Elias Henry Overton (c. 1775 – c. 1870)


Copyright © by Larry G. Overton, September 25, 2016



Historical Background

The place: North Carolina. The time: 1769. It was an interesting but difficult place to be, at an equally interesting but difficult time.

The land was somewhat isolated by its physical features. The “Great Dismal Swamp” lay to the north, and was likewise bordered on the south by swampland. Most of the coastland was cut off from oceangoing vessels by a chain of barrier islands. And to the west was yet another aspect of isolation, though not due to a physical feature of the land. Settlers were faced on the western frontier with the perils of dealing with various “Indian” nations.

The relationship of the English settlers to the native inhabitants had been both tempestuous and confusing. Throughout the eighteenth century the various tribes of the region (when not fighting among themselves) fought the white settlers. “Friendly Indians” at times formed alliances with English white settlers and fought against other tribal nations. Captives were then sold as slaves to the English.

Furthermore, the hostilities gave rise to three major conflicts in the eighteenth century, loosely categorized as “French and Indian Wars.” More specifically, from the American perspective these conflicts are referred to as “Queen Anne’s War” (1702–1713), “King George’s War” (1744–1748) and “The French and Indian War” (1754–1763).

The British refer to this latter conflict as the “Seven Years War,” since from their perspective a formal declaration of war was made in 1756 and was concluded with an English victory and the Treaty of Paris in 1763. For the American colonies, hostilities began two years earlier. And it should be noted, by the way, that both the French and the English had “Indian” allies in this war.

Armed conflict with competing colonizing forces (i.e., the Spanish and the French) and against Indian tribes was therefore very much a part of the settler’s life. Farmers spent nearly as much time serving as militia men as they did tilling the soil. The well-known clergyman and farmer Jared Eliot, commenting on this situation, put it this way:

“I deſigned to go on, to publiſh an eſſay, on that ſubject, yearly; but, the war coming on, which naturally and neceſſarily engaged our attention, both in the dark and bright ſcenes of it, ſo as to leave but little room for any thing, but what is abſolutely neceſſary, and eſpecially ſo, as we are all military men, as well as farmers; our circumſtances being like that of the old Romans, from the plow to the war and from the war to the plow again; there having been ſo many of our labouring people draughted out yearly, ever ſince the commencement of the war, no leſs than five thouſand the laſt year, beſides leſſer excurſions…”[1]

After the French and Indian wars, hostilities grew between the colonies and England, over acts of the English Parliament such as the Currency Act, the Sugar Act and the Stamp Act.

The settlement of Charlotte had been incorporated as “Charlotte Towne” in 1768, just a few years before the time we are considering. Both the town and the county (Mecklenburg) were named for the German-born wife of King George III, perhaps in an attempt to curry favor with British crown during a time of political tension. If so, it failed, because the tensions only escalated. Less than a decade later the colonies would declare their independence from British rule, and years of warfare followed.

It was in this place and at this time that my great-great-great-great grandfather was born, the first of my Overton line to be born in America. His name was Elias Henry Overton, and he was born in North Carolina sometime within the last decades of the eighteenth century.

Yes, the date of his birth is a bit uncertain. I do not know exactly when or where Elias was born. Definitive information is hard to come by, so my starting point was family lore. From there, I have spent countless hours over the decades searching for confirmation of what information I have, as well as adding to that body of information about my ancestors. I want to address that aspect before I continue with the story of Elias Henry Overton.


The Start of My Quest

In 1982, when I first began to look into my family heritage, my information came primarily from my father. I believe that Dad (Harlan Gene Overton, 1932-1989) got his information chiefly from two sources: his aunt, Helen Cecile Overton (1907-1999), and her father/his grandfather, John Abel Overton (1869-1967).

In 1965, Dad sat down with his grandfather to get information from him concerning our family history. (My great-grandfather was around 95 at the time.) In the years that followed, Dad had the benefit of his aunt’s research. My great-aunt Cecile was interested in genealogy, and she never married, so her focus was on her Overton lineage and the Pruitt line. (My great-grandmother was Martha Abigail Pruitt Overton, 1879-1966).

Then, in October of 1982, my uncle Garlan Dean Overton, my Dad’s twin brother, passed away. In talking with Dad, I not only expressed sympathy for his loss, but at the same time I expressed my interest in learning more of our family’s history. Dad replied with a letter that included a page of Overton genealogy he called “a thumbnail sketch.”

