girls. William continued this practice by giving the names of Frances (after his sister), William (after himself), Thomas (after his father) and Conklin (his wife's maiden name) to the children from his first marriage. However, after William went to Tennessee, his next eight children were not given names of other Pearsall family members.

Perhaps his wife Susan did most of the name choosing as in the case of my grandfather, Claude Wesley. Her maiden name was Susan Wesley Jones. Claude took the name of Jones and gave it to one of his sons who was named Leland Jones Pearsall. Claude's sister, Annie, borrowed from her mother also as one of her sons was named Joe Wesley Summerhill. Mamie, the daughter of Truman, used the name of her Grandmother Pearsall and her father for the name of her son, Wesley Langdon Kimsey.

William C. Pearsall was a big man for his time, standing about six feet and one inches tall. He was a handsome, intelligent looking man with a straight posture and very large hands. Aunt Florence wrote that "he had a temper and was very stern and exacting. However the temper in him changed somewhat with the years and he became quite gentle and kind in his older life."

During his middle years he had a mustache and a well trimmed goatee. During his later years, he had a full head of white hair along with a white mustache and a full white beard. His wife Susan was a small, slender woman with a mild and meek type of personality.

Sometime after January 1871, William went back to New York and stayed for over two years. He left his wife Susan and their three young children in McMinnville. There are no family stories as to why he went back to New York or what he did there during that time. Naturally he was homesick, but I would think economics played an important part.

After the "unpleasantries between the States", the economic development of the Southern States was severely limited because the National Government took no direct action to relieve the distress of the South. The prevailing mood of those in power in Washington, D.C., the Radical Republicans, was that of punishment for the rebelious Southern States. However, the North was bursting with peacetime prosperity. Agriculture and industry greatly expanded production, and the era of big business began. The North was in an economic boom while the South was trying to recover from the terrible destruction brought on by the war.

The conditions in McMinnville during 1870-1871 might have been so bad that William went back to New York in order to earn money for his Tennessee family. Another question that comes to mind is, why didn't he take his family back with him or send for them and remain in New York?

William lived in Tennessee for about 52 years. All of his brothers, half-brothers, half-sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins and four of his children (Will, Tom, Conklin and Eva) lived in the New York area. The first 36 years of his life had been in the land of his fathers, the Long Island area. Many men would have moved back to New York as I'm sure he missed the fellowship of those family members living there. His daughter Florence wrote in a letter that "Papa was always homesick-even to the last."

William died at his home in McMinnville at the age of 90 on May 31, 1910. Susan died in McMinnville on January 5, 1918, seven days shy of her 78th birthday. They are buried in the Riverside Cemetery in McMinnville,Tennessee.

In a letter written to me in June of 1986, Larry Pearsall, son of Truman Pearsall and grandson of William C. Pearsall, said that "I found the funeral notice in an old strong box that belonged to my father. I had gone thru that box many times and am nearly certain I had never seen this before. It was about two months ago when I found it. I would have some copies made but the notice is very fragile with age and has some red spots on it." The funeral notice that Larry found is as follows:

FUNERAL NOTICE
DIED
Tuesday, May 31st, 1910 at 1 o'clock A.M.- Aged 90 years 1 month and 19 days.

MR. WILLIAM CONIVER PEARSALL

The friends and acquaintances of the family are respectfully invited to attend the funeral at Riverside Cemetery at 3 o'clock Wednesday afternoon June 1st. Funeral services by Rev. T. R. Curtis.
McMinnville, Tennessee, Tuesday May 31, 1910.

The book by Clarence E. Pearsall gives William's birth as April 11, 1823 and the tombstone for William's grave has April 12, 1823 as his date of birth. These dates would have made William 87 years old at his death.

However, family stories indicate he lived to be 90 years old. Larry Pearsall said "My father (Truman) was very proud that his father (William) lived to be past 90 years." My Aunt Arlie, Claude's daugher, told me recently that she had always thought her grandfather lived to be 90 years old.

In a letter dated April 25, 1939, Aunt Florence wrote "When Grandfather died, Papa was nine years old." Thomas Henry Pearsall died in 1829 so William would have been born in 1820. Also, in the same letter, Aunt Florence said "Papa lacked four days of his sixtieth year when I was born." Mamie, Truman's daughter, wrote that Aunt Florence was 75 years old when she died. Florence died in 1955 so that would put her birth in the year 1880. Therefore, if William lived past the age of 90 and was in his sixities when her father (Truman 1881-1950) was born. In view of these family stories, William probably was born in 1820 and lived to be 90 years old.

There is a story to be told concerning William and his design of a new type wheel, spokes and hub. During a visit to Aunt Florence's home in 1954, she showed me the original blueprint or drawing of William's invention. The drawing was on a paper approximately three feet square and was prepared in a very professional manner. It showed the hub and the spokes in detail with measurements recorded for each part. William had a pattern made of the various parts and my father (F.C.) told me once that he remembered seeing the pattern pieces in a box when he was a young lad.

According to the stories told to me by Aunt Florence and my father, some man found out about William's invention and examined his devise carefully. The man then told William that his invention was useless, worthless and would never amount to anything. Although he said the wheel and hub would never pay off, the man offered to run a risk and purchase the idea from William. William sold him his invention for about $400.00.

The next time you see a picture of the automobiles produced in the early 1900's, look closely at the hubs, wooden spokes and wheels. William had the idea, the blueprint and the pattern before the automobiles went into production. Apparently he never obtained a patent, but the man who purchased his invention or someone else probably earned untold thousands of dollars from royalties during the early years of automobile maufacturing in this country.

Once William's two sons, Fletcher and Claude, decided to play a little joke on their father when he was a very old man. The sons obtained a set of cow horns the long, long type as found on Texas Longhorns. They secured the long horns over the stubby horns of William's cow and turned her loose outside the barn. They informed their father that a strange cow was on the property and that he should go see if he could identify the cow so that they could notify the owner.

If this happened in the summer months, William would have probably been out in the yard sitting in his favorite place; under a very large muscadine vine which was on a trellis. The vine and trellis made a good sized shady room, a comfortable place for William to relax during his later years.

After William was finished viewing the strange looking cow with the extra long horns, one of the sons asked, "Papa, do you know who owns that cow?" "No I don't," he replied, "I never saw her before. Sic the dogs on her and run her off!"


Morris Pearsall was very considerate with supplying me with the picture and the information about William Coniver Pearsall and family. Morris Pearsall says that "Perhaps someone in William's line will someday be able to view his picture and learn of their forefather. I know that would be a very exciting and pleasure for them to experience."
I know that it was for me. Linda

If you are related to this family and/or have any questions or comments; you may e-mail Morris Pearsall

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