The Mysterious 2nd Wife of Adam Poole Vandiver, the Hunter of Tallulah
Updated: Jul 25
When I began researching my Vandiver family tree, I found a post on RootsWeb outlining the life and lineage of Adam Poole Vandiver, the Hunter of Tallulah. I wrote about him in an earlier post, outlining the confusion among genealogists as to the identity of Adam's three wives.
Here is an example of the RootsWeb post, which has been copied and re-posted on various genealogy websites:
"Adam Poole married Martha Gullie Dove Whiting, daughter of Unknown and Unknown, on 1 Jan 1810 in Cleveland, White County, Georgia. Martha Gullie Dove was born on 26 Sept 1794 in Fairfield County, South Carolina and died in May 1840 in Habersham County, Georgia at the age of 45.
Adam Poole next married Caroline Amy Cooper on 20 Nov 1843 in Tallulah Falls, Habersham County, Georgia. Caroline Amy was born in 1810 in South Carolina and died in 1858 in Tallulah Falls, Habersham County, Georgia at age 48.
Adam Poole next married Ariann Wilkins. Ariann was born in 1803 in South Carolina and died on 5 Oct 1896 in Turnerville, Habersham County, Georgia at age 93."
This posting may or may not include this sentence - "Martha 'The Dove' Whiting was sister to Cherokee Chief Grey Owl."
Here is the issue with reusing information without examining gaps in research - the person posting these details without source citations might be missing crucial information garnered from a reasonably exhaustive search. Records for northern Georgia from this time period can be scant and no marriage records for Adam Poole Vandiver survive to the present day.
Even before online websites offered easy access to federal census records, an amazing array of resources were available to researchers in local, state, and federal archives. Some of the easiest and most approachable record sets center on military pensions, land bounty applications, and military service files. And this is where a family genealogist could add to that original RootsWeb posting for Adam Poole Vandiver.
Does it take time? Yes. Does it take money? Yes, but not an unreasonable sum. Is it worth the effort? Absolutely.
Family Narrative vs. Documented Evidence
This narrative of the three wives of Adam Vandiver is an old one. It is not well documented in easily attainable records, and the earliest source we can find substantiating the total number of wives was found in the April 1848 dispatch written by Charles Lanman where the author states "He is now living with his third wife, and claims to be the father of over thirty children."
This statement and the date contradicts the data posted on the RootsWeb genealogy board. As the article was written in April 1848 and the supposed death date of the second wife is taking place a decade later, we need to find additional supporting documents to create a better timeline for Adam Poole Vandiver and his three wives.
Step 1 - Find the Pension
The descendants of Adam Poole Vandiver are very fortunate to have a full copy of his War of 1812 military pension available from the National Archives in Washington, DC. He was among 180,000 veterans who survived to collect pensions in 1871. A huge fundraising campaign fully funded digitization of War of 1812 pension records in 2015, around 82% of the collection is available online for free on Fold3. Pensions were digitized alphabetically, so 'Vandiver' is not yet available to view online.
I made a trip to National Archives I a few years ago, and photographed Adam Vandiver's pension. You can download the full pension file here. There was a huge clue for our timeline based on statements found in documents pertaining to Arianne Vandiver's (third wife) widow's pension.
Step 2 - From the Sources Mouth
The best confirmation we have of the marriage of Adam Poole Vandiver and his third wife Ariann Wilkins Vandiver is testimony presented by his daughter Caroline Vandiver Whitfield. She attests to the following:
Two of Caroline's brothers provide testimony which neither confirms nor denies the validity of the marriage between their father and his third wife.
The breakthrough testimony in the case is supplied by another brother, Solomon H. Vandiver.
Step 3 - Follow the Source
Solomon Vandiver brought up the key element which demystifies the order of his father's marriages. While there is scant information on Adam Poole Vandiver's first wife Martha Whiting (or Whitting depending on the source), Solomon states clearly his father's last wife had been in a marriage or long term partnership with a local neighbor Sherwood Cooper. Sherwood has been located in the 1830 and 1840 US Federal Census living in Habersham County with a woman of a similar age with multiple children. Several of Arianne Vandiver's census records document her name as 'Ary' or 'Amy', which lent room for the 'Amy Cooper' name in the family narrative to grow. Where do we find the 'Caroline' name? It could have been a portion of the story picked up in the 1850 US Federal Census for Habersham County, where Adam, Arianne (marked as 'Ary') and Caroline Cooper are residing in the same household. It is also important to note that Sherwood Cooper is also found alive and well in the 1850 US Federal Census residing in Pickens County, South Carolina, a distance of around 50 miles from the Vandiver homestead. If Sherwood and Arianne Vandiver were married and the couple parted (amicably or not), no legal documents for a separation or divorce have been located. Which explains how two of the Vandiver brothers were leaving enough plausible deniability in their sworn statements should Arianne be revealed as a bigamist.
