Oh my Darling, Oh my Darling Oh my Darling Clementine
You were lost and gone forever,
Dreadful sorry Clementine…
In the church yard in the canyon
Where the myrtle doth entwine
There grows roses and other posies
Fertilized by Clementine
How I missed her, how I missed her,
How I missed and forgot my Clementine… (Percy Montrose 1884)
The Saga of Georgia On Mind: Milledgeville’s Borgus & Lewis Family continues.
Well it has been a moment but you were not lost or forgotten as I continued the search, A Descendant’s Journey… to find the missing and forgotten links in my family chain. If you will recall in my last post from 2014, I had discussed my paternal grandfather Orian Ulysses Lewis, the son of Corrine Borgus Lewis and John “Tom” Lewis. My granddad and his mother Corrine were not much on talking about the past. During my hiatus from this blog I have made some astounding discoveries.
It seems that Corrine Borgus (daughter of Jennie Borgus- Abrams Winkfield and ? Isaac Abrams) was not the only ancestor who had a missing link connection based on the loss or forgotten family surname. (See earlier blog- January 6, February 8, 2014: Winking and Fielding My Borgus and Abrams Connections. Family Family Everywhere.) Corrine’s husband John “Tom” Lewis also had a gap in the oral narrative that I was privy to receive from my paternal grandmother Fleta Arnold, who married into the Lewis family.
Grandma Fleta grew up in Milledgeville and was a neighbor to the Lewis family. She knew her husband’s (Orian Ulysses Lewis’) family tree and she shared what she knew with me her eldest grandchild (daughter of her first born – her son Richard). My grandfather’s father, John “Tom” Lewis was raised by his stepmother Lou Lewis. Lou Lewis (maiden name unknown) was the second wife of Augustus “Gus” Lewis according to my grandma Fleta. Grandma Fleta knew Lou Lewis because Lou Lewis was the midwife who birthed the babies of Fleta’s mother (Rosetta Reeves Arnold) and many of the women in Milledgeville/Eatonton, Georgia.
The biological mother of John “Tom” Lewis died early in life and her young children were raised by the stepmother Lou Lewis and their father “Gus” Lewis. Grandma Fleta did not know the name of the long deceased biological mother of her father-in-law John “Tom” Lewis. Over the course of time the name became “loss and gone forever” with the death of the young matriarch.
I was not to be able to know and call the name of my paternal grandfather’s – biological paternal grandmother. My grandparents and great-grandparents were a vital part of my existence. I had been blessed to live with all four grands and three great grands well into my adulthood and even into my more mature years. As well I had early life contact with two great grandfathers. I always knew the name and narratives about the one great-grandmother, who passed away before I was born. My paternal grandmother Fleta made a point of sharing the legacy of her mother (Rosetta “Etta”).
The idea of my granddad and our family not knowing the name of his biological grandmother seemed sad to me. It was with great joy when I located an 1880 census on Ancestry.com in the fall of 2006. It gave the demographics of Augustus “Gus” Lewis and his wife “Della” and their young children. Unfortunately, at that time the familial surname – maiden name of “Della” was lost and forgotten.
Over the years as I continued to gather data and researched the Lewis line (which I will blog about at another time), I continued to hope that one day I would fine the family name of “Della”. I hoped to locate what had become a long lost and forgotten link on my family chain. I never gave up hope. The fact that I had her first name after many years of anonymity re-assured me that one day when the ancestor was ready I would be gifted with the discovery.
September 13, 2014 a major breaththrough occurred. I received a hint for the marriage documents (Dec. 22, 1870 Baldwin County) for Augustus “Gus” Lewis and his first wife “Adela Clements”! I was so overjoyed and excited finally oh finally, I could call the name of my 2X great grandmother “Adela Clements Lewis” the 1st wife of “Gus” and the biological mother of my great grandfather John “Tom” Lewis and grandmother of my granddad Orian Ulysses Lewis.
I wasted no time in adding “Adela “Della” Clements Lewis into my tree. This was September 13, 2014. What happened next was absolutely amazing! My Ancestry.com account began to have numerous shaking green leaves appear. As I opened the hint, a massive Clements Line appeared. It was multi-generational and massive. There were so many names on the tree going back to the 1840’s.
I contacted the manager of one of the tree hints. I sent her (cousin Carmen) an email with my phone number. I provided her with my lineage as a 2x great granddaughter of Adela Clements. I provided her with Della’s married name Lewis and the name of Della’s husband Augustus “Gus” Lewis. She responded immediately with a request for me to call her shortly after midday.
The next day which was a Sunday a little before noon I called her. Her response upon hearing me on the phone was “Where the hell have you been?” It was revealed that the Clement Line had lost touch with the circumstance of their family member “Della” after her marriage and early death. Her marriage name had not found its way into the family tree. There was a ? after her name. She had not been forgotten but her married name had been lost from the Clement Line. Because of her early death, the marital name had gone to the grave in some old church yard. Along with this, her descendants were lost to the Clement Line as well.
Cousin Carmen who was a Clement descendent spoke with me for several hours. The vetting process was our comparing research notes and documents. I worked backward from my grandfather Orian Ulysses Lewis and his dad John “Tom” Lewis to the biological mother ‘Della”. I provided the marriage certificate that documented the names of Augustus “Gus” Lewis bonded in marriage to Adela “Della” Clements in the State of Georgia, Baldwin County, December 22, 1870. As well a census that documented them in a household with their children, one of whom was my great grandfather John “Tom” Lewis was provided. Cousin Carmen then put in a conference call to another Cousin Dora who continued the vetting process. After many hours of us both checking and double checking we confirmed that we were indeed family.
One particular nuance in the vetting process, was the revelation that my great grandfather John “Tom” Lewis was carrying the name of his mother’s brother “JT.” Wow Adela had named her son after her brother. Adela Clements Lewis had named her son John Tom Lewis after her brother John Tom Clements. My great grandfather was named after his uncle. Even though she had been forgotten by her Lewis line and lost by her Clement line – she had left a fruitful seed to bloom into the future. After years- decades of searching for her by name I had come into the fruitful season of the Clements Line.
Now if that was not mind blowing enough, Carmen told me to check my email. Once I had the document in front of me, Cousin Carmen and Cousin Dora began to explain what it was. It was a copy of a page from an old journal. It was handwritten and it contained some names and years next to the names. It was also marked with a historical tag Georgia State Archives. The page was from a birth ledger kept by a slave plantation planter and owner JF Cunningham. The page listed the name of an enslaved Black woman Martha and the number of children she had given birth to on the plantation. The babies were listed by name and the years of their birth. The years ranged from 1848 to about 1854.
Cousin Carmen also sent an 1870 census that contained Martha in a household with her husband David Clements and their children. These were the same children named and listed in the enslaved birth ledger of the JF Cunningham Plantation. Among these names was Martha’s son “Hilliard Clements” who was the father of Adela “Della” Clements.
Carmen and Dora both supplied me with the oral narrative and the documentation of Hilliard and his wife Christine “Tina” and all of their children. Particularly of great satisfaction was for them to add Lewis to Della Clements and her husband Augustus “Gus” Lewis and their children and descendants to the Clements Line .
Adela Clements Lewis was no longer lost and forgotten.
Part II of the upcoming post will include the documents, census and that ledger page from birthing journal.