Week 3: January 18, 2014
Joseph Thomas Sharp
I remember my mother talking of him, but having no information other than a name – I decided to search for Grandpa Sharp. A name on a family tree is just a name – but family history and stories is what brings them to life. Each day became more exciting as my research painted a picture of him. I began these writings to document my findings and it became my story – “Searching for Grandpa Sharp.”
My mother always spoke of Grandpa Sharp in her stories to me; he was her father’s (Edgar T. McKinley) grandfather. Although she never knew him, she knew of him from her father. When her father’s uncle, Jim McKinley, came for visits, he liked to sit on the front porch and reminisce about Grandpa Sharp – and Mama curled up behind him, listening to every word. Uncle Jim came often and usually stayed about a week. She never forgot the time when her father and Uncle Jim told about the Confederate money stuffed in the cracks of the house and Grandpa Sharp’s chair. She later asked her father “can you take me to see that house?” When he asked why, she said, “so we can get some of that money” – he chuckled! Grandpa Sharp had served in “Company R.” of the Confederate Cavalry during the Civil War.
Edgar and his brother Joe were quite the devilish pair growing up; whenever Grandpa Sharp fell asleep in his chair, they loved to stick matches in his shoe to give him a “hot foot.” Grandpa Sharp called the boys, “limb cats of the devil.” It was always told that the large old overstuffed chair he sat in was stuffed full of Confederate money; that was his chair where he sat, most afternoons, while whittling. Farming and carpentry were his trade in raising his family, but not being in good health in his later years, he spent those days on the front porch, sitting in his chair, whittling. Grandpa Sharp lived with his daughter, Rosie, her husband Edgar Lawson McKinley, and their family in Hancock County until he passed away around 1906/07. (I later discovered that was not so)
As I began my search for Grandpa Sharp, I remembered my mother telling me his given name was Joseph, but later on when she didn’t remember telling me his name, it caused me to set out to discover a little more about him. My grandfather, Edgar T. McKinley, had Grandpa Sharp’s original Confederate musket hanging on the wall, at his farm, in Siloam, Georgia for many years until it was stolen. I would treasure having that musket today from all the family history I have now learned about my great-great grandfather, Joseph Thomas Sharp.
Searching for family history is a never-ending puzzle, and when you’re missing pieces you must search for clues using what little evidence you have. I knew his last name was Sharp – that was a definite – I knew his given name was Joe or Joseph, from what I remembered my mother telling me years ago, and I knew Joseph Sharp had a daughter named Rosie L. Sharp; she was my grandfather’s mother; he was only eight years old when she died in 1902.
I decided to first search the Hancock County, Georgia census as I knew the McKinley family lived there before moving to Greene County. My grandfather’s mother, Rosie Sharp McKinley, is buried in the Powellton cemetery in Hancock County. I first chose the 1880 Hancock census, and with the help of a researcher on-line who checked their copy of that year, I found a Joseph Sharp, born 1835 GA., widowed with children and one of the daughter’s names was Rossie L. Sharp, born 1869. I had now found him and Rosie’s brothers and sisters, his date of birth, and where he was born – more pieces of the puzzle were falling into place. Rosie had siblings of Edwin age 15, Emma age 13 and William age 7 – they were all born in GA. The census also stated that Joseph’s father was born in N.C. and his mother in GA. Finding him listed as a widow on the census proposed a new dilemma for me – I must now discover who was Grandpa Sharp’s wife.
As I viewed all the information, my first idea was to go back ten years in Hancock County to 1870 – I felt I surely would find her in that year. The 1870 census did not even show a Joseph Sharp; someone on-line checked the state of Georgia archives for me and he wasn’t found in the state that year. Since I did not do the checking, I have not taken this as an actual fact. There are many possibilities for him not being found – from the census taker missing to record his family, as they could have been moving and just missed, or even the spelling of his last name could have been written incorrectly. The 1880 census showed he was born in Georgia, his wife was born in Georgia, and all their children were born there. As the last child was born about 1872/73, I feel he never left Georgia.
