When two men have the same first and last name, were born at about the same time in the same place, and resided in the same place for several years, it can become difficult to differentiate between the two. It is also often easy to make assumptions about one or the other which leads to them being attached to the wrong records, and often the wrong families altogether. This is the case with James Lewis Hollis and James Bell Hollis of Cannon County, Tennessee. Neither of them have birth or death records, so there are no primary sources available “proving” which James belonged to which Hollis family. However, if the sources available to us are examined closely enough, it is easy to ascertain this information accurately.
James Bell Hollis
James Bell Hollis was born between 1838 and 1840 in Cannon County, Tennessee. He is first positively identified in his Civil War service records for the Tennessee 4th Cavalry (Smith’s) (Note: This regiment’s service records are filed as Tennessee 8th Cavalry (Smith’s)), where he is listed as J. B. Hollis. (The service records from the Tennessee 4th Cavalry (McLemore’s) can also be attached to James Bell Hollis.) Next, he is found in Cannon County marriage records marrying Miss Mary Creson, daughter of Benjamin F. and Sarah Creson, on 18 Feb 1866; he is listed as J. B. Hollis in this record. He is then found in the 1870 Census in District 4, Cannon, Tennessee, with his wife Mary, two children, and a man who will later prove to be an important clue, 20-year-old James B. Laseter. In 1880, James is found in the same location sans Laseter and with 5 additional children.
No death record or headstone record have been located for James Bell Hollis, but as he is not found in the 1900 Census, it is safe to assume he was deceased before that census. Several online trees list his of death as 21 Oct 1881 in Cannon County, Tennessee, but I have yet to find a primary source for this date. His wife, Mary, filed a Confederate Widow Pension Application, which she was approved for, but neither she nor her witnesses provide James’s date of death. Also, it is this application where we are given a primary source proving that this James’s middle name is “Bell”.
James Lewis Hollis
James Lewis Hollis was born 8 May 1839 (which, like James Bell, is between 1838 and 1840) in Cannon County, Tennessee. No Civil War service record has been found for him. He is first positively identified in his marriage record to Alice E. Todd on 1 Mar 1866 in Cannon County. (He and James Bell were even married less than two weeks apart.) This family was not located in the 1870 Census, but they were likely in Cannon County still. They are located in the 1880 Census in District 3, Cannon, Tennessee with his wife and four children.
The family is found in the 1900 Census residing in Justice Precinct 3, Fannin, Texas with his wife and 3 children, and again in the 1910 Census in Trenton, Fannin, Texas. James died 18 Jun 1910 is buried in Burns Cemetery in Trenton, Fannin, Texas. Though Fannin County did have death records by this time, for some reason or another James did not have one, or else it has not been located.
Two Families – One James Hollis Each
The family James Bell Hollis is most often attached to is that of John Hollis and Esther (also spelled Easter and Easther) Bell who were married in Rutherford County, TN on 4 Sep 1823. This seems like a logical choice seeing as Esther’s maiden name is Bell. James Lewis Bell isn’t found in very many online trees, but when he is he’s listed as a son of the same couple: John Hollis and Esther Bell. The other tree that James Bell Hollis is sometimes attached to is that of James B. Hollis and Martha Saffle, who married in Rutherford County on 18 Apr 1829. (To avoid confusion, here on out this James B. Hollis will be referred to as James B. Hollis Sr.) Of the three possible connections, I believe the latter two are the correct ones.
As previously stated, it is easy to connect James Bell Hollis to the family of John and Esther because of Esther’s maiden name. However, it should be noted that James B. Hollis Sr. has a connection to the Bell family as well. Esther Bell is the daughter of James Bell and Susannah Lewis. James B. Hollis Sr. is the son of David Hollis and Elizabeth Lewis. Susannah and Elizabeth are sisters, both daughters of Abraham Lewis and Esther Todd. It is very possible that James B. Hollis Sr.’s middle name is Bell, but that has not been proven.
The family of John and Esther Bell Hollis are found in the 1850 Census in District 3 Jones, Cannon, Tennessee (Family Number 396). Not surprisingly, they have a son named James in their household who is listed as being about 10 years old (so born circa 1840). James B. Hollis Sr.’s family is found in the same place and are Family Number 358. They have a son named James listed as well, who is listed as being about 12 years old (so born circa 1838). The confusing part is that this James is given a middle initial of “W”. There are two possible reasons for this: 1) Their son James had two middle names, including one that started with the letter “W”, or 2) The more likely reason is that this was probably a simple Census error, which anyone who has done extensive research using the Census understands is not an uncommon occurrence.
