Tombstone Tuesday: Zilpha Etta Scott Dockery (1796-1903)

She was born on September 8, 1796 in Virginia and moved with her family to Spartanburg, South Carolina at the age of three, an event she remembered vividly in 1902 when interviewed by the Dallas Morning News.  John Scott was a farmer and the father of three sons and eight daughters. While most of her family appears to have died young, Zilpha would more than outlive all of them, her life spanning three centuries.  When she was born George Washington was serving his second term as the first president of the United States.  Although Napoleon Bonaparte had just married Josephine his rise to power had not yet evolved. “My people were hard-working people,” she declared. “We worked in the fields with plows drawn by oxen and made crops that way for my father the year before I was married.”1 Her childhood dresses were made of flax cloth, although she fondly remembered the first calico dress she made. “Calico was so skeerce and expensive we couldn’t afford any flounces and frills and trains them days.” Instead, Zilpha wove flax cloth and traded it yard for yard for calico. It was “purty”, she remembered in 1902, and she herself was “naturly purty”. In those days folks didn’t wear their shoes on the way to church, corn shuckings, logrollings, weddings or fairs. They would walk barefoot until reaching their destination, put their shoes on and take them off again before walking home. Zilpha married William Hiram Dockery in 1818, with whom she had nine children – six sons and three daughters. From Spartanburg, they moved and settled among the Cherokee Indians in...

Tombstone Tuesday: Carbon Petroleum Dubbs (a “for-real” name with a rags-to-riches story)

Carbon Petroleum Dubbs was born in Franklin, Pennsylvania to parents Jesse and Jennie (Chapin) Dubbs on June 24, 1881.  Jesse was born in the same county (Venango) in 1856, around the time the country’s first oil was discovered, and grew up during the early boom years.  It wasn’t surprising that Jesse, son of druggist Henry Dubbs, developed a fascination with the oil industry, nor that he named his son after one of oil’s elemental components.  Carbon later added a “P.” to his name to make it more “euphonious”.  When people began calling him “Petroleum” (perhaps people assumed that’s what the “P” stood for)  the name stuck, thus he became known as “Carbon Petroleum Dubbs” (“C.P.”). Jesse set up a “dinky” chemistry lab in a small oil field and began experimenting in an attempt to discover a way to produce gasoline from crude oil. In 1890 his neighbor, Senator Richard Quay, had him arrested for “maintaining a common nuisance” – the stench was more than the senator could bear. A trial was held a few months later and a split decision resulted – yes, he was guilty of creating a nuisance but on the second charge of continuing a nuisance he was exonerated. However, as the newspaper headline asked – “Will This Stop the Bad Odor?”1 As an “inveterate tinkerer”2 Jesse was constantly discovering new ways to use petroleum. Like his father Henry he was a druggist by trade, inventing a protective jelly for miners, as well as inventing a process to extract sulfur from crude oil. His experiments took him far and wide around the world, despite once being...

Tombstone Tuesday: Thomas Jefferson Pilgrim

Thomas Jefferson Pilgrim was born on December 4, 1804 in East Haddam, Connecticut, the first child of eleven born to Thomas and Dorcas (Ransom) Pilgrim.  His family were devout Baptists and T.J. Pilgrim would spend a lifetime devoted to religious education. After receiving his license to preach Thomas entered Hamilton Literary and Theological Institute, part of Colgate University, at the age of eighteen.  Even though his health was delicate he joined a group of sixty colonists and migrated to Texas following the completion of his education. The migrants traveled to Cincinnati by water, via a raft built in two pieces and led by Elias R. Wightman. The first day was trouble-free although by that night they were cold and wet. After seeking shelter in an Indian village along the north bank, an old chief had pity and escorted them to a small cabin. Although small (about twenty square feet), the cabin had a good floor and fireplace and the colonists had a warm place to sleep that night and food to eat. The raft trip continued past Pittsburgh and upon arrival in Cincinnati the migrants purchased provisions. Planning ahead in preparation for residing in Texas, Thomas bought a set of Spanish books so he could learn the language prior to arrival. After waiting two weeks for a ship, a vessel from Maine run by three men became available for rental for a sum of five hundred dollars. However, it was determined only one of the crewmen proved capable of delivering the passengers to their destination. The captain instead offered to sell the vessel to the migrants for the same...

