Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Life & Family of Jesse Radford

Last year, while doing general family history research, I made contact with Joy Russell, the head of the Madison County [Arkansas] Genealogical and Historical Society. After exchanging numerous e-mails, she suggested I compile the information I've collected on my ancestor Jesse Radford, who lived in Madison County for nearly four decades, and submit it to be published in the Society's quarterly newsletter. So after a few weeks of getting it all put together, that's what I did. I brought in elements of past articles about or referencing Jesse Radford ( while pulling in everything I'd collected over the years to build one concise biography of the man.

This biography was eventually split between the Spring 2017 and Summer 2017 issues of the newsletter. Out of respect for their publication, I have held off sharing the article for the past year so that anyone who inquired about Jesse Radford to me could be referred to the Society. I plan to continue to do that, but I think it is now an appropriate time to share it. It was previously proof-read by a friend of mine, Kaley White Field, and has recently been proof read again with a few changes by my cousin and fellow Radford descendant, Dr. Barbara Schneider, recently retired professor of the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute. I have also since acquired some addition information on Jesse's daughter, Mary Ellen, and added that information.

The Life & Family of Jesse Radford
By Nathan Vaughan Marks, Tulsa, Oklahoma

Off of Highway 16 in eastern Madison County, nearly to the Newton County border, lies a small family cemetery. Quietly resting behind a red-roofed pavilion near the road are the remains of upwards of 200 souls that once resided in the vicinity of this burial ground. Radford’s Freewill Cemetery is spelled out in bold letters on a metal archway marking the opening of the cemetery. Freewill was the name of the school district for the children that once lived in this area. Radford is the surname of a large family that lived in and around this area for nearly 60 years. Jesse Radford was the progenitor of this family.
   Map created using Google Maps (Google Public Data, 2017).

Born “at or near Manchester,” in Clay County, Kentucky on the 25th of July, 1842, Jesse grew up in the Appalachian region, enjoying the clear creeks, lush greenery, and mountains that make it one of the world’s most beautiful regions. His mother is not known; she died about 1849, around when her daughter Nancy was born, and possibly as a result of said birth. Some researchers report her name as Sallie Woodard, but neither of these names has been proven. His father was Nathaniel Radford, a native of Yancey County, North Carolina.

                In 1850, Nathaniel was a widower raising seven children and now residing in Owsley County. Whether Nathaniel ever remarried or had other children, or when and where he died, is not known. It appears he died prior to 1860, and, as commonly happened in those times, the children were dispersed among various relatives and neighbors. The eldest, Richard, had married and started his own family by 1860; he died of consumption while serving with the 7th Kentucky Infantry, Company E, during the Civil War. He died May 26th, 1863 in Grand Gulf, Mississippi; he was only about 27 years old.

                Jesse’s sister Fanny is found in 1860 living unmarried with two children of her own with the Chandler family back in Clay County; it is not known what became of her. Next in the family was Elizabeth, who married Thomas Hensley and was living in Clay County in 1860. Thomas died while serving in the Civil War from a disease contracted in service, and Elizabeth later claimed widow’s benefits. She went on to remarry to Elkanah Spurlock, and died in Knox County on April 6th, 1926.

Mahala Radford married Gabriel Jackson, and is last found in Franklin County, Arkansas in 1880. It is not known what became of Phoeba after 1850. Nancy Radford died at age 11 in Jackson, Breathitt County, Kentucky. Jesse is absent from the 1860 Census, but is believed to have been living in Clay County in the vicinity of his siblings who were also living there. As a young man, he was most likely working as a laborer for a local farm, or possibly mining or working in the timber industry.

Many people who have researched Jesse over the years have attached him to the incorrect family. They have him listed as the son of John Radford and Stacy Hornsby. John was a cousin of Nathaniel Radford, and did indeed have a son named Jesse roughly the same age as Nathaniel’s Jesse, as shown in his Clay County household in the 1850 Census. The difference is that by the 1860 Census, the John Radford family had moved 250 miles away, to Hancock County, Kentucky. Hancock County borders Indiana on the other end of the state, nearly to Missouri.

Therefore, those reporting that the Jesse Radford who married Grace Holland was the son of John Radford are suggesting that Jesse moved clear across the state to Clay County to enlist in the Civil War and settle there while his family remained in Hancock County. There is absolutely no reason to believe this. Some researcher or researchers likely decided at some point that because John’s Jesse is in Clay County in 1850 (and because Nathaniel’s Jesse is missing for the 1860 Census), that John’s Jesse is the only Jesse that could have gone on to marry Grace Holland. It is possible that they may not have even realized that there were two cousins named Jesse Radford who were close in age to one another living in adjacent counties in 1850.

However, as explained above, Nathaniel’s Jesse was an orphaned young man, likely making his own way through timbering, coal mining, or farm labor, which would have been the most common jobs for a man his age at this time and this region. Therefore, he was probably not residing with family members or acting as the head of a household of his own, which would explain his absence from the 1860 Census. But it appears he did at least remain in or very near Clay County, as evidenced by his siblings’ whereabouts in 1860. He was not deceased at this time, as some will assume about a person if he is absent from a census.

Civil War records further prove that both John’s Jesse and Nathaniel’s Jesse were both alive and living on opposite ends of the state at the same time. On February 9th, 1861, seven southern states seceded from the United States to form the Confederate States of America, commencing the beginning of the American Civil War. Kentucky attempted to remain neutral, issuing a proclamation in May 1861 ordering both sides of the conflict to avoid Kentucky soil. Confederates took over occupied Columbus, Kentucky in September, effectively ending the state’s bid for neutrality. Sensing that the moment was nigh to choose sides, like most of the men in his region of eastern Kentucky, Jesse Radford of Clay County, Kentucky sided with the Union and enlisted in Company B of the 8th Kentucky Infantry on September 13th, 1861 (some records show November 13th, but pension confirms September date). This company was almost entirely made up of other residents of Clay County as well.

