The Largent and Amos Families of the American South

When in 1911 Claude Christopher Largent and Bessie Lura Amos were married, they brought to their union centuries of ancestral history that spanned the American South and Southeast, as well as early modern England and France. They descended from families who immigrated to America in the 1600s.

The Largent side of the family descends from French common people, artisans and farmers, who lived in the Old Regime of France, when monarchy and aristocracy dominated society and government and common people were typically living on the edge of poverty and exploited by the ruling elite. The name Largent is derived from L’Argent, meaning silver, or silversmith, which hints at the family’s forebears. The shadowy and distant past implies that the Largents emigrated from France to America in the 1600s. The earliest traceable ancestor was Sinon De L’Largent, who lived from 1590 to 1659 in the Bourgogne region of northeastern France. His son was Jean De L’Largent, born in the same place, who married Elizabeth Gonsal and relocated to the Ardennes region of northern France. Elizabeth was the daughter of Jacques and Jeanne (Carre) Gonsal of the Bourgogne region. She lived from 1615 to 1682; she and Jean had a son, Louis, who lived from 1648 to 1740. Louis appears to have been the Largent who emigrated to America along with his wife Jeanne St. Suplice, 1660-1740, daughter of Guillaume and Martine Cornuau St. Suplice. Louis and Jeanne had a son, Jean (or John).

The records that tell the story of John Largent’s life are vague, contradictory, and anecdotal. In the Maryland census/tax list for 1704 a John Largent is listed as residing in Baltimore Co., N. Side Gunpowder Hundred. Another record indicates that a John Largant arrived at Maryland in 1716. In “Virginia Select Marriages, 1785-1940,” there is a vague record of a John Largen son of Lewis Largen married to Rachel. Perhaps this was Rachel Moss, born September 21, 1701 in Wigan, Pemberton, Lancashire England to John Moss (1668-1735) and Rachel Fairhurst (1672-1747). An anecdotal account of Rachel (also known as Roselle Eviss Rachel DeMoss) is that she was a Protestant Huguenot from France who had escaped with her family from religious persecution. Perhaps this is what brought them, at some unknown date at the beginning of the 18th century, to America. More likely, because the Moss (or DeMoss) family goes back in time several generations in England, John and Rachel Moss emigrated to America for other, unknown reasons. When John Largent and Rachel Moss married is uncertain, perhaps about 1720; and how many children they had is similarly uncertain.

In a letter written from Lewis Largent to Joseph Largent in 1913, Lewis wrote confidently that John and Rachel had in addition to their first three sons probably another, Thomas, born about 1728. Thomas was apprenticed in 1738 apparently upon the death of John. “Thomas Largent removed with his guardian Daniel Burnett to South Carolina and was the progenitor of the North Carolina and South Carolina Largents,” Lewis wrote in the letter. Burnett was a blacksmith.

Meanwhile, the earliest known Amos that relates to this family history was Nicholas Amos, whose forbears, whoever they were, doubtless derived from England in the 1600s. Nicholas himself was born to unknown parents in New Kent, Virginia, in or about 1640, perhaps before. He was christened at St. Peter’s Parish. This parish, in New Kent, is situated near the Pamunkey River east of Richmond. He married perhaps in the 1650s though this is uncertain, probably to Mary, whose maiden name was perhaps Lowe. She was, perhaps, the daughter of Charles and Frances Lowe. Nicholas and Mary’s children included Rebecca, Margaret, Valentine, and Francis, born 1677 in the same parish. Francis married Elizabeth Lowe, born in 1690, in 1712; their children were Valentine, Charles, John, Francis, Judith, Mary, William Valentine, and James. Elizabeth’s father was William Lowe and her mother was Selina Ann Bailey, both of North Carolina.

Francis and Elizabeth’s son James was born on October 15, 1716, in St Peter’s Parish, New Kent County, Virginia. He married Elizabeth Carlysle in 1720, and they had a son, James Jr., born in 1755 in Lunenburg, Virginia, far to the southwest from St. Peter’s Parish, where James and Elizabeth had relocated. James Jr. married Lena Bradford, and they had a son in 1785, George Washington Amos. The Bradford’s had a long and varied history dating from sixteenth-century England and the seventeenth-century New England colonies.

Lena Bradford was the daughter of a North Carolina farmer, Thomas Bradford and his wife Sarah Ransom; he was the son of Thomas Bradford and Elizabeth Smith, who had migrated from Virginia to North Carolina in the mid 1700s. His father Richard Bradford was married to Frances Taylor. They emigrated from England to Virginia in the 1650. His father Richard Bradford lived in England, married to Jane Kendall. Richard’s father was Vespasian Bradford.

Vespasian Bradford of early 17th century London was a craftsman belonging to the city livery company, or guild, of cooks, people involved in the preparation of food. His namesake was the Roman Emperor Vespasian, who ruled Rome from 69 to 79 AD. Who named the English child born in 1560 this unique name is a mystery. His parents were either William and Alice Bradford or Richard and Catherine Bradford.

