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Key player in Rowan County War, Mom's baby sister among those in my family tree with birthdays w

Birthdays in my family tree for the week of March 30.

March 30

James Wooten Cornett (Husband of Jane Ellen Williams, my first cousin once removed on my mother's side), b. 1958. Jane Ellen is the daughter of my mom's Uncle Hobart Ray Williams, who passed away in 2003.

My Aunt Vada, with my maternal grandparents, Leona Wilson and Oliver Wilson.

March 31

Vada Louise Wilson Caudill (my aunt on my mother's side), b. 1953 in Rowan County, Ky.; d. Nov. 6, 1992, in Clearfield, Rowan County, Ky. Have you ever met someone unsinkably optimisitc despite so much reason to despair? A strong spirit betrayed by a frail body? A person you ache for who somehow always seems to be more concerned about how you are doing? If you knew my Aunt Vada, you have.

And if you didn't, you missed a remarkable person.

Stricken at an early age by type-1 diabetes, Vada suffered nearly every baneful effect of that malady. Diminished vision. Kidney trouble. Congestive heart and circulation problems. She risked serious health complications to give birth to my cousin Kelli, her only child. By the time Kelli was in middle school, one of Vada's legs had to be amputated. Then, the other was taken, as well.

Complications of diabetes then claimed all of Vada. She died before her 40th birthday.

But being remarkably sick is not what made Vada a remarkable person. Rather, it was her grace, her regard for others, her uncanny sense of humor.

Yeah, I think her sense of huomor is what I love most about her.

During my teenage-badass years, I decided an earring would be a good idea. Dad did not agree, and we got into it pretty good when I came home (to a house full of out-of-town guests, including Vada) from a trip to Myrtle Beach with a cubic zirconia stud in my left lobe. I pretty certain that had someone handed my father a blunt instrument, he would have pummeled me on the spot. Needless to say, the earring came out and the hole grew over. A few months later, however, Dad relented, and I had my ear pierced again. So for Christmas, Vada, a lover of pot-stirring, selected the perfect gift for me — a dangly tree-ornament earring. I think even Dad cracked a smile.

Vada spent a lifetime honing her humor. When she was a young school girl, a teacher who had lost a leg in a war or farm accident or some other calamity refused to let Vada leave the classroom for the insulin shot she needed to alleviate her crashing blood sugar. She retalliated the next day by sneaking into class and stealing his crutch.

Vada was not averse to making herself the object of a joke, though.

While dressing her wound for a check-up that followed one of her amputations, she used the wand from an iodine bottle to draw eyes and a nose on her stump, so that her stitches were transformed into a craggy smile. Her artwork complete, she bandaged her leg and left for her appointment. When the nurses removed the wrapping to inspect Vada's wound, they broke into hysterics.

Vada's death left many heavy hearts. I think her passing was the saddest event my family has known. But we are constantly comforted by memories of the smiles she always seemed to leave on our faces.

Benjamin Franklin Hall (my 3G uncle on my mother's side), b. 1852 in Crix, Morgan County, Ky.; d. Dec. 10, 1895 in Rowan County, Ky. Benjamin was the brother of my 2G grandfather George Washington Hall. They came from a family of 15 siblings. Among them were Mary Ann and Cynthia Ann Hall, who married brothers Abel and Samuel C. Caudill. Another sister, Amanda Susan Hall, married Abel and Samuel's cousin, Samuel B. Caudill.

But that's not the most interesting of facts about Benjamin and his family. The oldest son of George M. Hall and Susanna Downing, Benjamin was also the nephew of murder victim Isaac Hall Jr. — and at 15, the youngest of the vigilante band of family members and in-laws accused of Isaac's killing. Apparently, Isaac ran several relatives off family land after his father's death and they took care of the miserable old cuss. It seems likely no one was convicted, according to an account of events by a distant cousin, Teri Pettit.

Oscar Clayton Williams (my great uncle on my mother's side), b. 1935. Happy birthday, Uncle Clayton! Hope you have a great day.

April 1

Burton Craig Tolliver (uncle-in-law of Elizabeth Kidd Tolliver, my first cousin once removed on my father's side), b. 1851; d. June 22, 1887, in Morehead, Rowan County, Ky. Tolliver was a principal in the Rowan County War. That feud stemmed from the death of Tolliver's brother, Floyd, who killed the friend of a political rival in an Election Day misunderstanding. The feud ended with Craig's death in 1887, when an informal, armed militia drove the Tolliver faction out of Morehead. In between, Morehead and much of Rowan County were plunged into violence that drew statewide and, eventually, national attention. Democrats generally followed the Tolliver family, which controlled Morehead and its political offices for much of the feud. Republicans generally supported the rival Martin family.