As for the “other” Jesse Radford, son of John and Stacy, he also signed up for the war. He became a member of Company F of the 53rd Indiana Infantry. His enlistment was January 9th, 1862 in Grandview, Indiana, a small town in Spencer County. Spencer County, Indiana is adjacent to Hancock County, Kentucky. He was discharged due to disability on March 4th, 1864 after a wound to the left thigh.

Therefore, unless one believes our Jesse enlisted in a new regiment in Indiana two months after he enlisted in the 8th Kentucky (we know he did not, as he is marked present for his company’s muster-in for the 8th Kentucky on January 15th, 1862), this proves that both men were alive, both men served at different times and in different units, and that the Jesse who ended up in Madison County, Arkansas was not the son of John Radford, but rather the son of Nathaniel Radford. Jesse’s federal pension makes no reference to the wounded left thigh the “other” Jesse Radford suffered. Finally, the last piece of evidence for that assertion is the name of Jesse’s first-born son: Nathaniel Radford.

Henderson Clark Holland, brother of Grace Holland and friend of Jesse Radford. Photo courtesy of Scott Hensley.

Upon enlistment, Jesse Radford of Clay County, Kentucky was described as being 5’9”, with fair complexion, brown hair, and blue eyes. He served in the army until his honorable discharge on November 17th, 1864 in Chattanooga, TN. Jesse’s pension and service records provide several events during his service, including an illness he contracted, and his subsequent hospitalization and resultant discharge.  

In March of 1864, he came down with an illness that caused fever and pain in his side and lungs that was reportedly caused by prolonged exposure to cold air. He reported that in June of the same year, he “was ruptured some way, but I do not know how; it was from being so weak from the fever.” He was sent to a hospital in Chattanooga and eventually discharged at the end of his two-year service term. A fellow soldier from his unit, Sampson Estep, recalled that after his discharge and apparent recovery, Jesse returned to the unit to re-enlist as a veteran, but “was rejected on the grounds of being ruptured.”

Jesse would later receive federal pension for his service, but at a reduced rate of one year, ten months, and two days. One year, two months, and three days were deducted from his service length because he was listed as deserted, or Absent Without Leave, from October 19th, 1862 to December 27th, 1863. What prompted his leaving, lengthy absence, and return is not known. The Department of the Interior did not request Jesse’s reason for his desertion, and Jesse did not report it.

Less than a year after Jesse’s return from his service he married Grace Holland, or “Gracey” as the family called her, on January 26th, 1865 in Clay County. Jesse was acquainted, and likely close, with the Holland family from an early age. When applying for his pension and listing his various ailments and disabilities, Jesse includes a story that when he was roughly 14 years old, he was injured when a log rolled onto his thigh while hauling logs, apparently breaking the thigh. Richard Holland, brother of Gracey, testified that he saw Jesse about a week after the accident. Richard and his brother Henderson C. Holland also attested to Jesse being injured during a house-raising about 1891, when Jesse was “attacked with a severe stitch in his back”. Richard and Henderson both, as well as their brother Spencer Holland, acted as witnesses for Jesse’s pension claims numerous times during the lengthy process.

Grace was the daughter of Richard Holland and Margaret Hensley, natives of Buncombe County, North Carolina, who also resided in Washington County, Tennessee before settling in Clay County, Kentucky. Family myths concerning supposed “Native American heritage” in this family have persisted for many years, perpetrated by desperate descendants hoping for Indian lineage and roll numbers. Documentation and DNA evidence have completely decimated the plausibility of this legend. Claims of the Holland family being Cherokee and “fleeing” persecution from place to place have been wholly dismantled by tax, land, census, and military records.

Spencer Holland, brother of Grace Holland and friend of Jesse Radford. Photo courtesy of Scott Hensley, who acquired photo from Rita Stepp Ficht.

Richard and Margaret were listed as white in multiple census records, as were all of their children across dozens of censuses, military records, and vital records. Surviving photographs of at least half a dozen of the Holland children plainly show them to be white people with all the typical physical characteristics, light features, and facial traits associated with European ancestry. Physical information on them includes information showing many to have blue eyes, fair skin, and light hair, none of which are characteristics of half-blood Native Americans, or even most ¼ blood Native Americans. The lies about this family being Native American and fleeing racial persecution are insulting to the legacies and histories of both the Holland family and the Native Americans who truly did suffer. Further, DNA tests of more than 40 descendants have yielded no Native American DNA except in cases of additional Hispanic heritage or Native American lineage from lines unassociated with the Holland clan. Neither Grace Holland, nor her children, parents, or siblings had any Native American blood, and no documentation or evidence to the contrary beyond family lore exists.

Jesse and Grace continued to reside in Clay County in or near the community of Big Creek (the location of the family’s post office), where they began what would become a large family. By 1870, they had become the parents of four children: Sally (born 1865), Margaret (born 1866), Eliza Ann (born 1866 or 1867), Nancy (born 1869), and Nathaniel (born 1870), who was called Nathan. Margaret died as an infant or young child. In 1915, as part of his pension application, Jesse is asked to give a list of all of his children; for this list, he only gives the names of his ‘legitimate’ children, or the ones born of his legal wives. He does so in apparent chronological order, listing Margaret between Sally and Eliza, or “Lizy” as he lists her.

