One never knows from where a connection or a bit of insight might spring. In this case, my recent series of articles on the Scott brothers gave me a bit of insight into my brick wall case of William Graham, Jesse and Sarah Graham’s oldest son. Recall from the first Wither William article that he was born circa 1865 in Alabama, most likely Calhoun County.
Do you remember what else was happening in 1865 in Alabama? Yes, the Civil War was ending. Recall from Broken Unions, Part Two that Private William Thomas Scott died from typhoid fever in 1862 at a Confederate hospital in Virginia.
So, the gears in my mind started to turn. William Thomas Scott’s sister Sarah Scott married Jesse Graham and then they name their firstborn son William Graham. How likely do you think it is Sarah named her son after the brother she lost in the war three years earlier? Sounds pretty plausible, right?
And then a little bell went off in my mind. In 2013 and in 2016, I corresponded with Harold Graham, a descendant of Jesse Graham’s brother Noah Randolph Graham. Harold had been researching the Graham family at least since the 1970s, long before the internet, and he was able to visit and interview some of our ancestors that still held memories of these long ago people, places and events. Harold sent me a digital copy of some of his research, and in it he had listed the children of Sarah Scott. Recall from one of my earliest articles here, 2010’s Jesse & Sarah Graham, that Sarah was the mother of eight children, but I had identified only four. Harold had two more names than I did: a son named Tommie Graham and a daughter named Sarah Jane Graham.
What if Sarah’s firstborn son William Graham was named after his late uncle, William Thomas Scott? What if Tommie Graham, from Harold’s research, was actually the same person as William Graham? William Thomas Graham.
This wouldn’t be the only William Thomas Graham. What if that name had been carried on again in honor of another fallen sibling?
Jesse and Sarah had another son, John Henry Graham (likely named for Sarah’s other brother that survived the war, John Henry Scott). In 1894, John had a son that he named William Thomas Graham. Could this William be named in honor of John’s brother?
Recall again that Sarah’s son William only appeared on the 1880 census and that the 1900 census suggested that he’d died by then. His death occurred sometime in the twenty year span between 1880 and 1900. What if we could narrow that down further?
Back to John’s son William. He wasn’t John’s firstborn son. He was John’s second son and third child overall. When you’re named in honor of someone, though, that’s due to some recent event, some recent tragedy. What if John Henry Graham had marked the recent passing of his brother William by naming his next son in William’s honor? That would put brother William’s death sometime around 1892-1893.
I know this sounds confusing, so let me try to make it especially clear. I’m suggesting the following:
- William Thomas Scott, hereafter referred to as William I for the sake of clarity, died from typhoid fever during the Civil War.
- William I’s sister, Sarah Scott, named her firstborn son William Thomas Graham in honor of William I. He was William II.
- William II died circa 1892-1893, prompting John Henry Graham to name his next son William Thomas Graham in honor of William II. This was William III.
This is all speculation, of course. I have no records to support any of this. It’s just the thinnest threads being connected in my mind, but it does fit the known facts and sounds plausible.
If true, though, the combination of the names William and Thomas seem to be cursed in this family! Every one of them died young! William I was 28, William II was at most 35, and William III was 26.
William III’s youngest brother was my grandpa, Daniel Graham. It’s been said he named my dad in honor of William III. At least grandpa changed the middle name and broke the William Thomas curse! Dad is William Carroll Graham, and he’ll be 84 this year!