Thursday, November 3, 2011

Robert Frances Stringer

Taking a step farther back from Thomas Henry Stringer (in the last blog here) I reach his father, my great-great grandfather, Robert Frances Stringer (b. 9 Aug 1828, Burke County, Georgia; d. 2 Jan 1910, Bullloch County, Georgia).  Robert, or "RF" as he is usually referred to in the historical record, is the last member of this branch of my family tree about whom I know anything.  I don't know anything about his ancestors because I don't know who his parents were. Indeed, I don't know much about his early life at all.  I got his birth date and place of birth from his own statement on his confederate Pension Application dated 7 July 1905. 
Excerpt from the Pension file of R.F. Stringer, Bulloch County, Georgia (Confederate Pension Applications, Georgia Confederate Pension Office, RG 58-1-1, Georgia Archives;,463262)

The next two sources I've located are the 1840 and 1850 censuses, which seem to be consistent with the Pension Application. There is an "M. W. Stringer" listed in the 1840 census in Burke County, Georgia. The 1840 census only lists the name of the head of household, which includes the following "free whites": 1 male aged 5 to 9, 1 male 10 to 14, 1 male 40 to 49, 1 female 15 to 19, and 1 female 40 to 49, with no slaves. Then there is the 1850 census, in Militia District 66 of Burke County, with a Robert F Stringer (age 21 and a carpenter) & William Stringer (18, also a carpenter) living in the household of Benjamin D Hill. The 1850 census doesn't list relationships of the household members, so there is no indication of whether the Stringer boys were employees or boarders.  I don't know for sure that this is "my" Robert F Stringer, but I haven't found any others with that name who are in that age-group, so it seems a reasonable assumption.  Whether or not MW Stringer was indeed Robert's father, this is my current "wall" on this branch of the family.

About 1852, Robert married Martha (or Margaret) Elizabeth Sheppard, probably in Burke County, Georgia. The 1870 Census names her "Margaret E Stringer"; her son Thomas' death certificate and the family Bible I've shown before gives her maiden name as "Martha Elizabeth Sheppard". I calculated the year by the 1900 census where the "Number of Years Married" for Robert is 48. The location is presumed because they were living in Burke County in 1850. Unfortunately there are no court records in Burke County prior to 1856 because of two devastating court house fires. I have also checked the available marriage records in the surrounding counties, though with no luck so far.
Census images courtesy of (subscription required)
According to the 1860 census the family had moved to Militia District 35 in Screven County, near Ogeechee, Georgia, and consisted of R F Stringer (31, still a carpenter) & M E Stringer (24) with their children Horace L (5), Tulia C (3) & Mary E (1).  He had no real or personal property, so was probably hired labor living in rented quarters.  I haven't got all of the details yet, but by 1870 the family had moved at least once for the 1870 census showed them living in the Brier Patch district (Militia District 47) of Bulloch County, Georgia, where R F Stringer is a "House Carpenter" (aged 41), and his household consists of himself and his wife Margaret E Stringer (35) and children Tulia C (13), Alexander H (8), William E (4) & Thomas H (1).  The 1870 census indicates a value of personal property of $150, but no real estate, so it is likely that he rented his residence.

Map of Bulloch County Militia
Districts copyright by
Paul K. Graham
I’ve spoken of Georgia Militia Districts many times before.  The Militia Districts are political, legal and military organizational structures, apparently unique to Georgia, which date from the Colonial era and survive to this day.  There is a very good overview of the history and organization of the Militia Districts at the Georgia Archives website by lawyer Alex M. Hitz (  Because the Inferior or Ordinary Courts laid out the boundaries of the Districts and were responsible for them throughout much of their history, there is no master list or map showing where the districts were historically.  There is a map from 1950 which shows the counties and the Militia Districts, copies of which are available for a few dollars at the Georgia Archives in Morrow.  I don’t know if they do mail order.  For the eastern counties of the state, there is a wonderful book I’ve mentioned before, Atlas of East and Coastal Georgia Watercourses and Militia Districts by Paul K. Graham, a Certified GenealogistSM whose website is  Clicking the link from the book’s title will take you to the page, or you can go through Paul’s site to order the book.  I don’t make anything either way.  I really do think it’s a valuable resource.  One of the nice things about the Atlas is that he provides many of the historical names of the numbered Militia Districts; not all by any means, as the Hitz article noted above makes clear that the districts in earlier days were named after whoever was the Captain of the Militia, a post which was elective and could change frequently.  The page here is for Bulloch County, and shows how detailed his book is.  There are indexes in back for Militia Districts (by name and by number) and for the waterways.