Margaret is not found in Jesse’s household for the 1870 Census, indicating she was deceased. Sally was born in 1865 according to this census, and as an adult, Eliza gave her year of birth as 1866. Therefore, either Eliza and Margaret were twins born in 1866, or Eliza was actually born in 1867. The family record was lost according to a letter written by Polly Radford, so it is likely the siblings were unsure of their precise years of birth. This assertion is further evidenced by Polly’s headstone displaying a year of birth (1870) four years earlier than her actual year of birth (1874).

Serena Radford and husband Thomas Overton. Photo appears courtesy of Willie Hibbard.

Jesse’s household in the 1870 Census (where the family is still found in Big Creek) is an important one, because it is here that another important member of this family is first documented in association with the Radfords: Mary Jane Bowling. Mary was roughly 16 years old in 1870, and was a niece of Grace; Mary’s parents were James Bowling and Delilah Holland, the latter being Grace’s sister. Some family trees mix Mary’s genealogy with two other women: Mahala Bowling, daughter of Addison [Adam] and Eliza Benge Bowling, and Mahala Bowling, daughter of John Bowling and Ora Asher. These connections are incorrect, however, and the woman is without a doubt Mary Jane Bowling, Grace Holland Radford’s niece. Mary Jane plays a significant role in Jesse’s life and the formation of this family as a whole, so a correct understanding of her parentage is important.

It appears that around 1870, Jesse began fathering children with Mary. Gracy must have been aware of the relationship, as the children of this dalliance were given the surname Radford and were raised as siblings with Jesse’s children by Grace in the same household. This relationship led to a rapid expansion of the Radford family. For some of these children, it is not always clear which child belonged to which mother, but the aforementioned list from 1915 of Jesse’s legitimate children indicates that the ones not included on the list were born by Mary rather than Grace.

Between 1870 and 1880, Gracy had: Rebecca (1872), Polly (1874), Dillard (1875), Henry (1877), and Mahalia (1880). Mary had Serena (1871), Elizabeth (1874), Wright (1876), Henderson (1878), and Mary Ellen (1878). Henderson and Mary Ellen appear to have been twins, though that is not explicitly clear; one may have been born at the beginning of the year, and the other at the end.

Sometime in the late 1870s, Jesse, Gracy, Mary, and all their children moved to Leslie County, Kentucky. When asked of his previous residences in his pension application files, Jesse neglects to reference this residence, so it is unclear precisely when he settled there. The family can be found there in the 1880 Census with all of the aforementioned children excepting Elizabeth, and including the eldest children born prior to 1870, Sally, Eliza, and Nancy. By this time, Mary had herself married, or was at least living with and had taken the name of Solomon Hensley, a cousin to both her and Grace. No marriage record for the two has been located, but that is likely due to the record being lost with countless other Kentucky records in a variety of courthouse fires across several counties in the 19th century . The Hensley household is listed only one household away from the Radfords, and includes Elizabeth, one of her daughters by Jesse. She clearly continued to live nearby her children so as to continue having a hand in raising them. Apparently, despite her marriage to Solomon Hensley, Mary was still pregnant (or became pregnant) with one last child by Jesse: Clark Levy Radford was born March 1st, 1881.

Robert and Eliza Radford Eversole. Photo courtesy of Nathan Marks.

Eliga Radford, called “Lige,” was born to Jesse and Grace in April 1881, and shortly after his birth the family moved to Arkansas. Jesse’s children by Mary came as well, as did Mary herself. According to his homestead application, Jesse arrived in Madison County in May of 1881. Their post office for several years was at Boston in Madison County, and eventually their post office became Fallsville in Newton County. In addition to his homestead, Jesse purchased the homestead of his neighbor Andrew J. Burns. Burns is also buried at Radford’s Freewill Cemetery, and his son married one of Jesse’s daughters. Jesse’s land had plenty of timber for the family to fell and sell, primarily oak and timber. They also planted corn and wheat, and kept cattle, hogs, sheep, and had two horses in 1890. During several fall months, Jesse and presumably some of his sons would go south to Johnson County for a few weeks to pick cotton for extra income.

The house, which would become the family home for the next several decades, was built by Jesse in 1884, measuring approximately 18 x 20 feet. In addition to the timber land and farm land, his property included an orchard, smoke house, and stable. Upon visiting the old homestead in the 1990s, Jesse’s granddaughter reported that all that remained of the old place was the ruins of the family’s well.

Jesse and Grace had three more children after moving to Arkansas: Syrus in 1883, Thomas (called “Tom”) in 1885, and Davy in 1886. Gracy passed away around the time Davy was born, and may have died as a result of his birth. In the aforementioned 1915 list of Jesse’s legitimate children, he lists Davy between his sons Tom and James (called “Jim”), the first child born to his second wife, Sally Eversole. As Tom and Jim were born in 1885 and 1887 respectively, it follows that Davy was born in 1886. He either died as an infant, or else very young, because no further mention of him is found, not even in sibling lists compiled by his sister and niece.

The cause of Grace’s death is never specified. Her date of death was also a point of debate, with various dates in November and December of 1886 given by various neighbors and family members who either saw her on her deathbed, cared for her at the end of her death, or attended her funeral. The most commonly cited dates are November 11th and December 2nd; it is unclear which date is correct, as no headstone for Grace has ever been discovered. She was likely one of the first, if not the first, person buried in Radford’s Freewill Cemetery; similarly, Davy Radford is also presumably buried there. The earliest marked burial there gives a year of death in 1890, but there are dozens of graves marked only by fieldstones; it is likely Gracy's and Davy's are among these.