In that sketch, he gave me all he could about my great-great-great-great-great grandparents. It wasn’t much; it read simply, “Born in Ireland, no names.” And even now, 34 years later, I’m still hitting a brick wall when I try to find out more about those Irish ancestors. Hopefully, future research will lead to a breakthrough, and when it does, I’ll certainly write about that.

Next, Dad’s thumbnail sketch mentioned my great-great-great-great grandfather. Once again, it wasn’t much, but it gave me a bit more to work with. The name Elias Henry was helpful, as was the fact that he was born in North Carolina. At that point, I had only family lore to say that was his name, but it was and is certainly believable to me that my great-grandfather John Abel Overton knew his own great-grandfather’s name.


North Carolina

map-of-north-carolina-1775We knew that Elias Henry Overton was born in the latter part of the eighteenth century. However, finding documentation of that precise year has been tricky. The first federal census was taken in 1790. Searching through the available documents of the North Carolina 1790 census, I did not find an Elias Overton. There were listings for “Elijah,” “Elisha” and “Eli,” but not Elias.

But then again, those early census records leave a lot to be desired in terms of information reported. They listed only the “Names of the head of families” by county. In parallel columns following, occupants of said households were listed by the number of: “White males above 16 years of age”; “White males under 16 years of age”; “White females” (no age distinctions); “All other free persons”; and “Slaves.”

Evidently, that limited information was helpful for the purposes of the federal government at the time, but it is only marginally helpful for genealogical research. As I said before, I did not find Elias Overton listed in the North Carolina census records of 1790. But if he was 15-20 years old, but still unmarried and had not yet established himself as the head of a family, he would have been reported as part of his father’s household without being named. In that system of record keeping, Elias would have been nothing more than a number in the records.

The subsequent census records added more columns of information, but still were more focused on numbers than names. These additional columns asked for more specific age information for both free white males and females. For example, in the 1800 and 1810 census, the columns categorized occupants by age range, as under 10, 10-16, 16-26, 26-45 and 45+. Oh, and the “All other free persons” category was expanded with the additional words “…except Indians.”

We know from our family lore that Elias’ firstborn son Abel[2] was born in North Carolina as well, specifically on October 4, 1805. So from the time of the 1790 census to 1805, Elias had established his own household and had a son. However, I still haven’t found records of him in census data from North Carolina.map-of-north-carolina-1805

Mind you, I haven’t exhausted the material yet. I’ve never subscribed to any online genealogy services. I’ve done my research the hard way and the easy way: long hours in public libraries pouring over microfiche files (the hard way, back before Internet access), and online searches (the easy way). But not every census document from every county has been transcribed and uploaded to the Internet, and the photographs of the 200+ year old census documents have not all been uploaded to the Internet. And I have yet to make my way through all of the gif documents that have been uploaded, so I may yet one day find the one I’m looking for that identifies the household of Elias in North Carolina.


Franklin, Williamson County, Tennessee


What I have found is that sometime after his son Abel was born in North Carolina, Elias moved his family to Middle Tennessee, specifically to the area of Franklin in Williamson County. Such a move was no mean feat for the day. Since I don’t yet know what county and town in North Carolina Elias had been living in, I can’t say for sure just how long the trip was. But a conservative guess would be about a 200-mile trek. We hear that distance, and in the context of our Interstate freeways and 75 mph speed limits we compare it to, say, a trip from Corpus Christi to Austin. We can do that in four hours or less. But 200 years ago, traveling over Indian trails or post roads, or just cutting a path through wilderness in a wagon drawn by a team of horses (or perhaps, given the terrain, a team of oxen), the trip would have taken a week or more.

elias-overton-in-williamson-county-tn-1820-federal-census-p-122The name Elias Overton showed up in an 1808 Tennessee tax list. He is also listed in Franklin, Williamson County, Tennessee, in the 1820 census (p. 122, line #7).[3] Though the census categories were still only listing the names of heads of families and using age ranges rather than specific ages, the information is still helpful. The Elias Overton household in 1820 listed one free white male in the range of 45 years or older. This most certainly was Elias himself, who would have been around 45 years old by this time. And one free white female between the ages of 26-45 was listed, no doubt Elias’ wife and the mother of Abel. Unfortunately, we are not given her name. There were also five free white males 16 or younger in the house, one of which was certainly Abel, who would have been about 15 at the time.


