Researched and written by Descendant Vickie Beard Thompson in 2011 and updated with new info in 2014
The origins of my Doss family are not known for certain at this time, I and others have been able to trace them back to the mid 1600’s still in Virginia and so far we have not been able to get them across the pond as the saying goes. I believe that the Doss surname is of English origin, but some seem to think it might be German instead. There is still more work that needs to be done before we can determine their exact country of origin with any certainty. For those of you reading this there are people with the Doss surname in England and Germany, today, as well as back in the 1600’s. So as you can see I still need to do more work to figure out where ours came from. Most of my direct line Doss family seemed to have owned a little land and some slaves for the first few generations here in America, but our direct line by 1804 or so was not as well off.
My first known Doss ancestor was John Doss who was born about 1655 in Virginia, married on 26 January 1680 in Christ Church, Middlesex County, Virginia to Ann Taylor and died 17 September 1687 in Middlesex County, Virginia. John and Ann had only three children that I am aware of before his untimely death, twins William and Ellener born in 1681 and Thomas born in 1687 just a few months before his father’s death. My line comes through their son, Thomas who had at least two sons named James and Thomas Jr. I have yet to find nor as anyone else what Thomas’ wife’s name was at this time. The following is a county map of Virginia with the names of the counties in that state, so just look for the counties I have mentioned in this post.
My next blood line is James Doss born in about 1715 in Middlesex County, Virginia son of Thomas Doss and an unknown mother. James Doss married Frances Nix in about 1741 in Virginia and they had at least seven children before Frances died in about 1777. James died in May of 1796 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. The children of James and Frances were: James Jr, Thomas, Delilah, John, Mary, Ambrose and Rachel. I come through James Doss, Jr. who was born in about 1742 in Amelia County, Virginia son of James and Frances, who married Elizabeth Lester in about 1771 and who died in about 1812 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. James Doss, Jr. and Elizabeth Lester had at least five known children, namely: Elizabeth, Phillip Valorius, Lavina, Mary Ann and William. These families mentioned so far, all had a little land and some slaves, but our line kept heading west looking for more land and eventually ended up with one heck of a lot of nothing.
I now come to Phillip Valorius Doss son of James and Elizabeth who is my next ancestor coming this way. Phillip was born in about 1775 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia and got married in about 1804 to Rhoda Elizabeth Thurman and was dead before 14 June 1814, leaving Rhoda with at least seven young children. These children were named: Joel Burgess, James, an unknown daughter, Phillip Valorius, Jr., Labon Thurman, Samuel and Anna. Now here is where the story starts to get interesting. According to court records in Pittsylvania County, Virginia in August 1804, Phillip is arrested for stealing a hog. This would have been around the same time he was getting married, so things probably weren't real good with the in-laws. J Phillip is paying taxes in Pittsylvania County from 1799 to 1810, but only for a couple of animals, a horse and cow and not for any land, so he was probably share cropping for someone or just working odd jobs. He must have been pretty hungry to have stolen a hog, which was a pretty bad offense back in the day and could lead to your death. You just didn't mess with other people's livestock.
Around 1811, Phillip with his wife and their first four children, left Virginia for Kentucky settling in and around the counties of Adair, Cumberland and Wayne. What happen to Phillip is unknown at this time, but according to court records in Wayne County dated 14 June 1814, Rhoda was the widow of Phillip Doss who was deceased. The county courts in these three counties at different times, took Rhoda’s children, the boys not the girls, from her and bound them out to someone to learn a trade. Rhoda had the boys sneak away from their masters when they could and then she and the children would apparently hide out and barely survive until the courts found them again. Back in those days’ people did not think women could take care of themselves, well off their children, so they would take them away and the children would be bound out to learn a trade until they reached the age of 18 to 21 years.
How they thought this woman with two little girls, would be able to fend for herself and grow a crop and everything else that would have been entailed during this time without the help of her sons is beyond me. Even her oldest child was only 9 or so when his father died and the others even younger but the courts would not let her keep them and so in the middle of the night she would sneak to the farms or businesses where her children were and off they would go again. From everything I have been able to find Rhoda never remarried and was living with her son Samuel in Christian County, Kentucky in 1850 and sometime after that she moved, apparently with some of her children to Missouri where she is suppose to have died. Others say she left Missouri and went to live with one of her grandsons, Charles Henry Doss in Illinois and died there. Either way I cannot find her after 1850, so I am still not sure what really happen to her.