Sarah Eversole Radford. Photo courtesy of Joyce Radford Turner.

Radford’s Freewill Cemetery does not actually lie precisely on Jesse’s patented homestead, nor the homestead of A. J. Burns. Further, Jesse does not mention the cemetery as being a part of his patent in his application. The land where the cemetery now sits was part of the patent of James Davidson. Jesse likely purchased this land from Davidson and dedicated a portion of it as a family and neighborhood cemetery, though exactly when this occurred is not known. It may have become a cemetery while the land still belonged to Davidson, but was eventually purchased by Jesse. As he was the most prominent settler in the immediate vicinity of the cemetery, it came to bear his family name as well. This burial ground is also the nearest one to the Radford home by several miles, further indicating this to be the most logical resting place for Jesse’s wife and child.

By the time of Grace’s death, Jesse’s eldest children had begun to marry. It is unknown when or to whom, if ever and to anyone, Sally Radford married. She is often linked to a Sallie Campbell of Arkansas, but that woman lived well beyond the 1915, and in the aforementioned list of that year, Jesse reports she has deceased. It is not known became of her. Next of the surviving eldest children was Eliza, who married Robert Eversole on July 28th, 1886 in Newton County. Eversole lived in Newton County, just a couple of miles beyond the Madison County line.

 Jesse would go on to marry Robert’s sister, Sarah “Sally” Eversole. How well they were acquainted prior to the union of their kin is unknown, but living in such close proximity to one another, it is likely Sarah and Jesse knew each other at least as neighbors for a time prior to their marriage. They were married by a justice of the pace on March 3rd, 1887. Sarah was accompanied into Jesse’s household by her son William Garrett Eversole, whose father was Jim Bailey of Newton County.

In 1890, Jesse reports that 15 children resided in his home, which would include his children by Mary and both his wives. The 15 household children at this time are believed to be: Nancy, Nathan, Rebecca, Polly, Dillard (called “Dill”), Henry, Halia, Eliga, Tom, Jim, Serena, Wright, Mary Ellen, and Clark Radford, and William Garrett Eversole. This is based on the approximate years of marriage for Nancy, Nathaniel, and Serena who all married in the early 1890s, but likely after 1890.

Jesse’s testament that there were 15 children in the home, barring one of the aforementioned children being married or living out of the home for some other reason indicates that at least two of his children were deceased by this time. As previously stated, what became of Sally after the 1880 Census is unknown but she is certainly deceased by 1915, and Margaret appears to have died before 1870. So unless they were living with their mother, this number indicates that Elizabeth Radford and Henderson Radford, both children of Jesse by Mary Bowling, had died by this time. If they died while the family was in Arkansas, they are likely buried in Radford’s Freewill Cemetery.

Jackson and Nancy Radford Ward. Photo courtesy of Sue Vasicek.

Family stories indicate that Mary died around 1888-1890, and she is almost certainly buried in Radford’s Freewill Cemetery as well. By late 1891, her husband Solomon Hensley had remarried to Mary’s and Jesse’s daughter, Serena Radford. In August of 1892, their first child was born. The 1900 Census reports they were married approximately 1889, but as they did not have a child until 1892, it is more likely they married about 1891. Like Gracy, Mary apparently does not have a marked grave or headstone among the many fieldstones in the old cemetery.

By 1893, Jesse had applied for and begun receiving a pension from the United States government for his service in the Civil War. He never received a raise from the initial amount he was given like many of his comrades had because the time he Absent Without Leave counted against his overall length of service. The aforementioned injuries and maladies he’d sustained over his lifetime—the log-rolling incident, his illness during the war, and the house-raising injury—were cited as reasons why he needed the pension. After being initially denied, a physician eventually established his disabilities as legitimate and he began to receive the funds. He was regularly prompted for documentation when requesting a raise in funds, including in 1915 when he gives the list of his legitimate children and whether they were living or deceased.

Dr. Kevin Hatfield’s “The History of Education in Madison County, Arkansas, 1827–1948” reports that on July 3rd, 1882, two months after Jesse arrived in Madison County, the Freewill School District was formed after a petition for its creation was submitted by Andrew J. Burns, W. C. Holland, and others. Jesse was likely among these petitioners. The school was built and located directly south of Jesse’s home, just outside the boundary of his homestead. According to Jesse’s granddaughter Joyce Radford, it was about ¼ to ½ mile walk for his children, and later his grandchildren, to attend the school, and those that were sent to school were certainly among the 65 students enumerated for the district in 1888, and the 45 enumerated in 1900.

Joyce Radford, daughter of John Jackson Radford, was born in the home her grandfather had built, and attended the Freewill School as a young girl before her family moved to Oklahoma in 1939. That year, only 5 students were enumerated, and the school consolidated with Saint Paul district in 1944, per Dr. Hatfield. When visiting the school site in the 1990’s, Joyce reports that nothing remained. A large tree near where the school was located was the last landmark to show where it once stood, and is now gone.

By 1900, Jesse and Sally’s last three children had been born: Hannah (1891), Fanny (1892), and John Jackson, who was called “Jack” (1894). Fanny died as an infant and is interred at the family cemetery. The period of 1890 to 1900 also saw the marriages of six of Jesse’s children. Rebecca married John T. Stepp on July 15th, 1894 in Johnson County. She died about 1897 and is believed buried at the family cemetery; her husband remarries in 1898. Three of his children, Henry, Mahalia (called “Halia” or “Halie”), and Wright, are unaccounted for in 1900, but don’t appear to be living in the family home. They likely had moved for work, as Dillard had; he is found working as a farm laborer for his uncle, Richard Holland in 1900.

