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The Search for Parmelia

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

Parmelia Emeriah "Emma" Lowe Runyon, the mother of Polly Margaret Runyon Hatfield and eleven other children, is the least documented of the parents of William Jefferson and Polly Margaret Runyon Hatfield. She seems to have been overlooked in historic and family records, in part, because of an early death at 47 in 1891, being a woman[1], and the subsequent remarriage of her husband, Thomas Wallace Runyon.

Emma was the daughter of Orrison (also "Orison" and "Orriso") R. and Jane Stone Lowe.[2] She was the granddaughter of Aaron and Sarah “Sally” Frazier Lowe, the progenitors of the large Lowe family in Pike County, Kentucky.


The first official record of Emma is the 1850 Census.[3] Her name is spelled “Perlina A.M Low” and her age is listed as 6, making her birth year about 1844. She is found in this census with her parents, Orrisan R., 42, and Jane, 46. Her siblings are listed as James F., 21, Lawyer L., 19, Satia A.S., 16, Orrison B.M., 10, and Nancy J., 8. There continued to be spelling variations of her name (“Permelia E. in marriage records and the 1860 US Census and “Ponela” in the 1870 US Census). The spelling adopted here is from family records. TC. Hatfield[4] and Katherine Langley Hatfield Scott,[5] grandchildren of Parmelia, both had charts and notes in which the name was spelled “Parmelia.” Likewise, Robert and Amos Runyon in the Runyon Genealogy[6] used the spelling “Parmelia.” The Runyon Genealogy, the recognized authority on the Runyon family in Pike County, cites the source of its data from the Thomas Wallace Bible.


On June 10, 1860, Emma married Thomas Wallace Runyon, the son of Adron and Jane “Jennie” Maynard Runyon.[7] Emma, 16, and Thomas Wallace, 17, were married in the home of her parents and the witnesses were John Step and Van Manard. A marriage bond was issued on June 1, 1860, authorizing them to be married and some have assumed this was their date of marriage.[8] However, their Return of a Marriage form is clear that the date of the marriage was June 10. Scott and the Runyon Genealogy list their marriage date as June 15, but the origin of this date is unclear, unless that was the date listed in the Thomas Wallace Bible.


Among the most interesting of the public documents related to Emma’s life are the two entries in the 1860 US Census. On July 27, 1860, the Census taker recorded Emma, 16, in her parents’ home.[9] The Census taker did not note the marriage status of anyone that day, including Emma. On July 31, 1860, the Census taker recorded “Permelia E Reynon” in the home with her husband, Thomas Wallace, while still not noting her marital status.[10]


Emma and Thomas Wallace were the parents of twelve children:

  • Charity Runyon Scott

  • James E. Runyon

  • Nancy Jane Runyon Scott Farley Hatfield

  • Pricy Angeline Runyon Smith Alley

  • Elizabeth K. Runyon Varney

  • Aminda (Amenda) Runyon Scott

  • Orison P. Runyon

  • Polly Margaret Runyon Hatfield

  • John C. Runyon

  • Caroline Matilda Runyon

  • Basil Runyon

  • Thomas B. Runyon

By the time the 1870 US Census was done, Emma and Thomas had four children.[11] Their daughters, Charlotte, Nancy Jane, and Pricy were identified, but their son, James E., is missing. Thomas is listed as being 26 and Emma is listed as being 25, which is an anomaly among the ages listed in other documents.[12] They are listed to have real estate value at $700 and personal property valued at $290, which would indicate a level of prosperity. For example, comparable values were attributed to Randolph and Sarah McCoy, of Hatfield--McCoy Feud fame, although they were in their forties when this Census was taken. Randolph and Sarah lived a door away from Emma and Thomas in 1870. This Census did note that Emma could not read or write.

In 1878 Thomas Wallace bought the land in what is now Belfry, Kentucky, where he constructed a home place. That is where he appears with Parmelia in 1880 Census (see below). The conveyance was from Moses Runyon to Thomas. Although this conveyance was during the period of their marriage, Emma is not named in this deed. Part of this property was later conveyed to Polly Margaret after Thomas Wallace died. Polly Margaret conveyed it to her son, Teddy Clyde, and that is where he raised his family with his wife, Opal Stafford.


The last document in which Emma appears is the 1880 US Census.[13] This census has several errors, including Emma, 36, being listed as “Nancy,” one of her daughters, and a daughter is also listed as “Emeriar.” Polly Margaret is listed as “Molly.” The census reflects that Thomas could not read and that he was a farmer. Unfortunately, the 1890 Census, which would have been the last in her lifetime, was destroyed in 1921 in a fire at the Department of Commerce in Washington, DC.


