Black Sheep or Lost Lamb?

To quote Britney Spears, “Oops, I did it again!” I missed Week 33 of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks writing challenge. Darn it! And last week’s writing prompt was a really interesting one too: Black Sheep. I would really hate skipping that. At the same time, I find this Week 34’s challenge, Chosen Family, quite intriguing. I wonder… What if I combine the two challenges into one? Is there a family member who was both a “black sheep” and had a “chosen family”?

Yes, there is. But before I introduce this black sheep/chosen family individual, let me tell you a bit of backstory first…

Throughout most of my younger years, some of my fondest memories are of family reunions. Convened every Memorial Day at my great-aunt’s home in the small town of Sharpsburg, Maryland, and presided over by our family’s matriarch, my great-grandmother, these reunions were both fun-filled and fact-filled. We drank homemade sweet tea by the gallon while chowing down on barbecue, burgers, and homemade ice cream. Adults played horseshoes, volleyball, or checkers, while I and the other children (of which there were many) would rip and tear across the property and through the house, only stopping long enough to watch the annual Memorial Day parade march by, sneak some chocolate chip cookies off the table without getting caught, or listen intently at the knees of our family’s elders as they told tales from the past.
My two favorite storytelling elders were my great-grandmother and my great-uncle. From her spot at the head of the quilting circle or while rocking on a padded rocker, Great-Grandma Taylor would stitch together tantalizing tales from her youth. Meanwhile, in the next room, surrounded by Civil War artifacts passed down through the years or unearthed while tilling fields or metal detecting, my Great-Uncle Roy would regal the menfolk and the occasional child like me with war stories and family squabbles.
One family squabble that I particularly remember was the tale of two brothers on opposite sides in the Civil War. During the War Between the States, loyalties were divided in the border state of Maryland. Some folks sides with the Confederates while others stood with the Union. While most of my father’s family fought for the Union, according to Uncle Roy, one brother of one of the grandfathers enlisted in the Confederate Army. Obviously, this decision tore the family apart. His brother, supposedly my direct ancestor, fought for the Union. After the war, the rift between these brothers remained, and they went to their graves, never speaking to one another again.

Although that story stayed with me into my adulthood, the names of the people did not. About a decade after Uncle Roy’s passing, I began revisiting those stories, determined to fill in the details. I dove into the records, looking for these ancestors’ names. Although I found plenty of predecessors (both directly and indirectly related) who fought in the Civil War (some for the North and some for the South), I could not find the brothers of my great-uncle’s yarns.

Was this it just a tall tale fabricated to entertain the family, or was this oral history changed bit by bit, telling after retelling? As I knew my great-uncle had been a lover of history, I could not fathom him making up facts and presenting them as truth. Instead, I surmised that the story was founded on fact, becoming fictionalized through the generations. Perhaps the story he had told was really a slightly different story? I believe it was, and here’s why…