In checking the 1900 Hancock County census I found my Joseph Sharp now living with his daughter Rosie, her husband, and family. The census taker wrote Rosie’s husbands name as Edward, but his name is actually Edgar Lawson McKinley – this shows how often the census takers made writing mistakes. So I now know that in 1900, Joseph Sharp was living, and this census also gave me his middle initial of “T” – maybe the T stands for Thomas. My grandfather is named Edgar, after his father, and maybe his middle name of Thomas is from his grandfather. It seems that Rosie named her first son Joseph after her father, and maybe gave her second son his middle name, but one can only assume.
I have a family bible my mother always said belonged to her father’s Uncle Jim McKinley. The only writing in this bible is of the surname Sharp. It is very faint to read, but I now feel that the bible may actually have belonged to Grandpa Sharp or even his daughter Rosie. Why it was always at my grandfather’s house I do not know, unless it was Grandpa Sharp’s and not Jim McKinley’s. The names in the front and back of the bible look to have been written in pencil and have since faded, but with a magnifying glass I have been able to see the name of a William L. Sharp written many times in the front and back of the book. I also found the name of Joseph written, but with no last name, although near the last name of Sharp, and also what looks to be, the initials of J. T. Sharp. The one uniform date I see written over and over is 1904 with many other dates written underneath – it looks as if they were trying to figure out someone’s age who may have died in 1904. I have seen where my own grandmother wrote in her bible like that as she figured out the age of a person who died. From the 1880 census we know Joseph Sharp had a son William, but from the ages they were subtracting, it seemed to be an elderly person they were figuring the age of. One of the dates they subtracted from was the year 1835; can I assume maybe that Joseph Sharp died in 1904, but who was the William L. Sharp referred to over and over – it could still be Joseph Sharp’s son. Near the written name of William is the name Powellton, Hancock County. Joseph Sharp’s daughter, Rosie, is buried there next to her young infant son, Lonnie McKinley. I have been to that cemetery and I did find a few “Sharpe’s,” but no Joseph or William; at least not with a headstone. Another trip to that cemetery needs to be done so I may re-check all the stones and see if any field stones are near Rosie’s grave. Rosie’s grave is marked by a tall fancy headstone in the Powellton cemetery.
There is another small cemetery near the Powellton Church, so there could be a possibility of him being there. I need to review their church records for attendance of members to see if they belonged.
In a recent phone call to my mother I told her of my discovery of Grandpa Sharp in a couple of census and found he had a middle initial of “T”. About the same time I was telling her that I felt it stood for Thomas, she told me “his middle name was Thomas.” When I asked her how she knew, she replied, “ I remember hearing it from my father years ago.”
The pieces to the puzzle are slowly coming together – only time will make it complete.
I put a few query’s out asking other researchers, who had access to Confederate pension books. to do a look-up on my Joseph T. Sharp. I had quite a few responses, but no one came up with the exact names and middle initial of T. The books they searched were only for the infantry and if he served in the cavalry, he wouldn’t show up. While on The Family Tree web site I decided to search their Civil War information and use their paid service of looking for him in the Civil War pension index. I filled out the form and emailed it off. About ten days later I received an envelope with the results. They located a J. T. Sharp from Hancock Co., Ga., who served in Company R, 7th Confederate Cavalry. With that information, I went back to their site and ordered the compete pension files on the J. T. Sharp, and hoped he would be my Grandpa Sharp.
Still searching for Grandpa Sharp!
The Confederate Pension files arrived on J. T. Sharp and offered me a few more pieces to the puzzle. Throughout the pension files he was only referred to as J. T. Sharp, never was the name Joseph Thomas Sharp written. The pension applications are 1900 through 1906 so I might assume he died before 1907, being there were no more applications made for payment in 1907. The files told that he was born February 17, 1835 in Taliaferro County, Georgia and that he resided in Georgia all his life. The 1880 Hancock County census showed him at age 45, which puts him born 1835; the 1900 Hancock County census showed him age 65 and gave the month of February and year of 1835. Those two census agree with the pension files of his birth, month and year – the initials given matched his name even though it wasn’t actually written out.
He enlisted August of 1861 in Crawfordville, Georgia with the Confederate 7th Regiment Calvary. His occupation was listed as carpenter and farmer. The 1880 Hancock County census listed his occupation as farmer and the 1900 Hancock County census listed his occupation as carpenter. Again, both census match what was on his pension applications.