There is one physical tie to Emma’s life that remains in Jeff and Polly's family. Katherine Langley Hatfield Scott, who died in 2007, placed the following information on a post card pinned to the quilt shown below:


These quilts were my mother’s [“Polly Margaret Runyon Hatfield”] quilts. They were made by her mother Parmelia Emeriah Lowe Runyon. They were made from her dresses and the linings were home made and the padding is made from sheeps wool. They are real old from 90 to 100 years old. The material for the dresses were handmade.



In 2013 members of Jeff and Polly’s family toured the cemetery in Belfry, Kentucky, where Emma, Thomas Wallace, and his second wife, Mary E. Bevins, are buried.[14] While there are formal gravestones on the site for Thomas and Mary, a rock marks the final resting place of Emma with the inscription of August 27, 1891. Like the other dates in Emma’s life, an alternate date of Emma’s death of September 27, 1891, is listed by Katherine Scott and the Runyon Genealogy, p. 61.



Jeff and Polly’s family decided that more was needed to better commemorate Emma’s life. The Kentucky Heritage Council (Kentucky's State Historic Preservation Office) recommended a historic plaque that would assure the original rock was undisturbed. The plaque was placed between the rock marking her grave and the gravestone of her husband, Thomas Wallace, in 2023. The plaque uses the death date on the rock marking her grave, which is to the right of the plaque.


One hundred and thirty-two years after her death, Jeff and Polly's family celebrates Emma's life.

 

[1] Women are frequently more difficult to trace in history, since they did not always show up by name, especially their maiden names, in public documents. For example, women were not named in US Census records until 1850. Property records, court records, and other records were most likely in the male name. [2] 1850 U.S. Census, population schedule, Kentucky, Pike County, Roll: M432_217; Page 467A; Family Number 482; Ancestry.com, (https://www.ancestry.com/discoveryui-content/view/15721122:8054?tid=62993037&pid=230171899576). [3] Ibid. [4] Hatfield, Teddy Clyde. Family Charts and Notes, undated, privately held by Nina Rose Hatfield, Oldsmar, Florida, 34677. [5] Scott, Katherine Langley Hatfield. Family Charts and Notes, undated, privately held by Nina Rose Hatfield, Oldsmar, Florida, 34677. [6] Runyon, Robert and Amos. Runyon Genealogy. Brownsville, Texas: privately printed, 1955, page 61. [7] Pike County, Kentucky, Marriage Files, File 1616, 1860. [8] Dodd, Jordan. Kentucky Compiled Marriages 1851-1900, Ancestry.com, 2001. [9] 1860 US Census, population schedule, Kentucky, Pike County. The National Archives in Washington D.C.; Record Group: Records of the Bureau of the Census; Record Group Number: 29; Series Number: M653; Residence Date: 1860; District 1, Pike, Kentucky; Roll: M653_392; Page: 910; Family History Library Film: 803392; Ancestry.com - 1860 United States Federal Census [10]1860 US Census, population schedule, Kentucky, Pike County. The National Archives in Washington D.C.; Record Group: Records of the Bureau of the Census; Record Group Number: 29; Series Number: M653; Residence Date: 1860; Home in 1860: District 1, Pike, Kentucky; Roll: M653_392; Page: 924; Family History Library Film: 803392 [11] 1870 US census, population schedule, Kentucky, Pike County. Year: 1870; Census Place: District 6; Roll: M593_495; Page: 79A. Ancestry.com: Ancestry.com - 1870 United States Federal Census.

[11] 1870 US census, population schedule, Kentucky, Pike County. Year: 1870; Census Place: District 6; Roll: M593_495; Page: 79A. Ancestry.com: Ancestry.com - 1870 United States Federal Census. [12] The 1850 US Census was taken on August 28 or 29; the first 1860 US Census in which Parmelia appears was on July 27 and the second 1860 US Census notation was July 31; the 1870 US Census was August 29; and the 1880 US Census was June 8. All the Censuses were taken between June 8 and August 29. The 1870 US Census is the only one that would indicate that her birth year was not 1844 by listing her age to be 25. This differs from the 1850 Census, which was taken at the same time and lists her age to be 6. [13] 1880 US census, population schedule, Kentucky, Pike County. Year: 1880; Census Place: Pond Creek, Pike, Kentucky; Roll: 439; Page: 651A; Enumeration District: 100. Ancestry.com: 1880 United States Federal Census - Ancestry.com.

[14] Parmelia and Thomas Wallace are buried in the Shannon Hill Graveyard, sometimes referred to as the Runyon Cemetery, along Hillcrest [Park] Avenue off of Route 119 in Belfry, Pike, Kentucky.

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