08 May 2017

Digging Up Some Dirt

I watch So Who Do You Think You Are every time it is on.  I just find it fascinating that nearly everyone has something interesting in their families.  I also find it enjoyable/weird discovering these things about forgotten people.  I mean, they were just living their lives Just Like Us, and now they're forgotten to time.   In a movie once, someone asked when a person stops existing.  The answer was "When the last person who knew them died."  I remember that just hitting me in the gut the first time I heard it. 

I have been working on multiple family trees for a few years now.  It started out around the time my dad was dying so...nine years now...and has branched out not only to my family but Kevin's as well.  My mom has been the biggest beneficiary of this task as it turns out her family was prominent in the late 1800's/early 1900's in Southern California.   Tracing her family has been a breeze actually. 

As a child, my mom told us that we had Native American blood.  While I thought that was cool, if you look at me you certainly don't think "Hey, I bet she's Native American!"  I could not look more English if I tried.  It also gets filed into Family Lore that May or Not Be True.

I have been dedicating about an hour a day to this adventure and on Friday, I hit a gold mine.  I found the Native American ancestor!  I owe my mother an apology (for this and for thousands of other things, for sure) 

Her name is Katie Owl and she is Cherokee. Her name is Tsi Na Quil and it translates to "Young Chicken".  It appears that she married a white man but they lived as Cherokee.  She was my three-times great grandmother.  They lived in Tennessee during the early 1800's so prior to the Civil War and during the white man settling of the Midwest and West.  In fact, they were miraculously excluded from the Trail of Tears because the terrain where they lived was too much for the white men to traverse. 

I mostly use ancestry.com for my research but I've found the google to be helpful when I get stuck, or bored.  (50/50 there.)   Google gave me a gem of a document listing that particular family line.  I will so be the favorite (only) daughter on Mother's Day.

While I was breezing through the lineation, something caught my eye. My three-time great grandfather was charged with murder. What.what/what!?!?!

From: The Monroe County, TN Records 1820-1870 Vol II, Researched, compiled and Edited
by Reba Bayless Boyer, 1970: Circuit Court Records 1821-1830:
37 "May 1823: Hamon Helton found guilty of mortally wounding John Cross at Tellico,
causing his death on 11 April 1823: John Helton charged with aiding: 

Witnesses: Betsy Helton, Joseph Phillips, Samuel Colquith, William Williams, George Loftis." Court records found by Joyce Reece indicate that Harmon killed a man with a chunk of wood.
Abstract - Helton Case #10 - The State vs Hamon Helton & John Helton Indictment; State of
Tennessee, seventieth Judicial Circuit Court, Monroe County, viz. Circuit Court May Term
Incident occurred April 6, 1823 at Tellico (now Madisonville).
"Not having the fear of God before their eyes but being.....seduced by the instigation of an evil
spirit with fore and arms in and upon one John Cross and their being in the peace of the state
feloniously, willfully and of their malice, aforethought did make an assult and that______the
said Harmon Helton with both his hands and with a wooden chunk of no value which he the
said Harmon Helton then and there in both of his hands then and there had and held the said
John Cross in and upon the head, neck and body of him the said John Cross then and there
feloniously willfully and of the malice, aforethought of him the said Harmon Helton did
strike________giving to the said Harmon Helton then and there with both his hands and with
the wooden chunk aforesaid feloniously willfully and of his malice aforethought giving to the
said John Cross on his neck and body as aforesaid several mortal strokes and bruises and
wounds of which several strokes and bruises and wounds aforesaid the said John Cross from
the said Sixth day of April in the year last mentioned until the eleventh day of same month
upon to wit in said county did languish and languishing did live on which eleventh day of April
in the year last mentioned to-wit in said county the said John Cross of the said several strokes
and bruises and wounds died and that the said John Helton there and then feloniously,
willfully and.....that the Harmon Helton and John Helton then and there in manner and form aforesaid feloniously and willfully and of their malice aforethought did kill and murder the said John
Cross with evil example of all others againsts the peace and dignity of the state.

John Wilkerson, Attorney General for the Third Judicial District.
(Next page names witnesses: Betsy Helton, Joseph Phillips, Samuel Colquith, William
Williams, George Loftis. J.J. Wright, Clerk. 7
Following Proceeding is May 8, 1823 - This is the Grand Jury finding a true bill.
Next is Friday 9 May 1823
He pleads "not guilty" and is brought to trial and the jury placed: Thomas Blevins, Joseph
Martial; John Snider, Alexander_______, John Webb, William Davis, David Williams,
Michael Hawk, William Webb, William McRhea, John Cary & Joseph Brittan.
The judge finds him guilty. Harmon claims the benefit of clergy. The court orders Harmon
Helton be branded with the letter M inside of the left hand on tomorrow the 10th between the
hours of 9 O'Clock an 11 O'Clock in the open court - that he be imprisioned in the common
jail of this county nine calendar months and that he pay the costs of this prosecution and
remain in custody until the same are paid or security given for same and it is ordered by the
court that the Sheriff of Monroe County carry this judgment and justice into execution."
Source: Monroe County Court House - researched by Joyce Reece 2008.
Note: Apparently Harmon Helton was a minister and he probably got a light sentence because
"In English law, the benefit of clergy was originally a provision by which clergymen could
claim that they were outside the jurisdiction of the secular courts and be tried instead under
canon law. Eventually, the course of history transformed it into a mechanism by which first time
offenders could receive a more lenient sentence for some lesser crimes."

It doesn't say what the sentence was for John Helton (my 3x great grandfather, Harmon would be an uncle) but I am assuming it was a lesser sentence as well considering he was "only" an accomplice.  But holy crackers!  being branded with a "M" is one way to remind someone of what they've done.  

So, Native American blood: confirmed.  Sketchy personal past: confirmed (again)  Continued obsession with this search: rekindled with a passion.

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