Roots: When Outlaws Pop Up in Your Family Tree January 16, 2013
Editor’s Note: As you dive deeper into your family tree, you discover the good, the bad and the downright ugly. It’s not only a lesson in history, but in what families must overcome namely bad reputations. Since Mom had already found outlaws on her side of the family tree, it was time to uncover some dirt on dad’s side. Of course, she was digging innocently and she didn’t have to dig very far. This article originally ran in Julie’s Fresh Air in 2006.
By Pennee Murphree, guest blogger for Julie’s Fresh Air
I’m going through my outlaw phase in my genealogy research. While Julie and I were visiting in Kansas not long ago I was reading the Kansas Guidebook by Marci Penner. I read that the Dalton gang brothers had used their sister’s home for a hideout in the late 1880s.
Her name was Eva Whipple. Whipple being the name of some of my great grandparents a few generations back and some of them coming from Kansas I did a quick look to see if her Whipple husband was a shirt tail relative. So far, definitive proof eludes me but some close ties seem to make him a shirt tail relative.
The Whipple farm in Meade County, Kansas had an escape tunnel from the house to the barn where the Dalton Gang kept their horses ready for a quick get-away. The 95-foot-long, 3 foot high dirt tunnel was converted into a walk-way with stone walls and cement floor in the 1930s by the WPA and visitors are welcome to visit the Dalton Gang Hideout and Museum and try their hand at slipping through the escape route.
I also read about Jesse James in the guide book and how legend says one of his hideouts was a cave in what is now Schermerhorn Park in Galena County, Kansas. Little did I know then that Jesse James is in the family tree?
While searching through my records looking for a Cherokee connection that Pat’s Crossland Family seems to have, there were ancestors I found with the name Woodson. One son had the curious nickname of “Potato Hole” and his brother was nicknamed “Tub.” That made me wonder where they got those interesting nicknames.
It seems John Woodson and his wife Sarah Winston came to Virginia on the ship George embarking from England on January 29, 1619, landing in Jamestown in April of 1619. John and his wife Sarah settled on the James River and are listed there in February of or 1625.
On April 18, 1644 John Woodson was killed in an Indian massacre while outside the home. Sarah was a brave pioneer woman. During the Indian attack, aided by Robert Lignon, she resisted to protect her boys. She loaded the gun while Lignon fired. But hearing a noise up the chimney she threw a feather bed upon the coals and the stifling smoke brought two Indians down the chimney whom she dispatched.
Sarah hid her sons, Robert in a potato hole and John under the tub, and they were saved. For many years they were called “Potato Hole” and “Tub.” Over the years this story has been passed on from one Woodson generation to the next and as passed among the various families has varied a bit in details but not in Sarah’s bravery in defending her children.
I noticed that Jesse James had the middle name of Woodson. You guessed it. Pat has the same Woodson ancestor that Jesse James has. That kid nicknamed “Potato Hole” turns out to be a great …….grandfather to both Pat Murphree and Jesse Woodson James. And to top it off I found on the internet a site that says, “Hell we’re all related to Jesse James.”
When you discover outlaws in your own family tree, don’t let yourself get too surprised. It always serves as a good history lesson and can also keep us humble.
Pat said I kept the search on until I found an outlaw in his family because I was tired of having them all in mine. There is probably some truth to that.
- 10 Things You Didn’t Know About the Old West (history.com)
- Jesse James Wanted Poster Goes Up for Auction (history.com)
- In 1882, Robert Ford killed the outlaw J … (crazyfacts.com)
- What’s In Your Family Tree (talktangie.com)
- My Family Tree (fanniesyouraunt.wordpress.com)