Joel Burgess Doss is my next ancestor and the son of Phillip and Rhoda. Joel was born on 18 October 1804 in Pittsylvania County, Virginia and at the age of 10, according to the court records was ‘apprenticed or bound out to learn the trade and the art and mystery of cotton spinning and wool carding’, which occupation he followed the rest of his life. On 8 December 1825 Joel married Mildred Hurt in Adair County, Kentucky and they became the parents of at least eleven children, namely: James Phillip, Sarah Ann, an unknown daughter, John Burgess, Charles Henry, Joel Burgess, Jr. William A., Nancy Susan, Elizabeth Mildred, George Samuel and Emily Frances. Joel and Mildred moved around quite a bit before they eventually settled in Webster County, Kentucky sometime before 1860, living in the town of Clay. Joel and Mildred were both still alive in 1875, but sometime after that and before the summer of 1880 they both had died and are buried at the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Clay in unmarked graves. This information was told to me by Mama Jessie, my grandmother. I know as a child she took us to the graveyard and showed us the spots, which if I remember correctly were very close to her parents who are also buried at this cemetery. Joel and Mildred’s son Charles Henry became a doctor and lived in Illinois where he died in 1914 and three of his sons also became doctors as well. The rest of Joel and Mildred’s children pretty much followed farming.
Back in June of 2006, I was able to go and meet with Helen Withers Griffith in Lexington, Kentucky. She was also a descendant of Joel and Mildred through their daughter Nancy Susan Doss. Helen gave me copies of some pictures she had of this family. I had never seen them before and neither had my Dad. I will include them here so that everyone can see what this side of the family looked like. I have listed their names under their picture.
Mildred Hurt Doss born ca. 1808 - died after 1875 and before 1880
Nancy Susan Doss Wicks born ca. 1842 died ca. 1885
I believe Mildred and Nancy’s picture were probably taken in the mid 1870’s, Mildred died after 1875 and before 1880 and Nancy Susan died in 1885. Since Mildred and her daughter look like they are setting in the same chair in these two pictures, I am assuming the picture was probably taken at the same time. The picture of Emily and her daughter Janice was probably taken around the late 1870’s. Emily’s daughter Janice was born in 1871 and she looks like she is about 7 or 8 years old so this picture was probably taken in about 1878 and I am thinking probably after her husband American Wesley Wicks was killed in January of 1878.
Emily Frances Doss Wicks 1850-1928 and her daughter Ada Janice Wicks 1871-1946
Nancy and Emily married half-brothers, Nancy married James William Wicks and Emily married American Wesley Wicks. Emily is the one Mama Jessie always talked about who she called Aunt Em. Aunt Em as the story goes was a witch and fortune teller and lived way out in the woods and Mama Jessie said she just loved her. Aunt Em’s husband American Wesley Wicks was killed when he fell off a roof he was shingling. They had only been married for 8 years and had four little children and Aunt Em never remarried. Helen Withers Griffith said her Aunt Ruth use to say that Aunt Em embarrassed them when she came to town because her dress would be dragging on the ground and be covered in dirt and mud. Mama Jessie said people would pay Aunt Em to cast spells or fix up a tonic to help with different ailments.
On to my next ancestor in line Joel and Mildred’s tenth child who was my great-grandfather, George Samuel Doss, the father of Mama Jessie, my grandmother. George was born on 28 January 1848 in Logan County, Kentucky and he also worked in the woolen mills for awhile before going full time to farming. George met and married Nancy Lougena Woosley on 8 December 1878 in Christian County, Kentucky and they became the parents of eight children of whom the youngest was my very own Mama Jessie. I received a copy of the wedding picture of George and Nancy which I had never seen before from, Pamela Uknavage Russell, a granddaughter of Aunt Verlie, one of Mama Jessie’s sisters, that picture follows.
