The First Fleshhood

            William Joseph "Jack" Fleshhood (1797-1862) was the oldest son of Frantz “Francis” Fleischutt and Elizabeth Ann Wysong who were married in Fincastle, Virginia on January 6, 1794. It is likely that Francis was born in Germany about 1760. His father has not been identitified, but some researchers have suggested that his father may have been among the 30,000 Hessian troops sent from Germany by King George III to put down the rebellion in the colonies. After the war many of these Germans made the newly formed country their permanent home. Two possible ancestors have been identified in this regard. Henrich Fleischutt and Wilhelm Fleischutt are listed among Hessian troops who came to the U.S. in 1776.
        Elizabeth’s parents were Fedit Wysong and Elizabeth Phemach and were Pennsylvania Dutch, Germans who settled in the southeastern quadrant of Pennsylvania. Feidt's people were from York. Many of these families were part of a large migration south and west along the Blueridge Mountains of Virginia as people moved into frontier territories and newly formed states. Feidt was a blacksmith and a soldier in the Revolution. According to Feidt’s pension application, he was present when Cornwallis surrendered to Washington at Yorktown. Feidt’s blacksmith shop can be seen today in Fincastle, Virginia. After Elizabeth died, Feidt married Susannah Coffman in 1816 in Fincastle.
William was born in 1797 in Fincastle, VA, but by 1803 his parents had moved to Knoxville, Tennessee where they continued to have and raise children. The family is believed to have spoken German in their home. Their house was near the present day intersection of South Central and West Main Streets in downtown Knoxville (see Fig. 1). Francis operated a silver shop out of their house which sat on the hill coming up from the Tennessee River, a prime spot to do business as those coming into town would have passed by. He was also a well-known clockmaker. Francis made a good living as evidenced by the personal journal of Tennessee Governor John Sevier. His entry of Thursday, September 10, 1807, says, “Memo. I give Mr. Fleshart 3 dollars to make me a tumbler—I took a suit of blk out of the store of Shall & Pritchet.” There is also indication that Francis’s son Francis, Jr. operated a gold and silver shop in Mississippi, having learned the trade from his father.
Fleshart researcher Robin McMullen Landgren describes the comfortable life the Flesharts enjoyed:
"Life was good for the Flesharts. No hard pioneer life for this family. Francis's shop was in the center of town, across the street from the Presbyterian Church. From a bill on an account we get a peek into the Fleshart family's everyday purchases. There were yards and yards of cotton and linen, calico, muslin, trimming, edging and velvet ribbons, as well as  new shoes, hats and silk gloves. Also on the bill were paper, pencils, and a spelling book for the children. For a Christmas celebration the family bought skeins of silk thread and needles for handwork as well as bottles of wine, whisky, French brandy, tea, coffee, chocolate, sugar, spices, and even new plates."

Francis and Elizabeth had six children: Mary Ann “Polly” (1795—6 Jun 1859) who married William Crockett 14 November 1811; William Joseph; Elizabeth (27 July 1800—21 March 1829) who married William Henry Watterson 5 September 1820; Francis, Jr. (c1803—c1850) who married Elizabeth Hester Green and later perhaps one other woman; Caroline (20 January 1806—12 March 1873) who married Samuel Wolfenbarger 14 December 1827; and Susannah (18 October 1808—14 December 1876) who married first John S. Berry 6 January 1829 and second Charles D. Young 9 February 1842.

At some unknown point Francis and Elizabeth began spelling their surname “Fleshart.”  All of the children, except William, took the surname Fleshart, sometimes spelled “Flesheart.” William took the surname Fleshhood which was spelled “Fleshood” by his descendants. No one knows why he did not go by Fleshart, although both variants appear to be a phonetic rendering of the original German. Francis, Jr. was the only male who carried on the Fleshart surname. The name has been found in a couple of 20th century census records, but no one has been able to determine if any of these are descendants of Francis Jr.