William Ferguson Taylor was my 3rd great-grandfather and was the eldest of five known sons born to William H. Taylor and Mary “Polly” Ferguson. There is some mention of two other sons, John and Zachariah, but when they were born or whether they survived to adulthood is unknown. However, brothers Samuel H., James, Joseph Ephraim, and Jeremiah have been found in records.
Although William’s parents were from Adams County, Pennsylvania, they raised their children first in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, then in Berkeley County, Virginia (now West Virginia).
Eventually, William would leave his parents’ home to start a family of his own. In 1852, at the age of 22, he married Charlotte Good, age 17, daughter William and Maria Good in Washington County, Maryland.
For nearly a decade, the couple resided in Washington County until circa 1859, when they moved closer to the rest of the Taylor family in neighboring Jefferson County, Virginia (now West Virginia).
On 12 April 1861, almost 500 miles away, a shot was fired on Fort Sumter, outside of Charleston, South Carolina. The War Between the States had begun. On 23 May 1861, Virginia succeeded from the United States of America, joining the Confederate States of America. However, many of the citizens of the western-most parts of Virginia (including Berkeley County) did not want to sever ties to the United States. On 26 November 1861, West Virginia began the Secessionist Convention that would result in its separating from the Commonwealth of Virginia. Succession from Virginia was ratified on 11 April 1862.
During all of this upheaval, William Ferguson Taylor and his family moved back across the Potomac River into Washington County, Maryland. However, like West Virginia, western Maryland was experiencing great upheaval. Sympathies between neighbors and within families were split between Union and Confederate.
Soon, the Civil War would arrive on their doorstep. The Maryland Campaign was commenced from 4-20 September 1862. General Robert E. Lee’s first invasion of the North was repulsed by the Army of the Potomac, commanded by Major General George B. McClellan, who moved to intercept Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. In the early morning hours of 17 September 1862, near Sharpsburg, Maryland, the Battle of Antietam began. It was the bloodiest single-day battle in American history. The Army of the Potomac numbered 87,164, while the Army of Northern Virginia engaged 38,000. After the last shot was fired and the dust and smoke had cleared, 2,108 Union soldiers were dead, 9,549 Union soldiers were wounded, and 753 Union soldiers were captured or missing. On the Confederate side, 1,567 soldiers were dead, 7,752 were wounded, and 1,018 were captured or missing.
Personal tragedy struck the Taylor family a year later when Jeremiah, the youngest, died on 13 October 1863. He was only 13 years old. His grief-stricken parents laid him to rest in Scrabble Cemetery, Berkeley County, West Virginia.
Just a few months later, on 24 January 1864, brothers Samuel H., James, and Ephraim enlisted in Company C, Third Regiment, Volunteer Calvary, West Virginia.
On 15 February 1865, William Ferguson Taylor also enlisted as a private in the Union Army, joining the Potomac Home Brigade, Company A, 1st Infantry Regiment, Maryland. He served in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia until April 1865, transferring to Company A, 13th Infantry Regiment, Maryland on 8 April 1865.
That next day, on 9 April 1865, near Appomattox Court House, Virginia, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant. (All three of William’s brothers, along with the rest of Company C, Third Regiment, Volunteer Calvary, West Virginia were fought Lee’s army and forced his surrender.) On 29 May 1865, William Ferguson Taylor was discharged from military service. One month later, on 30 June 1865, Ephraim, James, and Samuel were all mustered out.
After the war, while William, Samuel, and James returned to their families, Joseph Ephraim decided to sever all ties with his Taylor kin. He relocated to Crawford County, Missouri, where he went by the name Joseph Ephraim Carry. The cause of the rift is unknown. However, years later, when Joseph Ephraim was applying for a military pension, his testimony (full of omissions and falsehoods) tells the tale of a family divided:

My full, true and correct Christian name is Joseph Ephraim. I was born in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, near Chambersburg. My mother was Mary Ferguson. I was born to her before she was ever married, and she then married one William Taylor. He died and then she married one Joe Carry.

(As Joseph Ephraim is the fourth of five known sons born to William and Mary Taylor, the statement that he was illegitimate is incorrect. On 23 September 1850, William H. Taylor (age 40), Polly (age 42), William F. (age 20), Samuel (age 16), James (age 7) Ephraim (age 5), and Jeremiah (age 6 months) were residing in Washington Township, Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Also, Mary Ferguson died in 1886, seven years before William. William is buried next to Mary in Scrabble Cemetery, Berkeley County, West Virginia. There is no evidence of a Joseph “Joe” Carry ever living in Berkeley County, West Virginia or Franklin County, Pennsylvania at the time, let alone being married to Mary (Ferguson) Taylor.)

I never had a sister of whole or half blood. One half brother was James Taylor, one  John Taylor, one Samuel Taylor, one Zachariah Taylor, and one Jeremiah Taylor. John and Jeremiah died, I know. These boys are not my half brothers but step brothers. Mother married Taylor when he had these boys. Mother had no children by Carry.

(As far as the records show, all five known boys (and possibly the two others who do not appear in records) are the natural children of William and Mary Taylor. None of these boys are half-brothers or step-brothers of Joseph Ephraim; they are his full brothers.)

Anyway, when I was just a lad, I left Pennsylvania, probably I was about 12 years old, left all those Taylors and Carry and mother there in Pennsylvania and never saw or heard from or of thereafter. I went to Berkeley County, Virginia near Hardscrabble. John Shuck or Shook went with me. He was older than I. Geo and John Holliday; Jim Greenwood, a shoemaker; Ulery Sites, a shoemaker, I knew around Hardscrabble, and I worked for these Holidays. John Holiday had a son John. I do not know whether Geo. Holiday had children. Old Man Peter Gardner, who was a wagonmaker and who had sons Allen and Morgan, and there was a blacksmith, Jim Moore, there I knew. This man Shook got away from there, and I never learned what became of him.

(This is another one of those “pants on fire” parts of his testimony. Between 1850 and 1860, the Taylor family moved to Berkeley County, Virginia (now part of West Virginia). In July 1860, the family was enumerated there. Living in the household were William H. Taylor (age 50) Mary (age 53), James (age 17), Ephraim (age 15), and Jeremiah (age 12).)

