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John George Wortham
(1775-Abt 1830)
Elizabeth Ward Jordan
Isaac Britt
(Abt 1767-Abt 1852)
Molly Munk Huff
(Abt 1770-Cir 1824)
Richard Jordan Wortham
Anne Rebecca Britt
(Abt 1821-1881)
Adolphus Richard Wortham


Family Links

Mattie J. Lewis

Adolphus Richard Wortham

  • Born: 18 Jan 1850, Granville Co., N.C. 1
  • Marriage: Mattie J. Lewis
  • Died: 6 Nov 1897, Warren Co., N.C. at age 47 1
  • Buried: Ben Wortham Cemetery, Vance Co., N.C.

bullet  General Notes:

The 1870 Federal Census for Trinity Township, Randolph Co., NC, Trinity P.O. records A. R. Wortham (20) as a student.

The 1880 Federal Census for Town of Oxford, Granville Co., NC, District 107 records Adolphus Wortham (27-NC), Lawyer, boarding in the home James and Sallie Crews. Mattie and the children are no where to be found.

Original Correspondence:
Date: Fri, 31 Jan 2003 10:13:07 -0500
From: Verna Hall <>
Subject: Sallie Green Wortham Blackwell
X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 6.00.2800.1106
Dear Kinsperson

Sallie Green Wortham is a g-g-aunt to me. I have been chasing down her brother Adolphus R. Wortham and his wife Mattie J. Lewis in records. I have seen on an entry in that The Blackwell Family Bible is in possession of one Garrett of Danville Virginia. Without vital statistics in NC until 1913, researchers have used the Bible records for genealogy. Do you know the whereabouts of the bible or its possessors?

I certainly was thrilled to see a photo of Sallie on your website. Thank you.

Yours truly
Verna Marie Wortham--by birth
Verna W. Linney as of 12-31-2002

Date: Fri, 07 Feb 2003 08:44:19 -0500
From: "Clara G. Fountain" <>
Subject: Fwd: Re: Sallie Green Wortham Blackwell
X-Sender: (Unverified)
X-Mailer: QUALCOMM Windows Eudora Version 5.1.1

From: "Verna Hall" <>
To: "Clara G. Fountain" <>
Subject: Re: Sallie Green Wortham Blackwell
Date: Thu, 6 Feb 2003 15:59:47 -0500
X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 6.00.2800.1106

Dear Clara

Until this spring I did not know my great grandparents names, or rather I forgot them. My grandfather (Willis Fielding Lewis Wortham, Sr.) was sent to Barium Springs Orphanage in December 1897 after the death of his father (Adolphus Richard Wortham, usually A.R.Wortham) Three of four brothers, aged 12, 10, and 8, went to Barium Springs from , I believe, Henderson (but maybe Raleigh). The fourth (Richard Jordan Wortham--named for A.R.'s father) went to live with Sallie's widower, John Pomfret Blackwell, and children in Townesville. I made phone and mail contact with Betty Ann Wortham Ennett, daughter of the eldest brother, the afore mentioned Richard Jordan Wortham, in December. Betty Ennett says she owns a box of genealogy done in order to join Colonial Dames.

I wrote a piece for Tom Wortham's "Wortham's Across America" newsletter which I will email to you separately--the dreaded unsolicited manuscript.

I live in western New York state. I discovered when I entered "Adolphus Wortham" on Google. What a revelation! The pedigrees go back to the 1600's. I got fired up so that roared down to Richmond in August to research a day at the Library of Virginia following A.R.'s widow in the Richmond City Directories from 1901 to 1924.

To read the microfilm of the Session Records of the Presbyterian Church of Oxford NC was a hoot. I attended Aycock Jr. High in Greensboro, NC with children whose last names were the same as in those session records: Bowles, Nance, Currin, and Gilliam for instance. I have a hunch we all had ancestors who knew one another! Oh, and Mrs.Garrett was my senior English teacher at Page Hi School.

Annie Britt was Sallie's mom (Adolphus', too) and Richard Jordan Wortham's wife.


