Elder Berry’s visit with his relatives comprise much of the month of July. Starting on the 4th of July which he spends in Nashville, he makes his way east of the city by train to Lebanon, the Wilson County seat. From Lebanon he walks and hitch-hikes seven miles to the tiny postal town of Shop Springs. There he meets several relatives. Some he even meets by accident. At one point he asks a total stranger if she knows where Mrs. Sims lives and it turns out he is talking to Mrs. Sims herself.
Over the course of three weeks he meets dozens of cousins and spends his time, apparently sans companion, visiting and collecting names. It is almost as if he is writing for his mother’s benefit, elaborating on his exact relationship only when it comes down to second and third cousins, and then only by adding who their parent or grandparent was, as though that were enough to properly identify their relationship.
At one point he made a side trip to his father’s old cabin.
Thursday July 17th. I went to Shop Springs post office to send a letter home.
I walked to Dresdon, Tennessee and saw my father’s house. It is 18 by 30. It is made of logs and lumber. The two chimneys are of stone and brick. It has one door in the west, one in the north and one in the south. The windows and in the west, north and south and two up stairs. There is a spring about 6 rods south east of the house. There are few peach and locus trees about the place. I met and old black man by the name of Eliga Tompson. He said he knew my mother. He said his father was Joe Shanks and that he belonged to grandfather Shanks. He said he saw my father have a fight with Bill Belt. I stayed here all night.
The next day he walked back to a cousin’s house in Shop Springs. So where ever he went it wasn’t too far from Shop Springs.
From this I start thinking... maybe he wasn’t born in Dresden, Weakley County, but in Dresdon, Wilson County. It isn't uncommon for genealogist to know only the town and have to look up the county from an index of some kind. But a quick search turned up no such location. I checked with historians more familiar with Wilson County and still nothing.
I started to doubt myself when I found an 1840 census listing Jesse Berry (William’s father) as living in Dresden, Weakley County. Maybe they moved from Wilson County to Weakley County and William was just confused when he named the place in Wilson County Dresdon. Not everything people write in journals is correct.
But the 1840 census doesn’t name anyone except the head of household. So it might not even be the right Jesse Berry. And as I start looking at birth records for each of William’s siblings, I start to see more conflicts. Some were born in Lebanon in Wilson County, others were born in Dresden in Weakly County. And there doesn’t seem to be a pattern for when they moved from one spot to the next.
I start looking at the support documents others have collected for the Berry family living in Weakley County. None of them are really county specific. But marriage records in Tennessee are specific to the county where the marriage was issued. I know Jesse married Armela Shanks in 1820 in Wilson County. Their oldest son John Williams Berry, William's older brother, was married in Wilson County in 1842.
I know they joined the church in 1842, though the baptism record doesn’t say where or by whom they were baptized. By 1844, they are living in Nauvoo, where Jesse died and was buried.
So here is my theory. The family knew they lived in Dresdon, Tennessee. So that is what they recorded. Years later, more nitpicky genealogists filled in the counties where the family had left it off. Not knowing where Dresdon was, they looked it up. What they found was Dresden, in Weakley County. They assumed it must be the right one, since it was the only one they found. I know I haven't proven this theory yet, so help me out here. Are there holes in my logic, and how would you go about proving or disproving this?