Vespasian was likely born in Yorkshire, England, in 1560, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth Tudor. He died during the reign of Elizabeth’s successor, James Stuart. Vespasian married late in life, to Joane Burrowse, on May 28, 1604, when he was 44, and she was 12. This young woman was the daughter of Sir Richard Burrowse and Lady Barbara Burrowse. They were married in the Shoreditch Church in London.

According to The Parish Registers of St. Thomas the Apostle, London, containing the Marriages, Baptisms, and Burials from 1558 to 1754, London, 1881, Vespasian and his wife had a son Richard, baptized June 25, 1605, a daughter Margaret, baptized May 15, 1606, a daughter Elizabeth, baptized May 9, 1607, a daughter, Anne, baptized June 18, 1608, a daughter Jane, baptized July 6, 1609, a daughter, Joane, baptized Aug. 7, 1610, and a son Richard, baptized Dec. 9, 1611.

Vespasian was a member of the Worshipful Company of Cooks in London, a very old livery company. In 1616 he was listed in the charter of the Worshipful Company of Cooks as an Assistant, one of a small group of liverymen who were in charge of the guild—the Court of Assistants.

Vespasian was buried April 11, 1618, at St. Antholin Church, Budge Row, London—an Anglican church in the heart of the city. Joane outlived Vespasian by seven years, dying in 1625.

Back to the Largent family: Thomas (Largin) Largent, according to marriage records, was born in Virginia in 1728 and he married Nancy Lang in 1750. Little is known about the early lives of Thomas and Mary besides the anecdote about Thomas’s apprenticeship to a blacksmith noted above. Thomas and Nancy at some point migrated from Virginia south to Burke County North Carolina, where their son Thomas was born; and then they moved on further south to South Carolina. In 1780, Thomas was fifty-two and Nancy was fifty; a South Carolina census record from the ninety-sixth district indicates that Thomas was on the Grand Jury, “Petit-Jury men and Jury Men in Civil Causes,” in a region of northwestern South Carolina between the Broad and Saluda Rivers. More specifically, he lived on the Little River near its confluence with the Saluda River in Newberry County. In the 1790 federal census, he was listed as having seven family members, one male over sixteen years, one male under sixteen, and five women. In the 1800 census, there were thirteen household members, all free, six males and seven females. In his last will and testament, dated 1802, we learn that Thomas, Nancy, and family had migrated south of Newberry County to Edgefield County, on the southern border of South Carolina with Georgia, near Augusta. In his will, Thomas divided his lands into thirds, giving equal amounts to his sons Reuben, William, and Thomas Jr. The remainder of his moveable estate he divided among his daughters Mary, Sarah, Janey, Ann, Nancy, and Elisabeth. He left his widow Nancy most of his stock, tools, furniture, and money. She did not long enjoy this, as she died soon after Thomas.

Nancy Lang, Thomas’s wife, was the daughter of Robert Lang, born in Portsmouth, NH, in 1728. Robert Lang moved to South Carolina, became a plantation owner, and died in 1763. His wife was Millicent Higginbotham, who was born in Barbados in 1675 and died in 1740. Her father was a sea captain, hence the reason for her birth in the Caribbean. The Higginbotham’s of Barbados were quite wealthy because of the sugar trade.

The life of Thomas and Nancy Largent’s son Thomas, Jr., is shadowy at best, in part because of the scarcity of records, in part because he is easily confused with his father of the same name. I speculate that Thomas, Jr., was born in North Carolina, meaning that Thomas Sr. and Nancy in their peregrinations from Virginia to South Carolina must have lived in North Carolina, where Thomas Jr. was born. Thomas Sr. and Nancy lived in North Carolina long enough for their son to take up roots there and stay when they moved south to South Carolina. Thomas Jr. lived in Burke County, in central North Carolina. He likely served as a soldier during the American War for Independence, as he received a grant of one hundred acres in 1800. The land was located on Smoky Creek, a tributary of the Catawba River. It is possible that his children included William Anson, Thomas Washington, Elijah, Elizabeth, Mary, and James. However, the records are so unclear, that even the name of his wife—possibly, Nancy—is not known for certain.

Meanwhile, while this line of the Largent family moved west from Virginia to North Carolina to Illinois, the line of the Amos family I am tracking was moving from Virginia to Georgia to Alabama. George Washington Amos, son of James Amos Jr., who died in 1818, and Lena Bradford, who died in 1829, traveled with his parents from Virginia to Georgia in the early 1800s. George married Anna Bentley in Virginia before their move. They benefited in 1832 from the Cherokee Land Lottery in Georgia, purchasing perhaps 160 acres in Hancock County of land confiscated from the Cherokee Tribe by the state of Georgia. George and Anna had a large family; their children were Daniel, Martha Ann, George Washington Jr (II), Henry, Beverly, John W., William, Wyatt, Millyann E., James M., Caroline F., Mary J., and Susan C. They also acquired a number of slaves to work the land, owning 22 in 1840, half of whom were children. Anna died in 1843, and George followed two years later.