Sy Radford. Photo courtesy of Robert Radford.

Henry is Jesse Radford’s only child who appears to have lived to adulthood that is completely unaccounted for. Jesse reports that Henry is still alive in 1915, but no record of Henry after the 1880 Census has been located. Some family genealogies, even some published ones, attach him to the records of a Henry Radford that lived in Christian County, Kentucky and Montgomery County, Tennessee and was married to a woman named Carrie. That Henry, however, was a black man; Jesse’s son Henry was white. It does not appear that Henry stayed in the vicinity of his family in Arkansas or Oklahoma, indicating he may have gone west, as some of his siblings eventually did. What became of him is completely unknown.

Jesse’s children continued to marry and move from the family home until all that remained were he, Sally, and his son Jack, who lived with his parents in the home his father had built, and continued to live there after his parents had died. Several of Jesse’s oldest children made their way to Oklahoma, primarily in and around Lincoln County, Oklahoma. Eliza, Halia, Sy, Lige, Serena, and Dill were all documented residents there at various times from around Oklahoma’s statehood in 1907 until the 1930s. Sy (died 1929), Halia (died between 1910-1915), and Dill (died 1923) are all buried in Lincoln County. Nancy and Lige returned to Arkansas after a few years in Oklahoma; Serena lived out her last few years in and around Oklahoma City. Tom also settled in Oklahoma near Stillwater after a brief stint in California. Sy’s family remained in Lincoln County until shortly after his son Ted’s murder conviction in 1933, when the family relocated to California.

Nancy stayed in Madison County in Goodwill Township between Boston and Kingston; she and her husband Jackson Ward are buried in Old Bethel Cemetery at Red Star. Nathan stayed primarily around Johnson County, and is buried at Coal Hill. After returning from Oklahoma, Eliza also settled in Johnson County, where her husband Bob Eversole died in 1921; she eventually lived with her daughter Polly and is buried at Kilgore, Texas. Lige died not long after returning from Oklahoma to Newton County, Arkansas; his widow remarried in 1924, and he is believed buried with her kin at Union Grove Cemetery.

Polly married Thomas Newman in 1895 and lived in and around Madison and Johnson counties. Her half-sister, Mary Ellen, married Lee M. Burns, son of Andrew, in 1898. Mary and Lee later divorced, and Mary and her children resided with her sister and the Newman clan. The Newman family believes that Mary became a mistress of Thomas Newman at this point, similar to Jesse and his niece Mary, though without the plethora of children. Thomas certainly appears to have adopted her sons John and Buddie Burns, who both later went by the surname of Newman. But the full extent of their relationship is unclear.

Polly Radford Newman and Mary Ellen Radford Burns. Photo courtesy of Alicia Hooper.

Mary Ellen and her children are no longer listed as residents of the Newman household in 1920; she is not located in the census for that year. Sally Eversole Radford reports that Jesse’s daughter “Mary Ellen Burns” is still living in October 1923, but says “residence unknown”. As the Newmans were residing within the same township as the Radfords at this time, it does not appear she was living with the Newmans at this time either.

The record that has led some Newman descendants to declare Thomas a polygamist is a 1921 marriage in Washington County, Arkansas. A Thomas Newman whose age matches Polly’s husband and a “Mrs.” Mary Radford whose age matches Mary Ellen’s certainly wed at that time. The Newmans’ line on this occurrence is that Thomas, after years of an on-again/off-again dalliance with Mary, finally insisted to Polly that he would marry Mary. This marriage record is certainly the two of them, but it is much more likely that it occurred after a divorce between Polly and Thomas, rather than Thomas actually having a second “legal” wife. It is also interesting to note that Mary calls herself “Mrs. Radford,” and that Mary Ellen’s step-mother refers to her as a Burns, not a Newman, two years after this marriage.

Thomas did not live long after this, dying in 1922 and being buried in Pine Grove Cemetery near Pettigrew. Polly remarried in 1928 to Steve Lewis, divorced, and by 1935 had settled in Adair County, Oklahoma, where she is buried. Mary Ellen pops back up on the radar in 1940, appearing in Joplin, Missouri as a housekeeper by the name Mary E. Newman. In 1945, she remarries to a Fred J. Cox. She died in 1961 in Joplin and is buried there at the Osborne Memorial Cemetery. It is worth noting that on her death certificate, Mary's daughter gives her grandmother's name as Grace Holland--but Jesse does not list Mary Ellen among his children in his pension records. This is another mystery for another time. 

Jesse’s youngest daughter, Hannah, was in Colorado by 1915, and eventually made her home in California. Jim had enlisted in the army by 1910; in that year, he is listed as a resident of an army barracks in Lake County, Illinois, and married his first wife in Toledo, Ohio. This first wife, Hazel Dayan, was pregnant at the time of their divorce, and gave birth to his daughter Edna after Jim had remarried to Ila Mae Smith in 1912. His family resided near his folks in Madison County for some time; they then lived in Tulsa County, Oklahoma, then Cherokee County, Oklahoma, before finally moving to Oregon. He is buried at the town of Prineville in that state.

John Jackson “Jack” Radford, late teens in Madison County, Arkansas. Photo courtesy of Joyce Turner.