The Civil War had not broken out when I left Pennsylvania. I never knew the name of my father, never heard who he was. I have it in my mind that I was born in January, but I do not know the day or the year. I worked at farm work before I enlisted.

(Again, just in case there is a doubt: Joseph Ephraim’s father was William H. Taylor.) 

I was there about Hardscrabble all during the early part of the Civil War. They got a good many men there in Berkeley County, Virginia to fill up old company C 3 W. Va. Cav., and I joined and served in said company. There were just a few of the old company left; they did not have a Capt. Even and they took Peter Tabler, a preacher, don’t know the denomination, as Capt. of this company C. I knew him before I enlisted. Tablor was a tall, slim man with dark hair and eyes; he was a dark-complexed not man.

I was enrolled at Martinsburg, West Virginia, went to Grafton and was stripped and examined by a doctor and passed. I do not know whether I was mustered in there or not but as I remember I went to Wheeling, West Virginia and was mustered in there and when the war was over, we were mustered out at Wheeling.

I told them there at Martinsburg, West Virginia., told Bill Kneedler who was taking the names of these new men for the said company C and who was expecting to be a Lieutenant in the company and I believe he got to be that, that my full name was Joseph Ephraim Taylor but he left off the Joseph and put it just Ephraim. I had always been called Joseph, or Joe.

(As a child/teenager, all records refer to him as Ephraim, not Joseph or Joe.)

I knew this Kneedler there in Berkeley County before our service and saw him there in Berkeley County before our service and saw him there after discharge. Bill Kneedler was a low, heavy-set fellow with red cheeks. I think, know almost, that he had dark hair. Don’t know color of his eyes. He was a farmer. Besides Kneedler, I knew before enlistment a son of Capt. Tablor, no it was a nephew of Capt. Tablor, who tried to get in but who was not accepted because he was young and small. John, Dave and Isaiah Kiserr, I knew no more of the company than these before enlistment, but I remember comrades Alex and Ed Horner, John Wise, Henry Slater, John Dilly, Bill Freshower, Hiran and Charles Cochran, U.S. Davis, John Stafford, Andrew J, Shrout, Mose Vulgernut, Stone King (they called him that; he was kinda rattle-brained), Ed Wagle (who was a Sgt.), Bill Butt or Butts, Dave Butts or Butt (don’t know whether the Butts were kin, think they were a little), Adam Wolf, Stansberry Hudson or Rutson (who was a blacksmith), Bill McNabb (who was missing, we supposed he drowned), Ezra Yoho, Falkenstine (was company quartermaster but I do not recall his given name, think it was John).

(Sadly, considering how much detail he provides about the other soldiers in his company, it is evident that Joseph Ephraim Taylor/Carry purposely omitted both of his brothers who served with him.)

He goes on for nearly seven more pages, detailing battles and people with whom he served, as well as how he got to Missouri. At the end of his testimony, when asked about why he never applied for a pension for military service before, his answer provided additional insight on his feelings regarding his blood kin:

None of the men of the company knew a thing about the name Joseph Carry. Another reason, and a big reason, for my not applying for a pension sooner was that I hesitated bringing the name Taylor into the family. I got so that I could earn nothing scarcely and concluded to apply and told my wife about the name Taylor. I had told my wife, long ago however, that I was a soldier in the Civil War.

The first time Joseph Ephraim Taylor appears in Missouri records under his pseudonym is on 25 October 1873, when Joseph Cary (one “r”) married Mary Rector in Franklin County, Missouri. Mary was the daughter of Lewis Rector and Sarah Warren.

Three years later, in 1876, Joseph and his wife were living in Boles Township, Franklin County, Missouri. A few months later, on 3 December 1876, the couple welcomed their first child, Albert Burton Cary/Carry. In addition to Albert, the couple would have five other children: Elijah William (born December 1877), Robert W. (born 19 April 1880), Eli Hugh (born 19 March 1885), Ann Rachel (born 19 September 1887), and Emma Elizabeth/Jane (born 7 May 1889).

For the next several decades, the U.S. Census tracks the Cary/Carry clan across the state of Missouri. On 23 June 1880, the Carys (consisting of Joseph, Mary Ann, Elijah William, and Robert W.) were residing in Brushcreek Township, Gasconade County, Missouri.

On 2 July 1900, the Cary family (Joseph, Mary A., Elijah W., Robert W., Hugh E., Annie R., and Emma J.) were enumerated in Oak Hill Township, Crawford County, Missouri. 

The 1910 Census shows Joseph, Mary, Elijah “Lige”, and Annie residing in Oak Hill Township, Crawford County, Missouri on 12 May 1910.