Tombstone Tuesday: William Cobbledick

   William D. Cobbledick was born in Whitley, Canada in 1849 and moved to Marshall, Michigan with his parents at the age of six months.  While early records for William and his family are scarce, I believe his parents were John and Mary (Derbuiny?) Cobbledick.  Other than the 1870 census the only other family record might have been one for Mary Cobbledick of St. Clair County whose name appears in an 1860 Federal Population Schedule index.  There were other Canadian-born members of the Cobbledick family enumerated in St. Clair County, Michigan that year as well, but no John or William. In fact, there seems to have been a large contingent of the Cobbledick family members who had migrated to America as evidenced by compiled census records at Ancestry.com. The surname originated in England, but as of 2014 only 737 people in the entire world bore the name (South Africa – 274; Australia – 156; England – 151; Canada – 83; United States – 72; Latvia – 1).1 The Internet Surname Database notes the surname and its various spellings include: Cobbledick, Cobledike, Cobbleditch, Copleditch, Copeldick, Cuppleditch (perhaps) and Cobberduke (now extinct). The name may have been locational, perhaps derived from a region of East Anglia and referring to ditch or dike/dyke built of cobble. Cobble was an early form of construction used in Norfolk and Suffolk. Charles Bardsley, a leading Manchester minister, published Our English Surnames in 1873 and later claimed the name meant “Cobbalds dyke” – Cobbald was an early first name.2 The Dictionary of English and Welsh Surnames, also by Bardsley and published in 1901 by his widow,...

Tombstone Tuesday: Joseph Faubion, the man who “died twice”

Joseph Faubion was born in Clay County, Missouri on September 7, 1842 to parents Moses and Nancy (Hightower) Faubion.  Moses was first married to Patsy Holcomb, and after she died he married Nancy Hightower in 1841.  According to the 1850 census Nancy was nineteen years younger than Moses and Joseph appears to have been their first child. This article is featured in the October 2018 issue of Digging History Magazine.  Preview the issue here or purchase...

Tombstone Tuesday: Tonsillitis Jackson

I know, I know – you probably think this story belongs in the Far-Out Friday category.  Yet, it’s truly true there was a person named Tonsillitis Jackson.  I ran across the name while researching another Tombstone Tuesday article (another unusual name – stay tuned!). Tonsillitis Jackson was born to Emsy (named spelled “Emgibe” on a government record) and Eddie (Basfield) Jackson of Oklahoma on November 7, 1932.  It seems Tonsillitis received his unusual name because his mother had a sore throat at the time.  Two years later the Jacksons had another son and named him Meningitis. Emsy and Eddie had four more children and continued naming them after various diseases and maladies. Four girls followed the boys: Appendicitis, Laryngitis, Jakeitis and Peritonitis. The unusual names first came to the public’s attention in early 1937 following the birth of Appendicitis on December 25, 1936. Time made mention of the family with children named after diseases in the “Miscellany” section of its January 25, 1937 issue. The Afro American wanted to know “what’s in a name” on January 2, 1937. The paper reported the Jacksons were having a hard time devising a short nickname for their newborn. The boys already had their nicknames – Tonsy and Mennie. The story also made international news in the Australian Worker on March 30, 1938 – according to this story the doctor had come up with the name Appendicitis. According to another source Emsy and Eddie finally settled on “Pendy” for a nickname. No word on what the remaining girls’ nicknames were (Perry, Larry, Jake maybe?). Tonsillitis made news of his own in 1951 when...