Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Family Black Sheep (Part 2)

James Henry Troutman, though a philanderer, was my dad’s favorite uncle. Dad called him Uncle Jim. He was outspoken, short-tempered, short of stature, and stout. I think Dad liked the excitement that whirled around this man, from chasing men out of his store at gunpoint to hearing ghosts in his house, stories for later. His philandering, though difficult to document except through family lore, was not a trait that Dad admired much, however. In a previous blog, I wrote about Jim’s first extramarital affair that produced a child. The second one involved a young woman twenty years younger than he was. Her name was Edna Neal.

Edna was a daughter of Charles S. and Mary Neal, a couple of meager means living in the valley. In the summer of 1900, one month old Edna was living with her parents, Charlie, age 31 and Mary, age 32, in Smyth County, Virginia. She had two older sisters, Frankey, age 10, and Gertrude, age 3. Mary reported having given birth to eight children, but only these three were living. Charlie reported that he owned his farm and did not read or write.[1]

Apparently, between 1900 and 1910, Edna’s mother Mary died,[2] for in 1910, Charlie was widowed, boarding at the home of James C. Buchanan, working as a farm laborer,[3] and the children were scattered. Fourteen-year-old Gertrude was a “servant” in the home of James and Susie Troutman[4] (my dad’s Uncle Jim and Aunt Susie), and ten-year-old Edna was a “servant” in the home of Virginia Pratt,[5] widow of my great-grandmother America Troutman’s brother John Marion Pratt.[6] Virginia was Jim Troutman’s aunt by marriage. The Neal’s oldest daughter, Frankey, I have not been able to find. Being 20 by 1910, she may have married, or perhaps she had died.

Edna seems to have disappeared from censuses in 1920 and 1930.[7] On January 21, 1923, however, she and James H. Troutman were mentioned in the Session Minutes of the Rich Valley Presbyterian Church as being the subjects of a rumor that they were “guilty of the sin of fornication and adultery.” Action was postponed until another time.[8] On 7 April 1923, Edna gave birth in Richmond, Virginia to a baby girl she named Mary Frances Troutman.[9] She may have named the baby after her mother, Mary, and her sister Franky, or perhaps both their names were Mary Frances.  Did Jim send Edna to Richmond to a home for unwed mothers? Or perhaps to live with relatives? Why was she so far away from home?

Where were Edna and Mary Frances in 1930? So far I have not been able to find them. Frances was not yet living with Jim and Susie,[10] but perhaps she came to them soon after, for she is pictured with them in a photo in which she appears to be about 8 years old.

James H., Susie, and Frances Troutman, c. 1931. Does anyone know the make and year of the car?

By 1935, however, she definitely living with Jim and Susie.[11] The story goes that Edna brought Frances to Jim and asked him to take the child because she could not afford to give her the kind of life she wanted for her daughter. I wonder what was said between Jim and Susie when this child came into their home. Having no biological children of her own, Susie seems to have accepted Frances with open arms. In my book, she deserves a medal for raising Jim’s “love child” as her own.

Edna moved to West Virginia and became a nurse. She died on 19 January 1936 in Mullins, Wyoming County, West Virginia.[12]

On left, Edna Neal's tombstone in the Rich Valley Presbyterian Church cemetery. On right is a half-brother's tombstone and in the background, you can see the tombstone of Charles Neal's second wife, Mattie Bise Neal.

[1] 1900 U. S. census, Smyth County, Virginia, population schedule, Broadford precinct, enumeration district [ED] 84, sheet 4-B, dwelling 69, family 69, Charlie Neal family; digital image ( : accessed 12 Jun 2015); NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 1728.
[2] A search of Virginia Deaths and Burials Index, 1853-1917, on, reveals no record of Mary Neal’s death.
[3] 1910 U. S. census, Broadford, Smyth Co., Va., pop. sch., ED 88, sheet 12-B, dwell. 210, fam. 212, James C. Buchanan, see Charles Neal; digital image ( : accessed 12 June 2015); NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 1649.
[4] 1910 U. S. census, Broadford, Smyth Co., Va., pop. sch., ED 88, sheet 7-A, dwell. 124, fam. 124, James Troutman, see Gertrude Neal; digital image ( : accessed 12 June 2013); NARA mic. pub. T624, roll 1649.
[5] 1910 U. S. census, Broadford, Smyth Co., Va., pop. sch., ED 88, sheet 11-A, dwell. 185, fam. 186, Virginia Troutman, see Edna Neal; digital image ( : accessed 12 June 2013); NARA mic. pub. T624, roll 1649.
[6] 1850 U. S. census, Smyth County, Virginia population schedule, p. 351 (penned), dwelling 261, family 265, Nicholas Pratt family; NARA microfilm publication, M432, roll 976.
[7] A search of the 1920 and 1930 censuses of Smyth County on does not result in a hit. Since Edna died in Mullins, Wyoming County, West Virginia, I searched the 1930 census there, line by line, to see if she had been enumerated there, but did not find her name. Also searched the 1930 Smyth County census in that manner.
[8] Minutes of Session, Presbyterian Church, Rich Valley, Virginia, Vol. 4, pages not numbered; see entry at 21 Jan. 1923, third paragraph cites Edna Neel and James H. Troutman. A search of the book shows no further mention of their transgression.
[9] Virginia, Birth Records, 1864-2014, database, ( ; accessed 16 June 2015); entry for Mary Frances Troutman, 1923. This entry does not name the parents; Virginia birth records cannot be accessed for 100 years by researchers who are not specific family members. Still waiting for a reply from query sent to the Henrico County Historical Society.
[10] 1930 U. S. census, Smyth County, Virginia, population schedule, Marion district, p. 99 (stamped), enumeration district [ED] 87-15, sheet 20-A, dwelling 295, family 299, James H. Troutman household; digital image ( : accessed 22 June 2015); NARA microfilm publication T626, roll 2461.
[11] 1940 U. S. census, Marion, Smyth County, Virginia, population schedule, enumeration district 87-10, sheet 23-A, visit no. 379, James H. Trautman [Troutman]; digital image ( ; accessed 16 June 2015), see Mary F. Trautman; NARA microfilm publication T-627, roll 4295.
[12] West Virginia, Deaths Index, 1853-1973, database, ( ; accessed 16 June 2015); citing Edna Earle Neal, 1936.


  1. I read your blog with great interest. I am the son of Mary Frances Troutman. I would like to connect with you and share information. I may be reached at I live in Richmond. My name is John Lawrence.

  2. I'm thrilled that you have contacted me and will be happy to share information. I love finding cousins.