Joseph Bailey’s Two Families
The table shows the years in which children was born into each family. Yellow indicates the year Joseph married each wife.
“Facts” that have been passed down through the years:
At some point, Joseph abandoned Sara and the children. For a time, they lived alone—without a husband and father—somewhere in the North Carolina mountains, possibly Buncombe County. They were in such dire straits that Sara’s father, Willis Womack, went to find them and bring them back to Rutherford County.
But ol’ Joe kept turning up in Sara’s life, sweet talking his way into her bed. There were two years, 1872 and 1876, when both “wives” were simultaneously with child.
Joe’s son, Benjamin, always said he could not remember ever seeing his father until the old man showed up in 1936 for his extended visit. (By then, Joseph had married, and was apparently separated from, his third wife, Martha Kelly Thompson.
During Joseph’s visit, he is said to have been suffering from skin cancer, and was treated with radium or some such remedy. He was told by his doctor to avoid applying heat to the affected area. The cancer pain was so intense that Joe disobeyed the doctor; he heated a brick and placed it on his face, making the pain much worse.
Eventually he left, a year or so before his death, possibly to visit or live with some of his children in the mountain family.
And this from Joyce Durand, a great-granddaughter from the Lequire branch of Joseph’s multi-limbed tree. She talks about how old Joe’s grandchildren loved him:
He babysat them on occasion, told them stories, and amused them no end by going to bed with all his clothes on, including his big World War I overcoat. He always carried his gun, an antique musket, which my dad remembers well. My Aunt Reathel remembers him being quite a dancer. She said he walked 9-10 miles to a dance, then taught the young people how to do the Blackbottom, then walked home when the dance was over. Everyone remembers that he walked everywhere he went. One cousin remembers that he would visit Ben or John or Phil, then attempt to walk home to Georgia. When he was ready to leave, he would put his clothes in a sack or a large cloth, tie it to a stick, put the stick over his shoulder and take off.