Say My Name

An African-American Family History

The Castle


The Ghost Story

      Once there lived a baron of Featherstonehaugh who had a beautiful daughter named Abigail. She was the last of his line. Abigail fell in love with Ridley of Hardriding but Abigail’s father rejected his suit because of an ancient family feud. The baron ordered his daughter to marry her cousin Timothy Featherstonhaugh instead. No amount of pleading nor crying from Abigail could sway the baron from his decision. His mind was made up.

      The cousins were married in the small chapel at the castle. A hunting expedition was arranged immediately following the ceremony for the couple. On their way back from the expedition, the bridal party was attacked by the rejected lover and armed followers. Abigail tried to stop the battle but was fatally wounded in the process. Ridley was so grief-stricken and guilt ridden at the tragic accident that he took his own life. Huge black ravens swooped down to drink the blood that puddled in a hollow stone. Their wicked croaking filled the forest as they greedily feasted on his blood.

      During all this time, the baron and his wife were waiting for the return of the wedding party. At the stroke of midnight, the doors burst open. In walked the wedding party, ashen faced, their bodies riddled with bloodied open wounds. The baron rose to his feet and crossed himself, calling upon God. As he did this, a mighty gust of wind blew through the castle and swept the ghosts away. And every since that day, at the stroke of midnight on the anniversary of their death, the bridal party can be seen traveling through the glen of Pynkinscleugh and entering the castle gateway .

Back to Reality

      The family can be traced in England as early as the late 900 A.D. The earliest ancestor of note was a brave Saxon officer who was rewarded lands from William the Conqueror in 1044 A.D. In the mid 1200’s, six Featherstons were royal officials. There were a few bad apples also. In 1204, Elias,  mentioned earlier, was prosecuted for robbery. Other Featherstons ran into trouble with the law, mostly over debt.

      The Featherstons made their way to the United States. So far I have traced my own personal line back to William Featherstone born around 1641 in Warwickshire, England. His son William shows up in the records of Charlotte County, Virginia in 1718. He was the father of Charles Featherstone. Charles and wife Gene Wright, daughter of Robert and Mary Wright, had sons Hezekiah and Carlous and daughters Fathey and Charlotte. Carlous married cousin Lucy Elmore in December of 1787. She was his second wife. Lucy bore Carlous several sons including Jeremiah, Burrell, James and William J.

      William J. Featherston Sr. was born in Charles County, Virginia in 1793. After receiving his education, William Sr. married Sarah, daughter of William Vaughan, on December 24, 1813. According to Goodspeed Biographies of Tennessee published in 1897, William acted as overseer of his father-in-law's property until 1828. He then farmed as a tenant until 1833. Around that time, Sarah’s father died and named her in his will. This is when William moved his family to Dyer County, Tennessee. He camped in the woods until he built a cabin where they lived for several years. He leased the land for seven years after which he bought 255 acres in the county. He lived there until his wife died in 1868. After that he moved in with his son, William Jr. The elder William was a magistrate in Dyer County for several years and one of its earliest settler. He died in 1870.

      William and Sarah had several children. One of his older sons was Charles Robert, the same Charles  listed next door to my great-great grandmother. Charles was born in Virginia on August 6, 1825.  He is on various censuses living with his father even after his other brothers married and moved to property of their own. On the 1860 slave census of Dyer County, William Featherston owns seven slaves. The oldest is a 30 year old black woman. This would be the right age for Tildy if she was a slave on their plantation at that time.

      When the Civil War came, Charles and his brothers William and Willis Vaughn enlisted in the Confederate Armies. Charles and Willis joined the 13th Infantry, K company or Dyer Grays as they were called. Charles joined as a sergeant and was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in 1862. He survived the war but died January 3, 1873. His brother William was appointed executor of his estate in February that year, according to the Dyer County court minutes. On the 1870 census, his property was valued at $3,000 and his personal estate at $800.

      I have corresponded with Joyce Featherston Hawkins, a descendant of Charles’ father. The family never knew of Charles’ children with Tildy. They believed he died childless. Or if it was known by his contemporaries, the information was not passed down through the generations. He was the guardian for Edetha Frances, the orphaned daughter of his sister Martha and husband Richard Akin. This information was gathered from Featherston Genealogy which was compiled by Jacquelyn Akin Stover, Dyer, TN 1977. Stover is a descendant of Edetha Frances.

      According to Herman McCutcheon, grandson of Melvina Featherston, the family had a very light complexion and could pass for white. He recounted a story of how whenever his mother rode the train in the “negro” section, the train conductor would move her to the “white” cars. Wilma Warren Bradshaw also recalls seeing Katie or Grandma Katie as she was told to call her. Wilma recalls her as “heavyset, light almost white-looking woman with a deep voice.”

    On the 1880 census for Dyer County, Tildy is now calling herself and her family Fowlkes except for one granddaughter that is listed as Ella Featherston and two grandson who are John and Joe Sawyer. I don’t know the parentage of Ella. I believe John and Joe are the sons of Mattie Featherston and Charles Sawyer. There is a reference to their marriage in the records of 1874. Tildy’s marital status on the census is divorced. Charles Featherston had been dead for 7 years and it is possible she married and divorced in that time. Matilda married Henry Hall  in 1883 but by 1900 Hall is a widow. I have not found when she died yet.

      Steve married a woman named Lou and had several children. Herman says his uncle Steve was a “thin, light-skinned man.” On the 1891 count of male residents his surname is Fowlkes and he is listed as a mulatto. However, on the 1900, 1910 and 1920 Dyer County his name is given as Featherston again. I have not found out the reasons for the name swapping.

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