Dr. Patrick Vance – Book Intro

Dr. Patrick Vance of Lexington, Virginia

The most striking story about Dr. Patrick Vance of Lexington, Rockbridge County, Virginia, is about scalped heads. It is a tiny bit of the story of this Tennessee Vance family but it is simply the best known piece. The earliest known mention of Dr. Patrick is actually in the Draper Manuscripts1

“Surgery and surgical instruments were of the most primitive kind on the early fron- tier. During the Christian campaign, while the men were quartered at Long Island, a Dr. Vance discovered a treatment for scalped persons. He bored holes in the skull in order to create a new flesh covering for the exposed bone. On being called away he taught James Robertson how to perform the operation. Frederick Calvit, a scalped patient, was brought in and Robertson had a chance to practice upon him—”he [Vance] bored a few holes himself, to show the manner of doing it.” He further declares: ‘I have found that a flat pointed, straight awl is the best instrument to bore with as the skull is thick and somewhat difficult to penetrate. When the awl is nearly through the instrument should be borne more lightly upon. The time to quit boring is when a reddish fluid appears on the point of the awl. I bore at first about one inch apart and as the flesh appears to rise in these holes I bore a number more between the first, etc. * * The scalped head cures slowly. It skins remarkably slow, generally taking two years.”

More information on that first appearance in Virginia is available in a history of Sullivan County, Tennessee: “Patrick Vance appointed third surgeon with pay of assistant” The footnote numbered two is the description above. That appointment line is from the orderly book of Camp Lady Ambler, Oct. 20, 1776, and is a detailed description of the Christian Campaign against the Cherokees that lasted until December of that year.2

Another account in James Robertson’s own words, from The Philadelphia Medical and Physical Journal, Volume 2, 1805, p. 273 reads:

“III. Remarks on the Management of the Scalped-Head. By Mr. James Robertson,  of Nashville, in the State of Tenessee. Communicated to the Editor, by Felix Robert- son, M. D., of the same place. In the year 1777, there was a Doctor Vance, about the Long-Islands of Holsten, who was there attending on the different garrisons, which were embodied on the then frontiers of Holsten, to guard the inhabitants against the depradations of the Cheerake-Indians. This Doctor Vance came from Augusta County, in Virginia. In March of the same year, Frederick Calvit was badly wounded, and nearly the whole of his head skinned.”

So according to both accounts, Dr. Patrick was on Long Island in the Holsten River which flows from Virginia into Tennessee. Long Island is at Kingsport and according to Wikipedia:

“The Long Island of the Holston River was an important site for the Cherokee, colonial pioneers, and early settlers of the region. The site was used as a staging ground for people following the Wilderness Road into Kentucky. It was a sacred council and treaty site among the Cherokee people. The Timberlake Expedition of 1761–1762 used it as its point of origin and return. It was from here that Daniel Boone, in 1775, began to clear the Wilderness Road, which extended through the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky.”4

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyman_Draper
  2. Taylor, Oliver, Historic Sullivan, a History of Sullivan County, Tennessee, with brief Biogra- phies of the Makers of History (Bristol, Tennessee: The King Printing Company, 1909), 65-66.
  3. https://books.google.com/books?id=GCgdAQAAMAAJ
  4. Long Island (Tennessee), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_Island_(Tennessee), accessed 8 Oct

Dr. Patrick Vance of Lexington, Virginia

One of my ancestors was Dr. Patrick Vance who lived in Lexington, Virginia. I now live only an hour away and took the opportunity to make a few trips over there to see if I could find some new information. Along the way, I discussed the possibility of publishing a book about the family. Cousins agreed that they would like to see it done and I have just finished the book and sent it to the printers today.

This is a small family and there’s simply no way for me to make enough money off the book to pay for my trips or time.  It’s not that I do this kind of work just for profit but I really prefer a larger pool of possible buyers. I know that in genealogy heaven I will be amply lauded and held dear. Here on earth it’s a bit problematic to put a lot of time into something not doesn’t net an income when I’m still needing an income!  This one is really a gift to family. I hope I’ve done it justice.

I’m taking pre-orders for the print book and the digital version is now available. Check out the cvillegenie shop!

Look for the upcoming post with a bit from the book…


And some Toothakers

I find this family to be fascinating – an unusual name and descendants from one of “witches” arrested in the Salem witch trials. One son stayed in Massachusetts and one went to Maine. Those descendants are many and far flung. I started tracking them a while back but when in Maine last month had a finding!

