(52 Ancestors #39 – On the Farm)
For the “On the Farm” theme, I want to talk about a farmer in my family tree and the area in which he lived and farmed. James Henry Wells, my great-great grandfather, was born in Pittsylvania County, Virginia on August 4, 1840. He married Mary Ann Clark on September 2, 1864 in Henry County, Virginia. By the 1870 Federal Census, they were living in Horsepasture, Henry County, Virginia and had 3 children. James’ sister Eliza, a widow, was also living with them with her 2 children. He was a farmer who could not read or write. In 1880, they were living in Horsepasture with 7 children and James was listed as a farmer again.
From Pat Ross and Fran Snead on the Bassett Historical Center’s “History Corner” blog from Sept. 6, 2007:
Horsepasture had no recorded name until a group of Northerners traveling South passed through this part of the county riding thin mares, undernourished and overworked. The men of this group struck bargains with the people living in the area, trading their rides for new Virginia stock – two mares for a stallion, a mare and a colt for another mare, etc.
The Yankees rode southward that Spring, but during the Fall of that same year they returned North to their homes, traveling through this very same area. The horses that they had traded were now grazing on the high quality grass of this very fertile area. The Yankees continued home, shaking their heads in disbelief as they remarked that this little area was about the best ‘horse pasture’ they had ever known. The name stuck and the local Horsepasture Christian Church was founded in 1832. There was a post office at Horsepasture from 1833 to 1906.
James’ wife Mary Ann died of a fever in 1894 and James re-married in 1898 to Sallie Lou Koger. A little over a year later, Sallie moved back to her parents and gave birth to a daughter, Maggie. Oddly, in the 1900 census, James lists his deceased wife Mary Ann as living. Sallie was living with her parents and her daughter. James farmed with two of his sons, Robert (my great-grandfather) and Edward, as his farm laborers. In 1901, James filed for divorce on the grounds of Sallie’s desertion and it was finalized in June 1903. James died March 6, 1904 and was buried in Mount Hermon Church of the Brethren Cemetery in Bassett, Henry County.