Tazwell Howard Cannaday

Tazwell Howard Cannaday was born on September 10, 1852 in Floyd County, Virginia. Tazwell was the third of nine children born to Stephen H. Cannaday and Elizabeth Lemon, and their first son. Both of Tazwell’s parents came from large families—his mother was one of twelve children, and his father was one of twenty-four! (Stephen’s parents, William “Patrick Billy” and Martha “Patsy” Wright, had a measure of renown in Floyd and the surrounding counties for that amazing feat.)

Tazwell’s parents, Stephen H Cannaday and Elizabeth Lemon, ca. 1870s.

Cannaday families, mostly Quaker, have been documented in America since well before the Revolutionary War and in Virginia since the mid-1700s. The Cannaday surname and its many variants (Canaday, Cannady, Canady, Canada, etc.), is thought to be an Americanized version of Kennedy, and according to one bit of lore, possibly changed when the family split from the Catholic Church in Ireland. The name is nearly as common as Smith or Jones in neighboring Floyd, Patrick, and Franklin Counties. Landmarks and physical features there include Cannaday Gap, Cannaday Cemetery, Cannaday School Road, and Cannaday Holler.  Tazwell’s given name, also quite common in the area, perhaps comes from Henry Tazewell, a prominent Virginia politician who was a lawyer, judge and U.S. Senator.

Floyd County lies in SW Virginia, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Many Cannadays originally hailed from Floyd County, as well as the adjacent counties of Franklin to the east and Patrick to the southeast.

The 1860 U.S. Census, the last taken before the Civil War, shows Tazwell in rural Floyd County with his parents, four sisters and two brothers. The Cannaday family lived next door to Elizabeth’s parents. Tazwell’s father and grandfather both worked as blacksmiths. Stephen did not own land or slaves. Slave owners were a minority, albeit a powerful economic and political group, in Floyd County. Nevertheless, a majority of the County’s citizens were Confederate sympathizers and the County voted overwhelmingly in favor of secession on May 23, 1861. Many men rushed to heed the call for volunteers, among them Stephen and four of his brothers. Later reports indicated there had been widespread intimidation, threats, and physical violence during the secession vote, and over time, secession and the Civil War profoundly and bitterly divided Floyd County.  As with most Confederate communities, soldiers’ families suffered extraordinary hardships resulting from food and labor shortages. A local magistrate pleaded with Virginia’s governor that “a great many of our soldiers wives and families are inteirely [sic] barefoot, and a good many neighborhoods are so scarce of men that the soldiers families can not get help to get firewood.” Tazwell was ten years old when his father enlisted, and such would have been his life during his father’s four-year absence.

T. H. Cannaday, date unknown. Many of the portraits in this post were taken by Jewel Studio in Christiansburg, Virginia, about 20 miles north of Floyd.

Stephen served until the end of the war, returning home in 1865. Between 1865 and 1867, Stephen and Elizabeth welcomed two daughters. Shortly thereafter, the Cannaday family pulled up stakes and moved 230 miles north to Gallia County, Ohio, which borders the Ohio River. We don’t know what precipitated the move or if the Cannadays migrated with a group, but we do know that Stephen’s brother Joshua had settled there many years before the war. The 1870 census records Stephen’s occupation as farmer. Seventeen-year-old Tazwell worked as a farmhand for a neighboring farmer and helped his father as well. Nothing else is known of the family’s time in Ohio, but by 1875 they made the long journey back to Floyd County, where Tazwell would spend the rest of his life.

Tazwell married Julia Ann Foster on October 12, 1879. Julia was 15 years old and Tazwell, 27. That same year, Tazwell’s father died. In 1880 Tazwell’s mother and his four youngest siblings shared a household with the newlyweds. The 1880 census lists Tazwell’s occupation as farmer. The accompanying agricultural schedule provides us a snapshot of Tazwell’s farm. He owned 66 acres of land valued at $900 and $80 worth of livestock. Twenty acres were tilled and planted with Indian corn, oats, and a small amount of buckwheat. (Several years later, Tazwell and two others would organize the Floyd Corn Club to test how much corn an acre of Floyd County land would produce.) Tazwell’s livestock included one horse, two oxen, one milch cow, two sheep, and fourteen chickens. The farm had six acres of unmown meadows and 40 acres of forest and woodlands. Tazwell reported that he cut fifteen cords of wood in 1879. According to the census, Tazwell’s brother Isaac helped on the farm.