Pension Record
from Georgia's
Virtual Vault
Between 1860 and 1870, of course, there was a rather large war, that "recent unpleasantness" as it was often referred to by the newspapers of the time. According to the Confederate Service Records and several databases of American Civil War Soldiers, along with Robert's Confederate Pension Application, RF Stringer enlisted at Savannah, Georgia, as a 2nd Sergeant in Company D of the Georgia 22nd Siege Heavy Artillery Battalion; he was promoted to 1st Sergeant on 11 Aug 1862.  He served until the end of the war, but was not with his unit when it surrendered at Greensboro, North Carolina, on 26 April 1865.  Quoting from his Pension Application, he was "at home in Bulloch Co., Ga. Left command in March 1865, cause - sickness. Was left by the roadside so sick that I could not keep up."  This story is supported by the statement of witness James A Fulcher, an acquaintance since about 1857, that they "left him exhausted & sick by the roadside."  Robert's statement also implies that the family had moved to Bulloch County by 1865.  Since he says he was at home in Bulloch County, it's likely they moved there before he enlisted, which gives a narrow margin of mid-1860 to mid-1862 for when they moved from Screven County.

It's interesting to note that the documents commonly referred to as "Confederate Pension Applications" were officially known as "Indigent Pension" or "Indigent Soldier's Pension" applications, but the wording of the laws and the questions make very clear the purpose was to provide support to soldiers who fought for the Confederacy and were thus ineligible for the pensions offered to members of the United States military.

Robert & Margaret/Martha had six children that I have found record of.
  • Horace L (b. 1855) and …
  • Mary E (b. 1859) may have died before 1870 because they are both in the 1860 census but not in the 1870 census and I can find no further record of them. 
  • Tullia (or Tullie) C Stringer (1857-1901) married Thomas H Hendrix and had 11 children, 9 of whom were still living in 1900.  She is buried in the Hendrix Cemetery in Bulloch County. 
  • Alexander H Stringer was born in 1862 and married Georgiann Smith in 1886 and had at least 7 children, according to the probable census record of 1900, which showed them living in Dooly County, where he was a railroad engineer.  I haven’t traced them after that. 
  • William E Stringer (1866-1912) was a farmer.  He married Nettie Hall in 1903 and had at least two children before his death at age 45. 
  • Thomas Henry Stringer (1869-1933) was my great grandfather and has been discussed earlier in this blog (click here).  
Property tax record images courtesy of (subscription required)
Sometime around 1872 to 1875 Robert’s first wife died and he married Sarah Hendrix.  (According to the 1900 census Sarah had been married for 28 years.  According to a statement by Robert’s sons WE [William E.] & TH [Thomas H.] Stringer dated 6 January 1910 they were married “about 1875”.)  As with Robert’s first marriage, there doesn’t appear to be a surviving marriage license.  I haven’t located Robert or Sarah in the 1880 census.  I am reasonably certain they were still in Bulloch County.  There is a Property Tax Roll for Bulloch County from 1890 which lists “R.F. Stringer” living in Blitch, in the Lockhart district (Militia District 46) in northeastern Bulloch County.  He owns no real estate, just some “mechanical tools” and other personal property worth about $42.  He is also, however, the agent for his wife, who owns 180 acres worth about $270 plus some household goods and livestock worth $74.  He paid no poll tax.

In addition, I came across a mention of an "R.F. Stringer" who was President of the Echo sub-alliance of the Southern Farmer's Alliance (  I haven’t yet personally verified this, but it’s already on my To Do List.    Roger Warren Allen, the author of the forum post, is a Bulloch County historian, professional genealogist and author, so I'm hopeful that I will be able to make this connection to my great-great grandfather.  Mr. Allen is writing a book on the Georgia Farmer's Alliance in Bulloch County and I look forward to reading it.

Pension Record from Georgia's Virtual Vault
Robert and Sarah finally show up together on the 1900 census living in Militia District 46, Bulloch County, Georgia.  Robert (71, and a farmer)  & Sarah J Stringer (50) and their son James G (10) also live with 5 boarders (Randal, Hariet S, Fannie M &George D Rigdon, and Ada Mixon).  RF Stringer has been busy.  He still manages to bring in a little money doing carpentry work, and he has been for many years a Justice of the Peace (there are several recorded deeds and other legal documents where he is the witness or swearing officer, and he performed the marriage of his son William E “Willie” Stringer to Nettie Hall in 1903.  Yet in 1905 he applied for the Indigent Soldier’s Pension, claiming “Age & infirmity & poverty.”  The Pension file may be incomplete, but there are additional filings for 1906 and 1907.  

Robert & Sarah had three children that I have found record of.
  • Rebecca "Beckie" Stringer (1877-1955) who married John Calvin Finch Jr. and had five children.
  • Harriet Lucretia "Hattie" Stringer (1880-1963); the assumption I have at this time is that she is the "Hariet S Rigdon" boarding with Robert and Sarah in 1900 and that she married Randal Rigdon and they had at least six children together, and that she was widowed by 1930.
  • James Gordon Stringer (1889-1971) who maybe married Anna about 1910.  I don't have any other definite information on him.
The final page of the Pension file is the affidavit mentioned above, dated 6 January 1910, sworn to by WE & TH Stringer, stating:
Personally appeared before me W. E. Stringer and T. H. Stringer who on oath say that their father R. F. Stringer, who was on the Indigent Pension roll in said county, died on Jany 2nd 1910, leaving surviving him a dependent widow Mrs Sarah J. Stringer, That she was married to him about thirty five years ago and has lived with him continuously ever since as his wife up to his death, That W. E. Stringer remembers seeing them married in Bulloch County, Ga.
There are no marked graves for Robert Stringer or either of his wives that we have been able to discover.  There is a bit of family information that RF Stringer, being a carpenter, did work on a church in the area.  The Union United Methodist Church north of Statesboro celebrated their 200th anniversary in 1990.  Fred W. Brogdon wrote a brief history of the church for the Bulloch County Historical Society (Bulloch County Historical Society, PO Box 42, Statesboro, Georgia 30458) that is still used as a typewritten handout for visitors to the historic building.  In it he states: 
The present Church building was constructed in 1884 during the ministry of T. J. Nease. Much of the material for the structure was furnished by two brothers, Jim and Tim Davis, who operated a lumber mill in the area. One of the carpenters was Robert W. stringer who crafted the beautiful hand-carved circular altar rail still used in the Church.
Is this the face of Robert F. Stringer,
my 2nd great grandfather?
(image courtesy of the Bulloch County
Historical Society)
The middle initial is wrong, but I haven't been able to locate a "Robert W. Stringer" anywhere around at a time and date that were relevant.  Since I can't locate my own ancestor at many points around that time, that makes the lack of evidence less suspicious, though.  To Do Item: check with the church for historical membership records or rolls to see if there was more than one Robert Stringer at the time.  Still, it is possible that through multiple transcriptions the initial was changed.  Several years ago my dad and some of his siblings visited the Union Church with my cousin Michelle Winter Buhler, who filmed it.  I have the DVD.  They were told that a grave site that has a low crumbling brick wall around it (about 3 bricks high) contains multiple unmarked graves, including Robert Stringer, one or possibly both of his wives, and an unknown hobo who died on the church grounds in the 1930s.  I haven't confirmed any of this, but it makes a nice story and a fitting conclusion to a life well-lived.
Interior of the Union United Methodist Church (Union Meeting House) - photo courtesy of Michelle Winter Buhler

OK, I know I said a few weeks ago that I was going to try to write shorter posts more frequently, but it's so hard to stop sometimes!  I start looking up sources again to verify what I'm posting and sometimes one thing leads to another and before you know it I'm looking up the grandchildren of some great granduncle who is a sibling to a direct ancestor.  It's loads of fun, but it doesn't get the blog posts done.   I will try harder to get back to twice a week posts, but I hope you'll understand the delays and that the results are worth the wait.

That’s about it for now.

Later y'all,

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