The eight children of George and Nancy were: Lena Alice, Lillie Mildred, Fred Raymond, George McKinsie, Lloyd Robert, Verla Leona, Anna Luretha and Jessie Holeman. Mama Jessie’s middle name of Holeman came about because that was the name of the doctor who delivered her according to Mama Jessie herself. Mama Jessie’s oldest son, William Teague, said that his Grandpa, George Doss’ nickname was Kookie. He had gotten this nickname from Tarzan's son on an old radio show. Another thing I was told is that all the girls first names really ended in ‘ie’ Lenie, Lillie, Verlie, Annie and Jessie, but I have found them on a number of records with the spellings, I have listed first, but I know I always called my great-aunts, Lenie, Lillie, Verlie and Annie as did most everyone else. However, some family members of these different ladies say their names were legally Lena, Lillie, Verla & Anna.
The surviving Doss siblings, from left to right: Verlie, Annie, Lloyd, Lenie and Jessie. This picture would have had to have been taken after 1952 when their brother Fred died and before 1960 when Lenie died. I remember Aunt Lenie just barely as I was only a little over 2 years old when she passed. I remember Uncle Lloyd and Aunt Annie really well and Aunt Verlie not as much since she lived over in Illinois and we were in Kentucky.
All of these children lived to adulthood and married except for George who was killed in a mining accident in Mine #4 of the O'Gara Coal Company in Saline County, Illinois. He was only 27 years old and had never been married. According to newspaper accounts the mine started to cave in and the men started running to get out, some of them made it but a number of them were killed. Just as George and his brother-in-law Will Smith, nickname Smokey Bill, were almost to the mouth of the mine when a big slap of slate fell from the roof of the mine and crushed George. His brother-in-law Will Smith, husband of Verlie, somehow raised that big old piece of slate off of George and dragged him out from under it. Will had somehow been missed by the falling debris. George lived for about 3 or 4 days after and before George died some of his friends came over and sang "In the Sweet By and By". George sang some with them and everyone wondered how he did it. He called in all the family to talk to them before he died and the last one he called in was his sister Jessie who he always called Judy. He told her to not be sad and to always try and be good girl and a few minutes later he died. Mama Jessie never got over the death of her beloved brother George and she talked about him all the time. I remember so many times the stories Mama Jessie would tell about him and the pranks he would pull on his siblings and even his parents. This is the only picture I know of that exists of Mama Jessie’s brother George, it was taken in about 1910.
George McKinsie Doss 1887-1915
Another sibling of Mama Jessie’s that must have been an interesting character was her sister Lillie. According to my uncle, William Teague, oldest child of Mama Jessie, Aunt Lillie was in a honky-tonk and was shot and lost her arm and he said he was maybe 9 or 10 years old when it happened. Uncle William could not remember which arm it was though. Another of my uncles, George Beard, Mama Jessie’s third son, said when he was about 8 years old, Aunt Lillie came to visit and being a little kid he ask her how did you lose your arm and she told him a jealous lover shot it off. He said he never forgot her telling him that. I also remember Mama Jessie saying that her sister had lost an arm, but I never heard how it happened but I tend to think Uncle William probably would have known how it happened since he was 18 years old when she died in 1937. The shooting that took Aunt Lillie’s arm would have happened sometime I believe after 1920 and before her death in 1937. In 1930 Aunt Lillie and her son Lenard Dale Worsham were living in Pontiac, Michigan so I thinking maybe the shooting took place there. Aunt Lillie’s husband Leonard Worsham was also killed in a mining accident on 11 Sep 1919 at the O’Gara Mining Company in Saline County, Illinois the same mines that her brother George was killed in 1915.
As of 3 April 2013 I have a copy of a letter which was written on 12 February 1931 in which it states that Lillie is in the hospital, because she was shot in the arm with a 30.30 rifle while at her home by a jealous lover and it had to be removed. Aunt Annie, younger sister to Lillie, is writing this letter to my grandma, her sister Jessie, and it says that Lillie had left her house (Annie’s) on Sunday morning in Toledo, Ohio and this had happen on Sunday evening around 6:30 after Lillie got back to her house in Pontiac, Michigan. Aunt Annie goes on to say that they had to take about 10 inches off from her shoulder down. That would make the date 8 Feb 1931 when she was shot and lost her arm. That would have made Uncle William almost 12 years old and Uncle George almost 3 years old when Aunt Lillie was shot. Aunt Annie also tells Mama Jessie to please let their sister Verlie know, but make sure and not tell their Momma, because it would just kill her to hear something like this. Here are some pictures of Aunt Lillie, she was a very pretty woman.