Isaac-Tazwell-Stewart Cannaday-1

Tazwell (center) and his brothers, Isaac (left) and Virgil Stewart (right). Date unknown.

In 1881, Tazwell and Julia welcomed their firstborn, my great grandfather Edward, followed in quick succession by Frank in 1883, Linnie in 1885, Asa in 1889, and Annie in 1891. During that same ten-year period, Tazwell’s mother died and his younger siblings all married and moved away.

Sadly, little Annie died when she was 18 months old.  Not long afterward, in 1894, son William came along. By 1900, Tazwell’s mother-in-law had joined the household. Mrs. Foster’s presence was surely appreciated when two more babies were born: Iva in 1901 and Kate in 1905.

A Cannaday-Epperly family gathering, ca. 1924-25. (Two of Tazwell’s sisters married Epperlys.) Sister Eliza is in front, third from left. Behind and to the left of Eliza is sister Nancy, and Tazwell is behind and to the left of Nancy. Julia Foster Cannaday (Tazwell’s wife) is at the far right, in back.

By 1910, when Tazwell was nearing 60, life slowed down a bit. Though he still had young ones at home, his older children began to leave, marry, and start families of their own. Three of the four boys moved away, Edward to Illinois, Frank and William to Pennsylvania. In 1920, only Iva and Kate still lived with their parents. I imagine life on the farm took on a quiet, daily rhythm. Tazwell continued to work the land. He and Julia regularly attended the Methodist-Episcopal Stonewall Church. The Cannadays’ Floyd community was filled with extended family and long-time friends. Visits from far-flung relatives provided opportunities for family get-togethers.

Tazwell, date unknown.

In the never-ending circle of life, Tazwell’s son Edward died in 1930 and his ten-year-old grandson Frank (son of Tazwell’s son Frank) came to live on the farm. Kate, a school teacher, still lived there, too. Having the two younger Cannadays around must have brought a lightness of air to Tazwell’s sunset years.

Tazwell died on December 23, 1933 at age 81. He was buried on Christmas Eve in the Col. Jacob Helms Cemetery in Floyd County, his beloved home. He was survived by his wife, five of his seven children, and ten grandchildren. I have a feeling Tazwell would say, “It was a good life.”

RIP, Grandfather Cannaday.

14 thoughts on “Tazwell Howard Cannaday

  1. Another beautifully written family story, Cousin! Sorry I’ve been out of touch. I promise a nice long email soon. xxxooo, Cousin mmm


    • Thanks, Andy! When I start writing, I am always surprised at how much I’ve been able to find, even with our second great-grands, who are four generations removed from us! XO


  2. Wonderful story Ter. It brought back a lot of memories of the trip to Floyd, VA with my dad Edward and sister Carol when I was 16 years old. We stayed with Linnie and Cal and visited other relatives in the area. I do remember Kate who was 3 years older than my dad. They lived on an old very large farm house that had fireplaces in every room and once in while a snake would show up in them. We also visited relatives in Roanoke where I heard the story of the 24 children born to Tazwell’s grandparents. I will always remember the beautiful Shenandoah Valley and the Blue Ridge Mountains. A very memorable trip!


    • Thanks for your comments, Mom. I love that you made that trip to Floyd and I hope we can make that trip sometime. We may or may not find any relatives, but I’ll bet the house is still there. At the Cannaday reunion, I was able to get pictures from the trip that Uncle Frank and Alice and Uncle Bob and Harriette made (in the 1980s, maybe?), and there are photos of that same big old house. XOXO


  3. Another great tale! Cannaday Hollar immediately caught my attention! We can thank Patrick Billy for siring 24 children. This would totally explain our blue blood leaked out of our fountain pen! And.. our line has been sprinkled with “mountain folk” now and again. All charming! It was a bit discombobulating to realize I met Kate when I was 12 years old or so. I hadn’t expected to actually know anyone in your Singing Oak Tales. Apparently that makes me an old woman now. I really liked Tazewell’s demeanor in his formal photos and was pleased to see “Cannaday” clearly. I appreciated the early Quaker connection. Peace & Love!