Rowan County became so unruly that the governor sent in the state militia to quell unrest on three occasions. In fact, the Kentucky legislature considered unincorporating Morehead and abolishing Rowan County by returning its land to Fleming and Morgan counties, from which it had been formed only three decades earlier.

When the governor refused to send in the militia a fourth time, D.B. Logan led the raid that forced Craig Tolliver out of town. Hiram and Logan Pigman surrounded Tolliver as he tried to flee town and killed him.

A reconciliation between the Martin and Tolliver families occurred with the marriage of Grace Martin (daughter of Gils Martin) and Frank Tolliver (brother of Craig Tolliver) in 1889. There are members of both families in my family tree. Elizabeth Kidd was married to William Tolliver, Craig's nephew, and there is a line of Martins on my mother's side, through marriages into the Caudill and Hall families. Also, Dr. Jeremiah Wilson was known to be a close associate of Craig Tolliver during the Rowan County War, on one occasion accompanying him to Frankfort in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to negotiate a truce.

April 3

  • Anna Maria Hill Williams (my 3G grandmother on my mother's side), b. 1828 in Morgan County, Ky.; d. Sept. 3, 1870. Wed to Ambrose Jones Williams in 1847, the couple spent all of their lives in Morgan County, Ky., according to census records. Among their children were my 2G grandfather, William Washington Williams.

  • Sarah A. Fannin Boggs (my first cousin twice removed on father's side), b. 1860 in Minor, Rowan County, Ky.; d. Sept. 22, 1932, in Farmers, Rowan County, Ky. Her death certificate records Sarrah Boggs, age 72 years, 5 months, 22 days. She was the wife of John Boggs. Her father was John Fannin, and her mother’s maiden name Carlain Kidd. Both parents were both born in Kentucky. Sarah's cause of death was dropsey, and she was buried in Alfrey graveyard.

  • Ashley Lauren Brooks (my first cousin once removed) b. 1992. Happy birthday! Hope you have a great day.

April 4

Demarcus Lafayette Kidd (although he shares a last name, he is actually a relative only by marriaged through the Slusher/Jennings line on my father's side), b. 1831 in Stokes, N.C.; d. Jan. 16, 1913, in Tyrone, Texas, Missouri. The eldest child of George and Mary Kidd joined the 48th Va. Infantry as "D.L Kidd", Private, Co. C, in Scott County, Va. He was captured during the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864. He was released from a POW camp in Elmira, N.Y., at the end of the Civil War and returned to Scott County, Va.

In a classic example of a family divided by the Civil War, four of George's sons joined the fray — two in Kentucky Union regiments, and two, including Demarcus, in Virginia Confederate regiments. That's probably as much because of the family's migration as to split opinion about Union and Confederate causes. The Kidd family went from North Carolina to eastern Kentucky by way of Scott County, Va. Some of Geroge's children settled Virginia, while the rest of the family moved on with him to Owsley County, Ky. The sons that stayed in Scott County — Demarcus and Robert — joined (or were drafted) into Virginia regiments. The sons that went to Kentucky — Tandy and Thomas — joined Kentucky Union regiments.

  • William Lambert (my 2G uncle-in-law on my mother's side), b. 1901 in Rowan County, Ky.; d. June 10, 1982, in Rowan County, Ky. William married Laura Etta Hall, my 2G aunt, in 1924. There are Lamberts on my father's side of the family — that was my paternal grandmother's maiden name — and he likely is related to them. However, I've not been able to find the connection.

April 5

  • Joseph Wilson (my second counsin twice removed on my mother's side), b. 1936 in Morehead, Rowan County, Ky.; d. April 5, 1936. One of three children of Marvin Holt Wilson Sr. and Juanita Helen Mutters Wilson, Joseph died at birth.

  • Jennifer Lynn Kidd (my little sis), b. 1971 in Springfield, Clark County, Ohio. Contrary to Jen's belief, she has only a birthday — not a weeklong national holiday. Nonetheless, hope you enjoy your day. Love ya.

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