Family Histories

Family Histories for the Rose and Kirkpatrick Families

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Black Sheep Sunday - Alexander Bowden Dorsey

Alexander Bowden Dorsey in his CSA Uniform
Alexander Bowden Dorsey, born 1830 in Warren, Tennessee, is my 2nd great-grandfather.  While searching for some information about his daughter, my great-grandmother Drusie, I happened to come upon a story written by someone researching the family several years ago.  I had previously found an excerpt from a book on the history of northwestern Arkansas in which Alexander (and his father, Bennett) were mentioned in very favorable terms:

Alexander Dorsey,one of the oldest and most prominent citizens of Richland Township, Madison Co., Ark., was born in Warren County, Tenn., in 1830, January 29, and is a son of Bennett and Ann (Dennis) Dorsey, who were natives of North Carolina and Tennessee, respectively. The father's birth occurred January 19, 1800, and he died in Madison County, Ark., when about [p.1090] eighty-three years of age. He became an early resident of Tennessee. but came to Arkansas in 1838. He was a farmer, and accumulated a fine property, which was lost during the war, his houses and barns being burned, and his property being destroyed. He was a Southern sympathizer. His wife was born in 1807, and died in 1886, being a worthy and consistent member of the Baptist Church. Twelve children blessed their union, Alexander being their fourth child. He made his home with his parents until his marriage to Lavina Hillis in 1854. She was born in Tennessee, and died about 1858, leaving two children, Mary E. and Joseph. December 29, 1859, Mr. Dorsey married Eliza Boyd, and their marriage resulted in the birth of four sons and four daughters. He is a prosperous farmer, being the owner of 860 acres of fine land, and one of the most extensive stock raisers in Madison County. In February, 1863, he enlisted in Company B, First Arkansas Infantry, Federal service, and was a faithful soldier until the close of the war. He is now a member of the G. A. R., and belongs to the Republican party.

What I stumbled on was a little less admirable:

From XX:  XX was the granddaughter of Alexander Dorsey and his second wife, Eliza Boyd, and lived to be about 90 years old before her death a few years ago (from 2005).  Evidently Alexander Dorsey was "quite the ladies man and liked the younger women."  It appears that Alexander Dorsey is the father of John Hunt Dorsey.  Here's the story:

Alexander was first married to Lavina Hillis; they had several children and Lavina died.  Alexander then married Eliza Boyd about 1854 (1859?) and Eliza had 11 children.  According to XX, Alexander was always "messing around with the younger girls."  Supposedly, he had several children with other women.  XX told that he got one young girl pregnant and the girl died giving birth to a daughter.  Alexander brought the baby home with him and told Eliza that she was going to raise the baby girl.  I suspect that this infant was either Mary or Betheni as appear below in the 1900 census, since they are only 1 year apart in age.

In the 1900 Madison County census, Richland Township, household #29 it shows:

Alexander Dorsey, age 70
Liza Dorsey, wife, age 63
Mary, daughter, age 31
Betheni, daughter, age 32
Jason, son, age 21

Then, two households down, in 1900 census, Richland Township, household #31:

Mary Goolsby, head of household, born Jan 1855, age 45, 11 children born, 11 children alive.
James Goolsby, son, age 21
Hunt Goolsby, son, age 18, born August 1881
Mandy, daughter, age 16
Sherman, son, age 14
Simanthia, daughter, age 12
Sherridon, son, age 10
Martha, daughter, age 8
Millie, daughter, age 6
Lincoln, son, age 3

According to XX, after the death of Alexander's wife Eliza, shortly after 1900, Alexander then married Mary Goolsby and all of Mary's children began using the name "Dorsey."  Why?  Because all of Mary's children were fathered by Alexander.  I'm not 100% certain, but I believe that Mary's children also shared in Alexander's estate.  Alexander died in 1908 and is buried in the National Cemetery in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  I assume that he served in the Civil War.

In Alexander's will he left property to "wife Mary Jane Dorsey etc. and on her decease to her and my joint bodily heirs, which are Hunt, Mary Richardson, Sherman, Simantha, Sheriden, Martha Worlsey, Millie Livania and Lincoln Dorsey.

Until I read this story, I didn't realize there had been a third marriage.   When I began investigating the 1900 census, I believe I found that the person who wrote this story was incorrect about the ages of daughters Mary and Betheni; Mary was Alexander's eldest daughter from his first marriage, born about 1856; Bethani from his second, born 1867.  The dates listed on the census record do appear to be 1868 for Mary and 1869 for Bethenie, however, Mary's age is listed as 41, which would have made her birthdate about 1859. 
So the story of the illegitimate daughter being brought home doesn't appear to be true. 

Alexander's third wife, Mary (Perry) Goolsby, is living two households away from the Dorsey family; Mary is a widow living with her nine children. 

She and Alexander married in 1902 and all the children except the eldest, James, took the Dorsey name.  Whether this is because Alexander is their biological father or they simply took his name after he married their mother, I don't know.  The wording of his will:  "wife Mary Jane Dorsey etc. and on her decease to her and my joint bodily heirs, which are Hunt, Mary Richardson, Sherman, Simantha, Sheriden, Martha Worlsey, Millie Livania and Lincoln Dorsey." does leave some question.  James Goolsby is apparently not named in the will.

Alexander died six years after his marriage to Mary Goolsby at age 78.  Mary died at age 69 in 1924, living with her son, Lincoln, and his family in Kansas.  I have not found a record of her marriage to Goolsby and one note I have seen indicates she was married twice before she married Alexander. 
Lincoln & Myrtle Dorsey's wedding photograph
Son Hunt was shot and killed by his father-in-law in 1913:

From newspaper Hindsville Democrat, dated 23 May 1913:


A deplorable tragedy occurred near Hindsville late Wednesday afternoon of last week when T.E. Turner killed Hunt Dorsey.  It was the culmination of a bad feeling that had existed between the parties for several months.  Dorsey, who was a son-in-law of Turner, blamed Turner with being the cause of the separation between him and his wife. This blame Turner denies and is sustained by his daughter, Dorsey's wife, in her divorce proceedings which finally resulted, her evidence eing that she and her father's family had not visited each other within two months immediately prior to the separation.  The trial was heard at the last February term of chancery court, but Judge Humphreys continued it until the next term for final decree. By a temporary order of the court, the children were awarded Mrs. Dorsey with the understanding that Hunt be permitted to visit them at all reasonable times and places.

Mrs. Dorsey has resided at her father's home since leaving her husband, and Dorsey frequently visited his wife and children before and after the divorce proceedings.  Turner says he had lost heavily by property being stolen and damaged during this time, which resulted in him using subpoenaed before the last grand jury and Dorsey being indicted for petty larceny.  And recently Turner swore out a warrant in justice court charging Dorsey with cutting a lot of wire fence on Turner's farm.  Dorsey stood trial and was acquitted of this charge.

The killing occurred at Turner's yard gate and in the presence of Turner's family and Ben Plummer, Dorsey's brother-in-law, who had accompanied Dorsey.  The weapon used was a double-barrel shotgun and  only one shot was fired, the full load striking Dorsey in the right breast.  The shooting was at close range, Turner being inside the yard and Dorsey attempting to enter the gate.  Dorsey lived about one hour.

Turner claims that he acted in self defense.  He did not attempt to escape but went to summon help to care for Dorsey and returned home, where he was arrested later by Constable W. R. Barren.  He was brought to Huntsville yesterday and placed in jail to await a preliminary trial, which will be held at Hindsville tomorrow.

Son Sherman died in 1934 when he pulled a knife on a sheriff's deputy after they had exchanged words earlier in the day, and was shot dead.

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