Greetings from Raleigh, NC.
My name is Marsha Raye Cumb. What follows is the contents of an email I sent recently to a woman named Ann who is a descendent of William and Louisa Cumb who moved from Canada to Virginia between 1850 and 1860.
My great grandfather was John W. Cumb. He lived with your great great grandfather and grandmother, William and Louisa Cumb, as John Ray, from at least 1860, when he was 6, until after 1870, when he was 16. I am assuming that he had been orphaned or taken in, but I don't have any documents to indicate which. Some time between 1870 and 1876, he changed his last name from Ray to Cumb, married a woman named Mary, and moved to Wolf's Creek, WV., where they started their family. From that point on, he and his family went by the name of Cumb. I assume it was out of respect and gratitude for your family's kindness.
There was always talk of the family name really being Ray, but no one knew the connection between Cumb and Ray. I just found it recently doing my own research. My great grandparents, John and Mary, had moved back to Roanoke, VA by 1884, when my grandfather, George Fulthon Cumb was born. They had 8 children, but only 3 sons survived, George, Charles, and John. My grandfather married Myrtle Maude Loop, my grandmother, in 1910. Her family is also from that area. I'm beginning to look into the Loops, as well.
The whole family moved to Memphis, TN following Virginia Bridge & Iron Works' opening a new plant. My father, Raymond, Funston Cumb was born there on September 9, 1917. When the company opened another new plant in Birmingham, AL, my grandfather, George, moved with it. My great grandfather, John W., his sons, Charles and John, and their families returned to the Roanoke area.
My grandfather, George Cumb, died of heart failure in Birmingham at the early age of 44 in 1928. My grandmother, Myrtle, had died of the same thing two years earlier at the age of 38. My father's older sister married in 1928, but the rest of the children were either put up for adoption or sent to an orphanage. My father, Raymond, was sent to a Masonic Lodge orphanage near Nashville, TN. He was the only one never adopted. (Of course, he kept running away.) They were all reunited in their late teens, except for the 2 youngest, twin boys.
I was born in Birmingham in 1946, but my father, who was a pilot, became a career military officer and I never really lived there. My father died there in 1973 at the age of 55. My mother still lives there at the age of 86. I have lived in Raleigh since 1969. My husband and I followed IBM to the area. When I divorced, I took back "the family name" of Cumb. My three children are all named French. The irony of it is that my full name is Marsha Raye Cumb using both family names.
This is what I have found out about your (our) great great grandparents, William and Louisa Cumb. William was born 1823 and was married to Louisa, who was born 1839 at some unknown date in Canada. Both were always listed as being from French or Upper Canada.
They first appear in the 1860 US Census for Craig's Creek in Craig County, VA. At that time they had no children of their own, but John Ray, my great grandfather, was listed as living with them and he was listed as being 6 years old. I found a record in the Confederate Veterans List that showed William Cumb as being a private in Company H 22nd Infantry Regiment Virginia. He served from October 1864 until April 1865. His profession was originally listed as a carpenter or pattern maker, then later, a farmer.
In the 1870 US Census for New Castle in Craig County, VA, they are listed as having 2 children, Elizabeth M., born 1868, and Mary M., born 1869. John Ray was still living with them and is listed as 16 and labelled as a farm laborer.
In the 1880 US Census for New Castle, William and Louisa are listed only with their 2 daughters, Elizabeth, age 12, and Mary, age 11. John Ray is listed as John W. Cumb living with his wife, Mary, in Wolf's Creek, WV, with 2 sons named William and David. John lists his parents as having been born in VA.
There was no information from the 1890 US Census. Apparently it was very fragmented, incomplete, and unreliable.
In the 1900 US Census for Buchanan District in Botetourt County, VA., William and Louisa are listed as living with daughter, Elizabeth, age 30, and her 2 children, Edna V., age 11, and Minnie A. age 4. Mary had obviously either married, passed away, or moved out by this time. So, these 2 grandchildren were your grandmother, Edna, born 1889, and your great aunt Minnie, born 1896.
John W. Cumb and Mary had moved to Roanoke, VA by that time. William and David had died in childhood in Wolf's Creek, along with 2 other children. John and Mary had had 4 more children in Roanoke, George (my grandfather), Charles, Mary, and John. Mary died in childhood. John was still listing his parents as being born in VA.
In the 1910 US Census, John W. Cumb lists his parents as being born in Canada. I'm wondering if William and Louisa died between 1900 and 1910. Do you know?
The 1920 US Census for Buchanan District lists only your great Grandmother, Elizabeth, age 60, and your great aunt Minnie. They are listed as both working for a man named Charles W. Burly as cooks. John W. is living in Roanoke with his son, John, and he lists his parents as being born in VA.
In the 1930 US Census, the only references for the name Cumb in Virginia are for my great grandfather, John, and his son, Charles, and Charles' family, all of whom lived in Roanoke, VA. John lists his parents as being born in Canada again.
John died in 1939 in Birmingham, AL while living with his son, my uncle, John. He was 85 years old. He was a master carpenter, which I'm sure he learned from William Cumb. He was employed as a moulder during the construction of the Biltmore House in Asheville, NC. He was a colorful and dapper gentlemen. In his later years, he wore white 3-piece suits and a white hat. He also had a white handle bar moustach and smoked cigars. He was also quite musical, which he passed down to my grandfather, George, and my father, Raymond. He wrote wonderful, sensitive letters and seemed, on all accounts, to be a fine man. I'm sure a lot of that had to be because of William Cumb.
My questions are:
1) What happened to Elizabeth and Mary?
2) What happened to Edna next, she was your grandmother, right?
3) What happened to Minnie?
4) When did William and Louisa die?
5) Why did my great grandfather take their last name?
6) Was it official, like an adoption, or just an honorarium?
7) Why didn't they see each other? Roanoke is not that far away, is it?
8) Who were my great grandfather's real family and what happened to
make William and Louisa take him in as a child?
I understand that the court house in Roanoke burned many years ago taking with it a lot of official records. I'm hoping that copies of some of those records made it to Richmond. It's only a 5 hour drive from here. If there are any copies, I'm going to go up there for a few days some time soon to see what I can find.
I hope this fills in some of the pieces. I'm sorry I couldn't give you more, but I'm just getting started myself. Please consider this an official thank you for your family taking in John Ray and giving him a home.
Marsha "Raye" Cumb
P.S. I have some supporting documentation that I can send, if you wish.