Joseph Thomas Webb (1865 – 1955)

Every once in a blue moon you come across “that” ancestor.  You know the one,  the person who had the insight to put their story into words so that their life and heritage would be remembered beyond their time.  For me, that person is Joseph Thomas Webb, or more often known as J.T. Webb my maternal 2nd great grandfather.


"My Life" by J.T. Webb 1954

“My Life” by J.T. Webb 1954

Most would think “bonus”, as they read through 3 pages of handwritten accounts recanting early adventures of his youth in Birchwood, TN, to their family’s big move out west to Bolivar, MO, then finally migrating south to Crawford County Arkansas. Describing the moment he first laid his eyes on the red headed girl of his dreams at a dance, (he would marry her 14 years later) to farming large crops, defending himself against a would be killer and surviving a train wreck.  Three simple pages,  a goldmine glimpsing into his life and a beautiful act of preservation we cherish.

J.T.  was born in Birchwood, Hamilton, TN  on 7 October 1865.  J.T. was the ninth of ten children born to Benjamin Franklin Webb and Jenette Jane Clingan.   Hamilton Tennessee was named after our Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton, 15 years after this death.

As detailed by J.T., his family sold their home in TN and moved to Bolivar, MO in February of 1871 where his eldest sister lived.  Shortly after their arrival her husband passed from TB and after a year in MO the family packed everything in a wagon and headed to Arkansas, all 13 of them.  (J.T.’s parents, siblings and most likely a child from his oldest sister and her deceased husband).

So why dig any deeper?  J.T.’s words and stories were thorough, but also like a carrot, dangling out in front of me.  I wanted to have a more intimate understanding of the events of his life that he so carefully outlined.  And that’s where the journey takes me.  Going beyond meant diving into researching maps, topography and distance.  That information brought a whole new perspective to the details J.T. had shared.

What would that journey have been like?  Six hundred plus miles lay between Birchwood, TN and Bolivar, MO.  For a family of 11 traveling by train, then boat and finally wagon to reach their destination must have been, well… let’s just say incredibly challenging, though I’m sure there are many adjectives that could be used.

J.T. speaks of leaving Bolivar and their route through Mammoth Springs, AR – another one hundred and seventy plus miles – then in two days making it the final two hundred and twenty plus miles to Crawford County Arkansas where they settled on Cedar Creek.

This is just a small portion of the journey to go beyond.  There is still so much more research needed to fill in the landscape of his writings.  From Mr. Conley, the man who held and gun to J.T.’s head, and who apparently took a good whippin’ before he was arrested, to surviving a local train wreck just one day later.   Another set of his writings express the deep love and admiration J.T. had for his mother in a touching newspaper article he wrote in celebration of her 75th birthday and family reunion.

I suppose J.T.’s writings are more than just an accounting of his life to me , but rather an invitation….because there IS always more when you go beyond.

Cousin as child, Aunt Berniece Rudy Cowne, 2nd Great Grandfather JT Webb, Grandfather Roy Rudy, 2nd Great Aunt Bess

Cousin as child, Aunt Berniece Rudy Cowne, 2nd Great Grandfather JT Webb, Grandfather Roy Rudy,  Great Grand Aunt Bess Webb

©2016 Sondra Bass Hawkins


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