Francis died in Knoxville about 1808. His estate was not left in good order and Elizabeth was left to settle several disputes in court. Some of those disputes involved customers who paid for work that Francis did not complete before his death. With her husband no longer available to train her sons in the business, Elizabeth arranged apprenticeships for both of them. William was legally apprenticed to Edmund Hewlett on January 6, 1812.

Some seven years after Francis, Sr.’s  death, Jane Asbereen Fleshart was born (23 January 1815—29 August 1903) in Maryville (Blount), Tennessee. Jane’s parents have not been identified, but Elizabeth did raise her. One possibility is that she was Elizabeth’s child by another man, but no one has found any evidence that she ever remarried. Jane may also have been fathered by William or Francis, Jr. There is circumstantial evidence to suggest that William and Francis, Jr. got into some kind of trouble after their father’s death. If William fathered a child out of wedlock, that could explain why he left Knoxville as a young man and took a different name than the rest of the family. According to Landgren, Jane was married at her sister Susan’s house and probably lived with her after their mother died. Landgren also says that according to Jane’s memoirs, she only went to school for two weeks, which may be an indication she had to quit because of family trouble.

William eventually found his way to Petersburg, Virginia, where he married Martha Ann Barnes (c1810—) on December 27, 1825. A marriage announcement in the Petersburg Intelligencer says that Rev. M. Thrift performed the ceremony. Their marriage bond, dated November 25, was filed in Peterburg and witnessed by Henry Shroyer. That bond is the earliest known record of the name “Fleshhood.”
In 1834 William signed a petition drafted by the citizens of Petersburg “Against restoring the Public Deposites, and also against rechartering the Bank of the United States.” The petition was written in support of President Andrew Jackson who was facing an impeachment drive led by Henry Clay over his efforts to bring down the Second Bank of the United States, a forerunner to the Federal Reserve. The controversy dominated Jackson’s presidency and became known as the “Bank War.” Many historians believe that Jackson’s policies contributed significantly to the ensuing panic of 1837 and to the five-year economic depression that followed.

Nothing else is known about William’s time in Petersburg and no additional information has been uncovered about Martha. There is no official record showing that William and Martha had children, but there are some tantalizing clues which suggest they did. On April 7, 1838 a William Fleshhood, age 9, was buried in the Shockoe Hill Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. Cemetery records at the Virginia State Library note that he was “accidentally shot.” Shockoe Hill is also the final resting place for U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, Governor William H. Cabell, Richmond Mayor William Foushee, and Edgar Allan Poe’s foster parents. The city of Richmond established the cemetery in 1822 and today it is on the National Register of Historic Places. But who is this child William Fleshhood? The simplest explanation, given the circumstantial evidence of dates, geography, and the utter uniqueness of his surname, is that he was a child of William and Martha, but no conclusive evidence has yet been found.

 The second indication that William and Martha may have had children comes from the 1850 U.S. Census. Living in Petersburg in what appears to be a children’s home of some type is 17 year-old Susan Fleshwood (c1833—). On August 9, 1855, she married John Shanks of Henrico. Their daughter Robena (1861—) married George C. Ruskell on December 3, 1888 in Manchester, Virginia. Robena gave birth to George, Jr. in 1893 and he married Madeline C. (—). George, Jr. died on April 10, 1955 in Paris, Kentucky.  No other descendants of Susan and John have been discovered, but if there are any, perhaps they can shed light on Susan’s origins.

Martha Barnes Fleshhood’s death record has not been uncovered, but circumstances suggest she was dead by the time William came south from Petersburg to Brunswick County, Virginia in the 1840s. On June 19, 1841, William appeared in Brunswick County court to secure a loan from Humber and Company, a coach maker. The partners in the company were Oliver P. Humber of Petersburg and Stephen D. Watkins. The court document states that a previous loan from Humber to William in the amount of $56.13 had come due. In addition, William still owed $12 on a previous note from Humber in the amount of $57.02. It appears that William secured an extension on the remaining debt by collateralizing his “interest in and to the real and personal estate of the landed estates now held by his grandmother, Susanna Wysong in the County of Scott in the State of Virginia and his interest in the estate of Wysong who was his grandfather and his interest in any claim that may be coming to him arising from said estates or that may be due him in the hands of Fayette McMullin of said County of Scott.” Fayette McMullin was William’s first cousin and another grandson of Feidt Wysong. He served in the Virginia legislature and was an important political figure in southwest Virginia. Fayette must have had some responsibility for managing Susanna’s property or estate.

