More on Charlie Poole and Daner Johnson

Charlie Poole porch swing

I have recently had several inquiries regarding Charlie Poole and Daner Johnson from people who have read my previous posts.  I purposefully didn’t include a lot of genealogical material there, but as usual, many of the interesting details of the lives of local people relate to their families.

Since Daner is supposed to have been the teacher of Charlie, I decided to go back and unearth as many facts about their family connections as I could find.

The Pooles.

There are a couple of direct entries on Charlie Poole in, but all entries have issues, especially with dates of birth and death.  I prefer to fall back on what census takers recorded first hand at the time.

There is a lot of understandable confusion over when Charlie Poole’s  mother may have died, stemming largely from the fact that his father John Philip Poole supposedly married two sisters with very similar names.

John Phillip Poole and wife appear in both the 1900 census of Randolph County and the 1910 census of Alamance as just “John Poole” and spouse “Bettie.” entries list his birth year as 1853, but the 1900 census says he was born in March 1850 in NC, and his father was born in NC.

John Poole’s occupation in 1900 is listed as “Cotton Mill Spinner;” in 1910 it is listed as “Cotton Mill Lapper.”  [The Lapper Room was part of the process of opening bales of cotton and making flat sheets or laps of cotton which would then be sent to the Carding Room.  From the Carding Room, roving bobbins would go to the Spinning Room.]  Both censuses says that John Poole cannot read or write, and is a renter of a house (not a farm) in each place.  Franklinville Township included the mill villages of Franklinsville, Island Ford, Cedar Falls, Central Falls and Worthville, all within a 9-mile stretch of Deep River.

1900 Census Randolph (Fville)

Poole 1900 census


Bettie Poole is listed in both censuses as a house keeper.  The 1900 census says she is the mother of 9 children, 8 of whom are living.  The 1910 census says she is the mother of 13 children, 8 of whom are living.  The 1910 census says that only she and her son “Ralf” can read and write.  In the 1900 census, only son Lea had attended school that year.

The following children of John and Bettie Poole are listed in 1900 (birth dates from census; death dates from

Sarah E (b Oct 1878) d 1933 (occupation 1900, “Cotton Mill Spinner”)

Leroy (Lea) R (Jan 1884- 1957)  (1900- “Cotton Mill Spinner”)

Ralph (Aug 1889-  )  (1900- “Cotton Mill Spinner”)

Charlie C (March 1891) (different birth year from most listings) (no occupation)

James (Feb 1894)  (no occupation)

Giles (Jiley) M. (Aug 1896)  (no occupation)

Henry M (Aug 1897)  (no occupation)

In the 1910 Census the family has moved from Franklinville TS in Randolph County to Faucette TS in Alamance County [The Haw River mill village is partially in Faucette TS and partly in Haw River TS.  The villages of Glencoe and Hopedale are also in Faucette TS].  Sarah is no longer listed in the family, and Lea lives in a neighboring house with his wife Julia, age 21, whom he married in 1906.  They have a daughter Mary E., age 2.  Lea’s occupation is listed as “Cotton Mill Spinner” in 1900 and “Cotton Mill Slubber” in 1910.  [A Slubber was one of 3 different roving frames used in the Carding Room preparing cotton for spinning].

In 1901 Ralph’s occupation has changed to “Carder,” so he worked in the Card Room with Lea.  “Charley”’s occupation in 1910 is  “Cotton Mill Oiler.”  This was necessary to keep the machinery in good operating condition, and there may have been oilers in each separate “Room,” or they may have been sent where ever they were needed.  In 1910, James, “Jiley” and Henry all worked as “Cotton Mill Doffers.”  Charlie’s job as an oiler could be seen as a step up from doffer, but didn’t require particular speed or skill, as a doffer might.

In 1910 the Pooles obviously live in an Alamance County mill village, as they are surrounded by mill occupations.  In 1900 one neighbor, Anderson Diffee, is a “Cotton Mill Bailer” [i.e., employed in the Cloth Room, baling cloth for shipping].  The next neighbor, Jessie Bonkemeyer, is a farmer.  On the pages before and after the Poole entry, there are 5 weavers and  two spinners listed in 4 families among numerous farmers.

1910 Census Alamance

Poole 1910 Census Alamance

The Johnsons.

Sorting out the Johnson family is not so straight-forward, but I think I have put something together from assorted records and census records.

