Sam Anthony is my maternal great-grandfather. According to legend, when he was a sickly walking baby he was left behind when his family moved out of the cabin they lived in and on to another farm. A man named Primus Anthony moved into that cabin and adopted Sam, raising him as his own. That’s when he became known as Sam Anthony. In 1976 the Currie’s and Gray’s of Haywood County, Tennessee began having an annual reunion and invited Sam’s descendants after claiming him as one of their own. When I asked my family about the connection to the Currie-Gray’s, I was told that Sam’s father was actually a man with the surname of Gray from Haywood County, Tennessee. Nobody I asked knew for sure what his first name was, just that he was a Gray.
My grandmother was suffering from dementia by the time I started seriously researching Sam Anthony. The tidbits she was able to remember include his father being named Primus Anthony and that he was from Brownsville, Tennessee. At one time her family lived in a town called Bells, but mostly they lived in rural Madison County, Tennessee. Sam Anthony was deeply religious and made his children read the Bible out loud a lot. He also didn’t like his girls to straighten there hair and would hide the hot comb down by the creek.
My grandmother’s sister, Aunt Alberta, was elderly but her mind was still pretty clear, so I asked her about Sam. She remembered that Sam’s mother’s name was Jane Campbell (or Cambell) and she was the meanest woman she had ever known. She had three daughters who were older than Sam and was married. Her husband was not Sam’s father and Aunt Alberta speculated that was the reason Sam was left behind.
I didn’t know this when I interviewed Aunt Alberta, but Sam’s World War I Draft Registration Card, dated September 12, 1918, lists Jane Campbell of Brownsville, Tennessee as his nearest living relative and the 1930 census shows a 90 year old Jane Anthony living with Sam and his family in Madison County. So it appears that they maintained some sort of relationship after she abandoned him.
Aunt Alberta also remembered cousins who would visit Sam and on one occasion she overheard one of them saying, “Sam, why don’t you tell your children who their real people are?” One of these cousins was Josie Springfield, whose maiden name was Josie Gray. If she was Sam’s cousin, was one of her Uncle’s Sam’s father?
According to his Draft Registration Card, Sam Anthony was born October 4, 1875. He had a daughter with a woman named Ola Cole in 1902. The daughter, Mary Lector Cole, was raised by her grandparents. In 1903 Sam had a son named Jake Anthony with Mary Elizabeth Russell, my maternal great-grandmother. They married some time later on May 17, 1908.
I can’t find any record of Sam in the 1880 or 1900 Census, but I did find Primus Anthony, his adoptive father. In 1880, Primus was listed as a laborer and apparently sharing a home with a widower named Chany Cole. Also listed in the home were Jack Cole, aged 10; Mary Cole, aged 6; Curnen Cole, aged 2; and Mandy Cole, aged 6m. In the 1870 Census Primus was living at home with his father, Sam and his mother, Betsey. He also had two brothers, 15 year old Ausgood and 12 year old Currie. Lastly, Becky Gray, aged 60, was listed as “Keeping House.” Is it more than coincidence that Primus’s father and his adopted son share the same name? Or that Becky Gray was listed in the Anthony home?
The name Becky Gray seemed vaguely familiar to me so I went back through some old notes and emails and found this message from my cousin, Homer Chatman:
I will try and run this family tree down to you right quick, as I know of it..
Becky Gray, had William GRAY, etc…..
William GRAY, had Walker GRAY, etc………
Walker GRAY had Josie GRAY, etc…….
So Becky Gray, who was listed in the home of Primus Anthony in the 1870 census, could very well be Josie Gray’s great-grandmother.
Continuing my search, I found a marriage license for Primus and Bettie Russell, dated January 7, 1881. I’m curious about this because Bettie (actually Betsey) is my maternal great-great-grandfather Asberry’s sister. I connect the dots and realize that Sam, who was adopted by Primus, married Mary Elizabeth, who was Primus and Betsey’s niece.
To be continued . . . .