There are several family names repeated in my father’s family. My grandfather, D. Oakley Vincent named a son Oakley Seay Vincent, who named one of his son’s, Oakley Glynn Vincent, who named one of his sons, Oakley. My daughter is considering naming her next son Oakley.
My great-grandfather’s name was Aaron. We gave our 2nd oldest son that as a middle name. But the most common repeated name in our family is John. My oldest son gave his only son the name of John.
We named our oldest son, John, after two John’s in our family – my Aunt Evelyn’s husband, John Farris, and my 2nd-great-grandfather, John Vincent who was named after his grandfather, John, who was already 3rd in a line of “Johns.” Starting with my grandson, that makes over half the past 11 generations were named “John”:
1. my grandson John D. Vincent
2. my son, John L. Vincent
3. me, Ron Vincent
4. “Hap” Vincent (d.1993)
(his name was Wilburn but no one called him that)
5. Oakley Vincent (d.1955)
6. Aaron Vincent (d.1901)
7. John Vincent (d.1871)
8. Aaron Vinson (d.1791)
9. John Vinson (d.1787)
10. John Vinson (d.1727)
11. John Vincent (d.1698)
It’s my 2nd-great-grandfather, John (1787-1871) who just totally fascinates me. He lived an amazing life. Let me tell you about it.
He was born the year his grandfather and namesake died, the year the U.S. Constitution was written that created the United States of America. America was still a group of “former” colonies at the time. My brothers and I have often commented how odd it is that we can go back only 4 generations in our family history and we’re in Colonial America. It’s because there are far more than the usual 20 or 25 years between our generations. For example, my grandfather was nearly 50 when my dad was born.
John’s early life was sad by anyone’s standards. There must have been some sort of plague or illness going around in 1791 because his father and grandmother both died that year. His mother had died two years earlier leaving him an orphan by the time he was only 4 years old.
John had inherited land so the courts appointed a guardian for him until he was of age to choose what he wanted to do with his inheritance. I’m guessing he was a problem child. According to court records, he was bounced from one home to another to another. They were all pretty much his relatives. He was the youngest of 8 children and his sisters’ husbands were often appointed as guardians.
There’s a bit of U.S. History that needs to be inserted here to grasp the situation. Before John was grown, the U.S. government had to attend to all the dealings the British had formerly attended to. One transaction was land purchased from the Creek Indians along the Georgia-South Carolina border. The Brits had purchased the land from the Indians but never got to settle it because of our war with them, the American Revolution, which we started with the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776.
After the war, the Americans were anxious to get some white folks settled on the land to keep the British or Spanish Florida from flanking Savannah on Georgia’s coast. One of the first things they did was establish forts between the border of the United States and Creek Indian Territory. At that time, the western border of Georgia was the Ocmulgee River and the fort established there in 1806 was Ft. Benjamin Hawkins about an hour north of where we live. Linda and I visited the fort for my birthday this year.
Next, the U.S. government wanted to establish settlers on the newly opened land in Georgia. What’s the quickest way to settle land? Why, give it away, of course! That’s where the land lotteries came into play. Problem is, there were a lot of crooks who wanted to cash in on the bounty. Some guys started selling land that didn’t even belong to them and was still occupied by the Indians. Ouch!
Still, a lot of my folks decided this new state of Georgia was the place to live and moved from their native Johnston County in North Carolina across South Carolina and the Savannah River to Lincoln County, Georgia founded in 1796. That’s where John lived or moved to sometime after he reached the legal age of 21 in 1808. I’m guessing one of the first things he did as an adult was to change the spelling of his surname from “Vinson” back to “Vincent” which was the original spelling his 2nd-great-grandfather used until they changed it to “Vinson” to avoid being accused of being British sympathizers. That’s another story in itself.
3 years later John needed money and he still had his inheritance. According to Johnston County deeds for 1811, “John Vinson of the County of Lincoln and State of Georgia sold land that he owned in the County of Johnston [North Carolina].” He was 24 years old and he was marrying the lovely Nicey Hawes, daughter of Isaac Hawes of Lincoln County, Georgia.
These were eventful years for the U.S. England had signed a treaty that ended our war for independence in 1783 but they had never officially recognized the United States as a country. They still thought of us as their colonies. They kidnapped our sailors by the thousands to serve in the British Navy and bribed Native Americans to harass us at home. These and other offenses prompted the U.S. to once again declare war with the British – the War of 1812. You may remember that was the war when the Star Spangled Banner was written. It was also the war where the Brits burned the White House to the ground.
Well, there was another “war” going on at the same time. Not until modern times has this “other” war been associated with the War of 1812 but it was. It was the Creek Indian War. The British figured they’d keep the southernmost states busy fighting the Indians so they paid the Spanish to furnish rifles and ammo to the Creek Indians. The Lower Creeks declared war on the Americans and slaughtered 400 men, women, and children at Ft. Mims in south Alabama. Other Americans were attacked in Alabama and Georgia.
If you’re old enough, you may remember the “Ballad of Davy Crockett”, coonskin caps, and the Disney movie starring Fess Parker. I do. Some of you who are younger may recall the lyrics to “The Battle of New Orleans” that goes like this: “In 1814 we took a little trip, along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississipp.” Yeah! That war.
On October 4th, 1813 at Lincolnton, in Lincoln County, Georgia, John Vincent enlisted for 5 months in the 43rd Regiment of the U.S. Infantry. A Lt. W.W. Norman signed him up and recorded that he was a 25-year-old farmer with gray eyes and brown hair who was 5 ft. 8-1/2 inches tall. He was discharged from the 6th Military District on April 30th, 1814. As far as we know no one in his regiment ever saw any action. Andrew Jackson’s forces reached them first and drove the “Red Stick” Creeks into Spanish Florida.