Hiram Johnson, age 55, is listed as a Miller in the 1870 census of Surry Co, NC (Mt. Airy vicinity).  His wife is Lydia Shields, age 54, born in Moore County, NC, near Carthage.  The 1870 census lists their children as follows:

Elizabeth, age 24, “House Keeper” [born circa 1846]

Lydia, age 23, “At home”

Elizabeth, age 15, “At home”  [born circa 1855)

Hiram, age 15, “At school”

Cindee, age 10, “at home”

Louisa, age 4, “At home”

The Charlie Poole listings on list what may be the two Elizabeths as-

“Betsy Ann, 1850-1896)” and

“Bettie Ellen, 1850-1911”

Obviously these dates don’t fit, but the nicknames might. lists the father of Hiram Johnson as Ransom Johnson, c1790-1852

Ransom is listed as having two children with Susan (unk. Last name)-


Acquilla (3-3-1813 in Alamance County -1869)

Acquilla Johnsonmarried Philipena Cornelia Moser (1815-1910) in Alamance County.

They had at least seven children (one of which, another Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Johnson, married Samson Bunting in 1861 and died in 1876, so thankfully doesn’t muddy the already murky Bettie/Betsy Johnson waters).

One of their daughters, Nancy Lou Johnson, apparently had 4 children, at least 3 of whom are listed as “unknown father.”

Dora E. Johnson (1864-1958, father David Breedlove)

William Arthur Johnson, 1883-1948 (he later had 13 children of his own)

Napoleon P. Lusien Johnson (1870-1955), who married twice and may still have living children)

Daner Gordon Johnson, 1879-1955.


So, Daner Johnson’s paternal grandfather Acquilla Johnson and Charlie Poole’s maternal grandfather Hiram Johnson were brothers.

That means their parents (Bettie Johnson, whichever one, and Nancy Lou Johnson) were first cousins, and Daner and Charlie were second cousins. (Not first cousins, as I said in my original blog post)

Here is what I have found specifically regarding Daner in the public records:

In 1870 census takers found Nancy Johnson, a “seamstress” aged 30, living in the home of her sister Harriet Johnson, age 34.  Her daughter Dora E., 6 and Thomas, age 2, were “at home.”  The Johnson sisters lived next door to Anthony Moser, age 46, a farmer with 7 children, who was also their uncle, brother of their mother Philapena.

In the 1880 Census Nancy Johnson, aged 41, is listed as a single head of household living in “Randleman Mills” NC.  Her daughter Dora E., age 16, is employed in a cotton mill.  Nancy has sons Napoleon P., aged 9; William A., aged 4, and Danie G., 8 months.

The 1900 census shows 62-year-old Nancy as the head of her household, a farm in Cedar Grove township of Randolph County.  She owned the land subject to a mortgage, and had 15 animals.  Her son Napoleon L. Johnson, 29 and single, farmed the land.  Her son Dannier G. Johnson, single, had “no occupation.”  Daner and his mother could not read or write, though Napoleon (known as “Nep,”) could.

In 1910 Napoleon, 39, is married to Jennie, 34, and they have a daughter Lora, 6 months old.  Jennie Trotter is listed in genealogy indexes as dying in 1915.

The 1910 census found Daner Johnson living in Siler City, NC, boarding in the home of John J. Foster, age 54.  Johnson, aged 29, is living there with his wife Lilian, age 18.  They have been married one year.  Daner’s occupation is listed as “self-employed automobile mechanic,” and he had been out of work for 8 weeks in the previous year.  According to the census, he can read and write.

In 1920, Napoleon, 49, is single and Minnie Underwood, 32, is living in his house with daughter lora, 10, and James Johnson, age 8.  Minnie (1887-1965) at some point married Napoleon and they are both buried in the Holiness Church cemetery in Randleman.  Their daughter Lora or “Loray” never married and was still living with them at the time of the 1940 census.  Loray Johnson was the informant providing information for the death certificates of both her father and her uncle Daner in 1955.


Daner and his mother Nancy are both buried in the Melanchthon Lutheran cemetery west of Liberty in Randolph County.


Mac Whatley, 7-15-14


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4 Responses to “More on Charlie Poole and Daner Johnson”

  1. macwhatley Says:

    Question by email—

    I am puzzled by the two wives shown by records-
    “Betsy Ann, 1850-1896)” and “Bettie Ellen, 1850-1911”
    The definitive book on Charlie Poole written by Kinney Rorer says Charlie’s mother was Bettie Ellen and that she died when Charlie was a young child. In his book Rambling Blues Kinney says the first wife died young and the father remarried the sister. Maybe he has the wrong information, because as you point out (as does Patrick Huber in his book Linthead Stomp), the census report does not support this claim.