Their son George Washington II was born February 9, 1813 in Hancock, Georgia. During his life he relocated west to Grimes Alabama, where he died April 1, 1889. His wife was Catherine Hammock, born April 8, 1817 in Georgia; she died 1886; they were married August 24, 1831 in Georgia. George Washington II was a successful land owner both in Georgia and Alabama. He and family relocated to Alabama sometime during the 1850s. According to 1850 slave schedule, he owned 14 slaves ranging from age 69 to age 1; in the 1850 census owned land worth $600. In the 1860 census his land was worth $3200. After the war the value of his real estate declined precipitously to $900. George and Catherine’s children were Willborn, Jane, Henry, Beverly, William, George Washington III, Martha, and Zachary. Surviving portraits of George Washington II and Catherine show him to have been a strong, severe, serious man and his wife a pious woman with a somewhat gentle demeanor.

George Washington Amos II and Catherine Hammock

Meanwhile Thomas Largent Jr’s son James migrated from Burke County North Carolina to Bond County Illinois sometime in the early 19th century—perhaps after Illinois became a state in 1818. It is possible that James lived for a time in Tennessee, a place where many North Carolinians migrated in the late 18th and early 19th century. His brother William Anson Largent migrated to Tennessee. There is a vague record of one James Largent having served as a private from April 3 to 12, 1812, in the Tennessee Militia during the War of 1812.

In the 1830 Federal Census for Bond County, Illinois, James’s family included 1 son under age 5, 1 son between 5 and 10, 2 sons between 10 and 15, and a male between 40 and 50 (himself), 1 girl aged 5 to 10, 1 girl from 10 to 15, and 1 girl from 15 to 20, and 1 female 40 to 50, his wife. Their children were Thomas, Archibald, Harriet E., Margaret Mahala, Hugh Fox, Nancy Adeline, and John Marshall.

James died in 1830; his wife Margaret Fox Largent outlived him by 10 years. She was born in North Carolina in 1780 to James Hugh and Mary Fox. James and Margaret were both buried in southern Illinois.

Of their children, Archibald was born Feb. 1, 1806, in Burke, North Carolina; he died Nov. 20, 1838, Fayette, Illinois (buried at Mulberry Grove Cemetery, Mulberry Grove, Bond Co., Illinois); his wife was Lucenda Beach; they married April 26, 1825, in Burke County, North Carolina, when she was 17.

More is known about Lucenda A. Beach (who was Thomas Largent’s mother, George Washington Largent’s grandmother, and Claude Christopher Largent’s great-grandmother). Before her husband Archibald’s death in 1838, she bore five children: Thomas W., Eveline, Mahala Caroline, Archibald, and John. Lucenda was born in North Carolina, and died in 1875 in Illinois, living in Bond County. The Bond County federal census for 1830 lists Archibald and Lucenda with one child, the firstborn Thomas. As Thomas was born in Tennessee in 1827, we can assume that Lucenda and Archibald had lived in Tennessee until recently, moving to Bond County, Illinois soon after 1830. She was the daughter of John Marshall and Sarah Beach.

In the 1850 federal census for Fayette County, Illinois, Lucenda (spelled Lucinda) was a 41-year-old widow owning real estate valued at $600. She had living in her family the following: Eveline Merryman, age 20, Caroline Largent, age 17, Archibald Largent, age 15, John Largent, age 13, and James Largent, age 1. Archibald was listed as a farmer. Caroline, Archibald, and John attended school. There are several interesting items about this census. First, Eveline was called Merryman, and there were two families living next to the Largents with the last name Merryman. Eveline was a widow, her first husband was Cayson Harris Merriman, who was born between 1825 and 1828 and died in his twenties in 1850. James, their son, was 1 year old and living with Lucenda. Thomas, first born son of Archibald and Lucenda, and his wife Narcissa and child Nancy lived nearby on their own farm worth $150.

In the 1860 federal census, Lucenda lived in Vandalia, Fayette County Illinois, with Eveline and her new husband, James Thomas Davis. Eveline and Thomas were married Dec 18, 1852. Eveline was to die soon after, in 1861. Her son Thomas would live until 1887. Lucenda’s other daughter, Mahala Caroline, married William Stokes on Dec 12, 1855. Also living with Lucenda in 1860 was Rosetta Davis, age 2, James Merriman, age 11, Augustus Davis, age 19, Mary Evans, age 14.

Lucenda was a significant landowner. The year that her husband died, 1838, the land office of Fayette. Illinois, issued her “the South half of Lott number two of the South west quarter of Section eighteen in Township Six North of the base line of Range one West of the third principal Meridian, in the District of Lands Subject to sale at Vandalia, Illinois, containing forty acres.”