Hickman County, Tennessee

Fast forward another decade, and we find that Elias had moved again. He continued his western migration, but this time just about a 50-mile trek, to the next county over: Hickman County, Tennessee. In the 1830 census of Hickman County, Tennessee, Elias is listed, and his son Abel is listed as well, having established his own household.[4] (More on Abel in my next article.)

Bear in mind that the census data collected in 1830 still gave no age specific information, just the name of the head of the family and the age ranges of those in the household. Listing of every individual in the household by name and age began in 1850. And this census record from Hickman County Tennessee gives us an example of errors that can occur when recording age ranges, not specific ages. This 1830 record of Elias Overton’s age range does not agree with other census data from previous or later years.

The 1820 census in Franklin, Williamson County, Tennessee reported that Elias was between the age of 45-50. The 1850 census lists him as 75, so that agrees with the 1820 account. But the Hickman County, Tennessee 1830 record has him down in the range of 40-49.


I am convinced that the person recording the data simply made a mistake. On page 273 of the 1830 Hickman County census, Elias is listed on line 13. Following his name, there are 25 columns on the page in which the enumerator would record the pertinent data. It would be a completely understandable (albeit unfortunate) mistake for the enumerator to record Elias’ age in column seven (“Of forty and under fifty”) instead of column eight, where he should have been (“Of fifty and under sixty”).


Carroll County, Mississippi

Another decade later, it appears that Elias had been on the move again. Perhaps his move was made around the time of the 1840 census taking, because I can’t find Elias Overton in the 1840 census data in either Tennessee or Mississippi. However, I do find him nearly 300 miles south, in Carroll County, Mississippi as early as 1843.

Actually, I should qualify that statement: I believe I have found my great-great-great-great grandfather Elias Overton in Mississippi in 1843, in marriage records. One Elias Overton married Elizabeth Jones on July 4, 1843 in Carroll County, Mississippi. The ages of the couple are not given.[5]

Could this be some other Elias Overton? In my opinion, no. I’ve only found two other Elias Overtons in Mississippi in the nineteenth century, and in relationship to this marriage event, one was born too late, the other too early.[6] So my great-great-great-great grandfather got married in Mississippi in 1843, but by that time he was about 68 years old, and already a father and grandfather. Elizabeth Jones Overton was not the mother of his children. He no doubt remarried after his first wife passed away.[7]

Another interesting aspect to me about this early 1840s move is how it relates to Elias’ son Abel. (I’ll comment briefly on this here, as it touches on Elias’ movements, and discuss this more in my next article.) Though I could not find Elias in Tennessee in 1840 when the census was taken, I did find Abel, who had moved in Tennessee, from Hickman County to McNairy County.

Now McNairy County, Tennessee is bordered to the south by what was then Tippah County, Mississippi. And Abel by the time of the next census would indeed be located in Tippah County. But Elias is not found in McNairy County, TN or in Tippah County, Mississippi. I don’t believe this indicates some kind of rift between father and son, just their taking different directions in their lives.

u-s-census-mississippi-carroll-county-1850-bBy the time of the 1850 census, Elias Overton had taken up residence in Carroll County, Mississippi, the place of his marriage to Elizabeth Jones in 1843. So it appears as though he relocated and remained there after his marriage. The census for the area (of “Free Inhabitants in the Southern Division in the County of Carroll State of Mississippi”) was “enumerated” by Assistant Marshall Richard Small on October 3, 1850.[8] As I said before, the listing of every individual in the household by name and age began in 1850, so this census year is extremely helpful because of the details it contains.

Elias Overton is listed here on line #21. The number assigned to his household is 560, and it consisted of just he and Elizabeth, his wife of about seven years. His age is given as 75, hers is 56. Elias’ occupation is listed as “Farmer.” For their respective birthplaces, both are said to be from North Carolina. Another interesting tidbit is that on line #22 (Elizabeth Overton’s line), column #12 is checked, which reads “Persons over 20 years of age who cannot read & write.”

Another interesting piece of information is found in line numbers 23 & 24. Admittedly, my thoughts on this are somewhat speculative, but I find it plausible and interesting. The next line in the census after Elias’ wife Elizabeth, line #23, lists a 26-year-old named Richard Jones, and line #24 lists 16-year-old Elizabeth Jones. And the household number assigned to them is #561.