On the 1900 pension application, a question of witness, S. J. Jones, wrote that he made ends meet with the help of his daughter. It was written in the pension applications that he was not in good health and physically unable to work and provide for himself. The 1900 Hancock County census showed Joseph T. Sharp living with daughter, Rosie Sharp McKinley and her family.
I next turned to the 1850 census of Taliaferro County, where he had written on his pension application of where he was born. About fifteen minutes later, searching page by page, I found him living at dwelling 304 – a Joseph Sharp with his parents. I found the family of a James Sharp age 59, born N.C. with wife Elizabeth age 53, born GA. Again this agrees with the census of 1880 and 1900 where it was recorded that his father was born in N.C. and mother in Georgia. The family consisted of eight children living at home; Wm L. age 32 – wagon maker; Thomas J. age 24 – farmer; John age 21 – farmer; Sara A. age 19; Liva age 17; Joseph age 15; Elizabeth age 15; and Edwin T. age 11. Living one family away at dwelling 302 was a James L. Sharp, age 30 – wagon maker with wife, Delaney W., age 21, with son Benjamin age 3 and daughter Martha age 7 months. I feel this James is also a son of James Sr. at dwelling 304. By the 1830 Taliaferro census James Sr. had 2 males “of ten and under fifteen” which qualified James and Wm. L. as they would have been the oldest at ages of 10 and 12, and with the oldest carrying the father’s name of James and living only one family away, I feel confident at placing him in this family also. The 1850 Taliaferro County census also gives the same age which matches up to the year of birth for my Joseph T. Sharp, born in 1835. This 1850 census also showed me a William L. Sharp, which is the name from the Sharp bible; that name written in the bible could have been a reference to Joseph’s brother.
At this point I still have not located the one piece of evidence I was hoping to find on the Confederate Pension files, and that being, who was the wife of my Joseph T. Sharp! I think, at this point, I might assume that at the time of enlistment in 1861 he was not married. I next searched the 1860 census of both Taliaferro and Hancock Counties and found that his parents were still living in Taliaferro County, but he was no longer home. I did not find him listed in the Hancock County census either, but I did find a Jos T. Sharp on the 1860 slave schedule for Taliaferro County as owning 1 slave, a 9 year old female. Also listed next to him was a Jas L. Sharp (possibly James L. Sharp – his brother) owning 1 slave, a 38 year old female. What is puzzling is that if this is my Joseph (Jos T. Sharp) T. Sharp, then why was he not listed in the regular 1860 Taliaferro county census? I then searched the 1870 census for Taliaferro and Hancock and still did not find a mention of him…
I turned to a new search site I discovered – http://images.google.com to search on my Sharp line; the link was referred to me from one of my surname lists groups. I typed in “Sharp census,” saw an image of a census and it led me to someone’s web page on Sharp, which held a wealth of information.
From that page I found many census years of Sharp’s in Georgia and discovered my Sharp’s among them. Also on the page were Sharp marriages from Georgia. In searching their database I found my earliest James and Elizabeth Sharp on a marriage record, and that record showed Elizabeth’s maiden name as Lancaster – it told they were married on August 20, 1817 in Hancock County, Georgia. Their first son was born in 1818, so the marriage record seemed to be a correct one in matching this family. From the census stating that Joseph’s father was born in N.C., we might assume now that when James Sharp moved to Ga., either with his parents, or by himself, he first settled in Hancock County before 1817. Hancock County was created in 1793 from the counties of Greene and Washington. Taliaferro County was created in 1825 from the counties of Greene, Hancock, Ogletree, Warren and Wilkes. Sometimes, families never actually moved, the county lines changed causing them to be placed in another county; that may be the case in what happened to my Sharp family by showing the marriage record of James and Elizabeth Sharp in Hancock in 1817, then later in Taliaferro by 1830. I have not, at this point, checked the 1820 census for either Hancock or Taliaferro County to pinpoint them in that year.