Lucenda’s eldest child, Thomas, departed Illinois for Missouri during the 1860s. Born in Tennessee, having moved with his father and mother to Illinois, Thomas lost his father when he was 10. Thomas met Illinois native Narcissa Ann Hayes and they were married Jan. 4, 1848, in Fayette County. He was 22, she was 17. They had five children together: Nancy, Narcissus Archibald, nicknamed Norris, George Washington, Lauretta, and Charles. Thomas and Narcissa lived at Township 12, Range 9, Macoupin, Illinois. Unfortunately, Narcissa died in childbirth or soon after when she bore Charles, leaving Thomas a widower with five young children.

Death and dislocation were common experiences for Thomas Largent and his family. A land record listed under Thomas Largin Largent, has one Thomas Largent purchasing land (34.94 acres) July 15, 1854, in Hickory Co., Missouri. Perhaps this was Thomas Largent father of George Washington Largent. Indeed, during the 1860s Thomas and his small family moved to Missouri. He remarried Lydia Stout in 1866. In the 1870 census from Missouri, Thomas is called Largin; he was 43, a farmer; Lydia was 23, at home, taking care of children Norris (17), a laborer on their farm, as well as George (14), also a laborer, Laura (4), and Thomas (1). The children of Thomas and Narcissa, Nancy, Lauretta, and Charles, were either dead or did not make the move to Missouri. Thomas and Lydia could read but not write; Norris and Grace could neither read nor write. They lived in Deer Creek township, Bates, Missouri.

While Thomas Largent and Lydia Stout Largent and their children were trying to make a living in west-central Missouri, further south, in western Arkansas, a family had arrived from Alabama: this was George Washington Amos III, son of George Washington Amos II and grandson of George Washington Amos Sr. GW Amos III was born in Talbot County, Georgia, on February 28, 1845. His family moved to Alabama when he was young, and after his marriage and service in the Civil War, he moved his family to Arkansas.

In the 1850 census, GW Amos III was six years old with seven siblings. His father, GW Amos II was 37, married to Catherine Hammock (married August 24, 1831). GW Amos II had been born in Hancock Georgia, south of today’s Oconee National Forest, near Atlanta. He would die on April 1, 1889 in Grimes, Alabama. The grandfather, GW Amos I, was born in Lunenburg, Virginia, in 1785. He married Anna Bentley on Oct 8, 1807. They moved to Georgia, where GW Amos I died on April 3, 1845.

During the 1850s, George Washington II and Catherine Amos and family moved to Pike County, Alabama, where they farmed. After the war began in 1861, and when George Washington Amos III reached his 18th birthday, he enlisted as a private in Company B, 57th Infantry Regiment organized at Troy, Alabama. He fought in numerous battles in Tennessee and Georgia, fighting against the invading armies of the North. Many of his comrades died, but he survived. A monument erected by the Atlanta Historical Society in 1944 commemorated the “American Valor” of the “participants in the Battle of Peachtree Creek, July 20, 1864,” in which GW III fought.

After the war, GW married Mary Jane Carter, born Sept. 29, 1842; she was 24 and he was 21. Mary was a native Alabaman, daughter of Seaborn and Hannah Carter; Seaborn Carter was a fairly wealthy Alabama farmer. According to the propriety of the time, GW (along with his brother Henry W.) had to post a bond of $200 guaranteeing that there were no impediments to the marriage: “Know all men by these presents, that we .. are held and firmly bound unto the State of Alabama in the penal sum of two hundred dollars; for payment of which, well and truly to be made, we bind ourselves and each and every of our Heirs, Executors, and Administrators, jointly, and severally, firmly by these presents….The condition of the above obligation is such that if there be no lawful cause why George W. Amos and Jane Carter should not be joined together in the Holy union of Matrimony, then this obligation to be void; otherwise, to remain in full force and virtue.”

Their first born was William Wilburn, 1867, followed by Seaborn Washington, 1868, John Henry, 1871, James Belvy 1873, Mary Catherine, 1875, Martha Matilda “Mattie”, 1877, Alexander Zacariah, 1879, Nettie, 1887, and Ada Lee, 1892. Remarkably for the time, all of their children survived childhood to die in adulthood.

In the 1870 census GW III and Mary Jane lived in Pike Co., Alabama, and had two young children (William Wilburn and Seaborn, 3 and 1); GW was listed as a farmer. His wife was illiterate, unlike him. He lived next to his father GW Amos II, probably farming the family land, as he was listed as having no real or personal estate. GW II was 58, wife Catharine was 53; two daughters lived with them, Rebecah and Isabella, 18 and 16.

In the 1880 census eldest son William Wilburn, aged 12, was listed as farm laborer to his father. The family had relocated to Arkansas, living in Big Creek, Sebastian, Arkansas (southeast of Fort Smith).