This court document recording the Humber loan is the only official document establishing William’s descent from Feidt Wysong and Elizabeth Wysong. Neither Fedit’s will nor other court documents in Knoxville mention a William Fleshart, only a Joseph Fleshart. Fleshood researchers now believe that William and Joseph are the same person—our William Joseph Fleshhood.

On May 13, 1847, William married Harriet Isabelle Buckley (1831—17 July 1861) who was born in Brunswick County. Harriett’s parents were John Wesley Buckley and Frances Kirkland who were married in Brunswick County on May 20, 1820. The witnesses to William and Harriett’s marriage bond were William T. Harrison and her brother J. H. Buckley. The marriage ceremony was performed by A. T. Berger, Rector of St. Andrews Episcopal Church.

Family oral history says that William was known around the town of Lawrenceville as “Jack.” He made his living as a tinner and wagonmaker. By 1849 William held the office of “Steward and Tiler” in the Free Masons at Lodge No. 52 of Lawrenceville, Virginia. He is mentioned in an 1849 edition of their magazine (p. 351) and Masonic records show he was a member until at least 1858.

William and Harriet had four children: Francis Fayette (17 August 1849—10 April 1916), no doubt named after Feidt Wysong; Lydonia (June 1851—16 September 1861) who died in her youth from a “bowel complaint”; Ferdinand Flournoy (16 February 1855—20 May 1937); and Harriet Isabell (12 November 1857—6 March 1924). Harriet Buckley died of congestive fever on July 17, 1861 at the age of 30.

Widowed for the second time, and with three young children at home, William enlisted in the Confederate Army in Petersburg on April 1, 1862, at age 64, as a substitute for Henry A. Pearson. At that time it was commonplace for a conscript to pay someone to take their place, and in this case Henry agreed to furnish money and goods sufficient to maintain and educate William’s children. For William to enlist at such an advanced age was unusual at this point in the war, and it suggests that he was poor and was trying to find a way to provide for his children. William left the children in the care of Harriet’s brother James Buckley and his wife Martha and they raised the children in their home.

William served in Stonewall Jackson’s army as part of an independent artillery unit led by Captain James Read Branch. The company was known as the Branch Filed Artillery and was sometimes called the “Petersburg Artillery.” William entered the war when Union General George McClellan was gearing up for his Peninsula Campaign in which he planned to move his army along the Potomac River and then turn West toward Richmond. The Branch Field Artillery was part of the Confederate response and was assigned to Major General Theophilus H. Holmes’s Department of North Carolina.

On Monday, June 30, 1862, the Branch Artillery had its first engagement at Malvern Hill. According to Wikipedia, “The Battle of Malvern Hill, also known as the Battle of Poindexter's Farm, took place on July 1, 1862, in Henrico County, Virginia, was the sixth and last of the Seven Days Battles (Peninsula Campaign) of the American Civil War. Gen. Robert E. Lee launched a series of disjointed assaults on the nearly impregnable Union position on Malvern Hill. The Confederates suffered more than 5,300 casualties without gaining an inch of ground.”  Branch’s battery accounted for 2 of the men wounded. 

On July 15, Col. James Deshler, Chief of Artillery for the Department of North Carolina, reported that of the 137 men in the battery, 95 were effective. The battery had 6 six guns—two 6-pounders, two 12-pound howitzers, and two 3-inch rifles. In Deshler’s opinion the battery had good efficiency, but could use additional training.

