Thomas Jefferson Neal was born March 29th, 1817 in Ironton, Lawrence County, Ohio. Thomas was one of eleven children born to Walter Neal, Jr. and Deborah Arnot (my 3x Great-Grandparents). The family moved from Lawrence County to Gallia County, Ohio while he was still a child. His mother died when he was twenty-six years old and his father remarried. His step-mother was Elizabeth (Griffith) Lanthorn. His father and stepmother had three more children.

On 26th of January, 1837 (Thomas was twenty years old) he married Belinda Allison, my 2x maternal Great-Grandmother. Belinda was the daughter of John Allison and Rebecca Carter; my 3x maternal Great-Grandparents. Belinda was born in Walnut Township, Gallia County, Ohio.

Thomas and his wife, Belinda had eleven children, five girls and six boys. All but one of their children lived to adulthood. Belinda died in 1896 and Thomas married a widow named Jemimma (Erwin) Hamilton. Jemimma died in 1908.

The celebration of the 100th birthday for Thomas Neal was a very large affair. I have a picture taken by the Newspaper of people attending and it is a treasure trove of relatives pictured there.

He was interviewed by a reporter and was asked what advice he would give boys: “The first advice I would give a boy is to join church and live right. Next, live sober and don’t use liquor or tobacco in any form…I never drank liquor in my life and I have always voted dry. I expect to live yet to see the country dry”.

 Thomas Neal died just days before his 101st birthday;



Mary Elizabeth Gatwood was the daughter of William Gatwood and Elizabeth McCracken, who were my 3x Great-Grandparents.  Mary was the fifth child born into the family. There was a total of thirteen children, seven girls and six boys; two of the girls died as infants. She was born March 10, 1815. She spent her early childhood in Wellsburg, Virginia (now West Virginia).

On February 5, 1835, Mary Gatwood married Aaron Aten. Aaron was born in 1808. His parents were William Aten and Jane Anderson. Aaron came from a large family. He was both a farmer and teacher.

In 1838 they lived in Washington county, Ohio. This was the summer that Aaron and other members of his family traveled west to Illinois, looking for a better life. In a letter that he sent back to Mary, he tells her that things are not great, but he feels that the quality of land for farming was very good. There was an abundance of land available and the soil was rich for planting. Crops were selling for a good price.  He had not gotten a job as a teacher while there, but he was sure there would be positions as a teacher available in the future. The letter made me think that he must have been very lonely without his family. His brothers were scattered to different areas and there was no easy method of communication for them to know whether they had gone back to Ohio or met with some terrible illness or accident. He tells Mary that he has not heard anything from them or about them and wonders what she could tell him about his brothers. Of course, he also wanted to have word about her and the children. Everything seemed to work out and the Aten’s would relocate to Illinois.

When Aaron and Mary left Ohio in 1840 they had two small children. After their move to Illinois they added eight more children to the family, including one set of twins. Aaron would teach and farm for the rest of his days. He died in 1889. Mary would live until 1907. When she died at ninety-two years old, she had outlived her husband and all but one of her ten children.


The Stedham family can be traced back to my 9x Great Grandparents in Gothenburg, Vastra Gotalands, Sweden. My 8x Great Grandfather is said to be the first man with the name Stedham (Stidham) in America. He immigrated from Sweden in the 17th century to New Sweden now known as Wilmington, Delaware. All of Delaware and the southern part of Pennsylvania and the southern part of New Jersey were known as New Sweden in that time period. Many of the Stedham’s (Stidham) can be found in the Old Swedes Churchyard in Delaware.

The story I want to tell is about my 4x Great-Grandmother, Lydia Stedham.  Her parents were John Stedham and Mary Merryman (my 5x Great-Grandparents). Lydia came from a wealthy family who did not approve of her marriage to William McCracken.  Her father disowned her. She would not inherit anything from her family.

William McCracken was an immigrant from Ireland who owned a ferry at Wilmington, Delaware. The couple married in spite of family disapproval around 1790. The couple left the area and I believe they never returned. They first went to Cumberland, Maryland and soon moved on to Brooke County, Virginia, now West Virginia. They were in this area by 1800. It appears that William died about this time, leaving three children to be raised by Lydia, alone.

In a Colonial Genealogist publication, I found two legal suits that Lydia filed:  July 1801 Lydia McCracken charged William Girton with trespass and assult and battery.  It was claimed Girton used dogs to chase, hunt, and cripple two sows and five shoats ( Shoats are young piglets, just weened).  Damage was estimated at $50.00. A jury found for the plaintiff and awarded $7.00 damages.

Brooke County May Term, 1810: Lydia McCracken brought suit against Richard Talbot charging destruction of fences and wheat. Damage to the value of $100.00. The defendant, Talbot, paid $8.00 and costs.

 Lydia Stedham McCracken seems to be a strong woman. I admire her grit! I would imagine that she was fodder for gossip in her corner of the world. I do not picture her as a wallflower or ordinary in any way. She knew how to take care of herself and survive. My guess is she walked away from her birth family proud and never looked back.