The move must have been in 1870 or 1871, as the following letter, from GW Amos III to his brother William Greensberry Amos, who was two years older, reveals:

febuary the 19 1871

To Mr. Wm. G. Amos

Der Brother it is with mutch pleasure that I seat myselfth this eavening to drop you A few lines to let you no that mea and my famerley is well at this time and I hope that these few lines may cum safe to hand and find you and your famerley snjoying they saim blessings brother I hant got no nuse to right to you onley we are getting A long verry well if I can just have good helth and A plenty to eat I think that I am all right brother this is A grate farmeing cuntry A man can make as mutch as he can gether here and not have to wirk near as hard as they do there if you was here you cold make as mutch in one year as you can there in too and stop every saturday and go A fishing land an’t as hy here as it is there but it is wirth three times as mutch A man can make enny thing here that he wants and there is A verry good range here and there is timber A plenty we don’t have no pine here but we can have just as mutch good oak wood to burn as we wont and hit burnes as well without lightwood here as hit does there with it brother hit lookes like ruiming A man to sell out everything and moove this fure but I dont burgrudge my move my selfth I han’t got nuthing but I hope hit won’t bea so all ways I have wirked A nuff since I landed here to get as mutch corne as I wont and to get 10030 lbs of meat I am getting A doler A hundard for splitting rails and they ant but 8 feet long timber is as good as I ever saw

Brother A man can get wirk to do here at enny time there is a right smart of people that han’t dun picking coton yet A man can get a doler and a quarter for every hundard poundes of coten they will pick brother you must excuse my bad rightting and spelling for this time for I am so fat and lazy that I can’t right good brother you must right to mea as soon as you get this and right to mea all of they nuse Tell all of my friendes to right to mea and al so tell them howdy brother it lookes like that you all wait for mea to right first I have rote this makes 7 or 8 leters that I have roten but I han’t got no anser from men onley those that I rote to pa and beckey brother I will Close for this tim by saying to you that I remain as ever your loveing brother until death so give my love to all of they famerly and receive A potion for your selfth so good by

G.W. Amos to W. G. Amos, Sabaston Conty Ark Greenwood To

The letter reveals that GW Amos grew corn, hunted or traded for meat, split rails for fencing and railroads, and picked cotton; he counted himself happy even if struggling to make a living. His family was large: five boys and two girls.

Mary died in 1895; GW married Martha Ann Harper, aged 47, in 1899. They had two children, one out of wedlock, Emma, born in 1897, another, Nada, born in 1901 (died, 1973). Martha died in 1902, and GW remarried Sarah E. Alford; they had no children. She was 49 when they were married.

In the 1910 census, GW and Sarah had three grandchildren living with them and one child, Emma, from his previous marriage. They were homeowners, farming in Bloomer, Sebastian Co. Arkansas, near Big Creek.

GW Amos III was a strong-looking man, according to several surviving photos. The photo taken when he was 18 before he enlisted reveals a pudgy, healthy young man with a full face and narrow, penetrating eyes. A later family photograph taken shortly before Mary Jane’s death shows a middle-aged man, stern, with a square face, no longer pudgy, thick hair and beard (without moustache). A photo taken around 1910 with four of his children shows a stern-faced man, lean, with heavy eyebrows, penetrating eyes, and a thick white beard sans moustache. A portrait perhaps drawn from a photo with his third wife Sarah Rambo Amos shows a white-bearded, brown-haired, stern man with sunken cheeks.

George Washington Amos III and Mary Jane Carter

In 1902 GW applied for an Arkansas pension as a Confederate veteran. His widow Sarah applied again after his death on Feb. 20, 1916. GW is buried at Greenwood, Arkansas. Sarah outlived him by six years.

 GW and children Ada, Alexander, John Henry, Mary

About a hundred miles to the north in the 1870s, when GW Amos III was writing his brother about the virtues of his farm at Big Creek Township, Sebastian County, Arkansas, another family lived at War Eagle Township in Madison County, Arkansas. George Washington Largent, his first wife Armenty Dunagan, nicknamed Mittie, and their two daughters Louisa, 2, and Rosettie, 6 months, lived and farmed in 1880. Soon another child would arrive, Mae (or May). Nearby, GW’s brother Norris and his wife Amanda and children also farmed.

George Washington Largent’s life has a bit of mystery about it. His gravestone lists his birth date as August 15, 1859. The month and day are probably correct, though the year of his birth was probably 1855 rather than 1859. According to the 1860 U. S. Census, the family of Thomas Largent, in Macoupin Co., Illinois, was comprised of four children, including five-year old George Washington. He could not have been born in 1859, as he had two younger siblings, Lauretta, two, and Charles, four months. His mother, Narcissa Ann Hayes, died with the birth of Charles. So, George Washington was five-years old when his mother died. (The 1870 census lists him as 14—so he must have been born in 1855.)

When George was 10 or 11, his father married a 19-year-old, Lydia Stout. They moved from Illinois to Missouri at some point. In the 1870 federal census, Thomas farmed in Deer Creek Township, Bates, Missouri. He and his wife Lydia could read but not write, but his son George Washington was completely illiterate, and apparently remained so his entire life.