Regimental historian Jeffrey C. Weaver describes the next action for the Branch Artillery which took place on July 31, 1862. “Brigadier General William N. Pendleton, chief of artillery for the Army of Northern Virginia, reported on operations against Federal shipping from Coggins Point on the James River on the night of July 31. Captain Branch was absent, and the battery was led by Lieutenant Pegram. Pendleton noted that 41 of 43 guns along for the operation were used, but was not more specific. The Branch Artillery sustained no loss in the action. The unit returned to Petersburg, and was there on August 9. By the end of August the battery was located on the Rapidan River. The officers and clerks completed muster rolls at that time and the men were paid.” Records in the National Archives confirm that William Fleshhood received pay on August 31.

“The Branch artillery was assigned to Robert Ransome’s Brigade [Gen. John G. Walker’s division] sometime in the month of August or early September and served with that organization during the Maryland Campaign of 1862,” says Weaver.  That campaign brought Branch and his men to the Battle of Harper’s Ferry, which Wikipedia says, “was fought September 12–15, 1862, as part of the Maryland Campaign of the American Civil War. As Gen. Robert E. Lee's Confederate army invaded Maryland, a portion of his army under Maj. Gen. Thomas J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson surrounded, bombarded, and captured the Union garrison at Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), a major victory at relatively minor cost.” Captain Branch reported one man wounded at this battle.

Weaver’s narrative then continues:

Walker’s division marched to Sheperdstown, arriving about dawn on September 16. His men crossed the Potomac and Walker reported to General Lee at Sharpsburg, Maryland, before noon.

Early the next day, heavy fighting broke out. Walker’s division was posted early in the morning about a mile and a half below the town of Sharpsburg at a ford in Antietam Creek, near what became known as Burnside Bridge. About 9 a. m., the division was ordered to hurry to the extreme left of the line, in support of Stonewall Jackson’s Corps fighting near the Dunker Church. Walker’s men reached their positions about 10 a. m. For eight hours they fought in this general area, moving forward then being pushed back, as neither side was able to obtain a decisive advantage. The battle was a technical draw, but the General Lee’s Southerners had expended resources that they could not easily replace.

At some point during the fighting at Sharpsburg, Stonewall Jackson was making the rounds of the units in his area. The Branch Artillery was in the rear of D. H. Hill’s command. Jackson asked why they were not participating in the fight. The response came back “no orders and no supports.” This got Jackson a bit angry, and he responded: “Go in at once. You artillery men are too much afraid of losing your guns.” Captain Branch noted, however, on his October muster roll that the battery was “engaged . . . during the whole day with six guns.”

Walker’s only comment about his artillery in his report was that Branch’s Battery “did good service.”

                The Battle of Sharpsburg (or Antietam as the Northerners called it) was the first major battle of the war on Northern soil and the single bloodiest day of the Civil War. There were 23,000 casualties including a wounded William Fleshhood. William’s military record at the National Archives state he died of pneumonia at a hospital in Winchester, Virginia. Jerry Weaver says he was likely mortally wounded in action at Sharpsburg. Winchester is only 30 miles from Sharpsburg and during the Maryland Campaign it was the place of choice for the Confederacy to take its wounded.

                William lay wounded and sick in Winchester for about a month before he died on October 15, 1862. He was buried in a Confederate cemetery in Winchester, but was reinterred about 1866 in the Stonewall Cemetery at the Mount Hebron complex in Winchester. The cemetery contains the remains of 2,575 Confederate soldiers. William is buried in the section reserved for the sons of Virginia.

                William’s death must have brought many tears to the three orphans he left behind in Brunswick County. On January 26, 1863, the court assigned John T. Griffin to be the guardian of the three Fleshhood children, Frank, Ferdy, and Belle. Griffin was a Captain in the war and in 1862 he was appointed as one of several commissioners in the county to report information about indigent families of Confederate soldiers to local authorities. On February 3 of that same year, Robert M. Mallory, Jr., an attorney from Brunswick, made application to the C.S.A. for $67 due William for military pay which was awarded to the children. The county court liquidated William’s estate and generated $527 in proceeds, —not a great sum even in those days.