From: "Verna Hall" <>
To: "Clara G. Fountain" <>
Subject: My Article for Wortham Genealogy Newsletter; fully and finally revised
Date: Thu, 6 Feb 2003 16:02:08 -0500
X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 6.00.2800.1106


I love stories. I shared this love with my dad, Willis Fielding Lewis Wortham, Jr., called Billy, who enjoyed the TV dramas Firestone Theater, Westinghouse Playhouse, Alfred Hitchcock, and Playhouse 90. As a schoolgirl, I stayed awake in bed listening to them. Once Billy stayed up all night to read Gone With the Wind and came down with a bad cold. Over coffee neighbors and relatives spun gossipy stories I reveled in. Dinksie, ever a prankster, spun a yarn, a whopper, for the Wortham children explaining its symbolism. Our ancestors were notorious sheep rustlers. The black crosses were for those hung who were guilty; and the white, for those innocent, but hung anyway.

My Poppop, Willis Fielding Lewis Wortham, Sr., however, told me a true, frightening story from his childhood--a story of a primal fear of all children. His father died when he and his brothers were children in Henderson, North Carolina. Their mother sent them by train to an orphanage. On the trip from the depot the wagon upset and threw the brothers into the snow. Meanwhile she relocated to Richmond, Virginia to set herself up in the millinery business. The story gave me a vivid bad dream. While playing in winter sunlight during recess in the schoolyard at Public School #23, Jersey City, New Jersey, my teacher, Mrs. Kramer approached me to tell me that my father had died and that I would have to leave my home, my school, my friends and my mother to go live at an orphanage. My Poppop's childhood reversal of fortune haunted me in my daydreams all my childhood and adolescence.

I knew little of my grandparents families in North Carolina and Virginia except they were extensive; and that their lineages were very old extending to the time of George Washington. He had been educated at Trinity, a Methodist college that became Duke University in Durham NC. One of the Wortham boys, Poppop's oldest brother, went to live with relatives instead of to the Barium Springs Orphanage. This Uncle Dick/ Richard Jordan Wortham prospered as a tobacco buying agent, specializing in Mediterranean "Turkish" tobacco, and consequently lived in exotic European locales. Despite Uncle Dick's success his only son, Richard Fielding Lewis Wortham, was killed in a car wreck in Princeton NJ sometime during the Great Depression. They say Uncle Dick died of a broken heart. My father (Willis L. Wortham, Jr.) once told me aged 14 what my great-grandfather's name was. I guffawed, went into denial and forgot the absurd (to me) name.

When P. Lorillard Company moved from Jersey City to Greensboro, North Carolina, they moved us, too. So the family that had moved north with the tobacco business now returned back South again a half-century later. About half the adults in my mother and father's families had worked for P. Lorillard. We'd been "in" tobacco for years. We attempted to call on Uncle Dick's widow in Asheville but were unsuccessful.. Perhaps as consolation Poppop arranged for us to be invited to dinner in Reidsville, NC at the home of his first cousin Mrs. Annie Blackwell Sharp. In her sitting room was the red shield, the Wortham coat-of-arms. We had one, too, in our parlor at my insistence; it was so pretty. I did not share the story of the Wortham sheep rustlers with Mrs. Sharp. Mrs. Sharp's mother had been Sallie Green Wortham; she was my great-grandfather's sister who married John Pomfret Blackwell. This was the family that had taken in Uncle Dick while his younger brothers went to Barium Springs Orphanage. Mrs. Sharp related that Poppop's father, the great-grandfather, had been a lawyer, as had Mrs. Sharp's husband. According to Mrs. Sharp, Lawyer Wortham died of "white swelling," tuberculosis of the bones. Before his death he had lost a leg to the disease. Mrs. Sharp's daughter, Judge Susie Sharp, taught us how to calculate kinships, and we had a jolly time naming the kinship between each person in the room. I was first-cousin-twice-removed to the congenial Mrs. Sharp. My father was second cousin to Judge Susie. My mom was the cousin-in-law.

