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Friday, February 14, 2014

Research Leads to Exciting and Sometimes Disturbing Discoveries


My dad used to carry a little yellowed newspaper clipping, an obituary about a Confederate ancestor of his who had had four horses shot out from under him during the Civil War. Dad thought stories like that were pretty cool, and he liked to show the clipping to friends. To Dad’s chagrin, that little clipping was lost, and after Dad was gone, I couldn’t remember the name of the ancestor. The names Havens and Harman stuck in my mind. It was one of them, but which one?
At least, I knew our connection with the name Waggoner, so I went to the Bland County Court House in Virginia, the county where the Waggoners had lived.  I pored over those big heavy, musty smelling deed books and saw lots of Waggoner names, but I didn’t know which ones pertained to me. Discouraged, I picked up my notebook and started to leave. On my way out, a man asked if he could help.
“I’m looking for information on the Waggoner family,” I said. He smiled and wrote down a name and phone number on a slip of paper: Brenda King. When I called Brenda and told her my mission, she said, “Brenda Wagner King! You’ve come to the right person.” She sent me copies of pages from a book on the Waggoner family along with an address if I wanted to order it for myself. When I found Eli Waggoner’s name in the book, I found the names of his parents, Jacob and Anna. Not only that, but also I found a brief history of Anna’s family whose name was Harman.1 I was ecstatic!
Anna F. Harman and Jacob Waggoner, c. 1852

From the Waggoner book, I learned about the Harman book, which told me the name of the lucky Civil War soldier with the unlucky horses: Hezekiah Harman.2 He was Anna’s brother.
Hezekiah Harman, brother of Anna, uncle of Eli Waggoner
The Harman family, I learned, were early settlers in southwestern Virginia arriving when the territory was first opened to white settlers. In fact, Anna’s great-great-grandfather, Heinrich Adam Hermann, the immigrant from Germany, is credited with establishing the first English speaking settlement on the New River in 1745.3 (Yes, he had been in the country long enough to have learned English.) In all the early records, he is called Adam Harman/Herman/Harmon, which I learned while researching him for an article published in The Smithfield Review in 2009 (Volume 13). The historical marker photo was taken when I visited a descendant of Adam Harman who lives on land where Adam once lived.
Photo by Zola Noble.

When I was a kid, I devoured stories about Daniel Boone and Davey Crocket. I fantasized about Indian maidens like Pocahontas and Sacagawea. I wondered whether I had American Indian ancestry. I wondered whether any of my ancestors risked their lives in frontier settlements. Did they hunker down in log cabins as flaming arrows landed on the roof? As an adult, I read the entire series, Narratives of America, by Allan W. Eckert, which further piqued my curiosity about my ancestors’ involvement in all that conflict. I read Indiana author James Alexander Thom’s historical novels based on conflict with Native Americans during the 18th and early 19th centuries: Follow the River, Long Knife, Panther in the Sky, and From Sea to Shining Sea. There didn’t seem to be any history of dangers and adventures with the Troutmans; they stayed in safe communities and moved west after conflict with indigenous people had subsided.

Then I found Adam Harman. He did, indeed, settle uncharted territory. He and his family knew the terrors of Indian wars. One of his brothers and one of this grandsons were killed by Indians. He and his sons killed Indians. Suddenly, I felt very uncomfortable about that. Maybe I didn’t really want to know it, after all.
(For information on how to obtain a copy of the Smithfield Review article, see this link: http://www.smithfieldplantation.org/pages/history/reviews.html)


1 Thomas C. Hatcher and Nancy Nash, The Adam Waggoner Family of Tazewell and Montgomery Counties Virginia, 1750-1996 (Tazewell, Virginia: unknown publisher, 1996), p. 33-34.
2 John Newton Harman, Sr., Harman Genealogy (Southern Branch) with Biographical Sketches and Historical Notes, 1700-1924, new ed. (Radford, Virginia: Commonwealth Press, Inc., 1925; reprinted Tazewell, Virginia: Bettie H. St. Clair, 1983), p. 161.
3 Ibid., p. 55.

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