John Hilsman Tilly/Tilley married Rosa May Nave 10 January 1900

John H Tilly was born about 24 March 1864 in Johnson County TN.  His parents were John C Tilly and Francis “Fanny” Speer.  John joined older half-siblings, Mary Henrietta and Albert Newton Tilly, children of John C’ deceased first wife, Elizabeth Johnson.  John H had a twin brother, William Crawford Tilly.  I have not been able to determine what the “C” stands for in their father’s name – perhaps Crawford? 

This particular part of Tennessee was more pro Union than Confederacy, but was the southern sympathizers were nearby.  During the Civil War, John’s father was away from home.  I have not found a record that he was a soldier, but he may have been a scout for the federal forces.  He received word that a son was ill and returned home.  The following story was published in “Thrilling Adventures of Daniel Ellis” published in 1867 and describes the murder of John’s father.      

 A man by the name of John Tilly also fell a victim to Bill Parker’s vengeance, and was savagely murdered in the following manner:  Tilly had been scouting for some time, and one of his twin children was taken violently ill, and was not expected to live; he had come to the house to see his sick child, and was nursing it in his lap when Parker and his gang of murderers road up to the house.  He laid his child down, and went out in the yard and surrendered, when Parker drew out his pistol and shot at him, giving him a severe wound in the head.  He was now convinced that they intended to kill him, and asked them only to allow him a few minutes to pray.  But they returned him no answer and continued to shoot at him.  The poor fellow now turned to run, but he soon fell to the ground, his body having been pierced through with ten balls.  His wife now ran toward her murdered husband, screaming and crying with wild and frantic agony, when one of those incarnate devils seized hold of his gun and knocked her down by the side of her dead husband.  His little children cried and begged for their father all the time, but as well might they have raised their tiny hands and feeble voices to calm the raging storm in its mad career, as to endeavor to stop this gang of rebel demons in their bloody work of murder.  After waiting until their victim had breathed his last, these manslayers went on their way laughing at the terrible misery they had left behind them, and looking forward in search of more human blood. 

Family lore is that John’s mother Fannie was raped and beaten and left for dead.  She survived but was scared of people for a really long time. She stated that the soldiers killed her husband because they believed that he was a spy.  Since the twins were just infants, we can infer that the children crying for their father were Albert and Mary.  John’s twin brother William did die about that time.    

There is a record of a William C Crosswhite marrying a Frances F Tilly in Johnson County.  I have only seen the index.  It does not list parents for Frances, or a marital status, so I am not sure if this is John’s mother and a step-father.  There is also information on a posted tree that Fannie may have married a man named Ellsworth Speers, but I have not found that record.  However, it might explain why she had more children named Speer – not her maiden name but a subsequent married name. 

The 1870 census lists John as John Speare.  John lived with his mother, her parents, and her sister Armenia and children in Pandora, in Johnson County TN. 

The 1880 census lists John Tilly with his mother Fannie Tilly in Johnson County, with his half-siblings, Troy 13, Lawra 9, and Virginia, 7.   John’s mother listed her marital status as widowed. 

Rosa May Nave was born 24 October 1880 in Johnson County TN. One posted tree lists her as the daughter of John C Nave and Mary Goodwin.  Being born after the 1880 census was taken, she first shows up in the 1900 census with John Nave and his wife Genettie.  Some posted trees list Genettie as Rosa’s mother, but I do not believe this is accurate.  The 1900 census says that Genettie has been married 12 years, but several of the children are older than 12.  That record also says that Genettie has had four children, three still living.  Seven children are listed, so presumably the first four are from John’s previous marriage.  I did find a marriage record for John Nave and Mary Goodwin in Johnson, TN in 1879, and Rosa was born 10 months later.   

John H Tilly married Rosa May Nave on 10 January in Doeville, Johnson County TN.  The record does not name parents, but a JC Speer posted the marriage bond with John. His grandfather John was already deceased, so perhaps JC Speer was an uncle, or some other relative of his mother. 

John went west and homesteaded.  On 3 April 1893, he was granted 160 acres in sections 17 and 20, in Township 9S, range 23E. This is up the John Day River, west of Spray OR.  He was counted there in the 1900 census, which was taken in June.   He was employed as a farm hand and was part of the household of Robert R Keys.  The Keys family was probably well-to-do, as the family included four servants.  Rosa was still living with her father’s family in 1900.  The town of Waldron was named after the Waldron family that settled in central Oregon.  The post office there was open from 1879-1902, and it appears that the town is gone now, except for the school house. 

John Tilley was granted 160 acres of homestead lands in Section 7, Township 9, Range 23E, on 13 July 1907.  This near or adjacent to the property in section 17.  On 26 July 1909, May received a homestead grant in nearby Township 8.  This property was not adjacent to the property homesteaded by John. 

John and Rosa (later called May) had three children:  George Clarence (1905-1974), Edward (1902-1985), and Ethel (1907-2003).  The 1910 census shows the Tilley family at Township 9, Wheeler County, OR.  John owned a farm.  On 18 July, 1912, May received a homestead land grant in section 18, adjacent to the other property already claimed. The 1915 Oregon Sportsman report listed John H Tilley of Fossil as having raised 24 Chinese or Ring-necked pheasants, and liberated them to establish the species in the area.  He was the only person from Wheeler County in the list. 

In 1920, they were listed in Service Creek, OR, and John was listed as operator of a truck farm.  The record indicates that he could read and write.  The census records also indicate that he lived in a neighborhood where most people were from Tennessee and Virginia.   John’s half-brother Albert Tilley homesteaded a few miles away. 

On 18 May 1925, John received 160 acres of homestead lands in sections 6 and 7, adjacent to his other property.  He also received 314 acres as authorized by the Homestead Entry-Stock-Raising.  His property was all west of Spray, along the John Day River.  

John died 28 January 1929 in Wheeler county.   

The 1930 census shows Rosa and the three children living in Spray, OR.  Edward was a farm laborer, George was a laborer for the state highway department (and that department became his life career).  Ethel was a teacher. 

Rosa died 16 May 1963, and both are buried at the IOOF cemetery in Fossil, OR.


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