An ancestor she never knew

By Mary K. Hamner
Journal Correspondent

Sarah Jane haunts my life. When I first met her, she was looking down at me from the wall of my Grandparents home. Her young face, housed in an ornate frame, wore a serious expression and her right ear stuck out a little from her head. She, and the ornate frame, went away when my Grandparents did but Sarah Jane was destined to return.

She was born in June of 1845, the daughter of John and Rebecca Massey Cockerham, who were early pioneers of the area. At age sixteen, she married a local boy, John M. Havard, and they had one son. At age eighteen Sarah Jane Cockerham Havard was a widow with a child to raise. Havard had enlisted in the Castor Guard and was killed in action in the Civil War in 1863. Robert Amander Koonce who enlisted along with Havard, returned from the War and married his deceased best friend’s widow. They, over time, had four sons and two daughters. In 1885, Sarah Jane Cockerham Havard Koonce died at age forty leaving seven orphan children, among them my grandfather.

Many years later when Sarah Jane’s picture resurfaced at a cousin’s home, the cousin gracious

passed it along to my brother. My brother’s wife however, failed to appreciate the picture, so my brother wound up hanging it in his office apart from their home. I was happy for my brother to have the picture. He was a dyed in the wool genealogist who spent hours and hours figuring out the family begats and loved to talk about it. He was gifted in that he could fill in the blanks where no actual documentation existed.

Tragically, a fire destroyed the building where the office was housed and many of my brother’s photographs were destroyed. Sarah Jane however, survived because some one had asked for a copy of the 16 x 20-inch original and it was in transit at the time of the fire. In his magnanimous way, my brother ordered an extra copy of Sarah Jane for me.

Recently, Kate, a friend I have known for a lifetime, and I were visiting her brother who also was conversant in family genealogy. I had known of a family connection with Kate’s husband J.R., but had no clue as to any genetic connection between Kate and me.

Before our visit was over that day, the two of us learned that we had the same Great Grandmother. She and her brother had descended from Sarah Jane’s first son, John Cade Havard, and I had descended from Sarah Jane and her Koonce husband!

Kate and I made a trip out to Old Castor Cemetery to place a floral offering on our Great Grandmother’s grave one-day. She is a person I am glad to be kin to, but even though we had the same great grandmother we still couldn’t quite figure whether we are half fourth or fifth cousins or what. And, since we have family connections on her husbands side, (he was my mother’s half-nephew), just how does that fit into the story. We concluded that most of us are kin somewhere down the line.

Today, I treasure the photograph of Sarah Jane as she gazes at me from a prominent place on my wall. She does not smile at me but I feel the kinship. I live because she and others did and the road they traveled was surely not an easy one. The only family resemblance I see by looking at Sarah Jane’s picture is that my right ear also sticks out a bit from my head