William "Bill" Perkin Flanagan
(b. 1854)

My Great Grandfather, William "Bill" Perkin Flanagan, was born Feb 18, 1854 in Ridgeway, Henry County VA. He married on Dec 26, 1880 Anna John Gilley. She was born Dec 12, 1865 (some records say 1860) in the same county.

Anna's parents were John West Gilley and Martha Covington Gilley from Turkey Cock Creek in Henry County VA. Martha Covington's father was David, his father was Joseph Henry Sr. (who lived in Rockingham Co NC), and his parents were Edmond Joseph and Fanny Prewitt Covington of VA.

John West Gilley's parents were William "Buck" Gilley and Mary "Polly" Gilley (first cousins), his parents were George Gilley and Mary "Polly" Wilson, his father was Frances Gilley Sr. Esq. (known as "The Old Pioneer") born in Buckingham Co VA.

Granny Anna and Pa Bill Flanagan moved their young and growing family from VA to Henderson County TN around 1888 by train. They wanted to raise their children away from the family feuds going on in VA between the Flanagan, Brim and Gilley families. Four sons were born in VA; Jim, Charlie, John (my Grandpa) and Ben. Then they had 7 more children in TN; Fannie, Lela, Minton, Alice & Betty who died as infants, Murvel and Iva. That makes 9 kids they raised who all lived to old age. The sons were referred to as the "brown eyed Flanagan boys". Evidently, they got their genetic eye color from their mother. There have been a few blue and green eyed Flanagans since then though.

Pa Bill acquired land in west TN and with the help of his sons farmed and hunted to feed his family. The road where most of this land is, was named (and still is) "Flanagan Road". Each son and grandson acquired land along the road also and they would help build houses for each other. I remember ours was a nice white house with a wash tub over the chimney. I suppose it leaked by the time I came along. We had a pond with fish and a red barn. Dad grew cotton and we raised chickens and had a milk cow. It was a great life back then.

My Grandpa John had 4 children: J.B., L.V., A.G. (my Dad), and Nell. My dad married Julia Marie Melton (my Mom) from the neighboring Chester County. Her parents were Will Melton and Myrtle Mae Ross Melton.

Every year after all the garden vegetables were in, we had a huge family reunion at my great uncle Ben's place. Everyone in the community was invited. Ben had a lot of trees along his road and the boys built permanent picnic tables in between the trees. There were always 3 huge black kettles outdoors cooking chicken and vegetable stew. Two pots were mild and one was spicy hot. Each family would bring things from their gardens to throw into the pots (I'm sure a few tree worms and bugs fell in too). All the women made desserts too. It seemed like miles of cakes and pies to my young eyes.

After we were all stuffed with lunch, the music began. Some of the men played guitars, banjos, mandolins and fiddles. Some of the other men and women would "buck" dance. My Grandpa John's specialty was the "soft shoe", where he would spread out cardboard and sprinkle with sugar before starting. Then the stories began, each getting a little more unbelievable. I think the men would sneak off to the house for a little drink of Grandpa's homemade wine. I tried his wine once when I was about 8 years old. It was very strong.

We had a family reunion in 2004 for the first time in almost 20 years. It wasn't quite the same, but it was fun. It was particularly interesting to see that my Grandpa John had the most descendants of his siblings. He was after all, "Johnny Roam".

--Penny (Flanagan) Fortune