Wright Radford is another mystery in the Radford family, though he did leave more of a trail than his brother Henry. Wright is living in Washington County in 1910, and in 1916 in Madison County he married a Harriet Mae Allen. They lived in Huntsville and later War Eagle before Wright disappears from documentation. His niece Joyce, daughter of Jack, reports that Wright was “touched”, and a vagabond of sorts. She remembers him visiting her family’s home in Freewill every so often. He would appear without warning with a long beard, appearing very unkempt and disheveled. She remembers him being covered in body lice bites. Her mother would boil his clothing, and the family would feed and care for him for a few days before he went back on his way. She did not know where he lived, but believes he wandered from relative to relative. She never saw him again after her family moved to Oklahoma in 1939, and it is unknown what became of him.

Joyce’s father Jack Radford was the youngest of Jesse’s children. He was the third Radford brother to marry a Bowers sister; he married Ollie Mae in 1914. His brothers Dillard and Tom married Alma and Mary Ann Bowers, respectively. They were daughters of James G. Bowers, a traveling preacher who did not care for the Radford clan, according to Joyce. Jack and Ollie’s first four children died young and are buried at the family cemetery. Helen and Edna were close in age, but not twins as reported by some. They and their older brother Edward died in the influenza outbreak of 1918.

Headstone of Jesse Radford. Photo courtesy of Bill Sullivan.

Joyce reports that one of the girls (she can’t recall which) was found dead in the morning, and the family went to bury her up the road at the cemetery. When they returned, the other had died as well. Edward died “about three months later”. Irving Del Radford was 19 years old in 1938, and working in the garden by the house when he suddenly started screaming continuously and horribly. They were unable to get him to a doctor in time to save him. Joyce says it was the most horrible thing she’s ever heard; she was seven years old at the time, and she says she will never forget the screaming. Her family later believed he either suffered a brain hemorrhage, or possibly a heat stroke from working outside so long without protection.

The next year, Jack moved his family moved to Oklahoma, where he lived out his days and is buried at Stilwell. His departure left only Nancy and presumably Wright in Madison County. The Radfords have only since returned to the homeplace to visit the old house, which was eventually taken by time, and the cemetery, where the last memories of the family linger.

Jesse Radford died June 12th, 1917, and a Union headstone marks his grave. He was predeceased by at least eight of his children, most of whom are buried with him at Radford’s Freewill Cemetery. Sally followed him to the grave on June 5th, 1926. He would eventually have at least 105 identified grandchildren.

Today, he is remembered fondly by his descendants. He was an imperfect man, but he was also a hard-working provider that took care of his family. He was a good neighbor, farmer, and soldier. And he was good man whose legacy and blood lives on in over 1,000 descendants across the United States today.

Sarah Eversole Radford holding Edward Radford. Ollie Bowers Radford in back. Jesse Radford on right. Photo courtesy of Carol Radford-Chowning.

Supplemental Radford Facts

-          Marriages/spouses of Jesse Radford’s children:
1.       Eliza Radford to Robert Eversole – 28 Jul 1886 – Newton County, AR
2.       Nancy Radford to Eulis Jackson Ward – about 1891-92 – Madison County, AR
3.       Nathaniel Radford to Frances Knuckles – about 1892 – Madison County, AR
4.       Rebecca Radford to John T. Stepp – 15 Jul 1894 – Madison County, AR
5.       Polly Radford to Thomas Newman – 3 Aug 1895 – Jonson County, AR
6.       Polly Radford to Steve Lewis – 16 Sep 1928 – Madison County, AR
7.       Dillard Radford to Alma Bowers – 9 Sep 1909 – Newton County, AR
8.       Mahalia Radford to Dennis D. Lewis – 15 Apr 1903 – Newton County, AR
9.       Eliga Radford to Cora Viola Rich – 13 Jul 1910 – Independence County, AR
10.   Syrus Radford to Rebecca Durham – 14 Jul 1906 – Johnson County, AR
11.   Thomas Radford to Mary Ann Bowers – 20 Jun 1909 – Newton County, AR
12.   Serena Radford to Solomon Hensley – about 1891-92 – Madison County, AR
13.   Serena Radford to Richard Combs – 21 Dec 1902 – Newton County, AR
14.   Serena Radford to Thomas Overton – between 1930-40 – Lincoln County, OK
15.   Wright Radford to Harriet Mae Allen – 27 Jun 1916 – Madison County, AR
16.   Mary Ellen Radford to Lee M. Burns – 25 Sep 1898 – Newton County, AR
17.  Mary Ellen Radford to Thomas Newman - 22 Sep 1921 - Washington County, AR
18.  Mary Ellen Radford to Fred Cox - 21 Mar 1945 - Cherokee County, KS
19.   Clark Radford to Malvina Hibbard – 17 May 1899 – Madison County, AR
20.   Clark Radford to Josie Donahue – 15 Dec 1912 – Newton County, AR
21.   James Radford to Hazel Florence Dayan – 26 Mar 1910 – Lucas County, OH
22.   James Radford to Ila Mae Smith – 20 Sep 1912 – Crawford County, AR
23.   Hannah Radford to Norman C. Donahue – 17 Dec 1911 – Newton County, AR
24.   Hannah Radford to Edward L. Gregory – 2 Jun 1915 – Otero County, CO
25.   Hannah Radford to Ira E. Blanchard – 14 Aug 1954 – Weber County, UT
26.   John Jackson Radford to Ollie Mae Bowers – 24 Mar 1914 – Madison County, AR

