Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Hart Family: A Genealogical Sketch

This is the latest and probably last (except for a list of sources) installation of a series of posts I originally intended as just one entry on a man named Derrill Wason Hart, who played college basketball at the University of Kentucky. I was going to title it Basketball, Dahlias and the Civil War, at least until I found more information than I expected and decided to separate the stories into multiple parts. See my previous posts:

This entry will concentrate on some of his family history outside of the war.

Derrill's mother Rebecca Wright Wason Hart was born May 4, 1851 and was a member of one of the earliest families to settle in the Pisgah area of Woodford County, Kentucky, according to this link. I have seen similar information at links such as this one which indicates her father Robert H. Wason was a doctor and also an elder in the Pisgah Presbyterian Church. 

The Wasons were well-off financially. The 1860 slave schedule indicates that Robert owned thirteen slaves, down from the twenty listed on the 1850 record. Tax records from the 1860s show he raised dozens of hogs as well. The 1870 census listed him as a physician, with an impressive $33,000 of real estate and $4,000 worth of personal property. 

Robert Wason had been born on March 11, 1811 in Woodford County and married another Woodford County native, Margaret Gay (his second wife), who had been born June 30, 1821. The book History of Woodford County Kentucky (which misspells their name as Wasson) states that Robert's parents were from Greencastle, Pennsylvania and family trees on show that her parents were Virginians. 

Robert and Margaret had nine children, five daughters and four sons. Robert passed away October 10, 1891, while his widow lived until February 9, 1897. Both are buried in the Pisgah Cemetery.

Both pictures courtesy

Derrill 's middle name was his mother's maiden name, similar to many other men born in the 19th century. Naming children after parents or other family members also was a common Hart family practice.

Derrill's father, Robert Singleton Hart, (his middle name was his grandmother's maiden name and his mother's middle name) was born January 9, 1843, the son of Benjamin and Anne Singleton (Falconer) Hart. He was a successful professional and family man, as he was a Civil War officer (2nd Lieutenant in the 22nd Alabama Infantry), made a living as a doctor and helped raise several well-educated children. 

The earliest record I can find for Robert is the 1850 census, where a 7-year-old Robert is listed in the household of 37-year-old Nancy Hart, along with William Hart (age 14), Duval (possibly Derral, most likely a misspelling of Derrill) Hart (9) and John Hart (5.)  Robert's mother was 37 years old then but was named Anne per the first records I found. Family trees on, though with no supporting documents attached, list her name as "Ann Nancy Singleton Falconer Hart." A cemetery record for the Falconer cemetery in Sprague, Alabama lists her as Nancy Singleton Hart, living from January 20, 1813 to April 25, 1868, which matches other records, so apparently Nancy Ann/Anne or Ann/Anne Nancy was her name. (I will simply use "Ann Nancy" for the purposes of this story,) 

Benjamin Hart passed away a few months before this census took place.

Robert's brother Benjamin (probably formally Benjamn III), his second oldest sibling (I have found nothing about his oldest brother Horace), was living in Columbia, South Carolina in 1850, with another Benjamin Hart, probably his grandfather, given his age of 84 years old. The younger Benjamin was a 16 year-old student. Also in the household was the family of John Thompson, a physician. Benjamin may have been attending the College of South Carolina, known today as the University of South Carolina.

I found very little record of the family on the 1860 census. Edward was a teacher who lived with Thomas Meriwether, a wealthy planter and slaveowner in Montgomery. Also in Montgomery, living with the H.W. Henry family, is a clerk by the name of William T. Hart, who might have been Edward's brother William F. Hart. H.W. Henry was another wealthy planter and slaveowner.)

The book History of Kentucky, published in 1922, states that Robert S. Hart had been born near Montgomery, Alabama and received his medical education in Baltimore before practicing medicine for several years in Alabama. He then came to Kentucky in 1875 to take over the practice of his future father-in-law, Robert Wason. It does not specify how he knew the Wasons or was able to get that job.