George had four wives during his life, outliving three. He was married to Armenty Dunagan, Sarah Bryant, Mary Lue Smith, and Annie Pool. George’s first three children were born to Armenty: Louisa, Rosettie, who was born Nov. 23, 1877, and lived for 85 years, and Mae, who was born Feb. 14, 1881, and lived for 47 years. When Mae was born, the young family and moved south to Chismville, Arkansas, north of Booneville.

After Armenty died Oct. 23, 1883, in her 28th year, George married Sarah Bryant on Feb. 7, 1884. Their marriage was childless, and she died within four years, date unknown.

The rest of GW’s children were born to Mary Lue Smith, who was, according to family tradition, ½ American Indian, tribe unknown. Her family lived in Dahoma, Franklin, Arkansas, in north central Arkansas, where George and Mary were married. George and Mary conceived their first child, Claude, out of wedlock, as they were not married until July 25, 1888, and Claude was born on July 2, three weeks earlier. George was about 33, Mary was 17. Overall, they had 13 children.

George Washington’s namesake, born in 1889, died in infancy; GW and Mary Lue’s third child, Norris, seems to have been favored over their first born, Claude. In the 1920 federal census, Norris and his family lived next door to GW and Mary Lue; meanwhile Claude and his family lived in a shack on GW’s land. In 1920, GW was 60, Mary L was 50; four daughters lived at home. He was a general farmer, owned his land. He and Mary L were illiterate. He was born in Illinois, his parents also. She was born in Arkansas, her father in Missouri, mother in Arkansas.

According to family traditions, GW left “Illinois under some kind of trouble,” which would be strange as he was but a child when they moved. Perhaps family tradition referred to Missouri. Another tradition has it that GW would lock the gate to keep suitors from courting his grand-daughter Marie.

GW and Mary Lue Largent

Mary Lue Smith Largent died Nov. 3, 1924, at age 53. GW remarried Annie Pool, age 63, on Feb 19, 1925. In the 1930 federal census GW owned his house, farmed, was 71, was illiterate and had no schooling. He was 71 and Annie was 68.

When GW died in 1936, he was buried next to his third wife Mary Lue in Ferguson Cemetery, Chismville, Logan Co., Arkansas. His epitaph reads: “An honest man’s the noblest work of God.”

By this time of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, branches of the Largent and Amos families were living in western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma. They were soon to be joined together.

The eldest child of George Washington Amos III was William Wilburn Amos, who was born on April 18, 1867, in Pike Co., Alabama, in the southern part of the state, to George Washington Amos III and Mary Jane Carter Amos. William was their first-born son. He was brought up as a farmer and was so designated in the 1880 census. At age twelve he had not yet learned to read and write. He had six siblings. At some point in the 1870s the Amos family moved to Big Creek, Sebastian, Arkansas, on the Arkansas River. Nearby was the Calhoun family, whose youngest daughter, Arsula, met William at some point; they were married on Christmas Day, 1890, in Greenwood, Sebastian Co., Arkansas, south of Fort Smith in western Arkansas. She was seventeen and he was twenty-three.

Arsula was the daughter of William and Martha Rhodes Calhoun. William was an Illinois and Arkansas farmer and carpenter. He was born in May, 1826, in Williamson, Tennessee, to Jacob (Jack) Julian Calhoun (1802-1856) and Rebecca McCall (1797-1869). Martha Rhodes likewise was born in Williamson, Tennessee. the daughter of Christopher and Elizabeth Rhodes. Martha married William C. Calhoun on October 17, 1850 in Marshall, Tennessee. He was 24 and she was 19 years old. William and Martha had eight children. In 1852 their daughter Elizabeth was born, followed by William Thomas in 1853. After his birth the family moved to southern Illinois, Johnson County, in the corner of the state between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. There their daughter Amanda F. was born in 1856, James A. in 1862, Susan in 1863, Samuel H. in 1866, Robert M. in 1868, son Alphus in 1871, and daughter Arsula Jane in 1873. Martha apparently died in childbirth or soon after the birth of Arsula.

In the 1860 federal census, William listed himself as a carpenter. He registered for the Northern Civil War draft in 1863. In the 1870 census William listed himself as a farmer. He and Martha were both listed as illiterate. The value of their real estate was $800, personal estate $600. In 1870, the Calhoun family lived in Township 11, Range 21, Johnson Co., Illinois; the post office was at Goreville (southern corner of Illinois north of Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River).

After Martha’s death, William took his family of eight children to western Arkansas, Bates Township, south of Fort Smith, just east of the Oklahoma border, where he farmed and worked as a carpenter. By this time, William as well as all of the children were listed as literate. His oldest daughter Elizabeth kept house for William.  

After Arsula married William Wilburn Amos Christmas, 1890, they had a daughter, Bessie, born on December 24, 1891.

