Census Sunday: John Solomon Bailes, Census Enumerator and More

John Solomon Bailes

John Solomon Bailes

This is the only photograph I am aware of of my great-great-grandfather, John Solomon Bailes.  The more I have researched him the more interesting he became.  He is a man of many accomplishments and a jack of all trades.

John S Bailes was born 13 October 1868 in Enon, Clay County, West Virginia to John N and Sarah Frances (Morris) Bailes, the second of nine children.

On 25 November 1890, at the age of 22, John S Bailes was appointed Postmaster of Harrison, West Virginia.  He held this position for almost fifty years, until 31 January 1940.  I like to think the photograph of him on the horse is him delivering mail but there is no proof of this.

John S Bailes, Harrison Postmaster, 1890-1940

John S Bailes, Harrison Postmaster, 1890-1940

On 3 November 1892, John married Rachel Louisa Bragg.  They had three sons and six daughters between 1895 and 1914, the oldest son and third child being my great-grandfather Russell Bailes.

On the 1900 census, John, wife Rachel, two daughters, and Russell are living in Buffalo, West Virginia.  John owns his home and farm free and clear and is listed as a general merchant.  Russell’s oldest daughter has shared stories of her grandfather owning a general store which he turned into a home later.  As I searched up this 1900 census page, I happened to notice the census enumerator’s names, something I did not do on a regular basis.  Imagine my surprise to see John S Bailes was the enumerator of that district!

1900 Buffalo, WV--John S Bailes, enumerator

1900 Buffalo, WV–John S Bailes, enumerator

In 1910, John S is still living in Buffalo and all but his last two daughters were born.  He is again listed as a merchant in a general store, working on “OA” which stands for “own account,” meaning owning your own business.  Having never paid too much attention to census enumerators before, I was now checking every census I came across for a family name.  This time, John’s brother Homer enumerated the census.

In 1918, John was serving as a registrar for the local draft board.  Here you can see his son Russell’s draft card signed by both Russell as registrant and John as registrar.  The form appears to be completed by John.  The handwriting appears consistent with the 1900 census.

Russell Bailes draft card signed by his father Registrar John S Bailes

Russell Bailes draft card signed by his father Registrar John S Bailes

By the 1920 and 1930 census, John’s occupation is listed as farmer but we know he was also postmaster.  In December of 1939, John’s wife Rachel passed away.  A month later, at the age of 71, John retired from his postmaster position.  You may be surprised in a future post to find out who took over.

John Solomon Bailes passed away 30 July 1952 at Charleston Hospital, Charleston, West Virginia.  It appears he had a stroke.   The death certificate below gives details of his birthdate, parents’ names, and other details.  His will, naming his daughter Beatrice executrix of his estate, as well as naming each of his children, providing married names for his daughters, is below as well.  Cick on any image to see it enlarged.

Researching John Solomon’s life and sharing findings with my Dad has been very interesting.  Every document I found was another exciting discovery as I pieced together his life and I expect I may find more.

Death Certificate

Death Certificate

John's Will pg 1

John’s Will pg

John's Will pgs 2-3
John’s Will pgs 2-3

John's Will, pgs 4-5

John’s Will, pgs 4-5



6 thoughts on “Census Sunday: John Solomon Bailes, Census Enumerator and More

  1. It’s too bad you can’t see more of him, but it is an awesome picture to have. Not many people have photos of ancestors “doing what they did!”

    • I know. I wish we could see more of him! But it is kind of neat to think he is at work. It’s amazing to me a picture was even taken like this then. Usually people are sitting stiff-necked and solemn-faced. It makes me wonder why someone chose to take the picture, what was going on? Thanks so much for stopping by!

  2. Sabra wilson says:

    My grandfather, Emmett Wilson, ran the store in Harrison at some point in the 30s or 40s.

    • The 1920 census lists John working for himself as a merchant. The 1930 says farming. My great-aunt, his granddaughter, was 7 then and remembers him at some point when she was young turning the store into a home to live in. Based on the census I would guess by 1930 but she seems to recall it being later than that.

    • Sabra! Did you know your grandfather was also a postmaster? I thought I recalled seeing his name before. I checked the list. It was for a short time after my great-grandfather.

  3. Sabra wilson says:

    Yes! My aunts still recall living in the store which I believe was during the depression. I remember hearing stories of him making runs for sugar. I need to check dates as I have some stuff written down somewhere.

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