40 - Herbert Clinton Haston, Grandson of Montgomery G. Haston

Herbert Clinton Haston

The 1880 census record for D.L. (David Levander) and Virginia Riddles Haston

A three-year-old boy, by the name of Herbert C. Hemphill, appears “In family” on the 1880 census record of David L. and Virginia Haston.  For decades, many people in the Daniel Haston family have wondered about this boy.  Who were his parents? How did he end up in the David L. Haston household sometime shortly prior to 1880?  

“Clint” as he was generally known, was reared by D.L. and Virginia.  He took on the “Haston” family name during his childhood.  Clint’s adult life is well documented in public records and by memories passed down through his family.  As it has turned out, the identity of his birth parents was also clearly documented, but in a source that remained hidden until August 2021.

Here’s what we now know….

The Birth Father of Clint Haston

In April of 2021, Max Haston (great-grandson of Clint Haston) submitted DNA to FamilyTreeDNA for a Y-DNA test (test to identify male ancestral lineage).  Results from the test clearly connected him with a Hemphill family.  But initial searches for a Hemphill person living in White County or Van Buren County, Tennessee in the 1870s were futile.  Fortunately, there was an active Hemphill family group in FamilyTreeDNA and members of that group were eager to know how Max was connected to them.  Brian Hemphill, with whom Max’s DNA most closely matched, reported that his ancestor Samuel Corydon Hemphill moved from Michigan to Bledsoe County, Tennessee in the early 1870s.  And there were stories in this Hemphill family of Samuel having illegitimate children.  As it turned out, Samuel C. Hemphill lived at Bradden Knob in the western edge of Bledsoe County, less than a mile east of the Van Buren County line (at or near the location of the fire tower that is now inside the Fall Creek Falls State Park).  And Van Buren County was where David Levander and Virginia Riddles Haston lived.  Bingo!  Now there was a clue to work with. 

Hemphill Cemetery - Near Fall Creek Falls Firetower
Samuel Corydon Hemphill Grave Marker

That key clue unlocked a lot of information about Samuel C. Hemphill.  He was born in Ohio, but lived in Michigan prior to moving to Bledsoe County, Tennessee.  He fought for the Union in the Civil War and was wounded seriously enough at the Battle of Franklin to receive a discharge and a later pension.  His first wife died in Michigan and he remarried shortly before moving to Tennessee.  Children were being born to his second wife during the same period that Herbert Clinton Hemphill was born.  And, even though he lived in the edge of Bledsoe County, he owned land in Van Buren County and had connections with Van Buren County people.

The Birth Mother of Clint Haston

DNA, by itself, cannot determine a connection to a specific ancestor–it can only connect to a general family and an approximate time period.  So, two important questions remained to be answered: 

  1. Which Hemphill man was the father of Herbert Clinton Hemphill?  Was it Samuel C. Hemphill, one of his adult sons–who apparently didn’t live in Tennessee–or another, yet unknown, Hemphill man?
  2. Who was the mother of Herbert Clinton Hemphill?  Was she a relative of David L. and Virginia Haston?  A neighbor and friend of theirs?  Or, just an unconnected unwed mother who needed a family to care for her unplanned baby?  Did she die in childbirth or simply wasn’t in a position to keep the baby?

Fortunately, the answer to both of those big questions was located in an obscure Van Buren County court record.  In those days, births of illegitimate children were required to be reported to the county court and assurance had to be given that the child would not become the responsibility of the county.  That process was discussed in a previous article, “The Mystery of the Mother of Montgomery Greenville Haston.”

Van Buren County Court records for the 1870s have not (as of 2021) been transcribed.  So I placed an order at the Tennessee State Library and Archives in Nashville, TN to have the microfilm containing those court records to be digitized.  Then, once I received them, I began going through them, one page at a time until I discovered the following March 1878 records:

Note: The mother should have reported this birth more than a year earlier, according to the state law.

The Bond to Bind S.C. Hemphill to Be Responsible for the Child

The Legal Adoption of Herbert Clinton Myers-Hemphill

What happened to Samuel Corydon Hemphill's legal responsibility to rear Clinton, as his own legally-born child? Although I have found no court document that approved the change of guardianship, apparently Hemphill convinced D.L. and Virginia Haston to assume that responsibility--perhaps even paid them to do so. It seems that D.L. and Virginia were not able to have children born to them, so they probably welcomed the opportunity to have a son in their family.

Who Was Josie (Josephine) Myers?

The obvious next question was who was this Josie Myers?  There were several branches of a Myers (or Myres or Meyers) family that lived near D.L. and Virginia Haston.  But Emily Josephine (Josie) Myers was the daughter of Lansden E. and Jane Easton Hill Myers.  According to her grave marker, she was born in 1856, which (slightly) contradicts some census records. 

Here’s some more of we know about Josie:

Myres was a common early spelling of what became "Myers"
Moyers was a previous spelling of Myers. She was known by "Josie" in her adult years.

The Myers Cemetery, supposedly founded by Lansden E. Myers, is located about 3 1/2 miles east of where D.L. and Virginia Haston lived.  There is evidence to suggest that Lansden E. Myers (father of Josie) and his family may have lived at or near where the cemetery is located.  If so, they would have only lived a few (but widely separated) houses up the mountain from D.L. and Virginia Haston.

Josie first married James Madison Steakley in Van Buren County on December 30, 1877, about 15 1/2 months after Clinton Myers/Hemphill was born.  When Herbert Clinton Hemphill was living in the D.L. Haston household in 1880, Josie was age 22, the wife of M. Steakley, with a son (William S.) age 9 months.  James M. Steakley died July 27, 1887.

Josie Myers Steakley married John William Francisco on March 16, 1889, in Van Buren County.  They were living in Bell County, TX before February 1892.  Josie and John had three children, in addition to the two (or three) Steakley children born to Josie and James M. Steakley.  

John and Josie were buried in the Oplin Cemetery in Callahan, Texas.

But There is Much More to Clint Haston's Story

The addition of Clint Haston to the Daniel Haston family created a Haston branch, off of the Daniel Haston > David Haston > Montgomery Greenville Haston line that has represented the Haston name proudly and nobly.

More about this in a later article.

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