In the 1900 census, Will was listed as a farmer who could read and write; perhaps Arsula helped him to learn. They rented. Their children were Bessie, 8, Harland, 6, Charley, 4. The lived in Center, Sebastian Co., Arkansas, southeast of Fort Smith.  Ten years later the family had moved a few miles east to Boone Township (Booneville), where Will still farmed. By this time, Will and Arsula (or Sula) owned their own farm. Their children were Bessie, age 18, Harland, age 16, Charley, age 14, Reba, age 8, and Wayne, age 3.

During the next decade, one would assume that hard times came upon the family. They left Arkansas and moved to Oklahoma, settling in the town of Stigler, in eastern Oklahoma. They lived on N. Ninth St, and Will still farmed, working on his “own account,” either as a renter or farm laborer—it is not clear. His son Charley, still living at home, worked as a salesman at a drugstore. Bessie and Harland had left home, but Reba (Elizabeth Reba) and William Wayne were living at home. Will was 52 and Sula was 46.

During the next ten years, all of their children left home. Will and Sula lived at 341 S. 3rd St. in 1930. Will was no longer a farmer, rather a caretaker of the town cemetery. He was 60, she was 55.

Will and Sula Amos

Will died soon after, on died Feb. 17, 1931; he is buried in the cemetery in which he had once worked. Soon after Sula moved to Holdenville. There she lived in a small house by herself; no doubt she often visited with her children and their spouses Ray and Reba, Wayne and Willa Mae, Charles and Rose, all of whom lived in Holdenville. Sulla outlived Will by 17 years, dying on June 10, 1948. They are buried next to each other in Stigler.

Bess and Sula Amos

Will and Sula’s oldest child, Bessie, married Claude Christopher Largent on December 3, 1911, in Booneville, Arkansas, where they made their residence during their early years of marriage.

Claude Largent was born to George Washington Largent and Mary Lue Smith in Booneville, Arkansas, on July 2, 1888. George Washington (GW) was a farmer and Mary Lue, who was half Indian (tribe unknown) was his third wife. Mary Lue and GW had thirteen children, of which Claude was the first. His siblings were: George (November, 1889-December, 1889), Norris (Narcissie) A. (1892-1952), (Mary E, 1893-infant), Bettie (1893-1960), William (1896-1896), Evert (1898-1899), Sarah E. (1900- ?), Tommy (1901-1907), Mattie (1904-1981), Mae (1906-2002), Viola M. (1907-2002), Georgia Naoma (Oma) (1909-1984), and step siblings Louisa (1979-?), Rosettie (1879-1963), and May (1881-1926).

For many years Claude’s children and relations believed he was born in 1889, and indeed the 1900 U. S. Census claims as much. However, George Washington II was born in November, 1889, and died the following month. Hence what Claude recorded on his 1917 draft registration, that he was born in 1888, was true. (Strangely, however, in his 1942 draft registration, Claude listed his birth erroneously at 1889.) Claude was born a few weeks before GW, aged about 32, and Mary L, aged 17, were married. So Claude was an illegitimate, firstborn son. Perhaps the illegitimacy haunted him and he did not receive some of the benefits of the second living son, Norris.

Claude’s early life was undoubtedly a struggle, in part because he was illegitimate and ¼ Indian (perhaps), he was not well educated, though he sometimes attended school (his parents were both illiterate). A family tradition has it that Mary Lue stood up to GW in support of Claude when he wanted to attend school. Of Claude’s many siblings, five died in childhood; hence Mary Lue was pregnant a lot and the babies and infants died regularly—death was a frequent visitor to the Largent household.

In the 1900 federal census, he was listed as 10 years old, born in July, 1889–an error. Claude’s father George W. was born August, 1860, in Illinois, as were his parents, and Claude’s mother Mary L., born Oct. 1871 in Arkansas. Her father, about whom little is known, was born in Missouri, and her mother, otherwise unknown, was born in Arkansas. GW in 1900 owned his own farm, and had no mortgage. Mary was mother of 7 children, 4 living. Their place of residence was Washburn, Logan Co., Arkansas.

Claude’s draft registration in 1917 reveals that he was a self-employed farmer, was married with two children under 12. He lists himself as Caucasian. He was medium height, slender, brown eyes, black hair in June 5, 1917.

Claude and Bess had four children: Marie, born in 1913; George Amos, born in 1915; Joyce, born in 1919, and Wanda June, born in 1928.

In the 1920 federal census, Claude and Bessie and three children—Marie, Amos, and Joyce—were living in Center Haskell, Oklahoma on the road between Stigler and Keota. Claude was a farmer who owned his own home with a mortgage.

Claude was ambitious enough to educate himself so that he could eventually serve as a school teacher. His daughter June recalled that “the folks talked about several towns where they lived and Dad taught. I believe Pawnee, Shawnee, and towns around Seminole were some. Dad taught in Oklahoma and Arkansas. I remember them talking about him teaching “up on the mountain” in Arkansas.” This was probably Mt. Home School, established in 1920 on Beaver Mountain, Haskell County, Oklahoma.

