Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Interesting Stories in Genealogy

Yah, I know some of you out there are thinking, "Gee, Genealogy is so boring...how could you think anything about it is interesting?".

I hear you.
But.......sometimes you come upon tragic, disturbing and ironic circumstances in your family tree.
And sometimes you get all three occurring in the same person's life story.

Recently I was filling in details of the outer branches of my family tree and came upon a man named WILLIE PLEASANT LIGGON.

Willie was the brother of Ivy Liggon who married first Willie Townley Minter, then Raymond Lafayette Foster second.  I am related to Raymond directly, through my Foster line and then again by marriage, as he married Rosabel Vassar my Great Aunt(sister of my Grandmother).
My 2 x Great Grandmother, Luretta Foster was the half-sister of Wesley Baxter Foster, Jr.(they had different mothers), and Raymond was the son of Wesley Jr. so Raymond is both the husband of my Great Aunt Rosabel and my 1st cousin 3x removed.
Ivy and Raymond never had children as they married in 1949 and Ivy was 51 years old.  By the way, Raymond was only 37 when they wed making Ivy a cougar well before it became fashionable. 8-)
So the Liggon line is only related through marriage.

Got it?  I am glad because sometimes even I can't make sense of this Family Macrame of mine! lolz

So getting back to Willie Liggon, Ivy's brother.  He was born 31 Jan 1902 in Richmond VA, the fourth child in a family of 6 children to Alonzo Columbus Liggon and Willie Ann Wright Liggon.

Willie Liggon married Zillah Isabella Sandridge on 10th August 1920 in Weldon, NC.  Isabella's older brother, Herman H. Sandridge applied for the marriage license and was surety for the bond.

In the 1920 Federal Census Willie Liggon is enumerated on the 10th of January so is still single at this point and living with his parents and siblings. He works as a plumber.
Willie is 18 years old later that year when he marries barely 16 year old Zillah.

Willie can't be found in the 1930 Census however.
We find his wife, Zillah in the 1930 Census living with a son, Willie Liggon Jr, 6 years old, and she has remarried to Merrill Lyle Craig.
A little more digging and we found Willie Liggon's death certificate.

Willie Liggon died the 12th of August 1928.  He was only 26.5 years old.  Such a tragedy to die so young and leave a widow 24 years old with a small child of about 4 years old.

Within the death record comes the disturbing part......how he died.  No medical health issues, no work accident.
Willie Liggon drowned in the James River off of Mayos Island.

Mayos Island is named for the Mayo Family of Richmond who received permission to construct a toll bridge across the James River in 1785.

The Mayo Bridge intersected the island as it crossed the James connecting the towns of Manchester and Richmond.  It is now known as the 14th St. Bridge and carries present day Route 360 across the James River.  It was the first bridge over the James at Richmond.  The bridge was rebuilt over the years as floods and then the Confederate forces burning it in 1865 in a last resort to keeping the Yankees out of Richmond, kept destroying the bridge.
In 1910 rebuilding the bridge became a priority and the latest incarnation of Mayo's Bridge was completed in 1913.  It still stands today.

Mayo Island began life as 2 adjoining islands actually; Tollhouse Island and Confluence Island. These islands were merged and expanded with fill becoming the Mayo Island you find today.  The Tollhouse section of the island held the Toll Booth for those crossing Mayos Bridge. This Tollhouse section also contained a wooded grove used for picnics, barbecues, fishing and quoits matches.  It was a family park that local Richmonders enjoyed on their weekends and days off during the first part of the Twentieth Century.

Willie Liggon's cause of death is listed as "accidental drowning at Mayo Island".  We can suspect that Willie had taken his wife and child for a holiday that hot August day to Mayo Island and had found himself in the James River either on purpose for a swim(since Mayo Island is downstream of the falls and rapids near Richmond on the James) or accidentally falling in and drowning, probably in full view of his family.
What a heartbreaking end to a young life!

And then in what I find to be a highly ironic twist Willie Liggon was buried in Riverview Cemetery on the shores of the James River.

Riverview Cemetery in Richmond, on the banks of the James River, is not 2 miles upstream from Mayo Island where Willie met his tragic end.

No one has made a memorial for Willie Liggon in the Cemetery on "Find A Grave" yet so I'll be doing that and linking family members to his memorial in the coming days.
Maybe this post and his memorial will help family "find" him again and keep his memory alive.



  1. Wow! Dig more and you might have enough for a book!
    And cougars are always cool. In the zoo or the family tree...


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