Those household numbers, as I call them, are actually described in column #1 as “Dwelling-houses numbered in the order of visitation.” And then in column #2 are “Families numbered in the order of visitation.” So Richard and Elizabeth Jones have the same family number as Elias Overton’s “dwelling-house” number, and they were enumerated in the census at the same time.

Coincidence? Maybe, but if so, then there’s another coincidence to consider. As we learned from the 1843 Carroll County, MS marriage record, Elias’ wife’s name was Elizabeth Jones. Remember too from our previous research that Elias Overton shows up in Carroll County taking a new wife, without his children. It is plausible to me to believe that 75-year-old Elias moved to Carroll County to marry, and his new wife Elizabeth, and her children Richard and Elizabeth, were already living there.

Okay, moving on. This research is leading us near to the end of Elias Overton’s life, but we’re not done yet. On page 24 of the 1860 Carroll County, Mississippi census, on lines 34 and 35,[9] Elias and Elizabeth Overton are listed as living there still.


But while this census record confirms certain details we have already seen, it also contains some discrepancies of information from one census to the next. First, let me address the confirmations. Elias and Elizabeth are married and living in Carroll County, Mississippi. His occupation is listed, as in previous census years, as a farmer. Elizabeth’s age is listed as 66, which agrees with the previous census’ (a decade earlier) reporting that she was 56 at that time. And they are both said to have been born in North Carolina, which also was reported in 1850.

But now for the discrepancies. A couple of them are minor, such as the spelling “Elisabeth” instead of “Elizabeth” as in the previous census and the marriage record. A second is likely just another transcription error. For both of them in this 1860 census, there is a check mark in column #11 “Married within the year.” They had actually been married for 17 years at that point, so that’s clearly wrong.

However, this does make me curious as to what the enumerator meant to check. Column #12 “Attended School within the year” is not likely. Column #13 was reserved for “Persons over 20 years of age who cannot read & write.” In the previous (1850) census, this was reported of Elizabeth, but not Elias. Column #14 was for those “whether deaf and dumb, blind, insane, idiotic, pauper, or convict.” My guess would be column #13 was what the enumerator intended to check. So once again, searching documents from 150 plus years ago will produce inconsistencies that are difficult to answer conclusively.

But the most significant discrepancy introduced by this 1860 census has to do with Elias’ age. Unlike the transcription error in 1830 that made Elias appear to be younger than he was, this one makes him older, specifically, 91. This clearly does not agree with the 1850 census that reported he was 75 at that time.

Again, this is problematic because until the 1850 census, reporting of age was given in age ranges rather than specific age. In 1820, Elias was reported as being in the Forty-five and upwards” range. The 1830 census given age range, as I’ve pointed out previously, is most probably a transcription error, which, when corrected, has Elias being between 50 and 60. Elias isn’t in the 1840 census, but again the 1850 has him at 75, which fits. Then, ten years later, he’s 91? Since that’s a 16 year jump from one decade to another, and because it doesn’t fit the data of prior census documents, I’m thinking that 91 years for Elias’ age is nothing more than another transcription error.

Arkadelphia, Clark County, Arkansas

Okay, one more census record to consider for Elias Overton. As it turns out, the old boy had one more move in him. Though he had to be at least 85, and possibly well into his 90s, sometime between the 1860 and 1870 censuses, Elias moved from Carroll County, Mississippi to Arkadelphia, Clark County, Arkansas, a distance of about 225 miles. The roads might have been better by this time than in the early part of the nineteenth century when Elias began migrating westward, but this trek would still have taken 8-9 days in a horse drawn wagon. My 63-year-old bones hurt just thinking about it.

Before I get into the details this last census record gives us on Elias, I want to point out that his younger son Jesse Overton was also living in the town of Arkadelphia. Though he was not a direct ancestor in our line of Overtons, he’s closely related to it, and he intersects with his father/my great-great-great-great grandfather at this point, so I want to briefly reference him here.

