Silver Notes

April, 2001


Dear Cousins and Friends,

The end of April is here and hopefully winter went with it. Old man winter did struggle to remain though. Now is the time for the gardens and the flowerbeds.  We have received several letters in regards to our family members which will be interspersed through out this issue.

First, a letter from Cousin Joe Ruth Junior. April 9, 2001


I don’t know if you’ve heard that my dad, Joe Ruth (F.J. Ruth), is seriously ill with Lou Gehrig’s disease. He’s had a really tough time lately, including two weeks in the hospital. He’s home now in Spruce Pine with my Mom and Sister, and a lot of help from the Hospice. Throughout this terrible challenge, he has maintained his feisty but loving and good-humored approach to life. We would very much appreciate everyone keeping him in their thoughts and prayers.

Thanks a lot.

Warm regards,

Joe jr.

Added: Joe and Alice and family, I think I speak for all our family members and our prayers and thoughts are with you. John Silver.

In a second message sent April 19, 2001.


Please let our cousins know that Dad died peacefully on Monday, April 16, 2001. Mom and all four children were with him. Faxed obituary will follow.


We received two letters from the Parker family regarding their recent quarterly meeting at Franklin, Macon County, NC. As you all know this family represents the descendants of Charles and Frankie Stewart Silver. (This explanation is for the benefit of our new subscribers to Silver Notes.) Barbara Gregory and  Martha Eller sent a glowing report. For the sake of space we’ve combined the two letters.

Hello again,

Each Parker reunion gets bigger and better!! We had a big crowd as usual and picked up some more new folks. Mary Belle brought her son and daughter-in-law and they promise not to miss any more. CH and Kathy Russell were there. Chris and Joyce Silver Bright from south Georgia attended. My brother, Willard Barrett attended for the first time also. Everyone comes early and stays late just to visit with family. This is such a warm family and it seems we all “go with the flow.” There is never any little ‘groups’ that get in a corner but instead we spend time talking to every person and get better acquainted. What a nice feeling to leave and know that we will all meet again in September with open arms for everyone.

John, this is such a super-dooper family. We have such a good time. A lot of us stay at the same motel. CH, Kathy, Joyce, Chris, Carol Taylor and my brother all had breakfast together Saturday and Sunday morning. We had supper together on Saturday night on the floor of our motel room. The guys went to an old fashioned hamburger place and we sat around in the room eating burgers and french fries. Such a warm feeling. CH brought some home made syrup and honey and that was delicious.

We also have a good time at Kona. Maybe you can stay over there this year. We have reservations at the Pine Valley Motel in Spruce Pine already. Martha Eller is going to make biscuits for breakfast and we will all eat in our room again. Ron and I always rent the apartment so we can cook and eat together. It is nice meeting with family.

Take care, Barbara

Our attempt to transfer all our Silver and related family’s documents to disk is moving along. It is important to future generations that they have access to these documents for research purposes. As you know, paper documents tend to become lost, misplaced or illegible with age. The transfer of photos, portraits and snapshots is about 50% complete. We only wish that there were more to store. At the same time, we are transferring copies of the pictures to Cousin Gary Silver of Nevada so as to have a duplicate file. It pays to have a backup in case something should happen to the originals.

For sometime I have been considering creating an addition to John Silver Harris’ book on Alfred Silver. This addition would cover Tilman Blalock Silver’s family and descendants. I would like to add thumbnail sketches and pictures of as many of his descendants as possible. At this point  I would like to ask all the descendants of Tilman Blalock to help out. If you have pictures, articles, documents, or any material that might prove interesting, I would certainly appreciate a copy. If you wish, I will be glad to pay the postage to and from for the material so that I can copy it. Rest assured that I will return it as soon as possible in the same condition that it was received. I have a copier and a scanner so there is no risk to the material.

This is not a “money” project and everyone will be entitled to a copy at the cost of printing plus postage. This is a particular family affair and one that I have wanted to do for a long time. If there is enough requirements or desire for this then it will be done! Please pass the word along to all our cousins who do not receive Silver Notes.

I have talked to Wayne at Kona several times and he is working and planning ahead for the July Silver Family Reunion. He has rearranged the museum and created several new displays. Laura Cowan Cooper has been assisting him and he says that she has also donated glassed display cases. Wayne has been suffering from a case of pneumonia but says he is recovering and getting back up to speed. We wish you good health but please take it easy, Wayne. We are looking forward to seeing you at the reunion.

Carol Ann Taylor recently sent several pages of corrections to our files. She had extracted these from the Consolidated Listing Of Yancey County Marriages, 1850-1920. It brought home the fact that there are many, many errors in our data base. So if you find errors, please be so kind as to let us know. Thank you Carol Ann. You do good work!!!

In a conversation with Wayne Silver today, Wayne asked me to please ask everyone who has items for sale to please not bring them to the church during the reunion. Instead, take them to the Gallery, which is just across the road. He specifically asked me to remind everyone that the reunion is just that, a family reunion and not a bargain basement or sale. It will be a time to sit and talk and enjoy the company of kin who are only able to meet once a year.

We received a nice package and letter from John Silver Harris. He is still taking care of us with his additions of items that are of interest to the family. John has been a good friend and mentor over the years. One of these days he will surprise us with a visit to the reunion. Johnny, take a couple of days off and visit the cousins in the mountains! We’d all like to see you.

Cousin Carolyn Ada Silver Sutton wrote that her family had managed to take a nice vacation to Tampa this spring. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves catching fish and shopping. Guess who did the fishing and who did the shopping.

We spoke to Cousin Wanda Silver Ball recently. She has recovered from her bout with arthritis. Chomping at the bit and ready to attend the reunion in July. Wanda, we sure missed you so get good and ready.

Charley Parker called. He has more family information that he has been working on all winter. Charlie has been a big donor of information for the family files for several years now. Due to Charlie, the Parkers and Robinsons have been able to have a reunion and several meetings through the year. Keep up the good work, Charlie.

Cousins Virginia Padgett and Thelma Toarmino have written in that they have become great-grandmothers. Congratulations to both. This will certainly add to our family files! It is a pleasure to add this type of information.

Until next month,

Cousins Clarence, Rex and John.


History Buffs Owe Much to Amateur Sleuths




Much of the history of Yancey, Mitchell, and Avery Counties is known not because of the efforts of professional historians, but because of the dedicated research of amateurs, descendants of the men and women who made the history in this isolated section of Western North Carolina.

Sources for these unpaid and unsung detectives can be as varied as old overgrown cemeteries, family Bibles, musty letters, oral tradition and genealogies.  Hard work, hours of research, unflagging curiosity and family pride yield results that are invaluable.

Niel Stewart, whose roots run deep in the area originally part of old Burke County, is one of those dedicated amateurs, whose work opens windows on the past.  A retired biology teacher from Avery High School, he has buried himself in Stewart history for the past several years.

“We’ve been sort of obsessed with it.  I do the best I can, but I can’t spell, I can’t proofread, and I can’t write,” he says, then chuckles.

“Niel’s a good researcher.  He gets that from being a science teacher,” says his wife Sharon, who joins her husband in his endeavors, recording genealogy and crawling through overgrown cemeteries.

Two large panels hold a portion of the massive genealogical chart that Niel has created to present the Stewart’s family tree in a way that relationships can easily be visualized, and his computer memory is crammed with facts, figures, pictures, charts and narratives that help to preserve the Stewart family history.

On the wall of his study hang many photographs that show that the abstract names from the past were truly flesh and blood people.  Taking one down that shows a large number of Stewarts gathered at a reunion at the home of Doss Buchanan at Bear Creek in 1929, he points out Jackson Stewart’s sons and others further down the line of descent.

“To do justice to Jackson you need to indicate he had a lot of children, and a lo of them and their descendants have stayed in the area.  They are part of the past and present of where we live,” says Niel, then he grabs a thick binder that contains hundreds of names of Stewart descendants.  Jackson Stewart was killed serving the Confederate cause but not in the military.


[rock photo – sorry, file was corrupted]

This rock is believed to be the Jack Rock near the intersection of Cub Creek and Highway 261.


On The Silver Case

Fran Farlow has made helpful corrections concerning the case of Frankie Stewart, who was convicted and hanged in 1833 for the murder of her husband Charles Silver (The State, December, in response to the article, “Murder in the Mountains,” in the September issue).  At one point, however, supplementation of her own account may be in order.  The statement of Alfred Silver, half-brother of Charles, that Jackson Stewart (brother of Frances) “was killed during the Civil War” was in fact correct.  Ms. Farlow seems to doubt this (without explicitly saying so) when she cites military records to the effect that Jackson Stewart resigned from the Confederate Army.

After his return home, Stewart continued to serve the Confederate cause by gathering materials for the Army, including horses.  He had seized such animals from the Gouge family in present Mitchell County while the men apparently were away from home.  Upon their return, they pursued and overtook him where the present Bakersville-Roan Mountain Road intersects with the Cub Creek Road.  He say them approaching and started to pull his rifle from his scabbard.  Reportedly, he was shot dead, his body left in the road, and the horses returned home.  This happened at a large rock, thereafter known as “Jack’s Rock”, which is visible on the old road in one wants to push through the weeds and briars to reach it (as I have done).

Sheriff Steward was married to Elizabeth Howell, sister of my ancestor James Howell Jr.

-          Lloyd Bailey, Durham

-          Photographs by Michael Joslin



Niel Stewart kneels beside the tombstone of his ancestor



The headstone of Jackson Stewart, Niel Stewart’s great-great-grandfather, tells little about the life he led in Mitchell County.



 Jackson Stewart: Confederate Army Record Summary


Jackson Stewart, born about 1804, was enrolled for active duty in Captain Jacob W. Bowman’s Company, North Carolina Partisan Rangers, originally formed as Vance’s Legion, at Rock Creek, Mitchell County, North Carolina, on May 17, 1862, by Captain Bowman.

He was mustered into service on June 16, 1862, at Bakersville, by Colonel John B. Palmer, for the duration of the war.

Stewart is listed as being 50 years old (although when he resigned the following year he lists his age as 59), being born in Anson County, North Carolina; and standing 6 feet, 3 inches tall.

Stewart’s company later became Company B, 58th North Carolina Regiment.

He was listed as 5th Sergeant in the company at Camp Jackson in January, 1863.

Then on January 30 (February 2 according to one record), 1863, he was elected second lieutenant in his company and served as an officer until he resigned and was discharged April 25, 1863.

His Letter of Resignation follows:

S. Cooper A & I Gnl., Richmond, Va.,  Sir

I have the honor to tender my resignation as 2nd Lt. Of Company B, 58th Volunteer Regiment because of ill health and old age, having been unable for duty for the last three months.  The Confederate States are due me as 2nd Lt. From the 20th of January to the present date.  I am not indebted to the Confederacy on any account whatsoever as I am 59 years of age.

Jackson Stewart, 2nd Lt. Co. B 58th N.C. Vols.


Clinton, Tenn.

I have carefully examined the above named officer and I find him unable to perform the duties of a soldier for the reasons above stated.

April 4th 1863.  O.M. Lewis, Assistant Surgeon, 58th N.C. Volunteers.



Copy of Jackson Stewart’s resignation letter



Jackson Stewart Made the Most of His 57 Years





JPEG image of the article text.



Reports On Old Murder




One of the most brutal killings in Mitchell-Yancey County history is related about Jackson Stewart (Stuart) during the closing days of the Civil War.

A life-long resident of what was then Yancey County, Jackson was the son of Isaiah and Barbara Stewart, and thus the brother of Frances Stewart Silver (famous for the murder of her husband Charles in 1831).

Jackson (commonly called “Jack”) served in the War with Mexico (1848-49) in the First North Carolina Volunteers and as a second lieutenant in the  Confederate Army, Company B, 58th North Carolina Regiment. He resigned at the age of 59.

He married Elizabeth “Betty” Howell, daughter of James Sr., and apparently lived near the headwaters of Cub Creek.

He served as sheriff of the county, resigning in 1858.

After his resignation from the Confederate Army he was assigned the duty of collection of taxes and supplies for the support of the Confederate Forces.  This would naturally have brought him into conflict with the families of Union soldiers, and in his area of the county (now Mitchell) there were many.  Perhaps he was a bit heavy handed in these matters, for the Union soldiers sent home a warning to him that, upon their return, they would kill him.

The sheriff was apparently unmoved by such threats, since he was of large stature (6 ft., 3 in. tall), renowned for his strength and bravery, and he had survived many a confrontation with the desperadoes of the time.

On November 11, 1864, the promised confrontation took place. 

A group of soldiers, home for some purpose, encountered Stewart on the old road from Bakersville to the Roan.  He undoubtedly saw them coming, but had stated that he “would not get off the road for anybody,” and that “they would not harm a hair on Jack’s head.”

When the dust cleared, it is said, he lay dead of a gunshot wound, was beheaded, and his head placed on the end of a pole.  In this fashion, the soldiers rode into Bakersville to display their trophy.

The killing took place at a bend in the old road, where a large rock projects from the bank, now called “Jack’s Rock.”  It is just where the Bakersville-Roan Road  crosses the upper end of Cub Creek, with the old road still visible above the paved one.  It was recently shown to me by Ralph Hoilman, who remembered his grandparents telling him of the event which happened there.

According to the 1967 Mitchell County Cemetery Survey, Jackson Steward (as the name was often spelled) is buried at the Greene Cemetery, “one mile in the woods above Clyde Hoilman’s.”  I am informed that it can now be more easily reached by Dale Road: “the cemetery is not visible from the road, and has huge pines growing near it.” The tombstone reads: “Sgt. Jackson Steward, Co. D, 1st NC Vols., Mexican War.”   His wife, Elizabeth is buried in the old abandoned Burleson Cemetery, just opposite the Loafer’s Glory store: 7-20-1809 - 5-22-1888.  The couple had at least the following children: William Robert; Mary (Mrs. Samuel Sparks); Susannah (Mrs. Thomas Greene); Isabella (married John Greene and Joseph Stewart); Nancy (Mrs. John Fortner); Charles D.; Jasper; Isaac;  Jocester (Mrs. “Lace” Byrd); and James M. (“Dick”).

Documents relating to his resignation as sheriff (because of his purchase of land at a sheriff’s sale, through an agent) may be found in: Public Laws of  the State North Carolina, 1858-59, pp 405-407; and in North Carolina Reports (decisions of the Supreme Court), vol. 49, pp. 462-464.

Jackson reportedly was a well liked man, generous and friendly, who gave children copies of Virgil’s Aenid.  The copy of his letter of resignation from the Confederate Army, preserved in the National Archives, evidences flawless syntax and spelling, and a very neat hand.

Anyone who has further information concerning this man or his death, may write Lloyd R. Bailey, 4122 Deepwood Circle, Durham, NC, 27707.

This story about Jackson Stewart by Lloyd Bailey is one of a number of stories and books Bailey has authored, some of which has settings in Yancey or Mitchell Counties.

He has approved of us using this story in our column.  A few years ago I ran the story of Jackson’s sister, Frances Stewart Silver and the murder of her husband, Charles in 1831.  She killed him with an axe at their Deyton Bend home, now in Yancey County.

I had never heard of this story of Jackson Stewart until Mr. Bailey sent it to us, and it is indeed very interesting.  And as he said in closing his story, he is interested in learning more about Jackson Stewart or his death. 



Veteran’s Affairs Has Special Program Providing Headstones and Markers



JPEG image of the article text, page one.



JPEG image of the article text, page two, plus family announcements and obituaries.