                On December 13, 1871 in Brunswick County, William's orphan son Francis Fayette Fleshood married Lucretia Elizabeth “Betty” Gibbs (28 August 1853—1938). They had a very large family with the following children: William Joseph (17 September 1872—February 1873);  Carrie Belle (18 November 1873—25 February 1955) who married William Stuart Abernathy on January 23, 1894 in Brunswick; Harriett Rebecca (5 October 1875—22 April 1958) who married John Isaac Sitterson on December 18, 1901; Ida Rawlings (22 September 1877—20 April 1879) who died of diphtheria; Lona Weldon (1 November 1879—11 November 1954) who married William Mahone Pearson in 1899 (William's grand uncle was Henry A. Pearson mentioned above); unnamed child (born and died 8 June 1880); Ferdinand Leigh “Lee” (23 January 1882—1 March 1928) who married Mary Willie Parrish in Brunswick on January 7, 1903 and who operated a dairy farm there on a road that is now named “Fleshood Lane”; Minerva "Minnie" Frances (14 September 1883—) who married John William Harrison on November 25, 1903 in Pleasant Hill, North Carolina; Charles Ashby “Buddy” (April 1886—23 June 1909) who was found dead on a railroad track in Petersburg, Virginia under mysterious circumstances; Lellia B. (8 June 1888—12 December 1918) who married Carlis Ford Hyatt on March 24, 1906 in Pelham, North Carolina; Grayson Lucas (10 February 1891—after 1930) who married Lottie Virginia Gunn on January 5, 1916 in Brunswick; Bessie G. (February 1893—12 November 1893); Harley Stewart (27 September 1894—25 October 1964) who married Jessie Irene Smith on December 5, 1917; Otis Arnold (20 February 1897—January 1971) who married Josephine Jenkins Roberts in Rockingham County, North Carolina in 1919; and William Francis Ferdinand who died in infancy.

                Ferdinand Flournoy Fleshood married Margaret Lee “Maggie” Johnson on December 20, 1882 and you can read more about them here. Ferdie was elected to the county office of “Overseer of the Poor” for the Sturgeon Magisterial District for at least 3 years. According to the Library of Virginia, “In 1780 the Virginia General Assembly replaced the Anglican vestries and churchwardens of the colonial period with elected bodies called Overseers of the Poor. The Overseers provided food, clothing, shelter, and medical treatment for the persons who were too poor to support themselves or too ill to provide for their basic needs. They also bound out children whose parents could not support them or who failed to educate or instruct them, as well as orphans to become apprentices. The boys learned a trade and the girls learned domestic skills. “

Ferdie and Margaret had 10 children: Margaret Rose “Meg” (14 September 1883—1930) who married Charles Rousseau Ellington; Bertha Buckley “Buck” (10 May 1885—28 June 1971) who married first Richard T. Shanks in 1905 and later married Lindsey Roberts;  Mary Lila (15 March 1887—28 July 1963) who on May 1, 1904 married Richard Thomas Kirkland in Pleasant Hill, North Carolina; William Lear “Willie” (14 February 1889—18 August 1965) who was married four times (Hallie Virginia Woody, Florence Enyeart, Nellie Angeline Burton, and Frances A. Bourg) and was the progenitor of the Fleshoods who live in Wabash, Indiana to this day; Florence B. “Lilly” (16 February 1891—18 November 1978) who married Raddie Francis Ellis on December 20, 1911 in Brunswick; Jane Heartwell (3 July 1894—20 September 1972) who married Charles Hubert Abernathy in Dolphin, Virginia on February 19, 1913; Vernon Edward “Uncle Bunny” (18 November 1896—October 1974) who first married Minnie Grey Abernathy on August 13, 1918 in Warrenton, North Carolina, and later married Katie Elizabeth Marks in 1923; Ferdinand Flournoy, Jr. (16 April 1900—4 May 1965) who married Mildred Spencer and was in the military for 30 years; Harry Tucker (30 June 1902—10 January 1967) who married Nitta Lane Clarke on August 20, 1929 in Brunswick; and Dorothy (27 July 1905—2000) who married Phillip Thaddeus Jones on Christmas Day, 1926 in Petersburg.

