Shaking That Family Tree
I've never given much thought to my ancestors, but several months ago, my friend Richard Groner asked me if I would like for him to research my family tree.
I replied that it would be interesting to find out where I came from. Right away, he began conducting an extensive search into my ancestry as well that of my wife, Pat.
Richard's interest in genealogy is longstanding, and he has looked into the ancestry of many of his friends as a favor to them. Little did he realize when he opened the books to my past that he would pique my interest to the extent it has.
A few weeks later, Richard brought a book to me containing his findings. I began looking through it and was absolutely floored by the information.
One of the more interesting items was found on my mother's side of the tree. Her mother, and my grandmother, was Harriet Lora Fritz. The first Fritz who came to this country was Hans Ulrich Fritz, who was born about 1708, in Dottingen, Baden, Germany. He emigrated to Philadelphia, Pa., arriving in 1738 on the good ship Elizabeth. He brought with him his 8-year-old son, Wooldrich Frederick Fritz. From Philadelphia, they took up residence in Shenandoah, Va. In 1763, the Fritz family, now a wife, two sons and two daughters, moved to Lexington in Davidson County.
Wooldrich was a member of the Pilgrim Reformed Church in Davidson County. The church was established in 1757 and is still holding services today. Amazingly, I found that he served in Gen. Nathaniel Green's army and fought against Cornwallis in the Guilford Courthouse Battle in March 1781, as did his son, John, as well as his neighbor and comrade-in-arms, Valentine Leonard and his son Jacob.
After the battle, Green's army was partially disbanded. This was the last military involvement of the area, but a private war in the area was still being waged between Patriots and Tories. Wooldrich was killed at his home by a band of Tories and British sympathizers on Nov. 13, 1781. He is buried in the Pilgrim Reformed Church cemetery. Leonard was also killed by Tories about the same time and is buried beside Wooldrich. A monument to them was erected by local citizens in 1896. Wooldrich was 50 years old when he was killed. He was my great-great-great-great-grandfather.
When I learned about Wooldrich, I phoned the church secretary and told her I would like to visit my ancestor's grave. She graciously invited us to come and visit the church and cemetery and mentioned that the church maintains a museum that houses many of the relics of the Revolutionary War era. She said she would phone the cemetery caretaker, Joe Hege, and arrange for him to take us to Wooldrich's grave site.
And so Pat and I are going to Lexington, have barbecue and then go to the church. I knew most of my relatives from both sides of my family were from Tennessee and North Carolina, but I had no idea any of them had lived so close to where we live now. And certainly I had no idea any of them were Revolutionary War patriots who fought against Cornwallis at the Guilford Courthouse Battle.
Groner has certainly ignited my interest in genealogy. Frankly, I was concerned that he might discover a few horse thieves and bootleggers, but so far so good. But a rose does not a summer make and who knows what will turn up next.
I've already learned, somewhat to my dismay, that on my dad's side there was a doctor from Missouri who served for five years under Grant on the Union side.
I think it's time for me to look into Pat's family background and leave mine alone for a while. I know that her favorite coffee mug says she's queen of all she surveys. I've known that for a long time. Maybe a search of her ancestors will prove she really is.
Or maybe I ought to quit while I'm ahead.
Robey Howard is a Pinehurst writer.
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