I was driving into Etna/Dixmont talking with my cousin who was giving me directions to her house up the road. Suddenly, on the left, next to the elementary school was a sign for a Toothaker Cemetery. Didn’t know there was Toothakers in that area so came back later to find only a few graves that are Toothakers and no answer to the mystery as it was a wife of Jacob who died before 1850. I had no Jacob in that area so I was perplexed.

My cousin said that Eleanor Toothaker had died some years before. At her death she was the oldest resident of Dixmont but had never married. Before I left Maine, we were able to find out what cemetery Eleanor was buried in – just up the road and I cruised through the whole thing snapping pictures of all the Toothakers there.

The cemetery had not been well documented on findagrave.com so I had to rely on the groupings of the graves to put families together. The oldest was William Toothaker b. 1810 d. 1884. William is just such a common name in this family but I definitely didn’t have that line in my tree. It turns out I didn’t have his father’s line in my tree – another William.

Once I finally puzzled it all out, I had a small Toothaker family in Penobscot County, in Dixmont, Etna, Plymouth, Brewer and up into Banger. They all stayed there unlike most branches of this traveling family. They all married into other small families of the area such as the Simpsons, Sylvesters, Davis’s and Arnolds. Most are buried in the Simpson Corner Cemetery on a dirt road off the beaten path.

I added my photos and missing family members to findagrave.com to document them publicly.

Now I’m ready to hit the back roads of Maine and see who else I can find!

The Alexanders of Maine

The Alexanders and their descendants make up a fair amount of the Wilson family tree. I had long thought  that my next book would be about them and I’m proceeding with that idea.

One thing that makes them interesting is not the branch that everyone knows but the other Alexanders in Maine. I started looking at what I’ve unearthed so far and trying to piece together some sort of coherent story.  To date this is where my research has gotten to.

Since births were not recorded in early Topsham records and since many marriages were also not recorded, there are families whose early origins are not known. A good example of this is the Alexanders of Topsham (and thus of Bowdoin and Litchfield).

All early Topsham records list a William Alexander. It is believed that David Alexander was the father of all the Alexanders who arrived in southern Maine. As David’s son William settled in Harpswell, we can be sure this William is not David’s son. So was he his grandson or was he the son of another Alexander that came to Maine?

DeAlva Stanwood Alexander specifically states “James Alexander, whose farm was entered of record in Topsham in 1738, was his son, probably younger than William.” His son, meaning David’s son. No land was deeded to settlers in Topsham until the 1750’s / 1760’s but prospective land owners were required to settle the land and erect buildings long before that in order to qualify for ownership.

The earliest, but undated, list of the Topsham settlers was created prior to 1743 because James Wilson who died in 1743 is included on that list. But only William is the only Alexander included in that list.

There is an index for the Pejebscot Papers and it does not list a James or J Alexander. The index was created after DeAlva Stanwood wrote his book in 1898 and there are documented missing papers now. No only that but there are multiple copies of some things and they rarely ever state it to be the first / original or a copy. The papers are only losely organized and I’ve dug into them at least three times so far. More research is needed.

So we have no proof at all that a James existed besides DeAlva’s mention. We also have DeAlva’s statement that he thinks James Wilson died prior to 1731 so he obviously never saw the undated “List of Settlers who were to be at Topsham (Some of Whom Came)” that lists both James Wilson and William Alexander.”

One intriguing clue not available to DeAlva comes from Bolton’s Scotch-Irish Pioneers in Ulster and America. He compiled some lists of some of the settlers who did come on the Temple ships. Among those is listed a James Wilson, a Jean Wilson and four children, the father of Jennet who was not born in Maine and who did marry William Alexander of Harpswell.

The Alexanders on that list on page 233?

_____ Alexander, wife and four children
David Alexander and son
William Alexander

That’s a total of 9 Alexanders who came to Merrymeeting Bay. I do believe he counted some twice but still not the same picture as David and sons James and William only.

The facts are these:

1) There was a William Alexander who lived in Topsham. He is listed on all the early and later lists.
2) There was at least one Robert Alexander is also listed and deeded with property in Topsham before 1770.
3) There was one George Alexander who supposedly died in Topsham about 1735. His two children were born in Georgetown in 1728 and 1732.
3) There are mentions of 2 Roberts both born about 1740, one who had a family in Topsham and one in Bowdoin.
4) There was a John Alexander born before 1740 who married a Combs in Bowdoin.
5) And I found a Margaret who married Robert Gower in 1761, making her birth probably prior to 1740. Considering how late many of the early marriages took place she could easily be born prior to 1730 or even 1720. She is stated to be the sister of Robert in Topsham.
6) A Jean Alexander married Robert Douglas in 1762 in Topsham.

In the subsequent generations, I have turned up multiple Alexanders whose ancestry is unknown, leaving me to believe there might have been more early Alexanders as yet undiscovered.

Stay tuned!

Cemeteries and Gravestones

One of the most important parts of checking out cemeteries is the old medical adage of do no harm. I encounter unreadable gravestones all the time and the temptation is to fix the problem.

But one should be aware of proper techniques. I’m no expert but the Maine Cemetery Association has a page that lays out the points:

  • Use WATER ONLY to clean stones.
  • Professionals may use other cleaning agents.
  • Remove loose, dry material with a soft-bristled brush.
  • Clean the sides and back of the stone first, then lastly the front.
  • Always wash the stone from the BOTTOM UP to avoid streaking.
  • Use small circular motions as you work.
  • Change the water often. Using dirty water can cause scratching of the stone.
  • Clean out engraved and other recessed areas of the stone with a soft toothbrush or soft wooden craft sticks, if necessary.
  • Finish the cleaning process by rinsing the entire stone with COPIOUS amounts of clean water. A pump sprayer is ideal.

We’re coming into the time of year when folks start cleaning up so thought the information was timely and I needed an update myself before I get outdoors!

The biggest problem is having enough water on hand. Sometimes there simply is no water available so you have to carry a lot with you. So the last point is really just this – plan ahead of time.

Quickie kit!

I’m going to put together my cemetery kit this year. I haven’t done it before – the last time I was in cemeteries was in Maine when I had flown up and didn’t want to cart things around with me. I may be driving this time but even if I’m not, I’ll assemble a small kit.

IMG_0184Toothbrushes and craft sticks are easy, small and lightweight.  And then a soft brush? Not a problem due to my many past hobbies and jobs, I’m sure there’s one in the basement I can use. A cheap paintbrush should work fine.

One other thing I like to have is a digging tool. I’ve run across a lot of stones that are buried deep enough to cover up additional engraving on the stone. So something to remove the dirt (without scraping the stone, of course) can be really handy. Not so small or lightweight… A garden spade is perfect for the digging but not so perfect for a suitcase on a flight. So I just started cruising my “respositories” in the house. One container turned up a plastic attachment to  a hair dryer. Sturdy enough to dig with, small and lightweight. Perfect for a traveler. Then I found all that I needed at my local craft store – all wood implements I can use for digging and cleaning stones.

Photographing the graves afterwards can present other problems. The more sunlight, the worse it is for photography in this case. Overcast days actually return better photographs. Early morning is frequently the best time of day because so many sites face the east. Later in the day then the face of the stones are then in shadow.

Plan ahead of time:

Assemble a kit.
Bring lots of water if possible.
Determine what time of day is best for photography at the particular cemetery.

And if you are really serious about this and want to learn more (and will be in Maine in Aug), attend MOCA’s no fee workship Aug 19 – 22 in Wilton, Maine.

Never Ending Genealogical Research

I finished the book, right? I have started new major trees in preparation for the next book. So I can stop with the Wilson stuff? Not on your life.

One of the most fun things nowadays in genealogy is that information keeps being digitized and being made available online. That means that new clues keep cropping up and I have to keep track as best as I can.

I use Ancestry.com for my base research – mostly due to the hint system. I don’t have to go looking for new bits, they can just pop up at any time. There’s a catch though. If you don’t go back to that section of the tree, those hints may not pop up at all. So with a tree of over 21,000? Well, I think you can imagine how time intensive that can be.

Add in the fact that I really have not done extensive work on the Alexander line and I’m now just starting to go back to look at the accuracy of what I have. That means I got hints popping up every time I click. Yippee!  Oh, dear!

I’m not here to promote ancestry as your primary source so I won’t go into details about the best way to use it for your research. After they tried to pull the plug on their long standing Family Tree Maker software, I absolutely do not trust them to do the best thing for their subscribers. So if you do use ancestry, buy software that allows you to easily back up your work there.

So ongoing research? Well, I’m presently tracing the Alexanders of Maine who are not descendants of William Alexander. There was another Alexander that came over in that flotilla of Temple ships – one named William who I suspect was a brother to the known William’s father, David. Most of those descendents lived in Topsham whereas the William who married a Wilson went to Harpswell. Having the two different families makes this research a bit dicey but doing all the Alexanders means I can tease out the threads of which family an Alexander belongs to. That’s the good news.

The problem still lies in tying those Topsham descendants to the proper sons of that original William (I am making that assumption with no proof). One part of my next research in Maine at the end of this month will be to look again at the Pejebscot Records to find all references to the Alexanders.  And the Mustards.

Don’t laugh. Col. Mustard was not just a character in the board game, Clue. Mustard is an old Northern England and Scottish name dating back to 1414.  Ancestry’s Mustard family page says it is a “metonymic occupational name for a dealer in spices, or a nickname for someone with a hot temper or a vicious tongue”.

There are several Mustards in early Topsham so I’m delving into this small family in an effort to figure out who was who and where they came from. Most likely it was one or two ancestors and they may have first come into York, not Topsham. I love a mystery and hopefully I can shed some light on James, John and William Mustard of Topsham. Both a William and a John are listed as dead in the resident list of 1746 with the deeds given to James. William seems to be the father of Martha who married an Alexander.  I think there’s a James may be the father of both the James who got the deeds and of the John and William who is listed as dead. I also think those deaths were due to Indians and that info is probably in those records somewhere.

I’ve also found references to a Margaret (Owen), Sarah (Brown?), a Catherine (Potter) and an Abigail (McFadden) who may have been the daughters of that original Mustard as well. So that’s another family whose name is going to figure highly in my next look at the old Pejebscot records.

One of the reasons for concentrating on a specific geographical area is that researching one family turns up information – frequently the names of the daughters as they marry – on other families. So no matter what, the research never ends.

Mystery abounds and clues pop up. Ah, yes, all in the course of a day. How could historical research be more exciting?

Wilson “Reunion”

June 5, 2015 NOTE: A great time was had by all that came. Hopefully, we’ll do this again next year! Contact me if you are interested!

Reunion is in quotes because in actuality most of us will be meeting for the first time in the flesh. We’re interested in getting to know our new cousins and I’m really (always) interested in adding more information and people to this family tree. The focus of the weekend will be genealogy but you don’t have to interested in that to enjoy meeting new people from other lands (me from Virginia and I know of one other coming from Nevada) as well your neighbors and friends that you didn’t know you were related to!

The weekend of May 20 is the when and we are still working on the details (see below). It’s going to be informal and is open to any Wilson descendant or folks wanting to find out if they are a Wilson descendant.

If you’ll give us an email address, I’ll be glad to send you information as it is developed about meeting in Maine. Use the sign up form here: http://eepurl.com/c7qSkr (note: this has changed as of 13 Oct 2017)

After signing up for the email list, take this survey as well: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/9RZQ5LS  That will tell us what you may be interested in doing.

Saturday, May 21

Breakfast: Fairground Cafe, Topsham Fairground Mall, 9:00 a.m.

After breakfast – we’ll not be bound by a schedule here but by 10 or 11 we’ll be out and about in Topsham. The Hugh Wilson houses are on the agenda as well as cemeteries. It will depend on the interest as to how much we do. My direct ancestors are in the cemetery right down from the Hugh Wilson houses so that’s a definite plan. There are two other cemeteries that have Wilson descendants – the oldest, First Parish of Topsham and the best known, Riverside. We may just ride past so that you can see where they are.

Lunch: The Grange, Harpswell: 1:00 p.m.

Bring your own lunch and join us at this old institution in Harpswell. We’re going to eat and talk and eat and talk! Get to know one another and look at genealogies.

Supper: Depending on whose interested, we may lay plans for a nice meal. Keep in touch so we can tell you where we end up.

Sunday, May 22

Afternoon – Dave Hackett (Harpswell Historical Society) is going to lead a tour around Harpswell. No other details yet so stay tuned.

We’ll have plenty of time for more activities if we get together and decide to go other places. Like I said this will be informal!




Uncommonly Common Now Widely Available

You can order it through Barnes & Noble as well as Amazon.com. That means it should be available through all book lists and even your local library could order it.

Ask for it!

On Line Resources for Uncommonly Common

insta_cover_hardback.inddIt truly is done now and going to the printers this week. I am gobsmacked and filled with trepidation but I can endlessly proof this and never publish. There will be errors.

I have added additional digital resources here for the book which can be found at the following links. All are PDFs and you can read in your process or save the files to your website. They will open in a new window.

Table of Contents:
http://cvillegenie.com/pdfs/wilson_toc.pdf or shortened  http://goo.gl/JklxFm

Zoomable Maps:
Full Topsham Map
http://cvillegenie.com/james_wilson_family/wilson_images/topsham-full-wheeler-map.jpg or shortened: http://goo.gl/jZIDD8

Topsham Roads, Now and Then
http://cvillegenie.com/james_wilson_family/wilson_images/topsham_map_roads.jpg or shortened: http://goo.gl/Nc7qUF

Index of Names:
http://cvillegenie.com/pdfs/index_of_names.pdf  or shortened: http://goo.gl/uiJR6q

When it’s all over…

The book is done. The Uncommonly Common is as finished as it’s going to get. Except for some expected edits, I have no more research and writing to do. After 18 months, I get to relax. Or not.

I’ve been living this world for so long now, it’s become my alternate reality and my escape. I am left bereft, not elated to have finished.

It’s really time to recap the experience and look at what I have ended up with.

The Journey

I started this whole process by simply signing up on ancestry.com. This is an addictive thing in case you have not tried it.  I took it to extremes by trying to document all descendants of each original ancestor. One family line was just too massive to even think it. One family line had too little to keep me busy. Another needed some work but didn’t appear interesting. And then the Wilson line. Different, mystifying and totally new as I did not know my Dad’s family was from Maine initially.

I got finished running through what I could find out thru ancestry but was left with so many questions. By that time I was hooked on genealogy and wanted more. I researched the profession, signed up with the National Genealogy Society that was meeting that May only an hour away from me in Richmond, and looked into professional certification. I starting learning how to do it correctly.

Then I decided to write a book for several reasons. One, I am first and foremost a writer who turned to web design to make a living. Two, I had a lot of information I wanted to do something with. And three, I wanted to know more, seriously, and do some on the ground research.

I made two trips to Maine and got my hands on nearly every scrap of information I could find on those first three or four generations of the Wilsons.

The Results

I have written a book that is ready to print. I’m a writer, a graphic designer and a genealogist so I have a 350 page book ready to go in Indesign. (6 x 9)

This is NOT a normal genealogy. It is a story of a Topsham, Maine, family from 1719 to today. I tracked all the descendants of James Wilson who came to Maine in the Robert Temple ships. Though he died in 1743, his children were at the right age to populate and usher Topsham into incorporation and the founding of Maine as a state. So they were the inn keepers, the saw mill owners, and the dam owners…oh, yes, and major land owners.

Though James Wilson is one of my ancestors, I am a Georgia girl who, until 18 months ago, didn’t even know about this part of my heritage. The book is a journey of discovery, a comparison of north and south and is written with one over riding purpose: to be a readable and maybe even enjoyable book. I cover all descendants that I could find up ’til about 1900 for most lines and then take one line (yeah, my own) all the way to present day.

There are also two chapters about two different individuals. One is a descendant who became a sheriff in the 1850s near Gainesville, Florida, and one who deserted during the Civil War and ended up settling in the Virginia mountains near me. Both are interesting tales!

This was written to genealogical stand of proof. I have documented the facts, occasionally described the process and provide the reasons for my conclusions when the proof is not substantial  or is an interesting tale.

The finalized Table of Contents is here. Though the writing is finished, I will be continuing to edit up until publication as information is still drifting in. I have proofed the footnotes (I haven’t done a count but there are over 500) and done several read through and editing sessions but I will be doing more of that in the coming weeks and months.

I’m now looking for a publisher. Of course, I will self-publish if I have to but prefer to work with a publisher in order to get the marketing effort that I cannot manage by myself. Publishing just to get it into print is not the goal. Publishing in order to get it into the hands of readers is.

My Conclusions

Not only was this the right thing for me to, spending hundreds of hours, precious money and a lot of thinking, but it was also the best thing to do. I am in my element doing what my education prepared me for and what I was designed for.

Finding my “roots” made me whole. I am no longer an outcast in a southern society but a hybrid who fits into both the north and south equally. I feel like Maine is my real home (just for six months out of the year – not  a snow girl!) and look forward to spending more time up there in the future.

As my web design business normally is not full-time (as intended), I have the time to spend to get my genealogy business into a profitable condition. Starting a new business has its own benefits and my entrepreneurial spirit is rejoicing. Adventure!!

When It’s All Over

There is a beginning. A new phase of life for me. A new business.  And a book, The Uncommonly Common.



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