Claude Largent

In 1928, they were living in Booneville, Arkansas, where GW lived. GW allowed Claude and family to live in a small shack on his land. June recalls that “Mother talked like she didn’t like him; I don’t remember why. Of course, he didn’t leave Dad anything, and I think he had a lot of land. He also had a lot of kids.” Their youngest daughter Wanda June was born in this shack December 15, 1928.

The 1930 census shows Claude and Bessie living in Seminole County, Econtuchka township, Oklahoma. It reveals that they did not own a farm, rather rented. Claude was a school teacher in Econtuchka.

During the Depression, according to family tradition, “Claude taught school for some $40.00 per month. Walked 10 miles to teach singing lessons during the summer. Sold newspapers in Wewoka. . . . Was not easy, but they made it.” Wewoka is 35 miles from Econtuchka, so either Claude drove to sell newspapers, or the family lived in Wewoka for a time.

Claude moved his family to Stigler in 1934. For a few years they lived in the home of Bessie’s parents, Will and Sula Amos (Will having died, and Sula living in Holdenville). The 1940 census reveals that Claude and Bess continued to live in Stigler, Oklahoma. They rented a home and did not farm. Claude had completed the second year of college, attending Northeastern University in Tahlequah. His son George Amos had completed the third year of college. Claude taught music in a Works Progress Administration school in Stigler, now the Stigler Grade School, at 5th and B streets. Claude and Marie were a singing duo in local Stigler churches. The Largent family were Methodists.

In 1942, they were living in Stigler, Oklahoma; Claude was employed by Claud Frix, who was the proprietor of a retail dry goods store. But that same year Claude, Bess, and June, their youngest child, made the trek of the Okies to California to look for work. They lived in San Diego in 1942, moved back to Stigler, then moved to Santa Monica, California in 1943, living there until 1944. Claude worked in the aircraft industry and in a lumber yard. June attended Santa Monica schools. They returned to Stigler in 1945, and Claude worked as an elementary school custodian while they lived outside of town. Nearby, Claude’s sister Bettie lived near Stigler Lake with her husband Newton McCaslin.

Claude, Bess, and daughter June

The family moved to Tulsa in 1945. Claude worked for the Tulsa Public Schools, Irving and Mark Twain schools, as a custodian. He also worked for a church in Tulsa. They purchased a house in West Tulsa in 1946 with a Teacher’s Credit Union loan. Claude, who didn’t drive, walked just about everywhere to work. Claude daily walked from their home at 3613 W. Admiral Blvd. in Tulsa (in a home that no longer stands) down the street to S. 33rd W. Ave to the grocery store on the Sand Spring Line, now Charles Page Blvd—a walk of a mile.

Claude retired in 1959 from Tulsa Public Schools and spent his time working in a large garden in the backyard where he grew all sorts of vegetables. Every Christmas the entire extended family of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren filled the house and enjoyed Christmas cheer. Claude and Bess had their own easy chairs, from which they could sit and watch television. Claude enjoyed smoking his pipe and Bess enjoyed dipping tobacco. They were both quiet people. Bess, especially, was tough, no-nonsense. Claude’s grandson, Rusty, remembers him as very old, thin, cross-eyed, yet quiet, possibly thoughtful. He wore sun-glasses, even inside, perhaps because of his cross-eyes. Rusty would sometimes join his grandfather in the vegetable garden. Claude said little but walked about gathering the vegetables and pruning branches; Rusty followed, watching. One time, Claude gave Rusty some books without comment. The books were a two-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln by Carl Sandberg. The books appeared well-used, so clearly his grandfather had read them again and again. They must have been his favorite books, and now he was giving them to Rusty—perhaps his grandfather’s wisdom and Carl Sandberg’s wisdom and Abraham Lincoln’s wisdom would combine to provide the sixteen-year-old inquisitor with wisdom itself. And so, despite the fact that most of the books he read were about sports, Rusty began to read. Sandberg’s portrayal of Lincoln was of a humorous, shy, witty, thoughtful, caring, empathetic man who became President of the United States. Rusty’s grandfather had the same body-type, the same apparent demeanor, as Abraham Lincoln, though as far as Rusty knew his grandfather had only been a custodian for his working years. Sandberg’s Lincoln cared for people, for all people of whatever color, and for this care he became a martyr, a sacrifice to the principles of equality and freedom.

Claude had a slight stoke a year or so before he died. “Never the same,” his daughter June recalls. Claude predeceased Bess by three years, dying July 21, 1975. Bess lived for a brief time in a nursing home and died on April 29, 1979.

Claude and Bess, 1967

The descendants of Claude Largent and his ancestors extending back to Jean Largent and Bess Amos Largent and her ancestors extending back to Nicholas Amos continue to live in Arkansas and Oklahoma, and throughout the United States.

About theamericanplutarch

Writer, thinker, historian.
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