William Allen McCarter and Ellen E. Winn
of Wilson County, Kansas

William McCarter was born on April 24, 1842 at Elk Creek, Grayson County, Virginia – the fifth of Thurza and Philander's ten children. While the lives of his siblings have been fairly well researched, William remained somewhat of a mystery primarily because, until 2011, the family had been unable to locate any of his living descendants. While searching for descendants this is the research we gathered on William and his family.

William worked on his parent's farm on Elk Creek until March 20, 1862, when he enlisted in Company F, 4th Virginia, also known as the "Grayson Dare Devils." His Civil War enlistment records describe him as 5 '6" with hazel eyes, dark hair, and a sallow complexion. He was wounded at Kearneysville on September 16, 1862 and promoted to a full Corporal on May 15, 1863. He was captured at Spotsylvania on May 12, 1864 and imprisoned in Elmira, New York until June 19, 1865. He left Virginia sometime after the war.

In 1870, at age 28, he appeared in the census of Clifton Twp, Wilson County, Kansas which had a population of 918. He was listed as a farmer with $580 in personal property, but no land. He was married to 18-year-old Ellen E. Winn who was born April 24, 1852 in Missouri. They had no children yet, but living in their household was 19-year-old female, Ballard Hale, who was listed as a black domestic servant.

Living next to William was "F. McCarter," a farmer with $320 in personal property, who was also born in Virginia. This was probably William's brother H. F. "Frank" McCarter who was said to have spent some time in Kansas after the Civil War.

William and H.F. McCarter had likely come to Wilson County in '69 or '70 during the illegal land grab on the Osage Reserve. The Osage and Sioux had done their best to run off squatters in the '50s and '60s, but were completely overwhelmed by the number of settlers who arrived in 1870. At this time, much of Kansas was still the "wild west" complete with horse thieves, gunslingers, and general lawlessness. With the influx of settlers, towns were literally springing up overnight.

One month after the 1870 census, Clifton Twp. was divided in half, and William became a resident of newly established Colfax Twp. That year the township was taken by storm by homesteaders, with 30 arriving in a single day in the month of May.

William and Ellen remained in Colfax Twp. for many years. The 1880 census lists them with their first three children George, Beauford, and Nettie.

William and Ellen's
Born in Colfax Twp. Wilson Co., Kansas Married Died
George L. McCarter Sep 1872 Jessie M. Morse
28 Dec 1898
San Francisco, California
Mar 1924
Beauford Centinel McCarter Jun 1876 Never married Orange Co., California
Feb 1948
Nettie A. McCarter Sep 1879 Judson McCoy
22 Dec 1897
San Bernadino Co., California
Jan 1961
Cora B. McCarter Jun 1882 Hezekiah Row
28 Jul 1902
Nebraska or Kansas
between 1914-20
James "Will" McCarter Oct 1885 Never married Orange Co., California
May 1915
Lula Winn McCarter Mar 1888 Edward H. Billings Klamath Co., Oregon
Aug 1963

Ellen died February 9, 1896, at the age of 43, and was buried in the Village Creek Cemetery in Wilson County.

In 1897 William applied for his daughter Nettie's marriage license. On December 22 she was married to Judson McCoy who was also a resident of Ridge in Colfax Twp.

On March 15, 1900, foreclosure proceedings were initiated on William's two farms in Wilson County, but he had already left the state according to the Chanute Daily Tribune. This is confirmed by the 1900 federal census which lists him as a widower in the household of his brother Levi Hickman McCarter in Sugar Grove, Virginia.

It appears that William had returned to Virginia to try to claim his 1/10th share of his mother's dower. He brought a law suit against the new owner of the land in 1901 which proved unsuccessful.

Meanwhile in Colfax Twp, the 1900 census lists Beauford as the head of household, with the three youngest children, Cora (17), Will (14) and Lula (12). The other children, Nettie and George, were living just to the north in Perry Twp., Woodson County.

Nettie and Jud McCoy had a one-year-old son, Alvin "Cecil." George had married Jessie M. Morse and they had a newborn son, not yet named. In the census, the children listed William's birth place variously as Georgia, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, which is odd considering that William was back home in Virginia at the time.

At some point in 1900, William returned and deeded the foreclosed properties to Beauford and George. The boys retained attorneys and, as of February 1901, were still on the farms. Their case was to be heard on the 25th, but apparently the attorneys were working on a compromise and it wasn't called before the judge. A reporter for the Chanute Daily Tribune described the scene.

"The attorneys got together this afternoon and the case was not called up, but will be adjusted in some way. Quite a number of Wilson county farmers were in as witnesses, and the lobby of the Oriental hotel where the case was to have been called, looked like it does on a political convention day for awhile."

It seems unlikely that the boys prevailed as they were no longer in Wilson County by the 1910 census.

In 1902 Cora married Hezekiah Row and they had a son, James Orville, born 1909 in Chanute, Kansas, and a daughter, Wilda, born 1912 in Malcolm, Nebraska.

Many years later, in a letter to her cousin, Nettie wrote that "we left Kansas in 1901 and went to Rocky Ford, Colorado." The move must have also included her father and brother, Will, who appear in the 1910 census for Rocky Ford, Otero County, Colorado.

Many Kansans migrated to Otero County after three large canals brought farming to the desert region in 1890. In 1895 Rocky Ford was said to have two good hotels, many mercantile houses and small manufactories, one weekly newspaper, extensive lumber yards, a bank, a post office, two churches, an excellent public school, and a good water system. The county quickly became one of the largest fruit-growing regions in the state and is still well known for its watermelons.

In the 1910 census George was listed as a widower and inmate of the Hospital for the Insane in Medical Lake, Spokane, Washington, possibly because of alcoholism. It appears that George was not widowed, but divorced. Jessie appears in the 1910 census of Chanute, Kansas as the wife of August Appletrad who she had married two years earlier. The son she had with George had died in childhood.

In December of 1915, a short blurb in the Chanute Daily Tribune mentions that George had come from Beaumont, Texas to visit his sister Cora and that this was the first time he'd been in the area in eight years.

The 1910 census of Beauford shows that he was living in a boarding house and working as a machinist in Pawnee Rock, Kansas.

Lula, also known as Lulu, does not appear in the 1910 census, but in 1908 had come from her home in Chicago to visit her sister Cora according to the Chanute Daily Tribune.

In 1911 William moved to Orange County, California possibly to be near his brother, James, who had been living in the area for some time. Nettie's family was living in Huntington Beach where Jud worked for Shell Oil.

William settled on a farm near Wintersburg. He died there on February 11, 1914, at the age of 71 and was buried in the Huntington Beach Cemetery.

At the time of William's death, the following appeared in the Huntington Beach News.

February 13, 1914
Miss Lula McCarter returned Saturday from Vancouver, B.C. because of her father's serious illness here."

February 20, 1914
Our sincere thanks are tendered to the friends and neighbors who by their sympathy and services made our burden lighter during the illness and at the death of our father and brother. J.P. McCarter, Mr. and Mrs. J.A. McCoy, Will and Lula McCarter, Mrs. Cora Row.

William's probate records described his property as 10 acres near the town of Wintersburg valued at $5,000 subject to a $1,500 mortgage.

At the time the will was probated, both Will and Nettie were living in Huntington Beach, California. George had just moved from Denison, Texas to Oklahoma (possibly to the town of Sentinel); Beauford was in Wichita, Kansas; Cora was in Franklin, Nebraska; and Lula was in San Francisco.

Nettie was named executor of the estate. Will received half and the other half was divided equally between George, Beauford, Nettie, Cora, and Lula. The siblings sold their share to to Will. Then on May 1, 1915 he committed suicide while his father's will was still in probate, so Nettie became the executor of his estate, too.

Cora died in her early thirties, sometime between 1914 and 1920. Her son James Orville Row married Lilly Mae Hermstein in 1937 in Chanute, Kansas. According to his 1998 obituary, James worked as an electronic technician for RCA for many years and helped build components for the Apollo space capsule. He and Lilly had one son, James Orville Row, Jr. who may have two sons.

Cora's daughter, Wilda, married Holbert Lige Smith in 1929 in Fredonia, Kansas. She had one son, Holbert Basil Smith who married Bonnie Lou Davis. Holbert and Bonnie had one son Robert G. Smith.

On March 31, 1924 George, died at the age of 51 in the home of his sister, Lula, in San Francisco. He had been visiting from Los Angeles. He was buried next to his father and brother in the Huntington Beach Cemetery.

Beauford died in Orange County, California in 1948 at the age of 71. It appears that he never married.

Census records show that by 1940 Lula had moved to Klamath Falls, Oregon were she was doing hotel work. In 1957, at the age of 69, she married retired logger, Edward Henley Billings. She died in 1963 and is buried in Klamath Memorial Park. She had no children.

In 1924 Nettie and Jud moved to Ventura, California and were still living there in 1934 when she wrote to her cousin, Will. At that time, her son Cecil McCoy was living with his wife, Reba (Sanders) and son Robert in the mountains of San Bernadino County. Her son Ralph was working in Long Beach. He died in 1941 at the age of 34.

In June of 2011, we were delighted to hear from a son of Robert McCoy that his parents are living in Fairfax, Virginia.

Other possible living descendants of William and Ellen McCarter are James Orville Row, Jr. and Robert G. Smith and their families. We welcome contact from these cousins too.

Thanks to Diana Guthrie and Amy K. Davis who generously volunteered their time in helping research William's family.

Back to McCarter Family