Balch Connections, A Vintage Vignette
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
January 12, 2010
This Vintage Vignette series initiated in January of 2007 has not provided anything of my own connection to the Madison families. When I moved here in 1986 I had no concept of being related to anyone in the area, but I did feel right at home. People in the community and in the church that I joined were all likeable and immediately accepting of me, an “outsider” from their close long-standing relationships. After a few years of research I learned that I am somewhat akin to not only the local Balch families but through their intermarriages I am thereby related to some members of the Gooch, Pike, Hovis, Camper, Crutcher, Clutts, Clift, Bailey, Blackburn, and other Madison-area families who share Balch linkages. I have written Vintage Vignettes about these families without knowing of my own links to them. In particular, the Bailey family was the first of the local Madison pioneers that I researched, and it was that line of investigation that developed my consuming interest in the overall history of the area's pioneer families. Furthermore, I had undertaken the Bailey research not for myself but only to assist a co-worker at Boeing in the mid-1990s. Now I have learned that we are distantly related through common Balch linkages. On August 8, 2007, my Vintage Vignette in the Madison Spirit provided a synopsis of the Balch family history related to Madison, so it won't be repeated here.
Another Madison pioneer family that intrigued me before I knew of any relationship with the name was the Gooch family. Their family cemetery is located about 200 yards south of my house, and it includes a unique “broken heart” tombstone. The evidence of caring shown in the Gooch family through their tombstone inscriptions always made me feel close to those pioneers, even though we were separated in time by over a hundred years. Eventually, I met some living descendants of the family and learned of the Balch connection to their lines. However, it wasn't until I reviewed my collection of notes as I prepared to attend a reunion of the descendants of Richard Matson Gooch on the last day of last year that I learned just how interconnected the Gooch and the Balch families are to the many friendships that I had already formed in the community. Space does not allow detailed coverage of all of my own connections here, but an example may illustrate some of the links. The Gooch family members at the reunion of December 31 on Gooch Lane at the homesite of their ancestor Richard Matson Gooch were all connected through his wife Ada Mabel Balch to my 7th great-grandfather Hezekiah Balch and his wife Martha Ann Bloomer of the late 1600s in Maryland. I descend through his firstborn son James, while the local Balches descend from his second son, John. Our common ancestor Hezekiah was Mable's 4th great-grandfather, making me a “5th cousin 3 times removed” of her children who attended the family reunion: Mary Ruth Gooch Mitchell, Neida Frances Gooch Ivey, and Barbara Ann Gooch Ciliax.
Mable Balch's sister Cleva Lila Balch married James Albert Hovis Sr., and they produced Eliza Gertrude and Clarice Faye Hovis, among other children. Both Gertrude and Clarice Faye were members of Wall Highway Baptist Church, which my wife and I joined in 1986. Gertrude was a classmate of Percy Keel, who was my mentor in Madison's history. She married John Calvin Smith, who died in church soon after I joined. Clarice Faye married Edwin Wheeler Thomas, and they produced three children, including Kevin Delane Thomas, who has perhaps the best singing voice of any music minister I have known. I have highly valued my tape of his gospel songs, even long before I knew we had any connection in our genealogies. So it is with all of the members I have met of these Balch-related families – I have enjoyed all associations with each of them long before I knew we were related. Furthermore, now I know why I chose Madison to live out my days in this place that I like most in the entire USA – I unknowingly came “home” to be among kinfolk.