-          Known/Believed Burials of Jesse Radford’s Children:
1.       Eliza – Kilgore City Cemetery – Kilgore, TX (Marked)
2.       Nancy – Old Bethel Cemetery – Red Star, AR (Marked)
3.       Nathaniel – Coal Hill Cemetery – Coal Hill, AR (Unmarked)
4.       Rebecca – Radford’s Freewill Cemetery – Boston, AR (Fieldstone)
5.       Polly – Spade Mountain Cemetery – Spade Mountain, OK (Marked)
6.       Dillard – Oak Grove Cemetery – Stroud, OK (Unmarked)
7.       Mahalia – New Zion Cemetery – Davenport, OK (Marked)
8.       Eliga – Union Grove Cemetery – Deer, AR (Unmarked)
9.       Syrus – New Zion Cemetery – Davenport, OK (Fieldstone)
10.   Thomas – Fairlawn Cemetery – Stillwater, OK (Marked)
11.   Davy - Radford’s Freewill Cemetery – Boston, AR (Fieldstone)
12.   Serena – Resthaven Gardens Cemetery – Oklahoma City, OK (Marked)
13.   Clark – McFadden Cemetery – Dover, AR (Marked)
14.   James – Juniper Haven Cemetery – Prineville, OR (Marked)
15.   Hannah – Angelus Rosedale Cemetery – Los Angeles, CA (Marked)
16.   Fanny - Radford’s Freewill Cemetery – Boston, AR (Fieldstone)
17.   John – Stilwell Cemetery – Stilwell, OK (Marked)
18.  Mary Ellen - Osborne Memorial Gardens - Joplin, MO (Marked)

-          Ted Radford was born about 1914 in Lincoln County, Oklahoma, the son of Syrus and Rebecca Durham Radford. In December 1932 Ted, age 19, and his cousin, Earl, age 20, son of Thomas Radford, were arrested for the murder of a man Harve Aikenburg, age 50, in Lincoln County. Ted apparently bragged of robbing and killing the man, whom he had worked for, while intoxicated. He was sentenced to life in prison at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester; Earl was found not to have been involved in the killing and was held only as a material witness.

Ted Radford, 1950s. Photo courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society.

He was released on parole in 1948, and then returned to prison from California on an apparent violation in 1954. He escaped from a labor farm in 1959, and was re-captured by the FBI in California and returned to McAlester. In February 1961, he killed a former cellmate in the prison brickyard during a fight; Ed Coffman, age 42, of Atoka, Oklahoma, was killed from blows to the head by a lead pipe. Ted was sentenced to another life term, and subsequently died at the prison that same year on October 9, 1961. His sister Lula paid to have his remains brought to California and buried at the family plot at Clovis Cemetery in Clovis, California.

-          In September 1951, another of Jesse’s grandsons, Henry Radford, son of Dillard, was killed in Modesto, California. The Modesto Bee reports: “His half-brother, James F. Marshall, 43, is being held under armed guard at the county hospital, where he is recovering from facial cuts suffered during the fatal fight which took place nearly a week ago.

Marshall, accused of the stabbing, faces a possible murder charge. The district attorney’s office is undecided on what charge will be filed against Marshall. . . . Marshall presently is charged with assault with a deadly weapon. This was filed against him last week prior to Radford’s death.” Niece Francis Chapin stated that the brothers were intoxicated when a drunken brawl ensued, leading to Henry’s death. Marshall’s father was Grant Marshall of Newton County. Interestingly, Henry’s obituary still names Marshall as a “surviving” relative.

-          Eulis Jackson Ward, who went by his middle name, of Madison County, was the husband of Nancy Radford, and so a son-in-law of Jesse Radford, even though he was eight years older than Jesse. He is the only person in this family who could give Jesse a run for his money when it comes to the extent of his abundant progeny. He fathered at least 22 confirmed children, 10 of whom are buried with Jackson at Old Bethel Cemetery.

Jackson Ward, of Madison County, AR, prior to the growth on his face being removed. Photo courtesy of Sue Vasicek.

By the early 1900s, a growth had begun to form on Jackson’s face. It grew so large that it covered half of his face. In 1906, he went to St. Louis to have it surgically removed. A mark on his face where the growth was removed can be seen in pictures of him after that point. It is unclear exactly what the growth was or what caused it to grow so large.

Supplemental Radford Family Photographs
Thomas Radford and family. Courtesy of Margie Porter.

 Hannah Radford, daughter of Jesse Radford. Photo courtesy of Nathan Marks.

Dillard Radford on left next to wife Alma Bowers Radford with daughter Grace Radford. Standing girls are Ollie and Mary Bowers, who would later marry Dillard’s brothers. Photo courtesy of Joyce Turner.

Mahalia “Hallie” Radford, daughter of Jesse Radford. Photo courtesy of Keith Whittington.

Clark Levy Radford, son of Jesse Radford. Photo courtesy of Wanda Keifer.

Jim Radford, wife Ila, and daughters Bertha and Inger. Photo courtesy of Danny Brown.

Labeled as sister of Eliza Radford; believed to be Rebecca Radford Stepp. Photo courtesy of Keith Whittington.

The list of Jesse Radford’s legitimate children, as provided by Jesse himself in his federal pension records.

