The Kindness of Strangers

July 27, 2011

Kim and David Stapleton, owners of the Minnis House, where we stayed in New Market, Tenn.

All the genealogy experts tell you to do prep work before you go on a research trip, so I began my journey with my local genealogy library. I found a several books with information on Jefferson County, Tenn. One book was a survey of county cemeteries — it even gave driving directions and GPS coordinates. I found one cemetery in the book that I particularly wanted to visit: a family plot that I suspected was near the original Haworth homestead. Using the GPS coordinates, I looked it up on Google Earth. It appeared to be on private land, so I didn’t hold much hope for being able to go there, but I photocopied the page anyway and put it in my research notebook.

Jimmy Taylor holding the Lost Creek cemetery book.

Another book in the library was an index of land deeds, and I photocopied some relevant pages. I especially wanted to find land records that might give us the approximate location of the Haworth homestead near the Holston River.

I went through my Haworth research binder to refresh my memory on what I’d already found and made a list of records I wanted to look up. I found the web page for the Jefferson County Archives and printed out their hours and some basic information about the courthouse. I hoped to have as much as a day to research before we had to hit the road back to Oklahoma. Unfortunately, the timeline for the courthouse got shortened to just a couple of hours in the morning. I was going to have to work fast, but I felt as prepared as I could be. What I wasn’t prepared for was the kindness of strangers.

As I mentioned in my last post, we made it to New Market late Sunday afternoon. My stepmother Cheryl had made reservations for us at a local bed and breakfast that turned out to be a very fortuitous decision. Kim and David Stapleton, the owners, were very welcoming and, as we were their first guests from Oklahoma, they were curious about what had brought us all the way to East Tennessee. They got really excited when we explained the purpose of our trip.

The Stapletons are lifelong residents of New Market and were eager to show us around. Kim gave us directions to Lost Creek Friends Church (the Haworths were founding members of this Quaker church) and even called and left a phone message for the pastor requesting a peek inside the building. Since it was late in the day and we had only a few hours of daylight left, we set out for the meetinghouse and adjacent cemetery. You could tell the cemetery had once been quite large but sadly was now mostly destroyed. The church had been burned during the Civil War (and later rebuilt), and I imagine the cemetery took a hit at the same time. We photographed the few tombstones that were legible and headed across the highway to a newer cemetery that I knew from my pre-trip research also contained many Haworths. We tromped around and took pictures until we couldn’t stand the heat any more.

When we arrived back at the B&B, we were greeted with a nice surprise. Kim had called an old family friend named Jimmy Taylor while we were out. Jimmy was a retired mail carrier, a lifelong resident of New Market and a veritable gold mine of local information. He came right over and was there when we got back from Lost Creek, holding the very same cemetery book I had used back in Oklahoma in my pre-trip research! And what was even more exiciting—he knew the location of that old Haworth cemetery on private land and agreed to take us there. What followed was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had in my genealogy journey.

To be continued!


Family Tree Firsts is an ongoing blog series featuring newbie genealogist Nancy Shively of Skiatook, OK. Read all her posts at Family Tree University.

Join Nancy and many Family Tree University instructors at FTU’s Virtual Conference, August 19-21, 2011!

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