Jesse Overton and his wife Nancy M. are listed as in the household (“dwelling-house” #226) visited just before that of Elias’. There is a spelling inconsistency to his name in the census versus family records, specifically “Jessie” versus “Jesse.”[10] As for his age, it is difficult to read,[11] but it appears that he is listed as 56 years old. Nancy is said to be 60. Were they the reason that Elias and Elizabeth moved to Arkansas so late in their lives? If so, why didn’t Elias move to Overton Hill, Mississippi, where his oldest son Abel lived? That would have been a shorter distance to travel by 80 miles, give or take. These are questions we can’t definitively answer, of course, but it’s certainly interesting information to consider.

u-s-census-arkansas-clark-county-1870-page-24-lines-13-14-17-19-bOkay, back to Elias Overton. As with previous census records, this 1870 census provides data that both confirms and confuses. Consistent with past accounts, Elias and his wife Elizabeth are both listed in this Arkansas record as the same household. Elias’ occupation is “Retired farmer.” His birthplace is reported as North Carolina. Particularly significant confirmation comes with new data collected in this census about “Parentage.” Columns #11 and #12 provide for documentation of a father and mother “of foreign birth.” In Elias’ case, both columns have the written abbreviation “Ire,” no doubt a reference to Ireland. We had this information in our family lore, but it’s nice to have the documentation.

But now we come again to discrepancies that cause confusion. Unlike previous census reports that list Elizabeth’s birthplace as North Carolina, this census says she was born in Mississippi. And while previous reports said that Elizabeth could not read or write, for the first time this census categorized Elias as being illiterate as well.

But again, the most significant discrepancy has to do with Elias’ age. He is said to be 99 here. in the 1860 census of Carroll County, Mississippi, he was reported as being 91, a decade later, he’s said to be 99. The Carroll County, Mississippi 1860 census was enumerated on September 6, and the Clark County, Arkansas 1870 census was enumerated on June 22. If Elias’ birthday was between June and September that could explain a one-year discrepancy, but this is a two-year discrepancy.

It’s frustrating that census reports down through the decades of Elias Overton’s life have recorded inconsistent, conflicting information. Estimating his date of birth from this data gives us a range of anywhere from 1769 to 1775. Before I state my own conclusions, let me reference one more point, namely, his death.

I have searched to no avail for a document on the Internet for documents regarding deaths in 1870 Arkansas, or an online image of his obituary. I’ve searched online for information about his grave site, without success. I’ve read two comments about his death on genealogical websites. One referenced his obituary. Frankly, my notes of this from more than a decade ago do not preserve a website name or link, so I can’t verify it, and I haven’t found it again this time around.

Another source is a woman researching her family roots. I’ve found a page of hers on a genealogy website dedicated to Elias Henry Overton,[12] but she has chosen to correspond with others on this matter only if they are members of this genealogy service, and I’m not a subscriber, so I can’t converse with her on this. Her data states that Elias died on July 9, 1870 (just a couple of weeks after the census was taken) in Clark County, Arkansas. The census data never gave his middle name, but family lore says it’s Henry, and this researcher agrees. The rest of her information tracks with what we know as well.



Alright, let me sum this up and state my conclusions. My great-great-great-great grandfather was Elias Henry Overton. Though his middle name is known to our family and confirmed by other researchers online, in the census data he is always identified simply as Elias Overton. And since his grandson, Abel’s firstborn son was named Elias Henry, it can get confusing. So, for the sake of clarity, to distinguish between him and his namesake grandson, I generally refer to him simply by his first given name.

Elias, the son of Irish immigrants, was born in North Carolina about the year of 1775. To date, I do not know specifically where in North Carolina. I also do not know just when he first married, nor the name of his first wife/my great-great-great-great grandmother.

I do know that his firstborn son was Abel, who was born October 4, 1805 while Elias still lived in North Carolina. A few years after the Abel’s birth, by 1808 if not earlier, Elias moved to Tennessee, and lived in two neighboring Tennessee counties, first Williamson then Hickman. His son Abel established his own family while in this Tennessee trek with his father, living both in Williamson and Hickman counties.

However, around the time of the 1840 census, while his son Abel moved to McNairy County, Tennessee, Elias moved to Carroll County, Mississippi. There he married Elizabeth Jones in 1843, and he lived there for 20 years, give or take, before moving one last time in his life to Arkadelphia in Clark County, Arkansas. And if the reports from other modern day genealogical researchers are accurate, there he died, just a couple of weeks after the 1870 census was taken.

Now, there are two discrepancies between the various censuses that apply to Elias Overton. One, that he was illiterate, and two, his age. I want to address each category of discrepancy in turn, and state my opinion on what I believe, and why.