After returning from the war, John probably took up farming but later became a Methodist Episcopal minister. He and Nicey began a large family. Their first 4 kids were: (#1) Pendleton (or Pennington) born in 1812, (#2) John, named after his grandfather, born in 1813, (#3) Isaac, named after Nicey’s father, born in 1815, and (#4) Phoebe born in 1817. Phoebe, by the way, was a popular name among the Africans. African slaves sometimes named their children for the day of the week on which they were born, a common practice of their ancestors. “Phibbi” in West African meant “Friday.” Americans simply Anglicized the name into “Phoebe” for the Greek goddess of the moon. I remember how my Aunt Evelyn spoke fondly of her “Aunt Febby” who was her mammy when she was a child.
About 2 years after Phoebe was born, Nicey had a little boy they named Peyton, their 5th child. An unfortunate accident occurred where baby Peyton was scalded to death. A year later, Nicey had another little boy they also named (#6) Peyton. It wasn’t uncommon back then to reuse a name after a child died. Four more children followed: (#7) Charlotte who they nicknamed “Puss”, (#8) Nancy Caroline, (#9) Mary Anne, and (#10) Wilbourn.
Wilbourn Vincent (b. 5 Feb. 1827) was their last child to be born in Lincoln County, Georgia. He was killed at the age of 25 when a large limb fell off a tree. He and another man were riding double on a horse at the time. The other man leaned backward and missed the limb. Unfortunately, Wilbourn leaned forward and received the full blow. My father and Aunt Evelyn used to tell me the story of how the falling limb killed Wilbourn and broke the back of the horse they were riding. Dad was named “Wilburn” after his father’s uncle and heard the story of his death when my father was growing up.
John and Nicey went on to have 16 children altogether. Some had names that appear unusual to us today but were more common 180 years ago. They were: (#11) Rhuey Vincent, (#12) Louisiana America Vincent (known as “America”), (#13) Elizabeth Emily Vincent, (#14) Aaron Vincent (my great-grandfather), (#15) Louisa Catherine Vincent, and (#16) Euzebia Eunice Vincent who was named after her mother, Nicey. As far as we know, these last kids were all born in Alabama.
After the War of 1812, many of the Indians living in the south were considered a menace to whites. Sentiment in Congress, with influence from evil men who wanted to sell land belonging to Native Americans, led to the Indian Removal Act and their eventual expulsion in the late 1830s. The newly vacated lands were attractive to Georgians and John moved his family along the Federal Road through Milledgeville, Georgia to Wetumpka, Alabama where they settled briefly before moving on to Talladega County, their final resting place.
In the decades that followed, some of the John and Nicey’s descendants moved back to Georgia. Some moved to other parts of Alabama. Some moved to Texas after it joined the U.S. But some, including my grandfather and great-grandfather remained near Talladega County, Alabama for 3 generations before moving elsewhere. That’s where Aaron’s son, my great-grandfather lived and bought nearly 600 acres of land after he returned unharmed from the Civil War. That’s near where his next younger sister, Louisa Catherine Vincent lived when she married Francis Marion Bledsoe. Their daughter, Leona, married Judge Richard Bussey Kelly. Two of the Kelly’s daughters, Maud and Marion, became the family historians over 100 years ago when they first began doing family research.
It was Maud Kelly who donated what’s called the “Bledsoe-Kelly Collection” to Samford University in Birmingham that contains our Vincent Family history from the late 1600s until Maud’s death over 40 years ago. It was Maud, her brother Senator Richard Kelly, and my grandparents, Oakley and Oma Vincent, who located John Vincent’s grave in 1942 and put his tombstone there.In her letter to her brother Richard dated Tuesday, Nov. 17, 1942, Maud wrote:
Oma Vincent, Cousin Oakley’s wife, has been here to-day, and had lunch with me. We have set next Tuesday, Nov. 24th, for us to go find “Grandpa” Vincent’s grave. She and Cousin Oakley will go from Calera either by bus or train.
The following day she wrote:
Since writing to you yesterday afternoon, about our coming over next Tuesday to find “Grandpa” John Vincent’s grave, it has occurred to me that if the tombstone could be ready, we could just put it up on the same trip and then it would be done, forever and ever. I’d like so much to know that it is finished.
I enclose the inscription which I’d like put on it. I think all of this is important. We could take along the cement and tools and just put it up.
I’ll bring a roll of films, and you have my kodak out and ready so we can take pictures also.
Rev John Vincent
died May 13 1871
A soldier in the
Indian War 1813
At the top of this blog post is one of the photos Maud took that day with her little Kodak Brownie Camera. That’s most likely her brother Richard holding the shovel.
My dad took me to visit Maud Kelly when I was a teen. Later, he took me to visit the grave of John Vincent. We visited his grave one last time in 1990 just 2-1/2 years before dad died. On June 29, 2013, I took my 3 sons and my grandson John Devin Vincent to visit John Vincent’s grave. It was their first time ever to see the grave. We got a photo of the marker. I remembered how Maud and her brother Richard put it there the day my grandfather showed her where the grave was. I wrote a funny story about it on my other blog here:
There’s a lot more to John Vincent’s story but I won’t tell it here. Some of his story has yet to be researched but we have a lot. You can read what we have and see some of the original documents on our family history website at: