Catherine Stancil 1902
Catherine Stancil was born May 9, 1882

Catherine's children

Lue Bessie
July 21, 1901-

Catherine Stancil was born May 9, 1882.

Her name in the Family Bible was Laney Cathern Stansell

Catherine was the third daughter and tenth child of Delaney Catherine Sasser and John Thomas Stancil. She was born in the log cabin built by her father in Johnston County. She was called "Kate" by her family.

Catherine Stancill was listed in the 1900 Census living at home with her parents. She and her younger brother Tommy had similar features. She attended the nearby Woodard School where she learned to read and write. School was held during November, December, January and February.

This enabled the students to be able to help with the spring planting and the fall harvest.

Catherine, Arnettie, Tempy Ann and their mother Delaney chopped and picked cotton.

They pulled fodder (the blades of the corn) and hung the cornstalks around a pole to cure for winter feed.

Catherine's mother was an expert weaver and, like her siblings, Catherine learned to make thread and probably tried her hand at weaving.

Eva Mercer Stancil, wife of George Ira Stancil, told her son Ralph that Catherine was the prettiest woman she had ever seen.

Catherine became pregnant in late October of 1900, when she was 18 years old. It was not uncommon for a family to send an unwed daughter away. An alternative was registering the pregnancy with the County Court. Prior to 1895 support for illegitimate children in North Carolina Counties was provided by a Bastard Bond.

The treatment of unwed mothers evolved over time. In the late 1700s and first half of the 1800s women could be executed for the murder of their illegitimate children. It was a great stigma to have a baby outside of marriage. However concealing the birth of a child was a capital crime. Proving that the baby was murdered wasn't necessary. Women could be convicted if the baby was still born or died of natural causes.

From 1850 forward, when a woman was discovered pregnant, she was required by law to give the father's name. She also underwent an exam to verify the pregnancy. The named father was required to support the child. Sometimes the father did not believe it was his child. He would then appear before a jury, hoping they would vindicate him. Sometimes the woman would refuse to name the father. When this happened the woman had to post her own bond. Children born always took the last name of their mother unless claimed by their father, then they were declared legitimate.

The Victorians believed children were parental possessions. Parents had all the power. Children should be silent and obey. Birth mothers of bastard children should be punished and banished. Public morality was threatened by illegitimacy, but keeping the illegitimate child was seen as a good punishment and a warning to other young women.

In light of these attitudes, protecting the family's good name and preventing embarrassment was important during this era.

George Ira married Eva Mercer in March 1901. He told his son Ralph, that Catherine being there and pregnant would have been unacceptable, when he arrived with his bride. According to Ralph's memory of a conversation with his father, Catherine left home in March by rail from Bagley, NC, and traveled to Atkinson, Ga. She reportedly wrote to her Aunt Minnie and to her parents.

She signed the letters "Catherine Stanley." She wrote home six weeks after her baby was born, on August 24, 1901. This letter was seen and read by George Ralph Stancil and G.I. Stancil, Jr. Ralph made a handwritten copy of this letter. Apparently the letter was in the trunk that belonged to John Thomas Stancil, who was living with George Ira and family at the time of his death. George was the executor of his father's estate. The letter remains with family treasures.

We can speculate on why this letter was kept. Letters from loved ones who are no longer with us help preserve their memory and give us personal insight.

Catherine lived with a family in Atkinson, Ga., who had four children. Their names were Anie, Mary, Seeford and Gladys. She had a daughter born July 21, 1901. Lue Bessie weighted 6 pounds. Catherine wanted to return home but the family was reluctant to have her return then.

Catherine returned to North Carolina for the first Stancil family reunion in the fall of 1902. She is in both the first Reunion Photo and the John Thomas Stancil Family Portrait. The family portrait seems to show an isolated Catherine. No one in the family is standing close to her, nor is anyone touching her. The rest of the family is touching shoulders or placing hands on family members. The brothers exhibited a genuine fondness for each other, the only brother not being touched is Henry and he is touching his father's arm. One would have expected Catherine's return to be a joyous occasion for the entire family.

No one with knowledge of what happened to the baby has ever spoken out. What happened to this little girl is a mystery. It is unthinkable to believe that her mother and sisters would not have asked. Catherine remained in North Carolina to help out with the tobacco crop and then left traveling by train to South Carolina. According to one account Catherine's brothers escorted her to the train station and admonished her not to return.

She wrote a letter in 1903 asking for money and indicated she was ill. Her parents sent her money. This was the last word heard.