Joseph Ephraim and his wife were married for 49 years until Mary’s death on 13 November 1922. He died seven years later on 28 December 1929 and was buried beside his wife in Licklider Cemetery, in Jake Prairie, Crawford County, Missouri.

So whether Joseph Ephraim Taylor/Carry was the black sheep of the family or just a lost lamb who went his own way, one thing is for certain: he left his old family behind and chose a new life with a new family, never looking back.

Categories: Everyday People, Taylor-Thomas Line | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Post navigation

3 thoughts on “Black Sheep or Lost Lamb?

  1. Thank you, Eilene, on the compliment. As to Joseph Ephraim Taylor/Carry, I too am in awe of how adept and determined he was at rewriting his own history.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fabulous story and great research! It really does leave you wondering why he decided to part ways with his family and create such an elaborate lie to cover it up.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: *Press this* Black Sheep or Lost Lamb? #148 | Its good to be crazy Sometimes

Please share your thoughts...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a website or blog at

Sheila's Archive

A Family History

Anna's Musings & Writings

A Catholic and Aspiring Contemplative's Journey, Genealogy, Odds and Ends . . .

Rhos Helyg Family History Services

Follow my family history adventures and more

Personal Prologue: Family Roots and Personal Branches

Copyright©2021, Margo Lee Williams, All Rights Reserved

Once Upon A Lifetime: Tales And Vignettes Of My Ancestors

MaryAnne Slabik-Haffner, Family History Author

Rhyme Schemes and Daydreams

Things That Interest Me

The Chiddicks Family Tree

Every Family has a story to tell..........Welcome to mine

writing my past

in which I document my genealogical research adventures and explore the people and events from my family's history…

Deeper Roots Genealogy

~ Discovering Your Family's Past To Shape Your Future ~

Delving into the past

Here you shall find, my writings, about my family research, and general research into murders, and other people's ancestry, where I dig deep, and find all kinds of information about my family, whether it is good or bad, and my life itself in general, there are some sad, informative, facts here, which I hope, will get you guys blogging, so what are you waiting for? Get reading!

A Pennsylvania Dutch Genealogy

the genealogy & family research site of Kris Hocker

The Family Letter Blog

Connecting Generations

Discovering Yesterday

Preserving the history of ordinary people

Barb's GeNealogy Life

Combining two of my favorite addictive pastimes - family history and writing.

Skeletons In The Closet

The Writing Blog of P.D.Blake

Past Presence

A site for genealogists and family historians

Julie's Genealogy & History Hub

Blog of Brass Oak Genealogy

The Family Kalamazoo

A genealogical site devoted to the history of the DeKorn and Zuidweg families of Kalamazoo and the Mulder family of Caledonia

From Shepherds and Shoemakers

Sharing musings, insights, resources and strategies as I discover my family history.

Its good to be crazy Sometimes

A view from the inside of going through the minefield of the British benefit system if you are disabled and the ups and downs of coping with mental illness


Words of wisdom, inspiration, feeling

Rants, Rambles, Revelations, Remembrances

Because the voice in my head won't stay silent...

Genealogy for Children

How to engage children in genealogy and family history

Brumley Family Branches

A Genealogy Blog


Collecting stories from family historians who are climbing their family trees and planning trips to where their ancestors actually lived!

Kindred Stories

Everyone has a story


Where Distant Family Become Close

Jill's Garden

Garden of Life

Chips Off the Old Block

A blog devoted to genealogical wanderings - dedicated to family near and far, through distance and time

Applegate Genealogy

Helping others discover their roots

Gary A Wilson Stories

10 Minute Adventures, Fiction and Coffee Breaks

Shaking The Branches

Sharing Stories From My Family Tree

Decoding the Family Tree

solving family history one branch at a time.

Bespoke Genealogy

UK and Ireland: Genealogy, History and Travel

The Letters

Louise Mabey

From Ballachulish to South Mississippi

Mississippi family history letters


Exploring the Past to Improve the Future

Aquila's Place

An Eccentric Mix of Literature and Opinions

The Women Who Made Me

Finding the extraordinary in the ordinary

F Yeah History

History...but better

Amanda Bradburn

Author | Editor | Genealogist | Historian


Actor, Writer, and Embroidery Artist seeking beauty and humour.

Today in History

"Tell me a fact, and I'll learn. Tell me a truth, and I'll believe. But tell me a story, and it will live in my heart forever." - Steve Sabol, NFL Films

Empty Branches on the Family Tree

Genealogy Tips & Family History

Dusty Roots & Forgotten Treasures

Researching, Preserving, and Sharing Genealogical Information For Future Generations

%d bloggers like this: