The Arnold family during the Civil War – Part 1

My 4g grandfather, John A. Arnold was born in rural Hawkins County, Tennessee to Doctor (his name, not profession) and Nancy Susannah (Mullins) Arnold around 1826.   John’s parents were not wealthy.   His father was a farmer and did not own his own land.  Like most rural farming families the Arnolds owned no slaves.  It took the whole family to work the farm and keep food on the table.  John never attended school and never learned to read or write.

Doctor and Nancy had ten children:  William (b.1825),  John (my 4g grandfather), Emanuel (b. 1828), Frances “Franky” (b.1830), Wright (b.1833), James (b. 1835), Baker (b. 1837), Martha Jane (b. 1839), Calvin (b.1840) and Nathan (b.1844).

Tennessee seceded from the Union in June of 1861, the last state to join the Confederacy.  This late decision shows how torn Tennessee citizens were over the important decision they had to make.  East Tennessee was very pro-Union but there were communities who were loyal to the Confederacy.   To say tension ran high in East Tennessee during the Civil War is an understatement!

Doctor was 66 years old when the war started.  Eventually he and almost all his sons would enlist to fight for the Confederacy.  Why would a family who had never owned slaves fight for the Confederacy?  Like most rural farmers in Hawkins County slavery was not the issue that concerned them.  They fought against the idea of a strong, centralized government.  Many rural farmers felt that they were overly taxed and were sick of it.  They felt that Lincoln was a tyrant and only looked out for northern interests.   Many Southern farmers fought for the Confederacy simply to preserve their way of life.

Doctor joined a local defense troop nicknamed the “Beech Creek Jerkers”.  The name came from the troop’s reputation of having “jerked a few necks”.  They were also known to go after to Confederate deserters and “jerk” them back!  He also sold corn to the Confederacy on a regular basis.

Doctor’s oldest son William enlisted with the Confederate States Army in the 29th Tennessee Infantry, Company K.  It is believed that he he died in the Battle of Chickamauga in 1863.  (It is on my list to order his widow’s pension application for more details).

Things were already complicated for my 4g grandfather John when war broke out.  He was the father of five children ranging in age from 11 to 1 and had recently lost his wife. At the beginning of the war he stayed close to home and was paid by the Confederacy to ferry horses and wagons across the Holston River.   According to the 1890 Veteran’s Census he enlisted in 1864 and fought until the end of the war.  He remarried in 1868 and went to to have NINE more children!

Emanuel Arnold left his family for Kentucky in the 1850’s.   He is the only Arnold who fought for the Union.

I’ll continue on with the other sons in the next post.



Are we cousins?

Here’s some names from my tree.  Don’t hesitate to contact me if you think we may share an ancestor.

Arnold (Hawkins County, TN and Virginia before that)
Richards (Hawkins County, TN and Maryland)
Comstock (MO, TN, KY, RI)
Hall (Mo, NC)
Carroll (TN, VA)
Crawford (TN, VA)
Rodgers (IL, PA, DE)

Youells (PA and NJ)
Yunc/Junc (PA and Slovenia)
Britton (PA and NJ)
Rozina (Pa and Slovenia)

The Murder of Elizabeth Rozina – Part 2


NOTE: This is a continuation of my 2g aunt’s story.  Make sure you part 1 first.

Joseph Skraba called the family into a small room upstairs and told the children to kiss their mother goodbye.  The did as they were told and left the room.  Joseph Skraba pulled Elizabeth tight, pointed the pistol at her head and pulled the trigger.  The children standing in complete horror downstairs heard four shots.  Joe Jr. immediately ran to the neighbors house to call the police.   A short time later the children stood on the front lawn as the body of their stepmother was removed and then their father.   Joseph Skraba had attempted to kill himself but failed and was very badly injured.

Elizabeth was buried two days later.  She left a will and a small inheritance for her siblings.

Joseph Skraba was going to be charged with murder until the authorities saw that he never was going to recover from shooting himself in the head.   He couldn’t speak and was partially paralyzed.   On 28 Jan 1930 he was declared insane and spent the rest of his life in the Lima State Hospital for the Criminal Insane.  On his death certificate it says post-traumatic personality disorders and traumatic psychosis.

Elizabeth didn’t have children of her own so I feel like it’s up to me to keep her story alive.  I think the words of her stepchildren show what kind of woman she was and that should be her legacy – not the way she died.

In the newspaper interview Angeline said, “I’m sorry for Mother – she was good to all of us, wasn’t she, Joe?”

“Yes, Ma was good to all of us.”

“And Papa won’t come back any more to scare us or hurt mama?”

Tony answered, “No, I guess not.  It’s all over now.  You needn’t worry about anything.”

The Murder of Elizabeth Rozina- Part 1

I imagine in April of 1921 when Elizabeth Rozina boarded the ship headed to America she was excited and frightened at the same time.   She and her younger sister were leaving war-torn Yugoslavia (current day Slovenia) for a new life in Pennsylvania. Their brother and two of their sisters were already there as well as two men they had yet to meet – their future husbands!  Apparently it was common during this time for marriages to be arranged for passage and entry into the United States.   The trip from Trieste, Italy to Ellis Island New York took about 3 weeks.  It probably seemed longer than that to the sisters since their accommodations were in steerage!

Elizabeth was married in Pennsylvania and eventually she and her husband moved to Ohio.  I’m not sure how long they lived there before Mr. Petrick died leaving Elizabeth a widow.

On April 7, 1929 Elizabeth remarried.  Her new husband was a widower named Joseph Skraba and he also was from Slovenia.  Elizabeth (who was 35) had no children of her own so I imagine she was very happy to become a stepmother to Joseph’s five children.  Within months the children came to love Elizabeth and called her “Mother”.  In return she loved them as they were her own.   Elizabeth made friends and enjoyed going to the movies and visiting her neighbors.

It is unknown when Elizabeth’s happiness turned to fear but by November 1929, seven months into the marriage, things changed.   Joseph started to suspect Elizabeth of infidelity.  He would leave his job at the rubber plant during the day to see if Elizabeth was at home.  He would question her about what she had been doing and whom she had been with.  He would even interrogate the children to see if anyone had been in the house.  Their answer would be the garbage man or the coal collector, nothing out of the ordinary, but Joseph refused to believe them and called them liars.  He would beat Elizabeth in front of them and there was nothing they could do.

By the third week of November Joseph didn’t trust Elizabeth to be home alone without supervision.  He forced Joe Jr. (14) and Angeline (10) to stay home from school to keep an eye on Elizabeth.   He would leave work to come home to check on things during the day.    Later when asked by reporters what this time was like for the family Tony (13) said, “Dad was just plain ugly all week.”

On Thursday November 21 some time before noon Joseph Skraba came home from work. He wondered aimlessly through the house for awhile before he called the family to a small bedroom upstairs.  He instructed Elizabeth to kiss the children goodbye.  She thought he was joking but did as she was told.  He then told the children to go downstairs and they had just reached the lower level when the first shot rang out.

Locked up tight…like in a vault!

Younger members of my family always talk about how the older generations sure knew how to keep secrets.  When we learn something new through research we always comment to each other, “wow, that was definitely locked away in the vault and not talked about!”  Many of the family secrets have come out of the vault due to diligent research and DNA such as the identity of my biological grandfather, children we never knew existed because they died young, scandals and MURDER.   Yes, murder!

Were secrets kept because life was hard and painful enough without talking about hurts from the past?   Was it a sign of weakness to talk about lost children or murdered sisters?  I’m curious.

Have you found any secrets your family members thought were taken to the grave?


Who the heck was Lizzie’s mom? (part 3)

I may be wrong but I believe Lizzie Crawford Richards had a pretty rough life.  I’m sure she had happy times but for the most part life was hard.   She is a complete mystery even to the older members of my family.   This tells me that Lizzie didn’t talk about her childhood so there were no stories or information to pass down.  In her later life she was only in contact with her sister Rachel.


1900 – lived with Sarah Murell as a servant in Sullivan County
1903 – married James Morgan Richards in Hawkins County
1904 – daughter Rebecca born
1907 – son Clarence born
1910 – daughter Stella born
1914 – son Willie born
1916 – Willie died of whooping cough
1918 – delivered stillborn baby boy
1919 – delivered stillborn baby girl
1921 – son JC born and died a few hours later
1923 – daughter Nannie born
1930  census – only Nannie remained at home with James and Lizzie.   This is the last record that can be found of Lizzie Crawford Richards.

1936 – Lizzie died of tuberculosis.  Daughter Nannie died a few days later.

The only reason I know that Lizzie and Nannie died of TB is because my great uncle remembers attending the funeral.  No death certificates for Lizzie or Nannie can be found.

James Richards remarried in January of 1937.

The question remains… who was her mother?  It depends on when she was born.  If she was born after 1885 her mother was probably Mary Hickman (Hickam).  If it was prior to that she could be daughter of Rebecca Hickman but that depends on when the divorce took place (and if there really was a divorce).  DNA has not been helpful with this mystery.  Hickman is a common name and most people with Hawkins County roots are related to me through other families.  It’s one big spaghetti bowl of DNA!

Helpful documents would be Lizzie’s death certificate and divorce proof with date for Samuel and Rebecca Hickman Crawford.

If you have any ideas or suggestions please leave a comment.  Let me know if you think the fact that Lizzie named her daughter Rebecca has any significance.   I’d love to finally add the name of Lizzie’s mother to my tree after years of searching so any help is appreciated!

Who the heck was Lizzie’s mom? (part 2)

Lizzie1 - Page 1-2

Yesterday I left off around 1900 in Hawkins County.  Samuel Crawford was living with his future wife, Rosa McAnally and her children.   Lizzie Crawford was living with an elderly lady as a servant in Sullivan County. She didn’t attend school and couldn’t read nor write.  This fact is consistent with other census records taken during her lifetime.

1900 Lizzie

Almost all the records I have show something different for Lizzie’s year of birth.   If this one is closer to the truth I’d think Rebecca Hickman was her mother.   So where was Rebecca?  Why was Lizzie living with the old lady and another abandoned (or possibly orphaned) child?  I wish I could hop in my time machine and go back to 1900 to find out!

Lizzie married my 2g grandfather, James Morgan Richards, on Valentine’s Day in 1903.  By 1910 they were living on a farm that James owned in Hawkins County.  They had two children at this point in time; my great grandmother REBECCA and her brother Clarence. Is my great grandmother’s name a clue?  I’ve been told no by many fellow family historians but I can’t help but think it is.  I also have an aunt named Rebecca so it’s a name that has been kept alive in the family.

Interesting tidbit on the 1910 census… Buck McAnally, Lizzie’s stepbrother, lived next door to the Richards family on land that James Richards owned.  This was one of the pieces of circumstantial evidence used to prove that Samuel Crawford was Lizzie’s father.

Lizzie’s Various Birthdates

1900 Census – 1882
1910 Census – 1887
1920 Census – 1885
1930 Census – 1880;  but she also supplied the marriage year and the age she was when she got married.  Using this information her birth year would have been 1888.

Lizzie didn’t live long enough to see the 1940 census.

Tennessee started requiring death certificates around 1912.  I’m sure you are wondering why I haven’t used her death certificate for some much needed information.   It cannot be found and I’m not sure why.