It’s clear that Elizabeth was illiterate, but regarding Elias, the evidence is not conclusive. Before 1850, this question was not asked on the census forms. In the 1850 census, it was reported that his wife Elizabeth could not read or write, but Elias was not so categorized. In the 1860 census, there was a mark in column #11 that said Elias and Elizabeth had been married within the year, which was wrong. Two columns over was for persons over 20 that could not read and write, but it’s pretty speculative to say that column #13 was what the enumerator intended to indicate. The 1870 census does list them both as being illiterate. All things considered, I’m inclined not to believe it, but it could be true.

Regarding his age, it is frustrating that so many discrepancies exist in the reporting of his age. However, as I’ve pointed out, most of that can be readily explained as transcriptional error, and I believe that all the collected data points to his birth being around 1775. So he would have been around 30 when his son Abel was born, around 67-68 when he married again to Elizabeth Jones and moved to Mississippi, and around 95 when he passed away in Arkansas.

There you have the results of my research. To my siblings and/or Overton cousins, if you have additional information that might clear up discrepancies or generally add to this body of knowledge on our ancestor, I welcome your input. I will update and/or amend this document as documented information warrants.



[1] Jared Eliot, published his Essays upon Field Husbandry, As it is, or may be ordered in New-England in six parts, from 1748 to 1759 in New Haven, Connecticut, printed by J. Parker and Company. The quote above is from pages 3-4 of the sixth essay. I reproduced in this quote the orthography of the original 1759 edition.

[2] Since Elias’ parents were born in Ireland, it’s is not unreasonable to believe that Elias follow a standard Irish naming pattern for naming his children. If he did, the firstborn son Abel would have been named after Elias’ father, thus it’s quite possible that our great-great-great-great-great grandfather was Abel Overton as well. For this customary Irish naming pattern, see http://homepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~cregan/patterns.htm.

[3] “United States Census, 1820”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XHLT-D14 : 16 July 2015), Elias Overton, 1820.

[4] “United States Census, 1830,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-25136-30638-77?cc=1803958 : 14 August 2015), Tennessee > Hickman > Not Stated > image 43 of 97; citing NARA microfilm publication M19, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.). For the page on Abel, see image 61/page 282.

[5] “Mississippi Marriages, 1800-1911,” database, Family Search (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V2ZN-L4C  : 6 December 2014), Elias Overton and Elizabeth Jones, 04 Jul 1843; citing Carroll, Mississippi; FHL microfilm 895,135.

[6] Besides Elias’ namesake grandson, there was an Elias Overton in the 1910 Bolivar, Mississppi, but he was a “mulatto” born 45 years after this marriage, so this obviously was not my great-great-great-great grandfather.

[7] Regarding the divorce rate among couples in the middle of the nineteenth century, I remember reading an article stating that the rate of divorce was less than 1 in thousand couples. So to me, a remarriage in 1843 after the death of his first wife is believable; a remarriage after a divorce is not.

[8] “United States Census, 1850,” database with images, Family Search (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-266-11620-88768-4?cc=1401638 : 9 April 2016), Mississippi > Carroll > Carroll County > image 86 of 208; citing NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

[9] “United States Census, 1860,” database with images, Family Search (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1951-25263-20950-58?cc=1473181 : 8 April 2016), Mississippi > Carroll > Police District 4 > image 24 of 49; from “1860 U.S. Federal Census–Population,” database, Fold3.com (http://www.fold3.com : n.d.); citing NARA microfilm publication M653 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

[10] Actually, it’s difficult to tell for certain in this 1870 document, because line #13 had something written there that apparently had been subsequently been scraped off as best as could be, then written over with Jesse’s information. Further complicating the matter is the penmanship of the enumerator (Thomas M. Tennison), which is a combination of old school orthography and peculiar quirkiness. Case in point, Tennison had a penchant for employing the older script “s” (ſ) for the first “s” in names and words with a double “ss,” which in his handwriting looked something like this: “Jeſsie”. And because of ink residue from what had first been written on that line, it’s difficult to say for sure, but it looks like he spelled the ending with an “ie.” In the 1880 census, Jesse Overton is listed in Arkadelphia again, and it is more clearly spelled “Jessie.”

[11] Again, it is difficult to read because of what was previously written on that line but subsequently expunged and written over. In the 1880 census, Jesse and Nancy are listed in Arkadelphia again, and their ages are said to be 68 and 70, respectively. What is it with these old census records and inconsistencies of age reporting?

[12] http://worldconnect.rootsweb.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?op=GET&db=mrsshane&id=I07164