George and Nancy Doss lived in Clay, Kentucky for most of their married life and they died in 1925 and 1931 respectively. They are both buried at the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Clay. The obituary for Nancy, reads as follows: From the Twice a Week Providence Enterprise Newspaper in Webster County, Kentucky. Aged Clay Woman Dies There Friday 6 March 1931, Mrs. Jeany DOSS, 75, died at 10 o'clock Friday night in Clay. Senility is thought to have caused her death. Five brothers, two sisters and several children survive her. Funeral services were held at the General Baptist Church Sunday with the Rev. Nealey Pearcy in charge. Interment was in Odd Fellows Cemetery.
The picture of Nancy and George on their wedding day in 1878 shows that they were a very handsome couple, but the years took their toll on them. Following is what they looked like years later. Life must have been very hard on the both of them.
My next ancestor was my grandmother, Jessie Holeman Doss who was born 5 March 1899 in Clay, Webster County, Kentucky the daughter of George Samuel Doss and Nancy Lougena Woosley and she was the eighth and youngest child of her parents. She was spoiled rotten by her brothers and sometimes even by her sisters. When Mama Jessie (as almost all of her grandkids called her) was three years old her family moved to Charleston, Missouri. They lived in a tent while her Daddy was cutting timber and snakes were all over the place, she recounted this story many times to my Dad and myself. She didn't go to school until she was about 7 or 8 years old because her Mom wouldn't let her, this school was in Clay, Kentucky. She hated school didn't like it at all. The last school she went to was at Wheatcroft, Kentucky and she only went to 5th grade then quit and never went back. Her nickname was Judy, which her brother George bestowed on her. From Charleston, Missouri they moved back to Kentucky then over to Illinois in about 1908 and lived in Marion, Illinois then moved over to Harrisburg, Illinois and lived there for a while then moved back to Kentucky. Mama Jessie was very superstitious. Some of her things were: whatever door you come in that’s the door you leave out of, and don't put a baby in front of a mirror before they are a year old or they'll die before they were 21 years old. The following picture was taken in 1918 before her first marriage.
Mama Jessie was married five times, first to William Ernest Teague in 1919; next to Burke Atwood Ward in 1921 for about two weeks when she found out he was already married. I don't know if the marriage was annulled or if there was a divorce. Mama Jessie was living in Kansas City, Missouri when she found out he was a bigamist. This info was given to me by my aunt, Helen Beard Loftis, Mama Jessie’s oldest daughter. Third marriage was to Benjamin Franklin Walls in 1923, fourth to my grandpa, Aubrey David Beard in 1925, then her fifth and final marriage to Veldo Thomas Corley in 1943, who we all called Pa and loved dearly. I wish Mama Jessie was here to tell me the story of her life and I wish I had written down all the stories she use to tell. About all I can do is try and remember some of the things she told me and I have been told over the years by her children and other family members.
This picture of Mama Jessie was taken in about 1920. I have always loved this flapper look in a barnyard of all places. Always trying to look like she had more then she really did.
Mama Jessie always insisted she was born in 1900, but the 1900 census indicates she was born 5 March 1899. I guess she just felt that being born in the 1800's made her seem too old, one of the reasons we called her Mama Jessie was because she did not think she was old enough to have grandchildren and never wanted to be called grandma. J Apparently she did tell the truth to the Social Security because they have her listed as being born in 1899, but she had her tombstone made before she died and had 1900 put on it.
Not sure when this picture was taken of Mama Jessie but I would think 1920's or early 1930's.
Mama Jessie was the mother of 10 children and 50 grandchildren. Those children were: Charles William Teague 1919-2008, Harold Crawford Walls 1924-1997, Dorothy Helen Beard 1926-2009, George Anderson Beard, Audrey Dale Beard 1930-2014, Donald Ray Beard 1932-2004, Jackie Loy Beard 1934-2004, Violet Joy Beard, 1934-2016, Duell Franklin Beard (my Daddy) 1935-2009 and Bobby David Corley.