My next discovery of my elusive, Joseph T. Sharp, was in the Taliaferro marriage records. As I scrolled through the listing of Joseph’s I came to what I had been searching for in the census – his wife’s name! Joseph T. Sharp married a Narcissa Meadows on December 9, 1858 in Taliaferro County, Georgia. My first thoughts were that I’d seen that name of Narcissa in some of the Sharp census I previously looked at. I went back to my census copies and I found Great Grandpa Sharp, right there in 1860, under my nose in Taliaferro County; he was listed there as Joseph “L” Sharp and Narcissa was with him. As there was only one Joseph, in James and Elizabeth Sharp’s family in 1850, this Joseph L. was actually my Joseph T.; his birth year was 1835. There are many mistakes found in census records – the middle initial of “T” could very well have been taken and written as a “L” by the census taker. Sometimes the census taker never even spoke to the individual, it was often another person who gave the information, and much wrong information was gathered that way.
By using the marriage record of Taliaferro County, a record more precise in correct names, I found my Joseph T. Sharp married to Narcissa Meadows. I hope to further verify these records by acquiring actual copies of the marriage records of both James and Elizabeth Sharp and Joseph T. and Narcissa Meadows Sharp. I have not found any other Sharps in Hancock or Taliaferro Counties except of the family of the original James Sharp.
From the discovery of these records, I have now added valuable pieces to the Sharp puzzle – and it continues.
Using the found marriage record from Taliaferro County of my Joseph T. Sharp to Narcissa Meadows, I began a search for her parents in the 1850 census. I was hoping that as they were married in that county, that she possibly had been born there also. With luck, about fifteen pages into the census, I found Narcissa, age 12, born 1838, with parents of Wm. and Serena (sp) Meadows. William Meadows first shows in the 1830 Taliaferro County census, and also in the 1840 and 1850; Narcissa was one of nine children in this family. The age and birth year matched what I found on the 1860 census of her marriage to Joseph T. Sharp. In the 1860 census they had one child, James Sharp; he probably was named after Joseph’s father and later in the 1880 census, a second son showed with the name of William; who seemed to be named after Narcissa’s father.
Going back further, the census years shows that my Sharp line came to Taliaferro County by 1830. Also listed that year was a male, 70 years of age, but not 80, living in their household. He could either have been James or Elizabeth’s father. On another Sharp web page I found him listed as James Sharp, father of James Sharp married to Elizabeth, but I have no proof to document that fact at this time.
My original piece to this puzzle began with just the name of Joe Sharp, and through searching I found a wealth of information on him, his family, as well as his parents. The possible ending to my puzzle would be in finding his grave-site; which I have not found at this time, but is there really ever an end in genealogy? Quite a few years ago I found his daughter, Rosie Sharp McKinley in the Powellton Cemetery in Hancock County, but no Joe Sharp. Nearby were a few Sharpe’s listed and using the information I now have of Joseph’s siblings, I know that the graves of James and Delaney Sharpe near Rosie are Joe’s brother and sister-in-law. Joseph T. Sharp died after his daughter, Rosie, and from reading the pension applications, it was written he was destitute. We might assume, that when he died, there just wasn’t enough money to buy him a headstone. Since Joseph T. Sharp was living in Hancock County at the time of his death, and probably still in his son-in-law’s household, I feel he most likely is buried in the Powellton Cemetery, near his daughter Rosie, in an unmarked grave. Another possibility, is that he may be buried next to his wife, Narcissa, and that could be somewhere in Taliaferro County. That search will take a longer time to decipher, if ever. I hope one day to have a stone placed, so he may not be forgotten, and be honored as a soldier who fought for the South in the Confederate Civil War.
I am very satisfied as to how my story of “The Search for Grandpa Sharp” has concluded. I feel rewarded in the fact that now, instead of just a name, I have a family for him and more history to add to my family history, which never ends. I only wish I could have shared this information with my grandfather, Edgar T. McKinley, before he passed away.
That little old man who sat in his chair stuffed with Confederate money, whom Granddaddy liked to give a hot foot to, actually had many tales to tell – from serving in the Calvary, where he fought on horseback, to his life of raising a family with the early passing of his wife, to dealing with young whipper-snappers who played mischievous pranks on him as he napped, whom he called the “limb cats of the devil.”
But those tales we’ll never know…
I am thankful for what I do have to share with all future family members, and I’m sure there will be more family history to add to this story in the future.
But, I still have questions!