Sources & Acknowledgements

All of the factual and genealogical information contained within this article can be tied to its source within the lengthy bibliography for this article. For a copy of the bibliography or for information on specific information, please contact the author at Many people helped with the compiling and perfecting of this information. I am very thankful to all of them. These people include but are not limited to: Joyce Turner, Danny Brown, Joy Russell, Sue Vasicek, Alicia Hooper, Irene Cochran, Keith Whittington, Robert Radford, Margie Porter, Wanda Keifer, Francis Chapin, Carol Radford-Chowning, Dr. Barbara Schneider, Daniel Radford, Kelsey Gregory, Kaley White Tucker, Kara Marks, Willie Hibbard, Scott Hensley, Rev. Duane Littlefield, and my sons Elliott and Arthur and grandfather Clyde Marks for keeping me inspired to discover our roots. All but four of these folks are also descendants of Jesse Radford. Joyce Turner and Kelsey Gregory have passed away since this article was originally written in January, 2017; Daniel Radford is now the last living grandchild of Jesse Radford. 


1.        "United States Census, 1850," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 9 November 2014), Jessee Radford in household of Nathaniel Radford, Owsley county, part of, Owsley, Kentucky, United States; citing family 545, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
2.        "United States Census, 1850," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 9 November 2014), Jesse Radford in household of John Radford, Clay county, Clay, Kentucky, United States; citing family 3, NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
3.        "United States Census, 1860", database with images, FamilySearch ( : 30 December 2015), Jesse Radford in entry for John Radford, Hancock county, Hancock, Kentucky, United States; citing family 126, NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
4.        "United States Census, 1870," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 17 October 2014), Jessee Radford, Kentucky, United States; citing p. 18, family 126, NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 545,955.
5.        "United States Census, 1880," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 11 August 2016), Jessie Radford, District 2, Leslie, Kentucky, United States; citing enumeration district ED 61, sheet 516B, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 0428; FHL microfilm 1,254,428.
6.        "United States Census, 1910," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 24 January 2017), Jessie Radford, Boston, Madison, Arkansas, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) ED 68, sheet 8A, family 120, NARA microfilm publication T624 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1982), roll 57; FHL microfilm 1,374,070.
7.        "United States Census, 1900," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 24 January 2017), Jessie Radford, Boston & Goodwill Townships, Madison, Arkansas, United States; citing enumeration district (ED) 66, sheet 1A, family 6, NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1972.); FHL microfilm 1,240,067.
8.        "Arkansas Death Index, 1914-1950," database, FamilySearch ( : 27 November 2014), Jesse Radford, 17 Jun 1917; derived from "Arkansas, Death Index, 1914-1950," database and images, Ancestry ( : 2005); a multigenerational derivative citing Division of Vital Records, Arkansas Department of Health, Arkansas Death Index, 1914-1950 (Arkansas: Arkansas Genealogical Society).
9.        "Kentucky, County Marriages, 1797-1954," database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 24 January 2017), Jesse Radford and Grace Holland, 26 Jan 1865; citing , Clay, Kentucky, United States, Madison County Courthouse, Richmond; FHL microfilm 1,904,623.
10.     Military, Compiled Service Record, Jesse Radford, Private, Company IB, 8th Regiment, Kentucky Infantry, Union; citing NARA microfilm publication M386 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 22; FHL microfilm 881,513.
11.     Military, Compiled Service Record, Jesse W. Radford, Private, Company F, 53rd Regiment, Indiana Infantry, Union; citing NARA microfilm publication M540 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.), roll 62; FHL microfilm 881,783.
12.     Soldier’s Certificate No. 630,179, Jesse Radford, Private, Companies I, E, and B, 8th Kentucky Infantry; Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Veterans Who Served in the Army and Navy Mainly in the Civil War and the War with Spain (“Civil War and Later Survivors’ Certificates”), 1861–1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives Building, Washington, D.C.
13.     Widow’s Certificate No. 946,681, Sarah Radford, Widow of Jesse Radford, Private, Companies I, E, and B, 8th Kentucky Infantry; Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Veterans Who Served in the Army and Navy Mainly in the Civil War and the War with Spain (“Civil War and Later Survivors’ Certificates”), 1861–1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives Building, Washington, D.C.
14.     Homestead file No. 8351, Jesse Radford, January 11th, 1890, Harrison, Arkansas, Land Office; Records of the Bureau of Land Management, Record Group 49; National Archives Building, Washington, DC.
15.     "Arkansas, County Marriages, 1837-1957." Database with images. FamilySearch. : 1 December 2016. County offices, Arkansas.
16.     "Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013." Database with images. FamilySearch. : 4 December 2016. County courthouses, Ohio.
17.     "Colorado Statewide Marriage Index, 1853-2006." Database with images. FamilySearch. : 14 June 2016. Citing Department of Health. State Archives, Denver.
18.     Western States Marriage Index. Brigham Young University–Idaho.
19.     Oklahoma Department of Corrections. Closed Records Unit. Offender Ledger Extraction. Inmate Ted Radford, No. 27177. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 15 September 2015.
20.     “Henry E. Radford Funeral Announcement.” Modesto Bee, 15 Sep. 1951: 9. Sep 1951 Reel, Modesto Bee Microfilm, Stanislaus County Library-Modesto, CA.
21.     Genealogy information of Sue Vasicek – Tulsa, Oklahoma
22.     Genealogy information of Alicia Hooper – Haysville, Kansas
23.     Historical information on Madison County, Arkansas from Joy Russell – Witter, Arkansas
24.     [Photograph 2012.201.B1072.0142], Photograph, 1959; ( : accessed January 24, 2017), Oklahoma Historical Society, The Gateway to Oklahoma History,; crediting Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
25.     Hatfield, Kevin Louis. “The History of Education in Madison County, Arkansas, 1827–1948.” Ed.D. diss., University of Arkansas, 1991.
26.     Bureau of Land Management. “Land Patent Search.” Database and images. General Land Office Record entry for James A. Davidson. Madison County, AR, no. 9722. : [2017].