It should now be noted that there are two families of special note living close to the James B. Hollis Sr. family. The heads of both of these families are named Luke Laseter [Lasiter]. The first is Luke Laseter [Lasiter] born about 1820 in North Carolina, who is married to a Marinda, and are Family Number 354 (Four households from the James B. Hollis Sr. family.). In their household there are also two Fergusons residing: Clary, born about 1806 in North Carolina, and Sarah C., born about 1834 in Tennessee. Next door to James B. Hollis Sr., with Family Number 357, is the family of Luke Laseter [Lasiter] born about 1825 in Tennessee. In his household is his 1 year old son, James B. Laseter [Lasiter]. This is the same James B. Laseter [Lasiter] found in the home of James Bell Hollis in the 1870 Census. This connection appears to attach James Bell Hollis to the family of James B. Hollis Sr., as they are living next door to James Bell Hollis’s future boarder, but this alone should not suffice as proof. Examining the 1860 Census will provide the further evidence needed to definitively tie James Bell Hollis to James B. Hollis Sr. instead of to John Hollis.
The family of John Hollis, who had remarried in 1849 to Elizabeth Todd and again to a Mary (supposedly also a Todd, but no marriage record has been found) prior to 1860, can be found in the 1860 Census in Cannon, Tennessee. John’s son James is present in the household in this Census, which proves to be an important fact. Barring the possibility that the same James Hollis appears twice while the other James Hollis doesn’t appear at all in the same Census, which is very unlikely, it would stand to reason that whichever James Hollis is located outside of this household would be the James Hollis who is the son of James B. Hollis Sr.
James B. Hollis Sr. died in 1850, so by the 1860 Census his progeny were spread about a bit. It appears that his wife, Martha, and their daughter Rachel moved to Readyville, and their son William Joseph Hollis took over the family farm in Cannon County. (Their 1850 household included this son, who was enumerated by his middle name only.) This is ascertained by the fact that William’s next door neighbor is the aforementioned elder Luke Lasiter, who was 4 households from the family in 1850 and with whom the Fergusons were residing. (This Census says he was born about 1812, rather than 1820, but he is still married to Marinda, so it is certainly him.)
William Joseph Hollis, who was born about 1835 in Tennessee, has three other persons residing in his household: First, a 25-year-old woman, Sarah Hollis, who appears to be his wife; second, a Clary Ferguson, born about 1806 in North Carolina. She is the aforementioned Clary Ferguson who resided with the Lasiters in 1850 with her then-16-year-old daughter Sarah C. four households away from the James B. Hollis Sr. family. As William Joseph Hollis’s wife Sarah appears as “Sarah C.” in both the 1870 and 1880 Censuses, and she is the same as age as Sarah C. Ferguson, one can logically conclude that William had married Sarah C. Ferguson, though a marriage record has not been found; Clary, or “Clara”, is still residing with the family in 1870 as well. (It should be noted there are several records that appear to be missing from Cannon County’s marriage collection during the period of the late 1850’s—such as the previously mentioned missing record of John Hollis and his new wife Mary—so it is not exactly an anomaly that the record for William Joseph Hollis and Sarah C. Ferguson is unaccounted for.) The third person residing with William is a 21-year-old J. B. Hollis. This is almost certainly James Bell Hollis.
In conclusion, James Bell Hollis’s association with William Joseph Hollis, the Fergusons, and James B. Lasiter leads this researcher to conclude that he is the son of James B. Hollis Sr., therefore making James Lewis Hollis the son of John Hollis and Esther Bell.
Further connecting James Bell Hollis to William Joseph Hollis is the fact that the two of them enlisted to fight in the Civil War together; even though William ended up in Company E and James in Company G, they were both of Tennessee’s 4th (8th) Cavalry (Smith’s), William having joined the 4th/8th after being discharged from the 18th Tennessee Infantry. William’s widow, like James’s, also applied for and received a Confederate Widow’s Pension. William’s pension application talks about both his service in the 18th Tennessee Infantry and later the 4th Cavalry. He claimed to have been wounded at “Paint Rock Bridge, Georgia”. It appears he died while his application was being processed, so his widow (a second wife, Martha B. Lambert) had to re-apply. His file is very sad; he claims to have lost everything to a fire, and the man who interviewed him called him one of the “most helpless, needy, and worthy” applicants he had ever interviewed, and also stated that his family was one of the best to have ever lived in the county.