Meetings and





1990 Cave City Kentucky

National Shirley Convention Trip


The 1990 National SHIRLEY Convention was held in Cave City, Kentucky June 9th and 10th. SHIRLEY descendants from several states attended. Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves, and, we were told this was the best convention we have had to date.

Here is my report about the convention and the research trip following the convention.

My niece, Barbara, and I left San Jose on Thursday June 7th at 7:00 AM, arriving in Nashville, TN at 3:00 PM. We gathered our luggage, rented a car, (it only had 54 miles on it), and took off for the Archives in Nashville. We stayed until closing and then dashed on to Cave City KY. where we checked into the motel about 9:00 PM.

The next morning we were off for a day of adventure. We drove over to Adair County in hopes of locating the graves of Thomas and his brother, John Shirley. These brothers married the Yates sisters and they came from Spotsylvania County VA.

The search was not an easy one. I knew the cemetery was near the town of Mills but I could not find Mills on my road atlas. Eventually we did find it and the next step was to locate the cemetery. After a few attempts, we did find someone who gave us the directions to a private plot where the SHIRLEYS are buried.

To get to this cemetery, we had to drive down an old road off of the main one, go across a bridge with no sides, turn up the road to the right and we would see a deserted house and barn. The plot would be behind the barn.

Well, we found the barn and discovered we could not just simply go back behind the barn. There was an electric fence about 2 1/2 feet high. We decided to go under the wire and hope for the best. Staring straight at us were several cows. We kept our distance as best we could. We did carry a couple of big sticks for protection in case we ran into snakes! There was a grove of trees just on the other side of the cows. We edged our way near the electric fence as it circled around to the outer edge of the grove. Among the trees we could see the headstones. I photographed each one and also took video pictures.

We DID NOT see John or Thomas name on any of these headstones. We did learn later that the people in the plot were from their family of Shirleys..

From here we went back to the main road and to a house we were told some SHIRLEYS lived. Sure enough, the name SHIRLEY was on the mail box. They invited us in and said they had just returned from Florida that morning. We told them we had just come from that cemetery. We learned this was where his Shirley grandfather and great grandfather had lived. As to where John and Thomas are buried...they did not know. They have heard there is another cemetery where they are but to date have never found it, and they have looked for it in the past.

We had to return back to Cave City for the pre-convention gathering, so, we will have to come back to Adair County another time to continue our search for the graves of John and Thomas SHIRLEY.

We had a nice turn out for the SHIRLEY Convention. The morning was spent in presenting the Shirley story, meeting and hearing from those attending and learning about their branch of the SHIRLEYS. The afternoon was devoted to three speakers, one being James Young.

Following the afternoon break, we heard from a panel of Shirley descendants who answered questions on their research etc.

The next day was a beautiful day for our trip to the home of James and Gwin Young. Here we had dinner on the grounds and a tour of their beautiful home. They have so many old photographs of the Shirleys and precious personal things that had belonged to this family along with some fantastic antiques.

We visited the old YOUNG & SHIRLEY store and the Dripping Springs Baptist Church. The church was constituted February 3rd, 1798. Rev. Robert Stockton was the minister. Several Shirleys are in the church records. Everyone went into the church and looked at the original books.

James Young felt inspired to go to the piano and started playing "My Old Kentucky Home". We all found a place to sit and began singing along. Then a request came in for the "Old Rugged Cross"...a song I am sure has been sung many times at this church by the Shirley ancestors. Then another song, "When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder". I don't know about anyone else but it gave me goose bumps. I could only think of those SHIRLEYS of so long ago and what they would think of us sitting here singing these old songs in THEIR church and our quest to learn more about THEM.

We went to places like Granny's Spring near where the old Shirley house had stood at one time. James pointed to the location of the graves of Thomas and Molly Grubbs Shirley. They are not marked with headstones. We talked about the possibility of contacting the descendants of this branch to raise funds to get a headstone made. Not many people will know where the graves are after James is gone. We need to think about this.

We also visited the site where James and Mary McMekin are buried. It was overgrown with weeds about 5 feet high. We did not actually see anything here. A few people did try to stomp and chop some of the weeds and a couple of headstones were discovered. This was our last stop. It was now time for Barbara and I to say good bye. It is always so sad to part. We were having such a good time and to soon it was all over.

