Wednesday, May 7, 2014

52 Ancestors #18: William Riley McCoy

Riley & Betty Holland McCoy, my gg grandparents, late 1920's
William Riley McCoy was my great great grandfather on my mother's side of the family tree. I obviously never got the chance to know him since he died many years before I came along, but I did hear a few stories about him, the main ones being that he liked to chew tobacco & he could tell a good tale.

If you ever saw a group of old timers chewing the fat around the town square (you know the ones featured in movies) you could bet that would be the kind of place you would have found Riley as everyone called him. Riley was born in Fayette Co., AL on 9 July 1851 & was the first child of eleven of Hugh & Harriet Farquhar McCoy. His parents decided to move to Texas shortly after along with his maternal grandparents & others as part of a huge wagon train. They arrived in Burnet Co., Texas in 1852 & never left. Last week, I wrote that Burnet County was a rather undeveloped rural place at that time, but even today, it's still a small town where everybody knows everybody & people still say howdy when they pass you on the street (about the only thing that's changed probably is that it's more developed then it used to be).

Riley, like his father before him, was a farmer. On 22 Dec 1870, he married Martha/Mariah Elizabeth "Betty" Holland who was the daughter of long time Burnet County pioneers John Benjamin & Mary Covington Holland. Some weeks back I wrote about how the Hollands migrated to Texas in 1840 when Texas was still a republic. Betty's branch of the Holland family joined relatives here a little later than that, but arrived in time for Betty to be one of the first children born in Burnet County. Betty & Riley would raise ten children themselves (John, Nannie, "Molly" William, Lydia, Dora, Houston, Susie, Lewis & Tennie) & most of them would stay fairly close to home. 

Riley would often tell tales about the indians & the early days of Burnet Co to the younger generation. One story he told was about going with a group to capture Quanah Parker where the bullets flew fast & hot & how the lead melted together when bullets intercepted each other. I've heard it said you could never quite tell when he was pulling your leg. Unfortunately his stories were never written down & died with him in his sleep on 18 Sept 1940; the official cause of death being a coronary occlusion (my mother's side of the family has a medical history of heart problems). His wife Betty had died of a heart attack several years earlier in 1932 & he was living with relatives who found him the next morning.
Death certificate of William Riley McCoy
His passing was much lamented in the Burnet Bulletin where I had the chance to read about what a character he was. During a couple of trips to Burnet, I had the chance to go by the home where he died. A large family was living there at the time. I have also visited the cemetery where he & Betty were laid to rest side by side in Holland Cemetery which is on the old Holland land that once belonged to Betty's family. My mother, brother & I had the opportunity to take a picture the last time we were all there together sometime back around 2000. A doctor's widow owns the property now as far as I am aware & the family cemetery is still there on the property untouched. The cemetery is overgrown much of the time & most of the stone are now unreadable. Fortunately the ones we were looking for were still there for the finding. Many buried there were relatives of the Hollands or someone from the community. I don't think anyone was ever turned away. I hate to see the condition of the cemetery the way it is, but I don't live close to Burnet, so it's one of those things I have to accept & be thankful that I was able to pay my respects to the ancestors who are buried there. 

Descendants of Riley & Betty Holland McCoy-Holland Cemetery, Burnet Co., TX
"Texas, County Marriage Index, 1837-1977," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 08 May 2014), R W Mccoy and M E Holland, 22 Dec 1870; citing p. 92, Burnet, Texas; FHL microfilm 978759.
"Texas, Deaths, 1890-1976," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 08 May 2014), William Riley Mccoy, 18 Sep 1940; citing certificate number 40632, State Registrar Office, Austin; FHL microfilm 2138005.

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