Who was Joseph Lyles?

Return to the William A. Lyles page | modified Oct. 4, 1999

Veteran, the War of 1812

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Who was the elder Joseph Lyles living next door to our William A. Lyles in 1850?

Could Joseph Lyles have been the father of our William A. Lyles?

Some evidence says no. Joseph Lyles didn't marry Zilla Ward until 1846, when he was 54 years old and she was in her 30s. They had no children. And also Joseph Lyles didn't mention William Albert Lyles or any other children in his will of 1869 or in the codicil of 1870. Nor did William A. Lyles' name appear in any of the Joseph Lyles probate records, which stretch out for at least 20 years.

But a heap of other evidence suggests that Joseph Lyles was strongly tied to William Albert Lyles and that they could have been father and son.

1. Joseph Lyles may have married and produced a family long before he married Zillah Ward in 1846. The censuses of 1830 and 1840 show that his household contained a woman old enough to be his wife and several young people who could be his children. These peoplewere not short-term guests. Four of them, listed for two consecutive censuses, lived in the household for at least 11 years:

1850--Joseph Lyles (60 yr), Zilla (35 yr),
1840--1 Male (50-60 yr), 1 Female (40-50 yr), 1 Male (30-40 yr), 1 Male (20-30 yr),
1 Female (15-20 yr)
1830--1 Male (40-50 yr), 1 Female (30-40 yr),
1 Male (20-30 yr), 1 Male (15-20 yr), 1 Male (10-15 yr), 1 Female (10-15 yr).

What happened to the four people between 1840 and 1850? We don't know. But we can speculate that the older woman died sometime before 1846, when Joseph married Zillah Ward. The others then may have cleared out. And one of young men may have been William A. Lyles, who in 1850 was living right next door to Joseph and Zillah.

In addition, in 1922 a woman from Seneca, S.C., wrote to the U.S. Commissioner of Pensions in Washington, D.C., to ask that the government provide a tombstone for Joseph Lyles' unmarked grave in Oconee County because he was a veteran of the War of 1812. She also mentions that Joseph Lyles was "married in Savannah, Georgia at the close of the war," though she also says that he had no children, who could presumably provide a stone for their father's grave. (It is also interesting that the woman, Mrs. L.A. Dickson, a member of the Hopewell community, does not mention Zillah at all. Apparently, Zillah did not exert herself to put up a proper stone over her husband's grave.)


2. More evidence that William A. Lyles could have come from Joseph Lyles' first marriage comes from William A. Lyles' medical discharge from the Confederate Army in 1863. According to the discharge, William A. Lyles was born in the Abbeville District in about 1813. The census does not show any Lyles men outside of the David Lyles family who could have been the father of William Albert Lyles. Joseph Lyles, though, was serving in the army from 1812-1814 in Georgia, not far away. He could have married before the war or during the war and left his bride with his Abbeville family. William Albert Lyles might have been one of the unaccounted-for youngsters in Deborah Lyles' household in the Census of 1820.


3. Joseph Lyles and William Albert Lyles lived and collaborated in at least three legal matters, including two 1840 deeds involving the sale of some of David Lyles' land and an 1844 deed in which Joseph Lyles and William Albert Lyles were named among the trustees of Salem Methodist Episcopal Church on Choestoea Creek south or southwest of Westminster, SC. We have not yet found any documents that show Joseph Lyles working during his life in the Pickens District with his brothers Hugh Isham and Westley or other Lyleses aside from William Albert Lyles.


4. Joseph Lyles and William A. Lyles lived side by side southwest of Westminster between the Chauga River and Choestoe Creek, as we know from the 1850 census. We have a good idea of where Joseph Lyles' land was situated thanks to our recent discovery of two plats from 1851 and 1859 showing Joseph Lyles' land in relation to adjacent lands owned by the Fowlers and the Vissages. (See the 1851 plat and the 1859 plat.) Because Joseph Lyles and William Albert Lyles were collaborating at least since 1840, we suppose that they were living side by side all the while.

Incidentally, the plats showing how close together the Lyleses, Vissages, and Fowlers lived indicate that John J. Vissage and William A. Lyles did not have to travel very far to find Martha and Mary Fowler as brides in the late 1830s.


5. After Joseph Lyles, at age 54, married Zillah WARD Lyles in 1846, William A. Lyles and Mary Fowler Lyles had their fifth child in 1847, a girl they named Zillah. (Little Zillah died in 1852 and was buried at what Great Aunt Amy Lyles called the family plot at Westminster. We don't know what happened to that family plot.) The name Zillah, an obscure old testament character, was unusual in the western Pickens District in the mid-1800s. In fact, our search through the 1850 Census names haven't turned up any other Zillahs. (Joseph Lyles, Jr., named his daughter born in 1852 Letty Ann ARZILLA Lyles. She died in 1855.)

In naming their daughter Zillah, William A. and Mary Lyles showed considerable regards for Joseph Lyles and his new wife. That high regard for the elder Zillah Lyles apparently did not last, though.


6. Both the elder Joseph Lyles and William Albert Lyles were Methodist church builders. After they had worked together as trustees of the Salem Methodist Episcopal Church on Choestoe Creek, they were the leaders in two new Methodist churches in the late 1850s. Joseph Lyles helped build Hopewell Methodist Church, which was known for a while as the Liles Church. He is buried in the Hopewell Church cemetery. In the same manner, William A. Lyles help build Double Springs Church at Mountain Rest, S.C., where he is buried.

In addition to Joseph, Sr., and William Albert, the family of David Lyles seems to have been early followers of Methodism. By the early 1780s, Francis Ashbury had established Methodism in western North Carolina and perhaps western South Carolina. By 1801, David Lyles had named a younger son Westley, probably in homage to Methodism's founder, John Wesley. In turn, Westley Lyles named a son Ashbury, often given as Berry. William Albert Lyles and his family also shared that enthusiasm for Methodism.


7. The elder Joseph Lyles was literate, according to the 1850 Census, though his brothers were not. William Albert Lyles, Mary Fowler Lyles, and their children were also literate--as befits a line of preachers and teachers. Together with all the other connections, this literacy connection is significant.
Just recently (in June 1999), we learned that Joseph Lyles, Jr., was literate and served as church clerk for Rock Springs Baptist Church, which he joined in the late1850s. (His grandson and great-grandson, Roy and Sammy Lyles, have shown us the original church records.) The 1850 Census had listed Joseph, Jr., as illiterate, and the new information that he could read and write are making us think again about who his parents were--Hugh Isham and Jenny Lyles or Joseph Lyles and a first wife?
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