Step 4 - Collateral Research
The Vandiver descendants may be many in number, but they were the only family of that surname in a very specific area over a long period of time. This makes collateral genealogy research a much easier process, as everyone is related to each other and there is little time spent conducting research on non-related individuals with the same surname. After investing time compiling a list of children verified to be the offspring of Adam Poole Vandiver, I began filling in gaps to records by broadening vital records searches beyond Georgia and into North and South Carolina. That's when one particular record popped up in the search.
Birth of Emaline Vandiver Richardson - March 20th, 1848 in Georgia
Parents: Adam Vandiver & Sallie Brown
Emaline Vandiver was a question mark in my collateral search, as she appears in the 1850 US Federal Census in Habersham County in the household of Benjamin Pinkney Vandiver (son of Adam Poole Vandiver) and wife Mary Elizabeth Brown Vandiver. The birth order of the children born in this household was really unusual, especially when Mary Elizabeth Brown Vandiver had given birth to her daughter Martha Ann on November 22, 1847 and Emaline was born March 20, 1848 - a FOUR MONTH difference.
A female head of house documented as 'Sary Brown' and four minor female children are found living near Adam Poole Vandiver in the 1840 US Federal Census. Yes, it is possible a different and much younger female from the household could have married Adam Poole Vandiver in 1843, however, it is more likely two single parents would have married to care for their respective households.
If Emaline's mother died during or just after giving birth, it would have been difficult for her to remain in the household. A straightforward solution would have been to place Emaline with a nearby relation who was already nursing an infant. From documentation found in US Federal Census records, Emaline grew up with her much older brother and his wife, as well as a large household of cousins. The death certificate is proof she knew who her father was, but we do not know what type of relationship father and daughter had. They do not appear in any census records together, and she is not named in Adam Poole Vandiver's probate file. It is also important to note that Celia Vandiver Stone, a verified daughter of Adam Poole Vandiver and his first wife Martha Whiting resided and died in the same South Carolina county as Emaline Vandiver Richardson. The two lived relatively close by to each other.
Step 5 - Update the Timeline
Our timeline documenting the marriages of Adam Poole Vandiver looks like this:
Wife #1 - Martha Whiting. Marriage documented to take place around 1810. Death date based on birth order of husband's children to be around 1842/1843.
Wife #2 - Sary/Sallie Brown. A marriage of November 20, 1843 is documented and attributed to Ariann Wilkins Vandiver to be eligible for a widow's pension. Death estimated to take place on or around March 20, 1848 based on birth of daughter Emaline Vandiver Richardson and in-person visit of journalist Charles Lanman in April 1848.
Wife #3 - Ariann Wilkins. Marriage date of November 20, 1843 is likely to be misattributed. Testimony of Solomon Vandiver and presence of Sherwood Cooper in 1850 leads to evidence of informal and undocumented separation from previous spouse/partner. Arianne and her minor children may have integrated into the Vandiver household after the death of Sary Brown Vandiver in March/April 1848. Confirmation of this relationship made in the Charles Lanman article dated April 1848.
The family narrative posted in that late 1990s RootsWeb message board contains several errors and surefire case of mistaken identity. However, it does provide a marriage date for Adam Poole Vandiver's second bride, and provides guidance as to the identity of his first and third wives. The lesson learned from the three wives of Adam Poole Vandiver is to keep researching, scour as many documents and resources as possible, and stop posting and sharing under-cited and non-researched information online. Most of the online Vandiver family trees are riddled with mistakes and inaccurate information. Let's take the time to do the research and find evidence so we can pass down an accurate family story.
If you have some Vandiver family history you'd like to share, please contact me. I would also love to coordinate a Vandiver family reunion with anyone interested. It's time to get the Vandiver descendants back together and break down the last of our genealogical brick walls!