Harriet Isabell Fleshood married James Lucas Tucker (10 September 1861—14 July 1951) in Petersburg, Virginia on December 21, 1884. They had five children: William James “Willie” (May 1886—); Robert McIlwaine (12 April 1888—5 October 1933) who married Hattie Jordan Perkins about 1913; Mary Blanche (July 1890—);  Sadie Bell (June 1894—) who married Charles S. Hudson on December 3, 1913 in Richmond;  and Kathleen Fontaine (28 August 1901—5 March 1994) who married Wade McCargo.

When Alyne Newman Fleshood died in Brunswick County on December 5, 2008, for the first time in nearly 170 years there were no longer any Brunswick residents bearing the name Fleshood . She was the widow and second wife of Edward Lee Fleshood and died of pancreatic cancer at her home on Fleshood Lane. In addition to the Fleshood Lane street sign, two other visible reminders of the long history of the Fleshoods remain in Brunswick. One is a sign hanging over the softball field at Brunswick Academy that reads “Fleshood Field.” It was designated so in honor of Edward Lee Fleshood in 1994. The other is a stained glass window in the sanctuary at Liberty Church in Dolphin “In loving memory of Charles Hubert and Jane Fleshood Abernathy.”
by Eric S. Fleshood
June 3, 2011

The author wishes to acknowledge the research done by others which was foundational to this article. Susie Jones Abernathy (1930-2007), Rachel Abernathy Pearson, Donna Crockett Mowery, Robin McMullen Landgren, and Dr. William M. Pritchett have made outstanding contributions to what we know about Fleshood history.

William Fleshhood's signature as seen in the Brunswick County, Virginia Courthouse.

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Figure 1. Map showing the location of the home of Francis Fleshart and Elizabeth Wysong in Knoxville, Tenessee where William Fleshhood grew up. Francis operated a silver shop out of his home here.

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 Shockhoe Hill Cemetery in downtown Richmond, Virginia contains the remains of William Fleshhood, age 9, who was killed in a gun accident in 1838. His relationship to the Fleshood family has not been conclusively determined.
The grave site of William Fleshhood (1829-1838) at Shockoe Hill Cemetery, Richmond, Va. William's grave is in the extreme left of the photo, just below center. There is no marker. The only two markers in this plot appear to be for (l) "D. Johnson": and (r) "Garland H. Mitchell". William is buried in the same grave with a Jacob Poh and Ida Hight. Courtesy Friends of Shockhoe Hill Cemetery. 
The headstone for the grave of William Fleshhood at Stonewall Cemetery in Winchester, Vriginia. The inscription reads, "J. Heshford." This is not the original headstone, but one that was erected several decades after the war when the original markers were missing or very difficult to read. In 2009 the Turner Ashby chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy, using information provided by the author, determined that this is the grave of William. A few weeks after this photo was taken, the Daughters had the correct name inscribed on the opposite side. Every June 6th, the Daughters host a memorial celebration at the cemetery in honor of the Virginia Confederate dead. William's grave is among those decorated each year.
Fleshood Field at Brunswick Academy in Lawrenceville, Virginia. The field was named in honor of Edward Lee Fleshood in 1994.
This stained glass window was erected "In loving memory of Charles Hubert Abernathy and Jane Fleshood Abernathy" in the sanctuary of Liberty Church in Dolphin, Virginia. Fleshood descendants have attended this church for generations.
The street sign for Fleshood Lane in Brunswick County, Virginia. Iron Bridge Road winds into the distance. Many Fleshood descendants lived on this road and some still do today.