Robert does not seem to be on the 1860 census, but does appear on the 1870 record, which lists him as a physician and shows him living in the household of a Moses Bledsoe, a 65 year-old illiterate African-American farmer in "Township Thirteen" in Ramer, Montgomery County, Alabama. This list states that Robert had $2,000 of real estate and $100 of personal property, but shows no values for Mr. Bledsoe. It records the rest of the household as one woman who appears to be Moses' wife, an African-American female housekeeper and one white male whose occupation was teacher. I did not find Moses Bledsoe on any other census record, but am curious about what type of relationship Robert and the Bledsoes had. Were the Bledsoes former family slaves? Or were they long-time neighbors or acquaintances of some sort? Perhaps they just happened to have rooms available for men who needed someplace to stay.

Of course, that may be a different Robert S. Hart, but his age of 27 matches the 1843 birth date listed on his headstone and the occupation matches other records as does the location noted as Montgomery County

More details, including a possible conflict to this record, is on, from the Directory of Deceased American Physicians, 1804-1929. It states that Robert's practice type was "allopath" and that he had studied at College of Physicians and Surgeons of Baltimore, which eventually merged with the University of Maryland School of Medicine. It adds "1869 (g)," which could mean he graduated that year. The possible conflict is that it mentions his "practice specialty" was  was "Pisgah, Ky, 1869." That seems nonsensical but might mean that was when and where he started his practice (which would contradict the History of Kentucky book mentioned previously.) If so, how did he do that and live with the Bledsoes at the same time? Perhaps he was starting his practice in Kentucky, but was in the process of moving from Alabama when the census was taken. He may have stayed with the Bledsoes as a temporary boarder while moving. 

Also, since the Physicians book was published after his death, perhaps the author received wrong information. A date could be forgotten, especially so long after the fact. My interpretation of what "Pisgah, Ky, 1869" means may be wrong also.

Robert Hart married Rebecca on February 24, 1876. The 1880 census lists them in the household of his in-laws, the Wasons, in the Court House precinct of Woodford County, Kentucky. It lists him as a physician again while his in-laws were a "farmer" and "keeping house." The household included his wife Rebecca (listed as a "boarder") and four of her siblings. It does mistakenly note his birthplace as Kentucky, though the 1870 census had shown Alabama. 

The few existing records of the 1890 census do not bring up Robert Singleton's name, but the 1900 census shows him in the Fairground Precinct of Woodford County, in a house (on a mortgaged farm) with his wife and five children, including Derrill. This record does show Alabama as his birthplace and South Carolina as the birthplace for his mother and father. His occupation is again noted as "physician" and the record indicates he had been married to Rebecca for 24 years.

The last census on which Robert would appear, that of 1910, recorded similar information as the previous one, except for showing only 3 children in the Harts' home. This enmerstion also added "& farm owner" to "physician" as his occupation. A previously linked book, History of Woodford CountyKentucky, lists Robert as an elder of the Pisgah Prebyterian Church. 

Dr. Robert Singleton Hart passed away at his home on Versailles Pike in Woodford County, Kentucky, on March 21, 1916 due to heart issues that had left him ill for three weeks. He was buried in the Pisgah Presbyterian Church cemetery. 

Obituary from Kentucky Kernel


The 1920 census shows the widowed Rebecca still living on a Woodford County farm, along the Lexington Pike. Her son Robert Jr. and sister Kate Powell were in the same household, with Robert listed as the farm manager.

Similar information appears on the 1930 enumeration, though their name was misspelled "Heart." They now had two African-American servants on the farm, which was located on Pisgah Pike.

The History of Kentucky book offers a brief description of the Hart farm, stating it sat on the county line and was "a place of much beauty and is greatly endeared to Mrs. Hart" because of her many family ties to that land. She had been born in the same house where she was still living seventy years later.

This book briefly mentions the lives of their five children - Ben, Margaret, Robert Jr., Mary and Derrill. Four of them graduated from college, and the one who did not died before having that chance. (Again, note the re-use of names between generations.)

Here are a few more details on the lives of Derrill Wason Hart's siblings, all, of course the sons and daughters of a Confederate veteran and nephews/nieces of 5 others. 

Ben was born in 1882 and, as of 1910, was single, living in Covington, Ky., and working as a chemist at U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 1911, he married Charlotte Forsythe Buckner. She had also been born in 1882, but in Lexington, Kentucky.) They lived in Cincinnati, (perhaps where they had married, though one source says they wed in Lexington) and in 1930 they lived as lodgers in San Francisco. His occupation there was "executive" at what appeared to be "Alaska Pks," perhaps the Alaska Packers Association. By 1940, the couple was back in Woodford County, living with his brother Robert and uncle Robert Wason. Ben died in 1949 and is buried in Pisgah Cemetery, along with Charlotte, who lived until 1956. (As an aside, Charlotte was the niece of Union Civil War veteran Benjamin Buckner, the subject of the book For Slavery and Union, which I will review later. I find it fascinating that my research has a connection, even so small, to a book like that.)

Robert Jr., born in 1887, had finished 4 years of study at Clark University and worked in chemistry and farming. The History of Kentucky book linked previously states he became ill while at school and moved back home. In 1920, he lived in Woodford County with his mom and aunt, managing the farm, as was the case in 1930, when he was still unmarried. In 1940, he still resided on the farm, and the household now included his brother Ben, Ben's wife and their uncle Robert Wason. He died on May 17, 1960, in nearby Lexington, from heart issues. His death certificate states he was married by then, but did not give his wife's name. Like much of his family, he was laid to rest in the Pisgah Cemetery.

Margaret Rebecca, born February 8, 1885, lived in Garden City on Long Island, New York by 1930.  She had married Robert H. Wyld and finished 4 years of college but was not working as of the 1940 census. They had at least two children, son James and daughter Ann Falconer Blizard. Margaret died in September of 1975 in Garden City.

The youngest Hart daughter, Mary Worley Hart, died at sixteen years of age on August 29, 1906 and was interred in the Pisgah Cemetery.

Rebecca Wright Wason Hart lived until July 13, 1932 and was buried in Pisgah Cemetery.


Robert Singleton Hart's parents (Derrill's paternal grandparents) were Benjamin and Ann Nancy Singleton (Falconer) Hart. Benjamin was born on June 28, 1811, apparently in South Carolina and wed Ann Nancy in 1833. Ann Nancy (née Falconer), was born January 20, 1813 in the Sumter District of South Carolina. 

I did find a Benjamin Hart on the 1840 census in Montgomery, but the lack of detail on that record makes it hard to know with full confidence if this is the same man. It indicates 21 people were in his household, including 14 slaves and 1 "free colored person."

Benjamin passed away December 23,1849 in Montgomery and was buried in the Falconer Cemetery in Sprague, Alabama.

Ann Nancy appeared on the 1850 census with four of her children, as mentioned previously, and the 1850 Federal Slave Schedule shows her (listed as Nancy) owning 18 slaves, so it is likely she inherited them from Benjamin. The 1860 slave census then shows her owning 37 slaves, more than double the previous decade's total. According to the ages on the list, 13 of the additional slaves had been born since the previous census, but it is obvious that Ann Nancy had somehow acquired several others, through purchase, trade or other inheritance. This family must have been in very good shape financially. 

Ann Nancy, who died April 25, 1868, was interred alongside her husband in the Falconer Cemetery. Their daughter Martha Eugenia Hart (1839-1871) also was laid to rest there.

None of the Hart family found extreme fame or fortune, but their family story includes several interesting and diverse chapters, from leadership roles and fighting in the Civil War to careers in medicine, chemistry, publishing, botany and farming. It includes participation in college athletics and service in the navy, with family members living throughout the country from South Carolina to Alabama, Texas, Kentucky, Florida, California and New York. 

Derrill Wason Hart, Kentucky basketball player, was the son of a Confederate veteran and the nephew of 5 others. He had no children, but left a legacy including the flower garden at his alma mater and the Derrill Hart Medal. His story branched out in many different directions, in and out of the Civil War.

The Civil War experiences of his father and uncles and Derrill Hart's own Kentucky basketball career join together two of my favorite interests and make for what I consider a truly fascinating and unique story for My Civil War Obsession. It ended up being a lot longer than I anticipated but has been a really fun, and even educational, project for me, probably the favorite one I have worked on for this blog. I hope I have given this family's story a fair telling and that all who have read it have enjoyed it as much as I have enjoyed finding it.

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