  4. I loved the Tazwell Cannaday information.
    I am Ron Fulcher of Roanoke, Va.
    My great-great grandfather was Tazwell’s father Stephan’s brother, Pleasant Cannaday. My great grandfather was Benjiman, my grandfather was Charlie, and my mother is Alice Ermigene (Cannaday) Fulcher.
    My branch of the Cannaday Family is from Patrick County; William (Patrick Billy) Cannaday, Stephan and Pleasant’s father
    moved to Patrick from Franklin County.
    Williams childhood original home was near Runnett Bag Creek, today off of Runnett Bag Road in Franklin County,close to Ferrum.
    Runnett Bag Rd becomes Cannaday Gap Rd.
    James Cannaday 1750-1817, who served in the Third Virginia Regiment of Foot in the revolution according to his Tombstone, is buried near this old home along with several relatives, near a present day home of an Underwood family. The chimney of the old home is still standing, and I have a access to a photo of the old home.
    I have a fair amount of information about the Cannaday families, and would certainly like to share some, compare notes, and communicate With my cousins and other relatives.


    • Hi Ron, thank you for your comments and the additional information on our Cannaday ancestors! I am always happy to meet a new Cannaday cousin and would love to share information. You can e-mail me directly at tkjensen [at] bresnan [dot] net. Warm regards, Terri


  5. Wow!! don’t know how i fit in here but i do i guess the name changed so much even in the Canaday / Canada cemetery …my gggg grandfather is William Flemming S. Canaday (Cannaday)…still finding out stuff . John Chapman Canaday Sr. and Silas Canaday but so much on the net is messed up on the family do any of these names ring a bell??


    • Thank you for writing! Tazwell’s father Stephen (who was one of 24 children), had a brother named Flemming S. Cannaday. I am not sure if this is the same person as your 4th great grandfather, but I would love to compare notes with you. I know the Cannaday name is spelled many different ways, and most that descend from the Cannadays who were in SW Virginia in the early 1800s are related in one way or another. Please feel free to e-mail me directly at tkjensen [at] bresnan [dot] net. Terri


      • Have you checked into Flemming’s Cannaday??? He was in the Civil War.. and he died in Wyoming County West Virginia……. My grandfather was from the same area…… His daddy’s name was Silas Canaday and my grandfathers name was Thomas Edison Canaday and when my father was born in Maben West Virginia the last name was changed to Canada. The rest of his siblings are Canaday and my dads name was Silas Dwight Canada. There was so many changes and people moving around not sure about alot of the history, but my grandfather had a place in Cartersville Virginia on the James River……. not sure about relations to Tazwell but seem like all of our people came from that area at one time. My grandmother told me that the name Canaday use to be Cannaday and was changed and that originally the name was Kennedy. most of my kin now deceased moved and lived in n.c v.a area
        Would love to hear if any of this info has any bearing on your findings……. will email you when I set my email up……


    • Hello,
      My name is Ron Fulcher, and I live in Virginia near where a lot of the Cannaday family was and is centered, in Franklin and Patrick County County.
      Fleming is a name that is in out line a couple of times, through the years, just as Pleasant, Charles, James, are. My great great grandfather was one of the 24 children of Patrick Billy Cannaday. He was Stephans brother and Tazwells uncle. He and Stephan and the other brothers were in the civil war in the same unit,
      and their Grandfather James was in the Revolution. James and Patrick Billy were apparently well off. I have been to the cemetery where James is buried, and the ruins of his old house. I don’t know if this helps, but it would be good to stay in touch and compare notes!


  6. Just a quick thought…. I was checking some info that the original Kennedy families came from Ireland……King Brian Boru of Ireland was a decendent supposedly of ours…….. I found that interesting…… check him out……….


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