Barbara and I headed for Fort Boonesboro in Madison County KY. We drove to the National Park and visited the ruins of the old Fort. Part of the original foundation is still there. We began looking for a stone with the names of Michael, Katy and Charles SHIRLEY written on it. We did not find it that evening. We asked the Park Ranger about it and he said it was a mile away at the site of the reconstructed fort and it wouldn't be open until the next day. I then inquired about any real old cemeteries and he directed us to one less than a mile away.

We drove that direction but didn't find it. I suggested we stop at a house we had just passed and ask if they knew about the cemetery and who might be buried in it. The lady there said it was a real old one and it was just about 50 yards up the road.

Barbara and I went there and I told her there was no way I was going into THAT CEMETERY. It was almost dark in there and the sun had already gone down. There were weeds and overgrowth, the limbs of the trees hung low and it was to much for me.

We started walking back to the car and as we looked up, we saw three gals walking toward us and they were yelling that they decided to come and show us California gals some Kentucky hospitality. I yelled back that we might be crazy but I'm not THAT CRAZY and there was no way I was going in there tonight. The one gal said she wasn't afraid, she'd been in there before and OLD CHARLIE was buried in there. She said she had found his headstone in there one other time. She explained that this person had fallen off the bridge many years ago.

They picked up a hefty size stick and took off...and we went with them after all. We were nervous and concerned that if we didn't run into snakes or the like, we surely would get ticks. Glad to say, we did not get any of the above, including the entire trip! We also did not find any SHIRLEYS buried here but what an experience. It is one we won't forget!

These gals were a real crack up and a lot of fun. The one kept calling out to Charlie saying, "where are you Charlie". I know you are in here. She finally found the grave she was looking for and the funny thing..his name was not Charlie.

We worked our way back to the road, exchanged names and got directions back to a motel where we spent the night.

The next day we went to the new fort. We found the stone with the SHIRLEY names, took pictures of it and visited briefly inside the fort.

Then we were off for the Madison Court House a few miles away. We copied several documents and were on the road again by noon.

Our next stop was the Court House in Harrison County KY. This was a longer trip than I had calculated..time wise. We copied material here and left for Scott County Court House which we learned was to close at 4:30 PM. After this, we visited the library and found all sorts of interesting Shirley references. We had a good many things copied and it was 8:00PM when we left the library. We stopped a few blocks away to have some dinner and then we were back on the road. We had reservations at a motel in Murfreesboro Tennessee and arrived there at midnight.

The next morning we called Delman Shirley's room in the motel and asked if he and his sister, Alice Collins, were ready to go to Cannon County to visit their ancestors area. We had made these arrangements at the Shirley Convention. So we had breakfast together with their group and our next stop was the Cannon County TN Court House. I copied a few things, picked up some maps and we chatted with some of the local people. We then headed across the street to the bank to speak to a gentleman who was involved with the local genealogy group. Just as we were going up the steps, I looked over in the parking space by the curb and saw a $10 bill! What a streak of luck that was.

We all preceded to the local library for or a short check on the local records. Didn't find anything new that I thought I needed and because time was passing pretty fast, decided to get on the road again for the next stop in Woodbury. We said our good byes to Delman, Alice and group, and dashed to Woodbury to meet Jemima Shirley.

Jemima and her late husband, T.G. Shirley, went to England with us in 1986. In fact they were the ones whose picture was in the London newspaper. The picture had been taken during our visit to the Public Records office to see the Shirley Pedigree on display.

Jemima was waiting for us at the Court House as per our plan. We copied things here and then were off to White County TN to see what we could find here. Again, we copied some various things and looked around the area before heading back to Woodbury to get Jemima's car.

We headed for Jemima's home in Ringgold Georgia making one stop to visit Paul Shirley in Whitwell, Marion County TN.We called from a little store on the road to see if they were home. His wife answered the phone and said she would come and get us. Paul was actually at his lodge meeting. We followed her over to the lodge and waited for him. We all got in their car and they took us to see the area where their Shirleys lived, the cemeteries and SHIRLEYTOWN.

