Andrew J. Myers was born in about 1830 in Wilkes County, North Carolina. Both of Andrew’s parents were born in the United States. Although I do not have definitive proof (yet!), I believe Andrew’s father was Henry Myers. His mother is unknown. DNA connections and genealogical research suggest that Andrew’s ancestors originally came to America before the Revolutionary War, and were likely part of the wave of German immigrants who came to Pennsylvania in the early 1700s.
Andrew had at least one brother, Hiram. Hiram appears earlier in the public records than Andrew, and following Hiram’s trail has led me to much of what we know about Andrew’s early years and migration to Illinois. Hiram deserted his family in 1867 or 1868, never to be seen or heard from again. Hiram had served in the Civil War (for the Union) and his wife, Ellen, applied for a Civil War widow’s pension in 1901. Due to Hiram’s disappearance, Ellen had to jump through many bureaucratic hoops to show she was entitled to his pension. Hence, Hiram’s pension file (located at the National Archives in Washington, DC) includes affidavits and depositions from anyone and everyone she could find who had known them in the 1860s, including Andrew. These documents fill in a lot of details about the Myers family that would otherwise be lost to the ages. But, it’s important to remember that all the deponents were by then elderly and recalling events that, in Andrew’s words, occurred “so many long years ago.” The best part of the National Archives find? Hearing Andrew’s voice!
My impression has always been that Hiram and myself was both born in Wilks Co, NC. I think we was born about 10 miles from Wilkesboro, Wilks Co, NC. We were nothing but children when we left NC and moved to Sullivan Co, Tenn and then we moved to Washington Co, Tenn and stayed there till we came to Illinois. I came to this state in 1863 & Hiram had been here about four years prior. I can’t tell you the year we moved from Wilks Co, NC to Sullivan Co, Tenn, nor can I tell you the year we moved from Sullivan Co to Washington Co, Tenn. Hiram was a cooper by trade and worked at that trade in Sullivan & Washington Co, Tenn. Our P O in Washington Co was Jonesboro and our P O in Sullivan Co was Bluntville. We lived in town at each of them places and part of the time around the country.
Wilkes County, North Carolina is located on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains, part of the Appalachian Mountains chain. Many post-Revolutionary War pioneers left North Carolina for points west. The distance between Wilkes County and Sullivan County, Tennessee is about 100 miles as the crow flies, but a more circuitous route was no doubt required. It would be interesting to know which trail Henry used to move his family across the Appalachian Mountains!
Although Andrew would have been over 30 years old when he left Tennessee, very little is known about his life there. What happened to his parents? Did he have other siblings? Was he ever married? Ellen’s brother related in an affidavit that he remembered three Myers boys: Andrew, Hiram, and Adam. I have searched in vain for brother Adam. Intriguingly, my dad has a relatively close DNA match with someone who has an Andrew “Mires” from Washington County, Tennessee in her family tree—her second great-grandfather. The DNA proves that there is a connection between our families, a shared ancestor. However, we don’t have enough genealogical proof to determine if the connection is Andrew, if our Andrews are one and the same person. Perhaps in time this mystery will be solved…
In one affidavit, Andrew talked about coming to Illinois and his early years there.
I had not seen Hiram for a number of years prior to his enlistment in the service. I was still living in Tenn when he enlisted. The first time I saw Hiram after the war was along in 1866. He was then living in Jacksonville Petersburg, Menard Co, Ills running a butcher shop. In about 1867 he disappeared and has never been heard of since. I was living in Hillsboro, Ills at the time he left. He owed me some money and wrote for me to come and get it and when I got to Petersburg he had gone and I never got my money.
Andrew recalled coming to Illinois in 1863 and meeting up with Hiram in about 1866, but the public record shows his dates were off a bit. We know that Andrew was in Illinois by the end of July 1865 because we have the record of his marriage to Emily Holmes in Menard County. That same month, the Illinois census shows Andrew and Hiram living next door to one another. The Civil War officially ended on April 9, 1865, with the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee to Union General Ulysses S. Grant. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865, and his funeral train reached Springfield on May 4, 1865. (Springfield is on the road to Petersburg, just 25 miles to the south.) I think it’s possible that Andrew didn’t leave Tennessee until the war was over. In any case, the timing of his departure is interesting. Tennessee had seceded from the Union in May 1861, but northeastern Tennessee was sharply divided in its Civil War sentiments. Washington County itself was Unionist but the county seat of Jonesboro housed both Union and Confederate troops. After the war the North and South remained deeply divided over political, social, and cultural issues. Given where Andrew ended up, I have to think he was a Union sympathizer. Might he have felt compelled to leave Tennessee for his political leanings? Or were his reasons for leaving more personal?
In 1870, we find Andrew and Emily in the village of Ashland, Cass County, Illinois (adjacent to Menard). They have three children, Minnie (4), Henry (3), and Albert (1). The Myers family apparently moved around the Land of Lincoln quite a bit during the Reconstruction Era (1865-1877), probably following employment opportunities. Minnie was born in Montgomery County, Henry in Menard County, and Albert possibly in Cass County. By 1880, Andrew and Emily had moved further north, to Bloomington, McLean County, Illinois. Their fourth and last child, William, was born in about 1874. Andrew was working as a cooper.
In September 1883, Emily filed for divorce from Andrew. The Bloomington newspaper reported that the divorce was granted on October 18, 1883, on grounds of desertion, and Emily was to have custody of the children. Beginning in 1884 and every year thereafter for the next nine years, Andrew shows up in the Peoria city directories, but where he was between 1880 and 1883 is not known. Despite the grant of custody to Emily, Henry (who was by then 17 years old) was with Andrew in Peoria. By the time Albert turned 17, he was also living in Peoria. Andrew and the two older boys worked at the Hutchinson Cooperage.
In 1888 and 1889, Emily (who had remarried and was widowed) was again living in the Myers household, with Andrew, Albert and William. However, her separate listing in the city directory indicates that she and Andrew were not living as husband and wife. Minnie had married in 1887 and Henry in 1889. Both were also living in Peoria. Andrew seemed to remain closest to Henry. From 1890 to 1902 he lived with Henry and family, including a period of time in Noble County, Oklahoma, where they moved to take part in the Cherokee land rush. (I wrote about Henry and the move to Oklahoma here.) In the 1900 U.S. Census Andrew is enumerated in Henry’s household in Oklahoma as “Marion” Myers, a nickname that he seems to have acquired sometime after coming to Peoria. Andrew was about 70 years old at that time. He was not employed and his marital status is shown as “divorced.”
Andrew followed Henry and family to Oshkosh, Wisconsin in 1901, and then back to Peoria in 1902. Over the next four years, Andrew alternated between living with Henry and Minnie. Both households would have been very lively—Andrew had seven young grandchildren. Andrew died on April 21, 1905 at Minnie’s home. He had been ill for several months with stomach cancer. I can imagine it would have been challenging to care for Andrew in those last months. I hope being surrounded by family eased what must have been a painful ending. Andrew was buried in the Oakford Cemetery in Menard County, his first Illinois home. He shares a plot with his sister-in-law Ellen, whom he had known since he was a child. Somehow, that feels just right.
RIP Grandfather Andrew.