Many years after that memorable summer evening in Reidsville, I called Duke University's Alumni Association to confirm that Poppop's father had attended Old Trinity. There was no record for an Archibald Wortham. Maybe Poppop figured no one in New Jersey could confirm or deny the claim that his father had attended the predecessor to Duke. I sadly concluded that Poppop had fibbed. In school I had written reports on Henry Clay and Abraham Lincoln, men who had been admitted to the bar after reading law. Poppop's father must have, too.

The death of the last of my mother's siblings in March 2002 spurred me to try to find some genealogical data. North Carolina has no vital statistics until 1913, years after the birth of my grandfather and death of my great-grandfather. Hoping that a Presbyterian institution would keep good records, I wrote Barium Springs Children's Home, located near Statesville, North Carolina. From a map it looks to be about one hundred fifty miles west of Henderson. A kindly archivist found the original applications for admission and sent copies. Here were data for the three Wortham brothers sent to Barium Springs Orphanage. Alexander Sprunt Wortham, September 19, 1889; Carl Archibald Wortham, September 15, 1887 and Willis Lewis Wortham, April 1, 1885.

There were the parents' names and the father's date of death. Their mother's name was Mattie L. Wortham. The father died November 6, 1897. The date of application was November 14, 1897, just eight days after the father's death.

It was a shocker to find Mattie L. Wortham named a member in good standing of the Raleigh NC Presbyterian Church by its pastor the Rev. Eugene Daniel. Why were they in Raleigh some forty miles from Henderson? As I took in the information, I stopped, stunned at Mattie L. Wortham's signature. We write Wortham with the same shape to the letters "t-h-a-m!"

Now what was the fanciful outlandish name of the great grandfather? What was name that made a fourteen-year-old girl laugh? What was the name so outrageous that denial and forgetfulness set in almost immediately? It was Adolphus Richard Wortham.

I had blocked out the name Adolphus because my mom's brother, Adolph, wounded in Europe during World War II, insisted on being called Uncle Dutch., and never Adolph--as in Hitler. No wonder I forgot the name Adolphus.

Apparently Adolphus found his name difficult in North Carolina. In his student and public life he preferred to use his initials, a custom arising in the 1830's, still popular today in the South, and an impediment to genealogists. Duke University's Archives found A.R. Wortham at Trinity starting in 1870 as a preparatory student. All told he attended Old Trinity near Asheboro, North Carolina about five years. There is, however, no record of his graduation. They initially refused to let me see his grades without an official death certificate. Inspired by my esteemed cousin Tom Wortham, I cited all the data I found on Adolphus R. Wortham. I had his day of death written in the hand of his widow on applications for admission to Barium Springs Orphanage for three of his four children. What could I do in lieu of an official death certificate?

Duke Archives responded positively, likely overcome by the stinging words "widow" and "orphanage." Any parent would be joyful at seeing a set of grades like these. The man applied himself seriously to his studies, excelling in Law, Composition, Latin, and Theology. A. R. Wortham seems to have had a successful experience of higher education both academically and socially.

There are questions of where Adolphus is buried. A contributor to cites the Ben Wortham Family Cemetery. Phone calls to likely sources in Henderson, NC yield no memory of its location. Adolphus had a brother Benjamin Britt (B. B.) Wortham. Perhaps his farm is the site for the Wortham Family Cemetery. A fellow Tarheel wrote a song lyric, "In my mind I'm going to Carolina." Perhaps this summer I will return to the Old North State to find the shady grove where Adolphus Richard Wortham rests with his ancestors.


bullet  Noted events in his life were:

Occupation: Attorney at Law.


Adolphus married Mattie J. Lewis, daughter of Willis Lewis and Rosa. (Mattie J. Lewis was born in Aug 1858 in Warren Co., N.C, died in Aug 1934 in Midlothian, Chesterfield Co., VA. and was buried in Elmwood Cemetery, Henderson, N.C..)

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