We arrived at Jemima's in Ringgold about midnight, had a snack as we had not had dinner yet. We went to bed about 1:30 AM and up about 7:30 AM. Jemima showed me her research she had collected for years. Fortunately she had a copy machine and said I could copy anything I thought I could use. Well, I did and this took a couple of hours.

Jemima fixed breakfast and she and Barbara cleaned up as I stood copying as fast as I could and reading through various books and notes.

Our next stop was a surprise visit to Zora Jarret in Calhoun Georgia. She is a descendant of the Habersham Co. GA SHIRLEYS. She was indeed surprised and she showed us pictures and family information on her family. She allowed us to take her material into town to find a copy machine. We brought her things back to her in about 45 minutes and we were off again for Cornelia Georgia.

We arrived in Cornelia about 3:30 PM and met up with Fletcher and his wife, Vesta Shirley. They helped us find a motel and helped carry our luggage to our room. Fletcher made a call to Conny Shirley who was waiting to get his call saying we had arrived...and we were off to see Conny.

We all loaded into his car for a visit to the Rabun County and visited cemeteries etc. Upon arrival back to his house, he and his wife insisted we join them for dinner. She is a GREAT cook!

From here we went back to Cornelia where Vesta took their car and went home. Fletcher went in our car and we stopped at some SHIRLEY CEMETERIES and places his family had lived. It was dark when we arrived at Fletcher's home. Vesta got her research out to show me and had been kind enough to have it copied for me before I arrived.

We left their house just before midnight and got to the motel, called home and talked a bit. It was after 1:00 AM before we turned out the lights.

The next morning we spent at the Habersham County Court House where we copied many additional items on other Shirleys. Then from here we headed for Honea Path South Carolina.

We arrived for a brief visit with Dot and Julian Ricketts before going on to see Lydie Thomas at Due West.

That evening we met with several Shirley descendants at Yoder's Restaurant. It was great to see John and Caroline Scott, Jim and Fran Pinson, Alex and Jean Conselyea, Lillian Shirley, Mary McKeel, and several others who came to the meeting.

We were disappointed Jim Austin was not able to make it. We learned he had just been to the doctor that very afternoon and the doctor was considering placing him in the hospital the next day. It appeared he might have a blood clot.

We spent the night with Lydie Thomas and after breakfast the next morning, we were off for the Court House in Laurens County S.C. Here we copied many items and then went to the library. We spent the morning here looking up material and copying various items.

Just a short time before we were ready to leave the library, the librarian approached me and asked if I was Betty Shirley. She said I had a phone call. A gentleman on the other end said he was Ellis Oakes. He apologized for not being able to make the meeting at Yoders but they had just returned from a trip. He invited us over after we finished at the library. We made a brief stop here and then were off for the Spartansburg County Court House and the library to continue our SHIRLEY research.

It was after 8:00PM by the time we arrived at Dot and Julian's house in Honea Path where we were spending the night. Dot had dinner ready for us and then we went to Jim Pinson's house as he offered the night before to take us over to see the Obediah Shirley house when we got back from our research expedition.

From Obediah's we went for a stop over at Jim Austin's as I was concerned if he had been placed in the hospital. He was at home and we were delighted to have a chance for a visit. He was up and about and the crisis seemed to be over. [Jim went to England with our group last year and we had a great time. He also is the gentleman who gave us the Obediah Shirley house that we were involved with for a period of time]. He and I have become very good friends and I was certainly relieved to find he was making some progress in his condition.

The next morning we were up early, re-packed our luggage and put it back into the car. We left Honea Path about 11:00 AM and stopped in Anderson at the library. We lost track of time and suddenly realized we should have left an hour before. We dashed to the car and Barbara drove OVER 70 miles per hour most of the way to Atlanta. We ran and JUST made the flight. Everyone was already seated and they had just made the last call.

We arrived in San Jose at 8:30 PM. We were tired as it had been a fast trip and we had skimped on sleep.

The next day I organized the research and I had a stack of copied papers OVER 6 inches high plus we had a note book each that we copied various notes etc. we didn't photo copy. I think we had a very successful trip!

I have come back refreshed in knowing we have more knowledge than ever before on the SHIRLEYS.

I am pleased to have so many deeds and other documents in hand.Another item I am so pleased to have is the church minutes from a few of the churches of the early period attended by SHIRLEYS.


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