John Thomas' Micro Farm was ear marked for Catherine and her descendants.

Haunting questions remain

Who did she live with in Georgia? What happened to Lue Bessie? Who was Lue Bessie's father? Where did she go in South Carolina?

Answers and information is very sketchy. Her older brother George Ira told his son Ralph that the only sweetheart he knew her to have was Stephen Boyette. Stephen was a popular and well liked young man in the community. However when Catherine became pregnant she refused to name the father. If it was her sweetheart Stephen, why not name and marry him? Did she have a secret love she was afraid to reveal? Catherine certainly knew her older sister Tempy Ann had ran away in November of 1889, and married Fred Hill, over the objections of her parents. Did she choose secrecy and leaving rather than naming and marrying an unacceptable husband?

Limited facts bring forth even more mysteries and puzzles. What is known is that over the years Stephen Boyette remained a close friend of the entire Stancil Family and a respected member of the community. He was there when John Thomas died, to assist in dressing him for burial. Stephen and his wife Sally Ann Lamm Boyette, often entertained at neighborhood gatherings. Family ties were even closer when one realizes that Stephen was the son of Larkin Boyette and Chloe Bagley. Chloe was the sister of Martha Patsy Bagley who married Henry Sasser. Martha Patsy Bagley was the mother of Delaney Cathern Sasser. Delaney married John Thomas Stancil and was Catherine's mother.

Family ties extend even further to Ralph Stancil. His mother-in-law Octavia Creech Hales was first cousin to Sally Ann Lamm. Octavia's father John Washington Creech and Sally's father Jake Lamm were half brothers. His father-in-law William Madison Hales was the son of Elias Hales. John Thomas and Elias both have the same mother Martha Patsy Rentfrow Stancil Hales.

Don Gordon Stancil, son of G. I. Stancil Jr., grandson of George Ira Stancil, great grandson of John Thomas Stancil was trying to enhance the letter to make it easier to read at the time of his death on Jan. 21, 1997. J.G. Renfrow, who now has the Stancil Trunk, sent a copy of the letter to Hale Stancil and Renn Stancil Hinton.

Catherine's letter

The only letter we have written by Catherine Delanie Stancil

Front of the envelope:    Miss Minnie Sasser
                          Bagley, NC
                          Johnson Co.
Postmark  on the front: Atkinson, GA
                        Aug 24, 1901

Postmark on the back:   Bagley NC
                        AUG   ?

The Letter line for line:
                                             Camden County
                                             August the 24, 1901

My Dear people at home I
will write you a fue (few) lins (lines)
to let you here ferm (from) me.
I am well and Getting a
Long alright and I hope this I
will reach and find you All 
well I was sorry to here that
Taminnie And Nettie was Sick
I hope they have got well
by now.  I do want to see
you All so bad I don't
now what to do Mother I
have Got A baby Girl it 
was A Month old Wensday(Wednesday)
it was 6 pounds and it 
name is Lue bessie two Girls
name it and Got it
A dress I am Staying with 
some Good people and Good
Children are name Arnie and 
one name Seeford and name
Gladys Sorent and one name
2nd Page:
I do have to stay out he___(here)
Mother I do want to see
you so bad I don=t recken
that you all will Let
me Go back home will
you I wish I Could
Go sometime and see
you all once more
I have seen some
people that came from
up there I have met 
two that came from
up there and live at
Ralight NC I have Eat
up fine.  Chance of peaches
but no apples at all
but am to night well
I will have to close
fare(for) this time please write
Soon to me and let me
here from you all.

3rd page:
fore(for)  I want here but
Taminnie I do want to see
you so bad but can=t
see you write and tell
me have bus money.  I
do want to no (know) bad
will I ever leave to
stop for this time Mother
I do wish I could see 
the cow and calf and 
your garden do write and
tell all the news
so Good by Kate is
what they all call me

4th page:
write and don't fale
Good by Catherine Stancill

I based this on public information and oral history passed down over the years. It is my personal opinion that John Thomas kept this letter from his daughter Catherine because he wanted us to know about her. I also believe he later regretted her absence from the family. He kept a farm in Micro for her until his death, never giving up hope that she would return home. I am going to continue searching for information about our Aunt Catherine. Today Atkinson, Ga., is part of four counties: Camden, Wayne, Pierce and Charlton. Renn Stancil Hinton , Great granddaughter of John Thomas Stancil, granddaughter of George Ira Stancil, daughter of Ralph Stancil. 2010
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| Modified Oct. 26, 2010