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William Cross Research Log - Introduction

Next - A Fly in the Ointment

William Cross was a resident of Anderson County, Tennessee who filed for a Revolutionary War pension in 1833. Cross family researchers are interested in determining whether they are William's descendants. If you are his descendant you can use his Revolutionary War service to qualify for the D.A.R., the S.A.R. and similar organizations.

In my case, I am not so much interested in memberships in various organizations as I am in proving that William was the father of my third great grandfather Alfred Carter Cross. Otherwise, Alfred is a brick wall and I do not like to run into brick walls in my research.

Proving William's children has been very difficult. His pension file indicates that he died in late 1844. Anderson County court records show that his will was proved on January 1st, 1845 and that the court ordered the will to be recorded. However, there is no record of the will at the courthouse. The absence of the will makes research on William much more difficult than otherwise it would be.

Similar difficulties abound when looking at other data about William. Many pieces of data seem almost to answer important questions about William's children. However, the answers never seem quite satisfactory, and the data remains incomplete and ambiguous. I frequently feel like Charlie Brown trying to kick the football, and Lucy always pulls the ball away at the last second. For example, it was wonderful to discover that William's will was proved and then it was very discouraging to discover that there is no record of the will at the courthouse.

The best evidence for William Cross's children is his land. At the time of his death in 1844, he owned 174 acres of land in Civil District 8 of Anderson County. In 1888, there was a lawsuit among and between members of the Cross family over a piece of land. The result of the lawsuit was that court sold the land at auction at the courthouse door and the court disbursed the proceeds of the sale to the parties to the lawsuit. The evidence for William Cross's descendants is that the land sold by the court in 1888 appears to have been William's 174 acres. Because the land was William's land, we therefore conclude that the parties to the lawsuit were William's descendants.

The difficulty with this evidence lies in establishing that the land that was the subject of the lawsuit in 1888 was the same land that William Cross owned in 1844. There is not enough information in the lawsuit itself to determine that the land in the lawsuit was William's land. Rather, the location of land owned by the Pyatt family in 1942 persuades me that the land in the lawsuit was William's land.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers purchased all the land in the west end of Anderson County in 1942 to build the secret city of Oak Ridge. Oak Ridge was a part of the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. The facilities at Oak Ridge produced the enriched uranium for the Hiroshima bomb.

As a part of the Manhattan Project, the Corps of Engineers produced maps of all the parcels of land that they purchased from the farmers in the area. John W. Pyatt owned the parcel of land on the Corps of Engineers maps that best matches the description of William Cross's land. John W. Pyatt was the son of Joseph L. Pyatt. It was Joseph who purchased land at auction at the courthouse door in 1888 as a part of the Cross family lawsuit. John Pyatt's land in 1942 certainly appears to include the land that Joseph Pyatt purchased in 1888. I will conduct additional research to confirm that John Pyatt's land in 1942 included Joseph Pyatt's land from 1888. If that effort is successful, then I will consider the case closed.

In the meantime, we may observe that using the 1942 Corp of Engineers maps to resolve the question of William Cross's descendants just moves the problem. It is not as straightforward to trace Joseph L. Pyatt's land to John W. Pyatt as might be hoped and it feels as if Lucy once again has pulled the football away just as I was about to kick it. Nevertheless, I will gather and present the evidence from the Pyatt family to the best of my ability.

Finally, it is possible to learn a great deal about William Cross's descendants without using any data after 1888. It is even possible to learn a great deal about William's descendants without using the 1888 court case. I will present all such evidence to the best of my ability. Doing so avoids the complications associated with tracing the land from 1844 all the way to 1942.

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This page last edited on 15 Apr 2017.