    Family researchers can post any unverified information on
    I only use census info, because it’s a first-hand record.
    If a census says they are 44 years old in 1880, obviously they were born in 1835 or 1835 depending on the day the census taker asked the question.
    I believe the 1900 census is the only one that asked a month and year for date of birth.

    Both the 1900 and 1910 censuses call John’s wife “Bettie.”
    1900 says she was born in November 1854 and is 45 years old.
    The 1910 census says she is 54 years old, which would mean she was born in 1856.
    1900 says she and John Pool have been married 25 years.
    1910 says they have been married 36 years.
    The differences are obviously due to the fact that census taker visited during a different month in 1900 than in 1910.
    This says to me that the Bettie in both the 1900 and 1910 censuses is the same Bettie that John married in 1875.
    the only discrepancy is that 1900 says she had 9 children and 8 are still living; 1910 says she had 13 children and 8 are still living.
    She may well have died in 1911, but birth and death certificates weren’t required by law in NC until 1912.
    John is also supposed to have died in 1911.
    All I can say is that neither can be found in the 1920 census.

    For that matter, I can’t find Charlie Poole in the 1920 census either.
    In 1920 his brother Giles is living in Reidsville with his wife and family;
    His brother Lee is living in Alamance County with his family, which includes his brother Henry and wife as boarders.
    Henry is described as an “Automobile Chauffeur,” while the others all work in a cotton mill.
    [This reminds me to mention how unusual it was that Daner Johnson described himself in the 1910 census as an “automobile mechanic.”
    There may not have been a dozen automobiles in Randolph County at that time.]

    Charlie Poole registered for the WWI draft on June 5, 1917 in Jamestown NC.
    At that time he was working in the Oakdale Cotton Mill there, which just closed a couple of years ago (just described as ‘laborer’).
    This is the document that says he was born in “Statesville, NC”
    It also says he had a wife and child
    From other sources, this was Maude Gibson (1895-1987), married 24 Feb 1912, and son James Clay Poole, 2 Dec 1912- 15 July 1968.
    I have not been able to find Charlie, Maude and son in the 1920 census.
    It may be they weren’t living in NC, or that their names are miss-spelled on the transcribed documents.

    The bottom line answer to your question about mother/ stepmother is that I can find no evidence that John Poole was married twice, except tradition.
    Practically the marriage would have had to take place before 1875 or after 1910.
    I don’t see any reason they would have lied to a census taker in 1910 about having been married for 36 years.

  2. Edward J. Riddle Says:

    According to “Fabric of a Community –The Story of Haw River, N.C.” written by Gail Knauff and her late husband Bob; published 1996, Charlie Poole was born in Randolph County in 1892 and moved with his parents to Haw River in 1900. Charlie worked as a doffer in the Granite Cotton Mill in Haw River for a period before moving to Spray (Eden) in 1919. I believe he sorta settled there between gigs before passing away in 1931. I also believe there’s an annual music festival held there in his honor.

    Off topic: I’ve enjoyed reading your written history regarding Franklinville and Worthville. I lived in both villages for a short while as a child during WWII. My mom and dad both worked in the cotton mills. I remember VJ Day in Worthville with the mill whistle and the church bell(s) ringing. I was a couple months shy of my 5th birthday.

    Maybe forty years ago, I drove to Worthville to find that the house that we had rented there had burned several years before my visit. It was across the river from the mill and turn off to the right onto a dirt road. Across the road from us lived the Mr. Watson Kennedy family. We moved away to Burlington in the spring of 1946. We went back to visit them once in the ’50’s. Their daughter Margaret was probably about twelve when we moved away. Wonder if she’s still living? It would be nice to locate her. She babysat me and my younger sister some.

    I worked with a Jim Whatley at Western Electric/AT&T in Greensboro back in the ’70’s. Any kin?

    Ed Riddle
    Graham, N.C.

    • macwhatley Says:

      All of the Whatleys in Piedmont NC are descendants of my great-grandfather Enoch, who moved here from Ninety-Six, South Carolina in 1890.
      That said, I don’t know the Jim you’re describing.
      There is quite a debate about just where Charlie Poole was born, Randolph County or Iredell.
      I am getting ready to post an interview I once did with Worthville resident Denver Allred.

      • Edward Riddle Says:

        I have made contact with Margaret via email. She was ten when we moved from the Fentress house in early ’46. We had also lived in Franklinville 1942-’43. Dad was a loom fixer. We visited Franklinville once in the early ’50’s. I remember the family there that we called on was the Higgins’. Also I seem to recall stopping the Snells’ residence, both places were near a mill but I don’t know which one, the upper or lower

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