Say My Name

An African-American Family History

The Warrens and Featherstons

      Fred Warren was the only surviving child of Isaac and Katie Featherston Warren. His father Ike, as he was called, had married Malessie Dunnagan first. He and Malessie had several children. For reasons unknown, they divorced. According to Wilma Warren Bradshaw, their granddaughter, Ike was a quiet man but given to hot tempered outbursts and temperamental. He was also good-looking which caused some problems with other women. After Ike divorced Malessie he lived with George Swift and his children lived with Malessie’s parents.

The photo is of Katie, left, and an unknown woman.

      Ike married Katie,  daughter of a white man and former slave. Katie had been married twice before she married Ike and already had three children.  Her first marriage was to Thomas Wilkins in 1881. Sometime between 1881 and 1898, Wilkins died. She married Henry Hardy in 1898. On the 1900 Dyer County Census, Katie's children are listed as Henry's. Under the column that states how many are still living, she states only six even though eight names are given. Their names are Melvina (Feb. 1886), Ella (March 1888), Ester (son Aug 1890) Joe (June 1894), Winnie(June 1885) and Maud (June 1887). I was told their was also a Hattie who may have married before this census.  I will check on this person.

     I don't know what happened to the second husband but she married Ike in 1902. Ike and Katie had other children but only my grandfather Fred survived childhood. The marriage broke up before Ike’s death in 1919. After the separation, Fred lived with his mother and his half-brothers Edgar and Ester in Crockett County.

      The history of the Warrens is sketchy at best. Wilma believes the Warrens first came to the U.S. from Ethiopia through the Florida Keys. I don’t know where she got that information. Before she died she recounted, “the Warren men were good-looking men, with wide shoulders, narrow waist. They had big heads and curly hair. They were tall. My mother used to call them long-armed Warrens.”

      The family of George and Mariah was large. On the 1900 Crockett County, Tennessee census, Mariah is listed as Myra, age 58, a widow and mother of 12 children, nine of which were still living at the time. The youngest daughter Lillie, age 16, lives with her. The name of George as the father was found on the death certificate for Ike’s brother Dave. Ike was probably the oldest. Wilma said he was also the darkest in complexion. On the 1900 census his age is 32, Dave is 23 and another brother Aaron is 19. More information on the siblings have been given in the previous chapter on name discrepancies.

The Featherston History

      There is more known about Katie’s family since her father was white and better documented. On the 1870 Dyer County, Tennessee census, Katie is living with her mother Tildy Featherston and brother Steve and sisters Mattie and Melvina. On the same census Chals (Charles) Featherston, age 45, is living next door to Tildy, 40. Tildy’s occupation is listed as “keeping house,” an occupation used for wives. Tildy’s children’s race is stated as mulatto except for the oldest, Mattie. Their  ages are: Mattie, 16, Steave, 7, Katie, 3 and Melvina, 2. Charles could be the father of Katie and Melvina and possibly Steave who is said to have been very fair.  

     The Featherstons come from England. There are many variations of the name--Fetherstanhalg, Fetherstanhishalu, Fetherstan, Ferdetan, Federestan, etc. It has varied over the centuries. Some include an “e” at the end of the name. Some  include “haugh” on the end. There is some debate whether its origin is from the Old English word fepertan, which means four stones or from the word federstone which means feudal stones. It was believed that the original Featherston manor house was situated upon a hill where there were two large stones. These stones could have been part of an ancient tetralith, three upright stones and one head stone. It was also a medieval tradition for manors to assemble their feudal tenants in an outdoor court. The court was distinguished by a huge stone used by the steward as a table where homage was taken and accounts rendered. It is possible that the stones in question were used for such purposes, thus the name feudal or fether-stones.

     The Featherston history comes complete with a ancient castle and ghost story. According to the early records, the ancestral castle was originally built by Elias or Helius of Featherstonehaugh who lived in the early 1200’s. The ancestral castle was rebuilt in the valley under the hill or haugh as it was called during those times, sometime after the ruin of the moat constructed for defense against the Scots.

     The family was a member of the barony of Tyndale during the reign of Edward I, a title they held until the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. During the English civil wars under King Charles I, Sir Timothy Featerstone-haugh sided with the royalists. He raised troops at his own expense and fought alongside them as well. Sir Timothy was captured on August 26, 1651 at the battle of Wigan Lane, Lancashire. He was tried and found guilty of treason and was beheaded October 22, 1651. Not only did Sir Timothy lose his head, the opposing side claimed all his property including the castle.

     The castle still stands more than seven centuries later. It is located in the county of Northumberland near the tiny village of Haltwhistle in England. Over the years, additional towers, battlements and restorations have been made to the original structure.  It is currently listed as an ancient site and featured in several books about haunted locations.  It seems that the family castle is inhabited by a few ghosts.   

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