Photo: Peter Coleman
She was a tiny little woman but wiry. She had very long arms. Some might have said God gave her those for "catching" the babies that she mid-wifed in the Appalachian hills. Whatever the reason, her arms did look longer than normal. Not that I ever met her -- she died long before I was born. But my mother remembered her well and I have seen pictures of her. Who is she? She's my great-grandmother, Louisa Ann Coleman Smith.
The ironic thing is that while I have no idea from whom she came, I do know exactly where she is...or rather, where her final resting place is. Great Grandma Louisa Coleman Smith is buried next to my great grandfather, Solomon King Smith in the Phillips Cemetery in Merrimac, West Virginia.
Trying to find her parents, however, has proven very frustrating. I am the oldest daughter of the oldest living daughter of the oldest daugher to the illusive Miss Coleman, however, for some odd reason, the oral family history (of which we have so much and which is a treasure and which I have written down for our next generations) never included that of Louisa Ann's parentage. All I can remember hearing about her is that her family may have come from a place called Wolfpit, Kentucky in Pike County.
The other facts that I know about her is that she and Great Grandpa Smith lived in Hurley, Virginia when my grandmother Ethel Smith was born back on New Year's Day in 1901. Papa Smith was a blacksmith and it is said that Grandma Coleman had taught school before marrying Solomon. It was also said that she was a year or two older than her husband.
Louisa had at least one sister who's name was Phygenia Coleman (Roberts). My great Aunt Phygenia could draw very well and it is no doubt from her that I get this same talent as did some of my 50 first cousins and at least one nephew. Great Grandm Louisa also had a brother that she referred to as "Shack" or something that sounded like that. But that's it. That's all I know about her. I want to know more. I want to trace her lineage as I have so many of my other ancestors..but she has proven very illusive.
Her husband, Solomon King Smith, my great grandfather, had a grandmother who was also a Coleman. My Great Great Great grandmother Sarah Coleman (May) is from the Peter Coleman and Abigail Jayne (originally "De Jeanne" - Fr.) lineage. This is the same lineage from which my husband, Paul Coleman, hails. (Paul Coleman, Edward Coleman, Riley Coleman, Matthew Coleman, Abraham Coleman, Richard Coleman, Peter Coleman II). My lineage in that same lines goes Geneva France, (Francis), Opal Lee France, Ethel Smith Lee, Solomon King Smith, Mary Ann May, Sarah Coleman May, Daniel Boone Coleman, Peter Coleman II. (So that means my 7th generation grandfather (Peter Coleman II) and my husband's 6th generation grandfather (Peter Coleman II) was the one and the same. Peter's grandfather was William Coleman, one of three Coleman brothers who settled in Virginia.
Was my great grandmother, Louisa Ann Coleman from this same line? I don't know but it is highly likely as it is said that three brothers who immigrated to the Virginia area and one of those three brothers was William Coleman and his son, Peter, (whose wife was Abigail Jayne (or De Jeanne" originally) begat all the Eastern Kentucky Coleman clan.
And boy is that a clan! You can't pick up a rock in Pike County, Kentucky and throw it lest you hit a Coleman or a Coleman relative. Mike and I were at a local restaurant once and we told them "Coleman reservation". After we were seated, we heard three more Coleman reservations be seated right behind us. Yeah, there's that many of us.
So, why can't I find definitive proof of the line of my Great Grandmother, Louisa Ann Coleman Smith's parentage? I don't know. I have been conducting genealogical searches for more than ten years and I have yet to find definitive proof of her parents. It's frustrating. But it's also interesting and I have learned much along the way from my false starts. One day, perhaps someone, somewhere, will be able to help me finally put a name on the parenting chart of my great grandmother, Louisa Ann Coleman Smith. Until then she will remain.....the illusive Miss Coleman.